A Memorial: Inspiration or Pain?

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, National Mall

Vietnam Memorial at the National Mall in Washington D.C.

Memorial Day Confusion. This past Monday, as my husband and I walked into the Beau Rivage Memorial Day Brunch, I noticed a war veteran and his wife entering beside us. Wishing to honor them both, I said, “I hope you enjoy your Memorial Day Celebration.” The wife’s response surprised me, “Thank you my dear, but today is not a celebration, it’s a memorial.” Somewhat confused, I found myself wondering, “What’s a memorial? Does it represent a somber remembrance or a celebration?” My answer, “both.” Join me on a historical and spiritual quest as we explore several key, historical moments which have been forever memorialized. Our ultimate destination may surprise you, however, for there, we will find the simultaneous beauty and pain depicted in the “folly” of the Cross, (1Corinthians 1:18).

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Memorial Day is a federal holiday dedicated to the remembrance of United States soldiers who died while serving in the armed forces. Historically, “memorial day” began in the south, prior to the Civil War, as families gathered to decorate the grave sites of their long lost relatives. By 1865, after Lincoln’s assassination, burial memorializations quickly gained national significance, as over 600,000 family members were lost on both sides. By 1968, the United States Congress had recognized Memorial Day as a national holiday and required day off from work. Today, many people still decorate cemeteries and memorials to honor the dead, especially those who have died in military service. To many, the placing of gravesite flags and flowers often takes on a religious tone, indicating their simultaneous sense of appreciation and lost, and their spiritual understanding of self-sacrifice and redemption.

Rows of American Flags on Memorial Day

Signs and symbols have always played a vital role in every human culture, social structure, and religious system. In fact, many key moments and events in history have been forever recorded in art work or memorials. But what is the ultimate purpose of these memorials? The specific historical events may vary, however, each created sign or symbol seems to serve as a badge of faith, teaching tool, aid for complex philosophical understanding, or spiritual way forward. All seem to represent a simultaneous celebration and somber remembrance. Many such examples can be found in the Washington D.C. area, including the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, located in Arlington, VA. This beautiful and inspiring statue not only memorializes the courage and bravery of the Marines, who gallantly fought in this World War 2 Battle, but also brings to mind the amount of lives lost during the pacific campaign. This loss, although extremely painful, ultimately lead to our country’s victory. Therefore, their loss produced life for others.

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Iwo Jima War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.

But courageous, self-sacrifice is not the only lesson to be learned from various memorials. Another Washington D.C. example, the Holocaust Museum, offends and leaves the onlooker extremely uncomfortable, as it highlights the ugliness of sin. Indicating the direct horrors of war, it stands as a painful reminder and points us towards peaceful co-existence. It instructs, inspires compassion, and motivates onlookers to advocate for equal rights for all, no matter what their religion, race, gender or ethnic origin.

US Holocaust Museum in Washington

Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C.

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Painful Lesson or Inappropriate Celebration? Four controversial Civil War Monuments have been recently removed from the city of New Orleans due to the uncomfortable feelings aroused by each. From left to right, monuments of: Jefferson Davis on the corner of Jefferson Davis Parkway at Canal Street, Robert E. Lee Monument in Lee Circle, Battle of Liberty Place obelisk, and P.G.T. Beauregard at the entrance to City Park at Esplanade.

As Christians, we find a similar discomfort as we gaze upon the crucified body of Jesus on the Cross, for there we find the simultaneous ugliness of abuse and the promise of a brighter future. There, we find the ugliness and pain of Christ’s passion, and the beauty and life giving depth of His redeeming love and mercy. Ironically, the Cross, a symbol of Roman torture and public humiliation, has become a symbol for Christ’s self-sacrificial death of atonement, victory over sin, and offering of eternal life. This physical memorial truly represents the Christian dichotomy, or, according to St. Paul, the “folly” of the Cross, (1Corinthians 1:18).

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The crucifix, Latin for cruci fixus or “fixed on a cross”, is a cross with an image or figure of Jesus attached. The Jesus figure is often referred to as the corpus, or body in Latin.  Once viewed as an instrument of torture or public humiliation, it has become a Christian symbol of Christ’s sacrificial death and atonement for all mankind.

The crucifix is of primary importance to many Christian groups, including the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental, Assyrian, Lutheran and Anglican Churches. Many Evangelical Protestants prefer a bare cross in celebration of the risen Christ. As Catholics, we also profess Christ’s Resurrection, however, we lovingly gaze upon the Crucified Christ in remembrance of His redemptive Passion and Death, endured before the Resurrection. There, on the Cross, we are not only reminded of His once and for all sacrifice, but also His redeeming love for each of us. The crucifix is given a place of honor and prominence in every Catholic Church. Thereby, during the celebration of every Mass, it remains clearly visible and serves as a constant reminder of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice, made present in the Holy Eucharist.

Although the image of the crucifix can be offensive to many, its very uncomfortable display reminds us of the ugliness of our sins and humanity’s great need for the undeserving gift of salvation. Our salvation is the result of a willing sacrifice by the Son of God, who chose to suffer and die because He loved the world and each of us. The crucifix, along with the artistically depicted Stations of the Cross, helps believers to visually meditate upon and better understand the actual events of that first Good Friday. There, upon the cross, we find the very face of suffering, the punctured hands and feet of forgiveness, the crown of humility, and the pierced side of God’s mercy, gushing forth with the blood of redemption and waters of eternal life.

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Crucifix positioned over the actual site of the Lord’s Passion in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

As Christians, the crucifix points not only to our belief in the promise of eternal life, but also the Christian call to offer our own self sacrifice and service to God, His Church, our family, neighbors and nation. The crucifix, therefore, represents the life of Christian discipleship, and our willingness to freely fulfill our divinely inspired vocation. It represents our personal call to imitate the Lord, as we say, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” So the next time you gaze upon the face of self-sacrifice and love, try to embrace the simultaneous joy and agony on display. Look upon the crucified and resurrected Lord in remembrance of His:

  • eternal sacrifice, made present to each of us during the celebration of the Mass
  •  victory over sin and death, and our subsequent gift of eternal life
  • life of mercy and teachings on beatitude, as we strive to “deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow” Him, (Matthew 16:24).
  • service and love for all mankind, as we strive for peaceful coexistence and the dignity of every life.

In doing so, remember all those who have gone before us, as beacons of light, offering their own life for the sake of others. This captures the true spirit of Memorial Day! Thank you to all who have served our country with valor. May God bless you and your families.

Closing 3:00 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. 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 Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. Thank you and God Bless!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com

Three Religions, One God.

The City of Jerusalem. United in Adoration. “Join me on a virtual pilgrimage to the ancient city of Jerusalem, as we explore the three great faiths which share a common belief in God, the one God, the God of Abraham.

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Book Excerpt. Chapter Twenty-Six: Walking with Mercy. (The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. By: Karen Sheehy).

Arriving in Jerusalem, I could sense the presence of God. Home to all three monotheistic faiths, that of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the streets were filled with His praises. Called by many names, including Yahweh, God, Merciful Father, Jesus Christ, and Allah, almost every person in His holy city cried out in adoration. Amidst this praise, however, was a palpable pain, for although they were united in adoration, they were divided in beliefs and religious practices. Stopping for a brief overlook, our Jewish guide pointed out the holiest of sites for each of the three monotheistic faiths. Included was the Jewish Wailing Wall, a remnant of the ancient Jewish Temple, the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulcher, containing the actual Crucifixion and Resurrection sites of Jesus, and the Islamic Dome of the Rock, built over the destination of Mohammed’s Night Journey. Raising a glass of champaign, he toasted our Catholic tour group, saying, “welcome home.” At once, I heard the 3 o’clock Islamic call to prayer bellow throughout the city streets. Overwhelmed by the sheer power and contradiction of the moment, I humbly raised my glass in unified adoration.

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The Torah, Bible and Quran, interfaith symbols of the three monotheistic faiths, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The three great monotheistic faiths, otherwise known as the Abrahamic religions, include Judaism (founded in the 7th Century BCE), Christianity (founded around 33 AD) and Islam (founded around 630 AD). Each claims descent from Abraham, the ancient Israelite father of faith. The Israelite Nation, known as Jews, traces its Abrahamic lineage through he and Sarah’s son, Isaac. Christians make a similar claim, for they consider themselves grafted into the family tree through Christ’s New Covenant. Muslims, founded by Muhammad, find their connection through Abraham’s son, Ishmael, who was born to the slave girl, Hagar.

In 2005, these faiths comprised approximately 54% of the earth’s population (Christianity-33%, Islam-21%, and Judaism-2%). This represents about 3.6 billion people. Therefore, it seems prudent that these groups strive to live in harmony, seek common ground, and mutual respect. In common, they each:

  1. Profess a belief in the One God, who creates, loves, forgives, reveals, rules and judges humanity at the end of time.
  2. Accept God’s revealed truth through Abraham, the father of faith, and many other divinely inspired prophets.
  3. Preserve God’s revelation in sacred text and various oral teachings of their faith tradition.
    • Judaism: The Jewish Bible, or Tanukh, consists of God’s Laws (Torah), the prophets (Neviim), and sacred writings (Ketuvium). Additionally, Jews look to the supplemental, rabbinical teachings of Midrash, Mishnah, and the Talmud.
    • Catholicism: The revealed Word of God is contained within the 73 Books of the Old and New Testaments (teachings of Jesus, who is God incarnate), the Church’s Sacred Oral Traditions, and the Holy Spirit guided Magisterial teachings (Pope in union with the bishops) detailed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
    • Islam: The 114 Chapters (Suras) of the Qur’ran contain truths revealed by God through the Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. Additionally, Muslims look to the supplemental teachings (Hadith) and life story (Sira) of Muhammad, referred to as the Sunnah. The Faqih, or the legal teachings, provide supplemental guidelines for daily living.
  4. Follow an annual religious calendar, and religious, disciplinary and liturgical practices, including but not limited to:
    • Judaism: adherence to the thirteen articles of faith, which summarize core Jewish beliefs, three times daily prayer for men, observation of the Saturday Sabbath, celebration of Shabbat and Passover, adherence to male circumcision, dietary laws, and other spiritual disciplines.
    • Catholicism: belief in the Trinity, One God made of three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), acceptance of the Nicene Creed, observation of the Sunday Sabbath through participation in the Mass (partaking in the consecrated bread and wine or Body and Blood of Christ), and reception of sacramental graces (Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders and Anointing of the Sick) as members of His Body, the Church.
    • Islam: observation of Five Pillars, including believe in One God and Muhammad as His final and most perfect prophet, five times daily prayer, alms giving, annual observation of Ramadan, and the completion of a pilgrimage to Mecca (the birth place of Muhammad) if at all possible.
  5. Speak of humanity’s choice between good and evil, and an eternal reward for those who choose obedience to God’s moral law.
  6. Anticipate the coming of a Messiah, who will bring about the Kingdom of God on earth.
  7. Share a love of Jerusalem and deep reverence for the Temple Mount, where Abraham offered his son, in faith, as a sacrificial offering to God. Of course, Abraham’s son was saved, for God, Himself, provided the sacrificial lamb, (Genesis 22:1-13).
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View of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Visible is the Western Wall (ancient remnant of the Jewish Temple’s Holy of Holies) and the golden, Islamic Dome of the Rock.

Among their commonalities, however, one finds significant religious and political differences. Of primary importance is Judaism and Islam’s rejection of Jesus Christ’s divinity and humanity, as God incarnate. Secondarily, is Christianity and Islam’s continuous call and desire to evangelize all nations. Subsequently, throughout much of their common history, these three faiths have found themselves at odds, or in the worst case scenario, at war. Overcoming these long-standing difficulties is at the heart of the Catholic Church’s call for interreligious dialogue. These new efforts or plans are contained within the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate).

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Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SBD of Perth, Chief Rabbi of Western Australia, David Freilich OAM, and Sheikh Muhammad Agherdien, gathered (Sept. 22, 2016) to plant an olive tree, a symbol for peace, in celebration of Abraham Day, marking their shared faith in the One God, the God of Abraham.

In the spirit of Nostra Aetate, I pray that each of us strive to:

  1. Reflect the light of Christ to a world in desperate need of love.
  2. Enter, with prudence and charity, into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions.
  3. Acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found within a non-Christian’s faith, social, and cultural life.
  4. Work together to preserve, and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values for all.
  5. Avoid discrimination against people, or harassment of any kind, on the basis of race, color, condition in life or religion.

Closing 3:00 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!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com

 

 

 

Created to Relate!

The Feminine Genius. Pope St. John Paul II used a very interesting phrase when referring to the unique gifts, rights and dignity of all women, that of the “feminine genius”. But what does this mysterious phrase mean and what are the divine gifts bestowed upon each and every woman made in the very image of God? Today’s virtual pilgrimage will attempt to search for answers and also provide a personal invitation for you, or the important women in your life, to learn, first hand, about the feminine genius at work in W.I.N.E. (women in the new evangelization). W.I.N.E. is a national woman’s movement which helps women to grow spiritually, learn about the faith, and utilize their God given gifts to work in the Lord’s vineyard. Along the way, the women of W.I.N.E. develop a deeper relationship with Christ and other women who share a common love for the Lord. Continue reading as we further explore the “feminine genius” and how women are “Created To Relate,” (see the W.I.N.E. event flyer below).

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In Pope Saint John Paul II’s 1988 Apostolic Letter to women entitled, The Dignity of Woman, the spiritual leader of the world recognized and celebrated the beautiful design and unique vocation or mission of women. Referring to the “feminine genius”, John Paul II encouraged women to recognize their giftedness, fully engage, and offer their maternal comfort, support and love to a world in such desperate need of radical change or transformation. According to John Paul II, it is only when a woman loves sacrificially, in the true image of God, that she becomes fully alive. With her full dignity complete, she then becomes a true reflection of the love of Christ and a profound conduit of blessings to the community as a whole.

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Mary and Elizabeth at the Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem outside of Jerusalem. Located on the brick wall of the courtyard, just outside of the church, one finds over forty ceramic tablets bearing the Magnificat prayer in various languages from countries around the world.

As we search for the fullest understanding of the vocation of womanhood, we can turn to Mary, the Mother of God, as our ultimate role model. Pictured above, we find Mary and Elizabeth, both embodying the four crucial elements of the feminine genius: receptivity, sensitivity, generosity and maternity.

  • Receptivity: At the visitation, both Mary and Elizabeth exhibited feminine receptivity to life, which not only includes biological motherhood, but also its emotional and spiritual aspects as well. Mary, for her part, offered her humble submission to become the “theotokos” or “God bearer” for the world. Through her “fiat”, or freely given yes, she ultimately delivered the promised Offspring of God who “crushed the head of the serpent” and restored the full dignity of the human race, (Genesis 3:16). Upon her arrival at the house of Elizabeth, Mary sang the Lord’s praises (Magnificat) in recognition of the tremendous gift He had given to her and the entire world. Elizabeth, in return, recognized and received the blessings offered by Mary, “Blessed is the fruit of your womb,” (Genesis 1:42).

 

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The Wedding Church at Cana, built in 1901, sits atop the archaeological excavation site containing a 1st century synagogue and 4th century cross-shaped Christian Church. It is believed by many to be the wedding location mentioned in John 2:1-11, the site where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine.

 

  • Sensitivity is defined as the feminine discernment or alertness to the inner life and needs of others. The feminine ability to see with the heart, beyond the external, effectively exhibits God’s ability to meet the deepest needs of the human heart, mind and soul. Feminine sensitivity is beautifully demonstrated in the Gospel story  of the Wedding of Cana. There, we find Mary, fully aware of the needs of others, bringing these concerns to her Son for rectification. Son “they have no wine.” Jesus said in reply, “Woman, what has this to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” In response, Mary says to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you,” (John 2:3-5). Subsequently, Jesus performs His first miracle and turns the water into wine.
  • Generosity A woman’s heart is a generous heart. Generosity makes a woman attentive and responsive to the needs of her family, Church Parish, community and work associates. Welcoming a new life into the world is perhaps the best example of feminine generosity, however, there are many other aspects of feminine generosity on display in various Gospel accounts. An excellent example can be found in Martha and Mary’s constant care and concern for Jesus. In Mary and Martha’s example, contemporary women find a personal invitation to participate in the ongoing mission of Jesus. This is a mission of love, directed and guided by the orientation of the heart, for a generous and loving act of kindness can transform the world.
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The interior of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built atop Golgotha, which means Skull Place, where Jesus was crucified, (Matthew 27:32-38). Picture above is the location where Mary stood beneath her dying Son.

  • Maternity. In no other place is physical and spiritual motherhood on fuller display than at the foot of the Cross. There, we find a sorrowful mother offering her unconditional love and support to her dying Son, while simultaneously taking the lost disciple, John, as her own. When Christ said, “Woman behold your son, son behold your mother,” John, the Church and each of us gained a spiritual mother, (John 19:26). Filled with sorrow, love, hope and compassion, Mary became the ultimate symbol and living model of the “feminine genius”. She remains an eternal beacon of light reflecting the glory of God to a world in such desperate need of love. Each of us, as women, mothers, daughters, wives, and faithful Christians, are called to do the same.

To learn more about the “feminine genius” and God’s design for peace and joy, please join us at the Women, Wine and Wisdom Event detailed in the flyer above. Hope to see you there, but if not, please consider sharing this flyer and blog with all the special women in your life! Additionally, I suggest that you give each of them a great big hug as you tell them just how much you appreciate their “feminine genius.” I am quite sure that this gesture will simply make their day!

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!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com

 

 

The Pinnacle of Faith!

What is the pinnacle of our Catholic Faith? The answer: the Easter Triduum, which starts on the evening of Holy Thursday and concludes on the evening of Easter Sunday. Although these events occur on three consecutive days, together, they represent one liturgical event which marks the unfolding of Christ’s Paschal Mystery. Included is Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday’s Passion of the Lord, and Easter Sunday’s Celebration of the Resurrection. Please join me on a virtual pilgrimage to the Holy Land, as we walk with Jesus, from His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, to His Passion, Death and glorious Resurrection. My hope is that this journey will somehow enhance your Holy Week Celebration, as you anticipate and encounter the real presence of our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Enjoy!

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Paved road, on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus entered into the city of Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, to the lavish praise of the townspeople shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9). Celebrating Him as their promised Messiah, they threw clothes and palm branches in front of Him in homage.

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The Chapel of Dominus Flevit, on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus wept for Jerusalem. As He came within sight of the city, Jesus “wept over it and said: ‘If only you had known the path to peace this day; but you have completely lost it from view!'” (Luke 19:41-42).

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The Beautiful Gate, contained within the present wall built by the Turks in the 17th century, is the gate that Christians venerate as the entry point of Jesus after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, celebrated on Palm Sunday.

 

 

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Remains of the Jewish Temple where Jesus entered and “overturned the money changers’ tables” saying, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples, but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” (Mark 11:15 and 17)

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This Upper Room in Jerusalem marks the proposed location where the Last Supper took place as well as the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (50 days after Easter). 

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Garden of Gethsemani, located on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus suffered His agony and was arrested. “Father, if this cannot pass me by without my drinking it, your will be done!” (Matthew 26:42) 

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View of the Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemani, and the adjacent Church of All Nations, marking the site of Christ’s agony. 

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Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, built over the house of the high priest, Caiaphas, where Jesus was interrogated and detained prior to His Crucifixion. This location also marks the place where Peter denied the Lord three times. The Latin word Gallicantu actually means,  “cock crow”.

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The Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow in Latin) is a street within the Old City of Jerusalem, believed to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to death by Crucifixion.

 

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The interior of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built atop Golgotha, which means Skull Place, where Jesus was Crucified. (Matthew 27:32-38). Above: Location where Jesus was nailed to the Cross. Below: Location of Christ’s death by Crucifixion.  

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The interior of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Above: The anointing stone, believed to be the place where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial.  Below: The Holy Sepulcher, built atop the currently empty grave site of Jesus, for on the 3rd day, Jesus rose from the dead.

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The Easter Day Celebration continues until the following Sunday’s celebration of Divine Mercy, referred to as the Solemnity of Mercy Sunday. Here, we recall that God’s mercy is infinite and open to all who simply approach Him in trust. “Jesus, I trust in you!” Due to the central importance and tremendous graces available during this pinnacle time period in our liturgical calendar, I will not post my next Friday blog until April 28th. I wish you and your family a wonderful Easter filled with peace, joy, hope and the endless mercy of 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.

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!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com