“That All of Them May Be One” John 17:21

Some communities believe that as their numbers dwindle, their job is to empower the laity to do what they used to do. The laity however needs to empower them, through our prayers, to live out their vocation, infused with the charism upon which their community was founded. They need to rediscover anew their historical roots in this upcoming Year of Faith. We also need unity among women religious in this country, an “ecclesiology of communion founded on faith in Jesus Christ and the Church.”

A case in point is the recent document issued by the Holy See about the needed renewal of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). It cites the following issues:

– Talks at assemblies mentioning things like “moving beyond the Church” or even beyond Jesus, and distorting faith in Jesus, His Father, the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Christ and the inspiration of Sacred Scripture

– Letters from the LCWR taking positions contrary to the Church in matters of women’s ordination and a correct pastoral approach to homosexual men and women.

– Silence on abortion and euthanasia

– Non-promotion of the Church’s teaching on family life and human sexuality

– Public statements disagreeing with positions taken by bishops

Let us pray for the renewal of the LCWR and for all women religious who are called to be a symbol, as spouses of Christ,  of Christ’s union with His Body the Church.

Safeguarding the Consecrated Life

A very thoughtful response to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious’  doctrinal assessment by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith comes from Mother Mary Assumpta Long, OP. Mother asks:  Why spend three years assessing the state of the LCWR and then subsequently mandate a five-year plan of change going forward?

Answer: It is the Church’s responsibility, assumed in love, to safeguard the beauty and gift of consecrated life at all times. This responsibility is most acute when the integrity of consecrated life begins to diminish, evidenced in this case by clear examples of dissent from the hierarchy and lack of authentic ecclesial communion. The CDF hopes that, through this mandate, members of the LCWR will awaken to once again “think with the Church.”

Read all entire article and the background behind Mother’s assessment at the National Catholic Register website.

Pope John Paul II wrote: Its universal presence and the evangelical nature of its witness are clear evidence — if any were needed — that the consecrated life is not something isolated and marginal, but a reality which affects the whole Church. … In effect, the consecrated life is at the very heart of the Church as a decisive element for her mission (Vita Consecrata, 36).


How to Tell a Humble Priest

On Saturday, April 14th, the Very Rev.  Cassian Folsom, OSB, received the IRL’s Pro Fidelitate et Virtute Award.  This video contains his acceptance speech entitled: “The Inseparable Link Between Holiness and Worship”.  I encourage everyone to listen to it in its entirety but we include a brief, written sample here. As one who witnessed his reverent celebration of the Holy Eucharist, I can definitely say that it felt like a small glimpse of Heaven on earth!

“The humble priest has a certain ars celebrandi, a certain way of carrying himself, a certain respect for the holy things, a fitting decorum in the presence of God. The arrogant priest has a different ars celebrandi, and the faithful can tell the difference immediately. The humble celebrant is transparent, so that the Lord can shine through. The priest knows that the liturgy is not primarily his work, but the work of the Holy Trinity, and his job is to be a good instrument and to get out of the way as much as possible so that the Lord is free to accomplish his work of grace within the hearts of those present.”

Fr. Cassian started his religious life at St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana, but in 1998 founded a new Benedictine community in Rome, moving in 2000 to the Monastery of San Benedetto in Norcia, Italy , the birthplace of Saint Benedict and his twin sister Saint Scholastica. The monastery follows a full observance of the Benedictine Rule and uses both the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite.

To support the monastery and become a Friend of Norcia, visit their website. Also, Father’s talks from the conference can be ordered from the IRL by calling (847)573-8975.



Mission of Our Lady of the Angels

In 1958, a fire raced though the Our Lady of the Angels School in Chicago, killing 92 students and three Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This traumatic and terrible event forever changed fire safety codes and the lives of all Chicagoans.

The parish closed in 1991 but in 2005, the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George invited Father Bob Lombardo, CFR, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal, to come to Chicago to re-establish a Catholic presence in the neighborhood where the population is now the non-Catholic poor. Seven years later, on Saturday, April 14th, Cardinal Francis George, OMI, officially rededicated Our Lady of the Angels Church.

“I didn’t know the history of this place until I got here. To be honest, it was depressing,” says the Rev. Bob Lombardo, an IRL Board Member. But what a difference a few years and many prayers make. The decaying structures are beautifully renovated. The presence of Fr. Bob, the volunteers and now a fledgling community called the Franciscans of the Eucharist, are really having an impact on the neighborhood, one of the poorest in Chicago. Programs offered include after school tutoring, classes for the elderly and a food pantry.

“It is not for us to be captured by death, tragedy and sorrow, but for us who have faith to walk through those moments with courage,” said Cardinal Francis George.

Searching for Someone

Often, educational debt is a stumbling block to a religious vocation. Take the case of Friar Anthony Serviam Maria, a simply professed Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate. In a story in Our Sunday Visitor (4/22/12), Friar Anthony tells how as a layman he went on a retreat with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal where Fr. Stan Fortuna challenged him to name his passion. What he realized was that what he loved (wilderness survival and primitive skills) did little for God. Feeling called to religious life but needing to pay down his debt, he applied for a grant from the Mater Eccelsiae Fund for Vocations, an organization that helps  to eliminate the obstacle an aspirant’s student loans present to answering his vocation.

Today Mater Eccelsiae is making payments on his remaining debt.  The man who lived a “pagan life” searching for something found Someone.


Bella Vita

It’s not often that you hear of a diocese asking women to prayerfully consider the call to religious life  so we must thank the Diocese of Des Moines for developing one called Bella Vita (which is Italian for “beautiful life”). And what a beautiful life!

The goal of Bella Vita is to introduce young women to Sisters joyfully living out God’s call in their own lives. The next event is scheduled for April 18, at St. Theresa Parish in Des Moines. The evening starts with 30 minutes of adoration followed by dinner and fellowship with a School Sister of Christ the King (an IRL Affiliate Community), from Lincoln, NE, and two Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus from Minnesota.

What a wonderful idea!

Last Titanic Story

Sorry, one more Titanic story (written Lord David Alton) because it comes full circle to the first one I noted about Fr. Thomas Browne, SJ, who was on the Titanic but providentially left her before she set sail for New York.

The Titanic was operated by the White Star Line whose chairman was J. Bruce Ismay, one of only 710 survivors of over 1500 passengers (and a pariah for his presumed cowardice). His father’s partner in the business was William Imrie who since he was childless, adopted his niece Amy in 1872 and made her his heir.

After her conversion to Catholicism, Amy embarked on a Grand Tour of Europe. While in Assisi at the basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, she vowed to give her life to Christ as a Poor Clare. When Imrie died in 1907, a nun of poverty became an extremely wealthy woman.

Amy, known as Mother Mary Clare, used her money to build the stunning church of St Mary of the Angels in Liverpool, England. Mother Mary Clare said that, “Liverpool people will never be able to visit Rome, so I will bring Rome to them.” What a beautiful testimony to the power and purpose of our beautiful cathedrals and churches so often castigated as a waste of money. Her grand nephew said that his great aunt “deliberately located the church in what was, and still is, one of the poorest wards in England. Her dream was to enable those less fortunate than herself to be able to worship in a setting containing architecture and works of art that would stand comparison with the finest in Europe.”

The Church is now closed but is open to the faithful. This year an selection of photos taken of the Titanic by Fr Francis Browne, SJ, who was himself a periodic visitor to Liverpool will be exhibited this weekend.

Going Down With the Ship

Here is another Titanic story on LifeSiteNews emerging from the 100th anniversary (April 15th) of the sinking of the unsinkable ship.

On April 12, 1914, a 42-year-old Catholic convert by the name of Fr. Thomas Byles was on his way to New York via the Titanic to officiate at his brother’s wedding. He had spent the day saying Mass for the second and third class passengers and was reportedly praying the Divine Office when the ship struck the iceberg.

According to eyewitnesses, Father Byles helped women and children get into the lifeboats, then heard confessions, gave absolution, and led passengers in reciting the Rosary. Agnes McCoy said that Father “stood on the deck with Catholics, Protestants and Jews kneeling around him” praying for the repose of the souls about to perish. His friend Fr. Patrick McKenna said, “He twice refused the offer of a place in a boat, saying his duty was to stay on the ship while one soul wanted his ministrations.”

After the shipwreck, a newspaper said of him: “Among those who safely reached the land again no one seems to have been aware of his presence on the ship, but we may hope that many who meet him in a blissful eternity will praise God that Father Thomas Byles was there to administer absolution unto them.”

His body was never identified. May this priest among priests rest in the peace of Christ.


Vatican Calls For Reform of the LCWR

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has called for reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and named Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle as its archbishop delegate for the initiative.” This was the headline on Zenit today. The release highlighted “addresses given at LCWR assemblies (that) contained serious theological and doctrinal errors.”

Most of the IRL women religious belong to communities that are part of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), the LCWR counterpart, that was founded in 1992 to promote religious life in the Unites States. The CMSWR seek to promote unity among Major Superiors, thus testifying to their union with the Church’s Magisterium and their love for the Vicar of Christ on earth. They also staunchly back the Bishops as they fight the assault on our religious liberty.

Let us pray that all faithful women religious may come together as one. The Church teaches that “the bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent Christ.” (CCC 862)

“They Cast Lots”

How beautiful our faith is and how visual are its signs in our cathedrals and in the relics that we treasure.

Here is one that I knew nothing about: the “Heiliger Rock,” now on display in the Cathedral of Trier, Germany, from April 13 – May 13, 2012.

According to tradition, the Heiliger Rock is the robe worn by Jesus for which the Roman soldiers cast lots (Jn 19:24). Found by St. Helena c.327 it is rarely on display.

Pope Benedict XVI, in a message to the Bishop of Trier, said that the robe (or tunic) made with a single piece of cloth, that is, with no seams, is a sign of “the unity of the Church, founded as one indivisible community by the love of Christ.” His love, the Holy Father says, “brings together that which has been divided.” The jubilee pilgrimage (it was first viewed in 1512) in keeping with this theme, has the motto: “Lead to unity that which is divided.”

“We ask the Lord,” says the Holy Father, “to guide us on the shared path of faith, to make it live again for us….growing together as Christians in faith, prayer and witness.”