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Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, Apoc. 14:13

Stage Coach

 

In June of 1909, a stagecoach rumbled on a long journey to Gillette, Wyoming. One of the passengers, a priest, had sent word to the Catholic settlers out there that Mass would be offered on Sunday. The Northern Prairies had been so long without a priest that the reception of the Sacraments was only a fond memory.

 

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After Mass, the visiting priest watched a man, whom he had seen in the pews, riding up to him. He led another saddled horse.

“Father,” said the fellow smiling widely, “the stage doesn’t leave until late. What about a ride in the hills?”

“Wonderful!” responded the priest, and promptly mounted the saddled horse.

They had gone ten miles on the trackless prairie, when they saw something white flickering in the distance.

“What can that be way out here…?” asked the priest.

“Hmmm, Possibly a cowboy?” So they veered in the direction of the signal.

As they approached, they realized that the “something white” was a sheet being waved by a young woman.

On seeing the priest, she greeted him gladly, yet unexcitedly.

“Father, I’ve been looking for a priest, my brother is dying.”

The priest was mystified how a woman, out in the middle of no-man’s-land could have been “looking for a priest”, and on seeing one, received him in such a matter-of-fact manner.

But leaving such musings for later, he followed her to a tent. As she held open the flap, the priest caught sight of two candles gleaming on a small table. Between the candles was a crucifix, and a prayer book opened to the litany of the dying.

Giving the last ritesOn the cot next to the table was the woman’s brother, about thirty five, thin and worn. The priest quickly heard his confession, absolved and anointed him. In those days priests carried holy oils at all times.

As soon as the man received the last rites, he breathed his last.

And then the young woman told her story.

“Father, every day of his life my brother prayed for the assistance of a priest at his death. I hadn’t heard that you were visiting our region, and I had no idea where I would find a priest around here. This morning, my brother and I prayed for the last time. We said three Hail Marys, and then I went outside and waved the sheet.”

 

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Later, returning in the coach, the priest thought back to his visit, and that amazing, miraculous encounter, as a young man’s answer to a life-long prayer not to be allowed to die without the last sacraments of Confession and Extreme Unction or, as we say today, Anointing of the Sick.

Believing as he did, it’s no wonder the young man had prayed for such a grace his whole life.

Confession gives the penitent the assurance of complete pardon of all sins. Extreme Unction remits temporal punishment for sin, strengthens the soul against the last attacks of the devil, and further cleanses and prepares it for the supreme crossing. The last Anointing is such a powerful Sacrament, that, sometimes, it even restores bodily health.

Fingering the small bottle of holy oil in his pocket, the priest marveled at the courage of these two brave pioneers. As good Catholics, who gave their all in this life, they also knew the importance of dying in God’s Grace to be assured of God’s pardon and thus the right to eternal life.

 


 References: based on a story from Treasury of Catechism Stories by Rev. Lawrence B. Lovasik

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for July 24, 2021

It is easy to infuse a most fervent devotion into others, ev...

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July 24

 

It is easy to infuse
a most fervent devotion into others, even in a short time;
but the great matter is
– to persevere.

St. Philip Neri


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Charbel Makhlouf

Multiple times, he successfully lit an oil lamp which was fi...

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St. Charbel Makhlouf

Youssef Antoun Makhlouf was born in the village of Bekka Kafra in Lebanon on May 8, 1828 and was one of five children born to Antoun Zarrour Makhlouf and Brigitta Chidiac. His father was a mule driver who died when Youssef was only three years old, leaving his widow to bring up their children alone.

Although Brigitta was left nearly destitute, she reserved a profoundly religious atmosphere in their home and instilled in her children a deep spirit of piety. Because of this fidelity, Youssef became unusually devoted and inclined to prayer and solitude at a very young age. He was greatly attracted to the life and spirituality of hermits; and as a young boy tending his family’s small flock, he would often go to a nearby grotto where he had erected a little shrine to the Holy Mother of God and would spend his whole day there in prayer.

When he was twenty-three years old, Youssef, feeling the call to the religious life, left his home and family to join the Lebanese Maronite Order at the Monastery of Our Lady in Marfouq. Here he began his formation as a monk before later being transferred to the Monastery of St. Maron near Beirut. There he received the religious habit of the Maronite monk and took the name Charbel. He made his final profession as a religious brother on November 1, 1853 – he was twenty-five years old.

Brother Charbel immediately began his studies for the priesthood under the instruction of Father Nimattullah Kassab, who was also later declared a saint by the Church. Charbel was ordained on July 23, 1859, following which he returned to the Monastery of St. Maron where he lived a life of great austerity. In 1875, he was granted permission by his superiors to live a solitary life in the Hermitage of Sts. Peter and Paul, which was under the jurisdiction of the monastery; and there he resided for the remaining twenty-three years of his life until his death on Christmas Eve, 1898.

St. Charbel is renowned for his many miracles both during his life and after his death. His most famous miracle – which was also his first – occurred when, multiple times, he successfully lit an oil lamp which was filled with water. He is also credited with many healing miracles.

After his death, he was interned at the Monastery of St. Maron, now a famous pilgrimage site. His tomb was often witnessed surrounded by a dazzling light, and to this day his remains are incorrupt and an unexplainable blood-like fluid flows from his body. He was canonized on December 9, 1977, by Pope Paul VI, who held him up as an example to help us understand “in a world, largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God.”

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protest...

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Walk to Conversion

In September, I brought the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the home of Mr. John Black and his family in Kings City, California.  John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about thirteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California (though these are holy sites, they also serve as tourist attractions.)

“Who is this Junipero Serra anyways?”  he asked, as the tour guide shared the history of the mission. “Well,” the guide responded, “you are standing on his grave!”  Surprised, John looked down and read inscription on the stone. Sure enough, Blessed Father Junipero Serra was buried right there. “I became electrified,” John told me, “I had to learn more about this man and about the missions.”  The more he studied Blessed Serra, the founder of the first nine missions, the more impressed he became, and he decided to travel on-foot to all 21 missions. 

With the blessing of his wife, now left at home with their two infant sons, John left for his solo expedition, taking with him a single backpack, the bible and little money.  He told me that every mission he visited he felt the presence of someone receiving him, even if the mission was empty. He felt this ambiance in the missions so serene and uplifting, and began to realize it was the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament that made him feel so at home.

At one point, John collapsed from exhaustion near a mission run by Franciscans, who kindly hosted him for the night. Before he left the next day, one of the friars gave him a first-class relic of Blessed Serra. Since he was Protestant, John did not know what a relic was, but not wanting to appear rude, he accepted it. Not long after he left the Franciscans, John became lost in the wilderness in the middle of the night. Through his exhaustion and fear he heard a voice say, “Let’s help John.” He had the distinct feeling that Blessed Serra was guiding him, and gathered the strength and courage to continue. About six hours later, he stumbled upon the next mission. “It was kind of a miracle,” he said, “I was really lost!”

During his journey, John slowly came to a realization. “I know what you want from me, God,” he thought to himself one day, “you what me to became a Catholic. That is what this is all about!” However, he still had many questions about aspects of Catholicism that have been rejected by his Protestant faith – mainly about the Blessed Mother. Yet, from that point on he received answers to all of his questions, especially his reservations about devotion to Mary: he believed that it was once again Blessed Serra answering him.

With the help of Blessed Serra, one problem after another was resolved in the solitude of his travels. By the time John reached the final mission, he wholly decided to become a Catholic. “I realized that by having devotion to Mary, you love Our Lord even more,” he told me.

John returned home, filled with zeal and enthusiasm for his newfound faith. He shared his astonishing experiences with his wife, and she too converted. “I feel at home in the Catholic church,” John said, “and I have never loved Our Lord Jesus Christ more than I do now.”

by Joseph Ferrara

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John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about fourteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California 

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