Tag Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

St. Agnes of Montepulciano—St. Catherine of Siena called her, “Our Mother, the Glorious Agnes

St. Agnes of Montepulciano                                                   aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

The Dominican Order has five women who are canonized saints. The two best known are St. Catherine of Siena, the stigmatist and a Doctor of the Church, and St. Rose of Lima, the first woman canonized a saint from the Americas. The other three are St. Margaret of Hungary who became Empress of the Byzantine Empire, St. Catherine de Ricci, the stigmatist, and lastly, St. Agnes of Montepulciano.

St. Agnes, who may be the least known of the five, could be the most important among them. What tells us that is, it was St. Catherine of Siena, who knelt by Agnes’ incorrupt body and said, “Our Mother, the Glorious Agnes.” As Catherine bent forward to kiss the foot of Agnes, it raised up so Catherine could easily reach it. St. Agnes had died almost 300 years before that moment.

On January 28, 1268, a baby girl was born into the wealthy De Segni family, in Montepulciano, located in the Papal States (central Italy). The child was named Agnes, and from an early age, she displayed an outward and obvious devotion to God.

By the time Agnes was six years old she was asking her parents to please allow her to enter the convent. When they told her she was much too young, she pleaded with them to move closer to the convent so she could be near to it. On one occasion Agnes was traveling to Montepulciano with her mom and some of the household.  The group passed by a house that was up on a hill and was known as a place of ill repute. Suddenly, a flock of screaming crows soared down from above and attacked little Agnes.

With claws outstretched and beaks flailing away they scratched and clawed at the seven-year-old, causing her to bleed from her head and arms which she was using to cover herself. The women in the group had to fight the shrieking birds off by waving their shawls and yelling at them. The ladies knew that the evil in the nearby house did not want Agnes anywhere near it. It had been a demonic attack. Years later, Agnes would build a convent on that very site.

By the time this child was nine years old she had convinced her parents to allow her to enter the convent. She was so young this was against church law but, Pope John XXI gave Agnes permission to enter the Franciscan monastery. The nuns who lived there were known as the “Sisters of the Sack” because the garments they wore were so coarse. Nine-year-old Agnes happily wore it every day.

When Agnes was fifteen, she found herself in need of another special dispensation. This time it was so she could become the abbess of a new convent in Proceno. She desired to be in a contemplative state where she could simply pray and commune with those above. But she did not complain and humbly followed the path that always seemed to appear before her. On her day of consecration as abbess, showers of tiny white crosses floated down inside the chapel on the people below. Being a fifteen-year-old abbess was unheard of, and everyone took this as a sign of heaven’s pleasure with Agnes.

Agnes was graced with many visions. Probably the most legendary and the one for which she is best known is was when Our Lady appeared to her holding the Baby Jesus in her arms. Our Lady allowed Agnes to hold Him and caress Him. Another time the Blessed Mother gave Agnes three stones and told her to keep them in honor of the Blessed Trinity. She told Agnes that one day she would need them.

Agnes had another vision which told her that she was to leave the Franciscans and join the Dominicans. In 1306 she was asked to return to Montepulciano to build a new convent. She had no money, but she did have the three stones the Blessed Virgin had given to her. Using the three stones as a “cornerstone,” she raised money and built the convent. The sisters embraced the Rule of St. Augustine and joined the Dominican Order.

Sister Agnes died on April 20, 1317. It is said that the children of the city woke up the next morning and sadly cried out, “Holy Sister Agnes is dead.”

Agnes was canonized a saint by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. The Dominicans celebrate her feast day on April 20.

St. Agnes of Montepulciano, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

When Jesus Rose from the Dead where was the Blessed Mother? Ask Pope St. John Paul II

public domain

By Larry Peterson

When Easter morning arrived, someone was missing. That someone is the very lynchpin of the Salvation story. That someone is the Blessed Virgin, Mary. She is nowhere to be seen or heard. Where was she?

We will hear from the gospel of John 20:1-9 how —“Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciples He loved and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they have put Him.”

So where was Our Lady when Jesus rose from the dead?  She was His mother. She was nearby throughout the passion and watched Him carry His cross. She watched as they drove the nails through His hands and his feet.  She stood agonizingly and helplessly by as He was raised on the cross. For three hours she stood there watching every drop of blood leave her boy’s body. She was at the foot of the cross when He died.

The following week, on the Second Sunday of Easter ( Divine Mercy Sunday), the gospel is once again from John, this time 20: 19-31. This is when, with the doors locked,  Jesus appears to all of them (except “doubting”  Thomas). Once again, the Mother of our Savior is never mentioned.  Why is that?

No Mom should ever have to witness such cruelty heaped upon her own child. Who could have loved him more than she? Doesn’t it seem absolutely unquestionable that the first person who Jesus appeared to after He rose was His Mother? Yet there is not a single mention of the Blessed Virgin in the Resurrection narratives.

In the year 431 A.D, the Council of Ephesus affirmed the Dogma of the Divine Maternity. This explains to us that the greatness and majesty that was bestowed on Our Lady was wrapped into a bundle of pure Love from God.  He was the Father of her child. She was the Mom. Every drop of Jesus’s DNA comes from His Mom. The Father and Son are God. Jesus Christ is truly Human and Divine, separate yet one. Yet she is not mentioned in the Resurrection gospel readings.

From the CCC 496: Mary’s Virginity:

From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus was conceived “by the Holy Spirit without human seed.” The Fathers see in the virginal conception the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own…

Back to the question; Where was our Blessed Mother, the Mother of the Risen Christ, Her only Child, on Easter Sunday? We can turn this question over to none other than Pope St. John Paul the Great. The Holy Father, speaking from Vatican City on May 21, 1997, said:

“The unique and special nature of the presence of the Virgin at Calvary, and her perfect union with the Son in his suffering on the Cross, seem to postulate a very particular participation on her part in the mystery of the Resurrection.”

“The Blessed Virgin, who was present at Calvary and at the Cenacle, “was probably also a privileged witness to the Resurrection of Christ, in this way completing her participation in all the essential moments of the paschal mystery. Embracing the risen Jesus, Mary is, in addition, a sign and anticipation of humanity, which hopes to reach its fulfillment in the resurrection of the dead.”

If Pope St. John Paul II says she was there; She was there—AMEN.

copyright© Larry Peterson 2019

This Blessed Mother statue was carved by an Angel; Our Lady of Liesse aka Our Lady of Joy

Our Lady of Liesse aka Our Lady of Joy                  amercianeeds fatima.com

By Larry Peterson

During the time of the Crusades, it happened that one day three of the Knights of St. John were caught in an ambush and captured by the Saracens. The three prisoners were brothers and happened to be from the highly regarded family of Eppes in northern France. They were all loyal and true to the faith, a trait that would be immediately tested.

The men were taken to Cairo and brought before the Sultan. The Sultan thought he could convert them to Islam by offering them lavish gifts, but that proved to be an effort in futility. The Sultan angered at their obstinance,  threw them into prison. The three men were then subjected to all kinds of torture and hardships, including starvation. It did not matter; they refused to waiver.

Exasperated at his failure to convert the men to Islam, the Sultan tried another approach. He sent his beautiful daughter, Princess Ismeria, to try and win them over.

Princess Ismeria knew the cruel death that awaited the three Knights if they did not give in to her father. However, when she would try to coax them with promises of riches and high positions they would quote scripture to her. She began to weaken, and then they told her of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They told her that the Virgin Mary’s image was enough to capture every heart, convincing it to love her.”

Princess Ismeria, curious about this beautiful image, asked the brothers to create an image of this Divine Mother so she could see what she looked like. She gave them wood, brushes, paints and all the necessary tools to make such an image. Then she went away.

The brothers, having no idea how to make a statue,  fell into a deep sleep. As they slept an angel, sent by the Virgin Mary, came and carved a statue of the Madonna with a face that was filled with kindness and love. Soon after finishing, a brilliant light awoke the three young men.. When they saw the figure, they immediately knelt before it and began to pray.

Early the next morning, Princess Ismeria arrived and saw the statue. She was astonished and fell at the foot of the icon. She began pleading with the Virgin Mary to make her Christian through Baptism. That night, as the princess slept, the Blessed Mother appeared to her in a dream and told her that the three knights would escape from Egypt and take her to France with them

When Ismeria awoke she rushed to the tower and found the big doors opened. She led the knights out of the fortress giving them their freedom. They made their way to the banks of the Nile, and a boatman was waiting to it take them across. When they reached the other side the man vanished. He had been an angel sent by Our Lady.

As evening approached, the four travelers sought out some shelter to rest for the night. Exhausted from their long day’s journey, they quickly fell asleep. When they awoke, they discovered that they were in another place. Confused, they asked a traveler where they were. He told them they were in Picardy, which was near  Eppes. They all knelt in prayer realizing that another miracle had occurred bringing them to safety.

They had carried the statue from Cairo and began walking toward their villa in Eppes. As they neared the villa, the statue became so heavy they could not move it. They were in the town of Liesse, and they immediately knew that this was the place Our Lady wanted her statue to stay.

The three brother Knights of St. John were greeted with great jubilation by their relatives and friends. They were all fascinated by Princess Ismeria who renounced her former life. The Bishop of Leon baptized her and gave her the name of Mary. Her prayers had been answered. The people built a church to receive the Statue of Our Lady of Liesse.

As time went by the church took on the name of the statue and then the entire region. Eventually, the Basilica of Notre Dame de Liesse also became known as Our Lady of Liesse and Our Lady of Joy. Pilgrims come from all over the world to see the statue and there is an annual pilgrimage to the Basilica on Whit Monday (the day after Pentecost). The Feast day is December 2.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

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.

Manliness Personified; Joseph of Nazareth: The Saint Who Saved the Savior (Feast Day, March 19)

Joseph and Mary going to Bethlehem
stjosephnewpalz.org

By Larry Peterson

So little is known about Joseph of Nazareth. There is not even one word he ever said that was recorded.  But his quiet life resonated as if huge cymbals were being smashed together, their vibrating sounds marching over the ages of history and into the center of our 21st-century existence. For it was Joseph of Nazareth who saved the Son of God so He could live to save us all. I call Joseph, the “Savior Saint.”

Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth, was obviously humble and egoless and gave of himself. He was a real MAN.  And it was this man, this quiet, savior saint who single-handedly saved the life of our Savior, Jesus Christ when He was still an infant. Imagine if he had not been available to protect his wife and child.

As a man, I try to imagine having to confront what Joseph had to deal with. As Mary’s betrothed, he quietly accepted her pregnancy at a time when the scandal of such a thing oftentimes meant execution for the woman. When Mary was almost full term, he was forced to put her on the back of a donkey and take her 80 miles over rocky, dirt roads to Bethlehem for the census; a journey that would have probably taken three to five days. (I would have been sick to my stomach praying we could make it).

Then, upon arrival, his wife, Mary, goes into labor. There were no ERs, no cell phones, no 911 calls, and no paramedics. You are a stranger in town and do not know anyone. Unable to find shelter, you realize you on your own. Being a man, you try to appear calm and cool, but your insides are knotted in fear.

He was probably trembling and telling his wife, “Stay calm sweetie, it will be all right. Don’t worry. Don’t worry.”  He is forced to bring her to a dirty, smelly stable that is an animal shelter. Here she has to give birth to her child who is the Son of God. As a man, Joseph must have felt so inadequate, so un-manly. His heart must have been breaking.

The miracle of the Virgin Birth takes place, and mother and child are fine. But then Joseph discovers that King Herod wants to kill his baby boy. Okay guys, think about it. You have made it this far, and now you learn the army has been ordered to find your child and kill him.

The soldiers, unflinchingly following orders, are out in force searching for YOU and YOUR family. They are killing all boys two years old and under so as not to miss killing your son. But it is you and your wife and child they want.

Those other children are ‘collateral damage,’ an after-thought to Herod’s vicious orders. The fear and anxiety within Joseph must have been overwhelming, yet he did his best to remain upbeat.Somehow, someway, with his resolve of faith and trust in God propelling him forward, he made it to Egypt and saved his family.

I have no idea how he managed to do it. Egypt was three hundred miles away, but he got them there safe and sound. He saved not only the Redeemer and probably the Blessed Mother from death, but he also made it possible for all of us to be saved too.

One final thought about this incredible person; Joseph of Nazareth was the only man who ever lived who could point to the Son of God and say, “That’s MY boy.” And that Boy would look up at him and call him, “Daddy.”  Imagine that.

St. Joseph, thank you and please pray for all of us. HAPPY FEAST DAY

 Copyright Larry Peterson 2018

 

The First Apparition of the Blessed Mother took place while she was still Alive. The year was 40 A.D.

By Larry Peterson

Only seven years after Jesus death and Resurrection, on October 12, 40 A.D., an incredible event took place. That was the day the very first Marian apparition ever recorded took place. And yes, Our Lady was still alive at the time. This apparition occurred in Spain and it was Jesus’ apostle, St. James the Great, brother of St. John, who the Blessed Virgin appeared to. This apparition is known as Our Lady of Pillar.

 

During the very early days of Christianity, James had traveled to a pagan land called Zaragoza, in the Roman province of Hispania which today is better known as Spain or Espana. Zaragoza was a foreboding place and James was having a very difficult time evangelizing the people in the area. They just did not seem to care and they did not even like this strange man from a different country.

 

Legend has it that James, despondent and dejected had fallen into (what we call today), a terrible “funk”. No matter how much he tried he could not seem to lift his own spirits. One night, James was praying by the banks of the Ebro River. Suddenly a great light engulfed him. James knelt, staring into the light, and what he saw was beyond description. In the light was the Virgin Mary and she was surrounded by thousands of angels.

 

She told James that he should persevere because, ultimately, his work for Jesus would have great results and many would turn to the Faith. She asked that a church be built on the place where she appeared and left behind a pillar of “Jasper” to mark the spot where she had been.  The Virgin Mary also left a small statue of herself holding the infant Jesus in her arms. The statue was sitting atop the Jasper pillar. Since the Blessed Virgin was still alive and living in Jerusalem, her appearance is considered an act of bilocation.

 

James immediately gathered some of his new followers and began work on a chapel on the designated site. The chapel is the first church ever dedicated to Mary and today, after many renovations, is known as the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. It is located in the exact place Our Lady appeared 2000 years ago.

 

James participated in the dedication of the small church and returned to Jerusalem. Ironically, he was the first apostle to die for the faith. In 44 A.D., Herod Agrippa, had James beheaded. The disciples of James took his body back to Spain for final burial. The statue and pillar were taken under the protection of the people of Zorogaza.

 

The many miracles surrounding the relic can attest to its heavenly origin. For example, it has been almost 2000 years and the statue has never needed dusting. In 1936, the Catholic-hating “Reds” bombed the shrine but the bombs that hit the church never exploded. No one is allowed to touch the statue except for the four priests assigned to its care and newborn infants can be lifted up to touch the image of their heavenly Mom.

 

Popes from the earliest times have attested to the authenticity of Our lady’s appearance at the shrine. Pope Calixtus III issued a Papal bull in 1456 encouraging people to make pilgrimages to Our Lady of Pillar. The miracle of the shrine’s foundation was even acknowledged.

 

The most prominent miracle occurred in the 17th century. A    beggar named Miguel Pellicer from the town of Calanda, could not work due to having an amputated leg. He was constantly praying at the shrine for the Blessed Mother’s help. She answered his prayers for sure because his leg was restored. When word of this spread, pilgrimages greatly increased to the shrine and it has been so ever since.

 

Over the centuries many controversial stories arose concerning the authenticity of this shrine. Pope Innocent III, answering an appeal from Spain, had twelve cardinals investigate all the data available. On August 7, 1723, the Sacred Congregation of Rites, affirmed the original. In 1730, Pope Clement XII, allowed the feat of Our Lady of Pillar to be celebrated throughout the Spanish empire. Eventually she was declared Patroness of the Hispanic World. Our Lady of Pillar’s feast day is October 12.

 

One final thought. As a young seminarian, St. Josemaria Escriva, made daily visits to the shrine of Our Lady of Pillar. He always prayed for guidance and eventually founded Opus Dei. The members honor her feast day each year.

 

Our Lady of Pillar, please pray for us.

Photo courtesy: commons wikimedia.org