In 1716 Pope Clement XI proclaimed that the Feast of the Holy Rosary be extended to the entire Church. That same year Our Lady appeared to Saint Veronica Giuliani in Italy. St. Veronica was born in Milan and began receiving messages from the Blessed Virgin at an early life in helping her mold her life to the Will of God. Our Lady revealed three mystical letters to Veronica as well as imparting vivid visions of Heaven and hell to the saint. Also that same year, French author Alexander de Rouville published "The Imitation of Mary," which was greatly patterned on Saint Thomas a Kempis' "Imitation of Christ."
A year later Our Lady returned to the new world, this time in Brazil where she appeared as "Our Lady of Apparecida" and asked that a large cathedral be built which became the third largest in the world. Nine years later Pope Benedict XIII instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It was after this that Our Lady began giving messages to Saint Alphonsus Liguori, prompting him to found the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in 1732. This Order became known as the Redemptorists. In 1750 St. Alphonsus gave tribute to his Heavenly Mother publishing much of what was imparted to him by the Virgin Mary in his work The Glories of Mary.
These glories were highlighted even further in 1754 when Pope Benedict XIV officially proclaimed Our Lady of Guadalupe, which we covered in past issues. Two other apparitions are reported to have occurred. One was in Westphalia, Germany when Our Lady first appeared to the mystic Saint Anne Catherine Emmerich and began revealing the life of Jesus in what would be published as the "Dolores Passion" in 1820. The other apparition, though not solidified by the Church, might have had a profound effect on the formation of America. It is the account of Our Lady appearing to none other than George Washington, the father of our country. During the bitterly cold winter of 1777 at Valley Forge, Washington had such an unusual and profound spiritual experience that on many occasions he told good friends and fellow patriots of this occurence. While he did not identify the woman who appeared to him, his description clearly describes the Blessed Mother - the Immaculate Conception and patroness of America. The first-hand observations of one of Washington's close cohorts Anthony Sherman George relate that Washington was alone in his tent when a beautiful lady appeared to him. The Lady of the apparition addressed Washington as the "Son of the Republic" as she presented him an overview of all the world and several separate visions of America at war. She advised him to "look and learn" and he said he "heard the smothered groans and cries of the American people." He was shown the future growth of towns and cities "springing up one after another until the whole land from the Atlantic to the Pacific was dotted with them." He was also shown a vision of the Civil War and of the World Wars and their outcomes. The final vision was of an event that has not yet happened. According to Washington, he writes: "I heard the mysterious voice saying, 'Son of the Republic, look and learn.' At this a dark shadowy angel appeared, placing a trumpet to his mouth and blew three distinct blasts; and taking water from the ocean, he sprinkled it upon Europe, Asia and Africa. Then my eyes beheld a fearful scene: from each of these continents arose thick, black clouds that were soon joined into one. Throughout this mass there gleamed a dark red light by which I saw hordes of armed men, who, moving with the cloud, marched by land and sailed by sea to America. Our country was enveloped in this volume of cloud and I saw these vast armies devastate the whole country and burn the villages, towns and cities that I beheld springing up. As my ears listened to the thundering of cannon, clashing of swords, and the shouts and cries of millions in mortal combat, I heard again the mysterious voice saying, 'Son of the Republic, look and learn.' The dark shadowy angel placed his trumpet once more to his mouth and blew a long fearful blast. Instantly a light as a thousand suns shown down from above me, and pierced and broke into fragments the dark cloud which enveloped America. At the same moment, the angel whose head still shone the word Union, and who bore our national flag in one hand and a sword in the other, descended from the Heavens attended by legions of white spirits. These immediately joined the inhabitants of America, who I perceived were well nigh overcome, but who immediately taking courage again, closed up their broken ranks and renewed the battle. The dark cloud rolled back, together with the armies it had brought leaving the inhabitants of the land victorious." The Lady then interpreted the vision to him: "These great perils will come upon the Republic. The most fearful is the third, but in this greatest conflict the whole world united shall not prevail against her. Let every child of the Republic learn to live for his God, his land and the Union." With these words the vision vanished, and Washington wrote, "I felt that I had seen a vision wherein the Almighty had shown to me the birth, progress, and destiny of the United States."
With all the appearances by Our Lady throughout the centuries, especially in the Twentieth Century, this vision is highly plausible. Though the source of this account, which Robert H. Goldsborough first published in "Washington Dateline", is secular in content, it contains highly spiritual and prophetic undertones that give credence to this purported apparition by the Blessed Mother to the Father of our country. We do not propose automatically that this account is true, only that we do know Our Lady cares very deeply for her children in America and even back in the late 1700's was trying to warn Americans through the most famous man in U.S. history. Quite possibly the American Revolution was successful through the intercession of Our Lady, whereas the French Revolution caused her great heartache as her children turned on her Divine Son's Church.
In the next several chapters, we will return to Europe and launch into the pivotal Nineteenth Century when God sent His very Own Mother in earnest with more warnings even more explicit than what Washington received as we shall see when we deal with the apparitions at Rue de Bac, La Salette and Lourdes.
NEXT WEEK: The Modern Age of Marian Apparitions begins at Rue de Bac with the Miraculous Medal...
A True Shield to protect against the onslaughts of the evil one...especially in these End Times.
11. As a result, in presenting the nature of Christian marriage to a new generation, we need to articulate its fulfilling satisfactions at least as well as its duties. The Catholic attitude toward sexuality is anything but puritanical, repressive or anti-carnal. God created the world and fashioned the human person in His own image. Therefore the body is good. In fact, it's often been a source of great humor for me to listen incognito as people simultaneously complain about the alleged "bottled-up sexuality" of Catholic moral doctrine, and the size of many good Catholic families. (From where, one might ask, do they think the babies come?) Catholic marriage -- exactly like Jesus Himself -- is not about scarcity but abundance. It's not about sterility, but rather the fruitfulness which flows from unitive, procreative love. Catholic married love always implies the possibility of new life; and because it does, it drives out loneliness and affirms the future. And because it affirms the future, it becomes a furnace of hope in a world prone to despair. In effect, Catholic marriage is attractive because it is true. It's designed for the creatures we are: persons meant for communion. Spouses complete each other. When God joins a woman and man together in marriage, they create with Him a new wholeness; a "belonging" which is so real, so concrete, that a new life, a child, is its natural expression and seal. This is what the Church means when she teaches that Catholic married love is by its nature both unitive and procreative -- not either/or.
12. But why can't a married couple simply choose the unitive aspect of marriage and temporarily block or even permanently prevent its procreative nature? The answer is as simple and radical as the Gospel itself. When spouses give themselves honestly and entirely to each other, as the nature of married love implies and even demands, that must include their whole selves -- and the most intimate, powerful part of each person is his or her fertility. Contraception not only denies this fertility and attacks procreation; in doing so, it necessarily damages unity as well. It is the equivalent of spouses saying: "I'll give you all I am -- except my fertility; I'll accept all you are -- except your fertility." This withholding of self inevitably works to isolate and divide the spouses, and unravel the holy friendship between them . . . maybe not immediately and overtly, but deeply, and in the long run often fatally for the marriage.
13. This is why the Church is not against "artificial" contraception. She is against all contraception. The notion of "artificial" has nothing to do with the issue. In fact, it tends to confuse discussion by implying that the debate is about a mechanical intrusion into the body's organic system. It is not. The Church has no problem with science appropriately intervening to heal or enhance bodily health. Rather, the Church teaches that all contraception is morally wrong; and not only wrong, but seriously wrong. The covenant which husband and wife enter at marriage requires that all intercourse remain open to the transmission of new life. This is what becoming "one flesh" implies: complete self-giving, without reservation or exception, just as Christ withheld nothing of Himself from His bride, the Church, by dying for her on the cross. Any intentional interference with the procreative nature of intercourse necessarily involves spouses' withholding themselves from each other and from God, who is their partner in sacramental love. In effect, they steal something infinitely precious -- themselves -- from each other and from their Creator.
14. And this is why natural family planning (NFP) differs not merely in style but in moral substance from contraception as a means of regulating family size. NFP is not contraception. Rather, it is a method of fertility awareness and appreciation. It is an entirely different approach to regulating birth. NFP does nothing to attack fertility, withhold the gift of oneself from one's spouse, or block the procreative nature of intercourse. The marriage covenant requires that each act of intercourse be fully an act of self-giving, and therefore open to the possibility of new life. But when, for good reasons, a husband and wife limit their intercourse to the wife's natural periods of infertility during a month, they are simply observing a cycle which God Himself created in the woman. They are not subverting it. And so they are living within the law of God's love.
15. There are, of course, many wonderful benefits to the practice of NFP. The wife preserves herself from intrusive chemicals or devices and remains true to her natural cycle. The husband shares in the planning and responsibility for NFP. Both learn a greater degree of self-mastery and a deeper respect for each other. It's true that NFP involves sacrifices and periodic abstinence from intercourse. It can, at times, be a difficult road. But so can any serious Christian life, whether ordained, consecrated, single or married. Moreover, the experience of tens of thousands of couples has shown that, when lived prayerfully and unselfishly, NFP deepens and enriches marriage and results in greater intimacy -- and greater joy. In the Old Testament, God told our first parents to be fruitful and multiply (Gn 1:28). He told us to choose life (Dt 30:19). He sent His son, Jesus, to bring us life abundantly (Jn 10:10) and to remind us that His yoke is light (Mt 11:30). I suspect, therefore, that at the heart of Catholic ambivalence toward Humanae Vitae is not a crisis of sexuality, Church authority or moral relevance, but rather a question of faith: Do we really believe in God's goodness? The Church speaks for her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, and believers naturally, eagerly listen. She shows married couples the path to enduring love and a culture of life. Thirty years of history record the consequences of choosing otherwise.
TOMORROW: Part Three of this three parter by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap.
36. The Sunday assembly is the privileged place of unity: it is the setting for the celebration of the sacramentum unitatis which profoundly marks the Church as a people gathered "by" and "in" the unity of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.(49) For Christian families, the Sunday assembly is one of the most outstanding expressions of their identity and their "ministry" as "domestic churches",(50) when parents share with their children at the one Table of the word and of the Bread of Life. We do well to recall in this regard that it is first of all the parents who must teach their children to participate in Sunday Mass; they are assisted in this by catechists, who are to see to it that initiation into the Mass is made a part of the formation imparted to the children entrusted to their care, explaining the important reasons behind the obligatory nature of the precept. When circumstances suggest it, the celebration of Masses for Children, in keeping with the provisions of the liturgical norms,(51) can also help in this regard.
At Sunday Masses in parishes, insofar as parishes are "Eucharistic communities",(52) it is normal to find different groups, movements, associations and even the smaller religious communities present in the parish. This allows everyone to experience in common what they share most deeply, beyond the particular spiritual paths which, by discernment of Church authority,(53) legitimately distinguish them. This is why on Sunday, the day of gathering, small group Masses are not to be encouraged: it is not only a question of ensuring that parish assemblies are not without the necessary ministry of priests, but also of ensuring that the life and unity of the Church community are fully safeguarded and promoted.(54) Authorization of possible and clearly restricted exceptions to this general guideline will depend upon the wise discernment of the Pastors of the particular Churches, in view of special needs in the area of formation and pastoral care, and keeping in mind the good of individuals or groups - especially the benefits which such exceptions may bring to the entire Christian community.
TOMORROW: Part Seven of Dies Domini: Chapter Three, DIES ECCLESIAE The Eucharistic Assembly: Heart of Sunday part three.