Our Lady of Heede
When four girls reported, on November 1st, 1937, that the Blessed Virgin had appeared to them, the news was received in the village with predictable skepticism and/or amusement. It was not until the girls showed a dramatic change in their way of life that the villagers began to wonder. Hitherto given over to pleasures and amusements, the girls switched to long and fervent prayer, impatiently waiting for the hour when they would see the Heavenly Vision again. Nevertheless, the Pastor and most of the villagers refused to believe in the apparitions for a long time but were finally won over. Crowds came to Heede when the news percolated to the surrounding towns and villages. But Hitler ruled Germany in those days and the Gestapo swiftly put a stop to this "superstitious nonsense." The children were taken to a lunatic asylum and the pilgrimages forbidden. After a few weeks the children were released but forbidden to go near the place of the Apparitions. However Our Lady appeared to them in other places, as subsequently did Our Lord.
The message of Heede is very similar to that of Fatima. Our Lady appears to have said little. She appeared to the girls with the Divine Child in her arms, smiled at them and was content to have them enraptured with the beauty of the Divine Presence.
Devotion to the Poor Souls in Purgatory was emphasized at Heede. The children first saw Our Lady in the cemetery while they were on their way to the church to gain the "Toties Quoties" indulgence for the Poor Souls. On April 5, 1939, one of the children asked Our Lady how she wished to be invoked. "As Queen of the Universe and Queen of the Poor Souls," Our Lady replied. She also requested to be invoked by the Litany of Loreto.
When Our Lord — as a grown man — appeared to one of the seers, Greta Gansforth, He had a solemn and sad warning to give her. "Men did not listen to My Most Holy Mother when she appeared to them at Fatima and admonished them to do penance. Now I Myself am coming at the last hour to warn and admonish mankind! The times are very serious! Men should at last do penance, turn away from their sins and pray, pray much in order that the wrath of God may be mitigated! Particularly the Holy Rosary should be prayed very often! The Rosary is very powerful with God! Worldly pleasures and amusements should be restricted.
"Men do not listen to My Voice, they harden their hearts, they resist My grace, they do not wish to have anything to do with My Mercy, My Love, My merits; mankind is worse than before the deluge. Mankind is suffocating in sin. Hatred and greed rule their hearts. This is the work of the Devil. They live in great darkness . . .
"Through the wounds that bleed now, mercy will again gain victory over justice. My faithful souls should not be asleep now like the disciples on Mt. Olivet. They should pray without ceasing and gain all they can for themselves and for others.
"Tremendous things are in preparation; it will be terrible as never before since the foundation of the world. All those who in these grave times have suffered so much are martyrs and form the seed for the renovation of the Church. They are privileged to participate in My captivity, in My scourging, in My crown of thorns and My way of the Cross!
"The Blessed Virgin Mary and all the choirs of Angels will be active during these events. Hell believes that it is sure of the harvest, but I will snatch it away from them. Many curse Me now, but these sufferings will come over mankind that they may be saved . . .
"I will come with My peace. With a few faithful, I will build up My Kingdom. As a flash of lightning this Kingdom will come . . . much faster than mankind will realize. I will give them a special light. For some this light will be a blessing; for others darkness. The light will come like the Star that showed the way to the wise men. Mankind will experience My love and My power. I will show them My justice and My mercy. My dearly beloved children, the hour comes closer and closer. Pray without ceasing!"
On November 3, 1940, the children saw Our Lady for the last time. She appeared to them in the cemetery, just as she did the first time. Our Lady said to them, "Be good and resigned to the will of God. Pray often, especially the Rosary. Now, farewell, my children, until we meet in Heaven." "Mother, we thank thee," the children cried out.
It has been falsely reported that the Vatican rejected or even condemned the apparitions of Heede. While there has been no formal judgment issued about the apparitions or message, the Bishop of Osnabrück received a favorable report from two priests he sent to investigate. It was only after wonderful cures occurred that the parish priests and other clergy supported the seers (forbidding a public dance announced for October 21, 1945, in response to their warnings). A new parish priest, appointed by the Bishop at the time the apparitions commenced, declared that there are "undeniable proofs of the seriousness and authenticity of these manifestations." Pilgrimages and devotions in honor of Our Lady of Heede have always been freely permitted. The history of the apparitions and messages has appeared in numerous publications bearing the Imprimatur of various bishops. Great caution is required on the part of the faithful, however, because of the flood of allegations of apparitions and supernatural messages plaguing the world these days. These phony apparitions almost always contradict the true Catholic Faith in some way. But in the apparitions and messages of Heede we find nothing contrary to the Faith; indeed, their similarity to the approved apparitions of Fatima, Lourdes and La Salette give good indications of their authenticity.
The Liturgy of All Souls' Day and the Office of the Dead
(Based on The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger)
The Church having always followed the same method with regard to the commemoration of the Blessed and that of the departed, it might be expected that the establishment of the Feast of All Saints in the ninth century, would soon lead to the solemn commemoration of All Souls. In 998 St. Odilo, the abbot of Cluny, instituted it in all the monasteries under his crosier, to be celebrated in perpetuity on the day following All Saints. In certain visions, recorded in his life, St. Odilo and his monks had been denounced by the demons as the most indefatigable helpers of the holy souls, and most formidable to the powers of Hell; and this institution was the Saint's retaliation. The whole Catholic world applauded the decree; Rome adopted it; and it became the law of the whole Latin Church.
As early as the ninth century, historians note the similarity between the Office of the Dead and the Office which commemorates the death of Our Lord (Tenebrae). There is the same lack of hymns, doxologies (Gloria Patri…), absolutions and blessings; the same suppression of the customary introduction: Domine, labia mea aperies… Deus in adjutorium meum intende… There is this difference, however: that the Office of Tenebrae has no Invitatory, while that of the Dead has either always kept it or long ago taken it up again.
This Invitatory, like the first psalm of Vespers, is a song of love and hope: The King, for Whom all things live, come let us adore. Beyond the tomb, as well as on this side of it, all men are living in the sight of Him who is one day to raise them up again. In the language of the Church, the graveyard is the cemetery—that is, the dormitory where her children sleep; and they themselves are defuncti—laborers who have finished their task and are awaiting recompense. This opening of the Office shows us what prominence the Church gives to thanksgiving and praise in her prayers for the dead.
The First Nocturn
The first psalm (Psalm 5) expresses the overflowing gratitude and praise of the soul escaped from the snares of sinners, at that first dawn of her eternally secured salvation, when she took her place among the holy ones in Purgatory. With what confidence she entrusts to Our Lord the care of directing her along the painful and purifying way, which is to lead her to the very entrance of God's house: Direct, O Lord my God, my way in Thy sight!
The soul has been heard: the time of mercy being at an end, justice has laid hold of her. Under the terrible grasp of this her new guide, and placed in the irresistible light of God's infinite purity, which lays open her most secret recesses, the flaws in her virtues and every remaining trace of ancient stains, the poor soul feels all her strength fail her. Trembling, she beseeches God not to confound her in His wrath with those cursed forever, whose proximity increases her torment. But her supplication and her fear are still full of love: Turn, O Lord, and deliver my soul; for there is no one in death that is mindful of Thee. This psalm (Psalm 6) is the first of the Seven Penitential Psalms.
In the following psalm (Psalm 7) David, accused by his enemies, cries to the Lord against their calumnies. The fear which causes the soul in Purgatory to prostrate with a holy trembling before God's justice has no more shaken her hope than her love; nay, she trusts to the very sentence of her Judge, and to the help sought from Him, that she may be able to cope with the infernal lion, who pursues her with his roaring in the midst of her poverty and desolation: Lest at any time he (the enemy) seize upon my soul like a lion…
After this cry has escaped from the maternal heart of the Church—From the gate of Hell...Deliver their souls, O Lord, the whole assembly prays in silence, offering to God the Lord's Prayer for the departed. And now, from the midst of this recollected silence, rises the single voice of the lector. He receives no benediction, for he is speaking in the name of the holy souls, who have no longer the right as we have to ask a blessing from the Church. He borrows the accents of afflicted Job, in order to relate their overwhelming sufferings, their invincible faith, their sublime prayer. At times Holy Job, overwhelmed with his sufferings, seems on the verge of despair; he seems to question the justice of God. But his faith and confidence are always triumphant: I believe that my Redeemer liveth, and that in the last day I shall rise out of the earth, and in my flesh I shall see God my Savior. These vicissitudes may be taken as a warning against those temptations which frequently beset the dying Christian. The choir intervenes after each Lesson with a Responsory, whose melody is marvelously in keeping with those echoes from beyond the tomb. At one time it is man taking up the words of the dead and making them his own, or supporting their prayer with his own supplication; at another, terrified at God's rigor towards souls that are so dear to Him, and that are sure of loving Him eternally, he trembles for himself a sinner, whose judgment is still uncertain.
The Second Nocturn
Our astonishment at finding the following antiphon (He hath set me in a place of pasture) in the Office of the Dead might elicit from the Poor Souls the reply: I have meat to eat which you know not. And being just and holy, they might add with Our Lord: My meat is to do the will of My Father. Seen from such a height in the light of our antiphon, what a place of pasture is Purgatory! O Lord, Who guidest me, Who by Thy grace deignest to be with me in the midst of this shadow of death; Thy rod, by striking me, comforts me; my resignation to Thy justice is the oil which flows from my head, and anointing all my members, strengthens them for battle; my heart, thirsting for submission, has found its inebriating cup. St. John Chrysostom informs us that in his time this psalm (Psalm 22) was chanted at Christian funerals, together with Psalm 114, our first psalm at Vespers of the Dead.
The sins of my youth and my ignorances, do not remember, O Lord. Would to God that we now examined our conscience as seriously as we shall be forced to do in the place of expiation, in order to repair our present negligence in that respect! Ignorance, which is now considered so excusable, will be a sad thing for those in whom the neglect to seek instruction has darkened their faith, lulled their hope to sleep, cooled their love, and falsified on a thousand points their Christian life. Then, too, must be paid, to the last farthing, the debts of penance accumulated by so many sins, which have been forgiven, it is true, as to the guilt, perhaps long ago, and as long ago entirely forgotten. See my abjection and my labor; and forgive me all my sins (Psalm 24).
On Good Friday Psalm 26 is sung at Matins, to express the unfailing confidence of the Messias throughout His Passion. It is repeated at Matins of Holy Saturday, to announce His approaching deliverance; and on this latter occasion it is accompanied by the very antiphon which is now sung in the Office of the Dead. As the dwellers in limbo on the great Saturday when our Savior was among them, so the souls in Purgatory unite themselves to their divine Head in His expectation of a return to light and life. Their prayer, which the Church makes Her own, is such as may well touch the Sacred Heart of Our Lord: I believe to see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
The Third Nocturn
As the purifying expiation goes on, the darkness that surrounds the soul is gradually dissipated, and glory begins to dawn. Psalm 39, which is also sung at the death of Our Savior, contains lively expressions of sorrow as well as the most ardent prayer. It also shows how suffering leads to closer union with the divine Liberator, Whose Blood extinguished the flames of all the ancient holocausts. It is full of thanksgiving, of admiration for God on account of His goodness, and of the desire of praising Him and seeing Him praised by all. Yes: be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me: but let all that seek Thee rejoice and be glad in Thee…
We have just been saying: I am a beggar and poor, the Lord is solicitous for me; and the following psalm (Psalm 40) declares: Blessed is he that understandeth concerning the needy and the poor. Among all the noble sentiments that reign in Purgatory, there could not be wanting that of gratitude towards those who have a thought for the too often neglected dead. How odious is this indifference for the departed, especially in those men of their peace who ate their bread in happier days, and in whom they so vainly hoped and confided! But hear how humbly and sweetly they pray for the benefactor, whom they themselves perhaps ignored or even despised in the time of worldly prosperity and who now assists them in their need: May the Lord make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies. May the Lord help him when he is on his bed of sorrow!
"I believe," says St. Catharine of Genoa, "that no happiness can be compared with that of a soul in Purgatory, except that of the saints in Paradise. And this happiness increases in proportion as the rust of sin is consumed away by the fire, enabling the soul to reflect, more and more clearly, the rays of the true sun, which is God. The suffering, however, does not diminish. On the contrary, it is love kept back from its object which causes the pain; and consequently the suffering is greater according as God has made the soul capable of a greater perfection of love." But let us listen to the soul herself expressing her anguish; no mortal tongue, were it even that of the great theologian of Purgatory, could give a similar utterance to such sublime sentiments. How the Church, in her psalms and her liturgy, surpasses even the most saintly and learned of her children! My soul hath thirsted after the strong living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? (Psalm 41)
Lauds for the Dead commence, like the ferial Office throughout Lent, with Psalm 50, which David composed after his sin, and in which he gives the liveliest expression to his humble repentance. The Church makes use of it whenever She wishes to implore the mercy of God; and of all the canticles of the prophet-king, this one is the most familiar to Christians. In the place of expiation it seems to rise naturally to their lips.
Holy Saturday, which the Man-God spent in limbo, is the great day for the faithful departed. The Church, therefore, as She daily sings a Canticle at this point in Her morning Lauds, puts today upon the lips of Her suffering children the Canticle of Ezechias. On Holy Saturday it expresses the words of Christ praying for His speedy deliverance. It is also accompanied by the same antiphon as on that occasion: From the gate of Hell deliver my soul, O Lord.
Let every spirit; everything that breathes, praise the Lord! In Purgatory love is overflowing, praise becomes the sole occupation, for Heaven is at hand. Absolute self-forgetfulness characterizes the close of the painful purification. Had the soul to remain still longer in the expiatory fire, it would not hurt her, since she has no longer any stain or rust for the flame to consume; but is full of God, incapable of any other sentiment than the desire of His glory: let every spirit praise the Lord (Psalm 150).
Again, as at the close of Vespers, the cry of joy contained in the Versicle comes down to us from Heaven: I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me: Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.
In the Canticle of Zachary, the Church, united with all the souls delivered or comforted by Her liturgical suffrages, thanks the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people. We too return thanks to Him Who is the Resurrection and the Life, and Who never abandons those who believed in Him during their earthly sojourn.
Champions of Catholic Orthodoxy
Saint Martin, Bishop of Tours († 397)
The great St. Martin, the glory of Gaul and the Light of the Western Church in the 4th Century, was born around the year 317 in Pannonia of Lower Hungary. While still in his infancy, his parents moved to Pavia, in Italy. His father was an officer in the army; but Martin from his earliest years had no other desire than to serve God, even though his parents were pagans. At 10 years of age he made his way to the church against his parents' will, and asked to be enrolled amongst the catechumens. His request was granted, and he assisted as often as possible at the instructions given at the church. He conceived such a love of God that, from the age of 12, his heart was set upon the monastic life. He would have retired into the desert had not his tender age made this impossible.
At age 15 Martin was compelled by his father to enter the military. Throughout his military service he kept himself free from those vices which too frequently sully and degrade that profession; and by his virtue, goodness and charity, he gained the esteem of all his companions. St. Sulpicius, his disciple and biographer, has left us an illustrious example of his compassion and charity. One day, in the midst of a very hard winter and severe frost, when many perished with cold, as he was marching with other officers and soldiers, he met at the gate of the city of Amiens a poor man, almost naked, trembling and shaking for cold, and begging alms of those that passed by. Martin, who by his charities to others had nothing left but his arms and the clothes on his back, drew his sword and cut his cloak in two pieces; he gave one to the beggar and wrapped himself in the other. Some of the bystanders laughed at him, while others were ashamed not to have relieved the poor man themselves. The following night, St. Martin saw in his sleep Jesus Christ, dressed in that half of the cloak he had given away. He heard Jesus say, "Martin, yet a catechumen, has clothed Me with this garment." This vision inspired the Saint with fresh ardor, and determined him to speedily receive Baptism, which he did in his 18th year.
Shortly thereafter he quit the army and sought out St. Hilary, who had been made Bishop of Poitiers. That great prelate soon became acquainted with Martin's virtue and, in order to retain him in his diocese, wished to ordain him to the diaconate. However, Martin's humility was such that Hilary was obliged to ordain him only an exorcist.
Martin obtained permission from St. Hilary to journey to Pannonia in order to convert his relatives, promising to return. He succeeded in converting his mother and many others; but his father remained obstinate. In Illyricum he opposed the Arians who prevailed there with so much zeal that he was publicly scourged by them and banished from the country. In Italy he heard that the church in Gaul was sorely oppressed by those heretics, and that St. Hilary was banished. At this sad news, he entered upon a monastic life near Milan. Auxentius, the Arian invader of the See of Milan, soon became acquainted with Martin's zeal for Catholic orthodoxy and the Council of Nicea, and drove him out that diocese. The saint in his distress happened upon a virtuous priest, with whom he agreed to live an austere life on the deserted island of Gallinaria.
When he heard, in 360, that St. Hilary was returning to his See, Martin hastened to keep his promise. In Poitiers St. Hilary gave Martin a little spot of land, where he built a monastery believed to be the first ever erected in Gaul. St. Martin raised two dead persons to life during this time, which exceedingly spread his reputation. In 371 he was chosen the third Bishop of Tours, but was very unwilling to accept the office. A stratagem was made use of to call him to the door of his monastery to give his blessing to a sick person, and he was forcibly conveyed to Tours under a strong guard. He finally agreed to be consecrated on the 3rd of July, after which he continued to live a monastic life.
The utter extirpation of idolatry from the diocese of Tours and all of that part of Gaul, was the fruit of the edifying piety, miracles, and zealous labors and instructions of St. Martin. He destroyed many temples of idols and felled several trees that were held as sacred by the pagans. Having demolished a very ancient temple, he wished also to cut down a pine that stood near it. The pagan priest and people resisted, but at length agreed that they themselves would fell it, on condition that he who trusted so strongly in the God whom he preached would stand under it where they would place him. The Saint, by divine inspiration, agreed and allowed himself to be tied to that side of the tree to which it leaned. When it seemed just ready to fall upon him, he made the Sign of the Cross, and it fell on the contrary side. Every one of the pagans there present requested to be accepted as catechumens.
When St. Martin was above 80 years old, God was pleased to put a happy end to his labors. As soon as he was taken ill, he called his religious brethren about him and told them that his time was come. At this news they all entreated him with tears not to desert them. But he, making an act of resignation to the will of God and banishing the devil by prayer, breathed his last on the 8th of November, 397. His feast is kept on November 11.
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