WHAT'S NEW?

Liturgical Season 6/13/03 World News
New Resources  Marian Events  Mary in the Secular Press
 News from the
Marian Library
 Prayer Corner News Archives

Mary Page News items give insight into our interest areas, our outreach, and the many ways people honor Our Lady. We welcome your input and your comments.

Liturgical Season

In preparation for the month of June, use the following:

Mary Page offers a variety of resources inviting study, reflection and meditation.  We also list important Marian dates for each month of the year.  Please see Marian Commemoration Days for the month of June.

Rosary Markings

Rosary Markings is an answer to John Paul II's proclamation of "The Year of the Rosary" (2002-2003).  Rosary Markings will explore various facets of the rosary all through this anniversary year.  It will be updated frequently.  

See our recent addition from June 12.  Previous Reflections are listed on our Rosary Index.

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New Resources

A section on international stamps with images of Mary has been added to our Resources index.  The latest added was Mexico.  Expect more countries to follow.

We have updated our answer to a reader's question, Can you relate the story of Tindari?, our photo essay on the Serenity Pines Mary Garden, the Hail Mary in Foreign Languages, Marian Prayers of Pope John Paul II, and Marian shrine addresses for England.

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  News from the Marian Library

New Course Will Be Offered!

The International Marian Research Institute would like to call your attention to a new course which will be offered from July 28 - August 1, 2003, Mary and the Internet. This course will provide an introduction to the history and nature of the Internet and web design.  Catholic teaching on the mass media, in general, and on the Internet, in particular, will also be discussed.  Numerous web sites with Marian themes from around the world will be shown and critiqued with regard to content and design. The instructors will be Mr. Michael P. Duricy, Sr. Danielle Peters, and Alejandro Cañadas. We encourage anyone interested in this fascinating, cutting-edge topic to attend. For more information, consult the course syllabus.

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Thesis Defense

Virginia M. Kimball, a student at the International Marian Research Institute, will present and defend her doctoral dissertation, Liturgical Illuminations: Marian Theology in the Eastern Orthros, Morning Hours, in The Marian Library's Reading Room at 10:00 A.M. on Saturday, June 21, 2003.

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Last Chance To See Guiliani Exhibit!

Native American Madonnas by Father Guiliani was scheduled for display in the Marian Library Gallery from March 10 to May 5, 2003, but may still be seen through June 15.  The Gallery is open 8:30 am - 4:30 pm weekdays.  For more information, or to arrange for viewing at another time, call (937) 229-4214.

To see a virtual exhibit of this year's displays click into Current Exhibit.

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Alumni Update

James C. Tibbetts, an IMRI graduate and lay theologian (S.T.L), is a researcher, writer and health educator.  He promotes a Biblically sound and Scientifically based understanding of a Living Foods Diet and Juice Fasting.  He has also produced a Spirituality Series which includes the following books: Intimacy in a Holy Marriage; Prayer of the Heart, Pray without Ceasing; Biblical Titles of the Virgin Mary, A Month of Meditations; Guadalupe and the Tilma, Research & Meaning; Mary, Ark of the Lord, Icon of the Church with Fr. Bill McCarthy; and Mary in the Church Today with Fr. Bill McCarthy; as well as an award-winning documentary video, Saint Faustina, Life and Mission.  For more information click into the LivingFoodsTechnology.com web site.

He is now Editor and Publisher of Just Eat an Apple, a leading magazine on the raw diet and is currently researching the topic of fasting and the Holy Family.  For more information click into the www.justeatanapple.com web site.

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Major Exhibit Coming Next Year

A rare collection of art from the Vatican will be coming to UD during its short tour.  "The Mother of God: Art Celebrates Mary" will arrive in Sept. 2003 for a two month stay in the Roesch Library first-floor gallery and seventh-floor Marian Library Gallery.  The multicultural exhibition includes pieces dating from the fourth century to the 20th century.

The works include a variety of mediums such as oil on canvas and copper; tempera; gold on panel-carved sections of sarcophagi in marble; and statuary in wood, bronze, ivory, lead and soapstone.  The artists are from several different ethnic backgrounds.  Cultures of Africa, China, Korea, Greece, Central Europe, Russia, Brazil, and the Solomon Islands are represented.  The 38-piece collection is housed in the Vatican Museums, although many of the pieces are in areas only accessible to scholars for study.

Aside from an extended stay at the John Paul II cultural center in Washington, D.C., the exhibit has rarely been seen by the public.  The cost of transporting, insuring, and securing the art will be provided through private donations.

The works are put into six categories: Eve and Mary, The Incarnation, The Theotokos (Mother of God), Images of Prayer, Mary in Cultures Around the World, and Walking with Mary in the Third Millennium.  The sections are introduced by writings from Pope John Paul II.

The exhibition puts emphasis on the mission of the Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute, which is serving as the host.  It will be the second exhibit in a biennial series of international art here at UD.

Source: "Rare Vatican art to make its way to campus" by Meghan Roberts, published on p. 7 in Flyer News for September 27, 2002.

For more information see also the article by Pamela Gregg in the August 22 issue of U.D.'s Campus Report.

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International Marian Research Institute Course Schedule

The schedule of IMRI courses for Spring 2003 - Fall 2003 is now available for view.  Courses for this Summer will begin on June 16.

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Personal thoughts and reflections about Mary 
from our readers 

We've added a section to our Research and Publications section showing selected personal comments from our readers about the Virgin Mary.  Click here to see comments received within the past month.  From this page, feel free to submit your own personal thoughts on Mary.  

We also encourage our readers to submit their opinions on various styles of Marian Art through an on-line art survey.

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Marian Events

2ND ANNUAL WORLD APOSTOLATE OF FATIMA CONFERENCE

(Sponsored by Blue Army Los Angeles Archdiocesan Division)

JUNE 27, 28 & 29, 2003

CARSON CIVIC CENTER
801 EAST CARSON STREET
CARSON, CA 90745

Tel. No. (310) 835-0212

Internet: www.bluearmy.com

Email: bluearmylosangel@aol.com

Click this link for a list of all of the current Marian Events by geographical position.

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Prayer Corner Requests

You are invited to help us pray for our Prayer Corner intentions.  Please take a look!  This site has been updated and enhanced and now allows users to directly submit prayer requests or to volunteer as a prayer partner for these intentions!

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News from Around the World

From Zenit

Not posted this week.

From L’Osservatore Romano

Not posted this week.

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Mary in the Secular Press

The director and editors of Mary Page under the auspices of the International Marian Research Institute do not necessarily endorse or agree with the events and ideas expressed in this feature. Our sole purpose is to report on items about Mary gleaned from a myriad of papers representing the secular press.

G'day Jesus, say the three wise eggheads [Source: The Daily Telegraph (London), June 4, 2003]

The Virgin Mary is a "pretty special sheila" who wraps her nipper in a bunny rug and tucks him up in a cattle feed trough, according to a new Australian version of the Bible.

The Three Wise Men are "eggheads from out east" who follow a star to find the baby Jesus and announce their arrival with: "G'day, Your Majesty!"

The Good Samaritan is a "grubby old street sweeper" who patches up the victim of a highway robbery with his first aid kit, then drops him off at the nearest pub.

The stories are undoubtedly familiar, but their telling has taken an improbable verbal bruising with the translation of parts of the New Testament into the Australian vernacular, known as Strine.

The result is The Aussie Bible (Well, bits of it anyway!) which will be published in August and is aimed at readers who believe the Bible is too high brow or simply boring. The book has headings such as "Jesus is born," "The Wise Guys" and "The Story of the Good Bloke." It has been backed by the Bible Society of New South Wales, with forewords by Peter Jensen, Sydney's Anglican archbishop, and John Anderson, the deputy prime minister.

The project was devised by Kel Richards, a journalist and broadcaster. He admitted his motivation was unclear: "I don't know if it was a brainwave, a seizure, or a bad oyster."

QUESTIONS CLOAK MIRACLE OF CAPE [Source: Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO), May 31, 2003]

Serious questions remain in some circles as to the authenticity of a Catholic miracle involving a 500-year-old garment that is at the center of a celebration this weekend in Denver.

A shred from the Tilma de Tepayac, a cape belonging to an Aztec peasant who reported encountering Our Lady of Guadalupe three times on a Mexico City hilltop in December 1531, is on display through Sunday at Denver's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

The tilma is believed by the Catholic Church to have been miraculously imprinted with the holy mother's image in the course of the third and final apparition of the Virgin Mary that the poor Aztec farmer, Juan Diego, reported to the local bishop.

Diego's testimony is credited with prompting the Christian conversion of countless Mexican and Central American indigenous people.

Not only is the tilma's legitimacy questioned, there are those who doubt Diego's existence.

"There's no question but that he didn't (exist)," said Father Stafford Poole, a semi-retired Vincentian priest and research historian living in Los Angeles.

Poole in 1995 authored Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Origins and Sources of a Mexican Symbol, 1531-1797.

"I'm a bit more radical than most anti-apparitionists," said Poole. "My position is that the whole thing is nothing but a pious fiction, made up in the mid-17th century."

Poole's position is based on the fact that the first known Spanish-language account of Diego's reported experiences was not recorded until 1648.

Cambridge University scholar David Brading, author of Mexican Phoenix, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Image and Tradition Across Five Centuries, said at the time of Diego's canonization it made no more sense than canonizing the good Samaritan.

"There's no historical evidence whatsoever that such a person actually existed," Brading told the National Catholic Register in January 2002.

But Father Eduardo Chavez Sanchez, who in 1998 published The Encounter of the Virgin Guadalupe with Juan Diego, told the Register last year, "There is no doubt about the existence of Juan Diego. The debate has been resolved."

That's also the opinion of John and Rebecca Jackson, a Colorado Springs couple who run the Turin Shroud Center of Colorado. They make a full-time study of the ancient cloth many believe to hold the image of a resurrected Jesus Christ.

The couple, both of whom are Catholics and attended Juan Diego's canonization in Mexico City, would love to apply their scientific expertise to a similar examination of the tilma.

"I don't think anyone can legitimately argue this was all was made up by someone after the fact, or say things like Juan Diego didn't exist," said John Jackson, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel. "He did exist. None of this (that followed) would have made sense otherwise."

As for questions over the authenticity of the tilma itself, numerous studies have been made of the remarkable image of the Virgin, dating as far back as 1666.

It was examined in 1999 on a limited basis by a team that included Cornell University paleontology professor John Chiment and San Antonio, Texas, ophthalmologist Gilberto Aguirre.

One component of their study included Chiment's microscopic analysis of two small fibers from the tilma, to determine its composition. Tradition holds that it had been woven from the desert plant agave. If true, that would be a miracle in itself, because such material would be expected to deteriorate greatly in just 20 to 50 years.

But it wasn't agave, after all - at least that wasn't the case with the minute fiber samples Chiment studied.

"It turns out to be made from hemp . . . and that makes a lot of sense," Chiment said. "That's a really good fiber, and that explains why it has lasted 500 years."

Such a finding was both bad news and good news for believers in the miracle. Bad news, because there's nothing too miraculous about a cloak woven from hemp lasting so long. But good news, as far as fixing the tilma in Diego's era, because hemp was known to have been in use in Mexico at that time.

But when Chiment and Aguirre tried to conduct photographic analysis of the relic itself, in Mexico City, their attempts were hampered by the fact that they were not permitted to remove its protective glass cover.

They had hoped infrared and ultraviolet imagery could reveal more about the composition of the Virgin's image. Even supporters of Diego's canonization concede that in the interest of restoration or preservation, certain features have been painted over in the past 452 years.

"There were so many reflections coming off of that glass, the ultraviolet photo we did was basically meaningless," said Aguirre. "It was not worthy of scientific interpretation. We learned absolutely nothing from these pictures."

Several photographers over the years--most recently, in 1979, Dr. Jose Aste Tonsmann, who holds a doctorate from Cornell--have captured images that purport to show human images miraculously "reflected" in the virgin's eyes.

Maybe yes, maybe no.

"When you enlarge them, and enlarge them, and enlarge them, I'm not sure exactly what you're looking at," said Chiment. "What you're supposed to be seeing is three little people turned upside down. But if nobody had told me what they were supposed to be, they could have been (Disney characters) Chip and Dale."

Whatever the origins of the tilma's image, even some of those who remain on the authenticity fence insist that it's a true miracle, if only for its powerful spiritual influence on an entire culture.

"For those who believe, there is no amount of evidence that is necessary," said Aguirre. "For those who don't, there is no amount of evidence that will be sufficient.

"It is an article of faith. The miracle lies not so much in the material painting itself, but in what it has generated over these many centuries. The miracle is the message of hope and of love, and the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. I think that's where the miracle lies, even if it is just a painting. It changed Mexico completely."

Healing in a bottle For some Denver Catholics [Source: The Denver Post, May 27, 2003]

In the low-ceiling basement of a small brick house at 1155 S. Josephine St., Dick Altman, nicknamed "Dick the Dipper," fills small plastic bottles, 100 at a time, with water.

This water has the power to heal the sick in body, mind and spirit, devotees say, and is imported in blue casks from Lourdes, France, where St. Bernadette reportedly saw a vision of the Virgin Mary nearly 150 years ago.

This house is the site of Lourdes Marian Center, located next to St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church. It's a place for those in need of healing to gather and pray.

"The water itself is not miraculous," says the Rev. Michael Walsh, the parish priest. "Rather it is a person's belief that packs the punch," he says.

"For those who have faith, this water can bring miraculous results," he says.

The center is one of two sources in the United States for the ailing and the devout to obtain Lourdes water, in person or by mail order. Until February 2002, Lourdes Center in Boston had been the sole source of the water since 1949.

"To have the water available here on Josephine Street is a beautiful gift," says volunteer Carolyn Fantz of Morrison. "People most often come here to pray for a loved one or themselves, if they are ailing. We will pray with them and for them. Sometimes the greatest miracle is to have the gift of God's grace through trials, to be able to persevere through difficult times," she says.

"I experienced emotional healing from the water," says Fantz, who was submerged in it during a family pilgrimage to Lourdes. "Now, I bless myself with the water, and bless my home and my family routinely," she says.

The belief that surrogate healing objects such as Lourdes water can mediate healing also transcends religions and cultures.

"The water from Lourdes, like the sacred mud at Chimayo and other sacred objects, may activate some mechanism in the body that connects with something, some say the power of suggestion, belief or faith," says Larry Dossey, M.D., author of nine books on the role of mind and spirit on healing. His recent work is Healing Beyond the Body: Medicine and the Infinite Reach of the Mind (Shambhala, $ 15.95).

"Many trivialize the magnitude of these powers. The bottom line is that something in the human psyche responds to sacred sites and objects. We may not be equipped to understand why or how they work," he says. "My response is to fall down on my knees in awe that these things occur."

At Lourdes, a medical bureau uses stringent criteria to assess whether miraculous healings are real, says Dossey, and in small numbers the phenomenon is genuine. Indisputable to Dossey is this: "The mind is hugely more powerful than we give it credit for."

The Lourdes water is available for everyone, the believing and the non-believing.

Most people who come to Denver's Lourdes center are Catholics who seek out the water and the healing services Walsh leads on the first Thursday and last Sunday of each month.

"I ask what parish they are from and they say, 'I haven't been to church in 20 years','' he says.

No matter. What matters is that they are in a reverential state of mind and that they believe they can be healed.

"When people are in a spiritual place, a place of prayer, they are more open to healing," says Walsh, who also does healing prayers for those who request them.

Walsh's message is a fundamental one, common to many religions and beliefs. He asks those in search of physical and spiritual renewal to first feel forgiveness.

"I tell people the precondition of effective healing is to let go of grudges. Many people have been deeply hurt, and that is a block to their healing. I tell them to let it go," he says.

The house where the center is located was once the church custodian's home. "We dolled it up a bit," says Walsh.

Now simply decorated, the center has a feeling of peace and comfort. The curtains are made of white starched eyelet; the walls are painted Mary blue, a pastel shade associated with the mother of Jesus, who also is known as the Blessed Mother. She also is known by other names where she has appeared in an apparition: Our Lady of Lourdes, La Virgen de Guadalupe and Our Lady of Fatima.

Across from the front door is a table with baskets of water-filled bottles, religious medals and yellow rosaries alongside brochures about guided pilgrimages to Lourdes. Prayer groups use the back room to meet. Videos on Lourdes are available as well for the curious to view. The 1-ounce bottles of water are free, although a donation of $2.50 is suggested.

By fall, a corner of the backyard will feature a grotto with statues of St. Bernadette and Mary, commemorating their encounter.

The story goes like this: In 1858, the 14-year-old Bernadette saw 17 visions of Mary, who appeared wearing a blue sash and carrying a yellow rosary. At Mary's suggestion, Bernadette dug in the dirt and a spring began to flow.

She then asked of her local priest that a chapel be built at the site of Mary's visitation. Now millions visit the Lourdes shrine each year in search of spiritual renewal. Many are sick or in wheelchairs, hoping for cures or for healing.

Some people drink the Lourdes water, some splash it on the afflicted parts of the body, some wash hands, and others bless themselves with it, explains Walsh from a chair overlooked by a figure of Mary in the light-filled front room at the Lourdes center.

Downstairs, wearing a shirt with the words "Life is Short, Pray Hard" and facing a portrait of Mary, Dick Altman is busy.

He fills 600 bottles, sometimes twice a week. He makes the tedious job more bearable by saying the rosary as he works. Otherwise, he says, "This could make you crazy."

He has developed a somewhat streamlined though still labor-intensive technique. One of his fellow parishioners even commended his efforts with a trophy inscribed to "Dicky Dipper."

Altman's filling process starts, he says, with religiosity, a prayer to the Holy Trinity. He then attaches a blue hose to the blue water barrel just off the boat from France, and lets the water flow into a spotless metal sink.

He arranges bottles into a plastic grid, covers the grid with a mesh top and submerges the bottles until full. After filling, he affixes by hand all the bottle lids. Lastly, he uses a specially outfitted screwdriver to ensure that the tops are on tight.

It's just coincidence, according to Altman, that the empty bottles are obtained from a local company called Amen Packaging.

Walsh comes downstairs to watch. He and Altman banter as the water flows.

"I am just making sure you get an accurate count," says Walsh.

"No, you just want to make sure Dippy doesn't slip off with one or two in his pocket," Altman replies.

The connection between the two men dates to when Altman assisted Walsh in another Denver church.

"Father would hand me the metal tray after communion and it would be piping hot," Altman recalls.

The heat was an indication of the energy Altman believes flows through Walsh when he prays for someone to be healed.

After recovering from a heart attack many years ago, Altman had continued to suffer with an irregular heartbeat. During a healing Mass, he asked Walsh to pray for him, and as he did he placed his hands on Altman's head, shoulders and heart.

"The heat was pervasive," says Altman. "After that one prayer," he says, "the palpitations ceased."

So now, Altman gracefully attends to his dipping whenever the supply of Lourdes water is in need of replenishment. What keeps him going is his faith and the rosary, which have more power than a thermonuclear device, he says. And on this day, like many others, he rolls up his sleeves and gets his hands wet.

Ritual fosters a rosary resurgence [Source: St. Petersburg Times (Florida), May 21, 2003]

Last weekend was the crowning of Mary at St. Paul's Catholic Church, a May practice observed by Catholics all over the world.

The May crowning had been celebrated by students at St. Paul's school several days earlier, who placed a wreath on a statue of the Virgin Mary and prayed a decade of the rosary, the Marian devotion that dates back several centuries.

Pope John Paul II has declared this the year of the rosary, which is enjoying a resurgence among Catholics. He also introduced a new set of mysteries, contemplations on the life of Christ, that are reflected on while praying the rosary. These new "luminous mysteries" are to be used on Thursdays. They join the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries, which have been used by Catholics since the 1500s. This is the first time in centuries that a pope has introduced a new set of mysteries to the cherished devotion.

"I'm always surprised by how many mention to me how important the rosary is to them. A lot of them are elderly people; but young people, college students, from time to time, mention to me that the rosary is important to them," said the Rev. Robert Gibbons, pastor of St. Paul's and chancellor of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

"It's been a popular devotion in the Catholic Church for centuries; and, of course, it's not a mandatory devotion, but many people find it to be a help in their prayer life."

The Rev. Paul Pecchie of St. Stephen's in Valrico is enthusiastic about the rosary.

"When you pray the rosary, it helps you to contemplate the face of Christ," he said and pointed to the pope's October apostolic letter concerning the devotion.

"The rosary gives us meditations on the life of Jesus and Mary," added Pecchie, who is the spiritual director of the St. Petersburg chapter of Magnificat, a ministry to Catholic women that takes its name from words Mary spoke to her cousin Elizabeth about being chosen to carry the Christ child.

There are a few misconceptions about the new mysteries, said Pecchie, citing media reports that the pope had changed the rosary.
"He really didn't change it. He enhanced it," the priest said.

The new "mysteries of light" or "luminous mysteries" cover Christ's life between his baptism and passion. They focus on his baptism in the River Jordan, self-revelation at the marriage of

Cana, announcement of the kingdom of God with the invitation to conversion, transfiguration when he revealed his glory to the apostles, and the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. The pope is recommending that these new mysteries be recited on Thursdays. They join the traditional mysteries: joyful, sorrowful and glorious.

The joyful mysteries, which cover the annunciation, visitation, birth of Jesus, presentation and the finding of the child Jesus in the temple, are prayed on Mondays and Saturdays. The sorrowful mysteries, covering the agony in the garden, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, carrying of the cross and the crucifixion, are said on Tuesdays and Fridays. The glorious mysteries, to be said on Wednesdays and Sundays, cover the resurrection, the ascension, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, the assumption and the crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven.

(The Diocese of St. Petersburg's Web site, http://www.dioceseofstpete.org , gives detailed directions for praying the rosary.)

Basically, the rosary is a string of small and large beads and a crucifix. There are five decades, or five sets of 10 small beads. A "Hail Mary" is said at each of those beads. Each set of 10 beads, or decade, has a mystery assigned to it. Between groups of Hail Marys, the faithful say a "Glory Be," contemplate one of the mysteries and say the Lord's Prayer. The devotion has spawned rosarymaking guilds, like the one Ruth Mattick, 68, heads at St. Raphael's on Snell Isle.

"I started it four years ago and I've gotten a few women to work on it with me. ... We've already sent out 10,000 of them," said Mrs. Mattick, adding that her group's rosaries go to prisons, hospitals and overseas missions, particularly Uganda.

George Goetz is in charge of the rosarymaking guild at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle.

The group, which meets on the first Wednesday of every month, sends rosaries all over the world, including India and Russia, Goetz said.

"One of the great advantages of the rosary is that it is extremely flexible in terms of how you may choose to use it," said Gibbons, St. Paul's pastor.

"Some people might meditate on the traditional mysteries; other people might choose to meditate on other significant events in the life of Christ. Other people might say a shortened version of it. It can be prayed anywhere. You can pray it while you're jogging. You can pray it while you're sitting. You can pray it while you're lying in bed, while you're driving, so long as you keep your hands on the wheel."
Mary Maroney, a former Episcopalian, is a devotee of the rosary and is pleased with the new mysteries.

"It's Jesus' life. It's the part we didn't have," she said of the additional prayers.

Mrs. Maroney joins other St. Paul's parishioners to say the rosary after daily Mass.

"We just do that impromptu," she said.

"It takes about 25 minutes."

Mrs. Maroney also recites the rosary with members of the St. Paul's chapter of the Legion of Mary, a lay group that was founded in Dublin in 1921 and encourages people to live their faith.

"We love the rosary. It's part of our daily prayers," she said of her chapter, which meets once a week.

Right now Mrs. Maroney, who is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, prays the rosary using a string of beads she bought during a pilgrimage to Lourdes early this month.

"My link with the rosary, with Our Lady and, of course, her son, just helps me with everything," she said.

Pecchie, the Valrico priest, said interest in the rosary is growing among younger Catholics.

"Some of our younger people realized that something might be lacking, so they are looking for those things that might draw them closer to our Lord," said Pecchie, 35.

At St. Paul's and other Catholic schools, students learn to recite the rosary. Mrs. Maroney teaches the devotion to St. Paul's Brownies.

She tells them that "the rosary is like holding Mother Mary's hand as you are walking through Jesus' life so you don't get lost."

"(Mary) always knows where her son is," Mrs. Maroney tells the girls. "She is his biggest fan."

Shrine Time At the Franciscan Monastery [Source: The Washington Post, May 16, 2003]

FROM a wooded hill in Northeast Washington, you can get a glimpse of the Holy Land.

You can see the place where Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem and the tomb where he was buried in Jerusalem. Traveling further, you can descend to the spooky catacombs of Rome, burial site of martyrs from centuries past. Or you can relax in the gardens at France's Grotto of Lourdes, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a peasant girl named Bernadette. Admission is free, and you'll be back the same day, all courtesy of the friars at Washington's Franciscan Monastery.

The church and grounds of the 1899 monastery have scale reproductions of some of the most famous shrines in the world. Foremost among them is the Holy Sepulchre--the tomb of Christ--from which the monastery takes its formal name, the Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

According to Brother Roger Petris, the Order of Friars Minor is in charge of the monastery tours. He said the Franciscans built the monastery partly to help inspire others to help the friars in their work preserving the original holy shrines. "But also to give those who did not have the means to travel to foreign lands the chance to learn what those places look like," he explains. The result is part museum, part pilgrimage destination. It's also a place that even a group of middle schoolers found "pretty cool."

A 45-minute tour of the church interiors is led by a Knight of Mount St. Sepulchre, resplendent in a white, military-style uniform, complete with ribbons and medals. The Knights are volunteers who act as honor guards for the Blessed Sacrament (Holy Communion), and conduct tours of the church and catacombs.

The catacombs winding beneath the church's main floor are one of the tour's highlights. These re-creations of the Roman catacombs, with burial niches along the narrow, shadowy corridors and primitive Christian art on the walls, bear testimony to the heavy price of religious freedom.

The catacomb altar of 8-year-old Saint Innocent, whose actual, naturally mummified remains (referred to as "uncorrupted") are preserved there, was particularly popular with our young group. The child martyr's body is robed and his face is masked, but what our boys termed a "mummy hand" is visible within the altar's display case.

My family has toured the monastery twice and found that each Knight offered different gruesome tales about the martyrs. The Knight leading our most recent tour herded us into the dimly lit catacomb chapel of Saint Cecilia and gave a gripping rendition of the saint's execution. An executioner tried three times to behead Cecilia but was unsuccessful, and finally left the saint to bleed to death. According to the Knight, because Cecilia sang God's praises as she slowly expired, she became the patron saint of music. (As with many of the saints, the details of Cecilia's martyrdom vary depending on the source of the story.) The centerpiece of the tour of the church's main level is the copy of the Holy Sepulchre, and visitors are allowed to enter this re-creation of the enshrined tomb of Christ.

We also climbed the steep stairs to the Altar of Calvary, which marks the place where Christ was crucified. The distance between the Calvary Altar and Christ's tomb, as re-created within the church, is approximately the same as between those original sites in Jerusalem, Brother Roger said.

The various shrines and chapels include intricate woodcarvings and wall panels, as well as luminous stained glass windows, all of which inspired an "awesome" or two from our fifth-graders.

After the tour, we checked out the exhibit rooms connected to the church. Two rooms highlight photographs and paintings of religious figures and places. The third room is more kid-enticing, displaying historical and religious artifacts, some from before the time of Christ.

Displays of crucifixes and other Christian items beautifully handcrafted from mother-of-pearl or olive wood (materials indigenous to the Holy Land) and of items used in Jewish religious ceremonies drew considerable interest. But it was the coins and weapons from the Crusades that garnered the most attention from our group.

We also explored the monastery's lush grounds and gardens, and found the lower level dominated by a replica of the Grotto of Lourdes. According to the story made famous in the movie "The Song of Bernadette," in 1858 Bernadette saw visions of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes. The Virgin directed the girl to find an underground spring, which was later believed to have healing powers. Wooden benches allowed us to rest beside a statue of Bernadette gazing in adoration at a figure of Mary set high into the face of the grotto.

The lower grounds offer other shrine re-creations, including the dusky Gethsemane Grotto, the garden where Jesus was arrested, and the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, originally constructed near Jerusalem by the Crusaders during the 12th century.

On the upper grounds, we made a game of trying to decipher the different languages used on plaques in the Rosary Portico, a columned, covered walkway that extends across much of that part of the estate. The cloisters-like Portico depicts the 15 mysteries of the Catholic rosary in bas-relief panels and features recitations of the "Hail Mary" prayer in more than 140 languages.

The monastery, which is often toured by school groups, generally garnered high marks from our children and their friends. Our well-traveled 13-year-old friend, Michael Costelloe, concluded, "You can't really experience what it's like to be in front of something thousands of years old. But the tour was excellent if you want to get an idea of what different monuments in the Holy Land are like."

My less cosmopolitan 11-year-old, Jonathan, had a slightly different take. "That boy's mummy hand was awesome," he said, grinning. "This was better than I thought it'd be."

THE FRANCISCAN MONASTERY -- 1400 Quincy St. NE. 202-526-6800. www.myfranciscan.com. Tours of the church and catacombs are given Monday through Saturday at 9, 10, 11, 1, 2, 3 and 4. Sunday tours are on the hour from 1 to 4. Admission is free, but donations are welcomed. Free parking is available in two lots on 14th Street. The gift shop is open from 9 to 5 daily.

Image wearers [Source: World Magazine, May 24, 2003]

Fewer than 5 percent of Danes attend church regularly, but Denmark was scandalized last week when a supermarket chain offered sandals with images of Jesus on them (another sandal carried an image of the Virgin Mary). The concern was not with the image itself but its placement on the sandal. Roman Catholic priest Stephen Holm said it was "degrading to step on someone's image." The chain, Kvickly, pulled the sandals after protests.

Nun's stamp albums honor the Virgin Mary [Source: The Naperville Sun, June 1, 2003]

There is only one challenge that Sister DePaul Stava faces when adding to her large stamp collection.

"You just don't know where to stop," she said.

Stava, a Benedictine nun at Sacred Heart Monastery in Lisle for more than half a century, has acquired quite a collection over the years. But four albums in particular demonstrate her dedication to her hobby as well as to her faith.

In her collection, there are more than 5,000 stamps from more than 130 countries honoring the Virgin Mary.

"It's a consuming passion," said Sister Celine Laketek about Stava's collection. Laketek, along with a few residents of Villa St. Benedict here, attentively listened to Stava as she showed her collection one recent Friday morning.

Holding an album full of first-day issue stamps for her audience to see, Stava was happy to discuss how she became involved in philately.

Her collection began when she was a young girl, she said. At the age of 3, she had entered St. Joseph's Bohemian Orphanage, which is now Benet Academy. Later, Stava attended Sacred Heart Academy, a girls' boarding school run by nuns. Often she would visit with one of the sisters in the school office. The nun would keep a box of various canceled stamps near her desk.

"She would let me go through them and I would say, 'Oh, this us beautiful,' and she would let me take them," Stava said.

While Stava took great care of those stamps, making notes and carefully placing them in albums, it was not a collection that she expected to keep. After she entered the convent in 1949, her collection was put in storage by the sisters while she completed her studies.

"At the orphanage it was just a stamp collection," Stava said. "But 1954 was the highlight year. It was a Marian year. All these stamps came out (depicting the Virgin Mary) and I just got excited all over again."
After seeing those stamps, she decided to collect all the stamps she could find that depicted the Blessed Mother.

"I thought it would be unique," she said.

The result is a collection of first-day issue stamps bearing Mary's image. Each of those stamps is accompanied by a drawing, often of a religious nature, on its own postcard.

"I was just so fascinated that they (the U.S. Postal Service) started putting out so many stamps. I mean, they never put anything religious out," she said. "Then when these started and continued year after year with the Christmas stamp, there was always a Madonna."

Starting around 1966, the Mary stamps were issued on a regular basis in the United States as part of the holiday series released in time for Christmas.

"Each year they put out a contemporary stamp, but they also put out a religious stamp," Stava said.

"For the most part, I don't collect the contemporary ones, but here and there they'll be together with the religious one. Like here's a Santa Claus," she said, pointing to a postcard with both types of stamps.

The accompanying art, known as cachet, on the postcards comes from all around the world. While some of the designs are basic pencil drawings, others are detailed pieces in vibrant colors. Among Stava's favorites are silk cachets, which are works produced on silk postcards or squares of silk attached to postcards.

"They're pretty enough for a stained-glass window," she said.

While Mary is her favorite, there are other subjects that have a special place in Stava's collection. From Spain, she has a sheet of stamps depicting the 15 mysteries of the Rosary. And she also has eight sheets of stamps honoring St. Francis of Assisi.

"Because he loves the animals," she said.

SINEAD TELLS OF FAMILY'S PAIN [Source: The Mirror, May 30, 2003]

SINEAD O'Connor last night told of the suffering she went through at the hands of her violent and mentally ill mother.

But despite years of abuse the controversial star said the death of her mother in a car crash when she was 17 was the worst thing that ever happened to her.

O'Connor, 36, who shocked the music world last month when she revealed she would be retiring in July, said: "I was utterly devastated when she died." Speaking to Gerry Ryan on RTE's Ryan Confidential the mother-of-two added: "I loved my mother, I always forgave her and I had compassion for her but she had a mental illness and no one really knew what happened to her or why it happened.

"She was very angry with my sexuality and tried to destroy my womb by stamping on me or kicking me.

"I just always put it down to her illness and felt she never really knew what she was doing."

The singer, who plans to go to college and study theology in order to become a religion teacher, described her mother as very calculated.

She said: "I don't think my father ever knew what was going on. A lot of the abuse happened when he wasn't there.

"I was lucky to be born on December 8 which is the feast of the Immaculate Conception so every year my mother would give me a picture of the Virgin Mary.

"My father was very religious and took us to Mass every week so when I was lying under my mother's boot I often thought about religion and the image of the Virgin Mary.

"In my upbringing I had difficulty with a lot of emotions. When you're young the chief feeling you're not allowed to have is anger.

"My brother and sister have a right to their privacy but what my mother did to me she did not necessarily do to them."
O'Connor also spoke of her relationship with the fathers of her two children - Jake, 16, the son of London-based drummer and producer John Reynolds and Roisin, 7, the daughter of journalist John Waters.

She said: "Myself and John are great friends and always have been. Myself and Roisin's father are friends now but we didn't really know each other when we were making Roisin.

"I love my children very much and I look forward to getting old and being a grandmother. Just to not have no pressure and to not feel you have to make an effort to make yourself beautiful all the time.

"I look forward to that part of my life."

She also explained the reason behind her shaven head.

She said: "I have always liked Buddhist nuns who shaved their heads. I just like the way they're very divine."

KNOCK-OUT BLOW FOR IRISH COUNCIL [Source: The People, May 25, 2003]

MAYO County Council has been accused of neglect in the upkeep of the world famous village of Knock. The village is where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared over 100 years ago.

When Pope John Paul visited there he described the shrine as "the goal of his journey to Ireland."

But now the Knock Area Development Association is up in arms over what it claims is the shabby state of the village due to inaction by Mayo County Council.

PHILIPPINE PARISH COMMEMORATES OUR LADY OF HOPE APPARITION IN FRANCE [Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 25, 2003]

OUR Lady of Hope Parish in Bagong Pag-asa, Quezon City, is dedicated to the title of the Virgin Mary when she appeared to Eugene Barbadette on Jan. 17, 1871, in Pontmain, France, giving hope at the time when war was going on between France and Prussia. By Jan. 17, 1871, the Prussians were just across the river from Laval, the city next to Mayenne.

When Eugene went to the barn door to check the weather, he noticed an unusual sight at Augustine Guidecoq's house, 70 ft above the roof. He saw a beautiful lady.

The Lady was dressed in a flowing robe of deep, radiant blue studded with gold stars. The sleeves were full, extending to the hands. On her feet, she was wearing blue slippers tied with gold ribbon in the shape of a rosette. Her hair was completely covered with a black veil thrown over her shoulders and reaching down to her elbow. On her head, a gold crown rose slightly to a peak and had no ornament except for a red band circling the center. Her hands were extended without the rays of light seen in the Miraculous Medal apparition.

Neighbors gathered in front of this vision. They started to sing hymns and prayed the Rosary, as stars gathered by twos below the Lady's feet, as if representing the Hail Mary's of the Rosary.

Then a white banner, about a yard wide, unrolled beneath the Lady's feet. Here was spelled the message: "But pray, my children, God will soon grant your request. My Son allows Himself to be moved by compassion."

The apparition lasted about three hours.

While this was going on, Gen. Von Schmidt of the Prussian Army, about to run through Laval toward Pontmain, received orders from his commander not to take the city. The invasion of the Catholic West never came about.

On Jan. 23, 1871, the long-hoped armistice was signed. The promised "God will soon grant your request," delivered by Our Lady of Hope, had been fulfilled.

How did the image reached the Philippines?
While the church of the QC parish was being built in 1964, enlarging the kubo chapel built in the 1950s on a lot donated by Segunda Alcantara, Fr. Alfredo Reyes, OP, asked his assistant, Fr. Rodolfo Gallardo, to devote his time to Bagong Pag-asa. In his search for the title of Our Lady as patroness of the parish, Father Gallardo received from a cousin a leaflet of novena prayers to Our Lady of Hope, with a picture of Our Lady in Essex, New York.

On Jan. 17, 1971, Father Reyes finally received a statue of Our Lady.

The parish covers Bagong Pag-asa, Teresa and Carmel subdivisions, including BLISS and SM City. Its first parish priest was Msgr. Marcelino Montemayor.

Today, the feast of Our Lady of Hope, parish priest Fr. Arnel Recinto celebrates the fiesta Mass at 6:45 a.m., to be broadcast on Radio Veritas. High Mass is at 9:45 a.m.

Mary's shrine in Wisconsin, USA

Hubertus, Wisconsin, is the site of the national shrine of Mary, Help of Christians, which my friend Billy Roces visited for the first time in 2001.

He, his mother, former Legazpi Mayor Mely Roces, and his brother Dr. Ramon Roces went there on a pilgrimage last February, to pray for the recovery of Msgr. Ralph Salazar, Mayor Roces' nephew and parish priest of St. John the Baptist Parish in Tabaco, Albay.

Msgr. Salazar had a quadruple bypass operation in Chicago on Feb. 11. He was suffering from so much pain and the feeling of being bloated.

When they came back from the pilgrimage, the priest was feeling much better, saying he felt the hand of Mama Mary healing him. He just came back from the States to resume his duties as parish priest.

The shrine of Our Lady is a neo-Romanesque church with stained-glass windows and mosaics. Just 30 miles northwest of Milwaukee, it is visible for miles in all directions. The spires of Holy Hill soar to the heavens.

Pilgrims walk along the half-mile Way of the Cross, life-size group sculptures representing the Passion of Jesus. Others pray at the Lourdes Grotto or stroll around 400 wooded acres of Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail.

Opening off the main body of the church is a chapel with a statue of Mary presenting her Son to the world. Crutches and other mementos line up one wall of the entrance, evidence of the miracles that have happened here.

Discalced Carmelite friars operate the church and the retreats held here. For more info, please write them at 1525 Carmel Road, Hubertus, Wisconsin 53033-9407, USA, call (262) 682-1838, or visit www.holyhill.com

Musical bouquet for Mary

This month, Jay Gomez and the Jesuit Music Ministry of the Jesuit Communications Foundation offer a different bouquet to our Mother, as they present "Marian Matins: Hymns of Our Lady in String Quartet." The program features favorite Marian hymns, composed by Jesuits and laity, as interpreted by a string quartet.

"Marian Matins" follows the tradition of "Lauds" and "Vespers" in providing instrumental music for meditation. But where "Lauds" features the piano of Bro. Arnel Aquino, SJ, and "Vespers" fuses flute and guitar, "Matin" follows the tradition of chamber music, featuring performances by Jeremy Dadap (violin 1 and 2), Lauro Valentino Cad (viola), Nino Llorin (cello), Ariel Arambulo (violin 1) and Corinna Lapena (violin 2).

Fr. Eddie Hontiveros' "Magnificat" and "Maria, Bukang-Liwayway," Fr. Maoling Francisco's "Stella Maris" and "Mariang Ina Ko," Fr. Nemy Que's "Aba, Ginoong Maria" and Bro. Aquino's "Oyayi" all find new interpretations in the harmonies of chamber music.

As May flowers make a bouquet, the violins, viola and cello make the prayer that is "Marian Matins."

Lipa's pipe organ blessed

San Sebastian Cathedral in Lipa, Batangas, is richer with a newly restored pipe organ blessed by Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales on May 2.

A pipe organ concerto, featuring organists Armando Salazar, Fr. Manny Marfori, Fr. Bong Panganiban and Rodel Garcia, followed after the Mass. Also featured were the Festival Choir of Las Pinas, St. Scholastica's College Chamber Orchestra and the Sepraphim of Lipa City.

Being one of only 59 units in the Philippines and the only one in Batangas, the 1,500 stoplist mechanical pipe organ took two years to repair and rehabilitate at a cost of P3.3 million. The Diego Cera Organ builders did the job. Parish priest Msgr. Alfredo Madlangbayan led in the fundraising.

Our Lady of the Visitation

May 31 is the feast of Our Lady of the Visitation. The Church of St. Catherine in Carcar, Cebu, has a miraculous image of Our Lady of the Visitation inspired by a dream of a devotee who was told by the Virgin that she wanted her image to be enshrined in the old church.

Santacruzan in Ramon, Tarlac

The Parish of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Ramos, Tarlac, will hold a grand santacruzan on May 31, after the blessing of the life-size image of the Blessed Virgin.

Sacerdotal anniversary

Fr. Arwyn Diesta, rector of Our Lady of Penafrancia Seminary in Sorsogon, will celebrate his 25th anniversary as a priest today, which is also his birthday.

Sister Ruth carries her statue of the Virgin Mary along Bond Street during her visit to Coventry [Source: Coventry Evening Telegraph, May 23, 2003]

The 62-year-old nun checked out of her Coventry hotel today on the final leg of a world tour that has taken the past 13 years. And everywhere she goes, through nearly 200 countries, she carries with her a 3ft statue of the Virgin Mary.

The London-born missionary, from the order of One In Christ, says the statue draws people of all religions into conversations with her.

But not all of them are friendly.

She has been chased by a Muslim mob in Bosnia and had abuse hurled at her by members of the Protestant Orange Order in Northern Ireland.

And in Holland, she prayed with prostitutes in a shop window in Amsterdam.

Sister Ruth, who speaks several languages, arrived in Coventry by train on Wednesday and checked into the Campanile Hotel in Walsgrave.

Yesterday she visited pubs and shops in the city, hoping to meet people who do not usually go to church.

She spent over half-an-hour chatting to people outside the Sainsbury's Local store in the Lower Precinct. And she said she found Coventry a peaceful, welcoming city.

But elsewhere on her travels she has been molested, abused, pushed down stairs and threatened with prison.

She admitted: "I am terrified 90 per cent of the time but it is my mission to reach as many people as possible. I believe it is my duty.

"When I carry the statue, people just come up to me and ask me to pray for them. It doesn't matter whether they are Buddhist, Jewish or Hindu. They all come and tell me their terrible problems."

She estimates she can visit up to 30 more countries in the next two years before completing her mission. Now, though, her tour of the West Midlands continues.

CHURCH THIEVES STRIKE AGAIN IN CEBU [Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 30, 2003]

Unidentified persons have stolen the antique wooden head of the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary inside the San Isidro Parish church in San Fernando town, 29 km south of here.

Senior Supt. Maximo Calimlim, provincial police director, ordered an investigation into the latest church theft, the 20th incident in their records since April last year.

He directed Supt. Teodoro Manuel, chief of the police intelligence and investigation division, to identify and capture the thieves.

Manuel, in turn, directed the San Fernando police chief, Insp. Feliciano Canedo, to coordinate with parishioners in the investigation.

Luz Baricuatro, secretary of San Fernando parish priest Leo Cabahug, said the wooden head of the Blessed Virgin was taken between 7 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. after the first Mass on May 19.

She said the image was placed inside the church because of the Flores de Mayo procession. It was put in a carriage near the pulpit.

Angeling Caballero noticed that the head was gone while she was cleaning the church.

UPSHOT [Source: Business World (Philippines), May 29, 2003]

I once interviewed a rich lady at the Mother Ignacia Healing Center in Novaliches, who was healed of breast cancer by the Lord through the hands of Sister Raquel Reodica, RVM.

In gratitude, she donated a life-sized statue of Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, founder of the RVM, a Catholic congregation which means Religious of the Virgin Mary. In the presence of the lady, Sister Raquel and another sister, two gardeners placed the heavy life-sized statue in a garden facing a wide open green lawn at the back of the retreat house.

The lady noticed the face of Mother Ignacia momentarily turned pink, as if she was alive. She told the other four present about it, and they were all amazed when even Mother Ignacia's eyes glistened as if she was alive. Now, Sister Raquel, invoking Mother Ignacia's name in her healing prayers, is besieged by young and old, rich and poor, politicos and bishops.

Mother Ignacia is up for beatification. Last year, a papal committee from the Vatican visited Novaliches in their documentation of and investigation into the possible beatification of Mother Ignacia. They were considering to attribute and relate to Mother Ignacia Sister Raquel's healing power. They interviewed some of those who were healed. If Mother Ignacia passes the stiff hurdle of Vatican investigation, she will be the first Filipino woman to be beatified.

There is a natural attraction towards the Lord's healing for those who are in pain. But physical healing is not the main point, Sister Raquel points out. Spiritual healing--the going back to the Lord--is the main point. Spiritual healing is not only a prerequisite, it is also the reason for healing. Sister Raquel calls physical healing "only a bonus."

As a prayer-poem goes: "It is in pain that I (the Lord) draw you close to Me. It is in loneliness that you seek Me and others to love. It is in suffering that My kingdom comes to you." Pain and healing are intertwined to make people go back to the Lord, says this prayer-poem.

There is something strange about the crowd that goes to Novaliches. You see a lot of wheelchairs, old people in pain, frail children clinging to their mothers. It is a sight of pain, but it is also a sight of deliverance. Within the confines of this sacred place, rich and poor mingle. They do not look down on or up to each other. There are no social classes. They all look up to the Lord together.
There is the story of Charlie who visited the Mother Ignacia Healing Center. Charlie told Sister Raquel that the doctor told him a strange story after he operated on the tumor on his (Charlie's) esophagus. The doctor was amazed when, by itself, the tumor started trembling. Suddenly, the tumor detached itself right in front of the doctor's eyes. The doctor shouted, "The Lord is operating." Sister Raquel attributes healings in Novaliches such as this to Mother Ignacia whom she invokes. Such stories are rare. There are many other stories which are not so fantastic. You have to go to Novaliches, and talk to the people who have been healed. They are the best witnesses to their own healing.

Sister Raquel performs "healing baths" on Saturdays. She has an improvised pulpit from where she douses people with about five large ladle-full each or about half a pail of water. She does not just sprinkle water, she shocks them with a cold water bath, babies and old women in wheelchairs alike, without exception. You need extra clothes. Of course, the healing bath is optional.

Once, after two television news programs featured Sister Raquel, the crowd was overwhelming. The healing bath ended at 4:30 in the morning. Sister Raquel doused water on about 2,000 people that day. Multiply that by five ladles per person and you get 10,000 total ladle douses, which is quite a feat for the frail nun. Amazingly, she said she was not tired. She gets hungry and sleepy, but the healing sessions do not tire her. Her healing energy seems endless. They even run out of water and have to order a truckload of water to be delivered.

Sister Raquel explains the water itself does not heal, but is an instrument of healing. She says most of those who take the healing bath realizes the Lord is cleansing them spiritually through the water. The healing bath is then a form of prayer.

There is a theory that miracles precede a cataclysm sent by God. After Fatima was the bloody Spanish Civil War. After Lourdes was World War I. After Medjugorje was the genocides of the Serb wars. In this light, why is there a lot of healings emerging in the world today? Is it a "final call" before the next big cataclysm that would make Sept. 11 look like a firecracker? What with all the new high-tech weapons of mass destruction, chemical warfare, SARS in Asia, earthquake in Algeria, floods in China?

Who is really the healer? I would say the beatified-to-be Mother Ignacia risen from the grave, touching Sister Raquel to heal in the name of the Lord.

For those who need healing, use your cellphone for an automatic reply. For Globe, text "JESUSHEALS" to 2355, and for Smart, text "mytxt(space)JESUSHEALS" to 211. For more information, e-mail the author at eastwind@edsa-mail.com.ph.

WHEN MARIAN IMAGE SMILES, A MIRACLE FOLLOWS [Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 19, 2003]

FOR 50 years, a two-and-a-half-foot tall image of the Our Lady of Fatima has been showering blessings on devotees in Mandaluyong.

It is for this reason that they endure the heat, brave the rain and wade through floods to maintain their half-century old tradition of bringing the image to a different house every week and praying the rosary to it everyday, which they call their "block rosary devotion."

The devotees comprise the Our Lady of Fatima Guild, who swear that the image of the Virgin Mary is "miraculous," and provides abundant blessings to those who believe.

Norma Lim, the incoming hermana of the guild and its member for 25 years, says she credits her good fortune to the help that the Blessed Mother gave her because of her devotion. From having close to nothing, Lim now has various businesses and is able to provide for her family well.

Adi Flores, on the other hand, says she has learned that the Virgin Mary will always help you in times of need.

She recalls that when she accepted the post of hermana several years back, she had no way of knowing how to deal with her duties, financial and otherwise. But with the Blessed Mother, all the assistance and all the help she needed at the time came just when she needed them.

Members of the guild say the Lady of Fatima has been good to them, which is why they struggle to maintain their block rosary devotion.

"We'd bring the image to a house and go there to pray, even if the flood was up to here," Lim says, pointing to an area just below her chest.

Dr. Adela Franco, one of the guild's 10 remaining original members, adds that there was no week in the guild's 50 years that the image was not transferred to a new home, and no day when the members did not pray the rosary to the image.

Of course, they did not mind the effort; for them there was fulfillment in their acts. Like what the Lady of Fatima promised, their prayers brought them peace.
So intense are the guild members' belief in the Blessed Virgin that they say they know when she will grant their prayers or not.

"If you pray to her and she's smiling, then you can expect your prayer to be answered," says Flores. "But if she's not, then you better think about what you just asked for."

Other guild members also claim to seeing the image smile when it "feels welcome" in a household, or lose the cheery expression when the image feels the homeowners do not receive her with open hearts.

The Lady of Fatima, which now has a 36-year-old chapel on P. Cruz Sreet in Mandaluyong City, is also the guild's inspiration for their numerous outreach and catechism programs yearly. They buy canned goods, fruits, rice and other staples and give them to needy families who flock to guild members' areas during Christmas time.

They also work to spread their beliefs. In fact, two other images have been donated to Barrio San Jose, a less than well-off area in Mandaluyong, by members of the guild, and they lead residents in prayer there.

For the guild members, giving back to the needy is their way of thanking the Lady of Fatima for the blessings they have received.

It was in 1953 when the Virgin Mary's devotees decided to have an image of the Lady of Fatima made.

The guild's original 20 members chipped in P20 each to have noted sculptor Maximo Vicente make a wooden image of the blessed virgin, which they prayed to daily.

In 1966, Marian devotee Judge Delia Medina decided to build a chapel in the Lady of Fatima's honor upon the instruction of their parish priest, despite funding problems.

But as devotees know, the blessed mother will provide. That same year, Medina, who was then a lawyer, was made to represent a couple who were the sole beneficiaries of American philanthropist Elsie Gaches' fortune. When the couple won their court case, they gave Medina a substantial fee as payment for her services. Thus, Medina was able to finance the construction of the chapel.

But this "miracle" was not the last the devotees saw. A year later, Medina was hard pressed to find a statue of the Fatima to house in the chapel because the one she had ordered from Portugal was late in coming. A few days before the chapel's inauguration, she did all she could to find a replacement but failed several times. But a day before the inauguration, she saw an advertisement for an auction sale of properties belonging to a seminary and there found a five-foot tall statue of the Lady of Fatima.

These miracles were only the beginning. The Mandaluyong devotees would later experience the blessings that the Lady of Fatima showered them with.

On May 13, the Our Lady of Fatima Chapel commemorated the golden anniversary of the block rosary devotion. Mass and festivities were held. But more than these, they also gave thanks to half a century of blessings that had marked their life of devotion.

Sisters who do it for others [Source: Sunday Times (South Africa), May 25, 2003]

Loreto convent schools teach girls loyalty, commitment and joy

SINCE the 19th century, the sisters of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary have played a major role in the establishment of Loreto schools around the world. These spread the teachings of Mary Ward, the 16th century champion of women in the Catholic church, namely honesty, loyalty, commitment, joy and justice. They also provided educational opportunities for girls at a time when these were limited.

In 1878, Margaret Mary Jolivet and two other pioneers brought the dream to South Africa and the Loreto Convent Skinner Street was opened in Pretoria.

As time went on, more sisters came to South Africa and during the 1930s they established themselves across the country.

The convents of Lydenburg in Mpumalanga, Hillcrest (later changed to Queenswood) in Pretoria, Strand in the Western Cape, Sea Point in Cape Town and Glen Cowie in the Northern Province opened their doors.

Today, sisters do not teach at the school in Skinner Street, but they continue to participate in celebrations and important events, and to provide spiritual support and encouragement.

And their dream of providing education for girls continues to be realised.

Our mission statement: to establish a Christian community based on Gospel values and the Loreto tradition, in which the potential of each person will be fully developed.

We will strive to do this by evangelisation, example, prayer, responsible discipline and unconditional acceptance of one another.

By setting high educational and moral standards, we aim to produce well-educated, mature, self-disciplined citizens who will serve their own community and their country.

Personal Story; Interview With Philosophy Student Matthew O'Brien [Source: Fox News Network, June 3, 2003]

O'REILLY: In the in the "Personal Story" segment tonight, at Princeton University, there is an art exhibit going on that contains a controversial collage featuring naked images of the female body in the form of a cross. Also, another display entitled, "Shackles of the AIDS Virus" containing images of the Virgin Mary.

Catholics and other Christians are voicing concern, but, apparently, Princeton Dean, Ann Murray Slaughter, is not going to do anything, saying the display has, quote, "educational values", unquote.

Joining us from Philadelphia is Matthew O'Brien, a Catholic who graduated from Princeton this morning with a degree in philosophy. Well, congratulations to you, Mr. O'Brien. That's a very nice achievement to have.

MATTHEW O'BRIEN, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY GRADUATE: Thank you.

O'REILLY: All right, you are a Catholic, as we said. You go to this display, and how did you see it? I mean, how did you react to it?

O'BRIEN: Well, it's located in a prominent public building, and so I saw it when a friend pointed it out to me when I walked by, and there were three main objectionable pieces. One, the naked pictures -- pornographic pictures of women shaped in a cross that you mentioned. The the second had a torn-up image of the sacred heart of Jesus, and the third, which I think is the most objectionable, is the one you referred to, that has actually scapulars, which are sacred objects that a Catholic would wear around his neck like a necklace.

O'REILLY: OK. So now we're looking at the cross one.
We're not going to do close-ups here, ladies and gentlemen, because there's no reason.

You have images of female body parts within the body of the cross.

And then we'll see the AIDS one in a minute. There it is. They have icons of the Christian faith scapulars, Virgin Mary in this.

Now -- all right. So were you offended here, Mr. O'Brien, when you saw this?

O'BRIEN: Yes, I was as long as--in addition to many other students and faculty...

O'REILLY: OK. And that's...

O'BRIEN: ... but the primary...

O'REILLY: That's understandable. That's understandable.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

O'REILLY: So you take your complaint to Dean Slaughter, correct, and she says--tell us about that conversation.

O'BRIEN: Well, I spoke with her along with two other students, and she was very concerned.

She wasn't directly responsible for picking this exhibit, a curator did it, but when she found out about it, when we told her, she said immediately she was very concerned, she would speak with the president of the university that day, she would contact the dean of religious life and the Catholic chaplain for counsel and advice.

And we were happy with the meeting because she seemed so concerned, and we left the meeting very content she would at least take our criticisms very seriously, and we were hopeful the offending pieces would be taken down.

O'REILLY: But that didn't happen.

O'BRIEN: No, it didn't. And as far--she never contacted the dean of religious life, never contacted the Catholic chaplain, and I don't know whether she ever spoke to the president of the university.

O'REILLY: All right. Now I understand the conversation--and please correct me if I'm wrong because I'm taking this from other sources, not--I wasn't there, obviously--that she said she would never do this if it were a Jewish religion or another minority or Muslims or something like that. She said they would never do this, correct?

O'BRIEN: Right. Well, what she said was it would be very unlikely that the Woodrow Wilson School, a unit of Princeton, would sponsor a display that desecrated Islamic objects in the way that it had desecrated Catholic ones.

O'REILLY: How did that come up? Did you make that comparison? Did you say would you do this if it was an Islamic display?

O'BRIEN: Sure. We offered a thought experiment. Would you do the same thing to pages of the Quran and put on a canvas entitled "Shackles of Terrorism"...

O'REILLY: All right. So you...

O'BRIEN: ... and...

O'REILLY: You said that to her...

O'BRIEN: Right.

O'REILLY: ... and she said, no, we wouldn't do that.

O'BRIEN: Right.

O'REILLY: So the follow-up question is, well, why are you doing it to the Christian symbols?

O'BRIEN: Right, right.

O'REILLY: And her answer was?

O'BRIEN: Well, we never got a clear answer to this question. It's fundamentally a matter of equal respect and fairness, but we've never been explained or offered a principle of why Catholics should be treated differently and singled out for desecration when other religions or minorities are protected by the university.

O'REILLY: Now do you believe that to be true? Do you believe there is a double standard there, that it's OK to Christian and Catholic bash but not OK to bash other religions?

O'BRIEN: Sure. I think that's the way it is in practice. I doubt that anyone would come out and say that, but we simply have to judge what the case is by looking at this exhibit, and we all know that something derisive towards Islam in that way would never be sponsored, as Dean Slaughter said, and, for that matter, other protected groups like homosexuals or African-Americans, traditionally groups that have been treated very sensitively by liberals in general, wouldn't be treated in the same way. I think...

O'REILLY: No. I...

O'BRIEN: ... anyone would recognize that.
O'REILLY: I think you're right, and I think, if they were, if it did happen, you'd have huge demonstrations. You'd have all kinds of stuff. Yet it's you and two other guys on the campus at Princeton.

O'BRIEN: Right.

O'REILLY: Mr. O'Brien, we want to wish you the best with your degree in philosophy from Princeton, and thanks very much for letting us know about this.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

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