This chapel in Rome is decorated with the bones of 4,000 Capuchin friars

This chapel in Rome is decorated with the bones of 4,000 Capuchin friars

The crypts of Santa Maria della Concezione in Rome were designed to be a constant reminder of the inevitability of death.

In the middle of one the most charming areas of Rome, a few blocks from Piazza Barberini and its iconic Triton Fountain, lies one of the capital’s best kept secrets: a crypt decorated with human bones that belonged to local Capuchin friars.

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To understand the origins of such spooky idea we need to go back to the 17th century, when Pope Urban VII, brother of local Capuchin friar Antonio Marcello Barberini, commissioned a church to welcome the needs of the expanding Capuchin friars’ congregation.

The church, named Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, literally Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins, was built thanks to donations from some of the wealthiest families of the city and designed by architect Antonio Casoni, who opted for a sober interior, a strong departure from the usual opulence of Roman churches from that time.

However, it did not take long for Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini to get its own share of “intense decor.” In 1631, when the church was completed, Cardinal Antonio Barberini, the nephew of Antonio Marcello Barberini, ordered the remains of Capuchins friars who had been buried in an ossuary in the nearby cemetery in Via dei Lucchesi to be moved into the new church so that all Capuchins could “be in the same place.”

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But instead of simply disposing of the bones inside a reliquary or into a cemetery, the friars decided to use them to create elaborate Baroque ornaments. The result is six small rooms, some named after bone types such as “Crypt of Skulls” or “Crypt of Pelvises,” decorated with bones from 4,000 friars who passed away between 1528 and 1870.

The reason for this unusual display of human bones is not yet clear, although the local Capuchin congregation attributes it to the will of their ancestors to be constantly reminded of the unpredictability of death, which can come meet us at any time. Indeed, the rooms, which throughout the years also welcomed mummies of Capuchin friars dressed with the iconic hooded robe, were used by friars as places for contemplation and prayer. A sentence engraved on a plaque in one of the crypt further confirms that explanation. It reads: “What you are now, we once were, what we are now, you will become.” Thousands of friars must have come down here to reflect about the fact that they would one day join their brothers.

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The first written mention of the crypt is found in a letter from 1775, where French nobleman and writer Marquis de Sade said that he “had never seen anything more striking.” And, understandably, writers interest in the unusual decorations of Santa Maria della Concezione did not end there. A hundred years later, Mark Twain mentioned the chapel at the start of Chapter XXVII of his 1869 book The Innocents Abroad, while American romantic writer Nathaniel Hawthorne mentioned it in his 1860 novel The Marble Faun.

Today, the chapel is one of the least known attractions of the Eternal City, as many visitors are deceived by Santa Maria della Concezione’s sober appearance. For those of you with the courage to venture into the crypts, just remember that they are within the bounds of a consecrated space, so revealing clothing (shorts, tank tops, etc.) is not allowed. Wear your best outfit and get ready to stand face to face with a 300-year-old Capuchin friar!

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Jesus Painting ‘Miraculously’ Survives Fire That Destroyed 150-Year-Old Church (Photos)

Jesus Painting ‘Miraculously’ Survives Fire That Destroyed 150-Year-Old Church (Photos)

According to reporters, a massive fire destroyed the First Baptist Church of Wakefield in Massachusetts Tuesday night and the historic building was described as a total loss. But as workers were clearing the ashy remains of the church the next day, a Jesus painting was reportedly found on the scene of the fire.

Photos from the scene of the fire show a building inspector removing a nearly-pristine painting of Jesus, which once hung just inside the church’s front doors, according to The Boston Globe. Somewhat miraculously, the painting survived the devastating fire. The image of Jesus emerging from the charred church gave worshipers some solace during the difficult time.

Former parishioner Susan Auld told the Globe that the Jesus painting will be given to a former pastor of the church..

Photos from the scene of the fire show a building inspector removing a nearly-pristine painting of Jesus, which once hung just inside the church’s front doors, according to The Boston Globe. Somewhat miraculously, the painting survived the devastating fire. The image of Jesus emerging from the charred church gave worshipers some solace during the difficult time.

Former parishioner Susan Auld told the Globe that the Jesus painting will be given to a former pastor of the church.

The First Baptist Church of Wakefield, which was nearly 150 years old, according to its website, caught fire around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, CBS Boston reports. A witness says lightning struck the 180-foot steeple before it went up in flames.

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“I saw the lightning strike the steeple, and we saw the smoke and it just went up in flames fast,”said Christian Bruno, who lives across from the church.
People were inside the church when the fire started, but no injuries have been reported. Still, churchgoers are devastated by the tragedy. “Two days ago I just went to the service 10:15 on Sunday and I’m just shocked that this church is burned down,” Robert Jordan told CBS Boston.
But during this dark time, the painting of Jesus persevered and may serve as a comforting memento for worshipers after their loss.

Check Out 14 People Who Wrestled with Their Christian Faith and Won, In The Bible

Check Out 14 People Who Wrestled with Their Christian Faith and Won, In The Bible

Things happen that challenge our faith. Questions arise and cause us to wrestle with what we believe. Wrestling with your faith isn’t a sign of weakness, but evidence of your humanity. The men and women in the Bible show us this.

Don’t be surprised when your faith is challenged to a wrestling match. The Bible tells us to fight the good fight of faith. Winning a good faith wrestling match can even make you stronger.

Here are 14 Bible characters who wrestled with their faith and won

1. John the Baptist
The famous wilderness preacher who was sent to prepare the way of the Lord started out confident and certain. When talking about Jesus, he said, ”Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! And, I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

But when he found himself in jail, he questioned if Jesus was really the Messiah. John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one.

Jesus answered with evidence so John could hold fast to his profession of faith.

2. Simon Peter
One of the original twelve disciples of Jesus, Peter is known for his boldness. It was Peter who was commended by Jesus for receiving the revelation from the Father that Jesus was the Son of the Living God.

But when Jesus was arrested, Peter wrestled between faith and fear. He denied knowing Jesus with cursing and swearing. Peter had been so certain of his faith before that. Jesus knew he really wasn’t. Jesus had predicted Peter’s denial and prayed for Peter’s faith to not fail—and it didn’t.

Peter’s faith brought him back to Jesus, who not only reconciled him but asked him to feed His sheep.

3. Elijah
Elijah is known for prophesying drought and subsequently being fed by ravens and a widow before his epic challenge to the prophets of Baal on Mount Horeb. His faith moved the Lord God to answer by fire; Elijah killed all the false prophets and then prophesied rain.

But when the king’s wife, Jezebel, heard about all of this, she threatened Elijah’s life. Elijah’s humanity kicked in as he ran for his life, sat under a broom bush wrestling with his faith and praying to die.

The Lord responded with compassion by feeding him, correcting him in grace and giving him a new purpose before he was taken to heaven on a chariot of fire.

4. Thomas
Being a disciple of Jesus doesn’t automatically make one a faith giant. Thomas became known as Doubting Thomas because he wrestled with the truth that Jesus rose from the dead.

But his wrestling with faith was as human as the labeling of him. Thomas was not the only disciple to wrestle with the truth of the resurrection—all of the disciples wrestled with believing when Mary and the other women came and told them Jesus was alive in Luke 24:10-11.

It’s important to point out the grace of God for those who wrestle. The 11 didn’t believe until Jesus appeared to them—and then he appeared again just for Thomas.

5. Father of a Sick Boy
I love this story. Here is a father with a son who’s mute and has seizures. He takes his son to the disciples of Jesus to be healed and comes away no different. Wrestling with his faith, he brings his son to Jesus asking if Jesus can help. Jesus points to his faith.

But knowing he’s wrestling with his faith, the father responds honestly. He cries for help to win his faith-wrestling match with the words “I believe, help mine unbelief,” and Jesus brought the victory.

Jesus will help us win our wrestling matches by his grace.

6. Gideon
Israel was in trouble when God approached Gideon, declaring him to be a mighty warrior and calling him to save his people from the Midianites.

But Gideon balked at the words and the call. Gideon was wrestling with his faith with questions similar to those we deal with. He wondered, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? He felt God had abandoned them, but cried out for favor.

Gideon’s appeal for grace was answered abundantly and he fulfilled his mission as led by the Lord.

7. Moses
One of the most prominent figures in the Bible endured many faith-wrestling matches. He struggled to believe he could deliver his people from Egypt after murdering an Egyptian and being rejected by his Hebrew brothers. After this, he ran into the wilderness until the time when the Lord appeared to him in the burning bush.

But when God called him to do what he’d run away from, he wrestled with his faith with questions like, what if they don’t believe me or listen to me? Moses struggled with God’s response, claiming he couldn’t do public speaking. Frustrated with Moses, the Lord allowed him to have his brother Aaron help him.

Every wrestling match that Moses went through was met with the grace of God.

8. David
He was known as a man after God’s own heart, yet David was no stranger to wrestling with his faith. The book of Psalms is full of his questioning and pain, as well as his victories.

David wrestled with his faith after Nabal treated his men improperly. Again, when Ziklag was destroyed, his wives were carried off and his men talked about stoning him. Additionally, there was the time he stayed home from war, commited adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband after finding out she was pregnant—and these are only three examples.

David always emerged from his faith-wrestling matches worshiping the Lord.

9. Jonah
The story of Jonah is known for many things, including how Jonah ran away when God called him to preach the destruction of Nineveh, the big fish that swallowed him, how he was spit up onto dry land and finally obeyed, and how Jesus referred to him as a sign.

But the reason for Jonah’s wrestling with his faith is made clear in the final chapter of the book using a plant. Jonah didn’t wrestle with his faith because what God asked him to do was hard; Jonah wanted Nineveh to be destroyed. But God had mercy on him.

Jonah wrestled with his faith because he knew God was going to be gracious and compassionate to those he felt didn’t deserve it.

10. Mary and Martha
Jesus spent a lot of time with these two sisters, along with their brother Lazarus. They followed him, served him, and listened to him, but still wrestled with their faith. Their brother became sick while Jesus was out of town and they sent for him.

But Jesus didn’t come right away. Lazarus died, and the sisters wrestled with thoughts such as if you had been here, he wouldn’t have died. Jesus reminded them that he was the resurrection and the life. They believed for the future last day but wrestled with the now.

Because Jesus is who he says he is, Lazarus was raised to life that same day.

11. Jeremiah
Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, is one of the major prophets in the Bible. Israel was in a bad way when he was called, and he wrestled with the call at first. He claimed he didn’t know how to speak because he was too young.

But God answered his wrestling with empowerment. He told him not to say he was too young, to not be afraid, and then God touched him putting His words into Jeremiah’s mouth.

Like Jeremiah, we can be empowered in the midst of our wrestling.

12. Abraham
Abraham is known as the father of our faith. I was intimidated by Abraham’s faith until I learned how much he wrestled with it, and how the wrestling didn’t stop him from receiving from God. The Bible tells us that because he believed God, he was made righteous. Sounds instant and simple.

Yet it took God telling Abraham the promise seven times before Abraham was fully convinced. The sixth time God promised, Abraham fell face-down and laughed. After this, God told him to name the son Isaac (which means laughter). This gives me great hope.

Abraham is an example that even if we keep wrestling, we can win.

13. Sarah
The wife of Abraham went through her own time wrestling with faith while Abraham was going through his. She was barren for many years and passed off as Abraham’s sister two times to different kings. Eleven years passed after God’s promise for a child, and her wrestling led her to a bad plan that ended in the birth of Ishmael.

But the promise was for her to have a child, not just Abraham. Thirteen years after Ishmael was born, God declared His promise of a son three more times for a total of seven. After the seventh time, Sarah laughed, unable to fathom having a child at her age.

But nothing is too hard for the Lord.

14. Jesus
Jesus Christ knew who he was and how he was going to die. He said, “when you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”

But in the garden of Gethsemane he felt our humanity under the intense pressure. He asked if there was another way. He knew there wasn’t, and he stuck with what he knew and fulfilled his mission of laying down his life for us.

Jesus won everything for us in his wrestling match. He declared, it is finished!

How You Can Win
Faith is putting your trust in something or someone. When your faith is being challenged, the questions cause us to wrestle with keeping our trust where we put it.

Here are 3 things you can use to win your wrestling match with your faith.

1.) Stick with what you know.
Remind yourself of God’s promises, prayers He’s answered in your life, and your personal history with Him. These can quiet the raging questions of what if, what about, and why.

2.) Have faith in God.
Like a child reaches for a parent when they’re scared, we can choose to reach for God through prayer and worship reminding ourselves He’s bigger than our opponent.

3.) Reach for help.
Sometimes we need to ask for prayer or seek the counsel of a friend or priest. There’s no shame in getting help. We are the body of Christ. Building each other up is what we’re called to do.

Danielle Bernock writes about overcoming the effects of childhood and emotional trauma through the power of the love of God. Her first book Emerging With Wings: A True Story of Lies, Pain, And The LOVE that Heals has ushered many to emotional and spiritual freedom. Other books include A Bird Named Payn, and Love’s Manifesto. For more information or to connect with Danielle go here: https://www.daniellebernock.com/

Miracle Prayer – How to Ask God for a Miracle

Miracle Prayer – How to Ask God for a Miracle

Since everything is possible for God, you can experience miracles in your life when you invite God to intervene – even in situations that seem impossible. But too often, people neglect to ask God for miracles in their lives, and end up settling for far less than God’s best for them. Use these prayers for miracles when you’re ready to ask God to take over.

You can always approach God with confidence if you trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. So don’t hesitate to pray about anything, including miracles!

1. A Miracle Prayer for the Impossible
Father, I come to you today with faith so small I cannot see a way. I want to believe you are able to do more than I ever imagine. I want to walk by faith and not by sight. God, please bring a miracle into my life. I know that you can do the impossible in my life and I am trusting in your promises. Thank you for being a God who sees and hears my every need. In Jesus’ name, amen.

2. A Thankful Miracle Prayer
Heavenly Father, Thank You for answering my prayers and performing miracles in my life every day. Just the fact that I woke up this morning and can take a breath is a gift from You. Help me to never take my health and loved ones for granted. Help me to always stand in faith and keep my focus on You when unexpected circumstances arise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. ~ Leah DiPascal, Proverbs 31 Ministries

3. A Prayer to Trust When You Need a Miracle

“Dear God, thank you that you love me and want to keep me from depending on other things instead of you. Forgive me for when I’ve depended on my job and other people instead of you. Thank you that you haven’t forgotten me. Lord, the days ahead may be a little scary at times, but I understand now that the path to a miracle is through uncomfortable territory. I understand now that the source of a miracle will be unexpected, so I shouldn’t try to figure it out. I should just trust you. When you tell me what to do, and it doesn’t always make sense, I will still do what you want me to do. Help me to remember that you’re all I need and that where you guide, you’ll provide. I want to learn to trust you one day at a time. I want to go your way, not my way. I want to follow you, and I ask you to save me and come into my life. I claim your promise that if I trust you, you’ll meet my needs. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.” ~ Rick Warren

How to Pray and Ask God for a Miracle:

Forget formulas and simply seek God’s presence. There are no magical formulas to use to conjure up miracles. Instead, miracles happen whenever you welcome God’s powerful presence into the situations you face. So don’t worry about trying to pray perfect prayers to convince God to do something miraculous in your life. Simply invite God to work in every situation in which you’re seeking miracles, and trust Him to do what’s best after you ask Him to intervene.

Consider what may be blocking miracles from happening in your life. Sometimes the particular miracle you’re seeking isn’t God’s will, sometimes spiritual warfare is occurring in your life and evil is blocking a miracle from happening, sometimes you have sin in your life (such as bitterness) that is preventing a miracle from taking place, and sometimes you don’t have enough faith to believe that God can really perform the miracle you’re hoping for. Pray about each of these potential blockages, and then relax, trusting that God has the situation covered and will answer your prayers with what’s best.

View miracles as expressions of how much God loves you. Recognize that every time God does choose to perform a miracle in your life, He is showing you His love for you in a tangible way. Be sure to thank God for His love whenever you experience a miracle.

Ask God to guide you to the truth about His will. If you’re not sure whether or not it’s God’s will to perform a particular miracle in your life, ask Him to make His will clear to you and tell Him that you want His will – not your own will – to be done.

Ask God to help your unbelief. Confess your doubts and lack of faith to God and ask Him to meet you where you are spiritually to help you believe that He is able to do what He says He will do in your life.

Obey God’s command to forgive so your prayers won’t be hindered. If you’re unwilling to forgive someone who has hurt or offended you, that refusal to forgive can hinder your prayers from being answered, because God sometimes waits until you obey His commands before answering prayers. Remember how much God has forgiven you for, and let that motivate you to obey His call to forgive others. Ask God to help you forgive; you can choose to forgive even when you don’t feel like it and rely on the strength God will give you during the forgiveness process.

Fight evil through spiritual warfare. If evil in the spiritual realm is hindering miracles from happening in your life, pray breakthrough prayers against evil to clear the way for more miracles to occur in your life. Start by confessing your sins that come to mind, and then repent of each one specifically. Next, ask (in Jesus’ name and through the power of His blood) for the Holy Spirit to help you and the people you’re praying for be victorious over all evil attacks. Ask God to protect you and those you’re praying for from future attacks by evil. Pray for any bondages that you (or the people you’re praying for) are under to be broken so you and they can experience the freedom God intends. As you’re praying, mention each issue specifically – from unhealthy addictions (such as to alcohol or pornography) and personal struggles (with jealousy, greed, gossip, lying, anger, anxiety, or any other issues) to negative words that others may have spoken over you and any involvement you may have had with ungodly spiritual forces (such as through the occult). Then ask God to bless you and those you’re praying for in the name of Jesus.

Praise God more through worship. You can experience more miracles when you spend more time praising God in worship, because worship ushers God’s power into your life in fresh ways and helps you discern His voice more clearly as He leads you toward miracles. Make a habit of praising God for who He is, during both good and bad times in your life.

Live a life that’s completely devoted to God. When you devote yourself to God completely – in every area of your life – you’ll notice more miracles happening in your life. Seek God’s guidance before making any major decision, and ask the Holy Spirit to change your own desires to reflect God’s desires for you. Live for God (rather than for yourself), and be willing to say “yes” whenever God calls you to help people in need.

Take the steps that God shows you. As you seek God’s will for your life, sometimes God will give you clear signs to follow, and sometimes He will simply give you a sense of peace. Humbly pray for wisdom every day and step out in faith whenever God shows you a way in which he wants you to put your faith into action. In the process, miracles can happen.

Don’t give up until God answers your prayers. Since God’s timing (which is perfect) often takes longer than the immediate results that human beings like to see, many people give up praying for miracles when they don’t see answers to their prayers right away. But God will always answer your prayers with either a “yes” or a “no” that’s clear; you just need to patiently wait until the right time for the answer to come. In the meantime, never give up praying and trusting God to do what’s best.

Adapted from When You Need a Miracle: How to Ask God for the Impossiblecopyright 2012 by Linda Evans Shepherd. Published by Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.bakerbooks.com.

Linda Evans Shepherd is the author of more than 30 books, including When You Don’t Know What to Pray: How to Talk to God about Anything and When You Can’t Find God: How to Ignite the Power of His Presence, and the co-author of the popular series the Potluck Club and the Potluck Catering Club. Linda is an international speaker and media personality and is the creator of RightToTheHeart.tv and appears as a frequent host of Daystar’s Denver Celebration. She’s the leader of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and president of the nonprofit ministry Right to the Heart, which has seen more than 500,000 people come to faith. She’s married and has two children. To learn more about Linda, her speaking, and her ministries, see www.VisitLinda.com.

8 Prayers For Strength, Hope and Courage That Christians Can Pray Always

8 Prayers For Strength, Hope and Courage That Christians Can Pray Always

God has the power to change you from the inside out.

We all have things that we struggle with and things that seem to overwhelm us. As a result of this, we often feel lost and don’t know what direction we’re supposed to go in. What we often forget is that these particular seasons of our lives are incredible opportunities to turn to God for strength, hope and courage. Prayer helps us to find strength for today and hope to in the midst of our greatest challenges and trials. When we trust in the power of prayer, we can really see how God is at work in our lives. Here are eight prayers for strength, hope and courage.

A Prayer For Direction

When you’re in need of strength, remember that God is the number one healer and can guide you in endless ways. If your heart and life are centered on God, His Word and His Holy Spirit, you can rest assured that He will direct your path. God’s primary means for giving us guidance is in the Bible. “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and spirit.’” (John 3:5). If you’re ready to trust in God’s ability to direct your life, pray this prayer: Heavenly Father, as I arise today, I pray that Your strength pilot me, Your power uphold me, and Your wisdom guide me. May Your eye look before me, Your hand protect me and Your shield defend me. Amen.

A Prayer For Physical and Emotional Strength

Our God has worked in history to defeat sin and Satan and hell and death. He did this through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God has the power to strength your mind, body and spirit if you allow Him to be at work in your life. If you’re ready for God to step in and transform you from the inside out, pray this prayer: Heavenly Father, I ask you to strengthen my mind, body and spirit today. When I’m weary, may I be refreshed. When I’m worn, may I be renewed. When I’m broken, may I be restored. When I’m fearful, may I become faithful. I pray that I walk in complete confidence today knowing that the Lord Almighty is with me. Amen.

A Prayer to Trust God and Surrender All

God calls on all of us to make total surrender to God. If you’re in need of strength and are ready for a change in your life in a way that you’ve never known before, God demands that you allow the Lord to become the ruler of your life. We can only do this when we surrender to Him. If you’re ready to fully let go and let God, pray this prayer: Heavenly Father, I surrender every area of my mind, will and emotions to You. I choose to dwell in Your goodness and faithfulness so that the good seeds You’ve planted in my life will take root. Keep me close to You and direct my steps down the good path You have prepared for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

When you’re in need of strength, one of the best things you can do is call on God for protection and direction. He will direct Your paths for good. If you’re ready for His guidance and protection, pray this prayer: Heavenly Father, I come to You today giving thanks. Thank you for keeping and protecting me. Thank you for Your guidance and direction. Thank you for picking me up when I was at my lowest. You are an awesome God and it is because of You I choose to live and walk in Your favor. In Your name I pray. Amen.

A Prayer to Find the Right Words

We know from Scripture that our words have real power. God spoke the world into being by the power of His words (Hebrews 11:3) and we are in His image in part because of the power we have with words. Words do more than convey information or deliver a message. The power of our words can actually destroy one’s spirit, even stir up hatred and violence if we’re not careful. If you’re ready for your words to bring positivity in your life and the life of others, pray this prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to change my negative words and intentionally transform them into ones that bring life no matter what challenges are placed before me. Words of faith, strength, courage, success confidence, trust, peace, happiness and joy are just some of the positive attributes I want to reign in on my life. Guide me to recognize the power of my words, that they might give glory to You, and also give me strength. In Your name, I pray. Amen.

A Prayer For Family Strength

It’s important that we ask God to bless our families and protect them from harm. God has the power to give them grace, forgiveness and strength to overcome all the difficulties they face. He also has the power to keep your family together when the world tries to pull them apart. If you want to lift up prayers to strengthen your family, pray this prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for today, Thank you for my dear family and all that You have blessed me with. I pray that you fill My family with peace and strength. I pray that their days go smoothly and that their lives are touched in a special way. Reveal Yourself to them in marvelous ways. I pray that any barriers that separate us be let down, and that we would live as a team for You. I pray that Your will be done today and always. Amen.

by Lesli White