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Dr. Ralph Martin 5-17-2018

Dr. Ralph Martin visits our ‘Dine with Jesus’ sculpture during his recent visit

for the Livingston Vicariate Men’s Night.

 

MY MEDJUGORJE STORY, Fr. John Rocus

Medjugorje is a small town in the former Yugoslavia. In 1980 it is alleged that the Blessed Mother, The Virgin Mary, appeared to several young children of that town. From the outset it has been controversial. Some people believed and others didn’t. This controversy continues to this day with many very intelligent, devout,  and scholarly people weighing in with their thoughts on whether or not this is genuine.

What follows is my story of going to Medjugorje in 1990 and how I came to believe that it was in fact a genuine apparition worthy of at least my consideration.

First off, no Catholic is required to believe a private revelation, regardless of whether or not it is approved by the Church. You can check the Catechism of the Catholic Church for its stance on this issue . (#67)

Examples of these special types of spiritual encounters would include the apparition of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque which gave us the devotion of the Sacred Heart. Similar to that would be that of Saint Faustina and the Divine Mercy, Our Lady of Lourdes, Fatima, and Guadalupe. All of these apparitions were meticulously studied and eventually approved by the Church. Medjugorje has been watched closely but has not been approved as of yet. One major reason is that the apparitions continue. The Church would typically  wait until they conclude before offering any definitive statement.( that may not be the case with Medjugorje because I hear that Pope Benedict’s Commission on Medjugorje has been handed over to Francis and we may get a definitive ruling soon, Summer 2018)

Generally speaking, the Church believes in these spiritual encounters but recognizes also that they can be demonic deceptions, or could also be the result of human failings such as a mental illness, a desire for attention, or to willfully deceive, that is, to perpetrate a hoax. The Church has 2000 years of experience in discerning these types of things so they should be listened to as being the experts.

Now I would like to mention that my call to the priesthood was very fresh at this time. Only a few weeks old when I decided to go on my personal pilgrimage. Various individuals were suggesting that I should consider becoming a priest. Not exactly the news I wanted to hear. I was resistant. I’ll tell you of one of those instances. In anticipation of my pilgrimage I decided to go to confession. I figured it couldn’t hurt. I went to the pastor of my church for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We didn’t know each other and so he didn’t recognize me as one of his parishioners. But the first words out of his mouth were a question. He asked me if I was a priest. I asked him why he asked that question. He said I kind of looked like a priest. Well I was not wearing any black that day. More than likely I was wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt. But I left that confession thinking that maybe I was actually experiencing a vocation call. That experience in the confessional was repeated about 20 times from different people in different ways. It took me five years to work up the courage to approach the bishop asking for entrance into the seminary formation program.

Now back to my story. When I first decided to go to Yugoslavia to investigate for myself, I was given widely different opinions as to whether not I should. Some good, devout Catholics had said yes while others said absolutely not. I eventually reasoned  that all approved apparitions started out as unapproved apparitions. The people went regardless of whether the Church had given its “stamp of approval”. ( You can see this played out in the movies about Lourdes and Fatima.)

I remember first learning of the apparition in the mid-eighties from a small postage stamp-sized ad in Catholic Digest Magazine. It asked the simple question: “ Is Mary appearing in Medjugorje?”

I was intrigued and began to study more deeply. One book I read was by a Lutheran man who was a publisher. Wayne Weibel. I remember attending a talk by him at the other Holy Spirit Church, in Highland. His report was quite positive and I think it eventually led his own conversion to Catholicism. I remember asking the opinion of two friends at my home parish in Ann Arbor about whether I should go. One said no because it was an unapproved apparition. But the other person said sure, why not? He and his wife had been there and came back with one of those positive signs that would seem to confirm the validity of the apparition.

Well, in any case, I did choose to go and began to plan my journey. I chose a particular date to go with the intention of being there for the anniversary date of the apparition. The travel agent took on the task of making the arrangements. After several weeks I had not heard anything so I gave a call. She apologized profusely saying that she forgot. This actually happened twice. She then immediately made the arrangements but because of the delay, the trip was now far too expensive. We selected another date so as to get the price down to reasonable levels. I was disappointed but I was beginning to get used to the idea that God‘s plans might be better than mine, so I remained calm and didn’t yell at the travel agent.

I tried to work out my itinerary as best I could before I left but miscalculated in a few areas. I ran into roadblocks and detours and endured several delays that really kind of threw a monkey wrench into all of my planning. Take for instance, at the beginning of my journey in Italy, taking the wrong bus (boat) in Venice and going out to the working class neighborhoods instead of returning to the parking lot where my rental car was. I have to admit that I was kind of ticked off. But this caused several hours of delay. I eventually made it to the border of Yugoslavia and had to wait in line at the checkpoint. Remember, this was a communist country at the time. I remember the stern-faced guard asking me where I was going and when I told her, she looked at me with disdain, rolling her eyes in disgust at yet another foolish Christian  pilgrim/tourist heading off to that strange little town.

The trip down the coast took far longer than I anticipated. I had not taken into account the winding road down the very irregular coast of that country. It took me 12 long hours to make my destination late that evening. It was the city of Mostar on the coast. I was tired and lonely and getting concerned that I wasn’t going to find lodging for the night. I pulled into a high-rise hotel and was told by the concierge that there was only one room left in the hotel. There was room at the inn and I took it ! And I praised God that night for delivering me safely to a comfortable bed and a hot meal.

The next morning I headed out  inland from the coast, on the final stretch of my journey. When I arrived in Medjugorje it soon became apparent to me that everything that happened up to that point had definitely unfolded according to God’s plan and his timing,  and not mine. I arrived on the square in front of St. James Church at noon, just in time for the Sunday English-language Mass. It was there that the celebrant informed us all of the significance of that particular date and day, and time. It was noon, May 13th, the anniversary of the first apparition of Fatima (to the day and hour) and it was also Mother’s Day in many parts of the Western world.

I had a very short stay in Medjugorje and I and I did not experience any of the so-called “signs and wonders” that many of the pilgrims claim to see. No rosary beads turning gold, and I was not able to look at the sun unshielded as many others could do. After only two short days there I made preparations to return to Italy. I had to drive off into the night to catch the ferry at Dubrovnik. A bunch of charismatic types prayed over me and sent me off into the dark. I have to admit I was a bit unnerved because I got kind of a late start. When I got to the ferry I was relieved to see that there was another delay. A large truck had difficulty getting onto the ferry because it was about 2 inches too tall and so they were letting air out of the tires. I was able to drive right on with time to spare.

In due time I returned my rental car in Rome and began my journey back home to Michigan. At some point I was reflecting on all the special things that happened to me along the way and I thought to myself that one final sign that would be kind of a “frosting on the cake” would be to arrive home on my birthday. Well, I was scheduled to arrive home on the morning of the 16th. Oh well. It was a nice thought. But, weather had turned sour over the Atlantic and so we began to experience more of those delays, detours, and roadblocks. By then however, I was learning to keep my cool and so I just sat back and calmly waited for the plan(His plan) to unfold. And wouldn’t you know it, I eventually landed at Detroit Metro at one minute after midnight, on my birthday. How’s that for timing?!

There are more details I could share with you but let me give you just one more. On the ferry back to Italy I met two ladies from Florida who ran a retreat house near Clearwater. For some odd reason, while talking with them,  I blurted out that my home in Ann Arbor, in which I was a renter, would be a retreat house. I have no idea why I said that. Kind of mysterious. But when I arrived home my landlord said that she and her husband  were planning to sell the house and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. After taking ownership I began to work towards making it that retreat house but all my efforts fell flat. Remember that call to the priesthood? Well, once I got my priorities straight and got accepted into the seminary, I sold the house. The new owner handed it over to the religious order called The Servants of God’s Love. (SGL)

Several years later, now a newly ordained priest, I met Sister Ann (SGL) at a party. We talked about my old home and how the sisters had turned it into a …..retreat house.   It seems my prophetic utterance on  the ferry had been fulfilled, just not the way I expected.

So, again, the point of all of this was to share my perspective about this “alleged” apparition site of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It does not represent any kind of detailed, in-depth study, and no deep theological investigation. No, but only a personal experience that seems to me to be beyond mere coincidence.

I do recall however, a certain passage from the Acts of the Apostles that might be helpful. The early Church was thriving and the Sanhedrin was concerned about what to do next. The wise old rabbi, Gamaliel, said that if it was not from God, it would go the way of all false religious movements. That is, it would fail. If however, it was truly from God, there would be no stopping it.

I guess then, that we will have to wait on heaven to see what the answer is about Medjugorje.

Fr. John Rocus

May, 2018

Video

“By the Rivers of Babylon (with Lyrics)” by Boney M

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Clay Christensen on Religious Freedom

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Ten Minutes with Teresa Tomeo #13 – Silencing the Noise

Video

Sing a Little Louder

Video

“The Atheist” by Leonardo Defilippis

January 21, 2018

THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

JMJ

This past Monday was a federal holiday in honor of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., a national hero in the cause of civil rights. The day was marked in many places with a day off from work and many people remembered him in different ways. There were lots of words spoken and written about his legacy of nonviolence. One author, writing I think for National Geographic, posed the question about how our world would have been different had he lived. They admitted that this was pure speculation but that we might get clues about how things would have been different from examining the lives of those who survived him. Fair enough. His wife, Coretta Scott King, did in fact take up the torch as a political activist and left her own mark on the civil rights and political scene.

But from the outset as I read the article, being somewhat of a cynic, I began to wonder if the author would address another civil rights issue. One that would be very relevant, you would think, for “a man of the cloth”. Rev. King, after all, was a Baptist minister and a preacher of the gospel. The civil rights issue that I’m referring to was not a very hot topic when he died, but several years later the civil rights of unborn children were certainly diminished when our country’s highest court decided that they could be legally executed in their mother’s wombs. What would Rev. King have said about that? Well again, we can’t speculate for sure about what he would have said and done on their behalf, but what about those closest to him. Well like I Implied, the author did not get around to that particular question, but I do know that one of Martin Luther King‘s relatives, a niece named Alveda, is indeed an activist on behalf of the unborn – and a very vocal one at that. She has visited us here in the Brighton area and one would get the impression, based on what she said, that her uncle Martin would have definitely been a defender of the unborn.

This Monday is the anniversary of the U. S. Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision and many people will be going to Washington to protest that ruling. Among them will be our own very dedicated youth group who will do an overnighter. That means: ride, March, and ride back. Sleeping on the bus. As they said, it will be great fun. (Yeah, right). Kudos to my friend and colleague, Fr. Richard, who will be doing the same thing with his students from FGR. Pray for him.

Addenda:

I like to add videos to our “links” category on our website. You can find it under the media heading up top.

The most recent addition involves a mini-tour of the universe as provided by the Hubble telescope. Very interesting. As the Psalm says, “the heavens proclaim the glory of God”.

Well, I have to apologize. I dropped the ball. Last Wednesday was the birthday of our patroness, St. Philomena. January 10 is her big day, and we missed it. This information about her came to us by way of a private revelation back in the 19th century. So, on Thursday, we sang her a belated happy birthday song and promised to do better on her next feast day which is May 25. That’s the day her relics were discovered in the catacombs in Rome in 1802. Fr. J

 

Video

Flight Through the Orion Nebula in Visible and Infrared Light

January 14, 2018

SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

JMJ

I said in my homily today that the readings were absolutely ripe with meaning. Too much I feel to cover in one homily. So let me say something here about the first reading from the Prophet Samuel. It tells the story of when he was a young boy and was apprenticing to the elder prophet, Eli. In this somewhat comical setting, young Samuel was sleeping in the church, so to speak. He hears his name called and goes to Eli saying “Yes master, what do you want?” This happens three times before Eli realized that it was God calling the boy. I think that this passage is relevant to all of us as we try to discern God‘s Will in our own lives. We listen to many voices that pull us in different directions, and sometimes it gets a little confusing as to what route we are to take. But Eli gave Samuel, and the rest of us, a little prayer to pray whenever we find ourselves a bit befuddled about what path we are to take: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” And we can tack a little addendum to this which is actually a line from the Acts of the Apostles: “What would you have me do?” I think this prayer would be good for the big decisions as well as the little decisions in life. Seek the help of God who promised to guide us through the minefield of life.

I should also mention that this passage has a particular meaning for me. It was about 13 years ago that I was given a special gift. A Christmas gift, actually. A cat. I got him gift-wrapped in a box, handed to me on the altar, at the end of the 11 o’clock Mass on Christmas day in my first assignment at St. Joe’s in Howell. I have to admit that I was a bit irritated. One does not hand somebody a new responsibility without at least asking their permission. I was suddenly, and unexpectedly, a father to a feline. But as “we” processed out at the end Mass and as I saw the expressions on the faces of the people, I got the impression, that perhaps, this was the Will of God for me. And so I said, “Be it done unto me according to Thy Will.”

Well, if you have a new cat I guess you have to name him, right? So we had a contest with the schoolchildren at St. Joe’s. The kids submitted many different names, none of which I really liked. But that morning at the school Mass, the reading from Samuel came up. It occurred to me that two of the names that were submitted were “Prophet” and “Samuel”, and so that became his name. The Prophet Samuel (or Sammy for short). Sam has been a very good pet and I thank God for him. He’s had a few buddies over the years who have come and gone. His current pal is ET (I know, kind of a strange name for a cat). And they have been good companions to each other and to me. I guess it was all God’s Will.

Addenda:

I received a gracious email from someone and am repeating to you what I said to her:  The decision to suspend Eucharistic Adoration in our Chapel is the result of circumstances that have been hard to deal with-fewer numbers of people willing to commit to an hour, many senior snowbirds leaving for the south or for vacations, fewer substitutes and numerous no-shows resulting in many of our late-night adorers having to spend two and sometimes three hours in a row without relief. Scheduling is a logistics nightmare. I advised the congregation that they can stop in to the Church anytime day or night and adore Jesus, in the main Church or in the Cry/Shroud Room, just no longer in the Adoration Chapel. All are welcome to commit to an hour and asked to sign the sign-up sheet in the Cry/Shroud Room if you do. This will give us an idea if people are still willing to honor their commitment.

I also suggested a prayer: “Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into the harvest”, or in this case, “adorers”.

Last Monday I decided to go out for a little exercise and went on a walk on our Trinity Trail. It was beautiful out there. A layer of fresh snow blanketed the landscape. Lots of deer tracks. All the statues are down of course, but there were a few artifacts to look at. I had asked the maintenance department to plow a trail should any of you want to do some winter hiking, but I think it will be mush for the weekend. I know at least one of you got snowshoes for Christmas.

Again, thank you everyone for your Christmas wishes and gifts to me and to our staff. As always you were quite generous.

Lastly, thanks to all of you who contributed to our Christmas liturgies in any way. There are many behind-the-scenes workers who volunteer their time to decorate our church, and then to un-decorate it. It’s a lot of work, but I’m sure they would all say that is a labor of love. Fr. J

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