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Second Sunday of Lent

Mark 9:2–10

Friends, today’s Gospel presents the Transfiguration of Christ. What is the Transfiguration itself? Mark speaks literally of a metamorphosis, a going beyond the form that he had. If I can use Paul’s language, it is “the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.” In and through his humble humanity, his divinity shines forth. The proximity of his divinity in no way compromises the integrity of his humanity, but rather makes it shine in greater beauty. This is the New Testament version of the burning bush.

The Jesus who is both divine and human is the Jesus who is evangelically compelling. If he is only divine, then he doesn’t touch us; if he is only human, he can’t save us. His splendor consists in the coming together of the two natures, without mixing, mingling, or confusion.

This same Jesus then accompanies his disciples back down the mountain and walks with them in the ordinary rhythms of their lives. This is the Christ who wants to reign as Lord of our lives in every detail. If we forget about this dimension, then Jesus becomes a distant memory, a figure from the past.

Bishop Robert Barron

 

Did you ever think about or realize what the power of one Hail Mary can do? 

 

My favorite story of 2023 was “The Astonishing Power of One Hail Mary,” as it focused on how a single prayer we should not take for granted can change even the lives of strangers.

 

Briefly, John Petrovich was jogging past a house and saw an ambulance in the driveway.

He had learned in childhood to say a prayer for those in need whenever he sees or hears an ambulance or police siren. He blessed himself and this time said a Hail Mary for the person inside.

The next week, as he ran on the same street, a woman stopped him. “You saved my life,” she told him. She described how she had blacked out and was dying. Regaining consciousness in the hospital, she had a vision of Jesus, who told her, “Everything is going to be fine; you’re going to be fine because this person prayed for you.”

 

She told Petrovich how “on the palm of his hand was your face. And I have to thank you for saving my life.” He was speechless.

This incident is a perfect example of how earnest prayer can “move mountains,” as Jesus said in the Gospel. If one Hail Mary has that power, imagine the power in a Rosary’s 50 Hail Marys. The prayerful man told the Register he is learning to put “more emphasis on why we should be praying for one another … for other people in their needs and wants before us.”

SNOW FUN

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The Theology of Pilgrimage — Our Path Home to Heaven

There is something transformative about venturing out, away from the comfort of your home, to intentionally seek the Lord and encounter him anew.

Every single one of us is a pilgrim on a journey. For us Christians, as Pope St. John Paul II said, this journey should ultimately lead us to the heart of the Father. 

But do we truly believe that? 

Too often, we can get lost in the demands and routines of our everyday lives. That is why pilgrimages to holy sites are so important. As far back as Abraham, we hear stories of God inviting people to leave their homeland and to travel to an anointed site. To this day, our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters make pilgrimages to Jerusalem and to Mecca. There is something transformative about venturing out, away from the comfort of your home, to intentionally seek the Lord and encounter him anew.

At this very moment, hundreds of thousands of young people are preparing for a pilgrimage of a lifetime. Following the tradition of St. John Paul II, Pope Francis is inviting the Catholic youth of the world to join him this summer for World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal. I’ve been blessed to participate in seven World Youth Days, and I’d like to offer some thoughts on taking a pilgrimage — whether you’ll be traveling to the 2023 World Youth Day or not.

One important part of a pilgrimage is intercession. Praying for our intentions — and those of loved ones not able to accompany us — helps us listen for the still, small voice of God in our lives and leads to deeper conversion. 

At World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, my group stopped at Lourdes. There, pilgrims from so many different countries were coming to bathe in the waters and ask for God’s healing from illness. Although some were not physically healed, they still experienced the special grace of spiritual healing from taking their journey in faith.

Along with intercession is penance. Historically, if an individual had committed some serious sin, he or she could trek to a holy site and offer the pain and discomfort of the journey in atonement. Today, we might not seek out pilgrimages for the same reason. Nevertheless, pilgrimages are not without their difficulties — travel mishaps, long days, unpredictable weather. If we offer our struggles to God, he can and will do great things. 

I recall my World Youth Day in Madrid. The vigil Mass took place on one of the hottest days of the summer. Scorching heat and lack of shade made for several grueling hours — that is, until a thunderstorm broke right as we were going to bed. The teens I was with handled it so well. They began naming the person for whom they were offering up their discomfort: “This is for my mom who has cancer” or “for my brother who has left the faith.” It was a very difficult but very graced night. 

Another aspect to pilgrimages is the solidarity. When we go on pilgrimage, we are more present to those around us and to our fellow pilgrims. Sharing a common experience, a common purpose, and a common worship and prayer life creates a profoundly powerful bond of community. This is especially true for World Youth Day, when young people come together from across the world for a single purpose. And we don’t just form a deeper connection with our immediate travel partners. We also feel more connected to the millions of pilgrims and saints who have gone before us in the faith.

Lastly, pilgrimages are opportunities for thanksgiving. I absolutely love being a priest. My vocation is a pure gift. For my 10th ordination anniversary, I wanted to do something to show Christ my deep gratitude for allowing me to share in his priesthood. So I decided walking 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago — an ancient route to the burial site of St. James the Apostle — was a good way to say, “Thank you.” 

When you walk 17 miles per day, every day, you have lots of time to pray. Each morning, I would ask God to show me who I should pray for, who I should offer the day’s struggle for, who needed grace. I was amazed; some of the people who came to mind were men and women I had not thought of for decades. But, for one reason or another, God placed them on my heart. It was a blessing to pray for them, and the journey made me even more grateful to be a spiritual father.

Going on pilgrimage does something to our hearts and to how we see the world. Yes, we often go on pilgrimages intentionally looking for God. But, in the process, our vision sharpens. We begin to see him in places where we didn’t before. We realize how he is present in our families, our homes, our workplaces and our parishes. We let go a little bit more and give God a little more room to work in our lives.

So, I encourage you to go on pilgrimage. You don’t need to go to Lourdes, Fatima, Rome or the Holy Land (but if you can, totally do it!). You can visit the cathedral in your diocese for an afternoon. Or perhaps take a trip to a local shrine. Or even just spend an evening in an adoration chapel. 

Do something intentional that takes you out of your ordinary routine. Seek to encounter Jesus. You will be amazed what God can do in your heart and the ways he will make himself known to you. Buen Camino.

Father Dave Pivonka Well-known author and speaker Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, became president of Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2019.

The Mission of Shrines

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In the Catholic world of today about eighty percent of all shrines are dedicated to Mary. Annually the vast majority of pilgrims are destined for Marian shrines. For example, about ten million go to Guadalupe in Mexico, six million to Lourdes in France, five million to Czestochowa in Poland, four million to Aparecida in Brazil.

Shrines are not intended to be a sightseeing stop on a vacation trip; they are places of pilgrimage. Though most need to travel considerable distances and use vacation time to reach the shrines, pilgrimage is not a vacation-time visit, but rather an action of spiritual renewal.

Pilgrimage is an effort of the great journey of human life toward God. The life of the Christian person is a pilgrimage. Ours is a pilgrim Church. Ordinarily pilgrims endured privations in joining with others en route to a common goal. They unite with pilgrims of the past in prayer and in gratitude for a hallowed place.

All the actions of a pilgrimage are meant to be symbolic and instructive and transforming: the preparation, joining together with other pilgrims, the welcome at the shrine, the visit to the sanctuary, the celebration of the Eucharist, the return home. The purpose of the pilgrimage is to guide the pilgrim "to the essential: Jesus Christ, the Savior, the end of every journey, and the source of all holiness."

Vatican Council II spoke of Mary's "pilgrimage of faith." She precedes and encourages us in our own pilgrimage of Faith. Marian shrines are one expression of Mary's presence among us, the Church. John Paul II in Mother of the Redeemer referred to a "geography" of faith and devotion to Mary which includes those special places of pilgrimage where the People of God find the one who first believed and a strengthening of their own faith.

In today's world with millions of refugees and displaced persons, shrines are becoming gathering places for people uprooted from their homes and churches. At the first World Congress on Shrines and Pilgrimages in 1992 sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People, John Paul II expressed the desire that "persons whom life has treated harshly, the poor, the people who are distant from the Church" may find a welcome at shrines.

Hospitality extended to migrants and to all pilgrims at Marian shrines is an expression of the Virgin Mary's welcoming of God's word. Her example reminds all people that we come together in the great pilgrimage of life on this earth to everlasting life in our permanent home with God.

Wisdom!    Be Attentive!

MATTHEW 25:1–13

Bishop Robert Barron

Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus recognizes the prudence of the ten wise virgins. In the Middle Ages, prudence was called “the queen of the virtues,” because it enabled one to do the right thing in a particular situation. Prudence is a feel for the moral situation, something like the feel that a quarterback has for the playing field or a politician has for the voters in his district.

 

Wisdom is, like prudence, a kind of vision, but it is, unlike prudence, a sense of the big picture. It is the capacity to survey reality from the vantage point of God, appreciating the grandest perspective. Without wisdom, even the most prudent judgment will be erroneous, short-sighted, and inadequate.

 

The combination, therefore, of prudence and wisdom is especially powerful. Someone who is both wise and prudent will have both a sense of the big picture and a feel for the particular situation. 

 

This is the combination possessed by the saints. This is why so many of the saints could be both ethereal and practical. Think of Mother Cabrini—a woman with a remarkably broad vision who was also capable of negotiating with bankers and real estate brokers.

It is time for the Lord to act!