Tag Archives: apparitions

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

By guest writer Catherine Sheehan.

The image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is one of the most common images associated with Catholicism. Numerous Catholic churches and schools are named after the Sacred Heart and many churches contain an image or statue of the Sacred Heart.

But how often do we stop to think what the devotion to the Sacred Heart is actually all about? What was Christ communicating to us when He revealed His Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century? Why did the Church establish a feast day devoted to the Sacred Heart and does this devotion still have relevance for us today?

For human beings, the heart symbolizes the very center of our being since it is the organ that keeps us alive by pumping blood around the whole body. It also symbolizes the depths of our feelings and therefore our capacity for love. We speak of being ‘heart-broken’ when something tragic happens to us, when someone we love dies, a friend betrays us or our love is rejected. When we desire to be close to others we refer to ‘speaking from the heart’ or having a ‘heart to heart’ conversation.

All of this tells us much about why Jesus desired a devotion to His Sacred Heart. He wanted to be close to us, to reveal to us the depths of His love for us, and to call us to respond to this love by loving Him in return and extending that love to others. Indeed He gave the commandment to His followers to ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ (John 15: 12).

Since St. John told us that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8), devotion to the Sacred Heart is nothing other than acknowledging and reinforcing this revelation of who God is, and asking us to enter more deeply into his love.

From 1673 to 1675, Our Lord appeared several times to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a Visitation nun, in the French town of Paray-le-Monial. The first apparition took place on 27 December 1673, the feast of St. John the Evangelist. Interestingly, it was St. John who was called the disciple ‘whom Jesus loved’, and who rested his head near Christ’s heart at the Last Supper (John 13: 23).

Christ showed St. Margaret Mary His Sacred Heart which was crowned with flames and a cross, and encircled by a crown of thorns. She also saw that His heart was pierced. This corresponds with the fact that Christ’s side was pierced with a lance when He hung on the cross (John 19:20).

Jesus expressed to St. Margaret Mary His desire that a devotion to His Sacred Heart be established and a feast day on the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi.

As part of this devotion, Jesus asked that people receive the Holy Eucharist on the first Friday of each month for nine consecutive months, in honor of His Sacred Heart. This is known as the First Friday devotion.

The feast day of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus was officially established in 1765 and in 1899 Pope Leo XIII consecrated the entire world to the Sacred Heart.

In his encyclical on devotion to the Sacred Heart, Haurietis Aquas, Pope Pius XII wrote:

… Christ Our Lord, exposing His Sacred Heart, wished in a quite extraordinary way to invite the minds of men to a contemplation of, and a devotion to, the mystery of God’s merciful love for the human race … Christ pointed to His Heart, with definite and repeated words, as the symbol by which men should be attracted to a knowledge and recognition of His love; and at the same time He established it as a sign or pledge of mercy and grace for the needs of the Church of our times.

He further wrote: “The Church gives the highest form of worship to the Heart of the divine Redeemer.”

Let us celebrate the great feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus with particular fervor, since it announces to the world the unfathomable love and mercy of Jesus Christ. His Sacred Heart burns with love for us each and every day!

The 12 promises of Christ to those who have devotion to His Most Sacred Heart, as revealed to St Margaret Mary:

(1) I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
(2) I will establish peace in their homes.
(3) I will comfort them in all their afflictions.
(4) I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all, in death.
(5) I will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.
(6) Sinners will find in My Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
(7) Lukewarm souls shall become fervent.
(8) Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
(9) I will bless every place in which an image of my Heart is exposed and honored.
10) I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
(11) Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart.
(12) I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.

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Catherine Sheehan is an experienced writer and a journalist with The Catholic Weekly.

Are Jesus and Mary appearing today?

The mainstream media in Sydney was recently abuzz at the report of a number of parishioners from a local Catholic church claiming to have witnessed the lips on an icon of the Virgin Mary moving during Mass. The video, which was filmed on a mobile phone camera by a worshipper, has since been seen hundreds of thousands of times and has attracted, understandably, very mixed commentary. The parish priest came out at the time and clearly stated that if anything did occur it was “a personal experience” and not to be misunderstood as a public miracle.

This incident of course is not the first time that a miracle or apparition has been alleged to have taken place. Just a few suburbs over from the above mentioned church is a regular suburban house that has supposedly been weeping oil from the walls for close to ten years following the premature death of the resident family’s teenage son. While the family stills lives in the house it has become a virtual shrine adorned with images of Jesus, Mary, and the saints; there have even been reports of the oil curing those who make a pilgrimage to the house.

Yet topping both of these in the contentious miracle stakes is without a doubt the alleged apparitions which began in 1981, with six children from the small town of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina claiming to see the Virgin Mary, not once or twice, but continuously for the past thirty-four years. The messages have been seemingly worthy ones, calling for people to undertake more prayer, fasting and penance. And while the site attracts more than one million visitors a year – putting it just behind the Church-approved apparition sites of Fatima and Lourdes – it seems that after many years of investigation the Vatican is set to reach the conclusion that the apparitions of Medjugorje are inauthentic.

It may appear then that the good Lord and his Mother are kept extremely busy turning up everywhere from suburban Sydney to European farming villages and, if you believe absolutely all the news, Jesus also made himself present to a lady in Newport USA via a potato chip.

While I am happy to declare my belief in the person of Jesus the Christ I just don’t feel the same way about the seemingly endless parade of miracles and apparitions which more often than not take away from the actual Christian message. In case we hadn’t noticed, Christianity is currently going through its fair share of struggles. In a growing age of secularisation, nations and philosophies that were once founded in the Christian faith are falling like dominoes. And Christians themselves are often at the fore of the problem, as they have become weak in faith and conviction. The Christian message is in need of authentic and bold proclamation, the last thing the faith needs is the secular news media to be given further opportunity to mock the faith and all things sacred when well-meaning individuals share aloud that that the Most High God has appeared to them in their home, or even worse, in their snack food.

Of course if Jesus wanted to appear in any of the aforementioned places, He could. If one can create the world and keep is in existence every other challenge must seem fairly mundane, but that is not the point. The Christian faith details that the Father sent his Son to earth and in doing so Jesus taught his message, worked miracles, founded a living Church, died on a cross and rose again. That is the whole story. Revelation is complete and not in need of anything further. Jesus came to earth not just for the people of that moment in time but for the people of every moment in time. The faith has been handed on now from generation to generation for 2000 years, and each person has the freedom to weigh up the evidence and choose to believe it or not.

Perhaps Jesus and Mary do appear to modern day individuals but these are not incidences necessary for salvation. Most believers could probably share a moment when they believed God was “speaking” to their hearts but these are moments to help their own faith. The only miracle that should be shared and proclaimed is the authentic deposit of faith preserved by the Church for 2000 years. Let us not hope or expect for more. As Christ himself said to Thomas, “You believe because you have seen me, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe”.

Copyright 2015, Bernard Toutounji

Image: Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Death of Beauraing Visionary Renews Message of Apparition

gilberteThe last living visionary from Beauraing, Belgium died on February 10, 2015. I was not surprised Gilberte Degeimbre’s death elicited no coverage in the United States by Catholic writers or Marian enthusiasts. The thirty-three apparitions of Our Lady to five children in Beauraing are virtually unknown to Catholics in the United States. More common to the United States are Our Lady of Guadalupe, Lourdes, or Fatima, given their liturgical celebrations (December 12, February 11, May/October 13/First Saturdays, respectively) or the 1859 apparition in Champion, Wisconsin which received ecclesiastical approval in 2010.

The death of Gilberte, who I had the privilege of meeting in January 2015, provides an occasion to present the message of Our Lady anew. In the messages, we will not find anything different from other apparitions of Our Lady throughout time; it is the same call to prayer, the sacraments, and conversion of life. As we approach the Lenten season, Our Lady’s message encourages us to live Lent more fully in the spirit of prayer and sacrifice.

The Beginning of the Apparitions

On November 29, 1932, two children from the Voisin family, (Fernande and Albert), went to the nearby school to retrieve their sister, Gilberte. Along the way, the two children stopped at the Degeimbre household to see if their friends, Andree and Gilberte, could join them. The four children left the Degeimbre home and continued on their way to the school. After ringing the doorbell, Albert looked toward the railroad bridge and saw a woman walking in the air near the Lourdes grotto. Albert was not alone in seeing the mysterious woman, as Gilberte Voisin, upon leaving the school, did as well. The children reported seeing the woman again on November 30 and December 1. Our Lady did not convey her first message until December 2 and she continued to appear through January 3, 1933. In the course of the apparitions, Our Lady would reveal her Golden Heart and identify herself as the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God, and the Queen of Heaven.  She also requested the construction of a chapel, because as she stated, she appeared so people would come on pilgrimage.

The Simple MessagesIMG_0776

Our Lady appeared to children and spoke very simple messages to them. As we approach the Lenten season, I believe we can see the spirit of Lent through the messages.

Always be good (Dec. 2)

I will convert sinners (Jan. 3)

The first message relayed by Our Lady to the children on December 2 was simple, considered trite by some: “Always be good.” This message coincides well with what Our Lady said in her individual messages to the children during the last apparition on January 3, 1933. To Gilberte Voisin, Our Lady said, “I will convert sinners.”

The conversion of our lives entails being good. It means living a good Christian life, obeying the commandments and loving our neighbor. When we are not good, we recognize this by going to the Sacrament of Penance and seeking out God’s pardon and mercy. Our Lady’s greatest desire in her apparitions throughout time is the conversion of sinners. She wants people to live lives that do not displease her Son. Our Lady’s declaration that she will convert sinners should startle us and call us to greater awareness of the failings in our lives.

Many people who read these words readily accept Our Lady’s apparitions. We go to these holy sites and pray there because of our devotion to Our Lady. But do we allow her message to pierce us the entire way through? Do we allow the message of conversion to sink in totally, that we are willing to experience conversion in thought, word, and deed?

Mary desires to convert sinners, meaning she wants the attitudes of our hearts to change. When we want to speak ill of another, we must realize the need for conversion. When we wish to use curse words—conversion. Our Lady exhorts us to live more consciously of our need every day for conversion. It is not enough to think about conversion; we truly need to change. During our Lenten discipline let us realize the moments that we need conversion and embrace them, so that the words Our Lady speaks, “I will convert sinners,” can be actualized.

Pray. Pray very much. Pray Always.

Our Lady exhorted the children to pray, not once, not twice, but three times and intensified each request. Prayer is communication with God. For many, the word ‘prayer’ is quite limited. We think of prayer as asking God for something or thanking God. These are good places to start, but prayer is meditative and contemplative. It is about conversing with God and listening in the silence of one’s heart for His response. Our Lady wants us to pray because it means we will be in constant relationship with her Son, a constant conversation and dialogue with Jesus. This conversation will begin to guide every moment of our lives, and through that dialogue, we will identify how God wishes for us to be converted.

We are to pray, pray very much, and pray always.  Ultimately, we can make our entire day a prayer. This can be done in a simple way each morning by praying a Morning Offering. Our Lady exhorts us to pray—she wants us to pray from the moment we wake to the moment we fall asleep. Each one of us will have to figure out how we can fulfill this request.

Do you love my Son?  Do you love me?  Then sacrifice yourself for me.

Fernande Voisin received the last words spoken by Our Lady in Beauraing. Mary asked, “Do you love my Son?  Do you love me?  Then sacrifice yourself for me.” We can make small sacrifices for Our Lord and Blessed Lady by fasting this Lent. But we can sacrifice ourselves in greater ways by serving God in our neighbor. Sacrifice yourself by serving Jesus in the poor, homeless, and the sick. Live the corporal works of mercy. Sacrifice yourself for the good of the other—your spouse, children, and friends. Sacrifice yourself in the vocation you live by emptying yourself of all desires, and filling yourself only with the desires of God. In prayer, when God asks us for conversion, it will mean sacrifice. God will ask us to sacrifice time for prayer. He will ask us to sacrifice things that put up barriers between Him and us. When we sacrifice, we become more fully open and receptive to God’s action in our lives.

Lenten Observation

Our Lenten discipline reminds us of our need for conversion, prayer, and sacrifice. In the apparitions received by the five children of Beauraing, we clearly see these principles. Mary desires the conversion of sinners. As the Mediatrix of Grace, Mary intercedes for the grace of conversion. This Lent, pray for a greater desire to conform your life to Christ. Identify one area to improve. Mary asks us to pray always. How will you pray more this Lent? Consider taking up the recommendation of Pope Francis to read the scriptures and converse with God about them. Mary wants us to make sacrifices. How will you sacrifice yourself this Lent?

Concluding Reflections

During my stay in Beauraing I was struck by the simplicity of Our Lady’s words and the depth of meaning they conveyed. I also had the opportunity to view a documentary about the apparition. When Gilberte Degeimbre (recently deceased visionary) spoke about the apparitions, you could sense the authenticity of what she said. She greatly desired to go home to God. When Gilberte would visit the Hawthorne tree, where Our Lady appeared, she would tell people to close their eyes, because they would see Our Lady better. In death, Gilberte has closed her eyes and she sees again the Queen of Heaven reigning with her Son. Inspired by the example of Gilberte, let us begin to interiorize the message of Our Lady and allow it to take root in our hearts and lives this Lenten season.

External Links:

Interview with Gilberte Degeimbre in French with English Subtitles

Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC is leading a pilgrimage to Beauraing and other holy sites