That I have been in the presence of a saint--twice.
I was in the choir that sang for Pope John Paul II's Mass on the Washington Mall on his first visit to the United States.
Last night, I attended a Mass and talk by Father Benedict Groschel. Just seeing him up close was an amazing privilege.
He talked about how difficult things are for people of faith here in the U.S. in an increasingly pagan society, led by the pagan media. His mother used to say, "If you put a beggar on a horse, they will ride themselves to Hell." He said that Americans, many of whom are well to do, are that beggar on a horse and have sold out to materialism.
Religion and Faith are two different things, he said. Religion should always be an outward expression of faith--one which we are not afraid to show. Religion without faith can be seen in extremist movements, including some extremist Catholics who are so attached to some forms of religious expression but are void of charity and true ecumensim.
The talk took place at the Grotto of Lourdes in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He told the crowd that he accepted the invitation to speak because when he lay paralized after being hit by a truck, all he could do was pray the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet and pray to Our Lady of Lourdes and Saint Bernadette.
He did have a word of warning about apparitions, though. Never in Church history, he told us, has the Church ever approved of a private revelation of an adult who was "known" at the time of their death. Children, because of their innocence, are different. They rush home and tell everyone what they saw, often not even knowing the exact nature of the vision.
Adults whose visions are authentic, only tell their spiritual directors and these visions are not made public until the visionaries are deceased. Those who have crowds following them are often seeking fame and notariety and are to be avoided, he advised us.
Faith and Religion come together in the Eucharist. Our religion, the outward respect we show (or should show) towards the sacrament is a religious expression of the faith that we have that it is truly the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.
The best Catholics in the world today, he said, are those in China. Suffering and persecution are what make them grow in their faith.
It was truly a God-given gift that I was able to attend this Mass and talk by Father Groschel.