Tuesday, December 12, 2017

(199) A Homecoming to the Great Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City

AMDG

The original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe which is behind the main altar and visible from any point in the new circular Basilica.  The image miraculously appeared on the tilma of St. Juan Diego on December 12, 1531 and is still vibrant close to 500 years later.  The tilma made from the Maguey Cactus should have deteriorated in 15 years.   The black tassel indicates that Mary is pregnant with the Christ child.  The image is full of symbols that amounted to a message that the Indians easily understood.  Aside from an image of Mary in the Catacombs, this is probably the only authentic portrait of Mary in existence…….as she actually looked on Earth.




























      In April 1965 52 years ago the Archdiocese of Baltimore, my sponsor, placed me for a month in the home of a Mexican family to improve my Spanish in preparation for lay missionary work as a Papal Volunteer in Peru.  That was after a two month stay at Madonna House, a lay institute in Combermere, Ontario for spiritual formation.  It just so happened that the home where I stayed in Mexico City was only a 15 minute walk away from the great Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.   

       I was enthralled by the Shrine and its history and went there every day after my Spanish Class at the Instituto Cultural Mejicano-Norte Americano in downtown Mexico City.  Mary must have sent me there; my birth mother and I consecrated ourselves to her when I was about 13 years old and my wife Jaga and I renewed it a couple of times recently. 
The Shrine in 1965.  An American, Helen Behrens, ran an English Information Office and among other things sold a booklet guide and history of some 70 pages which she wrote.  There was at least one or two American priests who heard confessions in English and gave spiritual direction.  Easter was a festive occasion with Indian dances.  The biggest day of the year for the Shrine is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, a national holy day, also observed by Mexican Americans here.
The old Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe constructed in 1709.  Notice that the Basilica and adjacent building are actually sinking into the moist sandy soil, once a lake bed.  Behind the Basilica is Tepeyac Hill, where Mary actually appeared to St. Juan Diego December 9 - 12, 1531.  The original church still stands there as seen in the background.  Looking closely, people can be seen walking on their knees to the main altar.  The gates have since been replaced.    
       The old 18th Century Basilica overlooks a large plaza.  The right side had been slowly sinking into the soft soil, once part of a lake.  Many pilgrims would enter the main gate and then walk 150 yards on their knees to the main altar with the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe behind it. Each apparition of Mary has a special purpose.  For example, at Lourdes, France in 1858 Mary appeared to St. Bernadette 26 times to have a Shrine built where she would console and heal her children physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually.  Mary appeared at Fatima, Portugal in 1917 to warn the people of the world that they must repent or the dire consequences of sin would follow.  She also promoted the Rosary and asked the people to make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners.  See my blogs #95, 96, 125, and 177 in Appendix II. 

 
Walking on his knees from the entrance of the plaza to the main altar as penance.

      Mary’s mission in Mexico City (December 9 – 12, 1531) was to establish the Faith among the Indians and to ask that a church be built where she would be a loving mother to millions of her children, nurturing their faith and bringing wayward souls to her Son in the turbulent centuries that followed.  At the time December 9 was the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
                               Juan Diego presenting the roses to the Bishop

As a sign of the authenticity of her heavenly message, Mary asked St. Juan Diego (canonized by St. John Paul II in 2002) to carry Castilian Roses (native to Spain that do not grow in Mexico, certainly not in cold December) that she personally placed in his tilma to give them to Bishop Zumarraga with her request for a church.  Miraculously, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on his tilma as shown above.  It is full of symbols that the Indians easily understood, amounting to a message.   The tilma should have deteriorated in about 15 years, but is still vibrant as ever close to 500 years later.  I covered the history of Our Lady of Guadalupe in greater detail and explained the meaning of the message and symbols of the image in my blogs #104, 105, and 106.  The links are in Appendix II. 
Previously Bishop Zumarraga was very worried about the inhumane treatment of the Indians by the Conquistadores and feared a bloody uprising.  Conversion of the Indians had been progressing very slowly.  He had to secretly send a message of protest to the King of Spain so that the local authorities would not intercept it.  Naturally the Bishop prayed fervently over the situation and asked the Lord to send him Castillian roses as a sign that his prayers were being heard.  Mary took care of that.    

Mary, the ultimate missionary, brought nine million Indians to the Faith by 1540, making up for the losses due to the Protestant Reformation.  That was probably the largest mass conversion in world history.  Previously, the Spanish missionaries were able to convert only a few.   Mary was a source of strength during colonial times; the fight for independence from Spain, sparked by Fr. Manuel Hidalgo in 1810 – 1821; the loss of Texas, California, and the southwest in a war with the United States in 1848; numerous revolutions; political instability, economic crises; a very bloody persecution of the Church in the 1920s which ignited the Cristero War, etc.  
One mystic asked Mary: “Where were you through all of this?”  Mary is said to have answered:  “I was there all the time.”  She got them through it all as the Lord willed.  Go to my blogs #42, 120, 132, & 181 as well as http://www.history.com/topics/mexico/mexico-timeline for a timeline of Mexican history and a movie.
       Through 30 days at her shrine in Mexico Mary gave me my start in Peru on May 1, 1965 and prayed me through the next 14 years plus.…….teaching Chemistry, the Methodology of Science Teaching Business, and Economic Development at the Marianist Universidad Católica de Santa María in Arequipa; giving  short courses to in-service science teachers; giving talks; writing articles/editorials on the Faith, science, community problems, the economy, etc. for the local newspapers and radios; working with the handicapped; and promoting vocations.  The experience included being pick pocketed three times, having my watch stolen right off my wrist, accusations of being a CIA agent, giving a talk to a hostile anti-American audience, Marxist student strikes, riots, martial law, climbing a 19,000 foot volcano, a week in jail, and more.
The new Basilica built in 1976.  It has a circular floorplan so that the image of the Virgin can be seen from any point in the building.  The New Basilica has nine chapels on the upper floor. Its crypts beneath the main floor house 15,000 niches and 10 chapels.  Its seven front doors are an allusion to the seven gates of Celestial Jerusalem referred to by Christ.

Fast forward to January 2017 when we visited our son and daughter in Dallas, Texas.  Jaga got the bright idea of making a three day pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.  It was a homecoming!    The changes over 52 years were startling……..a magnificent new basilica, baptistery, expansion of the plaza to include a stage, an underground parking garage, an Evangelization Center Pavilion, a public market pavilion with restaurants instead of makeshift stalls, a new museum, beautiful landscaping and gardens, better security, etc. 
But to my dismay, they went backwards in one very important aspect.  Except for English speakers at the information centers, there is very little for Canadians, Americans, and other international pilgrims, most of whom speak English……no English Information Center and no full time English speaking priests.  This would be a great apostolate for a retired American priest.  See Appendix I for three projects that I proposed to the Knights of Columbus, but would also be good for other organizations as well.

      Being more comfortable confessing in English, I was directed to a wonderful 93 year old Mexican priest by the name of Padre Dr. Jesús Soto, who heard my confession in his Casa Sacerdotal (Priests’ House) with the help of an English-Spanish missal and a magnifying glass.  During that time of intense persecution, he said that the Cristeros hid the image in a private home.
                        A panoramic view of the immense plaza with an Aztec calendar on the right.      
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe attracts about 20 million pilgrims each year, more than any other Christian shrine, more than double the second largest, Lourdes (8 million) and Fatima (5 million). The Hindu shrines in India attract many more. Among the notables that have visited the Shrine are:  the last three popes, President John Kennedy, and President Charles DeGaule of France.
























                          Picnic time and rest in the Plaza.
       
Whole towns make annual pilgrimages, each with a group of several hundred pilgrims.  On a Saturday a town's participation might number well over a thousand pilgrims.  One group that included students invited me for breakfast and we had a good time.  They were waiting for others who chose to walk the 20 miles.  On Saturday, our last day, thousands came up the Avenida Guadalupe to the main entrance and we had a hard time walking in the opposite direction against the current back to our hotel……ideal for pick pocketeers.


               Going up the Avenida Guadalupe to the main entrance of the Shrine.


It’s cold walking to the Shrine in the early January morning, but by noon it’s pleasantly warm.  The street cleaners were out in force with their brooms since 4 or 5 am, working hard on the park like island separating the six lanes of the Avenida de Guadalupe.  Heartwarming was my encounter with a wrinkled old woman.  After I thanked her for keeping her area so beautiful and clean, she replied: “I do this for la Virgen de Guadalupe”.  Her menial work is an act of love.  She’s going to make it to Heaven before all of us.   May we do likewise with our jobs and housework…….. “Ad majorem Dei gloriam” or “All for the greater glory of God”, the Jesuit motto.
There’s daily Mass on the hour from 6 am to 8 pm, each attended by at least one or two hundred pilgrims while confessions are going on.  The miraculous image is above the main altar.  One can obtain a closer look by going to the crypt and standing on a moving belt under the image.  In the back of the Basilica is a showcase with a cross bent by a terrorist bomb in 1921 that could not even scratch the image just above it.  In the crypt there is a large gift shop and information center.  Just outside is another information booth where a priest blesses the medals, rosaries, etc.A major event in the Basilica.  The circular design without supports allows for an unobstructed view from practically any location inside as well as outside when the attendance exceeds capacity and pilgrims must stand in the plaza. 
Leaving the Basilica and turning left, we pass the Baptistery where thousands of babies from all over Mexico are baptized.  Just above it is the beautiful Recinto de Cristo Rey with the Beatitudes and plants lining the path to a statue of Christ the King and memorial to the thousands of martyrs of the Cristero War.  Their rallying cry was: “Viva Cristo Rey” or Hail Christ the King.  The Recinto Memorial gave the message that the Cristeros and the martyrs did not die in vain.  Even though they were betrayed in 1929, they did achieve eventual victory.  Today Mexico is still a secular state, but there is relative religious freedom that they laid down their lives for.  And Mary had a significant part in that victory.  The statue of Christ the King seemed to say: “THE GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL” (Matthew 16:18). 

       Proceeding further, we climbed to the chapel on the top of Tepeyac Hill where Mary actually appeared to St. Juan Diego.  The Aztecs named  the hill, Tepeyac, which means mother goddess which they adored.  The old basilica and chapels are full of beautiful Spanish colonial art. 

                  A view of Tepeyac Hill and its chapel where Mary appeared.  On the right is the museum.
Lodging. We stayed in the modern Hotel Ferri at Sara 4605, about ten blocks away and only $35 per night via the internet or phone 5759-4833.  We made friends with Diego Londono, a pilgrim from Colombia, who took us to a delightful group of contemplative nuns (Orden de la Inmaculada Concepción) who house pilgrims at $10 per night plus meals a couple of blocks from the Shrine (for reservations e-mail concepcion_beatriz@yahoo.com.mx or phone 55-77-07-31) at Francisco Morenos 122.  There we met Fr. Dan Leary, who brought an American family with their child to seek healing for her brain tumor. 
Transportation. The nuns put us in contact with a taxi driver named Jorge Taboada Cortes, whom they use all the time.  What a great guy!  He charges $12 to the Airport and would take a group of six for an all day tour of Mexico City for $80.  Of course there’s also buses and a well developed and extensive subway system. 
This fascinating shrine is right under our noses; let’s take advantage of it.  After seeing the fervor of thousands of pilgrims each day, especially on Saturday, one can conclude that today the faith is alive and well in Mexico due in great part to Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, although considerable evangelization is necessary.  See http://nanotube.msu.edu/SMG.html for more detail in regard to visiting the Shrine.
APPENDIX I
Proposed Projects for the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe
The Knights of Columbus has had a special attachment to Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is not only the patroness of Mexico, but all of the Americas.   In 2012 the Knights of Columbus financed 50 pilgrim images that visited a church near every council in the USA.  I was very much part of it in our parish, participating with a procession in regalia, Mass, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and adoration in the presence of her image.  The underwriting of the movie “For Greater Glory” inspired in me an intense interest in San José Sanchez del Rios and the Cristero War.  I wrote several articles whose links are attached.  In addition, we have a number of councils in Mexico and six of their knights were martyred in the accompanying persecutions and are now canonized saints.   
Our Lady of Guadalupe is our patroness too and Americans hardly know anything about her.  If they do, they are afraid to make a pilgrimage, stay in a hotel in Mexico City, struggle with the language barrier, and walk the streets at night.  For a modestly priced comfortable and secure hotel, we had to walk a half hour in the morning and again in the evening……..good exercise of course.
Thus I propose three projects:
1) Sponsor and/or run an English Information Center.  It could be a small or large room in the crypt of the Basilica adjacent to the Basilica Store or adjacent to another religious store to the right of the old basilica.  It would guide pilgrims and sell books on the shrine, the Cristero War, and Mexico in English.  It could also make available Knights of Columbus materials for recruiting and guide pilgrims to the Knights of Columbus Memorial in item #2 and the retreat house/hotel in item #3.  The Basilica could sell religious articles there as well.
2) Finance a memorial to the Knights of Columbus martyrs in the new Plazoleta or Recinto de Cristo Rey to the right of the new basilica and baptistery.  The recinto or garden was awe inspiring to me.  The beatitudes line the path which leads to a large statue of Christ the King with the inscription “Viva Cristo Rey”.  It gave the message that the Cristeros and the martyrs did not die in vain.  Even though they were betrayed in 1929, they did achieve eventual victory.  Today Mexico is still a secular state, but there is religious freedom that they laid down their lives for.  After seeing the fervor of thousands of pilgrims each day, especially on Saturday, one can conclude that today the faith is alive and well and Mexico.  Of course much remains to be done in evangelization.  
3) Build and manage a retreat house/hotel within a block of the shrine.  It could be 3 to 5 stories (land is scarce there) with at least 100 rooms.  Councils or a district of councils could send their men there for a pilgrimage/retreat.  Knights would have preference, but if there is space, pilgrims from all over the world would be welcome.  It would have English speaking clerks and at least one resident priest (that would be great for a retired American priest who speaks some Spanish as a Maryknoller).  The resident priest would serve as a spiritual director or retreat master and help the pilgrims to obtain maximum spiritual benefit, as an individual, family, or group of any size.  If well promoted in the Columbia Magazine or state newspaper, pilgrimages could take off.  In time the retreat house/hotel would pay for itself.
Items #1 and #2 could be quickly done and would not be expensive.  Item #3 is a major project that would require considerable planning, negotiating, and financing.  For items #1 and #2 perhaps you could first talk with the Director of the Basilica, Monseñor Enrique Glennie Graue.  The Information Center next to the religious store could put you in contact with him.  Regarding the retreat house/hotel, perhaps your delegation could look into the feasibility and perhaps start preliminary talks with the authorities when you are in Mexico City.
APPENDIX II
Articles on the Knights of Columbus, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexican Persecutions, and the Cristero War – Accesible at http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com.

My blogs #145 & #153 at give a good idea of what Council 3335 does.  Blog #39 has a “Knight’s Prayer”, #106 describes the Pilgrim Virgin of Guadalupe the KofC sponsored, #126 is about Christopher Columbus, #143 on the Rosary in the Park, #146 honors the 60th Wedding Anniversary of our former grand knight to promote long lasting marriages, #153 on our monthly newsletter, #154 protests Council 3548 honoring a pro-abortion governor,  #166 Knights promote the true meaning of Christmas, #170 on the Kof C Free Throw Contest for the developmentally handicapped, #172 on the death of our very faithful brother knight, #173 on Council 3335 Awards,  #181 on the role of the KofC in resisting the Mexican persecutions..  

The “Knight’s Prayer” might be good for the Columbia Magazine.  That is 
(39) A Knight’s Prayer to Christ, His King and the Knights of Columbus 

http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2011/11/39-knights-prayer-to-christ-his-king.html

Articles relating to Latin America, particularly Mexico include Blogs #22 on San Martín de Porres, #42 on Blessed R.P. Miguel Pro during the Mexican persecutions,  #104 – 106 on Our Lady of Guadalupe, #120 on the Cristero War, #132 on Blessed José Sanchez del Rio, #181 on the Mexican Martyrs.

                     Articles relating to Latin America, particularly Mexico include Blogs #22 on San Martín de Porres, #42 on Blessed R.P. Miguel Pro during the Mexican persecutions,  #104 – 106 on Our Lady of Guadalupe, #120 on the Cristero War, #132 on Blessed José Sanchez del Rio, #181 on the Mexican Martyrs.  The Fatima articles are also included.

  #120 The Cristero War: The Historical Context of "For Greater Glory", the Star Studded Movie http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2013/08/120-movie-for-greater-glory-and-its.html

    #132 Blessed José Sanchez del Rio: Boy Martyr & Real Soldier of Christ..........His Participation in the Cristero War & the Intense Persecution of the Church by the Government of Mexico

     #181 VIVA CRISTO REY: THOUSANDS DIED FOR THE FREEDOM TO PROCLAIM IT......The Role of the Knights of Columbus for Religious Liberty Against Persecution of the Church in Mexico http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2016/11/181-viva-cristo-rey-thousands-died-for.html

           #104 Our Lady of Guadalupe (I): Binding the Americas Together 

      #105 Our Lady of Guadalupe (II): Mary's Message to us in the Image

#106 Review of the visit of the Pilgrim Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Marian Prayer Prograof the Knights of Columbus at St. Louis Church Gallipolis December 11-16, 2012

      #22 Learning From St. Martin de Porres
       http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2011/11/learning-from-st-martin-de-porres.html

      #42 Blessed Padre Miguel Pro S.J.: 20th Century Mexican Martyr for Christ the King
http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2011/11/martyr-for-christ-king.html 

#65 The Papal Volunteers for Latin America (PAVLA) After 50 Years V - Long Range Effects & What Are They Doing Now?  See also Blogs #61, 62, 63, and 64.

      #95 International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima Visit; Its History & Message 

      #96 International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima Visit (II): Its History & Consecration of the World to        the  Immaculate Heart  http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2012/10/blog-post.html

      #125 World History and the Power of the Rosary & Mary's Intercession..........The War on Terror is just       another chapter in a 1300 year war between Radical Islam and Christian Western Civilization

      #177 The Consecration to the Immaculate Heart and the Course of World History



































Sunday, December 3, 2017

(198) MAY THE OBSERVANCE OF THE QUINCENTENNIAL OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION LEAD TO CHURCH UNITY……What the Catholic Church Has to Offer Our Separated Brethren

AMDG

Pope Francis helps to commemorate the quincentennial of the Protestant Reformation as an ecumenical gestureEcumenism focuses on what unites us more than what divides us.  Since the world is in a great spiritual cultural war against atheistic secularism, it is time to fight together instead of fighting each other.  Ecumenism seeks mutual understanding and cooperation through humble and loving dialogue in search for the truth, wherever it may lead us. “That all may be one”…….Pray for Church unity.  


       This year 2017 marks 500 years since the schism against the Catholic Church which history calls the Protestant Reformation.  The Reformation is usually dated to October 31, 1517 in Wittenberg, Germany, when Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, sent his Ninety-Five Theses on mostly Indulgences and Purgatory to the Archbishop of Mainz and posted them on the doors of the cathedral there.  He made more changes later and took out seven books from the Bible ostensibly because they were not written in Hebrew (Tobit, Judith, 1st & 2nd Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach & Baruch – see http://www.ewtn.com/v/experts/showmessage.asp?number=438095).  Centuries later they were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  
During the rest of the 16th century, other reformers followed with their own versions…….Zwingli, Calvin, King Henry VIII, Tyndale, Knox, Wesley, etc.  Towards the end of the 16th Century, Europe was divided among the Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, Hussites, Unitarians, Anabaptists, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholics (see  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c7/The_Protestant_Reformation.svg).  A group of people with a leader within a church would disagree on an issue or two and then form their own church.  Even today in little Gallia County in southeastern Ohio, a group of people disagreed with their pastor and went off to form their own church.  In all there are some 35,000 different Christian religions.  Over the centuries, there were a number of persecutions and wars over religion.  See Appendix I on the origin of common Protestant denominations.

       Almost 500 years before in 1054, the Eastern Church broke away from Rome.  In the year 610 Muhammad claimed divine revelations and started his own religion, Islam which has roots in Christianity and Judaism.  Islam acknowledges Jesus, David, Moses, Abraham, Noah, and Adam as prophets.   The Quran devotes the entire Chapter 19 to Mary as the most perfect woman that God ever created.  After Muhammad died, Islam divided into factions, the Sunnis (85% majority) and the Shiites, for example, who disagree on his successor. For a timeline, see http://www.pbs.org/muhammad/timeline_html.shtml

Mary, the ultimate missionary as Our Lady of Guadalupe here, made up for the losses of the Protestant Reformation by bringing 9 million Indians to the Faith.  Above Mary arranges the flowers in the tilma of Juan Diego to present to Bishop Zumaraga as a sign of authenticity of her desire for a church to be built on the site where she could give her love to millions and nurture their faith.  See Blogs #104 and 105 for more detail.
Division and Steps to Unity. The Devil, whose root comes from the word division, certainly is happy with a world divided…….nations, communities, families, etc.  He must have been very active through it all.  The Protestant Reformation fractured a previously united Catholic Church in the West; about a third of its members broke away although Our Lady of Guadalupe made up for that loss by bringing 9 million Indians into the Church by 1540. 

Is this division, strife, violence, persecution, and chaos of today and the last 14 centuries what the Lord wanted?  After all Christ did say: “that they may all be one” (John 17:21).  Especially since the 2nd Ecumenical Council (Vatican II 1962-65), the Church has been promoting Ecumenism to obtain Church unity as God would want.  

In 1999 after extensive ecumenical dialogue, the Catholic Church's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the Lutheran World Federation reached agreement on Justification by faith and good works, an issue of contention for centuries.  (For greater detail on the Joint Declaration on Justification, click on

     Even Pope Francis joined the commemoration of the 500th anniversary as an ecumenical gesture.  You can read his speech at
http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/10/31/full-text-popes-homily-at-service-for-500th-anniversary-of-reformation/.  They are talking to each other.  That’s progress and hope. That’s love.

From one point of view, the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century is the greatest tragedy to hit Christendom since the Schism of 1054 when the Eastern Church separated because of some theological differences and the politics of power.  Today they are generally referred to as the Eastern Orthodox.  In reality the Orthodox are very close to the Catholic Church in regard to doctrine and liturgy.  In fact the Catholic Church recognizes the Orthodox liturgy and sacraments as valid and welcomes their members to the Eucharist.  The big stumbling block now is not doctrinal, but Papal authority.
     
In the 17th Century a number of them returned to Rome under different rites in which they were allowed to keep their traditions and liturgy (1590 Union of Brest, the 1655 Union of Uzhgorod, etc.).  These rites do not violate any dogma, but conform to the cultures of Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and India.    The largest of the eastern rites is the Byzantine.  St. Pope John Paul II referred to the eastern rites as one lung of the Church and the Latin Rite (which we belong to) or Roman Catholics as the other lung.  The Vatican has allowed several Episcopalian parishes and their priests to be what amounts to a sort of sub-rite within the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.  For a great article detailing the different rites, go to https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/the-other-catholics-a-short-guide-to-the-eastern-catholic-churches.html.
   
The Counter-Reformation.  Fallen people in a fallen world sin.  Yes, there were abuses at the time of the Protestant Reformation.  There was corruption and laxity.  Indulgences were being sold.  There were corrupt popes.  The Papacy was often very political.  However, corrupt priests, religious, and laity take nothing away from the truth of the Magisterium (Church teaching); “the gates of Hell shall not prevail”.  Authentic reform without compromising Church doctrine was urgently needed.  

As always in times of great crisis, God raised up great reformer saints (See Appendix II) such as St. Charles Boromeo, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, St. Francis de Sales, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Vincent de Paul, St Philip Neri, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Thomas More, etc.  Pope Paul III convened the Council of Trent in 1545 and continued off and on to 1563 in 26 sessions.  If only Martin Luther (1483-1546) had been more patient in working for reform!  Reform from within did come to the Church in the Counter-Reformation.  It is said that Luther had regrets with that separation on his deathbed.



What Our Separated Brethren Would Gain From Unity. One Lutheran pastor complained about all the infighting over doctrine among the synods.  I facetiously remarked:  “What you guys need is a Pope”.  Christ gave the Papacy to us as a gift when He said to Peter:  "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.  And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound, even in heaven. And whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed, even in heaven.”  (Matthew 16:18-19).  Only the Catholic Church can trace itself through papal succession to St. Peter and Christ Himself.



 What the early Church fathers (those who knew the apostles or their protégés) believed remains today as Church teaching in a remarkable consistency of belief over the centuries.  His infallibility on solemn decrees on faith and morals (rarely used) gives the Pope great moral authority.  When everyone interprets the Bible in his or her own way, there is confusion and chaos.  The Magisterium of the Church gives uniformity and consistency as shown in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).
    
       The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Eucharist.  The very biblical Mass makes present the Last Supper, the Sacrifice of Calvary in an unbloody manner, and the Resurrection in a mysterious way that transcends time (CCC 1330).  Christ, through the priest, sacrifices Himself to the Father in reparation for the sins of the world.  The Jews sacrificed an unblemished lamb to God and then consumed it.  We offer the Eucharist (the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ Himself), the Lamb of God to the Father and then consume it as the bread of life and food for the soul (John 6:53).  


        Thus we receive Christ Himself into our hearts for a few precious minutes.  This miracle at every Mass is certainly not beyond the creator of the universe.  Only Catholics (& Orthodox) believe in transubstantiation.  By attending Mass every Sunday for a year, one receives the highlights of the entire Bible.  For more detail read my blog article #171 The Awesomeness of the Mass and the Eucharist
http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2016/05/171-awesomeness-of-mass-and-eucharista.html and blog article #189. Why Eucharistic Adoration? What Can You Do During Adoration? Not Boring, Even Exciting
http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2017/06/189-why-eucharistic-adoration-what-can.html.

Exposition of the Eucharist or the Blessed Sacrament
       The Eucharist is present in the tabernacle of every Catholic Church 24/7 accompanied by a sanctuary light.  Thus when one enters a Catholic church, one may sense a certain presence as opposed to another church, especially when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.  The Eucharist is the source, the center, and the summit of the Catholic faith and life (see (CCC 1324 or click on 
http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a3.htm    and/or http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2005/brumley_eucharist1_aug05.asp).  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) details, explains, and clarifies Catholic belief.  The book is on line at http://ccc.usccb.org/flipbooks/catechism or http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM.         
       The Sacraments, outward signs instituted by Christ to give grace, are the Church’s treasures.  There are seven: Baptism, Reconciliation (in which our sins are forgiven), the Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick.  Each sacrament is a source of special graces for a different purpose.
     
       Mary as our Mother is Christ’s gift to us from the cross (John 19:26-27).  Her role is to nurture our faith and to bring us to her son, to pray for us, to intercede for us, to console us, etc.  She adds another dimension to the faith.  Mary is the ultimate model of woman and mother.  The only religion where a woman has a prominent role is the Catholic Church and the Orthodox as well.  We ask Mary to pray for us as I would ask you to pray for me.

       The saints are persons of unusual holiness and heroic virtue for us to honor and emulate as models.  Every person can find a saint with whom s/he can identify and ask for intercession and prayers.  Devotions to Mary and the saints are optional.  Canonized saints are similar to members of a Hall of Fame that we honor.
  
Devotions. The Church has a richness, tradition, and depth that no denomination can match.  This can be found in the optional devotions…….adoration & prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction, the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, retreats, healing services, a treasury of great books that explain and amplify the Faith and other spiritual works handed down by the great saints, etc.  The Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office is the universal prayer of the Church, required of the clergy and religious (priests, brothers, monks, and nuns) and recommended for the laity.

Redemptive Suffering is a concept practiced by many  Catholics that does not contradict common Protestant beliefs.  It is a part of Catholic culture, but there is no obligation to believe or practice it.  A person, who is suffering due to illness, injury, failure, or some other misfortune, has a cross to bear.  “Every man has a cross to bear.”  This calls to mind Colossians 1:24 and Matthew 16:24…….."Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”  We have the opportunity to unite our cross with the Lord’s cross and offer it up as a dynamic prayer for a particular intention such as Mary advocated at Fatima…….”for the conversion of sinners”.  Thus we can give positive meaning to suffering by making it productive and allowing the cross to bring us closer to God. 

Share our faith with others as opportunities arise and bring them to the fold.  Christ commanded us to do so (Matt 18:19-20), not only the apostles.  Don’t just keep the faith, SPREAD IT……..in little or big ways by prayer and example, word and deed.

RESOURCES



APPENDIX I

WHO STARTED YOUR CHURCH?

I was praying for Pope Francis this morning and it occurred to me that one fact got very little attention in the media circus that surrounded the Conclave. Today, there are officially more than 30,000 different Christian churches, all teaching different doctrines. How did this splintering and division happen?
It all began about 400 years ago...

If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517. This is the oldest of the Protestant churches and began the splintering process.

The Anabaptist religion splintered from the Lutherans in 1520, founded by Nicholas Storch and Thomas Munzer.

If you are a Mennonite your religion is an offshoot of the Anabaptist church founded in 1525 and takes its name from Menno Simons, a former Catholic priest.

If you are Anglican, you belong to the Church of England and your religion was founded by King Henry VIII in the year 1534 because the Pope would not grant him a divorce with the right to remarry.

If you are a Presbyterian, your religion was founded by John Knox in Scotland in the year 1560.

If you are a Protestant Episcopalian, your religion was an offshoot of the Church of England founded by Samuel Seabury in the American colonies in the 17th century.

If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1605.

If you are a Congregationalist, your religion was originated by Robert Brown in Holland in 1582.

If you are a Quaker, your religion was foundered in 1647 by George Fox in England.

If you are Amish, your Church was foundered by Jacob Anman in 1693.

If you are a Methodist, your religion was launched by John and Charles Wesley in  
England in 1744.

If you are a Unitarian, Theophilus Lindley founded your church in London in 1774.

If you are Episcopalian your religion was foundered in 1784 by Samuel Seabury in the American Colonies and is an offshoot of the Church of England.

If you are a Mormon (Latter Day Saints), Joseph Smith started your religion in Palmyra, N.Y., in 1829.

If you are of the Dutch Reformed Church, you recognize Michaelis Jones as founder, because he originated your religion in New York in 1628.

If you worship with the Salvation Army, your sect began with William Booth in London in 1865.

If you are a Christian Scientist, you look to 1879 as the year in which your religion was born and to Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy as its founder.

If you are a member of the Assemblies of God, your religion was foundered by Charles Parham in Topeka, Kansas, in 1901.

If you belong to the Church of the Nazarene, your religion was started in 1908.

If you are a Jehovah's Witness, your religion was foundered by Charles Taze Russell in 1931.

If you have stopped attending church, you founded your own religion and appointed yourself pope on day/month/year?

If you are Catholic, you belong to the Church that was founded around the year 33 by Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Jesus appointed the first Pope (Matthew 16:19) and as Catholics we can trace our apostolic lineage from Peter to Pope Francis. There is something incredibly beautiful and inspiring about that.

For more than 1500 years all Christians were united in one Church. The splintering that has taken place since that fateful day in 1517 when Martin Luther walked away from the Catholic Church has been a failed experiment. Let us pray for Christian unity.

Pope Francis is already captivating the world in his early days. I pray he continues to, so together, we may all re-prose the genius of Catholicism to the people of our times.

-Matthew Kelly 
DynamicCatholic.com
Be Bold. Be Catholic.

APPENDIX II

Great Saints of the Catholic (Counter -) Reformation
St. Ignatius Loyola
–Spain, 1491-1556

St. Theresa of Avila
–Spain, 1515-1582

St. Pius V – Italy (Pope)
1504-1572

St. Charles Borromeo
1538-1584

Alessandro Valignano
–Italy, 1539-1606 (not a saint)

St. Jean-Baptiste de la Salle
–France, 1651-1719

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
– France, 1647-1690