The Pauper Theologian: St. Anthony of Padua

AnthonyofPauduaToday the Church celebrates the feast of one of the earliest Franciscan saints and a Doctor of the Church, Saint Anthony of Padua. More than aiding one to find lost articles, St. Anthony led a remarkable life that was spurred by an encounter he had with the Franciscan protomartyrs.

St. Anthony was born into a prominent family in Lisbon, Portugal in the year 1195. At the age of fifteen, he joined an Augustinian monastery where he studied intensely and was ordained a priest. His life was changed forever, however, when he encountered the bodies of the first Franciscan martyrs who had been tortured and beheaded in Morocco for their preaching.

Inspired to preach the Good News like the Franciscan protomartyrs, St. Anthony gained permission to leave the Augustinian Monastery and become a Franciscan. He then went to Morocco where he became ill and was forced to return to his homeland. On his return journey, however, strong winds forced him and his companions to land in Sicily where he eventually attended the Pentecost Chapter of Mats. Saint Anthony continued to live as an obscure Franciscan friar until he was asked to give a sermon at a meeting with a group of Dominicans. The depth of his knowledge and holiness shone throughout his speech and he was assigned to preach in northern Italy.

St. Anthony quickly became renowned throughout Christendom for his preaching which he nurtured through his deep prayer life and studies. He died at the age of 36 and was canonized in less than one year. Over three hundred years after his death, St. Anthony’s body was exhumed and his tongue was found to be incorrupt, a testament to his teachings.

Conventual FranciscansThis early Franciscan saint is especially honored among the Conventual Franciscans who have custody of the basilica in Padua where his relics reside. They continue to promote education and study amongst friars especially those in formation like Br. Bernard Fonkalsrud OFM. Conv. who said, “the Conventual Franciscans have always encouraged our friars to seek to learn, inspired by ‘il Santo’ who was really the first Franciscan theologian and teacher. St. Francis entrusted St. Anthony to teach the friars, so long as it did not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotedness. We can see products of this mindset through such examples as St. Bonaventure, Bl. Duns Scotus and St. Maximilian Kolbe.” Br. Bernard and the Conventual Franciscans continue to lead lives inspired by St. Anthony of Padua who himself was inspired by the holiness of earlier Franciscans.

Franciscan Sisters of Dillingen Celebrate 775 Years

hank familySome communities are celebrating 25 years and 100 years this year but another is celebrating 775 years! Amazing!

The Franciscan Sisters of Dillingen were founded in 1241, just 15 years after the death of Saint Francis. In the early 14th C, they received the Third Order Rule of St. Francis.  Throughout the centuries, they suffered the “slings and arrows” of misfortune as a result of the vicissitudes of history but they have persevered. In 1632, for example, the sisters had to flee from an invading army.  By 1635, of the five sisters remaining, 4 died of the plague. In 1828, because of governmental laws forbidding the acceptance of new members, there were only 5 sisters left again. But by 1968, they had over 2000 sisters!

Motherhouse
Motherhouse

Today, they are an international congregation serving the Lord in 5 countries: Germany, the United States, Brazil, Spain and India. The sisters in Hankinson, the North American Province, currently live in six convents with 25 sisters. Worldwide, there are 800 sisters!

In May, three sisters from Hankinson travelled to Germany for the festivities. Back home, the sisters were busy planting trees – 42 of them in one day! According to tradition, when Sr. Mathilde arrived from Germany in the early days, she looked at the barren plain and yearned for the trees of Bavaria. So they planted trees. Lots of them! In honor of the 775th anniversary, the congregation decided to plant 775 trees throughout their 7 provinces.

hankchurchTrees have deep roots. They appear to be asleep for a brief period of time and then they blossom forth again. “This related well to our Congregation,” say the sisters, “as through the years we have experienced the dry times when our congregation was down to one Sister and then a springtime of new growth, branched out in newness reaching the United States, Brazil, and India to share the message of Jesus Christ in caring for the sick, the hungry, the widow, the children and the lonely.”

The imitation of Christ, in love, 

is the way & goal of our vocation.

Apostleship of Prayer: June Intentions

ApostleshipofPrayer

The Holy Father’s prayer intentions for the month of May as well as reflections by Fr. James Kubicki, S.J., National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer.

UNIVERSAL INTENTION

Human Solidarity. That the aged, marginalized, and those who have no one may find–even within the huge cities of the world–opportunities for encounter and solidarity.

Solidarity is more than the name of a famous Polish labor union that brought about momentous change in the Communist world in the 1980s. It’s an important part of the Church’s social teaching.

Solidarity recognizes that every human soul is created by God and redeemed by Jesus. Thus, all people are equal before God and deserving respect.

At the beginning of World War II, Pope Pius XII wrote: “A contemporary error is disregard for the law of human solidarity and charity, imposed both by our common origin and by the equality of all men. This law is sealed by the sacrifice of redemption offered by Jesus Christ on the altar of the Cross.”

Pope St. John Paul II wrote that solidarity is “a firm determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.”

More recently, Pope Francis wrote that solidarity is the answer to the “scourges of our own day.” Speaking to the United Nations and quoting from an Argentinian poet, he said: “Brothers should stand by each other, because this is the first law. If you fight among yourselves, you’ll be devoured by those outside.” Who is the one outside the human family who devours? The devil.

And so, in solidarity with people everywhere, we commit ourselves to praying and working this month for the common good so that all people, especially those who are alienated and abandoned may know they are not alone.

EVANGELIZATION INTENTION

Seminarians and Novices. That seminarians and men and women entering religious life may have mentors who live the joy of the Gospel and prepare them wisely for their mission.

Following Christ, we are all called to be missionaries. Pope Francis wrote that “if every baptized person is called to bear witness to the Lord Jesus by proclaiming the faith received as a gift, this is especially so for each consecrated man and woman. Since Christ’s entire existence had a missionary character, so too, all those who follow him closely must possess this missionary quality” (World Mission Day Message, 2015).

He went on: “Mission is a passion for Jesus. When we pray before Jesus crucified, we see the depth of his love. At the same time, we realize that the love flowing from Jesus’ pierced heart expands to embrace the People of God and all humanity.”

Those who have experienced the deep love of the Heart of Jesus and give themselves totally to God’s service as priests and religious sisters and brothers—these consecrated ones are called to share his passion for mission. They cannot keep the Good News of God’s love to themselves. But they need preparation so that their initial experience of God’s love may grow and so that they will know the best ways to share that love.

Seminarians and those beginning consecrated life in religious communities need teachers who will guard the spark that inspired them to serve God. They need joyful and wise mentors who will fan the spark into flame in such a way that it does not burn too fast and burn out but rather burn with the steady light and warmth that is the Sacred Heart of Jesus, “the burning furnace of charity.”

We join Pope Francis in praying that dioceses and communities may commit some of their best people to the formation of future priests, sisters, and brothers.

New Community Welcomed to New Ulm

ghentThere is a new contemplative community in the small town of Ghent, in southwestern Minnesota, called the Sisters of Mary, Morning Star (Sisters of Maria Stella Matutina). Founded in Spain in 2014, this Association of the Faithful is the only contemplative community of sisters in the diocese of New Ulm. There are 225 sisters worldwide in 10 countries.

The sisters are contemplative but not cloistered so they can participate in activities around the diocese and open their doors to the laity. Their primary work is to pray for the new evangelization and I read that they commemorate the Easter Triduum each weekend, beginning with a Holy Hour every Thursday where they recall the Lord’s Agony in the Garden. They also pray for a half hour after Mass and often spend 2 hours a day in Adoration. They live simply and support themselves by doing leatherwork and selling crafts.

ghent 2Their unusual name stems from one of Our Lady’s titles in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Morning Star. From the Book of Revelation (2:26-28), we read: “To the one who wins the victory, who keeps to my ways till the end, I will give authority over the nations — the same authority I received from my Father. He shall rule them with the rod of iron and shatter them like crockery; and I will give him the morning star.” In Song of Songs (6:10) it says: “Who is this that comes forth like the dawn, as beautiful as the moon, as resplendent as the sun.” The planet Venus is known as the Morning Star, often visible just before dawn before the sun eclipses her light.  It is an image of Mary reflecting the light of her Son.

Their priory in Ghent is the site of their U.S. Novitiate. In 2015, they opened a second convent in Monona, Wisconsin, in the Diocese of Madison. For more information about the community, please email them at: SistersofMaryMorningStar@gmail.com or call (507)428-3919.

Our charism is to live the mystery of Christ’s offering to the Father, in light of the paternity of Saint John, and we desire to live with Mary her mystery of Compassion, for the Church and for all men.

 Our Community wishes to live a contemplative life in the heart of the world in order to respond to the call of the Holy Spirit for the New Evangelization.

 Living our contemplative life in the heart of the world allows us to welcome guests and share our life of Eucharistic Adoration, love for the Word of God, search for truth and fraternal charity.

Thunderstruck: The Conversion and Life of St. Norbert

St._Norbert_Today the Church celebrates the feast of the founder of the Norbertines, St. Norbert of Xanten. St. Norbert grew up enjoying worldly pleasures, however, after experiencing a dramatic conversion went on to bring the light of Christ into the world through his life as a religious priest and bishop.

St. Norbert was born in the latter half of the eleventh century in present-day Germany. He was the son of a count and enjoyed worldly pursuits during his youth. One day, however, St. Norbert was thrown from his horse when a sudden bolt of lightning caused his horse to buck him off his saddle during a terrible storm. This incident spurred a great conversion within the young man and he sought the guidance of a local abbot.

Following his conversion, St. Norbert pursued a priestly vocation and was ordained in Cologne. He quickly became a well-known itinerant preacher and gathered disciples who joined him in working for the salvation of souls. This group grew large and St. Norbert was unsure of what the Lord wanted them to do.

20160213_solemn_profession_8327This uncertainty ended when, according to Bl. Hugh of Fosses, St. Augustine appeared to St. Norbert and said, “I, whom you see, am Augustine, bishop of Hippo. Behold, you have the rule which I have written, under which, if your confreres, my sons, fight well, they will stand secure before Christ in the terror of the last judgment.” Following the apparition, St. Norbert and his first disciples made their religious profession on Christmas Day 1121.

The order quickly grew and now the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey continue the work of their founder. The Norbertine Fathers lead lives of communal prayer and care for souls in Southern California. Their primary mission is to consecrate the entire day to God but also have many apostolates including running a preparatory school for young men. Steeped in 900 years of tradition, the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey continue to lead lives fashioned after their founder, St. Norbert of Xanten.

A Blessed May in Fort Wayne

FortWayneFriarsOne of the IRL’s youngest communities is quickly growing in northern Indiana. The Franciscan Brothers Minor of Fort Wayne, IN welcomed several men into their community this past month through profession of vows and are rapidly expanding after being founded just seven years ago.

The Franciscan Brothers Minor celebrated throughout the month of May with men in formation being invested with their habit and professing vows. They welcomed ten new novices when Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades, Bishop of the Diocese Fort Wayne-South Bend, invested them with their habits on May 18th. The celebrations continued that evening when four friars professed temporary vows. The friars then concluded the month with the solemn profession of vows by three friars on May 31st.

The Franciscan Brothers Minor have grown quickly since their founding as they have tried to grow in holiness by imitating Our Lady through their Marian vow. They strive to observe the Gospel according to the Rule, Testament and the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. It is appropriate that this young community that honors Our Lady welcomed ten novices, four friars in temporary profession and three in solemn profession in May, the month of Mary.

Celebrating 25 Years of Life

SL 25The Sisters of Life celebrated the 25th anniversary of their foundation yesterday in New York. They have grown immensely during the quarter-century and have expanded throughout the United States and Canada. The Sisters held a Mass and block party to commemorate the occasion and all the blessings they have received over the years.

The festivities began with the Celebration of Mass in a packed St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Cardinal Dolan was the main celebrant with several other bishops, a diverse group of religious and lay people in attendance. In his homily, Cardinal Dolan said, “a quarter century ago, we worried – we worried that consecrated religious life was in trouble.” He did, however, state that new orders such as the Sisters of Life are “a booster shot for all of us.”

Sisters of Life Block PartyFollowing Mass, the Sisters of Life took to the streets near their Sacred Heart of Jesus Convent for a block party.  The Sisters served food, had activities for children, as well as provided opportunities for people to go to Eucharistic adoration and confession. An outdoor Eucharistic procession and benediction appropriately concluded the festivities.

The Sisters of Life have grown immensely in the short 25 years since John Cardinal O’Connor founded them in 1991. They are unique in that they take a special fourth vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life along with the three traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Having grown from eight sisters to nearly one-hundred in the short time span, the Sisters of Life look forward to continuing to grow as they promote the sanctity of human life.

Apostleship of Prayer: May Intentions

ApostleshipofPrayerThe Holy Father’s prayer intentions for the month of May as well as reflections by Fr. James Kubicki, S.J., National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer.

UNIVERSAL INTENTION: Respect for Women. That in every country of the world, women may be honored and respected and that their essential contribution to society may be highly esteemed. In the words of Pope Francis, Mary is “the true and sublime example of woman.”  
It’s inconceivable to think of the apostles awaiting the Holy Spirit at Pentecost without Mary praying with them. For it was she who conceived by the Holy Spirit and gave birth to Jesus, the one who called and sent the apostles to continue his work.

Women have, in Pope Francis’ words, an “irreplaceable role.” Speaking to the Pontifical Council for Culture, he said: “I encourage the contribution of so many women who work within the family, in the areas of teaching the faith, pastoral work, schooling, but also in social, cultural, and economic structures. You women know how to embody the tender face of God, his mercy, which is translated into a willingness to give time rather than to occupy space, to welcome rather than to exclude.”

Throughout the world, unfortunately, women are not only excluded but under attack. The pope went on: “The many forms of slavery, of prostitution, of mutilation of the female body, require us to set to work to defeat these forms of degradation which reduce it to purely an object to be sold on the various markets. I would like to call attention, in this context, to the plight of so many poor women, forced to live in dangerous conditions, exploited, relegated to the margins of society, and rendered victims of a throwaway culture.”

Perhaps the most common degradation of women is pornography, which the U.S. bishops have said “is so pervasive in sectors of our society that it is difficult to avoid, challenging to remove, and has negative effects that go beyond any one person’s actions.”

And so we pray with Pope Francis that women may not only be respected, but that their contribution to the good of the family and society may be recognized and esteemed.

EVANGELIZATION INTENTION: Holy Rosary. That families, communities, and groups may pray the Holy Rosary for evangelization and peace. 

The rosary is a powerful prayer which is very important to Pope Francis. He said he was inspired by Pope St. John Paul II to pray it faithfully.

He said: “If I remember well, it was 1985. One evening I went to recite the Holy Rosary that was being led by the Holy Father. He was in front of everybody, on his knees. The group was numerous; I saw the Holy Father from the back and, little by little, I got lost in prayer. I was not alone: I was praying in the middle of the people of God to which I and all those there belonged, led by our Pastor.

“In the middle of the prayer I became distracted, looking at the figure of the Pope: his piety, his devotion was a witness. I felt that this man, chosen to lead the Church, was following a path up to his Mother, a path set out on from his childhood. And I became aware of the density of the words of the Mother of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego: ‘Don’t be afraid, am I not perhaps your mother?’ I understood the presence of Mary in the life of the Pope. From that time on
I recite the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary every day.”

Throughout history popes have asked the faithful to pray the rosary when Christianity and civilization were threatened.  Pope Francis asks us to do the same.  He said: “Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, sustains Christians in their fight against the forces of evil. Prayer with Mary, especially the Rosary, has this ‘suffering’ dimension, that is of struggle, a sustaining prayer in the battle against the evil one and his accomplices. The Rosary also sustains us in the battle.”

In this month dedicated to Mary, we honor her by following in the great tradition of using the non-violent weapon of the rosary, praying for peace and the spread of the Gospel of Mercy.

Carmel of Ada, Michigan, Celebrates 100 Years in America

Ada Gp PhotoOn April 6, 2016, a Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated by Most Rev. David Walkowiak to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Discalced Carmelite Monastery in the Diocese of Grand Rapids. Joined by 10 other priests, the Bishop told the assembled: “The confidence and consolation it gives us to know there are people who are pursuing the love of the Lord alone, and this is the focus of their lives, it gives us a model and an inspiration to do as much as we can in the same direction.”

The sisters also joyfully announce the reception of the habit and the new religious name of Miss Caley Nolan, now Sr. Mary Christina of the Holy Eucharist. Her family attends a local parish and her cousin also happens to be a priest in the Diocese!

IMG_0343 (2)The monastery is under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a title dear to the sisters’ hearts for their foundress and 15 other nuns were forced to flee Mexico during the persecutions in the early part of the last century. They were founded by the Carmel in Queretaro, Mexico, and after many separations and stops, were welcomed to the diocese by Bishop Joseph Richter in 1916.

Their epic journey to Michigan is an incredible story.  Their foundress, Mother Mary Elias of the Blessed Sacrament, was a woman who anticipated what was to come, prepared for it, faced it with courage and went back into the lion’s den time and time again to bring her sisters to safety.

ada mother eliasMother prayed to St. Therese, the Little Flower, not yet beatified, to help them out of their difficulties. She promised her that she would do all in her power to spread the Carmelite Order if they were spared. One day, Mother and another sister were led to a large yard to be executed. She knelt, saw the guns and heard the fire. When she regained consciousness, they were able to escape and though there was blood on their clothes, they were not injured. St. Therese had truly saved them.

From the little seed in Grand Rapids came foundations in Mexico (1919, 1936, 1940, 1950), Buffalo (1920), Schenectady (1923), Detroit (1926), Dallas (1927), Littleton (1947), Traverse City (1950), Iron Mountain (1950), and Denmark, WI (1992). She truly fulfilled her vow to the Little Flower to extend the order whenever she had the opportunity!

 

 

Preaching and the Rosary: Dominican Jubilee Activities

OPjubileeop-logo-whiteThe Dominicans around the world are celebrating a “double” Jubilee for not only is it the Jubilee Year of Mercy, it is also the 800th anniversary of the issuing of the Bulls promulgated by Pope Honorius III, confirming the foundation of the Order, in 1216 and 1217. The celebration began on November 7, 2015 (Feast of All Saints of the Order) and will end on January 21, 2017 (the date of the Bull Gratiarum omnium largitori of Pope Honorius III).

The theme of the Jubilee Year is fittingly enough “Sent to preach the Gospel.” On the Jubilee website, there is a beautiful summation of the one identifying sign of Dominican life:

“…a type of genetic code if you will, for the members of the Order and the Dominican family; that is the preaching for the salvation of humanity (Fundamental Constitution V), the ministry of the Word (officium verbi), the mission of evangelization…. The nuns, specifically dedicated to prayer, participate in the ministry of preaching, listening to the Word, celebrating it and proclaiming the Gospel through the example of their lives. Equally, the co-operator brothers join in the preaching through their faithful living out of their Profession in the Order.”

The Order has included the cloistered nuns in the celebrations by arranging an international Rosary Pilgrimage during the Jubilee year. This pilgrimage is hosted in turn by each of the monasteries of Dominican nuns around the world.  In support of this activitiy, they also published a beautiful set of Rosary Meditations from the writings of Dominican Saints.

OP rosary-meditationsThe Dominicans Nuns in Marbury, Alabama, have arranged these into a booklet with sacred art by Dominican artists–Preachers both with words and with images. You can download the PDF or send the sisters a donation for a printed copy (check on availability first). Their assigned days for participating in the Rosary Pilgrimage will be in October.

Pope Francis has also granted the possibility of receiving a plenary indulgence to the faithful who go to a Dominican celebration and/or church. Saying the following prayer in addition to the usual requirements is all that is required to receive the benefits of this Jubilee Year.

God, Father of mercy,
who called your servant Dominic de Guzman
to set out in faith
as an itinerant pilgrim and a preacher of grace,
as we celebrate the Jubilee of the Order
we ask you to pour again into us
the Spirit of the Risen Christ,
that we might faithfully and joyfully proclaim
the Gospel of peace,
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

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