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 Now and at the hour of our death
  By Michelle Taylor

 

After the Holy Ghost had descended in the form of fiery tongues on the Apostles on Pentecost day, Saint Peter stepped out before a great crowd and spoke with so much fire, unction, and wisdom that five thousand at once asked for holy baptism.

In that crowd was a poor, young woman, listening with all her soul. Her name was Lillian.

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Lillian was poor and humble, and busied herself with her household chores. Some days after that great day when she had heard Saint Peter preach, Lillian fell ill. Her malady gradually worsened and soon, exhausted and weakened, she took to her bed.

The devil, who is a very big coward, had been watching her very closely, “Ha, ha!” He thought, “Now that she is so weak and sickly I may prompt her to sin and, perhaps, even steal her new Faith from her.”

You see, my friends, the devil is very resentful of all who possess our holy Catholic Faith, for that Faith gives them the means to reach heaven and see the good God. This, the devil will never be able to do.

In her weakened state, the poor girl did consent to a few sins. Now, we all know that when we commit sins we become weaker, making it much easier for the devil to tempt us even more.

So, the devil now took on the appearance of a woman, approached Lillian’s sickbed, and began to talk to her about the new Church that had just been founded:

“You, know,” said the woman (who was really the devil), “you shouldn’t listen to what those disciples of that Man who just died on a cross have to say. They are deceiving you. All those things they are telling you are lies. You should stay away from them. If you don’t, the same priests and judges who crucified their Teacher will punish you.”

Lillian lying in bed, distressed, as the devil disguised as on old woman leavesOn and on went the devil, spinning his tale, until the young girl was nearly convinced that she should give up her newly acquired Faith. Still, she asked, “But, what about that lady whom I have seen with the Christians and who is so beautiful, so good, so kind and patient?”

“Oh,” replied the devil, “wouldn’t you know. She is the worst of them all! Don’t be deceived by her looks and her supposed kindness and patience!”

Hearing all this, young Lillian believed the fiend and gave up her Faith. At the same time, her health failed once and for all, and she was soon at death’s door.

Hearing of her condition from a neighbor, one of the seventy-two disciples of Our Lord Jesus visited her. Finding her so very sick, he tried to talk to her and help prepare her for the approaching end. But she would not listen to him. The more he tried to talk, the more she stopped her ears and asked him to leave her house.

Realizing that the girl was in great danger, the disciple immediately looked for the Apostle Saint John to tell him about Lillian’s plight. Saint John quickly made his way to the girl’s house and, on entering, beheld the poor creature lying on her bed surrounded by legions of demons.

On seeing Saint John, the demons retired, but, still, there was nothing the Apostle could do to convince Lillian to return to her Faith. The girl could not be reached. As soon as Saint John left, all of the devils came right back, tormenting the poor girl and making sure that she remained in their clutches.

Very worried, Saint John lost no time in visiting the Blessed Virgin, who was then living in Jerusalem, to tell her of Lillian and her great danger. Our Lady was much concerned and immensely sorry for this simple sheep whom the devil was trying to snatch from her Son.

The angels stop Our Lady and St. John on their way to visit LillianNow, our great Lady had, among all her gifts, the ability to see with the eyes of her soul all that happened with her Son’s Church. Gazing with these interior eyes, she could see the poor young girl on her bed, suffering terribly and surrounded by hideous devils. Retiring to her chamber, she prostrated on the floor, and begged God to save that tormented soul.

After having prayed, the holy Lady called one of the angels that always accompanies her and bade him go to the young girl to try his mightiest to return her to her senses. The angel obeyed immediately, and was soon back.

“My Lady, I return from the task of assisting this girl in her mortal danger, as thou, Mother of Mercy, had commanded me. Alas, so hard is her heart that she will not listen to me. I have fought against the demons but they resisted, saying that, by right, this soul belongs to them because she gave herself to them willingly. God has not enabled me to fulfill thy will. I am sorry, my Lady, but I cannot give thee this consolation.”

The loving mother was quite saddened at this news but, being truly our mother, she would not give up on this poor girl.

Once more, with her face to the ground, she beseeched God Our Lord to deliver this poor soul from the devil’s clutches. Our Lord, however, seemed not to hear her. Sometimes He did this only to hear His sweet mother’s voice calling to Him longer. Besides, He was sure she would do the right thing.

Even though her Son said nothing from heaven, the Blessed Lady knew that she had to help. Whenever a charitable act had to be done, no one was as eager as the Blessed Virgin, our Mother to accomplish it.

Turning to Saint John then, she said: “Come with me, my son. I am going myself to help this young dove who is so deceived.” Closing the door of the Cenacle behind them, they made their way to the girl’s house, which was not far from there.

As soon as they had gone but a few paces, several angels appeared before them and blocked their progress. The holy Mother asked them why they did this, and they answered: “There is no reason that we should allow you to walk, my Lady, when we can carry you.” Saying this, they made a throne of shining clouds and, seating the great Lady upon it, they carried her right to Lillian’s bedside.

Lo, as soon as the Blessed Lady appeared in the room, the devils made such haste to leave that that they tripped over each other in their flight! The powerful Queen commanded them to return to hell and to remain there until she gave them permission to come out. So ordered, they could do nothing but give in to her command.

This kindest of mothers then approached the girl and, taking her hand and calling her by name, spoke to her sweetest words of life. Immediately, the girl felt better and refreshed.

Our Lady reassures Lillian of the truth of the faith. Lillian embraces the cross. “My Lady,” she said, “a woman came to me and told me that the disciples of Jesus were deceiving me and that I had better separate myself from them and from thee. She said that if I accepted their way of life, great misfortune would befall me.”

The Queen answered: “My daughter, she who seemed to you a woman was your enemy, the devil. I come in the name of the Most High to give you eternal life. Return, then, to His true Faith, and confess Him with all your heart as your God and Redeemer. Adore Him and ask Him to forgive you your sins.”

“All this,” the girl answered, “I believed before, but the woman told me it was all very bad and that they would punish me if I should ever confess it.”
The heavenly teacher replied: “My daughter, do not fear this deceit; remember that the only punishments to be really feared are those of hell, to which the demon wants to take you.”

The poor girl was soon crying and most sorry for what she had done. She begged the good Lady to continue to help her and to bring her back to the Church.

The Blessed Mother then sent for Saint John to administer the Sacraments to the dying girl. Repeating the acts of contrition and love and invoking Jesus and Mary, the girl died happily in the arms of the good Mother.

The great Lady had remained with her two hours to prevent any demons from returning. Her help was so complete that not only did she restore the girl to eternal life, but also made up for her Purgatory with her own prayers. As soon as Lillian breathed her last, the great Queen handed her soul to one of the twelve angels who are the special guardians of all those who have devotion to Mary and bade him deliver her to Heaven.

So, my dear friends, every time we say the Hail Mary and come to the words “pray for us now, and at the hour of our death,” let us remember this story and ask the Blessed Mother with all our hearts to be with us at that hour just as she was with Lillian. Better still, if we are her faithful devotees all throughout our lives, no devil, no matter how powerful, will ever overcome us. And, in the hour of our death, this Mother, who is so sweet to her children and so terrible to the devil, will come herself to take us to her Son and to eternal happiness.

 


 Adapted for Crusade's "Family Series" from a story told by Venerable Mary of Agreda in The Mystical City of God

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 20, 2019

The devotion to the Eucharist is the most noble, because it...

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November 20

 

The devotion to the Eucharist is the most noble, because
it has God as its object; it is the most profitable for salvation,
because It gives us the Author of Grace;
it is the sweetest, because the Lord is Sweetness Itself.

Pope St. Pius X


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Edmund the Martyr

The barbarian leader, Ingvar, offered to let the King live o...

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St. Edmund the Martyr

Though only about fifteen years old when crowned in 855, Edmund showed himself a model ruler from the first, anxious to treat all with equal justice, and closing his ears to flatterers and untrustworthy informers. In his eagerness for prayer he retired for a year to his royal tower at Hunstanton and learned the whole Psalter by heart, in order that he might afterwards recite it regularly.

In 870 Edmund bravely repulsed the two Danish chiefs, Hinguar and Hubba, who had invaded his dominions. However, they soon returned with overwhelming numbers, and pressed terms upon him which as a Christian he felt bound to refuse. In his desire to avert a fruitless massacre, he disbanded his troops and himself retired towards Framlingham; on the way he fell into the hands of the invaders. Having loaded the king with chains, his captors conducted him to Hinguar, whose impious demands he again rejected, declaring his religion dearer to him than his very life.

His martyrdom took place in 870 at Hoxne in Suffolk. After beating him with cudgels, the Danes tied him to a tree, and cruelly tore his flesh with whips. Throughout these tortures Edmund continued to call upon the name of Jesus, until at last, exasperated by his constancy, his enemies began to discharge arrows at him. This cruel sport was continued until his body had the appearance of a porcupine, when Hinguar commanded his head to be struck off.

From his first burial-place at Hoxne his relics were removed in the tenth century to Beodricsworth, since called Bury St. Edmunds, where arose the famous abbey of that name. His feast is observed November 20, and he is represented in Christian art with sword and arrow, the instruments of his torture.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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