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Spiritual Talk – Fatima

In 1916, an angel, the Guardian of Portugal and the Angel of Peace, twice appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal and taught them to offer up their work and sufferings. The angel appeared a third time and, lifting high the Body and Blood of Christ, prostrated himself on the ground thrice and prayed what are now known as the second of the four Fatima Prayers. Then, the angel administered the Body to Lucia, and the Blood to Francisco and Jacinta, and taught them how to receive the Eucharist as an Act of Reparation, saying, “Jesus has been severely offended by ungrateful sinners – you must receive the Eucharist for the reparation of their sins and console your God.” Then, he disappeared, and Mary eventually appeared to the children in 1917. They noticed that, when the angel appeared to them, they felt tired and afraid to confide in him, but when Mary appeared to them, they felt energized and wanted to confide all to her. It was only later, when Lucia was commanded to write memoirs, that the apparitions of the angel were revealed. We too can learn to receive the Eucharist worthily and console God.
Publish date: 2017 - 12 - 2


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Spiritual Talk – Children can also be saints

Children can also be saints – 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions, when Mary appeared to 10-year-old Lucia, 9-year-old Francisco, 7-year-old Jacinta. Francisco and Jacinta died early and were canonized on May 13, 2017. In 1916, an angel told them to pray with him and implore God to forgive the unbelievers; he told the children, “Keep praying. Jesus and Mary will listen to your prayers.” Another time, the children were idle in the shade, and the angel chastised them, telling them to keep praying and offer up their work as sacrifices to God for the sake of the conversion of sinners. The angel continued, “I am the Guardian Angel of Portugal. If you do these, your country will have peace. But you must patiently endure the coming sufferings.” The angel, suspected to be St. Michael, prepared the way for Mary’s apparitions. When we are called to endure things in life, we can also offer these up to God as sacrifices.
Publish date: 2017 - 11 - 25


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (62)

By 1879, St. John Bosco was growing old and began thinking of appointing his successor as superior of the Salesian Order. He frankly consulted Fr. Giovanni Cagliero, saying, “I think there are three probable candidates.” Fr. Cagliero replied, “As of now, there’s only one – Fr. Rua.” Thankful for the advice, Fr. Bosco appointed Fr. Michele Rua his successor. That December, Fr. Cagliero was consecrated in Turin as a bishop to South America, and purposely sought ought Fr. Bosco to be the first to kiss his bishop’s ring. In 1887, Fr. Bosco celebrated Mass at the newly-consecrated Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians in Turin; he cried many tears, saying afterwards that he recalled a childhood vision of Mary. Now, he knew that all his work to save souls was worth it. In September, he became sick, and even as visitors came to comfort him, he would still comfort them in return. When his health declined further, Fr. Cagliero returned from South America to visit, and during their visit, Fr. Bosco told him, “Tell the Salesians to work diligently and joyfully, to love each other like brothers.” In 1888, he said, “Tell my children that I will await them in heaven.” In January 31, he passed away in the company of his spiritual children. But even after death, he continues to work, working miracles and interceding for the living – a true spiritual father.
Publish date: 2017 - 11 - 18


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (60)

Many miracles occurred in St. John Bosco’s life. Once, a 16-year-old boy named Francisco entered the Oratory, but after a few days, tired of the simple food, told his mother he wanted to go home. Then, he witnessed a miracle—with only 15 to 20 loaves of bread, St. John Bosco fed the entire Oratory of 400 boys—and he told his mother, “Mother, I am sorry you had to needlessly come to Turin. But I have witnessed a miracle here, and I cannot leave a place so blessed by God.” He later became a Salesian priest. St. John Bosco had long prayed to the Virgin Mary for the gift of giving guidance to others. Because of this, he would frequently give helpful words of caution to his students. He would tell them to avoid obsessing over worldly things and focus on heavenly things. In doing so, he met their spiritual needs and brought them closer to God.
Publish date: 2017 - 11 - 4


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (59)

St. John Bosco received knowledge from his dreams and used it to teach his students. Once, he dreamt he was in a beautiful place with his students led by the deceased St. Dominic Savio. Dominic was wearing a beautiful red sash on his waist, pure white robes, and a garland. The sash represented the sacrifices he made, the robes his baptismal purity, and the garland his many virtues. Dominic said, “What gave me the greatest solace before death was the strength that Mary gave us to love. The Salesians will bring many souls to God, but you must remember to venerate the Virgin Mary and preserve virtue.” In another dream, St. John Bosco heard two girls talking: “Purity comes from adhering to the holy law of God.” He would teach his students to restrain themselves in word, thought, and appetite; he also warned them to avoid idleness and excessive busyness, because the Devil loved to tempt people at such times.
Publish date: 2017 - 10 - 28


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (58)

Once, St. John Bosco had a dream. In it, the students of his Oratory were dining in three levels: a few students dined miserably on the floor, most of the students dined at tables set with tablecloths and cutlery, and only very few students dined from on high with exquisite food and joyful sharing. He recognized his students and understood that the lowest level were in grave sin, the middle level were those who had repented, and the highest level had never lost their baptismal purity. On awaking, he encouraged those in grave sin, although unable to reach the highest level, to repent and be saved. St. John Bosco had another dream of the Devil ensnaring souls with sins. But beside each trap, God’s providential hand would place helpful weapons. The two biggest were meditation and spiritual reading, the two swords were adoring the Eucharist and venerating Mary, the axe was Confession, and the assorted knives were venerating the saints. He also had a third dream that the Church would face rough seas of sin and conflict but a Pope would guide its ship between the two columns of the Eucharist and Mary.
Publish date: 2017 - 10 - 21


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. Dominic Savio

St. Dominic Savio was a holy student of St. John Bosco. When a classmate refused to pray in the cold chapel, he gave him his coat. Another time, a stranger visited the Oratory’s students and interspersed his jokes with criticisms of Catholicism. When Dominic found out, he got the students to walk out, saying, “This sinful man is trying to destroy our souls.” Another time, one of the students shared an impure newspaper, so Dominic angrily ripped it up and said, “Have you forgotten? Jesus said even one impure look can damage our souls!” The boy protested, “We’re just playing.” Dominic said, “We’ll see if you’ll still have fun in hell!” In 1856, John Bosco’s mother Margherita passed away and appeared singing to him in his dreams, saying, “I’m awaiting you, we must be together.” And a year later, Dominic fell sick and died, later appearing to his father asking for prayers.
Publish date: 2017 - 10 - 7


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (55)

St. John Bosco founded the Salesian Order, dedicated to educating youths. One of his more well-known students was St. Dominic Savio. On the day of his First Communion, he made four vows: (1) to diligently receive the Sacraments; (2) to sanctify Sundays and holy days; (3) to befriend Jesus and Mary; and (4) to rather die than sin. Everyday, the 14 year-old boy had to walk 12 miles to school but he never felt tired, for he believed that “God my master rewards me richly.” Once, Dominic’s classmate committed a serious sin and framed Dominic. He was silent throughout and when the truth came to light later, he said, “I know he only accused me because he had other troubles. I hoped to give him another chance.” Once, Dominic asked St. John Bosco to let him study in Turin, saying, “Taylor me into a fitting garment for Christ!” Another time, St. John Bosco preached about the universal call to saintliness, instilling in Dominic the need to always rejoice in God.
Publish date: 2017 - 9 - 23


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (54)

In 1853, St. John Bosco started a workshop for the Oratory’s children to provide them wholesome work and to fulfill the Oratory’s needs. He started a press called Catholic Readings to print apologetics, which angered many anti-Catholics. One day, two men approached him and offered him 1000 lira to publish history books instead. He refused, asking, “If my work is so useless, why do you offer me so much money? As a priest, I work for the good of the Church, the good of the poor. I must continue.” Afterwards, many assassination attempts were made on his life. People poisoned his Communion wine and a woman attacked him with a chair after pretending to be deathly ill. John Bosco befriended a dog called Grigio who never ate and always protected him. Once, a sniper lay in wait for John Bosco, and the dog saved his life by preventing him from leaving the house. Perhaps the dog was his guardian angel sent to protect him.
Publish date: 2017 - 9 - 16


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (53)

St. John Bosco’s mother Margherita was a holy woman who is currently being investigated for sainthood. Born poor, she lived as a poor woman all her life. John Bosco could not bear seeing his mother dress so poorly, so he gave her 20 lira to buy new clothes. But upon receiving the money, she met some poor children and used up the money to buy them clothes instead. She exemplified spiritual poverty and frequented daily Mass, praying before Jesus in the tabernacle, often giving guidance to the Oratory’s children in between her prayers. But one time, the children ruined her fruit orchard after playing war games. Unable to bear the boys’ misbehaviour, she asked her son to bring her back to Becchi. John Bosco merely pointed to the crucifix on the wall; a tear fell from her cheek and she said, “You are right”. She took up her apron and continued to work.
Publish date: 2017 - 9 - 9


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (52)

In 1849, St. John Bosco performed two miracles. In the first, 15-year-old Charles insisted on having Fr. Bosco listen to his Confession and refused any other priest. When Fr. Bosco returned, the boy had already died, but the priest called his name. The boy opened his eyes and told him he had dreamt he was in a dark and narrow cave where many souls were sent to hell. He was terrified, because in thinking he could only confess properly to Fr. Bosco, he had not confessed a grave sin. Immediately, he confessed his sins to Fr. Bosco, who said, “By God’s grace, the gates of heaven are open to you. Do you want to go to heaven, or stay with us?” “Heaven,” the boy replied. “Very well,” said the priest, “we will meet again in heaven.” The boy closed his eyes, and passed away. In the second miracle, Fr. Bosco brought the Oratory’s 600 children out and promised them chestnuts. With only three baskets, he miraculously managed to feed all the children. The children realized this and shouted, “Fr. Bosco is a saint!”
Publish date: 2017 - 9 - 2


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (51)

Although the Oratory was beset by conflict, St. John Bosco was comforted by God. Once, he had insufficient Eucharists in the tabernacle for 600 children at Mass. He prayed to God, distributed the Eucharist without breaking it, and all the children received. Fifteen years later, on being asked about this, he confirmed, “Yes, this was a miracle from Jesus teaching us the importance of receiving the Eucharist.” Yet, this moved him less than consecrating the Body of Christ at every Mass. Another time, he preached on listening to the Word of God in a public square. Some youths noisily tried to disrupt the preaching, so John Bosco said to them, “If you became blind, would you listen to the Word of God?” One boy retorted, “Speech is easy, but action is hard.” Suddenly, he was struck blind and John Bosco told him to pray the Act of Contrition and go to Confession to be healed. When the boy did so, his blindness was lifted. John Bosco used his gift of miracles to bring people to repentance and a closer relationship to Christ in the Eucharist.
Publish date: 2017 - 8 - 26


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (50)

By 1847, St. John Bosco’s Oratory had grown to 800 people, and there was no more room to contain them. Like bees, St. John Bosco said, they must start a new home elsewhere. This new home was the St. Louis Oratory at the south side of Turin, which would be led by John Bosco’s assistant, Fr. Paolo. The name honoured St. Louis (an exemplar of purity for boys) and showed thanks to the support of the archbishop Louis of Turin. The next year, 1848, was a year of political turmoil in Italy and many of the Oratory’s priests tried to indoctrinate the youths with political ideas. But John Bosco was against the youths participating in political demonstrations and would not allow the Oratory to turn into a political organization. Some of his assistant priests disagreed and convinced many youths to stop attending the liturgies. Eventually, many of the rebellious youths and assistant priests repented and John Bosco welcomed them back. John Bosco stuck to his principles and kept the Oratory true to its mission.
Publish date: 2017 - 8 - 19


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (49)

Helen is a fervent catholic. She studied in Catholic school, but was only baptized 22 years ago. The night when she was baptized, her husband died at the age of 46 because of lung cancer. Next day her 10 years old son told her he dreamt his father had gone to heaven. Two months later, during mass she heard Holy Spirit talked to her, saying that God loves her so much and wants to give her a chance to be a good mother, bringing up her two kids. She really went through a lot of difficulties, but with the help of God and Our Lady, she learned how to communicate with others, forgiveness, to be a good catholic, so that people can see the presence of God.
Publish date: 2017 - 8 - 12


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (48)

St. John Bosco rested for a few months at his hometown after falling ill from overwork at the Oratory. He was told only to return after a year to prevent a relapse into sickness. Eventually, he returned after agreeing to reduce his workload. But after seeing his fellow priests struggling with their work, he returned to his old workload. He rented a few rooms near the Oratory as a refuge to live with abandoned children and his mother, Margherita. He was initially hesitant to move his elderly mother, but she replied, “If you feel it is the will of God, I am willing.” While mother and son were moving in, their singing was overheard, and news of John Bosco’s return spread among the Oratory’s children, who were overjoyed. Although initially hesitant, Margherita also sold her land and dowry to fund the Oratory, joyfully offering them to God and the impoverished children.
Publish date: 2017 - 8 - 5


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (47)

St. John Bosco recovered from his illness after he prayed for his own recovery, as his friend Fr. Paolo instructed. He returned to his hometown of Becchi to convalesce and Fr. Paolo took his place leading the Oratory. But there was so much work that eventually he needed 5 or 6 priests to barely manage John Bosco’s work. Fr. Paolo took good care of the Oratory’s children, but they grew impatient and journeyed 20 miles to visit him. They had another motive too – they were jealous that John Bosco was growing close to Becchi’s children and worried he would start an Oratory there instead. One child told him, “If you don’t return to Turin, we will move the whole Oratory to Becchi.” But John Bosco replied, “My children, if you behave well and continue to pray for me, I will return before the autumn leaves fall.”
Publish date: 2017 - 7 - 29


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (46)

St. John Bosco was close to dying; his friend Fr. Paolo visited him, and since the Oratory’s children were already praying for his recovery, he wanted John Bosco to pray for his own healing. John Bosco, though, was prepared for death and replied, “I am willing to carry out the will of God” Fr. Paolo then told him to pray, “Lord, if it pleases You, give me healing.” John Bosco initially refused, but in order to prevent Fr. Paolo further anguish, complied in a soft voice. John Bosco fell asleep and the next morning was healed. He visited the jubilant children of the Oratory and told them, “My dear children, thank you for your devotion and prayers. This time, because of your tears, God has saved my life. But one day, we will all die, so work hard and be gathered into heaven, where there is no death, no pain, no tears.” A priest congratulated him on escaping death, but John Bosco said, “I had already prepared for heaven, but now who knows?” Forty years later, the priest reminded him of his words again, saying, “Look at how many great works you have done since! Oratory, convent, school, missionaries – they would not exist had you died.” John Bosco said, “You are wrong – they would still be done. These are all the works of God our Creator.”
Publish date: 2017 - 7 - 22


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (45)

St. John Bosco worked tirelessly for the Oratory, until one day he collapsed on the floor. He had contracted tracheitis and, within eight days, was approaching death. Although he was prepared for death, he was sad to leave this world and the Oratory’s children – his only consolation was the knowledge that he had left the Oratory well-formed. Hearing the news, the Oratory’s children made every effort to visit him. But the nurse rejected their requests, saying that bringing him excessive excitement would worsen his condition. Many people were moved on seeing the children and said, “See how much these children loved him!” Unable to see their beloved priest, the children attended Mass together to pray for his speedy recovery. But John Bosco’s condition did not improve, so the children promised God to pray fifteen decades of the Rosary for a month, a year, even a lifetime, and to eat only bread and water for several months each year. Even some masons, despite their gruelling workload, fasted and went to church to pray for John Bosco as well. In the end, God answered their prayers and John Bosco recovered, resuming his role as spiritual father to the Oratory’s children.
Publish date: 2017 - 7 - 15


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (43)

St. John Bosco’s Oratory grew larger and larger, until its members numbered over 700 and would spill outside the chapel during the Mass. When John Bosco played with the children, he would also instill spiritual values – by inviting them to Confession, warning them against going to bad places, or dissuade them for swearing. Most children obeyed but some children needed special methods to bring to God. There was a 17-year-old youth who would always find excuses to not go to Confession. One day, John Bosco asked him for help with an important matter at the chapel. Thinking that he needed help with moving things, the young man agreed. But when the young man started to move a kneeler, John Bosco told him instead to kneel on it and prepare for Confession. The young man complained he was not ready, so John Bosco told him he had ample time to prepare. The young man relented, admitting that he had been previously avoided Confession for fear of being laughed at. When the young man confessed, he realized that Confession was not so hard after all, and emerged jubilant. From then on, he frequented Confession and promoted the sacrament to others. John Bosco was not afraid to step out and help youths grow closer to God.
Publish date: 2017 - 7 - 1


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (42)

Every Sunday, St. John Bosco ran an Oratory for children but as the number of children increased, more people complained about the noise they created. One day, they were expelled from their usual meeting place. They had no other place to meet, so together they asked the Virgin Mary for one. God often gives big trials before he gives big graces. So after they had prayed all day without any response, a man approached them and told John Bosco that he knew of a meeting place up for rent. Another priest then arrived so John Bosco left the children in his care while he went to inspect the offered place. He saw it was suitable for his Oratory and agreed to rent it. The next week, the Oratory resumed and they held liturgies there, the Mass, lessons, games, catechesis, prayed the Rosary, and sang hymns. St. John Bosco played games with the children but amidst the fun would always encourage them to be good Christians.
Publish date: 2017 - 6 - 24


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (41)

St. John Bosco’s mission was to the youth and he had many grand plans for starting an order of missionaries and teaching clergy. But his ambitions made many people suspect he was mentally insane. Two priests were worried about his sanity, so they planned to move him into a mental institution in a carriage with doors locked from the outside. John Bosco already ascertained their plan and, insisting that the older priests enter the carriage before him, locked the doors on them and told the driver to proceed to the mental institution. When the carriage arrived, the nurses found the two priests angrily demanding they be freed. But the nurses refused until the priests’ superior returned in the evening. Afterwards, everyone was convinced of John Bosco’s sanity and knew he had a special mission. His mission initially encountered much opposition and misunderstanding—in this, John Bosco was like Jesus. When we ourselves do God’s will, we must disregard human opinions and continue working for the salvation of souls.
Publish date: 2017 - 6 - 17


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (40)

While St. John Bosco did prison ministry, prison guards were discriminated against, but he still treated them with respect. Once, he got lost in prison without a guard to guide him and stumbled into the home of the guard over those condemned to die. The guard’s family was surprised to see him treat them so respectfully and were happy to serve him coffee as requested. The guard burst out, “Father, do you know whose house this is?” John Bosco replied, “I know, it is the house of a righteous man. I know you are a good Christian. Would you like to be my friend?” Indeed, the guard would donate five lira to offer a Mass for every executed inmate. But he had never been thought highly of before and was overjoyed to be called a “good Christian”. The two men became good friends and the guard would sometimes attend Mass at John Bosco’s church. By respecting others, St. John Bosco opened people’s hearts and glorified God.
Publish date: 2017 - 6 - 10


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (38)

One day, the wealthy wife of the Portuguese ambassador was about to travel away from Turin. Going to St. Francis of Assisi Church, she went to a young priest—St. John Bosco—praying by the confessional and he heard her confession. John Bosco told her to do a certain act of charity as penance that day. She said, “Father, I cannot do that! I am setting out on a trip.” John Bosco told her instead to pray to her guardian angel in order to protect her from harm that day. She did so and boarded a carriage when suddenly the horses ran out of control and the carriage overturned. The woman prayed to her guardian angel and the horses immediately stopped. The passengers stepped out and onlookers were astonished to find them uninjured. The passengers said, “Thanks be to God! Thanks to the guardian angel who saved us!” The ambassador’s wife went back to the church to thank John Bosco and from then on became a supporter of his endeavours. In addition to encouraging veneration of the Virgin Mary, St. John Bosco also promoted honouring one’s guardian angels.
Publish date: 2017 - 5 - 27


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Spiritual Talk – Fr Ho talks about St. John Bosco (37)

Once, St. John Bosco went to pay a visit to one of his former teachers from Chieri, who was gravely ill. However, the teacher’s family members initially refused, saying that the man had lost consciousness so visiting would be of no use. When John Bosco’s persistence paid off, he talked to his former teacher. Even though the man had already received the Last Rites, his face was pained. He told John Bosco, “I must ask your forgiveness for a very grievous sin that I committed as a child. I was always too ashamed to confess it to any priest, so I have never received the Eucharist my entire life, not even my First Communion. I thought that I would lose the respect of the priest.” John Bosco asked, “In your most recent Confession, did you confess all your sins?” The man said, “No.” John Bosco then said, “God was merciful enough to give up His life for us. Please confess your sins.” The man did so, and after being absolved of his sins, he cried out, “Praise to God all-merciful God!”, and passed from this life.
Publish date: 2017 - 5 - 20


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Spiritual Talk – 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima

Today, May 13th, 2017, is the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions, when Mary appeared to three Portuguese children: Lúcia, Francisco, and Jacinta. She told them that she came from heaven and that they too would enter heaven, but first they must suffer and pray many Rosaries in reparation for the sins of the world. During the 120 years from 1830 to 1950, the Church’s teaching on the Virgin Mary developed as more visions were received. In 1840, the devotion to the Immaculate Conception was approved after the 1830 Marian apparition to St. Catherine Labouré. In that vision, Mary appeared with her arms spread out while standing on the world and stepping on a snake. She instructed St. Catherine Labouré to distribute a Miraculous Medal with this image on the front and on the back to have the image of the letter M surmounted by a cross and flanked by the dual hearts of Jesus and Mary surrounded by twelve stars. Historically, the Church has suffered many conflicts and crises which would be solved by the communal praying of the Rosary. The Dominicans wear the Rosary on a belt like a sword to remind themselves of its power as a spiritual weapon. The Rosary was a powerful weapon to spread the Kingdom of God in John Bosco’s time, and it still is today.
Publish date: 2017 - 5 - 13