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Christmas  2011  Online Issue #10

Christmas 2011

 

 

This Issue
 

Mother Angelica and Divino Nino

 

Child Jesus in the Holy Land

 

Saint Clare of Assisi and the Child Jesus

 

Treasures from the Crib of Jesus

 

Saint Therese of Lisieux and the Child Jesus

 

Christmas in Brooklyn

 

Saint Padre Pio and the Bambino Jesus

 

Bob and Penny's Christmas Message

 

Bob and Penny Lord

Bob and Penny LordBe sure to check out our homepage weekly

 

Treasures from the Crib of Jesus

Family, God is so good.  We have been racking our brains trying to give you some  really meaningful gifts  from the Lord for this Christmas season.  As it turns out, we read Conversations With God, a meditation book by Francisco Fernandez, of Opus Dei, founded by St. Jose Escriva.  There are two teachings we want to share with you, which we believe you will agree constitute two of the greatest gifts the Lord could give you.

The teaching for Monday of the 30th week in Ordinary Time was from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Chapter 4, verse 4 through 8.  It’s as if the Lord guided our hands to this section of the Bible.  It’s one of the most beautiful as well as powerful teachings of St.  Paul.  Let us share it with you.

 

“Rejoice in the Lord always.

I shall say it again, Rejoice!

Your kindness should be known to all.

The Lord is near.

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything

By prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,

Make your requests known to God.

Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding,

Will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers (and sisters) whatever is true

Whatever is honorable, whatever is just,

Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,

If there is any excellence, and if there is anything worthy of praise,

Think about these things.

Keep on doing what you have learned and received,

And heard and seen in me. 

Then the God of Peace will be with you.”

 

The second gift the Lord wanted us to share with you came in the teaching for the next day, Tuesday of the 30th week.  The title of the teaching is “The Glory of the Children of God.  The first paragraph reads “Our sense of Divine Filiation.  We thought we knew the meaning of the word from our study of Latin in school.  But to be sure, we checked on the Dictionary definition of Filiation.  The meaning they gave us was

The Fact of being a child of a certain Parent.

Then the teaching began.  From Psalm 2:7, we are taught:

I will proclaim the decree of the Lord Who said to me, “You are  My son, today I have begotten you.”

“Today speaks of eternity.  It is the today of the intimate life of God, the ‘today’ of eternity, the ‘today’ of the Most Holy and ineffable Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” (Pope John Paul II)

According to its definition, Filiation requires an equality of nature

Then the author takes us to the Prologue to St.  John’s Gospel, John 1:12-13.

 But to all who received Him, who believed in His Name, He gave power to become Children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of flesh, nor the will of man, but of God.

St. Athanasius expanded on this.

“The Son of God became man, so that the sons of men, the sons of Adam, might become sons of God.  He (Jesus) is the Son of God by His nature.  We are Sons of God by grace.”

St. John wrote “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1John 3:1)

St. Paul touches on it “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”

(Romans 8:19-23)

Then he teaches of the fullness of this adoption “So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.” (Gal 4:7)

And for us, the culmination of this truth is borne out by St. Paul’s writing  to the Romans (Romans 8:29-30)

“For those He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the Image of His Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.”

Praise You Jesus!  We are sons and daughters of God.  We have been predestined; we have been called; we have been justified; we shall be glorified.

Family, we could not have created any words, any prose or poetry which would come anywhere near what we wish for you this Christmas Season.  The world has all but destroyed all the joyful traditions that we have held onto from the time we were children.  We need something to hang onto, something which will give us joy and peace this Christmas Season.  Things might not always turn out the way we expect.  We ourselves always have great expectations of how Christmas is going to be in any given year.  And then it never works out the way we fantasized.  But our thinking was of the world, not of God.  No matter how many Christmas commercials tempt us to dream about what will make us happy, no matter how many times we watch “Miracle on 34th Street” or James Stewart in “A Wonderful Life”, at the end of the day on Christmas night, it’s always somewhat of a disappointment when the day is done and it  did not turn out as we had dreamed.  It’s at that time, when the world has not given us what we want for Christmas, that we have to turn to the Scripture Passages the Lord has given us from the Saints. Reading those passages, gently covered in the warmth and comfort we will get from the knowledge that the God of peace is always with us, we can breathe a sigh of relief, and fall gently into a Christmas sleep of the innocence.  Thank you dear Lord Jesus, and thank you St. Paul, St. John and Blessed John Paul II.  And from all of us here to all of you there, we wish you nothing but the peace and joy that is Christmas to live in your hearts this year and all the years of your life.  We love you!

 

 

We would like to begin this by saying that Mother Angelica was minding her own business, but you all know that she’s always getting into something.  The Hispanic network of Bogota, Colombia had brought EWTN in on a full time basis, and they asked Mother if she would go to Bogota on a publicity tour. She was only too happy to do it

That’s how it began.  Once she entered the church, she was enthralled with the beauty of the statue..  Mother first attended Mass in the church, and then went to the small Shrine where the statue of Divino Niño was.  She prayed, and began looking at the statue.  Now it’s not as if she had the entire little chapel to herself.  It was packed with local people, all of whom had a great devotion to the Divino Niño, who were making their petitions to Him, completely confident that their prayers would be answered.

Mother stood off to the side of the statue, watching the activity around the statue, when she heard the sweetest child’s voice.  She looked up, to see the statue come to life and speak to her.  The command was simple.  “Build a Temple for Me.”  Now, it’s not sure how she responded.  Knowing Mother, her answer was most probably an immediate “Yes, Lord.”  We only know the message she was given by the Divino Niño.  “I will help those who help you.”  This vision of the Divino Niño, so touched her heart that the command given her by the Child Jesus, “Build a Temple for Me.” became the focus of her life.

We would like to share with you Mother Angelica’s own words regarding her experience with Divino Niño. 

“In 1995, we had a vice presidents’ meeting and decided to try and provide a Spanish network for South America.  It was decided that I would go down and talk to Bishops and Nuncios in South America and see if they would be interested in making programs in their own specific Spanish accents so that when we were ready to establish a Spanish network we would have programs.

“One of the countries we went to was Colombia.  In Bogota, we had a wonderful priest host for the days we were there.  He asked me if I would like to see the Church of Divino Niño.  We said yes.  I was very surprised by the poverty of the people and the beauty of this Church or Basilica.  The Church was packed, the large courtyard was full of people.   They would have Mass at different times on Sundays, and people would walk miles.  The priest had a devotion to the Divine Child, and he had a sculpture made.  He would talk to the sculpture.

“One day the priest  told Divino Niño that these people were hungry and there was no one to feed them. ‘If you don’t feed them, they will kill me and smash you into tiny pieces.’  This is a strange type of prayer.  Soon carts appeared with food.  This went on.  Suddenly people came that were not well.  ‘Divino Niño, if you don’t heal them they will kill me and smash you.’  ...he went to the Church (his superiors) to get money to build a Church.  Instead, the people gave (him money) to build the Church.

“Father asked me if I would like to see the original statue that the priest had made.  We had to walk up a small hill and at that time I was still in crutches.  The statue was facing away from where I was standing.  So, I just looked up as every one else was doing.  Suddenly Divino Niño turned towards me and said ‘Build me a Temple and I will help those who help you.’”

The Child Jesus told Mother to build a Temple, and not knowing from where or how she would have the funds to do so, she said Yes!  First, she had to find a place.  The very last property she looked at is where the Shrine is located, today - on hundreds of acres of rolling hills in a remote rural farm area in Hanceville, Alabama.  Allow us to have Mother Angelica tell you how she went about building the Temple in her own words:

“It’s unbelievable to me that, when Our dear Lord asked for a Temple, and said He would take care of those who helped us, I never in my wildest dreams thought it would be so beautiful....At every turn He would change it.  It got bigger and bigger, and more beautiful.  We were going to put just ordinary floor tile in the Church; He guided us to put in marble.  In every possible way He intercepted some of our ideas, and we could see what He wanted.  And so this is truly a Church that God has built - a real Temple, a place where the people can go and rest their souls, renew their faith, and give themselves an opportunity to receive the graces and the peace, the forgiveness and the mercy that only God can give.

“The statue of Divino Niño, the Divine Child Jesus, at the side Altar is the Child Jesus interceding for all of us.  The statue outside in the Piazza is a big monument, the  divine Child Jesus inviting us to accept His love and His Heart, and to carry with us and within us the Childhood of Jesus.  For the Lord said ‘Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.’  And in Isaiah it gives us a good example of what God expects to do in this world in this life: it says ‘...and a little Child shall lead them.’  May we all be led by the Divino Niño Jesús.

“I know there’s something very special here.  The fruit of it, we don’t know.  But everyone who comes in is very aware of the Presence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  May it be so as long as the world exists.”

We have been blessed to visit the Temple of Divino Niño in Hanceville Alabama, and to follow the miraculous steps taken by Mother to bring this about.  Like the powerful men and women in the Church who have preceded her, her Lord says He wants something and she does not question how.  She simply says Yes!  The Temple of Divino Niño is truly a tribute to Our Lord Jesus, the Child.  It is a place to go and just spend quiet time with the Child Jesus.  For those of you who have not yet visited this magnificent Shrine here in the United States, we cannot recommend more highly a pilgrimage than to the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama.

You can visit a true replica of a Thirteenth Century Monastery and Shrine.  Those who have come there with us on Pilgrimage have gone down on their knees, when they first enter the Temple.  There high on the Reredo is Our Lord, the Blessed Sacrament, resplendently Present before us and you feel like crying, “ He is here; and He loves us.”  Your eyes and hearts travel to the right of the Altar and there on the side Altar is the Child Jesus, the Divino Niño, His Arms opened, welcoming you.  And if your eyes are not too blurred with tears and they should wander to the left of the Altar, there on that side Altar you will see our Most Beautiful Blessed Mother, so happy you have come to bring homage to Her Son and drink in His Love.  The first and last thing we see every time we visit the Shrine is the Divino Niño in the courtyard, His Heart in His Hand, held out to us.  And we go home singing, He Loves us; He really loves us.

The Bible comes to life in the Holy Land!  The very walls of the church of the Transfiguration cry out what happened here.  Jesus had told them days before that He would have to go to Jerusalem to suffer at the hands of the elders, scribes and chief priests, that He would be put to death and rise again on the third day.  If you recall, Peter could not stand the prospect of the Lord suffering and dying.  Jesus brought His closest Disciples to this bit of Heaven on earth to strengthen them for the days ahead, for the torture He would have to endure and they witness.

It was here, on this spot, that Jesus was transfigured before their eyes.  It was here that a voice, coming from the cloud that overshadowed them, said, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear Him.”

When Jesus was transfigured, and Moses and Elias appeared with Him, Peter, filled with joy, exclaimed, “Lord it is good for us to be here.  If Thou will it, let us set up three tents here, one for Thee, one for Moses and one for Elias.”[1]  They wanted to stay up on that mountain of life and hope.  They did not understand and subsequently did not want to ascend another mountain to what they feared was death and hopelessness.  They loved the Lord and they loved the Life He brought to them.  They did not want it to end.

But as the mosaics on the wall of the main Altar showed, the Angels were also there, living the moment and, like the Disciples, anticipating the future.  Twelve Angels towered over the Sanctuary: Three Angels loomed above the Baby Jesus in the crib, depicting His Birth; three more Angels appeared, with one holding the Chalice and the Host, representing the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Who would be with us till the end of the world; then there were three Angels hovering over the Lamb of Sacrifice - a precious white lamb with its throat slashed and bleeding, portraying Our Lord and His willing Sacrifice on the Cross; and finally your eyes travel to three Angels, with one standing on the tomb, announcing the Resurrection - our hope that we too will rise. 

The innocent Lamb bleeding!  Each time we journeyed in faith to the Holy Land, this imagery of the Lord’s Passion, as seen through the sacrifice of a very precious looking little lamb, would be the one which would always draw us, bringing us down on our knees, our eyes spilling over with tears.  Then on one Pilgrimage, while we were meditating on the Lamb, a pilgrim called us over to the mosaic of the Infant Jesus in His crib.  The pilgrim insisted, “Look at His Eyes!” 

Here before us was a tiny Baby with curly hair, a chubby Baby, a carefree Baby, a joy to behold, with a tiny bird in His plump little Hands.  From a distance He had looked like an ordinary baby, so sweet, so peaceful, so adorable, so untouched. Then we stepped closer and looked into His Eyes!  They were not the eyes of a baby.  Those Eyes were Eyes that had seen the world and its sins and grieved.  I could not take my eyes off the Baby’s Eyes.  I wanted to shout, Lord what had you known when You were born?  Did you know the agony you would one day endure, the rejection and betrayal that you would suffer, the pain that would accompany You to Your death watching Your Mother grieving at the foot of the Cross, the sorrowful Passion and Crucifixion that You would realize at the hands of those You had come to save? Did you see it all?  Your Eyes say You did.  Your Eyes say, You knew it before You were born and You said Yes!!  Your Eyes say, with each step You took, You knew You were going one step closer to the Cross.

We have, by the grace of God, traveled the four corners of the world, but nowhere has any painting or statue more poignantly portrayed the Babe Who was born to die for our sins.  This image in the Holy Land, revealed not only the purity and innocence[2] of the Baby in the manger, but a wisdom far surpassing His Years.  His path already preordained, the Baby illustrated on the mosaic wall of the Church of the  Transfiguration looks as if He has already taken His first steps toward the Salvation of the world through His Passion, Death and Resurrection.  This image of the Baby Jesus placed an indelible mark on our hearts and souls and we would never be the same.  No matter how many days and nights pass, we will never forget the look in my Lord’s Eyes.


 

[1]           Mt. 18:4

 

[2]           unequaled by any except Mother Mary

 

The Child Jesus spoke to Clare and the Lord, the God-Man still with us in the Eucharist, saved the Poor Clare Nuns.

Saint Clare was seriously ill and could not rise from bed, when some Saracens, who had been attacking and pillaging the surrounding towns, approached San Damiano, the convent Saint Francis had given to Saint Clare and her Nuns.  Her Sisters came running to her in a panic.  They cried, they feared for their lives; they could see the Saracens approaching, and they didn’t know what to do.  Clare summoned two Nuns to help her out of her bed and assist her, as she struggled to get to the Tabernacle where  Our Lord Jesus resided, truly Present in the Most Holy Eucharist.  She carefully removed the Monstrance from the Tabernacle containing His Majesty, and pressing it against her head, she prayed.  Then, walking over to the open window she beseeched the Lord,

“Protect, Lord, these your servants, that I now, by myself, cannot protect.”

A very sweet young voice, that of a young Child, answered,

“I will take care of you always.”

Feeling confident, Clare added another prayer,

“My Lord, protect also, if it pleases You, this city that by  Your Love supports us.”

Our Lord responded to His bride Clare,

“It will have to go through suffering, but it will be defended by My protection.”

Clare turned to her Sisters and assured them they would remain unharmed, that the Lord has promised to protect not only them but the citizens of Assisi.  And with that, she turned.  Facing the Saracens, she raised the Monstrance high in the air; the Saracens froze in their tracks; and when they recovered, fled!

Saint Clare is transported to Bethlehem

We find Clare at the end of her journey on earth, and she is too sick to attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.  It was the year 1252, and she would live just one more year before joining her Lord and Father Francis in Heaven.  All her Sisters had gone to Mass and she was a prisoner of her sick bed.  Too feeble to rise, she prayed!  She shared with her Lord how sad she was that she would not be able to receive Him, in the Eucharist, on this of all nights, the night He was born.

A great, bright light broke through the darkness, illuminating the bare room.  It was followed by the sweet smell of incense filling the air.  Clare could hear Angelic voices intoning Christmas hymns.  Suddenly she was lifted from her bed; and before she knew it, she was swooped over to the Basilica of Saint Francis, and was participating in the Midnight Mass. 

If that was not enough, then Clare found herself being whisked off to Bethlehem of 1200 years before.  She found herself in the cave where Jesus was born.  There, surrounded by adoring farm animals and shepherds, was the Holy Infant.  She looked lovingly toward the Baby Jesus in His straw Creche, His tiny plump little Arms were wide open, as if inviting her closer.  Clare looked over to His kneeling parents - His gentle Mother Mary and the earthly foster father who cherished Him - Saint Joseph.  Then Our Lord Jesus, the grown God-Man, appeared.  He tenderly placed the Sacred Host, His very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity on her tongue. 

With that she was transported back to her convent of San Damiano, to await her Sisters.  When they returned, they shared with her how sad they were she was not able to attend Mass with them.  Then she recounted her whole experience, how God in His Mercy would not allow her to miss Mass and most especially be deprived of receiving His Body, Blood, Soul and Divine Self, the Eucharist, on this of all nights.  Needless to say, they fell asleep praising God, accompanied by the sweet sounds of Angels singing Gloria in Excelsis Deo.

When Clare had given up her comfortable, luxurious life to follow Father Francis, the world she lived in thought her mad.  Being very beautiful, from a prestigious family, she’d had her pick of suitors.  She didn’t even have the consolation of having Francis near her, to guide her in her walk toward Jesus.  But after having heard Francis preach, she knew she belonged only to Jesus.  She traded in a large private room, with a soft, comfortable mattress for the stone floor she slept on, and a mattress of straw, surrounded by her fellow Sisters.  And what was her reward?  Her Lord did not betray her trust in Him, nor His Love for her.  All she had to do was be faithful, which she was till the day she died, and He did the rest, rewarding her with being present the evening He was born, and then, with His parents, to adore Him as a Baby.  If that wasn’t enough, not wanting her to do without Him, He, the High Priest, appeared and shared His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity with her, in the Eucharist.  Did He hear the silent prayers of her heart’s desire, and answered her?  We believe, he not only answered her, He blessed her beyond her wildest dreams.

Saint Francis of Assisi and the First Nativity Scene

Many Saints have had a deep love and close relationship with the Holy Infant Jesus.  There is not a Shrine that does not have and venerate an Image of the Child Jesus, along with our Lord Crucified on the Cross, the Two eternally interwoven. 

Have you ever wondered where, when, and how the tradition of the Creche and Manger began?  To find the answer to that question, we have to journey in faith to Assisi, Italy.

Let us travel back to the 12th Century, where we will find the Saint, who would most imitate the life of Jesus - Saint Francis of Assisi.   Although coming from very comfortable surroundings, Francis began life in a barn, very like the one Jesus was born in.  His mother, Madonna Pica, knew in her heart that her son was destined to serve the Lord, and she wanted him to be born like her Savior in the humblest of circumstances - a barn, like Jesus, with only the warmth of animals’ breath to keep him warm.  Before Francis was born, she’d had a visit from a mysterious visitor (we believe it was a messenger of God, or in other words, an Angel), who instructed her to name him John.  Madonna baptized her baby John, but when his father returned from France, he changed the baby’s name to Francis after France, the country he felt was most responsible for his wealth. 

Father Francis spends Christmas in Greccio

Saint Francis always had a fascination with Christmas and the holy, mysterious Birth of his Savior.  In 1223, he went, with his fellow friars, to Greccio, where he celebrated Christmas in a highly original, most unique manner for his time.  He reproduced the original Nativity scene, placing a manger filled with hay in the middle of a rocky ravine at the convent in Greccio.  Then he brought cattle and donkeys to stand beside it.  He did this so that the Faithful could see the impoverished surroundings and the suffering the Lord endured as a New-born Child.

On Christmas Eve, friars, and men and women from the village and the surrounding valley, came, candles and torches in hand, lighting their way.  They had heard of the Nativity scene Francis had created and they wanted to give glory to the Little King in the manger, singing songs and hymns to express their love.  Francis was dressed as a Deacon, as he never felt worthy to become a Priest.  (Whenever he approached a Priest, he would go down on his knees and kiss his hand, the hand that brought Jesus Present in the Holy Eucharist to him.)  The Christmas Mass no sooner began, than it was time for Francis to preach the homily!  He preached on the Birth of the Baby Jesus with so much passion, he could not call Christ Jesus; when he opened his mouth to say Jesus, instead what came out was, Jesus, Child of Bethlehem.

In addition, we have it on the word of a very pious man, who reported that when he looked into the crib, instead of a statue, he actually beheld a Baby lying still, as if dead.  Then he testified, he saw Saint Francis go over to the statue and lift the lifeless form.  Whereupon, it came to life, rubbing its eyes as if being roused from a sound sleep.  There, for all to see was Saint Francis, his arms cradling and rocking the Precious One Who was alive! 

Why did the Father allow this to happen?  Well, great apathy had been infiltrating the area, with people almostforgetting their Lord, and the real meaning of Christmas.  Their hearts had become cold, filled with too much of the world below rather than the Heaven above.  Francis, neither eloquent nor handsome, by bringing them miraculously the Child Jesus, ignited the almost dead spark that lay hidden in their souls.

The hay upon which the Child Jesus had lain, was saved.  Animals suffering various illnesses, upon being touched by the hay were immediately healed.  Women undergoing very painful and stressfully long labors delivered healthy babies, after having the hay placed on them.  Men, women and children, suffering from various illnesses were healed.  The people were so grateful, a church was later built over the spot where the manger lay and the animals kept watch.  And till today, the faithful come and pray to the Infant Jesus to intercede with the Father, on their behalf, for a successful delivery, and a healthy, normal baby.

Miracles of the Child Jesus book

 All of these articles are taken from our book, Miracles of the Child Jesus

 

Code BCJ ISBN 1-58002-141-7  - 320 pages - Many Photos
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Saint Therese of Lisieux and the Child Jesus

Over the years, I have wondered how the Little Flower, another title of the great and yet humble Doctor of the Church, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, got the name Thérèse of the Child Jesus.  Visiting Les Buissonnets, home of the Martin family, on pilgrimage, we discovered a small manger, in the back of the Martin garden, with a bed of straw, upon which lay a tiny Creche and all the little figures of the Nativity.  We were told Thérèse made this, when she was just a little child, and that she always had a deep devotion to the Child Jesus. 

Throughout her Autobiography of a Soul, and in many letters she wrote to her family, we find her addressing the Child Jesus, inviting Him to use her as His little toy:

“I had offered myself, for some time now,

to the Child Jesus as His little plaything.

I told Him not to use me as a valuable toy

children are content to look at but dare not touch,

but to use me like a little ball of no value

which He could throw on the ground,

push with His Foot, pierce, leave in a corner,

or press to His Heart if it pleased Him; in a word,

I wanted to amuse little Jesus,

to give Him pleasure;

I wanted to give myself up to His Childish Whims.

He heard my prayer.”

Saint Thérèse not only loved Him as the Child Jesus, she desired to love Him as a child, with a child’s heart.  Taking to heart Jesus’ words, “...whoever does not accept the kingdom of God, as a child will not enter into  it,”  she speaks to Him as a child.  If  you look closely, with the eyes of a child, yourself, you will see a little child, the child Thérèse putting on the imaginary armor she will later don, when she plays Jeanne d’Arc.  Dream and  you too can enter the child’s innocent world she lived in:

“I want to love You like a little child.

I want to fight like a brave warrior

Like a child full of little attentions,

Lord, I want to overwhelm You with caresses,

And in the field of the Apostolate,

like a warrior I throw myself into the fight!

Your Heart that preserves innocence,

won’t betray my trust!

In You, Lord, rests my hope.

When in my heart the storm arises,

to You, Jesus, I lift up my head.

In Your merciful look I read:

`Child, for you I made the Heavens.’”

Saint Thérèse does battle

At fourteen years of age, Saint Thérèse desired to enter the Carmel, where her sisters were cloistered.  She found herself waging battle with insurmountable obstacles blocking her way.

First, according to the Rule of the Mother and foundress of their Order, Saint Teresa of Jesus, no more than two from one family could be in the same House.  Her sisters Pauline and Marie were already a part of the Community.

Second and most important, Saint Thérèse was only fourteen years old; much too young to enter! 

Third, if that wasn’t enough to discourage the most determined, she had to get permission from her father, whom she dearly loved and who dearly loved her. 

Fourth, when she was able to convince her dear father, she had to face her uncle.  She waited six months before approaching him.  He’d played a great part in raising her and her sisters, since their mother had died, and he predictably denied her permission to enter!  Saint Thérèse dramatically writes of this time,

“...it was night everywhere, the dark night of the soul;” I felt, like the Lord in His agony, that I was quite alone without anyone on earth or in Heaven to console me; God Himself seemed to have abandoned me.” 

Her sister Pauline interceded with their uncle and he gave his permission. 

Now Fifth, she had to gain permission to enter, from the Superior of the Convent.  He insisted she had to wait until she was twenty-one years old!  He finally acquiesced, throwing her a bone, “Of course, the final decision rests with the Bishop.” 

On the way to the Bishop’s office, Thérèse prophesied,

“I said, I’d go to the Holy Father himself, if the Bishop of Bayeux wouldn’t let me enter the Carmel at fifteen.” 

The Bishop promised an answer after their pilgrimage to Rome.

Last obstacle, Pope Leo XIII.  At the Papal Audience, when His Holiness showed signs of getting tired, the pilgrims, including Saint Thérèse, were instructed to just kneel, kiss his ring and go on.  Her heart sunk.  Then her sister ordered her to speak.  That was all the justification she needed.  She knelt, kissed his slipper and pleaded,

“Most Holy Father, I have a great favor to ask of you.”  In honor of  your Golden Jubilee I want you to let me enter the Carmelite Order at fifteen.” 

When it appeared to Saint Thérèse, the Pope either did not hear her or did not understand, she remained kneeling, holding onto the Pope.  The Superior, glaring at Saint Thérèse sternly, explained to His Holiness, “This child here is anxious to enter Carmel at fifteen, and her Superiors are looking into the matter at this moment.” 

The Pope looked kindly at the angelic face before him and said, “Very well, my child, do what your Superiors tell you.” 

Saint Thérèse grabbed both the Pontiff’s legs and would not let go!  She pleaded,

“But if you said the word, Most Holy Father, everybody would agree.” 

There were a host of French photographers present, who reported Thérèse being carted off by the Swiss Guard.  It hit the local newspapers.  Thérèse lost all support, except for her family.  But even her father, her uncle and two Mother Superiors of the Carmel failed to get permission for the Little Flower. 

The Baby Jesus comes to her with a message

Saint Thérèse had hoped to get word approving her entry before Christmas Day and here it was Christmas Day and she was in tears.  She returned from a visit with her sister Pauline behind the grille in the Carmel, when, in her room, she found a bowl with a ship in it, a gift from her sister Celine. The Infant Jesus lay on the ship, with a ball next to Him.  Imprinted on the ship was the word, “Self-Abandonment.”  Six days later, she received word that the Bishop had granted his permission and she would be able to enter the Carmel at fifteen.

All her worldly attempts had failed.  It was only when the Infant Jesus came to her, bringing her the word “Self-Abandonment” and she became like a little child, completely dependent on the Lord and His Will; that it came about.  When she had returned from the audience with His Holiness the Pope, she had written to her sister, Sister Agnes of Jesus:

“I felt deserted.  I could weep as I write this letter, my heart is so full.  Still God cannot be giving me trials beyond my strength.  He gave me the courage to sustain this one.  Oh! it is a very great trial, but, Pauline, I’m the Child Jesus’ little ball; if He likes to break His toy, He is free to; yes, I do indeed want what He wants.”

Then the Child Jesus acted; and thank God He did!  She abandoned herself to the Lord and He did the rest.

 

Christmas in Brooklyn

There are so many stories and traditions surrounding the giving of gifts at Christmas, as many as there are countries in the world.  Christmas is the only birthday I know of that the One Whose Birth we are celebrating gives the gifts rather than receives them.  For all we receive comes from Our Lord.  It is He Who moves and molds men’s hearts.  Through a Little Child, God comes to us to bring out the best in us.  Who can resist a Baby, no less the Child Jesus?

Christmas in Brooklyn

For those of you who do not know our story, Bob was born in the Bronx and I in Brooklyn.  We were city children who lived in a small town called a neighborhood.  Customs from different parts of the world filled and permeated our little world.  Often a neighborhood became like a little country unto itself, as members of families and friends from the “old country” moved close to each other.  My family was originally from Sicily, Italy, as were most the people on our block.  Many of our neighbors did not even know the English language, so out of necessity we were a multi-lingual society.  But we were more like a big family, our traditions making us one. 

Christmas, like all holidays and Feast Days was a neighborhood thing, a shared experience, what with doors open, the fragrance of sauce and pizza filling the air, the freshly baked Italian cookies on a plate by an open door for one to bring home to share with the family.  We were all poor, but I never felt poor.  I always felt like a princess in wonderful wonderland.  Christmas in my life was filled with, you might say, two days of gift giving and receiving.  I opened gifts on the morning of Christmas and again on the Feast of the Epiphany.  My parents striving to be American, adopted all the customs of their new land and gifts were placed under the tree, Christmas Eve.  But my grandmother, clinging to the customs of her people, exchanged gifts on the Feast of the Epiphany.

Early in the evening, Christmas Eve, we were told we had to go to sleep or Santa Claus would not stop at our apartment and bring us gifts.  I never questioned why the Santa who visited us, early in the evening, looked different each year.  I believed in Santa Claus and that was enough for me.  Now, one of my brothers, a sophisticated giant, who was tall while I was petite, with six years on me, decided he would burst my balloon and expose Santa Claus as a myth.  Needless to say, this brought about much wailing and torrents of tears in its wake.  My mother, who plainly adored him, gently challenged him, “Oh, you don’t believe in Santa Claus.  Well let’s see what he brings you!”  Now, although there was no question about my mother’s open affection and preference toward her little boy, a lesson had to be given and brother received coal in his stocking and nothing else.  Needless to say, the subject of Santa was never brought up again. 

I never questioned why my Nana (grandmother) brought gifts on the twelfth day of Christmas, the sixth day of January, rather than on Christmas Day.  No one told me about the Magi; they got  shoved out of the way by Christmas Trees and Santa Claus coming down the chimney bearing gifts in his sack.  Although in our cold-water flat, we had only a coal stove in the kitchen to warm us in the daytime and a kerosene space heater in the front room to provide heat in the bedrooms in the evening, I never questioned which chimney he was going to climb down.

To those of us who grew up in the North, Christmas and snow were synonymous.  When I think about it now, how awesome and wonderful is our Father, to place that Bundle of Joy in our midst amid the gloom of winter.  We speak of Spring as new beginnings and it is, especially with the new hope of Easter.  But the new beginnings began at Christmas with the Baby Jesus.  Our Hope was born into the world.  Do you ever meditate on why God chose to come as a Little Baby into the world?  Why not a grown Man?  What was God trying to tell us?  Was the Omnipotent God showing us the way, through His Son Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, that the way to know eternal happiness is in becoming as innocent and vulnerable as a little child fully dependent on the Father’s Will?

The Feast of the Child Jesus

It was not till I returned to Jesus and Mother Church that I learned about the Magi and the reason my ancestors gave gifts during the Feast of the Epiphany.  They were truly reliving the days of the first Christmas!  It was then that Bob and I began our long journey to understand the full meaning of Christmas.  As we got closer to understanding the Treasures of our Church, Christmas became to us the Feast of the Christ Child, the Babe born to die for our sins, the Feast of our Heavenly Mother who said Yes and brought Our Little Savior into the world.  The awe and wonder of that much love alone brought a touch of sadness mixed with great joy.  We knew we were loved and we would never be alone again.  This was a truth no one could take away from us.  Jesus chose to be born a Helpless Little Child, He became One with us His creation in all things but sin.  All for us, for you and me.

The time between Christmas and Easter seems to fly faster and faster, as we grow older.  No sooner have the Christmas decorations been safely stored away, than the days swiftly pass till Ash Wednesday begins our forty days of Lent.  I remember one year, at our parish, the children enacted a Passion Play on Good Friday in our church hall.  The curtain opened up to the Crucifixion scene, which showed our little ten year old grandson playing Jesus dying on the Cross.  Our eyes, fixed on this little boy, bleeding and wounded, were filled with tears.But it wasn’t until our eyes followed a dim light off to the side - Mother Mary and the newly born Infant Jesus - that the stark truth came to us that Our Lord, the Baby Jesus began His walk to Calvary the night He was born.  Or was it the day Mother Mary said Yes to the Angel Gabriel and Incarnation came about!  

The gloomy, rainy days of Lent pass and the sun comes out on Easter Sunday and with it new hope, new life and new beginnings.  And if we are not careful we soon forget the price paid for our new springtime, by the One born in the cold of winter, the One Who would die on the Cross.  Those who plant harvests and flowers know that in order to have new growth, a plant must die and produce a seed for life to go on.  With our change of climate, the cold and rainy weather changing to sunny and balmy, we forget the One Who died that we might live.

And what has this to do with the Child Jesus and Christmas?  If we meditate on why He was born, and contemplate the price He paid, alone having to witness His dear Mother’s suffering at the foot of the Cross, we look at Christmas and we think of what the word means, Christ - Mass, the same Mass that is the ongoing Sacrifice of the Cross, the reenactment of the Birth, Death and Resurrection of Our Savior Jesus Christ. 

We go full cycle.  At the Annunciation, it all began and on the Cross it was finished.  At Christmas, a Baby was born, Who would be the God-Man Who came to save the world, and at Easter we celebrate the hope He left us that we too would rise - Christmas and Easter interwoven - the ongoing circle of life eternal.

There is something about Christmas that changes men’s hearts, even for a day.  It is truly a time of Joy to the world and Peace to all mankind.  For a short time, out of our busy lives, we pause and think of others.  We take time to try to bring happiness into the world.  During war time, even battles cease during Christmas Day.  Even those who do not believe in Our Lord Jesus respect the solemnity of Christmas.  Or is it that our love and more importantly the Love of Our Savior somehow breaks through the tough, hard shell the world has formed on our hearts, and we take time to love, to care.  And think of it, it is in the Form of a Baby that such metanoia comes about.

Take Christ out of Christmas

Two strong anti-Christ movements have been insidiously polluting our society and sadly at times our parish churches: One, Take Christ off the Cross and Two, Remove the Creche and the Baby Jesus.  Why has the enemy of God been so dedicated to removing these two life-giving symbols?  It is said that one of the reasons Lucifer said He would not obey and took One third of the Angels with him, was that God was going to become One of us, One with those He had created - a Creature.  And insults of all insults, he, Lucifer, top Angel, would have to have as his Queen another creature - Mary.  His pride could not handle it and he left.  But he was not satisfied with having taken one third of the Angels with him, to spend an eternity in the nether world.  He has spent the rest of his time on earth trying to woo God’s beloved creatures away from Him.  One way: The proud one who would fill our heads with Pride, would take away any reference to the Birth of our Savior, remove any evidence of Jesus choosing to be born under humble circumstances. 

I still remember parking on Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica and walking past the living scenes of the Birth of Jesus, with live animals keeping watch with Joseph and Mary.  Here in a town not far from downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood, Christ was remembered, Creche and all.  On every corner where there was a church, the Nativity scene was there, more often than not, a living enactment.  Families made elaborated Nativity scenes on their front lawns.  Then the enemy of God was able to use a few (it’s always a few) to end this awesome tribute to the Child Jesus.  Now, it may be only where we now live.  I don’t know what came first, but it appears after September 11th and that disaster, that there is barely a church or a home that does not have a Nativity scene on the front lawn.  Along with our American flag that had been at best put away and worse burned, the Baby Jesus returned and became the Reason for the Season!  After September 11th, you could not see one home or car without an American flag flying bravely for all to see.  And so it was with the Creche and the Nativity Scene.  God was back for all to see, as was our love for our country.

The second movement Lucifer was hell-bent on eradicating was the Price Jesus paid for sinful man, His weak creation - take Jesus off the Cross.  As we recall, Lucifer, right up to the last seven words Jesus uttered, did all he could to get Jesus to come down off the Cross.  Why was this so important to him?  He promised Jesus anything, he would do anything if He would only come down off the Cross.  Why?  Lucifer knew that the only way man could be redeemed was through the Cross.  No Cross, no suffering, the Gates of Heaven would not be opened and we would be lost.  Another reason Lucifer did not want Jesus to die on the Cross is that this One Act showed man how very loved he was, how very precious he was. 

But man has forgotten how precious he is in the Eyes and Heart of Jesus.  In the lunacy of the topsy turvy world we live in, where one can barely tell a man from a woman, at times; where often confusion reigns and sin spreads like the lava of an exploding volcano, a battle rages between God and Lucifer, all for our souls.  That’s how very important we are to God and His enemy.  There is nothing as angry as a person who has lost his soul.  He will do anything to make  you lose yours.  He needs the company; he doesn’t want to go to Hell alone. 

We saw a movie the other evening, and at the end, the soldier died because he wouldn’t allow someone to take the flag from him.  His words were: “No one can take the flag away from us; it is our flag.”  And with that he hoisted the flag on high, as bullets ripped through his body.  No one can take our flag from us.  It is our flag, the red stripes signifying passionately the price the generations have paid for that flag and the right to fly that flag over our land.  Likewise, no one can take God away from us; He is our God.  The Father sent His only Begotten Son to the world as a tiny Baby.  They can take our Nativity Scenes from us; they can take Our Lord off the Cross; but they cannot take Him from us.  He dwells in the deepest caverns  of our hearts, His Love permeating our entire existence, crying out “I love you.”

 

Saint Padre Pio and the Bambino Jesus

Saint Padre Pio had an overwhelming devotion to the Child Jesus.  Throughout his life, we see photos of the Saintly Franciscan and images of the Child Jesus.  In all these photos, it is very obvious from the way he holds these little statues, how much he loves the One Whom they represent.  On a pilgrimage, we brought to San Giovanni Rotondo, in July 2002, two weeks after his Canonization, as we walked through the exhibit hall, which showed photos of his life, we noticed more and more photos of Padre Pio with the Child Jesus.  There is also in that exhibit hall, right near his cell, a statue of the Santo Bambino, enclosed in glass, and a large blowup of the photo of Padre Pio holding the statue, which is right beside the statue.

We have also seen many photos of Padre Pio with children.  There are books with him and children on the covers of the books.  The look in his eyes gives away the great love he had for them.  When we researched his life, we found that he gave children the same importance as Our Lord Jesus did.  They were the future of the world, the future of our Church.  He also considered them little Angels of God.

We concluded that much of his love towards children came from his great love relationship with the Child Jesus, the Santo Bambino.  And while his life story is filled with experiences he had with Our Lord Jesus and our beautiful Mother Mary, the Angels and Saints, through apparitions Padre Pio had from an early age, we believe he also had holy encounters with the Santo Bambino, the Holy Child Jesus.  There are no great stories, or little tidbits which we can draw upon.  Fr. Alessio has gone to the Father, to be with Padre Pio as has Fr. Joseph Pio, so we can’t pick their brains the way we did when they were alive.  There’s not much written about Padre Pio and the Santo Bambino.  But for him to have such a devotion to the Child Jesus, we knew there had to be a time when he had a personal encounter with Him.

So on our last trip there, we asked Fr. Ermelindo, who has taken over as the chaplain for English-speaking groups, about an apparition of the Baby Jesus to Padre Pio, which took place at Christmas time.  We had heard of it, but have never been able to track it down.  So, while we led this pilgrimage to France and Italy, this last summer, we decided to see if dear Fr. Ermelindo knew anything about it.  We were in the English-speaking office at the Church of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo, and we posed the question of the Santo Bambino appearing to Padre Pio, to Father.  To our surprise, he called out to Robert, the American volunteer, whom we have known for more years than we would like to say.  Robert opened the desk drawer and pulled out a little printed card.  On one side was a drawing of Padre Pio holding the Baby Jesus, depicting the apparition Padre Pio had of the Santo Bambino, and on the other side were the details of the account.

The only eyewitness to the apparition we’re about to share with you was Lucia Ladanza, who was truly a spiritual child of Padre Pio.  She knew him from the time she was a child in Pietrelcina.  He taught her and other spiritual children there.  He instructed her in the catechism, hymns and pious practices.  Padre Pio loved her dearly, but she did manage to upset him.  She had to be around him all the time.  While he understood that her reasoning was that she wanted to absorb his spirituality, and the more she could be with him, the closer she felt to Our Lord, it could become a bit much at times.

During his formative years in preparation to be a priest, she could always count on his returning to Pietrelcina at least once or twice a year.  His superiors would send him to convents all over Italy, but he would always become deathly ill, and have to return home.  This was very frustrating to Padre Pio, and to his superiors, we might add; but for Lucia Ladanza, it was an opportunity to have her role model close to her for as long as the Lord would allow it. 

To be honest, it may have been part of the Lord’s plan for Padre Pio to go back home for the express purpose of counseling and giving spiritual direction to Lucia Ladanza, and/or possibly some others in the town.  Padre Pio never revealed why the Lord continually sent him back to Pietrelcina.  It seemed that Padre Pio knew, but he would never divulge the reason.  The closest anyone came to getting him to say anything about it was when a priest, Padre Agostino of San Marco in Lamis, asked him about it.  Padre Pio replied, “I can’t tell you the reason the Lord wanted me back in Pietrelcina, Father.  I would lack charity.”

However, when Padre Pio was transferred to San Giovanni Rotondo, he told Lucia he would not return home again.  She would have to come to San Giovanni Rotondo for her spiritual direction.  It was a great struggle for her, and she had to sacrifice much to go to San Giovanni Rotondo, but she often came to this little town on the Gargano to ask for and receive advice and direction from Padre Pio for her spiritual life.  It may have been because of her great devotion to Padre Pio that she was given the gift we are about to share with you now.

She was even willing to sacrifice not being with her family at Christmas, to be with Padre Pio.  On 24 December 1922, Lucia felt an inner calling to spend the vigil of Christmas close to Padre Pio.  She made the trip from Pietrelcina to San Giovanni Rotondo in the bitter cold.  Remember, San Giovanni Rotondo is way up in the mountains, and it gets very cold there in the winter.  But Lucia wanted to be there, and so she made the trip.  There were not many people there that night, but it was still early.  We’re sure that the church filled up for Midnight Mass.  Add to the fact that it was so cold, the friars brought a brazier into the sacristy.  Next to the brazier with three other women, Lucia waited for midnight to come so they could attend the Mass that Padre Pio would celebrate.  They were praying the Rosary.  Either the heat from the brazier or Divine Intervention, caused the three women to doze off, while Lucia continued to recite the Rosary.

She heard a noise and looked in the direction from which it came.  From the internal stairway of the sacristy, she saw Padre Pio come down and stop near the window.  All of a sudden, the entire room lit up.  In a burst of heavenly light, there appeared the Child Jesus, resting in the arms of Padre Pio, whose face turned radiant.  The scene reminded her of the biblical account of Moses when he came down from the mountain of God.  If you recall Moses’ face was glowing from having been in the presence of God.  Padre Pio was having the same experience.  He looked at the Child Jesus, Who returned his look with great love, and great intensity.  This lasted only a few moments.  But those few moments seemed to Lucia to last an eternity.  She was so excited she thought her heart would burst.  Padre Pio seemed to her to be in ecstasy with his Lord, this Child Jesus. 

As quickly as it had appeared, the light dimmed until finally, it went out.  Padre Pio was standing there alone.  It seemed, in the aftermath of the brilliant light which had filled the room, as if he was standing in the dark, when actually there was the dim light of one bulb lighting the stairway.  He came out of his reverie.  He glanced over at Lucia.  She had a look of astonishment on her face.  Padre Pio realized that Lucia had seen what had happened.  He asked her, “Lucia, what did you see?”

Lucia hesitated in answering, for fear of upsetting Padre Pio.  In her mind’s eye, she could see him making her leave his presence.  She didn’t want to do that.  However, she answered truthfully, “Padre I saw everything.”  He knew what her answer was going to be before she said it.  He looked at her very sternly.  Then he admonished her severely: “Don’t say anything to anyone or else I will wring your neck like a chicken.”

She was shocked and more than a little frightened, until she saw the glint of humor in his eyes.  He was being firm, but the two of them were able to enjoy a little joke.  We would like to say that she kept the secret that she had with Padre Pio all her life, and brought it with her to her grave.  But then, we would not have heard the story. 

While we don’t know for sure; the truth is probably that she didn’t even keep it a secret until even New Year’s Day.  She may have been out on the street the very next day telling the whole of San Giovanni Rotondo, and then all of Pietrelcina about the special apparition she shared with Padre Pio on the night before Christmas.  However, we’re pretty sure that from that time on,

 

Bob and Penny's Special Message for Christmas

Dear Family:

It’s Christmas time, that glorious time – a time to ponder on the many gifts He has given us, and give thanks!  As we sit here, our hands trembling with excitement as we place them on the keyboard of our computer, our thoughts coupling with our feelings, it is almost as if we can hear Our Lord reaching out to us!  Oh Lord have we been too busy to spend some quality time before You present in the tabernacle?  Have we been too absorbed with man and his false promises, Lord we have forgotten Your ongoing promise to be with us till the end of the world, and we despair!

Well, Lord we, Your children are returning to church! We come to You on bended knees. 

We pause now to remember how, during World War II, our families processed through the streets of Brooklyn on bended knees, pleading with You to bring home our loved ones.  Now more than ever we realize we have to proclaim You, Our Lord from the roof tops, for You want all Your children, all of us to trust in You, to put our lives in Your Hands.   Let us give thanks to God Our Father, for giving us His Son Jesus Who died for us, one of His last acts leaving us His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, the Man-God with us here in our Church, available to hear us, to help us, to guide us!  God created a beautiful world and when He was creating, He chose to fashion a country filled with all the resources needed to not only survive, but to prosper.

God is in charge!  Sometimes when things look dark and foreboding, helpless and hopeless, we forget that Our Lord has not left us orphans. He said, 

“You are my friends if you do what I command you. 

I no longer speak of you as slaves,

for a slave does not know what his master is about. 

Instead, I call you friends,

since I have made known to you all that I heard from My Father.” (John 15:14-15)  

If we believe what Scripture tells us, well, we have to make a choice! 

If we believe God is in charge, then we have to make a decision!  We have to make choices!  

Mother Angelica has told us over the years, God gave us brains to discern truth from falsehood, to separate good from evil.  Over the years she has said, the world tells you “Do not be judgmental!”  I can hear her right now, “Why did God give us brains but to use them, to make judgments!”    

There are so many petitions we are making, pleading for miracles,

and God help me I have made a promise to our Lord,

if He would just answer my prayers, I would dedicate every waking moment to shout from the mountain tops,

God did it! God is in charge!

God is in charge!  Believe and God will answer your prayers.

Believe in God and not in man.  Turn yourself over to God and He will make His Will known and done.

There is a song we use at the end of a talk or a mission and it goes, “You’ll know them by their fruits!”  I don’t know why, but every time we sing that song, it is difficult to keep from crying:

“We have seen and we believe

We will share our faith with everyone

You’ll know them by their fruits

We have seen and we believe

We will share our faith with everyone.”

We love you!  God bless you and our country!  Have a Blessed Christmas! 

 

Miracles of the Child Jesus book

 All of these articles are taken from our book, Miracles of the Child Jesus

 

Code BCJ ISBN 1-58002-141-7  - 320 pages - Many Photos
Paperback $16.95

 

 

 

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