Monday, December 27, 2010

Feast of St john the Evangelist

Today is the Feast Day of St John the Evangelist

Traditionally he has been identified as the author of the the Gospel of John in the New Testament – the three Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation. He was the brother of James and was addressed as the sons of Zebedee.

He was present when Jesus raised Jairus' daughter from the dead, during the Tranfiguration of Jesus and was the Beloved one whom jesus asked to take care of Mary when he was nailed to the cross

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Feast Day of Leo the Great

Pope Leo I or Pope Saint Leo the Great (ca. 400 – November 10, 461) was pope from September 29, 440 to his death.

He was an Italian aristocrat, and is the first pope of the Catholic Church to have been called "the Great". He is perhaps best known for having met Attila the Hun in 452, persuading him to turn back from his invasion of Italy. He is also a doctor of the Church.

According to the Liber Pontificalis, he was a native of Tuscany. By 431, as a deacon, he occupied a sufficiently important position for Cyril of Alexandria to apply to him in order that Rome's influence should be thrown against the claims of Juvenal of Jerusalem to patriarchal jurisdiction over Palestine—unless this letter is addressed rather to Pope Celestine I. About the same time John Cassian dedicated to him the treatise against Nestorius written at his request. But nothing shows more plainly the confidence felt in him than his being chosen by the emperor to settle the dispute between Aëtius and Albinus, the two highest officials in Gaul.

During his absence on this mission, Pope Sixtus III died (August 11, 440), and Leo was unanimously elected by the people to succeed him. On September 29 he entered upon a pontificate which was to be epoch-making for the centralization of the government of the Roman Church.

Leo was a significant contributor to the centralisation of spiritual authority within the Church and in reaffirming papal authority. While the bishop of Rome had always been viewed as the chief patriarch in the Western church, much of the pope's authority was delegated to local diocesan bishops. Not without serious opposition did he succeed in reasserting his authority in Gaul. Patroclus of Arles (d. 426) had received from Pope Zosimus the recognition of a subordinate primacy over the Gallican Church which was strongly asserted by his successor Hilary of Arles. An appeal from Celidonius of Besançon gave Leo the opportunity to reassert the pope's authority over Hilary, who defended himself stoutly at Rome, refusing to recognize Leo's judicial status. Feeling that the universal jurisdiction of the papacy was threatened, Leo appealed to the civil power for support, and obtained from Valentinian III the famous decree of June 6, 445, which recognized the primacy of the bishop of Rome based on the merits of Peter, the dignity of the city, and the Nicene Creed (in their interpolated form); ordained that any opposition to his rulings, which were to have the force of ecclesiastical law, should be treated as treason; and provided for the forcible extradition by provincial governors of anyone who refused to answer a summons to Rome. Faced with this decree, Hilary submitted to the pope, although under his successor, Ravennius, Leo divided the metropolitan rights between Arles and Vienne (450).

In 445, Leo disputed with Pope Dioscorus, St. Cyril's successor as Pope of Alexandria, insisting that the ecclesiastical practice of his see should follow that of Rome on the basis that Mark the Evangelist, the disciple of Saint Peter and founder of the Alexandrian Church, could have had no other tradition than that of the prince of the apostles. This, of course, was not the position of the Copts, who saw the ancient patriarchates as equals.

Regarding Africa, the fact that the African province of Mauretania Caesariensis had been preserved to the empire and thus to the Nicene faith during the Vandal invasion, and in its isolation was disposed to rest on outside support, gave Leo an opportunity to assert his authority there, which he did decisively in regard to a number of questions of discipline.

Regarding Italy, in a letter to the bishops of Campania, Picenum, and Tuscany (443) he required the observance of all his precepts and those of his predecessors; and he sharply rebuked the bishops of Sicily (447) for their deviation from the Roman custom as to the time of baptism, requiring them to send delegates to the Roman synod to learn the proper practice.

Regarding Greece, because of the earlier line of division between the western and eastern parts of the Roman Empire, Illyria was ecclesiastically subject to Rome. Pope Innocent I had constituted the metropolitan of Thessalonica his vicar, in order to oppose the growing influence of the patriarch of Constantinople in the area. In a letter of about 446 to a successor bishop of Thessalonica, Anastasius, Leo reproached him for the way he had treated one of the metropolitan bishops subject to him; after giving various instructions about the functions entrusted to Anastasius and stressing that certain powers were reserved to the pope himself, Leo wrote: "The care of the universal Church should converge towards Peter's one seat, and nothing anywhere should be separated from its Head."

Council of Chalcedon
A favorable occasion for extending the authority of Rome in the East was offered in the renewal of the Christological controversy by Eutyches, who in the beginning of the conflict appealed to Leo and took refuge with him on his condemnation by Flavian. But on receiving full information from Flavian, Leo took his side decisively. In 451 at the Council of Chalcedon, after Leo's Tome on the two natures of Christ was read out, the bishops participating in the Council cried out: "This is the faith of the fathers ... Peter has spoken thus through Leo ..."

An uncompromising foe of heresy, Leo found that in the diocese of Aquileia, Pelagians were received into church communion without formal repudiation of their errors; he wrote to rebuke them, making accusations of culpable negligence, and required a solemn abjuration before a synod.

Manicheans fleeing before the Vandals had come to Rome in 439 and secretly organized there; Leo learned of this around 443, and proceeded against them by holding a public debate with their representatives, burning their books, and warning the Roman Christians against them.

Nor was his attitude less decided against the Priscillianists. Bishop Turrubius of Astorga, astonished at the spread of this sect in Spain, had addressed the other Spanish bishops on the subject, sending a copy of his letter to Leo, who took the opportunity to exercise Roman policy in Spain. He wrote an extended treatise (July 21, 447), against the sect, examining its false teaching in detail, and calling for a Spanish general council to investigate whether it had any adherents in the episcopate, but this was prevented by the political circumstances of Spain.

At the Second Council of Ephesus, Leo's representatives delivered his famous Tome (Latin text, a letter), or statement of the faith of the Roman Church in the form of a letter addressed to Archbishop Flavian of Constantinople, which repeats, in close adherence to Augustine, the formulas of western Christology, without really touching the problem that was agitating the East. The council did not read the letter, and paid no attention to the protests of Leo's legates, but deposed Flavian and Eusebius, who appealed to Rome.

It was presented again at the subsequent Council of Chalcedon as offering a solution to the Christological controversies still raging between East and West. This time it was read out. The bishops responded by saying "Peter has spoken," and most of them accepted the Tome as broadly following the teaching of Cyril of Alexandria. See the canons of the Council itself for this (10 October session).

Leo demanded of the emperor that an ecumenical council should be held in Italy, and in the meantime, at a Roman synod in October 449, repudiated all the decisions of the "Robber Synod". Without going into a critical examination of its dogmatic decrees, in his letters to the emperor and others he demanded the deposition of Eutyches as a Manichean and Docetic heretic.

With the death of Theodosius II in 450 and the sudden change in the Eastern situation, Anatolius, the new patriarch of Constantinople fulfilled Leo's requirements, and his Tome was everywhere read and recognized.

Leo was now no longer desirous of having a council, especially since it was not to be held in Italy. Instead, it was called to meet at Nicaea, then subsequently transferred to Chalcedon, where his legates held at least an honorary presidency, and where the bishops recognized him as the interpreter of the voice of Peter and as the head of their body, requesting of him the confirmation of their decrees.

He firmly declined to confirm their disciplinary arrangements, which seemed to allow Constantinople a practically equal authority with Rome and regarded the civil importance of a city as a determining factor in its ecclesiastical position; but he strongly supported its dogmatic decrees, especially when, after the accession of Leo I the Thracian (457), there seemed to be a disposition toward compromise with the Eutychians.

He succeeded in having an imperial patriarch, and not the Oriental Orthodox Pope Timotheus Aelurus, chosen as Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria on the murder of Greek Patriarch Proterius of Alexandria.

Raphael's The Meeting between Leo the Great and Attila depicts Leo, escorted by Saint Peter and Saint Paul, meeting with the Hun king outside RomeThe approaching collapse of the Western Empire gave Leo a further opportunity to appear as the representative of lawful authority.

In 452, when the King of the Huns, Attila, invaded Italy and threatened Rome, Emperor Valentinian III sent three envoys to negotiate with him: the two high civil officers Gennadius Avienus and Trigetius, and Leo. The negotiation was successful, and Attila withdrew. The reasons for this choice have been debated among historians for centuries. Pragmatic concerns such as the large sum of gold that accompanied Leo, or logistical and strategic concerns, may have been the true reason for Attila's mercy. Attila's army was already quite stretched and full of booty from plunder; as such the Pope's plea for mercy may well have merely served as an honorable excuse for not continuing on and sacking the Roman capital.

However, Christian historians celebrated Leo's actions, giving him all the credit for this successful embassy; according to Prosper of Aquitaine, in fact, Attila was so impressed by Leo that he withdrew.Jordanes, who represents Leo's contemporary Priscus, says that Attila was afraid of sharing the fate of the Visigothic king Alaric, who died shortly after sacking Rome in 410. Paul the Deacon, in the late 8th century, relates that an enormously huge man dressed in priestly robes and armed with a naked sword, visible only to Attila, threatened him and his army with death during his discourse with Leo, and this prompted Attila to submit to his request.[4] Unfortunately Leo's intercession could not prevent the sack of the city by the Vandals in 455, but murder and arson were repressed by his influence. He died probably on November 10, 461.

The significance of Leo's pontificate lies in the fact of his assertion of the universal jurisdiction of the Roman bishop, which comes out in his letters, and still more in his ninety-six extant orations. This assertion is commonly referred to as the doctrine of Petrine supremacy.

According to him and several Church Fathers, as well as certain interpretations of the Scriptures, the Church is built upon Peter, in pursuance of the promise of Matthew 16:16-19. Peter participates in everything which is Christ's; what the other apostles have in common with him they have through him. What is true of Peter is true also of his successors. Every other bishop is charged with the care of his own special flock, the Roman with that of the whole Church. Other bishops are only his assistants in this great task. In Leo's eyes the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon acquired their validity from his confirmation.

Leo's letters and sermons reflect the many aspects of his career and personality, including his great personal influence for good, and are invaluable historical sources. His rhythmic prose style, called cursus leonicus, influenced ecclesiastical language for centuries.

The Catholic Church and many Anglican churches mark November 10 as the feast day of Saint Leo, given in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum and the 8th-century Calendar of Saint Willibrord the date of his death and entry to heaven. His feast was once celebrated in Rome on June 28, the anniversary of the placing of his relics in Saint Peter's Basilica, but in the 12th century the Gallican Rite feast of April 11 was admitted to the General Roman Calendar, which kept that date until 1969. Some traditionalist Catholics continue to observe pre-1970 versions of that calendar.

The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates Saint Leo on February 18.

Leo was originally buried in his own monument. However, some years after his death, his remains were put into a tomb that contained the first four Pope Leos. In the 18th century Leo the Great's relics were separated from those of the other Leos and he was given his own chapel.

Source Wikipedia

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Feast of the dedication of the Latheran Basilica

Homily for November 9th - Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran

by Fr. Tommy Lane

We celebrate today the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome because it is the head and mother church of all churches in the world. On the façade of the basilica there is an inscription in Latin which reads, “the mother and mistress of all churches of Rome and the world.” One might think St. Peter’s Basilica is the head of all the churches but in fact it is the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Every bishop has a cathedral and the Pope’s cathedral is the Basilica of St. John Lateran not the Basilica of St. Peter.

You may ask “Why is the Basilica of St. John Lateran the Pope’s cathedral and not the Basilica of St. Peter since he lives next to St. Peter's Basilica?” History gives us the answer. In the early centuries Christianity was outlawed in Rome and many Christians in Rome suffered martyrdom. The Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and the famous Edict of Milan in 313 AD allowed Christians to practice their religion in public. Constantine had been given the palace in Rome that belonged to the Laterani and after his conversion to Christianity he gave it to the Pope. The Lateran Palace was then adapted to become a church and was dedicated on 9th November 324 and the Pope then lived in the Lateran Palace as it was called for the next 1000 years and the basilica was his cathedral. It was first called the Basilica of the Savior but later was also dedicated to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist and so it acquired the name Basilica of St. John Lateran. When the Papacy transferred to Avignon for about a century the condition of the Lateran deteriorated so much that when the Papacy returned to Rome the Pope lived in two other locations before finally settling adjacent to St. Peter's Basilica where he now lives.

Perhaps we could say that the many times the Basilica suffered destruction of some kind is a symbol of the attacks on the Church and the hatred of some for the Church. The Basilica was attacked by the Vandals twice in 408 and 455. It was almost totally destroyed by an earthquake in 896 and it was destroyed by fire in 1308 and 1360. The Basilica is visited by huge numbers of pilgrims every year also symbolizing the love of so many people for the Church.

Those who visit the Basilica on pilgrimage visit it not just because it is the head of all churches and the Pope’s cathedral. The wooden altar on which St. Peter celebrated Mass while in Rome is inside the main altar. The heads of Sts Peter and Paul were once believed to be inside busts above the main altar. Part of the table on which the Last Supper was celebrated is said to be behind a bronze depiction of the Last Supper. At one time the Holy Stairs which is nearby was also in the Lateran, the stairs in Pilate's house on which Jesus is said to have walked during his trial. It is a marble stairs and is now covered with wood to protect it. Pilgrims ascend the stairs on their knees contemplating Jesus’ Passion and on the way up drops of blood may be seen on the marble stairs beneath protective glass. The stairs was brought to Rome by Constantine’s mother St. Helena.

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

The current archpriest of St. John Lateran is Agostino Vallini, Cardinal Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome.[1] The President of the French Republic, currently Nicolas Sarkozy, is ex officio the "first and only honorary canon" of the basilica, a title inherited from the Kings of France, who have held it since Henry IV.

As the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, containing the papal throne (Cathedra Romana), it ranks above all other churches in the Catholic Church, including St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. The cathedral itself is located outside of the Vatican City boundaries, territorially located within the city of Rome in the Italian Republic. However it has been granted a special extraterritorial status as a property of the Holy See. This is also the case with several other buildings after the solving of the Roman Question with the Lateran Treaty.

Source Wikipedia

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Epistle of James

It was a week ago that I came across an ad on the Church bulletin on an upcoming Bible class that will touch on the Epitlse of James. Bible classes would normally involve one of the Gospels or The Acts of the Apostles. To have one on James was rather unusual in my opinion.

The book is attributed the James the brother of Jesus(see Matthew 13:55 and Galatians 1:19).One has to be careful with the word "Brother" .In Greek terms the title brother could encompass one's cousin.

James was an eyewitness to the Resurection of Christ (1 corinthians 15:7). He was present at the Council of Jerusalem(Acts 15).The Letter of James was most likely written in lates 50s to early 60s based on James' clarification of misunderstandings of Paul's teachings on faith and works (2:14-26).James led the Jerusalem church for more than a decade until his matyrdom in Ad 62 when he was stoned to death by the Jews.(Josephus ,antiquities 20,9,12-203)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wind could have parted Red Sea for Moses?

Reuters - Wednesday, September 22

WASHINGTON - Moses might not have parted the Red Sea, but a strong east wind that blew through the night could have pushed the waters back in the way described in biblical writings and the Koran, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

Computer simulations, part of a larger study on how winds affect water, show wind could push water back at a point where a river bent to merge with a coastal lagoon, the team at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Colorado at Boulder said.

"The simulations match fairly closely with the account in Exodus," Carl Drews of NCAR, who led the study, said in a statement.

"The parting of the waters can be understood through fluid dynamics. The wind moves the water in a way that's in accordance with physical laws, creating a safe passage with water on two sides and then abruptly allowing the water to rush back in."

Religious texts differ a little in the tale, but all describe Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt ahead of a pharaoh's armies around 3,000 years ago. The Red Sea parts to let Moses and his followers pass safely, then crashes back onto the pursuers, drowning them.

Drews and colleagues are studying how Pacific Ocean typhoons can drive storm surges and other effects of strong and sustained winds on deep water.

His team pinpointed a possible site south of the Mediterranean Sea for the legendary crossing, and modeled different land formations that could have existed then and perhaps led to the accounts of the sea appearing to part.

The model requires a U-shaped formation of the Nile River and a shallow lagoon along the shoreline. It shows that a wind of 63 miles per hour, blowing steadily for 12 hours, could have pushed back waters 6 feet deep.

"This land bridge is 3-4 km wide, and it remains open for 4 hours," they wrote in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE.

"People have always been fascinated by this Exodus story, wondering if it comes from historical facts," Drews said. "What this study shows is that the description of the waters parting indeed has a basis in physical laws."

Details of the model described can be seen at and

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Feast Day of Saint Claire

St. Clare of Assisi was born in Assisi, 12 miles outside of Perugia, as the eldest daughter of Favorino Scifi, Count of Sasso-Rosso and his wife Ortolana. Ortolana was a very devout woman who had undertaken pilgrimages to Rome, Santiago de Compostela and the Holy Land. Later on in her life, Ortolana entered Clare's monastery.

On March 20, 1212, Clare's parents had decided she would marry a wealthy young man. In desperation Clare escaped her home and sought refuge with St. Francis, who received her into religious life.

Clare lived for a brief period in a nearby Benedictine monastery of nuns, San Paolo delle Abadesse, and then again for a short period at a house of female penitents, Sant'Angelo in Panza on Monte Subasio.

Clare and Agnes soon moved to the church of San Damiano, which Francis himself had rebuilt. Other women joined them there, and San Damiano became known for its radically austere lifestyle. The women were at first known as the "Poor Ladies".

San Damiano became the focal point for Clare's new religious order, which was known in her lifetime as the "Order of San Damiano." San Damiano was long thought to be the first house of this order, however, recent scholarship strongly suggests that San Damiano actually joined an existing network of women's religious houses organized by Hugolino (who later became Pope Gregory IX). Hugolino wanted San Damiano as part of the order he founded because of the prestige of Clare's monastery. San Damiano emerged as the most important house in the order, and Clare became its undisputed leader. By 1263, just ten years after Clare's death, the order became known as the Order of Saint Clare.

Saint Clare miraculously intervenes to save a child from a wolf, in this panel by Giovanni di Paolo, 1455.Unlike the Franciscan friars, whose members moved around the country to preach, Saint Clare's sisters lived in enclosure, since an itinerant life was hardly conceivable at the time for women. Their life consisted of manual labour[4] and prayer.

For a short period of time the order was directed by Francis himself.Then in 1216, Clare accepted the role of abbess of San Damiano. As abbess, Clare had more authority to lead the order than when she was the prioress, who had to follow the orders of a priest heading the community.[6] Clare defended her order from the attempts of prelates to impose a rule on them that more closely resembled the Rule of St Benedict than Francis' stricter vows. Clare sought to imitate Francis' virtues and way of life so much so that she was sometimes titled alter Franciscus, another Francis. She also played a significant role in encouraging and aiding Francis, whom she saw as a spiritual father figure, and she took care of him during his illnesses at the end of his life, until his death in 1226.

After Francis's death, Clare continued to promote the growth of her order, writing letters to abbesses in other parts of Europe and thwarting every attempt by each successive pope to impose a Rule on her order which watered down the radical commitment to corporate poverty she had originally embraced. She did this despite the fact that she had endured a long period of poor health until her death. Clare's Franciscan theology of joyous poverty in imitation of Christ is evident in the Rule she wrote for her community and in her four letters to Agnes of Prague.

On August 9, 1253, the Papal bull Solet annure of Pope Innocent IV confirmed that Clare's Rule would serve as the governing rule for Clare's Order of Poor Ladies. Two days later, on August 11, Clare died at the age of 59. Her remains were interred at the chapel of San Giorgio while a church to hold her remains was being constructed.

Basilica of Saint Clare, Assisi.On August 15, 1255, Pope Alexander IV canonized Clare as Saint Clare of Assisi. Construction of the Basilica of Saint Clare was completed in 1260, and on October 3 of that year Clare's remains were transferred to the newly completed basilica where they were buried beneath the high altar. In further recognition of the saint, Pope Urban IV officially changed the name of the Order of Poor Ladies to the Order of Saint Clare in 1263.

Some 600 years later in 1872, Saint Clare's remains were transferred to a newly constructed shrine in the crypt of the Basilica of Saint Clare where they can still be seen today.

Pope Pius XII designated her as the patron saint of television in 1958, on the basis that when she was too ill to attend Mass, she had reportedly been able to see and hear it on the wall of her room. The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) was founded by a Poor Clare nun, Mother Angelica.

In art, Clare is often shown carrying a monstrance or pyx, in commemoration of the time when she warded away the soldiers of Frederick II at the gates of her convent by displaying the Blessed Sacrament and kneeling in prayer.

Lake Saint Clair and the Saint Clair River in the Great Lakes region of North America were named on her feast day August 11, 1679. Mission Santa Clara, founded by Spanish missionaries in northern California in 1777, has given its name to the university, city, county, and valley in which it sits. Southern California's Santa Clara River is hundreds of miles to the south, and gave its name to the nearby city of Santa Clarita. Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico celebrates its Santa Clara Feast Day annually on August 11.

In the Tridentine Calendar her feast day is celebrated as a Double on August 11. It was changed to a Third-Class Feast in 1960 (see General Roman Calendar of 1962), and in the 1969 calendar became an obligatory Memorial celebrated on the day of her death, August 11. Although her body is no longer claimed to be incorrupt, her skeleton is displayed in Assisi.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Feast Day of St Lawrence of Rome

Lawrence of Rome (c. 225 – 258) (Latin: Laurentius, meaning "laurelled") was one of the seven deacons of ancient Rome who were martyred during the persecution of Valerian in 258.

Lawrence a native of Huesca (Roman Osca) in Hispania Tarraconensis who had received religious instruction from Archdeacon Sixtus in Rome. When Sixtus became Bishop of Rome in 257, Lawrence was ordained a deacon and was placed in charge of the administration of Church goods and care for the poor. For this duty, he is regarded as one of the first archivists and treasurers of the Church and was made the patron of librarians.

In the persecutions under Valerian in 258 A.D., numerous priests and deacons were put to death, while Christians belonging to the nobility or the Roman Senate were deprived of their goods and exiled. Pope Sixtus II was one of the first victims of this persecution, being beheaded on August 6. A legend cited by St Ambrose of Milan says that Lawrence met the Pope on his way to his execution, where he is reported to have said, "Where are you going, my dear father, without your son? Where are you hurrying off to, holy priest, without your deacon? Before you never mounted the altar of sacrifice without your servant, and now you wish to do it without me?" The Pope is reported to have prophesied that "after three days you will follow me".

Lawrence is said to have been martyred on a gridiron as a part of Valerian's persecution. During his torture Lawrence cried out "This side’s done, turn me over and have a bite." ["Assum est, inquit, versa et manduca."] [5] This is the legend often quoted explaining why Lawrence is the Patron Saint of Comedians, butchers and roasters.

Cyprian, the contemporary bishop of Carthage mentions the directive of Valerian that Christian bishops, priests, and deacons should forthwith be punished, and records the martyrdom of Xystus bishop of Rome, in accordance with it on August 6 . Cyprian was reported to have seen visions of Jesus.

According to lore, among the treasure of the Roman church entrusted to Lawrence for safe-keeping was the Holy Chalice, the cup from which Jesus and the Apostles drank at the Last Supper. Lawrence was able to spirit this away to Huesca, in present day Aragon, with a letter and a supposed inventory, where it lay hidden and unregarded for centuries. When Augustine connects Lawrence with a chalice, it is the chalice of the Mass:

"For in that Church, you see, as you have regularly been told, he performed the office of deacon; it was there that he administered the sacred chalice of Christ’s blood"."[7]
According to Christian history the Holy Grail is a relic that was sent by St. Lawrence to his parents in northern Aragon. He entrusted this sacred chalice to a friend whom he knew would travel back to Huesca, remaining in the monastery of Saint John of Pena, core of spiritual strength for the emerging kingdom of Aragon. While the Holy Chalice's exact journey through the centuries is disputed, it is generally accepted by Catholics that the Chalice was sent by his family to this monastery for preservation and veneration. Historical records indicate that this chalice has been venerated and preserved by a number of monks and monasteries through the ages. Today the Holy Grail is venerated in a special chapel in the Catholic Cathedral of Valencia, Spain.

After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. Ambrose is the earliest source for the tale that Lawrence asked for three days to gather together the wealth.[8] Lawrence worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said that these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, "The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor." This act of defiance led directly to his martyrdom. This can be compared to the parallel Roman tale of the jewels of Cornelia.

By tradition, Lawrence was sentenced at San Lorenzo in Miranda, martyred at San Lorenzo in Panisperna, and buried in the Via Tiburtina in the Catacomb of Cyriaca by Hippolytus and Justinus, a presbyter. Tradition holds that Lawrence was burned or "grilled" to death, hence his association with the gridiron. Tradition also holds that Lawrence joked about their cooking him enough to eat while he was burning on the gridiron, hence his patronage of cooks and chefs, stating something along the lines of, "turn me over...I'm done on this side". One of the early sources for the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence was the description by Aurelius Prudentius Clemens in his Peristephanon, Hymn II.

Constantine I is said to have built a small oratory in honour of the martyr, which was a station on the itineraries of the graves of the Roman martyrs by the 7th century. Pope Damasus I rebuilt or repaired the church, now known as San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, while the minor basilica of San Lorenzo in Panisperna was built over the place of his martyrdom. The gridiron of the martyrdom was placed by Pope Paschal II in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Feast Day-Dedication of the Basilica of Mary Major

Today is the Feast day of the Basilica of Mary Major.

The Basilica of Mary Major is one of the 7 founding churches in Rome

According to the tradition, circa 360 Pope Liberius commissioned the construction of the Liberian Basilica on the summit of the Esquiline Hill. According to the founding legend, which cannot be traced further back than the thirteenth century,the pope wanted a shrine built at the site where an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in identical dreams shared by a local patrician Giovanni Patrizio and his wife and by the pope. According to tradition, the outline of the church was physically laid out on the ground of the nobleman's property by Liberius himself under a miraculous, but predicted, snowfall that took place on the night of 4–5 August 352 (or 358)

Archaeological evidence, on the other hand, indicates that the church was probably first built in the early 400s and completed under Pope Sixtus III (432–440). During this period churches dedicated to Mary were beginning to spring up all over the Roman Empire, owing to the increasing popular devotion to the Virgin and the official acceptance of her title "Theotokos" (Mother of God) at the Council of Ephesus in 431.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Vision of Foreign Mission

When John Bosco founded the Salesian Society, the thought of the missions still obsessed him, though he completely lacked the financial means at that time. One night, he dreamt again. Being on a vast plain, inhabited by primitive peoples, who spent their time hunting or fighting among themselves or against soldiers in European uniforms. Along came a band of missionaries, but they were all horribly massacred. A second group appeared, which Don Bosco at once recognized as Salesians. Astonished, he witnessed an unexpected change when the fierce savages laid down their arms and listened to the missionaries. The dream made a great impression on Don Bosco, because he tried hard to identify the men and the country of the dream.

For three years, Bosco searched among documents, trying to get information about different countries, thus identifying the country from his dream. One day, a request came from Argentina, which turned him towards the Indians of Patagonia. To his surprise, a study of the people there convinced him that the country and its inhabitants were the ones he had seen in his dream.

He regarded it as a sign of providence and started preparing a missionary there. Adopting a way of evangelization that would not expose his missionaries suddenly to wild, uncivilized tribes, he proposed to set up bases in safe locations where their missionary efforts were to be launched.

The above request from Argentina came about as follows: Towards the end of 1874, John Bosco received letters from that country requesting that he accept an Italian parish in Buenos Aires and a school for boys at San Nicolas de los Arroyos. Gazzolo, the Argentine Consul at Savona, had sent the request, for he had taken a great interest in the Salesian work in Liguria and hoped to obtain the Salesians' help for the benefit of his country. Negotiations started after Archbishop Aneiros of Buenos Aires had indicated that he would be glad to receive the Salesians. They were successful mainly because of the good offices of the priest of San Nicolas, Pedro Ceccarelli, a friend of Gazzolo, who was in touch with and had the confidence of Don Bosco. In a ceremony held on January 29, 1875, Don Bosco was able to convey the great news to the oratory in the presence of Gazzolo. On February 5, he announced the fact in a circular letter to all Salesians asking volunteers to apply in writing. He proposed that the first missionary departure start in October. Practically all the Salesians volunteered for the missions.

Saint John Bosco's Vision of Hell

The Holy Saint John Bosco had a Prophetic Vision of Hell in 1868 A.D., (*which is recorded in its entirety below.)
Many of the dreams of St. John Bosco could more properly be called visions, for God used this means to reveal His will for the Saint and for the boys of the Oratory, as well as the future of the Salesian Congregation. Not only did his dreams lead and direct the Saint, they also gave him wisdom and guidance by which he was able to help and guide others upon their ways. He was just nine years of age when he had his first dream that laid out his life mission. It was this dream that impressed Pope Pius IX so much that he ordered St. John Bosco to write down his dreams for the encouragement of his Congregation and the rest of us. Through dreams God allowed him to know the future of each of the boys of his Oratory. Through dreams God let him know the boys' state of their souls. On February 1, 1865 St. John Bosco announced that one of the boys will die soon. He knew the boy through the dream the night before. On March 16, 1865, Anthony Ferraris passed away after receiving the Last Sacraments. John Bisio, who helped Anthony and his mother during the former's last hour, confirmed the story of his part in this episode by a formal oath, concluding as foIlows: "Don Bosco told us many other dreams concerning Oratory boys' deaths. We believed them to be true prophecies. We still do, because unfailingly they came true. During the seven years I lived at the Oratory, not a boy died without Don Bosco predicting his death. We were also convinced that whoever died there under his care and assistance surely went to heaven."

*The Road to Hell
(Prophetic Dream of St. John Bosco 1868 A.D.)

On Sunday night, May 3 [1868], the feast of Saint Joseph's patronage, Don Bosco resumed the narration of his dreams:

I have another dream to tell you, a sort of aftermath of those I told you last Thursday and Friday which totally exhausted me. Call them dreams or whatever you like. Always, as you know, on the night of April 17 a frightful toad seemed bent on devouring me. When it finally vanished, a voice said to me: "Why don't you tell them?" I turned in that direction and saw a distinguished person standing by my bed. Feeling guilty about my silence, I asked: "What should I tell my boys?"

"What you have seen and heard in your last dreams and what you have wanted to know and shall have revealed to you tomorrow night!" He then vanished.

I spent the whole next day worrying about the miserable night in store for me, and when evening came, loath to go to bed, I sat at my desk browsing through books until midnight. The mere thought of having more nightmares thoroughly scare me. However, with great effort, I finally went to bed.

"Get up and follow me!" he said.
"For Heaven's sake," I protested, "leave me alone. I am exhausted! I've been tormented by a toothache for several days now and need rest. Besides, nightmares have completely worn me out." I said this because this man's apparition always means trouble, fatigue, and terror for me.

"Get up," he repeated. "You have no time to lose."

I complied and followed him. "Where are you taking me?" I asked.

"Never mind. You'll see." He led me to a vast, boundless plain, veritably a lifeless desert, with not a soul in sight or a tree or brook. Yellowed, dried-up vegetation added to the desolation I had no idea where I was or what was I to do. For a moment I even lost sight of my guide and feared that I was lost, utterly alone. Father Rua, Father Francesia, nowhere to be seen. When I finally saw my friend coming toward me, I sighed in relief.

"Where am I?" I asked.

"Come with me and you will find out!"

"All right. I'll go with you."

He led the way and I followed in silence, but after a long, dismal trudge, I began worrying whether I would ever be able to cross that vast expanse, what with my toothache and swollen legs. Suddenly I saw a road ahead.

"Where to now?" I asked my guide.

"This way," he replied.

We took the road. It was beautiful, wide, and neatly paved. "The way of sinners is made plain with stones, and in their end is hell, and darkness, and pains. " (Ecclesiasticus 21: 11, stones: broad and easy.) Both sides were lined with magnificent verdant hedges dotted with gorgeous flowers. Roses, especially, peeped everywhere through the leaves. At first glance, the road was level and comfortable, and so I ventured upon it without the least suspicion, but soon I noticed that it insensibly kept sloping downward. Though it did not look steep at all, I found myself moving so swiftly that I felt I was effortlessly gliding through the air. Really, I was gliding and hardly using my feet. Then the thought struck me that the return trip would be very long and arduous.

"How shall we get back to the Oratory?" I asked worriedly.

"Do not worry," he answered. "The Almighty wants you to go. He who leads you on will also know how to lead you back."

The road is sloping downward. As we were continuing on our way, flanked by banks of roses and other flowers, I became aware that the Oratory boys and very many others whom I did not know were following me. Somehow I found myself in their midst. As I was looking at them, I noticed now one, now another fall to the ground and instantly be dragged by an unseen force toward a frightful drop, distantly visible, which sloped into a furnace. "What makes these boys fall?" I asked my companion. "The proud have hidden a net for me. And they have stretched out cords for a snare: they have laid for me a stumbling-block by the wayside." (Psalms 139: 6)

"Take a closer look," he replied.

I did. Traps were everywhere, some close to the ground, others at eye level, but all well concealed. Unaware of their danger, many boys got caught, and they tripped, they would sprawl to the ground, legs in the air. Then, when they managed to get back on their feet, they would run headlong down the road toward the abyss. Some got trapped by the head, others by the neck, hand, arms, legs, or sides, and were pulled down instantly. The ground traps, fine as spiders' webs and hardly visible, seemed very flimsy and harmless; yet, to my surprise, every boy they snared fell to the ground.

Noticing my astonishment, the guide remarked, "Do you know what this is?"

"Just some filmy fiber," I answered.

"A mere nothing," he said, "just plain human respect.",

Seeing that many boys were being caught in those straps. I asked, "Why do so many get caught? Who pulls them down?"

"Go nearer and you will see!" he told me.

I followed his advice but saw nothing peculiar.

"Look closer," he insisted.

I picked up one of the traps and tugged. I immediately felt some resistance. I pulled harder, only to feel that, instead of drawing the thread closer, I was being pulled down myself. I did not resist and soon found myself at the mouth of a frightful cave. I halted, unwilling to venture into that deep cavern, and again started pulling the thread toward me. It gave a little, but only through great effort on my part. I kept tugging, and after a long while a huge, hideous monster emerged, clutching a rope to which all those traps were tied together. He was the one who instantly dragged down anyone who got caught in them. It won't do to match my strength with his, I said to myself. I'll certainly lose. I'd better fight him with the Sign of the Cross and with short invocations.

Then I went back to my guide. "Now you know who he is," he said to me.

"I surely do! It is the devil himself!"

Carefully examining many of the traps, I saw that each bore an inscription: Pride, Disobedience, Envy, Sixth Commandment, Theft, Gluttony, Sloth, Anger and so on. Stepping back a bit to see which ones trapped the greater number of boys, I discovered that the most dangerous were those of impurity, disobedience, and pride. In fact, these three were linked to together. Many other traps also did great harm, but not as much as the first two. Still watching, I noticed many boys running faster than others. "Why such haste?" I asked.

"Because they are dragged by the snare of human respect."

Looking even more closely, I spotted knives among the traps. A providential hand had put them there for cutting oneself free. The bigger ones, symbolizing meditation, were for use against the trap of pride; others, not quite as big, symbolized spiritual reading well made. There were also two swords representing devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, especially through frequent Holy Communion, and to the Blessed Virgin. There was also a hammer symbolizing confession, and other knives signifying devotion to Saint Joseph, to Saint Aloysius, and to other Saints. By these means quite a few boys were able to free themselves or evade capture.

Indeed I saw some lads walking safely through all those traps, either by good timing before the trap sprung on them or by making it slip off them if they got caught.

When my guide was satisfied that I had observed everything, he made me continue along that rose-hedged road, but the farther we went the scarcer the roses became. Long thorns began to show up, and soon the roses were no more. The hedges became sun-scorched, leafless, and thorn-studded. Withered branches torn from the bushes lay criss-crossed along the roadbed, littering it with thorns and making it impassable. We had come now to a gulch whose steep sides hid what lay beyond. The road, still sloping downward, was becoming ever more horrid, rutted, guttered, and bristling with rocks and boulders. I lost track of all my boys, most of whom had left this treacherous road for other paths.

I kept going, but the farther I advanced, the more arduous and steep became the descent, so that I tumbled and fell several times, lying prostrate until I could catch my breath. Now and then my guide supported me or helped me to rise. At every step my joints seemed to give way, and I thought my shinbones would snap. Panting, I said to my guide, "My good fellow, my legs won't carry me another step. I just can't go any farther." He did not answer but continued walking. Taking heart, I followed until, seeing me soaked in perspiration and thoroughly exhausted, he led me to a little clearing alongside the road. I sat down, took a deep breath, and felt a little better. From my resting place, the road I had already traveled looked very steep, jagged, and strewn with loose stones, but what lay ahead seemed so much worse that I closed my eyes in horror.

"Let's go back," I pleaded. "If we go any farther, how shall we ever get back to the Oratory? I will never make it up this slope."

"Now that we have come so far, do you want me to leave you here?" my guide sternly asked.

At this threat, I wailed, "How can I survive without your help?"

"Then follow me."

We continued our descent, the road now becoming so frightfully steep that it was almost impossible to stand erect. And then, at the bottom of this precipice, at the entrance of a dark valley, an enormous building loomed into sight, its towering portal, tightly locked, facing our road. When I finally got to the bottom, I became smothered by a suffocating heat, while a greasy, green-tinted smoke lit by flashes of scarlet flames rose from behind those enormous walls which loomed higher than mountains.

"Where are we? What is this?" I asked my guide.

"Read the inscription on that portal and you will know."

I looked up and read these words: "The place of no reprieve." I realized that we were at the gates of Hell. The guide led me all around this horrible place. At regular distance bronze portals like the first overlooked precipitous descents; on each was an inscription, such as: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25: 41) "Every tree that yielded not good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the the fire." (Matthew 7: 19)

I tried to copy them into my notebook, but my guide restrained me: "There is no need. You have them all in Holy Scripture. You even have some of them inscribed in your porticoes."

At such a sight I wanted to turn back and return to the Oratory. As a matter of fact, I did start back, but my guide ignored my attempt. After trudging through a steep, never-ending ravine, we again came to the foot of the precipice facing the first portal. Suddenly the guide turned to me. Upset and startled, he motioned to me to step aside. "Look!" he said.

I looked up in terror and saw in the distance someone racing down the path at an uncontrollable speed. I kept my eyes on him, trying to identify him, and as he got closer, I recognized him as one of my boys. His disheveled hair was partly standing upright on his head and partly tossed back by the wind. His arms were outstretched as though he were thrashing the water in an attempt to stay afloat. He wanted to stop, but could not. Tripping on the protruding stones, he kept falling even faster. "Let's help him, let's stop him," I shouted, holding out my hands in a vain effort to restrain him.

"Leave him alone," the guide replied.


"Don't you know how terrible God's vengeance is? Do you think you can restrain one who is fleeing from His just wrath?"

Meanwhile the youth had turned his fiery gaze backward in an attempt to see if God's wrath were still pursuing him. The next moment he fell tumbling to the bottom of the ravine and crashed against the bronze portal as though he could find no better refuge in his flight.

"Why was he looking backward in terror?" I asked.

"Because God's wrath will pierce Hell's gates to reach and torment him even in the midst of fire!"

As the boy crashed into the portal, it sprang open with a roar, and instantly a thousand inner portals opened with a deafening clamor as if struck by a body that had been propelled by an invisible, most violent, irresistible gale. As these bronze doors -- one behind the other, though at a considerable distance from each other -- remained momentarily open, I saw far into the distance something like furnace jaws sprouting fiery balls the moment the youth hurtled into it. As swiftly as they had opened, the portals then clanged shut again. For a third time I tried to jot down the name of that unfortunate lad, but the guide again restrained me. "Wait," he ordered.


Three other boys of ours, screaming in terror and with arms outstretched, were rolling down one behind the other like massive rocks, I recognized them as they too crashed against the portal. In that split second, it sprang open and so did the other thousand. The three lads were sucked into that endless corridor amid a long-drawn, fading, infernal echo, and then the portals clanged shut again. At intervals, many other lads came tumbling down after them. I saw one unlucky boy being pushed down the slope by an evil companion. Others fell singly or with others, arm in arm or side by side. Each of them bore the name of his sin on his forehead. I kept calling to them as they hurtled down, but they did not hear me. Again the portals would open thunderously and slam shut with a rumble. Then, dead silence!

"Bad companions, bad books, and bad habits," my guide exclaimed, "are mainly responsible for so many eternally lost."

The traps I had seen earlier were indeed dragging the boys to ruin. Seeing so many going to perdition, I cried out disconsolately, "If so many of our boys end up this way, we are working in vain. How can we prevent such tragedies?"

"This is their present state," my guide replied, "and that is where they would go if they were to die now."

"Then let me jot down their names so that I may warn them and put them back on the path to Heaven."

"Do you really believe that some of them would reform if you were to warn them? Then and there your warning might impress them, but soon they will forget it, saying, 'It was just a dream,' and they will do worse than before. Others, realizing they have been unmasked, receive the sacraments, but this will be neither spontaneous nor meritorious; others will go to confession because of a momentary fear of Hell but will still be attached to sin."

"Then is there no way to save these unfortunate lads? Please, tell me what I can do for them."

"They have superiors; let them obey them. They have rules; let them observe them. They have the sacraments; let them receive them."

Just then a new group of boys came hurtling down and the portals momentarily opened. "Let's go in," the guide said to me.

I pulled back in horror. I could not wait to rush back to the Oratory to warn the boys lest others might be lost as well.

"Come," my guide insisted. "You'll learn much. But first tell me: Do you wish to go alone or with me?" He asked this to make me realize that I was not brave enough and therefore needed his friendly assistance.

"Alone inside that horrible place?" I replied. "How will I ever be able to find my way out without your help?" Then a thought came to my mind and aroused my courage. Before one is condemned to Hell, I said to myself, he must be judged. And I haven't been judged yet!

"Let's go," I exclaimed resolutely. We entered that narrow, horrible corridor and whizzed through it with lightning speed. Threatening inscriptions shone eerily over all the inner gateways. The last one opened into a vast, grim courtyard with a large, unbelievably forbidding entrance at the far end. Above it stood this inscription:

"These shall go into everlasting punishment." (Matthew 25: 46) The walls all about were similarly inscribed. I asked my guide if I could read them, and he consented. These were the inscriptions:

"He will give fire, and worms into their flesh, and they may burn and may feel forever." (Judith 16: 21)

"The pool of fire where both the beast and the false prophet shall be tormented day and night forever and ever." (Apocalypse 20: 9-10)

"And the smoke of their torments shall ascend up forever and ever." (Apocalypse 14: 11)

"A land of misery and darkness, where the shadow of death, and no order, but everlasting horror dwelleth." (Job 10: 22)

"There is no peace to the wicked." (Isaias 47: 22)

"There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 8:12)

While I moved from one inscription to another, my guide, who had stood in the center of the courtyard, came up to me.

"From here on," he said, "no one may have a helpful companion, a comforting friend, a loving heart, a compassionate glance, or a benevolent word. All this is gone forever. Do you just want to see or would you rather experience these things yourself?"

"I only want to see!" I answered.

"Then come with me," my friend added, and, taking me in tow, he stepped through that gate into a corridor at whose far end stood an observation platform, closed by a huge, single crystal pane reaching from the pavement to the ceiling. As soon as I crossed its threshold, I felt an indescribable terror and dared not take another step. Ahead of me I could see something like an immense cave which gradually disappeared into recesses sunk far into the bowels of the mountains. They were all ablaze, but theirs was not an earthly fire with leaping tongues of flames. The entire cave --walls, ceiling, floor, iron, stones, wood, and coal -- everything was a glowing white at temperatures of thousands of degrees. Yet the fire did not incinerate, did not consume. I simply can't find words to describe the cavern's horror. "The nourishment thereof is fire and much wood: the breath of the Lord as a torrent of brimstone kindling it." (Isaias 30: 33)

I was staring in bewilderment about me when a lad dashed out of a gate. Seemingly unaware of anything else, he emitted a most shrilling scream, like one who is about to fall into a cauldron of liquid bronze, and plummeted into the center of the cave. Instantly he too became incandescent and perfectly motionless, while the echo of his dying wail lingered for an instant more.

Terribly frightened, I stared briefly at him for a while. He seemed to be one of my Oratory boys. "Isn't he so and so?" I asked my guide.

"Yes," was the answer.

"Why is he so still, so incandescent?"

"You chose to see," he replied. "Be satisfied with that. Just keep looking. Besides, "Everyone shall be salted with fire." (Mark 9: 48)

As I looked again, another boy came hurtling down into the cave at breakneck speed. He too was from the Oratory. As he fell, so he remained. He too emitted one single heart-rending shriek that blended with the last echo of the scream that came from the youth who had preceded him. Other boys kept hurtling in the same way in increasing numbers, all screaming the same way and then all becoming equally motionless and incandescent. I noticed that the first seemed frozen to the spot, one hand and one foot raised into the air; the second boy seemed bent almost double to the floor. Others stood or hung in various other positions, balancing themselves on one foot or hand, sitting or lying on their backs or on their sides, standing or kneeling, hands clutching their hair. Briefly, the scene resembled a large statuary group of youngsters cast into ever more painful postures. Other lads hurtled into that same furnace. Some I knew; others were strangers to me. I then recalled what is written in the Bible to the effect that as one falls into Hell, so he shall forever remain. ". . . in what place soever it shall fall, there shall it be." (Ecclesiastes 11:3)

More frightened than ever, I asked my guide, "When these boys come dashing into this cave, don't they know where they are going?"

"They surely do. They have been warned a thousand times, but they still choose to rush into the fire because they do not detest sin and are loath to forsake it. Furthermore, they despise and reject God's incessant, merciful invitations to do penance. Thus provoked, Divine Justice harries them, hounds them, and goads them on so that they cannot halt until they reach this place."

"Oh, how miserable these unfortunate boys must feel in knowing they no longer have any hope," I exclaimed. "If you really want to know their innermost frenzy and fury, go a little closer," my guide remarked.

I took a few steps forward and saw that many of those poor wretches were savagely striking at each other like mad dogs. Others were clawing their own faces and hands, tearing their own flesh and spitefully throwing it about. Just then the entire ceiling of the cave became as transparent as crystal and revealed a patch of Heaven and their radiant companions safe for all eternity.

The poor wretches, fuming and panting with envy, burned with rage because they had once ridiculed the just. "The wicked shall see, and be angry, he shall gnash with his teeth, and pine away. . . " (Psalms 111: 10) "Why do hear no sound?" I asked my guide,

"Go closer!" he advised.

Pressing my ear to the crystal window, I heard screams and sobs, blasphemies and imprecations against the Saints. It was a tumult of voices and cries, shrill and confused.

"When they recall the happy lot of their good companions," he replied, "they are obliged to admit: "We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honour. Behold, how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints. Therefore we have erred from the way of truth, and the light of justice hath not shined unto us, and the sun of understanding hath not risen upon us." (Wisdom 5:4-6) "We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity and destruction, and have walked through hard ways, but the way of the Lord we have not known. What hath pride profited us ? or what advantage hath the boasting of riches brought us ? All those things are passed away like a shadow." (Wisdom 5: 7-9)

"Here time is no more. Here is only eternity."

While I viewed the condition of many of my boys in utter terror, a thought suddenly struck me. "How can these boys be damned?" I asked. "Last night they were still alive at the Oratory!"

"The boys you see here," he answered, "are all dead to God's grace. Were they to die now or persist in their evil ways, they would be damned. But we are wasting time. Let us go on."

He led me away and we went down through a corridor into a lower cavern, at whose entrance I read: "Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched." (Isaias 66: 24) "He will give fire, and worms into their flesh, and they may burn and may feel forever." (Judith 16: 21)

Here one could see how atrocious was the remorse of those who had been pupils in our schools. What a torment was their, to remember each unforgiven sin and its just punishment, the countless, even extraordinary means they had had to mend their ways, persevere in virtue, and earn paradise, and their lack of response to the many favors promised and bestowed by the Virgin Mary. What a torture to think that they couId have been saved so easily, yet now are irredeemably lost, and to remember the many good resolutions made and never kept. Hell is indeed paved with good intentions!

In this lower cavern I again saw those Oratory boys who had fallen into the fiery furnace. Some are listening to me right now; others are former pupils or even strangers to me. I drew closer to them and noticed that they were all covered with worms and vermin which gnawed at their vitals, hearts, eyes, hands, legs, and entire bodies so ferociously as to defy description. Helpless and motionless, they were a prey to every kind of torment. Hoping I might be able to speak with them or to hear something from them, I drew even closer but no one spoke or even looked at me. I then asked my guide why, and he explained that the damned are totally deprived of freedom. Each must fully endure his own punishment, with absolutely no reprieve whatever. "And now," he added, "you too must enter that cavern."

"Oh, no!" I objected in terror. "Before going to Hell, one has to be judged. I have not been judged yet, and so I will not go to Hell!"

"Listen," he said, "what would you rather do: visit Hell and save your boys, or stay outside and leave them in agony?"

For a moment I was struck speechless. "Of course I love my boys and wish to save them all," I replied, "but isn't there some other way out?"

"Yes, there is a way," he went on, "provided you do all you can."

I breathed more easily and instantly said to myself, I don't mind slaving if I can rescue these beloved sons of mine from such torments.

"Come inside then," my friend went on, "and see how our good, almighty God lovingly provides a thousand means for guiding your boys to penance and saving them from everlasting death."

Taking my hand, he led me into the cave. As I stepped in, I found myself suddenly transported into a magnificent hall whose curtained glass doors concealed more entrances.

Above one of them I read this inscription: The Sixth Commandment. Pointing to it, my guide exclaimed, "Transgressions of this commandment caused the eternal ruin of many boys."

"Didn't they go to confession?"

"They did, but they either omitted or insufficiently confessed the sins against the beautiful virtue of purity, saying for instance that they had committed such sins two or three times when it was four or five. Other boys may have fallen into that sin but once in their childhood, and, through shame, never confessed it or did so insufficiently. Others were not truly sorry or sincere in their resolve to avoid it in the future. There were even some who, rather than examine their conscience, spent their time trying to figure out how best to deceive their confessor. Anyone dying in this frame of mind chooses to be among the damned, and so he is doomed for all eternity. Only those who die truly repentant shall be eternally happy. Now do you want to see why our merciful God brought you here?" He lifted the curtain and I saw a group of Oratory boys -- all known to me -- who were there because of this sin. Among them were some whose conduct seems to be good.

"Now you will surely let me take down their names so that I may warn them individually," I exclaimed. "Then what do you suggest I tell them?"

"Always preach against immodesty. A generic warning will suffice. Bear in mind that even if you did admonish them individually, they would promise, but not always in earnest. For a firm resolution, one needs God's grace which will not be denied to your boys if they pray. God manifests His power especially by being merciful and forgiving. On your part, pray and make sacrifices. As for the boys, let them listen to your admonitions and consult their conscience. It will tell them what to do."

We spent the next half hour discussing the requisites of a good confession. Afterward, my guide several times exclaimed in a loud voice, "Avertere! Avertere!"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Change life! "

Perplexed, I bowed my head and made as if to withdraw, but he held me back.

"You haven't seen everything yet," he explained.

He turned and lifted another curtain bearing this inscription: "They who would become rich, fall into temptation, and to the snare of the devil." (1 Timothy 6: 9) (Note: would become rich: wish to become rich, seek riches, set their heart and affections toward riches.)

"This does not apply to my boys! I countered, "because they are as poor as I am. We are not rich and do not want to be. We give it no thought."

As the curtain was lifted, however, I saw a group of boys, all known to me. They were in pain, like those I had seen before. Pointing to them, my guide remarked, "As you see, the inscription does apply to your boys."

"But how?" I asked.

"Well," he said, "some boys are so attached to material possessions that their love of God is lessened. Thus they sin against charity, piety, and meekness. Even the mere desire of riches can corrupt the heart, especially if such a desire leads to injustice. Your boys are poor, but remember that greed and idleness are bad counselors. One of your boys committed substantial thefts in his native town, and though he could make restitution, he gives it not a thought. There are others who try to break into the pantry or the prefect's or economer's office; those who rummage in their companions' trunks for food, money, or possessions; those who steal stationery and books...."

After naming these boys and others as well, he continued, "Some are here for having stolen clothes, linen, blankets, and coats from the Oratory wardrobe in order to send them home to their families; others for willful, serious damage; others, yet, for not having given back what they had borrowed or for having kept sums of money they were supposed to hand over to the superior. Now that you know who these boys are," he concluded, "admonish them. Tell them to curb all vain, harmful desires, to obey God's law and to safeguard their reputation jealously lest greed lead them to greater excesses and plunge them into sorrow, death, and damnation."

I couldn't understand why such dreadful punishments should be meted out for infractions that boys thought so little of, but my guide shook me out of my thoughts by saying: "Recall what you were told when you saw those spoiled grapes on the wine." With these words he lifted another curtain which hid many of our Oratory boys, all of whom I recognized instantly. The inscription on the curtain read: The root of all evils.

"Do you know what that means?" he asked me immediately.

"What sin does that refer to?"



"And yet I have always heard that pride is the root of all evil."

"It is, generally speaking, but, specifically, do you know what led Adam and Eve to commit the first sin for which they were driven away from their earthly paradise?"


"Exactly! Disobedience is the root of all evil."

"What shall I tell my boys about it?"

"Listen carefully: the boys you see here are those who prepare such a tragic end for themselves by being disobedient. So-and-so and so-and-so, who you think went to bed, leave the dormitory later in the night to roam about the playground, and, contrary to orders, they stray into dangerous areas and up scaffolds, endangering even their lives. Others go to church, but, ignoring recommendations, they misbehave; instead of praying, they daydream or cause a disturbance. There are also those who make themselves comfortable so as to doze off during church services, and those who only make believe they are going to church. Woe to those who neglect prayer! He who does not pray dooms himself to perdition. Some are here because, instead of singing hymns or saying the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, they read frivolous or -- worse yet -- forbidden books." He then went on mentioning other serious breaches of discipline.

When he was done, I was deeply moved.

"May I mention all these things to my boys?" I asked, looking at him straight in the eye.

"Yes, you may tell them whatever you remember."

"What advice shall I give them to safeguard them from such a tragedy?"

"Keep telling them that by obeying God, the Church, their parents, and their superiors, even in little things, they will be saved."

"Anything else?"

"Warn them against idleness. Because of idleness David fell into sin. Tell them to keep busy at all times, because the devil will not then have a chance to tempt them."

I bowed my head and promised. Faint with dismay, I could only mutter, "Thanks for having been so good to me. Now, please lead me out of here."

"All right, then, come with me." Encouragingly he took my hand and held me up because I could hardly stand on my feet. Leaving that hall, in no time at all we retraced our steps through that horrible courtyard and the long corridor. But as soon as we stepped across the last bronze portal, he turned to me and said, "Now that you have seen what others suffer, you too must experience a touch of Hell."

"No, no!" I cried in terror.

He insisted, but I kept refusing.

"Do not be afraid," he told me; "just try it. Touch this wall."

I could not muster enough courage and tried to get away, but he held me back. "Try it," he insisted. Gripping my arm firmly, he pulled me to the wall. "Only one touch," he cornmanded, "so that you may say you have both seen and touched the walls of eternal suffering and that you may understand what the last wall must be like if the first is so unendurable. Look at this wall!" I did intently. It seemed incredibly thick. "There are a thousand walls between this and the real fire of Hell," my guide continued. "A thousand walls encompass it, each a thousand measures thick and equally distant from the next one. Each measure is a thousand miles. This wall therefore is millions and millions of miles from Hell's real fire. It is just a remote rim of Hell itself."

When he said this, I instinctively pulled back, but he seized my hand, forced it open, and pressed it against the first of the thousand walls. The sensation was so utterly excruciating that I leaped back with a scream and found myself sitting up in bed. My hand was stinging and I kept rubbing it to ease the pain. When I got up this morning I noticed that it was swollen. Having my hand pressed against the wall, though only in a dream, felt so real that, later, the skin of my palm peeled off.

Bear in mind that I have tried not to frighten you very much, and so I have not described these things in all their horror as I saw them and as they impressed me. We know that Our Lord always portrayed Hell in symbols because, had He described it as it really is, we would not have understood Him. No mortal can comprehend these things. The Lord knows them and He reveals them to whomever He wills.

Vision of the Great Ship

Imagine you are with me on the on a cliff overlooking a vast expanse of sea with no other land in sight except that which is under your feet. In the middle of the endless sea, soaring to the sky, are two solid, stout columns a short distance apart from each other. One is surmounted by a statue of the Blessed Virgin Immaculate, at whose feet hangs a large placard with the inscription: Auxilium Christianorum [Help of Christians]. The other column, far loftier and sturdier, supports a Host of proportionate size, and underneath it is another placard with the inscription: Salus Credentium [Salvation of believers]. From these two columns hang many chains with hooks and anchors in every direction to which ships can be attached.

The water is covered with a countless multitude of battling ships. The prow of each is fitted with beaks of iron that are like spears or arrows stabbing and piercing everything they hit. These ships are heavily armed with cannons, firearms, and incendiary bombs of every kind, even books, and all of them are thronging and chasing after a mighty ship, bigger and taller than any of them. The enemy ships try to ram this stately vessel, to set it on fire, and to damage it in every possible way while an escort fleet shields it. All the efforts of the Pope who captains the great ship are bent to steer it between those two columns against winds and waves that favor the enemy. The commanding general of the flagship, the Roman Pontiff, seeing the enemy’s fury and his auxiliary ships’ grave predicament, summons his captains. All the pilots gather around the captain and hold a conference, but the storm grows steadily more ferocious, and they are sent back to command their own ships lest they founder. When it again grows a little calmer, the captain summons his pilots for a second time as the flagship sticks to its course. The enemy ships keep trying in every way to block, damage and sink the great ship. They bombard it with everything they have: firearms, cannons and incendiary bombs, the beaks of their prows, and with fire from books and journals which they try to hurl into the big ship. The storm becomes dreadful and smashes the ships of the Pope so badly that the enemies let out shouts of victory. The Pope strains every muscle continuing to steer his ship between the two columns as fierce combat ensues and all the enemy ships move in and violently ram his ship again and again. Yet all the efforts of that multitude of ships are useless as their weapons shatter, their guns and cannons sinking into the sea. In a blind fury the enemy forces take to combating the big ship with their hands, fists, books, blasphemies, and curses. Unscathed and undaunted, the flagship keeps on its course.

It is true that at times a formidable ram splinters a gaping hole or wound into the hull of the great ship but immediately, a favorable wind breezes from the two columns and instantly heals the gash and the ship continues on its way. One blow gravely injures the Pope, who suddenly falls down. Those around him immediately help him to get up, but he is struck by a second blow, falls again, and dies. Another shout of victory goes up among the remaining enemies and indescribable rejoicing is seen on their ships. But no sooner is the Pope dead than another takes his place. The assembled pilots elected another captain so quickly that the news of the preceding captain arrives with the news of the election of his successor. The enemy loses courage as the new Pope overcomes every obstacle and routs all the tottering ships with his. Breaking through all resistance, the new Pope steers his ship safely between the two columns. Once in between them, he attaches the prow to an anchor hanging from the column with the Host. With another anchor he attaches the other side of the ship to the column with the Blessed Virgin Immaculate.

Then total disorder breaks out over the whole surface of the sea. All the ships that so far had been battling the Pope’s ship scatter, fleeing and colliding with one another, some foundering and trying to sink the others. Then many of the small ships scurry to the columns and attach themselves to those hooks. Some ships, which had gallantly fought alongside the great ship, are the first to tie up at the two columns. Many others, which had fearfully kept far away from the fight, stand still, cautiously waiting until the wrecked enemy ships vanish under the waves. Then they too head for the two columns, tie up at the swinging hooks, and remain there all safe and secure with the main ship and the Pope.

A great perfect calm now covers the sea.

© 2006 Tim Bartel

Vision of deaths in the Sardinian Royal court

One friend of John Bosco was Justice Minister Urbano Rattazzi, who despite being anticlerical, nevertheless recognized the value of Don Bosco’s work.While Rattazzi was pushing a bill through the Sardinian legislature to suppress religious orders, he advised Don Bosco on how to get around the law and found a religious order to keep the oratory going after its founder’s death. Bosco had been thinking about that problem, too, and had been slowly organizing his helpers into a loose "Congregation of St. Francis de Sales." He was also training select older boys for the priesthood on the side. Another supporter of the religious order's idea was the reigning Pope, Blessed Pius IX.

In 1854, when the Kingdom of Sardinia was about to pass a law suppressing monastic orders and confiscating ecclesiastical properties, Bosco reported a series of dreams about "great funerals at court," referring to members of the Savoy court or of politicians.In November 1854, he sent a letter to King Victor Emmanuel II, admonishing him to oppose the confiscation of church property and suppression of the orders, but the King did nothing.[10] His activity, which had been described by Italian historian Erberto Petoia as having "manifest blackmailing intentions",[11] ended only after the intervention of Prime Minister Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour. Despite such criticisms, the King's family suffered a surprising number of deaths in a short period. From January to May 1855, the King's mother (age 55), wife (33), newborn son and his only brother (33) all died.

Vision of Mary in A garden

In one dream, Mary led him into a beautiful garden. There were roses everywhere, crowding the ground with their blooms and the air with their scent. He was told to take off his shoes and walk along a path through a rose arbor. Before he had walked more than a few steps, his naked feet were cut and bleeding from the thorns. When he said he would have to wear shoes or turn back, Mary told him to put on sturdy shoes. As he stepped forward a second time, he was followed by helpers. But the walls of the arbor closed on him, the roof sank lower and the roses crept onto the path. Thorns caught at him from all around. When he pushed them aside he only got more cuts, until he was tangled in thorns. Yet those who watched said, "How lucky Don John is! His path is forever strewn with roses! He hasn't a worry in the world. No troubles at all!" Many of the helpers, who had been expecting an easy journey, turned back, but some stayed with him. Finally he climbed through the roses and thorns to find another incredible garden. A cool breeze soothed his torn skin and healed his wounds.

In his interpretation, the path was his mission, the roses were his charity to the boys, and the thorns were the distractions, the obstacles, and frustrations that would stand in his way. The message of the dream was clear to John: he must keep going, not lose faith in God or his mission, and he would come through to the place he belonged.

Saint John Bosco's Vision of 1830

Fr Calosso's death was a great loss to me. I wept inconsolably over my dead benefactor. I thought of him in my waking hours and dreamed of him when I was asleep. It affected me so badly that my mother feared for my health. She send me foe a while to my grandfather in Capriglio.

At this time i had another dream.In it I was sorely reproached for having put my hope in men and not in our good heavenly Father

Memoirs of the Oratory of Saint Francis de Sales from 1815 to 1855 The Autobiography of Saint John Bosco

Saint John Bosco's first Visions

The dreams of Don Bosco are recorded in the Biographical Memoirs of Saint John Bosco, the huge biography published in Italian between 1898 and 1939. Father John Baptist Lemoyne (1839-1916) between 1883 and 1916 composed the first nine volumes of this ambitious undertaking, covering 1815-1870, and he laid out the fundamental work for volumes 10-18, which cover the rest of the Saint’s life and were completed by Fathers Angelo Amadei (1868-1945) and Eugene Ceria (1870-1957). Volume 19 covers the canonization process, 1888-1934. An index (volume 20) was published in 1948.

The sources for the estimated 153 dreams found in the Biographical Memoirs include Don Bosco’s written accounts, the chronicles of the first Salesians,[1] the notes, memoirs, and testimony of various contemporaries, and many conversations with Lemoyne. Don Bosco wrote down two dreams at some length and alluded to a few others in his own Memoirs of the Oratory; he wrote out or had a secretary transcribe ten others, basically as memoranda for their future narration or for their communication to those for whom they were meant.[2] That means, obviously, that the great majority have come to us based on their oral narration. Often he would narrate them to all the Oratory residents, sometimes just to some of the Salesians.

[1] The principal chronicles and diaries are those of three early Salesians who were leaders in the nascent Congregation: Frs. John Bonetti (1838-1891), Dominic Ruffino (1840-1865), and Julius Barberis (1847-1927); and of two of Don Bosco’s personal secretaries, Frs. Joachim Berto (1847-1914) and Charles Viglietti (1864-1915).

[2] Memoirs of the Oratory records six dreams (two in detail, one in outline). A critical edition by Cecilia Romero, I sogni di Don Bosco (Turin: LDC, 1978), presents ten others, either autograph manuscripts or allograph manuscripts annotated by the Saint.

John was about nine when he experienced his first extraordinary dream. This first dream, the most important one, would set the course for his whole life.It is recorded in his autobiographical Memoirs of the Oratory.

John saw himself playing with a crowd of neighborhood boys; many of them were fighting and swearing. He told them to stop, then leapt in with both fists when they did not. Suddenly a stranger, a noble and radiant gentleman, appeared. He told John that he needed to use kindness, not blows, to win over these children. John did not understand. The man said he would give him a teacher, and a majestic Lady showed up. She instructed John to watch, and the boys turned into wild animals—bears, goats, dogs, cats, etc. “This,” she told him, “is your field of work. Make yourself humble, strong, and energetic, so that you’ll be able to do for my children what you’ll see now.” And the beasts turned into gentle lambs. In his confusion, John began to cry. The Lady assured him that in due time he would understand. And he woke up.

Evidently John realized this was no ordinary dream, even if he did not understand it. Yet he was quite skeptical about it: “I wasted no time in telling all about my dream.... Each one gave his own interpretation.... But my grandmother, though she could not read or write, knew enough theology and made the final judgement, saying ‘Pay no attention to dreams.’ I agreed with my grandmother.”

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Her incorrupt body lies in the Convent of Saint Gildarde in Nevers

"As soon as she was dead," stated Sister Bernard Dalias, "Bernadette's face became young and peaceful again, with a look of purity and blessedness." The infirmarians clothed her in her religious habit. "We had no difficulty in doing so," observed Sister de Vigouroux, "for her body was supple even though she had been dead for two hours."

This photo was taken when she died in 1879

Bernadette died on 16th April 1879. Her body was buried in the small chapel dedicated to St.Joseph, within the convent grounds. In September of 1909, Bernadettes body was exhumed, as part of the process leading to her eventual canonisation. The hollowed-out tomb was extremely humid - her habit was very damp, the rosary held in her hands was rusted and her crucifix had turned green. Yet despite this, the body itself was perfectly preserved. Two further exhumations (in April 1919 and April 1925) were carried out. At the third , the skin was found to have discoloured slightly in places, due probably to exposure to the air following the forty-six years of burial. Because of this, the firm of Pierre Imans in Paris made light wax coverings for the face and hands. By June of 1925, the Cateland workshop in Lyon had finished the gilt and crystal reliquary which was to be the final resting place of the saint; the light wax masks were placed on the face and hands and the body was placed in the shrine. The same month, Pope Pius XI beatified Bernadette - she could now be called "Blessed" and her remains could be publicly venerated.

In August, the shrine was ceremonially placed in the main chapel of the convent, and the long line of pilgrims began to visit the convent. In 1933 Bernadette was declared a Saint - appropriately, this took place on December 8th, feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Life after the Apparitions

Bernadette in 1866
Later in life she became a Sister of Charity of Nevers, and was besieged by many faithful and religious.

Bernadette (in religion, Sister Marie-Bernarde) spent the latter part of her life at the convent, saying that she had come to hide herself. She sought God in the silence of the cloister, serving Him in humility and under the vows of her profession as a Sister of Charity of Nevers. She lived in the convent for thirteen years, spending a large portion of this time ill in the infirmary - when a fellow sister accused her of being a 'lazybones', she said that her 'job' was "to be ill".

Bernadette died on 16th April 1879.

The Lady of Lourdes had kept the promise She made to Bernadette in 1858 -
"I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the next".

Although the apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes were over for Bernadette (at least in this life), their message and mission were never to be forgotten. Bernadette silently offered all of her sufferings, internal and external, for the benefit of "poor sinners".

Eighteenth Apparition-LOURDES Last Apparition

Friday 16 July 1858

July 16th was the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel - in the parish church there was an altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin under this title. While praying there in the early evening, Bernadette - who faithfully wore the Brown Scapular of Carmel all the days of her life - once more felt herself called by her Lady to come to the Grotto.

The Grotto was boarded up now and closed to the public, access to it forbidden and use of the water disallowed. But nothing could stop the child responding to the call of the Immaculate One.

She left the Church immediately and ran to the home of her Aunt Basile, to ask her to accompany her to the Grotto. Since the Grotto itself was now closed, the two took another path, across the field known as 'de la Ribere', leading to the right bank of the river Gave, opposite the vault and the niche. On the way to the rock, they met several of the Lourdes women; these followed the visionary, since it was obvious she was going back to the Grotto.

On the far side of the river, the child knelt to commence her prayers. Almost immediately, her little face was transfigured with the heavenly light of her beautiful Lady, who stood once more in the hallowed niche across the water.

"Yes! Yes! She is there!" exclaimed the little one. "She welcomes us and is smiling upon us across the barriers!". Then she began her intimate discourse with the Woman who so enraptured her and who was the sole reality for her at that moment.

It seemed to those present that at intervals during the dialogue, the child was almost trying to fly across the water, so far forward did she lean. But now the moment had come for the Lady to say farewell to her little protégé, her own child, who now would have to await her entry into Heaven before gazing upon Her beauty once more.

The child later declared that "The Blessed Virgin is so beautiful that when one has seen Her once, one would gladly wish to die so as to see Her again". That feeling was now to flower within the heart and soul of the faithful child.

As the sun was beginning to set, the Lady who called Herself the Immaculate Conception took Her leave of the child, ending the vision with Bernadette still in the fullness of her joy. As She disappeared, She cast one last smile upon Bernadette. Never again in this life would Bernadette see the Lady; now she could only wait for Her to keep the promise She had made at the second Apparition - "I do not promise to make you happy in this life, but in the next".

Seventeenth Apparition-LOURDES

Wednesday 7 April 1858

The number of people traveling to the Grotto was steadily increasing, more so now that the mysterious Lady had finally identified Herself as the Immaculate Conception. Until this title had been announced, Bernadette had always called the Woman 'the Lady' - the people at the Grotto had also followed this example set by the little one. But after the Feast of the Annunciation, they were able to personalise the name of the Lady - there was now no doubt about Her identity; She was Mary, the Mother of God. And subsequently, She was referred to as Our Lady of Massabieille or Our Lady of the Grotto.

On Easter Sunday, 4th April 1858, the parish church in Lourdes was filled with people all day long. And throughout the day, people flocked to the Grotto. Commissioner Jacomet counted "in all, 3,625 visitors to the Grotto" between five in the morning and eleven at night.

The next day, Jacomet counted "3,433 strangers and 2,012 Lourdes people; in all 5,445 visitors" at the rock of Massabieille. Bernadette, however, had not been back to the Grotto since the day the Lady had named Herself.

On the Tuesday evening, 6th April, the child once more felt within herself the summons from the Lady of the niche - she was called to a further meeting.

It was the Wednesday of Easter week. At six in the morning, Bernadette was once more kneeling in prayer in front of her beloved Grotto, the place she would later call "a little piece of Heaven". The Lady was standing in the niche, bathed in the light of Heaven. Again the vision was a long one, lasting nearly forty-five minutes. The child was praying the Rosary as usual.

Doctor Dozous was present throughout the Apparition. He describes for us the scene as he watched it take place -

"Bernadette seemed to be even more absorbed than usual in the Appearance upon which her gaze was riveted. I witnessed, as did also every one else there present, the fact which I am about to narrate.

"She was on her knees saying with fervent devotion the prayers of her Rosary which she held in her left hand while in her right was a large blessed candle, alight. The child was just beginning to make the usual ascent on her knees when suddenly she stopped and, her right hand joining her left, the flame of the big candle passed between the fingers of the latter. Though fanned by a fairly strong breeze, the flame produced no effect upon the skin which it was touching.

"Astonished at this strange fact, I forbade anyone there to interfere - and taking my watch in my hand, I studied the phenomenon attentively for a quarter of an hour. At the end of this time Bernadette, still in her ecstasy, advanced to the upper part of the Grotto, separating her hands. The flame thus ceased to touch her left hand.

"Bernadette finished her prayer and the splendour of the transfiguration left her face. She rose and was about to quit the Grotto when I asked her to show me her left hand. I examined it most carefully, but could not find the least trace of burning anywhere upon it. I then asked the person who was holding the candle to light it again and give it to me. I put it several times in succession under Bernadettes left hand but she drew it away quickly, saying 'You are burning me!'. I record this fact just as I have seen it without attempting to explain it. Many persons who were present at the time can confirm what I have said."

A neighbour called Julie Garros (who later joined Bernadette in the convent of Nevers as Sister Vincent) also witnessed this. She relates -

"As the Apparition continued, the candle gradually slipped down so that the flame was playing on the inside of her hand".

Bernadettes younger brother, Jean-Marie, recalled "seeing this very clearly as it passed between her fingers". Another neighbour present, a boy called Bernard Joanas, remembered that while this was taking place, Doctor Dozous checked the child's pulse but could find no irregularity. And that when someone was about to remove the candle from her, the woman was told by Doctor Dozous to "Leave her alone". "Bernadette, meanwhile, made no movement", stated the boy, who later became a curate in Lourdes and the Chaplain of the Lourdes Hospice run by the Sisters of Nevers.

Other witnesses later mentioned that this phenomenon also occurred earlier during the Apparitions, sometime before the end of February. At those times, people shouted to take the candle away from the child as it would burn her, although in fact she was not burned - despite the long period of time during which her hand was in contact with the flame.


Toward the end of the Apparitions, the civil authorities had made all sort of attempts to put an end to the occurrences at the Grotto of Massabieille. A number of doctors and psychiatrists had been called to examine her - the child submitted to each and every examination without question. The doctors concluded that while there still existed the possibility that the visions were the result of "some cerebral lesion", still they could not conclusively decide if this was the case. Other doctors were unwilling to discount the possibility that what was occurring was the result of a supernatural manifestation.

The Bishop of Tarbes, Monseigneur Lawrence, was also following the unusual events in Lourdes. As yet, he had not formally set up a Commission to investigate the alleged Apparitions.

Between the penultimate and the final Apparitions, the child was quite ill - as a result of her asthma she was sent to the mineral springs in Cauterets for recuperation (although this was not entirely effective).

Also, the Grotto itself had undergone some changes; workmen had widened the path leading to the Grotto and had completed the stone troughs into which the waters of the spring were to be redirected and allowed to collect, so allowing pilgrims to bathe in the water or to take it away in bottles.

Bernadette also made her First Holy Communion, on the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament - Thursday 3rd June 1858. Also on that day, she was invested by Abbe Peyramale with the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel - this scapular remained with her until death. Later, in the convent at Nevers, she would make her own scapulars as the need arose. Many of them can still be seen in the museum there.

That afternoon, Jean Baptiste Estrade and his sister were once again in the company of the child. Monsieur Estrade asked her -

"Tell me, Bernadette, which made you happier - receiving Our Lord or conversing with the Blessed Virgin?".

The child replied without hesitation - "I don't know. The two things go together and cannot be compared. All I know is that I was intensely happy in both cases".

That day, there were more than six thousand people in attendance at the Grotto, hoping for some heavenly manifestation; they were not to be disappointed, despite the fact that no vision occurred that day.

Among the people present, there were many who were sick and crippled. A labourer from the countryside had come together with his family, including a boy of six years who was suffering from paralysis of the spine. Again Doctor Dozous was present at the scene - and he wrote later that he had taken quite an interest in the poor family with the paralysed child.

"Since you have come" he said to the father of the child, "to obtain from the Blessed Virgin a cure which you have asked for in vain from science, take your child, undress him, and place him under the taps of the spring". This was duly done and the child was partially submerged in the cold water for a few minutes.

"The little invalid" continues the Doctor, "after he had been well dried and his clothes put back on, was laid on the ground. But he immediately got up by himself and made his way - walking with the greatest ease - toward his father and mother, who smothered him with vigorous hugs, shedding tears of joy".

But there were also unhappy events. The civil authorities were trying their best to have the Grotto closed to the public, and use of the water disallowed until it had been properly checked once more.

Further - and more worrying still - they were plotting to have the child arrested and committed on her next visit to Massabieille. This sad state of affairs was only halted by the intervention of Abbe Peyramale who - despite his lingering doubts about the visions themselves - was in no doubt about the innocence of the visionary. She might be deluded, but she was certainly no threat to the moral order of Lourdes or of France!

At this time, there were also a number of Satanic manifestations at the Grotto.

From the start of time, God had warned Satan that there would forever be enmity between him and the Woman. Lourdes was to be no exception to this rule.

The Satanic manifestation had begun during the fourth Apparition, when Bernadette had heard the cacophony of dark voices rising from the waters of the river, until silenced by the glance from the Virgin.

Now, toward, the end of the Visions, he would once more commence his assault. A young lady of Lourdes named Honorine, had been at the Grotto one day when she heard voices coming from within the empty Grotto - she said these voices produced a strange effect on her senses. This was repeated the next day, when Honorine again heard sounds - this time, savage howls and sounds like wild beasts in combat. The girl was terrified, and did not return to Massabieille for a number of weeks. The People of Lourdes said she was simply hysterical.

At the same time, a young man from Lourdes was passing the Grotto one day on his way to work before dawn. He crossed himself as he passed the rock, in honour of She who had been present there. Instantly, strange globes of light surrounded him and he felt unable to move. Terrified, he made the Sign of the Cross once more - as he did so, each of the globes of light exploded loudly around him and he was able to leave the place. As this was occurring, he could hear from within the Grotto, maniacal laughter and blasphemies.

Jean Baptiste Estrade witnessed some of the assaults of the father of lies. A lady from the Rue des Bagneres in Lourdes, named Josephine, was experiencing apparitions in the niche - this lasted for two days. Estrade watched what was happening, but said that while Bernadette was in ecstasy, he felt "transported" - with Josephine, he merely felt "surprised". And whereas Bernadette during her ecstasy was "transfigured", Josephine was simply beautiful. The girl in question related to Estrade that she had indeed seen strange figures within the niche, but that she had felt suspicious of them since they appeared to her to be evil in nature, not Heavenly.

One day a young boy named Alex returned to his home in Lourdes screaming and shouting, but so paralysed with fear that he could not tell his poor mother what was the matter. After several days, he calmed down sufficiently to relate the cause of his terror -

"When I left the house I went to walk with some other children by the side of Massabieille. When I reached the Grotto I prayed for a moment. Then, while waiting for my companions, I went up to the rock. Turning toward the hollow of the rock, I saw coming towards me a beautiful lady. This lady concealed her hands and the lower part of her body in an ashen coloured cloud, like a storm cloud. She fixed on me here great black eyes and seemed to wish to seize me. I thought at once that it was the devil and I fled".

Many other similar events occurred around this time.

Bernadette also had her own problems. There was a constant stream of visitors to the Cachot, all seeking an interview with the child and wishing to hear her relate a narrative of the Visions. The child submitted herself to all of this without hesitation, question or complaint. She saw it as an opportunity to fulfill the requests of the Lady for penance, although she later said that having to tell the same story from early morning till late at night each day, was a greater penance even than the asthma which was troubling her so much at this time. The poor child was constantly exhausted. To make matters worse, the authorities were once more threatening to imprison the child, claiming that she was receiving financial rewards for telling her story. Of course this was untrue; the family were still living in abject poverty and were frequently without sufficient money to feed the children.

On one occasion, Pierre - one of Bernadettes younger brothers - was found eating candle wax in the church, such was his hunger. He had previously accepted the gift of a small coin for showing a wealthy couple where the seer lived (although he neglected to mention that she was in fact his own sister). When Bernadette found out, she was very displeased and took him to the home of the couple in question, where he was forced to return the coin. Bernadette remained above any reproach of pecuniary - or other - gain until the day she died.

After all, the Lady had said that her happiness lay not in this life, but in the next.