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November 23rd, 2010

Praying The Holy Rosary

Praying The Holy Rosary

Praying The Holy Rosary – benefits, importance in my life

In 1999 I was sent, together with another Indian priest, Fr. Joseph John Manjadiyil, from Rome to the Philippines by our then Abbot General Rev.Fr. Andrea Pantaloni osb, to begin a monastery of our Congregation in Cebu, up on the invitation of Archbishop Cardinal Vidal of Cebu. When we came here we had no friends, no language, no influence, no land and no home to live in. My only help was a Rosary bought from Fatima. And it worked miracles in my life.

And during the early pioneering years, life was hard in every sense of the word. And it had a telling effect on my health. On February 14, 2005 I had a massive heart attack with a long hospitalization in intensive care. Again on November 20, 2007 I underwent a bypass surgery in a well known Hospital in Cebu. Apparently everything went well. But six days after my surgery, a new nurse, by mistake, gave me the wrong medicine and I went into a coma and clinically died.

This is what I remember about my encounter with death. I felt I was seated in the lap of an ancient being almost like being seated in an easy chair. I felt very comfortable and I did not feel any fear. There were two friendly beings on my both sides, who to me, seemed like life-long companions. I did not see them clearly, but I could very well feel their presence. Slowly we lifted from the earth and went high. I remember seeing mountains and rivers far below. We were going very fast and straight forward. It was all a pleasant experience. Soon I could see far in the horizon a bright light ahead of me similar to the sky at dawn. When we were almost near the border of this glowing land of light, something suddenly stopped my onward journey. Instantly I knew that it was the statue of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

I did not see the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But I knew that it was she, because I could recognize the semi globular base of the statue, in front of which I used to pray the Rosary daily. In an instant I saw that I was entangled in a net. I tried my best to shake and break and get out of it. I was like a little insect caught in a spider’s web. The more I tried, the more I got entangled. Then I saw this net was made of Rosaries. There were all kinds of Rosaries, gold and silver, big and small, white and black, wooden and plastic and hundreds and hundreds of them. I could not move my hand or leg, I was so badly entangled. I did not know that at that very moment hundreds and hundreds of people were praying the Rosary for me all over the world.

In my struggle to break free, I did not notice when my unearthly companions disappeared. Suddenly I opened my eyes, and I saw that I was caught in a web of all kinds of tubes and pipes and medical equipments in the intensive care unit of the hospital. Two nurses were holding my hands strongly that I may not throw off the various kinds of medical gadgets attached all over my body! I was back to life again. And of course, I had a long hospitalization after that, and a longer recovery period.

I had known the power of the Rosary from my early childhood. After becoming a priest I always had a Rosary around my neck. When I was asked by my superiors to go to the Philippines I was happy. I knew that this is the only Catholic country in Asia with a very deep Marian devotion. From the first day of our arrival in the Philippines, we used to recite the Holy Rosary daily together with the local people.

Finally, some generous benefactors built a Rosary Center next to our monastery. This Rosary Center has twenty life-size paintings of the mysteries of the Holy Rosary. This Center is dedicated to Our Lady of Manaoag of the Holy Rosary. Hundreds and hundreds of pilgrims now come here daily to pray the Holy Rosary here, and with many reported miracles.

Previously too in my priestly life, I had experienced the power of the Holy Rosary in moments of danger. In October 1992, I was riding a bicycle through a remote village, some 40 Km from Ranchi city in North India, on a Vocation promotion campaign. As I was going down a steep road in a very isolated area, suddenly a group of young robbers encircled me and stopped my cycle. They had wooden clubs in their hands. From their look I knew that they would beat me to death any moment. Looking around, I saw also other bicycles and a charcoal truck that were destroyed in looting.

One hefty fellow, who seemed to be the leader, pulled open my shirt to see whether I had any gold chain on my neck. I had a brown Rosary on my neck. As soon as the man saw the Rosary, it was as though he got a shock and took off his hand instantly. They murmured something in their tribal language and in a second they disappeared into the jungle, leaving me still trembling in the middle of a lonely forest road.

In 1997, one day I took the monastery jeep to go to the city. On the way it started to rain and so I decided to return. As I reversed, I could not see behind me well due to the tall grass, and before I could realize what was happening, the jeep fell into a twenty feet deep pit. When the rescuers took me out of the jeep I regained consciousness and mysteriously the Rosary on my neck was entangled on the steering wheel, as though I was tied to it.

Why the Rosary was not broken, I do not understand even to this day! Some hundred odd laborers working on the neighboring farm came running to help, and within a few minutes they pushed and pulled and brought the jeep back to the road again. There was not even a scratch on me or on the jeep!

My intention to write these experiences of mine is to help you also to grow in devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary by praying the Holy Rosary.

God may be glorified in everything. And may the Holy Mother of God help you.

– – – written by Fr. Thomas Thekkumthottam OSB

November 11th, 2010

Mission Of The Catholic Church

Mission of The Catholic Church

What are the greatest needs of the Catholic Church today?

Do not think that our answer is simplistic or superstitious and unreal: one of the greatest needs today is the defense from that evil that we call the devil (Pope Paul VI, November 1972).

Delivering the world from demonic powers has always been the mission of the Catholic Church.

In the ministry of Jesus, exorcism of people who were possessed and tormented by evil spirits was of prime importance. It demonstrated the power that Jesus Christ commanded, as did the other miracles He performed; but more importantly it showed that He had unopposed authority even over the demonic spiritual powers who openly defied the rule of God. With a mere word from Christ, the demons were routed, as in Matthew 9:33, 11:18, 15:22, and 17:18. The ministry of exorcism was critically important in establishing Jesus’ authority as the true Lord of all creation.

“Whoever denies Satan also denies sin, and he who does not believe in demons does not believe the Holy Scriptures” (Pope John Paul II). One of the assaults on the Christian faith has been the denial that the demons exist. This was at first proposed to free men from the fear of “darkness and old night,” and to proclaim that the good God existed unopposed by any demonic power.

‘It is a well-known fact that where religion regresses, superstition progresses.’ A deep aversion for the love of the Sacred Scriptures and Holy Sacraments are the signs of living under the shadow of Satan. They practice abortions, having illegitimate children, witchcraft, Ouija board, tarot cards, crystals, palm reading, numerology, past life regression, psychic powers, channeling divination and séances are everywhere; yoga, zen, reiki, fengshui (vaastu), transcendental meditation, these are “ancient satanic wisdoms.”

In recent years, while the world has strayed far from the Old and New Testaments and its cosmic battle between God and Satan, true demonic activity, which had been largely banished in Christian societies, has been slowly resurfacing. Occult preoccupations and practices are reintroduced under the aegis of the “New Age movement,” and with them an increasing number of cases of demonic possession.

It had become so serious a problem that Pope John Paul II had spoken openly of the problem and of the need to formally train exorcists priests for dioceses around the world. The actual Rite of Exorcism is not very dramatic and will disappoint those who were expecting projectile pea soup, rotating heads, extreme physical manifestations, and verbal duels between the exorcist and the demon. The exorcist reads prayers and Scriptures from the approved ritual in the presence of the possessed.

It is an exercise of the Church’s authority and so it is necessary that the ritual be performed only with the local bishop’s permission, using the precise form prescribed by the Church. Standing on one’s own against Satan is foolhardy and dangerous.

There are some Catholic religious institutions in India and abroad which conduct retreats of various kinds, increase our spiritual knowledge to come closer to Christ; but many of the participants that make these retreats come with traces of occult in them or they are possessed, with the hope of getting free from these evil bondages, they return home worse than before since these centers do not have the Exorcism Ministries. Here the teachings on Precious Blood of Jesus is of utmost importance since “Through His Blood, we gain our freedom the forgiveness of our sins” (Eph. 1:7) “How much more effectively the blood of Christ, who offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice to God through the eternal Spirit, can purify our inner self from dead actions so that we do our service to the living God” (Heb.9:14).

We are witnessing the fulfillment of the words in the Sacred Scriptures concerning King Ahaziah. While he was gravely ill, he sent messengers to consult Beelzeebul (prince of demons), God of Ekron, to find out his future. The great prophet Elijah of action and not diction intercepted these messengers and asked them, “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Beelzebul?” (2 Kings 1;1-4).

The traditional prayers for exorcism were in Latin. A new Rite of Exorcism was developed after Vatican II and has undergone several revisions. The new rite can be performed in the vernacular and has several alternative parts. At the present time, exorcists in Italy have been using both the old and the new rites, judging for themselves which one would be most appropriate in particular cases. It is interesting to note that in certain circumstances the Blessed Virgin Mary must be called on to intercede. The demons respond to her name with fear and loathing.

Demonic possession is still a major front in the war for souls between God and Satan. The Rite is thoroughly orthodox and conforms to Catholic teaching. It is both interesting and informative, and it stands to help people understand the very real demonic problems in our world as the Catholic Church understands them.

The devil never ceases his activity, while the Lord’s servants sleep, as the parable of the wheat and the darnel tells us. Everyone knows that the priestly ministry includes risks and discomforts for the priest, even when he does not exorcise. St. Peter would say, “Rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed” (1 Pet. 4;13). The welfare of souls is worthy of every sacrifice.

Delivering the world from demonic powers has always been the mission of the Catholic Church – a mission never more important than today.

– – – written by Captain Mervin John Lobo

November 1st, 2010

All Saints Day – FAQ

All Saints Day

The Feast of All Saints is a holy day of the Church honoring all saints, known and unknown. While we have information about many saints, and we honor them on specific days, there are many unknown or unsung saints, who may have been forgotten, or never been specifically honored. On All Saints Day, we celebrate these saints of the Lord, and ask for their prayers and intercessions.

The whole concept of All Saints Day is tied in with the concept of the Communion of Saints. This is the belief that all of God’s people, on heaven, earth, and in the state of purification (called Purgatory), are connected in a communion. In other words, the saints of God are just as alive as you and I, and are constantly interceding on our behalf. Remember, our connection with the saints in heaven is one grounded in a tight-knit communion.

The saints are not divine, nor omnipresent or omniscient. However, because of our common communion with and through Jesus Christ, our prayers are joined with the heavenly community of Christians.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 350) testifies to this belief: “We mention those who have fallen asleep: first the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition” (Catechetical Lecture 23:9)

The Catholic Catechism concisely describes this communion among believers, by which we are connected to Christ, and thus to one another:

“Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness…They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us…So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.” (CCC 956)

“…as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself: We worship Christ as God’s Son; we love the martyrs as the Lord’s disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their king and master. May we also be their companions and fellow disciples.” (CCC 957)

There are thousands of canonized saints, that is those individuals officially recognized by the Church as holy men and women worthy of imitation. Because miracles have been associated with these people, and their lives have been fully examined and found holy by the Church, we can be assured they are prime examples of holiness, and powerful intercessors before God on our behalf. There are also many patron saints, guardians or protectors of different areas and states of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Isn’t Celebrating All Saints Day Idolatry?

Many non-Catholics, especially those from more fundamentalist backgrounds, assume that celebrating the saints means somehow worshiping them. This leads some Christians to claim that All Saints Day is an idolatrous holiday. The Church, East and West, has always distinguished between worship (latria), given to God alone, and veneration (dulia), which may be given to the saints. The highest form of veneration (hyperdulia) is due to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

If someone is treating a saint as one should treat God, then yes, that is idolatry. That being said, Catholics believe that the saints have a role in our lives, as intercessors on our behalf, because we are all united by our communion in Christ. The saints are continually praying for us and interceding on our behalf, on account of their closeness to Christ. This is because God is the God of the living, not of the dead. As such, asking a saint for intercession is no more idolatrous than asking a holy friend or pastor to pray for you.

Remembering and honoring the saints are beneficial practices, because to remember the heroes of the faith and follow their examples are good things. Many Christians seem to strongly oppose remembering and celebrating the lives of great Christian men and women, yet have no problem celebrating the lives of secular heroes like George Washington. All Saints Day is kind of like a Christian Memorial Day or Presidents Day, a day to celebrate the lives of all the great heroes of the Christian faith, and to celebrate the deep communion we have with them. While celebrating secular heroes is admirable, how much more admirable is celebrating those who fully dedicated their lives to Christ!

2. Don’t Catholics pray to Saints?

Yes, Catholics do pray to saints, on All Saints Day, and throughout the year. However, we must remember what the word “pray” means. It simply means to make a request. If you examine common prayers to the saints, these prayers ask the saints to pray for us, and entreat them, by their examples and prayers, to lead us closer to Christ. Thus prayers (requests) to the Trinity, and prayers (requests) to the saints are very different in content and style, and should not be confused.

Praying to (making a request of) a saint is like making a request of your pastor. When you need it, you probably ask your pastor to pray for you because you know he is a deep and prayerful man, and you would like his prayers. All Christians recognize that God hears the prayers of his people, and we find comfort in the prayers of those who are close to Christ. This is why we pray to the saints.

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