ECHO OF MARY
Queen of peace
Our Ladys message, 25 Sept.2003:
"Dear Children, also today I call you to come closer to my Heart. Only in this way will you comprehend the gift of my presence here among you. I desire leading you, my Children, to the Heart of my Son Jesus; but you resist and dont want to open your hearts up to prayer. I invite you again, my Children, not to turn a deaf ear, but to comprehend that my call is salvation for you. Thank you for responding to my call."
Dont turn a deaf ear!
This message is the impassioned appeal of our Mother who never tires of calling her children back, and the further away they are the more she desires holding them to her heart. It is in this embrace that we will understand what a gift her presence amongst us is. Not words, or reasoning, or indoctrination; just life, pulsating from her Heart to reach out to our heart. When we abandon ourselves to Mary, and rest on her Heart, we will comprehend. We will understand how infinitely great is the gift of her presence at Medjugorje, and what a wonderful treasure of grace and salvation it brings. Marys heart, Jesus Heart and our heart: it is an encounter of souls, not theory or doctrine. To come close to Mary is to look upon her and contemplate her, to feel her living presence and her closeness, to call her, and speak to her, to confide in her and to establish a real live relationship with her, which pulsates life. It means to abandon oneself to her with docility, obedience, love and trust.
I desire leading you, my Children, to the Heart of my Son Jesus. This is Marys task till her Son returns. The purpose of the gift of her presence amongst us is to guide us to Jesus Heart. Do as He tells you (Jn 2:5): Mary says these words also to us; and the Sacred Heart of Jesus will tell us of His Love: Though he.. did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.. he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:6-8). He who thirsts (Jn 19:28) for our love will give us strength to offer love to our persecutors, and to thirst for this love. To be a Christian means to remain in Jesus most holy Heart, to live in Him and by Him, so that we can be one with Him. But you resist and dont want to open your hearts up to prayer. Our resistance compromises Marys work, and impedes us from reaching Jesus Heart, but Mary, our Blessed Mother, is with us.
I invite you again, my Children, not to turn a deaf ear, but to comprehend that my call is salvation for you. We say we believe in Marys presence at Medjugorje; then what are we doing with her call? Yet there is no need to believe in her presence to see the salvific value of this call of hers, because outside of Jesus there is no salvation. Let us try opening up our hearts to prayer, and to let the Holy Spirit pray in us without covering up His voice with formulae or our own voice. Let us live the Holy Mass; adore Jesus in the Eucharistic Sacrament, and may our life be the altar of His Eucharistic presence. Let us try praising God not only in moments of joy but also during trials; not only on Mount Tabor but also on the Way of the Cross. Let us try, so that we can experience how sweet is His yoke and how light is His load (Mt 11:30). Let us try living the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12; Lk 6:20-26): this is a time of grace; the right time to begin a journey of holiness. The King awaits that the banquet hall be prepared for the wedding of the Son (Mt 22:2-14), and Mary has prepared for us the wedding robes. All we need do is don them. Peace and joy in Jesus and Mary!
Our Ladys message, 25 October 2003:
"Dear Children, I call you anew to consecrate yourselves to my Heart and to the Heart of my Son Jesus. My Children, I desire leading you all on the way of conversion and holiness. Only in this way, through you, can we lead as many souls as possible on the way of salvation. Do not delay, my Children, but say with all your heart: I want to help Jesus and Mary that all the more brothers and sisters may come to know the way of holiness. In this way, you will feel the happiness of being Jesus friends. Thank you for responding to my call."
Consecrate yourselves to Jesus
"Do not delay, my Children!" This is a gentle rebuke by Mary when we probably deserved a much harsher one. Mary, however, is Mother of Mercy and waits for us still. "I call you anew to consecrate yourselves to my Heart and to the Heart of my Son Jesus." The reason Mary asks us to consecrate ourselves is to "lead us all on the way of conversion and holiness." It was for this that we were created, and for this Mary continues to urge us to respond to her call. Just the thought of advancing on the way of holiness moves our heart to a degree that we would joyfully sacrifice everything for the sake of attaining such a goal. However, its not a matter of the holiness of a few, but of the salvation of many: "only in this way, through you, can we lead as many souls as possible on the way of salvation." It is necessary, then, that we allow Mary to lead us so that she and Jesus can lead as many as possible onto the same way. Jesus and Mary need us ("through you") to save souls! It is taught by the Church, it has been experienced by many Saints; still, it remains a great mystery, the unfathomable mystery of Gods Love! Also at Fatima Mary called us to consecrate ourselves to Her Immaculate Heart for our own salvation and that of the entire world.
Exactly 15 years ago (25.10.88) Mary said at Medjugorje: "I would like you to onsecrate yourselves to the Heart of my beloved Son Jesus so that your hearts might be His. And then I invite you to consecrate yourselves to my Immaculate Heart. I want you to consecrate yourselves as parents, as families and as parishioners so that all might belong to God through my hands " Consecrating ourselves to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary means to offer ourselves, body and soul, to Them, to live by Them, with Them, and for Them; to lose our own aspect and take on Theirs; and to allow that everything in us, and all that belongs to us, be visited and redeemed by Them, so that we might belong completely and only to God. It means letting ourselves be lifted up with Christ (Jn 12:32) when we are crushed by suffering, when loneliness makes us fear, when death advances. It means looking up at the Son of Man on the Cross (Jn 3:14-15) each time we are poisoned with the hatred, pride and despair of the old serpent. Being consecrated to Jesus and Mary means not belonging to ourselves anymore, but belonging only to God. This isnt possible on our own; and even our own will isnt sufficient. We must be sustained by Divine Grace. Mary has come to tell us that she will obtain this Grace for us so she can lead us on the way of holiness.
What is left to say, if not that we should not delay! Let us help Jesus and Mary so that as many brothers and sisters as possible can come to know the way of holiness. It is not by words that others come to know this way, but by letting ourselves be filled with the Holy Spirit, by living closely united (i.e. consecrated) to Jesus and Mary. Perhaps among those waiting to be shown the way of holiness there are our spouses, or children, or dear ones, and maybe even those who are hostile to us, who have harmed us and precisely for this need our forgiveness (Lk 23:34). For all of these, may our persons be vehicles of divine Mercy, and we will experience the joy of being Jesus friends. N.Q.
Pope Wojtylas 25 Years
Time of jubilee and of memories for John Paul II who on the 16th October celebrated his 25 years as Pope. He has been called a record-breaking Pope, and not without reason, given the density and variety of events which have marked his life and activity as Pope. He is the man who unexpectedly came from the East to occupy Peters Chair (prophesied at Fatima), and who has changed the worlds destiny with his prophetic and in many senses nonconformist deeds. Celebrated and honoured, at times "canonized" before his time, John Paul II desires being the protagonist of his life-story. The chorus of approvals and applauses is gratifying, but giving too much importance to the political and social role covered by the Pontiff deviates from the fact that he received the call of Christ to lead the Church, and that it is this call that supplies him with the energy to fulfil his apostolic mission. The Holy Father himself reminds us of this in his homily at the Anniversary Mass: "At the Conclave, through the College of Cardinals, Christ said to me as he once said to Peter by the Lake of Gennesaret: Tend my sheep (Jn 21:16). I heard echo in my soul the question he addressed to Peter at that moment: Do you love me? Do you love me more than these ? "
It is only in the logic of love, of the love of Christ for his Peter, that one can read the radical and generous response of John Paul II. He has shared this response of his with millions of people by travelling from one end of the globe to the other (102 international trips and 143 visits on Italian soil), and by expressing it, with special love, in 14 encyclicals, 13 apostolic exhortations, 11 constitutions, 42 apostolic letters, not to mention the audiences, homilies and talks given to the people. True monuments to faith!
"Today, dear brothers and sisters, I am pleased to share with you an experience that has now lasted for a quarter of a century. Every day that same dialogue between Jesus and Peter takes place in my heart. In spirit, I focus on the benevolent gaze of the risen Christ. Although he knows of my human frailty, he encourages me to answer confidently, like Peter: Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you (Jn 21:17). And then he invites me to take on the responsibilities that he himself has entrusted to me."
During these 25 years he has never lost sight of the fact that the Church is the spouse of Christ, His Body, His flock (and not an institution to be used for ones sordid interests). To serve the Church doesnt mean to acquire privileges or to satisfy ones ambitions, but to accept the same sort as Christ who chose to give up His life for the sake of His sheep.
" The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep (Jn 10:11). While Jesus was saying these words, the Apostles did not realize that he was referring to himself. Not even his beloved John knew it. He understood on Calvary, at the foot of the Cross, when he saw Jesus silently giving up his life for his sheep ".
The Body of Christ cant be manipulated to suit ones desires.
"As Peter, a witness of the sufferings of Christ (1 Pt 5:1), was particularly aware of this, he admonished the elders of the Church: Tend the flock of God that is your charge (1 Pt 5:2). I was conscious of the same thing when the Lord called me to carry out Peters mission. From the beginning of my Pontificate, my thoughts, prayers and actions were motivated by one desire: to witness that Christ, the Good Shepherd, is present and active in his Church. He is constantly searching for every stray sheep, to lead it back to the fold, to bind up its wounds; he tends the sheep that are weak and sickly and protects those that are strong. That is why, from the very first day, I have never ceased to urge: Open wide the doors to Christ! Let him guide you! Trust in his love!"
Over these 25 years he has said it to the young people to whom he has dedicated much time and love; to the women who have seen their dignity restored thanks to JPII who praises the "female genius;" to leaders of nations and to peoples at war, through concrete gestures of reconciliation and untiring work for peace. He has said it to the churches of different faiths and confessions whilst all the time promoting ecumenical dialogue and the research for "unity in diversity." He has said it to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the less fortunate, to those who die of hunger, to those who hunger and those who plead for hope.
He has said it for Mary and with Mary, to whom he definitely and totally consecrated his Pontificate; and with the tender love of a son he continually repeats to her: Totus tuus: Wholly Thine, Queen of Peace.
"Have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you in the silence of your heart? Jesus really loves you. Not only does He love you, but He longs for you. He misses you when you dont come close. He thirsts for you! You are precious to Him... Only believe!" Mother Teresa
Blessed Mother Teresa: a glass of water for Jesus
It was taken for granted by all that MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA would have soon been placed on an altar, so loved and respected she was for her radical decision to be the "servant of the least." A diminutive nun originally from Albania she was in love with God and desired responding to the plea of Christ Crucified who whispered to her heart: "I thirst "
Jesus was thirsting for souls and for love, and in particular, he was thirsting from within the souls of the poor and needy, in the bodies of the dying, the unwanted, and the uncared for.
Gonxha Agnes Bojaxhiu felt the desire to satiate Christs thirst when she was only a young girl, and then at the age of 18 she joined the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland (in 1929) taking the name Teresa, after St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and was soon sent to India. Mother Teresas twenty years with Loreto (as teacher first, then school principal at St. Marys school in Calcutta) were filled with profound happiness; then in 1946 she received her "call within a call." By means of interior locutions and visions, Jesus revealed to her the desire of His Heart for "victims of love" who would "radiate His love on souls " "Come be My light," He begged her; and Mother Teresa responded; she wanted to offer glass after glass of water to the Lord Who Thirsts. When you want to offer a glass of water, the glass must necessarily be clean, empty and capacious. And Mother Teresa was all this. She let herself be cleansed by assiduous prayer, emptied by renouncement, made capacious by sacrifice; and her heart overflowed with the living water which alone can quench the thirst of souls; and of course, the source of that living water is Love/Charity.
She began her journey in the land amongst the poorest of the poor. She was fond of repeating that the greatest poverty is to be unwanted, to have no one to care for you. After some months she was joined, one by one, by her former students, and then by thousands. The "Missionaries of Charity," the new Congregation founded by Mother Teresa was officially established in 1950. This was followed by other houses in India, then, gradually, on every continent, including communist countries such as the former Soviet Union, Albania and Cuba. And in order to respond better to both the physical and spiritual needs of the poor Mother Teresa founded many other missionary branches for brothers and priests, for the contemplative religious and for lay people.
Many compare her to St. Francis of Assisi. Like him she responded radically to Christs call. Said John Paul II in his homily at her beatification mass: "Her greatness lies in her ability to give without counting the cost, to give until it hurts." Like him, Teresa was radically convinced of her faith, and thus did not doubt "that in touching the broken bodies of the poor she was touching the body of Christ." Teresa gave absolute priority to prayer, and like him, she had a great passion for the Eucharist and an ardent desire to satiate the Lords thirst by bringing souls to God and God to souls. Children of their time, they both knew how to relate with everyone: the powerful and the weak alike, whilst remaining themselves, guided only by the force of Gods love and the desire to "smile at Him": to say yes to all His requests. This desire of theirs spread like oil: there were 5000 brothers at Francis time, and 4500 sisters for Mother Teresa. What made them both holy, however, in the eyes of everyone the world round, was their ability to express the universality of Gods love. That is why the world so loves them. In this regard Teresa said of herself: "By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus."
Teresa dressed in a white, blue-bordered sari to express the traditional colours of Mary who for Teresa was "the first Missionary of Charity." It was to Her Immaculate Heart that Teresa entrusted her mission and her children. She almost always had rosary beads in her hands, and would recite it at every spare moment.
In a biography (by the Vatican Press) it is revealed: "There was another heroic side of this great woman that came to light only after her death. Hidden from all eyes, hidden even from those closest to her, was her interior life marked by an experience of a deep, painful and abiding feeling of being separated from God, even rejected by Him, along with an ever-increasing longing for His love. She called her inner experience, "the darkness." The "painful night" of her soul led Mother Teresa to an ever more profound union with God. Through the darkness she mystically participated in the thirst of Jesus, in His painful and burning longing for love, and she shared in the interior desolation of the poor." And heroically, she accepted it as a rare gift and privilege.
"I am personally grateful to this courageous woman whom I have always felt beside me," said John Paul II at her beatification mass. Early Sunday morning on the 19 February people began filling St. Peters at dawn. An estimated 300,000 faithful were present for the Beatification which came about, exceptionally, only 6 years after her death. The places of honour, up front, were reserved for 2000 under-privileged citizens of Rome. For the first time the Pope was unable to read his homily because of his advancing illness, but, as always, his presence was powerfully expressed in his magnetic and fatherly gaze. He said: "Every now and then she would come and tell me about her experiences in her service to the Gospel values. I remember, for example, her pro-life and anti-abortion interventions, even when she was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace (Oslo, 10 December 1979). She often used to say: "If you hear of some woman who does not want to keep her child and wants to have an abortion, try to persuade her to bring him to me. I will love that child, seeing in him the sign of Gods love".We are grateful to God for this great example of holiness; but let us not limit ourselves to admiring her. Instead, may we imitate her, and follow her example; but she imitated Christ, and trusted Him. Jesus said that a glass of water given to one of His little ones is a glass of water given to Him. Perhaps we only need to realize that our neighbours are the needy who thirst for a glass of water.
"Save Africa through Africans"
This was the motto of Daniel Comboni, the fourth of eight children and only survivor. Born at Limone del Garda (Brescia, Italy) in 1831, he gave life to a new way of considering missionary life, particularly in Africa. The son of poor gardeners, he became the first Catholic Bishop of Central Africa and one of the great missionaries in the Churchs history because of his burning desire to bring salvation to what he called "the poorest and most abandoned" brethren of Africa.
African Missions - He fell in love with Africa at a time when slavery, though officially prohibited, continued, turning men, women and children into little more than caged-up animals; and he became their voice throughout Europe, undertaking a tireless round of missionary animation, begging for spiritual and material aid from Kings, Queens, Bishops and nobles as well as the poor and simple people. He courageously promoted the need to aid Africa and to consider them as adults in need of a hand and not children in need of guidance. At the time Combonis ideas and activities were considered by some to be foolhardy: "Many thought of Africa as something to occupy, to share out, to dominate," recalls Card. Arinze, "whilst others dreamt of an Africa that needed help to become civilized and educated, but this was still considering Africa as an object."
In 1864, whilst praying at St. Peters tomb in Rome, Comboni was struck by a brilliant inspiration, and he presented Pope Pius IX with his Plan for the Rebirth of Africa through itself. And still today Combonis message is to offer the conditions so the Africans can grow on their own. "One cannot help someone to breathe by breathing himself," says the present Archbishop of Khartum, "and neither can someone make a plant grow; but he will offer the conditions that allow it to grow."
The cross as friend and spouse - Comboni was certain that his "Plan" came from the pierced Heart of the Crucified Lord. He said of that experience: "I felt transported by that love of His which begs to be loved and wants to love the entire human family; it came from the side of Christ Crucified." The human family includes Africa, and though it is forgotten by many it is not forgotten by Christ. Comboni understood that the Heart of Jesus was the fount of salvation for this martyred continent, and he immediately consecrated Central Africa to the Sacred Heart of Jesus with a solemn celebration. "The positive outcome of the work of evangelization in Africa will not depend on the missionaries determination to win or die, but because we have entrusted it to Jesus Heart which must set Africa alight with the divine fire."
Saint for Africa still calls out for help - "Comboni relied on the resources of his rich personality and solid spirituality to make Christ known and welcomed in Africa, a continent he deeply loved," said John Paul II in his homily for the Canonization of Bishop Daniel Comboni on 5 October 2003. "How could we fail, also today, to turn our gaze with affection and concern to those beloved peoples of Africa who continue to be scarred by many problems?" The saints open the way, and pay a high price for their God-inspired work, having to face persecution, calumny, and incomprehension, just as Comboni did who once said: "Nothing is done without the cross." It is sad to say that still today the dramas of Africa continue whilst the Mass Media in general remain complacently silent.
"I am dying, but my work will not die" - Comboni, now a Saint, leaves the Church and the world with a pressing message which is the urgency of the mission ad gentes in Daniel Comboni style; the need of evangelizers with his enthusiasm and apostolic outreach; and concrete efforts by the international community to help Africa build a future of hope for Africa. Said Fr. Teresino Serra, the newly elected Superior General of the Combonians: "We have to continue on the way laid out by Comboni. Theres need to correct past errors. It is useless trying to dry the tears of a person who cries; youve got to stop those who make him cry. Many are happy to hand down the crumbs to poor Lazarus, convinced that theyve done something useful; but youve got to get up from the rich mans table and sit with the poor." On 10 October 1881, when he was only 50 years old, marked by the Cross which, like a faithful and loving bride, never left him, he died in Khartoum among his people, aware that his missionary work would not end with him.
The Almighty has done great things for Mary!
Mary had not expected such a maternity. She was betrothed to Joseph, a descendant of David, but in her great humility how could she have ever imagined that she would bear the Son of God, the Messiah? "The power of the Most High will overshadow you.. you will conceive and bear a son" (cf. Lk 1:35) she heard the angel announce "How can this come about, since I do not know man?" Mary responded, perplexed. Yet moments later she became mother because of her total surrender, and her total trust in the Almighty. Not by deed of man, but by the unknown power of the Most High, did the divine infant begin to form in Marys womb. Though incomprehensible to our minds it is real.
This is what the Most High was able to do in Mary because of her "yes." This is the good news. God sent into the world His Only Son, the Messiah, to save mankind, from the first generation to the last. And He did it through the body, heart, mind and freedom of little Mary. Indeed it was an extraordinary event; because of it all generations will call Mary blessed. It was so extraordinary that it could have easily shaken the mountains, but not Mary who, instead, held firmly in the faith of her people, and together with them sang to Yahweh: "Great are the works of the Lord, contemplated by those who delight in them" (Ps 111). Whats more, by virtue of Marys lowliness and of the way she naturally accepted whatever Jesus proposed, Mary not only was His Mother, but became the Mother of us all. The Most High did also this for Mary, making her motherhood extend beyond time and space. So not only did Marys body begin to generate, but also her soul began to generate children for the Father of Life through the Holy Spirit.
If Mary is Mother, and we are her children, the same happens with us. We are visited every day by Grace; through mankind God continues His work of creation and visibly manifests His life. If we empty ourselves of our plans, expectations and desires we can be made fertile in the same manner. If we allow God to surprise us with His proposals; if we allow the Holy Spirit to use our faculties, and Jesus to come into the world through our gestures, words and manners, then we become the living temple of the living God. Mary is great because she recognized her littleness before God, because she trusted totally in God, and because she accepted Gods will, letting Him use her as He wished, without reserve.
Mary is our role model; from her we must learn, and behave as children worthy of their Mother. We neednt worry about what we should do or how to do it. All we need to concern ourselves with is to hand ourselves over to God, as a bride would offer herself to her spouse that she might be fecundated with life; and the new life will not delay to blossom with all its beauty and originality. God will not delay to manifest in us His power as Creator and His fatherhood through the little things of our every-day life. In Him the impossible becomes possible, but not without us, for He wants us to let Jesus be born into the world again and again. He wants us to be, in a certain way, mothers as Mary was Mother who offers the Word of the Father to all those of good will.
"Return to the primitive fervour"
Our Blessed Mother on the Rosary
The prophetic appeals by the Queen of Peace are echoed by the Magisterium inspired by the Pope, who with great efforts urges the Church to renew prayer in the Rosary to implore from God the immense gift of peace "at the beginning of a millennium which witnesses every day in numerous parts of the world fresh scenes of bloodshed and violence" (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 6) and to implore communion for the family which is "the primary cell of society, increasingly menaced by forces of disintegration on both the ideological and practical planes."
Not by chance did Mary appeal in particular to priests, urging them strongly to work resolutely in the fight against evil which seems to spread, unbridled, even within the Church. In doing so Mary indicated the means to fight evil: the prayer of the Rosary and a more fervent apostolate of prayer amongst Gods people: "I urge you to invite everyone to pray the Rosary. With the Rosary you will overcome all the obstacles which Satan is placing before the Catholic Church. I invite all the priests to recite the Rosary, to give space to the Rosary" (25 June 1985). A particularly pressing call to pray the Rosary was addressed by Mary to the "dear Children" of hers who have under-taken a journey of special consecration to Her Immaculate Heart, to rouse in them a more active and generous commitment for this time of decisive confrontation between the "womans offspring" (Rev 13) and "the dragon" (ibid.). In an annual apparition to Mirjana (18 March 1992) Mary said: "Dear Children, now as never before I need your prayers. As never before do I now ask you to grasp the Rosary. Grasp onto it firmly! I pray to the Father very much for you ". While on 25th August 1997, Mary said: "I particularly invite all those who have consecrated themselves to my Immaculate Heart to be an example for the others. I invite all the priests and religious to recite the Rosary and to teach others to pray it. My Children, the Rosary is specially dear to me. Through the Rosary open your heart to me, and I will be able to help you."
What is the origin of this extraordinary spiritual power which gushes forth from the simple prayer of the Rosary? What is the profound meaning of the numerous, repeated and pressing appeals to pray the Rosary which the Queen of Peace untiringly addresses to her children? The explanation, we feel, is to be sought in the immeasurable power of grace released by the Paschal mystery of Christ which today is offered to mankind in a special way through Marys presence in the world. For indeed, the burning current of divine love which gushes forth from Jesus offering to the Father is present today in an extraordinary manner, and is active and efficacious thanks to the motherly mediation of Marys Immaculate Heart. Through her intercession this divine love is perfectly realized in the hearts of each of us if we are docile to Her call, and if we decide to be fully involved (mind, heart and soul) in the contemplation of the salvific mysteries of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to be fully conformed to Him and united to His Paschal offering for the salvation of the world, in intimate communion with the Immaculate Heart of the Mother. "Give witness by your life. Sacrifice your life for the salvation of the world... Do not be afraid. If you pray, Satan cannot harm you at all because you are Gods children, and He watches over you. Pray! And let the Rosary be always in your hands as a sign to Satan that you belong to me" (25.02.88). This is the profound truth of the spiritual call being addressed to us by Mary; and if at Fatima and Lourdes it was reserved for a few chosen ones, today at Medjugorje it is being addressed to a multitude of children.
The Rosary is a privileged means being offered to us by Mary, so that our souls may open up and welcome the gift of Gods pure love. His pure love is the sacrificial Love which shines forth in the new Jerusalem and is eternally illuminated by the uncreated love of the Immolated Lamb. And with this love we are truly "dressed in Christ" (Rm 13:14). It is the light which unites into one body the citizens of the heavenly Church and which wants to be communicated in full to the entire universe so that everything in the end might be recapitulated in Christ. This is the fire of divine love which is able to definitely destroy Satans every power, so that Gods children are freed from all "bereavement and worry." It is the true "river of the water of life.. flowing from the throne of God and from the Lamb" (Rev 22:1). It blossoms into trees and fruits of new life, able as it is to heal to the roots our mortal illnesses, and the profound wounds of our heart. It alone can give us true peace and heavenly joy. It alone can transfigure us and lift us up to the new heavens and new earth in the eternal embrace of life in the Father. This is the immense gift which the Queen of Peace reserves for her children who decide out of freedom and love to say "yes" without reserve to her motherly call.
How do we pray?
by Fr. Tomislav Vlasic
Our Lady at Medjugorje calls us to pray. But what is prayer? Prayer must flow from pure love which urges us to seek God, not from obligation. It is a contradiction to think that someone should force us to be free. Prayer flows from an inner disposition to listen to God and His love. It doesnt aim at obtaining things or finding solutions. God will do that for us. Prayer is conceived solely to feel Gods presence, which through Jesus Christ leads us to the Father. It is a presence which brings perfection to our lives, which heals us, makes us rise again, which every day helps us to grow and to produce fruits.
Do we know this type of prayer? Do we have time for this prayer? These questions are fundamental. Perhaps we pray three Rosaries per day &emdash; according to Our Ladys request &emdash; and often dont know what weve prayed. We probably didnt even enter into prayer! It would be better to remain before God and say: "Mary, help me to enter into a living relationship with the Triune God. Pray with the angels and saints; I open my heart and mind that I might listen to God and proceed along the way"
Do we have the space and time for God to descend in us? If we are busy with everything else and dont have time for God we are like rich men who work to make money but who die because they dont spend time to care about their health. We, too, risk dying in our religion if we dont allow Gods power to transform us; if we overlook the needs of our soul, if we deny God the possibility of illuminating lifes mysteries in us and of answering our deepest questions. We die spiritually if we do not have the time and space to allow our entire being to be lifted up to the desire that Gods promises be realized. In this case, our prayer has no value. God descended amongst His people, but they didnt recognize Him. He wants to continue descending amongst His children, to appear, to be God-with-us. If we have neither the space nor the time for this God, then we cant even live His incarnation in us.
So that we are open to Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit and so we can pray with this openness, we need to free ourselves of a few things. Above all of egoism; then of false motivations, of egocentric prayer, and of purely human love which moves the heart but doesnt lift you up to God. Human love is a trap because it is made up of compassion. Being sympathetic with others in their suffering moves you to suffer with them, but that doesnt help them. On the other hand, Gods Love lifts you and the other up. Jesus didnt stop when His apostles didnt want to go on, or when Peter wanted to impede Him from going to die. Jesus glance was forever turned upwards to the Father. He helped everyone, but He didnt let Himself get involved in their fears and human pathologies.
Often our prayer is a continuous demand: "give me, give me!" But when will we begin to contemplate God? When will we realize that God lives with us? When will our beings begin to feel the divine life that circulates in them?
In this time when Mary is present at Medjugorje, God grants special graces and He calls all those who are willing to open themselves up to Him. The Holy Spirit then works in individual souls to see that gifts of grace grow abundantly. Many people turn to priests when they should be turning to the Holy Spirit. But this is being lazy. Each of us must discover in himself the Holy Spirit. Mary has asked us many times to obey the Holy Spirit, and to open our inner ears to Him. The passage between what is possible and what is impossible in our lives is opened up precisely through this openness to the Holy Spirit. So that while we fall asleep with our concerns - the way St. Joseph did over Marys pregnancy - the Lord will speak to us in our sleep!
It isnt wrong to ask. It isnt wrong to pray for others. It is wrong not to be in touch with the Holy Spirit. It is wrong not to know how to lift ones spirit up to God. Our incapacity to live with God impedes our prayer from flowing out. If we want to proceed along the way of prayer we must remove many burdens. Satan attempts in many ways to stop us from praying, by creating deviations, fears and worries. The secret not to be caught in his traps is to surrender everything to God and let Him lead us.
No formula is able to save us. We have to learn to relate to God with freedom. We mustnt "say prayers," but "live prayer."
Today for us Christians prayer means much the same as sleep or seeing friends, because today we dont have time to sleep or to stay with others. In this same way we dont have time to stay with God. It is as if we were saying: "Lord, I dont have time to listen to You now as I have to say the Rosary! I dont have time to receive Your Spirit perhaps when Im on holidays Ill have time for You." With this I dont mean that we shouldnt say the Rosary. Quite to the contrary, as it is a very important prayer; but whilst praying it we ought to try to remain with the Lord in spirit, and not say it mechanically or in a superficial manner.
Let us ask another question: do we have time to rise? Conversion is knowing how to organize ones life so that Gods Life, the new life, might begin to flow in us. It often happens that prayer takes on a form that tires us; so we need to know how to be creative. There are many ways to pray. Prayer is knowing how to rest in God. Prayer is immersing oneself in nature and loving it because it is a gift from God. Prayer is knowing how to admire a flower because God planted it for us. God smiles at you from everywhere, yet you pass by and are unable to see anything or seize anything. Unless we learn to change our way of praying, we will not proceed along the way. If we continue to depend on formulas we will become static.
So let us learn to remain before God. Let us find the time to enter into a living relationship with God, as individuals, as groups and as communities. We need to free ourselves of these forms of slavery. Everything in our lives must relate to God, and be involved in our relationship with God. Then we will be aware of the power of the Holy Spirit in all lifes situations: at work, at home, on vacation. It will be granted to us wherever we are and will accompany us and make us ever freer and ever happier creatures. ++
Bosnia: helping refugees stand on their own
In case anyone thinks we "supply the fish, and not the rods": last year we took to the Croatian village of Komusina 5 cows and 60 pigs, we set up a chicken farm and planted hundreds of fruit trees. For the past few years we have been taking small farm equipment, various seeds and potatoes for planting to the 12 Muslim villages north of Nevesinje, and also to the Serbian zone east of Mostar. Next year well give them the money to buy 20 cows and 30 sheep. We also supply sewing machines, fabric, wool, and knitting machines to groups of women who have been able to organize themselves into womens associations. But the poor people in refugee camps with not enough space to plant a single potato must be given supplies to survive, however, we give to these women sewing and knitting kits to make doilies and booties which we then buy.
Donations can be sent to Alberto Bonifacio, Via S. Alessandro 26, I-23855 Pescate (LC), Italy. fax. + 341-368587
Somalia: missionary woman killed
Sixty year old Italian woman, Annalena Tonelli, was killed on 5 October in Somaliland. She had spent over 30 years of her life in the remote Horn of Africa treating and curing people with tuberculosis and other diseases. She also opened a school for the children of tuberculosis patients, and for deaf-mute and physically handicapped children. Two years ago Annalena began working against "female cutting," and most recently had begun providing HIV/AIDS care and prevention. Her efforts were appreciated by Somaliland authorities, but local extremists, for whom the sick were untouchable, were less appreciative. She is remembered as a true missionary who gave up her life to serve the poor. She had recently confided in a friend: "The people here in Somaliland are all Muslims, but for them I am a woman sent by God, and this makes me feel honoured even though I feel unworthy of the mission I have received. They know I am Catholic, for they pray at the Mosque for my conversion."
News of the blessed land
In memory of Fr. Slavko
Prayer is staying with Jesus
In the month of November friends of Medjugorje remember the well-loved figure of Padre Slavko Barbaric who passed away on 24 November 2000. In all his years of service in the Parish of Medjugorje he dedicated his time and efforts to bring pilgrims closer to God. In particular, he often spoke on prayer: "Our prayer can be really atheistic, godless. It happens when we use prayer to get what we want, or what we think we need; and when we dont use it to seek God and His will If our prayer is stuck in the rut of requests then it is atheistic because we dont seek God, but only His gifts. God doesnt want to be with us only when we need Him. He wants to be with us always." Still on the subject of prayer, and with regards to the Rosary, he said: "To pray the Rosary doesnt mean to pray 150 Hail Marys. It means that in each Mystery we should try to see what the Lord has to say to us. When we say: We contemplate the Annunciation, we should take the time to contemplate and to see what God wants to tell us through this episode, through this Gospel passage. If we do not pray this way, we run the risk of letting our prayer become nothing more than lip service." It is the same thing taught to us by the Pope in his Apostolic Letter on the Rosary.
Holy Mass and Adoration were other pivots of his spiritual life. He would often invite us to live both moments with the heart. On Adoration he said: "Adoration is very special. To dedicate time to Jesus by adoring Him in the Blessed Sacrament is to seek His presence in the Sacrament. To adore Him is to seek Him. To adore means to remain with Jesus, because He has decided to remain with us."
Through this, Fr. Slavko teaches us that the key to enter ever more deeply into prayer is love. It is love that urges us to remain with Jesus and Mary who nourish us so that we can carry divine peace to all. That peace is what Fr. Slavko proclaimed all his life.
Extraordinary message to Mirjana
During the monthly apparition of Our Lady to Mirjana Soldo, when Mary usually prays together with the visionary for "all those who havent yet known Gods love," Mary gave a message for us all. Our Lady doesnt usually give a message during this meeting with Mirjana on the 2nd of the month, so this is an exception.
"Dear children, give me your hearts completely. Allow me to take you to my Son, that He might give you true peace and true happiness. Do not be deceived by the false brightness that is surrounding you and being offered to you. Do not allow Satan to reign over you with his false peace and false happiness. Come to me, I am with you!"
Mirjana reported that our Blessed Mother cried whilst giving the message.
Bishop of South Africa:
Medjugorje challenges our faith
Msgr. Gerard Ndlovu, retired bishop from the Rep. South African, spent 2 weeks in Medjugorje last July, and participated in the international seminar for priests. These are his impressions: "Some time ago, I was told that Our Lady was appearing in Medjugorje on a daily basis. I was curious and wanted to see. Devotion to Our Lady and faith in her in some areas are very weak, if not absent. Some are unable to accept the fact that she has time to appear on a daily basis. I personally find this a deep challenge to our faith if we believe that in the universal plan of Salvation there is nothing unplanned; that everything was, is and will always be a part of that plan.
Personally, I have no problems in believing that Our Lady could appear in Medjugorje even on a daily basis. Its obviously Gods will. If He so wished, why couldnt she appear even on a permanent basis? Therefore, I do believe in her presence in Medjugorje. I find the challenge in Medjugorje absolutely in accordance with Church teachings and with the theological training we received as priests. I find it a challenge to put into practice what we have already learned. Medjugorje is a type of"rumination station". Here, I am challenged to consider all that I was taught in my heart and in my mind, and question myself about my life. I am deeply impressed by what is going on here; by the spirit of prayer and dedication. At the priests retreat I was impressed by the brotherly spirit which prevailed. The participants seriously placed themselves at Marys school; they hungered for more. Our lecturers were excellent. My advice is to come here and experience it for yourself."
(Courtesy: Press Bulletin)
Fr. Jozo: Podbrdo not barren
The Gospa, who is our Mother and Mother of the Church, did not call us up to a barren hill. No, it isnt barren. Over these last 22 years she has filled the hill of apparitions and Mt. Krizevac with Grace, and with this Grace she has embraced each and every pilgrim. Let me tell you an episode to help you see. A woman from my parish had been paralyzed for 15 years. On the 1st August she said to her husband: "Lets go to Medjugorje," to which he replied: "Its nearly midday, we cant go now, its too hot.. and in your condition " But she insisted: "We must go!" And he: "But there are 30,000 young people there right now" (it was during the Youth Festival). And she continued: "We have to go!" He continued to dissuade her: "Our car doesnt have air conditioning; youll die from the heat." But she was firm: "We have to go!" At last her husband agreed. He took his wife, put her in the car, drove to Medjugorje, and took her to Podbrdo. They prayed as they went up. Her feet and hands were paralyzed, so she needed her husband to help her move.
Between the 1st and 2nd stations of the joyful mysteries, the woman heard a voice: "You do not need your crutches or your collar anymore.." And she immediately began to feel life returning to her back and body. She could feel her feet and hands again. She looked at her hands and watched as her fingers opened up before her. It was a shock. She had had many operations, till the doctors decided not to operate anymore because she got worse with each operation. Thus, she had been paralyzed for 15 years.After showing her husband what was happening to her they both cried, and carried the crutches with them as they continued on their way up Podbrdo. Once they were back down the woman felt the need to confess, and during the confession she couldnt hold back the great news of her extraordinary healing, but the priest cut short: "Pray your penance and go in peace."
"Father, I was very ill, and now Im better " "Yes," he said, "go in peace." She was saddened.
The day after she went to the hospital. The woman doctor, a Muslim, upon seeing her walk, asked: "Where have you been? Which clinic?" My parishioner replied: "On Podbrdo." "Wheres that?", asked the doctor. "In Medjugorje."
The doctor began to cry. Other doctors and physiotherapists who had treated her came to see: "A miracle," they exclaimed. Many papers, especially Muslim papers, spoke about her case, and reported the interview with the doctor who had visited her for first. They wrote on their front pages: "Madonna of Medjugorje heals woman " But the main Catholic papers didnt say anything. My question is: why are so many priests, and Bishops, scared of these things? Why arent we humble enough to observe the fruits?
(From a registration)
THE ECHO TEAM
Many people work to put this publication together. Working behind the scenes they make this humble paper richer with their fidelity and love, sustained by the sole desire to be instruments of Mary for the sake of souls. We hope you enjoy reading of their experience, of what they receive from God in their personal lives and how He accompanies them in their work for Echo.
Georgina, translator of Spanish Echo: Mothering with the grace of God
It isnt easy talking about what it means to be a mother for the first time. All of a sudden life takes on a new dimension. During the pregnancy you think you can imagine what its going to be like, but when it happens it really is quite different. When I was expecting Ana Maria we had imagined her as being very sweet &emdash; and of course she is! With every passing day she gets sweeter and sweeter; and wed like to hold her in our arms all day long and just contemplate the beauty and wonder of this new life, and forget about time and chores. Of course, that cant be done, or at least not to the extent we would like. But when she is in my arms I ask God to help me love her and to transmit Gods love to her. I pray to God that she might become receptive to His Love, and I ask our Blessed Mother to teach me to look after and love her and to make up for what I cannot give her. My greatest concern is making sure she never lacks affection, as I want her soul to be able to fly to God without there being any obstacles. St. John of the Cross said in one of his poems that he spends all his efforts so as to love. A Christian mother understands these words, for she spends all her efforts in loving her children. A very strong bond is formed between a mother and her child. Recently a person said to me: "See how much you love Ana Maria! Yet this is only a tiny reflection of the love that God has for each of us." Perhaps I had heard it before, but said then the impact was different. I even felt a little offended: as if someone else could love her more than I do! But as I reflected I understood how our heart really is too little to fathom Gods love for us, and how His love is so great that a parents love is but a glimpse of His.
That same person then said: "You can now see how much God suffers for us, since He loves us as a mother and a father." Ana Maria is only three months old, and I suppose I have yet to experience this other side of motherhood. However, for my newly inaugurated mothers heart, the little problems we experience every day are enormous. Yet, I am sure that the pain and the efforts spent to give our children the best, help us mature spiritually and as human beings; and as we battle through life God makes Himself very close to us. My prayer to God is to be given the grace to support all the trials life reserves for me, all the while being united to Him so that I might come through them with dignity and never lose His Love which became more palpable on the Cross. I am convinced that we must look beyond the human plane and learn to look up to God, for if a mother is able to love it is only because she for first was loved by God. So it is right that a soul should correspond to this love of God, knowing that the first to benefit are the children. When you are blessed with a child you are immediately placed in Gods school of love. The rapture and enthusiasm that you experience for the first time with your new child strengthens the bond between you. So it is worthwhile taking advantage of this inner state by entrusting it to God so He can model it according to His Will, and allow Him to raise it above the human level to the divine level.
This makes me think how privileged our children are to have parents who not only love them, but who entrust them to God! They thus receive a more pure love, and this allows God to make up where we fail. My faith brings me great joy. During the pregnancy my faith was also consolation. When I was in a place that I didnt like, or when I was tired, I would ask Our Lady to cover my child with Her mantle and thus protect her from all human misery. "Make her Yours," I prayed. From the moment of her conception my husband and I prayed that she might belong totally to God. And, in fact, we feel certain that she is, but we understand that we have the responsibility of helping this bond with the Father to grow so that Ana Maria might return happily to His dwelling place.
Georgina Trias (Madrid)
Robert, translator of Echo in Albanian:
After the translations for the Albanian edition are done and it goes into print I cant help but think of Echo flying across the Adriatic back into my homeland, which inevitably brings to mind the famous "flight" of Our Lady of Good Counsel during the Turkish invasion of 1467. Back then Our Lady left Albanian soil to take refuge in Rome. Now, the "Echo" takes her from Italian soil back into Albania. I was in Albania early September, and I am grateful that I was able to take with me a photocopier and ink cartridges to a small parish in a mountainous region. Besides being used for the parish, it will be used to reproduce our little paper. It was given to me by Fr. Cesare. Last year I was able to send material and statues for a Christmas Nativity Scene to Fr. Ndoc (Anthony) for the Cathedral. Fr. Ndoc, a priest who is dear to Our Lady, is one of our "posties," and he works with young people, many of whom also work as posties for our Echo. As far as I know the network of postiëret e Zojës (in Albania they are called "Our Ladys posties") works well enough. The Echo, or "Our Ladys paper," as they like to call it in Albania, is very much liked and priests find it useful. The only complaint of Albanian readers is that they cannot contribute financially. In Albania the economical situation is disastrous. Albania is the Africa of Europe. There is a lot of unemployment, and a "decent" pension is never anymore than 60 Euro per month. The Catholic Community is particularly poor.
Through Giuliana, one of our posties, I met Rosa who told me the following: "I was walking past Lucias shop. People dont have money to spend, so Lucia wasnt particularly busy. What are you doing? I asked her. Cant you see: nothing!, was her reply. Then let me give you something to do. Read this, and youll see how happy it makes you.
Two weeks later I happened to pass by again. Lucia called me in even though she had two customers. She wanted to thank me, and added: I read it with great pleasure. Can I have the next issue? And if it isnt asking too much, two of my friends would like copies as well. I also experienced the wonderful ways God uses to spread Marys little instrument. I was coming back from the cemetery where my parents are buried when I noticed a new building with a cross on it. I went in, and after having conversed with two sisters, they asked me for copies of the Echo.
Robert Prendushi (Ancona, Italy)
Our Readers write ...
Drande Qysaqui, Albania: I read the Echo with great pleasure and devotion. I am very devoted to Our Lady, and I have many happy memories of that holy place. In fact, the happiest moments of my life were precisely in Medjugorje. I am a member of the "Legionaries of Mary Immaculate" in Shkoder. The Albanian faithful, in general, are too poor to be able to contribute with donations. Please accept our sincere thanks for the messages and the rich spiritually uplifting articles it contains. May the Lord help you in your work. I greet you on behalf of many readers who are very grateful for your dedication.
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Anna Lambino, Italy: Never before was I so anxious to receive my copy of the Echo. I needed the "oxygen" of your articles and meditations. Please pray for my family. Thanks ever so much for the work you do, for your open heart and for everything that helps us! God bless you, and our Blessed Mother keep you.
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For some years now Jelena is present in our Echo with a reflection on spiritual life and on what Our Lady has taught her through the gift of inner locutions. Those who are new to Medjugorje probably dont know what "happened" to this young girl (in the early 1980s) who never imagined that she would become known the world round because of this grace and task she received from heaven.
Jelena Vasilj, born on the 14th May 1972, lived with her family in a house at the foot of Mt. Krizevac. She was only ten and a half when for the first time she heard the voice of Our Lady in her heart. Only moments before she had prayed to God: "O Lord, how I would be happy and thankful if I could believe only in you, and if I could encounter you and acknowledge you!"
It all began on the 15th December 1982 when Jelena was at school. She was wondering what the time was when she heard a voice from within her heart say: "It is twenty past ten." Then, when she was about to put her hand up to answer a question the same voice said to her: "Dont, the teacher wont ask you." It was the voice of an angel. His task was to encourage her to pray more, and to enter more deeply into prayer. Two weeks later, for the first time, Jelena heard Our Ladys voice. On one occasion Our Lady told her: "I do not intend revealing the secrets to you, but to lead you on the way of consecration." Jelena began to pray more fervently, and she was joined by some of her friends who wanted to follow her example. In June the following year Our Lady asked for the "prayer group" to be formed. She led its members by means of messages given to Jelena and Marijana (who received the gift of locutions at Easter of the same year). Our Lady wanted the prayer group to have a spiritual director, and She herself chose Fr. Tomislav Vlasic.
Gradually, Our Lady taught them to meditate with the Bible, to pray the Holy Rosary whilst meditating on the mysteries, and She dictated to Jelena new prayers of consecration to Her Immaculate Heart and to Jesus Sacred Heart. Some time later Jelena could not only hear Our Ladys "very sweet and clear" voice, but she also began to see Our Lady with the eyes of the heart. Once she asked: "Why are you so beautiful?" and Our Lady replied: "Because I love. If you want to become beautiful, you need only love!" Starting November 1985 Jelena began also to hear the voice of Jesus, but He would manifest Himself only to guide the group when it was united. The gift of locutions stopped when Jelena went to the US to study theology; studies which she continued in Austria, and concluded in Rome where she took her degree. In August 2002 she married Massimiliano Valente, and on the 9th May 2003 Giovanni Paolo was born.
Prayer of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary (dictated to Jelena by Mary)
O Immaculate Heart of Mary,
ardent with goodness,
show us your love.
May the flame of your Heart, O Mary,
descend upon all mankind.
We love you so.
Impress in our hearts true love
that we might yearn for you continuously.
Oh Mary, sweet and humble of heart,
remember us when we sin.
You know that all men are sinners.
Grant us, that through your Immaculate Heart, we might be given spiritual health.
May we always see the goodness
of your motherly heart;
and may we be converted
by the flame of your Heart. Amen
Prayer of Consecration to the Heart of Jesus (dictated to Jelena by Mary)
O Jesus, we know that You are merciful
and that You have given Your Heart for us.
It is crowned with thorns and with our sins.
We know that You implore us constantly
so that we do not go astray.
Jesus, remember us when we sin.
Through Your Heart make us love one another.
Make hatred disappear from among men.
Show us Your Love.
We all love You;
and want You to protect us with Your Good Shepherds Heart
and that You deliver us from every sin.
Enter into each heart Lord Jesus!
Knock, knock at the door of our hearts;
be patient and never desist.
We are still closed up within ourselves
because we havent understood Your Love.
O Good Jesus, make us open our hearts
to You at least in the moment
when we remember Your Passion
suffered for us. Amen
"Give yourselves totally to God. He will use you to do great things, as long as you trust much more in His Love than in your weakness." Bl. Teresa of Calcutta
Request for images of Queen of Peace (Pls send in plain envelope): Sr. Emil M. Perez Leon, Ave.31 #6402 (Altos), Entre 64 y 66, Playa, Ciudad Habana 14, CP 11400 Cuba.
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