February 2, 1998   vol 9, no. 23    


Let's ground the groundhog in favor of a greater occasion!

     While many consider this day famous for being Groundhog Day, the faithful see an even more important and pertinent reason to celebrate this day for it is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. While the legend has it that if the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter, had Our Lord not been presented in the temple by His Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph who knows if any of us would have had even a second of this life? We owe everything to God and it was through the Love and Mercy of the Father that He gave us His only-begotten Son for our salvation. No groundhog can compare with that! For the story of the Presentation, Candlemass, today's readings and tomorrow's feast of Saint Blase and Saint Ansgar and the custom of the Blessing of the Throats, click on LITURGY OF THE DAY

MONDAY, February 2, 1998

     The Presentation of Jesus is also called the Purification, or Candlemass Day, since on this day the Church blesses the candles used in the procession (if there is one) and which will be used to bless throats on the next day - the feast of Saint Blase. The main focus of course is on the Presentation of Jesus which is in accordance with the old Jewish Law given from God to Moses for the Jewish women after childbirth. A mother was still considered unclean and not to appear in public for 40 days after the birth of a son, and 80 days after the birth of a daughter. At the end of this period, the first place she was to go with her husband was to the temple. There, at the door of the tabernacle she was to present a young pigeon or a turtle dove as a sin-offering. The ideal offering was a lamb, the highest immolation one could offer, as documented throughout the Old Testament - specifically with Abraham and Isaac and culminating with the Sacrifice of the Lamb - Jesus Christ on the Cross. However, very few could afford to donate a lamb for the altar. Therefore, they were allowed to substitute a second turtle-dove in lieu of a lamb. Once the high priest sacrificed these gifts to Almighty God, the woman was cleansed of the legal impurity and free to return to a normal life with all its privileges. In accordance with all this, the Blessed Mother, accompanied by her chaste husband Saint Joseph, complied, bringing Jesus with them since there was also a Hebrew code commanding the first-born be brought to the temple and presented to God. Hence, the Presentation. The Gospel Reading in Luke 2: 22-40 relates all that happened in the temple. Though the Virgin Mary was always pure she still was obedient to the law and humble in all she was asked to do by God and by man. There was also present in the mysteries of the Purification and the Presentation, a third "mystery", that of the prophecies of the holy Simeon and the prophetess Anna. Simeon knew immediately that this child was the Messiah. This was foretold by the prophet Malachi in his book of the Old Covenant and selected as the first reading in this feast's celebration of the Mass. He was also charged by God to reveal further the sorrows Mary would undergo by her fiat to God. The second reading in Hebrews 2: 14-18 reveals much of what Our Lady understood, especially verse 18 where Paul writes: "For in that He Himself has suffered and has been tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted." Yes, Jesus walked in our shoes, so to speak, which allows us to follow in His footsteps.

TUESDAY, February 3, 1998

Saint Blase, Bishop and Martyr

     The traditional "Blessing of Throats" commemorates the feast of Saint Blase who lived in the fourth century. A philosopher and physcian, St. Blase was turned his back on the worldly pleasures and devoted his life to God as a physician of souls. His virtues and preaching drew people from everywhere. This bothered Agricolaus the Governor of Cappadocia, which is today Turkey and Iraq. The Roman governor seized Blase and ordered his incarceration. On his way to prison, Blase was stopped by a distraught mother who pleaded for him to help her daughter who was dying of a throat disease. Blase, touched by her sorrow and faith, prayed and through these intercessory prayers the little girl was healed. Other reports say he healed a young boy choking on a fish bone. St. Blase is often depicted with two candles, used by priests on this day to bless throats. There are a plethora of stories of how many have been cured of throat diseases by praying to St. Blase to intercede. He was beheaded by the heathens in 316 and his remains are buried in the church bearing his name in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Unfortunately, the church was damaged by the Serbs in 1993 and is presently being restored.

Saint Ansgar, Bishop, Religious and Missionary

     Dubbed the "Apostle of the North," Saint Ansgar was born into a noble family in 801 in Amiens in what was then Frankish territory. God called and Ansgar became a Benedictine monk at the Picardy monastery of Old Corbie. He became the master of the monastic school there before King Harold heard of his prowess as a preacher and evangelizer and requested the saint to accompany him back to Denmark under the protection of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne. His zeal and missionary success in Denmark prompted King Bjorn of Sweden to invite him into the land of the Vikings. While there he was made the first archbishop of Hamburg and later appointed by Pope Gregory IV as the first papal legate to the Scandinavian countries. During his fourteen years in Sweden he converted countless pagans and Holy Mother Church was making great inroads until the heathen Vikings invaded in 845 and destroyed the city of Hamburg and much of Sweden. Ansgar was forced to flee to Bremen in what is today Germany where he was appointed the first archbishop there in 848. Pope Nicholas I did not forget Ansgar or Hamburg, uniting the see of Hamburg with Bremen in 854 when Ansgar again returned to Denmark and Sweden resuming his missionary activities. His coup de gras was converting the King of Jutland, King Erik who was impressed with Ansgar's fluent preaching, great austerity and the holiness he exhibited to all. Though Ansgar had always wanted to be a martyr, he died at the age of 64 of natural causes on February 3, 865 in Bremen. Shortly after that the Vikings again overwhelmed Scandinavia and destroyed almost all remnants of Christianity as the entire lands resorted to paganism since there were no more "Ansgars" to keep the faith burning in the hearts and souls of the peoples. The lack of the Church to maintain her roots in Scandinavia was one reason protestantism took such a firm hold in these countries during the Protestant Revolution of the sixteenth century.

The account of Mother Angelica's miraculous healing casts out all shadows of doubt

      We first broke the story over the weekend and today we give you a "play-by-play" of Mother Angelica's truly miraculous healing of a forty-year crippling affliction that was first announced on EWTN's live "Life on the Rock" youth program by host Jeff Cavins. In today's commentary we detail the how and who of this wondrous Heavenly phenomenon that has turned Mother's pain and sacrifice into total joy for her and all the faithful. All glory and honor is due the Almighty for this wondrous gift that will enable Mother to serve as a primary witness to God's miraculous healing power. For her story entitled Expectant Faith means to expect anything from the "Lord of the Unexpected", the first part of a multi-part commentary, click on TODAY'S CATHOLIC PewPOINT

Expectant Faith means to expect anything from the "Lord of the Unexpected."

     Probably few editorials have been more joyous to write than this one. It regards the wondrous, miraculous and glorious news of Mother Angelica's healing experience last Wednesday night in her tiny office at EWTN headquarters in Irondale, Alabama. It is truly beautiful that we can detail this, present the account to our readers on the special feast of the PRESENTATION OF THE LORD for He was presented in the temple by Saint Joseph and the Blessed Mother of God. The latter special lady played a significant role in this miraculous healing experience as Mother affirms through the power of the Rosary and the fact Our Lady visited the "healing conduit" - an Italian woman - during this miraculous process. "Incredulous," are what so many are saying regarding this miracle. But when one considers the Source of this miracle, it reminds us of Father John Hampsch, C.M.F.'s explanation of "expectant faith" in his column in the Daily CATHOLIC - "KEYS TO LIVING GOD'S WILL." For it truly is God's Will that Mother Angelica continue her courageous campaign to uphold the True Light of Faith in a country and world where materialism, modernism, schism and the culture of death have taken a choke hold on civilization. With the venerable Mother Teresa having left us last year, there remain only two truly visionary and highly visible luminaries left in the Church today - they are, of course, Pope John Paul II and Mother Angelica. Oh, there are many great cardinals such as Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Cardinal John O'Connor,, etc. and many good bishops such as Cardinal-to-be Francis George,OMI, Archbishop Charles Chaput, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, Bishop John Myers, and many, many more to name just a few, and countless good priests too innumerable to mention along with thousands of lay apostles who have done so much to perpetuate the One, True, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith, but the comander-in-chief remains our Holy Father and his chief general - platoon leader if you will, remains Mother Angelica who takes all the supreme pontiff decrees and does all in her power to disseminate the information globally, enforcing it with the "weapon of love" - the Rosary of Mary, our Mother and patroness of the United States of America.

      Therefore, is it any surprise that God wants his special emissary Mother Angelica to be anything less than at full strength? He wants her to be a powerful witness to all that He shall give us as well as all He shall wrought when the great cleansing comes at the end of this millennium. Mother, in her own words confirms this: "I never asked for healing. Never. Because I was convinced that that was an apostolate for me, that that was a kind of mission to give people who are cripple and people who are ill courage." She gave credence that God had a method to his "madness" in allowing Mother to be healed when she testified on Jeff Cavins' live program Life on the Rock last Thursday evening, that she told the Lord silently while praying the Rosary, "I've born these crutches and pain for all these years for Your honor and glory in hoping it would give courage to those in the same position. But if there's another witness You want, then I am more than willing to be healed."

     And healed she was - totally! For forty years Mother has suffered various pain and crippling ailments resulting from an accident in Ohio over four decades ago. In fact, while recovering from the accident and six months of traction in a hospital, the doctors recommended surgery to try to correct the crippling spinal alignment. They told her there was a chance she would never walk again. That night, before the surgery, as she recounts in her own biography, she had a very restless night. When sleep would not come early before dawn, she silently asked God, "You didn't bring me this far just to lay me out on my back for life. Please, Lord Jesus, if you allow me to walk again I will build a monastery to Your glory. And I will build in the South." She did walk again, but not without the necessary means of leg braces, crutches and a back brace, and she did keep her promise and built not only a monastery but an icon of truth in the form of EWTN network. But during these last forty years she suffered immeasurably from the pain for she was allergic to any pain-killing medicine and so bore the brunt of the often intense pain and discomfort. Until Wednesday night that is, when God evidently deemed, in His Time, that Mother had suffered enough and had fulfilled all He had asked of her over these forty years. He sent a blessed woman who had to "bug" Mother for a few moments of her time. Mother, no matter the pain, has always been busy and this past week was no exception with her shows and the extraordinary coverage EWTN gave to the Holy Father's historic visit to Cuba which was broadcast over the cable channel as well as the internet which we linked all our readers to during that time. She finally gave this unknown, but determined woman an audience in her small office at EWTN after Mother had finished her Wednesday night show, "Mother Angelica Live." The woman, evidently an Italian, asked Mother if they could pray the Rosary together. Mother recounts that since she didn't know English, Mother suggested they pray it in Latin. This they did and while they prayed the Blessed Mother spoke to the woman, evidently a locutionist. She told the woman that she and her Divine Son were most happy with Mother and all she had done, but they cried for so many priests and religious who were not striving to do God's Will. The woman relayed this to Mother and asked her to take off her braces. Reluctantly Mother did. The woman began praying the fourth glorious Mystery in Italian and while reciting it Mother began feeling a sensational heat in her ankles. Through Divine guidance, the woman knew what was happening and asked Mother to try to walk. Mother recalls that her legs, which hitherto would have gone "all wiggly" started straightening out and the ankles began gaining strength. By the time they had completed the Rosary she could stand and, yes, walk without the aid of the crutches or braces, which included the one for her back. The feeling could be summed up in one word according to Mother, "awesome!" It wasn't long before word spread like wildfire throughout the EWTN complex and Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. All were aghast, almost incredible at this supernatural event that had happened in Irondale that night. By now Mother was walking, almost running to show those "doubting Thomases" who sought her out that it was indeed true. All who witnessed her miraculous recovery truly gave credit where it belonged - to God and His Merciful Love. We can't help but think that by the time Mother finally got to bed that evening, she was exhausted but equally exhilerated and thankful.

     Early the next morning, as had been her custom for over forty years, upon rising, she instinctively reached for her crutches and brace by the door of her room. To her amazement, total joy and extreme thanks she found where the crutches had been, two roses. They had been placed there by one or more of the sisters out of pure love and gratitude. That morning in the chapel of the Holy Angels, the sisters took the braces and crutches and placed them on the small altar behind the main altar, offering them to the Almighty in loving thanksgiving for this miraculous gift He had manifested on Mother, those at EWTN and all of the faithful.

     We have detailed the "how" of what happened. Tomorrow, in this same column, we will analyze the "why" of what happened. God's gift of healing Mother Angelica is truly a sign to all. It's not the first time and it won't be the last, but as Mother said, "I can't say I desired it and I can't say I had any faith it would be or not be. I just wanted the Lord to maybe have a new witness." Today, through God's Love and Mercy, Mother is that new witness and encourages all of us to do the same. Expectant Faith means to expect anything from the "Lord of the Unexpected."

Michael Cain, editor

Graces and miracles come when we are unified as one

      In his column today, Father Stephen Valenta, OFM Conv. begins an extended treatise on unity titled "In UNITY there is Strength!" He shows how fragile unity can be and what happens when we are divided. Only through total obedience to God's Will can we hope to be unified as He wants us to be in His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. It is not easy and satan, once unified with God and the other angels, was not satisfied with unity and sowed dissension. Today he continues to sow this dissent in all God's children and only by placing our total trust in Him can we avoid being divided. Click on HEARTS TO HEART TALK

In UNITY there is Strength

      Jesus addressed Himself to the above title, but by way of the opposite when He brought to the attention of His accusers that "A house divided against itself, cannot stand" (Matthew 12: 25). Our human experience presents us with both, unity and division.

     Our first encounter with unity and division without a doubt occurred in one of our earliest experiences in family living. There was the Sunday afternoon when Dad and Mom took the children to the park for a picnic and everyone laughed, played games and sang. Then, on that same Sunday evening when returning home, Mom and Dad had an argument in front of us kids because Dad forgot to put the dog out and it made a mess all around the house. After that there were hundreds of times when every one in the family got along: unity and harmony ran supreme; and hundreds of times when division surfaced and people in the house got on each other's nerves and shouted and screamed at each other.

     Childhood days are usually filled with experiences of unity and division. At times we got along with the kids next door; at times we fought and were "mad" at each other for a week. In school, there were days when the whole class had a lot of fun with the teacher and then there were those times when the whole class had to stay after school because no one would own up to taking the apple off teacher's desk. Later on we became aware that there was unity in the world for a couple of years when all the countries got along and then something happened and the whole world was at war.

     As time went on and many years of life's experiences of unity and division flowed through each day, unity and division was uncovered closer to home, that is, right within one's self. There were times when mind, feelings, heart and body worked together like a team, and there were those times when the mind did not get along with the heart and the feelings upset the body. With the passing of years, and thousands of experiences in life, one was able to garner that choice bit of wisdom that unity and division were part and parcel of everyday life and that they appeared on every single one of its various levels.

     It began, we were told, even much before Adam and Eve were created, when a great war took place between lucifer and Michael. At first they got along and then they didn't. It appeared in the lives of our first parents; first they got along with God and then they didn't. The entire history of mankind is replete with times of unity, in which times there was peace and much was accomplished, and then, when people were at odds, very little, if anything by way of development and growth, took place.

     Somewhere along the line a bulb within the mind lit up and it became clear without a shadow of a doubt that there was division when people did not listen to God and did that which they wanted without giving consideration to what God wanted. Then even a brighter light brought in the clear understanding that God was infinitely One despite the fact that there were three distinct Persons within that Oneness. What is more, there is undivided unity in all of Heaven with the angels and the saints, living as individuals in perfect harmony amongst themselves and with God. When lucifer and the angels under him attempted to create division, they were immediately ejected out of the presence of God. It was to be understood that Heaven would remain in unity for all eternity at all costs.

In my next installment I will continue this thread on Unity - for in Unity there is strength!

The Gospa is alive and thriving on the Web

     This week's recipient of our Golden Chalice Award is the king of Medjugorje sites promoting the Queen of Peace. The plethora of categories and information on the Medjugorje Web site is far and above anything else one will find anywhere else on the net regarding a complete explanation of Medjugorje and the miraculous phenomena that has been taking place since June 24, 1981. Click on SIGNIFICANT SITE OF THE WEEK

Medjugorje Web is fulfilling Our Lady's words to, "live my messages and relate them to whomever you meet."

      It is only fitting on the feast of the PRESENTATION OF THE LORD that we feature a site where Jesus is presented daily throughout the mountain village community of Medjugorje where the Blessed Mother has been presenting her Divine Son to the visionaries and countless other "little children" for nearly seventeen full years. The repercussions have spread to all four corners of the world and the site we review today is helping perpetuate this. This site, of course is the Medjugorje Web site at Reviewing this site is long overdue, but no other Medjugorje site offers as much as this excellent web site. Operated by Steve and Ana Shawl they provide a scope and depth on Medjugorje that is unparalleled at any other site. You might consider this site "Everything you wanted to know about Medjugorje, but didn't know where to ask!" The Blessed Virgin Mary's words of August 16, 1984 echoed in the headline above are being fulfilled by this remarkable evangelistic site promoting Medjugorje, providing the who, what, where, when, why and how of this modern miracle that is unparalleled in apparition annals. From the Monthly Medjugorje Message available in 24 languages to Daily Meditations, which we have been carrying for two years as a link in our Daily Liturgy section, this site provides background, resolve, devotions, facts, up-to-date biographies on the visionaries and other principals of the Medjugorje phenomena to name just a few of the plethora of features available. Besides providing every major message from that first day in 1981 to January 25, 1998, this site includes Father Slavko Barbaric's monthly commentaries on the message as well as the most comprehensive article/letter on the exact situation of Medjugorje regarding pilgrims, Holy Mother Church, God's Will, etc. from a consortium of big name playing clerics from this region. They include Archbishop Frane Franic, former head of the Yugoslav Bishops' Commission on investigating Medjugorje and who we interviewed extensively along with visionary Ivan Dragicevic and Father Ljudevit Rupcic, OFM in 1992. Joining Archbishop Franic is one of the foremost proponents of Our Lady - Bishop Paolo Hnilica, S.J. along with such Medjugorje luminary Franciscans as Fathers Slavko Barbaric, Jozo Zovko, Tomislav Pervan, Leonard Orec, and Ivan Landeka. It is the most comprehensive explanation to date of the Medjugorje phenomena that has taken hold on all seven continents.

     In addition to the above, the Medjugorje Web site offers a listing of all Marian Centers in the U.S. and an up-to-date schedule of 1998 Marian Conferences that list times, places, contact's name and phone number, theme, and most of the scheduled speakers. It has the most complete current biographies on all six visionaries who are no longer children but married adults (all but Vicka). The site brings to the browser countless testimonies and articles on Medjugorje from many different sources as well as an extensive photo gallery of all areas of interest in this Oasis of Peace. It even includes statistics that record over ten million Holy Communions distributed at St. James parish church since 1981. Communions are increasing again as travel to this Bosnian shrine becomes safer after the war years of the early nineties. The year 1990, the year we visited three times, still ranks as the all time high in pilgrims and Sacred Hosts distributed with 1993 the lowest during the turmoil. But 1997 saw a huge increase and 1998 promises even more. For those who have not been to Medjugorje but have thought about it, this site provides a virtual experience of taking a pilgrimage there with itinerary, prices and how to sign up with Mediatrix Tours, a very reputable pilgrimage tour company run by Bob and Candy Grove out of Plano, Texas who we can personally vouch for. There are so many aspects of this excellent site that we can't possibly list here but which browsers can discover at their hearts content. It emphasizes the importance of the message and vision of Saint John Bosco, without actually mentioning the saint by name, by placing emphasis on devotion to Our Lady - the Gospa as she is referred to in Bosnia - and Eucharistic adoration with special prayers and devotions to use while spending time with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

     Almost every page loads quickly, despite the many photos and it is a joy to surf and discover new things which many did not realize about Medjugorje, including the Holy Father's remarks and positive leanings toward this special shrine. The Medjugorje Web is kept up-to-date by the Shawls, who also furnish a bi-weekly press bulletin from Medjugorje as well as direct e-mail of the Monthly Message and Fr. Slavko's moving commentaries to those who request this service. All in all there is not one negative anywhere on this vast site and because of it, we proudly bestow our prestigious "Golden Chalice Award" to this site, conferring a perfect full decade of TEN Hail Mary's to this king of Medjugorje web sites honoring the Queen of Peace.

Click here to go to SECTION TWO or click here to return to the graphics front page of this issue.

February 2, 1998 volume 9, no. 23          DAILY CATHOLIC

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