Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Czestochowa

35202113Pilgrimage. A journey to a holy place. This past weekend, over 5,000 people (largely Polish) walked over 32 miles from Chicago to Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine in Merrillville, IN.. There were people older, younger, healthy, sick. Every person carried with them a hidden cross, intentions. The walk was not easy but we were blessed with decent weather. The sun was shining and it was hot and humid and some people began to get heat stroke and were getting weak from the heat but this didn’t stop pilgrims from the pilgrimage. Despite the sunburn, the dehydration, the blisters, and never ending asphalt, we were determined to offer every ounce of sacrifice for our intentions to the foot of the cross and to our Black Madonna. We offered everything up; our tears, our smiles, our pain, our singing. Some people walked in thanksgiving for healing of a child’s addiction, for blessing them with a child that they could not conceive for some time, or for conversion. Others offered up their sufferings for intentions like to overcome addiction or a loved one suffering from it, to find a spouse, or the health of a child. This suffering brought us closer to Jesus and gave us a sense of the pain He endured during His imperfect life in which He also offered up.

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Arriving at Merrillville, IN. to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa.

The pilgrimage is a 300-year-old tradition that people in Poland walk to Our Lady of Czestochowa on Jasna Gora from all over Poland, sometimes taking days or even weeks to accomplish. There are over 1.5 million polish people living in the Chicago area, so we made our own American-Polish Czestochowa. The testimonies that people give are so inspiring. Every person has a completely different life than another but we pick each other up and march forward on different paths but in the same direction. We marched toward strength, truth, mercy, and God. Thousands of people walking, singing, and praying out loud in the streets through neighborhoods while people stand outside their homes to watch is a great witness. The joy or peace that we gained from this suffering is a victory over evil and the comforts of the world. We may not become saints after walking but God will always bless our efforts and suffering.

Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi Celebrate 70 Years in U.S.

osf laconUnless we strive to offer and impart to them the basic and fundamental need to draw closer to God, we have given them very little.

With these beautiful hearts, the Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi in Lacon, Illinois, continue on with their mission to serve the poor, sick and aged in their apostolates. On August 13, 2016, they will celebrate their 70th anniversary in the United States. There were founded in 1894 in in Budapest, Hungary, by Anna Brunner to serve the poor and the terminally ill, in the compassionate spirit of St. Francis. They came to this country in 1946 from Slovakia and settled in Illinois.

laconThey remain an international congregation serving in Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania and the United States in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice, and schools with the same spirit of compassion and the love of God that guided Mother Anna during the congregation’s early years. They seek to serve Christ in His poor, sick and aged brothers and sisters at their nursing home in Lacon, Illinois, and their hospital in Mountain View, Missouri. They are fortified by their union with Christ in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Rosary, meditation and personal prayer.

We pray that during this celebration year, that God may grant them the grace to fully live out their charism of poverty, humility and a loving union with God.

We will, therefore, so live our religious vocation as to convince all that through our consecration to God we do not become estranged from our fellow men, but that our union with them grows deeper in Christ’s love.

St. Dominic Jubilee Prayer

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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,


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that we might faithfully

and joyfully proclaim the Gospel of peace,

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

New Apostolic Constitution Released on Women’s Contemplative Life

rsz_mother_angelica_nuns_at_memorial_mass_march_29_2016_jeff_bruno_ewtn-650x495On July 22, 2016, the Holy See issued the Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei Quaerere (“Seeking the Face of God”) on women’s contemplative life.

In the document, the Holy Father called for reflection and discernment on twelve aspects of consecrated  life in general and the monastic tradition in particular:

  1. Formation – the “process aimed at configuration to the Lord Jesus and the assimilation of His mind and heart in the complete gift of self to the Father.” One startling thing was noted: “for initial formation and that following temporary profession, to the extent possible, ‘ample time must be reserved,’ no less than nine years and not more than twelve.”
  2. Prayer – must not be “self-absorption; it must enlarge your heart to embrace all humanity.” “By your prayers, you can heal the wounds of many.”
  3. The centrality of the world of God – “Lectio divina,” the prayerful reading of God’s word, bridging the gap between spirituality and everyday life. Lectio divina is “not concluded until it arrives at action (actio) which moves the believer to make his or her life a gift for others in charity.”
  4. The sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation – “The Eucharist is the heart of of the life of every baptized person and of the consecrated life itself.” Adoration is also praiseworthy. Reconciliation grants one the “grace and to become prophets and ministers of His mercy.”
  5. Fraternal Life in Community – Seeking to become “one heart and one soul” as modeled by the early Christian communities, “an eloquent witness to the Trinity,” a witness to a world marked by inequality and divisions.
  6. The autonomy of Monasteries – Autonomy favors stability of life ad internal unity but it should not mean independence or isolation, especially from other monasteries of the same family.
  7. Federations – Are important structures of communion between those sharing the same charism,  ensuring assistance in initial and continuous formation and practical needs. Federations are encouraged.
  8. The cloister – “A sign of the exclusive union of the Church as Bride with her Lord.” It takes four forms: the one common to all, papal, constitutional and monastic.
  9. Work – Through labor you share in the work of God, and with those who live by the fruit of their toil and the poor. Ora et labora.
  10. Silence – Entails self-emptying to grow in receptivity. Mary Most Holy is the example.
  11. The communications media – Prudent discernment is necessary.
  12. Asceticism – Liberation from worldliness; stability is also a sign of fidelity, a witness to people who never sink down roots.

A nice reflection by Ann Carey with comments from Fr. Thomas Nelson, O.Praem., can be found here.

IRL Summer Intern Reflects on WYD and What Love Truly Means

wyd logoWorld Youth Day. A time where the Pope and millions of Catholic and Christian youth come together and learn about the love of God and how to spread that love into the world. WYD reminds us that we are not alone in this world. That no matter where we are or who we are …we all strive for this one greatness that this world needs more now than ever…WYD has a great impact on this mission.

This year, it is taking place in Krakow, Poland. More than two million youth are expected to attend, which is incredible. Despite the threats in the world, we are determined to do better at loving each other and not letting anything get in the way of that.

airplaneSt. John Paul II, a great patron of Poland, is a wonderful example of how love can  be shown no matter who or where you are. JPII traveled to more than 100 countries to express the message of love, faith, and peace. He played a major role in the fall of communism after WWII. Even after a murder attempt on his life in Vatican City, he forgave the man who tried to kill him. The devil tried but God won.

The same thing is happening in our world today. Another saint of Poland, Saint Faustina, is known for the messages of Divine Mercy that that she received from Jesus. This year of mercy comes at a time when forgiveness is difficult and scarce and judging others is profuse and an “expression of yourself.”  We all know someone who has issues with the Catholic Church or even with God. Unfortunately, and I very much hope that this changes very quickly, love is defined by whether you agree with what someone does, believes, and says…which is absurd. Since when did “I love you,” equal “I agree with you?’”Jesus never said “I agree with you,” to Mary Magdalene, so therefore He loved her. A parent doesn’t stop loving their child if they make the wrong decisions.

download (1)Many Catholics are portrayed in this way. When the media hears that the Pope still prohibits abortion, they automatically think he hates women.  Pro-life is actually pro-woman (pro-mother) and even pro-human. Pro-life is a belief and a way of life of love over evil. Life is universal and priceless and choosing who gets it and who doesn’t is pure discrimination on the most innocent and fragile of life.

But, disagreeing with someone’s stance on abortion (or anything) should NOT influence your amount of love. By giving unconditional love, mercy and compassion, amazing things happen and we overcome hatred. That is how God created it to work. As the world progresses, there are becoming more ways to hate and destroy, but we cannot forget that there are becoming even more ways to love. World Youth Day in Krakow could not have come at a better time when our youth are dealing with unfathomable misconceptions and direct violations on humanity. These youth are coming together for one thing: to learn love. There is no greater weapon.

“Angel of Dachau” to Be Beatified

fr unz picOn September 24, 2016, Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig will be beatified in Würzburg, Germany. Known as the “Angel of Dachau,” Father Engelmar died of typhoid fever, contracted while caring for the sick with this deadly disease in the infamous concentration camp. As it says in his short biography, “He volunteered to go to those doomed to death, thereby condemning himself to death.”

Father was born in 1911 in Czechoslovakia. Four of his six years as an ordained Mariannhill Missionary priest were spent in Dachau where he was imprisoned as a traitor for insisting that one must obey God more than man and for defending Jews. Dachau was known as the “largest monastery in the world” for there were 3000 clergyman detailed there, 95% of whom were Roman Catholic priests. Father was especially solicitous of the Russian prisoners, learning the language so he could he could bring them back to the Faith.

In late December of 1944, Father was one of 20 priests who volunteered to care for the victims of typhus who were dying at a rate of 100 per day. Like St. Maximilian Kolbe, OFM Conv., who gave up his life to save a married man, Fr. Engelmar knew he was marching to certain death.

fr unz iconA fellow prisoner-priest said that the help he gave was a “fruit of his priestly love of neighbor. He gladly heard the confessions of his poor sheep and comforted them in his kind and quiet way in the misery of the camp…He offered them more than just his time and selfless concern. He gave them his whole priestly love. That was his goal while death reaped its terrible harvest.”

In his last letter to his sister, Father Engelmar wrote, “Love doubles one’s strength, makes one inventive, renders one inwardly free and happy. It really has not entered into the heart of any man what God has prepared for those who love Him.” He died on March 2, 1945. The camp was liberated just one month later.

Because he was so highly esteemed, a priest contrived to have his body cremated alone and thus they were able to retrieve his ashes and secretly deliver them in a sewn linen bag to the Mariannhillers in Würzburg. Fr. Engelmar was declared venerable by Benedict XVI in 2009, and in January 2016, Pope Francis pronounced Father Unzeitig a martyr, killed in hatred of the faith.

Father Engelmar Hubert Unzeitig? He was a very dear, precious man. He was love in person. More than that I cannot say. That he was: love!”

An Adult Coloring Book on the Rosary

avemaria mitsuiOne of the hot items now is adult coloring books.  I have seen ones containing flowers, nature, animals and the like, all looking vaguely New-Age-y. My niece is using them as therapy as she sits at the bedside of a sick loved one. The coloring of the images is therapeutic and often results in an incredible picture!

Therefore, I was pleased to see that Daniel Mitsui has issued The Mysteries of the Rosary: An Adult Coloring Book (64 pages, 8.5 x 11, $9.95)  to draw people who are interested in this type of artistic endeavor into the mysteries of Christ’s life. Elizabeth Scalia, US Editor-in-Chief of Aleteia, writes in the Forward that she found that spending time working on Daniel’s images “brought me first into a place of deep focus, then into relaxation, and finally into the stillness that comes with prayerful adoration.”

front_coloringIf you are unfamiliar with Daniel’s work which is reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts, check out his website. To the right is sample artwork similar to what you would find in the Rosary Book. His work is incredible detailed and rich and theologically profound, using images that you often find depicted in ancient stained-glass windows. Yet it is wonderfully original and fresh for our modern eyes.

The coloring book is formatted to resemble one of the early devotional books dedicated to the Holy Rosary. Daniel took the mysteries from a series of large drawings he originally drew in ink on calfskin vellum. Many of the borders and ancillary pictures he took from other drawings. All the artwork came from his own hand.

This unique coloring book contains thirty illustrations— Fifteen full-page drawings of the Rosary; Twelve vignettes featuring prophets, evangelists and Church Fathers; and Three larger drawings with the artist’s commentary.

thumb_millefleur_resurrectionSince Daniel’s reception into the Church in 2004, he has focused on religious subjects. In 2011, the Vatican commissioned him to illustrate a new edition of the Roman Pontifical. In 2012, he established Millefleur Press, an imprint for publishing fine books and broadsides of his artwork and typography.

To order the Rosary book, please visit Ave Maria Press.

New Canadian Carmelite Monastic Foundation Forming

ChurchCroppedI always life to keep abreast of new beginnings in religious life so I thought I would let people know of a new Carmelite Monastic foundation that is being formed in southern Saskatchewan. Called the Monastery of the Transfiguration, Sr. Juana Benedicta of the Cross has received approval from the archdiocese to begin this work of evangelization though the apostolate of prayer.

These Carmelite Monastic Sisters are a family of solitaries living the eremitical life in a monastery, in the Teresian Carmelite tradition.  “For the style of life we aim to follow is not just that of nuns,” said St. Teresa of Avila, “but of hermits.” The contemplative sister assists the Church by giving witness that God is the only Absolute, enlarging “the Church by her hidden apostolic fruitfulness.”

The monastery is located on 60 acres of land on the Saskatchewan prairies. It includes a large chapel, dedicated to Mary, Mother of Divine Grace, that was recently renovated. The Rule is the Primitive Rule of St. Albert, written for Carmelites sometime between 1206 and 1214.

IMG_0003_200x132on200As Carmelite solitaries, the ideal of Elijah contemplating God on Mount Carmel becomes the ideal for a life dedicated to a personal encounter with the Eternal Father and the desire for transformation through the Holy Spirit by imitation of His Son Jesus.

A young woman interested in this way of life of silence, solitude, strong community and the spirit and joy of the Gospels, (between the ages of 18 and 35, in good health, a minimum of high school education and some work experience), can receive more information by contacting:

Carmelite Monastic Sisters Inc.
Monastery of the Transfiguration
Box 1896
Moose Jaw, SK S6H 7N6
Canada

Email: carmst@sasktel.net

Two Founders Canonized

Earlier this month, Pope Francis canonized two founders of religious congregations: Bl. Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad (1870-1957) of Sweden and Bl. Stanislaus Papczynski (1631-1701) of Poland. If the names are unfamiliar, the communities probably aren’t because they are the founders of the Order of St. Bridget and the Marians of the Immaculate Conception respectively.

Bl. Elizabeth Hesselblad
Bl. Elizabeth Hesselblad

Bl. Elizabeth was born a Lutheran in Sweden but converted to Catholicism in 1902 in New York. Like her mother in spirit St. Bridget of Sweden, Elizabeth desired that all may be one in Christ (Ut omnes unum sint). After her conversion, Elizabeth was permitted to live in the convent in Rome once inhabited by St. Bridget herself. She re-founded the Bridgettines in 1911, which, after being founded by St. Bridget of Sweden in 1344, had been virtually extinguished by the Protestant Reformation. She was also able to re-found monasteries in Sweden: Djursholm in 1923 and Vadstena in 1935, the city where St. Bridget remains reside. In the U.S., they have a monastery in Darien, CT, where the sisters have a special mission in furthering ecumenical work.

brig nunThe Bridgettine sisters wear a distinctive Crown signifying the Five Holy Wounds for their order was founded to have a specific devotion to the Passion of Christ. By their Crown with its 5 red stones, they remember Christ’s suffering on the Cross and keep that awareness alive in our cold world. Because of Elizabeth’s own works of charity during World War II, she was cited among the Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust center in Israel.

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Bl. Stanislas

Bl. Stanislaus (John) Papczyński (1631-1701) was born in 1631 in Poland. He was ordained a Piarist Father but received the calling to found the Marians of the Immaculate Conception in 1670. Their mission is threefold: devotion to Mary Immaculate; offering prayers and sacrifices for the dead, especially those who were not prepared to die; and active service to the Church. In America, they are best known for their work promoting the message of Divine Mercy from Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

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Bl. George

Like the Bridgettines, the MIC’s were almost wiped out. However, their “Renovator,” Lithuanian-born Bl. George Matulaitis, re-founded the MICs in 1910 which had been reduced to one member thanks to persecution by Russian authorities. Blessed George rewrote the Constitutions, attracted new members, and “unleashed the renovated Marian Congregation as a zealous army for Christ and the Church in the modern world” as it says on the MIC website!

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Fr. Seraphim

The IRL was blessed to honor Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, with its’ 2016 Pro Fidelitate et Virtute Award for his tireless work in spreading the message of and devotion to Divine Mercy as revealed to the world by Sr. Faustina. You can get a copy of his two talks by visiting the IRL website.

A Triumph For the Sacredness of Life – Friars of the Sick Poor

fsp groupThe Friars of the Sick Poor are a relatively new community of men in Los Angeles, founded by Bro. Richard A. Hirbe, fsp, on December 12, 2001. Their mission is to give themselves to God in the service of the sick poor and marginalized, whom they receive in God’s name.

Many of you are aware that California recently passed the so-called Death With Dignity Act. Hence, we were thankful to receive this message from Bro. Richard recently: “I am pleased to forward you this memo from our CEO … St. Francis Medical Center (SFMC) has taken the stance, that although no longer under the sponsorship of the Daughters of Charity… will not participate in the California Death with Dignity Act…. Another triumph for the sacredness of LIFE!”

With hope as their charism, they help people to find meaning in their suffering and sickness as being redemptive, inviting them to a fuller life within the Church.

Bro. Cesar John Paul
Bro. Cesar John Paul

One of the most inspiring vocation stories that we have featured in Religious Life magazine was of a Friar of the Sick Poor – Br. Cesar John Paul Galan. Cesar, a young man growing up in a challenging neighborhood, found his life changed forever when both he and his brother Hector were the victims of a shooting. One of the first people Cesar met at the St. Francis Medical Center where he was in the ICU was the chaplain – Bro. Richard Hirbe.

Brother Richard told him that Hector was on life support and unable to survive. He also had break the news that Cesar that was now paralyzed and would never walk again. Cesar remembers grabbing Brother’s habit and saying: “Brother…If I am never going to walk again, then teach me to fly.” He wanted to turn something ugly into beauty, just as Jesus did on the Cross.

Brother did;  first, as a post traumatic stress chaplain at that same hospital, SFMC, then as a Friar of the Sick Poor, clothed in the habit in 2010. He is now studying for the priesthood so he can return to  SFMC and offer people the sacraments “during the most critical time of their lives.”

Brother had the blessing, with Brother Richard, to meet Pope John  Paul II who told him: “Never be afraid my son.” He began in that moment to see his infirmity as a gift for others. “Ever being ready to tell them the reason for our hope” (1 Peter 3:15).

For more information about the Friars, please visit their website: friarsofthesickpoor.org.

 

 

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