Friday, December 3, 2010

Miracle of the bleeding crucifix and a recent convert from Islam to Christianity

A bishop in eastern India says the “first miracle” in his diocese has strengthened his people’s faith and attracted people of other religions. “Our people are overjoyed at the first public miracle,” Bishop Stephen Lepcha of Darjeeling told on Nov. 26. “This has strengthened the faith of the people,” he added. The bishop said the “miracle” occurred Nov. 20 when a priest and two couples preached a retreat for some novices of Claritian congregation at Dirnberger Niketan, Sonada, in West Bengal state.

A crucifix began to bleed when a woman preacher, a recent convert from Islam, prayed in her room in the morning. “Soon other crucifixes, rosaries and a big statue of Mary in the house began to bleed,” the prelate narrated. Bishop Lepcha said he visited the place the next day and saw the crucifix and the Marian statue. He also met Mary, the Muslim who became a Catholic on Aug. 7. The prelate quoted the woman from Kerala, southern India, as saying the Blessed Virgin had separate messages for the bishop, priests and people.

While the Blessed Virgin wants everyone to become holy, she promised the prelate “mighty things” in his diocese. Her message to priests was that they should become conscious of how they celebrate Mass while she wants the public to repent and pray without ceasing. Bishop Lepcha said when he saw the woman falling into a “trance” he expressed his desire to take the Gospel to Bhutan. The prelate said the woman told him, “I will be there.”

On Nov. 22, the woman’s both hands started bleeding and she screamed with pain. The bishop said when he wiped the blood from her hands with cotton he found no hole in the hands. Then the woman told him that his sins were forgiven when he wiped the blood. The bishop says hundreds of people, including Hindus, Muslims and Buddhist monks, are flocking to the novitiate. Salesian Father Martin, local parish priest, said the crucifixes and statue bled for four days. According to him, some 20,000 people have visited the place after the miracle was reported.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Saint Gemma versus the devil

The information for this article is from: “The Life of St Gemma Galgani” by Venerable Father Germanus C.P.

"....And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a Angel of Satan to beat me, to keep me from being too exalted." 2 Corinthians 12:7

God, in order to purify His elect and render them victims of expiation for themselves and for others, makes use even of the demons, who because of their hatred of souls and their increased intelligence become very profitable instruments to the attainment of His ends.
Thus our Lord, when He made known to our holy founder, St Paul of the Cross (founder of the Passionists –editor) that He willed to raise Him to a high degree of sanctity, spoke thus “I will have thee trampled underfoot by the devils”.

And, in like manner, Jesus said to His servant Gemma: “Be prepared My child. The Devil, at my bidding, will be the one who, by the war he will rage against you, will give the last touch to the work that I will accomplish in you.”

In a early letter to Father Germano, Gemma writes:

“During the last two days Jesus has been telling me after Holy Communion: ‘My daughter, the devil will soon wage a great war against you.’ These words I hear in my heart continuously. Please pray for me .... Who will win this battle: the devil or my soul? How sad this thing makes me! Where will the war come from? I am for ever thinking about it instead of praying Jesus to give me strength and help. Now I have told you, and I leave this matter to you, that you may help me.
Your poor,


Gemma soon learned that the best way to defend herself against the demons and to reach God’s ends is through prayer, which she practiced with all the ardor of her soul. What then did not the enemy do to prevent it? To weary her he would try to upset her temperament; he caused her violent headaches so that she might be obliged to go to bed, rather than remain in prayer and strove in numerous other ways to distract her from this holy exercise. “Oh” she once said to me “What torment this gives me, not to be able to pray! What fatigue it costs me! How many efforts does not that wretch make to make it impossible for me to pray! Yesterday evening he tried to kill me, and would have succeeded if Jesus had not come quickly to my aid. I was terrified and kept the image of Jesus in my mind, but I could not pronounce His name.”
At other times, he attacked her differently “What are you doing” he said, blaspheming, “how stupid you are to pray to that malefactor. Look at the harm He does thee, keeping thee nailed to the Cross with Himself. How then can you care for Him, for Him whom you don’t even know, who makes all who love Him suffer?” But these and all his other evil suggestions were as dust before the wind, and only served to afflict her at hearing her Jesus outraged by such blasphemies.

In the midst of so much suffering, the servant of God found comfort in the direction and advice of her spiritual director (the author of these lines -editor). This the wicked enemy could not bear, and tried to turn her away from her spiritual guide. He depicted her director as an ignorant, fanatical, deluded man and with so many arguments strove to convince and terrify her that the poor child thought herself all but lost. Hence on one occasion she wrote “For some days, Chiappino* (a name she called the devil) has pursued me in every guise and way, and has done all in his power against me. This monster keeps on redoubling all his efforts to ruin me and tries to deprive me of whomever directs or advises me. But even should this happen, I am not afraid" (notice her virtue of detachment). Seeing that with all his efforts he could not succeed in shaking her confidence in her director, he resorted to acts of violence, and, assaulting her while she persevered in writing, he snatched the pen from her hand and tore up the paper then dragged her from the table, seizing her by the hair with such violence that it came off in his brutal claws. Then withdrawing in fury he shouted “War, war against thy Father, (Venerable Germanus, the author of these lines –editor) war as long as he lives!” “Believe me Father” she said to me “to hear this despicable wretch one would say that his fury was against you more than against me”.
*(Gemma's nickname for the devil was "Chiappino", which is the equivalent of "burgular". St John Vianney's nickname for him was "Grappin", which is the equivelent of "wrestler" -editor)

He carried this audacity so far as to feign to be a priest to whom Gemma used to make her confession. She had gone one day to Church, and while preparing herself to make her confession, she saw that the Priest was already in the confessional, at which she momentarily wondered, not having seen him pass and enter. At the same time she felt very much disturbed in spirit, as generally happened when in the presence of the evil one. She entered the confessional however, and began her confession as usual. The voice and ways were indeed those of the confessor, but his talk was foul and scandalous, accompanied by improper gestures. “My God” she exclaimed, “what has happened?” At such a sight and at such words the angelic child trembled, and her presence of mind returning, she hurriedly left the confessional, and saw as she did so that the pretended "confessor" had disappeared. It was the Devil, who by his coarse and fiendish ways had sought to deceive her, or at least make her lose all confidence in the minister of God.

Failing in this attempt, the enemy made another. He appeared to Gemma in the form of an angel, resplendent with light, insinuating himself with the most subtle cunning, so as to throw her off her guard. Then as with Eve in the Garden of Eden, he depicted things in the falsest colors “Look” he said “I can make thee happy if only you will swear to obey me”. Gemma, who this time did not feel in her soul the usual disturbance indicating the presence of the demon, stood listening in her simplicity. But God came to her aid. After the first wicked proposal, her eyes were opened. She stood up exclaiming “My God! Mary Immaculate!” Make me die rather!” and with these words she rushed to the feigned “angel” and spat in his face. At the same moment she saw him vanish in the form of fire.


Again Gemma writes "Once more I have passed a bad night. The demon came before me as a giant of great height and kept saying to me "For thee there is no more hope of salvation. Thou are in my hands!". I replied that God is merciful and therefore I fear nothing. Then, giving me a hard blow on the head in a rage he said "accursed be you!"Eternal Father, through the most precious blood of Jesus, free me!" I then don't quite know what happened. That contemptable beast dragged me from my bed and threw me, hitting my head against the floor with such force that it pains me still. I became senseless and remained lying there until I came to myself a long time afterwards. Jesus be thanked!"

Another time Gemma writes "Today I thought I was to be entirely free from that nauseous animal, and instead he has knocked me about greatly. I had gone to bed with the full intention of sleeping, but it turned out otherwise. He began to beat me with such blows that I feared I would die. He was in the shape of a big black dog, and he put his "paws" on my shoulders, hurting me greatly. I felt it so much in all my bones that I thought that they were broken. Also, when I was taking holy water he wrenched my arm so violently that I fell to the floor from the pain. The bone was dislocated, but went back into place because Jesus touched it for me, and all was remedied". Knowing her mission as soul victim, the Devil once said to her "You can pray for yourself, but if you pray for others, I will make you pay dearly for it".
and then he disappeared. I then went to my room to rest, and there I found him. He began again to strike me with a knotted rope, and wanted me to listen to him while he suggested wickedness. I said no, and he struck me even harder, knocking my head violently against the ground. At a certain point, it came to my mind to invoke Jesus' Father "

In her Diary Gemma writes:
"The devil, in the form of a great black dog, put his paws upon my shoulders, making every bone in my body ache. At times I believed that he would mangle me; then one time, when I was taking holy water, he twisted my arm so cruelly that I fell to the earth in great pain.After a while I remembered that I had around my neck the relic of the Holy Cross. Making the Sign of the Cross, I became calm. Jesus let me see Himself, but only for a short time, and He strengthened me anew to suffer and struggle."
Another time in her Diary she writes:

"This evening I felt I could not collect myself; I said a few evening prayers and went to bed. To tell the truth, I foresaw a bit of a storm because Jesus had warned me a few days ago, saying: "The enemy will try you with one final battle, but it will be the last because now that is enough." I could not help but thank Him for the strength He had always given me, and I prayed that He would want to give me strength for this final test as well, that is to say last night.I went to bed, as you know well, with the intention of sleeping; slumber was not long in coming when almost instantly a tiny, tiny man appeared, all covered in black hair. What a fright! He put his hands on my bed and I thought he wanted to hit me: "No, no," he said, "I am not able to hit you, don't be afraid," and as he said this he lay down on the bed.I called Jesus to help me but he did not come, but this doesn't mean he abandoned me. As soon as I called his name I felt liberated, but it was sudden.Other times I had called Jesus but He had never been ready like last night.You should have seen the demon afterward, how angry! He rolled around on the floor, cursing; he made one last effort to take away the cross I had with me but then he instantly fell backward. How good Jesus was with me last night. The devil, after that last effort, turned toward me and said that since he had not been able to do anything, he wished to torment me the rest of the night. "No," I told him; I called my guardian Angel, who opened his wings and alighted next to me; he blessed me and the devil ran away. Jesus be thanked. This morning I learned that at the very moment the devil was rising in fury, the scapular of Our Lady of Sorrows had been placed on me [by Ce­cilia Giannini] and I realized that when the devil was trying to take some­thing off of me, it could be nothing but that. My Mother, Our Lady of Sor­rows, also be thanked."

Another time in her Diary she writes:

"It happened today as usual. I had gone to bed, in fact I was asleep, but the devil did not wish this. He presented himself in a disgusting manner; he tempted me but I was strong. I commended myself to Jesus asking that He take my life rather than have me offend Him. What horrible temptations those were! All displease me but those against Holy Purity make me most wretched. Afterward he left me in peace and the Angel Guardian came and assured me that I had not done anything wrong. I com­plained somewhat, because I wished his help at such times, and he said that whether I saw him or not, he would be always above my head."

In his biography, Father Germanus writes:
"With a view to protect her from these Satanic attacks and apparitions, I enjoined on her, under whatever form the persons of the other world might appear to her, to at once repeat the words “Viva Gesu!” (“Long live Jesus!” –editor). I was unaware that our Our Lord Himself had given her a similar remedy in the words: “Benedetto sio Dio e Maria!” (Blessed be God and Mary!)
And the docile child, in order to obey both, used to repeat the double exclamation-
“Viva Gesu! Benedetto sio Dio e Maria!” (Blessed be Jesus! Blessed be God and Mary!) The good spirits always repeated her words, whereas the malignant ones either did not reply, or else pronounced only a few words, such as “Viva” or “Benedetto”, without adding any name. By this means Gemma recognized them and scorned them accordingly. "
Regarding the attacks from the devil, at times she would find comfort in her sense of humor. She once wrote to Father Germano stating "If you would have seen him Father, when he fled making faces, you would have burst out laughing! He is so ugly!.... But Jesus told me not to be afraid of him"

Certainly Satan must have growled with rage at the zeal of this holy girl, finding how she snatched his choicest victims from him. He often appeared to her with eyes of fire and in threaten­ing tones said: "While acting for yourself, do as you please, but listen well, do nothing for the conversion of sinners; if you attempt it, I shall make you pay dearly for it."

At other times assuming the role of prudent counselor he would say: "How and where comes such presumption? You are laden with sins, and all the years of thy life would not suffice to bewail and expiate them, and yet you lose time about the sins of others? Do you not see that your own soul is in danger? A strange gain, that of think­ing for others and neglecting thyself." And on another occasion the infenal demon said "Don't you see that Jesus no longer hears you and that He will no longer have anything to do with you?" But through the grace of God, and the will of Gemma, all the devils temptations were made in vain.

Once she was heard to say to Our Lord in ecstasy:  
"Do You wish to know, Jesus, who has forbidden me to think about sinners? The devil. On the contrary, Jesus, I recommend them to Thee. Think of them, oh Jesus, all poor sinners, and teach me to do as much as possible to save them."

The information for this article is from: “The Life of St Gemma Galgani” by Venerable Father Germanus C.P. and also Saint Gemma's Diary.

Friday, November 5, 2010

THREE METHODS OF PRAYER - St Ignatius of Loyola

The Spiritual Exercises
 St. Ignatius of Loyola


The first Method of Prayer is on

  1. the Ten Commandments, and on
  2. the Seven Deadly Sins, on
  3. the Three Powers of the Soul and on the Five Bodily Senses.

This method of prayer is meant more to give form, method and exercises, how the soul may prepare itself and benefit in them, and that the prayer may be acceptable, rather than to give any form or way of praying.

I. The Ten Commandments
First let the equivalent of the second Addition of the Second Week be made; that is, before entering on the prayer, let the spirit rest a little, the person being seated or walking about, as may seem best to him, considering where he is going and to what. And this same addition will be made at the beginning of all Methods of Prayer.

A Preparatory Prayer, as, for example, to ask grace of God our Lord that I may be able to know in what I have failed as to the Ten Commandments; and likewise to beg grace and help to amend in future, asking for perfect understanding of them, to keep them better and for the greater glory and praise of His Divine Majesty.

For the first Method of Prayer, it is well to consider and think on the First Commandment, how I have kept it and in what I have failed, keeping to the rule of spending the space of time one says the Our Father and the Hail Mary three times; and if in this time I find faults of mine, to ask pardon and forgiveness for them, and say an Our Father. Let this same method be followed on each one of the Ten Commandments.

First Note.
It is to be noted that when one comes to think on a Commandment on which he finds he has no habit of sinning, it is not necessary for him to delay so much time, but according as one finds in himself that he stumbles more or less on that Commandment so he ought to keep himself more or less on the consideration and examination of it. And the same is to be observed on the Deadly Sins.

Second Note.
After having finished the discussion already mentioned on all the Commandments, accusing myself on them and asking grace and help to amend hereafter, I am to finish with a Colloquy to God our Lord, according to the subject matter.

II. On Deadly Sins
About the Seven Deadly Sins, after the Addition, let the Preparatory Prayer be made in the way already mentioned, only with the difference that the matter here is of sins that have to be avoided, and before of Commandments that have to be kept: and likewise let the order and rule already mentioned be kept, and the Colloquy.

In order to know better the faults committed in the Deadly Sins, let their contraries be looked at: and so, to avoid them better, let the person purpose and with holy exercises see to acquiring and keeping the seven virtues contrary to them.

III. On the Powers of the Soul
On the three powers of the soul let the same order and rule be kept as on the Commandments, making its Addition, Preparatory Prayer and Colloquy.

IV. On the Bodily Senses
About the five bodily senses the same order always will be kept, but changing their matter.


Whoever wants to imitate Christ our Lord in the use of his senses, let him in the Preparatory Prayer recommend himself to His Divine Majesty, and after considering on each sense, say a Hail Mary or an Our Father.

And whoever wants to imitate Our Lady in the use of the senses, let him in the Preparatory Prayer recommend himself to her, that she may get him grace from Her Son and Lord for it; and after considering on each sense, say a Hail Mary.



It is by contemplating the meaning of each word of the Prayer.

The same Addition which was in the First Method of Prayer will be in this second.

The Preparatory Prayer will be made according to the person to whom the prayer is addressed.

Second Method of Prayer.

The Second Method of Prayer is that the person, kneeling or seated, according to the greater disposition in which he finds himself and as more devotion accompanies him, keeping the eyes closed or fixed on one place, without going wandering with them, says Father, and is on the consideration of this word as long as he finds meanings, comparisons, relish and consolation in considerations pertaining to such word.

And let him do in the same way on each word of the Our Father, or of any other prayer which he wants to say in this way.

First Rule.
The first Rule is that he will be an hour on the whole Our Father in the manner already mentioned. Which finished, he will say a Hail Mary, Creed, Soul of Christ, and Hail, Holy Queen, vocally or mentally, according to the usual way.

Second Rule.
The Second Rule is that, should the person who is contemplating the Our Father find in one word, or in two, matter so good to think over, and relish and consolation, let him not care to pass on, although the hour ends on what he finds. The hour finished, he will say the rest of the Our Father in the usual way.

Third Rule.
The third is that if on one word or two of the Our Father one has lingered for a whole hour, when he will want to come back another day to the prayer, let him say the



It will be by rhythm.

The Addition will be the same as in the First and Second Methods of Prayer.

The Preparatory Prayer will be as in the Second Method of Prayer.

Third Method of Prayer.

The Third Method of Prayer is that with each breath in or out, one has to pray mentally, saying one word of the Our Father, or of another prayer which is being recited: so that only one word be said between one breath and another, and while the time from one breath to another lasts, let attention be given chiefly to the meaning of such word, or to the person to whom he recites it, or to his own baseness, or to the difference from such great height to his own so great lowness. And in the same form and rule he will proceed on the other words of the Our Father; and the other prayers, that is to say, the Hail Mary, the Soul of Christ, the Creed, and the Hail, Holy Queen, he will make as he is accustomed.

First Rule.

The First Rule is, on the other day, or at another hour, that he wants to pray, let him say the Hail Mary in rhythm, and the other prayers as he is accustomed; and so on, going through the others.

Second Rule.

The second is that whoever wants to dwell more on the prayer by rhythm, can say all the above-mentioned prayers or part of them, keeping the same order of the breath by rhythm, as has been explained.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Miracles of Jesus

Many people ask about the meanings of the miracles described in the Testaments. To fully comprehend their meanings and implications, an in-depth study of the Bible, especially the New Testament, is essential.

"Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know." (Acts 2:22)

This quotation proves beyond any iota of doubt that the signs and miracles bear incontrovertible evidence to the proclamations Jesus made during the initial stages of the early Christianity. There are vivid descriptions of many miracles in the Bible, especially in the Testaments and the Acts of the Apostles. 

The Testaments record miracles in four categories - driving away of demons, healing, nature miracles, and resurrection of the dead. I addition to these, there are summary statements regarding miracles in these Holy Writs. The salvific message of Jesus and his disciples has been encapsuled as "the proclamation of the kingdom of God through healing (Lk. 6:17-19)

Miracles in the Old Testament
It would be quite relevant here to grasp the views on miracles as contained in the Old Testament. For a thing to be considered as a miracle, it does not have to be beyond the laws of nature or beyond the purview of scientific explanations. 

The writers of the Holy Writs do not take pains to distinguish between purely natural and supernatural phenomena. Anything in everyday life that emphatically proclaims the presence of God is a miracle. Many things that we may not consider as miracles are described as miracles in the Old Testament. 

For example, the giving of seasonal rains (Jer 5:24), giving the sun for lighting the day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night (Jer 31 :35), the regulating of days and nights and the giving of rules to the sky and earth - all these are done by the wonderful commands of the Lord and the psalmist has excellently described them (Ps 19: 1-4; 139: 17-18). 

This universe itself is a great book where we see the face of God. The Israelites perceive the touch of the hand of God even in the ordinary happenings of their everyday lives, in their little successes and failures and in their past histories. This is especially evident if one looks into the Old Testament Books like Exodus, Proverbs and Job. 

There is no need for a thing to be a miracle to have something supernatural or startling in it. Anything that makes people sit up and contemplate about the love of God and his divine presence is considered as a miracle in the Old Testament.

Miracles in the the New Testament
The question raised by the miracles in the Bible is not whether they are historically based or not, but what does God want us to understand from these miracles. 

What is the message He wants to convey to us through these miracles ? 

What does He require from us? 

These are the important questions that deserve our attention. It is because of this that Jesus has warned us not to believe those false prophets and false messiahs, at the end of the age, who will produce great signs and omens to lead people astray (Mt 24:24). Even those who cast out demons in the Lord's name and who wrought many miracles will be rejected by the Lord, if they did injustice (Mt7:22-23). 

Therefore, miracles by themselves may prove futile. Jesus has never performed miracles to satisfy the curiosity of people (Luke 23 :8-9). He has never performed any miracle for self advertisement or self-aggrandisement; no miracle had the motive of self-seeking. (Mt 27:42).
With the advent of Jesus, a new era and a new humankind also have arrived and this knowledge is essential for the correct understanding of the meaning of the miracles he performed. These miracles are an essential part and powerful symbols of this new era. Therefore the miracles of Jesus touch upon the various aspects of life. 

He continued on his onward march, healing the sick of various sorts, feeding the hungry, and giving sight to the blind - the blindness here includes both physical and spiritual blindness. He heralds the dawn of the new era by being victorious over nature, death, sin and demons. In the Bible we witness a Jesus who alleviates the pain and misery of the people, a Jesus who gives strength to the feeble-minded. 

We should see the power and might of the Lord above the creations. Whatever God the Father can do, the living Christ also could do. He has complete control over life in its various stages, states, and circumstances. In all those spheres, Jesus is our shelter, on whom we can unburden ourselves.

The miracles proclaim the arrival of the kingdom of God, and the era of Christ (Lk 11 : 20; Mt 11: 4-5). That is why St. Augustine boldly said "Facta Verbi Verba Sunt", meaning the acts of the Word are the Word itself. The miracles also stand as symbols of the personality and teachings of Christ. Their main purpose is to show the triumph over sin and Satan. In this sense, the miracles also can be seen as a show of strength (Dunamis) (e.g. Lk 6: 19, 8:46). However in the Gospel of John, the miracles are picturised as signs and symbols (Semeion) and also the work of the Father (ergon). John stressed the spiritual aspect of the miracles (Jn 9:35-41).

In short, the aim of the miracles of Jesus is to give us a fore-taste of Paradise. They stand as the fore-runners of the peace, order and universal brotherhood, devoid of bitterness and bickering, that would be made available to the human kind Their aim is spiritual transformation. 

If people refuse to realise this aim, they will become the symbols of Judgement and God's wrath (Lk 10:13-14; Mt 11:20-22, Jn 15:24). Those who stubbornly refuse to change, even the resurrection of the dead won't be convincing enough (Lk 16:31). We also see that the people who refused to grasp the deeper meanings of the miracles even left Jesus (Jn 6:66). Like the Word of God, miracles can also become a two-edged sword (Heb 4: 12).

In the 2nd Century A.D. some unauthentic writings came out. The descriptions of miracles as containing in these spurious accounts and the miracles Jesus performed as contain in the New Testament vastly differ from each other. The miracles as contained in unauthenticated versions are full of exaggerations and they don't convey the real message of the miracles. 

These versions even record miracles performed just for fun. Therefore the Church does not regard them as miracles. During the time of Jesus, even magicians used to exhibit magical shows. 

But the miracles of Jesus are entirely different from the shows performed by these magicians. Jesus performs miracles with his own power and authority without fanfare. Just a word from him is enough to cast away demons, to calm the turbulent sea and to resurrect the dead. A miracle that does not reveal itself symbol is no miracle at all. 

Since the miracles reveal the mystery of Christ, the incidents narrated in the Revelations are called Revelation Stories by the modern scholars. That the miracles don't have an apologetic purpose has been an acknowledge fact. But in the past people looked at miracles with this perspesctive in mind.

Faith and Miracles
Miracles are also challenges to faith. Miracles become miracles only when these divine signs and symbols are seen through the eyes of faith. Since the people of Nazerath did not possess this special quality, Jesus would not perform miracles there (Mk 6:5-6). Although the pharisees witnessed the miracles and other divine symbols, they did not believe in Jesus (Jn. 12:37). "All things can be done for the one who believers" (Mk 9:23). 

Those look at the miracles without faith are like those watching a film without sound.

Only those who emit the rays of faith can grasp and understand and be at the same wave length historian, scientist, Bible Scholar, or Hierarchs of the church to explain one hundred per cent the mystery of the miracles. 

Miracles are the Divine Revelations that are seen by the eyes of faith. Miracles themselves become the avenues of training in belief (Mt 8:23-27). "I believe; help my unbelief ! " (Mk 9:24). We should make this prayer our own. With those who believe there will always be signs and miracles (Mk 16:17-18). 

Only those who have the spiritual insight can view those. It is an unassailable fact that even today, in various places, in various individuals, miracles do happen as they used to happen at the time of Jesus and his apostles, leading the people to the salvific experience. 

There would hardly be anybody who has not experienced some form of miracle in their lives at some time. 

Even today people are in despair; many are wallowing in the mires of sins and diseases. 

Even those who regulate their lives through their horoscopes and 'star predictions' wandering hither and their for peace, want miracles to happen. Those who offer these people release, comfort, healing, sight, etc. are also miracle workers. 

Jesus is the life and resurrection of the believers. 

He is the one who cures their spiritual cataracts, leprosy, hepatitis, hunger, paralysis - maladies of all sorts. 

He is the shelter and heaven for those who are tossed by the roaring winds and the raging seas. 

He is the one who gives them triumph over vices and sins. 

He is the new wine of the New Testament; he is the never-drying fountain - this is the knowledge and experience that the miracles offer to the faithful. 

The ultimate aim of the miracles of Jesus is to give us the wonderful experience of Heavenly Bliss in God's Kingdom.

Take Up the Sword?

We read in the Gospel the incident of Peter taking out his sword and cutting off the ear of the servant of the high priest during the passion of Jesus. (cf Lk 22:49-51; Jn 18:10-11). This causes much disturbance to many people. Likewise the verses Lk22:35-38 also puzzle many readers. This is a passage where Jesus tells his disciples to be prepared with purse, bag and sword. 

When Jesus sends out the seventy-two disciples, he strictly forbids them to take with them purse, bag or sandals(cf Lk 10:4), whereas here in Lk 22:36 he enjoins on them to take such articles and a sword besides! If the meaning of these words has to be properly grasped, their context and their background should be looked into.   This statement is recorded before the passion of Christ (In Lk 22:37, Jesus, quoting the prophecy from Isaiah, forewarns them regarding his passion). Through his passion, death on the cross and resurrection, the life of Jesus in this world comes to an end. 

With these events begins the era of the Church during which the disciples will have to undergo many difficulties, trials and persecution. Then they will have to provide themselves with the necessities of life. This is what he is reminding them about in Lk 22:36. In the Christian life, prudence is very necessary. The missionaries of the early Church had purse,bag and sandals. It can also be seen that the Jews had the custom of carrying a sword with them. 

The book of Acts describes how the early Christians were persecuted (particularly, slain by the sword) (cf Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-2;12:1-5). St Paul speaks clearly of the adversities he had to face on his missionary journeys (cf 2 Cor 11:26-27). He describes the dangers he had to encounter from brigands and gentiles.   During the lifetime of Jesus, while the disciples preached the word in Palestine, and particularly in Galilee, the Jews extended help and hospitality to them. 

To the Essenes, even strangers supplied the necessities of life. This fact is recorded by the historian Flavius Josephus. Lk 10:4 should be read against this background. After the death of Jesus, his disciples were not in a position to expect the same hospitality in other places. Towards the close of Jesus' public life, the attitude of the Jewish people towards the disciples had undergone a change. Their animosity towards Jesus had increased day by day as we see recorded in the Gospels (cf Lk 11:53-54; 19:47; 20:19; 22:2).    
Be Prepared
The Gospel account of thePassion of Jesus shows that the world was against Jesus and his disciples. This was a troublesome and critical time. It was also a time to be prepared. For this preparation, self-abnegation and suffering were essential. It is only the violent who will enter the kingdom of heaven (cf Lk 16:16).
The verse 22:36 should be seen as a symbolic reference to the preparedness of Christ's disciples. We see here a very strong metaphor in the line of Eastern tradition. Jesus has used such metaphors several times during his discourses. (For example, in Mt 23:24; Mk 10:25, we have the reference to those who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel). The cloak was an essential item of clothing during winter. When Jesus exhorts the disciples to sell their cloak and buy a sword, he is emphasizing the seriousness and importance of the matter. The one who stands with the drawn sword, stands in readiness. He is attentive and courageous. In olden days people who went on a journey were provided with knapsack and sword.
During the time of persecution one's very life is at stake. Faith and courage are most essential during these times. St Paul exhorts the believers to keep themselves ready for the battle of the spirit, by arming themselves with all the weapons of a Christian soldier, specially the word of God which is the sword of the Spirit (cf Eph 6:13-17). As for St Peter, he did not grasp the meaning of preparedness for the spiritual warfare (preparedness for persecution); therefore he did not keep himself ready for it. That Peter would deny his master is seen in the verses preceding Lk 22:35-38 (cf Lk 22:31-34). Lk 22:36 indicates that, if Peter would refrain from denying his master, he should have prepared himself and been watchful. We see in Lk 22:39-46 a Jesus who is strengthened through prayer and ready to face his passion and death.
There are many stories about those who misunderstood Jesus' words and took up the sword for political liberation. In Jesus' time a sect called Zealots did the same. But Jesus is not visualizing the disciples literally taking up weapons and fighting a battle. During his passion Jesus reproved the one who drew his sword and cut off the ear of the soldier (cf Lk 22:49-51). From Jn 18:10-11 we know that it was Peter, who, failing to understand the meaning of these words, was guilty of this act.
In Lk 22:36 the apostles did not understand what Jesus meant by the word "sword". This is clear in 22:38. Here they are saying, "Lord, look, here are two swords." They take the words, of Jesus, "Buy one" literally. In the Gospels there are several instances where the apostles do not grasp the Messianic secret, for example in Lk 9:45; 18:34; 22:49-51. It is only after the Resurrection that the disciples, aided by the power the Holy Spirit, understand the Christ who attained glory through his suffering and bore witness to him.
By the statement, "It is enough" (Lk 22:38), Jesus shows compassion for the apostles in their lack of understanding and puts an end to their conversation. "Enough of that" should not be taken to mean "two swords are enough". This is an irony. Jesus, grieved by the misunderstanding of the apostles, reproaches them and puts an abrupt end to their conversation. This expression "enough of that," meaning "never speak to me of this matter again," can be seen in (Deut 3:26).
The people from Galilee often carried a sword. Some people think that it is pointing to these swords, that the apostles said, "Here are two swords". From the time of John Chrysostom, some have believed that these swords were the knives to be used to chop off the head of the lamb for the Paschal meal. Others are of the opinion that they were knives meant to carve the flesh of the roasted lamb. Still others think that the reference is to the ornamental swords hung on the walls of the cenacle wherein took place this conversation. What the apostles meant by the sword is not important because Jesus does not here mean a material sword.
We can consider the words of Jesus,'The one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one," as addressed to each Christian. Christ's disciples are obliged to walk in the footprints of the Crucified without turning to the right or left. And for this, fervour, zeal, attention and preparation are absolutely essential. In a spiritual battle one cannot but have the alertness and attention of a soldier keeping watch with a drawn sword.
We cannot forget that what Jesus requires of his followers is non-violence. He who asked us to love even our enemies, does not show us the path of violence or physical prowess. The essence of the Gospel of Jesus is love. What we see in the Gospel are the various means of winning the spiritual battle through victory over one's selfishness. The chief means for this is daily prayer. Prayer is strength. Those who do not pray will, like St Peter, fall in the midst of trials and temptations. The advice St Paul gives is important: "Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints" (Eph 6:18).

Monday, October 25, 2010

When We REMEMBER the dead

Rev. Dr. Joseph Thondiparambil V.C

It is usual that thoughts about death make people restless and uneasy. To the question what happens after death, philosophers and world religions give different answers. For the atheists this question has no relevance. Those who believe in God strongly hope in a life after death. Here I am trying to briefly explain some of the things that impinge on our practical life, in the light of the fundamental beliefs of the Catholic Church regarding life after death. 

Death is the end of physical life. With death, the soul departs from the body. As far as an individual is concerned, the possibility of receiving or rejecting Gods grace comes to an end with his death. If the person has been living a life basically pleasing to God, he will continue his life with God. On the contrary if his life had been one of recalcitrance and rejection of the divine laws, God, who gives man his choice through free-will, would allow him to have his way. The Word of God qualifies the first state as heaven and the second state as hell (Mt 25:46). 

With death a person loses his opportunity to enter a life of faith and thereby qualify himself for eternal life. In other words the opportunity to choose how one should live with God or without God is available only during ones life time. The life of faith is not for the dead. With death one enters eternity. The life of faith and hope is only during the life on this earth. It is only love that lasts in eternity. 

Through phrases like Night is coming when no one can work (Jn 9 :4) and It is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgement (Heb 2:27-28), the Holy Bible has been highlighting this truth. It is the height of folly for some religious quacks to say that they can recall the souls of the dead and lead them to salvation by preaching Gospel to them. It is obvious that people who propagate such fallacious notions do it by misinterpreting some quotations and reading between the lines. It is a classic example that the devil quoting the Bible to prove his point. 

Only the most pure and immaculate can be in the presence of God. One may be fundamentally a lover of God and might be trying to live a life in consonance with the divine commandments. Still he is not perfectly purified. But his ability to gain graces for himself comes to an end with death. In this state, the Bible suggests certain ways for the purification process of the dead person. 

In the Old Testament itself we see the tradition of praying for the dead and offering sacrifices on their behalf. We read in 2 Maccabees 12:38-45 the incident in which Judas Maccabeus sending an amount of two thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem to provide for an offering for atonement on behalf of the soldiers killed in battle. 

The Bible adds this to the incident In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. In the New Testament, no instances of praying for the dead are specifically recorded. Still from the earliest times among the Christians, there has been the practice of remembering the dead, and doing some kind of festivities at the sepulchers. 

It was from some indications given in the New Testament that the Catholic Church began to teach the concept of a purgatory (Mt 5:26;12:32; 1 Cor 3:11-15). These Scriptural passages point to the possibility of some sins being forgiven in this world itself, whereas some to be forgiven only in the world to come. The main intention of the Letters in the New Testament was primarily to show how the people who believed in Christ and entered the heavenly bliss lived their life on this earth. 

The primary intent of the Gospels, on the other hand, was telling the world the good news of the salvific mission which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Therefore the Apostles did not deal at length with the purification process after death. Not only that, they had the faith that the second coming of Christ would not be a far-off day affair (Mk 9:1; Lk 9:27; Rev 22:20). It was in the light of the theological expansion that the teachings of the Church regarding purification were formulated. The Gospel by John asserts that with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Church would be led to perfection of truth (Jn 14:26). 

One cannot qualify by himself for eternal life after his death. But the living people can help that person. The Catholic Church follows this principle that has been in existence from the earliest times of the Church. It is because the Bible testifies theologically that the Church teaches that prayers for the dead, especially the Holy Mass, giving alms, doing acts of sacrifice and so on will help the souls in the purgatory in their purification process.

The Church also teaches that this kind of help by the living can be done only to those who had lived a life basically carrying out the divine injunctions. Ones relations with the dead do not end with his death. For the Christians, a communion of saints is a big truth (1 Cor 12:12-13; Rom 12:5-8). In the body of the Church, the members are mutually joined. The teaching of the Catholic Church that we can help the dead through our prayers and almsgiving gives us joy, hope, guarantee and consolation on the face of death

Why Pray for the Dead?

Fr. Jacob Otherakunnel V.C

Praying for the dead is a custom and practice found in almost all the major religions. People pray for the dead and offer sacrifices for them. Hindus pray for their dead because of their faith in the rebirth and transmigration of souls. For Christians this practice has been in vogue since the beginning of Christianity. And its base can be traced to the faith of the Israelites. The fact that the Israelites used to pray for and offer sacrifices for their dead is mentioned in the second book of Maccabees. "....and they turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out"(2 Mac.12:39-45).This is a clear pointer to the faith of the Jews, to the fact that the sins of the dead can be blotted out through prayers and supplications.
In Jewish literature there are references to "Gehenna"- a place where sinners are punished. But there was also a belief that those who had numerous good deeds to their credit would stay there only for a short period. This belief took root only in the later history of Judaism.

Jesus did not covertly or overtly nullify or speak against this faith of the Jews by which they held that there is a place of temporary bondage from which the souls of the dead get a final release. And so the infant Church also kept up the faith of later Judaism with regard to the dead. They called this place of transient punishment purgatory. There is no unanimous opinion as to the nature of purgatory, whether it is spacial, temporal or a life-situation. The process of purging the departed souls from minor impurities can be called purgatory. The souls of those who die in the state of grace but not absolute grace may not have direct access to the heavenly bliss. A large majority of those who die may not be completely free of the stains of all venial sins before their death. 

Therefore it is not possible for them to gain entrance to the portals of heaven before being purified of those stains. Sacred Scripture bears testimony to this: "But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Rev.21:27). To condemn those who die in venial sins to eternal perdition is against divine justice.Those who have made a "fundamental choice for Jesus " but fail on account of their frail human nature really intend to do the will of God. They cannot be eternally condemned even if at the time of death they are not in the full state of grace. So purgatory as a place of temporary punishment - midway between heaven and hell-becomes necessary. Therefore this faith is founded not only on Scripture but even human reason impels us to believe it.

Though the term "purgatory" as such does not occur in the Bible there are indications and subtle references to this in the Bible. While teaching about forgiveness of sins, Jesus said, "Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come"(Mt.12:32). St. Augustine and St. Gregory teach that this reference to the "age to come" is a reference to purgatory. Mathew 16:27 says: "For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done". Luke 12:47-48 says, "That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating". Where can this light beating be given ?. Here or hereafter ? St. John in his first letter says : "If you see your brother or sister committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one- to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal"(5:16-17). St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians writes thus: "Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw- the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer a loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire" (1Cor.3:12-15). These references point to the fact that those who die in venial sins will be purified in purgatory.

Apostles are the ones who received the divine truths directly from Jesus and they handed down those truths to the Church; the teaching to pray for the dead was among them. In the infant Church prayers for the dead and requiem Masses for them were common. The Fathers of the Church bear testimony to the fact that this practice was handed down from the Apostles. The tombs of the martyrs and underground cemeteries had several inscriptions pointing to this faith. For instance: "Remember those who went before you in your prayers". Tertullian who lived between 160-240 wrote: Once in a year we pray for the dead and offer Masses for them. St. Monica(331-387), mother of St. Augustine had said to his son, "When I die bury me anywhere you like, don't bother about it. But I request you to remember and pray for me at the altar. " These prayers reflect the mind of the early Church with regard to the dead.

The above references show that the early Church had faith in the existence of purgatory and prayed for the dead and offered Holy Masses for them. The Church continued this practice till date.

The Catholic Church accepts tradition along with the Sacred Scripture as the source of revelation. Even before the New Testament books were collected and their canonicity declared in the Council of Hippo in 394, the practice of praying for the dead was common in the early Church. So the Church cannot neglect this practice of praying for the dead even if there is no direct reference in the Bible.

As the personality traits of a human being unfold as he advances in years, so it is with the Church. The mind of the Church was revealed through the mind of the Church Fathers who were in proximity with Jesus and the Apostles and thus the doctrines were spelt out in definite terms as the Church advanced in years. So the belief that the prayers of the living can help those in purgatory is based on Scripture, tradition and theology which form the basis of all other articles of faith of the Christians.

By the teaching of the Church in the communion of saints we believe that there is not only a social but also a spiritual relation existing between human beings. There is a strong spiritual relationship existing between the members of the Church- the suffering Church(those in purgatory), the militant Church(those saints living on the earth) and the triumphant Church (those in heaven). The members of the Church can mutually help one another. Therefore our prayers can help those in purgatory and those in heaven in turn can intercede for us on earth and in purgatory.This is a matter of great consolation for us. Therefore a binding duty has devolved on us to pray for the departed souls of our parents, relatives, friends, benefactors and even those who died without any relative still alive. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is not only the God of the living but also the God of the dead. For him the dead and the living are always before his eyes. So let's not forget our duties towards the dead (Sir.7:33).

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hindu Sathya Sought the Lord of Truth and Found Christ

See, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me?"(Jer 32:27)

Acts 16:31 says," Believe in Jesus, you and your family will be saved". Yes, God's words are true and effective. I stand as a witness to the truth of these words.  
My name is Mathew Sathya. I was born in a Hindu Brahmin family. My father was working in a bank. Things were going on well and I was very happy those days. Suddenly one day my father was placed under suspension. The matter was handed over to the police authorities and they referred it to the court. Since we could not establish our witness the case went against my father and he was sentenced to 3 years rigorous imprisonment. Immediately, we went on appeal to the High Court. So my father was on bail. During this time, because of financial constraints, I discontinued my studies and I went for a job in a private company. 

A Catholic girl gives The Bible to Sathya
There a Catholic girl gave me a copy of the Bible and for 3 years I read the Bible regularly. The following verses touched me deeply: "But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well"(Mt 6:33), "For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom 14:17); "God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work"(2 Cor 9:8). God's word changed my life completely and I received Baptism and became a Roman Catholic.
After my Baptism, my life took a new turn; I got a good job. So did my brother. I also got married. My sister's wedding, which was long overdue, was fixed up miraculously and she too was settled. All these things happened within 2 years in a wonderful manner.
My father's case which was pending for appeal in the High Court came up for hearing and again the judgement was against my father and the sentence was reduced to one year's rigorous imprisonment. After this judgement was passed by the High Court, I heard about Divine Retreat Centre, Muringoor and went to Divine for a week's retreat. On the second day Fr Mathew Naickomparambil, while celebrating the Holy Mass, announced that a person was praying for his father. The Lord was answering his prayer and his father would be saved miraculously from the court case.
After this retreat I came back home happily. Since the judgement of the High Court was against my father, he was sent to the Central Prison to serve one year's rigorous imprisonment. But the Remission rules of the Prison Manual were favourable to my father and on the very same day he was released.
Yes, my dearly beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, I believed in Jesus, my brother as well as I got a good job, my sister's marriage was settled, my father was saved from prison miraculously.
So the words, from Acts 16:31, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you and your family will be saved", became a reality in my life. Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! 

a personal testimony by,
Mathew Sathya, 9 A P.N.Street,  Chennai - 59, India

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