Be Filled with the Spirit of the Lord, a Spirit of Peace and Joy!

God desires our happiness and can rehabilitate all of our brokenness, past wounds and tragedies. He is there for us in the darkest of moments. This is the counter cultural teachings of the New Testament Beatitudes. God’s blessings and joy are available to us here and now, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

20061-The-National-September-11-Memorial

One of two outdoor memorial pools at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.

Two months ago, I visited the the 9/11 Memorial, commemorating the loss and slow recovery process following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Encompassing the Twin Tower footprints is two outdoor memorial pools, each 1-acre in size. Called Reflecting Absence, their disappearing waterfalls are meant to symbolize the physical, spiritual and emotional void left by these attacks. As I walked around the pool edges, I found myself overwhelmed by the sheer volume of names engraved on their bronze parapets. Included were the 2,977 September 11th victims and the 6 individuals killed during the 1993 bombing. As I stood in silence and watched the water disappear into the dark abyss, I could not help but sense the emptiness experienced by their families, friends, and our country. As a Christian, however, I soon began to wonder, “where are they now, the victims whose names were staring me in the face?” Immediately, I bowed my head and said a prayer for the eternal rest of their souls.

Sept. 11 faces

Within the museum itself, visitors encounter personal testimonies, pictures and information about each of the victims. As I looked at the face of each victim, the names soon became real. Each one had a special story detailed by their loved ones in auditory, visual and pictorial display. Their bravery, friendships, heart ache, and unreasonable hope were intensely palpable. Men, women, children, people from various walks of life, nations and religious groups, all were represented in the faces of the fallen.

Yes, tragedy strikes all, but so does the unexplainable love, courage and hope of those filled with the spirit of the Lord. Dazed, I sat in silence, trying to process the onslaught of emotions I was experiencing. Heart ache and hope, pain and glory, life and death, each plays a pivotal part in the Christian journey home. This is the living mystery of Christ, His unwarranted and brutal death on the Cross, and His resulting Resurrection to new life. Sitting in contemplative silence, I once again bowed my head in prayer on behalf of each and every victim. Additionally, I begged for the spirit of the Lord to rest upon the hearts of those left behind.

St Pauls

St. Paul’s Chapel with the 9/11 Memorial Tower visible to its left.

Located just steps away from Ground Zero is St. Paul’s Chapel, a small Episcopal church where George Washington once prayed. This popular, historical landmark has its own miraculous 9/11 story to tell, a story about a 100-year-old fallen sycamore tree and the undeniable power of God. This tree, uprooted by a huge falling steel beam, covered up and saved this small house of God, its beautiful stained glass windows, and surrounding grave sites. Many will recall the palpable hope and healing found within its hallowed walls, as it became a center and sacred refuge for multitudes of rescue workers, survivors, and loved ones in search of missing family members.

This little chapel has a miraculous history, indeed. Not only did it survive the Sept. 11th attacks but also the Great Fire of 1776. Today, St. Paul’s remains a beacon of light, love and compassion for individuals impacted by Sept. 11th. Is is home to an active worshipping community committed to leadership, social justice, and reconciliation as it carries its legacy into the future. It remains a shining bright spot in the darkness of that otherwise infamous September day. This represents the light and hope of Christ breaking through the darkness of despair.

Also surviving the 9/11 attack was a small pear tree planted in the vicinity of Church Street during the 1970s. Pulled out of the rubble in October of 2001, it was badly burned and not expected to live. After years of rehabilitation, it was returned to the site of the World Trade Center. Today, it too, has become a visible symbol of hope and rebirth. God desires our happiness and can rehabilitate all of our brokenness, our past wounds, and tragedies. He is there for us in the darkest of moments. This is the counter cultural teachings of the New Testament Beatitudes. God’s blessings and joy are available to us here and now, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. As we strive to make our spiritual journey homeward, let us likewise strive to be the hands, feet, heart and light of Christ to a world in desperate need of healing, love and unity. Come, Holy Spirit, make us a channel of your peace. Amen

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

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

Front-Back-Books-Clipart

 

The Spiritual Journey of Life

All of life is merely a spiritual journey towards our ultimate home and eternity with the Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in heaven. Along the way, we experience a variety of conditions, struggles and opportunities for personal growth, or what I like to call spiritual stretching. Do you find yourself at such a moment? Are you feeling stretched, challenged, exhausted and/or in need of rest? If so, please join me on a spiritual safari to the eastern region of Borneo and Sumatra as we search for sure footing, and the guidance and rest only God can provide.

Three weeks ago, as I packed for my much-needed three-week adventure in the far-off region of Borneo and Sumatra, I felt simultaneously excited and slightly apprehensive, given the spiritual exhilaration I had experienced that prior weekend. That Saturday in New Orleans, I was emcee at the second Louisiana WINE (Women In the New Evangelization) Catholic Women’s Conference, entitled, “An Anchor of Hope.” WINE is all about gathering, nurturing and sending forth women of faith. Like God, WINE recognizes the beauty, unity and diversity found within the One Body of Christ. Over three hundred strong, each offered their unique sorrows, joys, hopes and dreams, and found the Lord’s consolation and hope along the way. Our day was filled with powerful testimonies, praise and worship, Eucharistic Adoration, Confessions, and prayer. Fortified and united, we offered a single hymn of praise to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Additionally, the Conference marked the opening release of my newly published, three-year in the making book entitled, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love.

 

--8296

Louisiana WINE (Women In the New Evangelization) Catholic Women’s Conference featuring Renee Bondi, VaLlimar Jansen and Lorraine Hess.

“Where do I go from here, God?” I thought, as I packed for my upcoming trip. After all, the last three years had been very spiritually productive, as I felt personally led by God to write, edit and publish my new book and spiritual testimony detailing His powerful, healing presence in my life. Now, however, with my divine directive less clear, I somehow felt unsure in His intentional vagueness. Puzzled, I somehow sensed that the Lord was not wanting a clear goal, but a simple act of surrender, as I learned to take one, faith filled step forward at a time. Unlike much of my spiritual journey to date, I would simply be a vehicle of faith, as the Holy Spirit did the driving. And so, I continued packing, taking along my personal articles, spiritual trust and openness.

 

“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, proclaim it on distant isles, and say: He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together, he guards them as a shepherd his flock” (Jeremiah 31:10).

 

guide

Me in the back seat, preparing to enter Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia. Picture taken by Tom Sheehy, June 30, 2018.

I left the states with high hopes of seeing an orangutan. I arrived in the isles of Asia and found so much more. Malaysia’s Northern Borneo is not only diverse in its natural beauty, but also in its cultural and religious practices. It is home to a vast array of wildlife, including the majestic orangutan. Two days into my trip, I stood motionless as I stared at a suspended, swinging bridge keeping me from my promised sighting. Pausing, I wondered if I could overcome my fear of heights, propensity towards motion sickness, and ultimately make the two-hundred-foot river crossing. Determined to see these beautiful creatures, I focused on the forest’s edge, gripped the side guide ropes, and took my first step forward. After that, I did the same again and again until I finally made my way across the bridge. Despite the unpredictable swaying, wobbly boards, and sound of rushing water below, I eventually made it to the natural beauty and awaiting orangs.

 

 

destination1-e1530607594567.jpg

Swinging bridge in the rain forest of Borneo, Malaysia. Picture taken by Karen Schwaner Sheehy, June 23, 2018.

orang

Mother and baby orangutan in the Bornean rain forest of Malaysia by Karen Schwaner Sheehy, June 23, 2018.

Orangutans: Did you know that these majestic animals contain over 96.3% of human genetics? Over the next two weeks, as I watched the eating habits, maternal instincts, and patient endurance of many orangs, I found this fact very believable. Despite our similarities, however, one sure thing sets us apart. Humans are made in the very image and likeness of God, made to give Him praise and to testify to the good news of our salvation through Christ. This, the Church has done, even on the far-off island of Borneo.

 

The northern part of Borneo, where my husband and I spent much of our time, is 80% Christian. It represents a spiritual oasis of sorts amidst Malaysia’s many faith traditions, including Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. One Saturday night, in the small Sumatran town of Metro City, we managed to find The Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, and joyfully joined our brothers and sisters in Christ at Mass. It was a beautiful celebration, as our Spanish born priest united his diverse congregation into one united song of praise and thanksgiving. There, like the women gathered at the WINE Conference two weeks earlier, we found the transformative power of the Holy Spirit and Eucharistic presence of our Lord. Despite the language barrier and two-hour night drive over a long and bumpy road, the Spirit led Tom and I to our spiritual home away from home, to the diversely beautiful and unified Church or Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is quite the guide, no matter what life circumstance or location you find yourself in. Therefore, from now on, I plan to let Him do the driving as I sit back and enjoy the ride. Hope you can do the same. Come, Holy Spirit, come and make me a vessel of your love. Amen

sacred heart of jesus

The Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Metro City, Sumatra taken by Tom Sheehy, June 30, 2018.

My new book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love, is now available for purchase at amazon.com or at my online web store: spiritualsafariguide.com. The accompanying personal reflective journal can only be purchased online at spiritulsafariguide.com. Hope you enjoy my story and that you encounter the amazing love and mercy of the Triune God within its pages! Thank you, Karen Schwaner Sheehy

cover with shadow

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 Trinity of Love. Thank you and God Bless!

2017: A Lesson in Humility.

As I look back over my year, I see slamming doors, unexpected detours and hills left to climb, and yet, at the same time, I see a year forever marked by the transformative powers of the Holy Spirit. This has truly been a year of contrasts, one filled with personal failings and unfulfilled aspirations, along side unbounding love and divine transformation. “What do all of these things have in common?” you may ask. Each one represents a single baby step towards the virtue of humility.

kneeling statue

Humility is often defined as temperance which exhibits neither pride nor self-deprecation. In a religious context, it can mean a recognition and submission of oneself in relation to God. In both cases, humility is an outward expression of appropriate inward regard.

Humility is the most basic of all the Christian virtues. In order to love God and neighbor, we must forget ourselves and believe in someone greater. This someone is the Triune God (God, the Father, Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son and the love between them, which is the Holy Spirit). Although humility is the most basic of Christian virtues, it seems the most difficult to achieve. Ironically, the verbal recognition of its gain, may actually indicate its loss. Simultaneously, its stated longing may ultimately magnify the lack of it in one’s life. Despite these challenges, I find myself in awe of what the Holy Spirit can accomplish in a willing heart.

“Come, Holy Spirit, come. Make us a holy family founded on love.”

This simple prayer has been at the start of every one of my family rosaries, nightly prayers and silent meditations over the last year. Perhaps this simple prayer, or act of surrender, has been the source of this year’s profound transformation. My son, Joseph, who has struggled for years, has made miraculous progress, both as an individual and as a family member. Over the last year, I have watched in amazement as my husband, Tom, has become the spiritual shepherd and protector of our family. In both regards, I have tried for years to accomplish what the Holy Spirit accomplished in record time. “What was different about 2017, you may ask, besides our family prayer?” I would say, it was my own getting out-of-the-way and trusting in the Lord to make all things new again. Perhaps only through the recognition of my nothingness, in comparison to the omnipotence of God, was I finally able to surrender my all in loving trust.

This was not an easy feat, for it required self-awareness, determination, and desire. A simple letting go or getting out-of-the-way can sometimes be harder than the most valiant of personal efforts. Doing anything, for me, is much easier than doing nothing. Failing is much easier than never trying. However, over the last year, it was in the not trying that I actually found my greatest success, for this was a success not based on my own ability but on the ability and pure gift of the Holy Spirit. This was my greatest gift and lesson in 2017. A gift which came on the other side of many closed doors, failed attempts, and thwarted plans, for it seems it took my actual giving up to finally give it over to God.

door

I have heard that the doorway to heaven has only one handle. Pulling as hard as we can to open this doors seems a worthy task. However, the irony remains, that it is a door only opened by Jesus Christ and at the end of it all, it may be our persistent pulling which ultimately blocks our final entry.

Our family’s miraculous success, achieved after the finality of my personal surrender, is perhaps as ironic a lesson to learn as is the virtue of humility itself. This kind of self-emptying and letting go seems a particularly hard lesson in today’s world of self-empowerment, self-promotion, and self-satisfaction. Surrounded by the material success and self-determination of today’s many heroes and world leaders, it proves challenging to embrace the almost “retro” message of humility. This is as much a counter-cultural message today as it was during the time of Jesus. Despite this fact, however, it is no less timely. Today’s self-reliance, self-determination, and material success seems to lead humanity further from happiness, for trapped within our very selves, how can we find love? It is love, the love of God, which ultimately leads to true happiness. It is often, from within the silent emptying of self, the emptying of our many thoughts and possessions, that we can finally hear the voice of God.

This emptying, or quiet simplicity, was probably best illustrated to me during my recent pilgrimage to Rome. There, I sat on the small, single bed of St. Teresa of Calcutta, perhaps the most humble person of the 21st century. St. Teresa is a woman who always surrendered herself to God. It was only through the emptying of herself out in love, that she was filled by the unbounding love of God. Filled with His love, she became a beacon of light and love to all those she encountered. This is my goal or resolution for 2018, to empty myself, so that I too, can be filled with the transformative power and love of the Holy Spirit. It is only in the emptying out that one can be filled up with something new.

May you have a wonderful New Year filled with the Spirit of Love. Amen.

teresa bed

Mother Teresa’s room at the Missionaries of Charity House in Rome, Italy.

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 Trinity of Love. Thank you and God Bless!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com

 

 

 

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.

christmas2

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.

dsc02930

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.

dsc02162

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

dsc02178

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!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com

 

 

South America’s Love for Mother Mary.

Celebrating the Queen of Heaven and Earth. After my three-week vacation in South America, and my necessary two-week catch up period, it feels good to be back as your spiritual safari guide. Thank you again to Jodi Awbrey and Cathy Cresson for “guiding” in my absence. I invite you to join me on a virtual pilgrimage as we visit the countries of Ecuador and Peru, and explore South America’s unique and colorful devotion to Mary, the Mother of God (Maria, Madre de Dios). Enjoy!

The majority of South and Central American Catholics are highly devoted to the Virgin Mary (Virgen Santisima). In fact, over 20 Latin American countries have crowned and declared Mary as Patroness of their country. She has received various names, depending on where she has appeared or manifested herself, and is often depicted with a crown on her head carrying the Child Jesus.

pope_mary1-800x500

Pope Francis paying homage to Our Lady of Quinche, during his 2015 visit to the small town of El Cisne, in the mountains of southern Ecuador. This popular Marian Shrine and Basilica was first built in 1742 and declared a National Sanctuary in 1985.

The Catholic Church arrived in Latin America in the early 1500s during the Spanish colonization time period. The Spanish conquerors were soon joined by Franciscan, Dominican and Jesuit missionaries eager to evangelize the native Inca and Aztec populations. Although Marian devotions were brought from Europe to South America, many local adaptations began to develop. A well-known example is found in Mary’s miraculous 1531 appearance to St Juan Diego in modern-day Mexico City (Guadalupe). Appearing as a physical combination of all cultures, Our Lady of Guadalupe made a big impression on the locals. Over 8 million converted to Catholicism within 6 years.

The Virgin continued her work of evangelization and eventually appeared throughout the remaining colonized regions of South America. Local forms of Catholicism soon appeared, as native customs found expression within its accepted practices and beliefs. In fact, many modern-day South American Marian Feasts, including but not limited to the Annunciation, Assumption and Immaculate Conception, often involve colorful public processions, fireworks, dances, banquets, decorated streets, and/or vigils held in Mary’s honor. These practices, far from being viewed as wasteful or idolatrous, are merely seen as extensions of the Church’s Sacramental System and joyous celebrations of motherhood, family life, the birth of a child, a wedding, or a soul’s journey to heaven.

inmaculada-concepcion-en-cusco-1024x672

An outdoor procession of Mary, Our Lady of Mercy, in commemoration of the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception in Cusco, Peru.

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is known by many names and is claimed to have miraculously appeared to many believers throughout the world over the centuries. Some of her names or titles find a direct scriptural basis, such as “Queen Mother“, denoting her direct descent from the Jewish King, David, “Virgin Mary“, indicating her virginal conception of Jesus, and “The Woman Clothed in the Sun“, mentioned in the Book of Revelation. Other titles, such as Mother of God, Immaculate Conception, and Our Lady of Sorrows, find their origin in the Catholic Church’s Sacred Tradition. Others arise from reported miracles or Marian apparitions. Many such names find expression within Latin American Catholicism, including Our Lady of Mercy and Our Lady of Quinche (described above), and Quito, Ecuador’s Our Lady of Good Success, Sorrowful Virgin, and Dancing or Winged Madonna, shown below.

Our Lady of Good Success originally appeared to two Spanish friars in Rome, and subsequently appeared to Sister Mariana de Jesus Torres in Quito, Ecuador in the year 1577. There, Our Lady requested that a statue be made to her likeness.

“So that men in the future might realize how powerful I am in placating Divine Justice and obtaining mercy and pardon for every sinner who comes to me with a contrite heart. For I am the Mother of Mercy and in me there is only goodness and love. When tribulations of spirit and sufferings of the body oppress them and they seem to be drowning in this bottomless sea let them gaze at my holy image and I will always be there ready to listen to their cries and soothe their pain. Tell them that they should always run to their Mother with confidence and love.”  

our lady of good success

Statue of Our Lady of Good Success in Quito, Ecuador’s Conceptionist Convent where, to this day, the incorrupt body of Venerable Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres is housed.

The Sorrowful Virgin of the College.  Ecuador was the first Spanish colony in the New World to rebel and gain independence from Spain in 1822. Although it started out as a just cause, this revolution soon fell under the dominion of an anti-Catholic regime. In 1901, the government occupied the Jesuit college of St. Gabriel and launched a furious attack against the Church, Catholic culture and educational system. Churches and tabernacles were profaned, the Sacred Eucharist was trampled, and all public religious practices were prohibited. It was at this time, in the year 1906, that the Church approved the miraculous movement of eyes and shedding of tears of St. Gabriel’s image of The Sorrowful Virgin of the College. 

Picture1

An image of the Sorrowful Virgin of the College in The Church of La Compania in Quito, Ecuador.

 

Devotion to the Sorrowful Virgin of the College quickly spread throughout South America, Europe, America and Australia. The miracle has been commemorated every year with the recitation of a solemn and fervent novena. On April 22, 1956, Pope Pius XII approved the solemn coronation of this sacred image, and in 1978, the National Shrine of the Sorrowful Mother was blessed and dedicated.

The Dancing or Winged Madonna. The original Dancing or Winged Madonna, currently displayed in Quito’s Church and Convent of St. Francis, was sculpted by Bernardo de Largarda in 1734. This 12 inch high wooden sculpture, depicting the Book of Revelation’s “Woman Clothed in the Sun” (Rev. 12:1-2), wears a crown of 12 stars and stands atop a crescent moon and serpent. The Madonna’s upraised arms and wings indicate Mary’s Assumption, while her blue and white garments point to Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

Quito 74

A 147 foot tall aluminum replica of the Dancing or Winged Madonna which sits atop El Panecillo hill in Quito, Ecuador, as it’s intercessor and protector.

There she stands, the woman clothed in the sun, as Quito’s protector and our’s, against earthquakes, volcanic eruption and any other misfortunes outside human control.

Closing Prayer. 

Mary, Our Mother, I come to you with my needs and beg you to help me.

I honor you as my Mother and helper and trust in your love for me.

Lead me on the path of virtue, and preserve me from every evil.

Let me enjoy your protection and walk in your love and peace.

Guide me closer to Jesus, Who gave you to me to be my Mother.

Amen

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com

Click on the link above to learn more about Karen’s 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 her upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. Thank you and God Bless!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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).

god-2012104_960_720

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.

memorial_day1_1600x1200

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.

New-Orleans-Confederate-Monuments-Vote-Update-City-Council-Votes-6-to-1-to-Remove-Confederate-Statues-

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).

Catholic church and Jesus Christ on crucifix

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.

Crucifix_inside_the_Church_of_the_Holy_Sepulchre_in_Jerusalem_May_23_2014_Credit_Lauren_Cater_CNA_CNA_2_9_15

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.

3 faiths

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.

Bibles and Quran, interfaith symbols of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, the three monotheistic religions, Haute-Savoie, France, Europe

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).
3-religions-claim-jerusalem

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).

Abraham day

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).

wine_www Created to Relate Flyer 2

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.

visitationchurch32s

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).

 

dsc02203

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.
DSC03014

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

 

 

Divine Protection.

“Beside each believer stands……?……as a protector and shepherd leading him to life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #336). Can you fill in the blank to complete this sentence? There are several valid responses, however, the correct answer may actually surprise you. Please join me on a virtual pilgrimage as we learn more about our promised protector and shepherd, which leads us to life.

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

Feeling helpless and unsure, the despondent mother cried out, “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me? Joseph, my son, is made in your merciful image. He is your child as well as mine. Please, merciful Father, tell me how to reach him.” Getting no immediate response, she vowed to persist in her asking and interceding on his behalf. Later that week, while praying in a rocking chair near his bedroom, she received a  response, as several unexpected visitors appeared before her. Seeing with the eyes of faith, for none were visible to the naked eye, she found herself within the very presence of an angel. Leading the group was a valiant warrior, and the leader of all angels, St. Michael the Archangel. He made no sound but simply called fourth four others. One by one, they each appeared before her.

From infancy to death, human life is surrounded by their (guardian angel’s) watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on earth, the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united to God, (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #336).

So, here we find our answer to the posed question. But what can we, as Catholics, actually learn about these angelic beings from Sacred Scripture and Tradition? Continue reading to find out.

angel

Angels are mentioned throughout the pages of Sacred Scripture. In fact, they appear from the beginning to the end, from the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation.  As we read in the opening line of the Bible, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Most of us are very familiar with these famous opening lines of the Bible, but how many of us are aware of creation’s deeper revelation contained within Paul’s Book to the Colossians? Here, Paul writes that all things in heaven and on earth were created through and for Jesus Christ, who is the very “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:16). Paul’s words illuminate many things, in regards to angels, including their intended purpose (to serve and honor God) and their relationship with humanity (as creatures of God).

dsc02162

Cave of the Grotto, in Nazareth, where the angel Gabriel appeared to the virgin Mary during the Annunciation.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the angels serve as “messengers of his saving plan” and are “spirits sent forth to serve” for the sake of our salvation (CCC #331). How appropriate is it then that an angel, named Gabriel, announced the birth of our Savior to Mary in the small town of Nazareth (Luke 1:26-28)?

“In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said,”Hail, Full of Grace. The Lord is with you.”

One angel announced the birth of the Messiah, however, many others would continue to minister and care for God incarnate, Jesus Christ, throughout His life on earth. Shortly after the Annunciation, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:19). Shortly after the birth of our Lord, in the small town of Bethlehem, an angel once again appeared to Joseph saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you otherwise. Herod is searching for the child to destroy him” (Matthew 2:13). Here, we find two divine functions carried out by God’s angels, that of divine messenger and protector of humankind (Genesis 28:12 and Psalm 91:11). As a matter of fact, the word angel itself means “messenger”. Therefore, in this title, we learn something about their mission. But what of their nature?

shepherdsfieldgrotto01

Grotto under the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem where the angel warned Joseph about the plans of Herod, prior to their flight into Egypt.

According to St. Augustine, angels are spirits who are “servants and messengers of God”. They do not have physical bodies like humans. As purely spiritual creatures, they are personal, immortal, and possess intelligence, power and free will (Hebrews 1:14, Luke 20:36 and CCC #330). Throughout various Bible passages, we find mention of nine different orders of angels: seraphim (Isaiah 6:2), cherubim (Ezekiel 10:22), thrones, dominions, principalities and powers (Colossians 1:16), virtues (1Peter 3:22), archangels (Jude 1:9) and angels (Matthew 17:27). Of these, only three are named in Sacred Scripture, the archangel Michael (Daniel 12:1), Raphael (Tobit 12:15) and Gabriel (Luke 1:19).

Although angels are pure spirit, they can take on any form to accomplish the will of God. Most often, throughout the pages of Sacred Scripture, we find them taking on the appearance of men (Genesis 19:1-2). At other times, like at the site of the Lord’s resurrection, angels have appeared like a “flash of lighting” as “dazzling as the snow” (Matthew 28:3). So, you may ask, do angels actually have wings, as we so often see them depicted? In Isaiah 6:2, we read about angels with six wings and in the Book of Exodus, we find God instructing Moses to make a pure gold covering for the Ark, topped by the outstretched wings of two angels (Exodus 25:20).

31777634

Catholic Church at Shepherd’s Field where an angel announced the birth of the Lord, and a multitude of the heavenly host sang praise and honor to God.

When Jesus Christ came to earth, a new era began in the ministry of angels. Although we find their presence throughout the Old Testament, it was only through Christ’s birth, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven that we find the “whole life of the Church benefiting from the mysterious and powerful help of angels” (Hebrew 1:14 and CCC #334). This is why the People of God, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, join with the angels and saints in offering praise, honor and glory to their King, Jesus Christ. For this is the ultimate mission of each of God’s creatures, including the angels, saints and each of us.

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and eyes all over, inside and out. Day and night, without pause, they sing: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, He who was, and who is, and who is to come!” (Revelation 4:8).

HOLY EUCHARIST 13

Hebrews 12:22-24: “You have drawn near to Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to myriads of angels in festal gatherings, to the assembly of the first born enrolled in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood which speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.  

Moreover, the Church encourages all the faithful to pray to St. Michael, the archangel, for protection against the wickedness of Satan (the fallen angel), and to their own personal guardian angel for comfort, protection, guidance and care.

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day, be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. St. Michael, the archangel, pray for us. Amen

(Revelation 12:7-9) Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. Although the dragon and his angels fought back, they were overpowered and lost their place in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent known as the devil or Satan, the seducer of the whole world, was driven out; he was hurled down to earth and his minions with him.

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

God’s Loving Plan for Our Lives!

Books and apple

Have you read any good books lately? How about God’s best selling book, the Bible?

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, correction, and training in holiness, so that the man of God may be fully competent and equipped for every good work” (2Timothy 3:16).

Please join me on a virtual pilgrimage to the beautiful country of Israel, as we take a visual journey through God’s plan for our salvation.

books and flowers

The Bible: God’s love story for His people.

Book Excerpt. Chapter Twenty-Three: A longing for wisdom. (The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. By: Karen Sheehy)

Exhausted from the demands and emotional difficulties in raising a special needs child, the young mother sought a quiet refuge in the arms of God. Finding rest and comfort in His house, she made regular Mass attendance and Eucharistic Adoration a main stay in her life. This special time, spent with her beloved Jesus, enlivened a deep longing for God’s Word in Sacred Scripture. Recalling her cherished Easter and Christmas memories, she suddenly found these childhood stories lacking. Desiring a more intimate relationship with God, she resolved to read and learn all about His plan for her life. The following day, with her new Bible and CD study set in tow, she started her slow, but persistent journey through God’s love story for His people.

picture-book-1983812_960_720

God’s loving plan of salvation is hidden amongst a “library of books” contained within the pages of Sacred Scripture. By learning which books are narrative and which are supplemental, one can read and better grasp the story of salvation history. Following the narrative thread will reveal the patient love of the Father, beckoning call of His Beloved Son, Jesus, and steadfast guidance of His Holy Spirit. The eternal Trinity of Love, there in the beginning, is present to you now, and always will be. I hope you enjoy this visual journey through the story of salvation history and that it inspires you to dive into the pages of God’s eternal love story. (Taken from Appendix Five: The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. By: Karen Sheehy)

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…….” (Genesis 1:1)

Narrative Books: Genesis 1-11 

DSC02402

Sea of Galilee in northern Israel.         

Beginning with the opening chapters of the book of Genesis and continuing to the last book of Revelation, God the Father reveals His plan of salvation and His loving desire to re-establish the broken relationship between Himself and man. The promise and beginning of the fulfillment of that plan, revealed in the book of Genesis, is manifested in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

Then the Lord Gods said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel”         (Genesis 3:15)

dsc02327

“Abraham’s gate”, in northern Israel, where Abraham first entered the land promised to him by God.

The Lord said to Abram: “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).

God called Abraham and promised that his descendants will be numerous and that they will inherit the Promised Land. This promise, or covenant, indicates their special relationship with God. They are now His chosen people, set apart to love and worship Him. The courtship has begun.

Narrative Books: Genesis 12-50, (Supplemental: Job).

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord swept the sea with a strong east wind throughout the night and so turned it into dry land. When the water was thus divided, the Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land, with the water like a wall to their right and to their left, (Exodus 14:21-22).

God kept His promise to Abraham, as he became the father of a great nation, named Israel. Freed from 400 years of bondage in Egypt, the Israelites are eventually led by God and his prophet, Moses, towards the Promised Land. After forty years of wandering in the desert, they cross the River Jordan and make their triumphant re-entry into modern day Israel.

Narrative Books: Exodus, Numbers and Joshua (Supplemental: Leviticus and Deuteronomy).

DSC02622

Qasr el Yahud, the traditional baptismal site of Jesus, is located on the eastern bank of the River Jordan, just north of the Dead Sea and east of Jericho. Other biblical events associated with this site include Joshua’s leading of the Israelites across the river into the promised land (Joshua 3) and the prophet Elijah’s miraculous ascent into heaven (2Kings).

The Lord said to Samuel, “Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen my king from among his sons” (1Samuel 16:1).

The next period in salvation history is often referred to as the monarchy, for then the nation of Israel asks for a King. David, a mighty warrior and a man after God’s own heart, unites the tribes of Israel into one kingdom. Solomon, his son, builds the Jewish Temple in their new capital city of Jerusalem.

Narrative Books: Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1Kings 1-11 (Supplemental: Psalms, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs).

dsc03326

The remains of the ancient Jewish Temple Western Wall, located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. The original Jewish Temple, built by King Solomon, is believed to be atop the site of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:2 and 1Kings 6).

They have forsaken the Lord, spurned the Holy One of Israel, apostatized. Where would you yet be struck, you that rebel again and again? (Isaiah 1: 4-5).

After Solomon’s death there is a disagreement among the tribes. Subsequently, God’s people split into two rival kingdoms, Israel to the north and Judah to the south. Despite the warnings of many prophets, the people of both nations turn their back on God and continue to worship many pagan gods. Their stubborn self-reliance, and rejection of God, eventually leads to a time period of captivity in many foreign lands. This period in Jewish history is often referred to as the exile and return. Forty years later, the Jewish nation returns home, rebuilds the Temple and fortifies the Jerusalem city wall. Once a powerful and thriving nation, they are now a small nation occupied by first the Greeks and then the Romans. Feeling lost, but not alone, they eagerly await the future coming of a just, gentile, suffering servant-king who will once again free them from bondage.

Narrative Books: 1Kings 12-22, 2Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Maccabees. (Supplemental: Obadiah, Joel, Amos, Jonah, Tobit, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Daniel, Ezekiel, Judith, Lamentations, Zephaniah, Baruch, Zechariah, Haggai, Ester and Malachi).

DSC02730.JPG

Remnants of the ancient wall surrounding the city of Jerusalem.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us and we have seen his glory: the glory of an only Son coming from the Father, filled with enduring love, (John 1:14).

God never abandons his Chosen People, for when the time was right, He sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world. This is the ultimate event in salvation history. Jesus Christ, the Word Made Flesh, is the complete and final revelation of God’s saving plan. Although many of the Jews are hoping for a mighty warrior, Jesus shows them a different way. He preaches love and forgiveness. He heals wounds, works miracles, and ultimately dies to free us all from the bondage of sin. Through His death and resurrection, we have once again gained access to the garden of eden.

Narrative Books: Luke, Acts and Revelation (Supplemental: Matthew, Mark, John, Paul’s Letters, and the other letters of the New Testament).

grotto

Grotto of the birth of Our Lord in Bethlehem.

DSC03074.JPG

Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, built over the sites of Our Lord’s death and resurrection.

The next day, when John the Baptist caught sight of Jesus coming toward him, he exclaimed: “Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

I hope that you enjoyed the pictorial walk through the Bible and humanity’s story of salvation. Now that you know the narrative books, start reading, for you don’t want to be standing before God speechless when He asks, “Did you read my book?” As an adjunct to your readings, I highly recommend Walking with God. A Journey Through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins. http://store.spiritualsafariguide.com/t/books-cds-dvds

 

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