Prior to my father's stroke I had had a dream which seemed real and very dramatic. I had dreamt that my father was dying of a heart attack. All I could think of was that I needed to be there when he died. I needed to pray over him and with him.
I awoke from my dream praying very hard that God would not allow my father to die without me being with him to pray for him. In retrospect I think that dream was a sign of what was to occur.
The day after my dad's stroke, my two sisters and I drove 312 miles to the hospital in Rice Lake. Dad's stroke was very severe. He was completely paralyzed on the left side, had slurred speech and muscles spasms.
Over the next five months, my earnest prayers were answered. Not only did I care for my Dad, but I prayed with him and for him and was there when he took his last breath. For this I am very grateful to God.
In August of 1997, I took a four-day break to travel to Boston, MA to meet a dear Sister-friend of mine [guess who that was] and several other people. We were making a pilgrimage to see Little Audrey Santo in Worcester, MA. (Sr. Mary Lucy has written about Little Audrey in previous articles.) We also traveled to Stockbridge, MA to visit the Shrine of Divine Mercy.
In our group was another lady, a cradle Catholic, but one who had fallen away from the practice of her faith. While at the Shrine, I had a tremendous urge to give this lady my beautiful crystal Rosary and to tell her that Jesus loved her very much. When I did this, we both cried and hugged each other. But again, I was without a Rosary.
By this time, I began to wonder about this pattern of mine of giving away my Rosaries. Yet there were more dark days to come.
Along with the death of my father came the separation from a very dear friend of mine. One great trial after another was occuring (my cancer, my dad's death, the separation of my dearest friend). It all seemed to overwhelm me. I didn't have time to adjust to any one of the trials than the other set in upon me. The darkness was oppressive. Even my boss mentioned that my middle name must be "Job."
But we all have "Job" in our life in some way or another. It is just very important to recognize it and pray fervently that God will get us through these trials and dark times.
(Kathy's story will be continued. Don't forget, dear reader, to make a good confession to prepare for the birthday of Our Lord, Jesus.
God bless you!
Ten years after Hernando Cortez conquered Mexico for the world, Our Lady began her conquest of Mexico and all of the Americas for her Divine Son's world when she chose a simple peasant to convey one of the greatest miracles in the history of apparitions. On a frosty December morning in 1531 Juan Diego, a 51-year-old Aztec peasant. Juan and his wife, whose name is not recorded, were recent converts to Catholicism due to the influence of the Spanish evangelization which Cortez brought with him from Spain.
Spain had been one of the few countries in Europe who had been protected from the onslaught of "enlightenment" which ushered in the Protestant Revolt in the early 16th Century. Thanks to the safeguards taken by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and the steady hand of the Spanish Inquisition which prevented revolt by strict vigilance, the True Faith was preserved and spread to the New World in waves of Spanish priests who accompanied the Conquistadors. These Franciscan, Dominican and Carmelite Orders, as well as the Jesuits, played a pivotal role in the conversion of Central and South America. It was Isabella who financed Christopher Columbus's historic journey to the New Indies in 1492 and oversaw the activities of Cortez throughout the early 1500's as the Spanish Conqueror overcame the forces of Montezuma, toppling the pagan Aztec and Mayan nations and subsequently their over-riding culture, as they gradually faded into the archives of history and artifacts, replaced by the strength of the Church and the inculturation of Spain from her language to her customs.
Catholicism had taken root in Mexico, especially around Mexico City, yet the Aztecs did not go quietly. For years they had offered human sacrifice to their gods; Quetzocoetl - the bird and serpent god being the main one. This pagan practice had taken its toll in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands reaching into the millions. This was one of the main reasons Our Blessed Mother came in 1531, to stop the human sacrifice; both with the pagan Aztec traditions and the senseless slaughter of the Conquistadors who had cut a swath of blood across Mexico on Cortez' march to Mexico City from the Gulf. By exemplifying a gentler, Christ-like nature, not only would the native peoples understand what the missionaries were conveying, but also remind the Spanish soldiers of their roots and prompt them to repent of their warring ways.
Into this atmosphere Our Lady chose Juan Diego to impart her message and give to him the on-going miracle of the miraculous tilma worn by Juan on the day of the apparition. In the nature of replacing the ridiculous with the sublime, Blessed Mary asked Juan to have a chapel or church built on the site where there had been an Aztec shrine. This site was the hill of Tepeyac. She asked him to go to the local bishop with this request. One can imagine the bishop's first reaction when he encountered this poor Indian approaching him...and then telling him why he was there. No one should be surprised at the Bishop's response. Bishop Zumarraga demanded a sign that this message Juan brought was truly Heaven-sent. Needless to say, Juan was intimidated and disheartened. He didn't even want to go back to the hill, but through the grace of the Holy Spirit there he was again the next day - December 12th, trembling on Tepeyac Hill both from the winter chill and in trepidation of what he would tell the Blessed Virgin and what, in turn, she would ask him to do. In the custom of the people of his day, Juan was dressed in simple pants and a shirt, sandals, a straw short-visored sombrero and a tilma, which was a scapular-like garment made from a versatile and strong-fibred cactus plant indigenous to this region. Shivering as he waited, he almost did not notice the light and the gentle whisp of wind as Our Lady hovered near the top of the hill. He moved closer and Our Lady sought to allay his fears, bidding him come closer and tell her the Bishop's reaction though she already knew. Juan related his encounter and the need for an outward sign. Our Lady responded with the request that he pick the roses growing out of the rough, semi-frozen tundra of Tepeyac. Juan was aghast to find rich red roses in full bloom and he quickly stooped to pick as many of these rich beauties as he could, gathering them in the full of his front tilma, then pulling it up against his chest to protect them in a pouch-like fashion; then scurrying off to present this "sign" to the Monsignor Zumarraga. Panting and nearly out of breath, he reached the Episcopo alerting the guards outside. His insistance to see the Bishop brought rebuffs from those in the outer circle who thought it odd that an Aztec peasant should be so bold, yet through the grace of God Juan was admitted to the Bishop's chambers and there excitedly exclaimed, "I have the sign, your Excellency!" Impatient, doubting and yet curious, Zumarraga beckoned Juan to approach him. Blessed Diego came near the foot of the Bishop and knelt in reverence as he unrolled his tilma. Juan's eyes were fixed on the fresh petals that tumbled to the floor and did not see the shock and amazement on the Bishop's face as his vision was transfixed on the image he beheld emblazoned on Juan's poor, fragmented tilma. To this day one can see at the Shrine an mega-sized enlargement of Our Lady's eye on the tilma. In the eye, one can see the reflection of the Bishop and his entourage as they stared in disbelief. While transfixed in this incredibility, Juan straightened up and, at once, realized the true miracle Our Lady had endowed. There on his tilma was an image of how she had appeared to him just hours before, in full color.
She had appeared to Juan not as Our Lady of Grace, or as a European-kind of visage, but as an Aztec woman standing on the moon, dressed in a finely detailed full-flowing dress or garment that symbolized many of the Aztec traditions. It was an image that would be accepted by the native Indians of this land moreso than the European icons of the Virgin the Spanish had brought with them. As always the Mother of God has a method to her message and the message conveyed stirred the Bishop to a reconversion and a rededication to evangelizing and serving the Indians while preaching the reason for Our Lady's visit. The results, guided by God, spread faster than the December wind blowing across the Mexican terrain. Within a short time, countless native Indians had been brought into Holy Mother Church's fold. To top that, almost instantly the people realized the error of their ways in the ancient Aztec ways of human sacrifice and abandoned the practice. The population flourished and as the Church dwindled in the Old World due to the erosion of the Protestant Reformation, the pendulum of plentitude swung to the New World in graces and conversions. It was the beginning of a reverence and veneration that would be carried through every generation up through today that sometimes even borders on the extreme. This is said in light of two visits to Mexico City in December by this author when he beheld thousands of devout Mexican people making their annual pilgrimage to the shrine on their knees, no matter the weather conditions. In contrast, the cab drivers and merchants festooned their vehicles and places of business with mardi gras-like decorations honoring La Virgen de Guadalupe. Always, the reverence and love for Mary is prevalent south of the border. It is a veneration that we would hope would permeate north of the border and bring back the reverence and respect for the Mother of God's role in our Church and daily lives. In recent years Our Lady has brought her mission ever more in focus as she asks all to help her in ending the abominal human sacrifice of abortion, a sin far worse than the human sacrifice offered to the pagan gods by the ancient Aztecs. But, as in the early 1500's and that century known as the "Century of Saints" it took great sacrifice on the part of all God's faithful ones to stop the sacrifice of God's children...so also today, we need, more than ever to offer sacrifice through penance, redemptive suffering, fasting and prayer to end the horrible sin of abortion. We have the formula. We have the forces of good on our side. We just need to act and human sacrifice will end as it did in the sixteenth century.
The on-going miracle of the tilma is a direct manifestation of supernatural intervention and for well over four centuries the image has remained ever brilliant even though it is on such a coarse cactus fiber that it would have faded within a few years had it not been from Heaven. The tilma was placed in a small church built at the top of Tepeyac Hill as Bishop Zumarraga obediently carried out Mary's wishes. This same church is still there today above the shrine at Guadalupe. In 1709 a larger basilica was built to house and venerate the image and word of this miracle spread throughout the world. Earthquakes and shifting soil caused great concern in the mid twentieth century and plans were drawn up for a newer, modern basilica which was consecrated in 1976 and today houses the famed image behind glass high above and behind the main altar. Visitors and pilgrims can see it closer by way of a conveyor belt walkway below and behind the main altar. No shrine has been more visited in the world than Guadalupe. In 1910, Pope Saint Pius X declared Our Lady of Guadalupe the patroness of Latin America and in 1945 Pope Pius XII expanded this declaration by designating her patroness of all the Americas. Our present pontiff, Pope John Paul II has endorsed this and brought with him a deep reverence for Our Lady of Guadalupe.
We know by our natural reason that God exists, because of:
The existence of the world proves the existence of God, because it could not have come into existence by itself. Everything in the world had a beginning. Men, animals, plants, the earth, planets and stars,-all had a beginning. They could not have come into exisatence by themselves. They must have been made by Someone Who had no beginning. Planets and men could no more have made themselves than a watch can make itself.
The astronomer Kircher had a friend who denied the existence of God. During a visit one day, this friend saw a globe in the study of the astronomer. - "This is an interesting globe," said he; "Who made it?" - "Why, replied Kircher, "it just made itself!" The friend had a hearty laugh at the idea. Kircher asserted, "It would be much easier for a little globe like that to make itself than for the immense globe of the earth to create itself."
When we see footprints on the sand, we conclude that someone has passed that way. The universe is filled with the footprints of a Supreme Creator. Every single existing thing or being gives clear testimony of Him. A light cannot kindle itself; after it is kindled, it will go out in a few hours. But the light of the sun in the Heavens has burned for thousands of years and continues to burn.
They lead us to infer the existence of a Supreme Architect and Preserver of surpassing skill. The Heavenly bodies go along their appointed courses age after age. The seasons cusseed one another year by year. There is splendor, beauty, arrangement, and order everywhere. The whole universe is governed and preserved by immutable law.
If you plant an orange seed, you are certain an apple will not spring from it. Every morning you are sure the sun, when it rises, will appear in the east. At night you can go peacefully to sleep, assured that after your rest the day will come again. To say that this universal order is the result of accident, or that the planets direct their own courses, is as foolish as to say that an automobile goes sensibly around the city streets running itself.
"The Heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of His hands" (Psalm 18:2). God is the Intelligent Cause. Long ago the pagan Cicero said: "When we contemplate the Heavens, we arrrive at the conviction that they are all guided by a Being of surpassing skill." And Cicero also says, "There is no nation to be found so savage as to be ignorant of the existence of God." The great astronomer Newton often uncovered and bowed when God's name was uttered.
By our conscience we can distinguish right from wrong. Our conscience approves the right and condemns the wrong. Thus within ourselves there is a recognition of a Supreme Lawgiver to Whom we are responsible, Who will reward the good we do, and punish the evil. "Only the fool says in his heart: 'There is no God'" (Psalm 13:1).
Those who persist in denying the existence of God in spite of external and internal testimony are atheists who are eaten up by pride, or live vicious lives, or both. Of them Our Lord said: "Seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear, neither do they understand - For the heart of this people has been hardened, and with their ears they have been hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed; Lest at any time they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their mind, And be converted, and I heal them" (Matthew 13: 13-15).