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Saint Joseph’s Oratory
From the life of Blessed Brother Andre
The dream to build a Shrine befitting Saint Joseph
They came; they prayed; they left changed. But Brother André knew his work was not over. And so, although now past sixty, he forged ahead with his dream to build a towering, magnificent Shrine, paying homage and loving respect to the man who cared for Jesus most of His life on earth.
For almost thirty years of his final days on earth, Brother André worked, begged and prayed toward the fulfillment of that dream. He never used words like visions and apparitions or inner locutions. But as you read about his life, and between the lines, you can still see the Hand of God and that of His Mother Mary and foster father Saint Joseph, infusing him with this dream, and giving him the many gifts which would attract the Faithful to help to bring about this dream. For, as a holy priest once said, “It has always been the laity who have fostered devotions.”
The work on the gigantic, magnificent Shrine went at a snail’s pace, the Superiors of the Community insisting it be a pay-as-you-go project, no debts! But André never lost hope! He just kept walking toward that goal, although he knew he would never see it. His eyes and heart already set on saluting it from afar, he would often say, “I will not see the completion of the Oratory, but the work will be done. It is not my project, anyway. It’s Saint Joseph’s.” And at that moment, if you looked in his eyes, they would appear to be twinkling, almost playfully. But looking closer, you could not fail to see that peace, that calm assurance, shining with anticipation of things to come, that only doing the Will of God can produce. He prayed that row upon row of stones would mount until they reached the top, and the glorious tribute to St. Joseph would be completed.
He never became discouraged. Neither did the Faithful who continued to come from the nearest and the farthest regions of Canada and the United States. As man was destroying the fine monuments to the Glory of God, God’s houses, our churches, in Canada a man of faith walked toward a dream, not looking behind him or to what was before him. He, like Jesus, lived the moment. The walls finally rose thirty feet above Mount Royal, towering over the countryside, visible from thirty miles around, a message of hope to a world gone mad. However, the roof was still not completed.
In 1931, man was too busy getting over wholesale decadence of the flapper days of the twenties, and heading toward the worldwide depression of the thirties, as well as the prospects of total annihilation at the hands of the Nazis in Europe to complete
a Shrine to Saint Joseph. They were counting on human resources for their answers, and as always they would be betrayed, and God would bring them back to Himself. The Shrine, without a roof, stood like a giant open crater, not a fitting home for the Lord or for His foster-father Joseph. Although now in his eighties, and suffering from the same ulcerated pains in his stomach he had known all his life, Brother André went begging for money. Because of the Great Depression, there was little money other than for survival. But that did not stop Brother André from traveling to the United States and to every hamlet of Canada.
But, sadly, there was just no money; years later, in 1936, the Provincial called a meeting to decide whether to keep on going or to abandon the project, as hopeless. Incredulous that they should, for one moment consider stopping the project, this man of faith once again, insisted; “It’s not my work; it’s Saint Joseph’s!”
For more about Blessed Brother Andre click here
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Mary had been consecrated to the Temple, as a child. Her ongoing prayer was that the Messiah would come in her lifetime and free the people she loved so much. She spent much of her time in the Temple; but since her father's death, she spent a great deal of time caring for her aging mother, Anne. Mary prayed constantly, even while doing her chores at home. There was a saying: "What good can come out of Nazareth." Nazareth, through the will of God would give us Mother Mary, Saint Joseph and Jesus.
It was late afternoon. March was filled with promise of new beginnings. Mary had a spring to her step, as she walked home from the well, from which she drew water each day. But somehow, this day felt different. Was she remembering the ancient prayer said at the Seder (the meal celebrating the Passover): "Why is this night different from any other night?" At the Seder, there was always an extra place set at the table in expectation of Elijah's return. But, this night, the place set was beneath Mary's heart, and it would be filled by the Messiah!
Let us try to envision how the events might have taken place. The sun went down, and dusk began to dim the sky; a chill crept into the air. Mary was kneeling in her home, lost in prayer. She began to wonder how it would be, when the Messiah arrived. We can see her praying, a cool breeze brushing past her. Was it the winds blowing off the sea, cooling the house? There was a tingling electricity in the air, a fluttering sound, like that of birds' wings. She looked around. There was nothing. Suddenly a great calm came over her. The wind stopped. There was a hush, a stillness, as if time had stopped. A figure of a beautiful young man entered through the window. There was a brightness about him, as if he were translucent. He looked at her. His eyes were brilliant. At first, she was frightened; then a rush of warmth and peace came over her whole body. She couldn't take her eyes from him.
The Angel said to her, "Hail, most favored one. The Lord is with you."
She was startled by his words.
"Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with the Lord. You will conceive in your womb, and bear a Child, and you will call Him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of David His father, and He will reign over the House of Jacob forever, and His Kingdom will have no end."
What was he talking about? How could she conceive and bear a child? She was a virgin. She wasn't married! She was engaged to Joseph the carpenter, but they had vowed to live a celibate life when they became husband and wife. Yet while she wondered, she never doubted. She asked him with excitement and awe. It was the way a trusting child might ask her daddy how an impossible task would be accomplished.
"How can this be, since I am a virgin?"
The Angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you and for that reason the Holy Child to be born will be called the Son of God".
She gasped. It was as if she was almost afraid to breathe. She didn't understand, at that moment, what the messenger meant by the Holy Spirit coming upon her. The key word in her mind, in her entire being, was "The Son of God". Is this Angel speaking of the Messiah? Is he telling me I am to be the mother of the Messiah, the Son of God? Am I the one, I've been praying for, the one to be the vessel to bring salvation into the world? Is that what he's saying? Mary knew that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. It was part of Holy Scripture. But, she never dared to think she would be the one. Her prayer had been that the Messiah would be born in her generation and she might serve the mother of the Messiah.
The Angel further affirmed the power of God. He added:
"And behold, your cousin Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; she is in her sixth month, and everyone thought she was barren. You see, with God, nothing is impossible."
Mary silently prayed: "Oh, my Lord, it is You! Is this really possible? Would You give this honor to me? I'm not worthy." But the words of the Angel pierced her senses, opening her heart and mind: "You see, with God, nothing is impossible." She responded, in her heart: "I trust You, my Lord and my God. I know You would never hurt me. And I would give up my life for You."
She looked up at the Angel before her. He was waiting for something, what? Was this messenger of God waiting for an answer from her? She looked at him, again. He was waiting for her yes! Tears streamed down her face. He looked at her with so much love. His gaze filled her with a profound warmth. She gave her answer:
"I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to your word." And as the tears cascaded down her cheeks, she cried out in her heart, "Yes! I say Yes!"
Could she hear the choirs of Angels singing praises to the Lord, at these words of their future Queen? The Angel before her, whom we know to be Gabriel, looked at her with blinding joy in his eyes. A brilliant light filled the room, and surrounded her. She felt a surge of energy go through her. She looked up at the Angel. He looked at her. He smiled. It was done.
The Angel slowly disappeared, and the room became dark. The girl, now woman, sat in the darkness, her heart beating, her mind racing. She repeated silently, the words of the Angel. She was to be the Mother of God. She could feel His Presence inside her. It was true. Now she understood!
For more information about The Rosary the Life of Jesus and Mary click here
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St. Frances is led to the deepest Dungeon of Purgatory
The Angel brought Frances to the lowest level of Purgatory, to a a cavern filled with a roaring fire, its red-hot flames cutting through the black smoke that darkened the cave. But as horrible as it was, Frances said it was not as hot as in Hell. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could see bodies being plunged into what appeared to be a cauldron of raging fire, its flames enveloping them, pulling them down. She was told that these were souls who had been guilty of committing serious sins, had confessed and were absolved of their sins by a priest, but had not satisfied the wrong done by their act against God.
In this vision, she was told that for each mortal sin committed and forgiven, a payment of seven years of reparation in Purgatory was necessary to erase it from the soul. Since the damage done by each mortal sin affects the world differently, some more deadly and lasting, the length of time and punishment differs. The type of pain and suffering measured out to each of these souls, was in proportion to the type of sin, the damage done by the sins, and the number of wounds inflicted on our Lord's Sacred Heart by these sins.
In this level, she found the Poor Souls of the Laity and Religious, alike. Those of the Laity were souls who had led a life of sin, and converted toward the end of their lives. Conversion to the Lord and His Church is God's gift to us, as only the Holy Spirit can convert men's hearts. As they had not paid their debt on earth, they had to clear the invoice due the Lord here in Purgatory.
The Souls of the Religious were those who had not kept the vows they had professed. No sooner had this been explained to her than St. Frances saw the soul of a priest who was very well known. He had a covering on his face, to try to hide the ugly blemish that had remained. Now, this priest had led a truly priestly life, faithfully administering the Sacraments and pastoring his flock. His only sin had been an intemperate need to gouge himself at mealtime, seeking his reward from God's creation rather than God alone.
The Angel then led Frances to the Intermediate Dungeon
This region was reserved for those souls who had not sinned as seriously as those of the lowest dungeon, nor caused irreparable damage by their transgressions. As their souls were not free from the ugly blemishes that are a result of sin, they were required to spend time in Purgatory; but because of God's Justice they did not need to spend time suffering the intense punishment of souls in the dungeons below. This dungeon had three compartments:
(1) The first was a cavern of ice, sharp icicles threatening the souls below. It was incredibly cold in here. She could see the poor souls trying to warm themselves to no avail, as ice seemed to be hemming them in, closing in on them, surrounding them; the walls, the floor, the ceiling, nowhere to get away from the endless freezing cold!
(2) Next, there was an underground prison of boiling oil and pitch. The sickening odor of burning flesh filled the area. She could see the Poor Souls, covered with black pitch, writhing in pain. No matter what they did, they could not escape the boiling petroleum nor the sticky hot, black mess which clung to them.
(3) In the third and last level she saw Souls struggling not to drown in what appeared to be a pool filled with liquefied ore, resembling melted gold and silver. Had these Souls attached too much importance to the rewards of the world, counting the Graces from the Lord as nothing in comparison?
The Saint visits the Upper Dungeon
Our Saint does not go into detail on this level of atonement, only that this is the place where the Poor Souls condemned themselves, upon seeing that one time before the Lord, how they had transgressed against Him. The more we study about Purgatory, the more I find myself asking the question, "Am I offending You, my Lord?" This is not so much from the viewpoint of suffering in Purgatory (my foremost desire being Heaven), but the thought of Jesus and how He will look, as my unrequited sins pass before me, the many times I failed to put Him first, the missed opportunities to love Him by loving my brothers and sisters. Oh my Lord, how my heart breaks thinking I may have offended you!
The Souls in this dungeon have the anguish which the Poor Souls in Purgatory say is the most painful, the absence of the Beatific Vision. Can you imagine knowing that your loved one is somewhere but you cannot see him or her? Multiply that by a million-fold and you get a small idea of how it must be for those who, having seen Jesus that one time, can no longer see Him. Oh, Lord, how we long to see Your Face! The consolation of being in this place is that this is the last place before being united with Jesus, Mary and the whole Celestial Family; they know they are on their way.
For more Miracles about Purgatory click here
Katharine Drexel begins her walk serving Native Americans
The Lord, not allowing too much time for grieving, sent two Catholic missionaries to the Drexel home. They came with well-founded fears that the U.S. government's recent poor handling of Indian affairs would undo all that had been built up so far to further the education of the Native Americans. Knowing of their parents' generous philanthropic work on behalf of the needy, they were appealing now to their daughters for help. As Katharine Drexel had been sensitive to the plight of the Indians from the trip to the Northwest, and had recently read a book outlining the poor relations between Whites and Indians, they had a sympathetic ear.
The missionaries had arrived on the tail of the total breakdown of President Grant's peace process. Responding to over 300 violations, by former administrations of peace treaties with the Indians, President Grant ordered the placement of Indians on reservations, where he believed they would be protected. Whereas they had originally been managed by an Army officer in each territory, Grant relieved them of that duty and handed over Indian affairs to Protestant denominations.
Now, for years, the Catholic missionaries had set up missions and churches in 38 of 72 posts. With the relinquishing of the different territories to the Protestants, the government ordered Catholic missionaries to turn over 30 of the 38 territories. With this action, the government placed 80,000 Catholic Indians under the care of the Protestants. The Church addressed this by setting up a Catholic Commission for Indian Affairs, to be available to the Indians. In 1881, Grant's policy failed and along with it, the Protestant missions in the territories. They left!
By 1882, the situation between the Indians and the Whites was not only unresolved, it had reached disaster proportions. One of Katharine's visitors was Father Stephan, a former German nobleman, who had promised he would serve God as a priest if he regained his sight. Father was healed miraculously. His sight regained, he came to the United States and was ordained in 1849. He served as a chaplain in the Civil War and after that ended, dedicated his life and priesthood serving in the Indian mission. As Catholic Commissioner of Indian Affairs, he was firmly resolved that the only answer was Catholic education for the Indians; but he explained to the Drexel sisters, it was stymied by the possible withdrawal of the inconsequential support supplied by the government. The sisters promised to lend their support, and they kept that commitment, especially Katharine, for the rest of their lives.
The loss of both mother and father within two years completely crushed Katharine. Her health suffered seriously; she became jaundiced; she lost weight and even of more concern, she lost that vivacious involvement in life that was so electrifying. Her doctor recommended she get treatment from a spa in Europe. No sooner was her health renewed, she and her sisters began recruiting Priests and Nuns for the Indian Missions.
Katharine goes to Rome and returns with a missionary
Katharine Drexel and her sisters went to Rome and had two private audiences with Pope Leo XIII, where they implored the Pope to send additional missionaries to the Indians in the New World. The Pope's answer was, "Why not, my child, yourself become a missionary?" Completely misunderstanding His Holiness, Katharine responded, "Because Holy Father, Sisters can be had for the missions, but no Priests." Not over her bereavement, and not completely recovered from her illness, Katharine was overpowered by the mandate. She went to her hotel and cried!
The three sisters returned to the United States, whereupon Katharine immediately set about visiting the Indian Missions in the Dakotas, with Bishop O'Connor accompanying them. The little holy contingency traveled by horseback, by carriage and by railroad, through peril-filled territories. There were no smiling faces along the way, only suspicion and mistrust. Although she had been studying the Indians' plight since she was a young girl, she was totally unprepared for the suffering and despair, the utter misery she encountered. Although weighed down by the enormity of the need, the little company plodded on, refusing to succumb to the tempter who was attempting to fill them with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
Mother Drexel meets Red Cloud, Indian Chief
they arrived at the mission and were met by Father Stephan, the
missionary, they had met in Philadelphia. He introduced them to the
famous Sioux Indian Chief, Red Cloud, apprising him of the sisters'
desire to help the missions and set up a school dedicated to teaching
the children of his tribe. The Drexels never reneged on this promise.
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Perhaps, one of the greatest Miracles is the incorrupt body of our Saint, seated on a regal throne in a Chapel to the left of the main altar in the Church of Corpus Domini in Bologna. It remains intact, never having decomposed for over five hundred years! In the beginning, after they realized they could not place her body in the grave, four nuns would carry Saint Catherine’s body to the parlor on a wooden stretcher, every time visitors came to view the body, or the faithful wanted to venerate the Saint. This went on for twelve years! Then the nuns decided that the faithful could view her better if she were seated on a chair. To their amazement, her body which had lost none of its suppleness, rigor mortis never having set in, became stiff, and the nuns could not place her in the chair. It was only when the Abbess ordered her, did Catherine, out of obedience, sit unaided in the chair and in the same position she can be found to this day.
Our Saint wanted to be where all the people of God could venerate her easily, and so she appeared to one of the nuns of the Monastery of Corpus Domini and told her she wanted a Chapel built close to the outer church. Previously, she had been in a Chapel inside the Monastery.
From the very beginning, Saint Catherine’s Miracles and fame have brought people from all parts of the world, not only the simple faith-filled believers who fill and enrich our beautiful Church, but also future Saints, Kings and Queens and scholars. Among the first to come was Queen Isabel of Naples, Italy, who arriving in her regal finery, venerated our Saint and then left her ring as a token of her affection. She was followed by Popes (one of whom was Pope Clement VII), Cardinals (including St. Charles Borromeo who gifted her with a precious vestment), Emperors, Princes and all kinds of personages.
Pope Clement VII granted the nuns permission to say the
Office and celebrate Holy Mass in honor of Saint Catherine on March 9th which became her Feast Day. He inscribed her name in the Martyrology of Saints of the Roman Catholic Church. He was followed by other Popes who have granted indulgences and privileges to pilgrims coming to the Sacred place to venerate the saint. The process for her Canonization was started in 1669 and was solemnly concluded on Trinity Sunday, the 22nd of May, 1712 when Pope Clement IX proclaimed to the whole world, to the whole Roman Catholic Church that we had a Saint!
The first time we went to visit Saint
Catherine, it was out of holy curiosity; her body was incorrupt!
But when we got there, we discovered a very powerful Saint who became
very personal to us. We have loved her since 1977, the first time we
brought our grandson, all of ten years old, to Europe with us. We hope
reading about her that you will turn to her and get to know her with
your head and heart, as we have. We love you!
Every mortal sin is a sin against God.
make amends, restitution
a substance emanating from tar - used for waterproofing and covering roofs
refer to chapter on St. Catherine of Genoa
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