76 years ago…

John W Emmer, Jra B-24 bomber was shot down by enemy fire over Hansa Bay, New Guinea, carrying my uncle John and 10 other crewmen. They were officially MIA until Good Friday of 2018, when the team of Project Recover discovered the plane nearly 200 feet under the surface of the bay.

I had stopped by the family cemetery plot on that same Good Friday on my way to a prayer vigil in Saint Paul. As I cleared snow from the tombstones, I began thinking about uncle John and how little we knew about him. I decided to walk the cemetery praying a rosary for all the deceased in my family. Little did I know that, on that very day, his plane had been discovered.

gravestone of John Emmer, JrMore details about the discovery, and the consequent gathering of the families of the deceased crew, at the links below.

in memory of uncle John

Heaven Can Wait family gathering (October 2018)

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

-Excerpt from “For the Fallen” by Laurence Binyon

Project Recover: The Finding of ‘Heaven Can Wait’ B-24 from Kyle McBurnie on Vimeo.

NOTE: I’m currently working on a new blog post about Uncle John… specifically, the things I learned from my visit to Omaha in May of 2019 for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency regional meeting. I was able to sit down with a casualty officer, analyst, and historian to review what they know about what happened to the crew of Heaven Can Wait on March 11, 1944.

the message of Fatima

FatimaOn May 13, 1917, Mary appeared to three shepherd children in the hills of Fatima, Portugal.

I had the chance to be in Fatima for the 75th anniversary of the apparitions, in 1992. (It was also the 11th anniversary of the assassination attempt on the life of Pope Saint John Paul II).

It was an amazing week. I was digging through my photo albums a while ago, and it gave me the idea of blogging about my overseas travel adventures: the semester I spent in Austria back in 1992, the summer I spent in England in 1993, and the travels in Europe and Israel during my seminary studies in the fall of 1996.

Fatima, Portugal

Today I’m posting a link to the document about Fatima published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the year 2000. It includes several elements about the secrets of Fatima and their interpretation. The theological commentary – which has a great discussion of the proper understanding of private versus public revelation – was written by then-Cardinal Ratzinger. Here’s a teaser from the end of his analysis:

What is the meaning of the “secret” of Fatima as a whole (in its three parts)? What does it say to us? First of all we must affirm with Cardinal Sodano: “… the events to which the third part of the ‘secret’ of Fatima refers now seem part of the past”. Insofar as individual events are described, they belong to the past. Those who expected exciting apocalyptic revelations about the end of the world or the future course of history are bound to be disappointed. Fatima does not satisfy our curiosity in this way, just as Christian faith in general cannot be reduced to an object of mere curiosity. What remains was already evident when we began our reflections on the text of the “secret”: the exhortation to prayer as the path of “salvation for souls” and, likewise, the summons to penance and conversion.

I would like finally to mention another key expression of the “secret” which has become justly famous: “my Immaculate Heart will triumph”. What does this mean? The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Saviour into the world—because, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time. The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word. From that time forth, the word that prevails is this: “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise.

Divine Mercy Sunday

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, a time to remember in a special way the message of our Lord to St. Faustina Kowalska, a simple nun from Krakow in early part of the 20th century.

Father Michael Gaitley, MIC, describes the Divine Mercy message succinctly and well, with a particular message for this year’s celebration:

…At no time and in no historical period — especially at a moment as critical as our own — can the Church forget the prayer that is a cry for the mercy of God amid the many forms of evil which weigh upon humanity and threaten it. Precisely this is the fundamental right and duty of the Church in Christ Jesus, her right and duty towards God and towards humanity. The more the human conscience succumbs to secularization, loses its sense of the very meaning of the word “mercy,” moves away from God and distances itself from the mystery of mercy, the more the Church has the right and the duty to appeal to the God of mercy “with loud cries” (cf. Heb. 5:7). These “loud cries” should be the mark of the Church of our times, cries uttered to God to implore His mercy, the certain manifestation of which she professes and proclaims as having already come in Jesus crucified and risen, that is, in the Paschal Mystery. It is this mystery which bears within itself the most complete revelation of mercy, that is, of that love which is more powerful than death, more powerful than sin and every evil, the love which lifts man up when he falls into the abyss and frees him from the greatest threats.

Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy), encyclical of Pope John Paul II, 11/30/1980

When I was studying in Europe as part of a semester-abroad program in 1992, I had a chance to visit Krakow and visit the convent where Sister Faustina lived. I remember leaving from Steubenville’s Austrian campus early that day — which meant skipping out of the end of a talk given by Cardinal Schönborn, who was reading to us from the latest draft of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Just one more thing to lay before God’s mercy…

When we arrived in Krakow, it was hard to find Sr. Faustina’s convent — although the fact that none of my classmates spoke Polish might have had something to do with it… We just pulled out our holy cards with the image of the Divine Mercy on it, and first were directed to the wrong church! But we eventually got there, and the sisters were kind enough to show us around… we saw the sisters’ cemetery, the chapel that contains the image, and the tomb of St. Faustina. Here are a few photos…

219

The sister’s cemetery

218

Praying at the tomb of St. Faustina

217

The Divine Mercy image in the chapel

A Polish holy card

 

Divine Mercy novena

image_mercy-706210The Divine Mercy novena begins today (Good Friday) and ends on Divine Mercy Sunday (the Sunday after Easter).

The devotion to Divine Mercy is a powerful one, and it has spread far and wide through the Church in a very short time.

I once visited the convent in Krakow, Poland where Saint Faustina Kowalska lived and prayed. St. Kowalska is the nun who received the devotion to the Divine Mercy in a series of private revelations from Jesus in the early part of the 20th century.

This year, the novena takes on a special significance, as a way to spiritually adopt people dying alone with the coronavirus:

Inspired by a scene in the Diary of St. Faustina, where she was spiritually transported by the Lord in order to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at the bedside of a dying man she did not know, I would like to suggest that we would each commit to praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet each day for the days ahead to spiritually place ourselves beside one of the poor unfortunate men and women who are dying alone in hospitals all over the world because of this virus, some of whom are perhaps not well prepared spiritually for their earthly end. If families were to pray it then several dying persons would be spiritually adopted with the one prayer of the Chaplet.

Wishing you a blessed Triduum and a happy and holy Easter!

stations of the cross hike on Palm Sunday

I’m planning to lead a Stations of the Cross hike at Saint Patrick’s Cemetery in Inver Grove Heights on Palm Sunday (April 5), which is also the day that World Youth Day is celebrated in the local churches of the world.

I’ve chosen this location because a friend of mine, Mary Sandkamp, is buried here. Mary was a member of the Catholic young adult community in the Twin Cities and active in the local chapter of the Frassati Society. Mary died in March of 2016.

If you live in the Twin Cities and are able to attend, you are more than welcome to join me. All appropriate social distancing protocols will be observed. Here are the details:

WHEN: Sunday, April 5, 2020 – 2 pm

WHERE: Cemetery for the Church of Saint Patrick, 10499 Rich Valley Boulevard, Inver Grove Heights, MN (meet inside the entrance on the right side; Mary’s gravesite is adjacent to a series of shrubs in that section of the cemetery. A series of statues of Mary point the way to it.)

WHAT:  Praying the Stations of the Cross. Click here to download/print the prayersI will not be distributing paper copies of the prayers, so please either bring a mobile device or your own printed copy with you.

Before we begin the prayer walk, we’ll read a portion of the message that Pope Francis has written for World Youth Day 2020:

Young man, I say to you, arise!” (Lk 7:14)

Today, we are often “connected” but not communicating. The indiscriminate use of electronic devices can keep us constantly glued to the screen. With this Message, I would like to join you, young people, in calling for a cultural change, based on Jesus’ command to “arise.” In a culture that makes young people isolated and withdrawn into virtual worlds, let us spread Jesus’ invitation: “Arise!” He calls us to embrace a reality that is so much more than virtual. This does not involve rejecting technology, but rather using it as a means and not as an end. “Arise!” is also an invitation to “dream,” to “take a risk,” to be “committed to changing the world,” to rekindle your hopes and aspirations, and to contemplate the heavens, the stars and the world around you. “Arise and become what you are!” If this is our message, many young people will stop looking bored and weary, and let their faces come alive and be more beautiful than any virtual reality.

If you give life, someone will be there to receive it. As a young woman once said: “Get off your couch when you see something beautiful, and try and do something similar.” Beauty awakes passion. And if a young person is passionate about something, or even better, about someone, he or she will arise and start to do great things. Young people will rise from the dead, become witnesses to Jesus and devote their lives to him.

Dear young people, what are your passions and dreams? Give them free rein and, through them, offer the world, the Church and other young people something beautiful, whether in the realm of the spirit, the arts or society.

(source)