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Depression, Suicide & Saint Dymphna in the age of Coronavirus

The Suicide of actor Robin Williams in 2014 made headlines around the world. Perhaps it is because, as a comedian, he always seemed to be “up” and ready to laugh.  Plus, he seemed to have all that the modern world tells us we should want:  Fame, Wealth, Acclaim.

So it is surprising to those who did not know about his inner conflict, that he suffered from depression and ended up taking his own life.

But Robin Williams was not alone:  countless people suffer silently from depression.  Although some might wish to call it a character flaw, it is actually a disease that afflicts many regardless of class or wealth.

Now that we are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic with its isolation and fear, suicide is becoming a concern among many and there are reports of people becoming so depressed that they take their own lives.

As we know, good can often come out of the bad that happens. In this case, due to the enormous amount of publicity  surrounding the suicide of Robin Williams; it will hopefully create more awareness of depression, its signs and treatment.  Often times those with depression feel sadness, shame, and helplessness. As a result they are reluctant to move forward and ask for help. And those around them may not be looking for the signs of depression that could help avert tragedy.

Did you know that Saint Dymphna is a little-known  saint who is invoked in cases of mental health issues?  Her name is  not familiar to many, yet countless miracles have been attributed to her intercession.

Her shrine is in Belgium and there is also a National Shrine of Saint Dymphna in the U.S. in Massillon, Ohio (check this page for more information on Saint Dymphna).

The Feast Day of Saint Dymphna is celebrated on May 15.

You find a great assortment of Saint Dymphna prayer cards and more here.

 

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Come on, Dad…we’re on vacation…why do we have to go to Church?

That was my plea, but my dad said: “We don’t take a vacation from God”

Growing up in western New York State back in the 60’s, our family always went to church on Sundays,  even when on vacation.   Having to wake up and get dressed seemed out of place.  Wasn’t a vacation was supposed to mean a break from all the rules of every day life?  But my dad was serious about his religion and so we went to church on Sunday no matter where we were.

We were “low-church” Episcopalians (no “smells & bells” for us…we left that up to those who were “high church” Episcopalians….good grief, they might just as well have been Catholics).

In our church there was just a plain cross over the altar (which faced East, against the wall….we did have an altar rail and took communion kneeling, but the similarity ended there).

Phot of St Paul's Episcopal Church Harris Hill, NY
Photo courtesy St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Harris Hill, New York

(Now that I am Catholic, I miss the sense of reverence that came with kneeling at the altar rail, since they no longer exist in many Catholic churches).

We recited the Nicene Creed…but when we got to the part about one holy, catholic and apostolic church my big sister leaned over to me and said “don’t worry, that doesn’t mean we’re Catholic“….whew…what a relief…..apparently being Catholic was something to avoid at all costs, although I had no idea why!

Well, back to my point about going to church while on vacation:

It was pretty easy to find an Episcopal church in many towns…you could often find a sign like this one hanging as you entered the town.

We didn’t necessarily fit in….if it was a summer vacation town near a lake, then maybe, but otherwise we felt a bit out of place in our casual clothes among all those people in their “Sunday Best”.  Today, of course, vacationers might fit right in to those who trot off to their local Mass in shorts and flip-flops…but don’t get me started on that!

If you’re not lucky enough to spot a sign….yes, some Catholic churches still have them, but not many…..then be sure to plan ahead.

 

Cop with Nun in New York City
Photo by Felix Koutchinski on Unsplash

You might find a New York Cop…or a Nun… to help with directions, but that is pretty unlikely (kinda like the photo, though, so I thought I would add to this article).

We do have some suggestions for those going on a cruise…or those who might be looking for a Mass in an airport.

In the U.S. & Canada there is a website called Masstimes.org that is useful.

Otherwise, dads….spend as much effort planning to attend Mass as you do to getting to your destination!

 

Post by Harold Johnson

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Why will Holy Water Fonts be empty on the holiest of weeks?

As we enter Holy Week, memories of Easters past tend to occupy our minds. Church on Easter morning, pretty hats and newly bought clothing, along with the arrival of dearly loved relatives, were always something to which I  looked forward each year.

But, before that, came the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday).

I remember, as a very young child, going to Easter week services with my parents and being surprised when I went to bless myself with Holy Water but found a dry font.

I had been taught to appreciate the value of holy water and its frequent use.  Many saints and religious have emphasized the use of Holy Water to ward off evil.  Just one example is Saint Teresa of Avila,  who wrote that she used it to repel evil and temptations, but there are many, many others.

So why were the holy water fonts in our church empty on these three days?

Well, there was a reason for that:

Each year during the Easter Triduum the practice of the Church has been to empty the Holy Water fonts on those days when the Eucharist is not celebrated any where in the world.  At the Easter Vigil Mass, the water will be blessed and the fonts will be filled again.

Note:  In the past some pastors expanded the practice of empty holy water fonts to include all the days of Lent. No doubt this was done with good intent…to remind people of the dryness of Lent, but in fact, this is not the accepted practice in the Church. To correct this error, on March 14, 2020 the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship stated: “The encouragement of the Church that the faithful avail themselves frequently of her sacraments and sacramentals is to be understood to apply also to the season of Lent.”

 

Editors’ note:  During the Covid-19 pandemic, some parishes removed holy water from their fonts as a precaution.  It is the opinion of this editor that removing the holy water to prevent the spread of an airborne virus that does not survive in water was an absurd thing to do.  Obviously, many did not agree with my position.  What are your thoughts on the subject?

 

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Latest News on the Baths at Lourdes Sanctuary

One of the most desired activities when visiting Lourdes is, of course, the baths.  Being immersed in the baths is something most pilgrims look forward to.  Unfortunately, that is still not being done (as of March 29) but the Shrine has made some effort to give you something close to that experience.

Here is what they say on their official site:

Getting water from the spring at Lourdes, FranceFor health reasons and to respect physical and social distancing, bathing is not possible at the moment.  Accompanied by the Hospitallers of Our Lady of Lourdes, the spiritual approach of the gesture of water consists of drinking Lourdes water and washing your face, in this symbolic place of swimming pools, full of stories, prayers and of thanks.

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Latest entrance requirements for Israel

Starting March 1, 2022 there are new entrance requirements for tourists visiting Israel:

1. You do not have to be vaccinated.

2. You must have had a negative PCR test within 72 hours prior to arrival.

3. Upon arrival in Israel, you must take another test to enter the country.

4.  You must go straight to wherever you are staying until you receive your results.  Although they state it could take up to 24 hours, the results usually arrive in 6-12 hours.

All of this might sound daunting, but if you are traveling with a group you should not have any major problems, because a good tour operator will have anticipated all of this.

Our friends at Select International Tours have stated:

The test results (upon arrival) typically only take an hour or so, so we have not had to do much other than wait. But if this lengthens out, we will take them to the hotel until results are released. We have so far had four groups there and none have had any interruption to the itinerary at all“.

So our advice is don’t let any of this concern you.

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One Solitary Life

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put his foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. He had nothing to do with this world except the naked power of His divine manhood.

While still a young man, the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth while He was dying—and that was his coat. When he was dead He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today He is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that One Solitary Life.

JAMES ALLAN FRANCIS, One Solitary Life, pp. 1–7 (1963).
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My loving tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

I am a person who does not like crowds, so you would think that attending the Feast Day celebrations of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City on December 12 would be something I would avoid at all costs.  After all, well over one million (some estimates say 5 million) people pack the shrine on the Feast Day.  And yet I have always relished the times that I have been blessed to attend.

Join me as I reminisce about my first visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. On the evening prior to the Feast Day, those of us in our tour group who were more adventuresome decided to taxi to the Basilica. Traditionally many famous Mexican singers, performers and high ranking politicians show up for the festivities that start around 10:00 p.m. This lovely tribute goes on deep into the night and the love songs (Las Mananitas”) sung to Our Lady and the devotion the locals show for her is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  These are memories I’ll hold deep in my heart forever.

On the Feast Day itself (December 12th) we excitedly boarded our tour bus to take us to the Basilica.   But what a surprise was waiting for us!  Buses were restricted from getting too close to the shrine and we had to be dropped off quite a few blocks from there.  At this point we walked the rest of the way….something that turned out to be a blessing.  As usual, God’s plans are better than ours.

The Feast Day is a family event..here a man brings his young child to the Basilica.
The Feast Day is a family event..here a man brings his young child to the Basilica.

As we walked along with throngs of others all headed in the same direction, we experienced a real feeling of pilgrimage; unity with our fellow Catholics.  Those alongside us were mostly Mexican pilgrims, both individuals and whole families, carrying placards of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Many had walked for miles, and sometimes for days, to get here.  We passed young people rousing themselves from sleep as they had camped out overnight.  These heartwarming images help you to appreciate how universal and vibrant our Catholic Faith is.

There is more to the Shrine than just the Basilica that contains the miraculous Tilma of Juan Diego, although that is certainly the high point.  I think many of us were surprised that the grounds encompass both the new and old Basilica (now leaning as if it will fall any moment).

You can also see the room where Saint Juan Diego lived out the rest of his life after the apparitions and his simple grave.

Upon entering the grounds where the Basilica is located, we were presented with a kaleidoscope of sights.  We were greeted by descendants of those original Aztecs dancing in the ancient dress as would have been worn at the pagan festivals prior to the apparitions to Juan Diego. The dancers reverently process in to the Basilica symbolizing the shift from the old pagan religion to the new religion of Christianity that they now so enthusiastically embrace.  The colorful dancers add a festive atmosphere to the Celebration of the feast day.

Mount Tepeyac overlooks the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Mount Tepeyac overlooks the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

But what moved me the most was that in the midst of it all was the Monastery built atop the Hill of Tepeyac.  This is where Juan Diego first encountered Our Lady!  The climb is steep, but unlike the time of the apparitions, there are now stairs to make the climb relatively easy (remember you are at a high altitude, so go easy if you have breathing problems).

Even the youngest get to join in the dances.
Even the youngest get to join in the dances.

It might seem more like a carnival than a religious event….. because the Mexican people do not pigeon-hole their faith in to just one hour on Sundays.  It is a part of their daily life.

One of the native dancers
One of the native dancers outside the Basilica.

Faith, culture and daily life all come together in this magical land, and nowhere is that more evident than here on December 12th each year.

If you can’t make it to the Shrine on that date, try to find some of the many festivals nearby celebrating this Patroness of the Americas.  Or maybe you can catch some of the action on one of the Spanish-language TV networks (don’t even need to speak Spanish to enjoy the celebration)  or perhaps one of the Catholic TV networks such as EWTN.

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Many European Christmas Markets cancelled in 2021…but some are open

European Christmas Markets closed by policeThe resurgence of Covid in both Austria and Germany have also forced the cancellation of most of the Germany & Austria’s Christmas markets in 2021, the second year many of the markets have been forced to close over COVID.  These markets generally run from late November up until Christmas.

The closures in Germany include Munich, Nuremberg, Passau, Regensburg, Brandenburg, and the Dresden market, along with Austria’s Vienna (Dream Christmas Market), and more.

Because of this, a number of tour operators have made decisions to either alter or cancel their Christmas Markets itineraries, including river cruises that have been increasingly popular in recent years.

 

Christmas Market in PragueThere is some good news!  Some European Markets will be open.

The Market in Budapest, Hungary will be open from Nov 19 through Dec 31.

The market in Prague, Czech Republic will be open this year from Nov 27 through January 6..

Also, it appears most, if not all,  the Christmas markets in France will remain open!

 

If you know of any others please send us an email so that we can update our list.

 

2021 Quebec Christmas MarketFor those in North America, the Quebec European-style  Christmas market will be open from Nov 25 thru Dec 23.

If arriving from other countries be sure to check the entry requirements for Canada.

 

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Why all the interest in Garabandal?

Garabandal:  A warning and prophecy for our time?

Garabandal, SpainLately we’ve noticed a lot of interest in the tiny village of Garabandal, Spain which is located in the province of Santander and high in the Cantabrian Mountains of Northeast Spain.  Garabandal was a sleepy village in 1961 when reported apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary (preceded by Saint Michael the Archangel) to four young girls took place. Important messages for the world were also given to the girls at that time. Not that long ago…and yet the messages or apparitions have not been approved, nor disapproved, by the Church.

The “bottom line”, from what we understand is:

1. A worldwide warning where everyone sees their soul as God sees it (an illumination of conscience).

2. A miraculous sign to be left at the Pines here in Garabandal within 12 months of the warning.

3. A final chastisement if mankind does not repent.

For those not familiar with Garabandal, check out our page here.

But why all the interest now, some 60 years later?

Perhaps it lies in the fact that so much of what we took for granted in the world has recently been turned upside down.

For example:

Covid-19 response:

In some countries churches have been closed under the guise of “preventing the spread” of Covid, but bars and clubs providing so called “adult entertainment” have remained open.  Meanwhile economies have been destroyed, families torn apart and people live in irrational fear (ever seen a person driving in a car alone with a mask on?).  Australia has set up “internment camps” for those with Covid-19, in England people have been arrested for holding outside church services and we could go on and on.

Destruction of traditional Christianity:

Homosexual behavior is being normalized and even encouraged, especially to vulnerable young children. The U.S. non issues passports for non-binary people….you don’t have to declare yourself male or female. They want you to “follow the science” but not when it comes to physical reality, apparently.

Socialism and Marxism are promoted as ideals, even though there is no evidence that either has ever worked.  No..countries such as Sweden are not Socialist…you can read this article from a former President of Sweden.

In the U.S. racism is raising its head in the form of “anti-racism”, which is in itself a form of racism, since everything is seen through the prism of skin color.

Attacks on the family:  everything from our schools to our society aim to diminish the importance of fathers and the family unit.  The first target of the Devil.

Division within the Church:

Even within the Church there is division:  why did Pope Benedict XVI resign, why do not more priests and bishops speak out against the sin of abortion; why does the Vatican some times seem to embrace ideologies not in keeping with Catholic beliefs?  Why do some Catholics not believe in the True Presence of the Eucharist?  Why does the U.S. have a nominally Catholic president who pushes abortion?  The list goes on and on with no end in sight.

 

So what has this to do with Garabandal?

It is no surprise that people are beginning to think that these things cannot continue and that we are approaching a time when God will intervene in a way similar to what has been foretold by the children in Garabandal.  Of course, this is not unique to Garabandal, since others have predicted such events as well.