Friday, October 24, 2014

An Introduction To Father Slavko Barbarić's Book - In The School of Love

My copy of Fr. Slavko's book that I daily prayed and meditated upon at the Original Blue Cross.

With this month of October being the Month of the Rosary, I thought it fitting to publish today's post on a book that is a wonderful prayer companion during this dedicated month to Our Lady. This summer I had the privilege of making a pilgrimage to Medjugorje for several weeks. It was one that afforded me the opportunity to spend many hours in quiet thought and prayer, learning from Our Lady. With my pilgrimage came many gifts, one of which was Father Slavko Barbarić's book, In The School of Love. Today's post shares this gift with all visitors to my blog. If you are currently in Medjugorje, I respectfully encourage you to seriously consider purchasing this book, available at the Franciscan book store, adjacent to the Information Center near St. James Church. If you really want to understand part of what your pilgrimage is all about, this book will provide the answer.

People go on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje for many different reasons united in hope and with love for Our Lady. Whether it be for the discernment of a vocation, spiritual, emotional or physical healing, answers to life questions or the "recharging" of one's "spiritual battery," one thing is for certain, we all go there because we have been called by Our Blessed Mother who loves us, who wants to teach us how to love and in the process, invites us to enter into her "School of Love." Our Lady has been inviting us to become diligent students in her "School Of Love" in Medjugorje for over thirty three years. To date, over 50 million pilgrims have responded with their "yes," by making a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Our Lady is the most surest and quickest way to understand and follow Jesus. With our "yes" to her invitation, pilgrims in Medjugorje become more resolute in their effort to follow Christ with a greater fidelity.

Commemorative Bolder at Cross Mountain (Križevac) - The spot where Fr. Slavko passed away in November'2000

Father Slavko Barbarić, a legend in the Medjugorje community, was a Franciscan friar who began working with pilgrims in Medjugorje in 1982, conducting numerous spiritual exercises and provided many talks about Medjugorje all over the world. His written contributions include many articles for different publications as well as books on the spirituality of Medjugorje, translated in more than 20 languages and sold in millions. His book, In The School Of Love, was written during the Balkan War (1991-1999) which he admittedly stated was not an easy task. Faced with "hatred in action," he sometimes found it difficult to write this book, but he persevered in prayer to move forward in the writing about love, spreading love in the process. The writing of his book was one of Fr. Slavko's many invitations to all people to open themselves without any fear to Our Lady's motherly love. 

Father Slavko's book, In The School of Love is a 132 page spiritual treasure that any reader is sure to read several times in one's lifetime. Each chapter is approximately one to one and a half pages and focuses on a specific message from Our Lady given to the visionary, Marija Pavlović-Lunetti. Each chapter can easily become your day's meditative reading and is especially useful for keeping the spirit of Medjugorje alive for those pilgrims who have left Medjugorje. I have outlined below the structure of each chapter's content: 

  • Chapter Title - Intrigues the reader to discover each chapter's content.
  • Our Lady's Message - Each chapter contains one of Our Lady's messages, upon which the reader is invited to "read and listen" to what Our Lady is saying.
  • Teaching and Meditation - Following each message Fr. Slavko provides a teaching that each reader is to meditate on.
  • Passage From Scripture - Each chapter concludes with quotes from scripture, offered as spiritual food for further reflection. Father Slavko's teaching is based on and empowered by the divine content contained within scripture. It serves to recap and confirm his teaching.

There is no time limit or any other parameter placed upon the reading of each chapter. To simply follow through Fr. Slavko's chapter structrue takes approximately 10-15 minutes. Certainly it could result in much more time, as it might spawn a lengthy meditation and encourage the reader to spontaneous prayer to Our Lady. One thing is for certain, this book encourages you to "pray with the heart" and 
invites each reader to become a diligent student in Our Lady's "School Of Love," the most beautiful school.

To be consecrated to Our Lady, open and devoted to Her and to be Her student is a great gift and grace. Mary is the mother of us all and she was the first one to be nourished from the spring of Divine Love. It is with this same love that Our Lady desires to lead us, Her children to that same spring of love.

The visionaries have often quoted Our Lady, "Dear Children! If you would only know how much I love, you would weep for joy!" Reading this book united with prayer will help you begin to understand Our Lady's love for us, her children. I am certain that should you decide to read this book, that well before its completion, you will be praying daily for the gift of love!

May Our Lady help you to excel in Her School of Love.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My Thoughts On Life Chain Fall'2014

Life Chain's Fall Effort: me to the left with two other pro-lifers

Today's post is a follow up on the Life Chain Fall'2014 effort that took place on October 5th between 2:00pm to 3:00pm at Highway 7 and Islington Avenue, here in Woodbridge, Ontario. I had the privilege of witnessing with a small but dedicated group of pro-lifers. It was encouraging to witness with like minded Catholics who have an acute understanding of the urgency with which we need to make the truth about abortion known, that is, the killing of a developing human being in the womb. I congratulate all those who were in attendance for making the effort to help save lives and convert nonbelievers. I also thank those who wanted to be there but for what ever reason could not attend, yet were with us in spirit. Thank you to all those who were united with us in prayer and who prayed for us as well.

As Catholic laity we are called to put faith into action. It is not enough for us to know and live our faith in our own lives, we have to share our gift of faith and make it known to others. To quote scripture, "What good is a faith that does nothing in practice. It is thoroughly lifeless." (James 2:17) Life Chain is part of our Labouring In The Vineyard For The Unborn and Nonbelievers. By doing so we evangelize in our community by publicly denouncing the evil of abortion and identifying it as a threat to the value and inviolability of human life.

If you are new to Life Chain, it is a silent public prayer effort whereby participants witness against the the evil of abortion by holding signs that typically read, "Abortion Kills Children." While doing so, we typically pray the Rosary either as an individual recitation or more commonly as a group one. Our witness doesn't necessarily yield any immediate tangible results, but we do it with faith, trust and confidence in Jesus and Mary's intercession that lives will be saved and people will be converted. 

Life Chain location at Hwy. 7 and Islington Avenue.

Helping to save lives and conversion is what Life Chain is all about. Sadly we have had abortion in Canada for forty five years. Abortion was ushered in through a political process whereby the passing of the 1969 Omnibus Bill in the House of Commons permitted hospitals to perform "therapeutic abortions." This was eventually followed by a Supreme Court decision in 1988, that struck down section 251 of the Criminal Code, effectively removing any abortion law in Canada. The court decision was the result of a constitutional challenge by the infamous Dr. Henry Morgantaler who successfully sought the removal all legal barriers to abortion. Since that challenge abortion has become available on demand with abortion facilities established across the nation. Perhaps you may have seen them in your own neighbourhood given the euphemistically deceptive name of "Women's Health Care Clinic" or something very similar.

The establishment of abortion facilities across the nation represents more than the obvious danger of the killing of developing human beings in the womb, but also of promoting a "culture of death." For the younger generations, this is especially dangerous because for many, abortion has always been an option, just another "standard medical service." Add to this a lack of Catholic faith formation that has left many vulnerable to the values and beliefs of main stream secular society. The result has been for many a rejection of Catholic teaching on the issue of abortion.

Sadly the lack of understanding and acceptance of the truth about abortion is very close to home for many Catholics, who themselves have become very secularized. You need not look far to find this. Take a survey of those Catholics who are your family, friends, relatives, neighbours, colleagues at work, those who you communicate and come into contact with and ask them what is their understanding of the abortion issue. How many will provide the right answer that is available in the Catechism of the Catholic Church

One of the wonderful aspects of our Catholic faith is that it is a complete faith, one that provides the answers to our questions. Abortion is certainly no exception. From the rich history of the Catholic Church comes two key sources in addition to the Catechism of The Catholic Church that will help those who are involved in evangelization: Love and Responsibility and Theology of The Body.

Father Karol Wojtyla's (Saint Pope John Paul II) book Love and Responsibility, is a thorough read on the Catholic tradition in the sphere of life and sexual morality. It was originally published in 1960 and was the result in part of his pastoral work with young couples and individuals. The chapter topics included in this work are: The Person and The Sexual Urge, The Person and Love, The Person and Chastity, Justice Toward The Creator and Sexology and Ethics. The thrust of this book focusses on the human person to obtain a full and complete understanding of the relations between sexes. The title alone should intrigue anyone who is serious about having a truthful and loving relationship.

Saint Pope John Paul II's book, Theology of The Body is the extensive collection of catechesis that he delivered during his Wednesday general audience at St. Peter's Square between 1979 to 1984. This body of work is considered to be our late Pope’s most important catechetical project of his pontificate. Saint Pope John Paul II divided his work into two fundamental questions of “who we are?” and “how are we to live?” In short, Theology of the Body is a presentation of the truth about the body and its significance in God's divine plan for humanity. As one who has read both of these two key sources in their entirety, I can assure you that they, in conjunction with the Catechism of The Catholic Church, form a complete set of readings for Catholics to discover the truth about life, our bodies, sexual ethics and the proper relationships men and women are to have with each other. 

Pro-lifers witnessing against the evil of abortion.

In addition to what our Catholic faith says about abortion, I would also like to provide scientific evidence which proves that within the womb there is a developing human being. The proof comes in the form of a YouTube video, Dr. Bernard Nathanson's, Silent Scream. It is a ultrasound presentation of what happens when a baby is aborted. Beginning with a stable and peaceful environment within the womb, the video reveals the physical changes the baby goes through when the killing is about to begin. Changes to the baby's normal heart beat, stable positioning and other indicators are illustrated by the ultrasound imaging in this video and the monitoring devices of the babies functions. In the end, it reveals the heart breaking killing of a baby who was in great distress prior to his/her brutal death.

I thought I would end my post by explaining why I held an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, when everyone else was holding signs that are typical for Life Chain. The significance of Our Lady of Guadalupe's role in protecting lives needs to be promoted. Saint Pope John Paul II on December 12th, 1999 at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, entrusted the cause of life to the loving protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe and placed under her motherly care the innocent lives of children, especially the unborn children. As a result, Our Lady of Guadalupe has received the additional title of Protectress of The Unborn. By my showing this image in public, I hope to make this better known in my community.

Holding up an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe also points to the fact that the abortion fight is a spiritual battle, one that demands we employ spiritual weapons. With Our Lady of Guadalupe as a powerful intercessor, we fight the good fight against this evil in our society.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Protectress of The Unborn, pray for us.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Medjugorje's Luminous Mysteries Mosaics

In keeping with October's theme of the Month of the Rosary, I hope with today's post to further encourage my fellow Catholics to honour Our Lady this month with a new or renewed Rosary Devotion. My post also shares some of my personal experiences during my pilgrimage this summer in Medjugorje at the Luminous Mysteries mosaics. I thought it fitting to share this post today in part as a continuation of the spirit with which Saint Pope John Paul II introduced the Luminous Mysteries in 2002 with his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae.

The interlocking stone walking path at the back alter area of St. James Church where to
the left in this photo are the Luminous Mysteries mosaics.

Medjugorje is a place of many ideal prayer locations and the Luminous Mysteries mosaics is one such location. If you are currently in Medjugorje and have not been informed about these mosaics in your orientation or become aware of them as part of your personal discovery, I hope that you will be reading this post and have the opportunity to pray at the mosaics on each of your remaining days. For those of you who are researching Medjugorje on line and have yet to go on a pilgrimage, I hope this post will help you to better understand the spiritual treasure that awaits you and all pilgrims who will go Medjugorje. What ever category you fit into, today's post helps to ensure that your time in Medjugorje will include prayer at one the most ideal prayer locations in Medjugorje. I can tell you from my own personal experience that praying at the Luminous Mysteries mosaics is truly a time of divine intimacy.

The Luminous Mysteries mosaics are located at the area adjacent to the back alter of St. James Church and flanked by the interlocking stone walking path leading to the Risen Christ statue. The top photo published with this post will give you a visual of where to find them should you be in Medjugorje. Each mosaic is at least seven to eight feet in height and is approximately the same dimensions in width. The skill with which they were created is beyond professional and truly the result of gifted workmanship. One would be hard pressed to view these mosaics without coming to the conclusion that God sent many graces, inspiration and guidance the artist who worked in putting them together. They really are magnificent to look at and easily achieve their job of bringing pilgrims into the spirit of prayer, inviting each pilgrim to contemplate on the various individual mysteries presented in the imagery of each mosaic.

Luminous Mystery Mosaic, the Wedding at Cana - Medjugorje

This summer I had the privilege of staying in Medjugorje for several weeks. It was a time that afforded me the opportunity to meet many people and establish new friendships, experience wonderful sharing and connect with people from all over the world. It also allowed me to better acquaint myself with the people of Medjugorje, the culture of Herzegovina, the natural landscape, as well as to determine when would be the most optimal time to visit the various prayer locations, including the Luminous Mysteries mosaics. I visited the Luminous Mysteries mosaics at different times of the day and night as part of my discovery and simply as a matter of obeying the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. It was an extension of what I experienced each day. Arising with thoughts of how each day would unfold, I concluded each evening with a special prayer of gratitude to God for the wonderful and spiritually beneficial days I experienced that were well beyond my expectations. Everyday in Medjugorje was amazing including my time at the Luminous Mysteries mosaics.

I had originally arrived in Medjugorje with fellow pilgrims as part of a pilgrim group. The pilgrim group's stay in Medjugorje was for one week. The pilgrimage schedule was full with a well developed daily agenda that took us to the many prayer locations and other places of interest. It was during this first week that I discovered the Luminous Mysteries mosaics and immediately felt very drawn to them. I did not visit them as much as I would have liked, in part due to the group pilgrimage setting I was in. It was something that I made a mental note about and set out to change during my second week and for the remainder of my stay in Medjugorje.

Luminous Mystery Mosaic, The Transfiguration - Medjugorje

During my second week I began to make daily visits to the Luminous Mysteries mosaics. I did so as part of my daily recitation of all fours sets of the mysteries of the Rosary. With the Evening Prayer Program facilitating a group recitation of the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, I typically set out to recite the Luminous Mysteries at the mosaics prior to my participation at the Evening Prayer Program. I hope you will be encouraged by this post to do likewise. I can assure you from my own personal experience that it is time well spent.

If you have yet to discover and include the Luminous Mysteries in your recitation of the Rosary, I would like to recommend the reading of Saint Pope John Paul II's aforementioned Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae. Saint Pope John Paul II was well known for his Marian Devotion, one that animated his pontificate and is clearly evident in the writing of this document. It is a devotion that is spot lighted by his personal declaration that he soon made after his election to the papacy in October'1978, that the "Rosary is my favourite prayer." (RVM, 2) 

May Our Lady Queen of Peace send you the graces to begin and improve upon your Rosary Devotion.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Saint Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae

Luminous Mystery Mosaic, The Baptism of Jesus - Medjugorje

Each year in October, I strive to improve upon my Rosary Devotion by reviewing my Rosary reading materials. This year, I decided to reread Saint Pope John Paul II's document, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, an Apostolic Letter issued on October 16, 2002 to bishops, clergy and the faithful on the Most Holy Rosary. Today's post not only shares this wonderful gift to the Church with every visitor at my blog, but forms part of my own evangelization efforts to promote the Rosary and make it better known and understood.

For those who are somewhat new to the Liturgical Calendar of the Catholic Church, October is traditionally considered to be the Month of The Rosary, a time when all members of the Church are called to honour Our Lady with greater dedication including the recitation of the Rosary. By doing so the Church remembers Our Lady's intercession during the Battle of Lepanto, which saw Christian forces defeat the Ottoman Turks on October 7, 1571. So grateful is the Church that this victorious day was assigned as the special feast day of Our Lady of Victory and later changed to Our Lady of The RosaryOctober truly is a special time of gratitude that is properly expressed by both individual and group recitations of the Rosary, other Marian prayers, Mass and processions. Participating in such prayers and celebrations further opens our hearts to Mary and allows for an abundance of graces to flow to us from her motherly love, bringing us closer to Jesus. As St. Pope John Paul II notes in the Introduction of Rosarium Virginis Mariae, the Rosary is "...a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness." (RVM, 1) When we endeavour to pray the Rosary each day more effectively, we as Christians sit at the "School of Mary" allowing Our Lady to lead us to contemplate the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. (RVM, 1)

For those Catholics that do not recite the Rosary, October is an invitation to discover its meaning and significance for your earthly pilgrimage and more importantly for your eternal salvation. I have published a post for just such individuals entitled, The Rosary - An Introduction. For those that only recite the weekly scheduled mysteries, October can serve as time for you to not only rediscover the many treasures contained in this most beautiful meditative prayer, but to also include additional sets of mysteries to your recitation. To do so is to come closer to eventually reciting all four sets of mysteries everyday, completing the Marathon of Grace.

If you have never heard of Rosarium Virginis Mariae, it was issued not only to promote the recitation of the Rosary, but to facilitate a greater understanding of its purpose and daily inclusion in our lives. It was also used to introduce a new fourth set of mysteries, the Luminous Mysteries. So significant was this new addition that Saint Pope John Paul II declared October 2002 to October 2003 "The Year of The Rosary." Reading this document is a treasure to draw from and for my fellow Marian devotees, it is sure to be one of the most enjoyable reads on the Rosary. The document is twenty six pages printed, outlined with an Introduction, Chapter I - Contemplating Christ With Mary, Chapter II - Mysteries of Christ Mysteries of His Mother, Chapter III - For Me To Live is Christ and a Conclusion

Saint Pope John Paul II's Introduction alone is sure to intrigue those new to the Rosary, those who have recited it all their lives, read extensively about it and for any one in between. In the Introduction, St. Pope John Paul II sets out immediately to identify and declare that the Rosary although clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. (RVM, 1) The Rosary can be considered a compendium of the Gospel and through the Rosary, "the faithful receive an abundance of grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer. (RVM, 1)

Citing such documents as Pope Leo XIII's encyclical, Supremi Apostolatus Officio and Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus the Introduction also provides the reader with a brief historical note on the promotion of the Rosary from the past 150 years in the Church. Saint Pope John Paul II also includes three other individuals from the Catholic Church who have made very significant contributions to spreading the Rosary Devotion: Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Saint Pio of Pietrelcina and Blessed Bartolo Longo. Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort's life was animated by the promotion of the Rosary and it resulted in the writing of two very well know publications in the Church: The Secret of The Rosary and True Devotion To Mary. Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, affectionately known as "Padre Pio," a figure closer to many in the Church, was constantly and consistently praying many Rosaries each day. Blessed Bartolo Longo's Fifteen Saturdays Devotion promoted the Christocentric and contemplative heart of the Rosary with an extensive prayer program. Although not mentioned in the document, these historical notes build upon the long established tradition of the Rosary in the Catholic Church. It is a tradition that began with St. Dominic in 1214 who received the Rosary directly from Our Lady during an apparition, to combat the Albigensian heresy that was plaguing the region of Southern France. This important event in the history of the Catholic Church can be read from St. Louis De Montfort's Secret of The Rosary, Second Rose - Origin.

The prayer intention of peace is given a prominent inclusion in the Introduction. At the time of this document's release, the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center was still fresh in the minds of many. Since then, terrorist attacks have continued and peace has yet to be achieved in many parts of the world, especially in the Middle East and Africa. Peace can be obtained from God through the intercession of Our Lady.

Saint Pope John Paul II also pointed out the pressing need to pray for the family, the primary cell in society. He noted the attack on the family by menacing "forces of disintegration on both the ideological and practical planes..." (RVM, 6) He also noted that the proper response to combat these attacks is the revival of the Rosary in Christian families that coupled with a wider pastoral ministry, will be an effective aid to countering the devastating effects of "this crisis typical of our age." (RVM, 6) 

In Canada, it is easy to identify the "menacing forces." Ever since "same sex marriage" was legally recognized in 2005, the attacks on the family seemed to have increased at a rapid rate. The subtlety of the attacks comes in the form of deceptive language that has hijacked words such as rights, equality, inclusivity and freedom. The bold attacks have come in the form of: genderismpornography, abortion, euthanasia, New Age and occult children's literature such as Harry Potter, and political platforms and strategies such as Ontario's Equity and Inclusivity Strategy that has introduced, indoctrinated and normalized immorality.

There is hope for the future and all Catholics have the opportunity to make it a better one through the recitation of the Rosary. Anything is possible with God and with the Blessed Virgin Mary as our most powerful intercessor, there is good reason to be hopeful. Our Lady of The Rosary as she announced herself at Fatima, has stated in her Fifteen Promises to Christians who recite the Rosary, "You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary." (Promise11May you leave my blog encouraged to improve upon or begin your Rosary Devotion. The Church and the world are in need your prayers. 

Rest assured that I will continue to include in my daily Rosary, all those who visit my blog. Please pray for me.  


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Labouring In The Vineyard For The Unborn and Nonbelievers

Life Chain Fall'2013 at Hwy. 7 and Islington Ave.
With the Fall'2014 Life Chain effort only a few weeks away, I thought it fitting to publish a post in which I hope to encourage my fellow Catholics to not only participate in this pro-life effort, but to become better informed on what the Catholic faith teaches about abortion, the killing of a developing human being in the womb.

If you are new to Life Chain, it is one hour of silent prayer raising public awareness on the evil of abortion. It involves a public witness whereby participants hold signs that typically read, "abortion kills children or babies" coupled with a group or individual recitation of the Rosary. Emphasis is on the "silent" part. Participants are not to chat with each other, nor engage in any debates with those who pass by. Again, it is a silent prayer witness. This year's Life Chain will be on October 5th from 2:00pm-3:00pm at two locations in Woodbridge: Highway 7 and Islington Avenue and Major MacKenzie and Islington Avenue. You might be asking yourself, why do you have to get involved in a public witness against abortion. The answer is rather simple. Participation in Life Chain is an opportunity for the laity to "labour in the vineyard" for the unborn and nonbelievers and forms part of an evangelization effort to identify and denounce the evil of abortion. By your presence at Life Chain, you not only witness to others on the evil of abortion, but you strengthen your own resolve to accept and live the truth about life and the dignity of the human person.

If you have never heard of the phrase "labouring in the vineyard," you might be wondering, what exactly does this mean? It is a reference from Saint Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (Christ's Faithful People), a document that seeks to explain the vocation and mission of the lay faithful in the Church and in the world. In the first paragraph St. Pope John Paul II states:
The lay members of Christ's Faithful People (Christifideles Laici)...are those who form that part of the People of God which might be likened to the labourers in the vineyard mentioned in Matthew's Gospel: "For the Kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard." (Matthew 20:1-2)
Our "vineyard" is the vast world we live in, one that is to be transformed according to God's plan whereby everyone, both of men and women are called to labour in anticipation of the final coming of the Kingdom of God. (CL, 1) Saint Pope John Paul II also states in the same document that, "A new state of affairs today both in the Church and in social, economic, political and cultural life, calls with a particular urgency for the action of the lay faithful. If lack of commitment is always unacceptable, the present time renders it even more so. It is not permissible for anyone to remain idle." (CL, 3) Saint Pope John Paul II wrote this document and was referring to the Church and the world in 1988, a very significant year for Canadian society in particular. It was during that same year that Canada faced a constitutional challenge by the infamous Dr. Henry Morgantaler who successfully sought the removal of all legal barriers to abortion in an effort to establish and make available abortion on demand. Such a challenge was made possible by the 1969 Omnibus Bill which permitted "therapeutic abortions" for almost twenty years prior to Morgantaler's challenge. If you would like to know more about the chronological order of events of how abortion become available in Canada, please view Campaign Life Coalition's Chronology of Laws page.

Resulting from Morgantaler's constitutional challenge has been the rapid expansion of abortion facilities across the nation. You may have seen the facilities in your neighbourhood, euphemistically named as "women's health care clinics or services." Is there any more proof needed to spot light the moral disorder in Canada that has ushered in with it, a "culture of death?" How much more urgent and necessary is it now in Canada for the laity to "labour in the vineyard?" It is an urgency spot lighted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's recent article on Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau, which included many anti-life statements from Trudeau, of which the most notable was, "Women’s reproductive rights trump the freedom of Liberal members of parliament to vote their conscience on abortion." In short, Justin Trudeau's dictatorial approach is one that seeks to remove the freedom of members of parliament from the Liberal Party, to vote against abortion when such individuals, in good conscience, know and understand abortion to be morally evil. This continued political effort to justify and allow abortion in Canada is a very sad development in Canadian politics, one that began with Justin Trudeau's father, the former Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who was the Prime Minister when the Omnibus Bill was read and passed in 1969 in the House of Commons.

An essential component of our "labouring in the vineyard" for the unborn and nonbelievers is to be prepared to explain the Catholic Church teaching on abortion. One of the key sources to draw from is the Catechism of The Catholic Church. At Section Two The Ten Commandments, Chapter Two You Shall Love Your Neighbour As Yourself, Article 5 The Fifth Commandment, it specifically states: 
"You shall not kill...Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being." (2258)
If you have ever had any discussions or disputes with those in favour of abortion, I am sure you have noticed that they completely ignore God and his creative action. To remove this from any discussion on the beginnings of human life in the womb is to ignore the truth. It is a truth that those of us who know, understand and accept it, must always include and never make any compromises against. Under no circumstances is abortion acceptable. This is what the Catholic Church teaches:
Scripture specifies the prohibition contained in the fifth commandment: "Do not slay the innocent and the righteous." The deliberate murder of an innocent person is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human being, to the golden rule, and to the holiness of the Creator. the law forbidding it is universally valid: it obliges each and everyone, always and everywhere. (2261)
All types of justifications are presented by those in favour of killing a developing human being in the womb. You probably have heard some of the deceptive language: the need to have surgical abortions to ensure a safe procedure, "reproductive rights," "it's my body," abortion is necessary when the mother's life is in danger, a woman should not have to remain pregnant when a child was conceived in rape, "no religion should tell me what to do," the child is the "wrong" sex or an ultrasound revealed deformities. These and all other uses of language that try to rationalize the killing of a developing human being in the womb, are not only offensive to God, contrary to God's laws, but demonstrate a fundamental lack of respect for human life. 

At sections 2270-2275, the Catechism of The Catholic Church specifically deals with the abortion issue. This part of the catechism states with absolute clarity how human life must be respected from the moment of conception in the womb. (2270) The part of Church teaching that I find particularly interesting is in section 2271, which details how the moral evil of abortion has been a teaching of the Church since the first century and remains unchangeable:
Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law: You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish. God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.
The catechism also details the punishments assigned to those who procure a completed abortion, that is, the canonical penalty of excommunication. (2272) In addition, there is informative reading on how the inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a "constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation." (2273) The moral guidelines of when a prenatal diagnosis is permitted, that is, in so far as it is done as a matter of respecting life and the integrity of the human fetus and can not at any time be used to induce an abortion, rendering a diagnosis as a "death sentence. (2274) Last, any exploitation and use of human embryos as disposable biological material is completely forbidden as well as any attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance. (2275)

In addition to the Catechism of The Catholic Church, I would like to recommend another key source from the Catholic Church, the well known pro-life encyclical from Saint Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Viate (The Gospel of Life), issued on March 25th, 1995 on the Solemnity of The Annunciation of The Lord. If you are unfamiliar with the late pontiff's writings, Evangelium Vitae is considered to be one of the most important documents of Saint Pope John Paul II's pontificate. If you search my blog for the Evangelium Vitae label, prior to today, I have published three posts on this document. So important is Evangelium Vitae that the Vatican has established an Evangelium Vitae Day, celebrated each year on June 15th-16th.

Eighty pages printed, Evangelium Vitae is a thorough read and is sure to satisfy anyone's desire to know the truth about the value and inviolability of human life. Saint Pope John Paul II did not hesitate to identify and denounce all threats to human life including: abortion, euthanasia, death penalty and human embryo research. Each threat is given specific sections, in which Saint Pope John Paul II elaborated on each threat in detail. At a minimum, if you are pressed for time and can not read this entire document, I would like to recommend you at least read, Chapter III - You Shall Not Kill, God's holy law beginning at section 52 and extends to section 62. The specific details on the evil of abortion are located at sections 58-62. The treasure of truths contained in these respective sections alone will afford you the opportunity to further your understanding of the abortion issue and communicate them better to others.

So much could be included when writing about Evangelium Vitae, and for the sake of brevity of this blog post, I am not going to elaborate on all that this document contains. To illustrate how relevant and pertinent this encyclical is though, I would like to quote from section 58 which accurately depicts society's refusal of God's law. It is a refusal that has continued since this encyclical's release in 1995, manifesting itself in many ways:
Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an "unspeakable crime". But today, in many people's consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behaviour and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception. In this regard the reproach of the Prophet is extremely straightforward: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness" (Is 5:20). Especially in the case of abortion there is a widespread use of ambiguous terminology, such as "interruption of pregnancy", which tends to hide abortion's true nature and to attenuate its seriousness in public opinion. Perhaps this linguistic phenomenon is itself a symptom of an uneasiness of conscience. But no word has the power to change the reality of things: procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth. (EV, 58)
As I share this gift of Evangelium Vitae with everyone, it is my hope that each visitor of this blog will be blessed to recognize, understand and accept the truth on the evil of abortion and share this truth with others. In particular, I reach out to the younger generations who may not have heard of or known Saint Pope John Paul II and all the works God accomplished through him which are a complete treasure to draw from. If you have yet to discover the amazing life of Saint Pope John Paul II, the Vatican has a dedicated section on him, The Holy See - Pope John Paul II

Lastly, if you are going to endeavour to labour in the vineyard for the unborn and nonbelievers, begin your effort with prayer. Prayer is the most important aspect of all your efforts. The Holy Mass and the Rosary are the two most powerful forms of prayers. Depending on what your schedule permits, I respectfully encourage you to make an effort to go to Mass more than once a week and offer it up for the unborn children, their mothers and fathers, those who procure abortions and all other nonbelievers. Praying the Rosary daily for the same intentions, imploring Our Lady of Guadalupe's, Protectress of the Unborn intercession, is also an effective part of your prayer efforts in this spiritual battle. If you are new to the Rosary or do not pray it frequently, I would like to recommend two of my previous posts on the Rosary: The Rosary - An Introduction and The Rosary - A Marathon of Grace.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Medjugorje The Last Apparition - How It Will Change The World
Medjugorje The Last Apparition
If the title of this blog post intrigues you, it should because Medjugorje has a special significance of all the Marian apparitions. Our Lady in Medjugorje has stated that "What I started in Fatima, I will finish in Medjugorje. My heart will triumph." In my view, this is probably one of the most significant messages from Our Lady in Medjugorje. It is a message that not only invites Marian devotees and all Catholics to embrace the apparitions in Medjugorje, but to discover their unique purpose.

Trying to understand what Our Lady meant by the completion her work in Medjugorje is not something you arrive at so quickly. If you are somewhat new to these apparitions this adds to an even bigger challenge of familiarizing yourself with all that has gone on since they began on June 24th, 1981. There is a lot to learn and understand from the many messages of which the most important and first message of all, is that Our Lady is Our Mother and she is present in Medjugorje and she is calling us. Whether you are at the humble beginnings of discovering Medjugorje, have already done some reading on these apparitions or have known about them for years, I would like to recommend Wayne Weible's book, Medjugorje The Last Apparition - How It Will Change The World.

Trusted and credible resources are essential in your discovery or rediscovery of the apparitions in Medjugorje. Wayne Weible is certainly one such resource, who over the past thirty years has visited Medjugorje over 110 times and written extensively about it.  
Wayne Weible set out to work for Our Lady in the early to mid 80's. After receiving the call, he sold his four newspapers and directed his gifts to spreading the news on the apparitions in Medjugorje. Three decades later Wayne continues his service to Our Mother and the result has been an impressive publication of books, articles and newsletters that have been sold in the millions, of which his first book Medjugorje: The Message remains on the international best seller list. Add to this his speaking engagements and appearances at conferences all over the globe and you can easily grasp that Wayne has responded to Our Lady's call in a very positive and generous way. In my view, Wayne Weible should be considered one of "the" resources to access in your quest to understand Medjugorje. I urge you to learn more about Wayne Weible's life by visiting his web site, At this site you will have access to many of his works and be exposed to a grace filled life that has been dedicated to working for Our Lady in Medjugorje. 

In May of this year in Toronto at the Marian Day of Prayer conference I had the pleasure of meeting Wayne Weible. To have spent time with him on a one to one level was a gift. Listening to Wayne at the conference I not only learned a great deal about Medjugorje, but my Marian devotion was strengthened because of the experience. It was at this conference that I purchased his book that I write about today. I knew at that time, that Wayne Weible was one of the "veterans" of Medjugorje, who began his work in the early days of the apparitions, so it was with great anticipation that I awaited the reading. I was not to be disappointed.

As one who recently finished reading this book, I add to the list of accolades from Michael Brown of Spirit DailyImmaculee Ilibagiza the Rwandan genocide survivor, Michael Ripple author of A Lost Shepherd and Christine Watkins author of Full of Grace: Miraculous Stories of healing and Conversion through Mary's Intercession, by stating that Wayne's book, Medjugorje The Last Apparition - How It Will Change The World, should be seriously considered for anyone seeking clarity and understanding as to what these Marian apparitions in Medjugorje are all about, the many developments over the past thirty three years and their unique significance for the world. 

Wayne's historical account of Our Lady's presence in Medjugorje deals with many essential aspects leading the reader from: the early days of the apparitions, to the Communist persecutions, to the lives and struggles two Franciscan friars, Frs. Jozo Zovko and Slavko Barbaric, to some of the internal conflicts within the Church, to the six visionaries and their assigned prayer missions, to the personal pilgrimages and statements of top Vatican officials such as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Head of the Congregation For The Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria, and Saint Pope John Paul II, to his insights of the ten secrets and to the concluding chapter of his book, where he explains why Medjugorje is the "last apparition and how it will change the world."

Weible also spot lights how there has been such an incredible international response from the world, in which over 50 million people have made the pilgrimage to Medjugorje. The acceptance of Our Lady's invitation by so many of her "children" has resulted in the harvesting of many spiritual fruits in this grace filled land, which Weible notes has been the conversion of millions to the Catholic faith, vocations to the priesthood and religious life, the establishment of charities and communities such as Cenacolo and Mother's Village, and more than 80,000 youth that arrive each year for the Medjugorje International Youth Festival

Wayne often states, "Medjugorje is the most important event in the world today." I sincerely hope you purchase this book and find out why. If you do, I am sure you will experience a feeling of gratitude to Our Lady for having chosen and guided Wayne to make the apparitions in Medjugorje better known and understood.

Thank you Wayne Weible for your book, Medjugorje The Last Apparition - How It Will Change The World and your dedicated work serving Our Lady.

Hvaljen Isus i Marija (Praised be Jesus and Mary)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Medjugorje's Prayer Program - A Daily Retreat

At the group recitation of the Rosary before evening Mass

If you are planning to go to Medjugorje or are already on route I hope today's post will encourage you to take part in Medjugorje's Prayer Program. Visiting Apparition Hill, Cross Mountain, The Blue Crosseschatting with fellow pilgrims, enjoying a coffee or tea with friends, going for long walks is sure to be on your "to do" list during your stay in Medjugorje. What you may have yet to include in your daily itinerary is Medjugorje's Prayer Program, a very well organized prayer schedule for all pilgrims that begins in the morning and extends well into the evening. The Franciscan friars in Medjugorje have done an excellent job establishing and implementing the Prayer Program, ensuring that pilgrims will truly have a spiritually beneficial experience. Whether you have been a devout Catholic all your life, recently converted or new to prayer, the Prayer Program will help introduce and strengthen your prayer life and your relationship with Jesus and Mary. 

The Prayer Program begins with Mass at 7:30am in Croatian, which is followed by several other Masses in various languages throughout the morning. English Mass is usually celebrated at either 10:00am or 12:00pm in St. James or the parish hall. In the afternoon, silent adoration is available in the Adoration Chapel, located between the parish Information Center and the outdoor seating at St. James back alter. As evening arrives so too does the opportunity to go to confession, which is available daily in Medjugorje beginning at 6:00pm and extends for many hours. One priest shared with me that on one particular day, he finished hearing his last confession at 11:00pm. As confessions are being heard at both sides of St. James Church, a group recitation of the Rosary simultaneously begins at 6:00pm with the Joyful and Sorrowful Mysteries at the back altar of the church. After the completion of the Sorrowful Mysteries, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary is sung, followed by Mass beginning at 7:00pm. Eucharistic Adoration is added to the evening prayers on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10:00pm-11:00pm and on Thursdays from 8:00pm-9:00pm. Veneration of the Cross takes place every Friday after evening Mass from 8:00pm-9:00pm. On Fridays at 6:00am, the Stations of The Cross are recited at Cross Mountain and group recitation of the Rosary on Apparition Hill on Sundays at 6:00am. The above noted times are during the summer months. During winter, most of these times are typically adjusted to one hour earlier. A pamphlet providing general information of the Prayer Program can be obtained at the parish Information Center. The outdoor monitors at this same location provide the specific details on each day's prayer program.

Capturing the evening part of the Prayer Program's Veneration of the Cross

Upon my arrival in Medjugorje, I greatly anticipated visiting the main apparition sites and spending many hours in prayer during the day, hoping to encounter Our Lady's presence in a profound way. I was not disappointed. What I did not anticipate was that same profound experience of Our Lady's presence during the evening part of the Prayer Program. Being somewhat new to Medjugorje, I wasn't really sure what the evening part of the Prayer Program entailed and what exactly to expect from it all. This did not in any way diminished my expectation of the anticipated peace and joy that I hoped would be experienced and felt in a very conscious way. I was pleased to discover that each night was an amazing experience. Being in Medjugorje and participating in the Prayer Program, especially the dedicated 4-5 hours of nightly prayers, was the equivalent of attending a daily retreat. Accepting Our Lady's invitation to go to Medjugorje and being in the company of so many others who have done likewise, really added to the joyful experience that can only truly be understood if you experience it yourself. This is what awaits those who are on route or scheduled to go to Medjugorje.

In addition to the Rosary prayers, the evening part of the Prayer Program also affords pilgrims an opportunity for a special personal encounter with Our Lady. What I am referring to is the brief stoppage of the group recitation of the Rosary at 6:40pm each night. This is done to acknowledge Our Lady's daily appearance to three of the six visionaries: Ivan, Marija and Vicka. All in attendance at the back alter of St. James, both the clergy and the laity, kneel down for approximately three minutes in private prayer to Our Lady. 

Evening part of the Prayer Program - Veneration of The Cross

The healing prayers and meditations were an especially beneficial inclusion in the evening part of the Prayer Program. These prayers and meditations are recited so beautifully that you can not help but feel the healing process begin and a gain sense of gratitude to Jesus and Mary. The many blessings you receive, that feeling of being strengthened with many graces, the overwhelming peaceful experience of it all, is something that can barely be described with words. Medjugorje is a land of great graces and this is what you receive and experience throughout the day and in a concentrated way, at the evening part of the Prayer Program. It is the perfect way to end the day, a peaceful and joyful encounter with Jesus and Mary on a nightly basis. May your daily participation in Medjugorje's Prayer Program be a faith strengthening and grace filled experience.

Hvaljen Isus i Marija (Praised be Jesus and Mary)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Medjugorje's Apparition Hill - Encountering Our Lady's Presence

Apparition Hill (Brdo Ukazanja) just after sunrise

Apparition Hill (Brdo Ukazanja) in Medjugorje is one of, if not "the" most sought after locations in Medjugorje and for good reason, it is where Our Lady first appeared to the six visionaries on June 24th, 1981. Marking the spot of Our Lady's appearance is a beautiful white statue surrounded by a protective star shaped fence. Although Apparition Hill continues on for several more meters above this location, the spot of Our Lady's initial appearance is the "spiritual summit" that all pilgrims strive to reach when making this climb. I had the pleasure of visiting and remaining at this location for countless hours during my pilgrimage this summer and today's post shares some of my experiences. In so doing, I hope it will not only help recapture the spirit of Medjugorje for those who have been there, but also encourage those who are considering a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, a place that truly is as Saint Pope John Paul II has put it, "the spiritual center of the world." 

I don't think enough can be said about Medjugorje and the pilgrimage sites, of which Apparition Hill has a special significance. All of us who have gone to Medjugorje have done so accepting Our Lady's invitation. It is an acceptance of Our Lady who is the first message of all the messages she has given us, that is, Our Lady is Our Mother who is present and she is calling us. This is the primary reason why many pilgrims, the overwhelming majority, go to Medjugorje. The statue at Apparition Hill is a visible symbol and beautiful reminder not only of the initial apparition, but of Our Lady's invitation to each and every one of us. Our Lady's continues to invite us and make her presence known with her monthly and annual apparition messages and her daily appearances to three of the six visionaries: Ivan, Marija and Vicka.

The view of Our Lady's statue on approach from the last Joyful Mystery plaque

Upon my arrival in Medjugorje in late June of this year, I was very drawn to Apparition Hill. It was only a few days after my arrival with the pilgrim group that I came to Medjugorje with, that our local guide scheduled a climb. The enthusiasm of reaching the "spiritual summit" was evident amongst the group with our energetic and joyful demeanour. Our facial expressions were but a glimpse of the joy we were about to experience of this much anticipated climb that was fully realized upon arrival at Our Lady's statue. Guided by one of Medjugorje's best guides, our initial climb was truly a very special experience. 

Very much in the same way that Cross Mountain (Križevac) has bronze plaques for each of the Stations Cross, so too Apparition Hill invites pilgrims to a spiritual climb with bronze plaques of the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries of the Rosary. Approximately half up Apparition Hill, pilgrims will see a large wooden cross, marking the spot where Our Lady appeared to Marija on the third day of the apparitions, saying to her "Peace, peace and only peace." Our guide led our Rosary recitation with beautiful reflections that made this group recitation of the Rosary the best I had ever experienced. Our recitation ended with the the Joyful Mysteries and it is at this point that we made our way to the statue of Mary. The ending of the Joyful Mysteries plaques affords pilgrims the choice of proceeding with the Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, taking pilgrims further up the hill or making a horizontal break toward the statue of Mary. If pilgrims decide to continue with the other sets of the Rosary mysteries, the placement of Rosary plaques eventually leads pilgrims to the statue of Mary, looping around the hill through an alternate and longer route. Our guide’s intention, as he made it known from the beginning, was to take us to the statue of Mary and rightly so, as this is the prime location and main purpose of climbing Apparition Hill.

At Apparition Hill for Ivan's apparition

On another day, our pilgrim group made a second climb up Apparition Hill to the statue of Our Lady, but this time the encounter with Our Lady was to be a much more profound experience. The reason being was that we were going to be present during an actual apparition to the visionary Ivan. The apparition occurred well into the evening around 10:00pm and Apparition Hill was "packed" with pilgrims from all over the world. Our group arrived at approximately 6:00pm only to be met with thousands of pilgrims who had already stationed themselves well in advance. The above photo depicts part of the scene. That is me in the black shirt and shorts with the Rosary in my hand, looking straight ahead at the statue of Our Lady. Together with my fellow pilgrims I recited the Rosary and we were just a few among many groups doing likewise in many languages. In addition, songs of praise were sung to Our Lady in anticipation of her arrival. It was an absolutely amazing experience! To have been in Medjugorje, on Apparition Hill only 50m away from Our Lady and to have prayed to her as she appeared was a gift that one only hopes for. 

A closer view of Our Lady's statue

By the first week of July, the second week of my pilgrimage, I frequently ventured up Apparition Hill by myself with the hope of entering into a time of divine intimacy with Our Lady. I was not disappointed. Many of the pilgrims who were in Medjugorje in late June were there for the 33rd anniversary of the apparitions. Within the first few days of July, there was a noticeable reduction of pilgrims and much to my pleasant surprise the opportunity for quiet and personal time at the various pilgrimage sites increased dramatically. Many times I was alone or with only three or four other individuals. The photo above depicts one of these moments, one of many gifts that I had received.

It wasn't long before I had established my "prayer spot" on Apparition Hill where I could sit, pray and converse with Our Lady. The first photo included in this blog post captures the view from my favourite spot, approximately 20m away from the statue. In addition to peaceful prayer, this location afforded me a wonderful panoramic view of Medjugorje, the surrounding mountains and valley below. This is definitely the location to encounter Our Lady's presence in Medjugorje. The beautiful prayer time I experienced, one that was undisturbed and totally focussed was no doubt a shared experience with many who have been there. To be in conversation with Our Lady, to be able to "pray with the heart,” was a beautiful gift. Only those who have been there fully understand the divine intimacy available to all who visit this grace filled region. For those that have yet to go to Medjugorje, this is what awaits you.

Although pilgrims will find Apparition Hill to be a much easier climb than Cross Mountain, it requires your undivided attention to ensure a safe ascent up the hill and back down to the base. Apparition Hill is not as steep as Križevac, but pilgrims are still confronted by a non-negotiable rocky terrain. Providing some temporary relief are a few clearings, but hardly worth noting as the majority of this climb is a continuous series of challenging steps on rocks of all shapes and sizes. It is with such a physical dimension that makes Apparition Hill's recitation of the Rosary a much more beneficial experience, aiding pilgrims to enter into the spirit of prayer right from the beginning of the climb.

If you have been to Medjugorje and climbed Apparition Hill, I hope this post has rekindled the spirit of Medjugorje in your life and that it may spread to everyone connected to you. For those who are considering going, on route or scheduled go, expect to encounter Our Lady's presence at Apparition Hill because Our Lady is Our Mother, she is there and she is calling you!

Hvaljen Isus i Marija (Praised be Jesus and Mary)