The Real Story of Catholic History: Answering Twenty Centuries of Anti-Catholic Myths

How often do you hear anti-Catholic bigots say things like this: The Church is opposed to science, and persecuted Galileo for teaching that the earth revolves around the sun. The Catholic Church is responsible for more wars than anything else in history. Martin Luther and John Calvin were holy men who struggled heroically to free the true Christian faith from the superstitions of Rome. The Church forbade the translation of Scripture into vernacular languages.

When you hear someone make statements such as these, how do you respond? Where do you go for historical information – and how do you determine that what you’re reading is, in fact, accurate?

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Catholic History Professor Steve Weidenkopf’s new book, “The Real Story of Catholic History: Answering Twenty Centuries of Anti-Catholic Myths,” refutes 55 of the most pernicious myths.

“There are a lot of resources for theological topics, but when you look for history, there’s really not anything geared toward historical apologetics,” says Catholic History Professor Steve Weidenkopf. “I wanted to write a book that’s easily accessible to the average Catholic, who gets these questions from family and friends or hears them on TV. I want them to be able to refute the myths!”

In fact, Weidenkopf refutes 55 anti-Catholic myths, including the ones above, in his new book, “The Real Story of Catholic History: Answering Twenty Centuries of Anti-Catholic Myths,” available at http://bit.ly/CounteringCatholicMyths. (Hear him talk about his book on this episode of “EWTN Live,” http://bit.ly/2LOZmpU, and in a future episode of “EWTN Bookmark.”)

Weidenkopf groups the myths under the headings of the Early Church, the Middle Ages, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Renaissance and the Reformation, the modern world, the papacy, missionary activity, and “a mixed bag.”

The Real Story of Catholic History Book Cover

In a wide-ranging interview, Weidenkopf shared snippets from three widespread myths he was especially happy to debunk – and then discussed how the average person can discern if what he is reading is credible. Let’s start with the three myths:

  • MYTH #1: Christopher Columbus was an agent of Western imperialism, cultural destruction, and genocide.

Although Weidenkopf teaches church history, even he was surprised at what he unearthed when he researched Columbus, who he said “gets a very bad rap in the modern world. He’s seen as a poster child for what Europeans did wrong with the indigenous people.”

Without going into the entire story here, we can say that, on the first of his four voyages to the New World, Columbus met a peaceful tribe of Native Americans. However, on his second voyage, Weidenkopf discovered that the Caribs – a tribe of cannibals who “practiced sodomy and castrated boys from neighboring tribes” – had captured and enslaved the peaceful tribe.

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In his book, “The Real Story of Catholic History,” Author Steve Weidenkopf refutes 55 anti-Catholic myths, including four about the Crusades.

Weidenkopf says he negotiated with the Caribs and actually paid for the captives’ release, which demonstrates that Columbus was very concerned about the Native Americans he met and was about a lot more than making money. In fact, Weidenkopf says Columbus’ main concern was “to bring the light of Christ to these people.” Yes, he was interested in finding gold, but not for the reason most people believe.

“He wanted to raise enough money to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslims,” says Weidenkopf. “You never hear about that. He believed if Jerusalem was back in Christian hands, it would usher in the Second Coming more quickly. He was very focused on his faith!”

  • MYTH #2: Marie Antoinette was a selfish and decadent Catholic queen who callously told her starving subjects to “eat cake.”

Weidenkopf calls this piece of propaganda is a “travesty of justice” and says “the outrageous lies about her [must be] erased from memory.” As a teenager, it’s true that the young queen was focused on herself and her hedonistic parties, but Weidenkopf says that changed as she matured. Many people hated her simply because she was Austrian and not French.

However, it wasn’t until the great financial crisis in France, caused by its aid to the U.S. in achieving independence, that the revolutionaries decided to solve their country’s problems by taking over the Church’s land, wealth, and power. Their “let them eat cake” and other propaganda “against this devoted Catholic, wife, mother, and queen,” helped topple the monarchy. However, Weidenkopf says that, contrary to popular belief, Marie established soup kitchens in parishes to feed her people and was very concerned about their welfare.

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In his book, “The Real Story of Catholic History,” Author Steve Weidenkopf refutes 55 anti-Catholic myths, including four about the Inquisition.

  • MYTH #3: Jesus was not a real person. He is a mythical figure created by Christians.

This is a favorite bromide of modern day atheists, and the most serious of all the myths. What’s interesting is how easily Weidenkopf refutes the nonbelievers’ claims.  When atheists say “there are no non-Christian contemporary sources about Jesus,” Weidnenkopf counters by finding some. In fact, he counters all of their claims in a similar manner, something that would be time consuming and difficult for the average person – which is why he wrote his book.

However, in addition to his research, Weidenkopf uses logic to make several points that Catholics can take to heart: In the “what’s in it for them?” argument, he notes: “The Roman authorities periodically engaged in outright violent persecutions of the early Christians. What would inventing the story of Jesus have brought them but a painful death?”

He also notes that those who try to prove Jesus did not exist don’t do so because they “dislike the person of Jesus – who would reject someone who preached love, forgiveness, and mercy and demanded his followers do the same?” He says those who reject Jesus do so because they hate the Church. “If critics can prove Jesus never existed, then the church is exposed as a fraud, and its moral authority can therefore be rejected.”

The Three Seers

In his book, “The Real Story of Catholic History,” Author Steve Weidenkopf refutes 55 anti-Catholic myths, including one about the “Miracle of the Sun” at Fatima, Portugal.

So how does the average person separate fact from fiction? Here are Weidenkopf’s recommendations:

  • Good historians will tell readers where they got their material – so readers can and should look it up. Weidenkopf says readers shouldn’t just take what they read in a textbook or from a secondary source, or the secular media. “Always go to the primary source!”
  • Look for subject matter experts. Weidenkopf notes that many academics – at least those who are specialists in a subject matter area — know that stories such as the above are myths. Unfortunately, he says, some university professors are not specialists in the courses they teach and may not have access to the newest research.
  • Look for historians who give their perspective upfront. “That doesn’t mean their perspective negatively influences their work, but it is a perspective they bring. In the Crusades, one of the major questions is: Why did they go? A Catholic historian can look at this and say that going as a penitential exercise makes sense. ‘I’m going as a result of my sins.’ A non-Catholic historian who doesn’t understand penance, confession, etc. may wonder if that could be true.

Says Weidenkopf: “Find a good Catholic historian and look at their sources. [For example], look at Thomas Madden’s book on the Crusades. [Madden was the consultant on EWTN’s recent documentary on the Crusades.] If you like his book, you can [look at his sources] and read more.”

  • Find a school that teaches history from an authentic perspective. Look at their curricula and try to discern their orientation.
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In his book, “The Real Story of Catholic History,” Author Steve Weidenkopf refutes 55 anti-Catholic myths, including one about the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Why have so many anti-Catholic myths persisted for so long? Weidenkopf says there are two groups of people: those who do not like the Church and those who believe anti-Catholic myths because of “unwillful ignorance.”

Of the latter group, he says: “They’ve been taught this stuff. They’ve heard it on TV, at college, or on the History channel, and they repeat it. People believe what they hear, or what they heard in 30 seconds.

“When having a discussion, it’s important for a Catholic to discern whether they are talking to an enemy of the church or someone who is just repeating what they’re heard. [The latter might be] open to you presenting the real story. You might have to be more direct with the enemy and a little more understanding with the ignorant.

“My hope with the book is that Catholics will recognize that when you hear [stories] that don’t sound right, most likely, they’re not. Take the time to investigate further.”

Posted in Blessed Mother, Books, Catholic, EWTN, Jesus Christ, Michelle Laque Johnson, Persecuted Christians | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heaven Help Us! The Benefits of Befriending Your Guardian Angel

Do angels intervene in our lives?

“In my life as a priest, I’ve witnessed, on many occasions, real evidence of the presence of the holy angels, especially when caring for the sick and the dying as a hospital chaplain.”

Father Horgan outsideThe speaker is Fr. John Horgan, who recently visited EWTN to discuss his new book, “His Angels At Our Side: Understanding Their Power in Our Souls and the World,” http://bit.ly/HisAngelsAtOurSide.

One powerful personal story from Father’s book, EWTN Publishing’s newest offering, centers around a devout wife, who found herself abandoned and eventually divorced by her philandering husband. The woman had a hard life raising their children on her own. But, as often happens, when the philandering husband contracted cancer, his trophy wife deserted him. Despite her husband’s behavior, the faithful wife not only visited her husband in the hospital, she brought in their now adult children to reconcile with their father.

Angels 2 st. michael devilThe faithful wife always insisted that, one day, her husband would be baptized. However, the man refused the sacrament during their marriage and he refused it every time Father Horgan offered it to him even though he knew he was dying. The wife remained undeterred. She told Fr. Horgan she had been praying to her own guardian angel and to her husband’s, and she was confident the man would be baptized before his death.

One Sunday morning, Father swung by the man’s room. After spending the entire night ministering to the sick and dying in the emergency room, he was more than a little tired! So he admits he said with some exasperation: “‘Your wife has been so faithful to you. You don’t deserve it. Will you be baptized?’” To Father’s surprise, the man expressed sorrow for his sins and agreed!

Angel solo with blue backgroundIn his book, Father describes what happened next: “I began to prepare the oils and the holy water for Baptism. But as I was about to begin the ritual, unmistakably I heard a voice within my mind that said, “NOW!” And so, without any further delay, I took the water in a small medicine cup, poured it on the man’s forehead saying the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And before I could say, ‘Amen,’ he died. There was no distress; he simply closed his eyes and was gone. He had gone home to God.”

In the book, Father says what he most remembers was the look in his wife’s eyes when he later relayed the news. “Her faith and goodness, fire-tried by years of suffering, had grown so strong that it broke down all his interior resistance and called down the infinite love of God Made Man.”

Angles 1However, immediately after the husband died, Father called in the on-duty nurse, who was a fallen away Catholic. He said, “[Name withheld], he’s dead.” She replied: “What do you mean? What did you do?” Said Father: “I baptized him.” She said: “You baptized him and he died right then? And everything is forgiven?” Father nodded. Because she knew the story, the nurse shook her head and muttered a choice word about the dead man. But Father said the experience had an impact on the nurse. “Ten years later, she herself died in another palliative care unit – with all the sacraments!”

The above is just one of the many stories Father Horgan shares in book, “His Angels at Our Side.” What’s best about the book is that it teaches readers how to pray to their angel in a life-transforming way. Readers learn about the choirs of angels and their roles, how angels impacted the lives of Biblical figures, and how they impacted the lives of the saints. Best of all, they learn how angels continue to influence the lives of people like you and me.

Angels 3Father says, if we ask, the angels can teach us how to praise and adore God. They can also help us to understand the role of suffering in our lives, especially when someone we love dies, and they can help us make acts of faith and trust in God even, and most especially, in the worst circumstances.

“[When someone dies], we have to have permission to grieve and be angry,” Father said. “It’s never easy to grieve. It is easy to get angry. Three out of five times, someone will get mad at you for no good reason when arranging a funeral. To be angry and believe you are fighting for somebody makes you feel good. ‘Of course, THIS was her favorite song,’ [the angry mourner will say.]”

But Father says there is a better way. “In terms of our grief, we can say to the Lord: ‘I am angry that she [or he] is gone and I’m angry that she left me alone. But Lord, I will be more lonely than I am right now if I don’t have a relationship with you because I know that the only way I can have a relationship with her still is through you.’”

Angels group playing madolinFather says it also helps to remember this:

“When we’re in heaven, we will understand God’s plan so perfectly that we will look back on our life and the lives of all who’ve ever lived and we will say: ‘The way you did things was exactly right.’ The angels see the perfection and we, through them, come to see more clearly the perfection of God’s plan. [The angels can help us pray the words with faith], ‘I may not understand why or how now, but when I see You face to face, I believe You will answer all my questions and I will have peace.’”

Father Horgan says it is a tradition in the Church that every angel gets to be a Guardian Angel only once – and our Guardian Angels become, in a special way, our companion in heaven. “There is one angel for every human being until the end of time! Our angel is sent to guard, protect, and reveal Christ to us; to help us understand the love of God for His creation in a deeper way.”

In his book, Father says he speaks about the power of silence in prayer (often referring to Cardinal Robert Sarah’s book, “The Power of Silence,” http://bit.ly/SARAHPowerofSilence) as well as the importance of praying when we least feel like it.

“At the end of a long day, when we are very tired, that’s when the Lord comes to us and says, ‘Tell me that you love me.’ You may want to say, ‘Not now.’ But that’s an opportunity for grace and you don’t want to miss it. Angels knock at the door in these little moments of grace and you don’t want to miss receiving them.”

Father notes that many of the saints had a special relationship with the angels, who “can help us perceive the deeper meaning of the events in the life of Our Lord.”

Angel Horgan looking upFather says it was, perhaps, St. Veronica’s guardian angel who prompted her to wipe the blood and mud from the face of Jesus. In making this small sign of love and comfort, he says, the face of Jesus was not just impressed upon the cloth but, first and more importantly, on St. Veronica’s soul.

“Jesus wants to be impressed in your soul,” says Father Horgan. “He wants you to love Him and be the chalice in which He rests.”

Find out how your own Guardian Angel can help you to better love and be a chalice for the Lord when you read EWTN Publishing’s newest book: “His Angels at Our Side” by Father John Horgan, which is available now from EWTN Religious Catalogue, http://bit.ly/HisAngelsAtOurSide. For more behind the scenes interviews, don’t miss Fr. Horgan’s appearances on “Bookmark,” http://bit.ly/HorganBookmarkAngels, and on “EWTN Live,” http://bit.ly/HorganEWTNLiveAngels.

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Understanding the Messages of Our Lady of Good Help (Part 2 of 2)

“What are you doing here in idleness …while your companions are working in the vineyard of my Son?”

Visionary Adele Brise

That is the question Our Lady, Queen of Heaven, asked 29-year-old Belgium immigrant Adele Brise during an apparition in 1859 – and one we might ask ourselves today. The spot on which that now famous apparition occurred is now part of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin, the site of the only approved Marian apparitions in the U.S. (Find out more when EWTN airs “The Marian Shrines of Wisconsin” at 4 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption.)

In Part 1 of this blog, we talked about what it’s like to visit this amazing Shrine today. But now, let’s take a look at life of the woman to whom Our Lady appeared, the events that led up to the apparitions, and Our Lady’s messages to the visionary – and to us!

As part of the recent Catholic Media Conference in nearby Green Bay, Shrine Rector Fr. John Broussard, C.P.M., gave a talk about the visionary, whom he always referred to as Adele.

Father explained that, as a young girl, Adele and several of her friends promised Our Lord to become a religious in their hometown of Champion, Belgium. Therefore, when her father later decided to move his family to the United States to get work, Adele went to her parish priest in distress. What about her promise? The priest told her she must obey her parents so, out of obedience, Adele complied.

Diocese of Green Bay, Wisc. Bishop David L. Ricken

Father Broussard said that obedience is an important mark of holiness – and it’s a virtue Adele practiced throughout her life.

Life was not easy for Wisconsin’s new immigrants. Even today, people report being able to drive their cars onto Wisconsin’s deeply frozen lakes during the brutally cold winters. Adele and her family were not wimps!

One day, as Adele was walking down an Indian trail, she saw a lady in white standing between a maple and a hemlock tree. Father Broussard said she told her parents about it and they thought it might have been a poor soul in Purgatory so the whole family prayed for that soul! However, when the vision appeared again, Adele went to the settlement priest.

The priest told her that if she saw the lady again, she was to say: “In God’s name, who are you and what do you want of me?” The third time Adele saw Our Lady – on this occasion accompanied by her sister and a neighbor – she asked that question and she finally learned the truth.

National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin

The vision said: “I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning, and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession, and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners. If they do not convert and do penance, my Son will be obliged to punish them.”

When Adele’s sister and neighbor wanted to know why they could not see her, Our Lady said: “Blessed are they that believe without seeing.” But then, Our Lady asked a question that greatly distressed the young visionary herself — words that might pull us up short as well: “What are you doing here in idleness …while your companions are working in the vineyard of my Son?”

Father explains that Adele’s companions in Belgium had gone on to become religious, and Our Lady was telling her it was time for her to enter the vineyard – although not as a religious sister. Adele would later become a Third Order (or Secular) Franciscan and would wear a Franciscan-like habit with a veil and a scapular – as did other young women who eventually joined her – and she would be called Sister. However, at this point, she simply asked what the Queen of Heaven would have her do.

Visionary Adele Brise with other Third Order Franciscans who helped her fulfill Our Lady’s request that she teach the children “in this wild country…what they should know for salvation.”

“Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.”

Adele asked what she, who knew so little, could teach them. “Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross, and how to approach the sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing. I will help you.”

Father Broussard notes that these instructions are simple — yet profoundly important! He said the Sign of the Cross, which we so often make almost carelessly, teaches us two things. First, that Our Lord became Incarnate and died for our sins on the Cross, and second, that it is through the Triune God that we believe and move and have our being. He also noted that when Our Lady asked Adele to teach the children how to receive the sacraments worthily, she meant that we must receive or encounter Our Lord in the sacraments with great reverence, devotion, and love.

For years, Adele walked up to 50 miles to homes in the area, telling the occupants that if they would allow her the privilege of teaching their children the faith, she would do all of their household chores. Father said it almost killed her.

Visionary Adele Brise’s grave

Finally, she went to her priest with the problem. He told her she must have the children come to a central place, and she must get other women to help her.

Many of her students were orphans or from very poor families and so they also lived at the school, which was successful in its mission to teach the children.

Unfortunately, Father said some vendors, who had nothing to do with Adele, noticed the success of the school and tried to make a profit from the apparitions. This prompted some of the local clergy to go to the bishop and complain that Adele was running a shady business.

The bishop called Adele in and told her that, until he could figure out what was going on, she had to close the school. Father Broussard says that Adele obediently handed him the keys to the school, but she also reminded him: “All of these children living in the school will be without the teaching of their faith and it’s your responsibility to see that they get it.”

Our Lady of Good Help as she appeared to Visionary Adele Brise.

The bishop handed the keys back to Adele – and that was the end of that!

In a funny way, Adele was able to keep the promise she made to become a religious in her hometown of Champion, Belgium. In his book, “The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help: A Self-Guided Tour,” Father Edward Looney says: “Sometime before her death, Adele walked into a town council meeting and was asked what she thought the new name of the village [of what was then Robinsonville] should be. Adele responded, ‘Champion.’ … The town council agreed to rename the city!”

Adele Brise was born in 1831 and died on July 5, 1896. Her last words reportedly were: “I rejoiced in what was said to me. We shall go into the house of the Lord.”

The building in which Adele once taught and housed the area’s children has, over the years, served as a home for handicapped children and as a pre-novitiate residence for the Bay Settlement Sisters. It is currently the home of the Father of Mercy, which includes Father Broussard.

Although Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin Bishop David L. Ricken has not put forth a cause for Adele’s canonization, those with eye problems might want to consider asking for the visionary’s intercession. That’s because Adele managed to do everything Our Lady asked of her with only one eye, having lost the other due to a childhood accident involving lye.

Apparition Oratory at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisc.

Having heard Our Lady’s words to the visionary, and learned something about her life, we might be inspired to ask ourselves: How well do I know the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Do I think about what I am doing when I make the Sign of the Cross? Do I approach the sacraments, particularly Communion, worthily, and with due reverence, devotion, and love?

Our Lady of Good Help, pray for us!

Note: In addition to watching “The Marian Shrines of Wisconsin” at 4 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Aug. 15, you can purchase one of EWTN’s many specials on the Shrine from EWTN Religious Catalogue at http://bit.ly/OurLadyOfGoodHelp.)

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Our Lady of Good Help Awaits Your Visit (Part 1 of 2)

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Apparition Oratory at Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisc.

Standing at the top of the stairs that lead to the Apparition Oratory at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin, the first thing you notice is the profound sense of peace, of holiness, of – dare we say it – Our Lady’s presence which radiates, almost palpably, up the stairs.

A sense of peace is the one thing upon which most pilgrims comment, says the Shrine Rector, Father John Broussard, C.P.M. The sense of peace deepens, surrounds, and fills you as you descend into the Oratory (also known as the crypt), which is built on the exact spot on which Our Lady appeared to Adele Brise, a Belgium immigrant, in 1859.

IMG_3662It’s been almost eight years since Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin Bishop David L. Ricken issued a statement proclaiming that the apparitions of Our Lady of Good Help to the 29-year-old immigrant are worthy of belief. This means that this Shrine is the site of the only approved Marian apparitions in the U.S. Despite the publicity surrounding that announcement, and the fact that the U.S. Bishops designated Our Lady of Good Help a national shrine in 2016, many people still aren’t as aware of this Shrine as they should be.

IMG_3668EWTN wants to remedy that! In addition to an “EWTN Live” with Bishop Ricken, and numerous specials that aired after the Shrine was approved, this past June the Network premiered a new documentary entitled “The Marian Shrines of Wisconsin.” (The other two shrines are Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians in Erin, and the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse.) If you missed the most recent program, don’t worry. EWTN will air it again at 4 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption.

IMG_3659Of course, the heart of the Shrine is the Apparition Oratory. A gorgeous statue of Our Lady dominates the room and appears to glow thanks to the lights and the candles which surround the statue and which flicker off the wall on the left side of the chapel. Other very large statues of saints stand guard around the chapel and the upper church. They include St. Pio of Pietrelcina, Sts. Cyril and Methodius, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Anne, St. John Vianney and more. You’ll even find a replica of the Pieta, and a large stained glass window of Jesus and Mary in the Oratory.

IMG_3667There is a petition box at the top of the stairs, along with statues of St. Therese and St. Anthony, where pilgrims from around the world can make their requests to Jesus through Our Lady, who is the Church’s greatest intercessor. Just as at Lourdes, the many crutches left behind visually attest to the fact that many of the pilgrims’ petitions have indeed been answered. You can read a few of those testimonials at www.shrineofourladyofgoodhelp.com/healings/ and send in your own petitions at www.shrineofourladyofgoodhelp.com/prayer-and-novenas/.

It’s hard to leave.

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Our Lady of Good Help as she appeared to Visionary Adele Brise.

In contrast to the Apparition Oratory, the Apparition Chapel or upper church, where Mass is celebrated, is filled with daylight rather than candlelight, as well as an unusual altar. The centerpiece is another beautiful statue of Our Lady holding the Christ Child, with an overhead banner that says “Ave Maria.” At the rear of the church is the statue everyone has been searching for: Our Lady of Good Help. Many people are surprised to see that she is blonde, but that is how she appeared to the 29-year-old visionary.

When Our Lady appeared to Brise, she identified herself as the Queen of Heaven. So why is the Shrine known as Our Lady of Good Help?

According to Fr. Edward Looney’s book, “The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help: A Self-Guided Tour,” “Adele was a French Belgian Catholic, and as such, their ethnic group had a strong devotion to Notre Dame de Bon Secours. Translated in English, this title means Our Lady of Good IMG_3660Help. … Adele dedicated the chapel under that title because of her devotional life. But if we look at the events of Adele’s life…Adele constantly relied on the Blessed Mother’s intercession. It was her good  help that Adele sought.”

Brise’s grave is located in a small cemetery to the right of the Church. It’s the one with the flowerbed and the headstone that says, “Under the shadow of thy sacred cross I rest and hope.” If you place your hand on the headstone and pray, you just might be blessed with the sense that your prayer has been heard and answered.

IMG_3652Lift your eyes above the gravesite, and you will see acres of what was once farmland, edged with trees and a crushed stone path that rings the property in the back of the church. Here, pilgrims can traverse the same ground as terrified villagers did on Oct. 8, 1871, when the Peshtigo Fire, which occurred 12 years after the apparitions, swept through 1.2 million acres of forest, jumping over the Peshtigo River, and destroying everything in its path. Estimates of those who perished in the largest fire in U.S. history range from 1,500 to 2,500. (In contrast, the Great Chicago Fire, which started on the same day, killed an estimated 300 people, and left 100,000 homeless.)

IMG_3666During the Peshtigo Fire, many took refuge at the church, where they found the visionary praying. As the fire pressed closer, the people began to walk around the perimeter of the church grounds carrying a statue of Mary, and singing and praying the rosary. As the flames threatened suffocation on one side of the property, the people turned and faced the other side. After an all-night prayer vigil, a rainstorm extinguished the fire.

According to one account, the fence posts around the property were charred black on the outside, but inside the fence “the place shone like an emerald isle in a sea of ash.”

IMG_3663As Father Broussard said in a talk from the altar, “Our Blessed Mother protected all those who had faith, the same faith as Adele had taught them.” This event had much to do with the apparitions being declared authentic by the Church.

Today, you can walk the same path as these terrified villagers once did. In fact, the Miracle of the (Peshtigo) Fire Celebration is memorialized each year on Oct. 8 with a candlelight procession and all-night Adoration at the Shrine. However, the path behind the church is now marked with banners proclaiming each decade of the rosary while the center of the green lawn ringed by the path boasts numerous statues enclosed in see through cases. The Shrine grounds also include a small café, a gift shop, and even a few overnight accommodations.

IMG_3650During the Catholic Media Conference’s annual convention in nearby Green Bay, the staffs of diocesan newspapers and communications departments from dioceses across the country were blesssed by an afternoon/early evening pilgrimage to the Shrine. We had the opportunity to attend Mass, participate in a rosary walk, and listen to Fr. Broussard describe the visionary’s life and what Our Lady asked of her (and, by extension, us) during the third apparition. I’ll cover that in Part 2 of this special “Inside EWTN” blog on the Shrine. Look for that post tomorrow evening!

If you can’t wait, you can go to the Shrine’s website at www.shrineofourladyofgoodhelp.com. (But I promise I’ll tell you more!). You can also purchase one of EWTN’s many specials on the Shrine from EWTN Religious Catalogue at http://bit.ly/OurLadyOfGoodHelp. And, of course, you can always make a pilgrimage to the Shrine itself.

Let’s not keep our Mother waiting!

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EWTN’s New Documentary Series Features ‘The Doctors of the Church’

Many Catholics have a desire to learn more about the doctors of the Church, but few have time to dig through mounds of heavy textbooks to satisfy their curiosity – so EWTN Sr. Contributor Matthew Bunson has done the work for you! Beginning 10 p.m. ET, Wednesday, June 20, Dr. Bunson will be hosting the Network’s newest docuseries, “The Doctors of the Church.” (The episode re-airs at 10 a.m. ET, Thursday, June 21. You can also view the premiere on EWTN’s Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/ewtnonline. We’d love to hear your comments!)

Matthew Bunson

“When you study the lives of the 36 doctors, you’re studying the history of the Church itself; you’re studying the great models of holiness and fidelity to Church teaching; you’re studying the authority of the Church and the genius of Christianity,” says Dr. Bunson. “Each episode going forward will look at the drama of the life of the doctors, why they’re saints, and what it is about their extraordinary lives that led to them being designated a doctor of the Church.”

To help viewers understand the doctors more deeply, each 30-minute episode will feature interviews with recognized experts in theology, Church history, spirituality, and more. Look for episodes throughout the year. (Eventually, “The Doctors of the Church” will become a weekly series!)

Episode 1, which premieres 10 p.m. ET, Wednesday, June 20, features St.  Athanasius of Alexandria. You will also have the opportunity to hear him discuss the series during his guest appearance on a special episode of “EWTN Live” at 8 p.m. ET the same night.

“St. Athanasius’ life as the bishop of Alexandria was taken up by his labors against the Arian heresy, which called into question the divinity of Christ,” Dr. Bunson said. “As a result, he was exiled five times by four emperors [who supported Arianism], and spent 20 years total in exile. He was sent to the frozen parts of German, to the hottest deserts of Egypt, and to Rome. At one point, he had to hide among the tombs of his family to escape murder – all because he refused to deny the divinity of Christ.”

Next up will be St. Catherine of Siena, followed by Pope St. Leo the Great, St. Robert Bellarmine, and St. Augustine.

“Who could be the next doctor of the Church?” asks Dr. Bunson. “It’s kind of fun to speculate. John Henry Neumann? John Paul II? Edith Stein? Who can say! I’ve long predicted that John Paul II would become a doctor of the Church.”

Dr. Bunson says putting this series together has been “a tremendous spiritual journey” for him personally.

“You are confronted with the holiness of these women and men,” he said. “They’re living the virtues heroically. You’re also confronted with their willingness to defend the Faith, and to explain the Faith in the face of hatred, violence, and opposition – even within the Church!”

Dr. Bunson said it was encouraging to discover that holiness did not come easy to most of them. Some had anger issues, issues with chastity, and a lot more.

“St. Jerome would beat himself with a rock in remorse for his anger,” Dr. Bunson said. “St. Augustine, one of the world’s most notorious sinners, transformed his life and became one of the greatest doctors of the Church, and one of the greatest theologians in the history of Christianity. So every one of them is a role model, in a different way, for today.”

Want to learn more? Please go to http://www.ewtn.com/doctors/. There you will find more information about Athanasius, the first doctor profiled. The website will be updated as EWTN adds new episodes. Eventually, you will be able to purchase a book on the doctors as well as a study guide.

You won’t want to miss a moment of what is sure to be a blockbuster new series!

Posted in Catholic, Catholic History, Doctors of the Church, EWTN, Jesus, saints, Television | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Bravery Under Fire: The Heroic Story Of Irish Army Chaplain Father Willie Doyle

He was so brave during the battles of The First World War that he ran countless times into “no man’s land” to drag fellow soldiers to safety. He was so devout that he would get up and pray throughout the night every Thursday and would swim and pray in the early morning hours in an icy lake. Nevertheless, others saw him as “such a jovial character” that they wanted to hang out with him because of his wonderful practical jokes.

BUF_FrDoyle_communionHis name was Father Willie Doyle, and he was an Irish Catholic Jesuit, who enlisted as a Chaplain in the British Army in 1915 because he wanted to be on the battlefield when soldiers most needed a priest. Learn all about his amazing life, including his “Bravery Under Fire,” when EWTN’s newest docudrama hits the airwaves at 10 p.m. ET, Sunday, Aug. 12, and 3:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, Aug. 16.)

Even as a boy, the future Father Willie, the youngest of seven children from Dalkey, County Dublin, displayed an extraordinary kindness and sensitivity towards others.

“Father Willie Doyle came from quite a wealthy family, but as a young boy he would get up earlier than the servants to light the fire, to make sure the place was warm, and to set the table so the servants wouldn’t have so much to do,” said Director/Producer Campbell Miller.

Bravery Under Fire v2 coin“There are also stories about when he got his first shilling, [a former British coin worth about 12 pence]. He was off to a shop to get some sweets when he came across a homeless man. He stopped and chatted. When he heard about the man’s plight, he handed over his money to this man. He was seven or eight at the time. His brother said that after he had done this, he cried all the way to his uncle’s. It was such a thing for a young boy to give up his sweets.”

What fascinates Director/Producer Miller about Father Willie is that he was such a “three dimensional” character, which is what he hope makes this docudrama stand out. While viewers learn of the extraordinary penances Father Doyle imposed upon himself, they also see that he was quite the prankster.

BUF_Irish signFor example, a friend says that once, when he and others in his group, were leaving Father Willie’s house, they saw a cassock fall from the window. For a moment, their hearts stopped because they thought Father Willie had jumped out the window. Fortunately, it was simply a cassock Father Willie had stuffed with pillows!

This fun-loving priest spent his early years as a cleric helping the “workingman.” He was well-known in Ireland and Great Britain as a mission director, and he spent time teaching at a local college.

BUF_Conversion_prostituteHowever, while Miller calls Father Willie a “man’s man,” the priest had a great impact on everyone he met. For example, while in England, Father Willie passed two prostitutes on the street. He said, ‘Ladies, go home. Don’t offend Jesus,” and walked on. The women knew he was the “mission priest,” but that was the last he thought of them.

Years later, Father Willie was called into his superior’s office in Ireland and asked to go to England to speak with someone who had been arrested and who was about to be executed. When he arrived, he discovered it was one of these women. He had made such an impression on her that, in her final hours, she asked to see him. Before her execution, he baptized her and said Mass for her.

However, his life changed drastically after the outbreak of the First World War. The 42-year-old priest felt led to join the British Army, 16th Irish Division, as a Catholic Chaplain. Amidst the carnage, Father Willie’s story really comes to life.

Bravery Under Fire v2_wounded“All denominations loved him,” Miller said. “They knew no matter what happened, even if they were out in no man’s land and left for dead, Father Willie would come for them. He didn’t just come once. He came multiple times a day. He would drag that soldier back if injured or, if they weren’t going to make it, he would lie down beside them and give them the last rites.”

Miller said all the soldiers wanted to be in Father Willie’s dugout because it appeared to them that no one who fought near him was killed. However, that changed in August 1917. Father Willie went out on the battlefield to rescue two men, and was caught in a mortar attack.

BUF_Doyle_soldierSays Miller: “Father Willie wanted to give the men that passed away a dignified Christian burial. It feels very odd that this could not be awarded to him because they never actually found his body. He was blown to bits.”

This might seem like a sad ending, but Miller says no one who looks at Father Willie’s life ultimately comes away sad.

fr willie doyle uniform

The real Father Willie Doyle

“I would have wanted to hang out with Father Willie” he said. “Here was a man who gave up his life for his friends. You see that there was no fear. You see, in his limited time on earth, the respect people had for him and the impact he had on so many people while he was alive — and even afterward from the pamphlets he wrote. “Shall I Become a Priest?”, one of his pamphlets, brought many to the priesthood. When you see what he accomplished, you can’t help but get inspired.”

Father Willie’s cause for canonization, which was put forward in 1943, has languished. Miller says: “My hope for this film is that it will cause people to again look at his cause for canonization.”

Amen, Campbell Miller! Amen!

Posted in EWTN | 13 Comments

Native Americans Murdered for Their Catholic Faith: The Martyrs of La Florida

Most Americans are at least tangentially aware of the persecution that Irish and Italian Catholics faced in mostly Protestant America during the late 19th Century. But few, if any, have heard about the horrific persecution of a group of Native Americans from northwestern Florida who were murdered because they had converted to Catholicism.

Martyrs young girlMembers of the Apalachee Indian Tribe were not born Catholic, but thousands converted thanks to the efforts of Spanish missionaries in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Hear the stories of their conversion and martyrdom in the next episode of “They Might Be Saints,” an EWTN Original Docudrama, which premieres at 10 p.m. ET, Wednesday, June 6 (with encores at 3:30 a.m. ET and 10 a.m. ET, Thursday, June 7.

However, viewers will want to tune in at 8 a.m. ET, Wednesday, June 6 to hear Producer/Writer Michael O’Neill talk about his work on the Martyrs of La Florida during a special “EWTN Live.”

Martyrs family walking in“This is a situation where the English, who were Protestant and seeking to settle new land, enlisted several other tribes who were offended by this conversion, in an effort to kill the Spanish missionaries and the Apalachee Indians,” O’Neill says. “Overall, more than 2,000 Apalachees were put to death, and 86 have currently been identified as having been killed out of hatred of the Catholic faith [“in odium fidei” in Latin].

“Spanish missionaries recorded these stories of men, women, and children who died protecting the Eucharist and defending the Faith. In this day and age, we see people losing their faith left and right, but here you have this incredible example of people of all ages giving up their lives for the Faith.”

Those murdered include Antonio Cuipa and his companions. Cuipa was a Catholic leader, evangelist, musician and a spiritual mentor to the Apalachees.

Martyrs crucifixion“He was crucified for his faith,” O’Neill said. “In one of the big moments of the [hour-long] episode, Antonio has a vision of the Virgin Mary as he’s dying on the cross. With great sacrifice and courage, he gave instruction from the cross to his people and encouraged them in their faith.”

O’Neill, a Stanford University-educated cradle Catholic, became familiar with the stories of the Martyrs of La Florida because of his work on Marian apparitions as the so-called “Miracle Hunter,” and his corresponding website, www.miraclehunter.com. He initially wanted to do a series of programs for EWTN on different types of miracles but found the combination of the stories of future saints and the search for canonization miracles to resonate particularly well with people.

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 12.20.22 AM_preview“I’ve done a lot of research on the Americans being considered for sainthood here in the U.S.,” he said. “On a list, I saw The Martyrs of La Florida. I didn’t realize there were ANY martyrs in the United States. I immediately reached out to the cause [for canonization) and found out they were ready to get this news out as well.”

O’Neill says people love the unknown stories of Americans on the path to sainthood, which he has uncovered.

636576857730880177-Michael-ONeil “We all struggle with how to bring the faith to our family, friends, and coworkers – and these people [whose cause for canonization is being considered] have done it. When people watch this, they will feel energized to defend their faith, if they haven’t before!”

So tune in, and then share your comments about the show and what you’ve learned on this “Inside EWTN” blog (www.insideewtn.com) or on EWTN’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ewtnonline.

God bless!

 

Posted in Catholic, Catholic History, Christian persecution, EWTN, Persecuted Christians, religious freedom, religious persecution, saints, TV, Voices of the Persecuted | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment