A Palm Sunday Legend

The obelisk in St. Peter’s Square was originally erected in Heliopolis, Egypt sometime between 2494 and 2345 BC. After 63 BC it was moved to Alexandria, then Caligula moved it to Rome in 37 AD. It moved to its current location in 1586. It’s the only obelisk in Rome that hasn’t fallen since antiquity. It used to be topped with a globe that was rumored to contain Caesar’s ashes. That turned out to be wrong and today it’s topped with a reliquary that contains a piece of the True Cross. 

That much is true… this a legend I heard in Rome about what allegedly happened when the architect/engineer Domenico Fontana was re-erecting the obelisk for the last time in 1586. Fontana gathered 900 men and 140 horses (as shown in the engraving above). Pope Sixtus V forbid anyone to speak while the obelisk was raised, so no one would break their concentration. In silence, the massive team began to lift it. But one sailor noticed that the ropes were smoking from the friction. Against the pope’s orders he yelled, “Water on the ropes!” 
Fortunately, they heeded his advice. The water cooled down the ropes and the obelisk went up successfully. However the sailor was still hauled in front of the pope for breaking his decree. But instead of punishing him, the pope thanked him and offered him a reward. The sailor asked that his family’s farm in Bordighera supply the palms for Palm Sunday every year, as long as they owned the land.

To this day, the Vatican sources their Palm Sunday fronds from Bordighera. That much is true too.

 (Top photo and engraving from Wikimedia, bottom two photos from freeallpictures.com.)

We don’t know why John Paul II wanted to hide this picture for years. The Vatican published this picture recently, for the first time. This picture was taken by one of his security guards just when the Pope was attacked and was falling down in his Pope mobile. You can see the pain in his face.
Take a look at the above picture. You can see Mother Mary holding John Paul II in Her arms when he was shot in 1981. This happened on May 13, 1981. Pope John Paul II was shot as he arrived in
St. Peter’s Square to speak to the people who had gathered there. When he was shot, he was holding the rosary, which he always carried. When he fell to the ground, out of nowhere, a woman rushed to his side and embraced him. That picture is shown above. The picture is said to have been taken by one of the gathered people who was busy taking the Pope’s picture’s with his camera. The woman vanished as quickly as she appeared.
When he recovered finally, the first thing the Pope asked for was his rosary. When he got it in his hands, he said that he felt Mother Mary directing the bullet’s path through him. Surely, John Paul II was always in the habit of praying the rosary regularly. He had once said, “the best prayer I like is the Rosary”.
Joaquin Navarro Valls, who is one spokesman from The Vatican, said that they made a lot of studies for years of this incredible picture and of course about the quality of the developing of the picture because when it was developed nobody could see very well because the image was not clear. Finally, and after so many controls and by looking and checking by all the experts in photography (around the world), they decided that there were no tricks in it and today they give us this beautiful gift from our Mother of God. You can see the Mother of God holding John Paul II in her arms. It is beautiful.

Palm Sunday Prayer: Purvi Patel

During Palm Sunday Mass this morning, I focused my prayers on Purvi Patel. Purvi is a 33-year-old Indiana woman who faces up to 70 years in prison for a delivering a stillbirth in her home. Her sentencing hearing will be held on Monday, March 30 in South Bend.

Purvi experienced a sudden pregnancy loss during the summer of 2013. While in the bathroom of the home she shares with her parents, Purvi delivered a stillborn fetus, which she testified was dead at the time of birth. She described the pregnancy loss as a quick rush of blood on her bathroom floor. The gestational age of the fetus was disputed, and there’s still no clear consensus, though some doctors claim she was about 24 weeks pregnant. (Purvi also didn’t know how far along she was, and was hiding the pregnancy from her parents, who are strict Hindus.)

From The Guardian:

Court documents show that Patel then went to the St Joseph hospital in Mishawaka, Indiana, bleeding from her vagina. She at first denied having given birth, but told medical staff later that she had delivered a still-born child at home, and had placed the body in a dumpster.

Kathrine Jack, an attorney who has followed the case closely, said that the verdict “sends a message to pregnant women in Indiana that if they have still-birth, or miscarriage, or in some cases seek an abortion they could be criminally investigating and charged for fetucide.”

“I’m afraid pregnant women in Indiana are going to fear going to the doctor”, she added.

The crux of the case lay in whether Patel’s baby was breathing or still-born at the moment of birth. A medical witness for the defence reportedly testified that, at an estimated 24 weeks, the fetus was not viable, and could not have survived outside the womb.

Prosecutors alleged Purvi purposely terminated her pregnancy with abortion-inducing drugs that she purchased online. The only evidence they had were text messages she sent to a friend a month before the pregnancy loss; the messages stated that Purvi was going to buy abortion-inducing drugs from Hong Kong. However, there’s no evidence that Purvi 1) purchased these drugs 2) that these drugs weren’t counterfeit (as they can sometimes be) if she did buy them and 3) that she actually took the drugs. (On that third point, there was no medical evidence that she used abortion-inducing drugs to cause the pregnancy loss.)

Still, Purvi has been convicted of both feticide and felony neglect. Essentially, she is convicted for enduring a stillbirth, and penalized for seeking medical care at a hospital following the birth. As the National Advocates for Pregnant Women said when Purvi’s conviction came down in February:

This case and the verdict should send shockwaves through everyone who has an opinion about the right to choose abortion. So-called “pro-life” organizations and leaders have long claimed that the purpose of anti-abortion and feticide laws is to protect, not punish, women. For example, Americans United for Life argues that “pro-life legislators and pro-life leaders do not support the prosecution of women” and claims that “if Roe is overruled, no woman would be prosecuted for self-abortion.” However, a study published in 2013 documented that measures such as feticide laws are already being used to achieve such results.

So today, Palm Sunday, I am praying for Purvi. As a Catholic, I know that we must be here for those most vulnerable. Pregnant people in these situations need medical care, not imprisonment, nor can we set this precedent. Today, I thought of the words we now say in Mass — “it is right and just.”

How is punishing women for receiving medical care after a stillbirth, a miscarriage, or even a self-induced abortion “right and just”? And how would Jesus, who welcomed everyone at his table, treat Purvi Patel if this indeed were his final days on Earth?