Saturday, August 10, 2013

Devotion for today: and through it all stood Mary…

(Apostles with Mary at her death, part of the great High Altar in St. Mary’s Basilica, Krakow)

"To give worthy praise to the Lord's mercy, we unite ourselves with Your Immaculate Mother, for then our hymn will be more pleasing to You, because She is chosen from among men and angels. Through Her, as through a pure crystal, Your mercy was passed on to us. Through Her, man became pleasing to God; through Her, streams of grace flowed down upon us." (Diary of St. Faustina, 1746)

- Our Lady to St. Faustina:"I am not only the Queen of Heaven, but also the Mother of Mercy."

Saint Maximilian Kolbe: “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.” "The Immaculate alone has from God the promise of victory over Satan. She seeks souls that will consecrate themselves entirely to her, that will become in her hands forceful instruments for the defeat of Satan and the spread of God's kingdom."
“The conflict with Hell cannot be maintained by men, even the most clever. The Immaculata alone has from God the promise of victory over Satan.” (

Blessed John Paul II: Serpent and the New Eve.
5. Exegetes and theologians claim that the light of the New Eve, Mary, shines from the pages of Genesis onto the whole economy of salvation. In that text they already see the bond between Mary and the Church. Here we point out with joy that the term "woman", used in its generic form in the Genesis text, spurs women especially to join the Virgin of Nazareth and her task in the work of salvation, for they are called to take part in the fight against the spirit of evil.
Women who, like Eve, could succumb to Satan's seduction, through solidarity with Mary receive superior strength to combat the enemy, becoming God's first allies on the way of salvation.
(L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, 31 January 1996, page 11)

My friend told me today that she really enjoyed my series of blogs on Poland. Ah my dear friend, I am not finished, for as they say, I saved the best for last. What could top the Salt Mines, the trip to Auschwitz, the beautiful Cathedrals, Shrines, Sanctuaries, castles, and the food? Who united it all, made it all so loving, so familiar, so personal? Our Blessed Virgin Mother, captured in miraculous paintings, carved in salt, chiseled from wood and sculpted from marble welcomed us into every city and town along the way. From impressive Cathedrals to roadside shrines, the Polish people’s love for Mary was evident at every turn. She was carved into the outside walls of businesses and stood high above Churches and hills. As the unifying piece of fabric in a quilt, Mary wove through every part of our pilgrimage to Poland. We entered beautiful St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow, and there was the high altar with intricately carved scenes from Mary’s life, all paid for by the hard working middle class of Krakow. Enter the Salt Mines in Wieliczka, and a lovely painting of Mary adorns one of the walls. It was painted by a miner, of course. Stand in front of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima, built by local Catholics in honor of John Paul II’s survival of an assassination attempt, and a glorious statue of Mary awaits you. In the convent and chapel of St. Faustina, in the monastery of Maximilian Kolbe, in the baptismal Cathedral of John Paul II, May reigns in glory. She is honored for what she is: the Mother of God, and our Mother.  Our ‘Be Not Afraid’ Pope had as his motto, “Toto tuus” based on his total consecration to Mary. St. Faustina had visions of Mary where she was told to follow the instructions of Jesus, which she did so faithfully amidst trials and sorrows much like Mary herself (Here I am, Lord, I come to do Your will). St. Maximilian Kolbe had a vision where Mary appeared and offered him the crowns of purity and martyrdom, which he freely accepted (Can you drink the cup which I must drink?)

Our pilgrimage has ended, and we are now home and engrossed in the mundane tasks of daily living. Yet our hearts are on fire and our paths are clear. Just as in the miraculous image of Our Lady of Jasna Gora, where Mary is pointing to her Son, so we too are pointed to salvation by the only means possible. Mary loves us unconditionally.  She knows her Son better than any of the apostles or saints in heaven. She knows what we need to arrive at our final destination. Pray to Mary, seek her in your daily trials and temptations, and let her lead you to Jesus. She guided the three saints whom we honored on our pilgrimage; she performed many miraculous interventions on behalf of the Polish people, and she will do the same for us. Poland is a country consecrated to Mary. It is evident in the cities and Churches. Let it be as evident in our lives.
Mary, Mother of Mercy, pray for us.  

Hail, Holy Queen

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God that we made by made worthy of the promises of Christ!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Devotion for today: Lord, you satisfy the hungry

 Isaiah 25:6: On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.

Psalm 23:5: You set a table before me in front of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows

John 6: 48-58; “’I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread
which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.’ The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he
who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.’"

One of the pleasant surprises we encountered on our pilgrimage in Poland was the amazing breakfast spread laid out before us in every hotel on our travels. I will never forget the first morning I entered the dining room and stood speechless at the tables of cheeses, sweet fruit spreads, eggs, meats, fruits, cereals, breads, wonderful coffee and tea choices, and a variety of local specialties. Dinner was always a delightful traditional meal served with wonderful bread and choice wines.  We lacked for nothing. I felt special, important, loved and cared for. I felt the hotel management wanted me to be well-fed, but also to experience the pride they felt in their national foods. I remember my grandmother always made a feast on Sundays. Cranking pasta from a machine she had set up in the kitchen, she would give us orders to set the table with the finest cloth and the best china. It was Sunday, after all, and in a traditional Italian home at that time, Sunday dinner meant you never knew what relatives would show up for dinner, held in the early afternoon so everyone would have plenty of time to eat!!  Grandma was proud of her cooking, and loved to share it, much like the hotel personnel we experienced in Poland.

The above passages show us that God feels the same way toward us. His sets His table before us every day at Mass; He provides for our hunger, our spiritual hunger, with the best He has to offer: His only begotten Son. No matter how much food I ate at breakfast, and I ate quite a bit, I was always hungry later on.  Although the food matched the Old Testament description of juicy food and choice wine, it did not satisfy for very long. Christ tells us that the bread and wine set upon the table of the Eucharist, changed into His Body and Blood, will keep us alive forever. Every day at Mass I remind myself that the Bread I am about to receive is the only necessary food in my life. Christ tells me that, in this partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, I will be  filled with life and have the craving inside of me fulfilled.

Every day while I was in Poland, I enjoyed delicious food, and I am thankful for that. Every day while I was in Poland, Fr. Neil, our spiritual director, said Mass for us in a beautiful church. He consecrated the bread and wine, and fed our souls. I am eternally thankful for that. The one table spread before me lasted but few hours; the holy table set before me in all the churches we entered will keep me alive for eternity. Thank you God, for good food, good wine, and good meal companions. Thank you God, for the Eucharist, for priests who can and do consecrate, for the faithful, who join me in this meal, and for the promise of life to come, which is the best gift of all.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Devotion for today: Auschwitz, and beyond…

1 John 2:9: Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.

When I was a young girl, I remember reading The Diary of Anne Frank”. I felt so scared as I read about Anne and her family, how they hid from the Nazis while in Amsterdam, how they were betrayed and captured, and sent to their deaths in the Nazi concentration camps, and why? Because they were Jewish.  I remember asking my mother how something like this could happen. I wanted to know if it could ever happen to me, because I was an American, or came from Italian heritage, or was Catholic. My mother, who is extremely wise, told me something I never forgot. She said, “Evil is always possible where there is hate, and hate is possible where there is no love. Always try to love.”  

We entered Auschwitz (and Birkenau) on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, fresh from a morning of Mass and fun in the Old Town of Krakow. On the bus, we all tried to prepare ourselves for what was coming. We stayed quiet, prayed, reflected. Our group entered the camp rather quickly and began the tour in surprisingly uncrowded conditions. We had a lovely young girl for a tour guide who grew up in the area around the camp and was passionate about its story. As we passed by huge windows displaying the suitcases, shoes, razor blades, toothbrushes, and hair of the victims, she explained how the Nazis kept everything, everything possible. It was unbounded greed and lust for possessions and the money they would bring. The massive amount of belongings we viewed was all that was found since the Nazis tried to burn everything before the Russian army arrived to liberate the camp. We viewed rooms with burlap sacks on the floor to serve as beds, bunks lined up side by side where two people slept to a bunk, tiny rooms where four prisoners at a time were forced to stand for days as punishment, the shooting wall, the hanging bar, the gas chambers and the crematoriums. We walked the sidewalks in stunned silence, and in great awareness of what man is capable of doing when he lets evil enter into his heart. Soldiers cruelly and sadistically brutalized their fellow human beings, and then went home at night to their wives and children who lived very close to the camp. Unbelievable as it may sound, they did not seem to suffer remorse for the acts they were performing.

Here in Auschwitz we saw the predominantly pointed attack on the Jewish nation, an attempt to eradicate an entire group of people from the face of the earth (if you would like to read a really in-depth account of the wide-spread and all inclusive attacks on the Polish people, mentally and physically handicapped people, Catholics, evangelicals, gypsies, certain protestant ministers, clergy including Bishops, people from the Ukraine and Belarus, and any other group  who was targeted by the Nazis, go to

God’s plea for us to choose love, choose forgiveness, choose understanding, and erase evil from men’s hearts cannot be ignored as one walks the very sidewalks which led to the death chambers. This lesson must be learned from this place. When innocent human beings, adults and children, babies born and
 pre-born are killed simply because they exist, we are in the presence of evil. Why did citizens of Germany allow this to exist? Many reasons were given, but it was clear that Hitler had his ducks in a row before he began his attack. He had taken over the Lutheran Church, the media, the health care and the schools. He had promoted a very insidious hate campaign against the Jews by basically blaming them for all that was wrong in society. This train of thought slowly caught on to the point where people felt hatred against those they once loved as friends, business associates, neighbors and family members.

 It was the same idea behind the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. The Hutus (majority) began blaming the Tutsis (minority) for all the problems in Rwanda. This hate campaign resulted in the death of 1 million men, woman and children. Most of us remember the Khmer Rouge’s killing fields in Cambodia in the 1970's, men who set into motion policies which disregarded human life, exterminated the intelligent and educated, basically turned the country into a huge prison, and killed nearly two million people in the process. And who can forget the 40 million deaths under Mao De Zong who, during the “Great Leap Forward", starved, tortured and killed his fellow human beings.

Today we face the great persecution of Christians everywhere, with the death toll rising in the Middle East and in Africa at an alarming rate. You can find stories about these, not too often in our newspapers, but in on-line services such as The fighting in the Sudan, Darfur and many other African and Middle Eastern countries is leading to the starvation and mass murders of thousands and thousands of people, our fellow brothers and sisters. 

So have we really learned anything from the lesson of Auschwitz? What can we take away from all this horror? 

First of all, man is capable of intense evil. Evil exists in the world, and if we let it, it will exist in our hearts. In order to fight hate, we must always seek to know and understand all sides of an issue, a story, or an idea. Then, we must care infinitely more about the human being than about being right about any cause or platform we have adopted. Never hate, never allow yourself to become filled with hate over anything. Love, and have mercy.

If we are to be remembered for anything in our lives, let us be remembered for our understanding and mercy. We are quickly becoming a polarized society: those who believe this and hate those who believe that; those who condemn anyone who thinks differently, prays differently, acts differently. It is fine to stand for something. In fact, we must stand up for what we believe. But we must not hate those who disagree with us. We must stop the evil penetrating men’s hearts, and bring them the love and mercy Jesus taught on the Mount. Remember one thing from Auschwitz: these were human beings killing human beings because, well, really, just because. How insidious evil is! It slowly creeps into every pore of a human being until he cannot remember why he was created and Who he should be following.  Always keep your eyes on Jesus, live by His example, and keep mercy in your heart for everyone. Everyone. Everyone. Remember the words of my mother: “Evil is always possible where there is hate, and hate is possible where there is no love. Always try to love.”

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen