Take a Spiritual “TRIP” this Advent Season!


With the annual celebration of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Mardi Gras (for us down here in the New Orleans area) comes the joy of family gatherings and lots of together time. Today, however, with many of our loved ones living in various parts of the world, we often find ourselves traveling or awaiting the arrival of our sons, daughters, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. So you could say, in some ways, that traveling has become a kind of staple of the holiday season, one as familiar as Grandma’s ham, turkey, dressing and pecan pie. I guess this should come as no surprise, given the far distance that the original pilgrims and Holy Family had to travel on the days ushering in our modern day Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. Likewise, the Mardi Gras Season, a “Fat Tuesday” celebration proceeding Ash Wednesday, begins on the Feast Day of the Epiphany (King’s Day), a day commemorating the arduous journey of three wise men to the small town of Bethlehem.

Join me, as we further explore the Christian understanding of a trip, pilgrimage, or journey towards the ultimate gathering of the people of God, as we learn to incorporate this hopeful anticipation into our every day prayer experience.


In Ignatian spirituality, one based on the teachings of the Jesuit founder, Ignatius of Loyola, we learn about the importance of a daily examen (the spiritual reviewing of one’s day) as a means of discerning the movements of God in our life along with our corresponding response to His invitation. Do we cooperate with God’s will or block and/or intentionally reject this calling? Are we moving closer to or further away from God’s loving embrace. Do we feel joy or sorrow, peace or anxiety? Are we intimately aware of God’s presence and the gift of grace which often accompanies it? These kinds of questions warrant our daily prayerful consideration, as we review our day’s journey, desired destination, and overall sense of well-being.

To this end, I would like to propose an acronym which has helped me, my husband, and family better identify the hands of God in our lives, our subsequent response to His call, and our desired destination. This acronym, one which I learned from Jan and Loyd Tate at the New Orleans Spirituality Center, is “A-TRIP”.  My husband, Tom, and I first learned about this daily exercise when we attended a couple’s retreat about 8 months back. There, Jan and Loyd challenged each of us to take “A-TRIP” once a day as a couple.

How could we do this, we thought, especially given the craziness of our lives and the frequency of Tom’s business trips away from home? The answer was simple: keep our eyes focused on the gathering process and our desired destination – a peace filled home, here on earth and for all eternity with God. Once this answer became clear, our 5-10 minute shared prayer experience (A-TRIP) became a top priority, and often the highlight of our day. Not only did it draw us closer to God, but also closer to each other as a couple. Subsequently, we began incorporating this simple spiritual “trip” into our family prayer experience. The spiritual fruits of this exercise have proved abundant in both regards. It is intimately moving and, at times, inspirational to listen as a loved one shares his/her inner thoughts, desires, concerns, and/or vulnerabilities with God. Likewise, it is humbling to do the same.


A-TRIP stands for:

A:  Adoration. Adoring the Lord is more than just loving Him. It is gazing into His face, being captivated with Who He is, and looking beyond what the Lord has or can do for us. When we meditate on how great God is, we become transformed into His likeness as we are face to face in adoration of Him. Adoration is a heart response and recognition that He is all we ever need. When we adore the Lord Our God, all life’s problems, seen from heaven’s perspectives, seem to dwarf in comparison.

“My God, I adore you for your bountiful majesty, your intimate love, and unending mercy.”

T: Thanksgiving. Feeling and expressing appreciation is good for us. Like any wise father, God wants us to learn to be thankful for all the gifts He has given to us. It is in our best interest to be reminded that everything we have is a gift from Him. Without gratefulness, we become arrogant and self-centered. We begin to believe that we have achieved everything on our own. Thankfulness keeps our hearts in right relationship with God, the ultimate giver of all good gifts.

“Lord, I thank you for the many gifts you have given me, for my husband, Tom, son, Joseph, and for the transformative power of your love on display in our family circumstances over the last several years.”

R: Repentance. Repentance represents a turning away from sin and a turning back to God. It alleviates our guilt while simultaneously cultivating a deep sense of joy in our unburdened heart. In the face of God’s unwarranted mercy, we rejoice and often feel compelled to share the good news about God’s boundless love with others! As we continue to examen our lives and our ongoing pattern of sin, we often gain a humble acceptance of our total dependency on Christ, both as a Savior and a King. By learning to surrender our lives to Christ, while simultaneously opening ourselves up to the grace of His Holy Spirit, we begin to grow in Christian virtue and personal holiness.

“Lord, I repent of my impatience and the harsh use of words in moments of conflict.”

I: Intercession. Intercession is prayer on behalf of another. It naturally arises from the instincts of the human heart, a heart filled with love and deep compassion for others. Intercession, however, is not merely prompted by our individual affections or interests,  but by our recognition of God’s individual and societal love and concern for mankind. As members of Christ’s Body, we are called to intercede for others, just as Christ does for His disciples, crucifiers, and each of us.

“Come, Holy Spirit, come. Make us a holy family founded on love. Fill our hearts with love and our home with joy. Transform our lives as a family and guide each of us towards the life vocation You deem most appropriate.”

P: Praise. Praise is the joyful recognition or remembering of all God has done for us. It is closely intertwined with thanksgiving as we offer back to God our appreciation for the mighty works He has done on our behalf. God is all powerful and worthy of our praise.

“God, I praise you for your intimate love, the life giving and self-sacrificial love demonstrated by Christ on the Cross. God, in You, I find my home, for You have created me for Yourself. I praise You for your miraculous plan of goodness for my life and Your tireless pursuit of my love in return.”

As you contemplate the spiritual meaning and ultimate intention of “A-TRIP”, I ask you to remember that we, as Christians, are a pilgriming people living our day to day lives as we try to find our way back home to God. In closing, I wish you and yours happy travels, especially during this Advent Season, and in each and every day which follows. Amen

To learn more about or purchase my new book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love, please visit spiritualsafariguide.com.

Thank you and God Bless! Karen Schwaner Sheehy


All Hail to the King: A Catholic Mardi Gras Celebration.

Join us today as we keep our eyes focused on Christ and discover the Catholic history behind the feast known as “Fat Tuesday.”


Catholic school children and faculty celebrating Mardi Gras, a feast which anticipates the coming of Lent and Easter Triduum.

Mardi Gras, which literally means “Fat Tuesday” in French, is associated with the Roman Catholic season of Lent. Although many see this celebration as an overindulgence prior to the rigors and personal sacrifice of Lent, this does not truly reflect the holiday’s original intent nor the focus of faithful Catholics around the world. Historically, Fat Tuesday marks the last day of ordinary time prior to the 40 days of Lenten fasting and repentance. Today, Mardi Gras celebrations occur in Roman Catholic communities throughout the world, including Nice, France; Cologne, Germany; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to name just a few. Mardi Gras in New Orleans, perhaps the most famous Fat Tuesday celebration in the United States, started in the early 18th century. While its parties and wild debauchery often garner the most media attention, this stereotypical behavior greatly maligns the original Catholic intent of the celebration.

But what of Mardi Gras’s modern day similarities with the ancient pagan festival known as Lupercalia? A slight review of Church history is required when addressing their apparent similarities. Lupercalia, an ancient Roman fertility celebration, did, in fact, include the feasting, drinking and inappropriate carnal behavior often associated with the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration. To highlight the historical connections and disconnections between these two celebrations, one pagan and the other Christo-centric, we must revisit the early writings of Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-604 AD). In his epistle to St. Augustine of Canterbury, Gregory details his desired evangelization approach when converting the Anglo Saxons of England. His instructions: destroy only their idols, sprinkle their pagan temples with holy water, raise in them Altars and relics of saints, and replace their pagan celebrations with celebrations focused on holy God and His saints. According to Gregory, seeing that their sacred places where not destroyed would help them “remove error from their hearts” and instead know and glorify the true God in their accustomed sacred places and festivities.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we read, “for though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings” (1Corinthians 9:19, 22-23). In the same way, the Catholic Church, throughout the ages, has incorporated many of the original teachings of Jesus into local customs, festivities and religious practices to help guide the faithful. Examples include the celebration of the Mass and Lord’s Resurrection on Sundays (the pagan day for worship of the Roman Sun God), the Catholic celebration of Christ’s birth on December 25 (pagan celebration of the birth of the Roman Sun God) and Mardi Gras celebrated on the Roman pagan feast of Lupercalia. Each of these solemn events, although replacing a pagan feast day, find their origin in the many biblical accounts of Christ’s life, including his Resurrection, birth, 40 days of fasting in the desert and Easter Passion, Death and Resurrection. Unfortunately, both in historical and modern incidences, many have continued to embrace the very pagan practices needing the healing light of Christ.

In Romans 12:2, we read, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.” So, what are some ways that we, as Catholics and Christians, can celebrate and participate in a Catholic Mardi Gras celebration? I would suggest the following:

  1. Eat a king cake as a reminder of the true King of kings, the Savior whose arrival we celebrate every December 25th,
  2. Give gifts to the King of kings, as the three wisemen did on the feast day of the Epiphany (January 6th). Remember their generosity each time you shout, “throw me something mister,” by recycling your beads and other Mardi Gras throws, and/or donating them to Habitat for Humanity or St. Michaels School for special needs children in New Orleans,
  3. Make a toast to the true King of kings, not the king of any particular Mardi Gras parade,
  4. Teach your children about the true meaning of the Mardi Gras celebration. Take them to receive ashes the following day. Help them select a generous Lenten offering and sacrifice in preparation for the Easter Triduum. Help them understand the connection between Christmas, Mardi Gras, Lent and Easter, so as to better appreciate God’s plan for our salvation,
  5. Celebrate our Catholic heritage, recognizing God’s deep love for each of us and the sacrificial offering of His Son for our salvation. Welcome others into the family of God (the Church), for there, we find the boundless grace, blessings and joy of true Christian celebration.
Christmas Crech

Christmas celebrates the arrival of the promised King of kings and Savior of the world (December 25).


King’s day celebrates the arrival of the three wisemen on the Feast Day of the Epiphany (January 6). Pictured above is a king cake and its surprise content, a replica of the baby Jesus.


Mardi Gras marks the final day of ordinary time prior to the 40 days of Lenten fasting and repentance.


Ash Wednesday reminds each of us of our eventual death and the promise of eternal life made available through Christ’s death, Resurrection and Ascension into heaven.

Palm Sunday at Sacred Heart Church in Boston's North End

Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem prior to His passion and death. Jesus is the paschal lamb, the promised sacrificial offering of God who takes away the sins of the world. 


Easter Sunday celebrates Christ’s glorious Resurrection. The sacraments of the Catholic Church draw their meaning and grace from the Resurrected Lord and the transformative love of His Holy Spirit. Many catechumens are welcomed into the Church during the Easter celebration of the Mass. 

My Jesus, My Home.

Home is Where the Heart Is. I am sure you have heard this saying many times, but have you ever taken the time to contemplate its Christian implications? As we approach December 25th, the celebration marking the birth of Jesus in a rustic home away from home, let us pause to reflect upon its deeper meaning.


The Christmas Creche or Nativity Scene. The scene of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem has been pictured and used in church services since the first century. The nativity scene we think of today finds its origin in Greccio, Italy, where St. Francis of Assisi set up the first live Christmas Creche on Christmas Eve, 1223.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a home is one’s place of residence. To me this defines a house not a home. In regards to a home, I sense a deeper, more intimate meaning, one involving personal belongingness and happiness. The physical location of our house may change but the emotional constancy of our home usually travels with us. This emotional connotation, in my opinion, best reflects the nativity scene pictured above. There, in the small town of Bethlehem, Mary, Joseph and their new born Son, Jesus, found themselves far from their town of origin or house in Nazareth.

I can easily relate to the Holy Family’s experience as I recall my own son’s birth on Jan 6, 2001. It was two weeks before Christmas and my husband, Tom, and I had traveled to Daytona Beach, FL in anticipation of our son’s upcoming birth and adoption. Away from home, but not alone, we welcomed the birth of our only son, Joseph, three weeks later, on the Feast Day of the Epiphany. He was and is our greatest gift from God, more precious than gold, frankincense and myrrh. That special day, our family of three found a temporary home away from home in a Holiday Inn Express located two miles from the Daytona Speedway. Despite the noise and multiple distractions, our hearts were filled with love and gratitude. We were right where we longed to be. We were home.


The Grotto (or cave) of the birth of Our Lord, located in the lower level of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

About 8 years back, I had the privilege of going to the Holy Land and visiting the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem. As I walked in His footsteps, and those of His mother, Mary, I actually touched the very spots where Love was born; born in a stable in Bethlehem and perfected on the Cross in Jerusalem. Included in my pilgrimage was a visit to the ancient remains or foundation of Mary’s home in Nazareth, the largest city in the Northern District of Israel. In Nazareth, I not only saw the remains of Mary’s house but also the Grotto of the Annunciation. This cave, connected to the backside of Mary’s house, was where Mary gave her “fiat” or yes to God, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say,” (Luke 1:38).

Mary’s loving obedience, trust and joy, in the face of such confusion and fear, provides us with a deeper understanding of the meaning of home and an intimate peek into her Immaculate Heart. The Immaculate Heart of Mary is a name used to refer to the interior life of Mary, her joys and sorrows, her virtues and hidden perfections, but most of all, her virginal love for God the Father, maternal love for her Son, Jesus, and compassionate love for each of us. Near the Grotto and remains of Mary’s family house, I once again found a home, for there, my heart was filled with the love of my spiritual mother, Mary. There, in Nazareth, I found my spiritual home safely tucked away within the chambers of her Immaculate Heart.


The Grotto of the Annunciation, located within the lower level of The Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.


The foundations of Mary’s house in the ancient town of Nazareth.

This past November, I traveled to Italy with Teresa Tomeo, Kelly Wahlquist and the women of WINE (Women In the New Evangelization), as we walked in the footsteps of many Catholic female Saints, including St. Claire, St. Katherine of Sienna, and St. Teresa of Calcutta. Perhaps my favorite of all our destinations was the small town of Loreto, located in the mid-western Italian province of Ancona. In this small town, we found the walls of Mary’s Nazarene House, the home where Mary raised her Son, Jesus.

How, you may ask, did Mary’s house from Nazareth find it’s way to Loreto, Italy? According to Church tradition, it was in 1221, during the Crusade time period, that this ancient domicile was transported by angels to Loreto. I have no trouble believing this story, for just as the angels announced the coming of the small babe, Jesus, in Bethlehem, so too, could the angels have transported Christ’s original house to the home country of His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. A second rendition of this miraculous story tells of a royal family named, the Angels, who meticulously transported the Holy House of Mary to Loreto for safekeeping. The House of Mary is pictured below.


loreto heart

Pictured above: The Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Holy House of Loreto, otherwise known as Mary’s House.

Our group spent over two hours in the Holy House that morning. It proved an unforgettable experience for me. Quietly, I leaned up against the very walls where Mary raised her Son, Jesus. I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. “This is my home,” I thought. “This is the place that I long to be, where I want to spend my time.”  Amidst the ancient walls of Jesus’ childhood home, I found spiritual warmth and safety. As I pondered these feelings in my heart, I suddenly found myself, once again, within the confines of Mary’s Immaculate Heart. There too, was my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for Mary always points me toward’s her Son, Jesus. My home is with Jesus, deep within the confines of His Most Sacred Heart. He goes where I go. Present too was His mother, Mary, and her Immaculate Heart, for the two Hearts are bound together in love, the love of the Holy Spirit.


Yes, home is where the heart is, however, the question remains: Where is your heart this Christmas Season? Is it with the Lord and His Mother Mary? This is an appropriate question to ponder this Christmas Season, for as St. Augustine of Hippo says, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O God.”

“Home and Jesus! The two should be inseparable. Husband and wife need the clasp of that infinite love to keep their hearts true to each other. Parents need the guidance of that infinite wisdom and the power of that infinite strength to keep them patient and long-suffering and gentle and wise in the training of immortal souls,” (Albert Elliot Kittredge).

“It is to Jesus Christ we owe the truth, the tenderness, the purity, the warm affection, the holy aspiration, which go together in that endearing word – home; for it is He who has made obedience so beautiful, and affection so holy; it is He who has brought the Father’s home so near, and has taught us that love is of God.” (James Hamilton)

May the love of the Lord fill your home and your heart this Christmas Season. Amen

Please click on the link below to learn more about my non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about my upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love. Thank you and God Bless!




Merry Christmas!

A virtual pilgrimage to Bethlehem and digital Christmas greeting for you and your family from The Healing Eyes of Mercy (a non-for-profit organization). President: Karen Sheehy at spiritualsafariguide.com


I hope you enjoy the following pictures from my trip to the Holy Land which spotlights the various events and holy sites surrounding the birth of Jesus over 2,000 years ago.


The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem built over the cave or grotto of Jesus’ birth. Actual grotto pictured below.


Grotto of the birth of Our Lord in Bethlehem.



Life-sized creche located outside of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.


Cave or grotto, located on Shepherd’s Field in Beith Sahour, Israel, where the shepherds first heard the angels announcing the birth of Jesus Christ. Actual interior pictured below.


Interior of the grotto on Shepherd’s Field.


Catholic Franciscan Chapel at Shepherd’s Field.

May the peace and joy of the Christ fill your hearts and homes this Christmas Season! Amen.

To view our digital greeting card, please click on the link below and enjoy.


Friday, 3:00 p.m. prayer for Divine Mercy.

Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.

For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).

Jesus, I trust in You.


To learn more about my non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, to make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, to shop for books and sacred devotionals, or to learn more about my own upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love, please click on the link below. Thank you!


Beauty, Exercise and Silence.

Five Days in the Arms of God: A Restful Retreat or Spiritual Boot Camp? 

What does a five day, personally directed retreat, at a Jesuit Spirituality Center, look and feel like? Join me on a spiritual safari as we explore Grand Coteau, a deeply Catholic region of southern Louisiana, in search of spiritual insight during this Advent Season.

Virtual Pilgrimage Location: The St. Charles Jesuit Spirituality Center in Grand Coteau.


Two thousand years ago, Grand Coteau was situated on the west bank of the Mississippi River, near its entry point to the Gulf of Mexico. Built upon a sloping ridge, or “coteau”, this region is known today for its magnificent old oak trees and historically significant Catholic structures, including the Academy of the Sacred Heart, founded in 1821, St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, built in 1886, and St. Charles College Jesuit Spirituality Center, founded in 1837. The latter was my home, from December 8th to the 14th, as I completed a five day, silent, spiritual retreat focused on hearing God’s voice through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.


St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, established in 1819, is the third oldest Catholic parish in the Archdiocese of Lafayette. The Jesuits came to serve in Grand Coteau and the surrounding area in 1837 and have been in service to the parish ever since.


St. Ignatius, a 16th-century Spanish priest and theologian, wrote the Spiritual Exercises to increase awareness of God’s presence in everyday life. For centuries, these Exercises were most commonly given as “long, 30-day retreats” in solitude and silence. In recent years, there has been a renewed emphasis on the Spiritual Exercises as a program for lay people. Therefore, today, the most common way of going through the Exercises is through the “retreat in daily life”, otherwise known as the 19th annotation. This alternative method, developed by St. Ignatius, involves a six to nine month program of daily prayer and meetings with a spiritual director. Other modern adaptations include the three, five, and eight day silent, directed retreats offered at the Jesuit Spirituality Center in Grand Coteau.


St. Charles College, the site of the first Jesuit College in the south, became the Jesuit Novitiate in 1922 and Jesuit Spirituality Center in 1972. Today, priests, sisters and lay persons come for a three, five, eight, or thirty day private, directed retreat in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Grounded in the conviction that God is active in our world, St. Ignatius understood that man’s relationship with God was through Jesus Christ. Therefore, his Exercises, divided into four sections or “weeks” of varying lengths, consist of meditations and contemplations on various Scriptural passages focusing on the major themes of sin, and Jesus’ life, Passion and Resurrection. After meditating, contemplating, and praying upon each assignment, the retreatant, accompanied by their spiritual director, attempts to understand how these various experiences or insights apply to God’s call in their life.


The Ignatius Chapel, completed in 2008, is the intimate setting for the 4:45 pm daily Mass held at the Jesuit Spirituality Center.


One of several beautiful statues on the grounds surrounding the Jesuit Spirituality Center. Pictured above: Mary, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, presenting her Child, Jesus, to the world.

So, there I was, surrounded by natural beauty, being enlightened by the Word of God, nourished by His Body and Blood, and guided by an Ignatian trained spiritual director. Sounds wonderful, right? But wait, did I fail to mention, the silence? Being an introvert, I expected the solitude and silence to be the least challenging aspect of my five day journey. Sure, walking through the Passion of Christ and looking upon my own sinfulness would certainly be painful, but the silence? Who knew? Going into the five day process, I was sure that the promised silence would simply be music to my ears. Boy, was I wrong! Although, the three to four hours of quiet meditation, self-reflection, and daily participation in the Mass, was heavenly bliss, the silence proved deafening. Five days of passing each other in the hallways, sitting silently in the communal dining hall, and avoiding eye contact or polite conversation, ironically, became my true “Way of the Cross” on this five day spiritual journey.


Adjacent to the Jesuit Spirituality Center, I found a beautiful spiritual oasis in St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church. It’s superb collection of religious art, stained glass windows, paintings, statues, and continual presence of our Lord in its centrally located golden tabernacle, simply drew my heart, soul and, mind towards God.

Fortunately for me, and all Christians, the joy and hope of the Resurrection always follows the Cross! Thankfully, my persistent and earnest prayers, even in the midst of my silent struggles, helped magnify the saving presence of God in my life, for there, I found stillness of heart, mind and soul. Fed by the Word, Body, and Blood of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I returned home with a renewed sense of focus and joyful anticipation of His coming during every Mass and at the end of time. So, as we celebrate this Advent Season and His celebrated coming at Christmas, I pray that we:

  • seek to quiet the noisiness in our lives,
  • face the struggles preventing us from seeking God’s love and guidance,
  • search for His voice in Sacred Scripture and silent prayer,
  • contemplate and meditate upon His personal instructions,
  • thankfully acknowledge His total gift of Self for our salvation,
  • strive to reflect His gift of unconditional love to others,
  • and finally, long for His coming during the celebration of the Mass and at the end of time. Come, Lord Jesus, Come and fill us with Your Holy Spirit until You come again, Amen.

Closing 3:00 p.m. prayer for Divine Mercy.

Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.

For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).

Jesus, I trust in You.

Please click on the link below to learn more about my non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about my upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. Thank you and God Bless!




The Sky Proclaims the Glory of God.

Chapter Sixteen: A Rainbow of Mercy.

As we journey through the Advent season, how can we keep our sights on the coming of Christ amidst the secular world’s celebration of  “Hallowthankschristmas”? To search for answers, please join me on a virtual pilgrimage to Bethlehem, located in the “West Bank” of Palestine, as we explore the Church of the Nativity and the divine beacon of light leading the way. No passport necessary.


Book Excerpt. Chapter Sixteen: A Rainbow of Mercy. (The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. By: Karen Sheehy)

Genesis 10:14-15. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.

A deafening silence filled the air as the proposed mystic announced the arrival of “Our Loving Mother” Mary. Thousands fell to their knees in adoration while others pointed to the sky in amazement. Cameras clicked all around as several onlookers gazed upon the sun. Curious as to what they saw, the young woman asked to see one of the polaroid pictures. There she saw a clear image of Mary, clothed in the beautiful rays of the sun. Unsure what to think, but certain that something unusual was occurring, she silenced herself for prayer as the mystic began describing her vision and divine message from Mary, “I love you all and desire your happiness. Oh how I wish to take each of you by the hand, to walk you towards my Son, Jesus Christ. Pray my rosary, dear children and meditate on it well, for these mysteries will aid you in your journey towards His light.” Struck by her words, the young woman wandered towards a nearby statue of Mary for silent prayer. Looking up, she found a beautiful circular rainbow or crown of sorts, positioned about twenty feet above the statue. Overcome with joy, she suddenly felt an intense but warm electricity passing from her heart to her right hand. Tears streaming down her face, she looked down at her rosary only to find it transformed, for the metal rings joining Christ’s Body to the prayer beads had changed from silver to gold.



Pictured above: a circumscribed halo (top) and circumhorizontal arc (below). These two related optical phenomena, called halos, are similar in appearance to a rainbow but occur when light refracts through hexagonal ice crystals as opposed to liquid water droplets. 

There have been many documented incidents and wondrous signs which have occurred at various proposed and approved Marian apparition sites, including Fatima in Portugal, Medjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Conyers in Georgia. In fact, on October 13, 1917, between 30,000 to 100,00 people gathered near Fatima in Portugal and witnessed the great miracle or extraordinary spinning of the sun. According to newspaper reports, this miraculous event lasted approximately ten minutes. At this same moment, the three young visionaries, including Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, reported seeing visions of Jesus, Mary and Saint Joseph blessing those in attendance.

Virtual Pilgrimage Location. The Church of the Nativity, located in the Palestinian West Bank city of Bethlehem.


The Church of the Nativity was built over the site of Jesus’ birth in 326 A.D. by the Emperor Constantine and his mother, St. Helena. In 530 A.D., Emperor Justinian destroyed the original church and rebuilt the larger structure, pictured above, which remains to this day.    


The Old Testament identifies Bethlehem as the city of David, where he was anointed and crowned as king of Israel. The New Testament identifies this same city as the birthplace of Jesus, the promised Messiah. This came as no surprise to Herod, the reigning King of the Jews, for he knew about the Messianic prophecy contained within the Book of Micah (5:1), “But you, Bethlehem, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from old, from ancient times.” King Herod, however, was not the only one who knew of the eminent birth of the promised Messiah, for at that time, astrologers from the east were also searching for the new born King of the Jews. Following the brilliant Star of Bethlehem, the three wisemen eventually found their way to Jesus’ home town of Bethlehem, where they worshiped him and brought him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, (Matthew 2:1-11). Many Christian theologians claim that this star fulfilled the “Star Prophesy”, mentioned by Moses in the Book of Numbers (24:17), “A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel that shall smite the brows of Moab…….till…….Jacob shall overcome his foes.”

Directly beneath the altar of the Church of the Nativity, one finds the Grotto, or rectangular cavern of Jesus’ birth. Pictured left is the marble staircase leading down to the silver star marking the very spot where Christ is believed to have been born. Above the star is a Latin inscription which reads, “Here of the Virgin Mary Jesus Christ was born.” This Latin inscription is our beacon of light during the craziness and distraction of this time, for, there, in a cave in Bethlehem, we find simplicity, and Mary, the Mother of God leading us towards her Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as we celebrate the season of Advent and joyously anticipate the coming of Christ, I suggest that we too, keep our lives simple, turn towards our Spiritual Mother, Mary, and constantly search for the signs and wonders directing us towards the light of God’s love.


In closing, consider Cardinal Ratzinger’s remarks (Pope Benedict), “No apparition is indispensable to faith. But this does not stop God from speaking at times through simple people and through extraordinary signs which point to the shortcomings of our prevailing rationalistic culture.” What is important about these types of occurrences is not necessarily the “scientific validity” of these events but the “spiritual fruits” they produce in the lives of Christian people. During this Advent season, I pray that we:

  1. keep our eyes focused on Christ,
  2. strive to discover and appreciate the many signs and wonders which fill up the pages of Sacred Scripture and lives of our Catholic saints,
  3. focus on the spiritual meaning of our customs and symbols, including the Advent wreath, Christmas lights, trees, presents, manger scenes, etc.
  4. realize that all things should point us towards the light of God’s love and the coming of His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Closing 3:00 p.m. prayer for Divine Mercy.

Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.

For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).

Jesus, I trust in You.

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