Friday, July 31, 2009

The Allure of Lourdes

Written by John Horvat

As I sat down in the train for the final leg of my trip to Lourdes, I could not help but reflect that this was a trip repeated so many times by tens of millions of pilgrims from all over the world over the last 150 years. They had made this same trip. They have embarked with similar expectations. Upon writing down my impressions, I was tempted to think that my account would be of little value, since my story has already been told so many times before.

However, although it is the same story, I have no doubt each trip is different. Part of the allure of Lourdes lies exactly in the fact that each experiences it differently. Lourdes draws each one to go on the pilgrim's route. Everyone takes different problems and misery and is filled with different expectations.

Mine was a simple four-day pilgrimage-retreat without Internet, cell phone, camera or even air-conditioning. My expectations were also simple. I sought peace of soul in a world that so aggressively disrupts that peace. I sought time to reflect and recollect. I expected to be cleansed of so much. I just wanted time to pray to Our Lady and ask her for all that I need.

A Place of Violent Contrast
My first impression of Lourdes was that it is a place of dramatic contrast, born of violence and extremes. I found it unexpectedly dramatic. The rocky foothills of the Pyrenees are filled with abrupt cliffs, mysterious caves and scraggly brush. The River Gave rapidly flows with violent intensity. While praying at the Grotto, it was not uncommon to feel sudden gusts of strong winds that added to the sense that something different and important was happening there. The intensely hot sun of the July summer day contrasted with the chilly night mountain air.

This contrast is above all present at the Grotto. The Grotto lies inside a huge rock hill near the river. I had always thought the Grotto was separate from the basilica church. However, the huge Gothic sanctuary sits right on top of this massive rock and its stone foundations dig like talons into the rock, dominating and forcing itself upon the wild landscape. However, the Grotto still retains that exuberant wildness that it must have had at the time of the apparitions. The outside of the Grotto is covered with that untamed scrub brush and wild grass that tenaciously clings to fissures in the rock.

Almost as dramatic as the landscape is the violent contrast of the pilgrims. They come from all over the world and speak in many languages. But the most notable contrast is the extreme cultural clashes that one sees between genuine signs of devotion and faith and the most glaring signs of our fragmented postmodernity found in the modern fashions and cultural rock and other icons that are found on the Che-Guevara type shirts and caps of the pilgrims. You cannot help but feel it is the affliction caused by this internal cultural war inside souls that brings many of the pilgrims to Lourdes.

All of this is a fitting stage for the drama that takes place inside souls at Lourdes. You pray in the context of this dramatic setting.

The Heart of Lourdes
The heart of Lourdes is the Grotto. All over the city, the signs point to la Grotte as it is the city's point of reference. In front of the Grotto, I spent hours praying in front of a life-sized statue of Our Lady that stands some fifteen feet above in a large cavity inside the Grotto.

The activities around the Grotto are impressive. It is the site of Masses, adorations and recitations of the rosary. There are times when you can kneel very close to the statue of Our Lady. There are other times when you must stand back because of the crowds. At night, a tree of large candles illuminates the area and creates an atmosphere of recollection and devotion.

There is a constant flow of people who enter the Grotto and pass by its walls. Deep inside there is the spring of water from which so many cures and benefits have flowed. All enter the Grotto touching the walls of the cavern, now worn smooth by so much touching. Pilgrims touch the walls, bless themselves with the small streamlets of water that flow from little fissures. They put their foreheads on the rock walls. They leave prayer requests, candles and flowers. They ask, pray and beseech Our Lady's help. Some leave emotional; others merely curious. However, I noticed that everyone leaves the Grotto serious - no one is joking.

Broken Humanity
Lourdes belongs to broken humanity. It is full of the sick and troubled who go there with their impossible cases.

It is especially the physically sick and handicapped that can be seen everywhere in an impressive display of human ailments of all kinds. The most impossible cases are especially represented and they are cared for with touching solicitude. Tens of thousands of volunteers look after their every need and one sees legions of volunteer ladies who assume temporary white habits or other garb to help these "least of our brothers."

Here the handicapped are given charity wholeheartedly. Here, they accept this charity with all humility and gratitude. They are sick and they show no shame in their weak condition which will, in the final analysis, be that of all men. Parades of antique three-wheeled wheelchairs can be seen at all events - rosary processions, Eucharistic adorations and Grotto visits. Many have received cures at Lourdes; others have simply received the means to deal with their sufferings. All receive special care.

There are, of course, the others who go with maladies of a different kind. These are those with spiritual sufferings. Each brings his own crosses and miseries. And I count myself as one of these pilgrims. One is not necessarily relieved of one's miseries, but you feel as if a balm has been applied that makes it so much more bearable. You leave less broken.

The Nightly Rosary Procession
The rosary procession is the climax of the day. Every night at nine o'clock, the faithful gather around the basilica for the simple ceremony of praying the rosary. However, this is no ordinary procession. I witnessed what I estimated to be ninety thousand pilgrims on the central plaza at the Saturday night procession I attended.

Every night as you proceed to the shrine, you notice the shopkeepers have put out the procession candles with their paper lantern shades. For a pittance, you buy a candle and head for the procession. There is an atmosphere of exaltation and even triumph that I think comes from a joy in being Catholic - a true unity amid diversity. Although the Hail Marys are said in various languages, all the other prayers are said or sung in the universal Latin - without any problem or confusion.

A large life-size statue of Our Lady of Lourdes is majestically carried on a litter down the central plaza and the procession begins. Thousands and thousands of Catholics join in. Hundreds of sick in wheelchairs are pushed and pulled by volunteers along the procession route - the special guests of the affair. As night descends, the candlelight lanterns create a marvelous and prayerful ambience.

The procession covers the length of the entire central avenue of the sanctuary. After each decade, a Marian hymn is sung. "Immaculate Mary" is a favorite hymn since it is sung in so many languages. During the refrain, all in the crowd raise their candle lanterns in triumph and praise of the Blessed Mother, a practice which they repeat in the final "Salve Regina." The basilica has two large esplanades that are like arms enclosing the grand plaza. During the procession these arms are also full of people praying and singing creating the impression of a huge amphitheater of unity. Finally the procession is over, and gradually the huge crowd disperses into the night.

A Lady of Passionate Solicitude
And what is to be said of the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes? How does she express and communicate herself to the faithful? Such opinions by necessity are subjective since Our Lady speaks to souls in different ways. I can only report what I sensed at the Grotto

The statue of Our Lady of Lourdes is in my opinion very French. She does not have the Latin exuberance of Spanish or Italian Madonnas. She stands in the Grotto, discretely looking upward and measuring her gestures. However, this does not prevent her from giving impressions of great mercy and goodness. Her goodness reminded me of the French merchants and pedestrians I approached with my broken French in the village. They would address you with a very courteous "Bonjour Monsieur" and then go out of their way to help you with your problem.

Our Lady's goodness at Lourdes has something of that same polite and intense goodness full of respect for the person despite his weaknesses. I felt dignified by my dialogue with Our Lady. Inside this enormous respect, she exhibited for me a kind of passionate and maternal solicitude that I had never experienced before.

It was with great sadness that I left Lourdes and the Grotto on that Sunday morning to catch my train. I bid my farewell and slowly left, turning back several times until that last glimpse and final au revoir, a scene that remains in my mind's eye.

A Change and a Promise
On the train back, I reflected a bit on the pilgrimage. Indeed, it was so like the millions of others that traveled the same route. However, it confirmed my idea that each pilgrimage is different and that this is the allure of Lourdes.

Did I find what I sought? I received no great miracle but then again, I did not ask for one. However, I found at the Grotto a maternal gaze, a place where one can go to be heard. I found a place that violently clashes with our modern revolutionary world. Our Lady makes no compromises with the sins of our days but she calls the poor faithful as they are, and beckons them to return to the practice of the Faith.

I returned changed in ways hard to define. I definitely felt peace in my soul. Lourdes puts your soul in order. It has a cleansing effect upon you. I sensed a promise not on the part of Our Lady to me, but rather she elicited from me a promise to return.

My sentiments are those expressed by an antiphon from the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary that is sung at Vespers that says: Trahe nos Virgo immaculata, post te curremus in odorem unguentuorum tuorum. In English the prayer reads: Draw us, O Immaculate Virgin, we will run after thee because of the savour of thy good ointments.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Amazing Video of Eucharistic Miracle in Argentina

Please watch the entire video.

It shows that the Eucharist is Our Lord. It's scientific!

This is why we always protest videos on YouTube that show Eucharistic desecrations and also why we promote acts of public reparation against the blasphemies perpetrated against Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Report from the Saint Joseph Terror of Demons Caravan

by Norman Fulkerson

The following report recounts the adventures of a group of nine young men who are campaigning on the streets of the State of New York for traditional marriage.

"Finally someone has common sense."
There was a "gay" pride parade last weekend here in town. I can't imagine how the public accepted that because the response from the general public today was overwhelmingly positive.

A police officer stopped early in the campaign and seemed very favorable. He gave his cell phone number and told us to call him if we had any trouble. Several other police cruisers honked when passing through our intersection.

One lady passed and said "Finally someone has common sense."

She took a flier and added "they are going to know [what is right] when they meet the Lord." A little while later another lady crossed the same sidewalk and simulated a honk. She then turned to the intersection and shouted to the drivers of the cars, "Honk your horns, honk your horns!"

Pedestrians simulating horns is not an uncommon thing in these campaigns, but we had one today that was the most amusing I have seen so far. It was from a very picturesque black lady wearing a bright orange shirt. She stopped on the opposite side walk, looked over the campaign, and began jumping up and down yelling "Honk!" She was so loud she could be heard on all four corners of the intersection. She then walked across the street with a big smile on her face, jumping up and down and waving at us in support as she continued to honk her imaginary horn.

"You are gaining many blessings... "and a crown in heaven."

A Puerto Rican took a flier and I wanted to make sure she understood what we were doing so I explained that we are defending traditional marriage. She pointed to the happy newlyweds on the cover of our flier and said, "Marriage is between one man and one woman. It's not between one man and one man. That's nasty."

Moments later a very sympathetic black lady passed. "Keep on doing what you are doing, you are gaining many blessings." She then pointed to the sky and added "you are gaining many crowns and they [who practice homosexuality] are going to get AIDS."

A man took the flier after I said "defend traditional marriage". He responded, "I believe in traditional marriage, it's in the Good Book." Right after he passed a women hesitated before taking a flier and asked, "is that for marriage". After I responded that it was she said, "but is that traditional marriage" to which I again responded yes. She then smilingly took the flier and said, "I am honking."

Counter Protesters, Spittle and an Unjustified Parking Ticket

Towards the end of the campaign a group of 7 or 8 young people came and began screaming slogans on the opposite corner to ours. Mr. Charles Sulzen had stopped playing his bagpipes at that point but quickly started anew. Right as he began one of the girls attempted to scream but was drowned out by the instrument.

Two squad cars came immediately and the officers spoke with them for a long time. We were about to close up campaign when, to our surprise, the whole group crossed the street right in front of the police officers and stood right in front of our campaign and began provoking our people. As is our custom we said nothing in response but I motioned for the police officers on the opposite street corners to do something about their provocative presence.

The officers finally came to our side of the street. I could not help but ask them the logic of allowing such a rowdy group to come to our side of the street. The officer informed me that he told them they could cross as long as they didn't say anything to us. The whole scene made no sense but I let the officer know that I did not understand what had just occurred considering we are always peaceful and legal whereas their attitude was insulting and very aggressive.

By the grace of God they only stayed some minutes before crossing to the other side of the street. The honks were deafening which might have been the reason they could not tolerate being in our presence any longer. Their aggression only served to confirm the convictions of those who passed and caused them to take a flier when they might not have otherwise.

We immediately prayed to finish and the officers thanked us for a peaceful campaign. When we arrived to our car we found a disturbing sight. We were issued a parking ticket in spite of the fact that we had another hour left on the meter which we photographed for evidence. It was obvious by the disgusting spittle on the driver side window why we were given a ticket.

In the afternoon we did a campaign in Palmyra, NY, and received a lot of support in this very sleepy town as well.

Contact the Caravan

To contact the caravan, email them at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

How to Support the Caravan

If you want to help protect the sacred institution of marriage, please consider filling our van's gas tank with fuel and keep us on the road for traditional marriage.

If you would like to make your contribution by mail, please send a check payable to The American TFP and mail it to:

The American TFP
P.O. Box 251
Spring Grove, PA 17362.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Prayer to Our Guardian Angel

Recommendation To One’s Guardian Angel For A Happy Hour Of Death

By St. Charles Borremeo

My good Angel: I know not when or how I shall die. It is possible I may be carried off suddenly, and that before my last sigh I may be deprived of all intelligence. Yet how many things I would wish to say to God on the threshold of eternity. In the full freedom of my will today, I come to charge you to speak for me at that fearful moment. You will say to Him, then, O my good Angel:

That I wish to die in the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church in which all the saints since Jesus Christ have died, and out of which there is no salvation.

That I ask the grace of sharing in the infinite merits of my Redeemer and that I desire to die in pressing to my lips the cross that was bathed in His Blood.

That I detest my sins because they displease Him, and that I pardon through love of Him all my enemies as I wish myself to be pardoned.

That I die willingly because He orders it and that I throw myself with confidence into His adorable Heart awaiting all His Mercy.

That in my inexpressible desire to go to Heaven I am disposed to suffer everything it may please His sovereign Justice to inflict on me.

That I love Him before all things, above all things and for His own sake; that I wish and hope to love Him with the Elect, His Angels and the Blessed Mother during all Eternity.

Do not refuse, O my Angel, to be my interpreter with God, and to protest to Him that these are my sentiments and my will. Amen

Monday, July 20, 2009

The prayer of a Catholic Statesman

"My Savior Jesus Christ, give me greater love for Thee, and profound humility and teach me what I should do this day for Thy greater glory and service."

Gabriel Garcia Moreno

Friday, July 17, 2009

St. Thomas More on Love

Lessons from the Saints

In the book "A Portrait of Courage", on St. Thomas More, the author Gerard Wegemer writes about his disposition after the trial and then provides this beautiful quote from him. Mr. Wegemer writes;

After a trial of such spectacular injustice, what stood out above everything else was More's unshakeable serenity and good humor. Even at the close of his trial, when he was asked for his final statement, he prayed that all who opposed him at the trial might continue as his "friends forever" and that they might "yet hereafter in heaven merrily all meet together." We find this same gracious sentiment interspersed throughout the prayers and instructions which he wrote at the end of his life. In one of these final instructions, More presents a logical argument for treating enemies well:

"Bear no malice or evil will to any man living . For either the man is good or wicked. If he is good and I hate him, then I am wicked.

If he is wicked, either he will amend and die good and go to God, or live wickedly and die wickedly and go to the devil. And then let me remember that if he be saved, he will not fail (if I am saved too, as I trust to be) to love me very heartily and I shall then in like manner love him.

And why should I now, then, hate one for this while who shall hereafter love me forever, and why should I be now, then, an enemy to him with whom I shall in time be coupled in eternal friendship? And on the other side, if he will continue to be wicked and be damned, then is there such outrageous eternal sorrow before him that I may well think myself a deadly cruel wretch if I would not now rather pity his pain than malign his person."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

America, Choose Your Weapon.

Pick a news source today, read the headlines or watch the lead story and you can't help but feel that something is wrong in the world today, terribly wrong. More and more, people are feeling an uncertainty in their lives that never existed before. People from all walks of life express concern and, or fear for the Church, their families, and their country. In these conditions, we feel the need to defend ourselves from the ills and evils that surround us.

How will you defend your family, yourself, our country during these troubled times? What 'weapon' will you use? Is there a more powerful weapon than the Holy Rosary? Why not sign-up today to be a Rosary Captain and organize a Public Square Rosary on October 10, 2009. In 2008 there were over 3,400 Public Square Rosary Campaigns across America. October 10th is this year's date because it is the closest Saturday to October 13th, the day God worked the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, Portugal in 1917.

The Rosary Rallies have a simple purpose: to ask God, through Our Lady’s Rosary, to save America from its current moral, spiritual, financial and political crisis.

Is there a more important way to spend that Saturday? Check out this link, and choose your weapon well!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Prayer to St. Joseph

Prayer to St. Joseph

St. Joseph father and guardian of virgins, to whose faithful keeping Christ Jesus, Innocence Itself , and Mary the Virgin of virgins were entrusted. I pray and beseech Thee by that twofold and most precious charge, by Jesus and Mary, to save me from all uncleanness, to keep my mind untainted, my heart pure and my body chaste; and to help me always to serve Jesus and Mary in perfect chastity. Amen

Monday, July 13, 2009

Redemption by Science and Technology: The Revolutionary Utopia

By Plinio Correa de Oliveira

In one way or another, whether placing all its confidence in the individual alone, the masses, or the State, it is in man that the Revolution trusts.
Man, self-sufficient thanks to science and technology, can resolve all his problems, eliminate pain, poverty, ignorance, insecurity, in short, everything we refer to as the effect of Original or actual sin.
The utopia toward which the Revolution is leading us is a world whose countries, united in a universal republic, are but geographic designations, a world with neither social nor economic inequalities, run by science and technology, by propaganda and psychology, in order to attain, without the supernatural, the definitive happiness of man.
In such a world, the Redemption by Our Lord Jesus Christ has no place, for man will have overcome evil with science and will have made the earth a technologically delightful paradise. And he will hope to overcome death one day by the indefinite prolongation of life.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Battle for England's Soul

During summer vacation, students from the TFP-staffed St. Louis de Montfort Academy are busy. This video shows them passing out leaflets in street campaigns in defense of traditional family values. This is a video done by one of the students.

Other students will be attending a student camp in Ireland next week. Still others are at the Call to Chivalry camp in Louisiana.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Latest Photos from the TFP Call to Chivalry Camp

Mons. Bergreen gives a talk about devotion to Our Lady

Lining up to sing the Creed in the morning

A visit from a crusader

Friday, July 3, 2009

Michael Jackson and the Emperor's New Clothes

by John Horvat II

It is almost in an atmosphere of the Emperor’s New Clothes that we dare to comment on the recent death of Michael Jackson. As the eulogies come streaming in from all sides, highlighting his musical career and bizarre personal life, few are the voices that cry out like the little child that the emperor had no clothes. There was no essence to the Jackson existential myth. He was the ill-fated casualty of his own self-destructive fantasies.

That is not to say that his death was without any meaning beyond that of personal tragedy. It speaks volumes of our culture. What we have witnessed is not just the passing of an individual but a symbol.

Michael Jackson was a symbol of the blatant contradictions of a cultural revolution that has devastated our society since the sixties. It is a revolution in the cultural field of manners, morality, music, ways of being, and dress that has imposed itself upon us by blurring distinctions, avoiding definitions, breaking social conventions and proposing the most blatant contradictions.

And while he was not alone in representing this revolution over the decades, Michael Jackson was an archetypal figure that took the flag of this revolution to its extreme and bizarre consequences.

Everything about him was contradiction. Indeed, from his surreal Neverland retreat, he seemed to thrive on the idea that no barrier could be left standing. All contradictions could be bridged.

He dissolved and blurred the distinctions between man and woman, black and white, homosexual and heterosexual, adult and child, logic and illogic, fantasy and reality.

His was a contradiction in constant transformation, flitting from one thing to another. He was a being constantly remaking himself, even to the point of surgically changing his natural features to fit his extravagant whims and desires. We might well describe his world as one of constantly evolving chaos.

Of course, we might also mention the moral scandals of his life, especially allegations of abuse of minors who he invited to sleepover at his ranch. While much less serious allegations would be enough to end forever the ministry of a priest, he seems to have enjoyed immunity from public disgrace.

Thus, Michael Jackson was not a model to be imitated but a tragic symbol of blatant contradiction. While not everyone followed him all the way down his eerie ambiguous path, he left doors of aberration open so that others might enter after him.

If there is something that the child needs to proclaim before the emperor today, it is a cry that the so-called king of pop has no definitions, distinctions, morals and logic. It is the generalized ambiguity of actions, words and events and the glorification of contradiction that has brought about our self-destructive decline – and the passing away of a symbol.

Polish Engineer Martyred in Pakistan

Islamabad - Piotr Stanczak did not exhibit the slightest hint of hesitation when the Pakistani Taliban asked him to choose between execution and conversion to Islam. Whether the Polish geologist acted out of pride or religious conviction, he decided to pay through his blood to save his faith, a choice that bewildered his killers and keep them talking about him with respect after his murder.

Stanczak, 42, was kidnapped September 28 on his way to survey for oil exploration in Attock district, of Pakistan's eastern province of Punjab. The kidnappers also killed his driver and two guards.

Militants released a gruesome seven-minute video in early February showing his beheading. One of the murderers blamed the Pakistani government which failed to accept their demands for the release of detained militants.

Warsaw reacted angrily, slammed Islamabad's "apathy" in tackling terrorism and offering a 1-million-zloty (300,000-dollar) reward for information leading to the capture of the Taliban militants who beheaded Stanczak.

Among the militants whose release was sought by the Taliban was Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British-Pakistani who was sentenced to death for the 2002 abduction and murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl.

When negotiations between the representatives of the Pakistani government and the hostage-takers failed, the Taliban leadership gave the Polish man a last chance to save himself, Stanczak's captors revealed to another hostage, a Pakistani man Mohammad Amir.

Amir - a pseudonym, as he asked for anonymity to avoid possible repercussions - was released recently after his family paid 1 million rupees (25,000 dollars) to agents of Taliban commander Tariq Afridi.

Afridi heads a small group of Taliban in the Orakzai tribal district and is loyal to Baitullah Mehsud, the chief of local Taliban who has a 5-million-dollar bounty on his head for being an al-Qaeda facilitator. Pakistani troops have recently been ordered to take decisive action against Mehsud.