Posts Tagged With: Apparitions

A.L.L. Book Review: Blessed Pope John Paul II, The Diary of Saint Faustina, and the End Times

With Amazon Prime, I receive one book each month to read for free on one of my Kindle devices from the Amazon Lending Library(A.L.L.). As of the date of this posting, this book is available for free to any Amazon Prime members with a Kindle device.

 

Blessed Pope John Paul II, The Diary of Saint Faustina, and the End Times

by Susan Crimp, Sister Paulette Honeygosky, vsc., and Maxine Burton

 Previously, I briefly address some of my issues with apparitions, and my desire to gain a better understanding and appreciation for them. Events such as Divine Mercy, Fatima, Lourdes, and Sacred Heart are considered private revelations and are not part of the required dogma of the Church. Take them or leave them, it’s up to you. However, recently, I’ve felt a desire to learn more about these messages instead of just casting them aside as hogwash. This book is the first in my studies of apparitions.

First off, let me just say that this book is in dire need of a good editor. The grammatical errors are many and they give the book a rough, unpolished feel. It is worth it to get past these errors to get into the subject matter. Susan Crimp is the primary author, and she is also the author of a book about Charlie Sheen, the four Gospels, Oprah Winfrey, and converts from Islam. Ms. Crimp is eclectic to say the very least. 

As the title suggests, Blessed Pope John Paul II, The Diary of Saint Faustina, and the End Times explores the life of Saint Faustina, Pope John Paul the Great’s mission to share Divine Mercy with the world, and how the message of Divine Mercy relates to the end times. Of course, any time anybody mentions the end times, I immediately wonder what kind of kook we’re dealing with, but let’s be honest. The end times cannot be anything but nearer and we are called to be vigilant. Despite the availability of the Doomsday Clock, we don’t know the hour, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the topic altogether for fear of sounding paranoid.

Bringing Divine Mercy to the World

Crimp’s retelling of Faustina’s history is thorough, and peppered with excerpts from Faustina’s own diary. 

Contrary to what you may think, if someone, anyone says they saw a vision of Mary or Jesus, or St. Michael or the donkey Jesus rode into town on Palm Sunday, no one, not even your Mother Superior or the pope will believe you. Faustina was blessed with support from her Priest, Fr. Sopocko, and without his encouragement and assistance, the message of Divine Mercy may never have left the convent walls. Crimp does an excellent job here of bringing Faustina’s story to life, and her sufferings are heartrendingly vivid.

After Faustina’s death, we transition into Karol Wojtyla’s early years. When he was working as a laborer in the limestone mines, he would frequently visit the grave of Faustina, the little nun who saw Christ. When he became Pope John Paul II, he believed it was his mission to bring Divine Mercy to the world, and he did. Faustina was the first Saint of the 21st century and devotion to the Divine Mercy has spread like wildfire.

Now for the million dollar question: What does all of this have to do with the end times? The message of Divine Mercy is very universal, and so very basic that many believe that if Christ did appear to a nun or anyone, He would give a more in-depth message. Divine Mercy is as simple as ABC: ask for mercy, be merciful, and completely trust in Jesus. As the hour grows later, there are more and more reported sightings of Mary, and the message is always plain and simple: ask for mercy, perform penance, and return to God. So, what’s so different about this message that Jesus appeared instead of Mary?

The Image of MercyHP_Divine_Mercy_06

The difference is the image. Faustina was instructed to have the Divine Mercy image produced and shown to the world to prepare us for the end times. This is where the connection to Islam comes in. I personally had never heard of the prophesies about the Muslim messiah, but I haven’t done a lot of research into Islam whatsoever. Some say that Jesus will return as the right hand of the Muslim messiah, and there are detailed descriptions of what He will look like. You could probably spend 100 years comparing the Muslim prophesies to the book of Revelation, but anyone with a cursory knowledge of Revelations will know that the Antichrist had a very clear second in command. Perhaps the image is important so we will be able to distinguish between the true Christ and the impostor?  But there are multiple images and they don’t look exactly alike….

This is where we must remember that throughout the Gospels, Jesus preached and the people did not understand the message until the plan of salvation came to fruition and Jesus rose from the dead. So, when considering the book of Revelation or the message of Divine Mercy, or anything pertaining to the end times, it’s okay to not understand the entire plan. We’re not supposed to.

There were a few points that were made in the book that I felt needed additional citations or just a little more information. Some of the biggest ones were

  • Faustina’s mental health: The book states she was examined several times, but there are no specifics. Dates, names of doctors, who the doctors were, (were they from the Vatican, from the convent, from the outside?) would help substantiate this claim. I’m sure you can find more information (and I’ll continue to look) but it would be nice to cite specific sources.
  • Lack of demonic interference: With these types of visions, once we establish that the vision is legitimate, the next step is establishing what side it’s coming from. Now, Crimp states that if anyone was going to be a victim of spiritual assault, Faustina was an unlikely candidate, but she doesn’t really give any details as to why. Was it merely her piety or something else? Not that piety is “mere” by any means, but it would be nice to know what we’re basing that assertion on.
  • Use of Divine Mercy images: The book states that many people in Faustina’s village hung a Divine Mercy image in their homes. When the Nazis came, those who did had the image in their homes were passed over. Lovely story. Can’t find anything to confirm it.

I’m certainly not saying I think these are false statements, but being skeptical on the whole thing, more information would be better. Faustina’s mental and spirtual state are crucial to validating the message, after all.

The Verdict

Warts and all, I think this book is a great jumping off point for anyone seeking more information about Divine Mercy. The Muslim connection is interesting, and I think it definitely deserves more attention. It would be nice if someone (anyone) would give this book a good once over and correct the editorial errors. At the end of the day, though, it has information about Divine Mercy that every Catholic should know.

I finished this book a few weeks ago, actually, but I’ve been struggling to sit down and write this review because well, I’ve had a hard time sitting down and writing out anything lately.  Also, I was characteristically indecisive about what I should look at next. I decided to spend a particularly slow Sunday afternoon at work looking at quotes from the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen when I came across this:

This brings us to our second point: namely, why the Blessed Mother, in the 20th century, should have revealed herself in the significant little village of Fatima, so that to all future generations she would be known as Our Lady of Fatima. Since nothing ever happens out of Heaven except with a finesse of all details, I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as Our Lady of Fatima as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Moslem people, and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her divine Son too. Evidence to support these views is found in the historical fact that the Moslems occupied Portugal for centuries. At the time when they were finally driven out, the last Moslem chief had a beautiful daughter by the name of Fatima. A Catholic boy fell in love with her, and for him she not only stayed behind when the Moslems left, but even embraced the Faith. The young husband was so much in love with her that he changed the name of the town where he live to Fatima. Thus, the very place where our Lady appeared in 1917 bears a historical connection to Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed.

–Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

 Well, that settles it. Next stop, Fatima!

Categories: Amazon Lending Library Reviews, Chasing After God | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Scapular: Is it a Discipline or a Free Pass?

6707474031_8cea44a5a8Get Your Free Ticket to Heaven!

I’ve been intrigued by the Brown Scapular for years, and the other day, my sister-in-law (who is also a convert) and I were discussing them. Scott bought me one for Christmas (it’s just beautiful; it has a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe on it) but after reading about being blessed and accepted into an order, I was confused and set it aside for later. After my discussion with my sister-in-law, I decided it was time to do my research, because something has kept the tradition alive all these years, and I have a hard time believing it’s because it’s a free ticket to Heaven.

The Scapular goes back to the Carmelites, who got their start as hermits on Mount Carmel. By the time St. Simon Stock was Father General of the order, they were friars who worked among the people and lived lives of contemplative prayer. As far as the origin of the Brown Scapular, that, my friend, is a matter of some considerable controversy.

Simon Says….or Does He?

According to legend, Simon Stock was praying for aid for his order when he had a vision of Mary, who gave him a Brown Scapular saying,

Receive, My beloved son, this habit of thy order: this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire …. It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace.

Now, when I say Brown Scapular, I don’t mean two little squares of wool joined by a bit of string. We’re talking about a full habit! In Medieval times, a religious habit was an essential part of your identity if you were part of an order, and removal of your habit was the same as abandoning your order and your vows altogether. Wearing the brown habit was an outward expression of a commitment to the life of the Carmelites, a commitment to observing the rules of the order. It’s no surprise then, that many orders believed that their habits were holy, and even sacred. So, Simon Stock’s vision of Mary, handing him a Brown Scapular/habit and telling him it would offer special graces to the wearer wasn’t unusual at all.

Except that it most likely never happened.

In preparation for the 750th anniversary of the scapular, a Catechesis of the Brown Scapular was prepared with the oversight of the North American Carmelite order. The history and myths of the scapular are separated pretty clearly. The Church does not recognize the vision of St. Simon Stock as a historical event because there’s no reason to believe it ever happened. No one ever heard of the vision until a century and a half afterward–there’s no record of Simon Stock ever claiming it happened!

However, if you’re interested in the Brown Scapular, it’s not because you heard about an apparition. You’re probably far more interested in the Sabbatine Privilege. If you go looking for more information on it, you’re bound to find an atheist mocking it. I was delighted to find that little gem, by the way. Every little bit of vitriol brings joy to my heart. I especially like the bit where she says she’ll be an atheist all her life. It was only a year later that she came home to the Catholic Church.

Back to the Sabbatine Privilege. What I’ve been told in the past is that if you are wearing the Scapular when you die, you will immediately go to Heaven. It’s a “free ticket.”

Maybe it’s my Protestant upbringing, but….I just….just no.

Upon further research, that’s not what the Sabbatine Privilege says at all. No, the Sabbatine Privilege states that if you are wearing the Brown Scapular and you should perish, you will be released from purgatory the Saturday following your death.

Despite the absolute implausibility of the Brown Scapular’s promises, I still felt inexplicably drawn to it, so I knew in my soul that there was something else to it.

Whom Do You Trust?

I trust John Paul II! Explaining why would be like explaining why I drink water when I’m thirsty. It turns out John Paul gave a speech to the Carmelite community back in 2001 in which he addressed the particular graces of the Brown Scapular.

The sign of the Scapular points to an effective synthesis of Marian spirituality, which nourishes the devotion of believers and makes them sensitive to the Virgin Mother’s loving presence in their lives. The Scapular is essentially a “habit”. Those who receive it are associated more or less closely with the Order of Carmel and dedicate themselves to the service of Our Lady for the good of the whole Church. Those who wear the Scapular are thus brought into the land of Carmel, so that they may “eat its fruits and its good things,” and experience the loving and motherly presence of Mary in their daily commitment to be clothed in Jesus Christ and to manifest him in their life for the good of the Church and the whole of humanity.

Therefore two truths are evoked by the sign of the Scapular: on the one hand, the constant protection of the Blessed Virgin, not only on life’s journey, but also at the moment of passing into the fullness of eternal glory; on the other, the awareness that devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honour on certain occasions, but must become a “habit”, that is, a permanent orientation of one’s own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life, through frequent reception of the sacraments and the concrete practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In this way the Scapular becomes a sign of the “covenant” and reciprocal communion between Mary and the faithful: indeed, it concretely translates the gift of his Mother, which Jesus gave on the Cross to John and, through him, to all of us, and the entrustment of the beloved Apostle and of us to her, who became our spiritual Mother.

–Bl Pope John Paul II, 2001 Message to the Carmelite Community

Bam! Do I even need to expand on that? Could I?

Forbidden by the Holy See

Now, truth be told, no one was waiting around until 2001 to find out whether or not the Sabbatine Privilege was dogma.

As a matter of fact, in the year 1613 the Holy See determined that the decree establishing the “Sabbatine Privilege” was unfounded and the Church admonished the Carmelite Order not to preach this doctrine. Unfortunately, the Order did not always comply with this directive of the Holy See.

At the time the Carmelites were instructed to stop mentioning the “Sabbatine Privilege” the Holy See acknowledged that the faithful may devoutly believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary by her continuous intercession, merciful prayers, merits, and special protection will assist the souls of deceased brothers and sisters and members of the confraternity, especially on Saturday, the day which the church dedicates to the Blessed Virgin.

Consistent with the Catholic tradition, such favors associated with the wearing of the Brown Scapular would be meaningless without the wearers living and dying in the state of grace, observing chastity according to their state in life, and living a life of prayer and penitence. The promises traditionally tied to the scapular offer us what the Second Vatican Council says about the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary: “By her maternal love, Mary cares for the brothers and sisters of her Son, who still make their earthly journey surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led to their happy fatherland.”

–Catehesis on the Brown Scapular

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about what the Brown Scapular is for!

A Sign of Our Identity34447257

The Brown Scapular is a habit, the dress of the Carmelite order. By wearing the Brown Scapular, I identify myself as part of that order, and commit myself to charity, contemplative prayer, and chastity (according to my state of life). I join my prayers, my challenges, my spiritual journey to that of the Carmelites. The Brown Scapular is a sacramental, like holy water. It is a tool for bestowing blessings and grace but it does not give grace in itself. It is one of the most abused sacramentals in the Church, and its true meaning has been mostly lost. It is truly beautiful to join ourselves as laypeople to the devotion and sacrifice of our Carmelite brothers and sisters and truly commit ourselves to a way of life that is absolutely separate from the world. Yet it’s been reduced to the status of a rabbit’s foot.

This Lent, I’d like to challenge you. Get a Brown Scapular (get it free here!), have it blessed, and put it on. Take a minute or two each day to devote yourself to the principles of the Carmelite order. Then, tell someone; tell one person what the Brown Scapular really is, so that its true meaning isn’t lost forever.

Some of the basic principles of the Carmelite order:

  • frequent participation in the Mass and reception of Holy Communion;
  • frequent reading of and meditation on the Word of God in Sacred Scripture;
  • the regular praying of at least part of the Liturgy of the Hours;
  • imitation of and devotion to Mary, the woman of faith who hears the Word of God and puts it into practice;
  • the practice of the virtues, notably charity, chastity (according to one’s state of life), and obedience to the will of God.

I think this is a wonderful list to take with us into Lent!

Now, I’ve certainly left a lot out, but there’s so much myth and so much truth around the Brown Scapular, there’s no way I could ever get it all in. A little research yields much fruit in this case, and I  am excited about sharing this wonderful gift!

 

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Categories: Chasing After God, What the Catholic Church Teaches | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Visions and Doubts

 But Peter standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke to them: Ye men of Judea, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known to you, and with your ears receive my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day: But this is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass, in the last days, (saith the Lord,) I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And upon my servants indeed, and upon my handmaids will I pour out in those days of my spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will shew wonders in the heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath: blood and fire, and vapour of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and manifest day of the Lord come. –Acts 2:14-20

In two months and 6 days, it will be a full 6 years before I officially converted to Catholicism and 4540497839_211250edb3came into full communion with the Catholic Church. It has been much longer since I fell away from the Protestantism that taught me all of these visions were hogwash, despite the fact that scripture clearly tells us to expect visions and dreams as the final days draw nearer. No, I’m not going all doomsday–it’s a fact. The final days certainly aren’t drawing further away (if that’s even good grammar).

When I converted, I looked at Lourdes and Fatima, and the Divine Mercy and I told myself these things didn’t matter. If they were hard to believe, I didn’t have to believe. These things are best viewed with a skeptical eye, after all.

As time goes on, these visions bother me more and more, because I do look at them with doubt and downright disbelief sometimes. I doubt in my mind what my heart is starting to believe.

In April 2009, my sister and I decided to make mission rosaries. I was working at a call center at the time, and I was able to make knotted twine rosaries as I worked. As I became more skilled, I was able to make 3 or 4 a day. Since I was churning out rosaries at such a fast pace, purchasing crucifixes at Walmart got expensive quickly. I found a seller on ebay where I could get crucifixes for 10¢ each. Outstanding! I ordered 100 liturgy and 100 old fashioned bronze. When the liturgy crucifixes came, I was a little put off. In addition to the familiar design on the front, the back had a strange mark. It read “MEDUGORJE MIR MIR MIR.” I remember wondering what that meant.

And then thinking nothing of it again.

Every day, I made my rosaries and finished them off with a crucifix. Every day, I saw the strange words but didn’t take 10 seconds to type it into Google. Then I quit working at the call center and wasn’t able to make rosaries at work anymore. I still had dozens of crucifixes and they ended up in my purse and everywhere.

EC362Sometime around late August/early September 2010, almost a year and a half after first getting the crucifixes, I was at work looking in my purse for who-knows-what when I saw one of the crucifixes and took a look at it. It had been in my purse for well over a year, and I’d looked at it often. That day, however, it was like it was brand new. Why have I never looked up what this meant? My gosh, I sent off 100 mission rosaries to a charity and half of them had this crucifix on them. What if it meant something vile?

That’s how I learned about Medjugorje. I was stunned, to say the least. These visions started up a few months before I was born. This has been happening my entire life, but somehow, I’d never heard of it. I spent some time at work looking into it, and when my lunch break was over, I forgot about it entirely.

It wasn’t time for me to forget, though. When I went home that evening, I headed straight for our office to get online. Scott had EWTN streaming on the computer. The instant I sat down, I mean precisely the instant my tush hit the chair, a news bulletin came on.

The Vatican had announced an official investigation into Medjugorje.

I told Scott what happened and he was just as flabbergasted as I was.  We both started to wonder if this was something we should be looking into.

As I recall, it was that very night that Scott was looking at a book of short stories about the rosary and he came running to show me that the first story he pulled up mentioned Medjugorje. The very next chance we got, we went down to the Catholic book store and picked out a book about Medjugorje, Medjugorje: The Message by Wayne Weible. I’m not going to sugar coat it, I was just as skeptical as ever when I put the book down, but I started to open my mind up to the possibility that these visions were real. After that, I briefly studied the miracles at Lourdes, and I found the evidence to be strikingly convincing.


I should have kept researching, but I didn’t. Perhaps the time had not come for me to do so, but it’s definitely time now. As I was searching for an Amazon Lending Library pick for February, I stumbled upon Blessed Pope John Paul II, The Diary of St. Faustina and The End Times by Susan Crimp. Why? Because I love the Divine Mercy prayer. I love the message. I’ve carried the Divine Mercy booklet around with me for years. But I have a hard time believing it was given to Faustina in a divine vision. There’s still a big part of me that just doesn’t want to believe that these kinds of things happen. I downloaded the book, and as soon as I started reading it, I knew I’d picked the right one. It feels as if the author is speaking directly to me and knows me all too well.

I started this post with a Bible verse for a reason. We like to believe that the Bible has the words THE END written on the last page, but it doesn’t. In fact, it promises that there will be more miracles, more prophesies, more dreams, more revealed along the way. Not everyone who says or thinks they saw a divine vision has seen one; that I will not argue. However, when it comes to Faustina, “Why would the most famous Pope that ever lived and one of the world’s greatest theological scholars dare to stake his impeccable reputation on these messages?” That’s a question s worth finding the answer to and what better time to go chasing for answer than the Year of Faith?

Categories: Chasing After God, Year of Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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