In honor of Friday's feast of Our Lady of Lourdes we conclude this special three-part series on the events that transpired there with the final installment today which is also World Day of Prayer for the Sick. This piece also replaces for this week only Sister Mary Lucy Astuto's column. She is in the midst of a move and will resume next Friday with her popular column. We will resume our regular rotation of the 2000 YEAR VOYAGE ON THE BARQUE OF PETER next Wednesday, February 16th. For the final installment on Lourdes, see LOURDES
With gratitude Bernadette thanked her. When she was able, she relayed the answer to the parish priest who was truly moved. The feeling he had within all along that this was truly of God seemed confirmed. Only four years earlier the Church had promulgated the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception with the words: "We define that the Blessed Virgin was preserved from every taint of original sin...from the first moment of her conception." An uneducated girl, Bernadette came to understand the meaning of the Lady's answer only later that evening which finally turned her joy into endless bounds. Yes, this Lady was the Mother of God.
Again on April 7, the Wednesday after Easter, Bernadette was pulled back to the grotto. She immediately fell into an ecstatic state. A medical doctor Dr. Dozous was on hand, determined to examine this state she was in, to prove that it was false...if he could. He couldn't for before he could get close enough to examine Bernadette, there was a loud cry from the huge crowd mulling around the area in anticipation. Bernadette knelt, holding the top of a candle placed upon the ground in front of her. Her wrists braced the candle, and her fingers were laced above the wick. Yet the flames licked up and into the girl's unprotected hands and fingers. But there was no look of pain on Bernadette's face; only the ecstasy of joy. When later Dr. Dozous examined Bernadette carefully, searching for burns, he discovered none!
The months of May and June that year were chaos for Lourdes a zealous people began to build a chapel to the Lady who had so graced their humble village through the even more humble peasant girl Bernadette. It wasn't until July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, that Bernadette felt compelled to return to the grotto. She waited until dark, but still several hundred people were awaiting her. Bernadette knelt down, holding a candle in her hands.
The girl began to pray the Rosary, and soon a smile of surprise lit up her entire countenance. Even though now she was much further from the grotto than she had been before, she later related: "It seemed to me that I was in the grotto, no more distant than the other times. I saw only the Holy Virgin."
No words were spoken, but through the interior knowledge mystically imparted, Bernadette realized this was her last vision of Our Lady. There had been eighteen visions in all. Because of the constant attention and clamoring of the crowds of locals as well as visitors from all over France and Europe, Bernadette moved to the Lourdes hospice and school run by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Nevers. There Bernadette lived and studied until, on April 4, 1864, at the age of 20, she made a firm decision to join the Sisters of Nevers near Paris. On July 4, 1866 she left her beloved Lourdes by train enroute for Paris.
Already a sizeable chapel stood at Massabielle. Bernadette's feelings about this last visit to the beloved grotto where our Heavenly Mother had graciously visited her were never made known. When Bernadette arrived at the convent on Sunday, July 8, 1866, she was asked for the first and last time to speak of the apparitions. All the nuns gathered to hear her. But the following day, Bernadette, now 22, began a life of silence, prayer and anonymity. She was given the name Sister Marie-Bernard and assigned to work among the sick. Her own health became even more precarious. So much so that she made her religious profession earlier than the others, taking her vows on October 25, 1866.
Through the grace of God she survived death, but her health was a factor for the next 13 years. At the age of 29 she realized and struggled with the knowledge that she was of no practical use to the work of the community whatsoever; that's how sick she had become. In December 1878, Bernadette's health failed for the last time at the age of 34. Less than six months later, on April 16, 1879 this small woman who stood only 4' 8" tall, breathed her last. She died at Nevers never having returned to Lourdes.
To this day Bernadette's body lies in state in the convent chapel at Nevers...miraculously preserved! Holy Mother Church did not take long to consider the holiness of Bernadette. It was fittingly on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1933 that Pope Pius XI capped the Holy Year by canonizing Bernadette.
But confirmation by the Church of the apparitions of Lourdes as worthy of belief came much more quickly. On January 18, 1862, less than four years after the visions and while Bernadette was still a student at the School of Notre Dame de Nevers in Lourdes, the bishop of the Diocese of Tarbes released the letter commending devotion to Lourdes as a Marian site worthy of belief.
In this weekend's editorial, we address the theme of this weekend - World Day of Prayer for the Sick in acknowledging that the liturgy in America is very ill and needs resuscitation; not drastic surgery as ultra conservatives would call for with a an unyielding return to the Tridentine Mass, but at least an infusion of common sense toward the moderate by returning to exactly what the Vatican II Council Fathers and Pope Paul VI intended when they approved the Novus Ordo Mass. In other words, we need to return to a renaissance of reverence! For today's editorial Bring back the old New Mass!, see CATHOLIC PewPOINT
When will Gregorian Chant be returned to our liturgy? We have a suggestion. How appropriate it would be if the United States Bishops provided a renaissance of Gregorian Chant to coincide with September 3rd. They're already working on a new document to be released this fall that leans toward bringing back more traditions such as the Tabernacle to the center of the Sanctuary or at least in view, as well as other "throw-backs" that have been replaced over the past several decades by things that aren't working. One of these is the priest facing the people. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Vatican's most powerful and influential curial office the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is on record as saying that the experiment to turn the priest around and face the people instead of ad orientem or facing the east has been a dismal failure and he would like to see the altar turned back to the front, with the Tabernacle on the altar and the priest offering up the oblation on behalf of the people with all facing God. Sadly, in abandoning ad orientem, the result has been disorientation. Whether the bishops will go that far that fast is doubtful since they move slowly and there is still the liberal bloc within the episcopal ranks, but it is weakening.
What we propose is not drastic, but right and proper according to the documents handed down by the Council Fathers, John XXIII and Pope Paul VI and carried on by Pope John Paul II. That is to bring back the Novus Ordo Mass as it was intended to be celebrated by the Council. Never in any of the documents does it say anything about totally discarding Latin, but rather that "parts of the Mass" could be said in the vernacular - in America that meant English - while encouraging that bishops and pastors maintain the Latin thread and flavor which has been handed down through tradition. However ICEL - the International Committee on English in the Liturgy - ignored that totally and, over the years has badly damaged the essence of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, downplaying the sacrificial aspect of the Mass and playing up the meal and celebratory aspects, something that they have carried too far where today's Masses represent more of a social gathering celebrating self rather than the true oblation to God. Therefore, just as the Holy Father celebrates the Mass in Rome and as Mass is celebrated on EWTN, we ask the bishops to allow at least, to start, in the deanery of each and every diocese a parish that will celebrate the Novus Ordo Mass as it was intended with a balance of Latin and English and use of Gregorian Chant. Too many bishops think it wouldn't draw or that those wanting this are old and will soon die off, but if you check the demographics of those flocking to the available Tridentine Masses and Novus Ordo Masses that offer Latin in the liturgy, you'll see that the majority are young families thirsting for reverence and something with substance. We can guarantee the bishops that these parishes will be packed and they'll be forced to establish the real Novus Ordo in each and every parish just by the sheer numbers. The people are that hungry.
Surely this isn't too much to ask when almost every pastor allows for guitar Masses, children's Masses, folk Masses and other ethnic celebrations. Why not recognize the ethnic culture of those longing for Latin in our liturgy? The new parish we joined because of its proximity to us is badly in need of an infusion of reverence and a conscious examination of why we're there. It's become a big social event where few seem to realize the true essence of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and even fewer recognize the True Presence of Our Lord just steps away in the side chapel off the right side of the sanctuary. It's truly depressing how so few just stop in to say "hi" to Jesus in the Tabernacle but they can spend plenty of time conversing with their neighbor right there in the church. More and more we leave feeling a void for sadly it's seems too often like we've just come from a Protestant service: non-stop music, lots of "Amens" and little substance because the true Substance is overshadowed by a revival of humanity and how great we art!
Contrast that to a nearby Benedictine Abbey where we have made the effort to attend as often as possible recently no matter the hardships of travel in order to be fulfilled in the richness of the liturgy, hear the Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei chanted so eloquently and reverently by the monks, and feel like we've been to Holy Mass. Not only that, but there are no Eucharistic Ministers. Holy Communion is distributed by the priests and nearly two-thirds of the congregation, which is overflowing on Sunday, not only receive on the tongue, but genuflect out of respect before receiving Him Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. Add to this that the side chapel where the Blessed Sacrament resides in an Ark of the Covenant configuration is packed with nearly a third of the congregation paying Jesus a visit both before and after Mass. Realize that every single person in this overflow congregation belongs to another parish, but are there because of their vast dissatisfaction with their own parish and the liturgy. Imagine the response if other Catholics realized they had a choice!
The bishops can provide that choice and in so doing, enrich the faithful and provide a deeper appreciation of the uniqueness of the Roman Catholic Church. We can also guarantee that were the bishops to do this, were the pastors agreeable to providing at least one Mass on Sunday with the old Novus Ordo, their coffers would swell with willing tithing for they would be getting something out of it. Since Vatican II was fairly successful in throwing off the guilt syndrome that haunted many Catholics over the centuries, the ol' guilt trip of not giving won't work and we continue to stand by the axiom, "No doctrine, no dollars!" We have a need to be fed not only solid doctrine, but the value of reverence and the graces of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. As Pat Ludwa pointed out in his column yesterday, almost every church that has established Perpetual Adoration has seen not only an increase in attendance, not only an increase in vocations, not only a return to awe and reverence, but an increase in donations. That's what speaks to the bishops and pastors: the collection plate. When they realize how their coffers would swell by providing for a large, fairly affluent demographic group that will contribute willingly if they are provided the fullness of their Faith, then the bishops will be falling all over each other in calling for such measures as returning Gregorian Chant and mixing in Latin with the Novus Ordo. When they understand the bottom line, it will be easier for them to understand why it should be done and why the renaissance should begin as soon as possible. It's time for all of us to petition our bishops - if we have to even in melodious Gregorian Chant - to bring back the old New Mass!
Value Manipulation: a clever scheme Hollywood doesn't want you to know!
In lieu of providing reviews of the top ten movies for the week which really only promote the movies, regardless of bad reviews by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, we have decided to merely list the ten top movies with a link to the Bishop's page that provides reviews and devote this column to something with much more substance. Within the next few weeks we will be establishing a special column by the author of this piece today - Michael Vincent Boyer, the 42 year-old Catholic editor and publisher of the new monthly Goodbye, Hollywood tabloid which truly tells it like it is for Catholics to consider and act upon. We will have much more on Michael in the coming weeks and want to promote his excellent publication for it is badly needed as he exposes Hollywood for what it is - the disciple of the devil. For more, see MOVIES AND MORALS
The coarsening of values: "Value Manipulation" emerges as Hollywood Strategy
The industry has embarked on a campaign to change your values based on Beverly Hills qualifications. While its not talked about openly, a few major power brokers can't help but foam at the mouth when criticized for peddling sleaze. Critics of coarsened values perpetuated by the Disney Company were called "nuts," foolish," and "like Hitler" by none other than Disney Chairman Michael Eisner. Just ten years ago you would not have heard such comments from the head of an entertainment conglomerate - especially Disney.
Webster's New World Dictionary defines the word coarse: rough, harsh, vulgar, crude, gross, lack of culture and good taste. That definition now applies to many entertainment titles in feature films, television, videos, and video games, as well as music; with notable exceptions in all categories. It's the notable exceptions that Hollywood rarely applauds. In fact, many movie critics find coarsened values in entertainment as the sign of a "serious work of art." Is Hollywood playing to the movie critics or to the movie-going public?
The coarsening of values began quickly after the start of the ratings system instituted by Jack Valenti in 1968. And Hollywood has been raising the bar even higher for at least 30 years, but moreso in the decade of the 90's. Its appearance covers all genres from comedy, drama, and especially horror films with such recent films as the "Scream" series by Disney's own Miramax division. [In fact, "Scream 3" garnered nearly 35 million over the weekend while playing in 3,467 theatres nationwide. Consider that it is rated "R" - restricted to those under 17 - and yet the majority of those paying at the box office are teens under 17. More evidence that the current ratings system is a dismal failure and needs overhaul.]
The industry has managed to eliminate the harsh term "horror" in favor of what they call "fright films" where the main theme is fear. What Hollywood doesn't want you to know is that they are promoting fear as "fun" to increasingly younger audiences. The roots of this fear can be traced back to the original "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th." For the first time, mainstream studios were marketing an extreme form of violence as "fear and fun films." But, each passing year saw more graphic depictions of decapitations, bloody stabbings, bodily dismemberment, shattered skulls, and exploding human bodies. New Line Cinema and Miramax, long recognized as irresponsible filmmakers, have been leaders in this pack.
"The harmful effect is the cumulative impact," according to Professor Greg Smith of Dickinson College. Constant exposure to "frightening images of destruction or harm" doesn't always lead children to imitate what they see, but it does have a coarsening effect that makes children and even adults "more callous toward one another." And television has not escaped "coarsened values" with Fox being among the leaders. Writing about the Fox series "Action," columnist George Will wrote that the show "is evidence of how frantically producers now strain in search of something that can startle - never mind shock - America's desensitized audiences." He adds, "Some mediocre and even some excellent entertainment that is not offered on the four major networks seems to tempt those networks toward coarseness. Over-the-air [broadcast] television is lurching deeper into vulgarity to compete with limited access TV, such as HBO, that properly feels freer to depict sex and violence." In fact, HBO largely marketed itself as showing movies and shows "you won't see on regular TV" and has been dropped by many former subscribers because of its foray into softcore pornography and profanity after midnight with shows like "Real Sex" and "Chris Rock."
Value manipulation and its resulting coarse values is the insipid campaign now being waged by the entertainment industry. It is the secret that Hollywood doesn't want you to know!
Today we continue with our new series in the search to uncover the wonderful treasures of the Church contained in the great Deposit of Faith. This weekend we present a brief catechesis on the essence of the Holy Trinity with One God in Three Persons. For the 108th installment, see APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH
In speaking of the "persons" in God, we do not use the term in exactly the same was we use it when speaking of people. We use it only for lack of a word to show our meaning better. In speaking of a man as a "person," we mean that he is an intelligent being, acting individually for himself. The acts he performs belong to him and he is responsible for them-he himself, not his tongue, nor his mind, nor his whole body even, but the whole of himself.
We speak of three "Persons" in God because to each belongs something we cannot attribute to any other: His distinct origin. From all eternity the Father begets the Son, and the Son proceeds from the Father. From all eternity the Father and Son breathe forth the Holy Ghost, and He proceeds from Them, as from one Source. By the Blessed Trinity we mean one and the same God in three divine Persons.
The Father is God and the First Person of the Blessed Trinity. Omnipotence, and especially the work of creation, is attributed to God the Father.
God the Father could have created millions of beings instead of you yourself; but He chose you out of a love wholly underserved, saying, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3). Let us then cry in thanksgiving, "Abba, Father!" (Romans 8:15). Let us show our gratitude by avoiding all that could displease God the Father, by trying to please Him with virtue, by trying for greater perfection, in obedience to that injunction of Our Lord's: "You therefore are to be perfect, even as your Heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
The Son is God and the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. To God the Son we ow our redemption from sin and eternal death; by His death He gave us life. For us God the Son debased Himself, taking the form of a servant,…"becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8). In Holy Communion we are united with Him, for He Himself said: "He who eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, abides in Me and I in him" (John 6:57). In return we should be "other Christs," and, as the Apostle urged, "walk even as He walked."
The Holy Ghost is God and the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. He manifests Himself in us particularly in our santification. The word "Ghost" applied to the Third Person means "Spirit."
At our Baptism God the Holy Ghost purifies us from all sin and fills our souls with divine grace, so that we become truly children of God, sons and heirs, and co-heirs with Jesus Christ. By Baptism we become living temples of the Holy Ghost: "Or do you not know that your members are the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you?" (1 Corinthians 6:19).
In return for such benefits we should make our body the instrument for the glory of God, keeping it from all stain of sin, adorning it with virtues. "Glorify God and bear Him in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:20). Let us keep our souls a sanctuary for the Holy Spirit, that God may be happy to dwell in us.
Monday: One God in Three Persons part two