Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Exorcist: A Beautiful Movie

I didn't see The Exorcist until I was well into my twenties. Maybe even my thirties. I had no desire to see pea soup sprayed all over actor Jason Miller, as I have a low threshold for gross. Part of me, even when I wasn't following Jesus, thought the idea of possession was too scary to sit through. So I passed until one Halloween, when the hubby convinced me it was a good film.

I thought it was one of the most beautiful films I had ever seen.

While moviegoers and critics focused on the special effects, I saw the story of a man's struggle with faith. Father Karras, who after years of counseling others through their pain, couldn't find his way out of the pain in his own life. This was a man who had given his life to God, and instead of receiving the accolades he deserved as a top psychiatrist, he watched helplessly - cash poor and working in another city -  as his elderly mother declined in health. He was reminded that if he had dedicated himself to the secular world, he would have been able to afford better care for her. Instead, he had to find out from others that she had died in her home, undiscovered for days.  

He lost his faith.

This is reality. There are uglies in each of our lives, and following Jesus won't make them go away.

Even as he walks into the room to assist Father Merrin with the exorcism, we still don't know if he believes, but when the moment comes to save the girl, Father Karras makes the ultimate sacrifice and gives his life for hers.

There are moments in the film that give me chills. The first is when Chris Mac Neil pulls out the Ouija board.  What many think of as a simple parlor game is an entryway for evil. Evil needs a doorway. An entrance. An invitation. And evil disguises itself as fun things. Pleasurable things. The character Regan thinks she is playing with a child-friendly spirit called Mr. Howdy. That's creepy.

When I moved to Los Angeles, it was the thing to go to tarot card readers and to have sessions with mediums. There was one medium who met with a group of us. I thought, "Another out-of-work actress." She allegedly channeled some spirit, and when she spoke of the current generation being born, she described them with pleasure. I remember I got a chill, thinking that what she described as  beautiful, I thought was horrible - selfish hedonists without moral sense. Years later, her "prediction" came true, and I wonder if there was really something in the room that night. I was lucky. And stupid.

The next is that famous image of the child Regan clawing at the sky while a statue representing evil looks on. Take off the blinders and look around. When you meet people who actively embrace sinful living, there isn't a lot of joy. There may be temporary satisfaction as the desire of the moment is met, but they are generally unhappy and in pain. As they claw their way through what the world has to offer in their search for meaning and joy, the devil looks on. I doubt that anything filled with hate can feel pleasure or satisfaction, but he must be feeling triumph, because God wants every soul, and anything the devil can do to keep that soul from finding God is a success.

The image on the front of the movie box (see above) brings me joy. Father Merrin, knowing what he will face, stands before the house and prepares to enter anyway. I've listened to many talks by exorcists, and these are men on the front line who stare evil right in the face. Full possession is rare, but they still deal with manifestations in their deliverance ministry. They see evil. They hear the taunts of Satan and his demons. Over and over I've heard them tell their fellow priests that there is nothing to be afraid of. These are the marines of the religious world (with all due deference to the Franciscans. They'll know what I mean.)

We all struggle with faith. It's hard to stay focused on God when there are difficulties, such as financial problems, illnesses and relationship problems. The character of Father Karras gives an example of one man, facing the ultimate test, who finds the strength to choose God. That's a beautiful story.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Connie Rossini on Centering Prayer

Connie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She is the author of Trusting God with St. ThereseA Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child, and the free ebook Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. She writes a spirituality column for The Prairie Catholicof the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, and blogs at Contemplative Homeschool. She is also a columnist for She manages the Google+ Community Indie Catholic Authors. Connie and her husband Dan have four young sons.

I recently ran into Centering Prayer. There seemed to be something off about it. Fortunately, I ran into Connie Rossini's book "Is Centering Prayer Catholic?" at the same time, and I found the answers I was looking for. Connie has graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions here on the blog.

Welcome Connie!

Could you first briefly explain what Centering Prayer is?

In Centering Prayer, you begin with the intention to be present to God. Then you sit in silence, turning away from every thought, feeling, or impression. When you find yourself following a thought or emotion, you silently focus on a "sacred word" you have chosen ahead of time. This word is supposed to be only one or two syllables long. You do not think about the meaning of the word. Once your mind has quieted down, you drop the word and go back to silence. Then at the end of your 20 minutes of practicing this, you sit for a couple of minutes longer to transition back to your everyday life. 

Is Centering Prayer "a Catholic thing", or do other Christian denominations use it?

Centering Prayer was created by three Trappist monks, Fathers William Meninger, Thomas Keating, and Basil Pennington. However, it is popular with some Protestants, especially Episcopalians.  Ecumenical Centering Prayer retreats are common.

What drew you to the subject of Centering Prayer?

I blog on the contemplative life, so people regularly ask me about prayer. I began looking into Centering Prayer in depth when my brother's friend asked me about it. The more I write about it, the more confusion I see among my readers about what prayer truly is for the Christian. I want my readers to grow in intimacy with God, which is impossible without prayer.

What is the difference between Centering Prayer and St. Teresa's infused contemplation?

Infused contemplation--which has been recognized since the early centuries, so long before St. Teresa--is a pure gift of God. Centering Prayer is a technique or method. Some methods can prepare us to receive infused contemplation, but none can make us contemplatives. Fr. Thomas Keating has said that Christian contemplation is really the same thing as eastern meditation. This is completely false. 

What do you see as the biggest danger to Centering Prayer?

There are two interconnected dangers. First, that people will be led off course, pursuing interior silence instead of pursuing intimacy with Jesus. Getting to know and love Jesus is the way we grow spiritually, and traditional Christian prayer methods help us do this. Centering Prayer, in contrast, rejects using the mind or the heart. You cannot get to know or love God by turning away from your thoughts and feelings about Him. 

Secondly, prayer and theology are intertwined. The theology taught by Fr. Thomas Keating is more influenced by eastern religions than by Christianity. For example, he teaches that there is no real difference between God and the human soul. That is pantheism, not Christianity. The practice of Centering Prayer supports and is supported by this bad theology. So people who start without considering the theology behind it can nevertheless be led towards unorthodoxy in their beliefs. I have seen this in conversations I have had with Centering Prayer practitioners.

 What would you tell someone who says that if three priests came up with it and Catholic retreat houses are teaching it, Centering Prayer must be alright?

 Unfortunately, many priests over the centuries have taught error. In fact, most of those whose teachings have been officially condemned by the Church have been priests. So being a priest is certainly no assurance of orthodoxy. The Church has not yet condemned Centering Prayer by name, but it has issued two documents on New Age errors that describe some of the very things taught and practiced by Centering Prayer proponents. When you compare these documents and the Catechism to Fr. Keating's teaching, as I have done, you see clearly that he is teaching error.

How can a person who wants greater union with God get started? What should be his or her goal?

 Greater union with God has a twofold component: prayer and virtue. If we want to advance in prayer, we must dedicate ourselves to resisting temptation and being obedient to God's will. Growth in prayer also gives us the grace to do this. Prayer and virtue support each other. My advice is to set aside time each day to prayerfully read the Gospels and talk to God about what you read. In addition, frequent the sacraments, work on avoiding even the smallest sin, and begin making small sacrifices out of love for Christ. Union with God is really an intimate love relationship with Him. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. He is the beginning and end of our faith.

I understand you will be coming out with a paperback edition of your book.  When can readers look for it to be available? 

I released the paperback a couple of weeks ago. It is now available through AmazonBarnes and Noble online, and Createspace, among other retailers.

Thank you Connie!  Please read on for a brief review of Connie's book. 

Is Centering Prayer Catholic?: Fr. Thomas Keating Meets Teresa of Avila and the CDF

by Connie Rossini
Four Waters Press
Paperback $9.95
ebook $2.99

Synchronicity in religion can be a dangerous thing. Catholics have been known to mix their beliefs with anything from  voodoo and witchcraft to New Age beliefs, which is like mixing oil and water. Unfortunately, when the person doing the mixing is a Catholic priest, Catholics can be fooled into believing that the outcome is okay, and that's what happened when Father Thomas Keating mixed Catholic meditation with Eastern meditation. The result was Centering Prayer. 

Author Connie Rossini, a 3rd order Carmelite for seventeen years, uses the prayer practices of Teresa of Avila to demonstrate where the practice of Centering Prayer leaves the path of Christianity and enters dangerous territory. 

Her writing style is conversational, and she includes comments and  exchanges from her various social media sites as well as from her blog at the beginning of each chapter, which clearly shows the confusion that people have about this prayer technique. 

The author lays out Father Keating's philosophy on Centering Prayer as a counterpoint to the wisdom of St. Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church for her writings and teachings on prayer as well as  the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on New Age spirituality. By the end of the book, the differences between Centering Prayer and Catholic prayer are clear. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Sticktoitiveness of Saint Monica

Today we celebrate Saint Monica, mother of St. Augustine. When Augustine was a young lad, he was not a nice Catholic boy. He dabbled in heresy (the Manichean heresy), drinking and carousing. He lived with a woman and had a child out of wedlock. He was extremely smart, but he was a pain in the side to poor Monica.

And so Monica prayed. And prayed. And prayed. She prayed for 17 years.

By her example, we can see that our petitions to the Lord should not be one-offs. We shouldn't give the Lord or ourselves deadlines. I'll pray for five years and if nothing happens, it must be God's will. We shouldn't give up, ever.

Most people acknowledge her example of perseverance, but she exemplifies several other virtues as well.


She offered her prayers and petitions to the Lord knowing that He will* act in His own time. It was her job to pray. The rest was up to Him.


She stayed close to St. Augustine, closer than he wanted, so one night he ditched her and took a boat to Rome. She followed, but found he had gone to Milan. She followed. This was at a time when boat travel was perilous and difficult. She had the courage of a marine!


Monica, though a Christian, was given to a pagan in marriage. The man had a violent temper, and he came with a cranky mother. Most people would have packed it in and figured that this was a cross to bear.  Monica prayed, and before they died, both her mother-in-law and husband converted to Christianity!

She also gives us an example of expectant prayer, something that we are sorely short of in our culture. We should have faith that God will answer our prayers.

In our instant gratification culture, Saint Monica serves to remind us that God's gifts are not "on demand", and that He always hears our prayers.

Saint Monica, pray for us!

* (No. That's not a grammatical error. God is always in the present.)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Miraculous Church

As Catholics, we tend to forget that our Church is the Church of miracles. I can't tell you how many times I've had someone (even priests) downplay the supernatural aspects of the Church.

"We can pray for healing, but it will be a spiritual healing. God will help us through our suffering."

No, no, NO!

Jesus didn't tell lepers just to be strong and bear their leprosy with dignity.  He didn't tell them to offer it up. He healed them, but he always asked them what they wanted first.

And He always credited the faith of the person who was being healed. As Dr. Margaret Schlientz explains it, it was His power that did the healing, but it was the person's faith that manifested the healing.

At St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic parish this weekend, we are honored to host "The Eucharistic Miracles of the World", a Vatican approved exhibition. Time after time, Jesus has reached out to give us the proof we, as flawed humans, need that the Eucharist is the Real Presence, the actual Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ. And the Eucharist is the ultimate healer.

The miracles include Lanciano, where the bread and wine turned into actual Body and Blood. Modern scientists evaluated the samples without knowing where they came from. They said the samples came from a heat muscle, and they wanted to know how the doctor took a sample from a man who was still alive.

When the later miracle at Buenos Aires occurred, samples from Lanciano and Buenos Aires were compared, and scientists said they came from the same person.

And still we doubt.

If we want to see more miracles in this modern world, then we need to have expectant faith. Expect miracles. Expect healing. Expect a huge, active God to take part in your daily life. He wants to, but He won't circumvent our free will.

What miracles have you seen in your own life? 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Is Your Face Shining Like Moses?

When Moses would speak to God, his face would shine.  He had to wear a veil in order to keep from freaking out his fellow Israelites. When we have a personal relationship with God, our faces should shine as well.  It's got nothing to do with good skin creams or our inner beauty. The glow is a reflection of God's love.

I've heard it said that Mary is like the moon  in relation to Jesus, the sun.  Just as we can see the moon because the light of the sun reflects off of it's surface, Mary reflects the light of Jesus. I love that analogy, and it applies to each of us as well. Mary was full of grace, but she was still one of God's creatures, just like us. That means that we, too, can reflect the love of Jesus to everyone we meet.

So, how to we up the wattage?

Spend time talking to God...

To activate that shine, you first have to speak with God. If you're just starting out, you can use the words of prayers already written. Even better, God has given us words we can use to express every emotion in the Psalms. Don't just read them. Pray them.

...and listening...

If we wanted to learn the accumulated wisdom of our grandmother, we wouldn't go to her house, sit down, and proceed to talk the entire time, never letting granny get a word in edgewise. We would eagerly anticipate what she had to tell us, knowing that life will be fuller and richer if we heed her advice. If we want to hear what God is saying, we need to keep our mouths shut. that God has a chance to tell us what He wants.

When we are worried or there is an outcome that we are focused on achieving, we can certainly tell God about it. But if we sit back and wait for an answer to what we think is the problem, we may dismiss or ignore what God wants for us. Mother Mary tells us repeatedly in her apparitions that God answers ALL prayers. That should give us great joy.

What if you told God that you were worried about your son, who has separated himself from God. In our limited minds, we expect the answer will be a sudden stirring of that son's heart and instant conversion. But what if God's response is to tell you repeatedly to volunteer for the soup kitchen?

You might get annoyed. You might push it aside, because what has a soup kitchen to do with your problem with your son?

But what if you went to the soup kitchen. You eventually make friends with a young God-loving female volunteer. One day, your son picks you up from your volunteer work. They meet. They start dating, and slowly he sees how God is an important factor in the beauty of this person he now loves. He starts attending Mass or services with her and finally develops his own relationship with God.

See how God answered your prayer?  Just not the way you expected.

(And remember, He will never impose Himself on the  person you are praying for. They have free will, too. So, He may issue an invitation to your son, but your son can reject Him.)

Spend Time in His Presence...

Moses got that light from being face-to-face with God. We can sit in the chapel, mere feet away from God, in Adoration. The Eucharist does not have to be exposed in order to adore. The physical presence of Jesus is in the tabernacle.

...and see the changes in our lives.

If you develop a relationship with God through reading His Word and regular prayer, you will change. Once you've given God permission to act, you won't be able to stop the flow of love that will permeate your life. He won't promise you riches or prestige. Those are things of the world. But, He will fill you will peace and love, and you will learn to recognize His presence during every moment of your day. And what could be better than walking with God?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Enemy Has Made His Latest Attack...And I'm Singing

In the wake of the enemy's latest attack, my first response was depression. A horror of what's to come. Anger at the foolishness of mankind. And then I realized that, by my reaction, I was making the same mistake that many Christians make in the face of seemingly hopeless situations We inadvertently give the enemy more credit than we give God. And that's a mistake.

My God is massive. He's HUGE. In the words of the song, He is "Indescribable. Uncontainable... All powerful. Untameable." Which is why "Awestruck, we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim, You are amazing, God."

When I give glory to God for His goodness and recognize that He is the one in control, that He is all powerful, then I can get proper perspective. Too often, I think in little terms, the terms of the world around me. But in the right perspective, my troubles are so small. The government is so small. Even our world is so small compared to our humongous God.

Our prayers shouldn't be troubled, fearful whispers asking Him to save our world. They should be bold proclamations of His marvelous works. Joyful shouts telling of His unconditional love. Awestruck professions of His complete and absolute power. And song.

And I think that He is just waiting for us to turn our gazes on Him where they belong, and when we fall to our knees and humbly proclaim that our God is AMAZING, we will see the enemy recede into the darkness where he belongs. Then we will witness the power of God.

And that's why I'm singing.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Fallacy of Random Acts of Kindness

Random Acts of Kindness.  It's a phrase that bothers me. Every time I catch sight of a bumper sticker proclaiming these out of control impulses, I cringe.  If I replace the word random with some of its definitions, maybe you'll understand.

Accidental Acts of Kindness

I can't imagine how we can be kind accidentally. Our kindness may have unintentional consequences, such as when we are kind to the checker at the grocery store. The next person in line who witnesses our actions may feel better about the world. But we were intentionally kind to the checker in the first place.

Haphazard Acts of Kindness

This brings up images of someone stumbling around and spilling splashes of kindness paint on passersby, creating a Jackson Pollock-type world.

Hit and Miss Acts of Kindness.

While I admit that acts of kindness don't have to be accepted by the intended target, the actual act itself has to be directed at a recipient, even if it's ourselves. Try being kind to an empty room. 

So, why does this bug me? It belittles kindness by turning into some kind of tick. 

It takes an effort to be kind. It take practice. Kindness is like a muscle we develop through use. If someone cuts you off in traffic, which is more difficult? To wave your fist in the air and grumble about incompetent drivers, or to wonder if the poor soul is lost or late or frazzled and then follow with a quick prayer for the person's peace of mind? 

You have to work at being kind, especially in our knee-jerk reaction world. You have to have self-control, which requires discipline. 

We really should be kind to everyone we meet. If we practice Intentional Acts of Kindness, it could spread. We might even develop a sense of peace and a reputation as a nice person. Nice is underrated, but that's another topic.

Have you performed any Intentional Acts of Kindness?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cherry Jam and the Good Steward

My cousin, Susi, is a blue-ribbon winner at state fairs for her jams and such.  She recently sent me samples of her cherry and apricot, and boy are they worthy of awards!  She makes the apricot from the trees in her backyard.

It really is a simple process. Not making jam. Being a good Martha.

First, you recognize the gifts you have been given, like the apricot trees in the backyard.

Then, you use those gifts, just like the top guy in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.  God doesn't give us gifts so we can admire them and then forget about them. I think He's happiest when we take them and run, like Susi with her jam.

It's homemade, so it's wholesome compared to something with chemicals you would pick up in the store. It's efficient, because now you don't have to buy jam.  And it's a celebration of creation, making something wonderful out of something beautiful.

But then there is the third part, and that's sharing. Susi could have hoarded her jam and had a private taste-bud festival, but she shared her wealth with others. She shared her talent, and she shared her joy.

And let me tell you. That jam is bringing us a lot of joy.

So, the secret to being a good Martha?

  • Recognize the gifts all around you. 
  • Use those gifts. 
  • Share them with others. 

Sounds like a plan.

(I may remind Susi of this when I run out of jam.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Walking Through The Rosary Meditation Guide

As I've matured in prayer, my Rosaries have gone from concentrated recitations of the prayers to personal meditations on the mysteries. I often apply the particular mystery to the challenges I'm facing for the day, and I've found great peace and solutions by doing so.

For example, if I'm worried about finances and the mysteries for the day are the Joyful Mysteries, then focusing on how Mary had complete trust in God during the scary times can really help. Or if I've been struggling with something I don't really want to do, knowing that Jesus followed the Father's will and was baptized by John, even though it wasn't necessary, helps put things into perspective.

I compiled some general meditations into a book, Walking Through The Rosary, and it's finally available on Amazon. I plan more books, such as meditations for brides and meditations on the Our Lady of Sorrows Chaplet.I like the Kindle cover shown here. The paperback has a different cover.

I originally came up with it as an addition to the Rosary decade bracelets I make, and I think it's pretty cool

Has meditating on the Rosary helped you to solve problems?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Do You Have a Problem with Acedia?

I did a reflection for our Women's Bible Study on The Visitation. Through prayer, I felt that the point of The Visitation was, for me, at this time, a cure for acedia. Here's the reflection I presented:  

Acedia.  How many have heard that word?  Probably not very many. It's from the Greek word akedia. It's used in terms of spiritual apathy. It's also called the "noon day devil." You know that tiredness that comes over us around lunchtime? We've lost our first energy of the day and we just feel like taking a nap? The rest of the list for the day, well, I'll do it some other time.  It's that laziness or indifference in our spiritual lives. Not direct acts of evil, but a refusal to do the good because it takes too much time. It costs too much. It's too uncomfortable. It's such a little thing that it's not worth it. I can't be bothered. It's an indifference to our spiritual lives and our salvation.

We've all been apathetic at one time or another. After Easter, I used the leftover ham in a family recipe that called for horseradish. After I added it to the casserole, I did the math and realized that I'd had that same bottle for, oh, three years. My apathy could have led to the poisoning of my family, but I called Mom and Dad and they said, with their usual confidence in man's ability to overcome anything, "Three years? That's nothing. You'll be fine." And we were. I think the reason that it's so easy to give into apathy is because it doesn't require any effort. :)

So does that mean we're all doomed unless we become spiritual dynamos? I don't think so.

Once, when I was meditating, I saw a well. It went deep into the earth and I couldn't see the bottom. It was as black as pitch, as if there wasn't only an absence of light, but even air. It was suffocating. It was evil. It was the path to hell, the place where Satan sucked souls down into the dark nothingness where God isn't present because the souls there choose to break from Him.

But above ground, surrounding the well on the earth, there were lights. And the lights kept multiplying. Southern Californians are very familiar with fires and how fire spreads. It leaps from branch to branch and envelop everything that's in its path. These lights were us, spreading the light of Christ.

How do you stop a fire? You take away the fuel. The fuel of this fire is God's unfathomable love, the flame of His Sacred Heart, the burning love of His Word. 

And I realized that God's fuel would never run out. While there was still this hole, this well, people would have to get close enough to the well to get sucked in, but the lights would keep multiplying and spreading, and the well would never catch up.  

What does this have to do with the visitation?

  Here's Luke 1:39 from the NIV.

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,

From the NABRE:  

 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah,

Mary was on fire with the love of God. She had a mission and she didn't dawdle.  If it were me being told that Elizabeth were pregnant in her old age, I might stop to think about how inconvenient it would be. Maybe Elizabeth would settle for a phone call, or a carrier pigeon, or maybe I could send word through someone who was already headed in that direction. I would make excuses. I need to take care of myself. Or, I'm sure Elizabeth is really busy getting ready for her child. I'll only be in the way.  Or, it's not as if she's having the baby tomorrow. I can wait a month and get things in order here before I leave. Did I cover them all?

Mary had the best excuse ever.  She was pregnant with the Son of God, and she could have thought, "I need to take care of myself." But the Angel Gabriel made it known that her cousin was in a position where she would need Mary's help, and Mary hurried.  She traveled in haste. The Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she was on fire, and she spread that light.

And I love that she put her faith in God that He would take care of the details, because it WAS dangerous to travel back then. There were robbers. There were wild animals.  I looked it up online. I saw cute things in the desert around Judah, like gazelles and hares, but there are also wolves, jackals, leopards, and there used to be bears and lions.  That's why people traveled together. So Mary caught the first caravan and left.

There is so much evil at work in the world today. Sometimes it's obvious, like the killing of Christians in the Middle East, but more often, it's subtle. It's that noonday devil slipping in and whispering in our ear that the thing we were going to speak out against might hurt someone's feelings, or make us unpopular. That kind act that we were going to do really isn't important in the scheme of things. Maybe you see a woman who looks like she could use a kind word and you think, "I don't really know her. I'll be imposing on her. Who am I to think I could help her." So you remain silent. You don't spread the fire.

There is an 80/20 rule. 20% of the people do 80% of the work.  So 80% of the people don't care, or they think someone else will take care of the ministries or the volunteer work or the evangelizing. Well, you and I are that someone else. You and I need to be that 20%.

So how do we overcome the demon of acedia and hurry to do God's will in our lives? 

The book Noon Day Devil has a few suggestions.  One of them is prayer and work. Having a prayer life in which you talk to God every day keeps you in informed. You will know Him, and you will know His will for you.  As for work, you can't be listless when you're being active, whether it's your day job or making dinner, doing the laundry, or wiping a kid's sticky face. You're spreading the light of Christ to your husband, your children, your coworkers.

Another way to counter acedia is with contradiction. This is having scripture verses handy to counter those whispers that tell you what you're doing doesn't matter, or can wait.  Here are a few:

When I feel that what I'm doing just doesn't matter, or I think I'll give that volunteer work or that prayer time a pass, or if I can't come up with time to talk to God, or I think I go to Mass on Sunday. Why bother with weekday Mass. That's so fanatic, and besides. I want to sleep in. I can turn to

Colossians 3:23Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others,  
Offer everything up to the Lord. That load of dishes you're washing. Make it a prayer. A prayer can turn the mundane into the sacred.

Of course, stress is always a problem. I work at home, which means I'm easy prey for people who want to talk to me. My mother calls me almost every day. There are times when I see her on the caller ID and I'm in the middle of something important. But my mother won't be around forever, and I doubt if I will remember those important things, but I'll remember the time I didn't give her.

Or there are times when I'm worried about all the things I have to get done, and I blow off my prayer time. Then I can turn to

Luke 12:26If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?

There is a reason why Jesus kept telling us not to be afraid. It's because fear is the biggest snuffer of lights out there.

I encourage you to look through your Bibles to find a favorite verse of Scripture. I love Proverbs when I'm looking for practical advice. Write it down if your memory is like mine, and when you feel that apathy, when you think it's time for a break from your spiritual practices or your mission, or you feel your love for Jesus starting to flicker, pull it out and read it. Say a quick prayer. And be part of that 20%.  

One final thought. Gratitude.  We have so much. We have our friends here in Bible study. We just had a wonderful breakfast, so we're not hungry. We have this wonderful church, the Eucharist. But sometimes, we're like children at Christmas. You know how kids will open a ton of presents, and then they'll lay there like slugs, sighing. "But I didn't get what I really wanted!"

Gratitude makes it difficult to be apathetic. Gratitude can fill you with energy, and it can remind you of the God who is so good and then maybe put us in the frame of mind where we want to give him everything, in haste.

Open you're Bibles to  Luke 1:46  and we'll close by reciting the ultimate prayer of gratitude, the Magnificat.

Luke 1:46-55
The Canticle of Mary.  And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
    my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
 For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
    from now on will all ages call me blessed.
 The Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
 His mercy is from age to age
    to those who fear him.
 He has shown might with his arm,
    dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
    but lifted up the lowly.
 The hungry he has filled with good things;
    the rich he has sent away empty.
 He has helped Israel his servant,
    remembering his mercy,

 according to his promise to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Friday, April 17, 2015

Stop Talking About Jesus!

You're in your home. Loved ones come over. You're so happy to see them...until they walk past you and sit at a table nearby. You can hear them talking, and they're talking about YOU! How much they love you. How wonderful you are. How they can't imagine life without you.

But they won't talk TO you. In fact, every time you try to jump into the conversation, they talk over you or ignore you.

from The Commons Getty Collection
Would that make you happy? All warm and fuzzy inside?

Not me. I want to be part of the conversation, and I think that might be how Jesus feels. There are many people who sincerely speak of their awe of God the Father, their affinity for the Holy Spirit, and their love for Jesus, but they can't find time to sit down in prayer and talk TO Him.

If my husband never listened to anything I had to say, he wouldn't know me. My wishes for our relationship. He wouldn't know what I wanted, even if it was something as simple as picking up milk from the store on his way home.

Take ten minutes today, find a quiet spot that is free of distractions, and talk to Jesus. Listen. It's the only way to grow in your relationship with Him, and it's the only way to change your world.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Is the Blessed Virgin Mary Telling Us to Shut Up?

In the February 25, 2015 message to the  Medjugorje visionary, Marija, the Blessed Virgin Mary said these words:

"Dear children! In this time of grace I call all of you: pray more and speak less. In prayer seek the will of God and live it according to the commandments to which God calls you. I am with you and am praying with you... ."

When I first read this message, I thought that Mary, like a gentle but admonishing mother, was telling us to be quiet. Stop talking. But why???

Did she mean that when we talk about God we run into the danger of making His words and will reflect our words and will? Like that nasty group that runs around protesting at Christian churches and military funerals?

I was ready to shut down my blog, withdraw from doing reflections for the Women's Bible Study, and keep my trap shut.

But wait.

We are supposed to proclaim the Good News, and one of the best ways is through our own actions and our words, by sharing our experiences. What some might call "witnessing", though that word has always carried bad connotations for me. Someone living like a hypocrite, yet shouting "Praise, Jesus!" after ever sentence. So what could Mary have meant? My brain was shorting out.

Then, I found Jesus' own words to St. Foustina, to whom He revealed His desire for a devotion to His Divine Mercy.  These words were recorded in her diary:

My daughter, when I was before Herod, I obtained a grace for you; namely, that you would be able to rise above human scorn and follow faithfully in My footsteps. Be silent when they do not want to acknowledge your truth, because it is then that you speak more eloquently (Diary, 1164).

He was telling us that we should speak the truth. It was when people chose to ignore us that our silence would "speak more eloquently".   So, discuss the truth, but don't rant at those who dissent.  Don't turn proclaiming the good news into a Jerry Springer show. So, tell Nancy Pelosi that she's choosing to turn her back on Jesus when she encourages abortion, and when she responds with something inane about killing babies being all about women's health, walk away. She's heard the truth; now she has to choose. 

It's really, really difficult not to shake someone by the shoulders to wake them up, but it's not my job. We all have free will, so I can present it, and then it's up to the other person to accept it or not. Only God knows what's in their heart. Maybe, I'll have planted that tiny seed in the person's brain and, when they are less defensive, they will think about it, explore it, and come to the truth on their own (with some help from the Holy Spirit).

Good deal.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Encountering Jesus This Lent

Our parish is in the middle of an Encounter series for Lent. It's kind of our parish mission, but it's much more than just a few speakers. It's an encounter with Jesus meant to last the rest of our lives.

The Encounter program did begin with speakers from all over the country who brought us stories and examples of how we can encounter Jesus in our lives. Being the queen of lists, I embraced a checklist of the Daily Disciplines of a Disciple of Jesus. Are you ready for them?

1. Read Scripture

Encounter Jesus through the Word of God every day. Father Larry Richards has a saying: No Bible, no breakfast; no Bible, no bed. Where do you start? The New Testament is a good place. Just don't neglect the Old Testament, because it all ties together in a miraculous way. (That's what happens when the Holy Spirit picks up a pen, using men to do the writing.)

UPDATE:  Matthew Kelly just did a great video on reading the Bible, and if you're just getting started, here are the books he recommends you jump in with:  The Gospel of Matthew; Genesis; Psalms.

2. Prayer

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it's more than reciting "Now I lay me down to sleep" at the end of the day. It's dialogue. To hear God, you need some silence. You need to listen, so at least find a quiet spot for your prayer. One great way to pray is with Scripture, Read slowly. Read again. Take the word or words that stuck out or struck you and meditate on them. Listen. Let God get a word in. Then resolve an action for the next day.

Here's an example:  I read Luke 1. It's about Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. The couple were old and childless. Zechariah was a temple priest. This particular year, he had been chosen by lots to go into the temple and burn incense. This was a big job. They would tie a rope around the priest so they could drag him out if he died in there. He would come out and speak the name of God and give the people a blessing.

While in the temple, an angel of the Lord appeared and announced that Elizabeth would become pregnant. Great news! But Zechariah doubted. Would you have asked questions? I probably would have. As punishment for doubting, Zechariah was struck dumb. This meant that he wouldn't be able to give the blessing or pronounce God's name to all of those people who had made the trek.

What struck me was the other people waiting to hear God's name and receive a blessing. Because of Zechariah's doubts, he wouldn't be able to perform this task. For some of the faithful, this was the only time in their lives they could make it to Jerusalem. This was the only chance they would have to receive the blessing and hear God's name. Remember, back then, if you spoke the name of God, you were stoned to death. So it was a big deal.

It became clear to me that my lack of faith, my fears, affect others. Maybe God has a gift for them, and if I balk at doing my part, they won't receive that gift.

3. Living the Sacramental Life

The Sacraments are Baptism (which you only receive once), First Communion, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Holy Orders (for those who become priests), Matrimony, and Anointing of the Sick. You can receive the Eucharist every time you attend Mass, and in most areas in the United States, you can attend Mass daily. What a blessing! Reconciliation schedules vary, but you should be able to find it once per month. I go twice per month. Otherwise, those sins slip into habits. We receive grace through the Sacraments. Who couldn't use more grace? 

4. Fellowship with each other

It's not Jesus and Me; It's Jesus and Us. We are the Body of Christ, a community. Don't be an island! Part of the Encounter series is small group communities that will meet throughout Lent to share our journey as we get closer to Christ. If you can't get out of the house, there are online communities. Just don't get caught up in the anonymity of the web over live interaction.

5.  Service to Others

The majority of non-profits out there are Christian. There is a reason for this. We are Christ's hands and feet. Put them to work for Him.

6. Proclamation

You do this through word and action. First, be joyful. When people are exposed to the joy of a life in Christ, they want to know more, and that's a perfect time to introduce them to Jesus. Never be intimidated. I have found that if you bring Jesus up, more often than not, others are at least willing to listen. Quite often, they want to talk about Him themselves, but are too intimidated or shy.

Boy. If I can do all of these daily for one year, I ought to see a difference in my life, and others should see a difference in me.

Do you have any suggestions for carrying out these steps? Additional steps you would add?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Encountering Christ Through Praise

This week, our parish held a three-day Encounter.  There were speakers, filled with wisdom, who shared stories from the Bible and connected them to stories about real life. Their messages were funny, heartfelt, exciting, and jarring. They encouraged us to deepen our relationship with Jesus, either through opening ourselves to begin that relationship or to bring our current relationship to the next level. They laid out how simple that choice should be, and how hard it can be because of our fallen nature.

The most incredible gift was the praise, especially through music. It set the tone, and it definitely pleased God, because He sent His Spirit rushing through that church to bring His children closer to Him. And I deliberately use the term gift, because God doesn't need our praise. He's God. He doesn't need anything. Praise is His present to us, because we were made for worship. WE need to praise, and through it, we experience joy.

I'll admit that I have an aversion to what I call happy-clappy music, and this has come about from attending Masses where people become the audience, rather than participants. They like the music, but as entertainment.  Meanwhile, they wander in late, play on their cell phones (and I know some use devices to follow along as Scripture is read, and that's fantastic) or chat with each other, and they ignore Jesus and what's taking place on the altar. The lack of respect is a distraction I have to fight.

After my experience this week, I've determined that the problem lies not with the music, but with the misuse of the music. I just have to pray that those who don't get it will allow God to work in their hearts to convert them to a place where the music becomes praise.

Back to the Encounter. Every evening began with praise. Gifted musicians led the people through songs meant to open our minds and hearts to Jesus. There are always those who raise their hands and sway with the tempo. I'm the one tho folds her hands in front of her and stands at attention, but that doesn't keep the Holy Spirit out.

The first step in prayer, whether you're following the structure found in the Psalms or you're winging it in your own prayer, is giving God praise. There's a reason for this.  It's like activating His presence. With that praise, we glorify Him and put ourselves in communion with Him, and I believe He is pleased and responds by lifting us up to a place where we can hear His voice.

Only then will we have the clearest line, the best connection, that will enable us to pray with confidence for our requests, to hear His voice in Scripture, to receive guidance as to what He wants you specifically to do as His disciple.

And then we thank Him.

(But it all starts with the Praise!)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Our Lady of All Nations: A Prayer for Peace

During her apparitions to Ida Peerdeman, a Dutch woman, from 1945 - 1959, under the title of Our Lady of All Nations, Mary gave her a prayer for peace.  She asked that it be prayed daily in front of the Cross.

Mary often predicts world secular events as a way to catch our attention, to get us to believe. In this instance, she predicted

- the return of the State of Israel
- the Korean War
- the communist revolution in China
- the "Arab Spring"

Our Lady asked people to write to the Holy Father and encourage a fifth Marian Dogma that declares her Mediatrix, Co-Redemptrix, and Advocate.  She put special emphasis on the "Co", and said that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will to send her, bearer of the Redeemer, into this world as Co-Redemptrix. She said that it would cause much controversy, but the more the Church fought for it, the stronger it would become.

Why does Our Lady ask for titles? Is it because she's gone egocentric? NO. It's because Mary's titles are her functions.

She also asked that we say this prayer daily in front of the Cross to end the degeneration, disaster and war in this world.

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, send now your Holy Spirit over the earth. Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations, that they may be preserved from degeneration, disasters, and war. May the Lady of All Nations, the Blessed Virgin Mary, be our Advocate. Amen."

If you would like to write the Holy Father, you can do so at:

Pope Francis, 00120 Vatican City.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Do You Have a Relationship with the Church, or a Truce?

I heard an interesting comment the other day.

"50/50 is not a relationship; it is a truce." 

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
It really hit home, because most of us are looking for a truce, whether it be in our marriages, our jobs, our
relationships with family and friends, or our relationship with the Church.

Anyone who is happily married or has children will tell you that love is not give and take; it's give. Any time I've looked for my 50% or tried to divvy things up to make them fair, I've wound up miserable or angry or both.

Keeping score doesn't work for anything other than sports. That doesn't mean be a doormat, but our definition of doormat has narrowed to the point where the minute the balance is tipped in the favor of someone else, we cry foul.

How, you ask, can I have a relationship with the Church?  It's an organization. Well, that kind of thinking is the start of the problem.

The Church is the Body of Christ. It is comprised of members, individuals, human beings. Your relationships with those human beings, from your fellow volunteers to the parish office staff to your priest to your bishop to Pope Francis define your relationship with the Church.

Are you a minimalist? You've filled out a parish registration, dutifully check the Catholic box on surveys, and regularly put money in your donation envelope. What more do they want? Well, does your spouse require more of you than to bring home the paycheck and acknowledge that he/she is part of the family? I would hope so!

Are you confrontational?  Are your conversations about the Church a criticism of everything you don't agree with or understand? Just a suggestion: Have you ever tried to understand the Church's position? I've found they are usually well thought-out positions with valid reasons behind them. Get a Catechism. It's a great resource.

Do you write your pastor with complaints about the music, the altar server's tennis shoes, or parish leaders?  Have you ever offered a (workable/kind) solution? Sometimes your solution won't be accepted even though it's obviously the most brilliant idea since American cheese. Realize that there are others who don't agree with you and let it go.

If you feel as if nobody ever says hello, have you ever introduced yourself? They may be shy, new to the parish, or feel they are respecting your privacy.  Conversely, do you know the names of any of your fellow parishioners? Or do you approach them at Mass the same way you'd approach fellow audience members at the theater? You're all there for the same show, but no talking!

Relationships take effort. Sometimes you may be the one who has to go more than halfway, but life is rarely never 50/50.

There can be great peace in tearing up your scorecard. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Talk About Mary and the Saints Given at Bible Study

How many of you have a devotion to Mary or one of the Saints?  

I had a difficult time forming a relationship with Mary and the Saints.  I believed all of the doctrine and dogmas about Mary, and I understood that we have an amazing community of Saints that we can draw on for support and inspiration. I just couldn't seem to connect.

Unfortunately, there are many Christians who are separated from these relationships, especially with Mary, but it wasn't always this way.  In fact, here are a few quotes about Mary. Guess their source:

- It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin....

- The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart.

- Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb...This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. 

You might be thinking St. Louis de Montfort, author of True Devotion to Mary, or St. John Paul II, who dedicated his papacy to Mary. Right?

These observations were from Martin Luther, some of it after the split from the Church.  From the beginning, the Church recognized Mary and her role as our Savior's mother.  People prayed for her intercession. An ancient prayer to her is:

We turn to you for protection,
holy Mother of God.

Listen to our prayers
and help us in our needs.

Save us from every danger,
glorious and blessed Virgin.

I went through a prayer exercise where I needed to envision both Mary and Jesus being in prayer with me, and I could envision Jesus, but Mary was always hovering around the background.  But then again, isn't that where she has always chosen to be? Supporting the apostles in the early Church, yet not the one who gets talked about in Scripture?  Who thinks Mary just said, "Good luck, Son!" when Jesus started His mission and then went about her business until the Crucifixion?

But we don't hear about her. Isn't that strange? Or is it just like a mother? How many mothers have supported their children without getting or asking for credit?  Just like a mother. There were reports while Mary was still alive of her bilocating--being in two places at the same time--which, from what I understand, is an ability of most mothers.  We take advantage of her when we think of it, we ignore her when we don't need anything, and we try to manipulate her when we want something, just like a mother.   

And then I fly to the opposite end of the spectrum and find, through my own deficiencies,  that she is unapproachable. As if she's that intimidating aunt who was always trying to kiss you at family gatherings. 

Forming a relationship with the saints can be just as intimidating. I love Padre Pio, but I sometimes feel that if I approached him, he would say, "Who are you? You've sinned 4 times since we started this conversation. I'm going to go talk to Blessed Mother Teresa."

But if you aren't ready to approach the saints, the good news is that they will approach you.  When I first returned to the Church, Padre Pio was stalking me.  His name came up in conversation, but I had no idea who he was. Then someone handed me a novena with his face on the front of it, and I naively thought, "What a coincidence!"  Then I went to a meeting, and there was Padre Pio staring down at me from a picture on the wall.  So I got a book on him and read about his suffering from the stigmata, his persecution from jealous people, and his amazing connection with his guardian angel, Mary and Jesus.

I've had other instances where saint have made themselves known to me.  God will use any medium to reach you.  I was flipping channels and stopped on a program on EWTN on Venerable Pierre Toussaint. He was a slave who was educated and trained in hairdressing. He was basically a free man with the title of slave, who went to Mass every morning and earned his own money.  When his master died, he remained a slave so he could support the household, because the mistress wouldn't have taken money from him if he had been a free man. He financially helped wealthy people who had fallen on hard times, and he did it anonymously so they wouldn't feel ashamed, because he knew that doing Christ's will was more important than his own ego. I watched this show, and I had tears running down my face. My first thought was, "Rats. Here comes menopause." But he was showing me something I needed to learn.

Another time I caught a movie on Saint Josephine Bakhita, also a slave, who radiated joy in every circumstance. After I discovered her, I was praying, and I felt that I was under attack with negative thoughts. Suddenly, the image of St. Bakhita appeared in my mind, and I was filled with joy. It's as if she swooped in to save me.

I did wonder about the slave theme that was appearing in the saints who were coming to me, and then I realized that I am a slave to many things--anxiety, worry, sin. Maybe sin was letting in the anxiety and the rest. That may be why Reconciliation was so important to the saints. Kind of an armor against sin. Many of the saints who were priests were dedicated and gifted in hearing Confessions. Some could tell you your sins, and the big ones aren't necessarily murder.  Did you know that the only sin Padre Pio wouldn't absolve was gossip unless the person promised not to do it again?

Mary also repeatedly points us toward Confession, because the Sacrament of Reconciliation repairs our relationship with Jesus. In one of her apparitions, she said that a return to monthly Confessions would save the West. That's it? What are we waiting for!  It sounds simple, but pride does a pretty good job of keeping us away.

I remember I had one sin I didn't want to confess. It wasn't murder. Isn't it funny how murder is always the standard? I didn't kill anyone, so I don't really need to go. Well, this wasn't murder, but I bet all of us have that one sin that embarrasses us. It could be I made a strong man blush by my swearing, or I got depressed and ate an entire cake. That's gluttony, which is a sin. To sin, you need knowledge that it's a sin and you need to do it of your own free will. I knew eating the entire cake would be a sin, and I ate it anyway. But doesn't gluttony sound terrible? Worse than murder?

I'm not saying that was the sin, but it was embarrassing for me. I actually got online and was searching the internet for other parish's Confession schedules, because I thought if I confessed my sin to Father Albert, I'd never be able to look him in the eye again. Or rather, he wouldn't, because every time he saw me he'd be thinking, "It's the cake lady."

That's pride at work, and the enemy is really good at using it to keep us away from this sacrament! Once I realized that one of the gifts of Confession is practice in humility, I bit the bullet and went, and Father Albert has yet to run away screaming when he sees me.

I think it helps if we realize that Mary and the Saints were human beings, just like us, but they worked at their humility and at living as Christ wanted them to.  Out of the billions of people born, it's as if God gave us certain people to point out to us how to live as Christians, including how to overcome our difficulties.  I relate to St. Jerome. He was mouthy, rude, critical, and didn't play well with others, but that didn't stop him from becoming a saint. That gives me hope.

St. Peregrine was cured of cancer, and last minute at that, so he gives us hope when we're in despair from critical illnesses.  St. Augustine - a womanizer and a drinker and, at one time, a pagan. He gives me hope when I have momentary doubts, or when I eat that chocolate that I was giving up for Lent because I "needed" a lift, or...well, I can't say I've been a womanizer. 

But what if your son or daughter is living in sin? Has a baby out of wedlock?  St. Augustine is right there as an example that God can reach them wherever they are, and you need to pray for them and have hope, though hopefully you won't have to pray for forty years like St. Augustine's mother, St. Monica.

Padre Pio taught us how to endure suffering with dignity.  Blessed Mother Teresa taught us to treat each individual with dignity, even if they were outcasts of society, even if they smelled of rotting flesh. She would carry a dying person from the streets and place them in a bed and stroke their face and call them Jesus, because she saw Jesus in every human being.  They are our examples, and we should get to know them so we can see how to live as Christians but also to see how human they were. That it's okay not to be perfect.

But we should still strive to be perfect, and that's where Mary comes in. She was the perfect disciple and therefore our perfect example.  I think of the Joyful Mysteries as her Mysteries.  The Annunciation, showing us how to say yes to God no matter how impossible the odds. The Visitation, showing us how to put other's needs before our own and just trust in God that He'll take care of our needs as well. To visit Elizabeth, Mary traveled miles on a donkey (or maybe on foot!) While pregnant! And you might think, well, she wasn't showing that much when she left, but she did have to make the journey back, and women's stomachs don't get smaller in the second trimester. The Nativity, showing us the fruit of saying yes.  The Presentation, showing us that no matter what we give to God, He can't be outdone in generosity.  I give you two turtledoves, you give me the Son of God. What a deal! Give everything to Him. Imagine what you'll get back!  Finding Jesus in the Temple, showing us that when we look for Jesus, we will find Him.  Can you imagine how many people were strolling around Jerusalem? EVERYBODY showed up for Passover.  And yet they found one 12-year-old boy.

We sometimes imagine Mary with a pious long face, but love is joy, and Mary loved God. They said Mary danced in the Temple as a girl.  Think about when you fell in love, or of the people you currently love. Does it make you sad?   

Everything Mary experienced was a result of Jesus. Jesus was crowned with thorns, Mary was crowned in Heaven. Jesus was pierced with a lance, and because of that Mary's heart was pierced with a sword. Jesus was mocked by the soldiers. Does anyone think Mary was probably mocked because of her pregnancy before living with her husband?  And yet she remained faithful to God and is now Queen of Heaven.

She gives us so many tools to get to Jesus. The Rosary, so we can meditate on the mysteries of His life. The Fatima prayer.  Consecration to her Immaculate Heart so that everything we offer to Jesus is purified by her first. 

Her message is always the same. Love my son. He loves you.  Love one another; it's what He wants. Pray, fast and repent.

It will take practice.  I still have difficulties. I pray my rosary while walking the dog and lose my place when I stop to take care of business.  And does anyone pray novenas? Nine day prayers for special intentions? I've never made it through nine days straight without losing a day.   

But ours is a road to perfection. Mary was full of grace. We are not.  That's why she and the saints are available to us--to help us on that journey so we can all be with God.  Be open to them. They are willing and able to help us get to Heaven. Just pick a saint and decide to learn something about them and see how it applies to your life.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Our Lady of Medjugorje Points us to Jesus

Ever since I first heard about Medjugorje, I looked on the apparition with deep suspicion.  The Blessed Mother appearing since 1981? At a specific time? Highly unlikely. Though I believe in apparitions (not all of them), I wondered if this wasn't coming from the enemy.  It almost sounded as if Mary, Mother of God, was appearing at the beck and call of alleged visionaries, something that seemed contrary to her position and her dignity. I thought good people were being fooled.

Then I was reading a book on Our Lady of Kibeho. Mary appeared in Rwanda Medjugorje: The Message by Wayne Weible--a Lutheran.
(and predicted the massacre 10 years ahead of schedule) describing the rivers of blood. She appeared at set times--set by her. She also set the times of her appearances at Lourdes and Fatima. If SHE called the shots, that was a different story, so at the urging of a friend, I looked into
Rwanda genocide

In his book, he quoted excerpts from The Apparitions of Our Lady at Medjugorgi, by Svetozar Kraljevic, O.F.M.  In that book, Father Vlasic interviews some of the visionaries, and their messages seemed sound, because as always, His Mother pointed at Jesus.  The enemy wouldn't do that.

Her principle message is "Peace, conversion, fasting, penance, prayer. The most important is peace."

Not that prayer isn't important. If fact, she repeatedly says, "Pray, pray, pray." 

She stressed a point that Catholics are aware of, though we are often misunderstood because we ask for His Mother's intercession.  "Pray to Jesus. I am His mother and I intercede for you with Him. But all prayer goes to Jesus." 

She again stressed that there is only one intercessor between us and the Father, and that is Jesus. When we ask for Mary's intercession, we are asking her to be the intercessor between us and Jesus, not the Father. And we ask this as an act of humility. She is the Queen Mother, and as in the times of the Old Testament, we peasants bring our requests to her and she sets them before the King. Everything Mary gets she gives to Jesus.

One visionary pointed out that the Madonna doesn't act separately from God. She does God's will.  When they asked her for a sign, she went to Jesus for the sign, and once He said yes, then she was able to offer the sign.  This is what Mary has always done. God's will. 

A few other notable messages (so far in my reading) are:

- The greatest danger to the world is through godlessness. This explains the rise in Atheism, a relatively new phenomenon.

- People who are in Hell raged against God in life and continue to rage against Him after death. They refuse to pray to God and, in effect, become one with Hell. This explains the rage behind many who are pro-abortion and anti-marriage. 

- The devil is most active through people of weak character who are divided within themselves. But he also enters the lives of strong believers, as he would rather "convert"real believers than non-believers.  This explains the Catholic priest scandal--both the actions of the priests themselves and the response by those in the Church who were more interested in the institution than the people.

Her messages can be a bit frightening, but they also offer hope. We always have a way out from under the enemy, and that is to hold onto Jesus Christ as tightly as we can. That's why they call it the Good News!