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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 November 18, 2019

Better a few staunch and sincere Catholics, than many compli...

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November 18

 

Better a few staunch and sincere Catholics,
than many compliant with the enemies of the Church
and conformed to the foes of our Faith.

St. Peter Canisius


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

During the French Revolution, the Sisters of the Visitation...

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St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

Born on August 29, 1769 in the French city of Grenoble, Rose Philippine was baptized in the Church of St. Louis. She was educated at the Convent of the Visitation of Ste. Marie d'en Haut and, against her father’s wishes, became a novice there when she was eighteen years old. However, the French Revolution caused much disruption for the nuns, and when the Sisters of the Visitation were expelled from their convents, Rose returned home.

She cared for the sick and the poor, helped fugitive priests, visited prisons, and taught children. Some time after the Revolution ended, she unsuccessfully tried to reestablish the Visitation community, and ultimately gave the convent to St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and joined the Order. When the Bishop of New Orleans, William Du Bourg, requested nuns for his thriving diocese in Louisiana, Rose and four other nuns made the trip to America in 1818.

Rose and the nuns were sent to Missouri, pioneers of the New World. There, as well in neighboring states, they established multiple schools, built a convent, an orphanage, a mission school for Indian girls, a boarding academy and a novitiate for her Order. However, the strenuous and difficult regime of work for her apostolate took its toll on her body. She died in St. Charles, Missouri in 1852 after spending more than 30 years as a pioneer in the evangelization of the New World. She was canonized in 1988. Rose was truly devoted to God, and prayed in her every spare moment. Because of this, the Indians began to call her “Quah-kah-ka-num-ad,” or "Woman-Who-Prays-Always."

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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