Improving the “Climate”

Last week Pope Benedict XVI visited the Carthusian monastery of Sts. Stephen and Bruno at Serra San Bruno. Outside the monastery, he addressed the faithful from the local area who had gathered there to see him, reminding them of the great privilege of having a “citadel of the Spirit” in their region. The Pope added:

“Monasteries have an important, I would say indispensable, role. Their purpose today is to ‘improve’ the environment, in the sense that sometimes the air we breathe in our societies is unhealthy, it is polluted by a non-Christian mentality, at times even a non-human mentality, because it is dominated by economic interests, concerned only with worldly things and lacking a spiritual dimension.

“In such a climate not only God but also our fellow man is pushed to the margins, and we do not commit ourselves to the common good. Monasteries, however, are models of societies which have God and fraternal relations at their core. We have great need of them in our time.”

The Holy Father concluded his remarks by exhorting the faithful “to treasure the great spiritual tradition of this place, and seek to put it into practice in your daily lives.”

For videos from the Holy Father’s visit, including the celebration of Vespers, click here. Story courtesy of the Vatican Information Service.

Calling All Catholics

William E. Simon, Jr. has coauthored a new book with Michael Novak entitled Living the Call: An Introduction to the Lay Vocation (EncounterBooks, 2011). Simon adapted some of the material from his book in writing this opinion piece published at

Simon’s presentation is not that of a polished theologian explaining the lay vocation in abstract, technical terms. Nor is it the rambling of an ideologue seeking to impose upon his readers his own spin on Vatican II and the Church.

Rather, at least in the published essay, he writes as a 60-something Catholic layman who over time has come to see experientially not only what the Church can do for him, but also what he can do for the Church. I look forward to reading his book.

Going to Bat for Vocations

As we await the outcome of the playoffs to see which baseball teams will compete in the Fall Classic, we know one team that will still be playing next week: the Padres.

No, not the San Diego Padres, who didn’t even make the playoffs this season, but the D.C. Padres.

Who are the D.C. Padres? They are priests and seminarians from the Archdiocese of Washington who play baseball–for fun and also to promote vocations. They play area high school teams and, as this article from Gazette.Net shows, use this platform to discuss vocations and the priesthood.

Check out the vocation site for the Archdiocese of Washington, which has many engaging features, including a video of the Padres in action. Let us pray that in Washington and elsewhere there will be more young men who are willing to “take the field” as tomorrow’s priests.

The Word Can Become Flesh

We posted just last month about Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God, who was previously known in the world as Catholic Answers apologist Rosalind Moss. However, we just came across this recent article on her, which briskly summarizes her compelling conversion story. Here is a sampling:

Mother Miriam’s radical redirection to Christianity began when a fellow Jew spoke to her about the central belief of Christians–that God became man in the Person of Jesus, the Redeemer, who walked upon the earth. She was 32-years old and had never heard such a thing. It was “insane.”

“The reason is,” she explains, “we’d sit down to the Passover table every year, and we’d wait for Him. We knew when the Messiah came He would establish His kingdom, bring peace on Earth, bring the Jewish people back to Jerusalem, and all of life would make sense. How could you imagine believing He came? There’s no Kingdom, and there’s no peace, and we’re not in Jerusalem, and He left, and nobody [in her Jewish family] has a clue He was here. The whole thing made no sense whatsoever.”

But the notion percolated. A man cannot be God, but God, if He exists, can become Man. Other Jews she knew explained how Jesus was the Lamb of God who fulfilled the Old Testament sacrificial system and took away sin. Suddenly, it all made sense.

“It was as if someone pulled the curtain before me and exposed the truth; and I could see for the first time.”

She was an advertising executive in California at the time. She quit. She gave her life to Christ.

Marathon Nun

Only days after entering the novitiate, Sr. Stephanie Baliga will be part of a 13-member team running in this weekend’s Chicago Marathon. The team is raising money to rebuild Our Lady of the Angels church on Chicago’s West Side. For more, click here and scroll down a bit.

Sr. Stephanie is a member of the Franciscans of the Eucharist, a wonderful new community founded by Fr. Bob Lombardo, C.F.R., a member of the board of directors of the Institute on Religious Life.

For more on Sr. Stephanie’s efforts this weekend, check out this news clip from a local Chicago-area television network:

Vocations Awareness Day

On October 14, 2011, Franciscan University of Steubenville will host nearly 100 national and international religious communities and dioceses at its annual Religious Vocations Awareness Day, the largest vocations fair in the country.

“Vocation Awareness Day is a great time to connect with Catholics from different traditions and to see the many ways it is possible to follow Jesus,” says Father Rick Martignetti, O.F.M., director of Franciscan University’s Priestly Discernment Program. “Our students always find it inspiring to participate and the vocation directors are renewed by witnessing the active faith life on our campus.”

Religious Vocations Awareness Day will take place in Finnegan Fieldhouse from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. It features religious orders from eight major spiritualities, including Franciscan, Benedictine, Ignatian, Salesian, and Carmelite. Among the many dioceses to be represented are Arlington, Chicago, New York, Greensburg, Pittsburgh, and Wheeling-Charleston. Some vocation directors will come from as far away as Spain and Canada.

Attendees can stroll among the displays while learning more about the charism and apostolic mission of each order.

For more information, contact the Priestly Discernment Program at 740-283-6495 or e-mail

The Martyrs of Drina

On Saturday, September 24th, the Church beatified five Bosnian nuns who were kidnapped and later killed during World War II. The beatification took place in Sarajevo, Bosnia, with upwards of 20,000 people in attendance. Cardinal Angelo Amato from the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints presided at the celebration.

The new blesseds–Jula Ivanisevic, Berchmana Leidenix, Krizina Bojanc, Antonija Fabjan and Bernadeta Banja–were all members of the Daughters of Divine Charity. They served the poor in the Serbian village of Pale. Serb soldiers burned their convent in late 1941.

The nuns were then marched 40 miles in freezing conditions to military barracks near the east Bosnian town of Gorazde. The soldiers beat and tried to rape them. The nuns jumped out of the second-floor windows, and soldiers later stabbed to death those still alive.

“The news of the deaths of the five sisters spread quickly in Sarajevo. Even though it was a time of war, the people remembered them and prayed to the martyrs of Drina, as they were called, for their intercession,” Sr. Maria Ozana Krajacic recalled in a recent edition of the L’Osservatore Romano.

The holy sisters’ story is recounted in the book, The Drina Martyrs, written by Fr. Anto Bakovic.

Documentary Reveals Life of Cloistered Benedictines

A former fashion and beauty photographer has released a 90-minute documentary on the life of Benedictine contemplatives.

“Tyburn Convent Gloria Deo” brings viewers within the cloisters of the order’s nine monasteries, starting with the motherhouse in England, and ranging through Oceania and South America.

The order was established in 1903 near Marble Arch, London–the site where dozens of English martyrs were killed during the Protestant Reformation.

Michael Luke Davies created the work. He and Mother Xavier McMonagle, the mother-general of the Tyburn Nuns, presented the documentary last Thursday.

“I was moved to tears many times by the beauty of what I was filming,” Davies said. “For me, it exceeded my expectations of what I could film. It was an incredible experience I shall never forget for the rest of my life. The things I have seen and the moments I have shared with these beautiful religious people I will keep with me forever.” Continue reading Documentary Reveals Life of Cloistered Benedictines