Pope Francis celebrated Palm Sunday in a packed St. Peter’s Square calling on the faithful to look into their own hearts to see how they are living their lives.

With the some 100,000 people present to be with the Pope and mark the beginning of Holy Week, the Pope listened to the Gospel account of how Jesus’s disciples fell asleep just before he was betrayed byJudas before his crucifixion and then said: “Has my life fallen asleep?” “Am I like Pontius Pilate, who, when he sees the situation is difficult, washes my hands?”

And speaking off the cuff instead of following his prepared homily, Pope Francis asked: “Where is my heart?” pinpointing it as the “question which accompanies us” throughout Holy Week.

from news.va

Posted on Pope Francis Support

 

The many massive processions organized in the Philippines, in Naga, Quiapo or Cebu, their intensity and the crowds they attract are sometimes described by external observers as an expression of popular religion (with a slight depreciative accent), a deformation of faith, or a new expression of fanaticism. Whatever these opinions, these religious manifestations are a reality which is part of the cultural and religious landscape of the Philippines. The interpretation of this unique phenomenon is not easy. Since we make the hypothesis that they are true expression of faith, we have to clarify what kind of faith might be expressed here.

Faith has several ways of expressing itself. It depends on the local history of the church, the national tradition, a whole set of cultural elements which make the expression of faith unique in some places. We will see how different traditions regard the meaning and the expression of faith. Then we will be able to look at the way the Philippines has found a specific way of expression of faith. Let us first consider four main and already known ways of living the faith so far: the simple faith, the faith of intelligence, the faith of the heart and the faith of the modern Christian.

The Simple Faith

This is the strong faith of ordinary people, workers, farmers, employees, all men and women of good faith who do not have the words or the will to define their faith. They just practice it. They live with it all along their life without asking questions.

This faith is not threatened or destroyed by any external event or personal difficulties like death or accident in the family. These people are immune from the consequences of change of civilization or ways of living. Their faith is part of their life forever, and they will not lose it, by any event. It is so deeply rooted in them that nothing can take it away.

They are quite individualistic since they are very independent from external events. The simple faith does not communicate itself outside. There is no common practice, no community exchanges behind this strong faith. Each person lives her faith the way she wants and how she can.

Less and less people are living their faith that way, because of the difficulty of being independent from external influences from culture, media, communication, trips, and so on. No one is isolated in one’s practice anymore.

Blaise Pascal or the Faith of Intelligence

This model of the faith of intelligence is well represented by a French figure of the 17th century, famous for his hate of the Jesuits but also for his spiritual sense and his capacity for writing. He was impressed by, and afraid of, the infinite space out there. He did not have a simple and straightforward faith, but a very intellectual one: the world being what it is, he would bet on the existence of God. Nothing can be certain, but it is worth betting on the presence of God in the world. What could be more intellectual than that?

This type of faith is strong and articulate when one remains in the spirit of God, as he said in his Thoughts, avoiding the “distractions”: “All the evil of the world is summed up by the fact that one cannot remain quiet and still in his room”. The problem is that the world to-day is made of distractions, from the society of consumption to the last electronic instruments, the desire for leisure, of seeing the world, of being connected with everyone. It becomes difficult to concentrate one’s life on an objective.

The second problem is linked to the disappearance of transcendence in the modern developed world. The modern citizen is preoccupied by his or her day to day life, insurance for the future, health and well-being. He or she does not see the infinite space out there as a question. There is no more space in the mind for questions about the source of being and life. So one can end up without questioning oneself, since one has no particular sense of anything existing outside of oneself. The intellectual faith of Pascal is in danger in the modern world.

Mother Teresa or the Faith of the Heart

We know now through her correspondences that Mother Teresa had been left in the darkest night of faith most of her life. She did not see God, she could not say anything about him, she did not experience his presence.

But she had the faith of the heart of Jesus, a heart given to the poor ad infinitum, a heart who would love the very many poor of this world. This made her choose the most difficult attention to the dying in the worst place of the world, in Calcutta, decades ago. Those who did not exist for anybody, who ended their life on the sidewalk, became her privileged friends in the Lord.

Her faith in God was linked to her love for all because of the love of Christ for us. This faith of love is more easily understood by modern people, because it does not need the faith in transcendence. It can be exercised from inside the world on the level of human feeling, of attention to one’s neighbor, of applying the golden rule: “Do to others what you would like them to do for you”. This is the Gospel, and the whole gospel, with Matthew 25 in the background. With the humanitarian movement, the modern world has launched a great series of attempt to love others by helping and supporting them in all circumstances. There is here faith in human being, not in God, while Mother Teresa, although unable to see God, would refer to him constantly. Humanitarian feelings are not religious, even if they are generous. But they are grounded in strong values of human right and human dignity which can maintain a strong level of commitment from more and more non-religious people. Religious or not, people can dialogue on the basis of love of others. The faith of the heart can be shared even if there is no faith.

The Faith of the Modern Christian Hero

Another model is now present in secularized countries of Europe, the Christian believer who has resisted all elements of secularization, power of science, leisure preoccupations, modern pleasure, insurances by the state, etc. Beyond all the changes and the worldliness of daily life, he discovers and lives the reality of faith. While the culture is totally secularized, and transcendence has disappeared from the public sphere, the believer has made a choice: that of living for Christ. Beyond all temptations, he is like a hero of modern time who made the choice of faith although the whole modern civilization is turning its back to it.

As a matter of fact, this transformation is not the specificity of the western world now; it is also true in all regions of the world where development has arrived and has given other preoccupations and distractions to inhabitants, they be the business people in Abidjan or the students in Mexico, Mumbai or Manila. They are all taken by the secularized movement, and their attention has been diverted from their faith. They have many other possibilities than following the religious belief and they actually do it. Vocations to the priesthood or religious life are coming in much smaller number, like in the developed world. The globalization of unbelief is on the way at different paces. It demands now a strong personal decision to live one’s faith in this context. You have to be a real hero to maintain this life.

A Filipino Practice of Faith

In the Philippines, another way of practicing one’s own belief is experienced through many great events, from the novena of Simbang Gabi (Dawn Masses) before Christmas in the whole country, to the various processions of the Virgin of Peñafrancia in Naga, of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo or the Santo Niño in Cebu with millions of devotees involved. These events come from a long tradition which began during the period of evangelization by the Spaniards, and are practiced even outside the Philippines. But it has been taken up in the archipelago, practiced for centuries, codified locally sometimes.

Simbang Gabi for instance has disappeared for some years, prohibited by Rome which was worried about non-religious transformations of the event. But eventually, it re-emerged in the Philippines, being now a well-known practice of Masses celebrated as early as 3:00 or 4:00 am for nine days before Christmas. Crowds flock to churches all over the country, as friends and Christians together.

The procession of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo on January 9th has never been so well-attended as now, at the beginning of the 21st century, with over 3 million people. The same can be said about the procession of the Santo Niño in Cebu on the third weekend of January.

What is the common characteristic of these events? They involve a physical commitment of devotees who participate in great numbers together as a community of faith. People must get up early in the morning for nine days for the Simbang Gabi, they must walk up to 18 hours to Quiapo, or 5 hours in Cebu after they had been following the fluvial parade since the same morning. This does not mean that the heart or intelligence is absent, but they are not the basis of that faith: here the devotee is totally physically involved with others in the practice. He/she is even exhausted by such act of faith. He/she shares the concentration of people by standing for hours together in a very dense togetherness. He/she builds faith by physical commitment, he/she builds the community by being there together, he/she builds a way of living together as Filipinos. Being together for such an effort is a cement, as it were, for the community and is a sign of one’s identity.

This physical and communal commitment is the condition for the answer to the grace or petition that the devotee has been asking. It guarantees a response from God. It is a sort of demand like what the poor widow did in relation to the judge who finally accepted the demand because he got tired of the repetition and of her presence.

The attempt to organize more comfortable forms of these practices show that the faith is not understood in its strong practical involvement. So the practice of Simbang Gabi on the night before makes the practice easier and more comfortable: but it loses part of its value because the commitment of the devotee has been softened and eased. It becomes a more individual practice chosen by people who do not share the same community feeling. The Filipino version of faith entails a real physical or bodily effort from each member of the community.

That is why these practices are so appealing to young people who might have no intellectual sense of faith or do not know how to practice it as charity. It appeals to them because they know their identity lies somewhere in that practice. The challenge of being entirely committed to it by one’s own bodily involvement with friends and companions makes it more challenging and real.

It has some relation to the past practices of pilgrimage where faith was expressed through the reality of walking for thousands of miles, like St. Ignatius of Loyola going to Jerusalem, or like today when thousands of people walk to Santiago de Compostela. This is an expression of faith. But the community density dimension is missing, while it is essential to the Filipino version of faith.

This physical and community experience does not exist anywhere anymore. Even in Spain, Portugal or Mexico, the density of the population does not reach that level in Guadalupe or in Fatima. Processions are important but not at that level. What is unique in the Philippines is also the repetition of the phenomena in different places: Simbang Gabi, which has disappeared everywhere else, is celebrated all over the country in overflowing churches. This is the will of lay people, not of the hierarchy: the whole Black Narazene procession is managed by lay people who decide where they want to go, how and when.

Is this faith? Clearly yes, because it is an expression of belief in God, in the Cross, in the Child Jesus to which the crowd gives its confidence and directs its questions and prayers: God will answer them, console them, welcome them.

Can it be transmitted? It is already transmitted by the presence of many young people. There is nothing intellectual here. It is not the fruit of a decision after a moment of freedom and of distance: the young devotee follows his or her brothers and sisters in the community. The transmission is working.

This expression of faith is nevertheless threatened by many factors, like the different forms of faith, but differently. The more individualistic expression of faith puts a question to that physical and community practice. Each believer is looking for each one’s own comfort, each one’s best way of practicing the faith: that physical and community practice does not respond to an easy project. But so far, this expression is resisting the threat of individualism.

Does this faith relate in some way to the social reality? Does it produce some social effect? That is a very important question since the catholic faith has a strong relation to work for justice and attention to one’s neighbor and especially the poor in society. This vision of faith through popular manifestations does not seem to give this type of fruit. There is a de facto separation between the religious and social fields. That faith is not socially oriented, not in connection with social or personal morality. Corruption goes on, family violence goes on. Faith here is expressed beyond all ethical practices.

There is an attempt from the bishops to transform the strength of these manifestations into social action. In 2013, the Archbishop of Nueva Caceres has put all over the city the banners of the Peñafrancia with the inscription, “Growing in Catholic faith in Jesus Christ with Mary at the Service of Social Transformation”. Such a proposal is new, but it is less than evident, because the roots of the event are not related to society and it is not a reflexive faith, but an existential faith.

Could it be secularized? Maybe, it could become folklorized, transformed into a non-religious practice, just a cultural event. It is partly the case of Peñafrancia in Naga or with the Dinagyang festival in Iloilo where non-religious dimensions have been developed into a parade of schools or a show of dances. But in other places like the Sinulog of Cebu, we are still far from the risk of secularization because the Niño Jesus remains the centre, even of the dances.

Another threat would be excessive commercialization. Tourist agencies, private contractors, all merchants know that these events attract a lot of people. What a good occasion to open a new market! Tourists could flock to observe the processions and participate in these movements. Participants would be pushed to transform these religious events into secular and spectacular dances like the festival of Rio since they are often already associated with a secular festival which follows the religious event. But this commercialization just remains a threat so far.

This Filipino practice of faith is well alive despite its limitations. It is not in danger of disappearance. The only shadow could be the possible commercialization and folklorization of these events.

by Fr. Pierre de Charentenay, SJ from www.lst.edu

Posted on Ave Maria

 

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

Posted on Ave Maria

 

StJosephFathers of families find in Joseph the best personification of paternal solicitude and vigilance; spouses a perfect example of love, of peace, and of conjugal fidelity; virgins at the same time find in him the model and protector of virginal integrity. The noble of birth will earn of Joseph how to guard their dignity even in misfortune; the rich will understand, by his lessons, what are the goods most to be desired and won at the price of their labour. As to workmen, artisans, and persons of lesser degree, their recourse to Joseph is a special right, and his example is for their particular imitation. For Joseph, of royal blood, united by marriage to the greatest and holiest of women, reputed the father of the Son of God, passed his life in labour, and won by the toil of the artisan the needful support of his family. It is, then, true that the condition of the lowly has nothing shameful in it, and the work of the labourer is not only not dishonouring, but can, if virtue be joined to it, be singularly ennobled. Joseph, content with his slight possessions, bore the trials consequent on a fortune so slender, with greatness of soul, in imitation of his Son, who having put on the form of a slave, being the Lord of life, subjected himself of his own free-will to the spoliation and loss of everything.

- an excerpt from Quamquam Pluries (On Devotion to St. Joseph), Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII

Posted on Ave Maria

 

Dear brothers and sisters, may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ. We can do this to the extent that we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.

More in Pope Francis’ 2014 Lenten Message

Posted on Pope Francis Support

 

Chair of St. Peter1. What is the Chair of Peter?

It depends on what you mean - we look at both the physical object and the spiritual reality it represents.

2. What is the physical Chair of St. Peter?

This object–known as the Cathedra Petri (Latin, “Chair of Peter”)–is located in the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica. It is in the back of the chamber, behind the famous altar, on the far, back wall, below the the well-known, stained glass image depicting the Holy Spirit as a dove (see above).

This display contains an ancient chair that has been repaired and ornamented over time.

3. How has the chair changed over time?

Various modifications have been made to the chair, to repair and ornament it.

4. Did St. Peter really sit in this chair?

Pope Benedict XVI placed less emphasis on the archaeological authenticity of the chair than on its spiritual significance.

5. What is the spiritual significance of the feast the Church celebrates today?

Celebrating the “Chair” of Peter means attributing a strong spiritual significance to it and recognizing it as a privileged sign of the love of God, the eternal Good Shepherd, who wanted to gather his whole Church and lead her on the path of salvation [General Audience, Feb. 22, 2006].

6. What does the first Scripture reading of the day have to teach us?

The first reading for the day is 1 Peter 5:1–4, which reads:

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory.

7. What does the responsorial Psalm of the day have to teach us?

The responsorial Psalm is taken from Psalm 23:1-6. It also echoes the theme of shepherding.

In this case the Lord is identified for the individual believer as “my shepherd,” with the result that “I shall not want” (that is, I shall not lack anything).

8. What does the gospel reading of the day have to teach us?

The gospel reading for the day is Matthew 16:13-19, in which Jesus declares Peter the rock on which he will build his Church.

9. Does the pope have to sit in the physical Chair of Peter be infallible?

No. Although the pope’s infallible pronouncements are called ex cathedra (Latin, “from the chair”) statements, he does not have to be sitting in the physical chair (which is rather high off the ground in any case).

In fact, he doesn’t have to be seated at all.

He simply has to use the fullness of his authority as the successor of Peter to definitively teaching a particular matter pertaining to faith or morals.

This use of the full extent of his teaching authority is referred to figuratively, as him speaking “from the chair” of St. Peter.

It’s a figurative expression, not a reference to the physical object.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/9-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-chair-of-st.-peter

Posted on Ave Maria

 

Fraternity is an essential human quality, for we are relational beings. A lively awareness of our relatedness helps us to look upon and to treat each person as a true sister or brother; without fraternity it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace. We should remember that fraternity is generally first learned in the family, thanks above all to the responsible and complementary roles of each of its members, particularly the father and the mother. The family is the wellspring of all fraternity, and as such it is the foundation and the first pathway to peace, since, by its vocation, it is meant to spread its love to the world around it.

Cain_and_AbelGlobalization, as Benedict XVI pointed out, makes us neighbours, but does not make us brothers. The many situations of inequality, poverty and injustice, are signs not only of a profound lack of fraternity, but also of the absence of a culture of solidarity. New ideologies, characterized by rampant individualism, egocentrism and materialistic consumerism, weaken social bonds, fuelling that “throw away” mentality which leads to contempt for, and the abandonment of, the weakest and those considered “useless”. In this way human coexistence increasingly tends to resemble a mere do ut des which is both pragmatic and selfish.

“And you will all be brothers” (Mt 23:8)
The question naturally arises: Can the men and women of this world ever fully respond to the longing for fraternity placed within them by God the Father? Will they ever manage by their power alone to overcome indifference, egoism and hatred, and to accept the legitimate differences typical of brothers and sisters?

By paraphrasing his words, we can summarize the answer given by the Lord Jesus: “For you have only one Father, who is God, and you are all brothers and sisters” (cf. Mt 23:8-9). The basis of fraternity is found in God’s fatherhood. We are not speaking of a generic fatherhood, indistinct and historically ineffectual, but rather of the specific and extraordinarily concrete personal love of God for each man and woman (cf. Mt 6:25-30). It is a fatherhood, then, which effectively generates fraternity, because the love of God, once welcomed, becomes the most formidable means of transforming our lives and relationships with others, opening us to solidarity and to genuine sharing.

This being said, it is easy to realize that fraternity is the foundation and pathway of peace. The social encyclicals written by my predecessors can be very helpful in this regard. It would be sufficient to draw on the definitions of peace found in the encyclicals Populorum Progressio by Pope Paul VI and Sollicitudo Rei Socialis by John Paul II. From the first we learn that the integral development of peoples is the new name of peace. From the second, we conclude that peace is an opus solidaritatis.

Paul VI stated that not only individuals but nations too must encounter one another in a spirit of fraternity. As he says: “In this mutual understanding and friendship, in this sacred communion, we must also… work together to build the common future of the human race”. In the first place, this duty falls to those who are most privileged. Their obligations are rooted in human and supernatural fraternity and are manifested in three ways: the duty of solidarity, which requires the richer nations to assist the less developed; the duty of social justice, which requires the realignment of relationships between stronger and weaker peoples in terms of greater fairness; and the duty of universal charity, which entails the promotion of a more humane world for all, a world in which each has something to give and to receive, without the progress of the one constituting an obstacle to the development of the other.

If, then, we consider peace as opus solidaritatis, we cannot fail to acknowledge that fraternity is its principal foundation. Peace, John Paul II affirmed, is an indivisible good. Either it is the good of all or it is the good of none. It can be truly attained and enjoyed, as the highest quality of life and a more human and sustainable development, only if all are guided by solidarity as “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good”. This means not being guided by a “desire for profit” or a “thirst for power”. What is needed is the willingness to “lose ourselves” for the sake of others rather than exploiting them, and to “serve them” instead of oppressing them for our own advantage. “The ‘other’ – whether a person, people or nation – [is to be seen] not just as some kind of instrument, with a work capacity and physical strength to be exploited at low cost and then discarded when no longer useful, but as our ‘neighbour’, a ‘helper’”.

excerpts from Pope Francis’ Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2014

opus solidaritatis

Posted on Pope Francis Support

 

There is no more meaningful time than the beginning of a new year to hear these words of blessing: they will accompany our journey through the year opening up before us. They are words of strength, courage and hope. Not an illusory hope, based on frail human promises, or a naïve hope which presumes that the future will be better simply because it is the future. Rather, it is a hope that has its foundation precisely in God’s blessing, a blessing which contains the greatest message of good wishes there can be; and this is the message which the Church brings to each of us, filled with the Lord’s loving care and providential help.

The message of hope contained in this blessing was fully realized in a woman, Mary, who was destined to become the Mother of God, and it was fulfilled in her before all creatures.

The Mother of God. This is the first and most important title of Our Lady. It refers to a quality, a role which the faith of the Christian people, in its tender and genuine devotion to our heavenly Mother, has understood from the beginning.

more on Pope Francis’ homily from the Holy Mass on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, 1 January 2014

Posted on Pope Francis Support

 

The reason lies in the fact that “God is with us”, in Jesus, God has “come to save us, and especially those whose hearts are bewildered”.

“Our joy is Christ, his faithful and inexhaustible love”, Pope Francis added. “Therefore, when a Christian is sad, it means he has distanced himself from Jesus”. “But – he insisted – we must not leave that person alone; we must pray for him or her, and make them feel the warmth of the (Christian) community.”

He prayed that Mary, who was filled with the joy of the Lord, would obtain for all Christians “the joy of the Gospel in the family, at work, in the parish and in every setting” that “infinite joy” which is “made of wonders and tenderness”.  This joy, he said, is “the joy that a mother experiences when she looks at her child who is just born, and feels that it is a gift of God, a miracle for which one can only say thanks.”

more at lastampa.it

Posted on Pope Francis Support

 

P5000 will help one family recover

HOW TO HELP

For cash donations, you may deposit to these accounts:

Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI)
Branch: Julia Vargas
Account Name: Assisi Development Foundation, Inc.
Peso Current Account Number: 2431-0046-69

Metrobank
Branch: Emerald-Ortigas Center
Account Name: Assisi Development Foundation, Inc.
Peso Savings Account Number: 658-3-65831950-8

 

For In-kind donations, you may bring them to:

Tabang Visayas Secretariat Office 
c/o Assisi Development Foundation
Unit 503, 5/F Prestige Tower,
F. Ortigas Jr. Road, Ortigas, Pasig City

 

For more information:

Websites: www.tabangvisayas.net, www.assisi-foundation.org
Telephone:
 +632-6321001 to 03
Email: secretariat@tabangvisayas.net

Posted on Ave Maria

 

Ave Maria Online Magazine
Extravagant displays of devotion to Mary gets curtailed as world culture emphasizes the rational, scientific and technological aspects of life. There seems to be no more time for the more affective expressions of religion.

  Then, after a while, people get fed up with the absolutely rational and logical culture, and rediscover religion and the affective part of the human soul and its needs.

  And Mary is one of those.

Pledge to pray the rosary
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Love and support for Pope Francis
The Church is certainly a human and historical institution with all that entails, yet her nature is not essentially political but spiritual: the Church is the People of God, Holy People of God making its way to encounter Jesus Christ. Only from this perspective can a satisfactory account be given of the Church's life and activity.

  Christ is the Church's Pastor, but his presence in history passes through the freedom of human beings; from their midst one is chosen to serve as his Vicar, the successor of the Apostle Peter.

  Yet Christ remains the center, not the Sucessor of Peter: Christ, Christ is the centre.

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2012-2013 The Year of Faith
May every Christian rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.

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A Million Roses for the World
A gift of love, faith and goodwill from the people of the Philippines. Pope Pius IX once said: “Give me an army praying a million rosaries a day and we will conquer the world.” We are not out to conquer the world…but to save it for God to whom it rightly belongs.

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