Religious Freedom Day 2018

Even in the face of much criticism, scrutiny, and out-right destruction among the left-leaning individuals in this country, the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, announced yesterday, January 16, to be Religious Freedom Day. Click on the link to read the statement from the White House.

Although his predecessor (as well as his predecessors) also declared each January 16 Religious Freedom Day, it’s this writer’s personal opinion that this year and the years to follow will have more impact for those actually facing religious persecution in this country. For eight years, we had been subjected to an individual that didn’t care about religion or the religious beliefs of any of his citizens. It was lip service at best. Today, I feel confident that our religious freedoms will be upheld with our current President, his Administration, and that the Courts will rule with the laws already on the books in mind.

As a Catholic, a writer and a parish evangelist, I hold religious freedom fundamental to our very existence. If you include this article, I have written on religious freedom 12 different times on here. I see it as important to not only US citizens, but all people who desire to openly express their religious beliefs and faith.

If you aren’t aware of it, religious freedom is one of the major themes of the Second Vatican Council that was held from 1962-1965. Read the document, Dignitatis Humanae. So many of the Bishops in Europe, most notably, the future Pope, John Paul II, then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, were forced into how the government wanted him and rest of Poland, matter of fact the entire Iron Curtain, to profess their Catholic (and other Christians) faith.

This is also why so much of John Paul II’s writing’s during his papacy focused on the dignity of the human person. He saw first-hand how the human spirit was destroyed when religious freedom was not permitted to be expressed freely and openly. It seems that Pope John Paul II could see the writing on the wall here in the USA, when on October 8, 1995, he said the following in Baltimore, Maryland –

“The challenge facing you, dear friends, is to increase people’s awareness of the importance for society of religious freedom; to defend that freedom against those who would take religion out of the public domain and establish secularism in America’s official faith. And it is vitally necessary, for the very survival of the American experience, to transmit to the next generation the precious legacy of religious freedom and the convictions which sustain it.”

What does the Catholic Church profess regarding religious freedom? Well, if you have the time, read the aforementioned Vatican II document. It’s a good read. If you don’t time for that, I would suggest reading what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on religious freedom. You can find those teachings in paragraphs 2106-2109. I would also suggest checking out Tim Staples’ article on Religious Liberty on the Catholic Answers webpage.

Of course, I can’t end an article like this one without asking you all to pray for our country, or for the country you live in currently, pray for religious freedoms, and pray for those who oppose religious freedom or those who see it as a form of intolerance. Pray for the conversion of all people who are not open to Jesus Christ. Yes, I know it be difficult to pray for people like this, but it needs to be done. Trust me, I remind myself of this every day.

“Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Prompt Succor

Throughout much of your Europe, there are many shrines and devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, however, here in the United States there isn’t as many. One of the great Marian devotions associated particularly with this country is today’s Marian feast – Our Lady of Prompt Succor. She is also celebrated on January 8.

In the year 1727, a group of Ursuline Nuns from France began a monastery and school in New Orleans. Mother Madier asked the Bishop for teachers, since teachers were short at the time in the city. Since he was also short-handed, he could not provide any help to the Ursuline Nuns. Mother Madier then decided to write to Pope Benedict XIII asking for help, but, he was a prisoner of Napoleon. She then prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary and said that if she received help from Our Lady she would then honor her in the city of New Orleans under the title – Our Lady of Prompt Succor.

After one month of praying to Our Lady, Mother Madier received a letter from the Holy Father granting her request for more nuns to come to New Orleans. It should be noted that receiving news from Europe so quickly, even more rare from the Pope, was unheard of at this time and was considered miraculous. To fulfill the promise that she had made, Mother Madier commissioned a statue to be built with Our Lady holding the infant Jesus in our arms. Our Lady of Prompt Succor became the instant intercessory for not only the Ursulines, but the entire city of New Orleans.

Statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor in National Shrine

Years later a fire threatened the Ursuline monastery. In hopes that the fire would not take the monastery, one of the sisters took the statue to a window and offered up this prayer – “Our Lady of Prompt Succor, we are lost if you do not come to our aid.” Quickly, the wind changed direction turning the fire away from the monastery. After this happened, it became tradition, even among today’s residents of New Orleans, that when a hurricane is bearing down upon the city, they pray for the intercession of Our Lady of Prompt Succor.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor did not only help the Ursuline Monastery with the fire, but she is credited with assisting the American army with the War of 1812. In the final days of the war, New Orleans had British troops marching upon it for an epic battle. The future President of the United States, then, General Andrew Jackson asked for the Ursuline Nuns to pray for him as well as the city of New Orleans. He needed prayers since the American soldiers were outnumbered. The Mother superior at the time had the statue moved to the Chapel and with many people of the city, the Ursuline Nuns began to pray for Our Lady’s intercession. Just as the battle started, it had ended, and with only seven American soldiers dying. General Jackson state, “The divine providence of God through the intercession of Our Lady of Prompt Succor has shielded us and granted us this stupendous miracle.”

The first Catholic Church in Sulfur, Louisiana, was a mission of the Immaculate Conception for twelve years before it was named a parish in the 1919 – it was then dedicated to Our Lady under the title that miraculously saved the city multiple times over. On June 13, 1928, the Holy See approved and confirmed Our Lady of Prompt Succor as the Patroness of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. For nearly 100 years, the people having been praying to Our Lady’s intercession at the parish in Sulfur, Louisiana.

To visit the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, please click here. To ask for Our Lady’s intercession through this title, please visit this website. There is also the prayer against hurricanes.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor…Pray for Us

“Mondays with Mary” – The House of Mary in Ephesus

In the past, I have written on the Council of Ephesus as well as the Marian Dogma that was declared at that council, namely, Mary as the Theotokos (God-Bearer). Focusing on this theme, for the first “Mondays with Mary” of 2018, I want to briefly tell you about Mary’s House in Ephesus.

Although some claim that she never left Jerusalem or what we know as the Holy Land region, there are others who believed she lived in Ephesus at some point. She traveled there with St. John the Apostle when he went to preach the Gospel message, as did all the Apostles to different regions of the world at that time. Remember, Jesus gave Mary to St. John on the Cross as his own Mother. It was now his duty to care for her as a son would care for his mother. This also proves that Jesus did not have any other brothers and sisters, because if did, they would have cared for Mary, and not the Apostle John.

For many years, what is believed to be the House of Mary in Ephesus was not known, that’s until when the 19th century German nun, Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, had visions of Mary living in the area around Ephesus. Following the descriptions from the apparitions in the book, The Life of Mary, a French priest, Julien Gouyet, in 1881, traveled to the area to locate the alleged home. Although he found ruins, he was told by his superiors back in France not tell anyone of his findings. However, the land was purchased by the French and preserved.

In 1891, ten years after the initial expedition, some French priests traveled to the area, with the Emmerich’s book in-hand to seek out the ruins of the house of Mary. With the blessing of the Bishop of Smyrna, the expedition continued and they located what was believed to the house of the Virgin Mary while she lived in Ephesus. Although the home is claimed to be in Ephesus, it’s actually on the Hill of Nightingales known as Koressos, near Ephesus.

The house is built in the Roman architecture style, composed of mainly stones. When it was discovered initially it was essentially ruins, but over the years, it has been rebuilt. The original two-stored house consisted of an anteroom, bedroom, prayer room, and a room with a fireplace. Today, only part of the structure is open to visitors. It also looks more like a church than a house. As you exit the church area, a place can be found called – “Water of Mary.” The salt water that comes from this spot is known to have powers of healing, and be drunk by all. In 1902, it was claimed that an apparition by Mary had occurred. Since that day, healings have happened on the site.

During the first year of the reign of Pope St. John Paul II, after visiting the site himself, the Polish Pope encouraged the Christian faithful to visit the shrine. Before John Paul II, many other Popes recognized and promoted the house of Mary, but many people outside of Rome had any idea it even existed.

Pope Leo XIII, after blessing and visiting the shrine in 1896 on pilgrimage, became a devout defender of the house of Mary.

In 1914, Pope St. Pius X granted permission for a plenary indulgence to visit the shrine.

In 1951, after the dogmatic declaration of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven Body and Soul, Blessed Pope Pius XII authenticated the previous plenary indulgence by Pope St. Pius X and declared the house of Mary in Ephesus a Holy Place.

In 1962, Pope St. John XXIII endorsed the same indulgence and that the house was a Holy Place.

In 1967, Blessed Pope Paul VI would visit the house of Mary in Ephesus. Since his visit and the visit of Pope St. John Paul II, the number of visitors to the shrine have increased. It has become a place of pilgrimage and devotion for many faithful Christians. Many people have also read the account for themselves by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich and have visited the site.

On November 29 2006, Pope Benedict XVI visited the shrine. Just over a year ago, on November 28, 2016, Pope Francis visited the house of Mary in Ephesus, just as his predecessors had done before him.

Sources:

Ephesus.us. “EPHESUS.” House of Virgin Mary, http://www.ephesus.us/ephesus/houseofvirginmary.htm.

“House of Virgin Mary in Ephesus.” Ephesus Travel Guide, http://www.ephesustravelguide.com/house-of-virgin-mary.html.

“Library : Pope Encourages Pilgrimages To Mary’s House in Turkey.” Library : Pope Encourages Pilgrimages To Mary’s House in Turkey | Catholic Culture, http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=3473.

275th “Mondays with Mary” 

Top 10 Posts of 2017

Now that we have entered a New Year, 2018, a year that will bring many awesome changes to my personal life, I thought I would share with you the data as well as the Top 10 Posts from my blog and website from 2017. Some of the personal life information has already been revealed in other articles and will continue to be released in the months ahead. Stay tuned for some exciting news.

On this website, in 2017, there were – 192,731 views; 137,436 visitors, 1.40 views per visitor, and I wrote 87 articles. Although I wrote less than the preceding years, my views and visitors increased.116 people started following my blog either through WordPress or by Email. If you are interested in receiving emails when I wrote, feel free to sign-up on the Home Page below my picture where it says “Click here to Follow Me.”

At this point, I am around 5700 views from 1,000,000. That’s exciting but also very humbling. I should hit that milestone this month. I hit a rather big milestone during this year when I wrote my 800th post.

Out of the 87 articles I wrote, 15 of them appeared on NewAdvent.org. Thanks to Kevin Knight for posting my articles on that site. Also, a thanks goes out to Tito Edwards and Big Pulpit for posting a few of my articles as well.

Below are the Top 10 Posts from 2017. They begin with the most viewed, however, each one had over 1000 views.

1. 12 Quotes from the Great Saint of Pietrelcina

2. 12 Quotes from Edith Stein – Jewish convert, Carmelite Sister, Martyr and Catholic Saint 

3. “Mondays with Mary” – St. Teresa of Calcutta and The Miraculous Medal 

4. Sacred Art is Inspiring and Flourishing…in Scottsdale, Arizona 

5. Solidarity HealthShare: The Catholic Answer to the Healthcare Dilemma 

6. Remembering Father Michael Scanlan, TOR

7. “Mondays with Mary” – 54 Days of Rosary Quotes 

8. The Knights of Columbus: A Band of Brothers Going into the Breach  

9. “Mondays with Mary” – Asking for the Intercession of Saint Joseph 

10. It’s Time to Tell the Mainstream Media #WhyWeMarch 

Thank you to all my family members, friends, and followers that follow me on here and/or through Facebook and Twitter. I appreciate your support. My 6th anniversary of writing on here is coming up soon. Watch for that post around the end of January.  Happy New Year! 

5 Papal Quotes on Christmas

Now that we have officially entered the Christmas season, let me say – Merry Christmas to you and your family. I hope that the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ as an infant will bless your life and the lives of your family and friends this Christmas season.

As I always do with my writing on this website/blog, I try to find good solid Catholic theology to give to my readers. In recent days, I came upon this book in my library that was gifted to me some time ago. The book is a collection of quotes from different Popes on Christmas. It’s titled, Christmas with the Holy Fathers. I hope that you enjoy these quotes and can meditate upon them during this Christmas season –

1. “On this night, the Ancient yet ever new proclamation of the Lord’s birth rings out. It rings our for those keeping watch, like the shepherds in Bethlehem two thousand years ago; it rings out for those who have responded to Advent’s call and who, waiting watchfully, are ready to welcome the joyful tidings which in the liturgy become our song: Today is born our Savior.” – Pope St. John Paul II, Midnight Mass 2000

2. “The message of Christmas make us recognize the darkness of a closed world, and thereby no doubt illustrates a reality that we see daily. Yet it also tells us that God does not allow Himself to be shut out. He finds a space, even if it means entering through the stable; there are people who see His light and pass it on. Through the word of the Gospel, the angel also speaks to us, and in the sacred liturgy the light of the Redeemer enters our lives. Whether we are shepherds or ‘wise men” the light and its message calls us to set out, to leave the narrow circle or our desires and interests, to go out to meet the Lord and worship him. We worship Him by opening the world to truth, to good, to Christ, to the service of those who are marginalized and in whom He awaits us.” – Pope Benedict XVI, 2007

3. “Holy Immaculate Mary, help all who are in trouble. Give courage to the faint-hearted, console the sad, heal the infirm, pray for the people, intercede for the clergy, have a special care for nuns; may all feel, all enjoy your kind and powerful assistance, all who now and always render and will render your honor, and will offer you their petitions. Hear all our prayers, O Mother, and grant them all. We are all your children: Grant the prayers of your children. Amen forever.” – Pope St. John XXIII

4. “Our Savior, Dear Friends, was born today: let us rejoice! For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings us the joy of promised eternity. No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all. Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the gentle take courage in that he is called to life.” – Pope St. Leo I, Sermon on the Feast of the Nativity

5. “Jesus Christ said of Himself: I am the Living Bread descended from Heaven. Therefore, Bethlehem, the place where our Lord was born, has been called the House of Bread; for He who fed our hearts to satiety appeared there in the substance of flesh.” – Pope. St. Gregory I

May Our Lord Jesus Christ in the crib of Bethlehem be with you and yours this day and throughout this entire Christmas Season. 

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas

The Nativity – Fra Bartolomeo

“In Christ, Born of the Virgin’s womb, the nature does not differ from ours, because His nativity is wonderful. For He Who is true God, is also true man, and there is no lie in either nature. ‘The Word became flesh’ by exaltation of the flesh, not by failure of the Godhead: which so tempered its power and goodness as to exalt our nature by taking it, and not to lose His own by imparting it. In this nativity of Christ, according to the prophecy of David, ‘truth sprang out of the earth, and righteousness looked down fro heaven.’ In this nativity also, Isaiah’s saying is fulfilled, ‘let the earth produce and bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together.’ For the earth of human flesh, which in the first transgressor, was cursed, in this Offspring of the Blessed Virgin only produced a seed that was blessed and free from the fault of its stock. And each one is a partaker of this spiritual origin in regeneration; and to to every one when he is re-born, the water of baptism is like the Virgin’s womb; for the same Holy Spirit fills the font, Who filled the Virgin, that the sin, which that sacred conception overthrew, may be taken away by this mystical washing.” – Pope St. Leo I, Sermon on the Feast of the Nativity 

May your lives and your faith this day be strengthened as we celebrate the Incarnation of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day.

 Tom Perna

+AMDG 

“Mondays with Mary” – Seven Days before Christ was Born: What was Mary Expecting?

Historically, in the Liturgical Calendar, December 18 is the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although this feast is no longer officially in the liturgical calendar, faithful Catholics in the Latin Church still honor this day. The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the feast anticipating the coming of Jesus Christ on Christmas. In the Spanish Catholic Church, it is still a very popular feast. To read more about it, I encourage you to visit Catholic Encyclopedia – New Advent.

The writing of this blog article has become somewhat of a tradition for me as a writer. This is now the fourth edition of this particular topic and article. The reason I return to this each year is because I think it’s an important topic, and each year, I get new thoughts from different Mom’s. In the future, my fiancée, will be able to share with me her thoughts on what she was feeling one week before our first child was born.

Trying to determine what the Blessed Virgin Mary was anticipating one week before giving birth to Jesus is difficult since her thoughts have been not revealed to us in the Sacred Scriptures. It’s pure speculation at this point. We know the account Saint Luke tells us in Chapter 2 of his Gospel, however, we don’t know much more than this part of the story.

As human beings, we might ask ourselves some questions about this time in the Blessed Mother’s life – was it difficult on Mary to be away from her family and her mother during this time? Even though the birth of Jesus was miraculous, as was his conception, what was Mary feeling? Did she know what was to occur? Was she ready for it? Did she think she would be a good mother? Was she fearful in any way? Did she really completely trust the will of God?

Knowing what we do know about the Blessed Virgin Mary, her own Immaculate Conception, and the Annunciation, tells us that she did completely put her trust in God, just as she had done nine months prior. Mary is the great sign of perfect faith and joy for us, all the time, but especially during the Season of Advent where we are called to wait and to hope.

Our Lady of Expectation

We may not know exactly what Mary was expecting one week before the birth of Christ, here are two testimonies from mothers sharing what they were feeling one week prior to having their child –

Monica said – “The week before my first child was born, I was ready! Ready and waiting, full of excitement and anticipation – and I was exhausted. I remember being so uncomfortable I couldn’t sleep. During the night, I would lay awake wondering about who he/she would be, and praying that child would be exactly what we needed in our live to help perfect and grow us into the people of God had intended us to be. Knowing that this child would be exactly who God had in mind for us gave me great peace and hope and joy, and a ready willingness to be this child’s mother. I also prayed that God would give me the grace to be the mother He intended for this child and I begged then as I beg now for the wisdom and strength to raise a child who will love God above all else and whose goal in life is heaven.”

Cathy said – “The experience for my first born was the polar opposite of the experience for my last 10. I was terrified for the first. My good friend had just had a baby and I saw her in labor. I also attended Bradley classes that I stopped going to because everyone spoke of their bad experiences. I was very excited during my whole pregnancy that I was going to have a baby but as labor approached, all I could think about was the pain I would have to get through. I spent a full day in the weeks leading up to the birth, in bed crying and terrified knowing that it was impossible to turn back. The baby could not stay inside of me forever. When labor finally started, I was still afraid. My was labor was longer than it should be been because I was holding back. Still afraid. My daughter was born and I was happy as can be but still could not understand how many women could do that more than once. I attribute most of that to having a very impersonal hospital and doctor experience.  

Everything was different for the next 10 children. The same friend who I saw in labor found a beautiful Filipino Doctor who went to daily mass in San Francisco. She and I both went to him for our second children and he was excellent. He was personable, funny, and he knew what he was doing. I was excited to have a baby and when labor started I found a crucifix that fit perfectly into my hand. It must have been belonged to a priest who lived in the rectory my husband and I lived in that year. The church had closed and we were housesitting. When I picked up the crucifix, tears welled up in my eyes and I was very excited.

In the hospital, the doctor came in and asked me if I drank jet fuel because the labor was so short. When he told me to push, I told him that I was afraid because my last labor was so long. He said simply said, “that won’t happen this time.” I trusted his confident reassuring words and my first son was born in one push. I looked at my husband in shock and then we both laughed because that was way too easy. I held the same crucifix for the next nine children and every experience was the same. I learned how debilitating fear is and how it makes much more sense to put my trust in God. He always takes care of us, just as He promised.”

If you are a mother, and you are open to sharing with us your experience, please do so in the comment box.