Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Get Help From St. Thomas Aquinas and the Dominicans

He is a well-known saint, a doctor of the Church and one of the greatest intellects of his day, but did you know that St. Thomas Aquinas was once subjected to a great temptation against chastity?

Dominican Father Gabriel Gillen, O.P., director of the Rosary Shrine of St. Jude in Washington, D.C. who visited EWTN recently to talk about the Angelic Warfare Confraternity (more on that in a moment), tells the story. Aquinas was born into a wealthy family who did not want him to become a Dominican because, at the time, the Dominicans were a new community with no social standing. Instead, they wanted him to become a Benedictine.

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Father Gabriel Gillen, O.P., director of the Rosary Shrine of St. Jude in Washington, D.C., recently visited EWTN in Irondale, Ala. to discuss the Dominican Order’s Angelic Warfare Confraternity.

When young Thomas refused to join any order but the Dominicans, Aquinas’ own family put him under house arrest! Unfortunately for them, their son could have cared less. For at least a year, he used his solitude as a time for study. In frustration, the family resorted to a desperate measure.

“His brothers brought in a prostitute!” Fr. Gillen said. “As soon as she came into the cell [where Thomas was housed], they locked the door! Thomas grabbed a brand from the fire and chased her out of the room [We assume she had the key!]. Thomas closed the door behind her, put a sign of the cross on the door with the firebrand, and prayed God would preserve him in his vocation, his chastity and his purity.”

Bernardo_Daddi_-_The_Temptation_of_St_Thomas_Aquinas_-_WGA5867Aquinas’ diary would reveal that the saint later had a dream in which two angels wrapped a cord around his waist saying, “On God’s behalf, we gird you with the girdle of chastity, a girdle which no attack will ever destroy.”

Said Fr. Gillen: “A lot of people who have touched a cloth to his cord have overcome whatever chastity problems they were having.”

The cord that Aquinas wore around his waist is now housed at the Dominican Church in Chieri, Italy, which is just outside of Turin.

Of course, sins against chastity aren’t only about fornication. Are you, or someone you know, struggling with an addiction to pornography, with lustful thoughts, or other sexual impurities? Are you a married or single person who struggles to be faithful to your state in life?

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Fr. Gabriel Gillen, O.P. delivers a homily while at EWTN in November 2018. Watch at http://bit.ly/FrGillenHomily

“You have to own the gift of yourself [in other words, your thoughts and your own body] to do the exchange of vows [in a marriage ceremony],” Father Gillen says.

If you’re struggling, don’t despair. Help is available! The Dominican order offers anyone who is interested the opportunity to enroll in the Angelic Warfare Confraternity (AWC), which owes its existence to St. Thomas’ victory! Although Aquinas lived in the 13th Century, it wasn’t until the 17th Century that another Dominican friar, Fr. Francis Duerwerders, established the confraternity at the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium.

The AWC is described on its website as “a supernatural fellowship of men and women bound to one another in love and dedicated to pursing and promoting chastity together under the powerful patronage of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

Aquinas memeAmong other things, the Confraternity formalized the praying of 15 Hail Mary’s daily for persevering in one’s own state of life, as well as for others struggling with the same problem. Pope Benedict XII officially founded the Angelic Warfare Confraternity for the entire Church in 1727.

“I lifeguarded and rescued people out of the ocean throughout high school and college,” Fr. Gillen says. “You can be a great swimmer, but if the waves are really rough, you need help. That’s kind of what a confraternity does. Father Benedict Groeschel used to say: “The saints know they are sinners. The sinners think they are not.’ The Angelic Warfare Confraternity helps you with the spiritual warfare which is always going on. A lot of saints enrolled in it before pornography ever existed. Jesus set some high demands: ‘Whoever looks lustfully at a woman commits adultery.’ It’s about excellence!”

It is encouraging to note that the Dominicans who run this association do not focus on avoiding the seven deadly sins. “As Dominicans, we don’t deny there are weeds in the garden of a soul, but we concentrate on what can grow, on the lively virtues!”

January 28 Thomas Aquinas (2)Of course, Father Gillen says the AWC is not a magic wand!

“A gardener can’t make it rain; they just prepare the soil. This is a way to prepare the soul for the rain, the grace. We have to put in the work.”

While the AWC has no regular meetings, there is an enrollment ceremony, as well as other informal gatherings. Find out everything you need to know about enrollment in the AWC at https://www.angelicwarfareconfraternity.org/. While enrollees are asked to say 15 Hail Mary’s a day, Fr. Gillen assures those who enroll that they won’t be penalized if they don’t. “Only good things can come from [enrollment],” he said.

Today, Father Gillen says the AWC boasts 10,000 members. In addition to Aquinas, other saints and blesseds who have enrolled in the Confraternity include St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Blessed Columba Rieti and Blessed Stephana Quinzan, who promoted the AWC among women.

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Fr. Gabriel Gillen, O.P., who was recently at EWTN discussing the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, is no stranger to EWTN. He previously discussed Fatima in a 2017 episode of “At Home With Jim & Joy.” Find it at http://bit.ly/FrGillenJimJoy.

“Jesus is always telling us to store up virtue in heaven,” Fr. Gillen said. “Any acts of virtue are like a fruit in the garden of our souls. Weeds – we will always have them! Give them to the Lord. He takes and removes them. It’s a constant process of growth. That’s what a confraternity does. It helps you bear fruit in the garden of your soul. Get enrolled in this confraternity!”

Note: Don’t miss Fr. Gillen in a soon-to-be-posted episode of “Life on the Rock,” which you will find on EWTN’s YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/ewtn in the coming weeks.

 

 

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How a Texas Wildcatter and an Agnostic Archeologist Discovered St. Peter’s Bones

It was 1939 and the world was going to war. However, at the Vatican, a bevy of men were working feverishly underneath St. Peter’s Basilica to fulfill Pope Pius XI’s request to be buried in that mostly forgotten and unused space. Because the space was only six feet high and Pius’ successor, Pope Pius XII, wanted to add a small chapel to the gravesite, workers were forced to dig deep.

Suddenly, the ground gave way and one of the workers fell 30 feet – and into a wonderland!

View_down_Via_to_St._Peters_Basilica“Very quickly he found himself in an amazing and until-then unknown world, with bright mural paintings of flowers (particularly roses), birds, vases full of vividly colored fruit, idyllic landscapes, cupids, and pretty winged beings. … Digging further, the workmen discover the remains of the daughter of a Roman consul, wrapped in purple garb with a golden brooch. Then they encountered the most amazing find of all: the much simpler grave of a woman from the mid-second century, with Christian inscriptions on her tomb.”

This astounding discovery was the impetus behind Pope Pius XII’s decision to begin a search for the bones of St. Peter. He was well aware that three previous Popes tried and failed to do this, so he resolved to keep the project secret lest a failure shake the faith of a people burdened by war. To keep the secret, he decided to hire only priests and Vatican workers to do the excavation. This would prove to be a serious mistake.

The incredible story of how St. Peter’s bones were found and authenticated (as well as the quote above) can be found in an exciting new book, “The Fisherman’s Tomb: The True Story of the Vatican’s Secret Search” by New York Times Best-Selling Author John O’Neill, http://bit.ly/FishermansTomb. Before O’Neill’s guest appearance on “EWTN Live,” http://bit.ly/EWTNLiveFishermansTomb, the lawyer turned author stopped by “Inside EWTN” for an interview about his fascinating and easily digestible book, which reads like a true-life detective novel. What follows are just a few of the highlights.

Pope Pius XII knew that before the search could begin, he needed money – and lots of it. Enter Texas wildcatter George Strake, who O’Neill says owned the third largest oil field ever discovered. “He believed God had given it to him to give back to projects for the Catholic Church.”

As O’Neill tells it, Pope Pius XII sent a priest to meet with Strake saying: “’The Pope would like to know if you’d be willing to finance the most secret, the most important project, of the Catholic Church. It could fail. If you do it, no one will ever know.’” Despite the conditions, or maybe because of them, the humble oilman agreed.

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Scene from the movie “St. Peter” starring Omar Sharif.

It’s hard for present day Catholics to imagine how the burial place of the first Pope could be lost to time, but a little understanding of the period in which St. Peter lived makes clear why and how this happened.

The Roman Emperor Nero executed Saints Peter and Paul between A.D. 64 and A.D. 66. Nero’s cruelty was legendary even in his own time. O’Neill says Nero killed his mother, his first wife, his brother, and his pregnant second wife (whom he kicked to death), and he was “involved” in the poisoning of his adopted father, who he killed in order to become emperor.

Most Catholics have heard about or seen images of Christians being used as human torches to light Nero’s palace gardens. Nero supposedly inflicted this cruelty on them in retribution for the Great Fire of Rome. However, O’Neill says it was most likely Nero himself who had the fire set. This would allow the egomaniac to use the land, now conveniently cleared of homes, to build a mega-palace for himself.

After Peter’s death by crucifixion, the Romans discarded his body on nearby Vatican Hill, with the rest of the city’s trash. However, because of the persecution at the time, Peter’s “grave” had to be  secretly marked by Christians, who had developed inscriptions that could be read by the faithful but not by the pagans. Around A.D. 150, a structure was built near Peter’s grave on Vatican Hill to further mark the spot, and sometime between A.D. 250 and A.D. 300, Peter’s bones were secretly entombed in the nearby Graffiti Wall.

The bigger problem occurred during the construction of the first St. Peter’s Basilica. Vatican Hill was now overflowing with the tombs of wealthy Roman families. To level the hill for construction of the Basilica, these tombs had to be covered with tons of fill — and so the secrets of those graves would lay hidden for more than a thousand years.

0_Place_Saint-Pierre_-_VaticanCredit_Jean-PolGrandmontPius XII’s search for St. Peter’s remains began in the Vatican library, which boasts more than 75,000 ancient documents that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Three separate documents seemed to support the burial of Peter under St. Peter’s.

The priests and Vatican workers appointed to do the excavation were well meaning, but inexperienced at best. As O’Neill tells it, the person who assumed “practical control” of the project was Father Antonio Ferrua. He had obtained a doctorate in archeology two years before the project commenced, but obviously had little to no real world experience.

“In 1951, the Pope became very uncomfortable with the nature of the excavation,” O’Neill said. “At the suggestion of [a close advisor], he brought in the greatest archeologist in the world – a woman and an agnostic: Margherita Guarducci. She was supposed to be there a week. She said to the Pope: ‘They’ve done a terrible job! Inscriptions have great meaning. No one has done anything to preserve the murals. The bones should be forensically examined.’ The Pope fired [Ferrua and his workers] and put Guarducci in charge. Her one-week [consultation] turned into a 25-year assignment.”

The book details how Guarducci went about figuring out the puzzle of where St. Peter’s tomb actually lay – and how she discovered the saint’s bones amidst myriad other bones, including those of a mouse. In 1964, the former agnostic, who converted to Catholicism during her search for the truth, wrote a report for the Vatican, which published in early 1965.

She asserted that the bones of the fisherman had indeed been found. This ignited a firestorm, with Father Ferrua, who had been appointed head of the Vatican’s Commission on Archeology in the 70s, leading the charge in denying the authenticity of the find. Guarducci spent three years adding even more evidence to her claim and answering her critics.

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Scene from the movie St. Peter starring Omar Sharif.

Unfortunately, after the death of Pope Paul VI (who had taken over the project from his predecessor), there remained only two people alive who had anything to do with the excavation: Guarducci and Ferrua. Three days after the Pope’s death, Ferrua fired Guarducci, who was then 76 years old.

“He ordered the bones to be put in storage, eradicating any mention of her or [St. Peter’s] bones,” O’Neill said. “But if he thought that was the end, he made the mistake of a lifetime. Guarducci went back to teaching at the University of Rome and became even more famous. She solved even more mysteries, including the one about the black Madonna.”

In 1992, the 88-year-old Guarducci was interviewed at the University of Milan by Federico Zeri, who O’Neill describes as “a major television figure, a Sotheby expert on antiquities, and another great detective in outing fakes.” Ferrua had accused Guarducci for years of allowing her faith to control what she did. However, O’Neill said the former agnostic told the crowd that she had been devoted to science her whole life and that her faith came from her scientific discoveries.

O’Neill summarizes Zeri’s eloquent statement at the conclusion of their interview, paraphrasing it like this: “I’m not a Christian Margherita, but I’ve tracked your work. There is no question you’ve found Peter!”

It’s not hard to imagine this as a movie.

For readers, the question remains: How did O’Neill get the inside scoop for this book? He says he came to Houston after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Texas School of Law, and after completing a clerkship at the U.S. Supreme Court. With that pedigree, he had a wonderful legal practice centering on the oil industry with a large law firm.

Fishermans TombThanks to that work, he met and befriended Strake’s son and grandson, which is how he first heard about the secret project. Later, he became close friends with the elder Strake. As he says in the Forward to his book, “Sometimes a story finds an author rather than the reverse.”

It’s a good thing. As O’Neill noted: “If Strake had died without this coming out, all would have been lost. He started high schools, colleges, and scout camps, and would never allow his name to be used, but he was willing to tell the story now. After his death, his kids [let people know] his name. There’s not even a Wikipedia entry for George Strake. His son is on it, but not senior!”

Thanks to O’Neill’s book, the humble wildcat oilman will now go down in history posthumously as the person who funded one of the Vatican’s most important projects, a former agnostic as the woman who made one of the Church’s most astounding discoveries – and lawyer John O’Neill as the man who had the privilege of telling the world about it.

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EWTN’s Original Movie “Mother Cabrini” Shows That, With God, Nothing Is Impossible

She was a woman who admired St. Francis Xavier so much that she added his name to hers when she became a nun. She was a religious who dreamed of imitating her namesake by traveling east to China as a missionary. Instead, she would go west to the United States as soon as she understood that this is where God wanted her to go.

MC image of Mother Cabrini looking prayerful or pensiveShe was the foundress of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who crossed an ocean in the expectation of staffing an orphanage, a school and a hospital. Instead, she arrived in New York to find a rat-infested tenement and many Italian immigrants who were not only living in horrible conditions, but who had lost their faith because there were almost no clergy or religious who spoke their language to help them.

Mc little boyShe was Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first American saint and the subject of a fascinating EWTN Original Movie, “Mother Cabrini,” which premieres at 8 p.m. ET, Saturday, Nov. 10, with an encore at 1:30 a.m. ET, Monday, Nov. 12.

Daniela Gurrieri of CRISTIANA Video, who wrote, directed, and co-produced the movie with her husband Fabio Carini, says she and her husband were not interested in simply chronicling the more than 67 schools, orphanages, and hospitals Mother Cabrini founded in America and around the world. Instead, the filmmakers wanted to tell the audience about the way Mother Cabrini overcame all the unexpected obstacles that she encountered.

MC lots of rich women in period costumesThat decision is what makes the film so dramatic and what makes Mother Cabini such a compelling figure. Gurrieri says her problem was not in finding obstacles, but in editing them down to a manageable few.

One of the big obstacles – the Italian immigrants’ crisis of faith – was something with which Mother Cabrini and her nuns were familiar. The nuns came to the U.S. from northern Italy, where the scourge of freemasonry was rampant.

MC dramatic scene of woman crying MC running after her“In that period in Italy, the people felt this big clash, the opposition of ethics, of the freemasons against the Pope,” Gurrieri said. “She witnessed, on one hand, the growth of atheism and also of this attitude of hate against the Church, against Jesus Christ, against God and against the priests and the nuns. On the other, she witnessed great love and support of the Church, which had been so attacked. She was used to this kind of opposition. She felt a great danger in the growth of a culture against faith, against the Church, and against life.”

As the film shows, Mother Cabrini and her nuns would be responsible for bringing many people back to the Faith.

MC on the shipAnother reason Gurrieri was interested in doing a film on Mother Cabrini is that her life was so adventurous and challenging.

“She was the first to found [a group of nuns who were] independent of any institution or congregation,” Gurrieri said. “Women in Italy didn’t have any freedom at that time. They were not allowed to have a job. They were not allowed to sign contracts. They were not allowed to manage any kind of property. She did all these things. She traveled alone. She bought houses and hospitals. She was very much in relationship with the Pope, many Cardinals, and the bishops, but she was never dependent on them.”

MC behind the scenes in chapelMother Cabrini was inspired by the love of God for her brothers and sisters in need — whatever their ethnic background – and always sought to show respect for the dignity of each person, no matter how badly they treated her or her nuns. Following her death on Dec. 22, 1917, Gurrieri says, “the Pope received more than 150,000 reports of miracles from people all over the world.” She was canonized on July 7, 1946.

MC children image“I will feel satisfied if this movie inspires great confidence in God and in making the gifts that God gives us bear more fruit,” Gurrieri said. “I will feel satisfied if [this movie helps people understand] that even if society tells us we are weak — because we are women, or weak because we are immigrants, or weak because of whatever does not make us comfortable – that can be overcome. The only thing we need is God, [who taught us in the person of Jesus] to live our life at the service of others.”

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Get Out of Your Christian Comfort Zone… and Other Ways to Think Like Jesus

If you watch “Living Right With Dr. Ray [Guarendi]” on EWTN, you know that this psychologist and father of 10 likes to be provocative! So he began our interview about his new book, “Thinking Like Jesus: The Psychology of a Faith Disciple,” saying: “Jesus says forgive 70 times 7. In my book, I disagree with that. I probably don’t even have to forgive half the time.”

Dr_Ray horizontalDr. Ray pauses to gauge his listener’s reaction – puzzlement, disbelief – before chiming in with an explanation.

“The reason is that, much of the time, when I feel magnanimous about forgiving, there was nothing to forgive! It was my sensitivity, my prickliness, my misinterpretation of a person’s motives. The majority of the time, the offense was in my head. It didn’t exist.”

Dr. Ray says that, too often, we personalize what people say. We think: “’They’re deliberately offending ME. They’re disrespecting ME. They’re attacking ME.’ As soon as we personalize, we immediately become offended. We think: ‘My husband doesn’t pick up his underwear; that means he doesn’t love me.’” But Dr. Ray says: “It has nothing to do with you!”

If that doesn’t cause you and me to do some self-examination, what will? (You can watch Dr. Ray talk about his new book as well as “Being a Grandparent” with Doug Keck on “EWTN Bookmark,”  http://bit.ly/GuarendionBookmark.)

Of course, a little self-examination (maybe a lot of self-examination) is exactly the reaction Dr. Ray is hoping his new book will elicit.  In examining our own conduct, he hopes we find that we become more like Jesus and, in the process, our lives may be filled with a little more joy.

“The last thing I want to be is critical, hyper-vigilant at offense,” says Dr. Ray. “Christians of all people should, probably by far, be the least offended.”

Thinking Like Jesus

Dr. Ray devotes much of his book to helping us see that it will benefit us to be more loving and less offended. In fact, Dr. Ray says the majority of things that offend us are caused by relatively few people who commit repeat offenses — yet we get hurt or upset every time.

“We say, ‘My mother-in-law is a snotty woman.’ When are you going to decide that’s who she is and you’re going to live with it? We say, ‘Christmas Eves around here are no fun.’  But they haven’t been fun for 34 years. When are you going to realize that’s the way she is? People say, “That may be how she is, but I don’t have to like it.’”

Dr. Ray says you’ve got to settle your thoughts to get some peace. However, he does NOT say the answer your problem is to cut the repeat offender out of your life. Why not?

“Christians really cannot have comfort zones,” he says. “You say you don’t want to visit your mother in a nursing home because nursing homes make you nervous. You’re a Christian, you don’t have a comfort zone. But you say, ‘I’m ill at ease there.’ [I say,] ‘But that’s your mother.’ You say, ‘But I’m not comfortable.’ So what? That’s not an excuse for a Christian.”

Dr. Ray says that while there are some toxic people, in his opinion psychologists are too quick to label someone as such. He says for Christians, there should be very few toxic people. He says: Are they physically abusive? A threat to your children?

Dr. Ray Vertical“The vast majority of time we label people toxic who are just difficult. People say: ‘He’s so opinionated; he’s always looking for an argument. I feel better when I’m not around him.’ I say, ‘He’s your dad’s brother.’ They say, ‘He’s there at Christmas. We’ll stay away and find out when he leaves.’ I say, Did he ever punch you in the face? Set your car on fire? No, you just don’t like him!”

“You’re not allowed to NOT talk to a person unless that person is seriously dangerous. I even get nervous about the term emotional abuse. How much of it is her and how much is you? I know very few people in life who are emotionally abusive. You have to be screaming in my face. I’m not going to write you off, especially if you’re family. If it’s the mail carrier, okay, you can write them off.”

The following two examples demonstrate that the good doctor endeavors to practice what he’s preaches.

In the first example, Dr. Ray says he had a neighbor who took dog poop and threw it in his driveway, who called the dog warden on him, and who would take his children’s balls and keep them. Yet one winter, his family shoveled her driveway and they always tried to say hi to her when they saw her outside.

“We said, ‘Yes, she’s obnoxious, poor thing. How’d you like to be her?’ She died a couple years ago, but we could live in peace knowing that we didn’t make her toxic. I think Christians should be at peace. You’re not going to be at peace if you’re vigilant for all kinds of offenses.”

Dr. ray back coverIn a second example, Dr. Ray talks about his family’s frequent interactions with a curmudgeonly alcoholic. “I started calling her Grandma Carol. She loved my first child, a son. She didn’t like my second child, a girl. We continued to call her Grandma Carol. Eventually, we won her over. In the end, we visited her in the nursing home when she was dying.”

Most of us will feel a bit uncomfortable with at least one of the many examples above. So why should we buy a book that makes us feel uncomfortable?

Says Dr. Ray: “Because it will make you live in a way much more like Christ, which is people to people. I always say this, “It’s much easier for me to pray a decade of the rosary than it is to forgive my difficult brother-in-law.” Of course, Dr. Ray can’t resist a joke: “I can make myself look pretty holy by going to Mass every day while saying the Aramaic rosary while I levitate, but it’s going pretty far to forgive my brother-in-law!”

But then he gets serious: ““When you get feedback you don’t want to hear, you need to ask: Is it true? Don’t give a superficial answer! Am I arrogant? Do I come across opinionated? No? Elaborate.”

In the end, says Dr. Ray: “We only have ourselves to give to other people. Most people don’t need food or shelter. They need me to be a Christian.”

Amen?

Note: You can purchase Dr. Ray’s provocative book here: http://bit.ly/ThinkingLikeJesusBook. Readers, if you put some of Dr. Ray’s suggestions into practice, we’d love to hear from you! And, if you don’t already, please tune into “Living Right With Dr. Ray,” which airs 9 a.m. ET, Tuesdays; 5 a.m. ET, Fridays; and 10 p.m. ET, Saturdays on EWTN! (Find EWTN at www.ewtn.com/channelfinder.)

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Divine Mercy for the Sick and Dying

Twenty-five years ago, Dr. Bryan Thatcher was a young physician with a very successful medical practice. He still remembers how he felt the day a young alcoholic bled to death in his arms. Physically, he had done all he could for him. But on a spiritual level, he had the sense he had missed an important opportunity.

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Dr. Bryan Thatcher

“I was so distraught,” Dr. Thatcher said. “I didn’t know back then, but I could have helped usher him into Eternal Glory.”

At that time, this man of medicine would never have guessed that he was destined to become founder and director of a ministry known as the Eucharistic Apostles of Divine Mercy (EADM). It would never have crossed his mind that this ministry would encourage people the world over to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for the sick and dying – people very much like his young alcoholic patient.

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Members of the Eucharistic Apostles of Divine Mercy prayer group in Dallas.

With Dr. Thatcher’s then-secular mindset, he also could never have imagined that EADM would eventually become an apostolate of the religious order that runs the Divine MercyShrine in Stockbridge, Mass., officially known as the Congregation of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception (MIC). Nor could he have believed that the EADM would give birth to 4,000 prayer groups in the U.S. alone and activity in 45 countries – and the apostolate is still growing!

All that and a lot more was hidden from the young doctor’s eyes. All he knew then was that his marriage was falling apart because he was never home. He also says that, back then, he thought being a great dad consisted in giving his kids anything they wanted to make up for the time he wasn’t spending with them.

Fortunately, a friend saw that this physician of the body needed some medicine for the soul and gave him a copy of a book many Catholics in the U.S. would eventually come to know and love: “The Diary of St. Faustina.”

“As I began to get into the Diary, the fonts used to jump out at me,” says Dr. Thatcher, who was at EWTN recently filming two episodes of “At Home with Jim  & Joy,” which you can find here: http://bit.ly/BryanThatcher1, and here http://bit.ly/BryanThatcher2. “It was medication – balm – for a wounded heart. … One of my favorite quotes [from the Diary] was [Jesus’ declaration that]: ‘The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy.’” (Diary, 723)

In tears, Dr. Thatcher told the Lord he would go wherever he wanted him to go. As many a Catholic knows, that was all the Lord was waiting to hear!

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At 15 months old, John Paul Thatcher, fruit of a healed marriage, almost died. This little boy is now 20 years old.

Sometimes, we imagine that, as soon as we turn our hearts to Jesus, nothing bad will ever happen to us again. However, it’s more likely that this will result in an infusion of grace that helps us handle the path that lies ahead. As a result of his healed marriage, Dr. Thatcher and his wife were soon blessed with the birth of a son, John Paul, who nearly died at birth. For a time, all was well.

“When he was 15 months old, I had come back from a conference in Denver and was getting ready for a Mass in my home. We have a swimming pool with a screened in enclosure. My oldest boy, 11 years old, asked me if I could start the lawn mower. I did that, and then my daughters asked me to take them to swim practice. Twenty minutes later, little John Paul was dead. Someone had left the gate open [and he drowned in the pool.] I was in a state of shock. I told them to call 911. My wife is a nurse. She started CPR. The girls were praying and crying.”

The ambulance arrived. The family drove to the hospital. “We hit every red light. I was praying my heart out.”

As Dr. Thatcher prayed, he remembered that just the day before he had been telling people at a conference to pray, “Jesus, I trust in You.” He also remembered the Scripture verse in which Abraham offers Isaac to God. He told himself, he had to have the faith of Abraham. In his mind, he walked his son up a mountainside and gave his son, “the apple of my eye, the fruit of a healed marriage,” back to God.

The ambulance arrived. His wife, who had ridden in the ambulance, had gotten a weak pulse. Dr. Thatcher’s prayer group also heard about the accident and joined the family in prayer. John Paul began to heal.

“I took him home – normal – a few days later,” he said. “I saw my sister at Thanksgiving. She told me they had prayed for John Paul the night of the accident. She said the next morning, her best friend Norma said, “Don’t worry. Everything will be fine. I saw a vision of Abraham giving Isaac to God, and Jesus giving him back!’”

As Dr. Thatcher pondered over the Divine Mercy messages, and his own private miracles, he began to realize how profoundly Eucharistic the message of Divine Mercy is. He and his family began to tour Eucharistic miracle sites around the world. “All I wanted to do was tell people of God’s Mercy; that he loves us right where we are, not where we feel we need to be.”

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Over the years, the Eucharistic Apostles of Divine Mercy (EADM) have shipped 44 containers containing several hundred thousand dollars worth of donated medical supplies to India, the Philippines, countries in Africa, and more. “We throw so much stuff away in America,” said EADM Founder and Director Dr. Bryan Thatcher. “Hospitals, hospices call me. I have two containers on the grounds of [my church here in the U.S.] When I get a full load, people load it and off it goes!” Dr. Thatcher says this is another part of “living the Divine Mercy message.”

In the mid-90s, Dr. Thatcher said he contacted the Marians as well as St. Faustina’s former convent in Poland, and asked if they had a formation program for lay people. Neither of them did, so Dr. Thatcher started a prayer group at his own home in Brandon, Florida, which would become the future EADM’s first cenacle.

The group only read five pages a week, so it took several years to get through the whole book,’ he said. “We had a format: a prayer, faith sharing, more prayer, the chaplet and some social time.”

When the group became part of the Marians in 1999, that format became more formal. Dr. Thatcher was asked to integrate Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church into the meetings and a program of spiritual formation was developed.

As Dr. Thatcher read the Diary with his prayer group, he began to realize how often Jesus talked to St. Faustina about praying with the sick and dying. In fact, one of the key promises to those who pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at the bedside of the sick and dying is that Jesus will meet the dying person as a merciful Savior and not as the just Judge!

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Last summer, Dr. Bryan Thatcher, founder and director of the Eucharistic Apostles of Divine Mercy, visited the Solomon Islands where he spoke with representatives from every parish and three dioceses and was warmly welcomed by the Archbishop. “They’ll be starting Divine Mercy prayer groups,” Thatcher said.

Dr. Thatcher wanted to know more. “What if my wife is in an accident in Florida,” he asked, “and I’m in Alabama. If I say the Chaplet and I’m not at her bedside, will the promise still hold?”

Who could tell him the answer to that question?

Dr. Thatcher had previously managed to get an apostolic blessing for those saying the chaplet in reparation for infants dying in the womb. (For more information on this, please go to http://bit.ly/EADMProLifePapalBlessing. He made that request after reading that, on several occasions, St. Faustina had suffered the passion for three days. The Lord told her it was to make reparation for these infants.

However, Dr. Thatcher now hoped to get a papal blessing for those who would say the chaplet for the sick and dying, even if they were not by the person’s bedside!

Papal Blessing - sick and dying“In 2003, a Polish priest came to me in Jacksonville for some medical care,” Dr. Thatcher said. “I hadn’t thought about the papal blessing for a year. In my office, the priest said, ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’ I said, ‘Why don’t you ask the Pope for a papal blessing [for those who say the Chaplet for the sick and dying]?’ The priest said, ‘The Pope will never grant that to you.’ I said, ‘Okay, I just want you to ask.’”

The priest later called him from Rome, saying that he was preparing to see the Pope the next day. However, he reiterated that there was no way the Pope was going to give Dr. Thatcher the papal blessing he sought. Can you guess what happened?

“The next day, the priest called me and said, ‘The Pope saw the blessing, loved it, and signed it on the spot!’” (Click here to read the blessing: http://bit.ly/EADMSickDyingPapalBlessing.)

Today, people in more than 1,000 chapels around the U.S. pray the chaplet during Adoration for the sick and dying. Dr. Thatcher is currently trying to get parishes to set up teams of three Eucharistic Ministers to go to the bedside of fellow parishioners who are sick and dying. “”If a family calls, you want the priest, of course. But you also want the Church [in the person of the laity] to be more present to the sick and dying.”

Dr. Thatcher knows firsthand the importance of prayer at the beginning and the end of life (and everywhere in between). He helped care for his father during the last years of his life.

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Members of a Eucharistic Apostles of Divine Mercy cenacle (prayer group) in Milwaukee.

“I was doing this while working, doing ministry, and taking care of my family,” he said. “I look back and think, ‘How did I ever do all that?’ But it was the happiest time of my life. My dad used to call me frequently, particularly in the last few months and say, ‘What are you doing?’ I’d say, ‘Just working Dad.’ Those days are gone. No more calls. No taking him out for ice cream. We’re here just a short time.”

Dr. Thatcher admits that being a caregiver isn’t always easy. “When you get that eighth call within an hour – well, we’re human. It’s difficult work. That’s why we have to have that spiritual foundation.”

Today, Dr. Thatcher’s ministry includes travels to some of the poorest countries in the world bringing needed supplies to people from the EADMs and teaching the importance of LIVING the message of Divine Mercy. Prayer provides the foundation for the action in this merciful outreach – and that’s the complete spiritual package that membership in EADM provides.

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Through the grace of God, Dr. Bryan Thatcher, founder and director of the Eucharistic Apostles of Divine Mercy, says his group was able to ship this 18-foot one-ton statue of the Divine Mercy to Rwanda in 2004. The group also sent clothing, religious items, and medical supplies for the local people and raised needed monies to purchase a microscope for the medical clinic in Kibeho.

If you are interested in joining or starting a cenacle in your area, please go to http://bit.ly/JoinOrStartaDMCenacle and to http://bit.ly/DMCenacleGuidelines. You can also watch a cenacle in action by investing in this 13-part series on EWTN: http://bit.ly/WatchDMCenacle, as well as its accompanying EWTN Cenacle Guide at http://bit.ly/EWTNCenacleGuide.

Jesus, I trust in You!

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Why Eucharistic Adoration is the Best Thing You Can Do for Your Spiritual Life

“A lot of people spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration every week, but in speaking about it, you can tell it’s definitely an obligation – which is beautiful – but how does it turn into something sweet? How does Eucharistic Adoration become the thing you most look forward to in the week?”

cropped-ewtnchapelinterior.jpgThe speaker is Father Barry Braum of the Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist (MSE). He has so much to tell us about how to make this shift that he’s written an entire book about it entitled “That I May See,” http://bit.ly/ThatIMaySee.

Father Barry recently visited EWTN, where he appeared on “EWTN Live” (http://bit.ly/EWTNFrBarryBraum), taped an upcoming segment for “Life on the Rock,” and delivered two awesome homilies, http://bit.ly/FrBraumHomilyEWTN1 and http://bit.ly/FrBraumHomily2, The latter was also dubbed into Spanish, http://bit.ly/FrBraumHomilyEnEspanol. Fortunately, Father was also able to spare some time to talk to “Inside EWTN” about the practical things all of us can do to become the saints Mother Angelica always encouraged us to be!

Fr Barry on LOTR setFather Barry says his community’s mission is to make Christ more known and loved. To that end, he has identified five things that he says are essential to the spiritual life. He walks us through them in the same way as he organized his book.

“In speaking to people who have trouble in their spiritual life, who aren’t able to hear God, who are in general confusion, I find that sometimes they haven’t been to confession in a long time. They must enter back into grace and become children of the Heavenly Father again. They must open up communication with the Lord. That’s why that habit of confession is so important. (#1)

“Of course, every new life requires a mother, The Church is our mother but, most especially, Our Lady is our mother. The second chapter of my book deals with Consecration to Our Lady as another fundamental principle in coming to know and love Christ more deeply. (#2)

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“The final chapter of the book deal with how to better prepare for a deeper active participation in the Mass [and communion]. (#5) However, the central chapters of the book are dedicated to Eucharistic Adoration, [where we spend time with Jesus sharing everything that’s in our hearts], (#3) and daily Scriptural meditation, [where we ponder the words of Christ and listen to what He has to tell us.] (#4).”

Fr. Barry quotes St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. Augustine who say that just spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament effects changes in our souls; that every instant there increases the glory of our soul in heaven; that spending one hour in adoration every week is necessary for a deeper union with Christ in Holy Communion.

So meditating on Christ’s life in the presence of the One upon whom we are meditating is endlessly fruitful. (As Mother Angelica used to say, “Go, get a SON tan!”) However, how do we get a place where, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, our hearts are burning within us?

That I May See book photoIn his book, Father suggests we go through the Gospels chronologically, taking one scene every day or every week, and that we begin to imitate Our Lady by pondering her Son’s words in our hearts. Another way to do this would be to take the Sunday Gospel and bring it into our daily prayer for the week. The main thing, Father says, is to avoid “spiritual roulette,” where we just pick something random and then spend our time in prayer wondering if that’s really what the Lord wants us to read!

Go slowly. Ask the Lord what he wants you to see. Pray about it. Question everything.  Why does this scene take place in the morning? Why does the Lord mention this person’s name and not that person’s? Why do we know the name of one town in which an incident takes place but not another? REALLY tear it apart! Father Barry’s book gives a great example of how to effectively use this method of prayer, which is known as Lectio Divina. When you receive an insight, stay with it. What is the Lord trying to teach you? How can you apply it to your life?

There are so many advantages to getting to know Christ better. As Father notes, our life on earth is often filled with tragedy and suffering. Frequently, there is nothing we can say or do to console another person – or ourselves – after the death of a spouse or child. However, when we encounter Christ in Adoration or Scripture, we find someone who can understand.

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“Christ knows the cross,” says Father Barry. “He knows every suffering, interior or exterior, of the human condition. In Christ, we find someone who not only understands but also consoles.”

That’s quite a revelation, especially if our prayer has mostly been about begging the Lord for favors. Father says that prayers of petition aren’t a bad thing, but they shouldn’t be the only thing we do in prayer.

“Prayer is measured by the intensity of love. The Lord judges the heart. Vocal prayers [like the “Our Father” and the “Hail Mary”], unless you’re bound to certain types of prayer like the Liturgy of the Hours, should give way to meditation.”

Of course, there’s a difference between reciting vocal prayers and meditating upon them, as St. Teresa of Avila did with the “Our Father,” for example.

Father says the bottom line is that whatever leads us to love the Lord, and to a determination to spend more time with Him, is what is best for us – and that can and often does change over time.

PR_Holy_Hour_Healing_1As we progress in our prayer lives, Father says there are several common temptations of which we should be aware. As we turn away from the evil we used to do, the devil tempts us by showing us ALL the good things we could do – which often leads to paralysis. It’s true, there are an infinite number of good things to do. However, the question we should be asking ourselves is: What does GOD want me to do?

“You have to have an intimacy with God to be able to know that; to allow him to inspire you daily to live according to His will.”

And intimacy can best be acquired by spending time with Jesus in Adoration.

Father notes that those who have a conversion of heart often have images of all the extraordinary things they want to do for the Lord. But he reminds us that the Gospel message is to love our neighbor.

IMG_3401“Don’t neglect the souls the Lord is sending you,” Father says. “You can affect the multitude by helping one soul at a time because they will go off and do the same.”

The converted soul may end up doing the same things he or she was doing before. The only difference is that he or she is now doing them for Christ – and that will make all the difference!

Father decries the “virtue signaling” that goes on in social media where people talk endlessly about all the good causes they support.

He reminds us of the “little way” of St. Therese, when he says: “The Lord is not asking for extraordinary things, but for little things done with great love. It’s harder to sacrifice in your daily life where no one sees it, but THAT is true heroism.”

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To learn more, and for help in what to do during that hour of Adoration, pick up a copy of Father’s outstanding book, “That I May See,” http://bit.ly/ThatIMaySee. You’ll also want to tune into the many EWTN shows on which Father Barry appeared, as linked to earlier in this blog. You can also log onto the Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist’s website, https://mostholyeucharist.com/, for even more tips on how to make Jesus better known and loved.

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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.”

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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 “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.”

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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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