DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     December 9, 1998     vol. 9, no. 238

THE AGE OF MARIAN APPARITIONS

To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO
    INTRODUCTION
          In the lush South American country of Venezuela that the Blessed Virgin Mary calls her "land of grace," which is bordered by the Carribean Sea to the north, the Andes Mountains to the southwest and the Amazon Jungle in the south, Our Lady has been appearing for centuries. And ever since 1976, she has been coming to a tiny, remote, tropical farm in Betania, Venezuela to establish a special Refuge for all her children as the New Ark of Salvation under the special title "Mary, Virgin and Mother of Reconciliation for all people and nations." She calls Betania the "New Lourdes" offering the same healing waters to all who will take refuge in her Immaculate Heart. God has chosen Maria Esperanza de Bianchini as His special visionary with many mystical graces to convey His Mother's messages to all His children as she beckons us all to become her "Ambassadors of Reconciliation" while effecting a very special Eucharistic Miracle intricately linked with Betania. We continue with our in-depth story of this modern Lourdes from a first-hand perspective in the aftermath of our pilgrimage to this "Land of Grace."

          No matter the age, Our Lady has been imparting the same message: "Pray! Pray! Pray!" It is only through constant prayer, taken as a bouquet in loving, motherly intercession before the Throne of God, that the hearts of mankind will eventually be softened and all her little ones brought into accord with the Will of God. This continuing in-depth series on the grace-filled mystical phenomena of Our Lady's appearances through the ages and the meaning of her messages will open eyes and hearts because she is the mother of us all and her words of wisdom and warnings must be taken seriously...very seriously!

The New Lourdes: Betania - Refuge of Reconciliation
part ten

Come to the Mountain and seek Reconciliation

          The mountains are a favorite place for Our Lady. LaSalette, Garabandal, Medjugorje, Betania, Ecuador, Golden and numerous other places throughout the world. The mountains represent strength, beauty, freshness, and vitality. These are the same qualities that Betania visionary Maria Esperanza di Bianchini espouses in her talks to the many pilgrims who come to Betania. She speaks with fervor about the beauty of the Church --the Roman Catholic Church, and the true apostolic succession of the popes, down to our present Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. She articulates frequently to people about the absolute necessity and sublime dignity of the Most Blessed Sacrament, saying: "The Eucharist is the food necessary for you if you are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. The Eucharist is the fundamental basis for all Catholics. It is the most important thing in the lives of all God's children. The Eucharist can change and transform our lives so that we are able to give up our sinful ways. It makes us strong and lights up the pathway to heaven for us. Eucharist and charity go hand in hand. Without charity it is very difficult to enter the Kingdom of Heavenů "Pray for priests and religious because they have dedicated their lives, and although they have given much they have received many spiritual gifts from God. We have to pray so that these spiritual gifts will be strengthened and used generously. If we do this the Gospel and Voice of Jesus will be heard throughout the world."

          This was the essence of Maria's message to the priests who accompanied us on our pilgrimage - our spiritual tour director Father Stephen Valenta, OFM Conv. (who had to leave just before the vigil because of prior commitment in the states); Fr. Francis Butler, a Josephite priest seen frequently on EWTN and who has established a soup kitchen in Montgomery, Alabama for the poor; Father Gerald Haby, a bilingual Marist priest from Mount Pleasant, Texas who assisted us in Spanish; and Father James Holup, a Marian diocesan priest from Ashkum, Illinois. Along with them were Father Christopher Scadron from New Orleans, Father Al Winshman, SJ of Marian Renewal Ministry in Boston, Father Benton Thurmond from Inez, Texas, and Father Santos Mendoza, a holy priest from the diocese of Dallas who served as our spiritual confessor for the two years we were in Dallas and is currently confessor to the novices for the Institute of Divine Mercy.

          Our Lady is calling all to harmony with the Trinity and with our fellow man. She is the reconciler of all people and all nations and religions. But to receive true reconciliation sacramentally, a priest is necessary. We were surrounded with good priests and our pilgrimage to Betania meant that much more, especially with the theme of Reconciliation in Petania. For reconciliation with God and with our neighbor also means being reconciled with ourselves. From these graces obtained through the Sacrament of Penance, peace and unity flow as a beautiful spring which gushes from our innermost being, the work and fruit of the grace of the Holy Spirit. To be reconciled as God wills for all mankind, Jesus Christ has given to His Church the wonderful Sacrament of Reconciliation. Through the priest in Confession, Christ not only forgives but forgets all transgressions.

          In the last three decades the decline of those Catholics who go to Confession on a regular basis has diminished to the point where many of our priests no longer even feel the Sacrament is necessary unless one is in the state of mortal sin; whereas the Sacrament of Penance is meant to be an act of humility on our part, reminding us of the frail nature we have because of the sin of our first parents, but is also meant to bring to us the Peach which only God can give, and to render us joyful in the knowledge that we have been truly forgiven. That is what Our Lady is conveying at Betania, inviting us all to be "Ambassadors of Reconciliation." But to be an ambassador we must first realize what Reconciliation truly means and emulate God in not only forgiving, but also forgetting one's faults and sins. Guilt does no good if it is not warranted, and by holding grudges towards others for offenses committed against us blocks any chance of reconciliation with God, with them, and with ourselves. How hard is that for us to fathom. Can we forgive and forget? It's not easy, but we had all better start.

          Our Heavenly Mother conveys at Betania that she wishes us to be reconciled, that we might have unity of mind and heart through the grace of her Divine Spouse. This is possible the more we make use of the Sacrament of Penance. Contrary to what many think or "feel" about this Sacrament, it is not reserved only and just for those who fall into mortal sin. It is a Sacrament of Strength, Peace, Joy, Humility, and, ultimately, Reconciliation with God, ourselves and to our neighbor - which means the entire world. Not only at Betania, but everywhere else she has appeared or imparted messages this century she has emphasized the calling to go to this Sacrament more frequently. Not just once a month (it should never really be any longer than that), but once a week. Why?

          Because through the graces received in this wonderful, merciful sacrament, we are then able to approach our Dear Lord, truly present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament in a state of grace, whereby we truly become living tabernacles and the Most Blessed Trinity abides in and with us, and we with the Trinity. This "possession" by the Trinity, the very Flame of Love and Grace of the Holy Spirit, keeps us ever moving more and more toward true unity of mind and heart. This a supernatural movement, a supernatural "event," that our finite minds cannot comprehend. But this "unity" which must and will come, can come more swiftly and more assuredly when we, as little , humble children gathered beneath Mary's Immaculate Mantle, present ourselves humbly before her Divine Son and confess our sins with a humble and contrite heart.

          No one needs to travel to Betania for this, but this international shrine emphasizes this as Our Lady's messages to Maria confirm. Once we have truly accepted the essence of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and resolve to live in the Divine Will, then, and only then, can we become "Ambassadors of Reconciliation" as the Blessed Mother asks. In the next installment we shall discuss this in "A Call to be Ambassadors of Reconciliation."


December 9, 1998       volume 9, no. 238
THE AGE OF MARIAN APPARITIONS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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