Holiness, Not Hot Air

Recently at Patheos there was an article by Elizabeth Duffy on Mount de Sales Academy in Maryland, run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, more commonly known as the Nashville Dominicans, in which the faith is beautifully integrated into every aspect of the educational experience. Duffy writes:

“The Nashville Dominican Sisters have gained a national reputation for helping to facilitate this Catholic Identity wherever the sisters go. Many parents and administrators are wondering, how can we get the Nashville Dominicans to come into our schools and transform them? The Sisters shine a light on the potentialities of Catholic education, but they also point a way for the laity. Christ is the one who transforms us. If he is integral to our lives, he will be integral to our schools. Holiness, not hot air.”

Mount de Sales is living proof that rigorous academics and a vibrant Catholic identity need not be an either/or proposition for our Catholic schools.

Taking a Stand for Chastity, Sundays

St. Maria Goretti

Young men and women from St. Mary’s parish in the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa were inducted into groups focused on chastity during a Mass celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe earlier this month.

About 10 to 15 young women were received into the women’s chastity group, with St. Elizabeth of Hungary and St. Maria Goretti named as their patron saints. Upon entering the society, they received a rose and promised to pray the Rosary before Mass for the chastity and fidelity of young men. They promised to be chaste and devoted to Christ until they married or found a religious vocation.

“They promised to demand they be respected as women and that guys and boyfriends treat them with respect, not trying to get anything more than a quick kiss, hug or hold their hand,” said Father Jeremy Wind, parochial vicar at St. Mary’s. “They promised to pray for their future husbands, future religious communities or their current boyfriends.”

Fr. Wind also launched a young men’s group at the Mass, called the Warriors of the Lord. He had the young men who were under 18 promise to pray one hour in adoration every week for girls who are being taken advantage of. They promised to remain chaste for the sake of their future bride.

Older men promised to be active, faithful Catholics. They promised to pray for the women in their lives, and to treat them with love and respect.

“They promised not to let pornography, contraception, sterilization, vasectomies, etc. into their homes,” said Father Wind.

“They knelt down before the altar. I had a Knights of Columbus sword. I pointed it to the cross and I asked them if they were willing to follow Jesus Christ, even if it meant, if necessary, they had to shed their blood,” added Father Wind. “They said, ‘I do.’ Then I gave them a nice swift crack with the sword across their back.”

There’s more: At the Mass, Father Wind informed the congregation that he asked the Spanish speaking stores to allow their workers to go to church on Sundays. The stores are open on Sundays and have their employees work. Four of the five stores agreed.

Kudos to Father Wind for making a difference, and for doing his part to foster a culture of vocations in Sioux City. The foregoing is taken from a story by reporter Katie Lefebvre, which recently appeared in The Catholic Globe, published by the Diocese of Sioux City.

Onward, Catholic Soldiers

Religion & Liberty, a publication of the Acton Institute, recently published an interesting study by historian Mark Summers on the Catholic Church’s complex role in the United States Civil War (1861-65), a topic we’ve covered in previous posts.

Here’s what Summers had to say about the participation of  Catholic priests and religious during the Civil War:

“Along with the thousands of soldiers that fought in the ranks were hundreds of priests who ministered to the troops and Catholic Sisters who assisted as nurses and sanitary workers. Catholic soldiers were at a religious disadvantage compared to the Protestant comrades, as the church lacked enough priests to both serve in the army and minister to the congregations at home. Nevertheless, Catholic priests heard confession, comforted the men, and celebrated Mass prior to battle. More than eight different orders of nuns served the soldiers during the war. Before the organization of the American Red Cross, nuns were among the most organized and experienced nurses available to serve the army. Catholic sisters were praised for their assistance to all soldiers, North and South, Catholic or Protestant. When observing this ministry, a Protestant doctor remarked to a Catholic bishop that ‘there must be some wonderful unity in Catholicity which nothing can destroy, not even the passions of war.'”

Supporting Tomorrow’s Vocations Today

Still looking to make an end-of-the-year donation to support the Church and especially vocations? You might want to consider the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations.

The Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations assists men and women to follow God’s call to service in the Church through a life of consecration. They operate the St. Joseph Student Debt Relief Grant Program for religious life and the St. John Vianney Student Debt Relief Grant Program for the parish priesthood.

These grants eliminate the delay many young people encounter as they struggle to pay off their student debts before they can enter religious life. A grant pays candidates’ student loan payments while they are in formation for either religious life or the priesthood.

We have profiled this organization on a previous occasion, but we wanted to make a special appeal to our readers based on this message that appears on their website:

We have received 43 applications for our 2012 grant awards. The student loans held by these applicants totals $1.6 million. The annual cost of issuing grants to all applicants would be $216,000. It would be a small miracle if we could meet just one fifth of this demand. A miracle made possible by the generosity of you and our other donors. Please pray to the Lord of the Harvest for a big miracle and consider continuing or increasing your generosity towards the work of enabling vocations.

For more information as to how you may financially assist young men and women who are considering religious vocations, visit Mater Ecclesiae’s site today!

The Age of Martyrs

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen. Not only was he one of the first deacons in the Church (cf. Acts 6:1-6), but he’s also the first recorded post-Resurrection martyr for Christ.

Sometimes martyrdom may some far removed from our own comfortable existence. To counter such a mindset, we offer the following reflection from Servant of God John A. Hardon, the founder of the Institute on Religious Life, who tells us why the present age is truly the “age of the martyrs.” This is taken from a conference he gave on the Precious Blood of Christ.

We believe that by His death on the cross, Christ merited all the graces we need to reach heaven. He won all the graces necessary for our salvation. He gained all the graces that the human race needs to reach its eternal destiny.

But we also believe that what Christ did by dying for us on the cross requires that we die on our cross by cooperating with the graces that Jesus won for our redemption. He could not have been more clear. He told us, “If you wish to be my disciples, take up your cross and follow me.” We must cooperate with Christ’s grace if we wish to join Him in eternity. He was crucified by shedding His blood. We must be crucified by shedding our blood in witness to our love.

All of this is elementary Christian teaching. The Precious Blood of Christ does indeed provide us with the light and strength we need to reach heaven. But we have to do our part, otherwise Christ’s passion and death on Calvary would have been in vain.

The focus of our conference is on the Precious Blood of Christ in the age of martyrs. What are we saying? We are saying that the present century is the age of martyrs par excellence. Ours is THE (all three letters capitalized) age of martyrs.

No words of mine can do justice to this statement: We are inclined to think that martyrs are those ancient men and women in the first centuries of the Church whom we commemorate by name in the first Eucharistic Prayer, when we say, “We honor the apostles and martyrs,” and then name after the apostles, “Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Carnelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian.”

Unless we take stock of ourselves, martyrs are not commonly associated with the later history of the Church, and certainly not with our own times. What a miscalculation!

A conservative estimate places the total number of martyrs who died for Christ up to the liberation edict of Constantine in 313 A.D. at around 100,000. We call that period of massive persecution the age of martyrs. Yet, the number of Christians who have died for their faith since 1900 is several million. In the Sudan alone, during the 1950s, over two million Catholics were starved to death by the Muslims because they refused to deny that Mary is the Mother of God since her Son is the Ibn Allah, the Son of God. There have been more Christian martyrs since the turn of the present century than in all of the preceding centuries from Calvary to 1900 put together.

It is no wonder that the Second Vatican Council in its Constitution on the Church went out of its way to identify martyrdom as one of the marks of holiness in our day. The passage deserves to be quoted in full: Continue reading The Age of Martyrs

Restoring the Sacred

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. John of Kanty, a 15th-century professor and priest in Krakow. He was known not only as an orthodox teacher of the faith, but also for his piety and kindness.

He is also known as St. John Cantius, perhaps even more so now with the establishment in 1998 of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, a thriving religious community of men under his patronage.

The members of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius seek personal sanctity by imitating Christ in radical opposition to the values of this world. They wish to “Restore the Sacred” in the Church, in the world, and in their own lives in pursuit not only of their own sanctification, but also the salvation and sanctification of all.

The Canons Regular of St. John Cantius’ mission, in the context of parish ministry, is to help Catholics rediscover a profound sense of the sacred through solemn liturgies, devotions, sacred art, sacred music, as well as instruction in Church heritage, catechetics, and Catholic culture. Continue reading Restoring the Sacred

Vocation of Hope

Pope Benedict XVI encouraged Latin America and the Caribbean to renew their “vocation of hope” in his homily at a Mass celebrating the independence of Latin American countries earlier this month in the Vatican Basilica. In his homily, the Pope also announced that he would make an apostolic trip to Mexico and Cuba before next Easter.

“Currently,” the Holy Father said, “while the bicentenary of their independence is being celebrated in various places in Latin America, the journey towards integration on this beloved continent is proceeding hand in hand with its emerging importance on the world stage.”

In such a circumstance, the Pope continued, “It is important for its various peoples to safeguard their rich store of faith and their historical and cultural dynamism, always defending human life from conception to natural end, and promoting peace. Likewise, they must protect the authentic nature and mission of the family, and at the same time intensify their widespread educational efforts which will rightly prepare people and make them aware of their abilities so that they may meet their destiny in a worthy and responsible way.”

The Pope asked the people of Latin America to devise and promote, “ever more adequate initiatives and concrete programs aimed at reconciliation and fraternity, increasing solidarity and protecting the environment, increasing efforts to overcome poverty, illiteracy and corruption and eradicating all injustice, violence, criminality, civil unrest, drug trafficking and extortion.”

Also participating at the Mass were representatives of the local episcopate, the Bishops’ Conference of Latin-America (CELAM) and the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, as well as exponents from various governments and the cultural and academic world.

Courtesy of L’Osservatore Romano.

Signs of Encouragement for U.S. Vocations

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, the head of the U.S. bishops’ committee on vocations, believes Catholics should be encouraged by great signs of hope for the future of the priesthood in America.

In a December 15th story by Catholic News Agency, Archbishop Carlson noted that while there remains a “great need for more seminarians” in the United States, several recent “positive trends” in seminary enrollment should “give us hope as a people of faith.”

The archbishop said that Apostolic Visitations in 2005 revealed that the vast majority of diocesan seminaries throughout the country are “healthy houses of discernment and formation,” filled with seminarians of a “very high caliber,” who bring with them “a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and talents.”

For the rest of the story, click here.

Lafayette Carmelites

Young Brittlyn (Sr. Teresa), at left and Kalyn (Sr. Faustina) are here seen rejoicing in the gift of Our Lady’s habit.  It didn’t come easily for either of these Lafayette Carmelites.

“Daddy, Go back”

Kalyn Meche met the Sisters when she was about ten years old. Her family was driving by their monastery when she saw one of them in the yard.

“Daddy, go back. I’d like to talk to that Sister!” From then on, there was a desire and love for Carmel that never left her. She kept in contact with the community, made days of recollection at the monastery, and received encouragement and advice from her spiritual director. After going through many trials and difficulties, Kalyn entered the monastery on October 1, 2010, at the age of 18.

Her first months were not easy but she remained firm in her determination to be a Carmelite. On September 30, 2011, Kalyn received the Habit of Our Lady and became Sister Maria Faustina of Merciful Love.

The date was significant for her in that it is the date of St. Therese’s death and the birthday of Mother Theresa Margaret, their Foundress. Sister has always had a great devotion to St. Faustina and St. Therese. She loves their spirit of total abandonment and trust and endeavors to incorporate these childlike virtues in her own life. Her desire of many, many years has been fulfilled.

“All I want now is to be a true Carmelite and a loving Bride of Jesus.”

Dying Mother’s Blessing

Brittlyn Sonnier, likewise 18 when she entered, came to know of the Lafayette Carmelites through one of the weekend Veritas Retreats. She had struggled against a vocation for a few months, but after the retreat and coming to see the community, she knew that Jesus was calling her to Carmel.

When asked what she expected to find in Carmel, her reply was: “I really don’t know. All I know is that Jesus wants me there.” The date of her entrance was set for October 15, 2010.

Brittlyn’s mother was dying of cancer, and she wondered whether she should enter as planned or stay and help her father care for the other four younger children. Being a family of deep faith, they encouraged her to go to Carmel if she felt God calling her.

She then asked her Mother, whom she was caring for in the hospital. True to her conviction of Brittlyn’s vocation, Monique gave her eldest daughter her blessing and encouraged her in her desire to give herself entirely to Our Lord.

This is indeed the niche God has chosen for her. She has imbibed the spirit of the community from the start and has a deep spirit of prayer and generosity. On October 15, 2011 Brittlyn received the habit and became Sister Teresa of Jesus.

For more information on the Lafayette Carmelites, click here.

On Fire with the Love of God

The following is an article by Anne Tschanz on Venerable Pio Bruno Lantieri, the founder of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, which first appeared in the September-October 2011 issue of Religious Life, the official magazine of the Institute on Religious Life.

Two hundred years ago, Western Europe was beset by secularism, heresy, and revolution resulting in a loss of faith among the people and a lack of respect for the Holy Father. It seemed overwhelmingly impossible to stem the tide. Yet, into this void stepped Venerable Pio Bruno Lanteri, a man who, armed only with the word of God which is “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12), even thwarted Napoleon.

Comforted by a Good Mother

Pio Bruno Lanteri was born in 1759 in Cuneo, which was then part of the Kingdom of Sardinia. When he was only 4 years old, his mother died. Looking back on this sad event in his life, he said, “I have had scarcely any mother but the Blessed Virgin Mary and I never received anything but comfort from such a good Mother.”

The young Bruno enjoyed a special relationship with his father, Pietro, who gave his inquisitive son the best education possible. Bruno recalled that he “studied with my father even at the table.” The well-respected Pietro was a doctor known as the “father of the poor” for his Christian charity. Guided by his father in faith and intellect, Bruno was interested in only three things: family, school, and church.

Attracted to the monastic life, Bruno applied to join the Carthusians, founded by Saint Bruno, when he was 17 years old, but he left soon after, his frail constitution and weak health not suited to the harsh way of life of the monks. Thus, he decided to become a diocesan priest and was accepted because of his “purity of morals and pious desire to sanctify (himself) in the clerical state.” Continue reading On Fire with the Love of God