Monday, March 19, 2007

What makes a quality confession?

We often hear from priests who lead retreats at this special place where Our Lady graced us with Her presence that "the quality of the confessions is so high when these people are here." Many times these priests will ask if it is just the nature of the people who are on these retreats or if it is due to some other influence upon these people during their visit that makes them immerse themselves more fervently into the sacrament of reconciliation. It is interesting that the priests would even consider the notion, but they are feeling "it" too. Perhaps it is a bit of both, but it sure seems like the gravity of the spiritual environment plays a very prominent role in placing people in the proper reflective spirit.

By Church law, Catholics are required to make a confession at least once a year. Others who are more inclined to the spiritual life, make confession much more frequently just as they might attend Mass more times throughout the week.

The quality of our confessions
Though many go to confession many times a year what is important is not so much the quantity of our confessions but the quality of our confessions. By this, it means that we are called to make good confessions.

A bad confession is done without the necessary preparation and without a contrite, humble, and penitent heart.

A good confession is done with the necessary examination of conscience and the qualities of heart and soul that are important to receive the grace of the sacrament.

Examination of conscience
Before going to confession, it is important to examine our souls. Most people usually hold their recent life experiences up against the ten commandments and the seven deadly sins: pride, lust, avarice, gluttony, anger, sloth, and envy. If any bells go off, they report them as necessary.

There is, however, another way of examining our conscience which focuses more on the status of the relationships in our lives. This takes a greater amount of introspection and individual discernment than just holding your own moral scorecard up to the answer sheet of the ten commandments and the seven deadly sins. It takes quiet time in the right setting. A place where Our Lady has prepared the environment especially for us to grow closer to Her Son.

When examining one's conscience this way, one should examine one's relationship with:
1) God
2) others
3) nature
4) our self

If we use these four parameters to examine how we fall short of Christ's teaching, then it will help us see where we have sinned.

Just as your doctor tries to create the proper setting and environment for your exam by having you abstain from food or medications before your procedures, so it is with putting yourself in the right setting and environment for a quality confession while on retreat at one of these pilgrimage spots.

You must be with God, with others, with nature, and alone with your self. Space is still available (see Retreat schedule).

In case it has been a while since your last confession

As you make your confession with the priest, this is what you will say:
"Bless me Father for I have sinned. My last confession was last ________.
Since my last confession I __(tell him what you have discerned)___... "

Keep it natural and conversational, but with all the qualities of heart and soul necessary to make it a good confession - humility, honesty, seeking mercy, penitent, sorrow for one's sins, etc...
a.. As you finish with your confession, wait for the priest to give some spiritual advice and encouragement and then bow your head for his absolution.
b.. Make sure you remember the penance the priest gives and perform it right after the confession lest you forget what the penance was. Many times we are so relieved of our tensions that we forget what we were told to do.
c.. After confession you should make the Act of Contrition.
This is the Act of Contrition:
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because I have offended You, my God, Who are all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of America, Part II

The Blessed Mother proclaimed to Bernadette in l858 "I am the Immaculate Conception." The Blessed Mother proclaimed to Sr. Neuzil in 1956 "I am Our Lady of America."

The Blessed Mother asked Bernadette to come to the grotto every day for two weeks. She told Bernadette that if she did as she was asked, that she could not promise Bernadette happiness in this life, but she would promise it in the next. Sr. Neuzil was promised, that if we did as Our Lady asked, there would be miracles granted greater than those at Lourdes or Fatima...net necessarily physical miracles, but spiritual.

Young Bernadette, the messenger of the Immaculate, followed the Blessed Mother's wishes and visited the grotto daily. Sr. Neuzil also followed the Blessed Mother's wishes and wrote the messages down and obediently told her Bishop of Our Lady's requests.

At one of the apparitions, Our Lady told Bernadette to scratch at the muddy earth and to drink and wash from an invisible stream of water. Later the stream became visible to all. It was discovered to have miraculous healing powers that would attract hundreds of millions of people from around the world. Our Lady told Sr. Neuzil to have statues and medals made...the springs were in place and already being used for healing.

Our Blessed Mother told Bernadette that she came primarily to tell the world of her Son's message of repentance and prayer for the conversion of humanity. Our Lady told Sr. Neuzil that the hour was growing late.

Has Her miraculous plea as Our Lady of Lourdes been so needed as in our own times? Are we at an urgent crossroad where She has needed to echo and expand Her messages as Our Lady of America?

That first year of 1858, three miraculous cures took place. The reputation of Lourdes as a place of healing grew rapidly. There have been numerous healings reported at Sylvan Springs although none have been determined to be "miraculous" yet except by some close family members and dumb-founded personal physicians.

As with all miracles performed by Jesus, He did so not to show His power but to convince mankind that God exists.

Six million pilgrims come to Lourdes each year. The multitudes come from around the world - the sick, the poor, the downtrodden, the psychologically confused, the spiritually wrought, and the never-ending handicapped. The same types of people make their way to Sylvan Springs each year and the numbers grow. Sylvan Springs has a lot of catching-up to do to match the numbers being attracted by Lourdes at this time.

The grace one receives on a pilgrimage to Lourdes varies from person to person. Some people come for physical healings and instead they receive the needed grace to bear the Cross God has given them (spiritual healings). The same types of things have been reported by visitors to Sylvan Springs on this forum and in private.

The addicted come for release from demons and find the resolve, with God's grace, to miraculously abandon their vices ("have you folks met Harold & Irene yet?").

Some people come following Mary's call for an increase of faith; they return home renewed spiritually and sometimes, not-so-surprisingly, physically well.

The fallen away come to Lourdes for proof of the existence of God and their prayers are answered through the gift of the Sacrament of Confession and repentance. Someday this may be the blessing bestowed upon Sylvan Springs once again.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said: "At Lourdes, each afternoon, in the procession of the Blessed Sacrament, the bishop or priest, carrying the monstrance, walks among the sick, blessing them. It is then that the cures and the miracles of grace usually take place. Mary brings her children to her divine Son and it is he who works the miracles." ("Bring me my children, bring me all of my children." This was the request reportedly made of the current property owner by Our Lady in 2001).

There are said to be thousands more physical healings every year that have never been officially documented at these places; however, those with eyes to see have clearly seen these healings.

It is said that the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen would never visit Europe without making a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Lourdes. Archbishop Sheen said often, "If you are devoted to Our Lady, you will never lose your soul." He was also a regular visitor to the Springs in Rome City, staying for several days to sit and visit with the guests and priests on retreat.

The Immaculate Virgin knows the secret ways by which grace operates in souls and the silent work of the supernatural in this world.

The spiritual proportions of Lourdes are better measured today, compelling the world's wealthy, famous, poorest and lowly alike to drink and bathe in the miraculous springs. Is this the same calling She has made for Her site in Rome City? If so, can it handle the anticipated traffic?

Good Question.

Is There Enough Water?

The Lourdes spring is estimated to produce 30,000 gallons of water each day after 150 years. Sylvan Springs produces a little over 70,000 gallons each day and has been doing so for centuries.

Studies have shown that the Lourdes water is pure and contains chlorides of soda, lime and magnesia, bicarbonates of lime and magnesia, silicates of lime and aluminium, oxide of iron, sulphate of soda, phosphate, and organic matter. Otherwise, it is believed by modern scientists to contain no therapeutic ingredients. The Sylvan Springs water is actually more pure although it has many of the same, but fewer, very minute trace elements found at Lourdes. Sylvan Springs water is also not believed to contain any therapeutic ingredients as would be confirmed by modern scientific standards.

Is There Enough Land?




The entire Lourdes shrine sits on 51 hectares (126 acres). Sylvan Springs is over 50% larger at 80 hectares (almost 200 acres).

Friday, March 9, 2007

"The Water Will Have No Virtue Without Faith."

There have been repeated testimonials on this blog and elsewhere regarding the healing effects of the spring water which flows freely from Sylvan Springs. Comparisons have been made to the healing effects of the water from the springs in Lourdes, France.

This waterfall (1st photo) is the source of the spring water at Sylvan Springs which has been compared to the water from Lourdes, France (2nd photo) where Our Lady appeared to Bernadette.




One couple has reported success in their efforts to stop smoking and commit to sobriety, in part, due to their daily consumption of a small glass of water from these springs. Another woman reported her daughter was cured of a terrible digestive tract disorder after drinking the water. Still others have told us of various other maladies that have been eliminated in the course of their drinking the water or applying it to afflicted body parts.

Aside from the element of water in the equation, all of the aforementioned testimonials included two other MAJOR elements. Let us assess just what they have all told us was involved.


WATER

Is there anything miraculous about the water? Probably not any more than any other medal, cross, relic, or artifact anywhere else on this earthly plane.

Just like the water from Lourdes, this water is here for a reason. It adds to our...


FAITH

Every testimony described the fact that in addition to the water, each of the people asked Our Lady of America to intercede on their behalf. Some placed the picture of Our Lady of America at the end of their beds or in a prominent place in their home (like a cross or blessed palm?) to serve as a constant reminder and help strengthen them in their efforts of.....

PRAYER

Every testimonial also had an element of fervent prayer in it.

When you put all 3 elements together it becomes more powerful than any man could imagine.


St. Bernadette said, "One must have faith and pray, the water will have no virtue without faith."

St. Bernadette drank the water and washed her face with it. Our Blessed Mother has granted favors in conjunction with its use. Just like Lourdes, the water from these springs is something external meant to encourage and help our prayers and good works. Aside from that, people think it tastes pretty good and it sure does a good job of quenching your thirst...physical and spiritual.


Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Coincidence... or Confirmation?

The following letter was submitted by ILK of Elkhart. Is this another happy coincidence or a definite confirmation?

Is it a coincidence that the names of the two medals involved in this event, the medal of The Precious Blood and the medal of The Immaculate Conception, are historically linked to the Rome City, IN facility where Our Lady of America chose to announce Herself?

Was this event designed to tell us that there would have been no Precious Blood without the Immaculate Conception and that they are inexorably linked by God's design?


On August 10, 2002 a friend brought her brother to my house for prayer. My wife and I along with our two guests were sitting at the kitchen table talking. On the table next to us was the statue of Our Lady of America that I carved out of alabaster.


While we were talking I had the inspiration to give the man who came for prayer, a triple medal of the Precious Blood that I keep on hand. This medal, taped to a small card, was touched to a page of the prayer book that Our Lady kissed at Garabandal, Spain. I also had on cotton in a pix like container, some tears of the Blessed Mother that appeared on a statue.


I slipped the medal out from under the tape and first touched one side of it to the tears and then turned it over and touched the other side to the tears. When I picked it up from inside this little container there was a Miraculous Medal (medal of the Immaculate Conception) attached to the triple medal at the little ring. The Miraculous Medal simply appeared out of nowhere.


I put one medal in and two medals came out. Was this another sign that Our Lady wants to be honored at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception?

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of America

"I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the next" ... These words spoken by Mary to Bernadette at the third apparition on February 18, 1858 were a prophesy of Bernadette's life. This was the promise in return for Bernadette's total compliance with the will of the heavenly Mother.


The happiness promised to Bernadette was not only intended for life after death. It is a happiness experienced by all those who progress in the way of prayer; who go beyond prayerful words to the discovery of true Prayer. It was this experience that Bernadette came to discover as she knelt before Our Lady. She went beyond the mere recitation of the rosary to savor the deeper experience of a loving communion, "of a friend speaking to a friend."

There is a strong similarity in the promise made to Bernadette by Our Lady of Lourdes and the one made to Sr. Neuzil by Our Lady of America. Bernadette was promised happiness...not in this life but in the next life, the spiritual life. Likewise, Sr. Neuzil was promised greater miracles than those at Lourdes...not so much of the physical kind (this life) but more of the spiritual realm (next life).

The Ninth Apparition is a culminating point of the Lourdes message. The water bubbling up and mixing with the mud from the inner recesses of the Grotto was to take on an unimaginably deep meaning. Much more than a mere purifying water which may sometimes produce miraculous cures, this water is the mystical sign of the water that flowed with the Blood from Christ's side, pierced by the soldier's spear. An enlightening coincidence, since it was at that time that an account of the Passion was being read in the Catholic liturgy. Without knowing, Bernadette had mimed the Passion "for sinners."

But, as Bernadette was discovering the meaning of the Lady's message, only a few scarce people, such as Marie Pailhes, grasped the full gravity of the situation. Moved by the sadness upon Bernadette's face, "She seemed to carry all the sorrow of the world," wrote Pailhes. But as for the majority, they had callously behaved like the many who, on Good Friday, had abandoned Jesus, whom only a few days before they had so admired and loved.

As Bernadette scratched the muddy ground and chewed the bitter grass, her friends and supporters one by one began to abandon their belief in the claimed visions. This was just like Jesus' friends failed to understand that "ours were the sufferings He carried, and ours the sorrows He bore." Yet they had lived with Him and He had tried to teach them this. On the evening before Christ's passion, He had taken a loaf of bread and said, "this is my body given up for sinners." He had taken a cup of wine and said, "this is my blood poured out for all people." Jesus had tried to avoid this, asking three times of the Father to "let this cup pass from me." But He surrendered himself to the Father: "May your will be done." Jesus had a great love and compassion for sinners, and it led Him to severe suffering. He was the innocent lamb, sacrificed for the salvation of the world, taking on Himself all the sins of the world.

For those who cared to watch and listen, true meaning was discovered in Bernadette's crawling in the mud, and the grass that she found "difficult and bitter" to eat. At the ninth apparition, a passion play of sorts was performed by Bernadette. She observed the sadness of Mary, was called to offer sacrifices and penance for sinners, and surrendered herself in a symbolic gesture representing the poverty of sinners. During the course of her life, Bernadette meditated and deepened her understanding of this mystery. Her compassion and prayer for "poor sinners" was to grow ever more profound.


We are the "poor sinners". Our Lady continues to reach out to us, but as Our Lady of America said "Time is growing short". We must change our ways and heed Our Lady's requests. Many will reject these requests and abandon this cause just as they did with Jesus and Bernadette. We must continue to offer sacrifice and penance for sinners...pray for each other...especially those who turn away. Let us learn from Bernadette's example and swallow that which is "difficult and bitter" and always remember that "Thy will be done."

Saturday, March 3, 2007

When is a Miracle a Miracle?

Miracles, like much else in the Catholic church, aren't what they used to be. The French shrine of Lourdes has often been likened to a religious theme park, offering package tours and souvenirs for the millions of pilgrims who arrive each year, many of them sick and desperate to experience or at least witness a miracle.

As modern medicine raises the barrier on what can be deemed a sudden miraculous recovery, the Catholic church is having to modernise. Now Catholicism's leading shrine, which hosts some 6 million pilgrims each year, is considering a new category of religious experience: "miracle lite".

Every year, dozens of seriously ill people leave the grotto in south-western France where the Virgin Mary reportedly appeared to a local girl in 1858, convinced they have been cured. But the church does not rate their cases as miracles because strict rules from the 1700s say that doctors must acknowledge their ailments could not have been remedied. Modern medicine, however, increasingly refuses to declare any disease incurable.

Bishop Jacques Perrier proposes a new category of "authentic healings", so those that recover can share the story of their physical and spiritual experiences with others. The rule for declaring miracles would not have to change, he said.

While the Catholic church teaches that God sometimes performs miracles, including cures, which doctors cannot explain, sceptics reject this as unscientific and explain that sudden recoveries as psychological phenomena or the delayed result of earlier treatment.

"Doctors today speak in statistical terms, saying, for example, that the chances of recovery are very slim. They have a very hard time saying a disease is completely incurable," he told Reuters.

"Most healings may fail to meet this or that criterion for a miracle. We want to get recognition for a category of authentic healings linked to Lourdes."

Bishop Perrier said he was working on a new category of Lourdes healings to put before the Vatican for approval. He insisted it was not an attempt to boost pilgrimages to the shrine. "There has been no decline in visits," he said.

He explained that those allegedly cured during a Lourdes visit but not declared miracles do not gain church approval to share their story in public, for example at retreats or meetings with fellow Catholics.

Of the millions who visit the Pyrenean place of pilgrimage each year, some 7,000 have claimed to have been cured since the medical bureau began keeping records in 1883 - only 66 are deemed miracles.

Bishop Perrier said the shrine's International Medical Committee examined possible miracle cases and rejected most of them. The last official miracle - a man "healed" of multiple sclerosis - was declared in 1999, after 12 years of inquiries. Sometimes the site's 20 doctors see a sick person has been healed inexplicably, but do not draw further conclusions, he said.

"What we want is to authenticate these healings and say that the people who say they have been healed are not making it up or swindling people," he said.

Taking the waters

· Lourdes became famous in 1858 after the Virgin Mary appeared 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous, 14. Her message was: "Pray and do penance for the conversion of the world".

· Medical bureau set up in 1882 to establish authenticity. Doctors were invited to examine the miracles.

· In 1899, after Gabriel Gargam was paralysed in a crash, he was dipped in a pool but then started walking again.

· Royal Marine John Traynor was wounded in world war one. In 1923, he was dipped in a bath nine times. His paralysed legs then supported him again.