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Header-The Deer Hunter

 

In Mexico, there is an extremely hot region named Terracaliente — “Hot Land.”

It is a beautiful place of dense forests of palms, fruit trees, precious hardwoods, and abundant flowers. Great rushing rivers course through these forests, keeping them green and lush. Birds of exotic plumage live there, and animals of every size, from rabbits to deer and leopards, roam the underbrush. Hidden away in hard to reach places lie rich mines of iron, copper, and silver.

At the time of our story, about the year 1868, this seeming paradise was infested by yellow fever and other diseases favored by the extreme heat. This kept many people from settling in Terracaliente. Nevertheless, there was a small village, Huacana, of about five thousand inhabitants.

 

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The Archbishop’s Visit

Around the close of that year, the archbishop of Michoacan, the diocese to which our little village belonged, visited the parish church of San Juan of Huacana. It was his first visitation to this part of his diocese, and the poor people who lived there received him with great joy. Men and women came down from the mountains and out of the woods in droves, raising an enthusiastic din. Like happy children, they rushed to greet their archbishop. Each one produced some precious gift, gifts that, in their great poverty, they could scarcely afford.

“Here, Your Excellency, I brought you this pair of cows...”

“And I a team of oxen,” another said.

“And I a young fowl, Excellency,” added another.

The good archbishop received all and everyone like a true father admiring so much generosity. Nevertheless, he was in a real quandary. Pitying their poverty, he dared not accept all those gifts, yet he was afraid of disappointing them by refusing. He knew well that the best way of showing gratitude for a gift is by accepting it gladly and sincerely. Finally, the archbishop decided to ask the good people to give him some fruit of the region instead of such costly presents. This was no sooner said than done. Fruits of all sizes, shapes, colors, and tastes began to pour in so that a large room was not enough to contain them all.

These were the people of Huacana, poverty stricken, in many ways ignorant, still captives to certain pagan customs and even vices, but full of good will.

One fine day the archbishop, following his usual procedure when on visitations, sat in the confessional administering the Sacrament of Penance. This particular day he was hearing the confession of adults who were preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

 

The Cripple

The CrippleAmidst the multitude of penitents, he noticed a poor crippled man who patiently waited his turn. To save him discomfort, the archbishop motioned to him to approach. As was his custom, he began by asking him several questions, because of the people’s general ignorance of Christian doctrine.

“Where are you from?” asked the archbishop.

“My Father,” answered the cripple, “I come from a mountain more than fifteen leagues from here.”

“And how did you come?”

“By mule, my Father.”

“What is your state in life?”

“A widower, my Father, with two young daughters of marriageable age.”

“And what is your trade?”

“I am a hunter, my Father.”

“You, a hunter!” exclaimed the amazed archbishop, unable to hold back a smile.

“Yes, my Father,” answered the undisturbed cripple.

“But, what is it that you hunt?”

“I hunt deer, my Father.”

“Deer? Come, come, my man that can’t be,” retorted the prelate, amused and just a little upset, for he was beginning to think that the man was pulling his leg.

But his doubts quickly evaporated and a lively curiosity arose within him as the cripple, shrugging his shoulders, added with the total conviction of one who speaks sincerely: “It would certainly not be possible if my Father God did not help me.”

Surprised at such a simple yet profound answer, the archbishop entreated the man to tell him all about his way of life.

“Well, Your Excellency,” answered the cripple with the same simple calm, “as I said, I am a widower with two young daughters. I spend the days which God grants me this way: In the morning, I get up and say a prayer to my Father God. After I eat the breakfast that my daughters cooked for me, I make my way, as well as I can manage, toward the field with my rifle. I go just a few paces outside my house and there my Father God has a deer waiting for me as I asked Him in my prayer. I shoot it; my daughters come and drag it home. Selling the meat and hide, we have made our living for these many years.”

ConfessionMarveling not only at what he had just heard, but also at the simplicity and candor with which the man told his story, the archbishop begged him to recite the prayer with which, every day, he asked for a deer from that God whom he called “Father” with a true son’s trust.

“Oh no, my Father! That I can’t do,” returned the crippled warmly.

“But why not?”

“Oh, because I’d be very embarrassed...”

“But, my son, don’t you say this prayer to your Father God?”

“Yes, my Father, but... you know... well... to my Father God... is different...”

“But, you see, I truly wish to hear it. Why won’t you make me happy?”

“My Father,... I’ll do anything Your Grace tells me to do, but this would embarrass me.”

“But this is what I ask of you now. Come, my man, grant me this. You should not be embarrassed.”

“But , my Father, I didn’t learn this prayer in any book, nor did anyone teach it to me.”

“It doesn’t matter. Tell me.”

“Well, my Father, just so you won’t feel offended I will say it. When I get on my knees in the middle of my cot, I say to my Father God: ‘O Father God! Thou hast given me these two daughters of mine and Thou hast also given me this illness that doesn’t allow me to walk. I have to feed my little maidens so they don’t have to go to work in town and run the risk of offending Thee. So, Father, place a deer right here where I can shoot it so this poor family can have support.’

The archbishop listened with deep reverence, the shepherd of the Church learning from a poor cripple. The poor man, without realizing his prelate’s admiration, concluded simply: “This is my prayer, my Father. And once I finish it, I go out certain of finding what I have asked of my Father God, and I find it always. In all these twenty years that I have been sick, this help has never failed me, because my Father God is very good...very good.”

 

* * * * * * * * * 

 

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Are we surprised at this miracle? Do we doubt it, perhaps thinking how, at times, we have asked things of God and He has not answered?

Crutches and hatMaybe this same cripple can give us the key to the mystery. Let us listen to the Archbishop of Michoacan, who gave us this true story himself and who certainly would also have whispered affectionately to us so as not to embarrass us.

This poor, uncultivated native of the hills of Mexico invoked his Father God with perfect resignation; as St. Paul says, he raised hands to Him that were pure, pure... so pure that in those twenty years of illness his greatest fault had been to hit a dog that was chewing one of his deer hides.

With this, the miracle should no longer amaze us, for it is no miracle that God fulfills what He promises. 

 


 Translated and adapted from the Spanish original of Father Luiz Coloma, S.J.

 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for September 17, 2021

Charity is that with which no man is lost, and without which...

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September 17

 

Charity is that with which

no man is lost, and

without which

no man is saved.

St. Robert Bellarmine


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Robert Bellarmine

Under Elizabeth I, his writings were forbidden reading under...

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St. Robert Bellarmine

Roberto Bellarmino was born into impoverished Tuscan nobility at Montepulciano on October 4, 1542. He was the third of ten children born to Vincenzo Bellarmino and Cinthia Cervini, a sister of Cardinal Marcello Cervini, who later became Pope Marcellus II. Educated at the Jesuit College in Montepulciano, he entered the Society of Jesus at the age of eighteen. After studying philosophy at the Roman College, he taught first at Florence and then at Mondovi. He began his theological studies in Padua in 1567, but was sent to Louvain two years later in order that he might obtain a fuller acquaintance with the heretical teachings of the time.  

Bellarmine was ordained a priest in Flanders and quickly obtained a reputation both as a professor and a preacher, attracting Catholics and Protestants alike by his sermons. In 1576 he was recalled to Italy, and entrusted with the chair of Controversies recently founded at the Roman College. He proved himself equal to the arduous task, and the lectures he delivered were later compiled into his most renowned work, “De Controversiis” - Disputations on the Controversies of the Christian Faith. Bellarmine's monumental work was the earliest attempt to systematize the various controversies of the time, and made an immense impression throughout Europe. It dealt such a blow to Protestantism in Germany and England that special university chairs were founded in order to provide replies to it. Theodore of Blaise, an important Protestant leader who succeeded Calvin, acknowledged that “This is the work that defeated us.” So numerous were the conversions wrought by it that Queen Elizabeth I of England decreed that anyone who was not a doctor in theology was forbidden to read Bellarmine’s writings under penalty of death. To the present day, it remains an uncontested standard of orthodoxy that has yet to be superseded. In recognition of this, Benedict XV gave Bellarmine the title of “Hammer of Heresies” in 1921.  

In 1588 Bellarmine was made Spiritual Father to the Roman College, but in 1590 he went with Cardinal Gaetano as theologian to the embassy Sixtus V was then sending into France to protect the interests of the Church amidst the troubles of the civil wars. While in France news reached him that Sixtus, who had warmly accepted the dedication of his “De Controversiis”, was now proposing to put its first volume on the Index. This was because he had discovered that it assigned to the Holy See not a direct but only an indirect power over temporal authorities. Bellarmine, whose loyalty to the Holy See was intense, took this greatly to heart; it was, however, averted by the death of Sixtus, and the new pope, Gregory XIV, even granted to Bellarmine’s work the distinction of a special approbation. Gaetano’s mission now terminating, Bellarmine resumed his work as Spiritual Father, and had the consolation of guiding the last years of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who died in the Roman College in 1591. Many years later he had the further consolation of successfully promoting the beatification of the saintly youth. It was also at this time that he sat on the final commission for the revision of the Vulgate translation of the Holy Scriptures.

In 1592 Bellarmine was made Rector of the Roman College, and in 1595 Provincial of Naples. In 1597 Clement VIII recalled him to Rome and made him his own theologian as well as Examiner of Bishops and Consultor of the Holy Office. “The Church of God has not his equal in learning,” he stated when making him a Cardinal in 1599. Bellarmine’s appointment as Cardinal Inquisitor soon followed. In 1602 Bellarmine was appointed as the Archbishop of Capua and consecrated by Pope Clement VIII himself, an honor usually accorded as a mark of special regard.

Three years later, Clement VIII died, and was succeeded by Leo XI who reigned only twenty-six days, and then by Paul V. In both conclaves, especially that latter, the name of Bellarmine was much before the electors, greatly to his own distress. The new pope insisted on keeping him at Rome, and the cardinal, obediently complying, demanded that at least he should be released from an episcopal charge the duties of which he could no longer fulfill. He was now made a member of the Holy Office and of other congregations, and thenceforth was the chief advisor of the Holy See in the theological department of its administration.

Bellarmine became one of the most important figures of the Counter-Reformation and the period will be forever marked by his method of confronting heresy: he understood that one cannot do away with a heresy by only preaching the truth; it was also necessary to attack and smash the error. By this method he converted heretics, bringing them back into union with the Church. The profound spiritual treatises that emanated from his pen earned for him the title of Doctor of the Church. But while he was a champion of orthodoxy and a brilliant polemicist, Bellarmine was also a man of capable of dealing with the most sensitive souls guiding them to sanctity as he did with St. Louis Gonzaga. This prodigious apostolate could only spring from a great calmness of spirit and deep interior life.

His death in the summer of 1621 was most edifying and a fitting end to a life which had been no less remarkable for its virtues than for its tremendous achievements. Accordingly, there was a general expectation amongst those who knew him intimately that his cause would be promptly introduced and swiftly concluded. However, reality proved to be otherwise. Although he was declared Venerable in 1627, technical obstacles arose in regards to the beatification process, delaying the progress of his cause for 300 years. Bellarmine was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930 and declared a Doctor of the Church and patron saint of catechists the following year.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

There was once a priest who had a special devotion to the so...

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One Good Turn Deserves Another

There was once a priest who had a special devotion to the sorrows of Mary. He would often remain alone in the chapel to commiserate the sorrows of his Lady.

So intently did he meditate on the sorrows endured by Mary Most Holy that, moved by compassion, he was accustomed to wipe the face of a statue of the sorrowful Virgin with a little cloth, as though real tears flowed there.

Now this good priest became quite ill. When he was given up by his physicians, and was going to breathe his last, he saw a beautiful Lady by his side. She consoled him with her words, and with a handkerchief gently wiped the sweat from his brow.

With this, the priest was miraculously cured.

When he found himself well, he said: "But, my Lady, who are you who practice such charity towards me?" "I am she," answered Mary, "whose tears you have so often dried,” and she disappeared.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

There was once a priest who had a special devotion to the sorrows of Mary. He would often remain alone in the chapel to commiserate the sorrows of his Lady.