Fr. Jozo: “Do not be Afraid. Our Pope Loves Medjugorje”

Benedict!!With our beloved Holy Father’s resignation, which was officially undertaken today as he stepped down from the Seat of Peter, a question has been lingering for many of the faithful: what will happen with Medjugorje?

Pope Benedict XVI did so much to fight for Medjugorje, from his days as a cardinal to his papal actions in establishing the international Vatican Commission to examine the apparitions objectively. I recently came across a beautiful homily by Fr. Jozo Zovko, who confirms that Pope Benedict XVI loved Medjugorje, calling it “a place of prayer. MedjugoFrJozo_5936rje is a place of sacraments, where people seek the sacraments.”

Fr. Jozo, addressing a group of pilgrims — lay people and priests — at Široki Brijeg on October 22, 2007, pointed to a photograph of Fr. Slavko Barbaric, who for many years was the spiritual director of the Medjugorje seers, meeting with (then) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Fr. Jozo explained:

“….in the small picture we see Father Slavko with Cardinal Ratzinger,CardinalRatzingerFrSlavko today our Pope, on an interview about Medjugorje, what our Pope says about Medjugorje as Cardinal Ratzinger. He issued a most beautiful document then that stands to this very day. What does that document say?”

” ‘Medjugorje is a place of prayer. Medjugorje is a place of sacraments, where people seek the sacraments.’ And he asks the priests to be at the disposition of a place of reconciliation with God, asking to respond all the better. The right to determine the supernaturalness was taken away from the Bishops but the observation continues about the fruit of Medjugorje that speak about Medjugorje. And our wise Pope Benedict XVI at that time freed the Bishops before the pressure of the communists and today before the pressure of atheism of us faithful. Do not be afraid. Our Pope loves Medjugorje. The Pope loves you as a pilgrim, as a priest. As a priest when you confess, pray the rosary and live the messages, and proclaim the messages.”

What powerful words from Fr. Jozo — “Do not be afraid. Our Pope loves Medjugorje.” Should we be afraid now that the Holy Father has stepped down and a new pontiff is to be elected?

Of course not.

When we are dealing with sublime matters we must realize that the hand of God is involved, and the Lord will guide his flock, his Church, with a chosen successor. I believe that Pope Benedict’s successor, whoever he may be, will realize how dear and important Medjugorje was to both of his precursors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI; he will realize what an important decision it was to form a Vatican Commission, the first in the Church’s history to examine a Marian apparition site.

The Holy Spirit has been good to us, to the Church, in giving us the grace of Our Lady’s appearances in Medjugorje and in giving us Popes who have, despite much opposition within, fought courageously to protect those appearances, protecting Our Lady’s messages and her continual work of conversion of bringing so many of the masses back to her Son.

Let us continue praying for our Holy Father (emeritus), for his successor, and for Our Lady’s continual work and intentions. Peace & abundant blessings to you, friends!

Young People Thank Pope Benedict for Everything

My friend Steve Ryan of MinistryValues/MysticPost sent me a link to this great video which has gone viral on YouTube, presenting young people thoughtfully and creatively thanking Pope Benedict XVI for all his tireless service, to the Church and their faith, over the past eight years. Have a watch! Also, here’s the story behind the video.

Our Lady’s Feb 25th Message

Dear children! OurLadyofMedjugorje3

Also today I call you to prayer. Sin is pulling you towards worldly things and I have come to lead you towards holiness and the things of God, but you are struggling and spending your energies in the battle with the good and the evil that are in you. Therefore, little children, pray, pray, pray until prayer becomes a joy for you and your life will become a simple walk towards God.

Thank you for having responded to my call.

Fr. Calloway’s New Book Finally Here

FrCallowayFr. Don Calloway sent me a message the other day that his new book — Under the Mantle: Marian Thoughts from a 21st Century Priest — is finally out. I got a great foretaste of how great this book is going to be when, back in October, I attended a vocation retreat with Fr. Calloway in Stuebenville, OH; his talks and mediations about the priesthood, about masculinity, about the Queen of Heaven and feminine beauty, were enough to light your soul on fire. This is — in my opinion — a very anointed priest, touched by the flame of the Holy Spirit in a fervent and powerful way with an urgent message for the world and the Church.

I look forward to getting a copy of the book soon. Please check it out! Also, consider the awesome cover image and notice how Fr. Don possesses that rare (but most important) gift of evangelization. Young people especially need to see what the cover represents: that a priest is not a boring, uninspired man, but a cool and interesting guy comfortable in his identity as a man and as a soul consecrated to the Lord. Fr. Don has done great things for Our Lord and Our Lady throughout his priestly vocation. Let us keep him and his work in our prayers.

A Holy Father’s Holy Decision: On Pope Benedict’s Resignation

Benedict!

I was speaking with my father over the phone last night. At one point in our conversation, he asked me what do I make of Pope Benedict’s decision to resign from his office. My reply was simple.

“He’s a very holy man, with a sincere and serious prayer life. Therefore, if he made such a humble decision it was, no doubt, driven by strong discernment with the Lord.”

There was nothing else to say.

Pundits, left and right, have commented on the monumental decision of Benedict XVI and will continue to do so. Speculation surrounding the Holy Father’s decision has ranged from the reasonable to the sympathetic to the exploitative and even the absurd. Some have even been pleasantly unexpected. For example, consider this unexpected reply from a liberal Catholic writer.

Michael O’Loughlin, who I knew at Yale Divinity School, commented thus in a piece for America Magazine:

“As the news broke and pundits typed away on their keyboards, each evaluating Benedict’s legacy and impact on the church and world, it would seem natural that I would shout ‘amen!’ with those who slammed the Pontiff for his draconian views on women, gays, theological dissent, birth control, and so on and so on. But strangely, I found myself not filled with righteous indignation, but moved, instead, to defend Benedict against these attacks.”

Michael continues: “It’s not that I think these observations are wrong, necessarily; in fact, I’ve written similar posts myself. But it’s the recognition that the Catholic faith has formed me perhaps more than I sometimes realize, that I look to a spiritual shepherd, that I give the Pope the benefit of the doubt, and allow myself to be moved by his deeply effective theological writing and spiritual guidance.”

A most humble observation about how deeply the sincerity of the Pope’s character and actions can move a Catholic, even one who disagrees with so much of official Church teaching. I myself don’t agree with Michael on the hot-button issues, when it comes to the Holy Father’s teachings on matters like homosexuality, birth-control, and “theological dissent,” I have nothing but admiration and respect for Benedict’s courageous (and often counter-cultural) positions. Christ said in the Gospels, after all, that He would be a “sign of contradiction.” We should expect nothing less from the successor to His Church.

As the Shepherd of the Church, it is his responsibility to guide the Church of Jesus Christ with teachings of moral truth—and truth can, so often, be controversial and hard to accept by popular cultural trends, especially those so prominent in Western culture. Yet, when one reads the writings of this great Pope it becomes evident that his teachings are filled with the goodness, humanity, and at times, even mystical manifestations of the sublime, in guiding and articulating the beauty of the faith and the reasons why following this beauty can lead our souls to a fulfillment that nothing else in the world can satisfy.

For it is only the deep encounter with Jesus Christ that leads to such fulfillment, and once we establish that relationship with Him, we no longer have a legalistic understanding of Church teaching because we realize that it is our love that drives our loyalty to the Lord; there is an interior dimension in play here that involves spirituality. In the Gospels, the Lord says, “If you love me, follow my commandments.” Once that love is present — and once it is a true love — then His commandments become a joy, not an external obligation, for by loving the Truth we give our souls to be transformed by the Truth.

In the process, our egos become smaller, as we empty ourselves and allow the Lord and His “ego” — His mentality, His point-of-view, His humble but supernatural framework — to fill our minds and expand them to an appreciation for sacred truths; even those truths that too much of Western society has fallen away from in drastic (and unfortunate) ways.

I’m digressing…..this post was meant to be on certain reflections to the Pope’s resignation.

Let me finish with the best reflection I have read thus far.

The other day, I was having lunch with a doctoral student from the English department of the Catholic University of America. She told me what a great, humble and sincere, reflection John Garvey, the president of the Catholic University, wrote about the Holy Father’s resignation. Garvey’s reflection was published in National Review. Garvey first speculated on the way that critics of the Pope will try to exploit the situation.

“They will imply there might be other reasons for the resignation. They will claim he’s playing politics, or hunt for a scandal to tie the resignation to. In fact, commentators were making the suggestion almost as soon as the news broke.”

Garvey continued that there is a holier (and more honest) explanation to the decision, and to discern it we need to turn to the person of Benedict XVI and his relationship with Jesus Christ: for that is the key to his entire life.

I completely agree with this. After all, to understand such a life-altering decision, one needs to understand the interior life, the inner dimensions of the man making the decision. That is something that our secular media ignores, at times having no understanding of a spiritual leader’s interior life beyond seeing nothing but the political in all his actions, lacking a proper grasp of the supernatural dimensions that are in play.

Garvey thus writes:

“The creative and life-changing living out of the Catholic faith that Benedict XVI has called for does not find its source in an ethical system or code, but rather in a deep friendship with God nourished by the Church. That is the message the Pope offered at his inaugural Mass as Pope in April 2005. He said on that day, “If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation . . . open wide the doors to Christ — and you will find true life.

“The Pope offered the very same message yesterday by the humble act of resignation. For nearly eight years the Pope has been the supreme leader of the Church, guarding her against evil, teaching her by his words, proclaiming her truth to a world in need of it. He closes this chapter of his life with a single, humble act. In doing so he leads by example, leaving us with two powerful reminders. The first is that our successes are really gifts of God, to be used for his greater glory and for the benefit of his creation. These gifts do not belong to us. They are, as the Gospel’s parable of the talents teaches, entrusted to us for a time so we can do our very best to use them well.

“The second reminder is about loving God. Pope Benedict XVI has shown the world that friendship with Jesus Christ — the source of his strength as theologian and Pope — is what really matters. The friendship with which Benedict accepted the papacy is the same friendship that led him to give it up. It is a friendship that has found a welcome home in the heart of this humble Pope. His magnificent contributions to the Catholic Church will not be forgotten. Nor will his example.”

Surviving a Serial Rapist & Murderer, a Gang-Related Shooting: Rosario Rodriguez’s Story of Forgiveness and Healing

, contributer at CatholicMom.com, sent me his great article about the story of Rosario Rodriguez, an incredible young woman who miraculously survived the attack of a serial rapist and murderer at an early age, and a gang-related crime in Los Angeles, forgiving the person who shot her in the chest. Looking at her perpetrator at a court hearing, Rosario not only forgave but also explained that she prays that the love, mercy, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ will become known to her perpetrator.

Please check out this great video of Rosario telling her story. Today she is a popular speaker who shares her testimony of healing in faith with audiences throughout the world.

Also, please check out Rosario’s Web site and her blog.

There is much to appreciate and love about Rosario’s courageous journey to healing. One essential lesson — among many — to take away is seen in how by accepting forgiveness in her heart, the process — so transformative and therapeutic — was able to free Rosario from carrying anger, depression, and constant bitterness in her soul.

Of course, with deep-seated wounds, such feelings do not always leave automatically, but their demise (no matter how gradual) is met on the path of forgiving, an essential step to receiving the Lord’s healing and blessing. This does not dismiss, nor ignore, the gravity of the crime and sin committed, the evil that was perpetrated. True forgiveness looks evil in the face and says, “You have not won. You have not conquered me. I will not succumb to your standards, to your ways. I am free in Christ, and in His Holy Name, I forgive. I let go.”

May the Lord’s peace and abundant blessings be with you, dear friends.

Notre Dame Medjugorje Conference 2013: Speakers Announced

Queen of Peace Ministries, which organizes the annual Medjugorje Conference at theOurLadyofMedjugorje3 University of Notre Dame, recently released the list of its 2013 speakers for the upcoming event in May. Here is the list. I am very humbled and honored to be one of the speakers this year, and was happy to see that others whose work on Medjugorje I recognize and have followed will be there. The Lord has been good to me in abundant ways; and I was asked to share my testimony at the conference this year and to speak about the scientific studies performed on the visionaries throughout the years, a subject of my doctoral dissertation.

From the list of speakers, the mystery that remains is Fr. Petar Ljubicic, OFM, the Franciscan priest who was chosen by visionary Mirjana to reveal the Medjugorje secrets to the world (once the time comes). It would be great to encounter Fr. Petar at the conference — the man has been given such a significant mission in God’s plan for salvation — but it looks like Fr. Petar will not be able to make a decision on his availability until later in March. Updates to follow!

Our Lady’s Feb 2, 2013 Message

“Dear children, Love is bringing me to you – the love which I desire to teach you also – real love; the love which my Son showed you when He died on the Cross out of love for you; the love which is always ready to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. How great is your love? My motherly heart is sorrowful as it searches for love in your hearts. You are not ready to submit your will to God’s will out of love. You cannot help me to have those who have not come to know God’s love to come to know it, because you do not have real love. Consecrate your hearts to me and I will lead you. I will teach you to forgive, to love your enemies and to live according to my Son. Do not be afraid for yourselves. In afflictions my Son does not forget those who love. I will be beside you. I will implore the Heavenly Father for the light of eternal truth and love to illuminate you. Pray for your shepherds so that through your fasting and prayer they can lead you in love. Thank you.”