Friday, August 31, 2018

How the Seven Sorrows Rosary Came into My Life

I discovered the Seven Sorrows Rosary devotion only recently and rather unexpectedly. In 2017, I was preparing to lead a Marian Pilgrimage to Portugal, Spain, and France. It just so happened that we scheduled our pre-departure Mass for the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. On our pilgrimage, as we traveled through Portugal and Spain, we saw some powerful depictions of Our Lady of Sorrows – life-sized figures, dressed in beautiful garments, with seven swords protruding from Our Lady’s heart.

In the Gospel of Luke, the Prophet Simeon states: "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted, and you yourself a sword will pierce, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35). The sword has been seen as a symbol of the Virgin Mary’s suffering. Historically, the Church has identified seven specific sorrows in her life, which are sometimes depicted with seven swords piercing her heart.

I took note of these imposing statues, but I did not think much of them, or of the underlying devotion, until we reached Santiago de Compostela. I was sitting at the Pilgrim’s Mass in the famous cathedral, when I started reflecting on just how much sorrow life entails. "Isn’t life one long Pilgrimage of Sorrow?" I pondered. That's when I thought of Our Lady of Sorrows, and I started reflecting on the theology behind the devotion. As the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary was more connected to Christ than any other human being, and therefore she shared in the suffering of Christ in a unique way. We can safely say that no human being, other than the human nature of Christ, suffered as much as Mary did. Therefore, she understands our sorrow full well, and, given that she is the Mother of the Church, she is always eager to help us if we call upon her.

I went away from that Mass with a sense of connection to this devotion. Later that night, as I was browsing in the shops of Santiago, I came across a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, which I purchased for my collection of images of Our Lady. But as to just how I was to practice my newfound devotion, that answer came to me only after my return.

The same day I left on my trip with the pilgrimage group, a friend of mine had set out on a private pilgrimage to Italy, to walk in the footsteps of St. Francis. After we had both returned, we compared notes on our experiences. My friend, as it turns out, had visited the shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Italy, and, without knowing anything that was transpiring in my heart, she got for me a Seven Sorrows Rosary, a special type of rosary designed specifically for this devotion. She told me that she had never actually gotten a rosary before, but when she was at that shrine, she felt moved to get one for me.

Two days later, I received in the mail another one of these special rosaries from someone who had been on the pilgrimage with me. I felt like our Blessed Mother was telling me something. I quickly learned how to pray the Seven Sorrows Rosary, and I incorporated it into my daily prayer life.

In the three months following, the Seven Sorrows Rosary would be especially comforting for me. My father had been battling terminal cancer, and as he reached the final stage, I often thought of him as I reflected on the sorrows of Our Blessed Mother. I felt her give me the peace and strength I needed. I also introduced my father to this devotion, and he resonated with it at once. He started praying this special rosary while he still could in his final weeks. Though he was very weak by the end, he managed to get me a beautiful Seven Sorrows Rosary set for Christmas, as his last gift to me. During his final night, on the eve of January 2, I kept vigil by his bedside, praying. I had just finished reciting the Seven Sorrows Rosary when he passed. I am confident that Our Lady came for him to take him home to Our Lord.

I feel that I will always cherish this special devotion. I also feel moved to tell others who might have a similar inclination about the many blessings the Seven Sorrows Rosary can offer.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

How Medjugorje Transformed My Life

Almost a year ago, my wife and I traveled to Medjugorje for two days. The experience was powerfully transformative for both of us. In the video below, I describe how my life has changed since that brief visit to the town of Medjugorje.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

August 9, 1945: The Death of the Rome of Japan, the Heart of Catholicism in East Asia

Nagasaki was historically the center of Catholicism in Japan. In fact, the city was once known as the Rome of Japan and was seen as the center from which East Asia could be evangelized. St. Mary's Cathedral in the Urakami district of Nagasaki was the largest Catholic Church in East Asia. Until, that is, the second atomic bomb dropped by the United States on Japan exploded over the city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. The targeted area was just five hundred meters away from the cathedral. The cathedral, along with the entire district, was destroyed, as was the center of Catholicism in Japan.

The following articles describe the impact of the atomic bomb on Catholicism in Nagasaki:

The first one focuses on the miraculous survival of priests dedicated to praying the Rosary in Hiroshima, then recounts a similar miracle at Nagasaki.

The priests who survived the atomic bomb

The second describes the historical development of Catholicism in Nagasaki and offers a spiritual reflection on the destruction visited upon Catholicism there.

The Catholic Holocaust of Nagasaki — "Why, Lord?"

The third article describes the history of a statue of the Virgin Mary, pictured above, that survived the bombing of the cathedral.

1,000 Torch Bearers Carried the Virgin Mary in Nagasaki. Here's Why

The last entry is the Wikipedia article on Takashi Nagai, a Catholic physician, who survived the attack on Nagasaki, after which he led a life of exemplary prayer and service, earning him the title Servant of God, the first step toward sainthood.

The Life of Takashi Nagai