Miracles of Our Time

In this life we cannot do great things.  We can only do small things with great love.  ~Mother Teresa

Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.  ~Mother Teresa

Fall-on-our-ridge-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Autumn on the ridge. 2013

Recently, I caught the movie A Walk To Remember (2002) on television.  The book by the same name was written by Nicholas Sparks.  Although I’ve never read that particular book by Mr. Sparks, I’ve seen the movie on numerous occasions.  I really enjoy the bittersweet love story, and I’d like to give the book a try.  Perhaps one day.

For those of you who read the book and/or watched the movie, ultimately a miracle happened.  The main character, Jamie Sullivan wanted to witness a miracle, and after a few years, she got her wish.  That was one of the items on her bucket list so to speak.

While watching, and knowing how the movie ends, I still found myself sitting on the edge of my seat and getting a warm fuzzy feeling at the actions leading up to the miracle.  It was in that instance, I began thinking of miracles, small and large.  With so much negative and unsettling actions taking place all over the world, some unknown to the masses and continue privately, it’s nice to think that we live in a time of actual miracles.  That goodness does exists.  We see tragedies and the ugliness of human behavior, but there is also the opposite.  The good does exist, it just not as popular or accepted.

Being raised, and is a practicing Catholic, who attended proctorial school for seven years, in my lifetime, as short as it is comparatively to history in general, I’ve seen, witnessed and heard of miracles.  The seeing and witnessing miracles, I’ll get to momentarily, but the hearing of miracles have been documented for ages.  The saints have been blessed with an extra dose of God’s grace, and God has had a very special relationship with these chosen people who do good in His name.  During the canonization process, these miracles are brought to light.  Random Fun Facts:  Becoming a Saint 

I once read Mother Teresa said her calling came to her in the form of a poor person.  She said she looked him in the face and saw Jesus.  Everyone knows Mother Teresa from her accomplished days of helping the poor in Calcutta.  Since Mother Teresa is on the road to sainthood with her beatification by Pope John Paul II, and she is the epitome of spiritual purity, I thought it fitting to incorporate her.

On a side note, originally, when I began writing this blog post a few years ago now (wow how time does pass by quickly!) I was helping Kyle with his geography homework, Europe before World War II.  Every time he mentioned Albania, I thought of Mother Teresa, where her roots began.

Over the years, speaking with people from all walks of life and faith practices, most have never heard of such modern day miracles, I mean even the big ones!  Keep in mind, Columbus was credited with discovering America in 1492.  Miracles happened and continue to happen all over the world.  The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe took place in Mexico in the 1530’s.  Then there’s the very intriguing story of Joseph of Cupertino, the Christian mystic and saint who had the power of levitation.  He was from Italy in the mid to late 1600’s.  I have to add the miracle of the bleeding Eucharist with the consecrated host.  In fact, there are several such instances.

Down-the-ridge-in-snow-2015-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Snowy day on the ridge 2015

Of course, some miracles have been heard of, but perhaps not completely understood.  Thanks to the movie Stigmata, Saint Francis of Assisi, who suffered the marks of Christ’s Passion through the stigmata, was brought to light.

There are so many other miracles that unfortunately, I don’t know them all, or I only remember the overview of the story, and not the pertinent details.  Keep in mind, I’m no expert on saints or miracles, but I’ve heard and accepted the stories as a sign from God and I believe wholeheartedly.  Perhaps miracles happen to reinstate our faith and to give us hope.

Not too long ago, I was told a story from a person who used to be an alcoholic.  For privacy sake, I’ll leave his name out and how I know him.  He told me of his emotional journey toward sobriety, having a similar experience like Mother Teresa.  Now here is this assumed ordinary Catholic man (I’m not saying you have to be Catholic to partake or witness a miracle), who was literally touched by Jesus.  After I heard the story, I didn’t doubt it for one minute!  Actually, I was so excited for him, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, even to this day.  To me, I was blessed enough to have a first hand account of such a miracle and holy intervention.

Really?  Oh yes.  My friend was befriended by a man who worked at this rehab facility.  The two men spent weeks together, sharing stories and working out my friend’s inner demons.  My friend even said the man’s face (worker) was like light.  Years after my friend’s release, he went back to the facility to find the worker who made such an impact in his life.  He wanted to thank him and keep him abreast of his new life in the clean and sober world.  Guess what?  The man never existed.  There was no record of him, anywhere, nor his likeness or his name.  It’s as if the worker didn’t exist, yet my friend spend hours upon hours with him, even in front of people.  To this day, he said he has no urge to drink and that God simply took that away.  Something to think about.

What miracle have I seen and witnessed?  First a good friend of mine survived a brain aneurysm that erupted, with little to now side effects.  She’s a walking modern day miracle.  Any others?  Sure.  Every time I attend mass and watch the priest consecrate the host and the wine into the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ.  If you think I’m being naive or mislead, refer to the seventh paragraph above and look into it with an open mind.

I hope everyone gets to witness a miracle or at the very least a good deed!  We could all use a little reminder of good in our lives.

On a funny note, my biggest miracle would be to have Kyle drop the attitude.  He’s a good kid, with an edge to him.

This screen shot below is too comical.  I participated in one of those silly games on Facebook, and this was the answer for what is my calling.  Since I know it’s not true, as much as I’d be honored and blessed for it to be true, I wanted to prove we all have it in us, even me, even for a moment in a game.

Screen Shot of a game on FB 2014 Aunt Heather Piper

I took one of those silly trivia games on Facebook, & this was the answer. Since I know it’s not true, as much as I would be honored & blessed, I wanted to prove we all have it in us, even me, even for a moment in a game. 2014

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Church,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Random Fun Facts: Becoming a Saint

God shows to men, in a vivid way, His presence and His face in the lives of those companions of ours in the human condition who are more perfectly transformed in the image of Christ. He speaks to us in them and offers us a sign of this kingdom to which we are powerfully attracted, so great a cloud of witnesses is there given and such a witness to the truth of the Gospel. It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek rather that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened.  ~  Vatican II  (Lumen Gentium No. 50)

Giotto di Bondone St Francis & St Clare 1279-1300 Aunt Heather Piper

Saint Francis & Saint Clare a Fresco by Giotto di Bondone 1279-1300

With the dual canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, Pope & Saints it got me thinking, ‘How exactly does one become a saint?’, not that I am in the running for that honor, and certainly not a candidate, but merely an interested party.

With my roots strongly planted in the Catholic faith, (I’m no expert on religion nor am I the poster child for a perfect Catholic specimen)  I know some popular qualifications, but never the entire process.  The canonization of these Popes two Sunday’s ago sparked my curiosity.

Over the years, I’ve had others ask me the very same thing.  Ashamed, I did not know the entire answer, I thought it was about time I did.  Through a little bit of reading and reviewing, this is what I’ve found.  Exactly how true it is, I’m not really sure, but some of my sources are legit and some of it sounds familiar, like it has been taught to me before.

Apparently, the process of canonization was established in 1234 by Pope Gregory IX.  Prior to that time, saints were honored upon their deathbeds, usually due to martyrdom.  Over the years, since some were falsely honored with the prestigious title of saint, but did not quite live up to the standards and were only done so through hearsay and legend, a standard process needed to be established.  Way to to Pope Gregory IX!  I couldn’t agree more.

This process has been followed and refined year after year.  It starts with the candidate for saint who dies with “fame of sanctity” or “fame of martyrdom.”, which is not gender specific.  The Bishop of the Diocese initiates an investigation to find one piece of any special favor or miracle granted through the potential saint’s actions.  Basically, did divine intervention happen for all to witness through the prayers and direct actions of this person.

Yes, the Catholic church does a real uncovering of the life and good works accomplished by said candidate.  There needs to be proof in the pudding so to speak.  This also includes any writings and teachings from this potential saint.  They are looking for “purity of doctrine”, to ensure the faith was upheld and not bastardized or disregarded in any way.  This does not include the entire life of the candidate.  Believe it or not, some saints began their roots in the not-so-pure of heart.  Of course we are all human and sinners alike, even saintly figures, but sometimes a life fell more on the impure side.  However, during the saint’s conversion, the church is looking to see if they upheld the teachings and the faith.  It’s true, some canonized saints’ backgrounds were not holy, yet along their journey they answered God and chose a different path to follow, never to return to their unholy beginnings.

All this information that is required and collected, is appropriately and faithfully recorded and placed in a formal document to be submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

The Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, formally known as the Congregation of Rites manages and monitors the entire process.  Thanks to Pope Sixtus V, in 1588, he gave this duty to this organization and it has remained in its jurisdiction since.

Angelico Story of St. Nicholas The Death of the Saint Aunt Heather Piper

The Story of St. Nicholas: The Story of the Saint done in tempera & gold on panel by Fra Angelico 1447-48

However, this is all just preliminary work.  The Congregation needs to accept this candidate as worthy to continue the investigation proceedings.  If the hopeful saint is worthy, now the nature of his or her death is fully uncovered.  If that person died a martyr, then it has to be determined the true intentions of his or her death.  Did they die for the love of Christ and the church?  Was there evidence of a life of self sacrifice and complete dedication and servitude toward God?  Did they live an extraordinary life of walking with Christ?  Did they serve the community gallantly and wholeheartedly with high moral standards, leading by example for the sake of God and not ones own personal gain?

Believe it or not, these actions are scrutinized and picked apart to raise doubts and criticisms.  The Congregation takes this potential saint and places them under the microscope, picking apart their every action.  Then, they find the answers to justify the proposed saint’s intentions, answering all skepticism and apprehension to possibly declare this candidate as Venerable.

Moving onto the next step, Beatification.  Mother Teresa is in this stage currently.  “A martyr may be beatified and declared “Blessed” by virtue of martyrdom itself.” or the candidate needs to have performed or be associated with a miracle.  There is two ways of looking at this, either God, Himself performed the miracle or He used the blessed one to intervene on His behalf.  Big difference and that’s what the Congregation tries to uncover.

Once the candidate is Beatified, yet another miracle needs to be proven to complete the final process.  Sometimes this could take years upon years, hence why the process is so long.  I would think it’s easier to prove actions rather than the true intent of the person at the focus of the investigation.  Actions do speak louder than words, yet intentions are the heart and soul of the matter.  Sometimes the miracle could also takes years to reveal itself.

Miracles could take on many different forms.  It could be something as jaw dropping like Saint Alphonsus Liguori who would levitate when preaching at Foggia; or Saint Francis of Assisi who suffered from the stigmata.  Those are extremes, however they don’t have to be.  Sometimes miracles could be modest and almost over looked like with Saint Edith/Teresa Benedicta.  She interceded for a little girl who almost died from a Tylenol overdose some forty years after Saint Edith’s death.  Again this is why a very detailed investigation takes place with each potential saint, and that’s also why there are so many steps and protocol to follow in this process.

Another question that popped into my head, ‘Can a non-Catholic become a Saint?’  I found this excerpt:

But the fathers of the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, (paragraph 16) admitted the possibility of extraordinary grace when they noted that “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.” This principle can also be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 847.

My old CCD Teacher once said, there are people who do not attend mass, they may not even really know a lot about religion or God, yet they have an innate grace and Godly presence about them.  They are truly good people and lead by example, even though they don’t know it.  I believe that!  For the opposite can be said.  There are those who attend church regularly, read the bible and so on and so forth, yet are shortsighted by their arrogance or righteousness and holier-than-thou attitude.  Going to church doesn’t make you holy, it’s whats in your heart and your intentions that do.

Receiving the Stigmata Angelico 1429 Aunt Heather Piper

Receiving the Stigmata done in tempera on wood by Fra Angelico 1429

Those declared as Saints seemed to cover all bases, humility and charity and a deep understanding of the faith and a personal friendship with the Lord.

On a side note, I want to debunk a misleading idea perceived about the Catholic church.  We do NOT pray to saints.  That would be worshiping a false god, breaking one of the top three commandments.  Nope, we pray for the saint to intercede on our behalf.  We ask the saints to pray for us, a tour guide if you will, leading us in the right direction and putting in a good word.  Personally, I think the saints have more pull with God Almighty.  It’s no different than asking a friend or a relative to pray for you.  Usually we select a specific saint that focuses on a certain area of interest, i.e. Our Lady of Guadalupe (honored on my birthday) is the patron saint of the Americas / Mexico and Saint Nicholas (Kyle’s confirmation Saint) is the patron saint of children.

Another item for the checklist in the canonization process, is what I call the death test.  When exhuming a body of the potential saint, it is found free of rot and decay.  No composition has taken place like any other normal body.  The corpse is usually still juicy and almost preserved.  Believe it or not the body has a sweet fragrant smell, not one of decaying corpse.  I also read about the liquefaction process, whereas the dried blood liquefies on the feast day.  This was new information to me, but I have heard of the host bleeding during the Eucharist prayer during mass.

I think this process is needed and, yes I do believe there are those that should be honored on a high esteem of sainthood.  They earned that title for their dedication to God on a different level then I could ever fathom.

 

 

Sources

http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0136.html

Saunders, Rev. William. “The Process of Becoming a Saint.” Arlington Catholic Herald.

http://bustedhalo.com/questionbox/are-there-any-non-catholics-that-the-church-recognizes-as-saints

Catechism of the Catholic Church

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-become-a-saint-in-the-catholic-church.html

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts and have No Comments

Popes & Saints

We ought to fly away from earth to heaven as quickly as we can; and to fly away is to become like God, as far as this is possible; and to become like him is to become holy, just, and wise.  ~ Plato

The Crucifixion of Saint Peter by Caravaggio

The Crucifixion of Saint Peter by Caravaggio

Yesterday marked a truly blessed occasion.  Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII were canonized as saints.  This is the first time a dual canonization has ever taken place, with the presence of two Popes, another first.  Pope Francis declared the canonization in the Vatican City, in front of a million supporters with the company of Pope Benedict XVI.

In my short life alone, I have been honored to witness such acts of goodness from God’s chosen disciples.  It certainly helps me to continue my belief that people are innately good and the wrong in the world, however tragic and devastating it is, even though we seem to be consumed in its wake, is not prevailing over good, nor is it a commodity.  It’s actually very refreshing and reassuring to be reminded of true goodness since there seems to be such an influx of malignant spirits.

Now onto those who set an example of how to live and conduct life.  Please note, even popes are not perfect, not in the slightest.  We are all human with the ability of free will.  However, these saints have worked very hard to follow in the way of the Lord and set an example for all to join, going above and beyond.

(Obediencia et Pax – Obedient & Peace) Pope John XXIII, was successor to Saint Peter from 1958-1963.  What did he do exactly?  I was not around to see his works, only reading about this benevolent spirit.  He convened the Second Vatican Council in 1962.  This type of meeting should never be taken lightly, for it is rare collaboration of the worlds most influential and spiritual leaders and discussions are made on major issues, affecting the world’s spiritual guidance.  During such a time, Pope John XXIII helped to modernize our Mass by spreading the word of God in the local languages rather than the traditional Latin.  (Even though there is a push to bring back the Latin Mass, which is nice to keep traditions.)  He also encouraged and spearheaded discussions and interactions with those of other faiths, specifically Jews.  He was a sort of mediator.

JohannesPaul2-Aunt Heather Piper

Pope John Paul II – now officially a saint

(Totus Tuus – Totally Yours)  Pope John Paul II, the one I remember, was the second longest reining Bishop of Rome from 1978-2005. (26 years)  The longest was Pope Pius IX, 31 years.  He was also the first Polish Pope and the first non-Italian pontiff in four hundred years.  As per my mom, who is half Polish, she said her grandmother would have loved to see the day we had a Polish Pope.  We did!  And a fine one he was!

Pope John Paul II ventured out in the world were no Pope had been present.  He too, like Pope John XXIII opened communication with different faiths including the Protestant and Orthodox denominations.  Living through the Nazi invasion of Poland, Pope John Paul II spoke out heavily against war, economic injustice and political oppression by helping to overturn communism through his support of Poland’s Solidarity movement.

Pope John Paul II established the World Youth Days, bringing back a renewed interest in the Catholic Church.  However, he didn’t let his morals slip, but instead maintained the conservative church teachings, even after the morally loss and influence of the 1960’s.

Vatican_II Aunt Heather Piper

The Second Vatican Council

He left us his legacy and spiritual enlightenment through a dozen encyclicals and many, many other documents.  Pope John Paul II also seemed to believe in the goodness of others, around him and before his time.  He beatified and canonized more than a thousand men and women from every aspect of life, including Mother Teresa.

My wish is that this act of canonization for both popes brings a renewed hope in the goodness of people and sets the example for the next generation.  It makes for a more positive day when we share in goodness rather than hate or wrong doing.  I am also praying for the canonization of Mother Teresa.  In my opinion one deserving of such a title.

God Speed Everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Travels and have No Comments
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