Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Prayer

St. Joseph, pray for those who walk in the valley of death.

It is in Joseph's Family that Every Christian Family Must be Reflected

Redemptoris Custos
The Guardian of the Redeemer
Apostolic Exhortation on the Person and Mission of Saint Joseph
in the Life of Christ and of the Church
Venerable Pope John Paul II
August 15, 1989
3. Joseph is visited by the messenger as "Mary's spouse," as the one who in due time must give this name to the Son to be born of the Virgin of Nazareth who is married to him. It is to Joseph, then, that the messenger turns, entrusting to him the responsibilities of an earthly father with regard to Mary's Son.

"When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife" (cf. Mt 1:24). He took her in all the mystery of her motherhood. He took her together with the Son who had come into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way he showed a readiness of will like Mary's with regard to what God asked of him through the angel. . . .

7. As can be deduced from the gospel texts, Joseph's marriage to Mary is the juridical basis of his fatherhood. It was to assure fatherly protection for Jesus that God chose Joseph to be Mary's spouse. It follows that Joseph's fatherhood - a relationship that places him as close as possible to Christ, to whom every election and predestination is ordered (cf. Rom 8:28-29) - comes to pass through marriage to Mary, that is, through the family. . . .

The Son of Mary is also Joseph's Son by virtue of the marriage bond that unites them:
"By reason of their faithful marriage both of them deserve to be called Christ's parents, not only his mother, but also his father, who was a parent in the same way that he was the mother's spouse: in mind, not in the flesh."
(St. Augustine, De nuptiis et concupiscentia) In this marriage none of the requisites of marriage were lacking:
"In Christ's parents all the goods of marriage were realized-offspring, fidelity, the sacrament: the offspring being the Lord Jesus himself; fidelity, since there was no adultery: the sacrament, since there was no divorce."

Analyzing the nature of marriage, both St. Augustine and St. Thomas always identify it with an "indivisible union of souls," a "union of hearts," with "consent." These elements are found in an exemplary manner in the marriage of Mary and Joseph. At the culmination of the history of salvation, when God reveals his love for humanity through the gift of the Word, it is precisely the marriage of Mary and Joseph that brings to realization in full "freedom" the "spousal gift of self" in receiving and expressing such a love.
"In this great undertaking which is the renewal of all things in Christ, marriage -- it too purified and renewed -- becomes a new reality, a sacrament of the New Covenant. We see that at the beginning of the New Testament, as at the beginning of the Old, there is a married couple. But whereas Adam and Eve were the source of evil which was unleashed on the world, Joseph and Mary are the summit from which holiness spreads all over the earth. The Savior began the work of salvation by this virginal and holy union, wherein is manifested his all-powerful will to purify and sanctify the family -- that sanctuary of love and cradle of life."
(Paul VI, Discourse to the "Equipes Notre-Dame" Movement, May 4, 1970)

How much the family of today can learn from this! "The essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love. Hence the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God's love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church his bride." (Familiaris Consortio 17) This being the case, it is in the Holy Family, the original "Church in miniature (Ecclesia domestica)," (Id., Lumen Gentium 11) that every Christian family must be reflected. "Through God's mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families." (Familiaris Consortio 85) . . .

19. "Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife" into his home (Mt 1:24); what was conceived in Mary was "of the Holy Spirit." From expressions such as these are we not to suppose that his love as a man was also given new birth by the Holy Spirit? Are we not to think that the love of God which has been poured forth into the human heart through the Holy Spirit (cf. Rm 5:5) molds every human love to perfection? This love of God also molds -- in a completely unique way -- the love of husband and wife, deepening within it everything of human worth and beauty, everything that bespeaks an exclusive gift of self, a covenant between persons, and an authentic communion according to the model of the Blessed Trinity. . . .

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The "New Man" is Outlined in St. Joseph

Catechesis of Pope Benedict XVI
Sunday Angelus, December 19, 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, the Gospel according to St. Matthew recounts the birth of Jesus from St. Joseph’s viewpoint. He was betrothed to Mary who, “before they came together...was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:18). The Son of God, fulfilling an ancient prophecy (cf. Is 7:14), became man in the womb of a virgin and this mystery at the same time expressed the love, wisdom and power of God for mankind, wounded by sin.

St. Joseph is presented as “a just man” (Mt 1:19), faithful to God’s law and ready to do His will. For this reason he enters the mystery of the Incarnation after an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, announcing: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:20-21). Having given up the idea of divorcing Mary secretly, Joseph took her to himself because he then saw God’s work in her with his own eyes.

St. Ambrose comments that “Joseph had the amiability and stature of a just man, to make his capacity as a witness worthier” (Exp. Ev. sec. Lucam II, 5: CCL 14,32-33). St Ambrose continues: “He could not have contaminated the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Mother of the Lord, the womb rendered fertile by the mystery” (ibid., II, 6: CCL 14,33).

Although he had felt distressed, Joseph “did as the Angel of the Lord commanded him,” certain that he was doing the right thing. And in giving the name of “Jesus” to the Child who rules the entire universe, he placed himself among the throng of humble and faithful servants, similar to the Angels and Prophets, similar to the Martyrs and to the Apostles — as the ancient Eastern hymns sing. In witnessing to Mary’s virginity, to God’s gratuitous action and in safeguarding the Messiah’s earthly life, St. Joseph announces the miracle of the Lord.

Therefore, let us venerate the legal father of Jesus (cf. CCC 532), because the new man is outlined in him, who looks with trust and courage to the future. He does not follow his own plans but entrusts himself without reserve to the infinite mercy of the One who will fulfill the prophecies and open the time of salvation.

Dear friends, I would like to entrust all Pastors to St. Joseph, universal Patron of the Church, while I urge them to offer “Christ’s [humble] words and actions each day to the faithful and to the whole world,” (Letter Proclaiming the Year for Priests, 16 June 2009). May our life adhere ever more closely to the Person of Jesus, precisely because “the One who is himself the Word takes on a body, he comes from God as a man, and draws the whole of man’s being to himself, bearing it into the Word of God” (Jesus of Nazareth, New York 2007, p. 334). Let us invoke with trust the Virgin Mary, full of grace, “adorned by God,” so that at Christmas, which is now at hand, our eyes may be opened and see Jesus, and our hearts rejoice in this wonderful encounter of love.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

True Science vs. Scientism

So, you've finished with Bernadette and moved on to Joseph, eh? Well, not so fast!

Let's return to our beloved Bernadette for a moment. As noted in the posts below, the Lady of Massabielle appeared to the humble young girl of Lourdes during a time that saw the rise of secular humanism. And perhaps that is one of the reasons that Our Lady chose to appear at that time, to counter the hubris of man with the message of simple faith, a message of transcendent truth, that there is a Truth, a Logos, beyond the constricted limits of this worldly existence.

Over at the Archdiocese of Washington blog, Monsignor Charles Pope writes about one of the errors of that age, scientism, an error which has persisted to the present.

I want to show forth a Christian admiration for science and distinguish it from the error of scientism. . . .

[In his Gospel, John] teaches that when God spoke creation into existence through his Word (Logos) his Logos (Jesus) sets things forth with a Logike (logic) that is discernible and could be studied to make one wise in the ways (the logic) of God. Creation thus manifests Jesus, for he is the Word through whom the Father spoke everything into existence. In the Catholic Tradition we have come to call this scriptural teaching, Natural Law. In effect we can discern a logic, or rationality, to what God has made and come to know of God and his will for us. . . .

Secularism tends to see the created world as a closed system which cannot speak to anything outside itself. Secularism tends to exclude anything mystical in creation that points beyond or outside the closed system. It is more than simply an agnostic notion that we simply cannot know of things beyond, it is an antagonism to any reality beyond the here and now. And, in the more militant agnosticism and atheism common in current times, there is downright hostility to any requirements that the spiritual realm or anything outside the secular system might propose.

Scientism is an ideologically unbalanced form of science. It insists that if something cannot physically measured or observed it is not real; it does not exist at all. . . . scientism strays into philosophy and theology by making claims it cannot measure or verify. Scientism says that if something is not physically manifest, it does not exist. That is a philosophical claim, not a scientific one. Those guilty of scientism also often make theological claims in insisting that there is no God. This claim cannot be proved, measured or verified using scientific methods. As such, scientism strays beyond the discipline of proper science. In so doing, scientism creates a toxic climate for a proper dialogue between faith and science.

True Science is a Joy – Both faith and science have their proper role and proper place and, when these are respected, a Catholic ought rightly rejoice in the findings of proper science. . . .

But scientism is an ugly and fraudulent claimant to the scientific mantle. . . . Scientism distorts true science and adulterates it. It poisons the climate and makes dialogue more difficult. It manifests hostility to religion and faith, something which no true scientist needs to have.

A truly Catholic perspective is to rejoice in science. Our tradition enshrines the understanding that creation is revelation and the more we can know of this creation, the more we can know of God, the more we can know of his Logos, Jesus Christ our Lord. Thank God for true science, it is, for the believer another path to God. . . .

Scientism is not Science – Toward a Christian Admiration for True Science (emphasis in original)

Faith is not a matter of arbitrary irrational belief, it is a matter of reason. Faith and reason go hand-in-hand. It is faith which opens man to the transcendent, to be able to grasp the truth of things unseen. As Pope Benedict has said,

When Christian faith is authentic it does not mortify freedom or human reason; then, why should faith and reason be afraid of one another, if on meeting one another and dialoguing they can express themselves in the best way? Faith implies reason and perfects it, and reason, illuminated by faith, finds the strength to rise to knowledge of God and of spiritual realities. Human reason loses nothing when it is open to the contents of faith; what is more, the latter calls for its free and conscious adherence.

That is why the lowly Bernadette, ignorant in the eyes of the learned, was much more wise than the intellectual elite of her time. Her simple faith opened her up to truth, much greater truth, than the mere appearances of truth that the deluded secular humanists believe are all that exist. Having eaten the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in their intellectual arrogance, they have not become smarter or wiser, but have instead merely learned to be ignorant of real truth.

Monday, February 21, 2011

On Devotion to St. Joseph

St. Joseph. Very little is said about St. Joseph in the scriptures. But what is said speaks volumes. Indeed, some of it is beyond our full comprehension. For example, meditate a bit on the mystery of the all-powerful Lord God, who reigns over the entire universe, placing Himself under the authority of man, of owing a duty of obedience to man.

"On Devotion to St. Joseph" -- this speaks not only of faithful humanity's devotion to St. Joseph, but the Lord's love for and devotion to him as well.

Encyclical Quamquam Pluries
"On Devotion to St. Joseph"
His Holiness Pope Leo XIII
August 15, 1889
3. The special motives for which St. Joseph has been proclaimed Patron of the Church, and from which the Church looks for singular benefit from his patronage and protection, are that Joseph was the spouse of Mary and that he was reputed the Father of Jesus Christ. From these sources have sprung his dignity, his holiness, his glory.

In truth, the dignity of the Mother of God is so lofty that naught created can rank above it. But as Joseph has been united to the Blessed Virgin by the ties of marriage, it may not be doubted that he approached nearer than any to the eminent dignity by which the Mother of God surpasses so nobly all created natures. For marriage is the most intimate of all unions which from its essence imparts a community of gifts between those that by it are joined together.

Thus in giving Joseph the Blessed Virgin as spouse, God appointed him to be not only her life's companion, the witness of her maidenhood, the protector of her honor, but also, by virtue of the conjugal tie, a participator in her sublime dignity.

And Joseph shines among all mankind by the most august dignity, since by divine will, he was the guardian of the Son of God and reputed as His father among men. Hence it came about that the Word of God was humbly subject to Joseph, that He obeyed him, and that He rendered to him all those offices that children are bound to render to their parents. From this two-fold dignity flowed the obligation which nature lays upon the head of families, so that Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was.

And during the whole course of his life he fulfilled those charges and those duties. He set himself to protect with a mighty love and a daily solicitude his spouse and the Divine Infant; regularly by his work he earned what was necessary for the one and the other for nourishment and clothing; he guarded from death the Child threatened by a monarch's jealousy, and found for Him a refuge; in the miseries of the journey and in the bitternesses of exile he was ever the companion, the assistance, and the upholder of the Virgin and of Jesus.

Now the divine house which Joseph ruled with the authority of a father, contained within its limits the scarce-born Church. From the same fact that the most holy Virgin is the mother of Jesus Christ is she the mother of all Christians whom she bore on Mount Calvary amid the supreme throes of the Redemption; Jesus Christ is, in a manner, the first-born of Christians, who by the adoption and Redemption are his brothers. And for such reasons, the Blessed Patriarch looks upon the multitude of Christians who make up the Church as confided specially to his trust - this limitless family spread over the earth, over which, because he is the spouse of Mary and the father of Jesus Christ he holds, as it were, a paternal authority.

It is, then, natural and worthy that as the Blessed Joseph ministered to all the needs of the family at Nazareth and girt it about with his protection, he should now cover with the cloak of his heavenly patronage and defend the Church of Jesus Christ.

4. You well understand, Venerable Brethren, that these considerations are confirmed by the opinion held by a large number of the Fathers, to which the sacred liturgy gives its sanction, that the Joseph of ancient times, son of the patriarch Jacob, was the type of St. Joseph, and the former by his glory prefigured the greatness of the future guardian of the Holy Family.

And in truth, beyond the fact that the same name - a point the significance of which has never been denied - was given to each, you well know the points of likeness that exist between them; namely, that the first Joseph won the favor and especial goodwill of his master, and that through Joseph's administration his household came to prosperity and wealth; that (still more important) he presided over the kingdom with great power, and, in a time when the harvests failed, he provided for all the needs of the Egyptians with so much wisdom that the King decreed to him the title "Savior of the world."

Thus it is that We may prefigure the new in the old patriarch. And as the first caused the prosperity of his master's domestic interests and at the same time rendered great services to the whole kingdom, so the second, destined to be the guardian of the Christian religion, should be regarded as the protector and defender of the Church, which is truly the house of the Lord and the kingdom of God on earth. These are the reasons why men of every rank and country should fly to the trust and guard of the blessed Joseph.

Fathers of families find in Joseph the best personification of paternal solicitude and vigilance; spouses a perfect example of love, of peace, and of conjugal fidelity; virgins at the same time find in him the model and protector of virginal integrity. The noble of birth will earn of Joseph how to guard their dignity even in misfortune; the rich will understand, by his lessons, what are the goods most to be desired and won at the price of their labor.

As to workmen, artisans, and persons of lesser degree, their recourse to Joseph is a special right, and his example is for their particular imitation. For Joseph, of royal blood, united by marriage to the greatest and holiest of women, reputed the father of the Son of God, passed his life in labor, and won by the toil of the artisan the needful support of his family. It is, then, true that the condition of the lowly has nothing shameful in it, and the work of the laborer is not only not dishonoring, but can, if virtue be joined to it, be singularly ennobled. Joseph, content with his slight possessions, bore the trials consequent on a fortune so slender, with greatness of soul, in imitation of his Son, who having put on the form of a slave, being the Lord of life, subjected himself of his own free-will to the spoliation and loss of everything.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sophie Scholl and the Struggle for Freedom

While we are on the subject of movies about political protest and the fundamental inalienable right of peoples to live in a free society, we might use this opportunity to plug a film we will take up in June, Sophie Scholl: Die Letzten Tage (The Final Days).

"In 1943, as Hitler continues to wage war across Europe, a group of college students mount an underground resistance movement in Munich. Dedicated expressly to the downfall of the monolithic Third Reich war machine, they call themselves the White Rose. One of its few female members, Sophie Scholl is captured during a dangerous mission to distribute pamphlets on campus with her brother Hans. Unwavering in her convictions and loyalty to the White Rose, her cross-examination by the Gestapo quickly escalates into a searing test of wills as Scholl delivers a passionate call to freedom and personal responsibility that is both haunting and timeless.۠"

Sophie was Protestant, but she was highly influenced by both Blessed John Henry Newman and his "theology of conscience," as well as Blessed Clemens August von Galen, the Catholic bishop of Münster who forcefully spoke out against Nazi policies. In fact, the White Rose was founded after Sophie and other members, including her brother Hans and Christoph Probst, both featured in the movie, read anti-Nazi sermons by the "Lion of Münster."

Movie reviewer Steven D. Greydanus describes how her faith shines in the film.

"Throughout her ordeal, Sophie’s guiding light — symbolized by the rays of the sun, often regarded by Sophie with upturned face — is her Christian faith, a cornerstone of her critique of Nazi ideology and atrocities, and a taproot of her moral strength. A devout Protestant, Sophie unapologetically invokes God and conscience under cross-examination as the basis for her actions, the source of human dignity and the necessary guiding light to put the German people on the path to recovery. In her private moments, when she allows herself to be vulnerable and afraid, Sophie opens her heart to God, pleading for help and strength. In an hour of extreme need she gladly prays with a prison chaplain, receiving his blessing in the name of the Holy Trinity."

The film is based on historical records and much of the dialogue is taken directly from long-hidden official transcripts of the case.


More about Cardinal Newman, Cardinal von Galen, and the White Rose, including documentary excerpts, is available in prior posts here and here.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Many Crimes of Cain

As the people of Egypt and around the Middle East are rising up against oppressive government (and we hope and pray that it will lead to actual freedom, including religious freedom, in those countries and not greater oppression), if you should ever get the chance, watch the film To Kill a Priest (1988).

Set during the Solidarity freedom movement in communist Poland, and the consequential crackdown and imposition of martial law, the movie is a fictionalized account of the true story of the vicious murder of Blessed Father Jerzy Popiełuszko by the secret police on October 13, 1984. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." Like those martyrs before him, the death of Fr. Popiełuszko only emboldened those who sought freedom for Poland, including one particular Pole named Karol Wojtyla.

Father Popiełuszko was beatified on June 6, 2010. Approximately 120 bishops and 1400 priests were present to concelebrate the Mass.

        (song - Joan Baez, The Crimes of Cain)
The film stars Christopher Lambert, Ed Harris, and Tim Roth. It is not available on DVD, but Amazon does have it for video on-demand (watch on-line), including rental, or a VHS videotape version is available.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Prayer and Litany

Oh ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of Mercy, Health of the Sick, Refuge of Sinners, Comfortess of the Afflicted, you know our wants, our troubles, our sufferings. Look upon us with mercy. When you appeared in the grotto at Massabielle, you made it a privileged sanctuary where you dispense your favors, and where many sufferers have obtained the cure of their infirmities, both spiritual and corporal. We come, therefore, with unbounded confidence to implore your maternal intercession. Our loving Mother, obtain our request. We will try to imitate your virtues so that we may one day share your company and bless you in eternity. Amen.
Our Lady of Lourdes, help of Christians; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, source of love; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of the poor; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of the handicapped; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of orphans; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of all children; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of all nations; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of the Church; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, friend of the lonely; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, comforter of those who mourn; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, shelter of the homeless; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, guide of travelers; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, strength of the weak; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, refuge of sinners; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, comforter of the suffering; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, help of the dying; Pray for us.
Blessed Virgin Mary, who can worthily repay you with praise and thanks for having rescued a fallen world by your generous consent! Receive our gratitude, and by your prayers obtain the pardon of our sins. Take our prayers into the sanctuary of heaven and enable them to make our peace with God.

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

--For Marilyn and all who are in need of the loving embrace of our Blessed Mother.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for her
St. Joseph, pray for her
St. Bernadette, pray for her
St. Padre Pio, pray for her
St. Andre Bessette, pray for her
Venerable John Paul II, pray for her

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sydney Penny in The Fourth Wise Man

Where else might you have seen Bernadette actress Sydney Penny?

One of her early roles was a bit part in the TV movie The Fourth Wise Man, which was made by Paulist Productions, which also produced the old Insight television series.

Based on the short story by Henry van Dyke, Artaban, "the fourth Magi," spends his entire life looking for the King after having missed accompanying the other three Magi on their journey. Artaban (played by Martin Sheen) had intended to give Him precious jewels and pearls as gifts, but these are spent instead saving the lives of various people along the way. His last gift, which he had wanted to use to ransom Jesus from crucifixion, having finally found his King on the day of execution, he ends up giving to save a young girl (Sydney Penny) from being pressed into slavery to pay for her late father's debts.

(I tried inserting a time code to that scene (at about the 1 hour, 4 minute mark), as I have with YouTube, but it apparently doesn't work with Google videos.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Feast Day of St. Valentine

It's Valentine's Day. Read about the real St. Valentine here.

Meanwhile, what are some good movies about love? What is the best love-story movie ever made? Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, An Officer and a Gentleman, Ghost, Titanic? Love Story?

Well, here is one candidate for best love story of all time (the original version, not the recut new version*) --

* The new version of Cinema Paradiso totally misses the point by emphasizing the completely wrong relationship as being "the" love story of the film. (Note that I said love story, not romance story.)

The Story of Lourdes (Parts 5 and 6)

This fine Italian documentary concludes. See parts one and two here, and parts three and four here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Seeing with Eyes of Faith

What is the message of Lourdes?

The Lady of the Grotto spoke of penance and praying for sinners, as Our Lady of Fatima and the Virgin of Guadalupe had. She identified herself, "I am the Immaculate Conception." And through the visible sign of water, a sacramental sign and symbol of life, miraculous healing of the sick has occurred.

These events certainly happened, but are they the message of Lourdes?

At the Cinema Catechism viewing of the film Bernadette, it was suggested that perhaps the Message of Lourdes is Bernadette Soubirous herself, or more specifically, the simple faith and love of Bernadette.
"When we follow the Jubilee Way in the footsteps of Bernadette, we are reminded of the heart of the message of Lourdes. Bernadette is the eldest daughter of a very poor family, with neither knowledge nor power, and in poor health. Mary chose her to transmit her message of conversion, prayer and penance, which is fully in accord with words of Jesus: 'What you have hidden from the wise and understanding, you have revealed to babes' (Mt 11:25)."
(Homily of Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Journey to Lourdes, 14 September 2008)

At Massabielle, Bernadette was able to see what others could not see. At Massabielle, Bernadette was able to see what some others would not see.

One problem that we have in this fallen world is that we have become infected with a disease – a disease that leads us to see ourselves and others with the world's eyes – eyes that are false. We see superficial appearances, and not the truth of a person or thing. When we see with our eyes, our human and worldly eyes, we see a false reality, a false world, a false beauty. Our human eyes deceive us, so much so that Satan himself would be fantastically beautiful to us, rather than the corrupted being that he is, and as depicted in art with horns and a tail.

Our ability to see and know what truth is has been corrupted and distorted, so that even those who have a good faith desire to know and live the truth often times are instead living a perversion of the truth. Even when, deep down in our gut, we know that something isn't quite right, we still cling to the lie, thinking it is the truth, indeed, wanting it to be the truth.

Conversely, we are often blind to true beauty, and other times we think that what is truly beautiful is abhorrent. The Lord walked the earth for 30 years before beginning His ministry and practically no one recognized Him. The world demands prove from God, putting Him to the test, but when He sends us signs and signals and performs mighty deeds to get our attention, the world pays no attention to Him.

There are those who cannot see truly, and there are those who will not see truly, who obstinately refuse to see. There are those who have been made blind, those who have unwittingly followed others into the dark cave, and those who have plucked out their own eyes and seek to blind others. The fallen world consistently seeks to have you disbelieve and have doubts. The world whispers in your ear, imitating the voice of your subconscious, "God doesn’t exist. And if He does, He has abandoned you. He cannot be trusted. You can only trust yourself."

However, not everyone is blind, not everyone is unable to see. The Virgin Mary was and is able to see, and Bernadette was able to see her. That is because Bernadette did not seek to see merely with the eyes of the head, merely with worldly eyes. Because of her simple humble faith, she also saw with the heart, which in turn allowed her to see the truest beauty God has ever made.

Innocence tends to allow one to see a higher truth. Eating the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge does not necessarily give you greater sight. It merely infects you with a disease that blinds you. It is paradoxical, but often times, ignorance is learned.

The intellectual elite of Bernadette’s time were, for all their learning, ignorant. By their arrogant pride and hubris, by promoting extreme secular ideologies that have no need or want of God, these intellectuals had learned to be stupid. In their willful blindness, they refused to open themselves up to be able to see.

If we too want to see truly, we must seek to emulate the lowly Bernadette, rather than the prideful. We must believe, we must want to believe, in truth. We must have faith in God, rather than faith in ourselves as “gods,” so that we might see with our hearts. When we see with our hearts, which is to say, our souls, as illuminated by the true Light, we are able to see reality as it truly is, we are able to see true beauty, which may not correspond to what our human eyes find aesthetically pleasing. What is repugnant and ugly to our human eyes may be seen to be truly beautiful when viewed with our hearts.

But being able to see with our hearts is not easy. And it almost certainly cannot be done by our own efforts. We most likely need a little help. But if we at least want to be able to truly see, to be able to see with our hearts, and we seek that help, then we will begin to receive the grace to be able to do so. And the real beauty that we see will be more astounding than we could have ever imagined.

"How blind man is when he refuses to open his heart to the light of faith!"
-- Sister Marie-Bernard Soubirous


Why do some see and others not?
Homily of Pope Benedict XVI
Solemnity of the Epiphany, 6 January 2010
Believers in Jesus Christ always seem to be few. Many have seen the star, but few have understood its message. Scripture scholars of Jesus' time knew the word of God perfectly. They were able to say without any difficulty what was to be found in Scripture regarding the place in which the Messiah would be born, but, as St. Augustine says, "as the milestones (that indicate the way), they remained inert and immovable" (Sermon 199. In Epiphania Domini, 1, 2).

Hence, we can ask ourselves: What is the reason that some see and others do not? What is it that opens the eyes and heart? What is missing in those who remain indifferent, from those who indicate the way but do not move?

We can answer: the excessive certainty in themselves, the pretension of knowing reality perfectly, the presumption of already having formulated a definitive judgment on things, thus making their hearts closed and insensitive to the novelty of God. They are certain of the idea they have of the world and do not let themselves be moved in their deepest being by the adventure of a God who wants to meet them. They place more confidence in themselves than in Him, and they do not consider it possible that God, being so great, can make Himself small, that He can really come close to us.

In the end, what is missing is genuine humility, which is able to submit to what is greater, but also the genuine courage that leads one to believe what is really great, even if it is manifested in a defenseless child.

Lacking is the capacity to be children at heart, to be amazed, and to come out of oneself to undertake the way indicated by the star, the way of God. Nevertheless, the Lord has the power to make us able to see and to save us. Therefore, we want to ask Him to give us a wise and innocent heart, which will allow us to see the star of His mercy, which will lead us on his way, to meet Him and be inundated by the great light and the true joy that He has brought to this world. Amen.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bernadette at Lourdes and Nevers

Reflections of Pope Benedict XVI
Apostolic Journey to Lourdes on the Occasion of
the 150th Anniversary of the Apparitions
Torchlight Procession, Lourdes, 13 September 2008
One hundred and fifty years ago, on 11 February 1858, in this place known as the Grotto of Massabielle, away from the town, a simple young girl from Lourdes, Bernadette Soubirous, saw a light, and in this light she saw a young lady who was “beautiful, more beautiful than any other.” This woman addressed her with kindness and gentleness, with respect and trust: “She said vous to me,” Bernadette recounted, “Would you do me the kindness of coming here for a fortnight?” she asked her. “She was looking at me as one person who speaks to another.” It was in this conversation, in this dialogue marked by such delicacy, that the Lady instructed her to deliver certain very simple messages on prayer, penance and conversion. It is hardly surprising that Mary should be beautiful, given that—during the apparition of 25 March 1858—she reveals her name in this way: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” . . .

Countless people have borne witness to this: when they encountered Bernadette’s radiant face, it left a deep impression on their hearts and minds. Whether it was during the apparitions themselves or while she was recounting them, her face was simply shining. Bernadette from that time on had the light of Massabielle dwelling within her. The daily life of the Soubirous family was nevertheless a tale of deprivation and sadness, sickness and incomprehension, rejection and poverty. Even if there was no lack of love and warmth in family relationships, life at the cachot was hard. Nevertheless, the shadows of the earth did not prevent the light of heaven from shining. “The light shines in the darkness …” (Jn 1:5). . . .

The apparitions were bathed in light and God chose to ignite in Bernadette’s gaze a flame which converted countless hearts. How many come here to see it with the hope—secretly perhaps—of receiving some miracle; then, on the return journey, having had a spiritual experience of life in the Church, they change their outlook upon God, upon others and upon themselves. A small flame called hope, compassion, tenderness now dwells within them. A quiet encounter with Bernadette and the Virgin Mary can change a person’s life, for they are here, in Massabielle, to lead us to Christ who is our life, our strength and our light. May the Virgin Mary and Saint Bernadette help you to live as children of light in order to testify, every day of your lives, that Christ is our light, our hope and our life!

This short documentary by Christian Salès has some beautiful photography, but it is unfortunately in Italian. Oh well. Some of the words can be made out though even if one is not fluent in Italian.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Prayer in the Grotto

Immaculate Mary, pray for us.
St. Bernadette, pray for us.

Bernadette at Massabielle

One hundred fifty three years ago today. From the film Bernadette --

The Immaculate Conception and Healing the Sick

Today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes. It was on February 11, 1858, that the Lady in White appeared to the humble Bernadette Soubirous at Massabielle in Lourdes, France.

Later, on March 25 (Solemnity of the Annunciation), the Lady said, "I am the Immaculate Conception." When Bernadette reported this, the particular phraseology confounded some people. They did not have trouble with the "Immaculate Conception" part, but with the "I am . . ." part. They thought that Bernadette must have misstated the message and that the Lady must have instead said something like "I am immaculately conceived" or "I am the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception," reasoning that one cannot be her own conception, she cannot conceive herself.

But is that particular way of identification, "I am the Immaculate Conception," really all that illogical? Being "full of grace," the Blessed Virgin is, by her very nature, both pure and ever-new. The term "Immaculate Conception" describes not merely an event or process, but describes who and what Mary is. She is, in her being, immaculate and pure, and as the holy mother of He who "makes all things new," being now eternally joined with Him in spirit and body, she too is eternally new.

And it is because Mary is the Immaculate Conception, and not merely the product of an immaculate conception, that, through her at Lourdes and elsewhere, combined with the loving prayers of the faithful, the sick might also be made new and healed. There have been 67 cases of miraculous medical cures recognized by the Church and countless other cures that are as yet "unexplained." Here is a list of those 67 people physically healed at Lourdes (pdf file). Of course, there have been many, many more people who have received spiritual healing or been strengthened in the faith due to Our Lady of Lourdes.
"Lourdes should not be reduced to the alternatives - miracle or no a miracle. For the Church, as well as for the believer, a pilgrimage to Mary is more than a journey to a miracle. It is a journey of love, of prayer and of the suffering community."
-- Professor François-Bernard Michel, Co-Chairman of the International Medical Committee of Lourdes

The Virgin's maternal care for the sick and suffering is one of the many messages of Lourdes, messages of faith, hope, and love.

Homily of Pope Benedict XVI
Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes

18th World Day of the Sick
February 11, 2010

The Gospels, in the synthetic descriptions of the brief but intense public life of Jesus, attest that He proclaimed the Word and healed the sick, a sign par excellence of the closeness of the Kingdom of God. For example, Matthew writes: "And He went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people" (Matthew 4:23; cf 9:35). The Church, which has been entrusted with the task of prolonging the mission of Christ in space and time, cannot neglect these two essential works: evangelization and care of the sick in body and spirit. God, in fact, wishes to heal the whole man, and in the Gospel the healing of the body is a sign of a more profound healing, which is the remission of sins (cf Mark 2:1-12).

Hence, it is not surprising that Mary, Mother and model of the Church, is invoked and venerated as "salus infirmorum," "health of the sick." As first and perfect disciple of her Son, she has always shown, accompanying the journey of the Church, special solicitude for the suffering. Testimony of this is given by the thousands of people who go to Marian shrines to invoke the Mother of Christ, and find strength and relief.

The Gospel narrative of the Visitation (cf. Luke 1:39-56) shows us how the Virgin, after the evangelical announcement, did not keep to herself the gift received, but left immediately to go to help her elderly cousin Elizabeth, who for six months had been carrying John in her womb. In the support given by Mary to this relative who was, at an advanced age, living a delicate situation such as pregnancy, we see prefigured the whole action of the Church in support of life in need of care. . . .

A most affectionate welcome goes naturally to you, dear sick people. Thank you for coming and above all for your prayer, enriched with the offer of your toil and sufferings. And my greeting goes also to the sick and volunteers joining us today from Lourdes, Fatima, Czestochowa and from other Marian shrines, and to all those following us on radio and television, especially from clinics or from their homes. May the Lord God, who constantly watches over his children, give everyone relief and consolation.

Today's Liturgy of the Word presents two main themes: the first is of a Marian character, and it unites the Gospel and the first reading, taken from the last chapter of the Book of Isaiah, as well as the Responsorial Psalm, taken from Judith's canticle of praise. The other theme, which we find in the passage of the Letter of James, is of the prayer of the Church for the sick and, in particular, of the sacrament reserved for them.

In the memorial of the apparitions of Lourdes, a place chosen by Mary to manifest her maternal solicitude for the sick, the liturgy appropriately makes the Magnificat resonate, the canticle of the Virgin who exalts the wonders of God in the history of salvation: the humble and the indigent, as all those who fear God, experience His mercy, He who reverses earthly fortunes and thus demonstrates the holiness of the Creator and Redeemer. The Magnificat is not the canticle of those on whom fortune smiles, who always "prosper," rather it is the thanksgiving of those who know the tragedies of life, but trust the redeeming work of God. It is a song that expresses the tested faith of generations of men and women who have placed their hope in God and have committed themselves personally, like Mary, to being of help to brothers in need. In the Magnificat, we hear the voice of so many men and women saints of charity, I am thinking in particular of those who consumed their lives among the sick and suffering, such as Camillus of Lellis and John of God, Damien de Veuster and Benito Menni. Whoever spends a long time near persons who suffer, knows anguish and tears, but also the miracle of joy, fruit of love.

The maternity of the Church is a reflection of the solicitous love of God, of which the prophet Isaiah speaks: "As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem" (Isaiah 66:13).

A maternity that speaks without words, which arouses consolation in hearts, a joy that paradoxically co-exists with pain, with suffering. Like Mary, the Church bears within herself the tragedies of man, and the consolation of God, she keeps them together, in the course of her pilgrimage in history. Across the centuries, the Church shows the signs of the love of God, who continues to do great things in humble and simple people.

Suffering that is accepted and offered, a sharing that is sincere and free, are these not, perhaps, miracles of love? The courage to face evils unarmed -- as Judith -- with the sole strength of faith and of hope in the Lord, is this not a miracle that the grace of God arouses continually in so many persons who spend time and energy helping those who suffer?

For all this, we live a joy that does not forget suffering, on the contrary, it includes it. In this way, the sick and all the suffering are in the Church, not only as recipients of attention and care, but first and above all, protagonists of the pilgrimage of faith and hope, witnesses of the prodigies of love, of the paschal joy that flowers from the cross and the resurrection of Christ.

In the passage of the Letter of James just proclaimed, the Apostle invites awaiting with constancy the already close coming of the Lord and, in this context, addresses a particular exhortation to the sick. This context is very interesting, because it reflects the action of Jesus, who, curing the sick, showed the closeness of the Kingdom of God.

Sickness is seen in the perspective of the end times, with the realism of hope that is typically Christian. "Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise" (James 5:13). We seem to hear similar words in St. Paul, when he invites us to live everything in relation to the radical news of Christ, his death and resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:29-31).

"Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven" (James 5:14-15).

Evident here is the prolongation of Christ in His Church; He is always the one who acts through the presbyters; it is His same Spirit that operates through the sacramental sign of the oil; it is to Him that faith is directed, expressed in prayer; and, as happened with the persons cured by Jesus, one can say to each sick person: Your faith, supported by the faith of brothers and sisters, has saved you.

From this text, which contains the foundation and practice of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, is extracted at the same time a vision of the role of the sick in the Church: An active role as it "provokes," so to speak, prayer made with faith.

"Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church." In this Year for Priests, I wish to stress the bond between the sick and priests, a sort of alliance, of evangelical "complicity." Both have a task: The sick person must "call" the presbyters, and they must respond, to bring upon the experience of sickness the presence and action of the Risen One and of his Spirit.

And here we can see all the importance of the pastoral care of the sick, the value of which is truly incalculable, because of the immense good it does in the first place to the sick person and to the priest himself, but also to relatives, to friends, to the community and, through hidden and unknown ways, to the whole Church and to the world. In fact, when the Word of God speaks of healing, of salvation, of the health of the sick, it understands these concepts in an integral sense, never separating soul and body: A sick person cured by Christ's prayer, through the Church, is a joy on earth and in heaven, a first fruit of eternal life.

Dear friends, as I wrote in the encyclical "Spe Salvi," "The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer" (No. 38). By instituting a dicastery dedicated to health care ministry, the Church also wished to make her own contribution to promote a world capable of receiving and looking after the sick as persons. In fact, she has wished to help them to live the experience of sickness in a human way, without denying it, but giving it a meaning.

I would like to end these reflections with a thought of the Venerable Pope John Paul II, to which he gave witness with his own life. In the apostolic letter "Salvifici Doloris," he wrote: "At one and the same time, Christ has taught man to do good by His suffering and to do good to those who suffer."

May the Virgin Mary help us to live this mission fully. Amen!

(Relics of St. Bernadette Soubirous were present at the Mass at St. Peter's Basilica.)


A Travelogue of Lourdes

Here is a fascinating photo montage of a pilgrimage to Lourdes.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Story of Lourdes (Parts 3 and 4)

See parts one and two of this Italian documentary here.

To be continued (and concluded) . . .

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Story of Lourdes

Here is another documentary in Italiano (with subtitles) on Lourdes and Bernadette, which include clips of the first dramatic film about Bernadette -- from 1909.

To be continued . . .

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bernadette and Suffering

Growing up, Bernadette was often sickly and physically weak due to severe asthma and other maladies, not to mention undernourishment due to poverty. She was able to obtain some relief during those times when her parents sent her to the home of her foster-mother, Marie (Aravant) Laguës, who lived in the country, but Bernadette wanted to come home to Lourdes, especially so that she could make her First Communion. And her health was always worse when she was in Lourdes.

So it was when she went to Massabielle and encountered the Lady she called "Aquéro." The Lady later told Bernadette to dig at a spot in the grotto, and from that spot, a spring of water appeared -- water which later would be used in the miraculous cures of many sick people. But Bernadette was not one of those to be cured. After she entered the convent at Nevers, she was frequently in bed in the infirmary, and she received the Sacrament of Annointing multiple times because she was near death.

In addition to the question of, "Why should the Blessed Virgin appear to one such as Bernadette?" There is also the question of "Why didn't the waters of Lourdes heal Bernadette?"

"O Jesus and Mary, let my entire consolation in this world be to love you and to suffer for sinners."

Actually, it is not entirely the case that Bernadette is not among the miraculously healed of Lourdes. Although her body failed her in this worldly existence, when she was exhumed several years after her death as part of the beatification and canonization process, Bernadette's body was found to be, like her Lady, preserved from corruption.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Coming Soon - Bernadette

Cinema Catechism will be presenting Bernadette this Thursday, February 10, 2011, together with a discussion on the theme of Faith, Hope, and Love.

Bernadette Soubirous lived in a time of ideological hostility to religion, including the constricted scientism of intellectual elites, who rejected religious faith as superstition and believed instead that "seeing is believing," that if something could not be subjected to measurement and testing, it did not exist. Bernadette, though, was no intellectual elite. Rather, for her, believing was seeing. Because of her faith, her simple modest faith of the heart, an innocent and humble love for the Lord, the lowly Bernadette was able to see what others could not: she who is our life, our sweetness, and our hope.

Surely, one could say that the words of the readings from last Sunday's Mass rightly apply to Bernadette, "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God." (Mt. 5:8) Also from last week --

Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters.
Not many of you were wise by human standards,
not many were powerful,
not many were of noble birth.
Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise,
and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong,
and God chose the lowly and despised of the world,
those who count for nothing,
to reduce to nothing those who are something,
so that no human being might boast before God
--1 Cor. 1:26-29

These qualities shine through in this touching film. Ignatius Press states that Bernadette is

"Highly recommended and endorsed by the Vatican . . . This two-hour film is the official dramatization of the story of St. Bernadette, and is shown daily at the world-famous Lourdes Shrine in France. Shot entirely on location under the famed French director, Jean Delannoy – one of France’s foremost filmmakers – Bernadette is based solely on recorded, factual history."

Please watch the trailer in the sidebar and read more about this beautiful film, and the real beautiful and remarkable St. Bernadette Soubirous, in the posts below.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

From Massabielle the Blessed Virgin speaks to us too

The motto of Pope John Paul II was "totus tuus" (totally yours), reflecting his profoundly personal devotion to the Mary. The phrase is from the book True Devotion to Mary, by Saint Louis de Montfort, and the complete text is, "Totus tuus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt" (I am all yours, and all that I have is yours).

Five months before he passed from this world, the Pope journeyed to Lourdes to pray at Massabielle, where the Blessed Virgin had appeared and spoke to Bernadette. At the time, John Paul counted himself among the sick and suffering. About a month after he made his pilgrimmage to Lourdes, I saw the Holy Father in my own pilgrimmage to Rome. His Parkinson's disease pressed down upon him like a heavy cross, making his movements and speech very difficult.

John Paul spent his entire papacy teaching us with words, but in the last few years and months of his life, when the words were difficult to say, he taught us with his very being, with the model of grace and dignity that he presented to the world while in the midst of suffering. He taught us that, with Mary standing there with us, as we suffer on our own personal crosses, we too might have the grace of healing, not merely the physical healing that some have received at Lourdes, but the ultimate healing, eternal life with the Lord.

Homily of the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II
Apostolic Pilgrimage to Lourdes
Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary
August 15, 2004

1. "Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou." The words which Mary spoke to Bernadette on 25 March 1858 have a particular resonance this year, as the Church celebrates the 150th anniversary of the solemn definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Blessed Pius IX in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus.

I have greatly wished to make this pilgrimage to Lourdes in order to celebrate an event which continues to give glory to the Triune God. Mary’s Immaculate Conception is the sign of the gracious love of the Father, the perfect expression of the redemption accomplished by the Son and the beginning of a life completely open to the working of the Spirit.

2. Beneath the maternal gaze of the Blessed Virgin, I offer a heartfelt greeting to all of you, dear brothers and sisters, as we gather before the Grotto of Massabielle to sing the praises of her whom all generations call blessed (cf. Lk 1:48). . . .

With special affection I greet the sick and all who have come to this holy place to seek consolation and hope. May the Blessed Virgin enable you to sense her presence and give comfort to your hearts!

3. "In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country..." (Lk 1:39). The words of the Gospel story have once more brought before the eyes of our hearts the young maiden of Nazareth as she makes her way to that "city of Judah" where her kinswoman Elizabeth lived, in order to be of help to her.

What strikes us about Mary is above all her loving concern for her elderly relative. Hers is a practical love, one which is not limited to words of understanding but is deeply and personally involved in giving help. The Blessed Virgin does not merely give her cousin something of herself; she gives her whole self, asking nothing in return. Mary understood perfectly that the gift she received from God is more than a privilege; it is a duty which obliges her to serve others with the selflessness proper to love.

4. "My soul magnifies the Lord..." (Lk 1:46). Mary’s sentiments in her meeting with Elizabeth are forcefully expressed in the canticle of the Magnificat. Her words convey the hope-filled expectation of the "poor of the Lord" and at the same time an awareness that God has fulfilled his promises, for He "has remembered His mercy" (cf. Lk 1:54).

This same awareness is the source of that joy of the Virgin Mary which pervades the whole canticle: joy in knowing that she has been "looked upon" by God despite her own "lowliness" (cf. Lk 1:48); joy in the "service" she is able to offer because of the "great things" to which the Almighty has called her (cf. Lk 1:49); joy in her foretaste of the eschatological blessedness promised to "those of low degree" and "the hungry" (cf. Lk 1:52-53).

The Magnificat is followed by silence: nothing is said to us about the three months that Mary stayed with her kinswoman Elizabeth. Yet perhaps we are told the most important thing: that goodness works quietly, the power of love is expressed in the unassuming quietness of daily service.

5. By her words and her silence the Virgin Mary stands before us as a model for our pilgrim way. It is not an easy way: as a result of the fall of our first parents, humanity is marked by the wounds of sin, whose consequences continue to be felt also among the redeemed. But evil and death will not have the last word! Mary confirms this by her whole life, for she is a living witness of the victory of Christ, our Passover.

The faithful have understood this. That is why they throng to this grotto in order to hear the maternal counsels of the Blessed Virgin. In her they acknowledge "the woman clothed in the sun" (Rev 12:1), the Queen resplendent before the throne of God (cf. Responsorial Psalm), ever interceding on their behalf.

6. Today the Church celebrates Mary’s glorious Assumption body and soul into Heaven. The two dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are closely related. Both proclaim the glory of Christ the Redeemer and the holiness of Mary, whose human destiny is even now perfectly and definitively realized in God.

"When I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also" (Jn 14: 3). Mary is the pledge of the fulfilment of Christ’s promise. Her Assumption thus becomes for us "a sign of sure hope and consolation" (cf. Lumen Gentium, 68).

7. Dear brothers and sisters! From this grotto of Massabielle the Blessed Virgin speaks to us too, the Christians of the third millennium. Let us listen to her!

Listen to her, young people who seek an answer capable of giving meaning to your lives. Here you can find that answer. It is a demanding one, yet it is the only answer which is genuinely satisfying. For it contains the secret of true joy and peace.

From this grotto I issue a special call to women. Appearing here, Mary entrusted her message to a young girl, as if to emphasize the special mission of women in our own time, tempted as it is by materialism and secularism: to be in today’s society a witness of those essential values which are seen only with the eyes of the heart. To you, women, falls the task of being sentinels of the Invisible! I appeal urgently to all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to do everything in your power to ensure that life, each and every life, will be respected from conception to its natural end. Life is a sacred gift, and no one can presume to be its master.

Finally, Our Lady of Lourdes has a message for everyone. Be men and women of freedom! But remember: human freedom is a freedom wounded by sin. It is a freedom which itself needs to be set free. Christ is its liberator; He is the one who "for freedom has set us free" (cf. Gal 5:1). Defend that freedom!

Dear friends, in this we know we can count on Mary, who, since she never yielded to sin, is the only creature who is perfectly free. I entrust you to her. Walk beside Mary as you journey towards the complete fulfilment of your humanity!

Friday, February 4, 2011

"Sometimes you just have to trust and believe"

Sydney Penny began her career in acting as a child. Her early roles included parts in the mini-series The Thorn Birds (1983) and the Clint Eastwood western Pale Rider (1985). Before going on to have a big career in soap operas, Ms. Penny was chosen for the lead role in the film Bernadette (1988).

Excerpts of Ignatius Press Interview with Sydney Penny

How old were you when you played in both films as Bernadette? Were they filmed back to back?
Sydney Penny: I was fifteen when we filmed Bernadette and eighteen when we shot the sequel, La Passion de Bernadette.

Why did you agree to play the main character in these two films?
SP: As an actor, it was a marvelous opportunity for me to play such a role and to be directed by one of France's most well respected directors. As a person, I wanted to be part of something that intended to tell a beautiful story honestly - a story of how a young woman, uneducated, unschooled in catechism, poor and sickly, needed only a willing heart to learn the truth. And that truth led her through adversity, loneliness, controversy, illness and even unto the moment of her death.

Was Bernadette shot on a location near Lourdes?
SP: We shot Bernadette in and around Lourdes, France in the dead of winter, 1987. We were unable to film at the actual site of the grotto in Massabielle because it has been so changed since Bernadette's time. Even the river has widened. We found a similar grotto not far away. All of the other locations were in neighboring small villages in the Pyrenees which were absolutely breaktakingly beautiful. We also shot some interiors in studio in Paris.

Describe the exact shooting locales for the film, and what the experience was like.
SP: The film was shot amid gorgeous French scenery. The Pyrenees are so majestic and in the winter covered in snow, it's like being in another world. The shoot was fantastic - quite different than an American shoot especially at lunch when they set up a huge tent no matter where we were, even perched in a cliff or in the middle of a field of sheep, set the tables with linen and china and served a four course meal with wine. Very French!

Have you been to Nevers to see the incorrupt body of Bernadette?
SP: We filmed La Passion de Bernadette in the convent where she lived out her life in Nevers, France. The sisters speak of Bernadette as if she were still among them, and in a way, she is. Bernadette was buried and exhumed three times as part of the canonization process. Each time she was exhumed she was exactly as she had been the last time, uncorrupted. The decision was made to build a glass coffin and leave her lying in state in the sanctuary, which is where she is today. Seeing her was very moving, so tiny and fragile; and it was probably the only time an actor has ever come face to face with the historical figure they were portraying.

Are you aware that Bernadette is the "official" film shown daily at the shrine of Lourdes?
SP: I am aware that Bernadette is the official film shown in Lourdes. Jean Delannoy set out to make a film that was historically accurate, with no distortions in the telling. Obviously the film need to be dramatic, but the story is moving enough without changing it arbitrarily as had been done before. I am pleased to be part of something that endures and hopefully illuminates and inspires those who visit Lourdes.

What do you think of the story of Lourdes and of St. Bernadette?
SP: The story of Bernadette and Lourdes seems almost incredible, living in these modern times. But many magnificent and incredible things happen everyday, we just have developed the habit of analyzing them into insignificance. Bernadette's story is a symbol of hope, an example of the power that one person's faith can have on the world.

How do you think modern audiences would benefit from seeing a film like this about St. Bernadette and the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes?
SP: The virtue of humility and the value of honesty are timeless. Bernadette spoke of what she saw simply as a lady in white - and faith is that pure, that simple. We sometimes trip ourselves up with intellectual, metaphysical questions. Sometimes you just have to trust and believe.

What does Bernadette have to say to today’s young people?
SP: Bernadette herself probably wouldn't have given any advice since she was convinced she knew nothing! It's good to remember that even as we strive in our lives and in our careers, that our successes are a reflection of the gifts we are divinely given; we ourselves can create nothing.

How did your perception of St. Bernadette change after you finished the two films?
SP: I think I came to know Bernadette the girl, Bernadette the postulant, Bernadette the person who had far more trials and tribulations than most anyone will ever deal with - illness, poverty, being the center of huge controversy - and yet sailed above it all by holding on to her convictions. And discovered a great spiritual treasure in her heart which she imparted to the world in the process.

Why do you think there is a resurgence of interest in films with an overtly spiritual theme?
SP: I simply think that people crave connection with that which is bigger than they are. Our post-modern, secular, humanist world has devalued man's spiritual side, and, in fact, anything that can't be seen through a microscope or quantified. In the world's desire to know more, we have lost the knowledge of who we really are, why we're here - not just how we got here, but why the life we lead and how we lead it matters.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ignatius Press on Bernadette

Movie Review by Ignatius Press
Highly recommended and endorsed by the Vatican . . . This two-hour film is the official dramatization of the story of St. Bernadette, and is shown daily at the world-famous Lourdes Shrine in France. Shot entirely on location under the famed French director, Jean Delannoy – one of France’s foremost filmmakers – Bernadette is based solely on recorded, factual history. Nothing in the film is embellished or over-dramatized for cinematic appeal. Delannoy wanted it to be historically accurate with no distortions or arbitrary changes – as had been done with other films on her.

[Sydney] Penny says that the opportunity for her to play the main character in the film, St. Bernadette, was truly a rare opportunity.

“Not only was this a marvelous chance to work with one of France’s most respected film directors, but as a person, I wanted to be part of something that intended to tell a beautiful story honestly.” . . .

St. Bernadette – whose body still remains incorrupt and displayed lying-in-state in a glass coffin in The Sisters of Charity Chapel in Nevers, France – was buried and exhumed three times as part of her canonization process. During each exhuming, she looked exactly as she had been the last time … uncorrupted. The incorrupt body of Bernadette is shown at the end of the film. This was particularly moving for Ms. Penny.

“When I actually saw her there, she was so tiny and fragile. It was probably the only time an actor has ever come face to face with the historical figure he was portraying.”

Penny says that although there was great interest by the French press when the film was released originally in the late 1980s, the film world at large has taken little notice of it until now. . . .

“The story of Bernadette seems almost incredible, living in these modern times. But many magnificent and incredible things happen everyday; we just have developed the habit of analyzing them into insignificance,” says Penny. “Bernadette’s story is a symbol of hope, an example of the power that one person’s faith can have on the world. I hope the word gets out that there is a film with a beautiful, simple story to tell that is still relevant to people today, whether one is Catholic or not.”

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Documentary on Lourdes

In October, we linked to an Italian documentary on Fatima. Here is that same documentary, but the focus is on Lourdes.