Friday, October 29, 2010

Truth and Life Audio Bible

Before television, there was radio and radio dramatic theater. And after bound books came audio books. Now comes the effort to combine the two and utilize the techniques of radio drama to bring Sacred Scripture to life.

Two years in the making, “Truth & Life Dramatized Audio Bible New Testament” brings together more than 70 actors, over 20 audio engineers and 100 media-development experts across three continents who amassed 10,000 production hours for this first-ever Catholic edition of the New Testament.

Listeners will hear every word from Matthew through Revelation dramatized by world-renowned actors like Neal McDonough as Jesus, Julia Ormond as Mary, Stacy Keach as John, Blair Underwood, Michael York, Kristen Bell, and John Rhys-Davies.

Since we’re naming names, this extraordinary 18-CD, 22-hour New Testament is endorsed by the Vatican, bears the imprimatur of Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, and has a special foreword by Pope Benedict XVI. . . .

This sounds like it would be good for those long car rides or for listening to on an mp3 player while on those long walks and runs.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Theological Commentary on Fatima

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

A careful reading of the text of the so-called third “secret” of Fatima, published here in its entirety long after the fact and by decision of the Holy Father, will probably prove disappointing or surprising after all the speculation it has stirred. No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled. We see the Church of the martyrs of the century which has just passed represented in a scene described in a language which is symbolic and not easy to decipher.

Is this what the Mother of the Lord wished to communicate to Christianity and to humanity at a time of great difficulty and distress? Is it of any help to us at the beginning of the new millennium? Or are these only projections of the inner world of children, brought up in a climate of profound piety but shaken at the same time by the tempests which threatened their own time? How should we understand the vision? What are we to make of it?

Public Revelation and private revelations – their theological status

Before attempting an interpretation, the main lines of which can be found in the statement read by Cardinal Sodano on 13 May of this year at the end of the Mass celebrated by the Holy Father in Fatima, there is a need for some basic clarification of the way in which, according to Church teaching, phenomena such as Fatima are to be understood within the life of faith. The teaching of the Church distinguishes between “public Revelation” and “private revelations.” The two realities differ not only in degree but also in essence. The term “public Revelation” refers to the revealing action of God directed to humanity as a whole and which finds its literary expression in the two parts of the Bible: the Old and New Testaments. . . .

1. The authority of private revelations is essentially different from that of the definitive public Revelation. The latter demands faith; in it in fact God himself speaks to us through human words and the mediation of the living community of the Church. Faith in God and in His word is different from any other human faith, trust or opinion. The certainty that it is God who is speaking gives me the assurance that I am in touch with truth itself. It gives me a certitude which is beyond verification by any human way of knowing. It is the certitude upon which I build my life and to which I entrust myself in dying.

2. Private revelation is a help to this faith, and shows its credibility precisely by leading me back to the definitive public Revelation. In this regard, Cardinal Prospero Lambertini, the future Pope Benedict XIV, says in his classic treatise, which later became normative for beatifications and canonizations: “An assent of Catholic faith is not due to revelations approved in this way; it is not even possible. These revelations seek rather an assent of human faith in keeping with the requirements of prudence, which puts them before us as probable and credible to piety.” The Flemish theologian E. Dhanis, an eminent scholar in this field, states succinctly that ecclesiastical approval of a private revelation has three elements: the message contains nothing contrary to faith or morals; it is lawful to make it public; and the faithful are authorized to accept it with prudence. . . . Such a message can be a genuine help in understanding the Gospel and living it better at a particular moment in time; therefore it should not be disregarded. It is a help which is offered, but which one is not obliged to use.

The criterion for the truth and value of a private revelation is therefore its orientation to Christ himself. When it leads us away from him, when it becomes independent of him or even presents itself as another and better plan of salvation, more important than the Gospel, then it certainly does not come from the Holy Spirit, who guides us more deeply into the Gospel and not away from it. This does not mean that a private revelation will not offer new emphases or give rise to new devotional forms, or deepen and spread older forms. But in all of this there must be a nurturing of faith, hope and love, which are the unchanging path to salvation for everyone. . . .

In the private revelations approved by the Church — and therefore also in Fatima — this is the point: they help us to understand the signs of the times and to respond to them rightly in faith. . . .

In this field, theological anthropology distinguishes three forms of perception or “vision”: vision with the senses, and hence exterior bodily perception, interior perception, and spiritual vision (visio sensibilis - imaginativa - intellectualis). It is clear that in the visions of Lourdes, Fatima and other places it is not a question of normal exterior perception of the senses: the images and forms which are seen are not located spatially, as is the case for example with a tree or a house. . . . It is also clear that it is not a matter of a “vision” in the mind, without images, as occurs at the higher levels of mysticism. Therefore we are dealing with the middle category, interior perception. . . .

“Interior vision” is not fantasy but, as we have said, a true and valid means of verification. But it also has its limitations. Even in exterior vision the subjective element is always present. We do not see the pure object, but it comes to us through the filter of our senses, which carry out a work of translation. This is still more evident in the case of interior vision, especially when it involves realities which in themselves transcend our horizon. The subject, the visionary, is still more powerfully involved. He sees insofar as he is able, in the modes of representation and consciousness available to him. In the case of interior vision, the process of translation is even more extensive than in exterior vision, for the subject shares in an essential way in the formation of the image of what appears. He can arrive at the image only within the bounds of his capacities and possibilities. Such visions therefore are never simple “photographs” of the other world, but are influenced by the potentialities and limitations of the perceiving subject.

This can be demonstrated in all the great visions of the saints; and naturally it is also true of the visions of the children at Fatima. The images described by them are by no means a simple expression of their fantasy, but the result of a real perception of a higher and interior origin. But neither should they be thought of as if for a moment the veil of the other world were drawn back . . . Rather the images are, in a manner of speaking, a synthesis of the impulse coming from on high and the capacity to receive this impulse in the visionaries, that is, the children. For this reason, the figurative language of the visions is symbolic. In this regard, Cardinal Sodano stated: “[they] do not describe photographically the details of future events, but synthesize and compress against a single background facts which extend through time in an unspecified succession and duration.” . . .

An attempt to interpret the “secret” of Fatima

The first and second parts of the “secret” of Fatima have already been so amply discussed in the relative literature that there is no need to deal with them again here. I would just like to recall briefly the most significant point. For one terrible moment, the children were given a vision of hell. They saw the fall of “the souls of poor sinners.” And now they are told why they have been exposed to this moment: “in order to save souls” — to show the way to salvation. . . .

Thus we come finally to the third part of the “secret” of Fatima which for the first time is being published in its entirety. As is clear from the documentation presented here, the interpretation offered by Cardinal Sodano in his statement of 13 May was first put personally to Sister Lucia. Sister Lucia responded by pointing out that she had received the vision but not its interpretation. The interpretation, she said, belonged not to the visionary but to the Church. After reading the text, however, she said that this interpretation corresponded to what she had experienced and that on her part she thought the interpretation correct . . .

“To save souls” has emerged as the key word of the first and second parts of the “secret,” and the key word of this third part is the threefold cry: “Penance, Penance, Penance! The beginning of the Gospel comes to mind: “Repent and believe the Good News” (Mk 1:15).

To understand the signs of the times means to accept the urgency of penance – of conversion – of faith. This is the correct response to this moment of history, characterized by the grave perils outlined in the images that follow. Allow me to add here a personal recollection: in a conversation with me Sister Lucia said that it appeared ever more clearly to her that the purpose of all the apparitions was to help people to grow more and more in faith, hope and love — everything else was intended to lead to this.

Let us now examine more closely the single images. The angel with the flaming sword on the left of the Mother of God recalls similar images in the Book of Revelation. This represents the threat of judgment which looms over the world. Today the prospect that the world might be reduced to ashes by a sea of fire no longer seems pure fantasy: man himself, with his inventions, has forged the flaming sword.

The vision then shows the power which stands opposed to the force of destruction — the splendour of the Mother of God and, stemming from this in a certain way, the summons to penance. In this way, the importance of human freedom is underlined: the future is not in fact unchangeably set, and the image which the children saw is in no way a film preview of a future in which nothing can be changed. Indeed, the whole point of the vision is to bring freedom onto the scene and to steer freedom in a positive direction. The purpose of the vision is not to show a film of an irrevocably fixed future. Its meaning is exactly the opposite: it is meant to mobilize the forces of change in the right direction. Therefore we must totally discount fatalistic explanations of the “secret,” such as, for example, the claim that the would-be assassin of 13 May 1981 was merely an instrument of the divine plan guided by Providence and could not therefore have acted freely, or other similar ideas in circulation. Rather, the vision speaks of dangers and how we might be saved from them.

The next phrases of the text show very clearly once again the symbolic character of the vision: God remains immeasurable, and is the light which surpasses every vision of ours. Human persons appear as in a mirror. We must always keep in mind the limits in the vision itself, which here are indicated visually. The future appears only “in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor 13:12).

Let us now consider the individual images which follow in the text of the “secret.” The place of the action is described in three symbols: a steep mountain, a great city reduced to ruins and finally a large rough-hewn cross. The mountain and city symbolize the arena of human history: history as an arduous ascent to the summit, history as the arena of human creativity and social harmony, but at the same time a place of destruction, where man actually destroys the fruits of his own work. The city can be the place of communion and progress, but also of danger and the most extreme menace. On the mountain stands the cross — the goal and guide of history. The cross transforms destruction into salvation; it stands as a sign of history's misery but also as a promise for history.

At this point human persons appear: the Bishop dressed in white (“we had the impression that it was the Holy Father”), other Bishops, priests, men and women Religious, and men and women of different ranks and social positions. The Pope seems to precede the others, trembling and suffering because of all the horrors around him. Not only do the houses of the city lie half in ruins, but he makes his way among the corpses of the dead. The Church's path is thus described as a Via Crucis, as a journey through a time of violence, destruction and persecution. The history of an entire century can be seen represented in this image. Just as the places of the earth are synthetically described in the two images of the mountain and the city, and are directed towards the cross, so too time is presented in a compressed way.

In the vision we can recognize the last century as a century of martyrs, a century of suffering and persecution for the Church, a century of World Wars and the many local wars which filled the last fifty years and have inflicted unprecedented forms of cruelty. In the “mirror” of this vision we see passing before us the witnesses of the faith decade by decade. . . .

In the Via Crucis of an entire century, the figure of the Pope has a special role. In his arduous ascent of the mountain we can undoubtedly see a convergence of different Popes. Beginning from Pius X up to the present Pope, they all shared the sufferings of the century and strove to go forward through all the anguish along the path which leads to the Cross.

In the vision, the Pope too is killed along with the martyrs. When, after the attempted assassination on 13 May 1981, the Holy Father had the text of the third part of the “secret” brought to him, was it not inevitable that he should see in it his own fate? He had been very close to death, and he himself explained his survival in the following words: “... it was a mother's hand that guided the bullet's path and in his throes the Pope halted at the threshold of death” (13 May 1994). That here “a mother's hand” had deflected the fateful bullet only shows once more that there is no immutable destiny, that faith and prayer are forces which can influence history and that in the end prayer is more powerful than bullets and faith more powerful than armies.

The concluding part of the “secret” uses images which Lucia may have seen in devotional books and which draw their inspiration from long-standing intuitions of faith. It is a consoling vision, which seeks to open a history of blood and tears to the healing power of God. Beneath the arms of the cross, angels gather up the blood of the martyrs, and with it they give life to the souls making their way to God. Here, the blood of Christ and the blood of the martyrs are considered as one: the blood of the martyrs runs down from the arms of the cross.

The martyrs die in communion with the Passion of Christ, and their death becomes one with his. For the sake of the body of Christ, they complete what is still lacking in his afflictions (cf. Col 1:24). Their life has itself become a Eucharist, part of the mystery of the grain of wheat which in dying yields abundant fruit. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians, said Tertullian. As from Christ's death, from his wounded side, the Church was born, so the death of the witnesses is fruitful for the future life of the Church.

Therefore, the vision of the third part of the “secret,” so distressing at first, concludes with an image of hope: no suffering is in vain, and it is a suffering Church, a Church of martyrs, which becomes a sign-post for man in his search for God. . . . From the suffering of the witnesses there comes a purifying and renewing power, because their suffering is the actualization of the suffering of Christ himself and a communication in the here and now of its saving effect.

And so we come to the final question: What is the meaning of the “secret” of Fatima as a whole (in its three parts)? What does it say to us?

First of all we must affirm with Cardinal Sodano: “... the events to which the third part of the ‘secret' of Fatima refers now seem part of the past.” Insofar as individual events are described, they belong to the past. Those who expected exciting apocalyptic revelations about the end of the world or the future course of history are bound to be disappointed. Fatima does not satisfy our curiosity in this way, just as Christian faith in general cannot be reduced to an object of mere curiosity. What remains was already evident when we began our reflections on the text of the “secret”: the exhortation to prayer as the path of “salvation for souls” and, likewise, the summons to penance and conversion.

I would like finally to mention another key expression of the “secret” which has become justly famous: “my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” What does this mean?

The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Saviour into the world — because, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time.

The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word. From that time forth, the word that prevails is this: “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise.

Church Teaching on Marian Apparitions and Other Private Revelations

It seems that an awful lot of people have been followers of places like Fatima and Lourdes, and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is everywhere. And now there are these claimed apparitions in Medjugorje. But I'm not sure about any of these. Does that make me a bad Catholic? Am I required to believe in these things?

Throughout history there have been supernatural apparitions and signs which go to the heart of human events. That is, throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, including various appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church as being “worthy of belief,” but one is not “required” to believe in any of them.

"’The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Dei Verbum 4) Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.” CCC 66

Private revelations “do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.” CCC 67

“While not belonging to the deposit of faith, private revelations may help a person to live the faith as long as they lead us to Christ. The Magisterium of the Church, which has the duty of evaluating such private revelations, cannot accept those which claim to surpass or correct that definitive Revelation which is Christ.” Comp. CCC 10

Again, there have been thousands of claimed apparitions and visions of Mary, Jesus, and others over the centuries. The Church does not investigate the vast majority of these and of those that are investigated, many are found to be false, especially when they are contrary to the deposit of faith. An apparition or vision might be false because it is outright fraudulent or a lie, or it might be a hallucination or the fanciful imagination of the seer or those around him or her. Or, when it is determined that the seer did, in fact, see something and receive some message, it might be that the vision is of demonic origin, not of divine.

But some apparitions and visions are found to be worthy of belief, including Fatima, Guadalupe (present-day Mexico), Lourdes (France), La Salette (France), appearances to St. Catherine Labouré (France), La Vang (Vietnam), Kibeho (Rwanda), the Divine Mercy visions of Jesus by Sr. Faustina (Poland), and others.

The claimed apparitions in Medjugorje, on the other hand, have not been found worthy of belief, rather, it is still an open question. The bishops of that diocese have voiced their opposition, but many prominent people and thousands of the faithful are supportive. The Holy See has established a commission to investigate and evaluate the claims. If Medjugorje teaches us anything, it is that we should not be too rash and too quick in our conclusions in this area.

So, unlike a doctrine of the Church, as with the Immaculate Conception, for example, it is not a simple matter of the individual simply giving his assent, "OK, I don't understand it, but the Church teaches it, so therefore I believe." Rather, one must necessarily judiciously and prudently decide for himself, at least in those cases where the Church has not definitively determined it to be false or fraudulent.

Are the events of Fatima true? Did Mary guide the bullet to save the life of Pope John Paul II at the assassination attempt? You decide.


See also Cardinal Ratinger's commentary on the Church and Marian Apparitions


Friday, October 15, 2010

Beatification of Francisco and Jacinta
and the Message of Fatima

Homily of His Holiness Pope John Paul II
May 13, 2000
According to the divine plan, "a woman clothed with the sun" (Rv 12: 1) came down from heaven to this earth to visit the privileged children of the Father. She speaks to them with a mother's voice and heart: she asks them to offer themselves as victims of reparation, saying that she was ready to lead them safely to God. And behold, they see a light shining from her maternal hands which penetrates them inwardly, so that they feel immersed in God just as - they explain - a person sees himself in a mirror.

Later Francisco, one of the three privileged children, exclaimed: "We were burning in that light which is God and we were not consumed. What is God like? It is impossible to say. In fact we will never be able to tell people". God: a light that burns without consuming. Moses had the same experience when he saw God in the burning bush; he heard God say that he was concerned about the slavery of his people and had decided to deliver them through him: "I will be with you" (cf. Ex 3: 2-12). Those who welcome this presence become the dwelling-place and, consequently, a "burning bush" of the Most High. . . .

A transformation takes place in his life, one we could call radical: a transformation certainly uncommon for children of his age. He devotes himself to an intense spiritual life, expressed in assiduous and fervent prayer, and attains a true form of mystical union with the Lord. This spurs him to a progressive purification of the spirit through the renunciation of his own pleasures and even of innocent childhood games.

Francisco bore without complaining the great sufferings caused by the illness from which he died. It all seemed to him so little to console Jesus: he died with a smile on his lips. Little Francisco had a great desire to atone for the offences of sinners by striving to be good and by offering his sacrifices and prayers. The life of Jacinta, his younger sister by almost two years, was motivated by these same sentiments. . . .

The message of Fátima is a call to conversion, alerting humanity to have nothing to do with the "dragon" whose "tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth" (Rv 12: 4). Man's final goal is heaven, his true home, where the heavenly Father awaits everyone with his merciful love.

God does not want anyone to be lost; that is why 2,000 years ago he sent his Son to earth, "to seek and to save the lost" (Lk 19: 10). And he saved us by his death on the cross. Let no one empty that Cross of its power! Jesus died and rose from the dead to be "the first-born among many brethren" (Rom 8: 29).

In her motherly concern, the Blessed Virgin came here to Fátima to ask men and women "to stop offending God, Our Lord, who is already very offended". It is a mother's sorrow that compels her to speak; the destiny of her children is at stake. For this reason she asks the little shepherds: "Pray, pray much and make sacrifices for sinners; many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them."

Little Jacinta felt and personally experienced Our Lady's anguish, offering herself heroically as a victim for sinners. One day, when she and Francisco had already contracted the illness that forced them to bed, the Virgin Mary came to visit them at home, as the little one recounts: "Our Lady came to see us and said that soon she would come and take Francisco to heaven. And she asked me if I still wanted to convert more sinners. I told her yes". And when the time came for Francisco to leave, the little girl tells him: "Give my greetings to Our Lord and to Our Lady and tell them that I am enduring everything they want for the conversion of sinners". Jacinta had been so deeply moved by the vision of hell during the apparition of 13 July that no mortification or penance seemed too great to save sinners.

She could well exclaim with St Paul: "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church" (Col 1: 24). Last Sunday at the Colosseum in Rome, we commemorated the many witnesses to the faith in the 20th century, recalling the tribulations they suffered through the significant testimonies they left us. An innumerable cloud of courageous witnesses to the faith have left us a precious heritage which must live on in the third millennium. Here in Fátima, where these times of tribulation were foretold and Our Lady asked for prayer and penance to shorten them, I would like today to thank heaven for the powerful witness shown in all those lives. And once again I would like to celebrate the Lord's goodness to me when I was saved from death after being gravely wounded on 13 May 1981. I also express my gratitude to Bl. Jacinta for the sacrifices and prayers offered for the Holy Father, whom she saw suffering greatly.

Timeline of the Events of Fatima

Spring-Fall 1916 – In preparation for what was to follow, Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto receive three visitations by an angel, who teaches them to pray for non-believers, asks them to pray and sacrifice in reparation for sin, and brings them Holy Communion.

May 13, 1917 – Lucia (age 10), Francisco (9), and Jacinta (7) are tending sheep at the Cova da Iria when they see lightning and a strange light. They then see a Lady dressed in white, who is radiating light, and she asks if they are willing to offer themselves to God to bear suffering in reparation for sins and supplication for the conversion of sinners. After Lucia says, “yes,” the Lady asks the children to pray the Rosary every day.

June 13 – After Lucia says that they want to go to heaven, the Lady says that Francisco and Jacinta will go there soon. Lucia is to remain to make her message known, but her Immaculate Heart will never abandon her. The Lady also says that Jesus wishes that devotion to her Immaculate Heart be established in the world.

July 13 – After asking the children to pray the Rosary to obtain peace, the Lady says that a miracle will be performed in October so that others will believe. Three “secrets” are then revealed to them: (1) a brief terrifying vision of poor sinners suffering in Hell, (2) a warning of an even greater war to follow WWI, and (3) the suffering of the Church, including a vision of a Bishop in white being shot and killed. The Lady also asks for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart and prayers for the conversion of Russia to prevent that country from spreading errors throughout the world. Further, the Lady asks for the establishment of First Saturday devotions. She says that she asks these things in order to save souls and bring peace and assures them that, in the end, her Immaculate Heart would triumph. She then teaches the children the “Fatima prayer” to be included in the Rosary.

August 13 – The children are arrested, interrogated, and thrown into jail, preventing them from going to the Cova, but some of a crowd of 15,000 report a mysterious light and heavenly fragrance of flowers.
August 19 – The Lady appeared to the children and again urged them to pray and sacrifice for sinners because many end up in Hell because they have no one to pray for them.

September 13 – Before a crowd that has grown to 30,000, the Lady asks the children to pray for the end of the war.

October 13 – A reported 70,000 people come to the Cova on a rainy day. The Lady asks that a chapel be built and says that the war will end soon. She finally identifies herself, "I am the Lady of the Rosary, I have come to warn the faithful to amend their lives and ask for pardon for their sins. They must not offend Our Lord any more, for He is already too grievously offended by the sins of men. People must say the Rosary. Let them continue saying it everyday.” What followed then has been called the “Miracle of the Sun,” and it was reported in many newspapers throughout the world. As the crowd was witnessing the miracle, the children saw a vision of the Holy Family and a vision of Jesus carrying His cross with Our Lady of Sorrows. Lucia also saw Our Lady of Mount Carmel, who signifies the triumph over suffering.

April 4, 1919 – Francisco dies of influenza, which had become epidemic in Portugal.

February 20, 1920 – Jacinta follows her brother and also dies of influenza. She continued to have periodic visions before her death.

October 24, 1925 – Lucia enters the Sisters of St. Dorothy. In 1946, Sister Lucia entered the Carmelite Convent. Like Jacinta, Lucia received many additional visions on occasion.

May 13, 1981 - On the anniversary of the first apparition, Pope John Paul II is shot by a would-be assassin. He is gravely wounded, but survives. Noting the date of the shooting, the Pope credits Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life, saying that "one hand fired the gun, but another one guided the bullet."

May 13, 2000 – Blessed Francisco and Blessed Jacinta are beatified by Pope John Paul II. The "Third Secret" of the July 13 apparition, which had previously been withheld, is made public, and it is interpreted to refer in part to the 1981 shooting of the Pope.

February 13, 2005 – Sister Lucia dies after a period of illness.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Truth of Sin and Suffering, and Our Helping Jesus in the Work of Salvation

The 13th Day
Class Notes
October 14, 2010

The truth of man, male and female, is that we are social beings, made for relationship. The purpose and meaning of life is to love and be loved in truth, to love God and one another, including those types of love that are philia, eros, and agape.

However, by our own free will, man has chosen not to love God or one another. We chose to oppose that Love and Truth which is Life itself, an opposition that we call sin, both Original Sin and personal sin. But because God is Love, and it is His will that none of His sheep be lost, Jesus came to redeem us, to save us from death. But He did so via the Cross, and not by merely snapping His fingers.

The truth is that sin exists. And the truth is that suffering exists, caused by sin. For God to simply ignore sin, or the suffering it causes, while saving us would be a lie. To pretend that the sin did not happen would be exactly that - pretend. Throwing the ball can be forgiven, but the window is still broken. One cannot ignore it or pretend that it did not happen, else the rain and snow come pouring in.

Jesus has done most of the work in salvation, in fixing the rift between God and man caused by our sin. He has done the hard part, but He does not do it all by Himself, He does not do it alone. He asks for our help.

Beginning with Mary and Joseph, little Baby Jesus required the assistance of human beings to fulfill His mission. The same is asked of us. This includes not only being a witness for Christ by preaching the Good News, but by suffering with Him, to have not only a filial love for Him, but agape, complete sacrificing of self. Helping Him to carry the Cross, taking upon ourselves what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ (Col 1:24). Jesus does most of the work, but He will not do it all – He wants this to be a group effort. Indeed, He assures us that if we follow Him, we will be hated and suffer.

Most important in helping Jesus in the work of salvation is Mary, the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, who not only said “yes” at the Annunciation, but stood by Him at the foot of the Cross, and prayed with the nascent Church at Pentecost.

Throughout history, there have been many people who have claimed that Holy Mary, assumed into heaven, has appeared to them. There have been thousands of these claimed apparitions, and many have been determined to be fraudulent, but some have been deemed by the Church to be “worthy of belief,” including Guadalupe, Lourdes, and Fatima. Now, public revelation ended with the last of the Apostles, 1900 years ago, so we are not required, as a matter of faith, to believe claimed private revelations, such as Marian apparitions.

But a great many people have believed that the Blessed Virgin did, in fact, appear to the three shepherd children Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta at Fatima. The film for tonight is The 13th Day and, as we shall see, this Lady in white, clothed as with the sun, asks these children to help Jesus in the work of salvation, including prayer, penance, and redemptive suffering, not merely for themselves, but for the salvation of others, for their conversion away from sin to embracing holiness, especially in the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Mission of Fatima Continues

On October 13, 1917, a reported 70,000 people were present for the "Miracle of the Sun" outside the small town of Fatima, Portugal, where a radiant Lady in white had appeared to three humble shepherd children. The Lady had spoken of the war then raging in Europe (World War I) and had warned of an even greater war to follow (World War II), and she asked that people pray for the conversion of Russia to prevent its errors (e.g. Communism) from being spread throughout the world. A third "secret" involved the suffering and shooting of a "bishop in white," who has since been interpreted as being the pope.

The world wars are over, the Soviet Union is no more, and Eastern Europe is free. Pope John Paul II was in fact shot on May 13, 1981, the anniversary of the first apparition, and he suffered greatly before his death. Now that so much of the prophetic message of Our Lady has come to fruition, does that mean that Fatima is now relegated to the past? Are those events and the message of Our Lady of Fatima now merely a historical curiosity?
We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete. Here there takes on new life the plan of God which asks humanity from the beginning: "Where is your brother Abel . . . Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!" (Gen 4:9). Mankind has succeeded in unleashing a cycle of death and terror, but failed in bringing it to an end... In sacred Scripture we often find that God seeks righteous men and women in order to save the city of man and he does the same here, in Fatima, when Our Lady asks: "Do you want to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the sufferings which he will send you, in an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?" (Memoirs of Sister Lúcia, I, 162).

At a time when the human family was ready to sacrifice all that was most sacred on the altar of the petty and selfish interests of nations, races, ideologies, groups and individuals, our Blessed Mother came from heaven, offering to implant in the hearts of all those who trust in her the Love of God burning in her own heart. At that time it was only to three children, yet the example of their lives spread and multiplied, especially as a result of the travels of the Pilgrim Virgin, in countless groups throughout the world dedicated to the cause of fraternal solidarity. May the seven years which separate us from the centenary of the apparitions hasten the fulfilment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.
--Pope Benedict XVI
Fatima, May 13, 2010

Here is a really interesting documentary from Italy on Fatima --


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Showing Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cinema Catechism continues Thursday, October 14, 2010, at 7 p.m., with a showing of the compelling new film The 13th Day at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church Parish Center, together with further discussion and reflections on this fall's theme of Love and Truth (the Film Events "widget" on the right margin is supposed to show a map, but it apparently isn't working at the moment).

The 13th Day (2009)
a film by Ian and Dominic Higgins
In a world torn apart by persecution, war and oppression, 3 children were chosen to offer a message of hope to the world.

Based on the memoirs of the oldest Seer, Lucia Santos, and many thousands of independent eye-witness accounts, The 13th Day dramatizes the TRUE story of three young shepherds who experienced six interactive apparitions with a “Lady from Heaven” between May and October 1917, which culminated into the final prophesized Miracle. . . .

Stylistically beautiful and technically innovative, writer-directors Ian & Dominic Higgins use state-of-the-art digital effects to create stunning images of the visions and the final miracle that have never before been fully realized on screen.

Shot on location in Portugal and in the UK, 13th Day Films worked with a cast of over 250 to re-create the scenes of the 70,000 strong crowds, and 3 Portuguese children play the iconic roles of the Seers.

Witness the greatest miracle of the 20th Century, and experience the incredible, emotionally-charged and often harrowing world of three young children whose choice to remain loyal to their beliefs, even in the face of death, would inspire thousands.

"Pope Benedict XVI has said, 'Learn the message of Fatima! Live the message of Fatima! Spread the message of Fatima!' This film is a powerful presentation of the events surrounding Our Lady's apparitions. It especially shows the sufferings that the three little shepherd children endured as God's messengers of Our Lady's peace plan from Heaven. It combines a certain dramatic intensity with an attractive and innovative artistic presentation. The result is a moving appeal to heed Mary's message which is so important for our times. I believe this film will assist the cause of the world's peace and the salvation of souls."
— Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR


Friday, October 1, 2010

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus

Thérèse (2004)
Movie review by Steven D. Greydanus

Thérèse’s impact on the world has been startlingly disproportionate to her obscure way of life. Her memoir, L’histoire d’une âme or Story of a Soul, has been translated into over 60 languages, first in a heavily edited edition produced by her sister and then in a restored critical edition, and has sold over 100 million copies. . . .

“Ordinary girl. Extraordinary soul” is the tagline of Thérèse, Catholic actor-director Leonardo Defilippis’s reverent, uplifting, straightforward biopic of the Little Flower. Of the tagline’s two clauses, the film’s special burden seems to be the first part, “ordinary girl.” As depicted here, Thérèse (played in childhood by Melissa Sumpter and from approximately 10 to her death by Lindsay Younce) is certainly pious and devout, but unlike many movie saints there’s nothing off-puttingly otherworldly or ethereal about her. . . .

Despite its flaws, Thérèse is sweet, inspirational moviemaking that will be enjoyed by Catholics who love the Little Flower, or who are open to learning about her. Promotional materials cite the Merchant-Ivory film A Room With a View as a touchstone, but Thérèse is closer in spirit to such inspirational classics as The Song of Bernadette, and is old-fashioned enough to accompany moments of disorientation or reverie with a tinkly harp effect on the soundtrack. Unlike the Merchant-Ivory films, it isn’t interested in psychology or complex motivations, but in faith and goodness.

Miracle of Saint Thérèse (1952)
Movie review by Steven D. Greydanus

. . . Neither the vaguely sentimental-sounding English title Miracle of Saint Therese nor the strangely officious original French title Procès au Vatican (Cause in the Vatican) really reflects the achievement of this well-made biopic.

The film does begin and end with documentary-style footage of Thérèse’s cause for canonization. And it does include a number of small miracles, including Thérèse’s dramatic recovery at the age of eight from a life-threatening illness upon seeing a statue of Mary smile at her, and the adorning of her entry into Carmel by an unusual April snowfall.

Yet the film is neither the story of a miracle nor a treatise on Thérèse’s case for canonization, unless the miracle and the case are both Thérèse’s own life. Blending historical drama with elements of documentary, Miracle of Saint Thérèse effectively brings the saint’s story and spirituality to life.

The film offers a number of glimpses into Therese’s “little way” of spiritual childhood, including the conflict occasioned by the contrast between Therese’s insights and the accepted pieties of the day. . . .