Our Lady of Beauraing
The world was staggering under the burdens of the catastrophic financial collapse of 1929, which led to the Great Depression in 1932. But soon after crawling out of the wreckage, the world was to be hurled once more into a devastating world war—number two—just as Our Lady of Fatima had prophesied!
Through this crucial time of self-determination—repent or be punished—Our Immaculate Mother was watching and endeavoring to lend her sweet assistance to rebellious mankind. Thus, in the Autumn of 1932, as in the Autumn of 1846, Our Lady came once again to young children. This time the country was Belgium, in the valley of Beauraing.
This time it was not to the mountains to which Our Lady came, but to the plains, and to a place which had something of beauty attached to it in the past, as its very name implies, though it was to bear an incomparable loveliness when graced by the immaculate presence of the Queen of Heaven.
Between November 29th, 1932, and January 3rd, 1933, Our Lady appeared thirty-three times to five children: Fernande, Albert, and Gilberte Voisin, and to Andrée and Gilberte Degeimbre. Although Our Lady appeared at various locations in and around the convent grounds, she appeared most of the time on a May tree—Mary's tree! It was on a tree, also, that she appeared at Fatima, and she is said to have appeared on a tree at Heede, Germany, as well.
There is something significant about these trees on which Our Lady stood! It was through a tree, and that which grew on it, that Adam and Eve sinned, and the human race was damned forever. It was through a tree, and through Him Who hung upon it, that the same human race was Redeemed from that damnation. Now, once again, it is through a tree, and through her who stood upon it, that the sinful world is given the opportunity, and the only means, by which it can be saved from the unspeakable wrath of God at the sight of its countless sins. Many unheard-of atrocities in this world could be avoided, and as Our Lady said at Fatima, many souls could be saved from eternal damnation, if only we would do as she requested of us upon that "noble tree."
As with Maximin at La Salette, and Francisco at Fatima, so now there appears on the scene another erstwhile skeptic; this time a grown woman, who brings with her a big stick to "knock It" with. On one occasion, Madame Degeimbre started to thrash the bushes, like poor Lucia's mother at Fatima had thrashed her. But she also later became, like Lucia's mother, a firm believer in the apparitions.
As at her visits to La Salette and Fatima, Our Lady appeared at Beauraing garbed in an unspeakable light, more dazzling than the sun. Here as at Fatima, she was dressed in spotless white, and both at La Salette and Beauraing she had golden rays shining around her Heart.
As Lucia had asked at Fatima, so Albert repeated here, "What do you wish?" And the first request of Our Lady was: "Always be good." Thousands of the faithful began flocking to the place of the apparitions, and in December witnessed the children in ecstasy, much like St. Bernadette at Lourdes.
On December 29th, Our Lady appeared, opened her arms and revealed on her breast a Heart of Gold. Her actions were reminiscent of her apparition on June 13, 1917, when she revealed to the Fatima children her Immaculate Heart, surrounded by terrible thorns, which, they were told, were placed there by our sins and blasphemies.
On December 30th, in addition to showing her Heart to three of the children, Our Lady said: "Pray. Pray very much." On January 1 she said to Gilberte Voisin: "Pray always." On January 2, she said: "Tomorrow I will speak to each one of you separately."
A great crowd was on hand for what was to be the final appearance, January 3rd, 1933. After two decades of the Rosary, four of the children gave a joyful shout and fell to their knees. Fernande sobbed because she could not see the vision.
Our Lady gave three of the children a secret, which they never divulged. To one she also promised: "I will convert sinners." Upon saying "goodbye" to the fourth child, she said: "I am the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven. Pray always." She then showed the Heart of Gold as she disappeared.
Fernande remained kneeling while the other children went inside the convent to answer questions. Suddenly Our Lady appeared to her and asked: "Do you love my Son? Do you love me?" When Fernande answered "yes" to both questions, Our Lady added: "Then sacrifice yourself for me." Again she showed her Golden Heart and disappeared, saying: "Goodbye."
Here again, as the world was rushing to its destruction in the Second World War, Our Lady came at the eleventh hour, to call men back to God, through sacrifice, penance, and prayer!
(Right) Shrine at Beauraing
Tragically, men refused to listen to the Mother of Eternal Wisdom, and men went forward erecting their flimsy temples to false peace and worldly pleasure. Thus, the chastisements came, just as she had predicted. War! The punishment for the sins of mankind! Many priests were martyred: 11,000 were slain by the Communists in Spain alone. Many homes were destroyed, many people were killed, just as she had foretold at Fatima, where she also said that "most of those who die in war go to Hell."
Hell! A terrifying word; a word which we are told by the Saints to consider daily, but which most so-called Catholics, at the Devil's suggestion, put out of their minds entirely. Many of them, in fact, following the heresy of the Modernists, don't even believe that Hell exists! Ah, would that they could, like St. Teresa of Avila or Sister Josefa Menendez, go down into Hell but for a moment or two, and see the countless numbers of apparently "good" people suffering there forever in endless hate, unspeakable rage, and despair. If they could see, as Josefa did, a young girl going down to Hell and cursing her parents the while, because they had permitted her to read suggestive and immoral books!
No wonder Our Lady wept at La Salette! No wonder she opened the earth at Fatima and showed the children a horrifying vision of Hell, and told them, as Our Lord Himself declared in Scripture, that most human beings go there! No wonder the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady is wrenched with sorrow, pierced with thorns and bleeding! But because she is our Mother, the Mother given to us by Jesus from the Cross, she continues her miraculous warnings, to save her little ones from this unimaginable eternity of pain, separated from the infinite Good for which we were created.
So urgent was (is!) the need, and so short the time, that from thence onward, Our Lady began to come much more frequently and with shorter intervals between. The next year was an extra Holy Year, and in that Year, only a few days after her visit to Beauraing, Our Lady appeared again in Belgium, this time at Banneux. Some time later she would come to Heede and then to Marienfried.
PRAYER: THE CHIEF DUTY OF THE CHRISTIAN
The Ascetical Doctrine of St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori
The Foundation of Our Confidence in Prayer
The Ascetical Doctrine of St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori
The Foundation of Our Confidence in Prayer
Upon what foundation, a man will say, will a miserable sinner such as I place this certain confidence of obtaining what I ask of God? On the very promise made by Jesus Christ: "Ask, and you shall receive." (John 16:24) "Who will fear to be deceived, when the Truth promises?" says St. Augustine. (Conf. 1, 12, c. 1) How can we doubt that we shall be heard, when God, Who is Truth Itself, promises to give us that which we ask of Him in prayer? "We should not be exhorted to ask," says the same Father, "unless He intended to give." (Serm. 105 E.B.) Certainly God would not have exhorted us to ask Him for favors, if He had not decided to grant them; but this is the very thing to which He exhorts us so strongly, and which is repeated so often in the Scriptures—pray, ask, seek, and you shall obtain what you desire: Whatever you will, seek and "it shall be done unto you." (John 15:7)
In order that we may pray to Him with due confidence, our Savior taught that when we have recourse to Him for the graces necessary to salvation (all of which are included in the petitions of the Lord's Prayer) we should call Him, not Lord, but Father—"Our Father"—because it is His holy Will that we should ask God for grace with the same confidence with which a son, when sick or in need, asks food or medicine from his own father. If a son is dying of hunger, he has only to make his case known to his father, and his father will immediately provide him with food; and if he has received a bite from a venomous serpent, he has only to show his father the wound, and the father will immediately apply whatever remedy he has.
Trusting, therefore, in God's promises, let us pray with confidence; not vacillating, but stable and firm, as the Apostle says: "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering; for He is faithful Who hath promised." (Heb. 10:23) As it is perfectly certain that God is faithful to His promises, so ought our faith also to be perfectly certain that He will hear us when we pray.
Sometimes when we are in a state of spiritual dryness, or disturbed by some fault or sin we may have committed, we do not feel while praying that sensible confidence which we would like to experience. Yet, for all this, let us then force ourselves to pray, and to pray without ceasing; for God will not neglect to hear us on account of our lack of feeling. Rather, He will hear us more readily, because we shall then pray with more distrust of ourselves; and confiding only in the goodness and faithfulness of God, Who has promised to hear the man who prays to Him. O, how much it pleases God to see us hope against hope in the time of our tribulations, our fears and temptations; that is, in spite of the feelings of uncertainty which we then experience because of our desolation! This is precisely what St. Paul praises in the patriarch Abraham, "who against hope, believed in hope." (Rom. 4:18)
St. John says that he who places an unwavering trust in God will certainly become a saint: "And everyone that hath this hope in Him sanctifies himself, as He also is holy." (1 John 3:3) For God gives abundant graces to those that confidently trust in Him. It was by this confidence that the glorious hosts of martyrs, virgins, and even children, in spite of the dread of the torments which their persecutors had prepared for them, overcame both their tortures and their persecutors.
Sometimes when we pray, it seems to us that God will not hear us. But let us not then neglect to persevere in prayer and in hope; let us then say, with holy Job, "Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him." (Job 13:15) O my God! Though it seems that Thou hast driven me from Thy Presence, I will not cease to pray, and to hope in Thy mercy. Let us, therefore, also pray as did holy Job, and we shall obtain from God what we ask.
It was thus that the Canaanite woman prayed, and Jesus Christ graciously heard her prayer. This woman had a daughter possessed by a devil, and she besought our Divine Savior to deliver her: "Have mercy on me, for my daughter is grievously tormented by a devil." (Matt. 15:22 et seq.) Our Lord seemingly rejected her plea, answering that He was not sent for the Gentiles (which she was), but for the children of Israel. She did not lose heart, however, but renewed her prayer with confidence: "Lord, help me!" Jesus answered, "It is not good to take the children's bread, and to cast it to the dogs." "But, my Lord", she answered, "even the whelps eat of the crumbs that fall from the tables of their masters." Our Savior, seeing the great confidence of this woman, then praised her, and did what she asked, saying: "O woman, great is thy faith; be it done to thee as thou wilt." For who, says Ecclesiasticus, ever called on God for aid, and has been neglected and left unaided by Him? (Eccl. 2:12)
St. Augustine says that prayer is a key which opens Heaven to us; at the same moment in which our prayer ascends to God, the grace which we ask for descends to us: "The prayer of the just is the key of Heaven; the petition ascends, and the mercy of God descends." (Serm. 47, E.B. app.) Holy King David writes that our supplications and God's mercy are united together: "Blessed be God, Who hath not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me." (Ps. 65:20) And hence St. Augustine says: "When you see that your prayer is not removed from you, be sure that His mercy is not removed from you." (In Ps. 65)
For myself, I never feel greater consolation, nor a greater confidence of my salvation, than when I am praying to God and recommending myself to Him. And I think that the same thing happens to the rest of the faithful who persevere in prayer, for all other signs of our salvation are uncertain and unstable; but that God hears the man who prays to Him with confidence is an infallible truth, as it is impossible that God should fail in His promises.
When we find ourselves weak, and unable to overcome our passions or any great difficulty, so as to faithfully perform that which God requires of us, let us take courage and say, with the Apostle, "I can do all things in Him Who strengtheneth me." (Phil. 4:13) Let us not say, as some do, I cannot—I mistrust myself. Certainly, of our own strength we can do nothing; but with God's help we can do everything. If God said to someone, "Take this mountain on your back and carry it, for I am helping you," would not the man be a mistrustful fool if he answered, "I will not take it; for I have not strength to carry it"?
Thus, when we realize how miserable and weak we truly are, and when we find ourselves most surrounded with temptations, let us not lose heart; but let us lift up our eyes to God, and say, with holy David, "The Lord is my helper; and I will despise my enemies." (Ps. 117:7) When we find ourselves in danger of offending God, or in any other critical position, and are too confused to know what is best to be done, let us recommend ourselves to God, saying, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?" (Ps. 26:1) And let us then remain confident that God will assuredly give us spiritual light and strength, and will save us from every evil.
The Holy Season of Advent
Condensed from The Liturgical Year by Guéranger
The name Advent, from the Latin word Adventus, which signifies a coming, is applied, in the Latin Rite, to that period of the year, during which the Church requires the faithful to prepare for the celebration of the feast of Christmas, the anniversary of the Birth of Jesus Christ. The oldest document in which we find the original length and exercises of Advent mentioned with clearness, is a passage in the second book of the History of the Franks by St. Gregory of Tours, where he says that St. Perpetuus, one of his predecessors, who held that See about the year 480, had decreed a fast three times a week, from the feast of St. Martin of Tours, November 11, until Christmas. Eventually the length of Advent was shortened to four weeks, Christmas usually falling during the fourth week, and fasting was restricted to the Ember Days, as well as the Vigils of the Immaculate Conception and of Christmas.
The mystery of Advent is said to be threefold, because Jesus comes at three different times and in three different ways. Let us listen to the explanation of this threefold visit of Christ, given to us by Peter of Blois, in his third Sermon de Adventu: "There are three comings of Our Lord: the first in the flesh, the second in the soul, the third at the Judgment. The first was at midnight, according to those words of the Gospel: 'At midnight there was a cry made, Lo the Bridegroom cometh!' But this first coming is long since past, for Christ has been seen on the earth and has conversed among men. We are now in the second coming, provided only we are such as that He may thus come to us. So that this second coming is full of uncertainty to us; for who, save the Spirit of God, knows them that are of God? They that are raised out of themselves by the desire of heavenly things, know indeed when He comes; but whence He cometh, or whither He goeth, they know not. As for the third coming, it is most certain that it will be, most uncertain when it will be; for nothing is more sure than death, and nothing less sure than the hour of death. When they shall say, peace and security, says the Apostle, then shall sudden destruction come upon them, as the pains upon her that is with child, and they shall not escape. Thus the first coming was humble and hidden, the second is mysterious and full of love, the third will be majestic and terrible. In His first coming, Christ was judged by men unjustly; in His second, He renders us just by His grace; in His third, He will judge all things with His justice. In His first, a lamb; in His last, a lion; in the one between the two, the tenderest of friends."
The Holy Church, therefore, during Advent, awaits in tears and with ardor the arrival of her Jesus in His first coming. For this, she borrows the fervid expressions of the prophets, to which she joins her own supplications. These longings for the Messias expressed by the Church, are not a mere commemoration of the desires of the ancient Jewish people; they have a reality and efficacy of their own, and influence in the great act of God's munificence, whereby He gave us His own Son. From all eternity, the prayers of the ancient Jewish people and the prayers of the Christian Church ascended together to the prescient hearing of God; and it was after receiving and granting them, that He sent, in the appointed time, that blessed Dew upon the earth, which made it bud forth the Savior.
The Church aspires also to the second coming, the consequence of the first, which consists, as we have just seen, in the visit of the Bridegroom to the bride. This coming takes place, each year, at the feast of Christmas, when the new birth of the Son of God delivers the faithful from that yoke of bondage, under which the enemy would oppress them. The Church, therefore, during Advent, prays that she may be visited by Him who is her Head and her Spouse; visited in her hierarchy; visited in her members, living and dead; visited lastly, in those who are not in communion with her, and even in the very infidels, that so they may be converted to the true Light, which shines even for them.
But this annual visit of the Spouse does not content the Church; she aspires after a third coming, which will complete all things by opening the gates of eternity. She has caught up the last words of her Spouse, "Surely I am coming quickly," and she cries out to Him, "Ah! Lord Jesus! come!" (Apoc. 22: 20). She is impatient to be loosed from her present temporal state; she longs for the number of the elect to be filled up, and to see appear, in the clouds of Heaven, the sign of her Deliverer and her Spouse.
But the day of this His last coming to her will be a day of terror. The Church frequently trembles at the very thought of that awful judgment, in which all mankind is to be tried. Not that she fears for herself, since she knows that this day will for ever secure for her the crown, as being the bride of Jesus; but her maternal heart is troubled at the thought that, on the same day, so many of her children will be on the left hand of the Judge, and having no share with the elect, will be bound hand and foot, and cast into the darkness, where there shall be everlasting weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is the reason why the Church, in the liturgy of Advent, so frequently speaks of the coming of Christ as a terrible coming, and selects from the Scriptures those passages which are most calculated to awaken a salutary fear in the mind of such of her children as may be sleeping the sleep of sin.
There is significance in the length of Advent — originally forty days, now four weeks. The new birth of our Redeemer takes place after four weeks, as the first Nativity happened after four thousand years, according to the Hebrew and Vulgate chronology.
As in Lent, the people are forcibly reminded of the sadness which fills the heart of the Church, by the somber color of the vestments. Excepting the feasts of the Saints, violet is the color she uses. Formerly it was the custom, in some places, to wear black vestments. This mourning of the Church shows how fully she unites herself with those true Israelites of old who, clothed in sackcloth and ashes, waited for the Messias, and bewailed Sion that she had not her beauty, and "Juda, that the scepter had been taken from him, till He should come who was to be sent, the expectation of the nations" (Gen. 49: 10). It also signifies the works of penance, whereby she prepares for the second coming, full as it is of sweetness and mystery, which is realized in the souls of men, in proportion as they appreciate the tender love of that divine Guest.
But there is one feature which distinguishes Advent most markedly from Lent: the word of gladness, the joyful Alleluia, is not interrupted during Advent. It is sung in the Masses of the four Sundays, and vividly contrasts with the somber color of the vestments. On the third Sunday (Gaudete Sunday), the prohibition of using the organ is removed, and rose-colored vestments may be used instead of violet. These vestiges of joy, thus blended with the holy mournfulness of the Church, tells us, in a most expressive way, that though she unites with the ancient people of God in praying for the coming of the Messias (thus paying the debt which the entire human race owes to the justice and mercy of God), she does not forget that the Emmanuel is already come to her, that He is in her, and that even before she has opened her lips to ask Him to save her, she has been already redeemed and predestined to an eternal union with Him.