During the 1980s, I purchased several sets of cassette tapes of talks that had been given by the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. At the time, I had a small battery-operated cassette tape player that I used to listen to tapes while I was shaving and getting ready for work, while I was driving, and while I was getting ready for bed.
I ordinarily attend daily Mass at Sacred Heart Church in downtown Peoria. Last Monday (March 25), I saw my parents at noon Mass and talked to them after the Mass. My mom told me that it was the 58th anniversary of her consecration to the Mother of God. I knew that she had made her consecration years ago, but I was not aware of the actual date.
While you are waiting for help to arrive, the man tells you that his name is Tony, and that he was raised as a Catholic. You quickly take off the Brown Scapular that you always wear around your neck and place it around his neck, fearing that he is going to die before he gets to the hospital. You tell him that you are going to pray an act of contrition with him. You then slowly recite the prayer out loud, so he can follow along with you.
During the summer of 1983, I heard about a Saturday morning event that was being sponsored by a local pro-life organization. The speaker for the event was Joe Scheidler, a well-known pro-life activist from Chicago. I had read about how Scheidler was using creative tactics to disrupt and close abortion clinics in the United States.
I told my wife about the upcoming event, and she made arrangements for her mother to babysit our two children, so we could attend the event. There were about 30 people who showed up to listen to what Scheidler had to say.
Scheidler reminded me of the men I grew up with on the Williams side of my family: tough, rugged, no-nonsense, aggressive, and at times, eager to do battle. He described how he had gotten involved in the pro-life movement in 1972, which was a year before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand. He then worked with several pro-life organizations before forming his own organization, the Pro-Life Action League.
There are only two things that I remember about what Scheidler said during his talk. The first was the story he told about how he got involved in the pro-life movement. The second was a challenge that he made to each of the people who were in the room listening to him. The challenge came at the end of his talk. Here’s what he said:
All I ever hear from people is, “What can I do? I’m only one person.”
Fr. McTeigue’s complaint was that the lyrics imply that Mary was a sinner who needed to be delivered from her sins. This is contrary to Catholic doctrine which states that Mary was preserved free from all stain of original sin from the moment of her immaculate conception, which allowed her to be a pure vessel in which the Son of God could be conceived and born without ever having come into contact with sin.
Another article that was published before Christmas stated that the song implies that Mary was not fully aware that she was the mother of God. The article went on to say that anyone who is familiar with the Bible knows that Mary possessed knowledge that she was the Mother of God, not only because of the Angel Gabriel’s announcement (Luke 1:26-56), but also because of her “song of praise” — known as “The Magnificat” — which indicated that she was aware of her role in the salvation of mankind. Here are the first two sentences of the Magnificat:
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his handmaid. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; for he who is mighty, has done great things for me and holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49)
It was 2 a.m. Monday morning. Dr. Kenny Omlin of Napa was in the process of getting his family off their 11-acre estate as flames from the Atlas Fire rapidly approached. He opened his car door and saw his 80-year-old mother sitting in the passenger seat, clutching a rosary and praying.
Thousands of homes are still in danger of being burned to the ground. The path of the fires is completely unpredictable because no one knows how strong the winds are going to get or when the winds will shift course. One of my older brothers, Mike, lives with his wife in Santa Rosa, California, which is one of the cities that was hit by the wildfires. While several areas that surround my brother’s neighborhood were destroyed by fire, his neighborhood was spared. Unfortunately, there’s still a chance that the fire will come roaring back into his neighborhood. I would appreciate it if you would say a prayer that everything will go well for my brother, his wife, and their property.
The wildfires in California came only a month after Hurricane Irma left a devastating path of destruction in the Caribbean, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. In addition to the widespread destruction that was caused by Hurricane Irma, there were 134 deaths, most of which occurred in the United States. A month before Hurricane Irma arrived, hurricane Harvey barreled through Texas causing extensive property damage, flooding, and 77 confirmed deaths.
Of course, each time one of these devastating natural disasters occurs, we are lectured by Hollywood celebrities, the talking heads in the media, and various “experts” from around the world that the disasters are being caused by climate change. We are then told that we should listen to these so-called experts, so they can tell us what needs to be done to eliminate future catastrophic events.
The problem with the whole climate change argument is that we never hear what the definitive plan is for controlling the climate in such a way that the natural disasters will stop occurring. We are, however, told that we need to submit to a worldwide governing body that has no allegiance to the United States, but will have the power to impose taxes, regulations, and restrictions upon us that will supposedly help eradicate natural disasters.
During each of the recent events, I couldn’t help but think about all the calamities that occurred during the time period covered by the Old Testament.
The definition of “calamity” is “an event that causes great and often sudden damage or distress; a disaster.”
If you review the Old Testament, you’ll be reminded of all the calamities that occurred from the beginning of time until the birth of the Son of God. There was the great flood, followed by catastrophic plagues, deadly diseases, and wars. These calamities were frequent and massively destructive. It was as though there was nothing holding back Almighty God’s hand of justice.
But then something changed after the birth of Jesus. The hand of justice was replaced by the mercy of our Divine Savior. While calamities continued to occur, they were less frequent and less destructive. Why? Because it was a new era in which the people of the world benefited from the rise and growth of the Catholic Church and Christianity.
Great grace and protection resulted from the establishment of our Lord’s church and was fueled by the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Penance, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. These sacraments ushered in a new era of mercy, which resulted in a significant reduction in the number and severity of calamities.
But then a momentous event occurred in 1917 — an event that put the world on notice that if sinful men and women did not repent and turn back to God, a great calamity would be unleashed upon mankind. The event that I’m referring to was the appearance of a special woman to three young children in Fatima, Portugal.
The special woman was the one person who had the most influence on the Son of God while He was on Earth, and who, at the time of her appearance, had (and still has) the most influence on Him in Heaven. She was the one who had been responsible for teaching, by word and example, the human side of the Son of God how to love and show mercy toward others. She was and still is the Mother of God.
Why did the Mother of God appear to the three children in Fatima? To warn the world that there was a trend that was occurring in society that was moving humanity away from the sacraments and back to the sinful and decadent age that existed before the establishment of the Catholic Church. She warned the world about the growing movement toward the sins of the flesh, and the immediate need for prayer and reparation.
To prove that her appearances to the children were genuine, the Mother of God engineered the “Miracle of the Sun,” which occurred on October 13, 1917. The miracle was witnessed by more than 100,000 people and was reported in all the major newspapers throughout the world. It was a supernatural phenomenon that could not be explained by anyone.
I am writing this article on October 13, 2017, the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun. During her apparitions, the Mother of God warned that if the people of the world did not repent and turn to God in prayer, a war worse than World War I would break out. Because her message to the world was ignored, one of the greatest calamities of all time — World War II — began in 1939, and did not end until six years later. World War II turned out to be the deadliest military conflict in history, with more than 50 million people killed.
The sins of mankind have only gotten worse since the end of that war. During the past 60 years, the one gift from our Lord that helped usher in the age of mercy — the Catholic Church and the sacraments — has taken a beating throughout the world.
Marriage has been redefined to include acts of perversion. Millions of people have lost faith in and abandoned the sacraments of Holy Communion and Penance. The number of men dedicating their lives to our Lord through the Sacrament of Holy Orders is at an all-time low. Catholic Churches are being closed because millions of lapsed Catholics no longer bother to baptize their children or attend Mass.
When calamities such as hurricanes and fires kill people, wipe out thousands of acres of property, and disrupt the lives of millions of other people, the self-proclaimed gods that control our government, our public institutions, the mainstream media, and Hollywood shrug their shoulders and chalk it up to climate change.
In the meantime, there’s a maniac in North Korea who is threatening to incinerate the United States with nuclear weapons. There’s also the mullahs in Iran who are developing the capability to destroy the United States with nuclear weapons. And then there’s a much smarter and more subtle China, hiding in the wings preparing for the moment when it can conquer the United States and rule the world.
Each incremental loss of influence that has taken place within the Catholic Church, combined with the abandonment of the sacraments by members of the church, has increased the likelihood that God will allow more severe and catastrophic calamities to occur in the future.
Will we return to the days of the Old Testament when massive calamities wiped out entire nations, while causing immense suffering for those who survived? Or will we return to prayer and the sacraments where our Savior’s mercy holds back Almighty God’s hand of justice?
The choice is ours to make.
Whenever I open my drawer and see my grandfather’s knife, I’m reminded of all the occasions when we spent time together watching television, working on projects, and cleaning his laundromat.
In addition to the pocket knife, I also have a shiny, black fountain pen. Engraved in silver on the pen is the name of my other grandfather, Harry M. LaHood. My mom gave the pen to me when I was a boy. Because my mom’s dad died three days before I was born, I never had the opportunity to get to know him.
I think about both of my grandfathers on a regular basis and periodically reach out to them in prayer to ask for their help with challenges that I am facing.
I thought about the pocket knife and pen last week when one of my clients — I’ll call her Julie — made a comment to me: “I’m not Catholic, so I have no idea why Catholics would care about a vial that contains the blood of a dead pope. Can you explain to me why people would want to go look at a vial with blood in it?”
The look on Julie’s face gave away how she felt about people who would go out of their way to look at a vial of blood. She thought it was extremely bizarre that there are people who would make a special effort to pay homage to the blood of a dead person.
Julie was referring to a news report that she had seen that stated that a vial that contains the blood of Saint John Paul II was going to be on display at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, on Saturday, August 19, 2017.
How would you respond to Julie’s question?
I was not aware of the vial or the fact that it was going to be on display at the Cathedral. Later that day, I did a Google search and found an article that stated that the vial, which is normally housed at the Saint John Paul II shrine in Washington, DC, had gone “on tour” to several Catholic Churches in the United States.
The first church that displayed the vial was in Boston, which was the first city in America that Pope John Paul II traveled to in 1979. After Boston, the vial was displayed in several other major cities, including New York and Philadelphia. This past week, the vial was displayed at churches in the Central Illinois cities of Manito, Bloomington, and Normal.
I told Julie that the blood of Saint John Paul II is what we Catholics call a “relic.” I explained to her that a relic is defined as a part of a deceased person’s body that is kept as an object of reverence, or an item from the past that has historical or sentimental value to one or more people.
I told her about how I value the pocket knife and pen that were once owned by my grandfathers. I also told her that we do not worship relics — we honor and venerate them for what they represent: the heroic virtue and faith of the holy saints that the relics were taken from.
I then explained that in the Catholic Church, there are three classes of relics. A first-class relic is a part of the body of a saint. It can be a strand of hair, a fingernail, part of a bone, blood, or any other part of the body. The locks of hair that a mother saves from her baby’s first haircut are first-class relics.
A second-class relic is an item that was owned, worn, or frequently used by a saint, such as a rosary, book, shirt, or chalice. My grandfathers’ pocket knife and pen are second class relics.
A third-class relic is an object that was touched by a saint or was touched to a first- or second-class relic. The most famous third-class relic is the Shroud of Turin, the cloth that our Savior was wrapped in before he was buried.
Although the concept of passing parts of a person’s body around for others to venerate is hard to grasp for non-Catholics, Julie understood what I was saying and was willing to keep her mind open to the significance of a relic. It’s easy to understand why people who did not grow up in the Catholic faith would find the veneration of relics to be an exercise in bizarre behavior.
Something that is worth considering is that the law that God imposed on each of us to “Honor thy father and thy mother” applies whether our parents are living or deceased. It also applies to our parents’ reputations and everything that was connected to them. We would be horrified if anyone were to intentionally damage our parents’ reputation or desecrate their bodies after their deaths. It makes sense that our reverence for a person does not cease to exist when the person dies. Our reverence for the person continues, regardless of whether the person is living or deceased.
Although a relic does not possess a power of its own, God can and does sometimes grant favors through a relic. Such favors honor His saints and reward the faith and humility of the person who has requested the favor.
We know from the New Testament that people were healed by simply touching the clothing of Jesus. Matthew 14:36; Mark 5:30. While these healings were directly related to Jesus, God can certainly grant favors to others through inanimate objects, even though the objects are not directly related to Jesus.
There is evidence in the Bible that God allowed miracles to occur by the touching of inanimate objects to the skin of people who were diseased: “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that when the handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, their diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them.” Acts 19:11-12.
Even in the Protestant version of the Bible, there is an incident where a dead man who was being buried in the sepulcher of the prophet Elisha came back to life the moment his body touched the bones of the prophet. 2 Kings 13:21.
The God who performed miracles through inanimate objects during the times of the prophets and our Lord is unchanging and eternal. There is ample evidence that He continues to touch the lives of others in miraculous ways through the relics of His saints.
The first known recipe for Angel Food Cake was a recipe for “Amanda’s Angel Food Cake” which was included in the Pennsylvania Dutch Cook Book of Time Old Recipes, Culinary Arts Press, in 1936.
In his book, American Food: The Gastronomic Story, Evan Jones speculated that “angel cakes may have evolved as the result of numerous egg whites left over after the making of noodles, and may or may not be the brainchild of thrifty Pennsylvania cooks who considered it sinful to waste anything.”
What if an angel were to appear in your kitchen and teach you what you should eat and how you should prepare your food? Wouldn’t that be great? Then we wouldn’t have to rely on the government to tell us what we should and should not eat.
What if that same angel appeared to you and taught you the best way to pray to God?
While there is no record of an angel ever appearing in someone’s kitchen to teach them how to cook, there were three occasions 100 years ago when an Angel of God appeared to three young children and taught them how to pray.
The Angel’s appearances occurred in 1916, the year before the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to the same three young children in Fatima, Portugal. The purpose of the Angel’s appearances was to teach them how to pray so they would be prepared for the apparitions of the Mother of God that occurred in 1917.
Traditionally, we Catholics are accustomed to reciting four types of prayers:
There is a fifth type of prayer that we don’t hear much about — Reparation — which is prayer that makes amends for the sins of others.
In the spring of 1916, while three young Portuguese shepherds, Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, were playing in a field where their sheep were grazing, they felt a strong wind and observed the olive trees around them shaking. As they looked at the swaying trees, they saw a figure approaching above the trees.
Lucia later described the figure as having “the appearance of a young man of 14 or 15, whiter than snow, which the sun rendered transparent as if it were of crystal, and of great beauty.” She said that she and her cousins were surprised by the figure and, before they could say anything, the figure said, “Do not fear! I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me.” The Angel then knelt on the ground and bent over until his forehead touched the ground.
Lucia and her cousins imitated the Angel and repeated the words that they heard him pronounce: “My God, I believe in Thee, I adore Thee, I hope in Thee, and I love Thee. I ask pardon for all those who do not believe in Thee, do not adore Thee, do not hope in Thee, and do not love Thee.”
After repeating the prayer three times, the Angel got up and said, “Pray in this way. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.” Then he disappeared.
Lucia said that after their experience with the Angel, “the supernatural atmosphere which enveloped us was so intense that, during a long moment, we barely realized the fact of our own existence. We remained in the position in which the angel had left us, repeating the same prayer. The presence of God made itself felt in such an intense and intimate manner, that we did not dare even to speak any longer among ourselves. The next day, we still felt our spirit enveloped in this atmosphere which only disappeared very slowly.”
The Angel visited the children again during the summer of 1916, while they were playing around their favorite well. When the Angel appeared, he asked, “What are you doing?” Then he said, “Pray, pray a great deal! The Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. Offer unceasingly prayers and sacrifice yourselves to the Most High.”
In the fall of 1916, while the children were in the field reciting the prayer the Angel had taught them, an unknown light appeared in front of them. Lucia later wrote, “We got up again to see what was happening and we saw the Angel again, who had in his left hand a Chalice over which was suspended a Host, from which some drops of Blood fell into the Chalice.”
Lucia said that while the Angel left the Chalice and the Host suspended in the air, he prostrated himself down on the ground near the children and repeated the following prayer three times:
Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifferences by which He, Himself is offended. And I draw upon the infinite merits of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that You might convert poor sinners.