Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes



The feast of Our Lady of  Lourdes, which we celebrate today, February 11 has always had a special place in my heart -- not only because of my French family background and living in a small French village (located in the heart of the USA), but because as a child, I related on a personal level to Bernadette. Like her, I was initially a slow learner in school. My health was poor and I was a little behind my peers in the primary grades because I missed so much school and also because I was nearsighted and needed glasses. (However, it didn't take me long to catch up and even excel in my studies after I got my glasses.) Everyday after school, I visited Bernadette and Our Lady at the Lourdes shrine behind our church and prayed there, often imagining what it would be like to have been St. Bernadette. To this very day, I continue to be fascinated by the simple obedience, humility, and holiness of this great saint.

February 11 marks the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1858 to St. Bernadette Soubirous. Between February 11 and July 16, 1858, the Blessed Mother appeared eighteen times to a poor, uneducated, sickly fourteen-year-old Marie Bernade (St. Bernadette) times in the in the hollow of the rock at Lourdes, called “de Massabielle”.

On March 25, the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1858, she said to the little shepherdess who was only fourteen years of age: "I am the Immaculate Conception." Because the dogma of the Immaculate Conception had been officially proclaimed less than four years earlier, and Bernadette could not have even known of its existence, when Bernadette repeated the words, it gave credibility to her apparitions. It was confirmation from heaven that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was indeed true.

During one of these apparitions, when Bernadette was told by Mary to begin digging in the ground; she obediently did so, to the townspeople’s scorn. Water immediately began flowing from the spot where Bernadette dug, a tiny stream that has since has grown to the size of a small river. Thousands of healings have been reported as the result of people bathing in or drinking this miraculous water. The walls of the grotto where the Blessed Mother appeared are lined with the crutches of the lame who have walked away from the waters, totally healed.

What is the message of Lourdes?

First, we are called to look at the grace and holiness of Christ in Mary, become converted, and be healed spiritually. It is a call to enter fully into the mystery of the redemption.

The second message was that of prayer. In order to be more fully conformed to the will of God, we must pray without ceasing. Prayer leads us to the Spirit of God.

The third part of the message was Bernadette herself – simple Bernadette. She was uneducated and poor. She could not explain things very well. But, she had a pure heart. And, it was this purity of heart that opened her up to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit and to experience the fruits of the redemption.

Our Lady made some rather bizarre requests of Bernadette – to eat grass like salad, to dig in the dirt and mud with her hands to find a healing stream. Though humbling, Bernadette willingly performed these tasks despite the fact that she was laughed at and mocked by the townspeople. Mary’s appearance and Bernadette’s response present a picture of what it means to love God with our whole heart, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is a visible expression of purity of heart that calls us "Be it done unto me completely and fully according to your word. Accomplish in my life fully what you want to accomplish." This is in contrast to our culture where one’s own will, pleasures, desires, and interests take precedence. In our self-centered culture, the motto is, "Be it done according to my will."

Thus, the message of Lourdes is a call to personal conversion, prayer, and charity.

Let us follow the example of Bernadette in her purity of heart, obedience to God's will, and love for God and neighbor. May our hearts be purified by the Holy Spirit, as we follow in the footsteps of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

~© February 2016 Jean M. Heimann 

Consecration Prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes

Holy Mary Mother of God, Virgin Immaculate, you appeared eighteen times to Bernadette at the grotto in Lourdes, to remind Christians of what the truths in the Gospel require of them. You called them to prayer, penance, the Eucharist and life in the Church.

To answer your call more fully, I consecrate myself through you to your Son Jesus.

Make me willing to accept what he said. By the fervor of my faith, by the conduct of my life in all its aspects, by my devotion to the sick, let me work with you in the comforting of those who suffer and in the reconciliation of people, that the Church may be One, and there be peace in the world.

All this I ask, confident that you, Our Lady, will fully answer my prayer.

Blessed be the holy and Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.

Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, pray for us.

Ash Wednesday: Beginning the Journey of Repentance





Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.

(Joel 2: 12-13)


It's that time of year again -- the time of both internal and external recollection that we are setting out on a journey. On Ash Wednesday, the ashes placed on our forehead invite us to begin a new journey of repentance. They invite us to turn back to God and to receive new life. Once again, we are called to let God penetrate deeper into our lives, for indeed, turning back to Him with our whole hearts is a submission to His holy will.

Lent is a time when we permit God to purify our hearts allow Him to unite our wills with His. Lent is a time of interior spring cleaning and obtaining new strength and great graces from God. This is the time of year to take a good look inside of ourselves and take inventory. What bad habit or sin can I work on permanently eliminating in my life? What sin am I really attached to that I can work on removing – not just during this Lenten season, but permanently? Is this sin really that necessary for my survival in this world? What virtue can I replace it with to ensure my survival in the next life?

This Lent, as in all past seasons of Lent, let us permit God to change at least one of our vices into a virtue. Today, let us pray for discernment, that God will help us work on that area of our lives that He wants us to change and ask for His help as we enter into these 40 days of desert with Him.

Lenten Prayer

Heavenly Father, as I begin this journey into the desert with You, send Your Holy Spirit to enlighten me and to give me wisdom as to what it is You desire to change within me. Help me turn away from sin and come to back to You with all my heart through daily prayer and penance. Grant me the grace to persevere on the journey and the willingness to submit and surrender my heart to You. Amen.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Best Lenten Reads for 2016 + Giveaway


With Lent beginning tomorrow, February 9, on Ash Wednesday, it's time to take a look at some inspiring reading material to help us grow in holiness. Here are some suggestions:



1. The Kiss of Jesus: How Mother Teresa and the Saints Helped Me to Discover the Beauty of the Cross by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle

This book is ideal for Lent as it teaches us about suffering, God’s grace, and living a holy life. It also touches on God’s great love and mercy in this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

In this candid, astonishing autobiographical account, this soft-spoken, delicate, and devout Catholic media celebrity reveals the shocking struggles she has tackled in life. She became engaged to a drug addict who held her against her will, threatening harm to her family. She faced miscarriages, abuse, serious illness, divorce, financial difficulties, custody battles, and single motherhood – all with great inner strength and tremendous courage. Through God’s providence, she met Mother Teresa, the spiritual guide who shepherded her through some of these trials and helped her heal. Her ten year relationship with this saint provided the spiritual nourishment she needed to stay strong and to live an even holier life.



2. Bringing Lent Home with Pope Francis: Prayers, Reflections, and Activities for Families by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle

This is a perfect book for families with young children! Franciscan Mom reviews it Here. 




3. Trusting God with St. Therese by Connie Rossini

This is a remarkable story of suffering and grace. The main theme is learning to trust God in the midst of suffering and through God’s grace, using our suffering for good purposes, following the example of St. Therese of Lisieux. Why does God allow suffering? What is the purpose of suffering? How can we trust God in the midst of our suffering? Using the Scriptures, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, excerpts from the life of St. Therese, and her own personal experiences, Rossini answers these questions and analyzes the meaning of suffering as it relates to trusting God, giving her readers sound, practical advice on how to deal with the trials and tribulations they face in their own lives.



4. Seven Saints for Seven Virtues by Jean M. Heimann – Want to learn to turn your vices into virtues this Lent? In this book, the author guides you, through the inspiration of the saints to do just that.

"In Seven Saints for Seven Virtues, Jean Heimann has given readers a close-up of seven saints who are, all too often, distant in their “perfection” to those of us struggling in the pews. As a bonus, each saint is paired with a virtue and an “everyday hero” (a real-life non-saint who’s not inaccessibly holy)."

"What Jean Heimann has masterfully done in this book is something that you’ll value more with each rereading…because yes, this is a book you will reference and revisit and reread. Not only is it a lesson in the virtues, but it’s a close-up of seven saints and an examination of the virtues in light of those saints’ lives. Heimann walks with the reader, sharing her struggles and encouraging us to turn to the saints in specific ways and to take specific actions to begin practicing the virtues."

- Sarah Reinhard in the National Catholic Register



5. 7 Secrets of Divine Mercy by Vinny Flynn. Flynn is the author of other 7 Secrets books, (7 Secrets of the Eucharist and 7 Secrets of Confession), but I agree with him when he admits that this is the book he should have written first. It is a remarkable book that will open up your heart and your mind to the mysteries of Divine Mercy.  If you think you know just about all there is about Divine Mercy, you will be astounded to learn that there is so much more to know. Vinny Flynn is the perfect person to tell you about it. He has contemplated the mystery of Divine Mercy for thirty-five years and has worked with Divine Mercy experts Fr. Seraphim Michalenko and Fr. George Kosciki, to train many of the current speakers on this timely topic. He edited the official English version of the Diary of St. Faustina, and for twenty years has been singing the Chaplet of Divine Mercy with his family on EWTN.



6. Thirty – Three Days to Merciful Love by Michael Gaitley  This is a do-it-yourself retreat in preparation for consecration to Divine Mercy. It begins on March 1, 2016.




7. The Magnificat Lenten Companion – This has been my main staple for Lenten reading and reflection for many years now. I love it!

Giveaway: I will be giving away two Magnificat Lenten apps for use on your computer, cell phone, or IPad. To enter, just send your name and address to jean.heimann@gmail.com with the subject title “Lenten Giveaway.” The giveaway begins today, February 9, 2016 and ends on Friday, February 12, 2016. I will notify the winners by email.

Monday, February 08, 2016

St. Josephine Bakhita: From Slave to Saint



Today is the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, a Canossian Sister who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Sudan.

Bakhita was born in Eastern Sudan around 1869 and was captured by slave traders, who named her Bakhita, which means "the lucky or fortunate one."

Bakhita came from a happy, loving tribal family, which consisted of her parents, three brothers, and four sisters. In comparison to other African tribal families, her family was well to do, as her uncle was the village chief and her father owned cattle and large plantations. When Bakhita was about nine years old, slave traders captured her.

During the course of her life, she was sold five times. She was subjected to many cruel tortures, some of which included whip lashing, which tore off her flesh, and being tattooed multiple times on her body via incisions with a razor and having salt rubbed into her womb. Despite the cruel treatments, she had no resentment or bitterness in her heart, but prayed for those who hurt her.

When Bakhita’s fourth owner, Callisto (Legnani), an agent of the Italian Consul in Sudan, was recalled to Italy, Bakhita insisted on accompanying him, and her master could not refuse her. On the ship bound for Italy, however, the Consul gave Bakhita to some fellow countrymen, Mr. and Mrs. Micheli, who needed a nanny for their daughter in Mirano Veneto, Italy.

It was in Italy at age 21 that the Canossian Daughters of Charity in Venice introduced Bakhita to the Catholic faith. Accompanying the five-year-old child she cared for to the Sister’s boarding school in Venice, Bakhita received religious instruction along with the child. When the child’s parents returned from Sudan to take them both back to Africa, Bakhita refused to go, but courageously insisted that she remain in Italy to complete her religious instruction and to practice her faith. When Mrs. Michieli's pleas toward Bakhita failed, she appealed to the King’s Procurator, who informed her that slavery was illegal in Italy. Bakhita was now a free woman – free to serve the One she loved. Approximately two months later, on January 9, 1890, Bakhita was baptized and confirmed and was given the names Josephine and Margaret. She also made her first Holy Communion on the same day.

Bakhita continued her studies at the school for four more years, then began her postulancy with the Canossian  sisters in the same house where she had lived for five years. On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1896, Sr. Josephine made her final vows at the Motherhouse in Verona.

For six years, Bakhita remained in Venice, performing simple household tasks. Then, in 1902, she was transferred to Schio, a small town in the beautiful mountain area of northern Italy. Her first assignment there was as a cook. She sought to do her best, taking special care that the food she prepared was as pleasing as possible and she even heated the dishware in the winter to ensure warm meals for the boarding school girls and the Sisters.

In 1935, the Sisters asked Sr. Josephine to go on a speaking tour to tell her faith story as a form of missionary work. The shy and modest Sister reluctantly consented, as she disliked being the center of attention. She relayed her witness to captivated audiences for the next year and always did so "For God’s Glory." Her humility, her simplicity and her constant smile won the hearts of all. Her sisters in the community esteemed her for her sweet nature, her exquisite goodness and her deep desire to make the Lord known. For the next two years, she served as the doorkeeper at the Sister’s missionary novitiate in Milan.

In the winter of 1947, Sister Josephine suffered from a violent attack of pneumonia and her fever caused her to go through periods of delirium and unconsciousness. When she regained consciousness, someone asked her, "How are you Sr. Josephine? Today is Saturday." As she lay dying, she replied, "Yes, I am so happy: Our Lady, Our Lady!" These were her last words on February 8, 1947. Pope John Paul II canonized St. Josephine Bakhita on October 1, 2000.

Saint Quote

"Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know Him. What a great grace it is to know God!"
~ St. Josephine Bakhita

To obtain a favor from St. Josephine Bakhita please say this prayer, an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be.

Prayer

Loving God, rewarder of the humble, you blessed St. Josephine Bakhita with charity and patience. May her prayers help us, and her example inspire us to carry our cross and to love you always. Pour upon us the spirit of wisdom and love with which you filled St. Josephine Bakhita.

By serving you as she did, may we please you by our faith and our actions. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

St. Agatha: Patroness of those with Breast Cancer



The saint of the day for February 5 is St. Agatha, the patroness of those who suffer from breast cancer.

Agatha was born in Sicily, the daughter of rich and pious parents. At a young age, she consecrated herself to God. She grew to be a virtuous Christian woman, known for her remarkable beauty, but resisted the advances of men. The Roman Senator Quintianus, who governed Sicily, had heard of her great beauty and wealth, and planned on seducing her. Consequently, he made laws against the Christians in order to trick her into coming to him.

When she was apprehended, Agatha prayed: "Jesus Christ, Lord of all things, you see my heart, you know my desire-possess alone all that I am. I am your sheep, make me worthy to overcome the devil." She wept, and prayed for courage and strength. Quintianus made advances toward her, and when she refused them, he ordered her to be put into the hands of Aphrodisia, a woman who ran a brothel. Agatha refused to be influenced by the seductiveness of this wicked woman and her environment. She remained firm in the convictions of her Christian faith.

Quintianus then had her beaten, imprisoned, and subjected to cruel tortures. He ordered that her breasts be cut off and that she receive neither food nor medical care for four days. But the holy virgin was consoled by a vision of St. Peter, who miraculously healed her.

Quintianus, not the least bit moved by the miraculous cure of her wounds, ordered that she be stretched out on a rack and rolled naked over live coals mixed with broken glass. Dying, she prayed: "Lord, my Creator, you have ever protected me from the cradle; you have taken me from the love of the world, and given me patience to suffer: receive now my soul."

Lessons learned from St. Agatha

St. Agatha is an excellent model of chastity and purity for us today. We live in a society of hyper-sensuality, where Christians are mocked for their morality and struggle to defend that which is sacred. We are constantly bombarded by the sensual temptations in our culture. While we do not suffer the physical torture that Agatha did, most of us do indeed experience the spiritual and psychological torment of living in a decadent culture.

Like St. Agatha, prayer will help us to remain strong and courageous. Today, we are blessed with many more opportunities for grace than in Agatha's time. The sacraments, the Rosary, and Eucharistic Adoration are  powerful weapons in the spiritual battle. If we follow the example of our crucified Lord and look to Him for all our needs, we will receive the strength we need to endure all of life’s daily trials and not grow weary on the way.


~ copyright Jean M. Heimann February 2016


Patronage

against breast cancer
against breast disease
against earthquakes
against fire
against natural disasters
against sterility
against volcanic eruptions
fire prevention
jewelers
martyrs
nurses
rape victims
single laywomen
torture victims
wet-nurses

Prayer to St. Agatha for healing of breast cancer

St. Agatha, woman of valor, from your own suffering we have been moved to ask your prayers for those of us who suffer from breast cancer. We place the name (s) before you, and ask you to intercede on their behalf. From where you stand in the health of life eternal- all wounds healed, and all tears wiped away- pray for ____________________, and all of us. Pray God will give us His holy benediction of health and healing. And, we remember you were a victim of torture and that you learned, first hand, of human cruelty and inhumanity. We ask you to pray for our entire world. Ask God to enlighten us with a “genius for peace and understanding.” Ask Him to send us His Spirit of Serenity, and ask Him to help us share that peace with all we meet. From what you learned from your own path of pain, ask God to give us the Grace we need to remain holy in difficulties, not allowing our anger or our bitterness to overtake us. Pray that we will be more peaceful and more charitable. And from your holy pace in our mystical body, the Church, pray that we, in our place and time will, together, create a world of justice and peace. Amen.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

St. Joan of Valois, patron of those in difficult circumstances




On February 4, the Church commemorates St. Joan of Valois (also known as Jane, Jeanne, Joanna of France). The second daughter of Louis X1, King of France, and Charlotte of Savoy, she was born on April 23, 1464. Joan's father hated her from birth, partly because of her sex and partly because she was sickly and deformed.  Joan had a hump on her back and walked with a limp, suggesting that she had curvature of the spine.

 At the age of five, she was sent away to be brought up by guardians in a lonely country home, deprived of common comforts and sometimes even necessities. The neglected child offered her whole heart to God, and yearned to do some special service in honor of His blessed Mother. She developed a deep devotion to Our Lady, praying the Angelus daily.

At the age of two months Joan was betrothed to Louis, Duke of Orleans, the future King Louis XII, and the marriage took place when she was just nine years old. The marriage was forced upon Louis and was never consummated.

After her marriage, Joan suffered even more than before. The duke hated the fact that she was imposed on him in the marriage, and even publicly insulted and humiliated her. In spite of this, Joan loved him and remained a devoted and faithful wife for twenty-two years. Joan saved her husband's life when her brother, King Charles VIII decided to execute him for rebellion. When the duke ascended to the throne in 1498 and wanted to marry Ann of Brittany, he had Pope Alexander VI declare his marriage to Joan null.  Joan offered no objections and accepted the situation with the patience that marked her entire life.  “If so it is to be, praised be the Lord”, was her remark on this occasion. With humility, in imitation of Our Lady, she accepted the will of God.

In 1500, along with her Franciscan director, Gilbert Nicolas, Joan founded the Order of the Annunciation, a community whose chief rule was to imitate the virtues of Mary, as shown in the Gospels. Jane died in heroic sanctity at the age of 41 on February 4, 1505, and was buried in the royal crown and purple, beneath which lay the habit of her Order. She was canonized in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. Many miracles, particularly of healing, followed her death. St. Joan is the patron of those in difficult circumstances.

Quote:  “I am ugly in body but I want a beautiful soul.” – St. Joan of Valois

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

St. Blaise and the Blessing of Throats




On February 3, we commemorate St. Blaise, a physician and Bishop of Sebaste, Armenia in the 4th century. He lived in a cave on Mount Argeus and was a healer of men and animals. Legend tells us that sick animals would come to him on their own for help, but would never disturb him at prayer.

As bishop, Blaise became a healer of souls and taught his people how to live a holy life by his example. His great virtues and sanctity were confirmed by many miracles.  Crowds came to him for the cure of both bodily and spiritual afflictions.

Agricola, the governor of Cappadocio, came to Sebaste to persecute Christians. His hunters discovered Blaise praying while seeking wild animals for the arena and arrested him as a Christian. Blaise was taken to prison, but on the way there he interceded to God on the behalf of a child who was choking to death on a fish bone. The child was cured, which led to the blessing of throats on Blaise's feast day.

Thrown into a lake to drown, Blaise stood on the water's surface and invited his persecutors to walk out and prove the power of their gods; they drowned. When he returned to land, he was martyred by being beaten, his flesh torn with wool combs (which led to his association with and patronage of those involved in the wool trade), and then beheaded.

In the holy wars, his relics were dispersed over Europe and veneration of St. Blaise was increased by many miraculous cures, especially of sore or diseased throats. Thus, he is the patron of those suffering from throat ailments.

One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, St. Blaise became one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages.  His feast is celebrated as a holy day in some Eastern Churches. In 1222, the Council of Oxford banned servile work (heavy manual labor) in England on Blaise’s feast day. The Germans and Slavs are particularly devoted to him. Many United States Catholics have their throats blessed on his feast day annually.

Candles crossed in a special candelabrum used to bless throats.


Blessing of the Throats

This is the day when we, as Catholics, participate in the beautiful sacramental of having our throats blessed. The rite of the blessing of throats may take place before or after Mass.
 The aid of St. Blaise is asked in delivering the faithful from throat ailments and other evils.To do this, the priest consecrates two candles, generally by a prayer, and then holds each in a crossed position on the throat of the person being blessed. At the same time the following blessing is given: "Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from ailments of the throat and from every other evil. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

I have always enjoyed this day, not only because it is the time of year when I am prone to sore throats, but it shows how the Church is truly concerned with the bodily needs of the person as well as the spiritual needs.

Prayer to Saint Blaise

Dear bishop and lover of souls, you willingly bore heavy crosses in faithful imitation of Jesus. Similarly, with Christlike compassion you cured many sufferers. Then after undergoing horrible torture, you died as a martyr for Christ. Obtain a cure for these {describe the afflictions} ills if this is agreeable to God. Amen.

Monday, February 01, 2016

The Presentation of the Lord: Candlemas



Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which occurs forty days after the birth of Jesus and is also known as Candlemas day, since the blessing and procession of candles is included in today's liturgy.

The Feast of the Presentation, often called Candlemas, commemorates the purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the presentation of Christ in the temple, which took place 40 days after his birth as Jewish law required. According to Mosaic law, a mother who had given birth to a boy was considered unclean for seven days. Also, she was to remain 33 days "in the blood of her purification." Luke tells us, quoting Exodus 13:2,12, that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem because every firstborn child was to be dedicated to the Lord. They also went to sacrifice a pair of doves or two young pigeons, showing that Mary and Joseph were poor. Once in the temple, Jesus was purified by the prayer of Simeon, in the presence of Anna the prophetess. Simeon, upon seeing the Messiah, gave thanks to the Lord, singing a hymn now called the Nunc Dimittis:

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace,
your word has been fulfilled:
My own eyes have seen the salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

Simeon told Mary, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against, (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed." Simeon thus foreshadowed the crucifixion and the sorrows of Mary at seeing the death of her Son.

The name Candlemas comes from the activities associated with the feast. It came to be known as the Candle Mass. In the Western Church, a procession with lighted candles is the distinctive rite. According to post Vatican-II discipline, (if possible) the beeswax candles are to be blessed somewhere other than where the Mass is held. Often your local parish will hand out candles, or you may bring your own, to be blessed before the procession. These may be saved for later use in your home. After an antiphon, during which the candles held by the people are lighted, there is a procession into the church. During the procession to the church, the Nunc Dimittis is sung, with the antiphon "Lumen ad revelationem" (Luke 2:32). This procession into the church for Mass commemorates Christ's entrance into the temple. Since Vatican II, the feast is reckoned a feast of the Lord (as opposed to a feast of Mary), and officially designated "The presentation of the Lord."

History

Egeria, writing around AD 380, attests to a feast of the Presentation in the Jerusalem Church. It was kept on February 14th. The day was kept by a procession to the Constantinian basilica of the Resurrection, with a homily on Luke 2:22-39. However, the feast had no proper name at this point; it was simply called the 40th day after Epiphany. This shows that the Jerusalem church celebrated Jesus' birth on the Epiphany Feast (as is common in some Eastern Churches today).

In regions where Christ's birth was celebrated on December 25th, the feast began to be celebrated on February 2nd, where it is kept in the West today. In 542, the Emperor Justinian introduced the feast to the entire Eastern Roman empire in thanksgiving for the end to a great pestilence afflicting the city of Constantinople. Perhaps this is when Pope Gregory I brought the feast to Rome. Either way, by the 7th century, it is contained in the Gelasianum Sacramentary. Pope Sergius (687-701) introduced the procession to the Candlemas service. The blessing of candles did not come into common use until the 11th century.

While some scholars have asserted that the Candlemas feast was developed in the Middle Ages to counteract the pagan feasts of Imbolc and Lupercalia, many scholars reject this, based on Medieval documents. While the feast does coincide with these two pagan holidays, the origins of the feast are based in Scriptural chronology. Some superstitions developed about Candlemas, including the belief that if one does not take down Christmas decorations by Candlemas, traces of the holly and berries will bring about the death of the person involved. In past times, Candlemas was seen as the end of the Christmas season.

Candlemas Day was also the day when some cultures predicted weather patterns. Farmers believed that the remainder of winter would be the opposite of whatever the weather was like on Candlemas Day. An old English song goes:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas bring clouds and rain,
Go winter, and come not again.

Thus if the sun cast a shadow on Candlemas day, more winter was on the way; if there was no shadow, winter was thought to be ending soon. This practice led to the folklore behind "Groundhog's Day," which falls on Candlemas Day.

Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes Begins




On February 11, 1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous in a cave at Massabielle near Lourdes, France. By July 16, she had appeared 18 times and proclaimed that she was the Immaculate Conception.  In 1862, the Church confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions. The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes became worldwide in 1907.

Lourdes has become a place of pilgrimage and healing, but even more of faith. The water of Lourdes is readily available to all pilgrims, and Church authorities have documented over 60 miraculous cures as well as conversions to the faith because of these miracles. Our Lady of Lourdes is the patroness of sick people and bodily ills.

Novena Dates February 2-10, Feast Day February 11

Opening Prayer (To be prayed each day at the beginning of the novena of by itself for a shorter version of the novena)

Be blessed, O most pure Virgin, for having vouchsafed to manifest your shining with life, sweetness and beauty, in the Grotto of Lourdes, saying to the child, St. Bernadette: "I am the Immaculate Conception." A thousand times we congratulate you upon your Immaculate Conception. And now, O ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of mercy, Health of the sick, Refuge of sinners, Comforter of the afflicted, you know our wants, our troubles, our sufferings deign to cast upon us a look of mercy.

By appearing in the Grotto of Lourdes, you were pleased to make it a privileged sanctuary, whence you dispense your favors, and already many have obtained the cure of their infirmities, both spiritual and physical. We come, therefore, with the most unbounded confidence to implore your maternal intercession. Obtain for us, O loving Mother, the granting of our request.
  (state your request)

 Through gratitude for your favors, we will endeavor to imitate your virtues, that we may one day share your glory.

Our Lady of Lourdes, Mother of Christ, you had influence with your divine son while upon earth. You have the same influence now in Heaven. Pray for us; obtain for us from your Divine Son our special requests if it be the Divine Will. Amen.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.

NINE DAY NOVENA TO OUR LADY OF LOURDES

DAY ONE 
O Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Lourdes, virgin and mother, queen of heaven, chosen from all eternity to be the Mother of the Eternal Word and in virtue of this title preserved from original sin, we kneel before you as did little Bernadette at Lourdes and pray with childlike trust in you that as we contemplate your glorious appearance at Lourdes, you will look with mercy on our present petition and secure for us a favorable answer to the request for which we are making this novena.

(make your request)

O Brilliant star of purity, Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Lourdes, glorious in your assumption, triumphant in your coronation, show unto us the mercy of the Mother of God, Virgin Mary, Queen and Mother, be our comfort, hope, strength, and consolation. Amen.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.

DAY TWO
Be blessed, O most pure Virgin, for having vouchsafed to manifest yourself shining with light, sweetness and beauty, in the Grotto of Lourdes, saying to the child Saint Bernadette: "I am the Immaculate Conception!" O Mary Immaculate, inflame our hearts with one ray of the burning love of your pure heart Let them be consumed with love for Jesus and for you, in order that we may merit one day to enjoy your glorious eternity. O dispenser of His graces here below, take into your keeping and present to your Divine Son the petition for which we are making this novena.

(make your request)

O Brilliant star of purity, Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Lourdes, glorious in your  assumption, triumphant in your coronation, show unto us the mercy of the Mother of God, Virgin Mary, Queen and Mother, be our comfort, hope, strength, and consolation. Amen.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.

DAY THREE 
"You are all fair, O Mary, and there is in you no stain of original sin." O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. O brilliant star of sanctity, as on that lovely day, upon a rough rock in Lourdes you spoke to the child Bernadette and a fountain broke from the plain earth and miracles happened and the great shrine of Lourdes began, so now I beseech you to hear our fervent prayer and do, we beseech you, grant us the petition we now so earnestly seek.

(make your request)

O Brilliant star of purity, Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Lourdes, glorious  in your assumption, triumphant in your coronation, show unto us the mercy of the Mother of God, Virgin Mary, Queen and Mother, be our comfort, hope, strength, and consolation. Amen.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.

DAY FOUR
O Immaculate Queen of Heaven, we your wayward, erring children, join our unworthy prayers of praise and thanksgiving to those of the angels and saints and your own-the One, Holy, and Undivided Trinity may be glorified in heaven and on earth. Our Lady of Lourdes, as you looked down with love and mercy upon Bernadette as she prayed her rosary in the grotto, look down now, we beseech you, with love and mercy upon us. From the abundance of graces granted you by your Divine Son, sweet Mother of God, give to each of us all that your motherly heart sees we need and at this moment look with special favor on the grace we seek in this novena.

(make your request)

O Brilliant star of purity, Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Lourdes, glorious in your  assumption, triumphant in your coronation, show unto us the mercy of the Mother of God, Virgin Mary, Queen and Mother, be our comfort, hope, strength, and consolation. Amen.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.

DAY FIVE 
O Mary Immaculate, Mother of God and our mother, from the heights of your dignity look down mercifully upon us while we, full of confidence in your unbounded goodness and confident that your Divine Son will look favorably upon any request you make of Him in our behalf, we beseech you to come to our aid and secure for us the favor we seek in this novena.
(make your request)

O Brilliant star of purity, Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Lourdes, glorious in your  assumption, triumphant in your coronation, show unto us the mercy of the Mother of God, Virgin Mary, Queen and Mother, be our comfort, hope, strength, and consolation. Amen.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.

DAY SIX 
O glorious Mother of God, so powerful under your special title of Our Lady of Lourdes, to you we raise our hearts and hands to implore your powerful intercession in obtaining from the gracious Heart of Jesus all the helps and graces necessary for our spiritual and temporal welfare and for the special favor we so earnestly seek in this novena.

(make your request)

O Lady of Bernadette, with the stars of heaven in your hair and the roses of earth at your feet, look with compassion upon us today as you did so long ago on Bernadette in the Grotto of Lourdes.

O Brilliant star of purity, Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Lourdes, glorious  in your assumption, triumphant in your coronation, show unto us the mercy of the Mother of God, Virgin Mary, Queen and Mother, be our comfort, hope, strength, and consolation. Amen.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.

DAY SEVEN 
O Almighty God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary did prepare a worthy dwelling place for your Son, we humbly beseech you that as we contemplate the apparition of Our Lady in the Grotto of Lourdes, we may be blessed with health of mind and body.  O most gracious Mother Mary, beloved Mother of Our Lord and Redeemer, look with favor upon us as you did that day on Bernadette and intercede with him for us that the favor we now so earnestly seek may be granted to us.
(make your request)

O Brilliant star of purity, Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Lourdes, glorious in your  assumption, triumphant in your coronation, show unto us the mercy of the Mother of God, Virgin Mary, Queen and Mother, be our comfort, hope, strength, and consolation. Amen

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.

DAY EIGHT 
O Immaculate Mother of God, from heaven itself you came to appear to the little Bernadette in the rough Grotto of Lourdes! And as Bernadette knelt at your feet and the miraculous  spring burst forth and as multitudes have knelt ever since before your shrine, O Mother of God, we kneel before you today to ask that in your mercy you plead with your Divine Son to grant the special favor we seek in this novena.

(make your request)

O Brilliant star of purity, Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Lourdes, glorious in your assumption, triumphant in your coronation, show unto us the mercy of the Mother of God, Virgin Mary, Queen and Mother, be our comfort, hope, strength, and consolation. Amen.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.

DAY NINE 
O glorious Mother of God, to you we raise our hearts and hands to implore your powerful intercession in obtaining from the benign Heart of Jesus all the graces necessary for our spiritual and temporal welfare, particularly for the grace of a happy death. O Mother of our Divine Lord, as we conclude this novena for the special favor we seek at this time.
(make your request)

Mary and Bernadette
We feel animated with confidence that your prayers in our behalf will be graciously heard. O Mother of My Lord, through the love you bear to Jesus Christ and for the glory of His Name, hear our prayers and obtain our petitions.
O Brilliant star of purity, Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Lourdes, glorious in your  assumption, triumphant in your coronation, show unto us the mercy of the Mother of God, Virgin Mary, Queen and Mother, be our comfort, hope, strength, and consolation. Amen.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.

St. Brigid of Ireland: Healer and Miracle Worker



Today, February 1 is the feast of St. Brigid of Ireland, a fifth century convert to Christianity, who was inspired by the preaching of St Patrick. As an abbess and Catholic nun, she founded a double monastery, of monks and nuns, at Kildare, the first women’s monastic community in Ireland. St. Brigid is the patron saint of: babies, children whose parents are not married, dairy workers, midwives, nuns, poets, poultry farmers, printing presses, sailors, scholars, and travelers. Brigid is often called the Mary of the Gael.

Around 453 AD, a child was born out of wedlock between Dubhtach and one of his Christian slaves named Brocessa. The slave girl was sent to a cabin at the foot of the Cooley Mountains near Dundalk, Co Louth, to have the child. The baby was a healthy girl which was no great joy to Dubhtach who wanted a son. The mother was sold to a Chieftain in Connaught, and the child was given to a Druid to be raised and educated.

As a child, Brigid vomited when the Druid tried to feed her. She was nourished solely by the milk of a white cow with red ears. During her life, Brigid performed many miracles, including healing and feeding the poor. According to one story, she once gave away her mother's entire store of butter to the poor. The butter was then miraculously replaced in answer to Brigid's prayers.

At the age of ten, she was returned as a household slave to her father, where her charitable and generous nature caused her to donate his possessions to anyone who asked. Dubthach was so angry with her that he took her in a chariot to the king of Leinster, to sell her. However, while Dubthach was speaking to the king, Brigid gave away his jeweled sword to a beggar to exchange it for food to feed his family. The king acknowledged her holiness and convinced Dubthach to give his daughter her freedom.

The exact circumstance of her conversion to Christianity is unknown, though it is certain that her Christian mother was a guiding influence.

Around 480, Brigid founded a monastery at Kildare, "Church of the Oak", on the site of an older pagan shrine to the Celtic goddess Brigid. The site chosen was under a large oak tree. Brigid, with a group of seven companions, founded the first consecrated religious order for women in Ireland. She founded two monastic institutions, one for men, and the other for women, and invited Conleth, a hermit, to assist her in Kildare as spiritual pastor. Conleth subsequently became the Bishop of Kildare. Thus, for centuries, Kildare was ruled by a double line of abbot-bishops and of abbesses, with the Abbess of Kildare serving as superior general of the monasteries in Ireland.

Brigid’s wisdom and generosity became legend, and people traveled from all over the country to share her wisdom. Her monastery at Kildare became one of the greatest centers of learning in Europe. She continued her holy and charitable work until her death in 525 AD, when she was laid to rest in a jeweled casket at Kil Dara. In 835, her remains were moved to protect them from Norse invaders, and interred in the same grave that holds the remains of St Patrick and St Columcille at Downpatrick.

Many miracles have been attributed to St. Brigid that involve physical healing. For example, on one occasion, Brigid was travelling to see a physician for her headache. She stayed at the house of a couple who had two mute daughters. The daughters were travelling with Brigid when her horse startled, causing her to fall off and injure her head on a rock. When the girls touched her bloodied wound, they were both healed.

Quote from St. Brigid

"I would like the angels of Heaven to be among us. I would like an abundance of peace. I would like full vessels of charity. I would like rich treasures of mercy. I would like cheerfulness to preside over all. I would like Jesus to be present. I would like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us. I would like the friends of Heaven to be gathered around us from all parts. I would like myself to be a rent payer to the Lord; that I should suffer distress, that he would bestow a good blessing upon me. I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings. I would like to be watching Heaven's family drinking it through all eternity."

Prayer to St. Brigid of Ireland

St. Brigid,
You were a woman of peace.
You brought harmony where there was conflict.
You brought light to the darkness.
You brought hope to the downcast.

May the mantle of your peace cover those who are troubled and anxious,
And may peace be firmly rooted in our hearts and in our world.
Inspire us to act justly and to reverence all God has made.

Brigid you were a voice for the wounded and the weary.
Strengthen what is weak within us.
Calm us into a quietness that heals and listens.
May we grow each day into greater wholeness in mind, body and spirit.
Amen.