Tag Archives: Catholic Conversion

Church Crisis in America? — Solved.

Conversion. Communion. Solidarity.

Sometime this week watch this video.

Don’t break it up. Don’t watch in parts. But instead, set aside 1 hour this week for the special intention of watching it prayerfully whole and entire.

Come back and discuss…

Background Documents: Ecclesia In AmericaEvangelii Nuntiandi   

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Love unmasked: A true heartwrenching Independence Day story

“Each person finds his good by adherence to God’s plan for him, in order to realize it fully: in this plan, he finds his truth, and through adherence to this truth he becomes free” (cf. Jn 8:22).

In Charity And Truth, Pope Benedict XVI, 29 June, 2009.

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ED. NOTE: [H/T The American Catholic]

The following essay is heroic. I predict in years to follow the work itself will greatly lend itself to helping many souls rise above themselves and the inevitable struggle wherein human sin and the great gift of conversion meet the authentic/overriding Love, Mercy, and Forgiveness of our Creator. It’s not simply a conversion story for those Catholics and non-Catholics with homosexual tendencies alone. The Word confirms that “the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” And this is true for all flesh and each of us too. But nonetheless, the divine revelation of Truth confirmed in the Love of God’s Own Spirit poured out into our hearts also confirms the hope of everlasting life found within us, just as St. Paul stated. And this hope leads us to purify ourselves daily through conversion in faithful response to such grace and the commandments of Love.

Yes, in our days the sins of the flesh in all sorts of manner and form seem victorious within societies; and even within Catholic communities there are those who would propose homosexuality and the sins of the flesh as a good and insist upon them as a right politically and religiously, but they are wrong spiritually as Sacred Scripture attests. Hopefully, this essay from a spiritual hero will plant a seed that another will water, and still another will reap.

What is forgotten I think, or needs to be learned, is that following this short life our baptized souls are destined to the profound realization of Divine Life in the same Spirit of Love wherein even men and women no longer marry. As Our Lord states, “their souls”, He Says, “will be like unto the Angels” (immaterial spirits) married to God Alone until the Final Resurrection. And on that Final Day, according to the Just Judge of each of our lives, our souls will be reunited to our bodies perfectly beautiful forever somewhere within the new Heavens and New Earth–This is the goal and meaning underlying every created human life: allowing the one true God and Jesus Christ Whom He sent to free us from sin in “preparation for paradise…” This essay works towards that end.

Eric– If you read this I want to thank you for re-inspiring me in my own struggles and battle with the flesh. Rest assured that this Sunday I will be offering the Holy Mass for you and all the intentions I found within your essay…

With awe in your efforts at fidelity,

james mary evans

Fides Quaerens Intellectum

I suppose this is a very belated Lenten reflection, and with reason too. I certainly do not know the worth or value of any spiritual reflection I have to give, so I will not dare to assign one. All I can is say is that in the past few months I have come a long way, certainly not far enough, but conversion is always a process and not a destination.

In the liturgical season of Lent, for the past two years, I have kept the Ramadan fast strictly following the rules as practiced by Muslims. In place of the prescribed Islamic prayers throughout the day, I prayed the Divine Office. For forty days, at least, my life was completely and utterly centered on God and awareness of His presence in a way that it normally is not, sad as it is. This second year in keeping the fast I felt more than a spiritual solidarity with the poor as I had the year before. I learned much more about fasting, so much that it bothers me greatly that this potent tool has been diminished in the contemporary Church.

Lent, or the Great Fast, as it is called in the East, is not simply about giving up soda, or candy, or reducing the amount of food intake. Fasting rather calls us to prayer and penance and to divorce it from these vital elements is to forsake the meaning of fasting. After all, what does it gain you to eat less, avoid meat, or abstain from temporal goods, if you are ready and willing to “chew up” and consume your brothers and sisters in an argument with such venom and heat? Why sacrifice the joys of eating good food and not sacrifice the sinful “joy” of gossiping?

It struck me ever so clearly why I should fast all the time. Though it seems obvious, we often forget that fasting is intimately related and undoubtedly necessary for conversion—of heart, mind, and will. Now, at the completion of the Pauline year, this mystery, of conversion, stands at the forefront of my life and at the heart of my reflection over these past few months that begin on Ash Wednesday.

Nothing, I think, is more profoundly interesting in the field of human psychology than the mystery of conversion. I have experienced this phenomenon radically and I hardly understand it. In the study of the psychology of religion, conversion is considered the most perplexing and fascinating behavioral change. This year marked my third Ash Wednesday. My first year, I was to be baptized the coming Holy Saturday. The second year marked my first Lent as a baptized and confirmed Catholic. This year, I think I was finally paying attention. Repent and believe in the Gospel. Those words carried a profound sentiment as the priest made a Cross of Ashes on my forehead.

The subjective experience of this has been at the forefront of my reflection during Lent, throughout Easter, beyond Pentecost, and still now. Why exactly do people radically forsake their entire worldview, life-philosophy, and ethical codes for something different? And what can similar experiences, if the process is not the same for everyone, tell us about the human condition?

The questions began as general and evolved into something personal, very personal. I have been asking myself a simple, but complex question. Why am I Catholic? This question seems odd. I don’t think I have presented myself to people in such a way that would leave them suspicious of the fact that I have internally debated my status in the Church, that is, whether or not I can or will keep this up forever. Indeed, I have thought intensely about this, quite consciously actually. To be completely honest, I never had any intention of talking about or even discussing this matter. What business is it to anyone else?

As it happens, a certain individual on The American Catholic a while back read a long comment I posted in response to a column that involved personal conversion details that I used to make a point, only to notice upon reloading his browser, I had thought twice about it and decided to remove it rather promptly. In the same evening, he encouraged me to not withhold it unless I felt the matter too personal to share, for he believed that it had the potential to be an incredible witness. So, following his advice I am going to share it—though I am not entirely sure he knew what he was asking.

Read the rest of this entry »

Releasing Captives: The Virgin Appears In Prison

By Padraig Caughey

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In 1982, when I was 26 years old, I was captured by the British Army and thrown into the Curmlin Road Jail. Belfast, in the North of Ireland.

At the time, I was extremely bitter and full of hate, not believing in God at all, and very angry at the Catholic Church, which I considered pro-British. The years of rage and violence during the Troubles had taken their toll on me, and I was increasingly suicidal. The only thing that stopped me from killing myself was the knowledge that it would bring great pain to my family.

One night as I entered my cell. I found lying on the floor, a news- paper photo of Padre Pio, bearing his stigmata. I do not know how it got there, as neither myself nor my cell-mate were believers. Anyway, as I looked at the marks of the Passion on Padre Pio’s hands, I thought, “The old fool did it with a screwdriver!” I wondered how he had never gotten blood poisoning or been caught cheating during such a long life.

That night as I was going to sleep, I said in despair, “Padre Pio, go to God, and ask Him to prove to me that He really exists in the space of one ‘Hail Mary.’ If He does not, I will know for certain that He does not exist, and I can go ahead and kill myself.”

Our Lady Appeared!

As soon as I had said, “Hail Mary,” my eyes flooded with tears in rivers down my face, for there, standing at the end of my bed, in great glory, was the Mother of God Herself. Extraordinary holiness, beauty, majesty, purity, motherliness, love, and kindness… indescribable!

She said, “Now you believe.”   I could only nod, and say, “Yes, I believe,”   Then She said, “Faith, without love, is vain. You must forgive; do you forgive?”

Then I saw before me, picture forms of all whom I had hated, while Mary’s voice gently kept asking me, “Do you forgive, do you forgive, do you forgive?”… as each picture passed before me.   She then said, “Now is there anyone, anyone at all, to whom your bear hate?”

There was no one; I forgave them all. It was as though the weight of the universe was lifted from my soul.   For the first time, Mary smiled.

“Now you have faith, and now you have loved; but now you must pray, for prayer is the food of faith. Pray… pray the Rosary,” and She held a set of beads towards me.   I was embarrassed, and said, “I am sorry. I have forgotten how to say them.”   Then Mary said with great firmness, “I, Myself, will teach you,” which She did.

I cannot tell you the joy I felt. It was as though I was reborn. I found it hard to say the Rosary at first, but then I came to love it.   Eventually, I ended up saying it all the time. The way that Mary taught me to pray the Rosary was not at all as we prayed it when I was a child. Her way was slow and thoughtful… so meaningful to me, and such a joy to feel truly in the presence of Jesus and Mary while it was being prayed.

When I left prison, I entered a Cistercian Monastery for three and a half years. I am certain, that for the rest of my life, I will never forget Our Lady’s visit, and always thank Padre Pio, Our Lady, and God for that wonderful night in prison which changed me and saved both my life and my soul. +++

The Way of the Jubilee at Lourdes by Archbishop John Vlazny

Catholic Sentinel 05.23.08              

               It has been 150 years since the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes. There in southern France the sesquicentennial jubilee is being observed with great joy and solemnity. Eighty-nine pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Portland gathered there on the weekend of April 26-27 to participate in the way of the jubilee. It was a faith-filled and unforgettable experience.              

               We pilgrims left Portland on April 21 and along the way we had many opportunities to honor the Mother of God as we traveled around France. Many churches there are named in honor of Our Lady. We celebrated Mass at the Notre Dame Cathedrals in Rouen and Chartres. We visited Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Everyone agreed that the centerpiece of the pilgrimage was our Sunday morning Mass at the Grotto in Lourdes. We were joined by a group of people from Scotland. It was there that Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette on eighteen different occasions between Feb. 11 and July 16 in the year 1858.

               The Most Rev. Jacques Perrier, the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, tells us that six million people come to Lourdes every year. They come because it is a place where Christians can freely express their faith, where the sick and people with disabilities have priority, where prayer, service and fraternity between people is so evident, where children and young people find special delight and where any person can be open to God.

               We pilgrims from the archdiocese went to Lourdes to pray for healing, reconciliation and peace in our families, in our church and in our world. Like Pope Benedict XVI during his papal visit to the United States in April, we too were especially mindful of all those who were victims of child sexual abuse for too many years in our own church community. We turned to the Lord for the wisdom, compassion and understanding we need to become instruments of healing for all who have been aggrieved.

               Pope John Paul II once said that “Lourdes is the spring where the conscience becomes clear and clear again.” Pope Benedict XVI plans to come to Lourdes in August. There he will meet with the bishops of France as he met with the American bishops in D.C. during his pastoral visit this past April. Both of these remarkable pastors, like all visitors to Lourdes, look upon this world famous shrine as a place of spirituality that helps people live in our world today. As Bishop Perrier observed, the story of Lourdes is written each day by the pilgrims who come here. It is a living story.

               Our Portland pilgrims arrived late on Saturday afternoon, April 26. After supper at our hotel we participated in the nightly torchlight procession during which many languages are used in the praying of the rosary and the singing of the “Ave Maria.” There are six official languages at the sanctuary: French, Italian, Spanish, English, German and Dutch. It was a wonderful preparation for the splendid Sunday with Our Lady which was to follow.

               After Sunday morning Mass at the Grotto, most of our pilgrims participated in “The Jubilee Way.” This is a “mini-pilgrimage” all around the sanctuary which was designed by the people of Lourdes in order to help pilgrims experience the jubilee. Along the way there are four stages at which pilgrims pause to pray and to accept a sticker for their jubilee badges. When all four stickers are received the badge is complete. I shall treasure this jubilee insignia and I know it will be a special reminder for all of those prayerful days in Lourdes.

               The first stage of The Jubilee Way was the parish church where we saw the baptismal font in which St. Bernadette was baptized. We saw a facsimile of Bernadette’s baptismal certificate which had been slightly damaged in a fire. A beautiful reredos invokes the life of Bernadette. We were reminded that even before she became a visionary, she was a Christian. The sticker we received represented the Baptism of an infant.

               The second stage was the “Cachot,” an abandoned prison cell where the Soubirous family lived at the time of the apparitions. Bernadette’s family, her parents and their four children, lived in this single room, a humid and dark place of misery and shame. Our God seems to delight in calling upon the poor to be his special messengers. There we pilgrims received a sticker representing Bernadette.

               The third stage was the road to the Grotto from Bernadette’s home. Before reaching the Grotto we were able to walk by the fountains whose water comes directly from the Grotto. During the day most of the pilgrims washed and drank this water. Some even went to the baths in order to be cleansed spiritually and physically. Every pilgrim received a sticker which represented the Blessed Mother.

               The final stage of the Jubilee Way was the Hospital Oratory where Bernadette made her first Holy Communion on June 3, 1858, in the midst of all the apparitions. It was there that Bernadette met the Sisters of Charity of Nevers, the community which she eventually joined and among whom she lived in Nevers, far removed from Lourdes, until her death on April 16, 1879. There every pilgrim received the sticker representing Holy Communion. The Jubilee Way began in Baptism and ended in the Eucharist and service. Such is the Christian life.

               During her apparitions to Bernadette the Blessed Mother often spoke about the need for contrition and prayers for sinners. She asked Bernadette to look for water. Bernadette did and found a wellspring that was running clear and still does so today. This water is still a beautiful sign of conversion, a sign leading us on the path to joy and reconciliation.

               All of the holy places in Lourdes helped our pilgrims to express and experience their sincere desire for reconciliation. Many took the opportunity to receive the sacrament of Penance. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is prominent. There are several places at the shrine where this takes place. Most impressive of all, in my judgment, is the fact that persons with disabilities, physical, mental or psychological, are given a most gracious welcome to the shrine.

               My sisters and brothers from the archdiocese experienced that welcome in late April. It was an experience we shall never forget. I pray that the graces of The Jubilee Way will be shared with all our friends and neighbors now that we are back home. Ave Maria!

Editor Note: Click here to place your prayer(s) within the Holy Mass at the Grotto of Lourdes, France.