The Spiritual Exercises as the Path to Discernment

Loyola-detail

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Basque knight who became a great saint and founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola. The Church faithful can be guided by the inspiration of this great saint, particularly through his illuminating insights into discernment.

The very life of St. Ignatius aids in seeking holiness and the peace of God’s will. Bedridden from an injury suffered in battle, Ignatius read books on the life of Christ and lives of the saints which led to him experience a great conversion. These books inspired him to abandon his old way of life and seek to live out God’s will.

In Manresa, Spain, Saint Ignatius formulated the Spiritual Exercises which explain how one should discern God’s will, as he strove to after his conversion. This led him to be proclaimed the patron of spiritual exercises by Pope Pius XI in 1922. St. Ignatius explained that the Spiritual Exercises are a way of “seeking and disposing the soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments and, after their removal, of seeking and finding the will of God in the disposition of our life for the salvation of our soul.”

The four stages of the Spiritual Exercises allow one to discern God’s will which can be particularly helpful when discerning which vocation God is calling one to. Pope Francis, formed in the spirituality of St. Ignatius within the Society of Jesus, said in discussing the Spiritual Exercises that they provoke several questions: “Is Christ the center of my life? Do I really put Christ at the center of my life? Because there is always the temptation to think that we are at the center.” The Holy Father is showing the importance of placing Christ at the center of one’s life in order to truly discern and follow His will for us.

The Church can clearly see the fruits of these Exercises which place Christ at the center of one’s discernment by the testimonies of those who have performed them. Great saints, like those who inspired St. Ignatius’ conversion, have undertaken the exercises including St. Charles Borromeo, “to adopt a more perfect form of life”; St. Teresa of Avila, to become, “the mistress of lofty contemplation”; and St Francis de Sales, “to serve God with the greatest possible fidelity.” These saints are a testament to the power of the Exercises and inspire those in discernment to also learn from the patron of spiritual exercises.

Many within the Church today seek to learn from the Spiritual Exercises with the Oblates of the Virgin Mary being just one example. While performing the Spiritual Exercises under the direction of a Jesuit priest, their founder, Ven. Pio Bruno Lanteri, experienced the mercy of God and strove to become a witness to this mercy by preaching fidelity to the Church and Our Lady. The spirituality of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary flows from the Spiritual Exercises and aids them in becoming experts in spiritual direction. If you would like more information on the Oblates of the Virgin Mary or how you can practice the Spiritual Exercises with them please visit their website: www.omvusa.org.

Prayer of Saint Ignatius
Dearest Jesus teach me to be generous
Teach me to love and serve You as You deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest
To labour and to look for no reward,
Except that of knowing that I do Your Holy Will.
Amen

Seeking God in Community: New IRL Affiliate the Missionary Benedictine Sisters

e120089c-fc2e-49a3-b5a6-01a0e559b75fThe IRL Executive Committee has approved the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Norfolk, Nebraska, as a new affiliate member. The main characteristic of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters’ way of life is to seek God in community. The sisters strive to fulfill their role as missionaries by leading “people to faith in Jesus Christ and communion with the Loving Father.”

Founded in Tutzing, Germany, in 1885, the sisters came to the United States to serve German immigrants. They initially worked in education, teaching at St. John Berchman’s School in Raeville, Nebraska, but quickly expanded their apostolates to include healthcare when they opened Sacred Heart Hospital in Lynch, Nebraska. During the Great Depression, the sisters made immense sacrifices as their apostolic work expanded offering religious education in parishes and a boarding school which provided a second home for Native Americans. The community continues to expand and adapt its ministries at the promptings of the Holy Spirit and in response to the changing times.

From youth and young adult pastoral work to outreach to Native American and Latinos, the Sisters currently have a wide array of ministries. The sisters host retreats and social events for youth and young adults while also attending rallies and conferences like the March for Life and FOCUS Conferences. They visit the elderly and one sister, Sr. Cecilia, has been making rose petal rosaries for the last seventeen years. Their Immaculata Monastery Spirituality Center allows for visitors to go on individual and group retreats or simply to make a chapel visit. All of the ministries which the sisters perform are done out of their belief that the Lord has sent them to be missionaries.

Prayer is an integral aspect of the lives of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters as they strive to bring Christ to all. Their daily schedule is arranged to punctuate the day with prayer. Praying both in community and in private, the sisters seek to live a life of unceasing prayer.

IRL Hires New Office Coordinator

rawlsThe IRL is pleased to announce the hiring of Michael Rawls as its full-time Office Coordinator. Today, July 13th is his first day of work.

 Michael grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago and is the youngest of four children. He attended Aurora Central Catholic High School where he participated in several sports including baseball and basketball. Beginning in seventh grade, he worked as a caddy at a local golf course and eventually served as a manager of the junior golf course affiliate during high school and college. Michael attended the College of DuPage before transferring to the University of Notre Dame the spring of his sophomore year.

While at Notre Dame, Michael majored in theology and history with a concentration in Medieval Christian History. His capstone project examined the diplomacy of the Vatican during World War II. The University offered many opportunities that Michael took advantage of allowing him to grow both spiritually. He served as Pastoral Commissioner in his dorm, Morrissey Manor, and helped to found the Notre Dame Catholic Identity Council which seeks to preserve and promote the Catholic identity of the university by providing a collaborative space for clubs and other organizations at the University with a faith based mission. The Militia of the Immaculata (MI) movement has played an integral role in his life particularly in college. Consecrated to Our Lady at the age of 9, Michael has been a member of the MI for most of his life attending and leading youth camps, young adult groups, as well as, leading the Notre Dame MI group as its president. Michael sought an opportunity where he could continue to grow following his graduation and build upon the formation he received throughout his college years.
The position of IRL Office Coordinator is a tremendous fit for Michael. Having attended several National Meetings, including this past year’s in which he brought 20 other students from the University of Notre Dame, Michael understands the importance of the IRL’s mission. He is edified by the founder, Servant of God Fr. John Hardon S.J., and is committed to carrying on his legacy by working to promote and support the consecrated life. He also believes that the position of Office Coordinator will benefit him by providing an environment to discern God’s will.
We welcome Michael as our new Office Coordinator and ask prayers that God will bless him and our efforts to build up the Kingdom through the gift of the consecrated life.

 

500th Anniversary of the Birth of St. Philip Neri

Toronto Oratory
Toronto Oratory

Oratorians around the world are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Philip Neri. He was born in 1515 in Italy and founded the Congregation of the Oratory in 1575. The most famous Oratorian is Henry Cardinal Newman, convert and blessed. Our Sunday Visitor (July 12, 2015) has a nice article on St. Philip in the latest issue.

Oratorians live in community and under a Rule but are not religious, in that they do not profess vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They live freely in a community but are free to leave at any time. This prompts the old saying that “true sons of St Philip are known at their burial.”

Tomb of St.Philip Neri - Chiesa Nuova, Rome
Tomb of St.Philip Neri – Chiesa Nuova, Rome

Each Oratory is independent,  observing the way of life outlined by St. Philip .  It was shortly before Pentecost, 1544, that Philip received the grace of his vocation as the founder of the Oratorians. The Holy Spirit filled his heart in so dramatic a fashion, while he was praying in the catacombs, that his rib cage was split around his heart. This was verified after his death.

St. Philip’s biography is a wonderful read because he did such unexpected things to bring people to God, using humor and the ridiculous to make his points.  One man asked is he could wear a hair shirt and Philip said, yes, but wear it on the outside! Philip once shaved half of his beard off before an important event. Laughter is good medicine for the soul!

The work of the apostolate is prayer, preaching and the sacraments. For a wonderful and thorough overview of an oratory including historical references, visit the Toronto Oratory website. It lists the ten characteristics of the classical Oratorian vocation:

  • Instituting a school of prayer
  • Promoting spiritual direction and sacramental confession
  • Extending the liturgical movement
  • Cultivating Eucharistic devotion
  • Fostering saving knowledge of the Holy Scriptures
  • Keeping alive the lore of the saints
  • Inculcating moral literacy
  • Elaborating an “historical orthodoxy”
  • Supporting cultural and intellectual endeavors
  • Encouraging a graced encounter between clerics and the laity
  • Assisting the revival of community and family life
  • Carrying out the New Evangelization

Sounds like a plan for life for all!

“The great thing is to become saints.” St. Philip Neri

 

 

 

 

He Heard the Master’s Call – Br. James Curran, l.b.s.f.

Br. James (l) and Br. Paul O'Donnell, f.b.p.
Br. James (l) and Br. Paul O’Donnell, f.b.p., at the 2006 IRL National Meeting, Mundelein, Illinois

On June 28, 2015, Br. James Curran, l.b.s.f., long-time friend and supporter of the IRL, went home to the Lord. He died as he lived, a humble Franciscan, without pomp or ceremony. Brother James received the IRL’s Pro Fidelitate et Virtute award in 2006 for faithfully living our his brotherhood and for supporting the IRL as a Board Member, coordinator of the Boston Regional Meeting and as chairman of the Forum of Superiors of Communities of Men.

But he is best remembered as a friend to the poor.

Brother’s journey to religious life is an amazing story. Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, his father was killed during World War II. Inspired by his mother, Brother James became a Franciscan tertiary as a teenager but it was not until 1967 that he received the special grace that would define the rest of his life. While performing with the Boston Opera Company at the White House before President Lyndon Johnson and other distinguished guests, Brother James said that he “was confronted with a compelling desire to change my life around immediately. As if in a mirror, I saw the emptiness of my life and the lifestyle.”

lbsf
Br. James with Cardinal O’Malley

He detached himself from possessions and perks and began to spend more time in prayer and adoration. The Lord opened his eyes to see the poor and destitute who populated the streets of Boston. “What a miracle of grace God worked when they became for me what the leper was for St. Francis – instruments of peace and love to turn my selfish heart away from egotistical pursuits and once again towards God!”

In 1970, Brother James founded the Little Brothers of St. Francis, patterned after Francis’ Rule for Hermitages. The brothers lived deeply contemplative lives in urban Boston, preaching the Gospel by their Christian hospitality and healing presence. The brothers disbanded in December of 2012 and in the last few years, Brother James lived in nursing homes, knowing the loneliness that goes with being alone with infirmity.

In his final newsletter, he wrote that he was “still convinced that God gave us our charism as a simple response to the Gospel and will continue to call others to that forma vita (way of life) so dear to St. Francis: contemplative presence among the poorest of the poor.”

May others follow in his footsteps, albeit big ones to fill. We will miss you Brother James. May you rest in the peace of Christ after your long labors.

“For Love Alone” – New Film on Religious Life

Bishop Senior WebsiteOn August 15, 2015, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious will release a new film on religious life called For Love Alone. The 18-minute video was produced by Grassroots Films.

Mother Mary Clare Roufs, ACJ, and Sr. Clare Matthiass, CFR, went on a two week blitz around the country previewing the film in locations ranging from College Station and the Aggies in Texas to seminaries and finally, appropriately enough, to Hollywood.

Here are some comments:

At the Wake Up the World rally in Toronto, Canada: “Many of us have not grown up or ever met nuns.  This film gave us the perfect exposure to what the consecrated life is like. What a beautiful insight!”

In West Palm Beach: “The comments from the Sisters and all those in the film are so honest.  You can tell they are speaking from a place of truth, and it just pierces through your heart.  It is a film that is not just for Catholics, anyone can watch this film and be captivated by the beauty of Religious Life.”

Texas 1From a seminarian in Denver: “Though this movie is about Religious Life, ultimately it is about ones encounter with the one we love -Christ Himself. For me, as I watched the film, it was as if my heart was being pierced with a longing for this intimacy with Christ. The film moved me deeply and made me want to go straight to the chapel and pray. He (Christ) is the reason I want to be a priest. Thank you for this beautiful, beautiful film!”

From an aspirant in Vancouver: “The film was exciting! I feel it was a good representation of the excitement I feel about my call to religious life. I would love for my parents to see this film!”

Click here to be notified when the film is released!

And thank you to the Hilton Foundation for making this project possible.

 

Sr. Nirmala, MC, RIP

mc2On Tuesday, June 23, 2015, the Missionaries of Charity announced the death of Sr. Nirmala Joshi, 81, who succeeded Bl. Teresa of Calcutta as superior general. She served the community in that capacity from 1997 to 2009.

Sr. Nirmala suffered from ill health over the past few years and was brought home from the hospital a few days before her death. Sister Nirmala did not have the high-profile of Mother Teresa but she quietly carried on the works of charity in the manner of a contemplative. Prior to her election, she was head of the contemplative branch of the order.

mc3Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta said that she was a great soul and that “she never talked about herself; she was more about how to support peace, to be helpful to the poor … she had a deep union with Jesus and she was a gentle apostle of peace until the end.”

Sister was born into a Hindu family, though early-on educated in Christian schools. Inspired by Mother Teresa’s work, she was baptized and later became a sister. Her youngest sister became a Carmelite.

Here is a beautiful quote from Sister Nirmala about Mother Teresa  as quoted in L’Osservatore Romano (Aug 5, 1998):

“And then I think of her humility. I remember it always, it is always in my heart. I remember that Mother Teresa’s eyes looked beyond this world. Mother Teresa surrendered in an absolutely radical way to God’s will, and God used her as an instrument of His love.

This is the great mystery of God and it is also the mystery of our vocation. ‘I am thirsty.’ Jesus’ words on the Cross explain Mother Teresa’s life and our choice. We must quench the thirst Jesus continues to have for the poor. Jesus even called me from afar, from a family that was not Christian, to make me, with implacable gentleness, understand His thirst and to quench it”.

A Desert Nun’s Clothing Ceremony

dseet nunOn June 6th, Jennifer Meissonnier became Sr. Augusta Mary of Our Lady of Grace, becoming clothed in the habit of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration  in Tonopah, Arizona. They are commonly referred to as the “desert nuns.”

The image of the desert is appropriate because it was the underlying theme behind Sr. Marie Andre’s talk during the ceremony. As she rightly pointed out, many people misunderstand the call to the cloistered life, viewing it as “barren.” On the contrary, a life lived in response to the Lord’s call is always fruitful. “Our life here justifies the absence of an exterior apostolate/working out in the world,” said Sr. Marie Andre, “by drawing down from Heaven an abundance of divine grace to assist the evangelical workers (especially priests and active-order Sisters) in the field of their labors.”

As Jennifer began her journey into the desert, Sister Marie Andre quoted Fr. Robert Barron who said quite beautifully: “The desert represents a stripping away so as to make the fundamental things appear. In the desert there are no distractions or diversions or secondary matters. Everything is basic, necessary, simple. One survives or one doesn’t. One discovers in the desert strengths and weaknesses she didn’t know she had.

Sister Marie Andre asked the question posed by the Psalmist long ago: “”Is it possible for God to prepare a table in the desert?’ (Psalm 78) And like the Israelites of old, we have to say YES!!!! Not only a table with the manna of old, but a Eucharistic Throne, and this happens because God does all!”

Here are some highlights from the clothing ceremony. God bless Sr. Augusta Mary of Our Lady of Grace!

 

 

 

The Finest Work of Charity: Fr. Joseph Presley, IC

fr presleyA familiar face throughout the years at the annual IRL National Meeting has been Fr. Joseph Presley, IC, a member of the Institute on Charity, more commonly known as the Rosminians. Recently we and many others received a letter from Father that was both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

Father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about six years ago. Over the years, it has slowly limited his activities but until recently, he has always been able to celebrate the Mass with assistance. Now, he believes he should stop celebrating the Mass on Sundays because he does not know if he will always be able to finish. As he says, “That would mean that some people might not be able to fulfill their grave obligation to to hear Mass on Sunday.”

Father can only see the ground in front of him as he walks, perhaps, he says, emblematic of the imagery in Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman’s famous poem Lead Kindly Light.

“Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see, The distant scene—one step enough for me.

At the conclusion of the letter, he included an excerpt from a letter his brother had written to him a couple months ago. It is worth keeping as consolation to us all when faced with debilitating situations.

Father Joseph, I know that perhaps there is not much I can do for you now, but I know that (my wife) and I think of you often and offer many prayers for you in your ministry and for great strengthening in Faith, Hope and Charity. I recall as one of my finest memories, the Mass you said the day after your first Mass. It was at a nursing home next door to Rosmini House in Peoria and there were half a dozen or so aged nuns who participated in the celebration. I remember how physically broken down they were, some could not even hold their heads up…I remember your words of encouragement to them that after a lifetime of serving others and now finding themselves unable to serve any more and to require others to now serve their needs, it would be easy to become discouraged…but that now they were free to do their finest work of charity: to pray without ceasing for the conversion of sinners. I remind you of this as a way of encouragement and knowledge that your suffering is not in vain: that sinners are watching you and that your response to suffering is a powerful witness and impetus toward conversion.

Please pray for this dear, humble priest, a true reflection of the Fatherhood of Jesus.

“I dearly love each and every one of you,” wrote Father Joseph, “and my one desire for each of you is to see you in Heaven.”

 

 

A Neighborhood of Care – The Carmelites in Duarte

ocd duarteWe can only hope that when and if our time comes for nursing care in our golden years, that the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles in California will have expanded far enough east to accommodate all of those who seek a good Catholic home in their twilight years.

As described in Our Sunday Visitor (June 14, 2015), the sisters have opened a Neighborhood of Care at Santa Teresita, a Catholic assisted-living facility in Duarte, California. Nestled at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains on 12 acres, the residence is the first of twelve cottages planned for the site. Once all of the nine planned cottages are built, they will truly form a neighborhood of love.

The first cottage is home to twenty senior residents who have individual rooms but share and plan the meals in common. Sixteen sisters are part of the staff. In the home-like setting, the sisters keep the residents active with activities such as gardening, fitness and computer classes, and outside speakers.

Mother Luisita founded the Carmelites in 1921 in revolutionary Mexico. However, they were forced to flee the country and in 1930, established Santa Teresita in Duarte as a home for women with suffering from tuberculosis. Today, there are 134 Carmelite sisters, eight of whom are novices.

The residents partake in the prayer life of the sisters and have opportunities for daily mass, the rosary, and confession. When a person is near death, the sisters are at the bedside along with family members. One man said, “I love it, We have our own chapel and chaplain, and when I have trouble walking over, they bring Communion to me.”

leanThe sisters were also featured in a Wall Street Journal article (May 27, 2015) which talked about their new album of song called “Lean Into the Wind.” Proceeds from the sales will help the building-expansion program under way at Santa Teresita. The writer of the article said, “To say “Lean Into the Wind” has moments of beauty is to understate its power. Some of the performances are manifestations of love in its purest form and glimpses into the tranquility found in a life dedicated to the service of others and of God.”

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