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In all honesty, many have become addicts - "message junkies_, so to speak, searching for symbolism rather than the substance of the message. And in our frantic search for the "spiritual brass ring," we can forget to truly live the simple messages Our Lady directs. Consequently, when the cosmetics of the message fade, we are left with the stark reality that it takes total commitment and abandonment of the world to follow Jesus, for He says in Matthew 7: 13-14, "Enter by the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who enter that way. How narrow the gate and close the way that leads to life! And few there are who find it."
If our faith is not firmly rooted this can be discouraging, for satan thrives on this, easily confusing and eventually dissuading one’s enthusiasm. When this happens the person who was once on fire is but an ember and burns out, turning back to the world for consolation and justification of their behavior.
Fr. Pascual in his book on Garabandal, points out something very profound and an insight that we should all consider first and foremost: "It should not be forgotten that, throughout the Gospels and the history of the Church, one great fact is evident: as a rule, the works of God, however great they may be, require the cooperation of His creatures."
How sad Our Lord and Our Lady must be when any of their children lose their zeal or foist their will on others in derision of God’s Will. This pattern brings to mind all the more reason we need to pray with the heart and truly live the messages as Our Lady is instructing. If we strive to do this without judging then we truly will realize and experience what Jesus promised in Matthew 11: 28-30, "Come to Me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden light."
His burden is indeed light if we but follow His directives. Fortunately for us, God is very patient and merciful and understands better than anyone the human foibles. So He’s constantly giving us another chance. The same held true at Garabandal for there were enough believers to offset the naysayers who expected grandiose phenomena on October 18. Being only human, the visionaries were somewhat discouraged as Jacinta was heard to say to the Blessed Virgin: "Nobody believes us any longer, you know - So you must do a great big, big miracle so they’ll believe again..." Our Lady simply smiled and replied: "They’ll believe."
On July 19, 1962 shortly before 2 a.m. God did send a miracle to all the doubting Thomases. To affirm the message to "visit the Blessed Sacrament frequently" Conchita was blessed to supernaturally receive Holy Communion from Saint Michael, a mystical phenomenon which can also be attributed to the children at Fatima, to Theresa Neumann and other past mystics in the Church. In fact, we have heard of a few holy people today who have experienced this same miraculous phenomenon.
While in a state of ecstasy Conchita received the Sacred Host from the Archangel who immediately instructed her to pray the Anima Christi and to keep her tongue protruded until he departed. Still in ecstasy she walked from her room out into the street and knelt by the throngs who had been keeping an all-night vigil outside her home. Kneeling with her tongue still out, all could see there was nothing on her tongue. Within seconds, to everyone’s astonishment, a thick white Host formed on the tip of her extended tongue, remaining there for all to witness for quite some time. A photograph of this miracle appears on this page. The mass of people gathered realized this was truly a miraculous sign and again believed.
How fleeting is the human race and yet how patient, accommodating and loving is the Mother of God. She even often acquiesces to our whims if it is not contradictory to the Divine Will. An example of this was the behavior of the crowds and the children’s request that Our Lady bless, touch and kiss pebbles entrusted to them by pilgrims, as well as rosaries, medals, scapulars, crucifies, wedding rings, etc. which often loaded them down. Detractors of Garabandal often point to this as nonsense that the Blessed Mother would never stoop so low. From a human point of view that might appear to be undignified for a Heavenly person of Our Lady’s stature, but, as Fr. Pascual related, "On the whole, God’s works are so simple and elementary that they have at all periods in history seemed ridiculous from a merely human point of view. In the Gospels, we read that, to cure a blindman, Jesus took dust and saliva; today, this would also seem rather ridiculous and not a little odd. That the Virgin Mary should appear so frequently in the early hours of the morning to talk to a few ignorant little girls about matters that often prove essentially to be commonplace is something that the thinking man certainly considers impossible, if he insists that a Heavenly visit should be surrounded by the strict protocol imposed by most of our authorities on earth. But, the Kingdom of God belongs to the little ones, and to see and believe we must become as humble and simple as children. All the visions that have in the long run been granted Church approval have occurred in the midst of details that mankind has in many cases considered commonplace, and in other cases, frankly ridiculous. Yet, to me, this is further proof of their reality. Indeed, it would be far more alarming if the phenomena had occurred in line with the protocol-laden ideas that modern man has about the proper way to receive a V.I.P."
Many probably wouldn’t understand why Our Lady would give four little children in such a remote, sparsely populated area such a mind-boggling message of the prophecy of the Warning and Miracle that will effect every person in the world. Recall what Fr. Pascual just said and there’s no need to wonder. But everyone is full of wonder and speculation, and even fear about the pending Warning prophesied on this first day of 1965.
This message, known as the "Second Formal Message" was much more urgent and severe, yet she conveyed hope (as all her messages do), in this stern warning:
"As my Message of October 18 has not been complied with and has not been made known to the world, I am advising you that this is the last one. Before, the cup was filling up. Now it is flowing over. Many cardinals, many bishops, and many priests are on the road to perdition and are taking many souls with them. Less and less importance is being given to the Eucharist. You should turn the wrath of God away from yourselves by your efforts. If you ask His forgiveness with sincere hearts, He will pardon you. I, your mother, through the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel, ask you to amend your lives. You are now receiving the last warnings. I love you very much and do not want your condemnation. Pray to Us with sincerity and We will grant your requests. You should make more sacrifices. Think about the passion of Jesus."
In the next and subsequent installment we will treat this prophecy as well as the subsequent Miracle in more detail and delve into the accounts that claim Padre Pio was graced to mystically behold the Miracle before he died. We will also show the close correlation between the conjectured Third Secret of Fatima and the Garabandal prophecies as well as the realization of this through the continuing messages of Medjugorje and Betania in addition to other portents that we are on the brink of the Great Tribulation for indeed. "The Cup is overflowing!" This was confirmed in Our Lady’s message to Conchita on January 1, 1965: "Before, the cup was filling up. Now it is flowing over."
NEXT INSTALLMENT: Part Five - Garabandal: For whom the Bells Toll!
It is then that our heavenly Mother speaks. Her voice so soft and gentle. She tells me I am in the Garden of Gethsemane, and that I have felt a minute amount of the dreadful torture of Jesus as He prayed and prayed before going to meet his enemies - His betrayer.
I understand much more why Jesus asked Peter, James and John to pray and keep watch with Him. As his hour drew nigh His Father, exacting His infinite justice, withdrew His presence from His Only Begotten Son, allowing in His Divine Will that all of mankind’s evils, weaknesses, and frailties should gather as one and belong to Jesus, the Man, who felt in His humanity the full burden of every soul that has been, is now and will be until the end of time. In our finite minds we cannot grasp this, yet we must believe it, for each of us has caused Jesus to sweat blood—sacred blood. Each of us is a drop of that sacred blood, the flail of the scourge, the terrible penetrating pain of the thorns, the humiliation of our Dear Lord, each of us is part of the weight of the Cross, the spittle and beating, each one of us is a pounding of the nail, the terrible dropping of the cross into place, and the slow agonizing death.
Now I see my Jesus as He kneels in prayer, His head resting upon a rock over which an olive tree bends low its branches, as if it wished to give comfort to the Divine Lamb of God, but in obedience remains mute, motionless. And I find that I move forward, closer, until, if I dared to reach out, I could touch my Savior.
But I dare not and I fall to my knees. I pray. Not with words for there are none, but with all my heart, calling upon my Father to have mercy, to forgive me, and, yes, to thank Him for all He has done. Even in this place of dreadful anguish and sorrow, I, the sinner, recognize God’s mercy, and my soul shouts for joy for salvation is close at hand.
Jesus raises His head and now that there has risen the moon and is sheds light into this spot, I see clearly that every pore upon His most sacred body oozes blood. His tunic, so Immaculate at the Last Supper, is damp, stained by His blood. His hair is damp, as is His face, and His eyes have, for the moment, become dulled by the agony of sweating blood.
"Father," Jesus implores, His voice audible to me but reaching no further. "If it be possible, allow this chalice to pass from Me. But, Father, not My will, but Yours be done."
And He remains as a statue, so wrapped is He in prayer, and I see Him shudder as if feverish. But then I am directed to look where Jesus is looking and I behold a nightmare beyond words. Jesus sees the sins of the world. Every soul, in infinite detail which by the free will of man, rejects the Divine Will. From the slightest offense to the most atrocious sins, all parade before Jesus and with each one satan howls in triumph and sneers at Jesus in His Sacred Agony. Then, by God’s Will alone, does satan have the power to show to Jesus, God’s own Son, every soul from all time who will disown Him and freely choose by his own free will to spend eternity in Hell! Jesus must watch as these souls, which I see as dying embers, pass before Him and are lost in a dark abyss. And each soul, which has chosen this path, shouts such blasphemy at our Lord that I, too, shudder and wish the dreadful vision to end. And I understand that for each one of these souls—these dying embers falling into Hell, Jesus sweats yet more blood and prays for them with a love we cannot fathom, but which is always there for us.
NEXT INSTALLMENT: Part Two of Lesson 6: IN THE GARDEN AT GETHSEMANE
Last year, on January 2, Fr. Balasuriya was notified on his excommunication. This January 15, during a moving ceremony in the private chapel of the Archbishop of Colombo) Sri Lanka), Fr. Tissa was officially reconciled with the Church. I was privileged to be present for that event and have been asked to share some of my impressions.
The reconciliation team, Fr. Carignan added, was the Superior General - Father Marcello Zago, OMI, the Vicar General and himself. They were looking for an outsider, he said, who could facilitate the meeting, and would I be available? At that moment, I went from curious and suspicious to nervous!
In turn, I immediately consulted our provincial, Fr. David Kalert, and we both agreed one really has to have a good reason not to accept such a request from the general administration...
In my fax reply to Ron, I asked what preparation I should be making, and the response was the ultimate of brevity: pray!
The starkness was somewhat tempered by Ron’s further assuring me that "It will not be an easy task, and the reconciliation we hope for is a long shot. But we’ll do the best we can and make the most of the opportunity."
I did pray, and those long-shot odds proved both consoling and liberating for me. Much of the pressure was off; after all, who expects to win with odds like that?!
"I am sure you realize this is not simply a personal matter concerning Fr. Balasuriya alone. The reputation and harmony of the congregation are involved."
The general team had arranged to be in Sri Lanka from January 10-16, which I thought would allow considerable free time and perhaps some sightseeing. Again, wrong!
Perhaps it was the makeup of the group: The nine other participants, all Oblates, were a group of generous, open, concerned and honest people, as well as worried and deeply affected by the excommunication and by the inability to resolve differences.
Not only were Fr. Tissa and the other Oblates willing to reconcile, but it seemed so were the Archbishop, the Apostolic Nuncio and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
There were several moving moments during the six days of meetings, because there had been some deep hurts and wounds and fears. One of the most profound moments was the afternoon of prayer after two days of listening.
Soon after that, it seemed the group was ready to hammer out a statement of reconciliation. The value of a laptop computer cannot be overestimated; some of the documents went through at least nine drafts! The last evening, the group and the phone were both busy until 11 p.m.
One called the experience " a school of dialogue," explained that Christ becomes present where two or three are gathered in his name, and thus it was an experience of the presence of the Lord.
Another saw it as an example of corporate effort, of teamwork, including the working of the Holy Spirit!
Another learning was the power of prayer. A much larger number of people than I had thought had been praying for this event. The group itself had a long prayer session mid-way, and we started our meetings with prayer.
We also realized the serious need for mechanisms when problems like this occur. For instance, the U.S. bishops have had a document since 1989 entitled, "Bishops and Theologians Promoting Cooperation, Resolving Misunderstandings."
Another learning was that reconciliation is not an event, but an ongoing process and therefore, a constant challenge.
"Hopefully, the Vatican will reflect on what happened and see that good came from a very divisive situation. Too, the presence of the Holy Spirit can do so much more than we can hope for or imagine.
"As a spin-off, the process speaks well for the Oblate congregation and its approach to its members. I thought Fr. Balasuriya made a wonderful comment to Fr. Zago, when he referred to him as the ‘Good Shepherd who left his 5,000 to come visit me.’ I have always had the highest admiration for Fr. Zago...
"The article in NCR gave the Oblates wonderful publicity, and hopefully we do treat members in such a fashion. It is a good vocation ad!"
So, my thanks to Tom Hayes and my thanks to God, for this was indeed a moment of generosity on the part of many and a moment of grace for me.