August 20, 2009
August 19, 2009
The MRI today showed that my brain tumor is the same size as it was 2 months ago - Deo Gratias.
I leave this weekend for St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, so I may not be able to post for quite some time. Please keep all of the Diocese of Raleigh seminarians in your prayers as we begin the new academic year:
August 18, 2009
August 15, 2009
Please keep Mark and Jiza Zito in your prayers, as they were married today in the Our Lady of Victory chapel on the Norfolk Naval Base. I have been friends with them both for many years, so it was a joy to share this day with them.
The chapel set up for the Solemn High Mass:
The newlywed couple:
August 11, 2009
The chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal:
Saint Catherine Labouré (May 2, 1806 – December 31, 1876) was a sister of the Daughters of Charity and a Marian visionary who relayed the request from the Blessed Virgin Mary to create the Miraculous Medal worn by millions of Catholics today.
Saint Catherine stated that on the night of July 18, 1830 she woke up after hearing the voice of a child calling her to the chapel, where she heard the Virgin Mary say to her, "God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear; you will have the grace to do what is necessary. Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in France and in the world."
On November 27, 1830, Saint Catherine reported that the Blessed Mother returned during evening meditations. She displayed herself inside an oval frame, standing upon a globe, wearing many rings of different colours, most of which shone rays of light over the globe. Around the margin of the frame appeared the words "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee." As Catherine watched, the frame seemed to rotate, showing a circle of twelve stars, a large letter M surmounted by a cross, and the stylized Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary underneath. Asked why some of her rings did not shed light, Mary reportedly replied "Those are the graces for which people forget to ask." Catherine then heard Mary ask her to take these images to her father confessor, telling him that they should be put on medallions. "All who wear them will receive great graces."
Saint Catherine did so, and after two years' worth of investigation and observation of Catherine's normal daily behavior, the priest took the information to his archbishop without revealing Catherine's identity. The request was approved and medallions began to be produced.
The walls outside of the chapel are lined with stones thanking Mary for answered prayers:
The body of Saint Catherine Labouré:
August 8, 2009
Besides kindly loaning me his extra apartment in the 16th Arrondissement of Paris, Henri invited me to his new apartment for dinner on the Feast of the Transfiguration. Amélie joined us, as well as Henri's father from the French-colonized island (and overseas French département) of Réunion.
Henri is remodeling his apartment to give it a more Ancien Régime/Versailles look:
King Louis XV:
For the Feast Day, he prepared a nice meal of pork chops and champignons (mushrooms) de Paris:
August 5, 2009
I arrived in Paris on Monday night, but didn't get around to seeing much the next day. My friend Henri (of Paris TLM choirmaster fame) loaned me his extra apartment in the 16th Arrondissement (western edge) of Paris. It is a very nice place!
Today I saw a few places in Paris, and tomorrow I hope to visit Versailles (Vive l'ancien regime)!
I left the apartment and went past the Arc de Triomphe:
Then to Montmartre, the highest point in Paris:
Next I went to Pere Lachaise cemetery, where some of the most beautiful tombs have been constructed:
Whenever pilgrims come to Lourdes in a large group, they are usually invited to lead a few prayers in their native languages. During the last Rosary Procession, I took a short video of the Hail Mary sung in Sri Lanka's Tamil language:
Afterwards, a drink with my friend Fr. Sean Riley from the Diocese of Liverpool, England:
August 4, 2009
More photos from the Mass at Sacred Heart in Dunn celebrated by Fr. Beaugrand, IBP. Sacred Heart's pastor, Father Parkerson, served as Assistant Priest:
August 3, 2009
August 2, 2009
Pilgrims have been visiting Lourdes every day for 150 years. It is estimated that 6 million pilgrims visit Lourdes every year. That is 50,000 a day, yet there have been only 66 verified "miraculous cures" here. If one is motivated by statistics, coming to Lourdes to be miraculously cured in a physical sense is probably a waste of time.
But people still come, sometimes over and over again, knowing that their chances of being physically cured are quite slim.
Just last week I was invited to dinner with the Lourdes "Board of Doctors" which verifies alleged miraculous cures in Lourdes. The last approved miraculous cure was in the 1980's, but the board continues to examine alleged healings. In fact, they are present every afternoon when the sick are given a special blessing by a bishop holding the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance. One of the doctors explained that they stand behind the bishop during this blessing to show that "it is God who heals, we are just His earthly instruments."
I've been thinking a lot during my trip here, and one point keeps coming to mind as I dodge the thousands of wheelchairs every day. What is the "true spirit" of Lourdes - is it physical healing, or something even greater? Many people treat Lourdes water like a magic potion. They drink the water, touch the grotto, take their pictures, and then leave for the next tourist site in France. They miss the real message.
So, have only 66 miracles come from here? During the past 4 weeks, I have come to know many of the priests who serve as confessors. Of course they can not break the seal of confession or give me specifics, but they are always touched by their service as confessors. People come to Lourdes and their hearts are softened - they change their ways and return to the Church. Often times, atheists and agnostics come here because they feel a "pull," and their hearts are softened as they come to know Christ. Our Lady softens their hearts.
These miracles which happen every day can not be counted, quantified, or measured, but I would argue that they are the most amazing and miraculous. God is omnipotent and can do anything. God can cure cancer with a "snap of His fingers." In one instant, God can take away any ailment, illness, or malady. However, God has given us free will - he allows us to choose whether or not to open our hearts to His grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
Every day here in Lourdes, hearts are softened. By their own free will, many people are inspired to repent and change their lives. Is this not the true spirit of Lourdes? The Blessed Virgin asked Saint Bernadette (and all of us) to do penance for sinners. By living in Lourdes, one can see the fruits of these acts of penance every day.
Even if miraculous physical healings are rare, let us continue to pray for the sick who draw strength from this holy shrine. One sees hearts change every day as the sick and suffering draw supernatural strength to live out their lives with faith and hope. I count myself among the sick who are inspired by Saint Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes, but I am certainly not suffering as much as most who come here. A quick walk around the sanctuary is humbling, and makes one very thankful for what he still has.