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WEDNESDAY

February 11, 1998             SECTION TWO              vol 9, no. 30



The power of God's Master Plan is manifested at Lourdes today

     The body of Saint Bernadette remains incorrupt today as a sign that the Church will remain incorrupt in Dogma and Doctrine. While today we are faced with mounting heresy and schism within Holy Mother Church, we have the assurance that Jesus will be with us always and the "gates of hell shall not prevail against it." In today's commentary, we treat Lourdes today and its significance and Jesus and His Blessed Mother's call for all to reconcile with God and our neighbor. Click on Today's CATHOLIC PewPOINT

From the healing waters of Lourdes to the healing flow of Mary's tears let us hope and pray mankind's heart will be softened.

     After two hard-hitting editorials in a row, it is with joy that we take a respite and write about today's feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The only down side is that the Church liturgy does not devote the entire day to this wonderful feast for it must share with the Weekday in Ordinary Time. Yet, most pastors opt to celebrate Mary's feast because of the significance today in relationship with healing and reconciliation. Over the years the healing water of Lourdes have been a soothing cure for so many ailments of body and soul. In our megaseries THE AGE OF MARIAN APPARITIONS we dedicate today's installment to the full story of Lourdes with a "Special Installment." Next week we will resume where we left off last week in this on-going feature series with another very pertinent and vital apparition, not yet approved by the Church, but very significant to the Church and her people. That, of course, is Garabandal and the portent of the Great Warning and subsequent Miracle, both of which we will treat in great detail in coming installments.

     While so many know the background of Lourdes and will know even more after reading the story in our feature series today, we wanted to focus in this column on Lourdes today. Let's face it. In 1998 Saint Bernadette Soubirous, the humble peasant visionary whose body remains incorrupt, would hardly recognize the village or the grotto where she had first seen Our Lady. Today, 27,000 gallons of water are generated from the spring which started when Bernadette drank "mud." Every day 350,000 people pass by the grotto. Five thousand healings have been attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes over the years, although Holy Mother Church officially recognizes only 64 of them. The chapel the Blessed Mother instructed Bernadette to have built, is now actually four chapels. The latest, the Church of St. Pius X, holds as many as 20,000 people and is built beneath the ground - the largest underground church in the world. Incidentally, it was Pope Saint Pius X who decreed in 1907 that the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes would be celebrated every February 11th for the universal Church. It had first been established as a local feast in Southern France in 1891 with the approval of Pope Leo XIII. It was during his regime that the Church of Notre Dame and the Church of the Rosary were finished, built into the rock of Massabiele, very near the grotto. But the only chapel Bernadette ever saw was the first, built into the rock. Even in her own lifetime, this small chapel could not contain the many pilgrims who came to pay homage to the Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception, who graciously invited an uneducated poor girl to come and pray with her, that Our Lady might intercede for all who would believe!

     Today Lourdes is one of the most loved apparition sites in the world. Over six million people make pilgrimages to this holy place annually. There are medical centers and a hospital there which staffs a worldwide organization of professionals volunteering their time and expertise to serve as stretcher-bearers and wheelchair attendants so that the sick, crippled, handicapped and infirm can access the healing waters originating from the miraculous spring. There have been thousand of physical cures there and countless spiritual cures that can never be accounted for until we all reach Heaven. Here on earth the story of Bernadette has been captured in the novel "Bernadette" by Franz Werfel and beautifully depicted in the Hollywood production "Song of Bernadette". Here in the United States there are many shrines to Our Lady of Lourdes, the most authentic replicas of the famous grotto is on the campus of the University of Notre Dame and at Our Lady of the Snows Shrine in Belleville, Illinois where the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, devoted to the Immaculate Conception, conduct a candlelight Rosary nightly during the summers. There are also Lourdes Shrines in Emmitsburg, Maryland; the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. Dayton, Ohio; Detroit; Litchfield, Connecticutt; and San Antonio, Texas.

     At the original shrine there is a daily candlelight procession where thousands upon thousands from all over the world join in offering their prayers for the intentions of the Blessed Mother. Truly Lourdes has played a vital role in this modern Age of Marian Apparitions - not necessarily for the conversion messages imparted as Our Lady conveyed at La Salette, Fatima and even today at Medjugorje and other ongoing apparitions - but more for the confirmation of Church Doctrine - her Divine Son's True Church on earth and the miraculous healing power of God through the waters from the spring near the Grotto. Pope John Paul II has made more than one pilgrimage to Lourdes, so totally devoted to Our Lady.

     The Betania apparitions in Venezuela mirror Lourdes with the emphasis on Reconciliation. We cannot be pure and worthy of God's graces and truly in accord with the Immaculate Conception if we are not reconciled with God and our neighbor. That is paramount. So today, still two weeks from the day when Lent begins, let us all take the opportunity on this feast day to reconcile our wills to His Will and prepare now to be fully reconciled in our hearts and in our deeds first with Him and then with our brothers and sisters. If we can do this, we will be better prepared to garner the graces from a Lent that will be truly pivotal in a year which will be just as pivotal in the history of mankind. We live in a time where hearts are hardened. From the healing waters of Lourdes to the healing flow of Mary's tears let us hope and pray mankind's heart will be softened.

Michael Cain, editor

A special feast day in preparation for Lent

     This year the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes is strategically placed in the liturgy exactly two weeks before Ash Wednesday. It has significance in as much as the message of Lourdes is reconciliation, return to God. For the brief history of the feast and liturgical readings, meditations, and preparation for tomorrow's liturgy in Ordinary Time, click on LITURGY OF THE DAY

WEDNESDAY, February 11, 1998

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

     The Commemoration of Our Lady's first of 18 apparitions at Lourdes, France on February 11, 1844 is pivotal in advancing the Blessed Mother's plans toward the Triumph of her Immaculate Heart which will usher in the glorious Reign of her Divine Son's Sacred Heart. This feast is one of the favorite feasts of Our Blessed Mother for it was in her appearances to visionary Saint Bernadette Soubirous at the grotto of Massabielle that signaled the resurgence of Marian devotion to her Immaculate Heart for she confirmed to Bernadette that she was truly the Immaculate Conception. Since that time there have been countless miracles at the healing waters of Lourdes. Probably the most miraculous is the fact that those who bathe there are, in a sense, returning to the font of their baptism to wash away their old sins and put on the pure robe of grace and a new life in God. Lourdes was approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1890 and Pope Saint Pius X made it an official feast in 1908.

THURSDAY, February 12, 1998


PRAYERS & DEVOTION

Today's prayer is the closing refrain from the Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes

      God of Infinite Mercy, we celebrate the feast of Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, the sinless Mother of God. May her prayers help us to rise above our human weakness. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.


Questions and more questions!

      To help all get over the hump day of the week, we bring you our weekly humor page. Today we provide the second part of our 50 questions to ponder over and punder with the thought-provoking pundits provided. For the second set of 25 Q's to ponder, click on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven!
     Today we bring you the second part of the "Q" puzzlers we brought you last week with the second set of twenty five more to conjure up guffaws as well as blank looks, but sure to get you thinking. One that isn't necessarily funny, but really hits home with reflection is the fact that War doesn't determine who's right, just who's left. Most of the others below will give you the same kind of reflection or a chuckle. Depends on where you're coming from and, more importantly, where you're going!

More Questions to ponder pundits...or: Didja ever just wonder why...


PROVERB OF THE DAY

"He who is perverse in heart finds no good, and a double-tongued man falls into trouble."

Proverbs 17: 20

Medjugorje Monthly Message for January 25th

      Dear children! Today again I call all of you to prayer. Only with prayer, dear children, will your heart change, become better, and be more sensitive to the Word of God. Little children, do not permit satan to pull you apart and to do with you what he wants. I call you to be responsible and determined and to consecrate each day to God in prayer. May Holy Mass, little children, not be a habit for you, but life. By living Holy Mass each day, you will feel the need for holiness and you will grow in holiness. I am close to you and intercede before God for each of you, so that He may give you strength to change your heart. Thank you for having responded to my call! For more on Medjugorje, click on MEDJUGORJE

688 and counting, hoping and praying...


WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant

HEADLINES:

WORLDWIDE PRIESTS' RETREAT IN MEXICO THIS JULY

     VATICAN (CWN) -- The third annual worldwide retreat for priests, held in preparation for the Jubilee, will take place at the Marian shrine of Guadalupe, Mexico, from July 7- 12.

      Each year, priests from all over the world are invited to one of the great Marian sanctuaries for a few days of prayer and reflection. The site of these retreats has been set in different continents each year: beginning at Fatima, then at Yamoussoukro in Ivory Coast, and now at Guadalupe. The next two years will see similar retreats first in Jerusalem and then in Rome for the year 2000.

      The provisional program for this year's retreat includes meditations and liturgical celebrations led by: Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy; Cardinal Shan Kuo-Shi of Kaohsiung, Taiwan; Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem; Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston; Archbishop Alvarez Martinez of Toledo, Spain; Cardinal John O'Connor of New York; and Cardinal Rivera Carrera of Mexico City. The priests who attend will also have some free time to visit the historic sites around Mexico City.


LOCAL AUTHORITIES THREATEN CATHOLIC PARISH IN SOUTHERN RUSSIA

     MOSCOW (CWN/KNS) - Local authorities in Russia's Kabardino-Balkaria Republic, about 1100 miles south of Moscow, have ordered a Catholic parish in the town of Prokhladny to immediately apply for a brand-new registration -- even though the parish is already registered -- a move which Catholic sources in Moscow believe is a pretext for restriction of the parish's activities.

      Citing minor omissions in the parish's charter, the authorities have directed them to adopt a new one and to apply for a new registration. Such an application might be rejected under Russia's restrictive new law on church-state relations, leaving the parish with no legal basis to function. "This is the first step toward somehow making the work of the parish more difficult -- we're not sure just how," said Father Victor Bartsevich of the apostolic administration in Moscow. The parish in Prokhladny, like most Catholic parishes in Russia, was founded in the nineteenth century, closed by the Soviet regime, and re-opened only in the 1990s. Father Bartsevich said the parish's charter is "typical" for Catholic parishes in Russia, with no unusual features, and that they definitely will not yield to the pressure to write a new charter. He said that he is consulting the well-known Protestant legal scholars Vladimir Ryakhovsky and Anatoli Pchelintsev,adding: "We think we would win a court case."

      The December 5 letter from the Prokhladny procuracy to the Catholic parish states that the parish's charter fails to specify its territorial sphere of activities. It also demands that the charter be amended to forbid religious training of children without the consent of their parents, even dictating the specific text of such an amendment. The letter makes no concrete allegation that the parish has actually engaged in such activities.


US RELIGIOUS LEADERS OPEN CHINA TRIP WITH ASSURANCES WHILE IN TIJUANA MEXICAN CATHOLICS SEEK ASSURANCES FROM GOVERNMENT TO STOP INTIMIDATION

     A delegation of US religious leaders arrived in Beijing, China on Monday, at the invitation of the Communist government, to examine the state of religious freedom in the country.

      The officially atheist Communist China has come under fire from religious groups for its oppressive religious policies and reported persecution of independent Christians. In order to practice their religion, Christians, Buddhists, and Moslems must belong to a state-sanctioned association that repudiates all foreign connection, just as the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association eschews any ties to the Vatican and many Catholic doctrines. Dissenters from that arrangement are often imprisoned and persecuted.

      Catholic Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Newark, Rabbi Arthur Schneier of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, and the Rev. Don Argue of the National Association of Evangelicals said upon their arrival that they are in China as friends, not critics. "We want to help the Chinese government understand that Christians are good citizens. They show up for work on time. They pay their bills. They're honest," Argue said. "We're not here to inspect but to share the importance of freedom of conscience," he added.

      An underground Protestant minister told Reuters that Chinese authorities would not show the visiting clerics the whole picture. "I think they are going to see a fabricated side, and not the real side," pastor Chen Wenjun said. "This is using the visit to publicize freedom of religion in China to achieve expected results," said the 31-year-old minister, whose underground church in the eastern port city of Qingdao was closed by police last November. "If they went only to officially designated places, certainly they won't get to see the real situation," Chen said.

      Mexican Catholics on Sunday strongly condemned a reported campaign of intimidation launched by government officials against the Diocese of Tijuana and other Catholic organizations.

      The controversy was sparked on Saturday, when forces of the PGR, a police organization that investigates federal crimes, made a forced search of a home and school run by the Marist Brothers order. The search was the climax in a series of mutual criticisms that started when Catholic officials said that the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was using the local government "as its private farm." Political authorities in Tijuana first threatened the diocese with the post-revolution religion law, an oppressive measure whose interpretation is confusing and has been frequently criticized by the Mexican bishops. The confrontation reached its peak when PGR forces broke into the Marist brothers school. The search lasted almost three hours and some material damage to the facilities was reported.

      The school's parents' association announced it will hold a public march of at least 3,000 people against the local government. "It will be a silent march, demanding the end of the use of violence to intimidate the Catholic Church in Tijuana," said the parents' group in a public statement. "The march will also express our rejection of the use of these kinds of acts to intimidate good people who happen to get into the party's way," the statement also said. The diocesan chancery has said that it is not an "official march, but comes with the sympathy and support of the diocese."

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February 11, 1998 volume 9, no. 30          DAILY CATHOLIC


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