Friday, December 30, 2011

Sky View: In a word: Judging others

Sky View: In a word: Judging others
In a word: Judging others

In a Word is a feature of Sky View which provides a short commentary or reflection on life, on a current event or a particular book. 

People judge others based on who, or rather, what they are. If a politician, for instance, is accustomed to lying and cheating others for short term gain, then when there is a question of someone else’s motive or character he will frequently judge others as he sees himself. This goes for the unjust, narcissistic and bad people in general. Because they are guided only by their own lights and refuse to conform themselves to God's law- a higher standard outside of themselves -it is difficult for them to consider other ways of thinking. And so they project their own ways of thinking and doing unto others.

The gift of faith, on the other hand, trains the mind to see morality and the world from a perspective other than our own. After all, our Lord bids us to take the plank out of our own eye before we attempt to remove the speck out of our brother’s eye. This requires that we take a second look at ourselves; especially from someone else’s vantage point.

With that said, those who are innocent like doves can make the same mistake as people with tainted motives. Those with a well-formed conscience sometimes get into the habit of assigning pure and innocent motives to those who do not merit it. For these who are pure of heart, it is difficult to imagine that someone can deliberately do something we consider to be evil. Perhaps, this is why Jesus said, “Be as simple as doves and wise as serpents.” Simple in that we should do good deeds with honorable motives; wise in that we realize, often painfully, that many in world do not aspire to high moral standards.

The Saints often assumed the best in others and the worst in themselves. Yes, they assume the best in others...until proven otherwise. When evil or immorality can no longer be denied and when trust has been broken, they more than anyone, took strong measures to deal with the evil at hand. They were wise as serpents in that they spared no sacrifice to eliminate and purge the evil in their midst (cf. I Corinthians 5:13). Three motives inspired such moral habits: 1. Love for the sinner. 2. Love for those who would be harmed by the sin 3. And out of love for God and his good will.

Christ calls each of his followers to spiritual and moral vigilance. To think with him is to think big. And to think big brings us to the realization that human beings can achieve the heights of sanctity, and, sadly, fall into the depths of great evil. With informed faith we see the world as it really is and act accordingly.

Friday, December 23, 2011



Posted: 22 Dec 2011 09:40 PM PST

If only Christians would anticipate hardship as a given, if only they were aware that God’s calling, by design, is not furnished with red carpets and smooth roads, I believe that the Gospel of Life would be accepted by more people. In recent years I have come across both priests and lay people who were inspired by a kind of boldness of faith at the outset of their ministry. Yet, when they encountered rejection and hardships they drew back and had second thoughts about their mission. Indeed, they even asked themselves: “Is this supposed to happen? Is it supposed to be this hard?”

Yes, the best of Catholics have been rattled to the core when it became clear to them that they might have to sit by themselves at lunch or be rebuffed by fellow Catholics or that they might lose some privileges. Sadly, the lives of the Saints and their multiple hardships escape them. Even the inspiration that came with hearing the words of Christ is a distant memory: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

If anyone’s vocation deserved to be free from the hardships it was St. Joseph’s. After all, he was given the exalted task of protecting God and the Blessed Virgin. Yet from the word “go!” he encountered one hardship after another that could have been easily been prevented by God. In fact, he was given four hardships that gave him great anguish of spirit. If we but seriously meditate on his life we will never approach the work God has for us with the expectation that it should be without hardships. Rejection by our own people, scorn from others, the disappointment of failures, waiting for long periods of time, detours and even the appearance that the Lord himself has abandoned us will not throw us for such a loop. These obstacles will cease to be an excuse not to act and do the right thing! Following the example of St. Joseph, we too can press on and fulfill the mission the Lord has called us to.

Estrangement from His Spouse:

As I mentioned, there are at least four hardships St. Joseph had to endure. As for the first one, here is a short excerpt from a previous Sky View post entitled, St. Joseph and the Sword of Conflict:

“Have you ever wondered why, after appearing to the Blessed Virgin to announce the coming of Christ, the angel Gabriel did not immediately appear to St. Joseph in order to inform him that the Messiah would be conceived of the Holy Spirit; that God would make it possible for Mary to be both virgin and mother?

Instead, there was an interim period of misunderstanding and anguish on the part of St. Joseph. God could have prevented this misunderstanding but he chose not to. And the reason he chose not to was due to some moral and spiritual benefit St. Joseph would gain. Certainly, a lot of tears could have been spared; but often tears can be every bit as redemptive as the blood of martyrs which, as the early Christian adage goes, is the “seed of the Church.”

In his temporary emotional estrangement, St. Joseph, when having the wrong impression about his betrothed, had to rely on God. Indeed, during this short period of time not even the Mother of God could help him because, after all, she was the object of his suspicion and doubt. Alone he stood, confounded over God’s plan and anguished in spirit.”

However, the angel appeared to St. Joseph in a dream in order to vindicate the virginal integrity of Mary’s pregnancy. At last, his anguish was relieved. With a sigh of relief St. Joseph concluded that in good conscience he could remain the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And to be sure, his joy of doing so was revived. But in a matter of a few short months two things were to happen simultaneously that would make his calling as a protector and bread-winner of the Holy Family that much more difficult. Indeed, his hardships were only beginning. After he weathered the first hardship, the second one was soon to follow.

The Edict: Leaving Home

The census edict was issued by Caesar Augustus enjoining the head of each household to register in their hometown just when Mary was due to give birth. From a human point of view, the timing could not be worse. And as for St. Joseph, he probably hadn’t been to his hometown in Bethlehem, where he was to comply with this edict, in quite some time. After all, the traveling distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem was at least a two to three day walk, maybe even more. And because of the edict, traveling from one town to another would be like traveling on a busy holiday. Scores of people would be frequenting the roads and the inns. By the time the Holy Family would get to Bethlehem, St. Joseph’s innate instinct as a husband and father to provide for his Family would be greatly challenged.

St. Joseph's second hardship then was leaving the security of his work and the comforts of his home when his Spouse needed the best kind of care for the birth of her first born child. Such was God's will. But as Jesus would say some thirty years later, "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God." This man of God would be forced to totally rely on Divine Providence. Once the Holy Family arrived in Bethlehem, another hardship awaited him.

Failure to Provide:

Certainly a man as good as St. Joseph would deserve the hospitality of Bethlehem, his hometown, and any accommodations it could afford to provide. Certainly a nice warm room or a spacious house would be made available to him. And certainly if he was called to make these sacrifices for the Son of God he would get a little cooperation from Divine Providence. God's ways are not our ways. The third hardship that was imposed on St. Joseph was certainly not to his liking. After all, there is no worse feeling for a man than to not be able to provide room and board for his family. A quick glance at this story and images of that cold Christmas night may give the average person warm feelings. But when one really sits down and meditates on the real historic details of that story, one cannot help but consider the angst and worry St. Joseph must have felt after having encountered one closed door after another. It is even conceivable that he was tempted to despair. What a failure he must have felt!

Regarding God’s chosen servants, Fr. Paul Marie de la Croix said that “sometimes they encounter a failure which he permits even though he has first assured victory; sometimes, for no apparent reason, they experience a reversal of God’s relationship to them. They seem to be permanently abandoned or even rejected, though divine favor and friendship had been theirs before. They have not been guilty of the slightest infidelity, but they must become fit for the final mystery of faith.” Indeed, in the eyes of the world being forced to seek shelter in a cave right outside of Bethlehem is not a blessing but a curse. However, it was the will of Jesus Christ himself, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, to be born in humble circumstances. It was fitting that the King of Kings be born in a grotto so that even the despised and yet humble shepherds would approach him and do him homage. Hence, little did St. Joseph know that what appeared to be a failure on his part was a great blessing for the world. The simplicity of the crèche and the manager was not only an invitation for the lowly but it would inspire virtues of detachment and a love of poverty among many Christians.

Off to a Foreign Land:

St. Joseph’s resignation to the designs of providence would pay off. Soon after Christmas night, the Magi brought with them gifts for the newborn Messiah. Among these gifts was gold. This would come in handy for yet another hardship St. Joseph would have to endure. Due to the three kings (the Magi) seeking the new born Messiah in Jerusalem, the jealousy of King Herod was provoked. He launched a military campaign to kill every last child under the age of two in the town of Bethlehem. However, God was one step ahead of this ruler. This is when St. Joseph’s fourth hardship kicked in. “The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.’"

“Wait a minute! Where are we going to stay? Just how long do we have to be in Egypt How am I going to provide for Mary and Jesus?” These were just a few of the unanswered questions St. Joseph could have asked. There was no indication as to how long they would have to stay. A short meditation of this episode will bring to our attention how difficult that must have been! Taking refuge in a foreign land amidst a foreign people for safety is one thing; but to do so without knowing for how long is a real test of faith. After six months in Egypt there was no dream telling him to go home; after several months- no dream; and after a year- again, no dream! Ancient tradition has it that the Holy Family lived in Egypt anywhere from two and half years to seven years. The Fathers of the Church differ on this point.

Nevertheless, in order for St. Joseph to fulfill his mission he had to have strength of character, the endurance of faith and a spirit of detachment. For a short period of time, he thought he would have to say good-bye to Mary, his Spouse. And Scripture indicates he was willing to do just that. He also was called to say good-bye to his work and home because of Caesar’s edict. And finally he was forced to say good-bye to his fatherland, namely, his country.

Yet, for all of his sacrifices the Lord blessed him with many years in Nazareth with Mary and Jesus as his companions. What a paradise that Nazareth home must have been! The family conversations, the love and the peace of that household had to be a microcosm of heaven. And just as important, he was blessed with Mary and Jesus at his side on his deathbed. Indeed, the Lord compensated for every hardship St. Joseph was willing to endure for his sake.

For us Christians who are called to protect and advance the causes of God how can we not expect hardships? But if we endure them faithfully and press forward as St. Joseph did, how can we not expect his blessings?

Monday, December 19, 2011


For eight months, 2 years old Joshua battled a last stage cancer that brought him through a transplantation, 80 chemotherapy cures, and 17 radiotherapy sessions. When nothing worked, his parents took their son to Medjugorje. Back home, tests showed 19 tumors and all bone metastases to be gone as the beginning of Joshua’s now complete recovery.
elizabeth joshua de nicolo healed medjugorje
Joshua de Nicolo with his mother, Elizabeth
Before he turned three years old, Joshua de Nicolo had experienced more hardships, drama, and obvious grace than many people do in an entire life.
The boy from Putignano in southern Italy was born with an un-discovered neuroblastoma, the most common form of infancy cancer, in February 2007. It took 22 months for Joshua’s true condition to be found in January 2009 when the illness had progressed to its last stage, 4D, where long-term survival rates are poor despite aggressive multimodal therapy.
Doctors gave Joshua only days or weeks to live when his parents took him to Medjugorje in June 2009. Just before departure, the boy’s white blood cell numbers dramatically improved, and Joshua immediately felt well in Medjugorje, his parents testify. Joshua felt even better after Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo’s apparition on July 2nd 2009 when he was placed beside the visionary. After that, he seemed relieved from pain.

THE ENDING -One year after their first visit, the family returned to Medjugorje to give thanks. For Joshua, that meant one more unusual experience:

“After twelve months, we returned with a cured child” Elizabeth de Nicolo tells.
“There I saw Joshua lift up his eyes and smile. I knew something special was taking place. When I asked him why he smiled and looked at the sky and said “Have a peaceful and joyful Christmas”, he told me he was seeing the Madonna and beside her was Padre Pio who was smiling at him.”

Friday, December 16, 2011

In God's Company 2: A Family On Our Route

In God's Company 2: A Family On Our Route: Fr. Kevin Scallon & Sr. Briege Mc Kenna A family on our route Recently, we rejoiced over Sr. Briege McKenna's presence at our home. S...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In God's Company 2: The Virgin Mary Appears In Prison.

In God's Company 2: The Virgin Mary Appears In Prison.: The Virgin Appears In Prison The Medjugorje Sentinel, by Padraig Caughey In 1982, when I was 26 years old, I was captured by the Britis...

I said in despair, "Padre Pio, go to God, and ask Him to prove to me that He really exists in the space of one 'Hail Mary.' If He does not, I will know for certain that He does not exist, and I can go ahead and kill myself."

Our Lady Appeared! As soon as I had said, "Hail Mary," my

Saturday, December 10, 2011

In God's Company 2: The Disappearing Priest

In God's Company 2: The Disappearing Priest: Saint Elijah's Church The Disappearing Priest By Tony Zuniga Fr. Jozo is considered by many to be a living saint. He went to prison t...

At the moment of Consecration, when the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ during the Mass, Fr. Jozo repeated Jesus’s words, “This is My Body!” As he slowly raised the Sacred Host, I heard two loud thumps to my right. Startled, I turned my head in that direction. Two women who were standing nearby had just dropped hard on their knees, as if hit by a two by four. I found out later that one of them did not believe in Jesus, and the other one did not believe in Mary. Apparently their conversion took place in an instant. tant. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kreeft:Pro-Abort Catholics More Damaging than Sex Abuse Scandal

Kreeft: Pro-Abort Catholics More Damaging than Sex Abuse Scandal

Boston College Professor and author Peter Kreeft told a group of 500 at the Bishop O’Connor Center in Madison that pro-abortion Catholics have done more damage to the Church than the sex abuse scandal, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Kreeft’s speech was focused on whether Catholics could be liberals and quickly turned to the issue of abortion where he  said, “A Catholic cannot be today what is called a liberal about abortion. That’s obvious. That’s a ‘duh.’”
But a question from an audience member had Kreeft elaborating further:

During the Q&A, an audience member brought up the Kennedy political dynasty and how a group of leading theologians and Catholic college professors had met with Kennedy family members in the mid-1960s and came up with a way for Catholic politicians to support a pro-abortion rights platform with clear consciences.
Kreeft said these Catholic advisers “told the Kennedys how they could get away with murder.” Kreeft then made one of his boldest comments of the evening, suggesting the theologians who first convinced Democratic politicians they could support abortion rights and remain Catholic did more damage to the Catholic Church than pedophile priests.
“These were wicked people. These were dishonest people. These were people who, frankly, loved power more than they loved God,” Kreeft said. “Sorry, that’s just the way it is. In fact, I’d say these were even worse than the child molesters — though the immediate damage they did was not as obvious — because they did it deliberately, it wasn’t a sin of weakness. Sins of power are worse than sins of weakness. Cold, calculating sins — that’s straight from the devil.”
A few minutes later, the talk over, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sky View: The New Translation & Inspired Leadership

Sky View: The New Translation & Inspired Leadership click on to read entire article

The truth may be surprising. After several decades of our society relegating religion to the private sphere, the average person would be hard pressed to see that the Catholic Liturgy (or Mass) has any relevance to political leadership. But it does, albeit indirectly.

The New Translation of the Catholic Mass is due to be implemented in Catholic churches throughout the world this Advent in 2011. In short, it is an attempt to reflect more accurately the founding principles of Catholicism. Indeed, more expressions from Scripture and the writings of the early Church Fathers will be used. Pope Benedict XVI maintains that the Church stands and falls with the liturgy. He said, “When the faith no longer appears in its fullness in the Liturgy of the Church, when man’s words, his thoughts, his intentions are suffocating him, then faith will have lost the place where it is expressed and where it dwells.” Unfortunately, in the late 1960s going into the 1970s, that fullness of faith had diminished somewhat with the translation of the Mass from Latin into the vernacular. The New Translation, however, is a return to that fullness of faith which the Liturgy has traditionally expressed.

For example,

Friday, November 25, 2011

St. Catherine of Alexandria-November 25 – She Defied the Emperor

November 25 – She Defied the Emperor

St. Catherine of Alexandria

Feastday: November 25
St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr whose feast day is November 25th. She is the patroness of philosophers and preachers.
St. Catherine is believed to have been born in Alexandria of a noble family. Converted to Christianity through a vision, she denounced Maxentius for persecuting Christians. Fifty of her converts were then burned to death by Maxentius.
Maxentius offered Catherine a royal marriage if she would deny the Faith. Her refusal landed her in prison. While in prison, and while Maxentius was away, Catherine converted Maxentius' wife and two hundred of his soldiers. He had them all put to death.
Catherine was likewise condemned to death. She was put on a spiked wheel, and when the wheel broke, she was beheaded. She is venerated as the patroness of philosophers and preachers. St. Catherine's was one of the voices heard by St. Joan of Arc.
Maxentius' blind fury against St. Catherine is symbolic of the anger of the world in the face of truth and justice. When we live a life of truth and justice, we can expect the forces of evil to oppose us. Our perseverance in good, however, will be everlasting.

from Wikipedia
Saint Catherine of Alexandria, also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel and The Great Martyr Saint Catherine (Greek ἡ Ἁγία Αἰκατερίνη ἡ Μεγαλομάρτυς) is, according to tradition, a Christian saint and virgin, who was martyred in the early 4th century at the hands of the pagan emperor Maxentius. According to her hagiography, she was both a princess and a noted scholar, who became a Christian around the age of fourteen, and herself converted hundreds of people to Christianity. Over 1,100 years following her martyrdom, St. Joan of Arc identified Catherine as one of the Saints who appeared to her and counselled her.[4]
The Orthodox Church venerates her as a Great Martyr, and celebrates her feast day on 25 November. In the Catholic Church she is traditionally revered as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. In 1969 the Catholic Church removed her feast day from the General Roman Calendar;[5] however, she continued to be commemorated in the Roman Martyrology on November 25.[6] In 2002, her feast was restored to the General Roman Calendar as an optional memorial.
Life story
According to the traditional narrative, Catherine was the beautiful daughter of the pagan King Costus and Queen Sabinella, who governed Alexandria. Her superior intelligence combined with diligent study left her exceedingly well-versed in all the arts and sciences, and in philosophy etc. Having decided to remain a virgin all her life, she announced that she would only marry someone who surpassed her in beauty, intelligence, wealth, and dignity. This has been interpreted as an early foreshadowing of her eventual discovery of Christ. "His beauty was more radiant than the shining of the sun, His wisdom governed all creation, His riches were spread throughout all the world."[1] Though raised a pagan, she became an ardent Christian in her teenage years, having received a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, in which the Blessed Virgin gave Catherine to Jesus in mystical marriage.
As a young adult, she visited her contemporary, the Roman Emperor Maxentius, and attempted to convince him of the moral error in persecuting Christians for not worshipping idols. The emperor arranged for a plethora of the best pagan philosophers and orators to dispute with her, hoping that they would refute her pro-Christian arguments, but Catherine won the debate and succeeded in converting all of them to Christianity, for which the philosophers and orators were executed by an enraged Maxentius. Catherine was then scourged and put in prison, during which time over two hundred people came to see her, including Maxentius' wife the empress, all of whom converted to Christianity and were therefore martyred. [7] Upon the failure of Maxentius to make Catherine yield by way of torture, he tried to win the beautiful and wise princess over by proposing marriage to her, at which point in time the Saint declared that her spouse was Jesus Christ, to whom she had consecrated her virginity. The furious emperor condemned Catherine to death on the spiked breaking wheel, an instrument of torture. The wheel was miraculously destroyed, however, in answer to St. Catherine's prayer, and so Maxentius had to settle for beheading her.
Icon of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, with scenes from her martyrdom.
According to a Christian tradition dating to about 800, angels carried her body to Mount Sinai, where, in the 6th century, the Eastern Emperor Justinian had established what is now known as Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai, (in fact dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ). The main church was built between 548 and 565, and the monastery became a major pilgrimage site for Catherine and the other relics and sacred sites there. Saint Catherine's Monastery survives, a famous repository of early Christian art, architecture and illuminated manuscripts that remains open to tourists and visiting scholars.
Donald Attwater characterizes the "legend" of St. Catherine as "the most preposterous of its kind" citing the lack of any "positive evidence that she ever existed outside the mind of some Greek writer who first composed what he intended to be simply an edifying romance."[8] Harold T. Davis confirms that "assiduous research has failed to identify Catherine with any historical personage" and has theorized that Catherine was an invention inspired to provide a counterpart to the story of the slightly earlier pagan philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria.[9][10]
The earliest surviving account of St. Catherine's life comes over 500 years after the traditional date of her martyrdom, in the monologium attributed to Emperor Basil I (866), although the rediscovery of her relics at Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai was about 800.,[11] and presumably implies an existing cult at that date (the common name of the monastery developed after the discovery).
Medieval cult
St. Catherine was one of the most important saints in the religious culture of the late middle ages, and arguably considered the most important of the virgin martyrs, a group including Saint Agnes, Margaret of Antioch, Saint Barbara, Saint Lucy, Valerie of Limoges and many others. Her power as an intercessor was renowned, and firmly established in most versions of her hagiography, in which she specifically entreats Jesus at the moment of her death to answer the prayers of those who remember her martyrdom and invoke her name.
The development of her medieval cult was spurred by the reported rediscovery of her body around the year 800 at Mount Sinai, with hair still growing and a constant stream of healing oil emitting from her body.[11] There are a handful of pilgrimage narratives that chronicle the journey to Mount Sinai, most notably those of John Mandeville and Friar Felix Fabri.[12] However, the monastery at Mount Sinai was the best-known site of Catherine pilgrimage, but was also the most difficult to reach. The most prominent western shrine was the monastery in Rouen that claimed to house Catherine's fingers. It was not alone in the west, however, accompanied by many, scattered shrines and altars dedicated to Catherine, which existed throughout France and England. Some were better known sites, such as Canterbury and Westminster, which claimed a phial of her oil, brought back from Mount Sinai by Edward the Confessor.[13] Other shrines, such as St. Catherine's Hill, Hampshire were the focus of generally local pilgrimage, many of which are only identified by brief mentions to them in various texts, rather than by physical evidence.[14]
Saint Catherine also had a large female following, whose devotion was less likely to be expressed through pilgrimage. The importance of the virgin martyrs as the focus of devotion and models for proper feminine behavior increased during the late middle ages.[15] Among these, St. Catherine in particular was used as an exemplar for women, a status which at times superseded her intercessory role.[16] Both Christine de Pizan and Geoffrey de la Tour Landry point to Catherine as a paragon for young women, emphasizing her model of virginity and "wifely chastity."[17] From the early 14th century the Mystic marriage of Saint Catherine first appears in hagiographical literature and, soon after, in art. In the Western church, concerns over the authenticity of her legend began to reduce her importance in the 18th century.[18]
Her principal symbol is the spiked wheel, which has become known as the Catherine wheel, and her feast day is celebrated on 25 November by most Christian churches. However, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates it on 24 November. The exact origin of this tradition is not known. In 11th-century Kyivan-Rus, the feast day was celebrated on 25 November. Saint Dimitry of Rostov in his Kniga zhyttia sviatykh (Book of the Lives of the Saints), T.1 (1689) places the date of celebration on 24 November. A story that Empress Catherine the Great did not wish to share her patronal feast with the Leavetaking of the feast of the Presentation of the Theotokos and hence changed the date is not supported by historical evidence. One of the first Roman Catholic churches to be built in Russia, the Catholic Church of St. Catherine, was named after Catherine of Alexandria because she was Catherine the Great's patron.
The 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia describes her historical importance as follows:
Ranked with St Margaret and St Barbara as one of the fourteen most helpful saints in heaven, she was unceasingly praised by preachers and sung by poets. It is believed that Jacques-Benigne Bossuet dedicated to her one of his most beautiful panegyrics and that Adam of St. Victor wrote a magnificent poem in her honour: Vox Sonora nostri chori, etc. In many places her feast was celebrated with the utmost solemnity, servile work being suppressed and the devotions being attended by great numbers of people. In several dioceses of France it was observed as a Holy Day of Obligation up to the beginning of the seventeenth century, the splendour of its ceremonial eclipsing that of the feasts of some of the Apostles. Numberless chapels were placed under her patronage and her statue was found in nearly all churches, representing her according to medieval iconography with a wheel, her instrument of torture. Meanwhile, owing to several circumstances in his life, Saint Nicholas of Myra was considered the patron of young bachelors and students, and Saint Catherine became the patroness of young maidens and female students. Looked upon as the holiest and most illustrious of the virgins of Christ after the Blessed Virgin Mary, it was natural that she, of all others, should be worthy to watch over the virgins of the cloister and the young women of the world. The spiked wheel having become emblematic of the saint, wheelwrights and mechanics placed themselves under her patronage. Finally, as according to tradition, she not only remained a virgin by governing her passions and conquered her executioners by wearying their patience, but triumphed in science by closing the mouths of sophists, her intercession was implored by theologians, apologists, pulpit orators, and philosophers. Before studying, writing, or preaching, they besought her to illumine their minds, guide their pens, and impart eloquence to their words. This devotion to St. Catherine which assumed such vast proportions in Europe after the Crusades, received additional éclat in France in the beginning of the fifteenth century, when it was rumoured that she had spoken to Joan of Arc and, together with St. Margaret, had been divinely appointed Joan's adviser.[19]
Ring of St. Catherine, given to pilgrims visiting Mount Sinai.
Devotion to Saint Catherine remains strong amongst Orthodox Christians. With the relative ease of travel in the modern age, pilgrimages to Saint Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai have increased. Pilgrims to her monastery on Mt Sinai are given a ring, which has been placed on the relics of the saint as an evlogia (blessing) in remembrance of their visit.
In art
Catherine is very frequently depicted in art, especially in the late Middle Ages, which is also the time that the account of St. Catherine's Mystical Marriage makes its first literary appearance. She can usually be easily recognised as she is richly dressed and crowned, as befits her rank as a princess, and often holds a segment of her wheel as an attribute, or a martyr's palm. She often has long unbound blonde or reddish hair (unbound as she is unmarried). The vision of Saint Catherine of Alexandria usually shows the Infant Christ, held by the Virgin, placing a ring (one of her attributes) on her finger, following some literary accounts, although in the version in the Golden Legend he appears to be adult, and the marriage takes place among a great crowd of angels and "all the celestial court",[20] and these may also be shown.
She is very frequently shown attending on the Virgin and Child, and is usually prominent in scenes of the Master of the Virgo inter Virgines, showing a group of virgin saints surrounding the Virgin and Child. Notable later paintings of Catherine include single figures by Raphael (National Gallery) and Caravaggio (Madrid, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum).

Sky View: What you may not know about Christmas

Sky View: What you may not know about Christmas

If you ever watched the History or Discover Channel you may have come across progressive theologians or historians who dismiss out of hand the historical accounts of Christ's birth as told in the Gospels. Quite often scholars look down upon tradition, the testimonies of the early Christians and their ancient writings. For some of these intellectuals, it is beneath them to give any credibility to traditions associated with piety and religious devotion. Yet, by confining their judgments within the narrow circle of contemporary scholarship, they deprive themselves of valuable insights which the traditions of the Church do provide. Perhaps, this may be one of the reasons why many people do not know the following about Christmas.

Take for instance the date of Christ's birth. Many scholars have said that it is highly unlikely that December 25th was the actual date of our Lord's birth. One principal reason was that shepherds in the Holy Land did not normally graze their pastures with their sheep during the month of December. Rather, the more likely month for such activity would be during the month of March. But, as we shall see, there are reasons to believe that the tradition of the Church got it right.

For starters, early in the fourth century (300's), St. Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, wrote Pope St. Julius, bishop of Rome, to inquire about the date of Christ’s birth. One might think that if anyone was qualified to answer the question it would be St. Cyril himself; primarily because he was the bishop of Jerusalem, just twelve miles away from Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ. Nevertheless, it just so happened that the city of Jerusalem was pillaged in 70 A.D. by the Roman army, led by General Titus, in order to repress an uprising of Jewish zealots. In the process, the Temple was destroyed and its records- along with the census documents -were brought back to Rome only to be filed among the Roman archives. Less than three hundred years later, these documents were evidently still in existence. Interestingly enough, Pope St. Julius was the acting bishop of Rome after Christianity had been legalized. As such, he had privileged access to the Roman archives. St. Julius wrote back to the Saintly Bishop of Jerusalem and assigned December 25th as the birth date of Jesus Christ. “St. John Chrysostom [Bishop and Father of the Church in the 400's] quotes the same authority of the Roman archives as the source of the date of Christmas.”

As regards to the likelihood shepherds overseeing their sheep on a cold December night, we learn the following: It just so happened that right outside the town of Bethlehem was a watch tower called the Migdal Eder. This was a special watch tower that overlooked a pasture of sheep. But these sheep were no ordinary sheep. The sheep at the Migdal Eder were specially groomed for the temple sacrifice "throughout the year." This pasture land happened to be alongside a road leading to Jerusalem. The Migdal Eder shepherds were trained to keep these sheep unblemished, that is, with no broken bones or any other kind of infirmity. Unblemished lambs, of course, were required by the Law of Moses. These providential circumstances, no doubt, foretold that the Christ-child was the “Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.”

Interestingly, it is believed that the Angel announced the glad tidings of the Saviors birth to these special Migdal Eder shepherds on Christmas night. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that after having witnessed the angelic apparition and having visited the Holy Family, these shepherds got to talking at the temple when they transported the sheep there. Perhaps, this is why St. Simeon and the prophetess Anna (Luke 2) recognized the Christ-child as the long awaited Messiah when he was presented in the temple forty days after his birth. After all, the following prophecy from Micah was well known within the Jewish community: “But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.”

Tradition also has it that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the age of 3 to the time she was betrothed to St. Joseph, had lived in the temple. Just like Hannah did with her son Samuel in the Old Testament, Mary’s parents, St. Anne and St. Joachim, dedicated her to the temple. According to an ancient document known as the Gospel of St. James, Mary was to spend most of her childhood in the temple. As such, her holiness and even her vow of virginity could very well have been made known to the likes of St. Simeon and the prophetess Anna who also lived in the temple (not to be confused with St. Anne, Mary’s mother).

Lastly, some scholars, for their own reasons, have maintained that Christ was not born in Bethlehem but rather in Nazareth. However, the early Christians have something to say about the exact place of Christ’s birth. It was virtually unanimous among the early Christians and Fathers of the Church that Jesus was born just outside of Bethlehem in a cave. St. Justin, a Palestinian by birth and a Christian philosopher who lived about a hundred years after Christ, writes that Jesus was born in a grotto near Bethlehem. He said, “Since Joseph did not find where to lodge in the village of Bethlehem, he repaired to a certain grotto near to it; and being there, Mary brought forth Jesus and laid him in the manger, where the Magi, coming from Arabia, found him.”

About fifty years after St. Justin died (165 A.D.) Origin, a Catholic priest and well known Father of the Church, had this to say: "At Bethlehem is shown a grotto where Jesus was born. The fact is well known throughout the whole country. Even pagans know that in this grotto was born a certain Jesus adored by the Nazarenes." When Christianity finally had become legal in 313 A.D. by the Roman Emperor Constantine, his mother, a canonized Saint, traveled to Bethlehem and found the grotto where our Lord was born. As an ancient Church historian, Eusebius, relates, the Emperors mother restored it. "Helena adorned the holy grotto with rich and varied decorations. Some time later, the Emperor himself, outdoing his mother's munificence, embellished this place in truly royal fashion, lavishing on it gold, silver and sumptuous tapestries.” From that time forward, the grotto, later turned into a shrine, became a favorite holy site for pilgrims.

In conclusion, although modern scholarship has furthered our knowledge about Christ in many ways, it is, nevertheless, comprised of fallible judgments based many premises which may or may not be true. One thing is for sure: If you want to know the truth about Christmas and the circumstances of that wonderful night, we cannot afford to ignore the traditions that have come down to us. They have a lot neat insights to offer. What is more, many of them are credible. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that the story of Jesus Christ’s birth, as it is read to us from the pulpit at Mass on Christmas eve or on Christmas day, really did happen the way the Gospels say they did.

Russians flock to see Virgin Mary relic

Russians flock to see Virgin Mary relic
Braving freezing cold temperatures and ice-covered sidewalks, tens of thousands of Russians stood in line Wednesday to see and kiss a newly arrived relic of the Virgin Mary in Russia's largest Orthodox cathedral.
The Virgin Mary's Cincture, a belt that Christians believe was worn by Jesus' mother, was brought to Russia last month from Mount Athos, a monastic community in Greece.Kissing the relic, which is encased in an ornamental box, is believed to help barren women conceive and heal other ailments.
The line of people, mostly women, waiting to enter the golden-domed Christ the Savior Cathedral stretched for 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) along the Moscow River despite temperatures that dropped to below minus 5 Celsius (23 Fahrenheit).
Hundreds of buses brought pilgrims from other Russian cities. Some 150 buses were parked along the embankment with their engines running so the faithful could get warm as they waited. The city provided free tea and food and put up portable toilets.Police officers announced through bullhorns that it will take worshippers 24 hours to get to the relic as the line swelled to tens of thousands.
Some 1,500 police officers were deployed to prevent people from cutting in line.
Traffic in central Moscow has been snarled since the relic first went on display Saturday. By Wednesday afternoon, as many as 300,000 people had seen the relic, which will remain on display through Sunday.
The St. Andrew's Foundation, which brought the relic to Russia, said it was viewed by 2 million people in 14 other cities before arriving in Moscow.
The Russian Orthodox Church withered under eight decades of Soviet rule, but has enjoyed a resurgence over the past two decades. Russians adopted Christianity in 989 from Byzantine Greeks, and the Russian Orthodox Church has maintained close ties with Greek clergy and monasteries.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Medjugorje Testimony of Fr. & Dr. Erich
Dr. Erich in Vienna shares testimony
Father and Doctor Erich shares his testimony in Vienna
Used with permission from Christian Stelzer  

November 24, 2011

Dear Family of Mary!

"Dear children! Today when Heaven is near to you in a special way, I call you to prayer so that through prayer you place God in the first place. Little children, today I am near you and I bless each of you with my motherly blessing so that you have the strength and love for all the people you meet in your earthly life and that you can give God's love. I rejoice with you and I desire to tell you that your brother Slavko has been born into Heaven and intercedes for you. Thank you for having responded to my call." (November 25, 2000)

Today is the anniversary of the death of Fr. Slavko Barbaric, O.F.M. Fr. Slavko died on Mount Krizevac after completing the Way of the Cross. He remains with us all as an example and an intercessor. Thank you, Fr. Slavko.

Today I want to share this beautiful testimony given in Vienna at St. Stephens Cathedral, on November 17, 2011. Dr. (Rev.) Erich Cohen (I am not sure of the spelling of his name) shared of his journey from a family with no faith to the priesthood. His story is intertwined with Fr. Slavko in a special way. (The video of this testimony may be found on the video entitled "Ivan's sharing" in the video player entitled Ivan & Cardinal Schoenborn in St. Stephens Cathedral.)

Witness of Dr. Erich Coehn at St. Stephens Cathedral, November 17, 2011:

Yes May Jesus Christ be praised! I am happy that so many people have come to give honor to the Mother of God. In a message she told us: "Be witnesses" and so I wish to give witness to the glory of God and to the Mother of God, who has done so much good in my life.

I come from a family in Tyrol in which faith played no role whatsoever. We were very far away from God, but there was a woman, my Grandmother. She was praying. She was praying for us. She has interceded for us and through her intercession much good has come. She became old, and forgetful. She even forgot to pray, we could say. But in me, God had listened to her, and he planted the seed of faith in my heart.

It began with a crisis. I was in love, and I was looking for the meaning in life. I was thinking about what is important and what is not important. And I found a passage from the Bible in my memory, and it said, "Do unto others what you would have done unto you." And so I thought, if this is in the Bible, I don't need to reflect much more. I will read the Bible, it will be quicker. So I started to spend a lot of time with the Bible, and take a lot of time to read it. I was about 20 years old. I was a student. People came to me, like the Jehovah's Witnesses or the sect of Moon, and they invited me to walk with them, and I actually walked with those sects for a time. It was not easy to get out of those sects. It was not easy.

But I had a very strong experience, and I felt the love of God. And that experience brought me to search for this God. Where does he live, this God? I was allowed to experience God while in the sect of Moon and the Jehovah's Witnesses. I woke up one day and I knew where my home was. I began to know who I was and whom I belonged to. I don't know why. I was living in Innsbruck, in the middle of the city. I went to the window, and the whole city was full of people. There were people on both sides if the street. And I said to them, "Why are you standing in the middle of the street?" And they said, "The Pope is coming to Innsbruck." And I said, "OK." I was standing on the road, and truly, the Pope came in the pope mobile. And he drove straight past the house I was living in and was so close to me. I have never been with him since then. He was 2 meters away, the road was a very narrow one and I was so close to him. And then I went to celebrate the Mass of the Pope, with everybody. It was a very deep experience.

In the spiritual battle [in my soul], the topic was, "Is Jesus really present in the Eucharist or is it just a piece of bread?" That was my spiritual battle. I decided that Jesus is present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. I decided He was there. And I was a member of the Catholic Church from then on. Every Sunday I went to Mass after that, and I was in love with God. I can say that as the Mass continued, when the Pope held up the Cross and he said, "Behold your mother, Behold your son," I didn't know what to do with Our Lady at the time. I didn't understand the Mother of God.
But I was busy with Hildegard of Bingen, and her medicine. And in one of her writings she spoke about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. And I read in a brochure of Fatima something about this [Heaven, Hell and Purgatory] as well. And when I looked it up, it matched [with what Hildegard had written]. And so I thought "How could the visionaries of Fatima know something of Hildegard of Bingen?" So what happened in Fatima must be true. And that is how I found the Mother of God.

I began to pray the Rosary. Praying the Rosary brought freedom in me, a deliverance in me. When I prayed it for the first time, there was truly dirt and dust around me, and I felt that the dirt and dust was around me and in my soul. I knew it. And I saw that the Rosary is the strongest prayer of protection because we take refuge under Our Lady's mantle. So how did I reach Medjugorje?

My sister did not have much faith and she was talking badly about Medjugorje and making jokes about it. And I said, "If my sister speaks badly about Medjugorje there must be something to it." So how would I get there? I asked and found out about a lady from Innsbruck who did trips to Medjugorje. And that lady didn't do trips in 1993 because there was a war. So she told me to go to Herbert Lebeirer and he told me a bus from the north of Germany, from Bingen, was going to Medjugorje. So I took that bus from Bingen. Just as Hildegard of Bingen was the one to show me the path to Our Lady first, I happened to take a bus from Bingen to go to Medjugorje for the first time - a little detail.

I had a good friend who is a Carthusian. At the time he was a Merciful Brother. He gave me a "Golden Book". He said that when the time has come, then read a bit in that Golden Book. Well without knowing it, I was beginning the Consecration. I didn't know that Medjugorje actually existed, but on the 30th day of that Consecration, I was in Medjugorje. And during the apparition time I made my Consecration to Mary. This is how I arrived in Medjugorje.

I became active in prayer groups, prayer circles. For me this was a very special time because the family of the prayer circle kept me in the faith, encouraged me and carried me. And so I can say that prayer groups, prayer circles are very important now.

Then I finished my studies. I became a medical doctor. After studies, after I began to work, I thought to open my own medical practice. [But first] I thought I would pray a bit, and so I went to the Community of the Beatitudes and lived for a while in Austria. I liked the group very much and I wanted to enter them, and to stay there. But I went to Medjugorje for one year and then things were done I thought. I was going to get married, perhaps stay in Medjugorje as a doctor. There were very few of them at the time. And I was happy with that plan, with what I thought would be my life.

But on one Friday we were doing the Way of the Cross, in November. It was the 24th of November. It was a day when it was raining. And I thought to myself, would I do the Way of the Cross on Krizevac or wouldn't I? It was wet, cold and slippery, and I didn't feel like going. So I had my little battle and I said, "Yes, I will join the Way of the Cross with the parish."

And when I reached the top, Fr. Slavko was before me, with the group of the parish. When I arrived at the 13th Station, I saw young people running, upset, and I thought they were completely crazy, because in the rain you don't run on that slippery earth, on Krizevac, it is very foolish. But I went up and I saw a priest sort of sitting between the rocks. I saw Fr. Slavko was dying. He was already dying. We prayed together and in that moment, it was a mystical moment I must say, the rain stopped, a little rainbow appeared over the church. We all saw it. The clouds had full sun on them. I knew Fr. Slavko had joined heaven.

Six of us carried him down. It was very difficult to carry him down. He was dead, but from the back he banged my back, knocked on my back with his arm. And I remembered that when I spoke with him for the first time that I perhaps had a vocation, he knocked my chest with his hand. First he knocked my heart in my chest, and this time he banged me on my back, saying, "Come on, get going!" And then I went down into the church and without a reason I started to cry for one or two hours in the church. And since that moment, Fr. Slavko has interceded for a great gift for me, a great grace. It is not to look at myself, but to trust in God and serve man. That was the beginning of my path to the priesthood. I then decided to be a priest.

I left the community. I went to Rome. I went to the seminary. I went to the diocese. I became a deacon, I was consecrated. And three years ago, I became a priest. And so I can say that the Mother of God has always been my companion, all my life. Until now she has guided me. She has protected me in very difficult situations. I want to encourage you to always accept this protection. She is here for us. She helps us. She is a great grace. And the vocation for many goes through Medjugorje these days. I want to thank the Mother of God for everything she has done for us and all she is doing for us through her presence. I want to thank Fr. Slavko for his graces and his help. And I want to thank Blessed John Paul II; I want to thank him, who gave birth to me into the Church. He bore me into the Church.

I wish you a beautiful evening full of blessings. And may the Mother of God live in your hearts together with Jesus! (Reverend and Doctor Erich Cohen, Vienna, 11/17/2011)

On this Thanksgiving Day in the USA, we all give thanks for Fr. Slavko Barbaric and his steadfast witness to Our Lady of Medjugorje. And we thank Our Lady for her steadfast love for each of us!

Have a blessed day in Jesus and Mary!
Cathy Nolan
Mary TV