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The Power of a Hidden Vocation

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 23:07

We recently finished celebrating National Vocation Awareness Week in America, and although the focus was vocations to the priesthood and religious life, I find myself increasingly aware of the importance of my own vocation.

Our family was recently blessed with our fourth child (our third living daughter, with one little baby lost to miscarriage). The busyness of my life has increased significantly since her birth. I do some freelance and some part-time work (mostly from home), am a stay-at-home mom, and homeschool my oldest two daughters. Yet, the busyness isn’t necessarily from any one of those facets of my life. What most of my time and energy is devoted to is trying to meet the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of three little girls. If you were to read my resumé, you would read about my experience as a catechist, a speaker, a writer, and a social media manager. When I encounter people outside of our family and they ask what I have been working on, they aren’t asking me how many diapers I changed that day, or how many tearful faces I stroked. They’re curious what book I’m working on, what my latest article is, or if I’ve done any speaking lately.

And so, it is hard to reconcile the fact that my most important job – the job that fully absorbs my heart and my thoughts and the vast majority of my waking and sleeping hours – is not one that is seen as important or interesting by the culture we’re living in. Adding to this confusion is the fact that the women of my generation were all raised to believe that we could “do it all” – we could work, be mothers, have a social life…and be successful in all those areas. The reality is that motherhood compels me and draws me like no other job does. No matter what my other accomplishments may be, they just don’t grab my heart the way those four little souls do.

I was talking with a group of fellow young Catholic moms about this recently, and we ended up talking about how this affects our spiritual lives, too. On this particular day, I was at our homeschool co-op with my girls, and it was our co-op’s monthly Mass day. I love the Eucharist and daily Mass, and wanted to be able to go to Mass with every fiber of my being – but I was faced with one daughter desperately needing a nap, another having an excessively emotional morning, and a third whose blood sugar was tanking and needing to eat lunch right then and there. God wasn’t calling me to go to daily Mass that day, and that was painful to accept. I know and often repeat the motto of St. Frances of Rome, but sometimes I don’t want to “leave God at the altar” to find him in my home…sometimes I just want to go find him at the altar and stay there. I want to make an impromptu trip to visit him in the tabernacle and not have it end in an argument with my four-year-old about which pew we should kneel in. I want to be able to go to adoration without an SOS text telling me to come home because the baby won’t take the bottle I lovingly pumped, and has decided she wants her milk straight from the tap today.

Despite all of this, though, I know that these four children of mine are getting me to heaven.

I often underestimate how God can work through these adorable little distractions, not just in spite of them. Recently, though, I received a powerful reminder of this.

The seminary where my husband teaches hosts a monthly night of music, preaching, adoration, and Confession for the young adults in our Archdiocese. It is one of the highlights of my month, and a definite source of grace for me. However, my four month old has been in the midst of teething and not sleeping well. I knew that if I left after bedtime, I would be summoned back quickly to tend to a fussy baby. I wanted to go to pray by myself, to have a chance to go to adoration alone, in order to better hear God speaking in my heart. I adore my baby girl, but I just wanted a little break. Nevertheless, I knew that she needed me that evening, so I bundled her up and brought her along with me to the seminary.

I arrived early, and sat in the back pew to nurse and rock my daughter. Every priest and seminarian that I passed on our way smiled when they saw us. She fell asleep relatively quickly, and the pews began to fill up. Before too long, I found myself surrounded by a band of seminarians, smiling at my sleeping daughter and me. And, as I prayed, I realized – they were attracted to my motherhood. In the same way that I am compelled and drawn to them because of their vocation, they are to me because of mine. I realized that my vocation was attractive and beautiful – not because of anything remarkable I was doing, but simply because I am a mother.

When I was a college student, discerning my vocation, I remember being really struck by the words of St. Paul, who says, “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me…” I didn’t fully understand what that meant, but felt my heart stirred by those words. As I prayed in the seminary that night, I began to understand what that meant. It wasn’t that I was drawing these priests and seminarians to myself by my greatness, but rather they were drawn by Christ living in me, at work in me through my vocation to motherhood. Yes, my own personhood is a part of that, but it is about so much more than just myself. It is about Christ’s love, being shown in dying to myself and my own ambitions and desire for importance. That is what a vocation is, after all.

This was further affirmed for me the following Thursday, when one of the seminarians stopped me before lunch to share with me that he had seen me at adoration with my little baby and had been greatly moved by it. In that moment, I felt a peace wash over me. My vocation to motherhood consists of mostly hidden, mundane moments, seen only by God. It is easy to forget that the sum of those small moments is anything but small. And, like Mary, I am left pondering it all in my heart.

God’s ways are not our ways, and some of the greatest vocations are the hidden ones. The cloistered nun, the silent monk, the seminarian rising for the day at 5:00 a.m., and yes, the mother soothing a fussy baby in the middle of the night – there is something compelling about these vocations. It is in the little, hidden moments that God reveals his love.

Conquering Loneliness

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 23:05

I tend to experience loneliness quite often: I’m a melancholic temperament, which means that I prefer order, solitude, and time to think. As a natural introvert, I relish the rare moments when my kids are all in bed and I feel as if my brain can decompress from teaching my first grader about place value or answering the question, “What’s on your shirt?” from my preschooler ten times or rocking a teething infant.

Even though I am rarely alone, I still feel lonely. I long for a connection with other like-minded people, which can be very specific in my case: young adult Catholic mothers who have a kid with a disability and experience the challenge of writing as a spiritual charism. I mean, realistically I won’t find a lot of women who fit neatly in that category. And that’s maybe part of the reason I feel lonely most days. It’s because the inner workings of my mind and heart don’t always coincide with the often trivial conversations that occur throughout my day.

Many psychological experts have studied this oxymoron, and the reality is this: aloneness and loneliness are sometimes a mutually exclusive phenomena. We can seem to be very socially connected people, especially in our digital epoch, and yet at the core feel deeply isolated from meaningful human relationships. And vice versa: some people have few intimate friendships and are frequently alone, yet they seldom feel lonely.

In Kevin Vost’s new book, The Catholic Guide to Loneliness: How Science and Faith Can Help Us Understand It, Grow from It, and Conquer It, I realized that loneliness is not uncommon these days. Something that really struck me were his short essays nestled in between chapters that illustrated the increasing epidemic of isolation in our frenetic society. Based on peer-reviewed scientific research, Dr. Vost has a flawless way of connecting the dots between psychology and theology. The book beautifully weds both into a concise and helpful resource of Catholic spirituality that I see as being a timeless guide for possibly decades.

Based on his understanding of the Thomistic virtues, Vost quite eloquently and unpretentiously writes for the lay Catholic who has very little, if any, knowledge of how the theological and cardinal virtues serve as spiritual insight for someone who is experiencing chronic loneliness. Even more, Vost suggests that prolonged periods of loneliness can overlap with a clinical psychological diagnosis, such as depression, so he advises readers gently to seek help.

My favorite chapter is “The Solace of Solitude,” because Vost explains that increasing periods of disciplined quite time spent with the Lord can actually assuage loneliness rather than exacerbate it. This makes perfect sense, considering Jesus Himself experienced unfathomably painful loneliness in the Garden of Gethsemane. And spending time with Him when we are lonely can be a source of mutual consolation that deepens our love for Jesus.

I wrote a bit about this in an article about how solitude can ease the pain of loneliness, and reading Vost’s explanation in his book was a huge confirmation and consolation to me. Oddly and paradoxically, readers will truly understand that they are not alone in their loneliness when they read The Catholic Guide to Loneliness. Beyond that, in Vost’s gentle but persuasive way, they will come to find strength in their loneliness, to see it as a gift they can bring to allay other people’s sense of isolation or ostracism. Ultimately, that is the call of every Christian: to accompany others in their most sorrowful moments.

St. Albert the Great: Saintly Scientist for the Modern World

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 23:02

Almost, we can say, like a first Adam on the earth, in the middle of the thirteenth century Albert of Cologne began to look at the world around him with a completely fresh gaze. In his  commentary on Matthew’s Gospel he wrote: “The whole world is theology for us because the heavens proclaim the glory of God.”

— Paul Murray, O.P., The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality

Saintly Scientist

Born on earth around 1200 and in heaven in 1280, Saint Albert the Great of the Order of Preachers is a great saint for our time so badly in need of his preaching and teaching. We live in a  world where many scientists proclaim their lack of belief in God and increasing numbers of young people declare they believe in science rather than religion, assuming in the ignorance of their miseducation that the two must be opposed. As Pope Saint John Paul II declared in 1998 in his Fides et Ratio (on the relationship between faith and reason), we live in a day when scientism grows rampant and many people believe that science and technology provide all the answers to all the problems that plague humanity. On the other hand, some Christians who recognize that science can certainly tell us how to do things, but not whether we ought to do them, fall into the opposing error of fideism, “which fails to recognize the importance of rational knowledge and philosophical discourse for the understanding of faith, indeed for the very possibility of belief in God.” We live in a day of increasing polarization, presented with the false dichotomy of having to choose between the scientism of the intelligent, courageous, and godless secular scientists and the fideism of ignorant, benighted, and bigoted fundamentalist Bible-thumpers.

The Catholic Church, however, has never been the Church of either-or but of both-and insofar as there are kernels of truth in each side. John Paul II in our time would describe faith and reason as the “two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.” And among the Catholic faithful throughout the centuries, few have embraced and proclaimed the inherent harmony of science and faith, of reason and revelation, like our hounds of the Lord, true champions of faith and reason, the sons and daughters of Saint Dominic de Guzman.

On November 15, 1980, eighteen years before he released Fides et Ratio, the same saintly pope previewed some of his profound thoughts on the fundamental complementarity of faith and reason in a speech in Cologne, Germany. The occasion was the seven hundredth anniversary of the death of none other than Saint Albert the Great. John Paul II praised Albert for his virtue of courage in championing man’s reason as a grand instrument to find truth and to shape and structure the world, and also for his virtue of humility to recognize reason’s limits and remain “open to the Word of eternal Truth, which became man in Christ.”

Almost thirty years later, in an address on March 24, 2010, Saint John Paul II’s successor, Pope Benedict XVI, would again recommend to us the virtues of Saint Albert, portraying Albert (named the patron saint of scientists by Pope Pius XII in 1941) as a model for modern scientists to follow in transforming the study of nature into a fulfilling and “fascinating journey of holiness.” Indeed, Pope Benedict spoke of the “friendship” of reason and faith, of Saint Albert’s realization that reason and Scripture are completely compatible, and of God’s will that we are to use both to seek and attain truth and happiness.

As when we celebrated the eight hundredth Jubilee of the Orders of Preachers on December 22, 2016, we need the model and lessons of Saint Albert even more as the world questions and “deconstructs” moral and existential truths that seemed to be settled ages ago. “What does it mean to be a man or a woman?” “What is the nature of marriage?” “Do things really have identities or natures of their own, or is everything a matter of change and flux, of feelings and shifting opinions?” “Can truth be determined by a vote or by a show of hands?” Indeed, our world increasingly asks, much as a hand-washing Roman governor once asked Truth to His face, “What is truth?” (John 18:38).

This article is a preview of “Hounds of the Lord.” Click image to purchase your copy.

Let us turn now to this great hound of the Lord who chased away countless threatening errors and hunted down an amazing bounty of truths that we so desperately need to reclaim as we examine the thinking of this tireless thinker, the doing of this indomitable doer, and the fervent loving acts of this most learned lover.

Albertus Magnus: Thinker

Born sometime between 1193 and 1206, Albert of Lauingen lived through fourth-fifths of what has been called “the greatest of centuries” and bore the title of Magnus (the Great) while he was still alive . This accolade was due to his incredible breadth of knowledge and mastery of virtually every scientific discipline known to man at the time — literally from A to Z, with contributions to fields as diverse as anatomy, anthropology, astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, dentistry, geography, geology, medicine, physiology, physics, psychology, and zoology. Some said that Albert knew all that there was to know! Indeed, Albert’s knowledge as a scientist was matched by his knowledge of philosophy and theology too. He became the world’s foremost academic professor and a hound of the Lord all the while.

So how did Great Albert get to be so great? To examine Saint Albert the thinker, we should start with young Albert the student. Albert’s parents were of the lower nobility and apparently died when he and his siblings were relatively young. Albert was raised by his uncle. Although we don’t have much detail on his early education, formal education was fairly rare at the time, a blessing reserved to the relatively well off and provided by teachers at the local cathedral or monastery. He would have likely received the lasting benefits of a medieval system of education based on the seven classical liberal arts. These consisted in the first years of the trivium (from tri, “three,” and via, “roads”) of grammar, dialectics or logic, and rhetoric, and later, of the quadrivium (four roads) of music theory, astronomy, geometry, and mathematics. Greek and Roman educators believed the trivium provided the fundamental tools for thinking that prepared one for adult life and that set the stage for all future specialized knowledge. Medieval educators agreed (and perhaps we would be better off if more modern ones did too!) .

By learning the nature of inflected Latin, Albert grew to understand the fundamental nature of all languages. By learning logic, he discovered how to differentiate valid from invalid arguments and truths from falsehoods, so essential to Scholastic methods of higher education. By learning rhetoric, he saw the importance of carefully defining terms, the importance of a powerful memory, and the necessity of and methods for tailoring one’s preaching or teaching to one’s audience. We can see that the trivium was anything but trivial to Albert, since as a young man he chose to hone these tools of learning further by pursuing advanced education in the trivium and quadrivium at the University of Padua, the world’s foremost center of learning of the liberal arts.

Albert’s interest in learning was by no means limited to the formal classroom either. He was constantly enthralled by the creation all around him, showing great interest in plants, in animals of all sorts, including the fish in the Danube, in the terrain of the earth, and in the motion of the heavens. Indeed, it has been said that one could repopulate the forests of Bavaria with the plants and animals that would be described in Albert’s books.

Struggling student?

Some interesting legends surround Albert’s early academic career as a student. One suggests that young Albert was not exactly a whiz kid, perhaps providing hope for those with high hopes and average intelligence! The story holds that early on at Padua, Albert had a hard time learning science. Everything that he had learned in the evening seemed to vanish from his mind by the time he woke up the next morning. Then one day his room shone brightly as Saints Catherine and Barbara and the Holy Virgin Mary suddenly appeared before him. The Blessed Mother asked him what he desired, and Albert responded by asking her for vast knowledge of human wisdom. The Holy Virgin responded that she would give him philosophical learning without equal.Further, addressing a common concern of the day, she told Albert that his human knowledge would never draw him away from the Faith. Finally, she told him that before the end of his life on earth, his knowledge would leave him and he would return to God as simple and innocent as a child.

The biographer Joachim Sighart speculates that stories about Albert’s difficulties in learning may have arisen because he spent so long in his studies. Saint Dominic, for example, with less interest in scientific knowledge, studied philosophy for six years, while Saint Albert’s philosophical studies may have lasted as long as ten years. Further, Saint Albert himself had written that he always felt inspired to study by the Virgin Mary and what he could not master through study came to him through prayer.

Talented teacher

Nonetheless, by the time young Albert’s studies were over, the stories of Albert the struggling student were replaced by stories of Albert as the most talented teacher of all. Saint Thomas Aquinas, commenting on Aristotle, wrote that “a characteristic of one possessing Science is his ability to teach,” and Albert taught like few before him or since . When his philosophical and theological training were complete around 1233, Albert attained the title of lector (reader) of theology at the Dominican convent of Cologne, Germany, about three hundred miles east of Paris. Seven years later, after organizing Dominican convent schools in Hildeshiem and Freiburg as well, he would be sent back those three hundred miles west to the home base of Dominican education and indeed the greatest center of learning in the world, the University of Paris, where he would ascend from lector to doctor, having attained the highest and foremost of academic degrees in 1244. That same year, the world’s most talented teacher met the world’s most studious student, when our next chapter’s subject joined Saint Albert in Paris.

In 1248 Albert was appointed regent at a new Studium Gen­erale back in Cologne. Our learned hounds of the Lord had multiplied so rapidly that the order’s only center of higher studies at the Convent of Saint James in Paris could hardly kennel and train all four hundred to five hundred of them! One of the goals of the order’s general chapter meeting in Paris that year was to establish additional houses of higher study in several Dominican provinces at Bologna for Italy, Montpellier for Provence, Oxford for England, and Cologne for Germany. Who better to establish the Dominican mini university of Cologne than Great Albert of Cologne himself? (And who better to accompany him as his aid than the young Thomas Aquinas?) There at Cologne, Albert’s genius, as well as his sanctity, and the “force of his doctrine” drew students and scholars from around the world. It is no surprise, then, that two years later we find Albert at Vincennes in northern France, helping draft the official system of study for the Order of Preachers.

Profound philosopher

As a teacher, Albert deftly passed on to his students the fruits of his contemplation, and his formalized scientific and philosophical contemplation of the works of creation continued well into his eighth decade. Albert not only studied and passed on what great thinkers had unearthed; he unearthed a good deal of new knowledge of his own. He introduced the brilliant works of Aristotle to the West in his meticulous, line-by-line commentaries on many of Aristotle’s works, works that some feared threatened the Faith, since Aristotle reasoned, for example, that the universe was eternal and that God did not take interest in human affairs. Albert faithfully reported what Aristotle truly taught, the bulk of it being magnificent and in harmony with the truths of the Church. In his own later works, Albert was anything but a parrot of Aristotle’s opinions in science and philosophy, however, contradicting him at times in specific matters (e .g ., the frequency of lunar rainbows, the number of human ribs, and the dietary preferences of eels!) through his own experience or experimentation. Indeed, Albert even wrote a treatise on Aristotle’s errors.

In the fields of science, or “natural philosophy,” Albert was without peer in his day in his research and prolific writing; he wrote entire books on animals, vegetables, and minerals, for a few examples. His knowledge of chemistry and mineralogy sprouted myths that Albert was a great magician. Indeed, books about Albertus Magnus as magician (perhaps in part confusing magnus, “great,” with magus, “magician”) are still on the market today!

Memory master

Albert probed deeply into the realm of philosophical psychology as well, wresting deep secrets of the nature of the human soul in its passions or emotions, intellect, and will. To highlight in brief an area of special interest to me, Albert played a pivotal role in the history of mnemonics, or memory improvement techniques. An ancient work on the “method of loci,” a system of memory improvement using graphic mental visual images and a series of imagined locations as an ordering technique was attributed to the poet Simonides (sixth century B .C .) and had been passed on from ancient Greece and Rome in the surviving writings of Marcus Tullius Cicero (first century B .C .). A separate ancient work on the nature of the workings of human memory had come down through the writings of Aristotle. Saint Albert went over them both with the fine-toothed comb of his intellect and successfully merged these two ancient streams of knowledge on memory improvement and on the nature of memory, providing a rushing river of insights into both. Further, while the memory improvement methods were historically used primarily as effective aids to public speaking (not by memorizing speeches word for word, but for keeping one’s key points, the outline of one’s talk more or less, in one’s mind in its exact order), Saint Albert moved them as well into the realm of ethical behavior.

In Albert’s great moral treatise De Bono (On the Good), when writing about the parts or components of the virtue of prudence, or practical wisdom, Albert borrowed Cicero’s three parts of memory, understanding, and foresight, for to achieve ethical goals in the future, we must act on our present understanding, based on what we have learned in the past. Indeed, Albert would consider memory the most important part of the virtue of prudence, and he would, in no uncertain terms, recommend formal memory training as an ethical endeavor:

Whence we say that among all those things which point towards ethical wisdom, the most necessary is trained memory, because from past events we are guided in the present and the future, and not from the converse.

And as for the particular “method of loci” endorsed by Cicero (Tully), Albert would make clear:

We say that art of memory is best which Tully teaches, above all with respect to those things-for-remembering which pertain to how we live and to justice, and these memories chiefly relate to ethics, it is necessary that this art be within the soul through corporeal images; in these images however it will not remain except within the memory.

Albert was one of history’s greatest thinkers . We have provided but the smallest of nutshells here, although the mighty oak of his encyclopedic knowledge can’t help but be seen in how it branched out far and wide into his activities as a doer and a thinker.

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Dr. Vost’s Hounds of the Lord: Great Dominican Saints Every Catholic Should Know, which is available from Sophia Institute Press

image: Albertus Magnus by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr

Life is full of blessings. We always

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 23:00

Life is full of blessings. We always hear this not only from priests but from a lot of people and yet do we firmly agree? With most of the things or achievements we have we think “I” worked for it that’s why “I” have it. Or we may think that what we have, we deserved it. There is no sense of gratitude in us. We pray to God a lot of times for good grades or a good job or a better opportunity and when we do get it, yes we say thank you but when that “good job” comes in, we lose time for prayer or even Sunday mass. We already got what we wanted so we can easily forget God anyway.

He’ll still be around when we call.

In today’s Gospel, ten lepers were made clean but only one, a foreigner, said “thank you.” Why? We might think this reading is far from us since we really don’t have a problem with leprosy at this time, but when did we ever take time out from our full schedules, sit quietly and just say “God, thank you for the roof over my head that keeps me dry in the rain, and cool from the heat of the sun?” or “God, thank you for the food that I eat three times a day?” or “Lord, thank you for my family and friends that are around me loving me.” If we look around us, and start counting the blessings we have received from God, 24 hours in a day will not be enough to count what the Lord has blessed us with.

This Gospel is inviting us strongly to have an attitude of gratitude and that we will start being happy as we give praise to God.

Saint Albert the Great (Albertus Magnus)

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 23:00

Albert was born in Swabia, Germany in 1206. His father being the Count of Bollstadt, Albert was born in the family castle at Lauingen.

He studied at the University of Padua and in the year 1223 became a Dominican despite his family’s opposition. He taught at Cologne, Hildesheim, Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Regensburg, and Strasbourg. His reputation for his learning and intellect was widespread. He received a doctorate at the University of Paris in 1245 where he later taught. Among his students was Thomas Aquinas, who became a close friend.

In 1254, Albert was named provincial of his order and went to Rome to serve as personal theologian to the pope. Albert resigned his provincialate in 1257 to devote himself to study, and later, along with Peter of Tarentasia and Thomas Aquinas, drew up a new study curriculum for the Dominicans.

Against his wishes, he was appointed bishop of Regensburg in 1260, but resigned two years later to resume teaching at Cologne. He was active in the Council of Lyons in 1274, working for the reunion of the Greek Church with Rome. He brilliantly defended Aquinas and his position against Bishop Stephen Templer of Paris and a group of theologians at the university there in 1277. The following year, a memory lapse progressed into two years of poor mental and physical health, which led to his death in Cologne on November 15. He was canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1931.

Lessons

Albert was one of the great intellects of the medieval Church. He was among the first and greatest of natural scientists. His knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and geography (one of his treatises proved the earth to be round) was so amazing that he was often accused of using magic. He wrote profusely on logic, metaphysics, mathematics, the Bible, and theology. A keen student of Arabic learning and culture, his and Aquinas’s adaptation of Aristotelian principles to systematic theology and their attempts to reconcile Aristotelianism to Christianity caused bitter opposition among many of their fellow theologians. Because of his genius, he was known as “the Universal Doctor” among his contemporaries.

From Johnnette Benkovic’s Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God Day by Day

Click the image above to purchase your own copy of “Graceful Living.”

[Jesus] could not have commanded anything more beneficial, for this sacrament is the fruit of the tree of life. Anyone who receives this sacrament with the devotion of sincere faith will never taste death.

— From a homily of St. Albert the Great on the Holy Eucharist

Johnnette’s Meditation
To what extent do I receive Holy Communion with sincere faith? Is there anything I can do to increase my devotion?

Prayer

Thank you, Father in heaven, for the gift of genius that you have given to many great saints and theologians such as St. Albert. Through their great works, the Church has gained much knowledge. We give thanks that these saints used their gifts of wisdom to enlighten the world — and not for their own selfish gratification or gain. To God goes the glory. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Leopold “The Good” (1136), father of 18 children, refused the imperial crown

“Albert knew that true peace was

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 23:00

“Albert knew that true peace was possible only among good men, and that is why his greatest peacemaking efforts were performed not in the settlement of sundry disputes over worldly goods, but through his teaching and preaching the gospel of Christ in order to make men good.”

-Kevin Vost, Hounds of the Lord

The Many Miracles of Solanus Casey

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 23:07
Detroit, Michigan, 1957

Thirty-eight-year-old Gladys Feighan is overjoyed, on a visit to St. John Hospital from her home in Utica, New York, to learn that Fr. Solanus Casey, “the best-loved man in Detroit,” is a patient there. It has been a dream of hers for years to get to Fr. Solanus, revered by so many as a living saint; but for some time his Capuchin Franciscan superiors at St. Bonaventure’s Monastery have made it hard for anyone to see the ailing eighty-six-year-old priest.

Before that, when he was “retired” to a Capuchin house in Huntington, Indiana, she had actually prepared to make a trip there, but both her physician and her pastor advised against travel because of her pregnancy.

Terrified to lose another baby, she had listened to them. And lost another child, she reflects sorrowfully.

Mrs. Feighan is a sufferer from the Rh blood factor. Like most women with this problem, her first pregnancy was normal. But since her first child, she has had one miscarriage and two babies born dead.

An acquaintance with a similar history made that trip to Indiana and has three more living children to show for it.

Now Gladys sees the brown hooded robe of a Capuchin in the corridor. Running after it, she begs the brother who is looking out for Fr. Solanus if she can please see the ill man “for just a few minutes.” Br. Gabriel can make no promises. Frail old Fr. Solanus has been brought in by ambulance, very sick with a skin infection, maybe dying. And people have no consideration. A woman who asked to see him for a minute stayed over half an hour. . . . The more Brother talks, the lower Gladys’s face falls. But in the end, he says he’ll go ask.

What he doesn’t tell Mrs. Feighan is that to ask is an empty formal­ity with Fr. Solanus: in his fifty-three years as a Capuchin priest, he has never said no to seeing anyone, whether it was the middle of the night, the middle of his meal, or the 150th person of a day. The man has abso­lutely no instinct for self-preservation. Because of his great devotion to his vow of obedience, he accepts the restrictions placed on him by supe­riors who know the mobs coming, phoning, and writing for his prayers day after day, year after year, have taken the last drops of the holy old friar’s strength. But he has been heard to groan to himself, “Oh, why must they keep me from seeing the people?” To give himself to God by giving himself to others until there is nothing left is the one desire of his Christlike heart.

Soon Gladys is in his room. Let her tell it as she related the experi­ence for the book The Porter of Saint Bonaventure’s:

When I entered . . . Father Solanus was sitting at a little table. He welcomed me, asking me to sit down. “What is your name?” he asked.

“Mrs. Feighan.”

“No — your given name?”

“Gladys.”

“What, Gladys, do you want from God?”

“I want a baby. Another baby.”

“A baby! For a woman to want a baby — how blessed. To hold God’s own creation in your own hands.”

I told him about my Rh factor; that I was well toward my middle thirties; that I feared it wouldn’t be long before I might be too old to bear children.

“I do so want another child,” I told him. “Perhaps I am selfish.”

“No,” he answered me, “you are not selfish. For a woman to want children is normal and blessed. Motherhood entails so many responsibilities — bringing up a child as it should be brought up is doing God’s work. One doesn’t always meet women who want children.”

[Gladys expressed concern about her children who had died before they could be baptized.]

“That’s not for you to concern yourself about,” he answered. “Just have confidence in our dear Lord’s infinite love.”

Father Solanus’s mind seemed above earthly things. He was ecstatic — so much so that I could hardly ask him a question. Af­ter answering my first few questions, he did nearly all the talking. His words to me were of God’s infinite love for us, and of how we should place all our confidence in that divine, all-embracing love. As he spoke, he was trembling with emotion. Finally he said, “Kneel down, and I will bless you, and your husband and all your family.”

The other Capuchin was there, and a Sister of St. Joseph [who was] one of the hospital sisters, and they knelt too.

Then he said to me, “You will have another child, Gladys. Your Blessed Mother will give you another child. You must be­lieve this with all your heart and soul. You must believe this so strongly that before your baby is born you will get down on your knees and thank the Blessed Mother [for her intercession]. Be­cause once you ask her, and thank her, there’s nothing she can do but go to her own Son and ask Him to grant your prayer that you have a baby.”

Tears were in his eyes.

When I reached home, I was shaken for a couple of days but uplifted. I felt confident, happy.

Not long after, on July 31, 1957, the mystic Franciscan, conscious to the last, died peacefully. He was buried in the small Franciscan graveyard next to St. Bonaventure’s. There, several years later, Gladys came with her children. She had become pregnant in 1962. Her doctors feared another dead child. But she was jubilant and confident. That confidence was rewarded — with twins.

Others had similar tales of graces received. The mother of Capuchin missionary Bishop Cuthbert Gumbinger told her son in 1959 that she attributed her recovery from a heart attack to the intercession of Solanus. Bishop Gumbinger was no doubter: Fr. Solanus had appeared to him in a dream and immediately afterward obtained several things the missionary needed.

Gladys Redfern was another grateful individual. In 1964 three examinations and x-rays showing a tumor in her breast, she entered High­land Park General Hospital in Detroit for surgery May 22, the following morning. In her prayers she was asking Father Solanus’s intercession that the lump might prove benign. That night the doctor stopped by her room and made his last examination before the operation. The lump was gone.

The Wonderworker of the Soup Kitchen

This article is from “Nothing Short of a Miracle.” Click image to learn about how other modern saints have brought miracles to many.

Because of his special love for the poor, Fr. Solanus loved to help out at the Capuchins’ soup kitchen whenever his callers gave him a free hour. Capuchin author Michael H. Crosby reports the two following incidents: Ray McDonough was a soup kitchen volunteer whose daughter Rita gave birth to a little girl with a clubfoot. Ray asked Fr. Solanus to visit the baby. The Franciscan did. Holding the little foot in one hand, he blessed it in the name of the Trinity. On the next viewing, the same doctor who had pointed out the clubfoot to the mother scratched his head and said that the foot was perfect. Baby Carol grew up to become a mother herself without ever having any foot trouble.

Arthur Rutledge, who worked for the fire department, was another soup kitchen volunteer. He was being rolled into the operating room in a Detroit hospital one day when Fr. Solanus happened by.

“Hey, Art, what’s up?”

Art explained he had a tumor.

“Where is it?”

“In my abdomen — my stomach.”

Solanus put his hand on the area.

“Have the doctors give you a last check before they operate,” he said a minute later before continuing down the hall.

Art did. The tumor was gone.

Restoring Sight

When he was “retired” to Indiana, Fr. Solanus also gave a helping hand to Fr. Elmer Stoffel, with whom he helped care for the Capuchins’ beehives. One day around 1950 Fr. Elmer was stung by several bees. When Solanus saw his confrere on the ground rolling in pain, he immediately blessed him. Elmer at that time was blind to Solanus’s holiness and, in fact, disliked him so much that he sent many a barbed comment the healer’s way. Yet, to his chagrin, he had to admit that the second he was blessed, the pain vanished.

William King of Detroit, the son of a Protestant clergyman, had se­rious eye trouble. His Catholic boss at the Grand Trunk Railway sug­gested he see Fr. Solanus. King demurred until his doctor said one of his eyes would have to be removed to try to save the sight in the other one. So dim was his vision that his wife had to lead him into the porter’s of­fice. Fr. Solanus urged the couple, since they wanted a favor from God, to do something for Him in return. He suggested they begin attending their Protestant church every Sunday instead of just whenever they felt like it. King’s eyes were cured.

So were many other sick or weak eyes — like those of John J. Regan of the Detroit News. In 1929 hot casting lead (used in newspaper pro­duction) blew up in his face. When Mrs. Regan got to Harper Hospital, she saw her husband’s chart and the diagnosis “permanently blinded.” She passed out. Coming to, she rushed to Fr. Solanus, who promised her John would see. Back she ran to the physician who had just operated on her husband. He assured her gravely that was impossible: the best her husband could hope for would be to tell light from dark. Two weeks later, when John Regan’s eyes were unbandaged and he said, “I see you,” to the physician, the man declared it a miracle. Regan’s vision tested excellent.

Leonard

As the 1940s opened, real-estate man Luke Leonard saw himself as “an alcoholic bum.” Living in a seedy hotel, he decided one day he was getting nowhere “tapering off.” Without any hope of success, he mustered the courage to quit cold turkey.

At once he plunged into the nightmare of delirium tremens, hallucinating monsters and trembling uncontrollably. Walking the streets hour after hour, he bought a soft drink, only to find he shook too badly to get it to his mouth unaided.

Low-voiced Fr. Solanus usually saw everyone in one room, but he took Leonard behind closed doors and let him pour out his fear, self-loathing, and near despair. Two or three times another friar peered in, saying, “Fr. Solanus, others are waiting, some from out of town.”

“Ask them to wait a little longer,” and the white-bearded priest went on listening.

Finally Leonard ran down. Fr. Solanus leaned toward him. “When did you get over your sickness?”

“You mean my drunk, Father?” Leonard replied, doubly astounded. In that era alcoholism was not considered an illness, nor could anyone consider Luke Leonard free of addiction. Then Fr. Solanus laughed, a laugh Leonard says was “gentle and encouraging.”

A few minutes later the drinker was back on the street, but now he felt, he says, “strengthened and with a free, elevated spirit.”

He never took another drink.

Fr. Solanus Casey Continues His Work

After Fr. Solanus’s death, some of his lay friends got the Capuchin’s’ permission to form the Father Solanus Guild. To them, Fr. Solanus’s life was a model for followers of Christ. To make that life known and promote his Cause, they collected both his writings — mainly letters — and testimonies about him from those he converted, counseled, and / or healed. In the twenty-first century, the Guild stocks biographies and other materials to help others know Fr. Solanus. It also continues to accept prayer requests for his intercession. The Guild’s own publication, like a visit with him, gives spiritual inspiration through Fr. Solanus’s words and reports healings and favors people are still ascribing to the humble Capuchin’s prayers.

As early as 1966, reports of twenty-four important cures after his death were sent to Rome, although his Cause was not formally opened until 1982. His heroic virtues have been recognized by the title Venerable since 1995.

The following sampling of reported cures testifies that Fr. Solanus after death is still as compassionate and willing to bring others’ needs to God as he was when he gently greeted the troubled and sick in places like New York and Detroit.

An Illinois woman writes: “When I was five months pregnant, I was hospitalized for an undiagnosed illness. For two to three weeks I had bouts of fever with extremely elevated heart rates. When no cure could be found, my aunt enrolled me in the Father Solanus Guild without my knowing it. The fever suddenly broke that very same day and did not return.” The letter next tells how the baby she bore was healed from the undeveloped-lungs syndrome that can menace infant lives.

Someone’s son, who has had a heart attack five years earlier, suffers cardiac arrest. His mother begs Fr. Solanus’s prayers. Twenty-four days later, the son is back at work. Best, tests show no damage to the heart.

A December 2008 report from England is another heart healing. “You [The Capuchins] kindly promised prayers for my heart . . . [They] were heard in a most unexpected way. When I saw the cardiology sur­geon before Christmas, I was told that my enlarged heart was now nor­mal size. It was hard to take in as I had never been told that this was possible.”

In 2009 Fr. Solanus’s prayers are sought that no one be hurt during work on a rickety old barn. The eighteen-year-old helper of the person praying suddenly plunges eight feet through an upper floor to land on rocks, just laughs, and walks away!

A person disabled for over twenty years but able to function independently becomes ashamed to go out because of drooling from a shaking mouth / chin. To the doctor’s surprise, after a month’s persistent prayers for Fr. Solanus’s intercession, the unsightly symptom vanishes.

A young husband sends his thanks. His wife had been in a Connecti­cut hospital where extensive tests reviewed by three doctors revealed lymphoma tumors in the kidney and pelvis. The man added his wife to those seeking the dead Capuchin’s intercessory prayers. Exploratory sur­gery found no malignancy — and no tumors. The letter ends, “I honestly think that Fr. Solanus’s intercession resulted in a clean bill of health.”

From New York, a 2006 report: “A chest x-ray revealed something suspicious on one lung. A CT scan was ordered. Cancer was suspected so a PET scan followed. Turning to Solanus’ prayers, the patient four days later received good news: all negative, probably just a scar from childhood pneumonia.”

From New England, the grateful parent of a fifteen-year-old boy writes:

My son, age 15, was diagnosed as having lymphoma [cancer of the lymph-node system]. Two biopsies were done. The surgeon told us that he was quite sure the biopsies would be malignant and that we should not even consider that they would be benign. We were devastated, but we told the surgeon that we believed in miracles. We asked for the intercession of Fr. Solanus.

Praise be to God, the biopsies were benign and the surgeon was amazed. My son had further testing with an oncologist and all was fine. I thank Fr. Solanus for his intercession and I praise the Holy Name of God. Fr. Solanus’s intercession must be so powerful before the throne of God.

Amen.

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Patricia Treece’s Nothing Short of a Miracle: God’s Healing Power in Modern Saintswhich is available through Sophia Institute Press

image: By Mahatma Gandhi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Purgatory and the Communion of Saints

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 23:05

“No man is an island,” so Pope Benedict XVI reminds us in his encyclical letter Spe Salvi (“Saved in Hope”).  We are each bound to one another “through innumerable interactions” so that: “No one lives alone.  No one sins alone.  No one is saved alone.”  Pope Benedict exhorts us to ask, “what can I do in order that others may be saved? . . . Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.”  Salvation is a social reality.  The letter to the Hebrews speaks of the community of believers coming together in a city. Heaven, as a city full of people, is a place of communal salvation. Sin, on the other hand, introduced the “destruction of the unity of the human race.” While man’s original unity was torn apart by sin, the work of redemption aims to heal that disintegration, as Benedict discerns, “redemption appears as the reestablishment of unity.”

Each believer is an interconnected cell in the Mystical Body of Christ.  We are a band of brothers and sisters, bound together in hope and love, in a confraternal exchange of supernatural charity.  Even now, the saints of Church Militant on earth, are surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses” – Church Penitent (or Church Suffering) in purgatory and Church Triumphant in heaven.  The Communion of Saints live in a symbiotic relationship: the saints in heaven and purgatory interceding for those on the earth, while the believers on the earth ask for their heavenly intercession.  And, in this month of November, dedicated to the souls in purgatory, we recall our special role in this symbiotic relationship while still alive: to pray, sacrifice and intercede for the dearly departed souls in purgatory.

Those in purgatory have died in God’s grace and friendship and are “assured of their eternal salvation,” however, they are “still imperfectly purified” and must necessarily “undergo purification” to enter into heaven (CCC 1030), for nothing unclean enters into it. (Rev. 21:27)  Jesus spoke of purgatory, alluding to it as a “prison,” in which we pay for our sins down to “the very last penny”:

“Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.” (Lk. 12:58-59)

St. Paul similarly tells the Corinthians that we all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and are subject to a “purifying fire;” they “will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:15)  The encounter with Christ is one of grace and judgment.  Benedict describes this eloquently:

“Grace does not cancel out justice.  It does not make wrong into right.  It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value. . . . Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened.” (Spe Salvi, 44)  Even after Confession, we must still make penance.

The departed faithful souls in purgatory do have to make recompense for their sins to satisfy the perfect justice of God.  We can, however, assist them in that.  The Catechism (CCC 1032) quotes an example from Scripture saying, “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” (2 Macc. 12:45)  And so, how do we as Christians make atonement for the dead?  The Catechism clarifies this:

“From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.  The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.”

We are called to be intercessors, for both the living and the dead.  We can offer up our prayers, sacrifices and sufferings on behalf of the poor souls in purgatory, for they can no longer merit for themselves.  But, God has deigned through the Communion of the Saints that we can make up for others what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.  For, we are “God’s fellow workers” (1 Cor. 3:9), contributing to the salvation of souls.  We can do this through our prayers, such as praying the rosary for those in purgatory.  We can offer penances, and sacrifices.  We can give alms, and do acts of charity on behalf of the deceased person.

Benedict also recommends a particular devotion for everyday life, that is, “offering up” all the minor daily hardships of the day.  We can “insert these little annoyances into Christ’s great ‘com-passion’ so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race.”  We can offer up those petty annoyances throughout the day whatever they might be, slow traffic, the heat, the pestering co-worker, etc.  “In this way, even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning.” (Spe Salvi, 40)  We can be assured that our efforts, prayers and sacrifices are efficacious and capable of mitigating the suffering of those in purgatory. (CCC 958)

Most importantly, we can offer the sacrifice of the Mass, and indulgences granted by the Church, for souls in purgatory.  You can contact your Church and have a mass offered for your beloved deceased.  Another beautiful gift is the tradition going back to Pope Gregory the Great of offering “Gregorian Masses” for deceased persons on thirty consecutive days.  These are generally not done now in parishes, but in monasteries, seminaries, and other religious institutions.

The efficaciousness of intercession for those in purgatory has received mystical confirmation too.  One such mystic was St. Faustina.  She wrote in her Divine Mercy diary about a soul, a recently deceased nun, who visited her from purgatory requesting her prayers.  Upon first visiting her, the sister was in “terrible condition,” but after some undisclosed amount of time of praying for her, the nun eventually returned and “her face was radiant, her eyes beaming with joy.”  She would soon be released from purgatory and conveyed to her that many souls had “profited from my prayers.”  Similarly, in the Divine Mercy Novena, dictated to St. Faustina by Jesus, He asks us to offer the eighth day for the souls in purgatory.  He told St. Faustina, “It is in your power to bring them relief.  Draw all the indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on their behalf.  Oh, if you only knew the torments they suffer, you would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay off their debt to My justice.” (Diary, 1226)  Memorializing a person is nice, but prayer for the deceased may be what they truly need.

Thus, it is within our power as members of the Communion of Saints to assist the poor souls in purgatory in the process of their purification and sanctification.  Our prayers and sacrifices can help pay off their debts.  In turn, in gratefulness for the merit we win for them, they will surely pray and intercede for us, until, at last, in heaven we will meet all those who we have helped, undoubtedly to our surprise.  Also, lest we put our earthly time limits upon God, we should remember to pray even for those who have died long ago.  God, who exists outside of time in eternity, receives all of our prayers and sacrifices in the eternal present, and can merit a soul whether long since dead or in purgatory.  So, out of love for our family and friends, let us do our part in supernatural charity for the souls in purgatory, who may be most in need of our help.

image: By Lorenzo di Niccolò Italian, Florentine, documented 1393-1412 – Artist (Italian, Florentine)Details of artist on Google Art Project [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Five Ways to Seek Grace in Your Life

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 23:02

On one occasion the great mystic, prayer-warrior, penitent, as well as a Doctor of the Church, Saint Catherine of Siena was granted a vision into the state of one soul imbued with sanctifying grace. Upon contemplating the beauty of this one soul in God’s grace she fell to her knees.  Enthralled and totally captivated by its beauty she thought it was God Himself! Of all of the gifts that we can receive on earth, as pilgrims travelling towards our eternal home which is heaven, the grace of God is by far the greatest treasure.  It is the pearl of infinite price!

Whereas the worldly and sensual pursue money, fame, power, and pleasure as their ultimate source of happiness (which really is a lie and illusion), God’s true friends pursue ardently and constantly to grow in grace. Another rather simple way to understand the life of grace is simply this: friendship with God.  God desires ardently to be our Friend, the best of Friends; however, He respects our time and freedom to accept Him as our best Friend!

The life of grace all starts in the moment that we receive the Sacrament of Baptism.  The graces that flow from Baptism are extraordinary, almost mind-boggling—how good God really is.  Once the water is poured on the head and the words: “I baptize you, In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, invisible but real miracles occur: an intimate relationship with the Blessed Trinity, the infusion of the theological virtues, moral virtues, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Still of paramount importance is the reality of Grace that permeates and imbues the soul in the moment of Baptism!

With the waters of Baptism we enter into a deep and intimate friendship with the Triune God and we become partakers of His divine nature—we  become sons of God and have as inheritance—if we persevere in grace—heaven forever!  For that reason the saints teach us: grace is the seed of eternal life.

Given that grace in our souls is the greatest gift and presence, we should do all in our power to preserve grace, grow in grace, so as to die in the state of grace. Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church and author of the classic  Glories of Mary, states that the grace of all graces is to die in the state of grace.  This should be our prayer every day for our souls, that of our loved one as well as for the whole world. Indeed Jesus came as universal Savior—to save the whole world through His Paschal mystery—His passion, death and Resurrection from the dead!

Then there are the two worse things in the universe are the following: 1) Committing a mortal sin (this indeed is terrible); 2) Worse still is dying in the state of mortal sin; this, of course results in an eternal separation from God for all eternity! May God save us from the reality of mortal sin.  Nonetheless, if we do have the misfortune of falling into mortal sin, we should never give into despair. On the contrary, we should have a limitless confidence in God’s infinite mercy and have recourse to the wonderful Sacrament of God’s mercy that we call Confession!  The Psalmist reminds us with these encouraging words: “God is slow to anger and rich in kindness.” Saint Paul reiterates the same theme:  “Where sin abounds, the grace of God abounds all the more.”

Ways to Grow in the Grace of God

We should do all in our power to preserve God’s grace in our souls, but also to grow daily in God’s grace.  God’s grace and His intimate Friendship in our soul are worth more than the whole created universe.   The natural realm in which we live can never be compared to the supernatural realm in which we find the concept and reality of grace. As a fish swims in water, as a bird flies in the sky so should we be swimming and flying in the atmosphere of grace! This should be the most ardent desire of our hearts, mind and souls!

1. Prayer.  Every time we pray with humility of heart, purity of intention and a desire to please God we immediately grow in grace.   For that reason we should treasure prayer, our prayer life and the prayer life of others as the highest and greatest of all realities.  Parents who teach their children to pray are the best of parents; parents who are slothful and negligent in the education of their children in the arena of prayer will have to give an account on the day of their judgment! Because of the numerous distractions of daily life, how easy it is for parents—who must be the first educators of their children—to be negligent and sloppy in teaching their children to pray! May God have mercy on us!

2. Charity.  The Word of God teaches us this consoling truth: “Love covers a multitude of sins.” If we can find ways and opportunities that God offers us on a daily basis to practice charity and service or even alms-giving towards others then we have another means to augment grace in our souls. In the movie Little Boy, the little boy was given what the priest called the “Magic list” to accomplish so that his father would return home safe and sound from the World War. The magic list is nothing more than less than the corporal works of mercy listed in (Mt. 25:31-46) “ I was hungry and you gave me to eat; thirsty and you gave me to drink; a foreigner and you welcomed me; sick and in prison and you came to visit me; dead and you provided burial…” Beg the Holy Spirit in prayer which of these He is calling you to carry out in practice in your life so as to increase grace in your soul!

3. Penance Jesus stated that some devils can be cast out only through prayer and fasting.  The Lord also reminds us: “Anyone who wants to be my follower must renounce himself, take up his cross and follow me.”  Every time we say “no” to our selfish desires and “yes” to a sacrifice that the Holy Spirit has inspired in our hearts then once again the grace of God rises in our hearts! An added blessing from God when we undertake a life of sacrifice is conquering our bad habits and interior peace of mind, heart and soul!  Let us be generous with a God who loves us so much!

4. Sacraments: The Eucharist. Of course the greatest action in the whole universe is that of receiving the greatest of all Sacraments—The Eucharist!  The Holy Eucharist, Holy Communion, is truly and substantially the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Receiving Our Lord with the best of dispositions, in grace, with faith, love, humility and desire for a deeper conversion to His love is an infinite source of grace because this Sacrament is God Himself! For this reason there is no greater action we can do as pilgrims and wayfarers on earth than to receive Jesus with lively faith, frequency and burning love! If you like a simple image, upon receiving Jesus with burning love the gas gauge in your spiritual tank (your soul) shoots up way beyond the full. Beg for the grace to have a daily hunger for the Bread of life so as to constantly skyrocket in grace—to penetrate the high heavens even while on earth! In the Our Father we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread…” Perhaps Jesus is challenging you to aim at daily Mass and daily Holy Communion so as to surmount the highest mountains in the realm of grace.

5. Our Lady: Hail Mary. On one occasion the German mystic and saint, Saint Gertrude, saw Jesus in heaven.  He was resplendent in glory, but He was doing an intriguing gesture: placing a golden coin on top of a huge mound of other gold coins. The saint was just finishing praying to our Lady the Hail Mary. Jesus responded in this manner. “Gertrude, every time you pray to my mother the Hail Mary with faith and devotion, I am depositing a Golden coin in heaven that will be yours for all eternity.”  If we want to be multi-billionaires in heaven let us love Mary and the prayer that Mary loves so much—Hail Mary.  In the Hail Mary we greet the Queen of Heaven and earth with these beautiful words: “Hail Mary, Full of Grace.” Therefore, let us get into the habit of praying the daily Rosary, with the beautiful prayer Hail Mary.  If done, Our Lady, through her powerful intercession will be storing up for you infinite treasures and an eternal home in heaven! May we love grace, treasure grace, strive to grow in grace and finally die in grace through the intercession of Mary, the “Full of grace.”

St. Lawrence O’Toole

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 23:02

Lawrence was born in 1128 as a Son of Murtagh, chief of the Murrays, near Kildare, Ireland. As a boy, he was taken hostage by the raiding King Dermot McMurrogh of Leinster, but was turned over to the Bishop of Glendalough after two years. Lawrence became a monk at Glendalough, was named abbot in 1153, and in 1161, was named Archbishop of Dublin.

He instituted reforms among the clergy, upgraded the caliber of new clerics, and imposed strict discipline on his canons. When a revolt drove Dermot McMurrogh from Ireland, the king sought the help of King Henry II of England, who dispatched an army of his nobles headed by Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke. He landed in Ireland in 1170 and marched on Dublin. While Lawrence was negotiating with him, Dermot’s men and allies raped and looted the city. When Dermot suddenly died, Pembroke declared himself King of Leinster as the husband of Dermot’s daughter Eva (Lawrence’s niece), but was recalled to England by Henry. Before Pembroke could return, the Irish united behind Rory O’Connor, and the earl barricaded himself in Dublin as the Irish forces attacked. While Lawrence was trying to effect a settlement, Pembroke suddenly attacked and won an unexpected victory.

Henry himself then went to Ireland in 1171, received the submission of most of the Irish chieftains, and the beginning of the “troubles” between Ireland and England began. In 1172, a synod Lawrence convened at Cashel confirmed a bull of Pope Adrian IV imposing the English form of the liturgy on Ireland. Lawrence accepted the decrees when Pope Alexander II confirmed them. In 1175, he went to England to negotiate a treaty between Henry and Rory O’Connor, and was attacked while visiting the Shrine of Thomas Becket. He attended the General Lateran Council in Rome in 1179, and was appointed papal legate to Ireland. On his way home he stopped off in England to conduct further negotiations on behalf of Rory O’Connor, and was forbidden to return to Ireland by Henry. He went to visit Henry in Normandy and got the decision reversed, but then died on the return trip to Ireland. He was canonized in 1225.

Just as St. Lawrence spent much of his time interceding and negotiating, we too, are called to negotiate for peace and intercede on behalf of others in prayer. May we always seek to do our part in bringing peace where there is strife and sending up our intercessory prayers for others, calling on our Father to help us.

Prayer

Dear Lord, thank you for those like St. Lawrence who intercede on our behalf and negotiate for the well-being of our country, our families, our lives. We ask that St. Lawrence continue to intercede for us and help us to live our lives in peace and harmony. Amen.

Other Saints We remember Today

St. Sylvester (1267), Abbot, Martyr

St. Peter of Alexandria (311), Bishop, Martyr

St. Leonard of Port Maurice (1751), Priest, Patron of Parish Missions

St. John Berchmans (1621), Jesuit novice, Patron of Altar Boys

*

image: Andreas F. Borchert [CC BY-SA 3.0 de, CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

The disciples of Jesus were concerned

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 23:00

The disciples of Jesus were concerned about their reward for being with and following Jesus. In the Gospel reading Jesus reminds them that they are merely servants of God, expected to serve as told. Indeed our everything has been given to us by God from his limitless love and generosity to share his happiness with us. We really do not deserve anything from God: everything is a gift from him: we cannot make demands from God.

In the first reading we are told that those who are faithful to God are assured of their reward from God.

The saints lived like this: they always thought themselves as worthless servants before the Lord. They served because they loved and were grateful to the Lord. They realized their sinfulness before God and were ever grateful to God for his merciful love for them.

Let us pray for similar understanding and wisdom to realize that, before God, we are worthless servants, but servants blessed and loved by God. As Mary prayed in her Magnificat: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit exults in God my savior! He has looked upon his servant in her lowliness, and people forever will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, holy is his Name.”

“When does God speak to us? He

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 23:00

“When does God speak to us? He speaks at all times, especially in prayer. Prayer is a conversation with God. But it is not a monologue. When we pray, then, we should also listen.”

Fr. Kilian J. Healy, Awakening Your Soul to Presence of God

Saint Sidonius

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 23:00

Caius Sollius Apollinaris Sidonius was born on November 5, 430, in Lyons, Gaul, to a noble family. He was educated at Ares and was a student of Claudianus Mamertus of Vienne. Later, he married a woman named Papianilla, a daughter of Avitus, who became emperor in the year 455. St. Sidonius lived at the imperial court at Rome, served under many emperors and later became prefect of Rome in 468. The following year, however, after retiring to the life of a country gentleman, he was named bishop of Avernum (Cleremont) against his will, because the people felt he was the only one able to defend the Roman prestige against the Goths. A prolific writer, he was quickly recognized as a leading ecclesiastical authority. He became a benefactor of monks, gave much of his wealth to charities, and provided food to thousands during a great famine. He led the populace against King Euric of the Goths, but was defeated. Cleremont was taken over and Sidonius exiled. He returned in 476 and spent the remainder of his days in Cleremont speaking and writing. Many of his masterful poems exist to this day.

Lessons

Although a well-educated, great nobleman of wealth and power, Sidonius remained humble and compassionate, always willing to give of his time and talent to others. Our Lord said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” This is because one who has great wealth is usually distracted by it and makes his riches his idol. The rich young lawyer in the Gospel wanted to follow Jesus, but was unwilling to give up his riches. Saint Sidonius, on the other hand, stayed close to Jesus and was a faithful servant of God, and thus did not fall victim to the ways of the world. We should follow his example by making a conscious commitment to always stay close to God and do His will, knowing that sacrifice will lead to holiness.

Prayer

St. Sidonius, you were a gentleman of great wealth and prestige who could easily have fallen prey to pride and selfishness as so many do. Instead, you remained compassionate and generous to those in need. We thank you, St. Sidonius, for your contribution to the world. We ask for your prayers that we may be ever mindful of others in need as well as careful not to fall victim to selfishness, greed, and power. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Laurence O’Toole (1180), Archbishop of Dublin

 

Passive Purification

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 02:35
Passive Purification

Presence of God– My God, illumine my way, that I may not go astray in the midst of the darkness of tribulation.

MEDITATION

Although it is possible for us to enter the night of the spirit by a generous practice of total renunciation and an intense exercise of the theological virtues, we will never be able to penetrate into its deepest part if God Himself does not place us there. Only He can deepen the darkness which envelops us in this night, so that we may be reduced to nothingness in all, to the point attaining the purity and poverty of spirit which are required for union. Far from taking the initiative, our task is then reduced to accepting with love, to enduring with patience and humility all that God disposes for us.

In order not to resist the divine action, we should remember that God generally purifies souls through the ordinary circumstances of life. In the life of every Christian, every apostle, every religious, there is always a measure of suffering sufficient to effect the purification of the spirit. These are the sufferings which God Himself chooses and disposes in the way best suited to the different needs of souls; but, unfortunately, few profit by them because few know how to recognize in the sorrows of life the hand of God who wishes to purify them. Illness, bereavement, estrangement, separation from dear ones, misunderstandings, struggles, difficulties proceeding sometimes from the very ones who should have been able to give help and support, failure of works that were cherished and sustained at the price of great labor, abandonment by friends, physical and spiritual solitude—these are some of the sufferings which are met with more or less in the life of every man, and which, we will find in ours. We must understand that all such things are positively willed or at least permitted by God precisely to purify us even to the very inmost fibers of our being. In the face of these trials, we must never blame the malice of men, or stop to examine whether or not they are just; we must see only the blessed hand of God who offers us these bitter remedies to bring perfect health to our soul. St. John of the Cross writes: “It greatly behooves the soul, then, to have patience and constancy in all the tribulations and trials which God sends it, whether they come from without or from within, and are spiritual or corporal, great or small. It must take them all as from His hand for its healing and its good, and not flee from them, since they are health to it” (Living Flame of Love 2,30).

COLLOQUY

“Teach me, my God, to suffer in peace the afflictions which You send me that my soul may emerge from the crucible like gold, both brighter and purer, to find You within me. Trials like these, which at present seem unbearable, will eventually become light, and I shall be anxious to suffer again, if by so doing I can render You greater service. And however numerous may be my troubles and persecutions … they will all work together for my greater gain though I do not myself bear them as they should be borne, but in a way which is most imperfect” (Teresa of Jesus Life, 30).

“O grandeur of my God! All the temptations and tribulations which You permit to come upon us, absolutely all, are ordered for our good, and if we have no other thought, when we are tried here below, than that of Your goodness, this will suffice for us to overcome every temptation.

“O Word of God, my sweet and loving Spouse, all power in heaven and on earth is Yours. You confound and put to flight every enemy. As for me, I am extremely weak; I cannot see, being filled with misery and sins; but by Your slightest glance, O Word, You put all these enemies to flight, like bits of straw in the wind; first, however, You permit them to give battle to Your servants, to make these, Your servants, more glorious. And the greater the grace and light You want to give Your servants, that they may love and know You better, the more do You try them by fire and purify their hearts like gold, so that their virtues may shine like precious stones.

“By Your power, O divine Word, You confer strength for the combat, and he who wishes to fight manfully for Your glory must first descend into the most profound knowledge of self, yet all the while raising his heart to You, that he may not be confounded” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).

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Note from Dan: This post on passive purification is provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contains one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here: Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.

Art for this post on passive purification: María Magdalena como melancolía (Mary Magdalene as Melancholy), Artemisia Gentileschi, between 1622 and 1625, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.

About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio – Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, the High Calling Seminary Preparation Program, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his “contagious” love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

 

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This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

Did Jesus Ever Laugh?

Sun, 11/12/2017 - 23:07

In the gospels, Jesus shares in the fullness of the human experience. To paraphrase one theologian, he mourns and rejoices, he hungers and thirsts, He is born and dies. But, to the modern reader, there seems to be one thing we experience that Jesus doesn’t: laughter.

G.K. Chesterton touched upon this at the very end of Orthodoxy:

Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. And as I close this chaotic volume I open again the strange small book from which all Christianity came; and I am again haunted by a kind of confirmation. The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.

Mirth—that lightheaded spirit that gives rise to laughter—seems entirely absent in the gospels.

For some, this might not seem like an issue. Jesus was born to die. He came to rescue a fallen humanity and redeem the world. He came to proclaim the kingdom of God, to defeat Satan, to heal the broken in spirit and body. So perhaps it’s not surprising that we do not catch any glimpse of Jesus laughing in the gospels. It just would not be fitting.

Yet humor is a distinctive characteristic of what it means to be human. It is one of the most effective ways of winning over audiences, exposing falsehoods, and demonstrating truth in the face of power. Laughter is one of the telltale signs of a couple that is truly happy in love. And no one has fully learned another language and culture until they know how to laugh and tell jokes in it.

We look for signs of humor from Jesus for two reasons. First, it seems to necessarily follow from the fullness of His humanity, as one who shared all things with us except sin (Hebrews 4:15). Second, it follows from our personal desire to relate more fully to Jesus.

It is true the gospels record many instances of Jesus’ joy (as this author points out). But joy is not the same thing as mirth or laughter. It is more of an interior state. Parents watching their child graduate from school or get married, artists drinking in that sense of accomplishment at the completion of a painting or sculpture, and believers resting in the truth of God all experience joy—but those moments are not necessarily accompanied by laughter. They may be—or they may bring out tears of joy.

So Chesterton’s reading of the gospels stands. Given the character of Jesus’ redemptive mission it does seem fitting that He might, as Chesterton puts it, ‘conceal’ His mirth.

But Jesus’ lighthearted side does peek out to us from beneath the veil of the Old Testament, in particular, in the wisdom literature. Consider this prophetic account of Jesus, who speaks in the first person as the wisdom of God in Proverbs 8:

then was I beside him as artisan;
I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
Playing over the whole of his earth,
having my delight with human beings (vv. 30-31).

We are afforded a similar glimpse of this more lighthearted side of Jesus in Song of Songs, if we understand the groom to be Christ. Here is how the bride recounts the approach of the groom in Song of Songs 2:

The sound of my lover! here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
See! He is standing behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices (vv.8-9).

Both passages indicate a more lighthearted, ‘playful’ attitude than what we would normally ever associate with Christ’s demeanor in the gospels. The account in Proverbs seems to belong to a primeval time. Perhaps it offers a glimpse behind the mists of time at what the relationship between God and Adam and Eve before the Fall. This state of original happiness is now our destiny thanks to the redeeming work of Christ.

The second passage, I believe, depicts the pure earnestness of perfect love. One way of interpreting Song of Songs is to see it as a parable of the love Christ has for His Church. One could also see it as a description of the love between the soul and Christ (as St. Bernard of Clairvaux does). Mary would have experienced this as Christ’s mother. And Peter may have after the resurrection.

But details on any lighter moments of happiness Jesus experienced and shared with others are largely absent from the gospels. Perhaps this is because the holiest things are the most hidden. God’s own interior mirth, His sheer delight in being is too wondrous a thing for the naked human eye to see. In looking at the gospels directly, the brilliance of God’s smile is obscured to us. But it nonetheless bursts out on the Scriptural periphery of the gospels—in an ancient collection of wise sayings and one of the most intense love poems of the ancient world.

Does Jesus ever laugh? Rest assured He must. But it’s something that’s veiled to us in this life. For now, may we delight in the traces of divine mirth left for us in the Old Testament.

Counteracting the International Effects of the Sexual Revolution

Sun, 11/12/2017 - 23:05
An Interview with Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Recently, I had the occasion to ask Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse some questions about her work – really, her ministry – promoting the dignity of human life, encouraging society to reflect God’s plan for marriage and the family, clarifying the Catholic Church’s teachings on chastity in light of sexual ethics, and defending the rights of children around the globe. As an introductorily relevant aside, the Southern Poverty Law Center recently made the unconscionably woeful decision to add Dr. Morse’s organization, the Ruth Institute, to its list of “Active Hate Groups,” an issue that presents an unjust dilemma that I addressed in my first piece for the National Catholic Register back on September 7. For decades, Dr. Morse, who heads the Ruth Institute (whose goal constitutes “Inspiring the Survivors of the Sexual Revolution”), has been at the forefront of the opposition to the ill effects of the Sexual Revolution that has raged in the West since the 1960s. The following is the transcript of that interview.

1) What role does faith play in your ministerial endeavors?

Faith is the glue that holds my life together, and gives meaning to all the parts. We used to try to be strictly non-religious, in an attempt to appeal to the largest number of people, many of whom are, of course, not religious. Around 2012, I came to the conclusion that we were leaving our best player, Jesus, on the bench. This makes no sense. Yes, I keep using the scientific arguments and the evidence of experience. But I also talk about Jesus, his holy Mother, and the Church whenever I can do so.

2) In the wake of the Sexual Revolution that has ravaged the West for approximately five decades at this point, why is the work and mission of the Ruth Institute significant in light of the cultural elements inherent to today’s society?

Young people have never lived in a world in which divorce was an anomaly, contraception was scarce, and pornography was considered shameful. Family breakdown is a fact of life for the vast majority of young people. Those of us who knew that another way of life is possible are rapidly dying off. I feel an urgency to convey to people that we must never take these injustices for granted.

3) What do the terms “pro-life,” “pro-family,” and “pro-marriage” mean to you in a Catholic context?

I see myself as creating a new form of the “Seamless Garment.” In my case, I believe you cannot effectively defend the unborn without challenging the assumptions of the Sexual Revolution. No, we do not have an unlimited right to all the sex we want without a live baby ever resulting. The first job of the State is not to eliminate all the inconveniences associated with sex.  No: You won’t die if you don’t have sex. And so on.

4) We may take the phrase “children’s rights” for granted, but why is it vital to protect children in a global context?

Children’s rights is a peculiar term. In the hands of the UN, it has come to mean the rights of children to have sex without any interference from their parents. What I mean by the term is: Children have a right to a relationship with their own parents. Children have a right to know their genetic identity and cultural heritage. These rights of children place limitations on the behavior of adults. If you start from this view of children’s rights, and reason outward from there, you will end up with traditional Christian sexual morality. Only have sex with the person you are married to. Neither contraception nor abortion bails you out from your obligations to children. (The hope that they do is the fuel for the contraceptive ideology.) Unless someone does something really egregious, stay married. Don’t attempt to “re-marry.” And be nice to your spouse. Stop the nagging and cheating and lying and fussing. Pretty simple really. That is why you will not see sexual revolutionaries talk about the rights of children to their parents. The revolutionaries will only talk about the “rights” of children that reinforce their ideas of what adults are entitled to do.

5) I typically ask this question during interviews: What is your favorite scriptural passage, and why?

“In the world, you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).

6) In various realms of morality, we occasionally tend to consider things negatively, or even pessimistically or cynically. However, what are some signs of hope that you, as an experienced economist and extensive traveler, have discovered when examining certain socioeconomic situations both within the United States and around the world?

I see a lot of people who are fed up with the Sexual Revolution. The defenses of the revolutionaries are getting thinner and just plain lame. The whole point of “political correctness” is to avoid an honest debate. That is not the position of a person who is sure of the rightness of his or her ideas. I also see a lot of willingness to work together, across religious lines, and to some extent, even racial lines. This gives me great hope for reconciliation of all kinds. I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit is at work in this great effort to restore and re-stabilize the family.

image: By Stap (de.wikipedia.org) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Dual Citizenship

Sun, 11/12/2017 - 23:02

Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God? (Lk 17:18)

Around the world, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is fondly remembered as a devoted servant to her countrymen. She founded her congregation to serve Italian immigrants seeking a better life for themselves and their families. This was not simply window dressing: around the turn of the previous century, the challenges faced by Italian Americans (and other immigrant groups) were immense. While work was plentiful, it was often grueling and hazardous. Immigrants were despised by many for their ignorance of English and of American customs in general. Their neighborhoods lacked proper sanitation and health services, the cause of much suffering for the unfortunate residents. Tenement buildings, while a vast improvement on earlier urban housing, were often poorly maintained.

Even as they adapted to their new homeland, they were still viewed as less than fully American. Whenever they were deprived of their wages, or suffered from other wrongs, the local police did not always feel compelled to enforce justice—as several accounts of my own family’s history can attest.

St. Frances did not see herself as an apostle to her own people, but she was well prepared by her own sufferings to bear the sorrows of those in need. Weak as a child, and prone to illness, the congregation she sought to join thought her physically incapable of living the vocation. Undaunted, she became a public school teacher, eventually being called upon to head the reform of a lapsed religious community in her native Italy. While she thrived in this role, she had a wider purpose: like St. Dominic, who wished to evangelize the Cumins and the Tartars, she too hoped to work in the East, amongst the Chinese. And, like St. Dominic, she felt a strong desire to submit her designs to the Holy Father and to receive his decision. Pope Leo XIII knew much of the suffering that Italian immigrants faced throughout the world, and prevailed upon Mother Cabrini to serve those closer to home with the same reasoning that compelled Holy Father Dominic to seek out the lost in southern France.

And so, well prepared by her own sufferings, she accepted the Pope’s charge, and accepted still more sufferings for the sake of the mission. Deathly afraid of sea travel, she nevertheless crossed the Atlantic—over the course of her life, she managed over thirty transatlantic voyages. When she first arrived in New York, Archbishop Corrigan advised her that the school she had been sent to manage in the United States had been dissolved—the pressing work that Leo XIII had entrusted to her was no longer necessary. Instead, he recommended that she should just head back to Italy, as there was no need for her anymore in America. Mother Cabrini knew better than to settle for this: the Holy Father had sent her to this country, and so she would stay. Perhaps unsurprisingly in retrospect, her ministry quickly began to flourish.

For all the challenges she faced in serving immigrants, she did not have to confront one difficulty that we associate with assisting migrants today: bureaucratic and legal obstacles to entering the country. While Ellis Island is famous for screening all seeking admission into the United States, its sole purpose was to prevent the admission of communicable diseases from immigrants. Beyond this, families and individuals were free to come and go as they pleased with no injury to their “immigration status.” Families (including my own) thought nothing of moving to America, returning home, then moving back to America again a few years later. The modern immigration system as we have it today—with quotas, waiting periods, and countless other restrictions—only dates from the mid-1920s. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was taxed with many burdens for her ministry to immigrants, but an onerous amount of paperwork was not one of them.

This fact struck me with particular force this past summer, as I was assigned to work in the immigration office of the Diocese of Providence. Having witnessed what it takes to become an American citizen, it seems fair to say that much of the process, with all its paperwork, stems from the prudent determination to preserve the quality of life for Americans. However, it must also be said that the documentation is often processed in an arbitrary manner. The government proposes to treat all those applying for citizenship fairly, but often treats would-be citizens with a presumption of guilt over any problem that appears in their documentation, or that arises in the interview process.

Catholic social teaching certainly emphasizes the right and duty for nations to safeguard their citizens and their borders. The Church is just as insistent, however, that immigrants be welcomed and treated fairly, and without unnecessarily onerous requirements—in recognition of the fact that we all have been intended to share a common citizenship.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is justly remembered as the first citizen of the United States to be canonized a saint. However, both sanctity and citizenship came to Mother Cabrini not by blood, nor through force of will, nor a single gesture on her part, but through her submission to ongoing change. Naturalized by passing a written exam, she became a citizen of heaven through a starker test: whether the spark of Divine grace she received in her heart could be fanned into transforming flame. Some can claim to be native-born citizens of an earthly city, but given this test no one on earth can claim to be a “native-born” saint. Rather, only this spark, won by Christ’s victory, can lead us to glory in the Eternal Jerusalem.

image: St. Frances Cabrini by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Dominicana and is reprinted here with kind permission. 

“Mother Cabrini’s whole life is

Sun, 11/12/2017 - 23:00

“Mother Cabrini’s whole life is an encouragement that God really does choose the weak things of the world to do His mightiest works.”

-Patricia Treece, Nothing Short of a Miracle

In the first reading we are taught that

Sun, 11/12/2017 - 23:00

In the first reading we are taught that, if we wish to serve God, we need wisdom: “Crooked thinking distances you from God, and his Omnipotence, put to the test, confounds the foolish.”

If we wish to be followers of Christ, we must be Christ-like. In the Gospel reading Jesus tells us not to scandalize or lead others to sin and to have faith which can literally move mountains: “If you have faith even the size of a mustard seed, you may say to this tree: ‘Be uprooted and plant yourself in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”

We should not be obstacles to those who wish to follow the Lord. By showing good example we help and lead others to God. Let us be conscious how our actions affect others, for ill or good.

Jesus tells us to be forgiving of those who have wronged us: “If your brother offends you, rebuke him and if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he offends you seven times in a day but says to you seven times: ‘I’m sorry,’ forgive him.”

During the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis tells us: “God does not get tired of forgiving us; it is we who get tired of asking forgiveness from him.”

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

Sun, 11/12/2017 - 23:00

St. Frances was born in Lombardi, Italy, on July 15, 1850, the youngest of thirteen children. At eighteen, she desired to become a nun, but poor health stood in her way. She helped her parents until their death, and then worked on a farm with her brothers and sisters. One day a priest asked her to teach in a girls’ school and she stayed for six years. At the request of her bishop, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for poor children in schools and hospitals. Then, at the urging of Pope Leo XIII, she came to the United States with six nuns in 1889 to work among the Italian immigrants. During the next twenty-seven years, in the face of great obstacles, she traveled extensively and the congregation spread all over the United States. She became an American citizen in 1909. Frances died in Chicago, Illinois, on December 22, 1917. She was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1946 and became the first American citizen to be so honored. St. Frances was named patroness of immigrants by Pius in 1950.

Lessons

St. Frances serves as a great example of a woman who, through her humble service to God, was able to establish more than fifty hospitals, schools, orphanages, convents and other institutions. She did not look for fame and fortune, but only to serve God and mankind, and through her humility and love of God, she achieved greatness.

From Johnnette Benkovic’s Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God Day by Day

O Jesus, I love you very much. Give me a heart as big as the universe. Tell me what You wish that I do, and do with me as You will.

— Traditionally attributed to St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

Click the image above to purchase your own copy of “Graceful Living.”

Prayer

St. Frances, through your humility and willingness to serve others, you accomplished so much for mankind. Dear St. Frances, please pray for us that we may live our lives in service to others. Ask the Lord to give us the grace daily to die to ourselves, that we may live for Him. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Didacus (15th Century), Bishop, Martyr

St. Stanislaus Kotska (1568) Jesuit novice, Patron of Poland, young students, and those with broken bones

The mission of St. Mary’s Parish is to proclaim and celebrate our salvation through Jesus Christ,our pilgrimage to the Father’s Kingdom enlivened by the Holy Spirit. Our Catholic faith community is nourished by our sacramental life, especially the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. With Mother Mary as our model, we demonstrate our faith through worship, education, vocations and service.