Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Visions of St. Gertrude The Great

Gertrude lived in a golden age that had some of the most inspiring Mystics and writers of great worth to the Catholic Church and the world, Mystics such as Francis of Assisi, Albert the Great and the writer Dante.

Gertrude herself was born in the year 1256 in what was Saxony(Germany), not much is known about her beginnings suffice to say she was placed into an orphanage at the young age of 5 years old. This is not unusual for this time period for many women often died while giving birth and the lack of hygiene also contributed to many deaths brought on by diseases.

Though still very young Gertrude found a home with the Benedictine Nuns in Helfta, being so young the Mother Abbess placed Gertrude into the care of Mechtilde of Hackeborn, who happened to be the sister of the Mother Abbess. In this holy though austere atmosphere, the young Gertrude thrived, it would be when she turned 26 years of age that God touched her soul in a direct manner.

One day as Gertrude made her way down the hall, she bowed as a Sister passed by, but it was when the 'Sister' stopped that Gertrude saw that it was our Lord who was appearing before her, Gertrude described Him in these words, " He is more beautiful than all the children of men". Gertrude was awestruck by seeing our Lord before her, especially as she had been suffering spiritual aridity for sometime, her heart filled with such joy it nearly burst. Our Lord spoke to her saying, "Your salvation is at hand; why are you consumed with grief? Have you no counselor, that you are so changed by sadness?" Gertrude upon hearing these words then found herself before a choir of nuns as she looked on and observed them singing praises to God, our Lord then said to Gertrude, " I will save you, I will deliver you; fear not." Jesus then placed His hand on Gertrude assuring her that He would keep His promise. This brought such joy to Gertrude's heart and soul as she had suffered great torments in her spiritual aridity. Our Lord then consoled Gertrude with these words, "You have licked the dust with My enemies, and you have suckered honey amidst thorns; but return now to Me-I will receive you, and inebriate you with the torrent of My celestial delights."

Gertrude was stunned by the enormity of seeing her beloved Lord and tried to reach out to Him in her zealousness, but found instead that a barrier stood before her, which Gertrude recognised as her sins which was separating them. Before Gertrude fell into a deep sadness, our gracious Lord instead reached for her and Gertrude took hold of His Hand which then brought her to His side. Through this Gertrude was made to realise that it was the distractions of the world which had distanced her from experiencing the love of God, she was made to realise what God found pleasing and what He did not! Gertrude from then on decided to do away with the vanities of the world including reading fine books which had very little spiritual content and other vagaries of delight such as music which did not praise God.

Upon receiving the five wounds of our Lord within her heart, Gertrude exclaimed, "O my Savior, I wish to bring to you every soul, that You might take delight in each." Gertrude was to become the recipient of many Divine Messages for the world and to experience many more miracles.

One of these miracles was when she was visited by St. John the beloved Apostle with Jesus by his side, where upon a stunned Gertrude exclaimed, "my most amiable Lord, how can this be that You present Your most beloved disciple to me-me, an unworthy creature?" Whereupon our Lord responded with this, "I wish to establish between him and you an intimate friendship; he shall be the Apostle, to instruct and to correct you." Upon finishing this St. John then spoke to Gertrude, "Come, Spouse of my Master, together let us lay our heads on the most tender bosom of the Lord, in which all the treasures of Heaven and earth are enclosed." Upon hearing this Gertrude then placed her head upon the chest of Jesus with John by her side, as she listened to the beating of His Sacred Heart Gertrude exclaimed in exultation, "well beloved of the Lord, did these harmonious beatings, which rejoice my soul, also rejoice yours when you reposed during the Last Supper on the bosom of our Savior?"..How is it then that in your gospel you have spoken so little of the loving secrets of the Heart of Jesus Christ?" St. John the Apostle replied to Gertrude, "My ministry was confined to speaking of the Divine Word, the eternal Son of the Father, some words of deep meaning upon which human intelligence might meditate for ever without ever exhausting their richness; but to these latter times was reserved the grace of hearing the eloquent voice of the Heart of Jesus. At this voice the world will renew its youth, be roused from its lethargy and again be inflamed with the warmth of the Divine love." These words spoken by the beloved disciple gave Gertrude much to ponder on, as did the words of our Lord, this was just the beginning of the extraordinary experiences which would touch Gertrude's life henceforth.

Once upon delivering a lecture to her fellow Sisters at Lent her words so moved another of her Sisters that our Lord said to her concerning Gertrude, "I have borne her in My arms from her infancy. I have preserved her in her baptismal purity and innocence, until she, by her own free choice and will, has given herself to Me entirely and forever; and as a recompense for the perfection of her desires, I in return, have given Myself entirely to her. So pleasing is this soul to Me, that when I am offended by men, I often enter therein to repose, and I make her endure some pain of body or of mind, which I inflict on her for the sins of others; and as she accepts this suffering with the same thanksgiving, humility and patience as she receives all that comes from Me, and offers it to Me in union with My sufferings, she appeases my anger, and obliges My mercy to pardon, for her sake, an immense number of sinners." Though Gertrude was greatly favoured by God this did not make Gertrude prideful indeed it humbled her to realise that our Lord would come to one so little and so in need.

While in prayer Gertrude was again saw Jesus who was carrying a great building on His Shoulders as He said to her explaining its meaning, "Behold with what labor, care and vigilance I carry this beloved house, which is none other than that of Religion. It is everywhere threatened with ruin, because there are so few persons who are willing to do or to suffer anything for its support and increase. You, therefore, should suffer with Me in bearing it; for all those who endeavor, by their words or actions, to extend religion, and who try to establish it in its first fervor and purity, are so many strong pillars which sustain this holy house and comfort Me by sharing with Me the weight of this burden."

As the word spread of the great favour that had been bestowed on Gertrude, many visitors came to Gertrude seeking spiritual advice from her, but as always Gertrude being truly humble of heart was concerned that she would give the wrong advice, where upon our Lord reassured Gertrude with these words, "Does not the Universal Church allow that I formerly said to Peter alone,....'Whatever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed in heaven', and at the same time believe that the ministers of the Church exercise the same power now? Why, then, do you not believe that I can and will carry out whatever Divine love prompts Me to promise you?" Jesus then reached forward and touched Gertrude on her tongue before adding, "Behold I have given My words in thy mouth": "And I truly confirm whatever you may say to others at My suggestion and in my name: to whomsoever you shall promise anything through My goodness upon earth, I will make it sure and ratify it in Heaven." This gave great comfort to Gertrude who was still humbled that her beloved Lord would give her such Graces.

At times though Gertrude wondered if these visions would impact on man as she would wish for as she knew people were weak and prey to sin, but our Lord answered her misgivings with this response, "I have so planted my grace in you, that I expect it will bear Me immense fruit; therefore it is My desire that all those who receive similar favors, and who despise them by their negligence, shall learn from you on what conditions I have given them these gifts, in order that My grace may be increased in them in proportion as their gratitude increases. But should there be any sufficiently malicious to defame the sanctity of these works, the penalty of their sin shall fall on themselves, and you will not be accountable for it. For the Prophet Ezekiel has said from Me: 'I will lay a stumbling block before him; that is to say, I dispose, permit, and even command many things for the salvation of My elect, although they are a subject of scandal to the reprobate."

One day as Gertrude lay sick in bed our Lady visited her and comforted her with these words, "As you never remember to have endured more severe corporal sufferings than those caused by your illness, know also that you have never received from my Son more noble gifts than those which will now be given to you, and for which your sufferings have prepared you." Our Lord also encouraged Gertrude with these words to console her during her illness, "This sickness which you suffer will sanctify your soul, so that each time you go forth from Me, like the stream which I have shown you, for the good of your neighbor, either in thought, word, or act, even then, as the purity of the crystal renders the color of the gold and the rose more brilliant, so the cooperation of the precious gold of My Divinity, and the rose of the perfect patience of My Humanity, will render your works always agreeable to me by the purity of your intention." Gertrude thus understood that though the world may despise illness, God instead treasured each one's suffering as true gift to Him through the suffering of our Lord and Savior.

As Gertrude was about to receive Communion our Lord instructed Gertrude on receiving His Body and His Blood in this manner, "If you will not look with the eyes of your soul on the many mercies which I have bestowed on you, open at least the eyes of your body, and behold Me before you enclosed in a little pyx, and know assuredly that the rigor of My justice is even thus limited within the bounds of the mercy which I exercise toward men in the dispensation of this Sacrament. Consider in how small a space I give you My entire Divinity and My Humanity. Compare the size of this with the size of the human body, and judge then the greatness of My love. For as the human body surpasses my Body in size - that is to say, the quantity of the species of bread under which My Body is contained - so My mercy and charity in this Sacrament reduce Me to this state, that the soul which loves Me is in some sort above Me, as the human body is greater than My Body."

One day after she had received Communion Gertrude offered the Host for the souls in Purgatory, Our Lord then replied to her, "It is not easy for everyone to approach a king who remains always in his palace; but when his love for his queen induces him to go forth, then all may behold, through her kindness, his pomp and magnificence; thus, when, moved by My love, I visit one of the faithful (who is free from mortal sin) in the Sacrament of the Altar, all who are in Heaven, on earth, or in Purgatory, receives immense benefits thereby." Once again upon requesting that some souls maybe released from Purgatory Gertrude tried to divide the Host into small particles within her mouth to designate the number of souls thus released Our Lord then revealed to Gertrude His immense Mercy with these words, "In order that you may know that My mercy is above all My works, and that the abyss of My mercy cannot be exhausted, I am ready to grant you, through the merit of this life - giving Sacrament, more than you dare ask Me."

Gertrude was to receive many more visits from our Lord and Lady and upon Order she was to write all her revelations in a book so that all may learn the wonders of our Lord and His Sacred Heart.

I would encourage all to read more about the revelations given to St. Gertrude the Great.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Our Lady of Kibeho

The visions which happened at Kibeho Rwanda are astounding in its implications, for this is a prophecy fulfilled in our time, and what our Lady warned of was soon to take place in that tragic land.

Our Lady began appearing to seven children in the year 1981 in Kibeho, Rwanda, they are Alphonse, Anathalie, Marie Claire, Agnes, Stephanie and Vestine. One of the astounding facts with one of the visionaries was Emanuel who was born with the name, ' Sagastasha' who was a poor boy with no Christian teaching at all, and spent most of his time as a farm labourer as he had no education. Yet 'Sagastasha' life would be changed when our Lord appeared to him and personally taught him the Lords prayer and also fundamental Teachings of the Catholic Church, of which he would have had no knowledge! This vision of Jesus deeply impacted on the young Sagastasha who then changed his name to Emmanuel, for like St. Paul, Sagastasha could no longer return to his former life and instead he was converted to Christianity.

Remember that Our Lords and our Lady's messages to these young children were before the terrible suffering that would be inflicted on the Rwandan people as the world looked on in almost total indifference as the Hutu tribe committed genocide against the Tutsi tribe. Let us examine some of these messages to the seers of Kibeho, Rwanda.

Alphonsine who happened to be at school on November 28 1981 was surprised to see a beautiful lady standing before him of incomparable beauty and when he queried who she was the Lady's reply was, "I am Mother of the Word. I have heard your prayers. I would like you and your companions to have more faith. Some do not believe enough." Our Lady also warned Alphonsine that our Lord wanted her to be recognised by all that she was indeed the Mother of God and that many need to prepare the world for the return of her son, Jesus. The beautiful Lady then said, "If I am now turning to the parish of Kibeho it does not mean I am concerned only for Kibeho or for the diocese of Butare or for Rwanda, or for the whole of Africa. I am concerned with and turning to the whole world."

In a message to Emmanuel Our Lady said to him, "There isn't much time left in preparing for the Last Judgment. We must change our lives, renounce sin. Pray and prepare for our own death and the end of the world. We must prepare while there is still time. Those who do well will go to Heaven. If they do evil, they will condemn themselves with no hope of appeal. Do not lose time in doing good and praying. There is not much time and Jesus will come." Emmanuel also saw Jesus who warned him with these words to the world, "too many people treat their neighbors dishonestly. The world is full of hatred. You will know my Second Coming is at hand when you see the outbreak religious wars. Then, know that I am on the way."

In a messages to Marie Claire, " We must meditate on the passion of Jesus and on the deep sorrow of his Mother. We must recite the Rosary and the beads of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady to obtain the grace of repentance." And again Marie Claire heard this, "The world has turned against God. We must repent and ask for pardon." Our Lady also warned that too many people were embracing worldly ways and beliefs and urged the children as a message to the world to once again return to the one true Faith through the Narrow door. Mary continued to tell Marie Claire as a message to the world, "Do repent! Do repent! Do repent..."When I tell you this, I do not speak to you alone, but I speak also to all the others. Men of our times have emptied each thing of its true meaning: he who commits a fault does not recognize that he did wrong." Again Our Lady reiterated to Marie Clare this message, "What I ask of you is repentance. If you recite this chaplet, while meditating on it, you will then have the strength to repent. Today, many people do not know any more how to ask forgiveness. They nail again the Son of God on the Cross. So I wanted to come and recall it to you, especially here in Rwanda, for here I have still found humble people, who are not attached to wealth nor money".

Our Lady warned Agnes with these words regarding loose morals, and that people needed to "make of their bodies an instrument destined to the glory of God and not an object of pleasure at the service of men." Mary warned the children that the wicked snares of the devil were bewitching people away from the Narrow road and that many people were walking on the wide path of perdition. Our Lady warned Vestine that many were taking the wide road because it was the easier option and that the world was not just indifferent to God but had indeed turned against God. This troubled Vestine greatly as our Lady also gave some hope when she told Vestine that through 'prayer from the heart" and meditation on the sufferings of our Lord and Lady, people will be led back to God. Vestine was then shown hell, purgatory and Heaven in a vision, from this Vestine was shown figures that seemed to be in a place of fire, where the pain was terrible not because of the flames but the knowledge of the total absence of God, the figures were terrifying. Vestine also saw a group of people who were singing yet they were also suffering from a temporary separation between themselves and God. Last of all Vestine was shown a place of radiant light and beauty, where people were in perfect happiness.

To Anathalie, Mary cautioned her and the world to, "Wake up, stand up, wash yourselves and look up attentively. We must dedicate ourselves to prayer, we must develop in us the virtues of charity, availability, and humility." Anathalie also said that our Lady comes to her children out of love, to bring warnings of catastrophes so that the world will once again embrace God and live faithfully to the Gospel message of her Son. Mary told Anathalie that the true road, the narrow road "is the one of suffering....Return to God, the Source of Living Water." Our Lady continued in the same vein when she said to Anathalie as an appeal to the world, "I speak to you, but you do not hear Me. I want to lift you, but you remain down. I call you, but you turn a deaf ear. When will you do what I ask of you? You remain indifferent to all My appeals. When will you understand? When will you take interest in what I want to say to you? I give you signs, but you remain incredulous. How long will you turn a dead ear to My appeals?"

More stunningly our Lady also gave this message of warning to Alphonse in 1989, "I speak to you who hold power, and! who represent the nation: save the people, instead of being their torturers. Don't rob the people; share with others. Be careful not to persecute, to muzzle those who want to denounce your errors. I say it to you, I repeat it, whatever you do, even though you try everything to harm somebody because he loves his fellow men, defends human rights, fights for the respect of the life of others, and for the truth and all that is good, and even because he fights so that God may be loved and respected, whatever you do, you can do nothing against him." The Virgin Mary also said to Alphonsine: "I love you very much. If I came, it is because you needed it."

The messages that Stephanie received were of the same vein as our Lady warned her and the world in these words, "We must be converted, we must pray and mortify ourselves. Satan tries to ruin us. God wants our prayers from the heart." Our Lady continued by instructing Stephanie that "they should turn to me in their hearts and I will listen to them....God loves you all, really. It is the devil who wants to ruin you. You must refuse all means that he is using to tempt you." Stephanie then instructed the crowds in her own words that our Lady wished for us to humble ourselves and to be available for God to acknowledge within ourselves we are nothing so to turn to prayer most especially to pray with our heart.

Our Lady then showed the children of Kibeho what would happen in their country if people refused to believe and live her messages. All of the children screamed in horror as they saw in a vision, trees in flames, a river of blood flowing with corpses which had been decapitated and floating limbs of people, as Mary warned the children and the world that we were on 'the edge of catastrophe'. As the children described this horrific scene in these words, "A river of blood, people were killing each other, abandoned corpses with no one to bury them. A tree all in flames, bodies without their heads. There was crying and screaming. At different times, all seven of the Kibeho visionaries experienced this horrifying vision. They saw a river of blood that formed because people were killing each other indiscriminately. "Corpses, some without heads, were strewn everywhere and were so numerous they could not be buried" This especially saddened Agnes who saw the death of her own parents. Our lady then warned the seers to leave Rwanda, unfortunately some didn't.

What is known is that two of these seer's lost their lives in the killing fields that became Rwanda, where approximately over 800,000 people were brutally murdered as the U.N and the world watched, some with indifference, others with horror!

Marie Claire who was killed in the town of Byumba in 1994.

Emmanuel died while trying to escape.

The whereabouts of Stephanie is unknown.

While Anathalie, Agnes, and Alphonsine all survived the genocide that struck Rwanda in 1994.

I would encourage all to read more about Our Lady of Kibeho.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

The Visions of Saint Catherine of Bologna

Catherine de'Vigri was born into a prominent family, but also a very devout family who instructed her in the fundamentals of the Catholic Faith. At only 11 years of age Catherine became lady in waiting to Margherita d'Este at the court of Nicholas III d'Este at Ferrara.

Even though Catherine was born into privilege this did not spoil her pleasing personality and her compassion for those less well of than herself. Catherine learnt from watching her beloved mother to spend hours in prayer but also to put that prayer into practice when providing for the poor in her region. When those who were on the receiving end of her largesse Catherine insisted that they must thank the Good Lord for all had come from Him and not herself.

At the court of Nicholas III Catherine proved herself a worthy companion to Margherita and many would seek out the company of Catherine because of her vivacious and gentle personality and her uncommon wisdom in one so young. Catherine's piety was obvious to all who met her, this was not a young girl who paid only lip service to her Lord, no! Catherine lived her faith fully and put it into practice through unceasing prayer and alms giving.

Catherine was gifted in many areas of her life including the artistic field where she displayed her talent by drawing paintings of her beloved Lord and our Blessed Mother as well as self portraits which did not hide her homely appearance. This young girl was also an accomplished musician who could play the violin as if it were speaking the melodies. Though highly gifted with these talents Catherine did not boast but instead proclaimed the greatness of God who was simply working through her.

Upon the death of her father and the remarriage of her mother, Catherine decided to follow her heart and enter the Religious life of the Order of St. Augustine, which at that time was relatively new. During these new beginnings Catherine wrote, "During my tender years, enlightened by Divine Grace, I entered God's service in this Monastery with good intentions and much fervor. My life was filled with prayer, day and night. Any virtue I admired or heard of in others, I tried to imitate in my own life. I did so not out of envy, but to please God in Whom I had put all my love."

As in all cases the devil would also enter the picture to try and confuse Catherine in the hope that she would become prideful in her gifts and talents. During this time Catherine went through interior darkness but though young Catherine could also discern the voice of the wicked one and would openly rebuke his evil insinuations with these words, "Be sure, evil spirit, you will not tempt me so openly nor so stealthily without my knowing it." Catherine endured these demonic with her usual spiritual maturity and though she felt no consolations she simply trusted in God and knew that God alone sufficed for her. Even when the evil one would try and disguise himself as our Lord and accuse Catherine of sundry offenses rather than argue with her beloved Catherine instead would agree as to her unworthiness, this would then have the devil fleeing her presense as he cannot stand to be in the presence of true sanctity.

Though Catherine suffered much during this demonic manifestations her love for God did not dwindle nor her obedience to the Church. Through all this Catherine's Faith and her reception of the Sacraments strengthened her. It was during Mass as she received Jesus in the Eucharist that Catherine explained what happened in her Treatise, "she felt and tasted the sweetest, purest Flesh of the Immaculate Lamb, Christ Jesus." Catherine also went on to explain this to her fellow Sisters, " Sometimes the devil inspires souls with an inordinate zeal for a certain virtue or some special pious exercise, so that they will be motivated by their passion to practice it more and more. This temptation is more to pride rather than virtue....Sometimes, on the other hand, the devil coaches souls to do less than they can really do. This temptation is more to false humility...In both cases, the devil's goal is to make the soul discouraged when the virtue is found to be unattainable; and to be wearied and disgusted if his efforts are below his abilities. The soul ends up neglecting everything. It is necessary to overcome the one snare as the other."

The Lord would often show Catherine through visions the enormity of what sin can do to a persons soul, if they die unrepentant, her glimpse of the Final Judgment so horrified and terrified Catherine that she cried out in horror at such a shocking sight. Catherine went on to warn others of this terrible plight and how to avoid it in her writings, "Whoever wishes to carry the cross for his sake must take up the proper weapons for the contest, especially those mentioned here. First, diligence; second, distrust of self ; third, confidence in God; fourth, remembrance of Passion; fifth, mindfulness of one's own death; sixth, remembrance of God's glory; seventh, the injunctions of Sacred Scripture following the example of Jesus Christ in the desert."

Catherine excelled at obedience which pleased God greatly and so came about the miracle of the bread. As Catherine was preparing and baking the bread, she placed several loaves in the oven when she suddenly heard the bells peel for prayers, Catherine didnt hesitate and hurried to her prayers, before hastily leaving she made the sign of the cross over the loaves still baking and rushed out. When she was able to return several hours later she found to her amazement that the bread had not burnt indeed it was the most delicious bread she had ever baked.

Though Catherine experienced miraculous signs and visions from God and also endured those by the evil one, her humility and obedience never wavered, indeed it would be her obedience that often saved her from the wicked snares of the evil one, as he tempted her to distrust God's love for her.

One particular vision would touch Catherine deeply as she was given a vision of Christ Crucified as He explained to her what truly brought him the most suffering and anguish which was the knowledge of those who would prove to be faithless when serving Him. He wept at the lack of faith shown by many of his beloved children and the many souls who were lukewarm, this brought intolerable pain to our Lord and Saviour. Jesus also shared with Catherine His pain at watching the sorrow and agony etched on the face of His beloved Mother as she stood by the Cross with her own spirit pierced to the core. Upon seeing and hearing this Catherine spent many days in tears at the thankless displayed by souls who's faith had grown tepid.

It was also at Christmas that Catherine driven by her zealous love for Jesus and our Blessed Mother that Catherine requested to pray 1,000 Hail Mary's in front of the Tabernacle. As Catherine prayed her Hail Mary's she found she was in the presence of her loved Holy Mother, who smiled gently at her as she handed her baby Son Jesus to the humbled Catherine, who was stunned at such a gift that she leaned forward to kiss her beloved child Jesus. Catherine wrote of this experience, "The perfume that emanated from His Pure Flesh was so sweet that there is neither tongue that can express, nor such a keen mind imagine, the very beautiful and delicate Face of the Son of God, when one could say all that was to be said, it would be nothing." Catherine was not alone in experiencing this most wondrous event as her fellow Sisters smelt the holy Presence of the baby Jesus and our Lady as a heavenly fragrance filled the room.

On the move to Bologna Catherine became Mother Abbess, during her time there vocations grew as Catherine holiness was evident to all. It was not long though before a health crisis would have all her community praying as Catherine became seriously ill, but due to a fellow Sisters pleading prayers to keep a little longer their beloved Mother Abbess. Upon recovering Catherine asked for her violin to be brought to her when her Sisters complied with this strange request, Mother Abbess Catherine then played a tune to honour God whilst proclaiming to her startled Sisters, "May the Lord forgive her who through her prayers has still kept me in this world."

Though Catherine would survive this health scare, and indeed become even more busy on her recovery, still her time was limited.

So it was that Catherine called her community together as she told them that she would soon be going on her final journey to our Lord and Saviour and to spend the rest of her eternal life in the Heavenly realm. Catherine had a peaceful and holy death.

Saint Catherine's body upon exhumation was found to be incorrupt.

I would encourage all to read more about Saint Catherine of Bologna.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Spiral Staircase of Santa Fe-A Miracle?

In the 17th century when America was still in its infancy, the Catholic Church sent numerous missionaries into that vast and at times inhospitable landscape.

It was in 1848 when New Mexico became a part of the United States and Santa Fe was it's capital city that the Catholic missionaries began to make real inroads into the culture of New Mexico. This movement would prove to be one of the great successes of the mission fields as many embraced the Catholic Faith to this present day.

Around this time a group of Religious Nuns were sent to mission in Santa Fe, which at times could be not only inhospitable but also dangerous with many outlaws still roaming the untamed country. This did not faze these brave Nuns who were made of stern stuff and did not brook much interference with the way ! they wished their Order to proceed. The Sisters of Loreto were used to rough living but even so the move to Santa Fe certainly tested their courage to the extreme. This was soon to be proved correct as the Sisters became ill with cholera one of whom eventually died, and another had to return to the Mother house in Kentucky when she became to ill to continue the journey to Santa Fe.

Upon arrival in the city the Sisters of Loreto were required by the Archbishop Jean Lamy to begin constructing a school in which to teach the poor most of whom were still illiterate. So in 1873 the school and the chapel began to take shape under the design of P. Mouly an architect of French origins, who wished to emulate the designs found in his own home city. Finally after 5 years of hard work the buildings were completed with great admiration with its stained glass windows and magnificent gothic overtones. Unfortunately though as the Sisters moved in they noted that the staircase needed ! to access the choir loft had not been completed. This was unfortunate as the architect responsible for the magnificent building had been shot dead due to a misunderstanding.

Though saddened with the loss of their prized architect, the Sisters improvised and used a wooden ladder in order to reach the choir loft. This brought difficulties when the Sisters tried to climb the ladder in their long Habits, they also did not wish to lack in decorum by having to lift their skirts to enable them to climb the steps, it was a delicate situation.

The Sisters began a search to find an architect that could finish the job begun by Monsieur Mouly, this would prove to be most difficult. So architects, engineers and builders came accessed the difficulties and then left unable to figure out how to build a staircase in such an unusual position. This left the Sisters feeling frustrated, and so they began a Novena to St. Joseph to help them in ! their awkward predicament. Every day the Sisters prayed to St. Joseph for help and at the end of each day brought disappointment as no-one showed up. Finally on the last day of the Novena an elderly man showed up at their little chapel.

The man was a bit of a curiosity in that he was elderly he had no name and was rather non descript in appearance but the Sisters nevertheless thanked St. Joseph for coming to their aid. As the elderly man with no name agreed to build the staircase, where other more learned men were unable to overcome the apparent obstacles, the elderly man seemed not to be daunted even though he possessed only one hammer, one saw, and one T-square. The Sisters were intrigued as to how he was going to accomplish building this staircase where learned professionals had given up.

As the elderly man began building the staircase he had only one request of the Sisters and that was to bring him tubs of fresh water daily, the Sisters though puzzled agreed to this request. Every now and again the Sisters would try and peek to see what was happening in their little chapel, the only thing they were able to see was that the gentleman would soak the wood in the water which the Sisters had provided.

Finally came the day to unveil the staircase as the elderly man approached the Sisters and told them that their rather awkward choir loft could now be climbed via his self made spiral staircase. Upon viewing it the Sisters were overwhelmed at the architectural and engineering masterpiece, which was before their stunned eyes. The Sisters, some of whom had doubted he would have the capabilities to overcome such drawbacks were amazed at its intricate beauty, and its delicacy.

This most beautiful masterpiece was the work of a master craftsman as the Sisters stood in awe of such a fine piece of carpentry. It is indeed an incredible stairway with two complete 360 degree turns with neither nails or screws to keep it from falling down. It stands simply within its own geometric balance with nothing to support it, these thirty three steps, truly was a miraculous undertaking and the workmanship unparalleled.

The Sisters were ecstatic to have such a thing of beauty within their own Convent and wished to pay this most kind man as much as they could afford, but upon being thanked the elderly man disappeared as if into thin air. The Sisters were distraught as they searched everywhere for him and tried in all ways to try and find this wonder worker. The Sisters for whom the staircase had been built were to be disappointed as they never found the 'miracle worker'.

Many decades were to pass before a man came forward who upon hearing of the legend of the thirty three step spiral staircase, made the claim that it was his grandfather who had built it many years earlier. The Sisters who were then in residence were highly sceptical of this young man, Oscar Hadweiber and his claim. Oscar said that within his own family history his own grandfather, Johan Hadweiber had indeed built that miracle spiral staircase with exactly thirty three steps.

During the years when the spiral staircase had been built Johann Hadweiber was indeed in the area and he was also a master craftsman at carpentry when he had lived in Europe that had been his career. The residing Sisters though needed more proof than what Oscar had been able to show them, this led Oscar on a ten year mission to prove that the staircase was indeed the work of his Grandfather.

Oscar himself built ten identical staircases but still this was not proof enough, until in 1970 Oscar found in his sisters attic his grandfathers tool kit, which held one hammer, one saw, and one T-square and also a plan of a spiral staircase which had the exact number! of thirty three steps.

Unfortunately for Oscar his find was never properly authenticated and upon his own death in 1980, the tool box and the plan have also disappeared.

Perhaps angels come with tool cases, of one hammer, one saw and one T-square.

The spiral staircase with exactly thirty three steps still stands to this very day.

Actual photo of the miraculous spiral staircase

Peace of Christ to you ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Visions of Saint Catherine of Genoa

Catherine was born in the year 1447 to noble parents, Giacopo and Francesca Fieschi in Italy. But even though her parents were wealthy Catherine took no note of the luxurious lifestyle that could have been hers, and instead from a very early age she embraced a life of penance and austerities.

From a very young age Catherine loved to pray and contemplate the sufferings endured on our Lords behalf for the Salvation of man, this deeply touched the heart of the young Catherine and led her to long for the life of a Religious. Following this movement of her soul, Catherine at the young age of 13 years spoke to her Spiritual Director and enquired to join a Religious Order, but even though the Priest was amazed at the wisdom of such a young soul, still prudence prevailed and Catherine was advised that she was too young to endure such an austere life. Being obedient in heart and soul, though disappointed Catherine accepted the decision with a spirit of equanimity. Catherine eventually married a young Genoese man of noble birth, Giuiliano Adorno, but this would not lead to happiness for Catherine as in her effort to please her husband she tried to embrace the vanities of the world, which led to a deep seated loathing of such useless activities, which prevailed in the society of her time.

This led Catherine on an inner journey to reach out desperately to God that He not forsake her, and so Catherine prayed to St. Benedict for help in these words, "Pray to God for me, Oh, St Benedict, that for three months he may keep me sick in bed." This was a time of great confusion for Catherine as she was unable to combine the worldly life with the deep inner calling to live a holy and humble life. Upon talking to her sister who had entered the Religious life, Catherine went to see her Confessor and upon opening her heart to this holy Priest, God touched the soul of Catherine with such force that she was overcome with the sense of her own misery and with anguish of heart she collapsed at the revelation of gazing upon God's Goodness.

Through this experience Catherine was cured of her mental confusion and anguish of heart as God infused into her soul the terrible stain that sin had upon the soul and it's relationship with the Divine Creator. And while immersed in prayer Catherine said upon reflecting on this experience as if God were speaking through her, "oh Love! can it be that you have called me with so much love, and revealed to me at one view, what no tongue can describe?" And it was here that our Lord would appear to her in a vision which showed her how sin truly had made our Lord suffer for she saw the Man of Sorrows laid low and bloodied with the Cross upon His shoulder as He took upon Himself her own iniquities. Through this vision Catherine detested sin in all its forms and was heard to exclaim, "Oh Love, no more sin, no more sin! Oh Love, if it be necessary I am prepared to make a public confession of my sins." Through this one vision and interior Light within her soul Catherine understood the price that our Lord paid for each sinner, this moved her deeply and made her resolute not to sin and offend our Lord anymore. And while gazing upon the Crucified Lord and upon His Most Sacred Heart, Catherine pronounced, "I have no longer either soul or heart; but my soul and my heart are those of my Beloved;" for Catherine through the Grace of God was being transformed so that no longer did she live but that Christ liveth within her soul.

Catherine also felt compelled to receive our Lord in the Eucharist everyday, till finally one day a Priest spoke these words to her, "You receive communion every day, how are you now satisfied?" For there were some who did not understand the movement of God within Catherine's soul, but upon becoming gravely ill Catherine requested the Eucharist be given to her as she said to her Confessor, "If you would give me my Lord three times only, I should be cured." Upon this happening Catherine was miraculously and immediately healed of her illness.

This remarkable woman like many other Saints would feel a deep wound in her heart, and was once heard saying, "My heart is not like that of others, for it only rejoices in its Lord; and therefore give him to me." When once in prayer she was overhead praying, "Oh, Lord, I do not desire to follow thee for these consolations, but only for pure love." Catherine had a Divine Light shining within her soul and intellect so she was able to convey what a deep mystery was revealed to a soul upon receiving the Eucharist and how God was incorporated into their very essence through the Eucharist, for as she was heard to exclaim when gazing at the Priest during Consecration: "Take it, take it quickly, to your heart, for it is the Lord of the heart." Through Divine guidance Catherine was shown how integral to the soul was the importance of daily Communion, and to also make sure that the soul was not in a state of sin whether it be venial or mortal. And once upon receiving Communion Catherine gazed towards her Lord and said, "O Lord perhaps thou wouldst draw me to thee by this fragrance? I do not desire it; I desire nothing but thee, and thee wholly; thou knowest, that from the beginning I have asked of thee the grace that I might never see visions, nor receive external consolations, for so clearly do I perceive thy goodness, that I do not seem to walk by faith but by a true and heartfelt experience."

Also on the Annunciation of our Lady the Lord spoke to Catherine interiorly and requested that she go without food, as did He when our Lord was in the desert, upon hearing this Divine message, Catherine was unable to eat any food and so fasted through the Season of Lent. Catherine would follow this for the rest of her life and also during Advent. When questioned Catherine said, "If we regarded the operations of God, we should look at the interior more than the exterior. Living without food is purely an operation of God, without my will; but it is nothing to boast of, or to cause surprise, for to him it is as nothing. The pure light shows us, that we should not regard the manifestations that God makes of himself for our necessities and his own glory, but only the pure love with which his divine majesty performs his work in our behalf, and the soul becoming these pure operations of a love which looks for no good that we can do, must needs love him purely, without regard to any particular grace which she receives from him, but looking to him alone, for himself alone, who is worthy of being loved without measure, and with no reference either to soul or body."

Catherine lived in holy obedience to God as He guided her to do His Will as He spoke to her interior, "My daughter, observe these three rules, namely: never say I will or I will not. Never say mine, but always ours. Never excuse yourself, but always accuse yourself. When you repeat the `Our Father' take always for your maxim, Fiat voluntas tua, that is, may his will be done in everything that may happen to you, whether good or ill; from the `Hail Mary' take the word Jesus, and may it be implanted in your heart, and it will be a sweet guide and shield to you in all the necessities of life. And from the rest of Scripture take always for your support this word, Love, with which you will go on your way, direct, pure, light, watchful, quick, enlightened, without erring, yet without a guide or help from any creature; for love needs no support, being sufficient to do all things without fear; neither does love ever become weary, for even martyrdom is sweet to it. And, finally, this love will consume all the inclinations of the soul, and the desires of the body, for the things of this life."

Though Catherine lived a life of austere penance she did so for she understood how deadly is sin to the soul as a child of God can quickly turn to become a child of the Devil, if they choose to willfully disobey God through their actions. As Catherine explained, "If it were possible for me to suffer as much as all the martyrs have suffered, and even hell itself, for the love of God, and in order to make satisfaction to him, it would be after all only a sort of injury to God, in comparison with the love and goodness with which he has created, and redeemed, and, in a special manner, called me. For man, unassisted by God's grace, is even worse than the devil, because the devil is a spirit without a body, while man, without the grace of God, is a devil incarnate. Man has a free will, which, according to the ordination of God, is in nowise bound, so that he can do all the evil that he wills; to the devil, this is impossible, since he can act only by the divine permission; and when man surrenders to him his evil will, the devil employs it, as the instrument of his temptation." And to stress her point that it is the soul who chooses to do evil for Satan cannot infringe on man's free will, Catherine went on to explain this in her words, "I see that whatever is good in myself, in any other creature, or in the saints, is truly from God; if, on the other hand, I do any thing evil, it is I alone who do it, nor can I charge the blame of it upon the devil or upon any other creature; it is purely the work of my own will, inclination, pride, selfishness, sensuality, and other evil dispositions, without the help of God I should never do any good thing. So sure am I of this, that if all the angels of heaven were to tell me I have something good in me, I should not believe them. So long as any one can speak of divine things, enjoy and understand them, remember and desire them, he has not yet arrived in port; yet there are ways and means to guide him thither. But the creature can know nothing but what God gives him to know from day to day, nor can he comprehend beyond this, and at each instant remains satisfied with what he receives. If the creature knew the height to which God is prepared to raise him in this life, he would never rest, but on the contrary would feel a certain craving, a vehement desire to reach quickly that ultimate perfection, and would think himself in hell until he had obtained it."

But it is the explanation upon seeing the Holy Souls in Purgatory that this great Saint is well known for in her own words she describes the state of Purgatory as such, "The souls in Purgatory see all things, not in themselves, nor by themselves, but as they are in God, on whom they are more intent than on their own sufferings. . . . For the least vision they have of God overbalances all woes and all joys that can be conceived. Yet their joy in God does by no means abate their pain. . . . This process of purification to which I see the souls in Purgatory, subjected, I feel within myself."

Through the words of this great Saint and the Gift that God had Graced her, we have gained a better understanding of the graphic damage that sin can do to a soul and also how the soul can be restored back to God's Loving embrace through participation of the Sacraments. We also understand how God can transform a soul to be a divine reflection of Himself when the soul surrenders itself to the Triune Spirit. And through the works of Saint Catherine we also understand Purgatory and the Holy Souls who wait to be released into Heaven by our prayers and penances and when we offer up a Mass for the repose of their soul as these Holy souls endure the purgation of Purgatory, as they thirst to be re-united with God in Heaven.

May we reflect deeply on the messages of Saint Catherine of Genoa and how God illuminated her soul so as to instruct the faithful.

I encourage all to read more of this remarkable Saint and her extraordinary visions and illuminations.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

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