The United States of America
Pope Paul VI was a pilgrim to the United States of America in 1965. Saint John Paul II followed in his footsteps, visiting the USA 7 times: in 1979, 1981, 1984, 1987, 1993 for World Youth Day Denver, 1995 and 1999. Papa Benedict XVI made a pilgrimage to the USA in 2008.
As so many Americans have generously given their response to a Totus2us podcast, they are shown here alphabetically by Christian name:
beginning with A - E and F - L and M - R and S - Z (here below)
- many thanks to you all ♥
"Mary is very special to me. She is the reason I came into the Catholic Church. The beauty of her motherhood to Our Lord is very, very special to me."
"It is the most wonderful thing in the world to be a priest; the greatest joy I could have. I have so many spiritual children, I feel like an endless life of Abraham who bears children in his old age, it is a delight. And a delight to be part of the priestly brotherhood, the greatest privilege of course is to stand at the altar and confect the sacrament and to bring the Body and Blood of Christ to others. And along with it, the greatest joy I have is being able to absolve people of their sins, even as I myself have profited and continue to profit endlessly from the graces of Calvary given me in the sacrament of confession. And then of course the other sacraments. It is the greatest life you can have. I bless and thank God for the wonderful priests I have known and it is the greatest blessing God could have given me to help me now form other young men to serve the Church of Jesus Christ as wait for His second coming in glory."
Father Raymond Gawronski SJ is a professor & spiritual director at St John Vianney Seminary in Denver.
"There are different ways of thinking about Marian prayer. In American football there is something called the Hail Mary Pass - it's something you do at the last minute, when you have no other option, when you're losing the game you might try to make up an extra touchdown by throwing the ball all the way down the field and hoping someone will catch it. So one way to think about praying to Mary is to think about it that way - you pray to the Blessed Mother as a last ditch effort when you feel you can't pray to anyone else, you can't address Christ directly. Now, certainly Mary's always there for us even in the most dire situations. But a more robust way to look at Marian devotion is to recognise how integral Mary's maternity is to our own relationship with Christ, and to make that explicit in all of our prayer. The rosary itself then becomes an excellent example of this, as a way of praying to Christ, contemplating the mystery of Christ, with the help of the Blessed Mother."
Brother Reginald Lynch is a Dominican brother studying for the priesthood in Washington. On Man for Others he talks about his own patron in religious life, Blessed Reginald of Orleans, and the function of Marian devotion in the mission and life of the Order of Friar Preachers
"Blessed Reginald was one of the first Dominicans, a companion of St Dominic, and received a special grace from the Blessed Mother - he actually received what we call the scapular of our habit from the Blessed Mother herself (which is the large rectangular white piece which hangs on the front and the back of the Dominican habit), as a sign of protection and motherly affection from the Blessed Mother. Blessed Reginald received this grace on what would have been his deathbed; he was about to enter the Order and fell deathly ill, but instead of dying St Dominic prayed for him and he received a special grace and was healed, by the intercession of Mary. At this instance Mary showed him the full habit which included the scapular .. So when Dominicans wear the habit, which is the sign of our life and our mission, you see integral even within the habit itself a sign of Mary's protection for us."
"I really came to appreciate the rosary because I realised that when I pray the rosary I’m praying the Gospels, because the rosary is a reflection on the life of Christ and the events in Christ's life from the very unique perspective of Mother Mary, and I feel that that's a perspective that's worth taking the time to meditate on because who knew Jesus better than Our Blessed Mother. So, yeh, she's played a very big role in my life. One of my most common intentions during the rosary is 'Mother Mary, please make my heart tender, tenderize my heart.' And I feel like she's definitely helped me in that regard too."
"I’m most grateful to Blessed John Paul II because he really helped me find my way to the priesthood, from his example and also from his writings. In the work that I do with priests, he really helped us remember our dignity as priests and the great gift that God has given us in the priesthood."
Mgr Robert Panke is rector of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Blessed John Paul II Seminary.
"When I was around 30, speaking to a nun in a bookstore, she told me about the Catholic belief of Jesus, true body, blood, soul and divinity in the Blessed Sacrament and that this was the Church he founded, and so that was enough for me, after all I'd been through, and I came in immediately to the Church after that. To this day I still make a Holy Hour every week and the Eucharist is really everything for me: it's God reaching out to us with his infinite love at all times."
"In our faith, the idea of having a Queen is so important and so beautiful. Scott Hahn, in his book, talks about the Dowager Queen in the Old Testament - how when Solomon was made King, his first act of reverence and homage was to his mother, the Queen Mother, the Dowager Queen. And he says that Our Lord has a similar relationship to his mother, even more so in the order of grace. We have such a powerful mother, a mother who can intercede for us like no other person can, and she's been so powerful throughout our history - I can attest to that myself personally. I'm what you'd call a revert - I slipped the faith for a long time, almost 20 years, but I knew a lot of people were praying especially to Our Lady, and that was one of the things that turned us back to the faith, my wife and I."
Ronald makes stained glass prints - for more like this image of Our Lady of Mercy, visit his website.
"What’s special about Czestochowa is there’s this painting by Saint Luke and it’s beautifully adorned and it has brought so many healings and so many miracles to people from all around the world who come to venerate this image. But this image was special to me because there's a part of the image that was cut by someone who was trying to attack it. It’s an image of Our Lady holding the Christ Child and it’s beautiful, you are just in awe of it when you see it. But she has these two scars across her face and it’s beautiful because it’s symbolic what they're saying, that she wanted to say to the pilgrims who come to venerate her that she is suffering with us. And we can see the scars, that she is taking our suffering. And it just brought me so much closer to our Blessed Mother through this image because I think it shows that we have a mother who is willing to not only go through the joys with us but to go through the sufferings with us. And she is happy to be with her children, especially when we are suffering."
"Our Lady just has a really special place in my heart. I recently felt called to draw to her, to pray to her, and what I found is this mother who is so enriching of us and so generous to us."
"In all that she does and in all that she is, Our Blessed Mother will always bring us to her Son so that we may find rest in Him who is divine truth and divine love itself .. Mary is my joy because it is with her, in her and through her that I can fully rest in Jesus, the beloved of our souls."
"I know that Mary always wants the best for me and I look to her for the virtues of humility and perseverance and I pray to her when I'm in doubt or when I feel sad or lonely or when I'm trying to do hard things and I feel that she gives me the strength and that she intercedes for me to Jesus, to God, for all the good things I need. And so I feel it's really a vital part of my faith to trust in Mary."
"Mary is just my mother, she’s always protecting me and just guiding me, wherever I need to go. I always know when I'm in the right place because Mary guides me there."
"Two of the greatest things I’ve really gained from John Paul II is his love for Our Lady - Totus Tuus, Maria - which he took for his papal motto, as well as the love that he had for other people. If you look at any pictures or videos of John Paul II, when he gazes at someone, he doesn't just see them and move on but he looks into the person, and just sees who they truly are and he loves them right in that spot. It doesn't matter if they're a beggar or a rich man, he loves them just where they are. And that comes from the love of Our Lady, because it's Mary who teaches us how to love Christ and it's Mary who teaches us how to love Christ in others. And so John Paul II, being the great lover of Mary that he was, he was able to learn from Mary how to love Christ in other people. This is something that I've gained and that I've learned to love about him, the man, and I think his entire pontificate was one of love. He said 'Open the doors to Christ. Throw open the doors to Christ.' And that's what he did whenever he greeted somebody, he was opening the door to Christ within his own heart and bringing that person in."
"Mary to me is the model of a perfect, humble woman who is not a push-over by any means but silent strength."
Father Stan CFR
3 2us on the Sacred Heart of Jesus
"As St Jean-Marie Vianney has said, "Love of the heart of Jesus is the priesthood." And I don't think he is just referring to us loving the heart, but the love of the heart of Jesus, the burning love that is in the heart of Jesus, is itself the priesthood. And when he was speaking last year about this, Pope Benedict said the first thing we need to learn from St John Vianney is the complete identification of the man with his ministry, and this ministry is nothing less than love. So on this great Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus it's really all about love. That's why St Margaret Mary Alacoque said "Set up your heart in this loving heart of Jesus. Place in this heart all your suffering and difficulties. He changes everything into love." That's the key - He changes everything into love. On this great Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus it's really all about love. That's why St Margaret Mary Alacoque said "Set up your heart in this loving heart of Jesus. Place in this heart all your suffering and difficulties. He changes everything into love." That's the key - He changes everything into love."
Father Stan chose Blessed John Paul II as his Man for Others
"Karol Woytyla, who wound up becoming Pope John Paul II, was and is an inspiration to me because he is a man who allowed God to let his humanity flourish and lead him into the depths of the mystery that God is and that is essentially love, to the point where, as he himself has said, it is love that has explained everything to him.. He was a man familiar with suffering and, in a certain sense, he was a man himself of sorrows, like Jesus and the suffering servant in Isaiah. And that did not beat him down and it could not keep him down but it helped him to learn how to be lifted up and how to lift others up. And his insights into and his experience with Jesus in his suffering and in the love and the victory of love that overcomes this suffering and that helps us to be transformed by this suffering is something that helps me to learn how to make meaning out of what I have suffered through, so that I can help others in their suffering, and to know something by experience about the victory of love."
Fr Stan has also had some Top Chat with Frankie about World Youth Day Sydney, and music
His music is featured on the Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Novena on JPII's encyclical Redemptor Hominis and on In Memory of Me, Totus2us's podcast on the Eucharist.
"I’ve found Mary important in my life. Over the last 4 years, I’ve grown so much with her and she’s taken me so closely to her son, to his Sacred Heart through her Immaculate Heart. She has shown me the Father, as the daughter of God, in a very special way. She has shown me her son, as the Mother of Christ, in a very special way, and led me to the Holy Spirit and kept me open to the Holy Spirit, as the spouse of the Holy Spirit. She's great, I love her!"
Stephen, who is studying in Rome for the priesthood, speaks about Confession
"Just as we’re really human and whenever we say we’re sorry, it’s part of the process of making that better is hearing someone else say ‘I forgive you’. And the fact that Christ handed the keys onto Peter and those keys have been handed on through papal succession through the bishops to the priests they've all delegated. So whenever I go to confession and tell the Lord I'm sorry, it's truly Christ that I hear say 'I forgive you and I love you."
"Mary brought me to her son Jesus and Mary is the reason why I am Catholic."
Steve Kerekes has been organising pilgrimages to World Youth Days ever since WYD Denver in 1993, setting up JMJ Youth. His life was dramatically changed by God at WYD Denver through the witness of Blessed John Paul II - "he never lied to us and he never let us down".
JPII "Dear young people, with a spirit of generous self-giving, recognise that you are directly involved in the new evangelisation which demands the involvement of all of us. Proclaim Christ who died for all so that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sakes died and was raised up." (at WYD Denver)
"I know that what I experienced was the divine love of the Blessed Mother and that the feelings I felt that day were just a drop of what was part of a larger river but that drop was enough to transcend all the joy and peace I had ever felt in my life and in a moment I knew what my heart had been created for. As I unpacked what happened over the following weeks I realised nothing I had been pursuing mattered in comparison to what heaven had to offer me. I feel like God gave me a second chance at life through the intercession of the Blessed Mother. I am indebted to this day for what God has continued to do and how Him and His Mother have continued to lead me to where I am now .. where my goal was once to become a Hollywood director, now it's to become a saint."
On the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul (2011) Steven launched Why I'm Catholic.
"For a long time I didn’t have much of a relationship with Mary. But after asking her that I could have a better one, she slowly started to come into my life as a real source of strength and inspiration, real feminine inspiration. And although my relationship with her isn't where I want it to be eventually, it's getting there. And it's just so wonderful to have her patiently with me, reminding me that she's there protecting me, praying for me and directing me to her son. It's the witness of a perfect woman and a beautiful mother, and I hope that I can really witness to that beauty in my own life."
"What Mary means to me is the ultimate Supermum. .. In the burden of facing evil in the world, Mary was very aware of what her Son was called to do and was prophesied to by Simeon outside the Temple that a sword would pierce her heart. So I think that whenever we have a tremendous suffering or illness, or a difficulty with a child, or a difficulty with work or vocation or superiors or people in power, which is what life is all about, we can really look to her as someone who knows the most intense, excruciating suffering and had to live her life from the beginning with Jesus knowing that a sword would pierce her heart and that that was part of God's plan. And to continue on in steadfast perseverance and continue to love even though everything inside you can be crushed in those times. And then also to share in the joy."
"It's a wonderful process that removes the barriers and lifts the veil of all the lies and restores truth to who we are before God and restores the truth of our love for our children, for ourselves even. Because people who've been abused and hurt so badly end up hating themselves and then they end up in very self-destructive, self-punishment cycles, and all this is just not what God wants for us. He wants us to live. He came that we might have life and have it to the full. I think a lot of people learn to just tolerate how it is, they learn to live with it, 'Alright, this isn't what I wanted for my life but I can kind of get by.' And they settle. And the Lord doesn't want us to settle, He wants us to seek. So all theses opportunities for healing, even if you think 'Oh, I've learned to live with this abortion' or 'My abuse sucked but I can carry on'. That's not what He wants, He wants us to be better than we were before the injury. Can you imagine that? Better than we were before that happened! And that is what healing does - not only does it strengthen you in the places of weaknesses but then you can use all that horror to help others. Which is why this program has spread all over the world, because it has been spread by people whose lives have been changed. It hasn't been spread by the top-down authorities, it's the grass roots in the trenches, those who are suffering, who have so much to teach us and who in their humility and in their brokenness really reveal the power of God. That's the blessing and that's the grace."
"For me Our Lady is a gentle intercessor that helps me draw closer to our Lord Jesus in prayer."
"My dedication to the Virgin Mary is very deep. The one thing we have to remember is that Mary was conceived without original sin and that is a prayer that we can say many times during the day, 'O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.'"
"Our Lady will be there if we allow her. If you just open your heart to her, if you just ask her to be there for you as a mother, she will be there more than you will ever know, many times she is working in ways you don't even know already and yet sometimes she will even make it very clear that she is present."
"I knew that if the priesthood was what God wanted for me, that was where I would be happiest. That was so key for me. I did not really want to be a priest at that point still, and yet I said 'Lord, if you are calling me, then I know that that is where I will be happiest.' I think I had heard that somewhere before but it just stayed with me and I used it, in a real time of crisis I guess, or a real moment of grace if you want to look at it that way. And that was when He started to give me the desire, because that is what I had said, 'God, you are going to have to give me that desire, if that is what you really want.' ... If you are being called, then that is where you will be happiest. You may not realise it yet, but God will give you the joy of heart."
"Mary has just always kind of been a strong and constant presence. She's been there to guide me, to watch over me, even been there faithful to me when I haven't been faithful to her. She's always just been there, taking care of me, and I feel her motherly presence with me often. So, praise God for her, in giving her to me as a mother and a protectress."
Tommy went with his wife for their honeymoon on pilgrimage from Poland to Spain for World Youth Day Madrid, staying with friends along their pilgrim way (they had been at their 1st WYD together with Papa Benedetto back in 2005 in Cologne, Germany):
"I think the beauty of pilgrimages is that normally we go on pilgrimage through life and we never have enough time to pray and discover new things, or even the silence to hear God and speak to God. Perhaps I didn't have the silence to reflect upon different things because of all the partying at World Youth Day with the youth, and the celebrational aspects of World Youth Day and the fact that the Pope is coming and that we are all one union, but I think we met that silence when we got to visit a priest in the south of Spain in a little, little town, so all my spiritual needs were really satisfied."
"The one thing that I really love about our mother Mary is her fiat, her 'yes'; how she said yes to the Lord even though she probably didn't dream about carrying the Son of God in her womb, she still said yes anyway. And that is a huge witness for me in being able to realise that even though times may be hard and tough, or that things may not turn out the way that we want them to, God has got a plan in it through it all, and by our fiat and our yes we could follow Mary's example and come to know her son Jesus."
"What Mary, the Mother of God, means to me?.. I suppose if I had to pick one word it would be compassion."
"We’re here in St Peter’s Square and I feel really blessed that we were brought here. We weren’t necessarily planning on coming but something brought us here and I’m really honoured and feel very blessed to have come. I feel like there was a moment there when Mary was brought in front of us and it was magical, you know, it was a very beautiful moment here in the square. I'll never forget it."