Our Lady of Knock—The Silent Apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Photo Credit: Flickr/Wampa-One-Legarius – Our Lady of Knock_P1090939

 

By Larry Peterson

On the northwestern coast of Ireland sits County Mayo, and within that green, lush county lies what was once the Knock Parish Church. Today the name of this place has been elevated; it is now known as The Shrine of Our Lady of Knock for it was here that The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared on the night of August 21, 1879.

It was pouring down rain that evening when Mary McLoughlin, the parish housekeeper, looked out the window of the kitchen and noticed a mysterious light illuminating the stone wall. Even through the pouring rain, the light was visible and so were three figures standing in front of the wall. Mary thought they were the replacement statues for the ones destroyed by a storm a year or so earlier. Somewhat frightened, Mary ran through the rain to her friend Margaret Byrne’s house.

Mary stayed about a half hour and then decided to leave. Margaret’s sister, also named Mary, agreed to walk with her. As they passed the church, an amazing sight was clearly visible to the two women. They were sure they were seeing the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, and St. John. To the left of St. John was an altar and on the altar was a lamb. Behind the altar was a cross and on each side of the altar but above it were adoring angels. Mary Byrne ran home to tell her family.

Word quickly spread and soon fifteen people were kneeling in the pouring rain praying the Rosary. They ranged in ages from six to seventy-five and even though they were soaked to the skin, not a drop of rain fell on the vision they were watching. Witnesses said the Blessed Mother stood erect with her eyes toward heaven and that she wore a large white cloak hanging in folds; on her head was a large gold crown.

Unlike the apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes, La Salette, and Fatima where Our Lady spoke to the seers,  at Knock she remained silent. Nothing was said nor was a word spoken. Everyone present at the apparition saw the apparition and they all attested to the same thing about the unspoken word.

The next day a group of villagers went to the local priest and told him the story. He believed them and contacted the Bishop of Tuam. The Bishop set up a commission to interview the people who had witnessed the vision. The hierarchy was extremely doubtful that what they were hearing was true. They even considered the possibility that the local Protestant constable had orchestrated a hoax to make the Catholics look ridiculous.

The people, however, were not so skeptical, and pilgrimages to Knock began in 1880. Two years later none other than Archbishop John Joseph Lynch of Toronto, visited the site and claimed he had been healed by the Virgin of Knock. That was quite a lofty endorsement.

Most of the witnesses passed on but Mary Byrne married and raised six children while living her entire life in Knock. Interviewed again in 1936, when she was eighty-six, her account was the same as it was back in 1879.

The appearance of Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. John,  at Knock, transformed the quiet village as thousands now came to commemorate the vision and ask for healing from Our Lady. In 1976 a new church, Our Lady Queen of Ireland, was erected and it holds more than two thousand people. It needs to be enlarged as more than a half-million visitors come to Knock each year.

Inquiries set up by the local Bishop, and the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland formally approved the apparitions as worthy of devotion and Pope St. John Paul II, sealed it all when upon his visit in 1979, he called his stop the ultimate goal of his pastoral visit to Ireland.

Our Lady of Knock, pray for us.

St. Eustace the Hunter and the Magnificent “Stag”

Photo Credit: Flickr/jacquemart – Reliquary Head of St Eustace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Larry Peterson

At the beginning of the second century there lived in Rome man named Placidus. Placidus was the commanding general of the Roman army under Emperor Trajan. He was an outstanding soldier who was also married to a woman who loved him dearly and respected him. He also respected her, and they had two sons.

Even though they worshipped pagan idols, Placidus and his wife always gave alms to the poor and helped the needy. They knew nothing of Jesus Christ, but indeed, God had filled them with the graces to perform the corporal works of mercy. They responded to these graces.  Many people receive these graces and ignore them. That is what is known as “making choices.”

Placidus was a great hunter and loved to spend spare time hunting with his soldiers. But there was one day that would change his life forever. He was riding through the woods with his men, following a herd a very fast deer aka “stags.” In unison, the herd would turn left and then turn right.

The men did their best to keep their eyes on the fleeing stags. Suddenly, one of the stags broke from the group and took off on his own. Placidus, telling his men to continue, turned his horse and followed the lone stag which led him deeper and deeper into the forest. Placidus tried to catch up to the stag but, try as he may, he could never quite get to it. Finally, the stag stopped.

Placidus reined his horse in and also stopped. He realized that they were on top of a high peak. Placidus quickly began planning how to catch the prize stag. Then the stag turned to Placidus and began staring at him. The magnificent animal had tremendous antlers.

Placidus became transfixed by them and just stared. Between the antlers was a bright light and within the light was what appeared to be a cross. On the cross was the image of a man. Then Placidus heard a man’s voice coming from the stag. “Oh Placidus, why are you pursuing me? For your sake, I have appeared to you in an animal. I am the Christ, the only True God.”

Jesus told Placidus that it was his acts of mercy that had  Him appear to him like an animal. Jesus told him that He could read all hearts and that and knew that Placidus searched for the truth. He was told that anyone who searches for the truth with good will, will always find Jesus.

Placidus, filled with fear, fell from his horse. When he recovered, Jesus explained who he was. Placidus said, “Lord, I believe you are the Christ, and that you made all things, and that you convert the erring.”

Placidus was instructed to go to the Bishop of the city and get baptized. He was also told to have his wife and sons baptized. Jesus told him he would come back with further instructions. Placidus went home, woke up his wife, and told her what had happened. Incredibly, she told him that she had a similar “dream” and knew what he was going to tell her.

They hugged and then gathered up the children and left immediately for the home of the bishop of Rome who was also The Holy Father, the Pope.  The Holy Father was thrilled with his new converts and gave them new names. Placidus’ wife would be called, Theospis, their one son, Agapetus, and the other, Theospitus. Placidus from then on would be known as Eustace.

It is recorded that Eustace and his family did experience much hardship after their conversion. But they were exalted in the richness of the Spirit and did not suffer long. It is reported that Eustace was martyred in the year 118, which would have been under the papal reign of Pope St. Sixtus I. How Eustace and his family died is not known.

Saint Eustace’s feast day is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church on September 20. Eustace is the patron saint of hunters, firefighters,  a patron of Madrid, Spain, and one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers of the Church.

St. Eustace, pray for us.

Venerable Maria Guadalupe Ortiz is a laywoman who will be beatified this year. Here’s her incredible story.

VENERABLE,MARIA GUADALUPE ORTIZ

Servant of God; Father Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly (Kathanar)

Venerable Payyappilly Varghese Kathanar

By Larry Peterson

On April 14, 2018, Pope Francis met with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. He presented the cardinal with the names of eight Catholics who have attained the designation of Servants of God. This designation is awarded to those who have attained the first pedestal on their road to canonization. Among those named was Servant of God, Father Varghese Payyapilly Palakkappilly (yes, that is a definite tongue-twister so we will keep it at Father Varghese).

Cardinal Amato was authorized by the Holy Father to place those named worthy of receiving a promulgation of “the Heroic Virtues.” Pope Benedict XIV, 1740 to 1758, who is considered the defining authority on these virtues, wrote five volumes about them. They are still used in determining if a Servant of God meets the criteria of demonstrating ‘heroic virtue.’

A simple way to think of  ‘heroic virtue’  might be as a virtue that has become a second nature.  It becomes a habit of good behavior that can only be attained through the love of God and a closeness to Him, a closeness that most of us never reach. Heroic Virtue must be a part of those who would be advanced to the level of Venerable from Servant of God.

Father Varghese was born in India, in the province of Kerala, on August 8, 1876. He attended St. Albert’s School in Ernakulam which is on the southeast coast of India. From St. Albert’s he moved onto the Central Seminary in Sri Lank (formerly Ceylon) an island off the coast of India. From there he attended the Papal Seminary, also in Sri Lanka, where he was ordained a priest on December 21, 1907.

Father Verghase was assigned as a parish priest and served as such in various parishes from 1909 thru 1922. While serving at the parish in Arakuzha, he began St. Mary’s Higher Secondary School. His presence and efforts at the school and church helped reunite many estranged families and succeeded in making the church self-sufficient through land purchases.

Father Verghase also managed to acquire land for the construction of St. Joseph’s Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. He remained there until 1929. It was reported that during Father Varghese’s tenure there, vocations to the priesthood exploded.

Father Verghases’s reputation as a kind and loving priest continued to grow. He became a member of the Diocesan Council and the Director of Apostolic Union as well as the Priests’ Provident Fund. People from all over came to him because they wanted his counsel to help them with their problems. He managed to bring many families back together using the wisdom he received from the Holy Spirit.

The simple priest was held in high esteem both by church officials and government officers. His empathy for the poor and suffering and his reputation spread far and wide after he helped many victims of the great flood of 1924. He even turned St. Mary’sHigh School into a shelter and delivered food himself by boat.

On March 19, 1927, Father Verghese founded the Sisters of the Destitute. His intention was to continue what he saw as Christ’s saving message among the poor. He found abandoned people, brought them to the shelter of the Home for the Aged and nursed them.

Today the Sisters of the Destitute, have over 1500 nuns and also include among its ranks doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers. They are located in Asia, Europe, Africa and across the United States.  The operate such institutions as homes for the sick and needy, health centers, libraries, nursing homes, schools, hospitals and cancer centers.

Payyappilly Palakkappilly Varghese Kathnar (that is Father Verghese’s full name) died from typhoid fever on October 5, 1929. He was buried at St. St John Nepumsian Syrian Catholic Church in Kornthurthy, India. On August 25, 2009, Father Verghese was declared a Servant of God by the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar CatholicChurch.

When Pope Francis authorized Father Verghese as worthy of having “the heroic virtue” he (aswell as the seven others) were elevated to the rank of Venerable. A miracle attributed to Father Verghase is under review for Father Verghese and if validated, Venerable Verghase Payyappilly may become beatified.

Venerable Verghase Payyappilly, please pray for us.

 

 

Brother Marcel (Nguyen Tan) Van had a spiritual sister who actually visited him; Her name was St.Therese of Lisieux

 

Photo Credit: wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/47/Portrait_de_Marcel_Van.JPG/220px-Portrait_de_Marcel_Van.JPG

By Larry Peterson

Marcel Van was born in 1928 in a small village in Northern Vietnam. It was a predominantly Catholic village, and Marcel’s mom was not only an extremely faithful woman she was also well versed in the tenets of the faith. When Marcel was barely three years old, his growing faith was already obvious. He began to tell his mom that he wanted to become a saint and she made sure that she taught him all that she could.

Marcel loved to pray and practice his religion. He quickly developed a love for the Rosary and a growing attachment to the Blessed Mother. The boy’s love of Jesus filled him with the desire to make his First Holy Communion. His mom asked the pastor about this, and the priest agreed to let him begin studying for it. When he was six years old, he made his First Communion.

There was a developing desire within Marcel to join the religious life. His pastor and his mom saw to it that Marcel was sent to Huu-Bang to become part of the small monastery there. Father Joseph Nha admitted Marcel  into the pre-junior seminary. He became one of the “aspirants” to the priesthood.  These boys received their instruction from the older youths at the monastery who were called catechists.

In the beginning, Marcel was bubbling over with enthusiasm for his new life. He was preparing to become a priest, and what could be more wonderful. But the evil demon, Jealousy, was rearing its ugly head and was about to attack young Marcel.

Marcel was a good student, worked hard, performed all his duties, and was kind and generous. The parish priest was constantly holding him up as an example for the other boys to follow. Young Marcel’s good behavior started to expose the lax and disrespectful and even bawdy behavior of the older boys. The student catechists did not like it and became intensely jealous of Marcel.

One of the catechists, Master Vinh, was the ringleader. He began demanding that Marcel allow him to beat him before he could receive Communion. He deprived him of his food, took away his Rosary and committed all sorts of diabolical attacks upon the saintly youngster. Van actually ran away several times seeking a better environment. Master Vinh was found out and expelled from the monastery. Marcel Van left during Christmas season, 1941.

Complicating Van’s life were two cyclones that destroyed his family’s village and brought them to poverty. His father, in a state of despair, took to drinking and gambling. Then his older brother, Liet, became blind. Van’s family turned against him for leaving the monastery. His sister even blamed the family’s misfortune on Vans’ “failure.” Marcel Van left his home and for a time was homeless, actually begging for his food. He returned home, and his mom made him go back to the monastery. He returned but left after two months.

Things changed around for Marcel in 1942. A friend helped him get admitted to a seminary in Lang-Son. Six months later the seminary closed down, and Van was accepted into the parish of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Quang-Uyen. It was run by two  Dominican priests.

And so it was that one day Marcel Van was next to a table covered with books. He asked God to help him find a suitable book to read. Closing his eyes, he reached into the pile and pulled out a copy of  “Story of a Soul,” by St. Therese. He had never heard of her, but his life was about to change forever.

Marcel Nguyen Tan Van began to read the “Story of Soul.” He began to cry. The simplicity of Therese’s love for Jesus overwhelmed him, and his devotion to St. Therese became intense.   The “Little Flower” appeared to Marcel many times. She  became his teacher, constant companion, and even called him “little brother.” She told him that he would never be a priest but that he was to become a “hidden apostle of Love” which was a key source of spiritual support for missionary priests. He would become the “heart of priests.”

After the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu,  Brother Marcel Van volunteered to go to now communist, North Vietnam. He was arrested on July 7, 1955, and died in prison on July 10, 1959. He was 31 years old and rest assured his “Big Sister,” Therese, was waiting for him with open arms. He was declared a Servant of God in 1997, and his beatification process continues.

Servant of God, Brother Marcel Van, please pray for us.

 

The “Angel of Auschwitz”– Venerable Angela Maria of the Heart of Jesus

Venerable Angela Maris-The “Angel of Auschwitz”
Photo Credit: Joachim Schäfer – Ökumenisches Heiligenlexikon.

By Larry Peterson

Maria Cacilia Autsch was born in Rollecken, Germany, on March 26,1900. She was the fifth of seven children and her dad, August, worked very hard as a machinist to keep his family fed. He and his wife, Amalia, were devout and knowledgeable Catholics and worked diligently to pass the faith on to their children.

The family had little money, so when Maria was fifteen, she went to work as a nanny. Her mom died in 1921 and Maria had to keep on working to help the family. Maria had always known she was being called to religious service and harbored her disappointment at not being able to do so. Her family came first, and she turned her future over to Jesus.

Finally, on September 27, 1933, she was able to enter the convent of the Trinitarian Order in Austria. It was the Spanish branch, and the Spanish had been the first women religious to come to Austria. The purpose of the sisters was to help in securing the release of captive prisoners and also working as nurses, teachers, and helping the poor and those in need.

On July 4, 1934, Maria Cacilia Autsch received a new name. She received her habit and along with it the name of Angela Maria of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. On August 20 she took her first vow. Her duties were running the nursery school, teaching embroidery, caring for the sick and even helping with the fieldwork. At last, on September 28, 1938, she made her final vows.

By that time the Nazis had taken over Austria, and they wanted to seize the monastery where the sisters lived. Sister Angela defended their home and argued that it was legally Spanish property and the Nazis had no right to it. She even contacted the Spanish consul in Vienna and the Nazis, in an attempt to keep their activities quiet, relented. However, Sister Angela Maria was now on their radar.

It was August 10, 1940, when the most innocent of moments changed Sister Angela’s life forever. She had gone to buy some milk and bumped into a few women she knew. They began to converse, and Sister told them she had heard that the Allies had sunk a German ship and many Germans had died in the disaster. She finished by saying that she thought “Hitler was a calamity for Europe.”

One of the Austrian women was a Nazi sympathizer and reported her to the Gestapo. Her file was found, and she was arrested soon after. The charges were for “insulting the leader” and “sedition of the population.”  All attempts by her co-sisters to obtain her release were simply ignored, and Mother Superior pleaded for her release with the head of the Gestapo several times but to no avail. Even the Spanish consul could not save her.

Sister Angela Maria of the Heart of Jesus spent seventeen days at the brutal police detention center in Innsbruck. She was then assigned prisoner # 4651. With her name now a number and without trial, she was transported to the women’s camp at Ravensbruck.

True to her calling as a Trinitarian Sister, Angela Maria,  in the most horrendous place imaginable, went right to work representing Jesus. Many reported of her unceasing efforts to maintain human dignity. She is frequently beaten by the guards but, as one inmate reported, “her smile and courage was a ray of sunshine in deepest hell.”

On  August 16, 1942, she was transferred to the death camp at Auschwitz and assigned to the medical department. Because of her continued  good spirit, self-sacrificing helpfulness and her efforts to alleviate as much misery as she could, she became known as the “Angel of Auschwitz.” Many of the other prisoners had no idea she was a Catholic nun.

In October 1942, Sister Angela came down with Typhus. She never fully recovered from this disease and was placed in the SS hospital as a nurse. On December 23, 1943, a bombing raid began, and Sister Angela was killed when she was struck in the chest with shrapnel that pierced her lungs.

On May 21, 2018, Pope Francis recognized the “heroic virtues” of Servant of God, Angela Maria of the Heart of Jesus. She now has the title of “Venerable” before her name, and the next step in her journey to canonization will be beatification.

We ask Venerable Angela Maria of the Heart of Jesus, to pray for us all.

 

Copyright Larry Peterson 2018