Monday, February 11, 2019

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

Imagine being a 14 year old girl who was visiting the to collect some firewood and bones in order to buy bread. This little girl, Bernadette Soubirous, along with her sister and a friend had decided to take off their shoes and wade in the water at the grotto. There, an amazing thing happened. She heard the sound of two gusts of wind (coups de vent) but the trees and bushes nearby did not move. However, a wild rose in a natural niche in the grotto did move. Soubirous claimed she saw "uo petite damizelo" (a petite damsel) in white with a golden rosary and blue belt fastened around her waist and two golden roses at her feet.

This occurred in the year 1858 and is now known as the first of many apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes, France. Bernadette would encounter the Blessed Mother several times after this, but it was not until 1860 that the Church recognized and embraced these visits as true apparitions.

This place is now visited by tens of thousands of people each year. While not an official dogma of the Catholic Church, several popes have made the same pilgrimage that others make to pray the rosary and venerate the Marian Spirituality at this holy place. Within the walls of the grotto, water streams from an unknown source which science cannot explain. This water has become a source of healing and blessings for those who bathe in it or carry it home for their own special uses.

Like Bernadette Soubirous, Catherine Laboure, a young Daughter of Charity, had a similar experience in Paris. This occurred several years before Bernadette's visit, but the message was very similar as Mary spoke of herself as the Immaculate Conception. During the apparitions to Catherine Laboure, the Blessed Mother asked her to have a medal struck which would be called the Miraculous Medal. Special devotion to this medal and its special blessings for those who wear it continue even now. Tens of thousand of pilgrims make their way to the Daughters of Charity Motherhouse, the site of Catherine Laboure's apparitions, each year, just as they do the grotto in Lourdes, seeking Mary's protection and graces.

"O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you."

Written by Sister Catherine Kelly, D.C.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Rosalie Rendu: On Fire with Love for the Poor

She was born Jeanne-Marie Rendu on September 9, 1786 in Confort, France, not far from Geneva. The eldest of four girls, Jeanne-Marie came from a family of small property owners which brought along a certain affluence and respect throughout the area. She was baptized the day she was born in the parish church of Lancrans.

Jeanne-Marie was three years old when the French Revolution broke out. Starting in 1790, it was compulsory for the clergy to take an oath of support for the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Numerous priests, faithful to the Church, refused to take this oath. They were driven from their parishes, some being put to death while others hid to escape their pursuers. The Rendu family home became a refuge for these priests. The Bishop of Annecy found asylum there under the assumed name, Pierre. Jeanne-Marie was fascinated by this hired hand who was treated better than the others. One night, she discovered him celebrating Mass.

It was in this atmosphere of solid faith, always exposed to the dangers of denunciation, that Jeanne-Marie was educated. This exceptional environment forged her character. One night, in the basement of her home, lit by candlelight, Jeanne-Marie made her First Communion. 

Later, the deaths of her father and youngest sister just two months apart shook the entire family. Jeanne-Marie, aware of her responsibilities as the eldest, helped her mother, especially in caring for her sisters. Six years later, on May 25, 1802, 16-year-old Jeanne-Marie arrived at the Daughters of Charity Motherhouse in Paris. This was just 17 months after the reopening of the seminary, free from suppression by the Revolutionaries. Upon entering the community, she was given the name Rosalie.

Prodigious worker and organizer model of the 21st century for empowering the Vincentian legacy, Rosalie experienced incarnational mysticism. Rosalie lived her spirituality every day, much of which she received from the poor she served. She meditated on the words of St. Vincent de Paul and on the holy card she received and used for prayer and examination of conscience.

Like Vincent, Rosalie knew how to be a friend to the rich and the poor. The poor loved her deeply because they sensed that she lived out precisely what she asked of the sisters who accompanied her. She asked of them, in the words of one of the witnesses: "welcome everyone, speak to the poor with both kindness and dignity, do not make them wait. 'Treat them,' she said, 'as you would treat your father, brothers, and sisters.'"

Why is Rosalie significant for us today? She developed a network of charity. This tender woman was fearless although she lived in turbulent times. Rosalie lived her spirituality every day, much of which she received from the poor she served.

Elizabeth Johnson writes: "...paradigmatic figures who emerge in the course of history are like a Milky Way thrown down from heaven to earth ... a shining river of stars spiraling out from the center of the galaxy ... to light a path through the darkness. They are women and men who shine like the sun with the shimmer of divinity, showing the community the face of Christ in their own time and place. They distill the central values of the living tradition in a concrete and accessible form. The direct force of their example acts as a catalyst in the community, galvanizing recognition that yes, this is what we are called to be."

That is precisely what Rosalie Rendu says to us today.

Written by Sister Michelle Loisel, D.C.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Words Whispered in Our Ears at Baptism

Sometimes somebody important to us says something to us that we never forget: a parent or family member, a friend, a teacher. At various times and places, the words play back for us and give us insight, confidence, or pause when we are in a particular situation. Perhaps, especially, words that we have from our parents carry this special weight.

I was thinking of this in terms of Jesus and the experience of His baptism. This is the very beginning of Jesus' public ministry. He is just about to embark on the apostolate that will characterize His life. He has take His place on line with all the others who seek John's baptism. John does not want to baptize Him because he feels unworthy.

After the baptism, Jesus hears these words:
"You are my beloved Son;
with you, I am well pleased."

What wonderful words--words with any child would be thrilled to hear from a parent.

Now, this occurs before Jesus has done anything. He is about to start His life's work and He is affirmed in this powerful way. "You are my beloved Son; I am well pleased with you." Perhaps, this is the point: the Father's love for Jesus is not something that is earned, something that is won or lost, but something that is given freely and permanently and without qualification. Jesus knew that He is loved by the Father, but having it said so clearly and so boldly depends its truth on a human level. Jesus knew that He was loved. Nevertheless, it needed to be said aloud and heard distinctly.

When Jesus spoke of the Father, He spoke about Him in that deep way which reflected the Father's love for all His children. He is the welcoming parent who wants all His children to come home and be with Him forever.

What a wonderful and powerful gift it is that the Father gives Jesus on the day of His baptism: the assurance that the Father loved Him and stood by Him. At our baptism, God speaks those same words to each of us: "You are my beloved child. I am pleased with you." We need to hear those words and allow them to guide our lives, just as Jesus did. It makes an enormous amount of difference to know that the Father loves us unconditionally and forever. No matter what we do, God loves us. No matter how far we stray, God stays with us. We do not earn God's love and we can never lose it. It seems so simple to say, but it is the truth. We need to say it and hear it and believe it. It makes all the difference in the world for how we live.

When we get up in the morning and know that we are loved, the day starts out on the right foot; when we go to bed at night and realize that is was not a great day, we can tell ourselves that we are still loved by God, so how bad could it be?

The story of the Baptism of Jesus reminds us that truth in His life and what a difference it made. Let us grasp that truth for ourselves. Remember how God whispered to us on the day of our baptism: you are my beloved child, I am pleased with you. We may have forgotten that. Let us pray that our memory be jogged so that we live as and treat one another as God's beloved children. People on whom God's favor rests.

Written by Father Patrick Griffin. Originally published on FamVin.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

The month of January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, declared so by President Barack Obama in 2016. In addition to this, January 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. It is extremely important that attention be drawn to this terrible injustice. In order to "take down" this billion-dollar industry, we all must become educated to the ways in which human beings, in every corner of the world, are being exploited.

The broad term "human trafficking" is used to include forced labor, domestic servitude, organ harvesting, child soldiers, forced marriage, and sexual exploitation. Many times, the victims are "hidden in plain sight" and it takes another person who knows the signs of trafficking to report it.

Where can you start to make a difference?

  1. Educate yourself by visiting websites of organizations fighting this crime and pass that knowledge along to others! You can start at our Office of Migration and Modern Slavery blog.
  2. Add the confidential, toll free human trafficking hotline number (1-888-373-7888) to your phone in the event that you suspect someone is being trafficked.
  3. Make your voice heard! Contact your government representatives. There are laws in place to protect victims, but we need stronger laws that are continually enforced. We need more programs to help those who have been victimized as healing from the trauma they have experienced takes years.
On January 11, you are urged to wear a blue ribbon to draw attention to this crime. Post a picture of yourself on social media wearing this ribbon and encourage others to do that same.

The only way to eradicate this terrible injustice is to make our voices heard! Won't you help today???

Written by Sister Mary Catherine Warehime, D.C.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Feast of the Holy Family

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

The story of the Holy Family is full of encouragement for those who struggle in life, especially in their own family life. The events in the life of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus help us to see what is really important in life. Their life demonstrated a listening to God, following God's will even though that path would bring challenges. They remind us that wealth is found within our relationships and in how we relate to each other in our own family life and not determined by what we have materially.

The United States Bishops' document, A Family Perspective in Church and Society, describes family life as, "the basic community of believers, bound in love to one another." The family is a place where we are committed in love to one another, even in the midst of the struggles and challenges of life. By making Jesus the center of daily life, the family creates an intimate community of love.

A family's path to holiness is built on love. Families are called to live each day centered on God by showing love, respect, and compassion for each member. In this way, the family becomes stronger in their love for God and for one another. Together, the family learns to give thanks, to share love, and to always be there for each other. As the family grows and becomes a community of love and sharing, it becomes a witness of God's love to all people of the world.

May today's feast remind us, too, that we belong to the universal family of God's love. Remember that men, women, and children living in shelters or on the street are part of our family. Women and children who are emotionally and physically imprisoned as a result of human trafficking are part of our family. Individuals struggling with addiction and living in fear and isolation are part of our family. The thousands of refugees who have left their homelands to escape poverty and violence are part of our family.

As a new year approaches, let us allow the Holy Family to embrace us. May the Holy Family of Nazareth inspire and encourage us to live and show Jesus' love and mercy wherever we find ourselves in the coming year. Be a witness of the Holy Family, not only in your own family, but in your community, in your city, and in the world.

Written by Sister Luanne Carmon, D.C.