In September, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI paid a special visit to a Pietà located in the shrine at Etzelsbach (Thuringia), Germany. Every year there is a traditional equestrian pilgrimage, which is held on the second Sunday after the feast of the Visitation. This commemorates the healing of horses who were cured when taken to the shrine during an equine epidemic.
The Holy Father obviously loves the pilgrimage site and has pondered deeply the miraculous image contained within. Located in East Germany, it survived most recently the Nazi reign of terror and the Communist takeover of the region. Here are excerpts of his relfections:
“In most representations of the Pietà, the dead Jesus is lying with his head facing left, so that the observer can see the wounded side of the Crucified Lord,” explained the Pontiff. “Here in Etzelsbach, however, the wounded side is concealed, because the body is facing the other way.”
It seems to the Holy Father that “the hearts of Jesus and his mother are turned to one another; they come close to each other. They exchange their love.”
“It is not self-fulfilment that truly enables people to flourish…. Rather it is an attitude of self-giving directed towards the heart of Mary and hence also towards the heart of the Redeemer.”
For a detailed history of the statue from a Zenit article, click here. Or go to Fr. Z’s blog for an analysis of the Holy Father’s talk at the shrine.
Happy Feast of the Visitation!
On May 18, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI expressed to US Bishops during an Ad Limina visit his “deep gratitude for the example of fidelity and self-sacrifice given by many consecrated women in your country, and to join them in praying that this moment of discernment will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the revitalization and strengthening of their communities in fidelity to Christ and the Church, as well as to their founding charisms.”
As the Year of Faith approaches (October), the Holy Father added that he hopes that all people will rediscover and “re-appropriate with joy and gratitude the priceless treasure of our faith.” Furthermore, “With the progressive weakening of traditional Christian values, and the threat of a season in which our fidelity to the Gospel may cost us dearly, the truth of Christ needs not only to be understood, articulated and defended, but to be proposed joyfully and confidently as the key to authentic human fulfillment and to the welfare of society as a whole.”
As we approach Pentecost, may we, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, have the courage of the Apostles to be bearers of the Good News in a world hostile to Christian values.
On May 20, 2012, the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration marked the 50th anniversary of the foundation of Mother Angelica’s Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Alabama. The monastery was dedicated on May 20, 1962.
By the early 70’s the sisters were duplicating Mother’s talks and printing “mini” books to explain the basics of the Faith. And in 1981, Mother launched Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) in the monastery garage and the rest as they say is history.
I remember visiting EWTN in the late 90’s and attending one of Mother’s Live shows. She wandered around the set before the show began greeting people as if she didn’t have a care in the world and sat down with only seconds to spare. Everything came from a heart prepared by and with prayer. I had a message to give to her from a mutual friend that day and felt somewhat awkward doing it just minutes before she was to go on the air but she gave me her full attention and spent sometime talking with me. I was very impressed.
I thank God for EWTN which gave my housebound relatives a participation in the life of the Church and great consolation in the weeks before their deaths. May EWTN flourish and grow to the ends of the earth in all the languages of the human race.
For the full article in the National Catholic Register and many reflections on the 50 years of history, click here.
Girls in a Little Flowers group made a field trip to the Poor Clares of Charlotte, NC.
Future Vocations? Really liked the picture.
In Rome last week, a conference was held at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross to resurrect the name and works of Jesuit Jean Cardinal Daniélou who died in 1974 in mysterious circumstances that clouded his work as a one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century. His outspokenness on the truths of the Faith made him unpopular with the intelligentsia but his views on the decline of vocations and religious orders is still right on.
In an interview given in 1972, here are the reasons he gives for crisis facing religious institutions:
- The evangelical counsels are no longer considered as consecrations to God, but are seen in a sociological and psychological perspective.
- The group dynamic replaces religious obedience.
- All regularity of the life of prayer is abandoned and the first consequence of this state of confusion is the disappearance of vocations, because young people require a serious formation.
- In the name of a false secularization, men and women are renouncing their habits, abandoning their works in order to take their places in secular institutions, substituting social and political activities for the worship of God.
- A false conception of freedom brings with it the devaluing of the constitutions and rules and exalts spontaneity and improvisation.
He concludes by saying that “experience will demonstrate if the vocations are more numerous in the houses of strict observance or in the houses of mitigated observance.” I think we can answer that question today, at least in the Western world.
Our local seminary’s magazine (The Bridge – excellent by the way) has an article this issue about a new community of young women in Chicago called the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist. Why are they in a seminary magazine? Because part of their charism is to develop a strong relationship with diocesan priests and they are in fact studying there to earn a Masters Degree in Divinity.
Led by Fr. Bob Lombardo, CFR, the sisters take to heart St. Francis’ admonition: Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves, that He, who gives Himself totally to you, may receive you totally. They live in a desperate neighborhood of Chicago and they strive to help the local families with food and household goods and the children by keeping them out of gangs and off drugs. One of their goals is to have perpetual Eucharistic adoration in the newly renovated Church. After their theological training, they will teach religion in Catholic schools.
Please pray for them and the violent streets of Chicago that the Lord’s peace may come to dwell in all hearts.
Tim Drake, writing in the National Catholic Register, has an excellent article which summarizes my frustration over the misleading, inaccurate and totally secular portrayal of the LCWR doctrinal assessment in the press.
One would think that every nun, sister and woman in America is up in arms and angry at the Vatican. Hardly the case.
Tim mentions a Washington Post article in which the female author writes: “For more than a thousand years, women like Mary have entered religious life hoping to find a safe place where they might receive an education and protection from the oppression of marriage and the dangers of child-bearing.” She goes on to say that the Church’s contemporary view of women is that “they are equal, but inferior.”
Eh? Who besides Jesus, the Son of God, is considered more blessed in the Church than a woman – the Blessed Virgin Mary?
Tim goes on to say: “Would Mary, like Dominican Sister Laurie Brink, say that she was “moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus?”
I agree with Tim when he says that too many religious women have been betrayed by their leadership. They are the White Martyrs of our time. Tim calls it a generational hijacking. “How many dying religious orders continue to hang on to the property and money obtained through previous social capital while betraying the charism of their founders?”
Check out the whole article here.
The bishops of the United States of America have issued a call to action to defend religious liberty and to protect the First Freedom of the Bill of Rights.
The bishops have asked that the fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, be dedicated to the theme of a “Fortnight for Freedom.”
This period will be a special time of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action that will emphasize the double heritage of Christian and American liberty.
“As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we address an urgent summons to our fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad,” they declared.
In support of this effort, the Handmaids of the Precious Blood (www.nunsforpriests.org) in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, have asked that anyone interested in supporting this effort send their petitions for the nation and for our leaders to Cor Jesu Monastery, PO Box 90, Jemez Springs, NM, 87025. The petitions will be placed under the high altar throughout the nun’s Corpus Christi novena (May 30th – June 7th), included in their Mass intentions and will remain at the altar until July 4th.
The Handmaids of the Precious Blood, an IRL Affiliate Community, are cloistered nuns offering their lives for the sanctification of priests in Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration.
On April 29, Pope Benedict XVI ordained nine men to the priesthood. In his Regina Caeli address following the Eucharistic celebration, he provided us with a beautiful image of a vocation:
Dear friends, let us pray for the Church, for every local community, that it may be like a watered garden in which all the seeds of vocation that God scatters in abundance sprout and ripen. Let us pray that this garden may be cultivated everywhere, with the joy of feeling that we are all called, in the variety of our gifts.
Let us pray for all men and women to prayerfully discern their vocation from the Lord. If we do this, we will have strong families, vibrant religious life and a holy nation.
Bulgarian archaeologists have uncovered what they believe is the oldest Christian monastery in Europe. It is hard to verify and others make a similar claim (Candida Casa monastery, c.371 AD, Galloway, Scotland & St. Martin monastery, Pyrénées-Orientales, France, c. 373 AD) however no one can doubt its antiquity. It is believed to have been founded by St. Athanasius himself c. 344 AD. Studies at the Vatican have confirmed that St. Athanasius was present at the Church Council in Serdica (modern Sofia, Bulgaria) in 343 AD.
St. Athanasius was the Bishop of Alexandria and is a Doctor of the Church He was born c. 296 and died May 2, 373. Known as the “greatest champion of Catholic belief on the subject of the Incarnation”, during his lifetime he was known as the “Father of Orthodoxy.” St. Athanasius, pray for us today!