Preparation for Heaven, Spiritual Food For The Journey

Looking For God In All The Wrong Places

We cannot live a full life without faith. Yes, we can get up in the morning and gulp down a bowl of cereal, drive to work in a daze, push a pencil for eight hours, and come home at night and call that living. But without faith, we cannot really be alive. People who have no faith live in a void. They have a strange sense of emptiness in their lives, a vacuum, a thirst that can send them around the world —to the heights of life and to its depths —in search of anything that can fill that void. But nothing will. It is hard to find the fulfillment that comes only from God in a culture that places so much emphasis on self. Yet this is the environment most people find themselves in. Modern philosophers unabashedly advocate self-fulfillment as not only the road to happiness but, in an odd way, an inalienable right. I find this especially sad because it leads so many away from faith in God.

I met a “master” of self-fulfillment a couple of years ago. Richard, a thirty-six-year-old lawyer from Illinois, to his surprise (and mine), found himself on our doorstep one day. Here was a man who had “everything” and plenty of it: power, prestige, position, as well as a wife he described as a “terrific lady” and two “super” kids. But all was not well with the man who had everything, for he also had a spiritual chip on his shoulder. His visit to the network was born out of a free-floating contempt for God and for anyone who loved God. In truth, Richard was desperately searching for God, although he disguised it in some pretty strange ways. He wasted no time before insulting me. After a nasty remark about our Franciscan habit, he started interrogating me about monastic life and my “insane decision to escape the real world.”

If you’ve ever wanted to flatten a man twice your size, you know what it means to be Italian. Fortunately, the Lord interceded and suggested that I turn the tables and start asking Richard some questions. I obliged. “You have a fine job and a beautiful family, don’t you?” I asked, as patiently as I could. “Of course I do,” he responded shortly. “Do you have any pastimes?” I inquired. “Yes. I enjoy sailing, and I like to jog every morning. So what?” he said. “Do you ever travel?” I pressed. “Sure, I take my wife to Europe every year,” he retorted.

“Do you have all the money that you think you will ever need?” I asked. “More than I’d ever admit to you!” he snapped. “So you must be very happy,” I said quietly. It was then that Richard looked out the window with eyes that began to well up. “No, I’m not,” he said haltingly, “and I can’t stand the fact that you and all your nuns truly are happy.”

Richard was discovering the hard truth: that he had been searching for the very thing he had been running from. The last thing he had ever wanted was for God to be the answer. He wanted to be self-sufficient, self-fulfilled, his own man, a man who owed nothing and answered to no one. Like so many of us, he had sought meaning in his work, his possessions, his “perfect” lifestyle. He poured everything he had into the “real world” —but the “real world” never gave back anything of lasting value. We all know that on some level our escapes are not escapes at all.

We immerse ourselves in workaholism or alcoholism or drugs or sin and end up dissatisfied and guilty. We bury our need for God in a thousand and one activities, chasing this promise and that promise —better skin, sharper minds, perfect dinner parties, exciting sports, and loving friends. But as “new and improved” as we can make ourselves, as much as Madison Avenue and Main Street USA have to offer, we still come up with an odd sort of restlessness, an uneasiness, a sadness that caused one woman to ask me in a letter, “Is there life after a new Rolls-Royce?”

There are countless roadblocks and detours to believing in God, and I guess that’s one reason it’s so hard for some to believe in Him. It seems as if the more you want to know Him, the harder you look in all the wrong places. Show me a woman who goes from relationship to relationship, or an executive who lives in the fast lane, or a teenager who is addicted to popular culture, or a scientist who spends every waking moment in his lab, and I’ll show you someone who is desperately trying to dodge God. Some of these people successfully block God from their whole lives. But for others who stop long enough to reflect,they begin to feel a thirst that is unquenchable. This restlessness becomes so overwhelming that they are forced to reckon with the awesome possibility that there might be something or Someone who is greater than anything or anyone else they have known, that there might be a way to make sense out of it all, after all.

~Mother Mary Angelica

Pious Devotions, Preparation For Death, Preparation for Heaven, Spiritual Direction, spiritual warfare, Visions of the Saints

The Efficacious Devotion of the Three Hail Marys

One of the greatest means of salvation and one of the surest signs of predestination, is unquestionably, the devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin. All the holy doctors of the Church are unanimous in saying with St. Alphonsus of Liguori:  “A devout servant of Mary shall never perish.” The chief thing is to persevere faithfully until death in this devotion.

Numerous examples show how agreeable the three Hail Marys Devotion is to the Divine Mother and what special graces it draws, during life and at the hour of death, on those who never omit it for a single day.

Many great saints have practiced and recommended the devotion of the “Three Hail Mary”. Here are the names of but a few of them: St. Leonard of Port Maurice, St. Bruno, St. Bonaventure, St. John Berchmans, St. John Baptist Mary Vianney (Cure of Ars), St. Anthony of Lisbon and of Padua, St. Stanislaus Kostka, St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, St. John Joseph of the Cross, St. John Baptist de Rossi, St. Gerard Majella, St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, Blessed Marcellinus Champagnat, and, above all, the great Marian doctor St. Alphonsus Liguori who, in his writings recommended this devotion about twenty times.

This practice was revealed to St. Melchtilde while she was beseeching Our Blessed Mother to assist her in her hour of death. Our Lady appeared to her and said: “I will, certainly. But I also want you to say three special Hail Marys to me every day.

“The first Hail Mary will be in honor of God the Father, Whose omnipotence raised my soul so high above every other creature that after God I have the greatest power in heaven and on earth. In the hour of your death I will use that power of God the Father to keep any hostile power far from you.”

“The second Hail Mary will be said in honor of the Son of God Who communicated His inscrutable wisdom to me. In the hour of your death I will fill your soul with the light of that wisdom so that all the darkness of ignorance and error will be dispelled.”

“The third Hail Mary will be in honor of God the Holy Ghost Who filled my soul with the sweetness of His love and tenderness and mercy. In your last hour I will then change the bitterness of death into divine sweetness and delight.”

Our Blessed Mother also revealed to St. Gertrude the Great: “To any soul who faithfully prays the Three Hail Marys, I will appear at the hour of death in a splendor so extraordinary that it will fill the soul with heavenly consolation.”

St. Leonard of Port Maurice, the celebrated missionary, had the Three Hail Marys recited morning and evening in honor of Mary Immaculate, to obtain the grace of avoiding all mortal sins during the day or night; moreover he promised in a special manner eternal salvation to all those who proved constantly faithful to this practice. He gave this devotion of Three Hail Marys as a penance in the confessional, especially for those who were struggling with sins of impurity.

Astonishing conversions, increase in virtues, cure of the sick, temptations conquered, business difficulties solved, holy death.and salvation.” 

– the promise made by the Blessed Virgin to St. Mechtilde.

The “Three Hail Marys”, are in the words of St Alphonsus Maria Liquori: “the best safeguard for chastity”

-This statement was recorded and attributed to St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori by St. Pius X; “that it is true, has been confirmed by our experiences as well as those of many missionaries” (according to Frassinetti). Even the number of graces and favors obtained through the practice of this devotion show us just how pleasing it is to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Here is the personal testimony of a sinner who used the devotion with good results: “For the last three years, I have been the slave of a bad habit against the virtue of purity. How could I get rid of this terrible passion? I tried every means available, but all proved useless. I used to give in to very serious sins and even to sacrileges. This was most disheartening. “Then, one day, someone recommended to me the devotion of the “Three Hail Marys”. And now, it is not yet quite one month since I started to pray the “Three Hail Marys” every morning and every night without fail. I cannot explain what has happened within me, but I do know and can assure you that, since the very first moment, it has produced wonderful results within me: I have not succumbed to the impure temptations since then. When I have been weak and just about ready to succumb, something or another has happened which has stopped me from giving in; and, indeed, I do know that it was something stronger than my desire of sinning.”

According to St. Gertrude (1256–1301), the Blessed Virgin Mary promised the following: “To any soul who faithfully prays the Three Hail Marys I will appear at the hour of death in a splendor of beauty so extraordinary that it will fill the soul with Heavenly consolation.”

Later on, St. Leonard of Port Maurice, “had the three Ave Marias recited morning and evening in honor of Mary Immaculate, to obtain the grace of avoiding all mortal sins during the day or and night; moreover, he promised in a special manner eternal salvation to all those who proved constantly faithful to this practice.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696–1787) adopted this pious practice and highly recommended it. He told parents to train their children to acquire the habit of saying three Hail Marys in the morning and evening. After each Hail Mary, he advice that the following prayer be said: “By thy Immaculate Conception, O Mary, make my body pure and my soul holy.”

According to the St. Martha Catholic Church of the Pallottine Fathers, after Night Prayers, “Many Saints have had the practice of adding three “Hail Mary’s” here in honor of Mary’s purity for the grace of a chaste and holy life.”  Thus, it has been recommended as a daily practice for people who have received confirmation that they pray the Three Hail Marys for “purity of mind, heart and body” after examination of conscience.

Practice: Recite morning and evening, three Hail Marys in honor of the three great privileges bestowed upon Our Blessed Mother by the most Blessed Trinity with this invocation at the end: for the morning: “O my Mother preserve me from mortal sin during this day.” For the evening: “O my Mother preserve me from mortal sin during this night.”

(Pope St. Pius X gave his Apostolic Blessing to this practice and the devotion was raised to an Archconfraternity by Pope Benedict XV.)

Preparation for Heaven

The Death of a Mama

A glimpse inside the holy death of St.Zelie Martin

In the evening of August 26th, 1877, Louis Martin went to the Church of Our Lady to find the priest, and he himself wanted to escort the Blessed Sacrament. The whole family was assembled around the deathbed. Their hearts blended in one and the same prayer. Thérèse recorded this souvenir: “The touching ceremony of the last anointing is also deeply impressed on my mind. I can still see the spot where I was by Céline’s side. All five of us were lined up according to age, and Papa was there, too, sobbing.”

The Sacrament was administered, and the patient’s sufferings quieted down a little. Madame Martin fell into a kind of coma. She was as though destroyed, her arms and legs swollen, unable to move her body, unable to make herself heard. It was necessary to try to interpret her thoughts by the imperceptible movement of her lips. But her eyes still spoke. When, the next day, summoned by a letter from her daughter Marie, Monsieur and Madame Guérin (Madame Martin’s brother and sister-in-law) entered her bedroom, she welcomed them with a smile, then fixed on her sister-in-law, for a long time, a deep and pleading look, as if she wanted to tell her all the hope that she put in her and her infinite gratitude.

After she had a hemorrhage, it was at the very beginning of Tuesday, August 28, 1877, at exactly thirty minutes after midnight, after a very short agony, that Madame Martin died gently. Her husband and her brother, summoned by the nursing sister, rushed into the room in time to receive her last sigh.

They immediately told the older girls, who, reassured by the nursing nun, had left the dying woman at nine o’clock in the evening. Pauline, who had taken refuge in a little room in the garden above the laundry, went in tears to the two little girls (Céline and Thérèse), but she did not want to disturb their sleep. She delayed giving them the harrowing news until the next morning.

M. Martin led Thérèse to the funeral bed. She recounts this scene herself: “Papa took me in his arms and said, ‘Come, kiss your poor little Mother for the last time.’ Without a word I placed my lips on the forehead of my dear mother.”

She seemed to sleep. Although she had reached almost the end of her forty-sixth year, she looked much younger. The face, emaciated and sculpted by suffering, had taken on, in death, a moving expression of majesty and youth. A moving atmosphere of recollection and supernatural calm enveloped the temporary mortuary. M. Martin and his daughters did not grow tired of contemplating the physiognomy of the one who, having worked so hard, at last knew rest.

As for the youngest, she gives us, in her autobiography, her testimony about these dark days. She was then four and a half years old:

I don’t recall having cried very much, neither did I speak to anyone about the feelings I experienced. . . . . I looked and listened in silence. No one had any time to pay any attention to me, and I saw many things they would have hidden from me . . . For instance, once I was standing before the lid of the coffin . . . which had been placed upright in the hall. I stopped for a long time gazing at it. Though I’d never seen one before, I understood what it was. . . . I was so little that in spite of Mama’s small stature, I had to raise my head to take in its full height. It appeared large. . . . and dismal. . . . .

I loved Mama’s smile.

Her deep gaze seemed to say: “Eternity overwhelms me and attracts me. I’m going to go up in the blue Sky

To see God!”

~Therese of Lisieux