Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Marino Restrepo's vision of Heaven and Hell

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
 – John 3:16-18

Fra Angelico's vision of the Last Judgement (click to enlarge)

St. Catherine of Sienna (1347-1380) mystic and Doctor of the Church
Wherefore, if a man fall into this sin, he does not repent, and does not truly grieve for his offense against Me as he should, grieving indeed for his own loss, but not for the offense done to Me, and therefore he receives eternal damnation. See, therefore, that this sin alone leads him to hell, where he is punished for this and all the other sins which he has committed; whereas had he grieved and repented for the offense done to Me, and hoped in My mercy, he would have found mercy, for, as I have said to you, My mercy is greater without any comparison than all the sins which any creature can commit; wherefore it greatly displeases Me that they should consider their sins to be greater.

Marino Restrepo was born in the Andes Mountains of Colombia in a small coffee-growers town.

Marino's life took a drastic turn during his visit to his hometown in Colombia at midnight on Christmas Eve in 1997. While he was driving into the ranch of one of his uncles where he was to spend the night, he was kidnapped by the Colombian rebels of the FARC (Revolutionary Arm Forces of Colombia) and taken to the jungle as a hostage for six months. During the first fifteen days of his kidnapping, he was kept in a cave with bats and different kinds of bugs while the captors were waiting for the rebels to pick him up. In that very cave, and after finding out that he was sentenced to death by his captors, he went through a mystical experience with God that changed his life forever. Five and a half months later, Marino was miraculously released from captivity after a miracle of God, and after his release he went back to his catholic faith. Eighteen months later he became a full time missionary for the Catholic Church leaving all of his past, and his worldly possessions behind. constantly on the road of the mission around the world.

Here are some videos I found of him speaking. I only give one part but you can easily follow the whole series on YouTube. You will be amazed at how much his story will speak to your personal life. I view him as a modern day St. Catherine of Sienna.

Friday, March 18, 2011

May nothing disturb you

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
 – 1 Corinthians 10:31
This song is based on a poem by St. Teresa of Avila titled "Nada te turbe". I intermixed the original Spanish with an English translation which I found online by Jorge W. Suazo.

May nothing disturb you
(Nada te turbe)

Music by PublicVigil © 2011
Lyrics are from a poem by St. Teresa of Avila
English translation © Jorge W. Suazo

Nada te turbe
Nada te espante
Todo se pasa
Dios no se muda

May nothing disturb you
May nothing astonish you
Everything passes
God does not go away

La paciencia
Todo lo alcanza
Quien a Dios tiene
Nada le falta

Can attain anything
He who has God within
Does not lack anything

God is everything
Solo Dios basta
God is everything


Here is the original poem in Spanish which is unchanged except where I made a mistake while singing and at one point said "no le falta" instead of "nada le falta".

Nada te turbe;
nada te espante;
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda,
la paciencia
todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene,
nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.


Here is the translation as done by Jorge W. Suazo, which is the one I used. It is not as literal as some other translations I have seen. I actually wasn't aware of that at the time. It was only after I had put the song together and had recorded it, that I went back and looked at the translation in detail and realized that it has some inconsistencies with the original Spanish. I suppose it is a little more poetic than some other more literal translations. Anyway, I decided to leave it as is because it works well in the song and I didn't see any harm in the slight changes made in the translation.

May nothing disturb you.
May nothing astonish you.
Everything passes.
God does not go away.
can attain anything.
He who has God within,
does not lack anything.
God is everything!

Jorge himself admits on his webpage that the last line "God is everything" is more literally translated "God is enough". The confusion comes because the Spanish text loses a little of its meaning in an exact literal translation which would be something like "Alone [or 'only'] God suffices". I have to say that Jorge's translation is somewhat liberal. It presupposes what St. Teresa was thinking when she wrote this. Jorge draws the conclusion that when Teresa says that God is sufficient and that one does not need anything else, that she is therefore saying that God is everything that one needs in life. At least that is the way I understand his interpretation. I don't think he is taking a panentheistic point of view, but rather saying that God is all we need in our lives. If that is true, then I'm sure that Santa Teresa would agree!


I actually had already written the music for this song about a week before I came across St. Teresa's poem. I first came up with the rhythm guitar part which I really loved and I kept trying to come up with a melody and lyrics to go with it. I finally came up with a melody, but I couldn't come up with any lyrics.

Then I came across the poem and I thought it would never work with St. Teresa's words. But I gave it a try anyway. I started off with just the English words as lyrics, but then tried to fit the same melody to the original Spanish words and I was quite surprised when everything seemed to fit together so perfectly.

The thing I liked about the rhythm guitar part was that it had a haunting spiritual sound to it. This fits well with St. Teresa's writings because she often wrote about the ineffable quality of the inner revelations that she received. Since music has a way of communicating the ineffable, it seemed almost like it was meant to be from the beginning.


Here is a different English translation of St. Teresa's poem for comparison.

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things pass away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who has God
Finds he lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.


This could easily segue into a discussion of the new NAB (New American Bible) translation of the Bible. I don't really want to get into that subject in this post. I will just say that I am very displeased with the fact that the American bishops are supporting and promoting this work. First it was the "gender neutral" language which was introduced by NAB and now we have some more liberties taken in this latest translation. What most disturbs me about this is that it leaves the door wide open for an even more liberal translation that appeases people that insist that the Church change its stance on issues like homosexuality or women priests.

On a positive note, I applaud Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican for taking a strong stance in these matters. We can see this in the new English translation of the Mass as well as in the Vatican's past refusal to allow some NAB translations to be used in the Mass readings. Words do matter and we should not expect that the word of God was written only for our generation. The words of the Bible have very profound meanings and there is a danger that a new translation can become instead a new and false interpretation of God's word.

We should not expect the Bible to accommodate our personal beliefs, rather it is we who have to change ourselves in order to be fully in accord with God's word. The message of the Bible is eternal and any translation has to be careful that it does not go to extremes in order to force it to fit a particular cultural context.


Related article:
  • O Trinity that I adore - This is a song I wrote based on Blessed Elizabeth's prayer of the Trinity. Elizabeth was a nun in the Carmelite order established by St. Teresa.

The meltdown of the family

Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.
Ephesians 6:14

I realize that anything I write now at this time of tragedy in Japan could be seen as not showing the proper respect for the victims. But I had this strangest feeling as I was watching a video about the design of a nuclear reactor and I feel the need to share it.

The video was talking about the "containment system" inside one of the Fukushima nuclear power reactors. It was described as being similar to russian dolls – steel container, covered by a concrete container, covered by the actual building.

I suddenly had an image of Christianity as a similar type of containment system. At the core – or at least somewhere very close to the core – is marriage. And all the safety systems and containment that surrounded that core have been breached by the corrosive forces of secular humanism.

It occurred to me that when the Church of England first approved contraception (in 1930) in the case of married couples, it burst through the first layer of this religious and ethical containment system. This small crack became larger and larger, until finally an explosion occurred with the introduction of the contraceptive birth control pill in the early 1960s. This was followed by another eruption which was the legalization of abortion in 1973. And now the worst case meltdown scenario is occurring with the legalization of same-sex "marriage".

These facts are nothing new, but I think the imagery of Christianity as a system designed to protect the family is striking. It reveals the strategy used by the secular humanists in attacking Christianity, as well as revealing their ultimate goal. It also reveals the consequences if we stop fighting this battle. And it reveals how something that may seem like an insignificant crack in our Christian beliefs can ultimately have devastating consequences.

At the very core of Christianity is our belief in God. If marriage is obliterated, then nothing will stop the secular humanists from declaring that belief in God is itself a crime.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pray for Japan

Our Lady of Akita
"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink."
 – Matthew 25:35
As the human impact of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan slowly sinks in, and the images shift from the impersonal to the personal, we are reminded of what is important in life. It is not houses or cars, it is people.

As Christians we are called to value human life above all other things on earth. We are called to love our neighbor as ourself.

Houses can be rebuilt, but each individual is a unique creation of God and can never be replaced. Christians don't refer to human life in some abstract sense, but in a very personal sense. We understand that each individual is a child of God.

Jesus tells us that God knows each of us personally. And He tells us not to fear the physical death of the body.
"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."
Matthew 10:28-31
We pray for the souls of all the victims of the earthquake in Japan. It does not matter if they are Christians or non-Christians. We know that God is merciful and we trust in His judgement.

In a time of great sorrow and grieving, we pray for those who have suffered and lost loved ones. We pray that they will find comfort in the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We pray for those who are assigned duties in the rescue efforts. We pray for miracles of survival against all odds.

We pray for faith, hope and love. Faith in God. Hope in the future. And love of our neighbor.
"If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing....

Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends....

Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

 – Excerpts from 1 Corinthians 13

Friday, March 11, 2011

The conversion of Abby Johnson

And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized... And in the synagogues immediately he proclaimed Jesus, saying, "He is the Son of God."
Acts 9:18,20 (The conversion of St. Paul the Apostle)

unPlanned by Abby Johnson

I was reflecting on the sudden conversion of Abby Johnson to pro-Life and it seems to me that Abby had an encounter with Jesus when she witnessed the death of an unborn child. The ultrasound gave her the "eyes to see" which she had lost. In one interview she says she actually dropped the ultrasound probe which reminds me of Paul being thrown from his horse on the road to Damascus when he encountered Jesus:
Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do."
 – Acts 9:3-6
Abby must have had a similar experience.

Afterwards Abby had to gradually do what Jesus asks of all of us, "If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away." (Matthew 5:30) She had to cast out her old self; her old way of seeing and doing and thinking. You can see the difference in the two interviews which I provided videos for in my last article. In the first one with Mike Huckabee she is still partially thinking like her old self, but in the more recent EWTN interview it is apparent that she has been transformed from the inside by the Grace of Christ.

She says that after she saw the child dying in front of her eyes in the mother's womb that her heart changed. It was as if her old hardened heart was instantly melted by the warmth of the flames emanating from the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Sacred Heart of Jesus

It was not enough that she saw something in the ultrasound. She should have been well prepared for that. It should just have added one more calloused layer over her hardened heart. The fact that it had the opposite effect she herself attributes to the prayers of those who stood in prayerful vigil outside the clinic. Now it is her turn to pray for those who are still caught in the tangled web of lies that Planned Parenthood uses to deceive them.

Please participate in 40 Days for Life from March 9 to April 17. Even if you can't go to pray outside a clinic, you can still participate by praying in the quiet of your home. In fact Jesus tells us:
"When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
 – Matthew 6:6
The prophecies of Isaiah

Recently I have been reading from the Book of Isaiah. Here are a few verses from Isaiah 49 that may help you in your prayers for the unborn children. They were written for a time when the people of Israel were held captive in Babylon. And yet they seem to speak directly to us as we struggle to uphold our Christian beliefs in a culture that has rejected Jesus Christ, the anointed Son of God.
Listen to me, O coastlands, and hearken, you peoples from afar.
The LORD called me from the womb,
from the body of my mother he named my name.

And he said to me, "You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified."

And now the LORD says,
who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
and that Israel might be gathered to him.

"I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

"They shall not hunger or thirst,
neither scorching wind nor sun shall smite them,
for he who has pity on them will lead them,
and by springs of water will guide them."

But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me,
my Lord has forgotten me."

"Can a woman forget her sucking child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you."

"The children born in the time of your bereavement
will yet say in your ears:
`The place is too narrow for me;
make room for me to dwell in.' "

"I will contend with those who contend with you,
and I will save your children."

Related article:
Lent – 40 days for Life

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lent – 40 days for Life

Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
 – 2 Corinthians 6:2
Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the beginning of Lent. It is also the beginning of a new "40 Days for Life" campaign.

The pro-Life movement has been gathering support and momentum over the past few months. Now comes a new opportunity to show our support for the unborn. 40 Days for Life is a campaign of 40 days of constant, peaceful vigil outside abortion centers and Planned Parenthood offices. The current campaign begins March 9 and runs through April 17, coinciding with the Christian season of Lent.

For more information please visit the 40 Days for Life website at:

Planned Parenthood exposed

Planned Parenthood has been exposed for what it is – a radical population control group that was founded on the principles of racism and eugenics. Take a look at this statement from PP's 2008 tax filing:
Their stated purpose is:
  • "Voluntary fertility regulation" through "contraception, abortion, sterilization, and infertility services".
  • Achieving a "stable" and "optimum" U.S. population through individual "choice".
  • And to propagate this same goal "throughout the world".
There is nothing in this description about providing general health services for women. And there is certainly nothing about helping children. Given their stated goal of achieving zero population growth, every child born above an unpublished quota is viewed by them as a failure to accomplish their mission.

This is very similar to the mission statement of an organization who's goal it is to control the population of stray cats through neutering and spaying. The only difference is that PP knows that it cannot force people in the U.S. to undergo sterilization like they do in China, so they have to rely on "individual choice" to accomplish their goal. And there is that word "choice" that abortion supporters like to use so much. The choices that PP offers are "contraception, abortion and sterilization". The goal of Planned Parenthood is to induce women to "choose" to use drugs and medical procedures to alter their bodies so that they cannot conceive a child.

This is a free country and anyone can express their views. If Planned Parenthood and its supporters believe strongly in a zero population growth strategy, then they are certainly entitled to that opinion and to engage in legal activities in support of that goal. However, they should be open about their goals and not hide their true purpose behind public relations campaigns that attempt to portray the purpose of their organization as helping poor and minority women. The exact opposite is true. They specifically target poor and minority women with their abortion clinics.

Planned Parenthood is deliberately duplicitous about its purpose. The only "help" that they offer to poor women is to render them infertile so that they cannot have children. And when that fails, then they offer to legally kill their unborn children while they are still in the mother's womb. PP performs over 300,000 abortions in the U.S. every year. Any other services that PP offers are just there to entice women to come into their centers so that they can gain their confidence and compel them to not have children through "contraception, abortion and sterilization" and other "infertility services".


Here is Abby Johnson describing her conversion to pro-Life. She is the former director of the Planned Parenthood clinic in College Station, Texas – where 40 Days for Life first began.

The following are excerpts from the 40 Days for Life blog. It is an article that was written November 3rd, 2009 – just after Abby's decision to leave Planned Parenthood became public. It's titled "MIRACLE: Planned Parenthood director converts!"
Abby Johnson worked at Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas for eight years. She was there when the first-ever 40 Days for Life campaign was conducted outside of her workplace in the Bryan/College Station community in 2004.

She was there for the next 40 Days for Life effort as well — the one that helped to launch the first nationally coordinated 40 Days for Life campaign in the fall of 2007.

And she was there for the one after that, and the one after that, and the one after that — and the one after that!

In fact, Abby was able to look out the window of Planned Parenthood and see 40 Days for Life campaigns on six different occasions — as well as the regular year-round prayer presence organized by the local Coalition for Life, under the leadership of our own 40 Days for Life campaign director Shawn Carney.

For all those years, people outside the clinic prayed for Abby.

And with all those prayers, Abby finally had a change of heart. She said, “Over the past few months I had seen a change in motivation regarding the financial impact of abortions,” she said, “and I reached my breaking point after witnessing a particular kind of abortion on an ultrasound.”

Abby finally saw the truth. The truth which Planned Parenthood often tries to hide — even from its very own management staff.

Abby’s amazing conversion demonstrates the importance of a constant, persistent, peaceful prayer presence in front of abortion facilities.

From that first campaign in 2004, we’ve prayed for Abby — and for all abortion workers — that they would come to see what abortion really is, and that they would leave the deadly business. In this case, those prayers have been answered.

We are so proud of Abby’s courage to leave the abortion industry and publicly announce her reasons for leaving.

And now a familiar face has been seen praying outside Planned Parenthood in Bryan/College Station during the final days of this fall’s 40 Days for Life — yes, Abby Johnson.

God can and will do amazing things — if only we ask!

We must continue to pray and fast for more conversions just like Abby’s.
At the time that Abby left Planned Parenthood she was still an advocate of artificial contraception. She belonged to a liberal Episcopalian church. Abby says that her family was "booted out" of her pro-choice Church after she left Planned Parenthood. Eventually she and her husband decided to become Catholic. Here is an extensive interview with Abby on EWTN's World Over Live that was broadcast on February 24, 2011. In the interview Abby discusses her experience as a Planned Parenthood director. She has recently published a book about her personal journey from pro-abortion to pro-life titled "unPlanned".
8:00 - Interview with Abby Johnson begins
8:30 - Abby describes ultrasound abortion that caused her to leave PP
12:00 - Abby discusses Planned Parenthood's "quota" for abortions
16:00 - Abby rebuts PP's assertions that abortion is not their main business
17:30 - Abby says PP does not provide mammograms
19:00 - Abby disputes the idea that contraception reduces abortions
21:00 - Abby discusses LiveAction exposé of Planned Parenthood
25:30 - Abby describes reaction to her book
27:00 - Abby discusses her prior impression of the pro-Life movement
31:00 - Abby describes how PP justifies abortion
32:30 - Abby discusses spiritual and moral aspects of abortion
34:00 - Abby discusses impact of federal funding for PP
36:30 - Abby describes her "exciting journey" to the Catholic Church
38:00 - Abby says she now works with "40 Days for Life" and LiveAction
39:00 - Abby describes importance of ultrasound legislation
40:00 - End of interview

Here is more information on Abby's conversion to Catholicism and her embrace of the Catholic teachings on contraception. She and her husband will enter the Church at Easter. Another pro-Life advocate that recently joined the Catholic Church is Lila Rose of LiveAction.
Johnson and her husband have grown in their faith during the past year, and are now preparing to enter the Catholic Church in the near future. She said that one of the final obstacles, in the course of her Catholic conversion, had been the Church's teaching on the immorality of all artificial methods of birth control.

Planned Parenthood's mentality toward contraception, as she explained, stuck with her for a period of time even after she rejected abortion. Even as she became interested in the Catholic Church, she clung to the notion that artificial birth control was an advance for women and society. But she kept an open mind, studying Pope John Paul II's “Theology of the Body” and other sources of Church teaching.

Abby Johnson's final decision to reject contraception, like her change of mind on abortion, occurred suddenly, and because of something she saw.

This time, however, the sight that changed her mind was not a child's death within the clinic walls, but quite the opposite. An experience in a Catholic church, she said, finally made her understand the fullness of the Church's teaching on sexuality.

This time, the vision of a child was not shocking, but profoundly life-affirming.

“One day, we were sitting in Mass … I was sitting behind this woman, who I don't know, and this little infant.” Gazing at that child, she finally understood the Church's insistence on marriages remaining open to new life.

“It was just clear to me, like a switch had gone off, that we had to stop contracepting.”
Related articles:

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sister Brandee

"Blessed are the pure in heart,  for they shall see God."
Matthew 5:8
I introduced my readers to Brandee just a few weeks ago. Against all odds she has persevered in her call to become a Carmelite nun. And now she has some exciting news for us. She is going to enter Carmel.

It seems to me that I already see a great change in her. We can hear the excitement in her voice and she still has that great enthusiasm that we love about her, but there is also a new calm and serenity that was not there before.

She tells us of her great desire to enter Carmel and some of the obstacles that stood in her way. We see in her a great will and determination to follow in the footsteps of St. Teresa of the Andes. And then finally the good news that the sisters of the Carmelite Monastery of Cristo Rey in San Francisco have heard her call, and they have offered her an invitation to come visit them.

We see at the beginning of the video that she is holding the book of Divine Mercy which is the diary of St. Faustina. Yes, that is the book I recommended to her in my previous article! I'm sure she will find that St. Faustina is like a big sister to her – even though she was not a Carmelite nun :)

And now I have another recommendation for Brandee. I don't think she needs to go out and buy the book, but I want her to be aware of another nun with a simple heart and a great devotion to Jesus and who was also blessed with divine revelations. I'm speaking of Sister Josefa Menéndez. I just discovered her myself. (As far as I know her revelations have never been condemned by the Church. In fact, they received the blessing of Pope Pius XII.)

Sister Josefa lived around the same time as St. Faustina and her revelations seem to be intertwined with those of St. Faustina. The book about her that includes her diaries is called "The Way of Divine Love".
On Saturday, the 20th of November, He came to her, as a beggar, destitute and asking for love. He appeared with all His wounds..."Many little wounds were lacerating His Heart," she wrote.

'Tell Me, would you not attempt the impossible to comfort Me, Josefa? . . . Share with Me for a moment the bitterness of My Heart.'

'Listen,' He said, 'I want you to give Me souls. Only love in all you do is required. Suffer because you love, work because you love, and above all abandon yourself to love. When I let you feel anguish of spirit and great loneliness, suffer in love. I want to make use of you as a tired man uses a stick to lean upon. . . . I want to possess you, to consume you entirely, but all in great sweetness, so that enduring a martyrdom of love, you thirst to suffer more.'

'I come to rest in you, for I am so little loved,' He said. 'I am in search of love and meet only with thankless neglect. Rare are the souls that truly love Me.'
Here is a video I want to share with Brandee. It's from MarysLittleFlower YouTube channel. This is where I first learned about Sister Josefa Menéndez. (See the quotes near the end of the video.)

When you get to Carmel, please pray for us Sister Brandee.

Related posts:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Our Lady of the New Millennium

Excerpts from "Carl Demma's Mighty Metal Madonna" by Tori Marlan
The idea took root when he was a boy. The details--that it would stand over 33 feet high, weigh 8,400 pounds, take 15 years to finish, and cost him half a million dollars--came later.

God didn't suddenly appear to Carl one day and command him to commission a colossal Madonna. It was just something he knew he had to do and had known, deep inside, for most of his life.
One day, when he was nine, he got permission to skip school so he could accompany priests from his parish to a bank downtown. The priests asked him to wait in the car while they deposited collection money, but the car grew oppressively hot, and Carl stepped outside. Looking up at the skyline, he became transfixed by a large statue crowning the Board of Trade building. When the priests returned and asked what had captured his attention, he said the Blessed Mother and pointed to the statue.

31 ft statue of Ceres on top of Chicago Board of Trade Building

The priests corrected him. He was looking at a statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture. "I was all huffy, thinking they were playing a joke on me or something," Carl recalled nearly 60 years later on the radio program Voices That Listen. "I says, 'You sure that isn't the Blessed Mother?'"

Then it dawned on him: If a giant statue of Mary didn't already exist for all of Chicago to enjoy, he would see to it that one was built.

Others might outgrow their childhood fantasies, but not Carl. He held onto his dream, though for a while it was eclipsed by other, more mundane ambitions.
Then in May of 1983, Carl came across the embodiment of his childhood vision. A 32-foot stainless steel statue of Mary stopped at Quigley Preparatory Seminary South for ten days while en route from the artist's studio in Delaware to a parish in Santa Clara, California. Technically, the statue was homeless. The diocese of San Jose had yet to finish preparing the plot of land designated for the statue--a spot overlooking Highway 101--so it went on an accidental three-city tour.

Carl took [his daughter] Judi to see it. It was as tall as a three-story building. This is what daddy is meant to do, he told her. This is what God wants from me. "She says, 'Aw, dad, please,'" he told Voices That Listen. "'I says, 'Jude, it's gotta be that way.'"

When Carl was 51 commissioning a giant Madonna seemed no less feasible than it had when he was a child.

Carl was a good, generous man, says [his wife] Fran, as religious as they come. He attended mass every day, she says, "even on vacation if he had to take a cab." He didn't feel right if a day began without receiving the Lord. For many years, that meant rising at or before the crack of dawn to attend a 6 AM mass; after he retired the 8:30 mass sufficed.
Despite his clerical connections and commendable intentions, Carl couldn't drum up any support for his statue from the archdiocese. In fact, the local clergy adamantly opposed his plans. In the years since Vatican II, the church had scaled back on lavish construction projects and grand artistic flourishes. Churches were generally smaller, more simply constructed now, and money was thought to be more wisely spent on infrastructure--electricity and heating, for example--and teachers' salaries. A colossal statue of Mary simply wasn't a priority.
Bishop Alfred Abramowicz tried a different tack to discourage Carl, pointing out that Carl didn't have that kind of money to spend. The bishop warned about the steep cost of such a creation. He had helped arrange for the 32-foot Madonna to stop at Quigley. His parish, Five Holy Martyrs, was located only a few blocks east of Carl's store. When the pope had visited Five Holy Martyrs a few years earlier, in 1979, Carl had done the bishop a favor by letting the parish use his parking lot. Now Carl wanted a favor from the bishop. Just tell me how to get in touch with the sculptor, he said.

"We talked for a few minutes," recalls the sculptor, Charles Cropper Parks, who specializes in figurative bronze and stainless steel sculptures. "And the next thing I knew, he arrived in Wilmington." To his dismay, Carl could not immediately persuade the Delaware sculptor to get cracking on another Virgin Mary, so he took up the matter with his patron saint at Wilmington's Saint Anthony of Padua Church. "I'm hollering at Anthony," he recalled during the Voices That Listen interview. "I'm saying, who put this thought in my mind, why can't I do it, give me a chance, let me try, I know I can fulfill this dream that I have. And a priest pops up behind the sacristan, and he says, 'Who ya talking to?'"

Carl asked the priest, Roberto Balducelli, whether he thought a large statue of Mary was something from which people might derive religious inspiration. "I said yes," recalls Balducelli. "I believe works of art are necessary for the human spirit." Like the bishop, however, Balducelli doubted Carl's ability to follow through with such an ambitious project. "He didn't give you the impression of a man who could afford something like that. He wore ordinary clothes, looked like a workingman. I said, 'It's going to cost a fortune.' He said, 'I can find the money. I can raise the money.'"

Balducelli asked Carl some questions--had he talked to the bishop? did he have a place for the statue?--to determine whether Carl had thought through his plans or whether "he was a lunatic." To Balducelli's surprise, "He started making sense." Balducelli happened to know Parks, and he contacted the sculptor on Carl's behalf. Balducelli recalls, "I said, to me, the man is serious."

Parks said he could make the statue for half a million dollars. Carl didn't have the money, but somehow he persuaded Parks he'd get it, and Parks finally agreed to work with him. Carl gave the sculptor full artistic control, but they talked at length about Carl's vision and why he was determined to bring the Madonna to Chicago.
Parks got the impression that Carl thought the church was drifting too far into secularism, that children were no longer being brought up to revere Mary, and that what she represented was lost on the younger generations. Our society honored war heroes, athletes, and politicians with statues, and while they might be worthy, Carl thought no one was as deserving as Mary. He also believed that the best way to reach people raised in a visual culture would be through a powerful image.

Though he's not Catholic, Parks was moved by Carl's piety, and he set out to make the statue "worthy of that kind of devotion."

Fran wasn't overjoyed when Carl told her about his project, but unlike his clerical friends, she says, she never tried to discourage him. She did, however, ask whether he would consider building a smaller statue. No, Carl told her, he would not.

Carl believed in a correlation between size and impact. The bigger the rendering of Mary, the better the impact. That 5,000 people had come to see and pray before the Madonna at Quigley was, he figured, a direct consequence of its hugeness.

People who didn't know Carl well questioned his motives. Some wondered whether he planned to erect the statue in front of his store to attract business. Others, says Peter Liberti, just "thought he was crazy."
The biggest obstacle at first was the money. But then, for a while, the statue seemed to fade in importance to Carl. In 1986, a couple of years into the project, the Demmas' second daughter, 24-year-old Judi, died from the same blood disorder that had taken the life of her sister 20 years earlier.

"It got to a certain point, I didn't hear from him for six years," says Parks. "I had written him off."

Fran, too, privately wondered whether the statue would ever be completed. "For a while there, people would ask me, 'What's going on with the statue?' There were so many things that were going on in our life, and I would just say it was in limbo."

Carl's close friend Carmen recalls his frustration: "He would go, 'Mannaggia, that guy upstairs, you don't know what he puts me through. You don't know what he puts me through. But I gotta do it. I gotta do it.'"

"Regardless of what was going to come his way, he said that he was going to accomplish this before he died," recalls Lisa Fragale. "He would say, 'For every day that I'm on this earth, I haven't finished what God wanted me to do.'"

Carl's grandmother had told him that if you appealed to Saint Anthony on his feast day, he wouldn't let you down. So in June of 1994, "I went right to his church in Padua, Italy," Carl told Voices That Listen, "and I'm raving like a maniac again--in front of his entombment--and I say, 'Hey, show me the way.'"

Anthony answered, but it wasn't the answer Carl wanted to hear. "He heard a voice within himself telling him to sell his business," says Fran. "And this was very difficult to him. This was an enterprise he worked hard for for 35 years." The Brighton Park store was also their cushion for retirement. Carl promised Fran they'd be OK, and Fran trusted Carl to know such things, so Carl set about trying to find a buyer. In 1997, after six years of silence, Parks picked up his telephone and heard Carl on the other end, saying, "Charles, I'm ready to go."

Carl had sold Liquorama and was about to pour the proceeds into his dream.
In 1998, Bishop Abramowicz arranged for the Demmas to attend a small, private mass in Rome with Pope John Paul II. After the service, Carl pulled out a brochure he'd had printed up and roped the pontiff into a discussion about the statue. Fran says Carl asked the pope if he would bless the Madonna when it was completed, and the pope agreed, as long as Carl could get it to Saint Peter's Square. Carl later looked into transportation possibilities but found the cost of hauling four tons of stainless steel overseas outrageously--and prohibitively--expensive.

A short while later, Fran heard that the pope would be visiting Saint Louis in January of 1999. "That's when Carl started rolling," she says, "telling the sculptor to get that statue ready."
Word of the giant Madonna spread through Wilmington, and soon Parks and his assistant found themselves welding for an audience. Each day, more and more people came to watch. Johnston dispatched his shop's security guards to control the crowds. Toward the end, Parks says, about 900 pilgrims a week were flocking to the shop to glimpse the statue. Some of them had stories. It had rained once when Parks wasn't around, someone told him, and no one in the crowd got wet. Parks had heard similar claims--miraculous and otherwise--about his first colossal Madonna. He had displayed it in Wilmington's Rodney Square for a few months before the ACLU objected and he sent it on its meandering trek to California. Later, he heard that it had slashed the crime rate in half in that area of downtown. "Not because of divine intervention," he says, but because people--potential witnesses--were always around.

Parks completed Carl's statue on January 18, 1999--15 years after he'd begun. Because of a miscalculation on one of the enlargements, it wound up being 33 feet, 8 inches, a foot and eight inches taller than the first Madonna.

Its magnitude is overwhelming. Mary's hands are nearly clasped in prayer, her facial expression serene. Light reflects off the welded ribbons of stainless steel that form the robe and hooded cape and shines through their gaps, lending the statue an otherworldly refulgence. Fran says that when Carl laid eyes upon the completed Madonna for the first time, he was filled with an indescribable joy.

Parks says, "He had tears in his eyes and just said 'Thanks.'"
In Saint Louis a few days later, Carl scoured the pope's planned parade route for a location for the statue. The businesses lining the route turned him away, one after the other. "We rode up and down for a good six hours, eight hours, trying to find a place," Johnston recalls. "Demma had no permit, and the diocese wouldn't help him out." Carl finally tracked down the owner of a vacant lot and got permission to erect the statue on it. He then hired a sign company with a crane to lift it off Johnston's trailer. The Demmas reported the statue's location to the Saint Louis police department, as required. Fran says Carl proudly showed detectives his brochure while she joked around with them. "I kept saying, 'You think you have something with that arch, wait till you see what we have.'"

On January 26, the pope cruised by the statue, encased in his bulletproof popemobile. It didn't matter to Carl that he didn't get out. The pontiff had looked up at the massive Madonna and made the sign of the cross.
With the pope's blessing, the remarkable reception in Wilmington, and the approach of the Jubilee Year--during which the church would celebrate the beginning of the third millennium since the birth of Jesus--the archdiocese of Chicago finally embraced Carl's statue project. It assigned someone in its Millennium Office to help the Demmas coordinate a touring schedule and agreed to host the statue--renamed Our Lady of the New Millennium--at Holy Name Cathedral on Mother's Day. The archdiocese's support, however, was conditional: Carl had to provide insurance in case of any accidents.
After the Mother's Day appearance at Holy Name Cathedral, at which Cardinal George blessed the statue, Chicago area parishes lined up to host Our Lady of the New Millennium in their courtyards and parking lots. They held special prayer services outside in front of the statue and saw their congregations swell during its weeklong visits. "It is impossible to measure the amount of good and the abundance of grace that has flowed into people's lives because of the statue," Father Joe Linster wrote in Saint Patrick's newsletter after his parish hosted the statue. "We praise the Lord for Carl and Francine Demma."

At each stop, Carl traversed the crowd, passing out plastic prayer cards bearing a photo of the statue and small "miraculous medals" showing Mary with outstretched arms. Parishioners poured out their woes, not only in front of the statue but in front of the Demmas as well. They said they had cancer or a debilitating disease; someone they loved had just undergone surgery or suffered a stroke. "In the beginning both of us were feeling very down to hear these stories," says Fran. "Sometimes that was a little hard to deal with." But then the Demmas began to hear about answered prayers and improved lives, and again Carl said he had done the right thing.

"I saw him one day at a neighboring parish," says Father Markus. "He said, 'Oh, Father, you wouldn't believe how the statue has changed people--more than I ever could have imagined. People come up to me and tell me things that I don't even want to hear, that I don't want to know--what they've done in their life. But they come and say, I'm changed.'"
Wherever it goes, Our Lady of the New Millennium attracts a steady stream of worshipers and passersby. It inspires an odd mix of prayer and commerce, spirituality and tourism. Vendors hawk religious trinkets: crucifixes, rosary beads, prayer cards. Parishes sell tall votive candles with the statue's likeness printed on glass holders. A shrine invariably springs up around the statue. Visitors leave bouquets, burn candles, write petitions, kneel, cross themselves, snap photos, shoot video, stuff donation boxes, and kiss their fingers and touch the statue's toes. And someone in every crowd, it seems, boasts about having some connection--no matter how tenuous--to the man who made it all possible.
Fran keeps a memory book of its first year. The pages, decorated with drawings around the borders, contain photos and a narrative of the statue's travels. Now she will always remember that at Sacred Heart in Palos Hills they said the rosary in 19 languages, that at Saint Patrick's in Saint Charles friends donated flowers and palm fronds to surround the statue, and that the mayor's parish in Bridgeport, Nativity of Our Lord, hosted the statue on the anniversary of the first Mayor Daley's death. And then there was that rainy day at the Demmas' own parish, Saint Germaine's in Oak Lawn. The sky was starting to clear up, and Fran overheard someone mention a rainbow. "I thought, oh God, now they're seeing rainbows," she recalls. Nevertheless, she stepped out from under a canopy to investigate and, to her delight, saw a rainbow centered right over the statue. "That was really like a message of God being pleased with this, and I don't talk like that usually," she says.


Carl Demma passed away on Sunday June 25, 2000 from a heart attack at age 69. The day before he died Chicago Catholics celebrated a huge outdoor "Field of Faith" Millennium Mass at Soldier Field which was attended by over 30,000 worshippers. Carl was there with Our Lady of the Millennium where she greeted the faithful as they entered the stadium for the Mass.

After more than a decade visiting parishes in the Chicago area, Our Lady of the Millennium will move to a permanent home just 50 miles outside of Chicago at the Shrine of Christ's Passion in St. John, Indiana.


Prayer for Our Lady of the Millennium
By Pope John Paul II

Mother of the Redeemer,
with great joy we call you blessed.

In order to carry out His plan of salvation,
God the Father chose you before the creation of the world.
You believed in His love and obeyed His word.

The Son of God desired you for His Mother
when He became man to save the human race.
You received Him with ready obedience and undivided heart.

The Holy Spirit loved you as His mystical spouse
and filled you with singular gifts.
You allowed yourself to be led
by His hidden powerful action.

On the eve of the third Christian Millennium,
we entrust to you the Church
which acknowledges you and invokes you as Mother.

To you, Mother of human family and of the nations,
we confidently entrust the whole humanity,
with its hopes and fears.
Do no let it lack the light of true wisdom.
Guide its steps in the ways of peace.
Enable all to meet Christ,
the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Sustain us, O Virgin Mary, on our journey of faith
and obtain for us the grace of eternal salvation.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Mother of God
and our Mother, Mary!

What is Humanism?

The "happy" human

The definition of "humanism" below comes straight from the website of the British Humanist Association (BHA). The flaw in their definition lies in the belief that one can separate morality from religion.

Without God, how does one define "good"? Is abortion "good"? Who is it good for? Certainly not the unborn child. "Good" becomes "whatever is good for me".

This egotistic and self-idolizing attitude is what drives our modern society. Life becomes an idle "pursuit of happiness". But this mundane "happiness" is a hollow reflection of the inner peace and joy which comes from a life dedicated to serving God.
What is Humanism? [from BHA website]

Humanism is the view that we can make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values and that we can live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs.

Humanists seek to make the best of the one life we have by creating meaning and purpose for ourselves. We choose to take responsibility for our actions and work with others for the common good.

Humanists do not believe in a God or gods, or any other supernatural or divine entities. Humanists do not think that the universe needs a divine power outside of itself in order to have value. We, inside the universe, determine its value. We think that other people, for example, are moral concerns, not because they are made in the image of Something Else, but because of who they are in themselves.

What humanists believe

Humanism is an approach to life based on humanity and reason – humanists recognise that moral values are properly founded on human nature and experience alone and that the aims of morality should be human welfare, happiness and fulfillment. Our decisions are based on the available evidence and our assessment of the outcomes of our actions, not on any dogma or sacred text.
  • Humanism is a naturalistic view, encompassing atheism and agnosticism as responses to theistic claims, but is an active and ethical philosophy greater than these reactions to religion.
  • Humanists believe in individual rights and freedoms, but believe that individual responsibility, social cooperation and mutual respect are just as important.
  • Humanists believe that people can and will continue to find solutions to the world's problems, so that quality of life can be improved for everyone. 
  • Humanists are positive, gaining inspiration from our lives, art and culture, and a rich natural world.
Humanists believe that we have only one life, it is our responsibility to make it a good life, and to live it flourishingly.
The BHA is not content to simply hold views contrary to Christianity and to live peacefully side-by-side in a tolerant society. Instead they have adopted a very aggressive stance designed to force Christians into having to conform to their agenda. The BHA's agenda includes "gay marriage", abortion on demand, euthanasia, and fetal experimentation. Not surprisingly, during the recent visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain, the BHA took a leading role in organizing protests.

The BHA wants to know, "are you a humanist?" When people like the BHA ask this question they are not asking if you are "humane" or if you believe in the good of "humanity". They want to know if you believe in God. And that's a good question.

So do you believe in God? Do you love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength and all your mind? If not, what makes you think you really believe in God?

It is those people who are lukewarm that BHA is targeting. They are easy prey for the facile "rational" arguments of the humanists. If you're looking to take the "easy road", then look no further than the humanists. The problem is that many people have defined themselves as Christians without understanding what that really means.

(There is another flaw in BHA's definition of a humanist, if we ignore their denial of God – it's a bit too idyllic. It seems to describe a Utopia where evil does not exist. The communists also promised a Utopia but delivered instead the bloody purges of Stalin and Mao. This suggest that this definition of humanism is designed for the masses, while there is another hidden definition that is for the humanist elite – the exoteric vs. the esoteric. In contrast, Jesus never promised heaven on earth.)

If there is a bright side to the "coming out of the closet" of the humanists, it is that it forces Christians to re-examine their beliefs. Are you a Christian? Are you against abortion? What about contraception? What about in vitro fertilization that routinely destroys unborn children at the earliest stages of development? If you are a Christian then the answer to these questions is very easy.

What is Christianity?

Related posts:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A spiritual transformation

On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples.

When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast." So they took it.

When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now."

This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

 – John 2:1-11
I was watching a program on EWTN last night that was recounting the story of how Jesus turned the water into wine and something occurred to me that I had never thought of before.

It seemed to me that this first miracle foreshadows the ultimate miracle of Jesus; it reveals His purpose in coming in the flesh.

The stone jars are our souls which are filled with a sort of water, but not the "living water". The miracle is that Jesus is able to turn this lifeless "water" into something vibrant and vital.

Water is the basic "element" of wine. But when the grapes are added then it is endowed with a living "spirit". This does not happen instantaneously, like dissolving sugar into water in order to make it sweet. Normally, this is a laborious process.

The people of Jesus' time probably had a very limited understanding of how yeast breaks down the natural sugars in the grapes to create alcohol, but they would have had more direct experience with the process of fermentation than those of us that just walk into a store to purchase a bottle of wine. They would have had an appreciation for the work required to harvest the grapes, and to crush them to extract the juice. And the subsequent time and care that is required to allow the fermentation process to transform a simple juice into a delicate and complex wine.

But Jesus was able to directly and instantaneously transform the simple water into wine. In the same way Jesus can transform our simple souls into glorious everlasting living spirits that are the equals of God's angels. This is the true miracle.

Pray for the transformation of souls.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In memoriam Shahbaz Bhatti

"I only want a place at the feet of Jesus. I want my life, my character, my actions to speak for me and say that I am a follower of Jesus Christ."
 – Shahbaz Bhatti (September 9, 1968 – March 2, 2011)

"I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ who has given His own life for us. I know what is the meaning of [the] Cross ... I'm ready to die for a cause ... These threats and these warnings cannot change my opinions and principles."
 – Shahbaz Bhatti, four months before his martyrdom
Bhatti's close colleague shared the [above] video with Al Jazeera saying that Bhatti had requested him to do so in the eventuality of his assassination because "it is with the Muslim world I want to share the message of love. That is the only message that can bring the Muslim world out of the circle of hate and killings".
Shahbaz Bhatti standing with Martha Bibi who was unjustly accused of blasphemy in 2007
“The blasphemy law only serves as a means to settle personal disputes, always to the detriment of minorities. This is why it should be completely abolished.”
– Shahbaz Bhatti 2007

Shahbaz Bhatti with Asia Bibi’s daughters, Sidra and Ashi, at his office
Sidra and Esham, daughters of Aasia Bibi, listen to Shahbaz Bhatti
“The president asked me to investigate her [Asia Bibi's] case and my preliminary findings show she is innocent and the [blasphemy] charges against her are baseless.”
 – Shahbaz Bhatti 2010

“During this Bibi case I constantly received death threats. Since the assassination of Salmaan Taseer… these messages are coming to me even publicly.”
 - Shahbaz Bhatti 2011
Bhatti said fatwas, or religious decrees, had been issued calling for him to be beheaded, by extremist clerics in the country who were allowed to publicly spread messages of violence with impunity.

“The government should register cases against all those using hate speeches,” said Bhatti, who insists he will work as usual despite the threats.

“I’m not talking about special security arrangements. We need to stand against these forces of terrorism because they’re terrorising the country.

“I cannot trust on security…. I believe that protection can come only from heaven, so these bodyguards can’t save you.”
"I thank God for giving me this opportunity to continue my struggle for the oppressed minorities in Pakistan."
 – Shahbaz Bhatti 2011
President Asif Ali Zardari confirms Shahbaz Bhatti as Minister of minorities, after the cabinet reshuffle that took place yesterday following the resignation of the staff of the federal cabinet presented in recent days by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani.

According to sources close to the presidency, the government has confirmed Bhatti only after strong pressure from the international community concerned about the recent cases of violence against minorities because of the blasphemy law. A young Christian man was killed in recent days in Ghakkar Mandi (Punjab), while Asia Bibi, the young Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy who is still waiting for her appeal to be heard in the Court of Lahore.
 – 02/12/2011
"Christians and other minorities are citizens of Pakistan and have the same rights as any other citizen, because our ancestors sacrificed their lives for this country".
 – Shahbaz Bhatti 2011

As a Christian, I believe Jesus is my strength. He has given me a power and wisdom and motivation to serve suffering humanity. I follow the principles of my conscience, and I am ready to die and sacrifice my life for the principles I believe.”
 – Shahbaz Bhatti 2011

For the bishop of Islamabad, it is a sad and bitter day for the entire country. He remembers the minister as a “devout Catholic” who lived under “constant threat”.

“It is a sad incident, a sad day not only for minorities” but also “for humanity,” said Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi as he spoke to AsiaNews, after hearing the news about the coldblooded murder of Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti. “This should be an eye opener for minorities and the government. How much more blood will it take to realise that enough is enough,” he said.

As he remembered Shahbaz Bhatti’s precious work on behalf of Catholics and other minorities, Mgr Anthony could not stop speaking of such a “sad incident,” a bitter day not only for minorities but for mankind as well.

The prelate knew the minister’s everyday schedule. “Bhatti’s daily routine was that he used to go to meet his mother, pray with her. He used to call me and ask me to pray for him every morning,” the bishop said.

Badly shaken by the murder, he went on talking about Bhatti. “I remember him as a child; he regularly attended the Church; he was passionate since childhood. He was under threat and the government did not provide sufficient security.” He “was a brave man, a man of courage, he took a stand for the minorities,” the bishop of Islamabad reiterated.

“When he took the oath for the new cabinet,” after President Ali Zardari had it reshuffled, “he said he would fight till the last drop of his blood. He proved himself, stood firm and paid the price by his blood."

Related articles:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ave Maria!

A miracle has happened in Ohio! The beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary in front of Lilla and Wieslaw Kozlowski's condo can stay right where she has been for the last ten years.
HILLIARD, Ohio -- Lilla and Wieslaw Kozlowski say they have received a certified letter from the Hilliard Village Condominium Association letting them know that the statue will not be forcibly removed and that the Kozlowskis will not have to pay a fine for having an unauthorized lawn decoration.

Nicole Oehlers, a neighbor who first contacted NBC4 about the situation, wrote in an e-mail that Lilla "also wanted to thank her neighbors, and everyone for the overwhelming support from people all over the nation."
Hail Mary! Full of grace. The Lord is with thee!

Related article:
Virgin Mary statue ordered removed!

St. Joseph

Now when [the wise men] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod.
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead." And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.

 – Matthew 2:13-15, 2:19-21

Just a reminder that the whole month of March is traditionally devoted to St. Joseph as I discussed in a previous article. The feast day of St. Joseph is March 19th which falls this year on a Saturday.

(The picture of a holy card above is from the wonderful Holy Family blog.)

I was thinking about St. Joseph this morning. I was contemplating his staff which is shown as budding with flowers. The story behind that is apparently that it was a sign from God that he should be the chaste husband of Mary and therefore the earthly father of the Messiah. It reminded me of the staff of Moses which turned into a snake.

That made me wonder if in some sense St. Joseph was the new Moses – in the sense that Mary is the new Eve and Jesus is the new Adam. I thought about the fact that Joseph led his family into Egypt, while Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt into the desert.

And yet the conclusion that I came to is that Joseph is such a unique person in the Bible that there is no one to compare him with. I was reading something recently that compared the "fiat" of Joseph with the fiat of Mary. It is very true that Joseph said "yes" to God in much the same way that Mary did. He never questioned God's authority.

And the fact that Joseph had a very strong relationship with God is evidenced by the three times that angels appeared to him in his dreams. Once to tell him to accept Mary as his wife, once to tell him to take his family and flee to Egypt, and finally to tell him that it was time to leave Egypt.

But the most amazing part about Joseph is simply that he was a father to the Son of God. He gazed daily upon the face of Jesus and watched him from birth growing into a young man.

Like Moses, Joseph gazed upon the "face of God" and yet like Moses he never saw the promised land. He did not live to see Jesus proclaim the Kingdom of God.

The Bible does not say anything about Joseph's death. Surely mystics throughout the history of the Church must have meditated on this mystery. Perhaps it is enough to know that he was "a just man".

Related post:
The mystery of the Holy Family