2012년 4월 30일 월요일

Our Lady and Her apparitions

De Maria numquam satis.

Have you been to any Marian pilgrimage before?
I had the privilege to visit a few Marian apparition sites such as Fatima, Lourdes, Rue de Bac, Walsingham and La Salette. Lourdes I have visited twice; once as a member to the Westminster Red Cap group and the other as a personal pilgrimage when Holy Father visited Lourdes for its 150th anniversary. Lourdes is lovely; in spite of the underground car park "basilica", the "Cathedral of trees" and the tragically ugly vestments. Oh and priests in shorts. I could never see what was wrong with cassocks and habits. Fatima... when I went there, it was an awful day and I walked around in torrential rain. I should really go there again... Need to see what it was all about. Pilgrimage to Walsingham was good too; except to find the Anglican chapel more beautiful than ours. La Salette was on this beautiful mountain. Cloud underneath your feet, the slope covered in snow and a beautiful statue of Our Lady. Quite difficult to get there though; you have to take a train from Lyon to Grenoble. take a bus from Grenoble for a couple of hours to get to the village and climb up or take a taxi up the mountain. Quite a trip indeed! But not much to do. Rue de Bac... Not much to do there either! So the winner for me is Lourdes. At least so far.

Now there are apparitions that were disproved and condemned by the Church.
Bayside apparition is a prime example and the one in Korea called Naju is another.
People still attached to these apparitions must come back to the Magisterium. The on-going apparition in Medjugorje is meant to have been condemned by the local bishop and it is not even finished yet so it is advisable NOT to go there. The historical example about authentic Marian apparitions though is that the visionaries were faithful and obedient to the Church but the pilgrims were not so faithful and obedient. Even for Lourdes and Fatima, the Church, in Her prudence, advised Catholics to refrain from paying too much attention to these apparitions and vising these sites until the investigations were complete. Many people still went there nonetheless but bluntly put, they were just lucky not to have gone to the wrong ones. Do not trust your own judgments; trust what the Church tells you to do. Even if Medjugorje feels "right", if the Church urges you not to go there, do not go there. The Church has one and only reason for existence; to save souls. If the Church thinks it is good for the salvation of souls, She will allow it eventually. Be patient, be obedient.

The one striking feature shared by all authorised apparitions of Our Lady is that there is absolutely nothing new. Granted, some apparitions contain more warnings than others, some contain specific prophecies that are contingent to the epoch but Fatima is Akita, essentially. After the era of Apostles, the era of Public Revelation came to an end. The Private Revelations that came afterwards are not required to believe. We do of course recognise Lourdes and Fatima as authentic apparitions of Our Lady but the content of these apparitions are not faith-binding. In fact, it seems very counter-productive how some certain groups of Catholics focus on these messages at the cost of forming oneself of integral Mariology. Surely that is not what Our Lady would have wished to see?

Marian teachings are of celestial beauty; hardly surprising as She is the Queen of Heaven. Without marveling at the fact that Our Lady referred to Herself as the Immaculate Conception in Lourdes, the teaching is already so beautiful and rich in Christology (as all Marian teachings ultimately are) it almost does not seem to matter that it was revealed in Lourdes. We have also been taught for centuries that the Rosary was a powerful weapon against the devil. St Louis de Montfort even wrote a book called "The Secret of the Rosary" and that predates Our Lady of Fatima by quite a few centuries.
De Maria, numquam satis. It originally means "Of Our Lady, there is never enough." or "We can never pay Our Lady enough respect or express enough gratitude for Her inextinguishable love for Her children." Well, something like that anyway. But I suppose it can also be interpreted like this; No apparitions can do Her justice for Her resplendent beauty and love for us. St Bernadette, the visionary at Lourdes, when she saw the first statue of Our Lady of Lourdes was known to have been disappointed. They may have reflected all the features St Bernadette described but still, the statue was nothing compared to what St Bernadette had the extraordinary privilege to see. Equally, what they saw in Fatima is nothing compared to what Our Lady has in store for us in Heaven. Whatever you saw or imagined of Our Lady, you can safely expect to see vastly more when you get to see Her face-to-face. She is bigger than Her apparitions; do not limit Her within the confines of Her apparitions.

Marian apparitions, the authentic ones, are indeed special grace Our Lady earns for us. It brings us great consolation and affords us these timely warnings that we all desperately need. Countries blessed with these must always give thanks to Our Blessed Lord who arranged for Her apparitions to be witnessed in their own home countries. But when you investigate into the messages of these apparitions, please bear in mind that it is Our Lady's wish for you to grow in love for Her in an integral, holistic (a dangerous word these days) and lasting manner, not going after "sensational" messages. And if you happen to be a strong advocate for these controversial apparitions mentioned above, remember you will, one day, be held accountable for your erroneous and reckless ways in the presence of Our Lady. Imagine the shame, imagine the horror!

Parting gift for today is Salve Regina in solemn tone.

2012년 4월 20일 금요일

Our Lady, films and deer

De Maria, numquam satis.

Everywhere in England they had drought orders as they had not had much rain at all this Spring and suddenly we have weather as capricious as a goat (as capricious means just that) pouring down every five minutes. A perfect weather to have a warm cup of tea by you and get some Spiritual Reading.

I have not had much Spiritual Reading myself but I have watched quite a few films of the lives of the Blessed and the Saints. Do you not like these old-school films with CG effects that you would not raise an eyebrow to but with a good, faithful and hearty acting? The one on Our Lady of Fatima was done very well in terms of acting and the prudence that they had, not to draw disproportionate amount of attention to the Secrets of Fatima, was laudable. The one of St Therese de Lisieux (filmed in French in the 80s I think) was also interesting. It was filmed almost like a play, thought-provoking, in short, fleeting, twinkling scenes. It had some very dry sense of humour which we can always appreciate as well. The one on St Pio of Pietrelcina seemed to vilify the Ecclesiastical Authorities a bit too much (which was the case with most of these films in fact) and depicted him just a little bit too much of an impetuous and often quite an impatient old man when patience was the keyword to describe the Saint. But the thing about these films is you must not expect to see any remotely accurate description of a Saint's life; frankly the one I have watched about St Philip Neri was... to say the least, confusing. There was this melange of St John Bosco, Les Choristes (a brilliant French film about delinquent children) and a bit too... humanist? Whilst my background reading of St Philip Neri is at best patchy, I was still quite crossed about the fact that they missed out the happenings with his students and most importantly, the miracle of Paolo Massimo. But they did manage to depict him in that wonderful, heartening cheerfulness and "gioia".

What do you normally wish to export out of writings of Saints; about their lives, their deeds, devotions, exercises etc? In my case, since my name means Divine Providence (Jimin), it is their zeal for the perfection of their vocation, their submission to the Divine Will and how those acts of Faith bring forth Divine Providence. The most important question to ask after watching these films seems to be this; "What would YOU have me do?" And it seems all the saints have asked this same question through our Church History as though no other questions mattered, in fact in their lives that was the only question they cared about. Our Lady also, would have asked this question; although out of Her Humility (as we affectionately believe) She chose not to be discussed too much in the Bible. As a deer panting for running waters, their souls eagerly sought after their God, until that promised time in their Eternity to see God's radiant Face. (Psalm 41)
In that wonderful (albeit modern some of you may find) hymn I found called Canticle of Love from the film Therese, the lyrics runs "Until in eternity, we join in one chorus... Canticle of Love, song of Love, this eternal day, I will sing of your Love." In the Communion of Saints we enjoy, we do indeed join in one Chorus; everyday given as free gift from eternal God, we live everyday as eternity. Our vocations will call us through many ways as we have seen for two thousand years. Some may have apparition of Our Lord to evangelise, some may have vocations to look after the sick. But all those different walks of life will lead to one very very narrow road in the end; the road to Our Home. Our Lady being the brightest star that guides us to that road, that is why She is the Mother of the Church. Because by Her very Motherhood She will not abandon us in the dark; by the very Charity that moves the Sun and the stars (Divine Comedy, In Empyrean), the brightest Star will always be upon us. As Her beloved deer, we will have Our running waters in the end.

The parting gift for today is that hymn I mentioned above. Hope you like it!

2012년 4월 10일 화요일

Our Lady and Light

De Maria, numquam satis.

So ended Lent, so came the glorious Resurrection of Our Lord.
Easter comes every year but somehow every Easter feels so different to one another, does it not? I guess that is only natural though; we always fight different demons for different Lents. In some Lent we may be fighting sluggishness; in others we may be fighting gossiping and swearing. And with part victories and part defeats, we witness the consummation of God's promise; freedom from Sin and Death. Even if we always fall short, even if we fail as God's Temple, victory comes every year, because we have such a wonderful King, so wonderful we even call Adam's fault blessed. (O felix culpa!)

Now, what about the very first Temple of God, Our Lady?
Personally, I often call Her the first Monstrance.
When we go to Adoration, as Monsignor Knox had put it, we gaze upon "the Window in the wall". He described the Blessed Sacrament in Monstrance as "the Window in the wall", the wall of deceiving bodily senses, the world of appearances. And if I may paraphrase, the Window is that small hole in that wall through which the faithful can gaze upon the World of Forms (if you like Plato) or the World of Truth. The wall darkens the world around us but that Window affords us a single beam of light. Now imagine a living Monstrance, full of Grace, without any blemish or scratches at all, that was crafted by God Himself. Would it not invite us infinitely more to look upon the Eucharistic Lord more fervently?
(After all, St John the Baptist did leap in joy!)
Before I heard of Monsignor Knox's description though (which I think is absolutely beautiful), I have thought of the Blessed Sacrament in Monstrance, in a way, as a Heavenly mirror. You see, the great thing about Truth is that it vanquishes all Falsehood. Just as Satan flees in the Holy Name of Jesus, Falsehood immediately melts away in the presence of Truth. In a way, that is one of the things we hope to do when we go to Adoration. As the Blessed Lord opens up His Heart and shows Himself in a Monstrance, we also, in our prayers, open up our hearts in return and show Him our true selves and pray to Him as though we are speaking face to face. And although Our Blessed Lord is a few yards away from us when we adore Him, nevertheless we ask Him to show us the true reflection of ourselves to become better sons and daughters of Christ, through that Heavenly mirror.

(St Stanislaus's, Chicago. Red is known to have been chosen for Kingship. I would have preferred good old Our Lady's blue myself though.)
So whenever we go to Adoration, whilst all praises and thanksgiving should first and foremost go to Our Lord, we should also remember that the Monstrance that contains the Blessed Sacrament is only a poor replica to Our Lady. The only true Monstrance, the only fitting Monstrance was made by God Himself, with human flesh and blood but without Original Sin. I have seen Monstrances of celestial beauty, so faithfully looked after that it shines from a few hundreds of yards. But still, that is not enough. You may adorn that Monstrance with the most precious jewels in this world, polish it seven million times and it will never be fitting for Our Blessed Lord and it will never be able to look half as beautiful as Our Lady.
Today's parting gift is Regina Caeli. That is the Marian hymn for Eastertide (instead of Ave Regina Caelorum for Lent), and it also substitutes Angelus. And after we sing Regina Caeli, the Priest may chant "Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia" which means "Rejoice and be glad, Virgin Mary, alleluia." to which we all chant in response "Quia surrexit Dominus vere, Alleluia!" which means "For the Lord has truly risen, Alleluia!" It is short so it will not take more than an hour to learn if you have not already.