Secret Key of Meeting with God

Our_Lady_of_EmmitsburgDear children, Today I am calling you to be people of prayer. Pray until prayer becomes a joy for you and a meeting with the Most High. He will transform your hearts and you will become people of love and peace. Do not forget, little children, that Satan is strong and wants to draw you away from prayer. You, do not forget that prayer is the secret key of meeting with God. That is why I am with you to lead you. Do not give up on prayer. Thank you for having responded to my call.

– Message of Our Lady of Medjugorje,        August 25,  2017

Good News for Medjugorje

The topic of Medjugorje has been making news recently because of the Vatican’s decision to assign a special envoy, a Polish archbishop, to examine the pastoral situation in Medjugorje and, on the other hand, because the local bishop of Mostar — whose authority over Medjugorje has been taken away by the Holy See a long time ago — has decided to issue more negative comments about the apparitions.

Here is a great explanation by the Mariologist and Professor at Franciscan University Mark Miravalle, clarifying why the recent news about Medjugorje, especially regarding the special envoy, is good news for Medjugorje.

Champions of the Rosary: A Powerful Read on a Spiritual Weapon

Earlier this year as I was returning to the friary from my summer assignment I found a championsoftherosarypackage in my mailbox from Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC. It was a signed copy of his new book, Champions of the Rosary: The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon. In a couple of days I would be taking a silent retreat at a Trappist monastery and was in need of some spiritual reading, so the unexpected book could not have come at a better time.

To be honest, so many books have been written about the rosary, that when I first saw this one – although grateful for the gift – I was not expecting to encounter anything special. Was I ever wrong!

Fr. Don Calloway’s book on the rosary is probably the best book written on the topic since St. Louis de Montfort’s classic The Secrets of the Rosary, and – I say this without hesitation – surpasses even de Montfort’s work. It will quickly take its place – a special place – as the greatest book written on the rosary to date. Fr. Calloway should be proud of this achievement.

When one reads his book it becomes evident that a labor of love went into it, finding a beautiful balance between a fascinating and thorough history of the rosary and being a work that captures the spiritual dynamism of this devotion with the saints, mystics, and martyrs who, throughout Church history, have been its greatest advocates.

rosaryThe subtitle of the book – “The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon” – points to a profound reality, one that perhaps too often in our cultural thinking (which falls into secular norms of understanding) we tend to neglect – the reality that life is a battle between two kingdoms: between the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of hell, between God and the devil, between light and darkness. And, what is most urgent not to neglect, is the reality that we are all born into this war and thus called to be soldiers on the battlefield.

Fr. Calloway understands well – as many saints and holy men and women throughout history have known – that in the rosary we have been given a powerful spiritual weapon, a sword in the battle against evil. “The first key is to understand the rosary as a spiritual sword made by God, the Divine Craftsman. This key unlocks the mystery of what the rosary is, why it has so much power, and why the devil constantly seeks to destroy it.”

The first half of the book is probably the most thorough history of the rosary ever written in the English language, including a history of popes, miracles, military battles, Marian confraternities, and various developments in Church history that has led to the promotion (and, at times, suppression) of the most popular devotion in Catholicism. It is so well-researched, and yet beautifully written, that Fr. Calloway admits it took him years to work on.

The second half of Fr. Calloway’s book pertains to 26 holy men and women – saints, blesseds, popes, Servants of God – who had an incredible Marian devotion and were great advocates of the rosary. This section constitutes the spiritual dynamite of the book, giving the stories and Marian spirituality of men and women whose holiness and devotion is contagious. Reading about these souls we are strengthened, edified, and encouraged by their radical witness to become holier, to pick up the rosary each day, and go deeper into prayer and intimacy with Jesus and Mary.

We see a nice combination of very well-known names like Maximilian Kolbe, Padre Pio Josemaria Escriva, John Paul II, Fatima visionary Lucia dos Santos, and lesser-known (but equally important) names like Blessed Bartolo Longo and Servant of God Dolindo Ruotolo.

josemariaescriva

St. Josemaria Escriva

The work is so well-researched that often we discover new facts about known lives. For example, there is a section dedicated to St. Josemaria Escriva (1902-1975), the founder of Opus Dei, and his dynamic Marian spirituality. I did not know that, as a child, St. Josemaria was on the verge of death but experienced a miraculous healing saving his life. Fr. Calloway explains:

“At the age of two, St. Josemaria suffered from an unknown illness (most likely epilepsy) and was expected to die. His devout mother took him to the Marian shrine of Torreciudad in Aragon, Spain, and earnestly prayed for him before a statue of Our Lady of the Angels that dates from the 11th century. Miraculously, he recovered. His mother attributed his healing to Our Lady. This event helped to form in him a strong, life-long Marian devotion.” St. Josemaria would encourage members of Opus Dei to make frequent Marian pilgrimages

The less-known names are also spiritual giants to discover. In this sense, the Servant of God Dolindo Ruotolo (1882-1970), someone who Fr. Calloway remarks as being “born in Naples and is almost unknown outside of Italy,” has been a real discovery for me.

“A devout priest and an avid scholar, Dolindo has been called the ‘Scribe of the Holy Spirit.’ He penned a 33-volume commentary on Holy Scripture, as well as many other theological works. He wanted people to read good books on theology and devotion, and so he founded the Apostolato Stampa press in order to publish orthodox theological works. He was an extraordinary musician, a Third Order Franciscan, and slept less than three hours a night due to his intense prayer life.”

dolindor

Servant of God Dolindo Ruotolo, priest, scholar, mystic

This was a 20th century priest. When pilgrims traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo to visit Padre Pio, he pointed to Fr. Dolindo, asking why were people visiting him (Padre Pio) when there is a saint in Naples. Fr. Dolindo, with a deeply contemplative prayer life, “regretted that Modernis had reduced the prominence of the rosary in the lives of many Catholics, and emphatically preached that the rosary was not a tedious prayer of repetition, but a method for contemplating the saving mysteries of the life of Christ.”

Fr. Calloway further explains: “Dolindo lived through World War I and World War II. He saw the rosary as a weapon in the spiritual life, referring to the rosary as a sword and a machine gun in our spiritual arsenal. In his homilies, he often informed his listeners that every Hail Mary was a shot fired at Satan and the forces of darkness.”

In Fr. Dolindo’s own words: “The rosary is a powerful prayer against Satan and against the assaults of evil. Our Church brought, and continues to bring, great triumphs because of this prayer. The decades of the rosary, from this point of view, are like the belt of a machine gun: every bead is a shot, every affection of the soul is an explosion of faith that frightens off Satan, and Mary once more crushes his head.”

In such spiritual gems, we see a much deeper understanding behind the reality of the rosary as a central weapon of combat for spiritual warfare.

Fr. Calloway’s book accomplishes a tremendous task, one that is threefold. It is probably the most thorough history of the rosary ever written. It captures the spiritual dynamism of Marian devotion and spirituality, especially conveyed through the lives of the men and women who reached heights of holiness through their Marian spirituality. And it also provides beautiful artwork about the Madonna and the rosary—many depictions of St. Dominic receiving the rosary, and of other saints with the Virgin. These artworks span from classics by baroque artists like Caravaggio to contemporary art commissioned by Fr. Calloway for the theme of the book, capturing a Madonna that is a mighty Queen with the rosary in one hand and a sword binding the devil in the other, surrounded by her army of saints.

The Bible begins with the Book of Genesis, where it is explained that the Woman would stump on the head of the serpent, and finishes with the Book of Revelation, where the Woman with a crown of twelve stars with her child would do battle against the dragon and his angels. Meaning, throughout salvation history, from the beginning to the end, Our Lady’s has been given a pivotal role—even being prefigured—in destroying the works of the devil, leading souls to a deeper intimacy with her divine son Jesus: being chosen by God for a singularly unique mission in salvation history. It is the Queen of Heaven who is leading the armies of light against the kingdom of darkness.

frcalloway

Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC

Fr. Calloway explains: “I have written Champions of the Rosary to recap and pick up where St. Louis de Montfort left off. Three centuries have gone by since St. Louis de Montfort penned his monumental work, and many things have taken place. Many miracles, victories, conversions, developments, discoveries, and champions of the rosary need to be added to the story of the sword for the people of our times. Trust me: I know firsthand how the rosary can help a soul convert.”

Fr. Calloway, being someone who was saved from a life of sin and ruin as an adolescent—including addiction, crime, and promiscuity—through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, knows very well what it means to be saved from the grip of the enemy by the spiritual sword of the rosary. He has written a book in return that is a gift to the Church, speaking to a multifaceted and rich history of miracles, conversions, military victories, Marian apparitions, and holy lives who owe so much to the Virgin Mary’s intercession. The greatest compliment that a book by a Christian author can receive is that it’s a work that will lead readers to experience God and lead to lives of deeper devotion and conversion. Fr. Calloway’s book, an anointed work, possesses this rare capacity: it is a book informed not only by knowledge but also by the life of prayer.

The Silence of the Birds: the Powerful Experiences of an Atheist Doctor and Notre Dame’s Basketball Team in Medjugorje

FOLLOW FREEDOM IN CHRIST ON FACEBOOK – CLICK TO LIKE!

MedjugorjeApparition Hill

One of the most fascinating phenomena that people have experienced in Medjugorje is the silence of the birds, an occurrence that has been reported as transpiring at times when the visionaries have their apparitions. This occurrence has been reported by people as diverse as members of Notre Dame’s basketball team, including players who were not Catholic, and an atheist Italian neurophysiologist who scientifically examined the apparitions of the visionaries.

Dr. Marco Margnelli was an ardent atheist who used to travel to various locations trying to disprove claims of mystical phenomena—he traveled, for example, to San Giovanni Rotondo in 1987, trying to disprove the stigmata of Padre Pio. He came to Medjugorje in 1988, hoping to prove the experiences of the visionaries to be false, he admitted.

DrMargnelli

Dr. Marco Margnelli, Italian neurophysiologist

Author and journalist Randall Sullivan recorded the event in his book The Miracle Detective: An Investigation of Holy Visions. Dr. Margnelli experienced various occurrences in Medjugorje which rocked his beliefs. He met a woman who was miraculously healed of leukemia. He studied the apparitions of the visionaries and came to the conclusion that they do enter into a genuine state of ecstasy, even admitting: “we were certainly in the presence of an extraordinary phenomenon.”

What moved him most powerfully, however, was the behavior of the birds. Before the apparitions of the visionaries would begin in the rectory, there were thousands of birds outside chirping and cooing, being incredibly—at times, deafeningly—loud.

Until the moment when the apparitions would begin: the second that the visionaries would drop to their knees and go into ecstasy every bird outside would go completely silent.

That absolute silence of the birds haunted him, Dr. Margnelli admitted. A few weeks after returning to Italy from Medjugorje, Dr. Margnelli became a practicing Catholic.

MedjugorjevisionariesApparition

Medjugorje visionaries in ecstasy during an apparition in the rectory of St. James Church

This fascinating phenomena has been witnessed by a number of pilgrims, including Notre Dame’s basketball team.

diggerphelps

Digger Phelps, Notre Dame coach (1971-1991)

Deacon Brian Miller explained, at the 2016 Marian Conference at the University of Notre Dame last month, that one year in the ‘80s the Notre Dame basketball team was in Yugoslavia for a summer tour playing basketball. They made a side trip to Medjugorje. They made the trip under Coach Digger Phelps, who spent 20 years as head coach (1971-1991) of Notre Dame’s men’s basketball team and then many years as an ESPN broadcaster and analyst.

David Rivers, who was the star point guard on the team, and the 25th overall pick of the 1988 NBA draft, playing professionally for the Lakers and the Clippers, shared a testimony about the Medjugorje trip at Notre Dame’s library. Rivers, it is noteworthy, was not even Catholic.

David Rivers

David Rivers

“He said it was stunning,” Deacon Miller recalled. “There were all these birds

outside [in Medjugorje, as the apparitions were to begin].” At that time, the visionaries had their apparitions in the rectory of St. James Church, and during the day the basketball team was there, there were thousands of birds outside, making noise, “and then as soon as Our Lady came, boom, it was quiet, until she left,” Deacon Miller said, recollecting Rivers’ testimony.

Here is a video of both Deacon Brian Miller and I sharing these stories at the 2016 Marian Conference at the University of Notre Dame:

FOLLOW FREEDOM IN CHRIST ON FACEBOOK – CLICK TO LIKE!

FOLLOW BR. DANIEL MARIA ON TWITTER!

“Nutella” Billionaire’s Devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes

“Ferrero’s policies are bound up with the fervent Catholicism of its owner. He has a special devotion to the Madonna of Lourdes . . . executives say he visits her shrine at least once a year and that every Ferrero plant and office in the world has a statue of the Madonna.” – The Guardian

The Italian entrepreneur and billionaire Michelle Ferrero, who had a net worth ofnutellaferrero.0.0 26.7 billion dollars, and was considered the richest man in Italy, attributed much of his success to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, particularly the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes.

As the Guardian explained, Ferrero visited the Lourdes shrine on pilgrimage each year and had a statue of Our Lady placed at every office and plant worldwide where his company resided. Furthermore, he often took his employees to the sacred shrine. According to Aleteia, at the 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of his company, which bears his family name, Ferrero said: “The success of Ferrero we owe to Our Lady of Lourdes; without her we can do little.”

Moreover, according to published stories in both the Guardian and Aleteia, the Ferrero company’s chocolates, specifically the Ferrero “Rocher”—their shape and name—are said to be inspired by the rocky grotto of Lourdes, called the Rocher de Massabielle. Here is a fascinating comparison of images:

Ferrero Rocher

Ferrero Rocher, from candywarehouse.com

 

Rocher de Massabielle (Lourdes Grotto)

Ferrero died on Valentine’s Day last year, marking almost a year since his passage into eternity. Quite appropriately he passed away on a day when millions around the world would be indulging in his chocolates. Zelda Caldwell of Aleteia explains in her profile of Ferrero: “He was a man endowed with a strong faith who spent his life away from the spotlight and the tabloids. Each year he went on pilgrimage to Lourdes, taking his top manager. He also organized a visit to the French shrine for his employees.”

His Peace be with You!

With my former spiritual director, Fr. Stephen Shin, after my profession ceremony

Dear Friends, may the peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you! This is my first blog post in over a year, since I’ve entered religious life as a Franciscan novice. Exactly one month ago, my Franciscan classmates and I became professed friars, professing vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience to God, to His holy Church, and to our Franciscan order.

I thank immensely all those who have prayed for me during this time, as I took the radical vocational path of pursuing the priesthood within the Franciscan charism. I thank also those who have come back to the Web site regularly—even when I wasn’t able to blog this past year. I was happy to see a consistent number of visitors returning to the site daily. I will now return to making regular blog posts.

You’ll notice from the blog title that my name has changed. Having the option of taking a religious name, I decided to add Our Lady’s name, in its most universal form — Maria  — to my name, both as thanksgiving for her closeness to me, for the vocation she has led me to through her Son, and also because many of my favorite saints, my brothers and sisters in Christ, have had variations of Our Lady’s name in theirs, reminding me of the Communion of Saints that I (and everyone!) am called to: among these are (my favorite Franciscan) St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, St. John Marie Vianney, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, St. Josemaria Escriva, even St. Gemma Galgani (whose full name is Maria Gemma Umberta Pia Galgani). Therefore, in religious life I am known as Brother Daniel Maria, hopefully one day Father Daniel Maria!

Professing vows with my Franciscan brothers.

Professing vows with my Franciscan brothers at the Immaculate Conception Chapel of St. Francis University in Loretto, PA. I’m at the far end.

If you’d like to see some pictures from the day of my profession ceremony (like the one here)—and from religious life, in general—click here to go to the Photo Gallery, where I added new pics. Above is also a picture of myself with Capuchin friar, Fr. Stephen Shin, great friend and former spiritual director of mine who has journeyed with me from the time I was a discerning lay person, helping me to discern a vocation with the Franciscan friars of the Third Order Regular. It was a great grace to have Fr. Stephen at the profession ceremony, concelebrating at Mass with the priests of my community.

It is good to return to writing. So much is happening in our culture and world right now; great turmoil and unrest, deep confusion about sexual morality, the definition of marriage, violence, racism, and global terrorism, that authentic Christian voices are necessary to rise up and proclaim the greatness and beauty of the Truth in light of so much confusion. I encourage you, friends, to remain optimistic and hopeful, united as a Church founded not by men, but by the Son of the living God, Jesus the Christ, against Whom the gates of hell cannot prevail.

Let us give our lives, our concerns, our culture, our country, and our world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary: in deeper prayer, sacrifice, love, unconditional Gospel love that is so radical and revolutionary — selfless — that it becomes a living testimony of the truth of the Church, of lives given to (and transformed by) Christ Jesus. With the Rosary in our hands, with the Scriptures in our minds and hearts, weapons of the Spirit, let us go forward, advance against Satan, showing that we belong to Jesus and Mary, entrusting our lives and all that surrounds us to our Heavenly Father, all-powerful and merciful. Let us stand united in a firm faith, bold and unapologetic, unshakable in Christ and His Church, our royal inheritance, courageously moving forward with the Cross.

Our Lady’s Most Recent Message

MedjOurLadyFriends, sorry for getting this message out late — the past week has been extremely busy — but here is Our Lady’s most recent message from Medjugorje. Peace & abundant blessings!

April 25, 2014 Message to Marija

“Dear children! Open your hearts to the grace which God is giving you through me, as a flower that opens to the warm rays of the sun. Be prayer and love for all those who are far from God and His love. I am with you and I intercede for all of you before my Son Jesus, and I love you with immeasurable love. Thank you for having responded to my call.”

Our Lady’s Message, April 2, 2014

Dear children, with a motherly love I desire to help you for your life of prayer and penance to be a sincere attempt of drawing closer to my Son and His divine light – that you may know how to separate yourselves from sin. Every prayer, everyMirjanaApparition Mass and every fasting is an attempt of drawing closer to my Son, a reminder of His glory and a refuge from sin – it is a way to a renewed union of the good Father and His children. Therefore, my dear children, with hearts open and full of love, cry out the name of the Heavenly Father that He may illuminate you with the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit you will become a spring of God’s love. All those who do not know my Son, all those thirsting for the love and peace of my Son, will drink from this spring. Thank you. Pray for your shepherds. I pray for them and I desire that they may always feel the blessing of my motherly hands and the support of my motherly heart.

Photo of Mirjana praying before the apparition:
Mateo Ivankovic/ Glas Brotnja

Our Lady’s Message, March 25, 2014

cropped-mary.jpgDear children! I am calling you anew: begin the battle against sin as in the first days, go to confession and decide for holiness. The love of God will begin to flow through you into the world, peace will begin to rule in your hearts and God’s blessing will fill you. I am with you and intercede for all of you before my Son Jesus. Thank you for having responded to my call.