Wednesday, December 30, 2009

But we live in this world....

First reading for Mass of today: 1 Jn 2:12-17

"12 I am writing to you, children, because your sins have been forgiven through his name.
13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you have come to know the One who has existed since the beginning. I am writing to you, young people, because you have overcome the Evil One.
14 I have written to you, children, because you have come to know the Father. I have written to you, parents, because you have come to know the One who has existed since the beginning. I have written to you, young people, because you are strong, and God's word remains in you, and you have overcome the Evil One.
15 Do not love the world or what is in the world. If anyone does love the world, the love of the Father finds no place in him,
16 because everything there is in the world -- disordered bodily desires, disordered desires of the eyes, pride in possession -- is not from the Father but is from the world.
17 And the world, with all its disordered desires, is passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains for ever."

Verbum Domini
Deo Gratias

On the brink of the new year this couldn't be more fitting on a personal level. It summarises the last year and also inhibits the promises for the future.

The latter part, starting with verse 15 is a part which we recognize from the Saints. It is that part which most find difficult, if not impossible, to live up to. I had a discussion with a colleague about it. "But we live in this world..." was the comment. I didn't really succeed in explaining. But here in these verses it is written.

The odd thing is that ever since Christmas it's like the birth of Christ was also the birth of a certain awareness. Never did i feel Christ so near. But also it's a kind of detachment from things which before i was looking how to accomplish. On one hand it gives an increase of inner peace, a confidence i'm on the right track. However, on the other hand i also notice i find it more difficult to operate within the normalities of this world. I feel uneasy, even sometimes annoyed, by behaviour which is totally focussed on possessions and money. Also i'm noticing i'm turning (even) more inward. The amount time in prayer increases. More and more time i find time to pray in spare moments, like while traveling, in the short elevator ride at work etc.

The last verse 17 speaks of doing the will of God. Which is also detachment from this world. And that is part of carrying ones cross in the footsteps of Jesus. Not for Saints but for all. Easy? I would be the last one to say that. But there are always things we can do in this matter. Some more than others.

Adoro Te Devote

Adoro te devote, latens Deitas, quae sub his figuris vere latitas: tibi se cor meum totum subiicit, quia te contemplans totum deficit.

Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur, sed auditu solo tuto creditur; credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius: nil hoc verbo Veritatis verius.

In cruce latebat sola Deitas, at hic latet simul et humanitas; ambo tamen credens atque confitens, peto quod petivit latro paenitens.

Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intueor; Deum tamen meum te confiteor; fac me tibi semper magis credere, in te spem habere, te diligere.

O memoriale mortis Domini! panis vivus, vitam praestans homini! praesta meae menti de te vivere et te illi semper dulce sapere.

Pie pellicane, Iesu Domine, me immundum munda tuo sanguine; cuius una stilla salvum facere totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.

Iesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio, oro fiat illud quod tam sitio; ut te revelata cernens facie, visu sim beatus tuae gloriae. Amen.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Detachment from things

This Christmas time is especially difficult this year. Now that for the first time i realize it's true meaning. Yes it's good to have a good time with people together but is it all about presents and decorations and dinners? It seems so. Commercials, plans from people around you. It all suddenly seems so empty.

When you think about the Nativity, the light of this world which shines for the first time through the eyes of the Son of God. Held by His mother, Maria forever virgin, and Joseph in his beautiful role near. The appearance of angels to the sheppards. If you only imagine that sight. What a profound effect this must have had on them.

Although i wish everyone a good time, especially this time of the year, i'm filled with sadness. But this was already the case before this time of the year. Sorrow for the lack of love for each other, the greed, the talk about the new car or cellphone. To be honest it appalls me.

At work this is a daily occurrance. During lunch around noon i try to seperate myself to have a few minutes to pray the Angelus. 2 to 3 minutes are hard to find. Yet i do find them. It's difficult to come back in the "normal" routine. Normal between quotes on purpose.

I feel like i'm wasting my time. I'd rather do something which is truly helpful to others. With time in between for prayer.

Yesterday because of a technical difficulty with the train i couldn't go to the morning Mass. It gave me the opportunity to go to the Tridentine Mass in the late afternoon. Meeting the new rector, who is an interesting man. In his homily he had mentioned the sacrifice of the individual for the many. After Mass there was coffee and someone brought this up. A discussion about how this could be explained. Stories about soldiers ina war etc. Intellectual talk but i didn't say anything. I had to think about the 4th bead of the Most Holy Rosary: Ardent Charity. Renouncement of the individual for the purpose of helping others. And think about the soul victims, suffering for the salvation of others.

Yes i'm a thinker and do a lot inward. I cannot determine whether this process is a normal one. I just notice it happens. Maybe it is normal if you take the words of Christ truly at heart. That you become aware of the lack of love, the absence of God in the lifes of others.

Ponders on....

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Actus Contritionis

Deus meus, ex toto corde paenitet me omnium meorum peccatorum, eaque detestor, quia peccando, non solum poenas a Te iuste statutas promeritus sum, sed praesertim quia offendi Te, summum bonum, ac dignum qui super omnia diligaris. Ideo firmiter propono, adiuvante gratia Tua, de cetero me non peccaturum peccandique occasiones proximas fugiturum. Amen.


O My God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen.

Guard thine eyes...

"Remember to guard thine eyes and reflect that the mortified eye shall behold the beauties of Heaven" Thus spoke the Guardian Angel of Santa Gemma on an occasion to her.

Now, i've been trying to put this in practice. But how difficult this can be! Thusfar i fail miserably. I'm very visually oriented by nature. So to ask to guard ones senses, and especially the eyes, seems an impossible task.

To understand what is meant is already a challenge. After all the eyes do play an important role. It is considered polite to look the other in the eye while speaking for example. Further it is through the eyes that one can wonder and enjoy the beauties of Creation. Not to mention the sheer usefulness in order to stay safe, for example in traffic.

I believe what is meant that we must be aware that it is also the senses which can lead us into temptation and from there into sin. Unfortunately i know how easy that can be. It's constant vigilance and sometimes my eye already captured something. It's then crucial to be aware of it and to quickly divert attention. And still then sometimes i notice i've entered a train of thought in which i shouldn't have.

It's not something you just do. It's like relearning something which you have been taught, or taught yourself, sometimes for decades. With time it can be learned. It's not a loss but a detachment from earthly things. "...shall behold the beauties of Heaven" And that is something which is difficult to comprehend. Yet it's also something worth making this important effort for. "Something" is not the word is it? How can we possibly comprehend such beauty?

Will it take time to learn to guard the senses? O yes. Could be years, maybe a lifetime. And things can be thrown on your path to try to make you go wrong. I have no doubt this will happen. It already has. Saying to myself "STOP IT!" And then i try to picture Jesus Crucified and and remind myself that i must stop for Him. And when already i find myself in this train of thought i feel sorrow and hate myself for letting it come too far. It is surprising how easy this can be unfortunately. Over and over it's a standing up and trying again. For this alone i would have to go to confession daily.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Vain Judgments of Men

In the light of last sunday and my struggle how to conduct myself before others i just read this from The Imitation of Christ Book 3.

"The Voice of Christ

MY CHILD, trust firmly in the Lord, and do not fear the judgment of men when conscience tells you that you are upright and innocent. For it is good and blessed to suffer such things, and they will not weigh heavily on the humble heart that trusts in God rather than in itself. Many men say many things, and therefore little faith is to be put in them.

Likewise, it is impossible to satisfy all men. Although Paul tried to please all in the Lord, and became all things to all men, yet he made little of their opinions. He labored abundantly for the edification and salvation of others, as much as lay in him and as much as he could, but he could not escape being sometimes judged and despised by others. Therefore, he committed all to God Who knows all things, and defended himself by his patience and humility against the tongues of those who spoke unjustly or thought foolish things and lies, or made accusations against him. Sometimes, indeed, he did answer them, but only lest his silence scandalize the weak.

Who are you, then, that you should be afraid of mortal man? Today he is here, tomorrow he is not seen. Fear God and you will not be afraid of the terrors of men. What can anyone do to you by word or injury? He hurts himself rather than you, and no matter who he may be he cannot escape the judgment of God. Keep God before your eyes, therefore, and do not quarrel with peevish words.

If it seems, then, that you are worsted and that you suffer undeserved shame, do not repine over it and do not lessen your crown by impatience. Look instead to heaven, to Me, Who have power to deliver you from all disgrace and injury, and to render to everyone according to his works."

A Prayer for Enlightening the Mind

This is from The Imitation of Christ Book 3. It's fitting because it signifies exactly what keeps me most busy at the moment.

"Enlighten me, good Jesus, with the brightness of internal light, and take away all darkness from the habitation of my heart. Restrain my wandering thoughts and suppress the temptations which attack me so violently. Fight strongly for me, and vanquish these evil beasts—the alluring desires of the flesh—so that peace may come through Your power and the fullness of Your praise resound in the holy courts, which is a pure conscience. Command the winds and the tempests; say to the sea: “Be still,” and to the north wind, “Do not blow,” and there will be a great calm.
Send forth Your light and Your truth to shine on the earth, for I am as earth, empty and formless until You illumine me. Pour out Your grace from above. Shower my heart with heavenly dew. Open the springs of devotion to water the earth, that it may produce the best of good fruits. Lift up my heart pressed down by the weight of sins, and direct all my desires to heavenly things, that having tasted the sweetness of supernal happiness, I may find no pleasure in thinking of earthly things.
Snatch me up and deliver me from all the passing comfort of creatures, for no created thing can fully quiet and satisfy my desires. Join me to Yourself in an inseparable bond of love; because You alone can satisfy him who loves You, and without You all things are worthless."

This very much made me think of a prayer of Santa Gemma for forgiveness of sins.

"My Jesus, I place all my sins before You.
In my estimation they do not deserve pardon,
but I ask You to close Your eyes to my want of merit
and open them to your infinite merit.
Since You willed to die for my sins,
grant me forgiveness for all of them.
Thus, I may no longer feel the burden of my sins,
a burden that oppresses me beyond measure.

Assist me, dear Jesus, for I desire
to become good no matter what the cost.
Take away, destroy, and utterly root out
whatever You find in me that is contrary to Your holy will.
At the same time, dear Jesus, illumine me
so that I may walk in Your holy light."

St Gemma Galgani, Pray for us!

Come home for Christmas

The article below came across and inspired me to invite others to join in this Novena to St Monica from December 12th-20th for those distant from parish life.

Allow me to quote from the source:

"Catholic Mothers Inspired By St Monica To Pray For A Homecoming This Christmas

The Bishop responsible for the work of Evangelisation in England and Wales is inviting Catholic mothers to pray for those who are distant from parish life.

Speaking to coincide with the launch of the now annual 'Come Home For Christmas' campaign, Bishop Kieran Conry said:

"St Monica is the Patron Saint of Resting Catholics – she was a faithful wife and mother who prayed for years for her son to embrace the Christian faith. God answered her pleas and St Augustine became a great role model for generations of Christians throughout the ages."

“Monica reminds each one of us of the importance and power of Christian prayer, but also of the necessity to be patient. She teaches us that no matter how long it takes we are to be positively engaged - through prayer, love and invitation - in supporting those who are 'resting' Catholics to reconnect with their local Christian community. Motivated by and offering love, I encourage Mothers in particular, but all of us can participate, in nine days of prayer from 12th - 20th December. By the grace of God let's pray that thousands experience a deep encounter with the living God and that the invitations we issue to 'come home' are warmly received."

Come Home for Christmas is a seasonal outreach initiative which aims to offer a welcome to Catholics who for different reasons no longer or rarely attend Mass. Resourced by the Catholic Agency to Support Evangelisation (CASE), it provides outreach posters and invitation cards for Catholic parishes and a bespoke website for those wanting to explore reconnecting with parish life (for the latter see: www.comehomeforchristmas.co.uk).

St Monica lived in the fourth century in North Africa as a wife and mother of three children. She is revered by mothers because of her tireless prayers for the conversion of her son, Augustine of Hippo. In his teens he joined a sect which taught the Manichæan heresy* and lived a life far from Jesus’ teaching. For 12 years she stormed heaven with her prayers and tears, begging God to bring her son back to the Catholic Faith. Eventually Monica's prayers were answered.

Whilst in Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St Ambrose. Augustine turned away from his old life and embraced Christianity, later becoming a bishop; he was declared a saint and Doctor of the Church serving as an inspiration to those who desire to turnaround their lives in a radical way. One of his most famous writing is his Confessions in which he wrote: “Our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.” (Book 1:1)

Veronica Williams is the founder member of Mothers’ Prayers which is an international prayer group for mothers, whose members join together in prayer around the world. She said: “We know that prayer works and are therefore very happy to support this initiative by promoting this novena. In our network we have hundreds and thousands of mothers praying in small groups united in prayer, and we have seen many mothers who because of their concern for their children come to our prayer groups and rediscover their faith.”

Other participating partners are the National Board of Catholic Women and The Union of Catholic Mothers.

For more information about the novena and outreach materials for parishes please see: www.caseresources.org.uk"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A moment within

First sunday of Advent, the day of my Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens: Worried if it was vain to wear the Rosary and the relic of Santa Gemma. Yet without Our Lady and Santa Gemma i would not have been standing there in front of the congregation with 7 others (including the sponsors). Right under the Cross. Answering 3 questions and affirmation by the sponsors. A sign of the Cross on the forehead by the preciding priest and concluding prayer.

Although i did follow what was happening, my mind was elsewhere. It was with Him literally above me. How could i stand? I should kneel!

Preparation for Holy Communion commenced. For the first time i went forward for a blessing, arms crossed. Corpus Cristi within arms length and yet still months away. Is it wrong to say i long more for my First Communion than the Baptism and Confirmation just before it? Voy Christo! in Spanish. Many times i think how this moment will be. Yet i also want to have no expectations.

Advent, I should focus on that. His Nativity at Christmas. Prepare for that last armslength in proper order.

Blessed Laura Vicuña

Last saturday the Holy Father received the presidents of Argentina and Chile, Christina Kirchner and Michelle Bachelet, in remembrance of the avoidance of war between the two countries now 25 years ago. This was greatly influenced by the mediation of the late Pope John Paul II.

Blessed Laura Vicuña was born in Chile and died in Argentina at the age of 12. Her story made me think about St Maria Goretti who died at almost the same age. She lived and died around the same time as St Gemma and St Maria Goretti.

"Laura Carmen Vicuña was born in Santiago, in Chile, on the 5th April 1891 to Joseph Domenico and Mercedes Pino. The Vicuña family were Chilean aristocrats, forced into exile by the revolution. They took refuge in Temuco in a poor house, but soon after Joseph Domenico died suddenly, and Mercedes had to take refuge with her two daughters in Argentina. They came to Junín de los Andes. Mercedes came to know the rather pushy Manuel Mora and accepted working for him, but also living with him.

In 1900 Laura went to board with her sister Julia Amanda with the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians at their school. She was a model pupil: prayerful, listened to the Sisters, available to her companions, always happy and ready to make sacrifices.

The following year she made her first communion with the same fervour and ideals as Saint Dominic Savio, whom she had taken as a model. she entered the Children of Mary. While one of the Sisters was explaining the sacrament of marriage during catechetics, Laura began to understand her mother’s sinful state, and fainted. She also understood because during the holidays on the farm her mother made her pray in secret, and never went to the sacraments. From then on Laura increased her prayers and sacrifices for her mother’s conversion. During the holidays in 1902 Manuel Mora threatened Laura’s virtue; she firmly refused him, sending him into a rage.

She went back to school as a student assistant, because he would no longer pay her fees. With all her heart she asked if she could become a Daughter of Mary Help of Christians, but she was denied this because of her mother’s living in sin. She offered her life to the Lord for her mother’s conversion, became more self-sacrificing, and with the consent of her confessor, Fr Crestanello, made private vows. Weak from sacrifices and from other sickness, she was hit by Mora for refusing him yet again. On her final night she confided: “Mamma, I am dying! For a long time I have asked Jesus, offering my life for you, so you will return to God... Mamma, before I die will I have the chance to see you repent?”. “Laura”, Mercedes answered, “ I promise I will do what you ask”. with this joy Laura died the evening of the 22nd January 1904.

Her body lies in the chapel belonging to the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Bahía Blanca. At the centenary of Don Bosco’s death, this chosen daughter, who had given her life for the virtue dearest to the Master, was proclaimed Blessed by John Paul II, on the 3rd September 1988."

(source salesianity.blogspot.com)

Beata Laura Vicuña, ruega por nosotros!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thomas à Kempis

Thomas à Kempis was a Catholic monk who lived in the 15th Century. He is probably best known by his writing The Imitation of Christ an excellent document on devotion and full of adoration for Christ. If you are familiar with the book True Devotion to Mary from St Louis Grignion de Montfort you certainly will be familiar with this book or phrases of it. He also copied the Bible at least four times. When you imagine this had to be done by hand it's quite an achievement.

What i didn't know and just stumbled upon was that the good man lived here not even 50 miles from where i'm living. What a small world! It keeps amazing me that you constantly discover things about the things you are reading and doing. And often answering those questions you were thinking of that day. Without searching, just going about the days business. Sometimes you pray and try so hard to get an answer and then suddenly it shows up. But sometimes one has to pay attention.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Feast of The Presentation of Mary

Today is the celebration of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin. To be honest i had to look up the meaning and background of this feastday :)

The (online) Catholic Encyclopedia says: "Now, the Protoevangelium of James (7-8), and the writing entitled "De nativit. Mariae" (Evangelium de nativitate Mariae) (7-8), state that Joachim and Anna, faithful to a vow they had made, presented the child Mary in the Temple when she was three years old; that the child herself mounted the Temple steps, and that she made her vow of virginity on this occasion. St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Germanus of Constantinople adopt this report; it is also followed by pseudo-Gregory of Nazianzus in his "Christus patiens". Moreover, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation, though it does not specify at what age the child Mary was presented in the Temple, when she made her vow of virginity, and what were the special natural and supernatural gifts with which God endowed her. The feast is mentioned for the first time in a document of Manuel Commenus, in 1166; from Constantinople the feast must have been introduced into the western Church, where we find it at the papal court at Avignon in 1371; about a century later, Pope Sixtus IV introduced the Office of the Presentation, and in 1585 Pope Sixtus V extended the Feast of the Presentation to the whole Church."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A crucifix to the heart

How the saints can awaken the love for Our Lord! He works in such beautiful ways!

It is out of this love that i write. So much happens constantly. And i still pray: Speak to me Lord. Am i so blind to not see His works?

The week started on sunday at Mass when we heard that our rector (our parish priest) is going to pick up duties elsewhere. On a personal level this is so sad because he is at this time the only one i can really resonate with. But i am happy for those who will be able to welcome him. I wrote him and reminded him of something Jesus said to Saint Gemma. That His priests are His Dear Ones. I hope he understands. When i write i can get so full of fire. Later after sending i wonder if it was a good idea.

Tonight i saw the movie: Maria Goretti. She is another Passionist Saint who's live was shut short at young age being just a child. She taught me something about forgiveness. How difficult this can be. Especially for those who offend you and hurt you. But isn't it that exactly those people needs Jesus' love the most? If we can find it in ourselves to forgive them. And i mean truly forgive them, not just mere words. Wouldn't that be a beautiful gift to Him?

Today again i emailed with my ex from Argentina. It's strange to say "ex" actually. She lives with someone else yet we know and expressed we still love each other. Yet i asked her to look forward and focus on her current relationship. We were wondering why everything happened as it did. The truth is that through everything that happened i would find Our Lord. And how a great a present is it when she wrtes that she holds an image of our crucified Jesus at her heart in the evening? Even though part me wishes that she woulod be my wife i know that there can be no greater gift than seeing her find Jesus and embrace Him. Love Him and cherish Him. And for this love she already has for Him i forfit everything.

He works in miraculous ways. Sometimes we like to see it in ways we, i could say, we want to dictate. But that's not how it goes. To have faith and pray. And even if we doubt sometimes if He hears us we can trust He does.

There is one more thing i would like to write. This is about Holy Communion. As you may have understood from earlier posts i am in the proces of preparation for baptism. Saint Gemma wrote that the Eucharist is "a school of paradise where one learns how to love". At this time i'm looking through the window into this class. We can also read how profound the longing and the actual First Communion was for Santa Gemma. I do feel this longing to some degree. It is difficult to feel the Lord so close during Holy Communion and still not being allowed to participate. "Domine, non sum dignus...." ("Lord, i am not worthy...") But Your Love is so infinite. I patiently wait o.. Lord. In the meantime you pull me closer to You and teach me.

May we all hold Him close to our heart.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fiducea Mea

Mater Mea, non sum dignus....

Virgo clemens, how often have i made you weep! Even recently! How often have i broken your confidence? Mother, i don't even dare to look at your face. How deeply must i have offended Our Lord? Time and time again... The creatures in the sand are more worthy of His promises than me.

Sancta Dei Genetrix, how constantly i struggle to walk straight on the road! Not having been able to carry the smallest of crosses. Am i simply to weak?

Regina Sanctissimi Rosarii, i weep on every bead because i feel i don't understand. Deliver me from his claws. My heart is drenched in tears for the sins i have committed.

Refugium peccatorum, pray for me, comfort me. Pray that He may open my eyes. That He may have mercy, and in all His Goodness embrace me.

Fiducia Mea, yet you surround me with Your Motherly love. Like with Santa Gemma when You held her in Your mantle when Jesus bestowed this great grace on her. And although i weep i find consolation in every bead that slips through my fingers. Because i know You are with me.

Rosa mystica, how full of pride i am. I shall not walk the road but crawl like the creatures in the sand. And o, my words so cold and mindless! I shall no longer speak unless i must.

Virgo potens, protect me, because no doubt he will try harder to pull me off the road by my feet. Don't let him! Imperet illi Deus!

Deus, qui de beatae Mariae Virginis utero Verbum tuum, Angelo nuntiante, carnem suscipere voluisti: praesta supplicibus tuis; ut, qui vere eam Genetricem Dei credimus, eius apud te intercessionibus adiuvemur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen

Mother, i simply love You...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

November 2nd: All Souls' Day

Purgatory is something most of us don't think of. Maybe not even want to think of. When you really think about it it's overwhelming. The mere number of them there. Now that we are still here we have the opportunity to do something and maybe relieve some suffering or if God grants it release some from this immense suffering. After all it is not unlikely that we will have to spend time there as well. Wouldn't it be wonderful if then someone would pray for us as well?


From the group Catholicism on Facebook:

"Remember the Poor Souls!"

"We can never understand too clearly that every alms, small or great, which we give to the poor we give to God.

"He accepts it and rewards it as given to Himself. Therefore, all we do for the Holy Souls, God accepts as done to Himself. It is as if we had relieved or released Him from Purgatory. What a thought! How He will repay us!

"II. As there is no hunger, no thirst, no poverty, no need, no pain, no suffering to compare with what the Souls in Purgatory endure, so there is no alms more deserving, none more pleasing to God, none more meritorious for us than the alms, the prayers, the Masses we give to the Holy Souls.

"III. It is very possible that some of our own nearest and dearest ones are still suffering the excruciating pains of Purgatory and calling on us piteously for help and relief.

"Is it not dreadful that we are so hardened as not to think more about them, that we are so cruel as to deliberately forget them!

"For the dear Christ's sake, let us do all, but all, we can for them.

CHAPTER 1 : WHAT IS PURGATORY?

"It is a prison of fire in which nearly all [saved] souls are plunged after death and in which they suffer the intensest pain.

"Here is what the great Doctors of the Church tell us of Purgatory:

"So grievous is their suffering that one minute in this awful fire seems like a century.

"St. Thomas Aquinas, the Prince of Theologians, says that the fire of Purgatory is equal in intensity to the fire of Hell, and that the slightest contact with it is more dreadful than all the possible sufferings of this Earth!

"St. Augustine, the greatest of the Holy Doctors, teaches that to be purified of their faults previous to being admitted to Heaven, souls after death are subjected to a fire more penetrating, more dreadful than anything we can see, or feel, or conceive in this life.

"Though this fire is destined to cleanse and purify the soul, " adds the Holy Doctor, "still it is more acute than anything we could possibly endure on Earth. "

"St. Cyril of Alexandria does not hesitate to say that "it would be preferable to suffer all the possible torments of Earth until the Judgment day than to pass one day in Purgatory. "

"Another great Saint says: "Our fire, in comparison with the fire of Purgatory, is as a refreshing breeze."

"The other holy writers speak in identical terms of this awful fire.

HOW COMES IT THAT THE PAINS OF PURGATORY ARE SO SEVERE?

"1. The fire we see on Earth was made by the goodness of God for our comfort and well-being Still, when used as a torment, it is the most dreadful one we can imagine.

"2. The fire of Purgatory, on the contrary, was made by the Justice of God to punish and purify us and is, therefore, incomparably more severe.

"3. Our fire, at most, burns this gross body of ours, made of clay; whereas, the fire of Purgatory acts on the spiritual soul, which is unspeakably more sensitive to pain.

"4. The more intense our fire is, the more speedily it destroys its victim, who therefore ceases to suffer; whereas, the fire of Purgatory inflicts the keenest, most violent pain, but never kills the soul nor lessens its sensibility.

"5. Unsurpassingly severe as is the fire of Purgatory, the pain of loss or separation from God, which the souls also suffer in Purgatory, is far more severe. The soul separated from the body craves with all the intensity of its spiritual nature for God. It is consumed with an intense desire to fly to Him. Yet it is held back. No words can describe the anguish of this unsatisfied craving.

"What madness, therefore, it is for intelligent beings to neglect taking every possible precaution to avoid such a dreadful fate.

"It is puerile to say that it cannot be so, that we cannot understand it, that it is better not to think or speak of it. The fact remains always the same -- whether we believe it, or whether we do not -- that the pains of Purgatory are beyond everything we can imagine or conceive. These are the words of St. Augustine.

THE HOLY SOULS WILL LESSEN OUR PURGATORY

"Another great grace that they obtain for their helpers is a short and easy Purgatory, or possibly its complete remission!

"Saint John Massias, the Dominican lay brother, had a wonderful devotion to the Souls in Purgatory. He obtained by his prayers (chiefly by the recitation of the Rosary) the liberation of one million four hundred
thousand souls!

"In return, they obtained for him the most abundant and extraordinary graces and came at the hour of his death to help and console him and accompany him to Heaven.

"This fact is so certain that it was inserted by the Church in the bull of his beatification.

"The learned Cardinal Baronius recounts a similar incident.

"He was himself called to assist a dying gentleman. Suddenly, a host of blessed spirits appeared in the chamber of death, consoled the dying man and chased away the devils who sought, by a last desperate effort, to compass his ruin.

"When asked who they were, they made answer that they were 8,000 souls whom he had released from Purgatory by his prayers and good works. They were sent by God, so they said, to take him to Heaven without his passing one moment in Purgatory.

"St. Gertrude was fiercely tempted by the devil when she came to die. The evil spirit reserves a dangerous and subtle temptation for our last moments. As he could find no other ruse sufficiently clever with which to assail the Saint, he thought to disturb her beautiful peace of soul by suggesting that she would surely remain long years in the awful fires of Purgatory since, he reminded her, she had long ago made over all her suffrages to other souls. But Our Blessed Lord, not content with sending His Angels and the thousands of souls she had released to assist her, came Himself in person to drive away Satan and comfort His dear Saint. He told St. Gertrude that in exchange for all she had done for the Holy Souls, He would take her straight to Heaven and would multiply a hundredfold all her merits.

"Blessed Henry Suso, of the Dominican Order, made a compact with a fellow religious to the effect that, when one of the two died, the survivor would offer two Masses each week for his soul, and other prayers as well.

"It so fell out that his companion died first, and Blessed Henry commenced immediately to offer the promised Masses. These he continued to say for a long time. At last, quite sure that the soul of his saintly friend had reached Heaven, he ceased offering the Masses.

"Great was his sorrow and consternation when the soul of the dead brother appeared to him suffering intensely and chiding him for not celebrating the promised Masses. Blessed Henry replied with deep regret that he had not continued the Masses, believing that his friend must be enjoying the Beatific Vision but he added that he had ever remembered him in prayer.

"O dear Brother Henry, please give me the Masses, for it is the Precious Blood of Jesus that I most need!" cried out the suffering soul. Blessed Henry began anew and, with redoubled fervor, offered Masses and prayers for his friend until he received absolute certitude of his delivery.

"Then it was his turn to receive graces and blessings of all kinds from the dear brother he had relieved, and very many times more than he could have expected.

ALMS HELP THE HOLY SOULS

"St. Martin gave half of his cloak to a poor beggar, only to find out afterwards that it was to Christ he had given it. Our Lord appeared to him and thanked him.

"Blessed Jordan of the Dominican Order could never refuse to give an alms when it was asked in the Name of God. One day he had forgotten his purse. A poor man implored an alms for the love of God. Rather than refuse him, Jordan, who was then a student, gave him a most precious cincture or "girdle" which he prized dearly. Shortly after, he entered a church and found his cincture encircling the waist of an image of Christ Crucified. He, too, had given his alms to Christ. We all give our alms to Christ.

RESOLUTION

a) Let us give all the alms we can afford;
b) Let us have said all the Masses in our power;
c) Let us hear as many more as is possible;
d) Let us offer all our pains and sufferings for the relief of the Holy Souls.

"We shall thus deliver countless Souls from Purgatory, who will repay us ten thousand times over.

THE CURE OF A CANCER

"D. Joana de Menezes thus tells of her cure: She was suffering severely from a cancerous growth in the leg and was plunged in grief.

"Remembering what she had heard of the power of the Souls in Purgatory, she resolved to place all her confidence in them and had nine Masses offered for them. She promised, moreover, to publish news of her cure if it were granted.

"Gradually the swelling went down, and the tumor and cancer disappeared." ~ Fr. Paul O'Sullivan, "Read Me or Rue It"

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Devotion of a child

This needs no comment :)

(Click on image for a larger version)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Storia di S Gemma Galgani a "Miracoli"

A Youtube movie in Italian from Italian TV (i think) posted: October 22nd 2009. It has some nice footage of various places of Santa Gemma's life. Wishing i could speak Italian :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Beauty of Catholic Tradition

A movie i came across today:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Madre, tu mirada renueva nuestra esperanza"

Since i lived there:

October the 3rd was the 35th edition of the annual pilgrimage to Luján, Argentina. It is in honor of Nuestra Señora de Luján or Our Lady of Luján the patroness of Argentina. And that it lives among the people became clear by the number of people walking the 60Km (about) 40 miles. This year was a record with 1.300.000 people! The next day at Luján the pilgrimage came to a conclusion at the basilic of Luján, which is the church with the main altar of the Blessed Virgin in the country, with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Bergoglio. The theme this year was: "Madre, tu mirada renueva nuestra esperanza" which means: Mother, your gaze (look) renews our hope.

Nuestra Señora de Luján ruega por nosotros pecatores!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A long email to a friend

For years i've been emailing with a dear friend from Uruguay. Even while i lived in Argentina we were never able to meet. Not because of distance, Montevideo is only 3 hours by boat from Buenos Aires, but because of money at that time. Last February/March while visiting my beloved Argentina again we finally found the opportunity to meet after so many years.

When we met it was before "meeting" Santa Gemma. And still in this time i was practicing as she the Ancient Egyptian faith. With her i performed the last joined ritual in this faith. What struck me then was her dedication and devotion. Later reading about Gemma's devotion to Jesus i often thought about that moment. This woman has a similar devotion although in a different faith. And at times i wonder what if she would have this same devotion for Jesus like Santa Gemma? I know realize that also she at that moment became responsible for finding the road i'm now on.

Emailing i mentioned before the plans to fly all the way to South America again, and thus she happily wants to do another ritual. In my reply i found it was time to explain to her the changes since then and the new found road in Catholicism. I'm curious how she will respond. It's difficult to explain changes in oneself to someone who has different views. It took me a few hours to write.

She has been responsible for many changes for the good in my life. She and my ex in Argentina in their own ways taught me things. And with some of those things the realization comes too late unfortunately. Anyone can mention a few people in their lives who made a significant difference. My mother used the term "an enrichment in her life" once when she talked about someone. And that is a good term. An enrichment like getting to know Jesus and the Blessed Virgin. And i should not forget the enrichment of knowing and finding Santa Gemma.

I often pray for them and beg for their salvation. Obviously like me we offended the first Commandments which still weighs heavily on me. The Blessed Virgin in history and also today has always very much put emphasis on praying for the conversion of sinners. And i so pray for them. Can't i share the same devotion anymore here on this earth i pray that one day we will be able to share devotion again in Heaven. Before the One and Only.

"I deserve to suffer for my sins dear Jesus. Even though you also died for my sins i so wish i could take a little suffering away from You by suffering for my own sins. And when it is in You let me suffer for the sins of whom i love as well. So they will find Salvation and forgiveness. Holy Mother pray for them, Santa Gemma pray for them. They are such fine persons. It is not up to me if this grace will be granted but i ask you to look at their good deeds, their love for their neighbors, for those instances in which they live according to the laws of God. May Jesus close his eyes for their other offenses. And if not may he place their burden on me. I don't deserve forgiveness anyway. But if it saves them please punish me or tell me how i can save them. Anything! Dear Jesus your beloved spouse Santa Gemma has obtained the salvation and conversion of many through Your Mother. The fire within me is not like Gemma's but my love for these extraordinary persons is not different. It is not for me that i ask this but for them. Santa Gemma prayed and asked that you would close your eyes to her want of merit, and open them to your infinite merit. Please my dear Jesus may you open and close your eyes again for them. Amen"

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Angelic Salutation

The Angelic Salutation or Ave Maria (Hail Mary) is the part of the Most Holy Rosary which is my personal favorite of prayers within the Most Holy Rosary. It is prayed 53 times if you pray a Rosary of 5 Mysteries.

In the Secret of The Rosary from St Louis Grignon de Montfort (a highly recommended book) the Most Holy Rosary was received by the Church in 1214 by St Dominic who had received it from the Blessed Virgin as a means to convert the Albigensian heretics (Catharism) and sinners. This includes the Ave Maria. This story has been written down by Blessed Alan de la Roche. The Blessed Virgin mentioned that the Angelic Psalter as She mentioned it is the foundation of the New Testament. And this is understandable because the first part of the Ave Maria are the words of the Angel Gabriel to the the Virgin Mary as we know it from Luke 1:28 and the First Joyful Mystery of the Annunciation. The beginning of our Salvation. St Dominic explained the Ave Maria in most simple words for everyone to understand.

That the beginning was not easy is illustrated in a revelation to St Dominic by the Blessed Virgin and i quote he Blessed Alan de la Roche: "My son She said "Do not be surprised by the lack of success in your preaching. You are trying to plow a ground that has not been watered by rain. Mark that when God wanted to renew the world, He first sent the rain of the Angelic Salutation. That is how the world was made new. In your sermons therefore exhort people to pray my Rosary and you will reap much fruit for souls." This St Dominic did and his preaching had remarkable success.

The Ave Maria has also inspired the composers Caccini and Schubert. I'm sure you have all heard one of the two or both. In case you haven't here is one i especially like from Andrea Bocceli. It is accompanied by beautiful images of the Blessed Virgin. He singes the Latin text of the Ave Maria. The language in which i pray it daily. The text is as follows:

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum; benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

This being a blog about Santa Gemma you may wonder what this has to do with her. Well, everything! Imagine how many times she must have prayed it and probably in Italian. I'm sure she prayed it with the Blessed Virgin in her ecstasies. In one of the slides of the presentation in honor of her there is a slide of an early time while still being very young she prayed: “Oh, if at least the Mother of Jesus would love me......if only I could become worthy of being called 'daughter'!” Maybe you have the same questions as she. But the Blessed Virgin was never far. And nor is She for us. St Gemma writes in her diary:

Upon first seeing her, I was a little afraid; I did all I could to assure my­self that it was truly Jesus' Mother and She gave me every sign to assure me. After a few moments I felt entirely happy but I was so moved by seeing my­self, so little compared to her, and so content, that I could not say a word except to repeat the name “Mom”.
She stared, really stared, at me, laughing, and approached to caress me, and She said I should calm down. Yes, of course, happiness and emotion grew in me, and She, maybe fearing that it would be bad for me (as happened other times, indeed one time, which I did not tell about, when for the great consolation I felt in seeing Jesus again, my heart started beating with such force that I was obliged, on the orders of my confessor, to tie a tight, tight bandage around that point) left me, saying that I should go and rest. I obeyed promptly, and in one second I was in bed and She did not delay her coming; then I was calm.

"to repeat the name Mom" Her question and desire as a child were no longer there. Myself I'm not that far yet. I've been raised Protestant. Because of it i still am trying to overcome the fear of paying too much attention to the Blessed Virgin instead of Jesus. My background in religion for years honoring Egyptian gods and goddesses created a fear that i'd deify Her. But slowly I'm learning that devotion to the Blessed Virgin is also devotion to Jesus. Every Mass i burn a candle for Santa Gemma in front of the Blessed Virgin's altar. Yes, i wonder if one day i can really call Her Mother like Santa Gemma. In the meantime with joy i pray the Ave Maria. And not 53 times a day. No, much more.

I would like to end with words from the Blessed Virgin given in Medjugorje on August 25th 1987:

“Dear children! Today also I am calling you all in order that each one of you decides to live my messages. God has permitted me also in this year, which the Church has dedicated to me, to be able to speak to you and to be able to spur you on to holiness. Dear children, seek from God the graces which He is giving you through me. I am ready to intercede with God for all that you seek so that your holiness may be complete. Therefore, dear children, do not forget to seek, because God has permitted me to obtain graces for you. Thank you for having responded to my call. ”

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Santa Gemma: a presentation

Today is the birthday of the Blessed Virgin. Hail to the Mother of our beloved Jesus!

With joy i can finally present the end result of 3 days of work on a Powerpoint presentation about the life of Santa Gemma. And i'm happy that especially on this day of celebration i can present it to you.

Although the idea to make it had existed for some time (i never made a presentation before) the reception of an unexpected and for me priceless gift (a relic from Santa Gemma) last friday from a good friend in Santa Gemma sparked the actual work. This presentation is meant as a gift for him. He suggested making it public for all. And hereby that is done.

Making it was a joy. As any minute spend on this beloved Saint is a joy. Not only a joy but also an emotional time. May you enjoy watching it as much as i had making it :)

You find the file here (approx. 33mb due to the music). Anyone should be able to open this zip-file. It does require either Powerpoint '97 or higher or the free Powerpoint viewer which you can download here (approx. 2 mb) if needed.

If you have any trouble leave a comment on this post and i'll try to assist you if i can.

Santa Gemma exáudi nos!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

In Memoriam: Father van Hout



















In memoriam:

This weekend our congragation was shocked by the sudden death of our pastor: Father van Hout.

Father van Hout had been in hospital for some time and already had heart surgery. Another operation was planned and the doctors were hopefull all would go well and he would be able to return to his duties. However God decided it was time for him to come to Him. Pastor van Hout was 60 years old and he was vice chairman of the Association of Latin Liturgy since June 2005 and was pastor of our church since February this year. Since i've only been going to this church for a couple of weeks now i never had the pleasure to meet him. Still the news fell hard. While making a Powerpoint presentation about the life of Santa Gemma i was unaware of it. And in it there are Gemma's last words as well as on the last slide the words of our Beloved Jesus that she was not made for this earth but for Heaven. And i would like to think that for Father van Hout as well. Joy and sadness combined. The joy that he is with God and the sadness of having to miss him here guiding us further on that way to God. Even though i am aware you most likely don't know him i ask you kindly to pray for the peace of his soul in the coming time.

-Omnípotens sempiterne Deus, qui vivórum domináris simul et mortuórum, ómniumque miseréris quos tuos fide et ópere futuros esse prænoscis : te supplices exorámus ; ut, pro quibus effúndere preces decrevimus, quosque vel præsens sæculum adhuc in carne retinet vel futúrum jam exutos corpore suscépit, intercedéntibus ómnibus Sanctis tuis, pietátis tuæ cleméntia, ómnium delictórum suórum véniam consequántur. Per Dóminum nostrum Jesum Christum, Fílium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte Spíritus Sancti, Deus, per ómnia sæcula sæculórum.

Amen-

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The meaning of an image



This picture of Santa Gemma is together with the one in which she has her hands folded looking slightly up probably the most well-known image of her. And one must know she was not fond of having these pictures taken at the time. I think nor she, the photographer or anyone for that matter at around the turn of the 19th century into the 20th could have realized that it would appear in books, on websites, on prayercards, on countless walls etc. etc. It is an images which has changed lives including mine.

This image of Gemma (forgive me for not typing the Santa epithet. To me she's Gemma) was the very first image i saw of her after i encountered her name for the first time and became curious. Now i carry it in my wallet, it sits nicely framed next to my bed, i have it next to me when praying the Rosary and it even is my "desktop" on my Blackberry. Believe it or not, when i saw this image for the very first time somewhere late April or the beginning of May this year i knew everything would change. Often i can just sit and look at this image and just ponder about her life and the changes in my own. "Santa Gema, mi camino a Jesús, por favor, ruega por nosotros!" is how i often end my emails. For those who have no knowledge of Spanish it says: Saint Gemma, my road to Jesus, please, pray for us. And that is what she has helped accomplish. Because of her i've started a journey into catholizism. In the books about her we can read she has more than once pleaded for sinners and obtained their conversion. And often without these sinners realizing how this came into being in at the moment. So also in my case.

When i look at this picture of her i often think what she must have been thinking at the moment it was taken. And like an invisible onlooker imagine scenes like her in prayer and ecstasy, sitting in the church (an image i always have when attending Mass), doing housework, Gemma during confession. This may all sound silly for readers. Yet through these considerations i reflect on myself. Reflecting to examine my own relation to God. Where i can and must do better, the way ahead of me, but also the wonder and realization i've taken already a tiny part of the road.

Earlier i mentioned she wasn't fond of having these pictures taken but was told to do so. How often are we asked to do something we don't really want? What if God makes such a request to us? In her humility Gemma obeyed and had the pictures taken. And so must we when God asks. Because as with this picture of Gemma and the changes it has brought to many for the good when we listen to God and follow we may also spread a richness to others beyond the scope of our comprehension.

There is one wish i have. To one day see this beautiful face for real so i will be able to thank her. That is if God grants me permission to enter Heaven when the time comes. In the meantime this picture i will keep with me wherever i go until the day of my own passing arrives.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Prayer in Italian from Santa Gemma

I found this prayer in Italian from Santa Gemma. Since i don't speak Italian i used Google to translate. I hope it doesn't loose any of it's beauty. Feel free to correct me if there are errors in translation since although i do speak English very well, sometimes i do make mistakes not being a native from an English speaking country.

“Gesù, non vi facciano paura i miei peccati, non vi faccia ribrezzo la mia freddezza; riguardate, mio Gesù, all’affetto di questa vostra indegna figlia da voi redenta. Ricorro a Voi solo, Gesù, per sempre più piacervi, per fare la vostra santissima volontà, e per darvi maggior gloria”

English:

"Jesus, do not fear my sins, do not make you shudder my coldness about facilitating, my Jesus, and affection of this, your unworthy child from you redeemed. Recourse to you alone, Jesus, for ever more pleasure, to do your most holy will, and to give greater glory "

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me"

"To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

Mark 12:33

That this is not as easy as it seems was very clear at Mass today. Today i had a seat more in the back of the church. Below is a picture of the church where i am going and it will illustrate why i change places. As you can see the image of Jesus Crucified is high up, thus best visible in the back. It is a choice though because outside the picture on the left and right are the altars dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Even in the back one still has to look up.

Just before the start of the Mass a homeless woman came in. Homeless and clearly mentally ill. There is also a small altar in the back and she started to burn candles one by one. Then she started praying and bowing with her hands folded in devotion. From there she looked around and went to the altar of the Blessed Virgin in the front. Now a woman told me she comes every week and apparently i must have missed her on earlier occasions due to my more in-the-front postion in the church. The woman i talked and others were apparently a bit worried about the candles being lit and she talked about her more as a disturbance.

I couldn't help to feel ashamed in my nice clothes and for what she said about this woman. I looked to our Crucified Jesus and then to this woman. I remember i thought "What would Jesus have done?" He would have loved her, gone up to her. He would have reminded us to love our neighbors as ourselves and reminded us of this image of devotion in all it's simplicity.

This image reminds me of some images of poverty in Argentina. On my daily walk i would always encounter the same ones begging for some money for food. The blind man in front of the back with his child on his arm holding up a coffee mug, the man in the wheelchair who losts his legs in front of the basilica, the woman on the stairs when you come out of the subway at Plaza de Mayo, the man with his dog in front of the supermarket who was more concerned about the wellbeing of his dog than of his own and the old woman who stands out most for me. This angelic look she had. Never complaining and always smiling. Last time i visited Argentina she wasn't sitting there anymore. I can only pray God took her with Him.

The burned offerings where Mark talked about. The burning of incense during Mass which came most close in this occasion. The woman always wearing the same black and the black straw hat to which this blog is dedicated. La Povera Gemma, the one who would rather give her own food to the poor. We cannot help everyone but we can we do what we can. And what we always can do is pray for someone and in the case of this particular homeless woman rejoice for her dedication.

I would like to end with an Ave Maria for her:

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum;
benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.

Amen

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A prayer...

++Jesus make it hard on me. I deserve no less. Maybe this way i can share some of Your suffering. Have mercy on me when i continue to sin out of weakness. Fortify me. Jesus i am beseeched like a city. An enemy i have helped to call upon my walls.

Blessed Mother pray for me, pray with me. Pick me up when i fall. Forgive me when i fail in perfect adoration to Your Son and in my devotion to You.

Santa Gemma i am there when you lie there with the crucifix to your heart. You look at me and smile before you lift your eyes and go to your Beloved Jesus. Like you knew it will be alright. Please, plead for me being at His side.++

Amen

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

La Povera: a contemplation



Today i was going to write about the history of the St Gemma chapel yet events of today inspire me to make a different post.

I've also wanted to write about my past and this is a good opportunity to write about a part of that life which to me marked the most important time.

On the picture you see a narrow street and a dome. The street is called Salala. On the right of this building to which i come in a moment there is another street like this one called Pescadores. Pescadores is the Spanish word for fishermen and this always has reminded me of Saint Peter. Saint Peter and the key to heaven, the square in Rome and thus the Church, the Mystical body of Christ. The dome is of the basílica San Jose de Flores (Saint Joseph) in the neighborhood of Flores in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It's a large church and i've visited it several times during my stay there to which i also will come in a moment. In that time i had nothing with the Catholic faith or Christian faith in general.The church has a side chapel where often the Holy Sacrament is placed for adoration. And it is always full when that is the case. The Holy Sacrment has it's own location in the church on other days where perpetual adoration of The Holy Sacrament is carried out by piests. The church also has a statue of Beata Mother Theresa. And i find it fitting for the following reason:

When you pass the street in the picture at certain times of the day there is a line of people. Just right of the picture is the entrance to free food distributed by the church. Charity as we try to remember when we pray the 3rd Ave Maria on the 4th bead of the Holy Rosary. This scene always made me cry internally when i would pass on those moments of the day. "Don't cry for me Argentina" but if you open your eyes there is much to cry for. Argentina went through a very bad crisis at the beginning of the millennium. A crisis from which they are still recovering. I've spoken for example to taxi drivers who were top engineers or similar and would have a well paid job in Western countries. It's not surprising that these works of charity are so necessary there. And as i'm currently reading about Santa Gemma inevitably i have to think about this country and these people.

I came to Argentina in November 2004 because of love. We met online sharing the same religion which is the ancient Egyptian religion. Yes i have sinned against the first two Commandments of the ten Commandments of the Bible. Which ways heavenly on me. "...a burden that oppresses me beyond measure" writes Santa Gemma in one of her prayers. But to get back to where i was: We weren't poor but there were things we couldn't do financially. That was new for me since although not rich i was used to do much more until the moment i went there. I was working from home. I had an internet job working on websites. Our house was from around the start of the 19th century as alot of the houses in that neighborhood. And since not so well isolated and provided with central heating there were times i worked with my coat on in winter inside the house. Lacking many things i was used to still i enjoyed it. And after some time you carry the country and people in your heart. I didn't realize it until it was all too late. When i returned to the land of plenty i noticed something had died inside.

Often i think how it came into being that i left. Rationally thinking it was finding out that you have to discover that you are too different from your partner and grow apart. And it was not a cultural difference but simply not being able to get to know each other because of the distance and then being thrown into living together in the same house together. No there is another component. Because if it were just this we would have worked it out. I say that because before we were together we went through a time of fear and sheer horror. A time that i was even afraid for her life. If i would write it all down it probably would be a good novel and dismissed as impossible and fantasy. yet it was the truth. It bound us and it made us try until the end. Until seemingly there was no other way. And i write this literally with tears in my eyes.

The other component was also the one who eventually brought me to Santa Gemma and to to the Catholic faith (to which i'm still very much unknowing i must add). It was what brought doom to King Saul. In my life i've done many wrong things (may God forgive me) and most of them are in the realm of the occult. A world of spirits and inevitably demons. And that last one is one you refuse to see.

I had no idea what i was getting into when i moved in the house. Many occult things had taken place in the past. Withcraft was one of them. When you walked it was like i later described: time was slowing down. The daughter of my ex had seen apparitions of her grandfather (the father of my ex). she also refused to go to the back of the house. There was a feeling of dread in the back. Many years before i came there the house was blessed by a priest because paranormal phenomena were getting out of control. I remember an instance when the mother of my ex suddenly duck. On asking she said that something pitchblack flew over her. She had also been pushed down to the ground on occasions. I have never witnessed any of it myself but this feeling of time slowing down and also i became unable to do anything. I became apathic. I felt powerless. And it was this that created the tensions. I couldn't invest any time in for example learning the language. Nothing seemed to get of the ground. On two occasions i bought guinea pigs and they both died within a week. And belief me i know how to take care of them. The dog of her mother had a rare affliction and our cat died last year of feline leukemia which i heard was rare.

I went twice to Argentina. First from November 2004 to July 2005. I left because i had reached my limit because also in the house nothing came into being like building projects and we ran out of money. Back here i found i couldn't live without her and we tried again. I worked hard first to make money. In March 2006 we tried again and set even a marriage date for that November. That was not going to happen because the same thing happened. The same apathy. The house wasn't done and i had that romantic idea of having the house finished first before getting married so i proposed postponing it. We saw each other less and less in the house and eventually i had no other choice to leave again. And that is the worst decision i've ever made.

I remember coming back at the end of June 2007. It was raining here. A feeling of sadness and loss that will probably stay with me. In that state of mind i got into before my departure seemingly the love was gone. But then you discover it's not the case and then it's all too late. And you realize that's what you have to live with from now on. Sometimes i think it's easier to loose a loved one because of death than this way.

I needed to go back there at least to taste the atmosphere again. And i did in March 2008. First time there as a tourist. I thought it would be a goodbye. The reason for my going there (love) no longer existed. But then you realize how much a place and people are inside you. But before i went there i was on a trip to Leiden here in the Netherlands which has the Historical Museum with Egyptian things i was buying presents fro my ex and daughter. On the street suddenly a man from India came up to me asking if he could do a reading on me. I was obviously surprised. Because it would cost money and i though about a scheme trying to get to my money i declined. But then he said that darkness was over me and thati could really use his help. He said it in a way looking at me that i believe he realy meant it. I still decined but i had to think about it all the time. It made sense in a way.

February 2009 i went again to Argentina for a visit. If you know Buenos Aires a bit, at the Plaza de Mayo where the Casa Rosada is (known from Evita) is also the cathedral. I visited it many times out of curiosity. This time i went there and bought a Rosary. I remember buying it and thinking: why on earth am i buying this? I was still following the pagan religion.

On my first day of that vacation i felt very unhappy and out of place and thought that maybe this time is the last time. However in the second week that would change. I made a trip to neighbouring Montevideo in Uruguay which was about 3 hours away by boat. This to meet another friend i had been writing with for years but we never manage to meet due to agenda and money. She also shared the same faith. With the fire she talked about it rekindled my interest and i felt i needed to devote myself again again to it. I was serving the god of Amun of Thebes. When i came back to Buenos Aires after a day it was like things were different. a sense of purpose but also an awareness of the darkness and work of evil. I could sense it, sometimes see it in someones eyes when passing on the street. I was apprached by 2 prostitutes asking for sex, a thing that has never happened to me in my total time of 2 years in Argentina. It would spark my interest in demonology. Until i had always denied the existence of evil alltogether. I met with this girl in Montevideo once again to do a prayer ritual at a make shift altar in my hotel. This was a very special ritual to me. It would also be the last i would ever persorm with anyone, but i didn't know that yet. I remember seeing her in devotion before the altar. A devotion i had never felt. Later when i started reading about Santa Gemma i thought and think often about her. That devotion and fire as Santa Gemma had.

Back in the Netherlands 2 things happened. I set out to explore demonology and went back into daily ritual. Of course i asked questions about demons in our own religion and also through reading i discovered that the Egyptian religion is full of them. They are even invoked against enemies. At the same time i read about Christian demonology and inevitably exorcism. And slowly a picture began to emerge. At one night i felt like a cold hand on my face and a feeling of dread. And it was like a voice warned me i would never get away. I've heard it several times after when i read more about Catholizism warning me i would never receive the sacraments for example.

And now how i met Santa Gemma. Around the end of April i received another book about demonology and exorcisms written by Matt Baglio called The Rite. It tells about an American priest going to Rome to attend the course of exorcism as it is given by the Church. Attending exorcisms to learn about them in one the demon speaks about the appearance of Santa Gemma who the demon called "The jinx" Santa Gemma appeared in black and i was later to find out she was always dressed that way. Out of curiosity i looked her up. The moment i saw her picture i knew she would change everything. This may be a strange thing to say but that was exactly what i thought. My curiosity to read about her was awakened and mainly through a superb site of a friend in Saint Gemma, as he always puts it:), i started to get to know her. I order the book by the Venerable Father Germanus: The life of Saint Gemma Galgani. I'm still reading it after months. It is the first book in my life i cannot read quick. Reading a chapter is so overwhelming i sometimes need weeks to assimilate everything. Later i found out that i had ordered the book in which Santa Gemma was first mentioned to me on April 11th. As you know Holy Saturday and exactly the same day as when she died 106 years ago.

Santa Gemma has become an inspiration. Suddenly i understood why i had that Rosary and i started praying it daily. And then you start feeling the blessings of Our Lady, and more importantly the significance of Jesus. And things unfold. I felt a need to go to Mass which i've been doing since a few weeks. and at the same time you realize that you can't go on in th old ways. I couldn't perform my rituals anymore. And eventually put all away. Only the Rosary would be my devotional prayer.

at the same time i noticed the effect of evil. "et ne nos inducas in tentacionem", the temptations which also Santa Gemma felt. And yes i have failed but i pick myself up and try again, and try again until i am strong enough.

Last saturday when i made the pictures in the chapel (see post below of last sunday) i prayed to for clarity about my future. I'm working in a satisfying job but they have been keeping extind my contracts over and over. At the same time with Argentina in mind and the need there i feel i need to do something more useful and maybe even there. So i've placed this before God in prayer asking for an answer.

And then comes the reason why i put this post first. Today we heard at work that we will move our activities to a place which is "impossible" for me to reach. This means the contract will end at the maximum of the end of the year. In a way a relief because i can start looking for something else. I pray that it may be something in which i mean more something to others. There is no indication that it could be in South America but i will see where i'm guided.

Also last saturday a sister at the chapel told me people often come more to pray when they are in need. I don't easily ask for something. Not even to God. I feel God close when i pray and i am gratefull for every development whether they are positive or negative. Everything can bring you closer to God. In Mass you notice there are those asking themselves: why do i have to be here again? And maybe the same thing is also true sometimes when one prays. Does it help? Does God really listen? As i said my past sins greatly way upon me. But i know this: I have no idea if God will allow me to spend eternity in Heaven. I know that i love being devoted to God, even more so as i was devoted to a pagan god. I will attempt to do as He asks and live according the way He has asked us to. My main concern is my pagan friends. They are lovely people. They care about each other, yet they don't follow Jesus. I find it unbearable to think that they may be lost. So at first my prayers are for their salvaon and conversion. If i can bring one to God it is already worth it. And it doesn't matter what that means for my own salvation or eternal hopes. I cannot help to feel i don't deserve salvation although every time i pray the 5th Sorrowfull Mystery of Jesus' crucifixion and death it is as if He looks at me and tells me: I'm also doing this for you. I don't mean to be disrespectfull but i simply feel i don't deserve it. Save my friends instead of me.

Dear reader, be grateful for your blessings. There are so many who don't have it, so many who don't know. Pray for each other. We all know those around us who need that prayer. Maybe we even hate them or can't stand them. It's not about rewards you may get bashing oneself on the chest like: now i'm a good Christian. I have a hard time to understand what devout means. And maybe i get some lines wrong when i pray the Rosary. But what matters is intention. Our love for God and as Jesus teaches us, the love for the one next to us. And believe me i so know how hard that can be. In her humility Santa Gemma wrote (and i quote the website i mentioned before) “.....Oh Jesus, if people knew me, they would not come and ask for my prayers." Yet millons pray to her and are blessed with answered prayers because of her intercession. I feel that praying to her as praying to Our Blessed Virgin is a prayer to Jesus. Our love for those who Jesus so loves honours Him. And i know that for some it's easier to pray to a Saint or Our Blessed Lady then to Jesus directly. As long as we pray. I'm getting updates of someone about things Our Blessed Virgin of Medjugorje has relayed. And not only this century but for ages She has told us the importance of prayer. To pray for each other, to pray for the world. Through the internet we are more aware of events in this world and thus the tragedies on a big scale and on a personal level. Being aware of it also brings the opportunity to direct prayer to an event or a person. In that sense the internet is a blessing. And i believe we must use it to increase the strength of prayer and the presence of God as the forces opposing step up their efforts to take us way from God.

Maybe i got a bit carried away in the last part. But i feel it's so important. And now i think i've been writing for hours and it has become quite extensive. I started with a narrow street reminding me of charity. The narrow road which it often is when we follow Jesus. I wouldn't be writing this without Santa Gemma probably. And through remarkable persons like Glenn of the mentioned website about Santa Gemma. In relation to someone else she knew my mother spoke about someone as: an enrichment in her life. A friend in Santa Gemma and an enrichment. The real enrichment is Jesus. Our Blessed Virgin points at Him, all the Saints point at Him.

I always end my emails these days with: Santa Gema, mi camino a Jesús, por favor, ruega por nosotros! (Saint Gemma, my way to Jesus, pray for us) In Spanish of Argentina where my earthly soul lies. And now you also know why i say Santa Gemma :)

To end: A house of spirits and demons became the beginning of another victory for God. As so often. I don't want to sound like a priest but i would like you to do something if you will. Next time you pray: pray for someone you have not prayed for and maybe even wouldn't consider praying for. They need it the most. And when you are in Mass or church (depending on your denomination) look a time extra at the crucifix or cross. Every church has one. And simply thank Him for what He has done and the blessings you have received.

Will i get next time to the history of the chapel? :)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Devoted to Santa Gemma: Toon Hermans

Before i make a post about the history of the chapel first this one:

Sittard is also known for a very loved and well known person in the Netherlands. This was the cabaretier: (translates to comedian i think) Toon Hermans. What is not so commonly known is that he was very devoted to Santa Gemma. It's a story of a miraculous healing because of the intercession of Santa Gemma.

He writes about it in his book. When he was around 15 years old he was severy ill (related to one of the lower ribs). Medicine did not help and it was feared he would have to remain in bed for the rest of his life. His mother went to the St Gemma chapel and started a novena on his behalf. Every day she went to the chapel for nine days regardless of the weather. He writes that on the ninth day he heard his mother return and he came out of bed to open the door for his mother, leaving her completely surprised. From that moment on it went better and better with his health and he never had any trouble with the rib. He personally went to the chapel to thank Santa Gemma himself.

On that day of this visit a sister gave him a holy card and a relic of Santa Gemma which he kept with him for the rest of his life. He has been devoted to Santa Gemma ever since. In his dressing room when he had his performances he always kep a medal of Santa Gemma. His secretary clipped it always on his towel.

Whenever his worked allowed it he would visit the chapel (one of the sisters told me that was on a weekly basis). He then always brought flowers.

He was very much struck by the death of his life time companion Rietje. This affected himself so much that he even had to cancel a tour. Nevertheless he came back on stage for the remainder of his life.

Toon died on April the 22nd 2000 which was also like with Santa Gemma a Holy Saturday. The chapel is not used for funerals but special permission was granted for a funeral service in secrecy in the chapel. Still the press did find out.

In honor of Santa Gemma the family had her image printed on the card used during the funeral service (below). Toon is buried in Sittard not too far from the chapel.



Santa Gemma, Pray for us!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

St Gemma chapel, Sittard, The Netherlands

Here are the pictures made of the chapel in honor of Saint Gemma Galgani or Santa Gemma as i'm used to say. It was built in 1938 (just before Gemma's canonization). There is also a small chapel adjacent for use during mass when the main chapel is full. Unfortunately i don't have pictures of that. I hope to write more about the history of the place in another post.

The outside of the chapel




Staphylea pinnata or the bladder nut. The sisters use this nut when it's full grown to make Rosaries.


The entrance (a bit overexposed). The candles in the background are of the altar of the Blessed Virgin.




















Some impressions from the inside






Beautiful Stained glass windows of various Passionist saints

































































































The sunlight through the glass also made this nice image


Altar of the Blessed Virgin



Picture on the altar of Santa Gemma. There was a spotlight on it i couldn't avoid. But if you know that on the top part there is an image of Jesus in the same painting it is kind of fitting :)





















A prayer from, and a prayer to Santa Gemma in Dutch.









































Santa Gemma , Pray of us (in Dutch)


The statue of Santa Gemma (about 5ft tall)





























































Santa Gemma novena candles




Santa Gemma, Pray for us!