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Dr Scott Hahn shared the following true story on April 25, 2001, on “Mother Angelica live.” This story was related to Dr. Hahn by his spiritual director. He heard the story while in New York City visiting a priest who is in the Archdiocese of NY. This priest related the story of what happened on his last trip to Rome.
The priest was scheduled to have a private audience with John Paul II. On the appointed day, the priest decided to stop in a basilica to say a prayer. On the steps of the church, he thought that he recognized one of the beggars. After entering the sanctuary, he knelt down to pray and then it hit him. The priest rushed out and approached the beggar: “I know you. Didn’t we go to seminary together?” The man gave a nodded. “So you are a priest then?” he said to the beggar. The man replied, “Not anymore.” He said that he had “crashed and burned” in his vocation. “Please leave me alone,” the beggar said. The priest was mindful of his approaching appointment with the Holy Father. “I’ve got to go — I’ll pray for you.” The beggar replied, “A lot of good that will do.”
The private meetings with the Pope are typically very formal. There are a number of people who have been granted a private audience at the same time, and when the Holy Father makes his way toward you, his secretary hands him a blessed rosary, and the pope in turn hands it to you. At this point, one would probably kiss the Pope’s ring and say something heartfelt. However, as Pope John Paul II approached, the priest gave in to a holy impulse, got down on his knees and implored the Pope: “Pray, Holy Father, for this particular man. I went to the seminary with him and now he is a beggar. He’s lost. Pray for him.” The priest told the Pope the entire story. The Holy Father looked concerned and he assured the priest that he would pray for his friend. As he moved on, he whispered something to an aide.
Later that day, the priest was contacted by the Vatican. They told the priest that he and the beggar – the former priest – were invited to see the Pope for dinner. Excited, he rushed back to the church where he last saw his classmate. Only a few beggars were left, and as luck (or grace) would have it, his former classmate was among them. He approached the man and said, “I have been to see the Pope, and he said he would pray for you. And there’s more. He has invited us to his private residence for dinner.”
“Impossible,” said the man. “Look at me. I am a mess. I haven’t showered in a long time… and my clothes …” The priest said, “I have a hotel room where you can shower and shave, and I have clothes that will fit you.” Again, by God’s grace, the beggar priest agreed. The Pope’s hospitality was wonderful. At the close of dinner, the pope’s secretary whispered to the priest, “He wants us to leave,” at which point the priest and the secretary left the Holy Father alone with the beggar. After quite some time, the beggar emerged from the room in tears. “What happened in there?” asked the priest. The most remarkable reply came. “The Pope asked me to hear his confession,” choked the beggar. After regaining composure, the man continued, “I told him, ‘Your Holiness, look at me. I am a beggar. I am not a priest.’”
“The Pope looked at me and said, ‘My son, once a priest always a priest, and who among us is not a beggar. I too come before the Lord as a beggar asking for forgiveness of my sins.’ I told him I was not in good standing with the Church, and he assured me that as the Bishop of Rome he could reinstate me right then and there.”
The man relayed that it had been so long since he had heard a confession that the Pope had to help him through the words of absolution. The priest friend asked, “But you were in there for some time. Surely the Pope’s confession did not last that long.”
“No,” said his friend, “But after I heard his confession, I asked him to hear mine.” The final words spoken by Pope John Paul II to this prodigal son came in the form of a commission. When the NY priest was invited back in from the hallway, the Pope asked him about the beggar, “Where was the parish where you found him?” The priest told him and then the Pope said to the beggar priest. “For your first pastoral assignment, I want you to go to the pastor there and report for duty because you’ll be an associate there with a special outreach for your fellow beggars.”
And that is where the beggar is today, fulfilling his new priestly role ministering to the homeless and the beggars on the steps of the very church from where he had just come.
The Feast of Our Lady of Fatima was celebrated this past Monday, May 13th, the 96th anniversary of the commencement of Our Lady’s appearances in Portugal to the three young peasant children: Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia.
It was on May 13, 1982, that Pope John Paul II was shot in a failed assassination attempt. His life was saved, he believed, because our Our Lady “guided the bullet’s path,” and saved his life when he was at the threshold of death. The bullet that was extracted from his abdomen now rests in a crown of our Lady in Fatima. Pope Benedict XVI visted the shrine in 2010. He prayed that the years leading up to the “centenary of the apparitions hasten the fulfillment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.”
On Sunday night, Archbishop Orani João Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro, the city that is hosting World Youth Day, July 23-28, consecrated this important event to Our Lady of Fatima.
On Monday, at the request of Pope Francis, his pontificate was entrusted to the Blessed Mother under her title of Our Lady of Fatima. Cardinal Jose Polycarp, the Patriarch of Lisbon, directed this prayer to Our Lady:
“Grant (Pope Francis) the gift of discernment to know how to identify the paths of renewal for the Church,
grant him the courage to not falter in following the paths suggested by the Holy Spirit,
protect him in the difficult hours of suffering,
so that he may overcome, in charity, the trials that the renewal of the Church will bring him.”
It is remarkable how the recent Popes have placed themselves under the mantle of Our Lady of Fatima. Since her messages to the children have such pertinence for today, here is a reminder of what Our Lady said at Fatima:
Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and the end of the war.
Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and pray for them.
I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day.
Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended.
Prayer, penance, reparation, sacrifice. For our salvation and the salvation of the world.
Sunday, February 2, is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord which is also the World Day of Consecrated Life. Pope John Paul II instituted this special remembrance “to help the entire Church to esteem ever more greatly the witness of those persons who have chosen to follow Christ by means of the practice of the evangelical counsels.”
This particular day was chosen because, the Holy Father noted, “the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is an eloquent icon of the total offering of one’s life for all those who are called to show forth in the Church and in the world, by means of the evangelical counsels the characteristic features of Jesus — the chaste, poor and obedient one.”
In support of this day of prayer for consecrated men and women, the IRL has published a novena booklet: Living Signs of the Gospel: A Novena to Support All Consecrated Persons in the Church, written by Msgr. Charles M. Mangan, highlighting excerpts from the Holy Father’s nine messages/homilies for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life. The goal of this novena is:
1) To pray for consecrated men and women
2) To strengthen consecrated life
3) To pray for vocations to the consecrated life
Please join us in saying this novena during 2013. A free copy of the booklet may be obtained by calling the IRL office at (847)573-8975 or by e-mailing us at IRLstaff@religiouslife.com.
The latest publication of the Institute on Religious Life is the Lord of the Harvest, the messages of Pope John Paul II for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.This 48-page booklet compiles his messages issued 1979 through 2005.
Cardinal-elect Timothy Dolan, who wrote the Forward, says that many vocations were the result of the witness and words of Pope John Paul II. It is his hope that this booklet “might provide the grace needed so that young people prayerfully discern their calling to total service of the Kingdom.”
When one feels helpless in the fight against the assaults on religious liberty in our country, it is good to remind ourselves that the Lord has: 1) already won the battle, and 2) given us the most powerful weapons in heaven and on earth: the Mass and our prayers. Let us pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life to build up the army of the faithful.
Lord, send laborers into Your harvest and do not allow humanity to lose its way for a lack of pastors, missionaries and people vowed to the cause of the Gospel. Pope John Paul II, 1987
See our website to order. The cost is $3.95 but bulk discounts are available.
Earlier this month, fittingly on June 9th, the feast of the holy deacon St. Ephrem of Syria, Bishop Alexander Sample of Marquette, Michigan issued a pastoral letter entitled, “The Deacon: Icon of Jesus Christ the Servant.” This pastoral letter is a welcome contribution to the body of teaching on the permanent diaconate, which has been restored in the West since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).
Even the title of the pastoral letter is instructive. Deacons receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and thus are clerics. There is no such thing as a “lay deacon.” Yet deacons do not share in the priesthood of bishops and priests. Rather, they are ordained for diakonia, or service. They sacramentalize the Church’s call to imitate Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). The deacon exercises this sacred ministry through the Word, the liturgy, and especially acts of charity. So, as the pastoral letter’s title suggests, the deacon should be a living image, or icon, of Jesus Christ the Servant.
It’s disappointing that the good of this pastoral letter has been dampened Read the rest of this entry »
Some interesting vocation-related stories and articles I’ve come across this past week:
Archbishop Dolan on John Paul II priests (Catholic Education Resource Center) The Archbishop and former seminary rector reflects on how Blessed John Paul II inspired an entire generation of bishops, priests, and seminarians.
Sister finds calling for those in need at hospital (St. Petersburg Times) Franciscan sister discerns religious vocation following the 9/11 tragedy.
Baseball’s religious followers (Albany Times Union) Talking baseball with three N.Y. Yankee fans who happen to be Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
Vocation to priesthood a life, not a job (Catholic Globe/CNS) Detroit-area priest shares his story, stressing that prayer is the “lifeblood” of priests.
Rally encourages students to listen to God (Catholic Sentinel) “We need people to create a culture of vocations so young people can at least think about it,” says Jim O’Hanlon, who with his wife Terry helped to organize the event. “God will call them, but they need to be able to respond.”
And closer to home, the Topeka Serra Club announced the winners of its vocation essay contest.
Only weeks before the beatification of Pope John Paul II, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints issued some new procedures for beatification ceremonies that will help distinguish them from canonizations, in which the Pope infallibly declares a Servant of God to be a “saint.”
During the first Christian millennium, the cult of martyrs and other holy men and women was regulated by local Church authorities. In the 11th century, however, the principle that as universal Pastor of the Church the Roman Pontiff alone has the authority to prescribe a public devotion began to gain prominence. With a Letter to the King and Bishops of Sweden, Alexander III asserted the Pope’s authority to confer the title of Saint and the relevant public cult. This norm became a universal law with Gregory IX in 1234.
In the 1300s, the Holy See began to authorize devotions limited to specific places and to certain Servants of God whose cause for canonization had not yet been initiated or had not yet reached its conclusion. This concession, with a view to future canonization, led to the preliminary stage known as beatification, in which a holy man or woman is declared a “Blessed.”
The Pontifical Councils for Culture and Social Communications are organizing a gather of Catholic bloggers in Rome on Monday, May 2, 2011, the day after Pope John Paul II’s beatification.
The aim of the meeting is to allow for a dialogue between bloggers and Church representatives, to listen to the experiences of those who are actively involved in this arena, and to achieve a greater understanding of the needs of the blogging community. The meeting will also allow for a presentation of some Church initiatives to engage the new media technologies, both in Rome and at the local level.
The first panel of presenters will consist of five bloggers, representing five different language groups. Simultaneous translation will be provided in Italian, English, French, Polish and Spanish.
The second panel will draw on people involved in the Church’s communications outreach, such as Fr. Lombardi from the Vatican press office, who will speak of their experiences in working with new media and initiatives aimed at ensuring an effective engagement by the Church with bloggers.
The meeting is taking place on the day after the beatification of Pope John Paul II in order to take advantage of the presence in Rome of many bloggers. Those who wish to attend need to apply by email and send a link to their blog. As space is limited to 150 seats, those who are interested should apply now.
This upcoming conference serves to reinforce the importance of this year’s National Meeting of the Institute on Religious Life, which is devoted to the subject of utilizing the new media–including blogging!–for the new evangelization. The National Meeting will be held on April 29-May 1, 2011 at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois. For more information and/or to register for the event, click here.
Courtesy of Vatican Radio.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been five years since JPII’s death. The images, events, and messages in this clip will bring back many inspiring memories of his amazing pontificate, as we count down the days until his beatification.
Today, let’s simply examine two passages from Vita Consecrata (“Consecrated Life”), the 1995 apostolic exhortation of Pope John Paul II that magnificently sets forth the beauty and depth of loving God with an undivided heart:
First, from section one:
“In every age there have been men and women who, obedient to the Father’s call and to the prompting of the Spirit, have chosen this special way of following Christ, in order to devote themselves to him with an ‘undivided’ heart (cf. 1 Cor. 7:34). Like the Apostles, they too have left everything behind in order to be with Christ and to put themselves, as he did, at the service of God and their brothers and sisters. In this way, through the many charisms of spiritual and apostolic life bestowed on them by the Holy Spirit, they have helped to make the mystery and mission of the Church shine forth, and in doing so have contributed to the renewal of society.
Later, from section 21:
The chastity of celibates and virgins, as a manifestation of dedication to God with an undivided heart (cf. 1 Cor. 7:32-34), is a reflection of the infinite love which links the three Divine Persons in the mysterious depths of the life of the Trinity, the love to which the Incarnate Word bears witness even to the point of giving his life, the love ‘poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit’ (Rom. 5:5), which evokes a response of total love for God and the brethren.
Praise God for the call to love and serve Him with an undivided heart!