How Altar Breads Are Made

The Passionists in Erlanger, Kentucky, make altar breads as a means to support their apostolate of intercessory prayer for the congregations of Passionsists, for the Church and for the world.  When a 2nd grade class made a visit to the monastery ahead of their first Communion, they wanted to  know all about the process altar bread-making. Because the nuns are cloistered, the children were not allowed into the work area so this video was made to open a door into this very prayerful manufacturing “facility.”

The video is a useful educational tool for a first communion class but very interesting for adults as well. The sisters pray for all the recipients of the hosts, that the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ that they receive may truly bring them more in likeness to our Savior.

By the way, their diocese is celebrating a Year of Women Religious and the Passionist Nuns will be hosting an open house on Sunday, October 14, 2012, from 1:00 to 4:30. They will be available in their parlor to greet visitors and to  answer any questions.

The Life That Beckons

In his regular column in our local Catholic Newspaper the Catholic New World, Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., told us about his recurrence of cancer and his thoughts about what is to come. He reflects that people like to be in control or at least think they are in control but in actual fact, “we are never in control….Eventually, it is this immediately tangible world that becomes the ‘strange land’ and it is the next that beckons us as our true home.'”

On the Feast of the Assumption as he was undergoing tests the Cardinal read the homily preached by the Holy Father on that day. Here is an excerpt:

One thing, one hope is certain: God awaits us, He attends to us, we are not headed for a void, we are expected. God awaits us and, passing to the other world, we will find the Mother’s goodness, we will find our loved ones, we will find Eternal Love. God awaits us: this is our great joy and our great hope that is born precisely on this feast.”

The Cardinal prays that “I and all those God has given me to know and love here might live in such a way that God’s will for the salvation of the world might be realized. God bless you.”



Consecrated Unto Eternal Life

In 1944, the Dominican Monastery of St. Jude in Marbury, Alabama, was founded to provide a place where those who aspired to the contemplative life could enter regardless of race. On August 18, 2012, the nuns had the joy of witnessing the solemn profession of Sr. Mary Jordan of the Holy Family, OP, who is now totally consecrated to God until death.

Sr. Mary Jordan is originally from Loveland, Ohio,  and graduated from her family’s home school (wow!). She got her first taste of Dominican life by the witness of the Dominican Friars at her home parish. Shortly after her graduation from college, she met the Dominican nuns in Marbury and was impressed by the peace and joy of the Sisters along with their monastic life, Latin chant, Marian consecration and devotion to Jesus, present in the Eucharist.

Rev. Walter Wagner, OP, who preached the homily during the Mass, gave a beautiful description of the meaning and symbolism of the contemplative life: “Nuns have befriended the solitary nature of the soul. Every person is essentially alone, and God wants to meet us in the solitude of our interior life where we are alone with Him. Nuns know this, embrace it, and are overflowing with joy. Their life is a promise to us—they have gone ahead of us in anticipation of Heaven.”

The Dominicans Nuns in Marbury became an IRL Affiliate Community in 2010. They currently number 8 nuns including one postulant and one novice. The Dominican nuns were founded by St. Dominic in 1206 to support the holy preaching of the friars by a life of prayer and penance.  In other words, they have totally given themselves to Jesus Christ for the salvation of souls.

“Many elements attracted me to the monastery,” said Sister Mary Jordan, “but there is one reason why I can make vows today ‘until death’: I am convinced that Jesus wants me to belong completely to Him, to seek Him constantly in purity of heart, and to give my life in union with Him for the salvation of souls.” With Sr. Mary Jordan to share in her joy were her family, friends, Dominican Friars, Nashville Dominicans and Sister Servants of the Eternal Word.
To see pictures of the Solemn Profession, click here.

An “Old Fashioned Order”

The National Catholic Reporter recently had an article about a group of “old-fashioned nuns,” actually what I could call a timeless group of sisters carrying on the traditions of the ages. The LCWR was meeting nearby and the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus were carrying on with their work of caring for the aged and pre-schoolers.

These sisters belong to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), a group that comprises about 10,000 sisters and according to the article, they are young and growing. About 15 years ago, these Carmelites were “stagnant,” not attracting vocations. But then they emphasized their traditional life and vocations started coming in. Many young women are attracted to the wearing of the habit for as Sr. Mary Michael Reiss, 27, says: “I thought if I’m going to do this with my life, to give everything, I want people to know about it, darn it! I wanted the whole church.”

The spirit of the Carmel DCJ comes from the faith experience of Mother Mary Teresa of St. Joseph. Meditating upon and contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus, wounded and bleeding, yet burning with love for mankind, a desire was born in her to love the Sacred Heart with her whole being and make Him loved in every heart He had created.

For more information about this IRL Affiliate Community, see their website.

A Visible Sign of Witness

According to the Catholic News Agency, the Augustinians of Conversion,  a Catholic order of nuns in Spain, is abounding in vocations. Located on the Way of St. James, they were founded in 1999 by Mother Prado who left her Augustinian convent to lead a more contemplative life. They welcome pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela with a bed, dinner, mass and a special blessing. These one-on-one encounters have borne fruit. The order started with 4 sisters and it is now up to 26 with 8 more in discernment.

The best vocation program is a face to face encounter with real live people. The Sisters of Life often walk the streets in their habits and talk to the people who approach them. (See them praying (right) at an abortion clinic.)  Four religious in habits got a rousing round of applause as they came up to a Chick-Fi-A in Illinois. Every priest can tell the story of being stopped by someone in an airport terminal for confession.

It just points out the power of a visible sign of witness. Of pointing to Whom you belong. It’s an irresistible draw.

The Rise of Hermits

I saw on the internet a list of the Top 10 Hermits in Church history. One might come to the conclusion that this way of life is part of ancient history.

But Canon 603 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law says:

Besides institutes of consecrated life, the Church recognizes the life of hermits or anchorites, in which Christ’s faithful withdraw further from the world and devote their lives to the praise of God and the salvation of the world through the silence of solitude and through constant prayer and penance. Hermits are recognized by law as dedicated to God in consecrated life if, in the hands of the diocesan Bishop, they publicly profess, by a vow or some other sacred bond, the three evangelical counsels, and then lead their particular form of life under the guidance of the diocesan Bishop.

There are several hermits that are members of the IRL. There is also a community of Carmelite Hermits in Houston, MN. The live in separate hermitages and come together for sunday/holy day meals, one hour of daily prayer and the mass. “Our life is a vocation to prayer,” says Sister Miriam, one of the hermits. “This total union with God is how we are called to serve the Church.”

There is also a IRL men’s Affiliate Community that are hermits. They are the Hermits of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. They live a life of silence, solitude, prayer and penance for the good of the Church and the salvation of the world. The picture to the right is of Bro. Martin Mary who was ordained to the priesthood in May of 2012.

By the way, the top 10 hermits of all time are: St. Simon Stylites, St. Jerome, St. Mary of Egypt, St. Antony the Great, St. Benedict of Nursia, St. Macarius of Egypt, St. Isaac the Syrian, St. Sergius of Radonezh, St. Meinrad and St. Paul the Hermit. (Note to self: Need to read up on some of these hermits!)




St. Bernard’s Sons

Today is the memorial of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Cistercian Doctor of the Church and a giant in Church history. During his lifetime, he founded 68 monasteries and his legacy lives on today. In recognition of his eloquence, he is called Doctor Mellifluus (Honey-Sweet/Spoken). Pope Pius XII wrote an Encyclical on Bernard with the same title.

The famous Cistercian writer Thomas Merton said of Bernard that he “could be as tender as a mother to anyone who did not give evidence of being a hardened pharisee, and who had in his heart something of Christ’s unending patience with the weak sinner.”

The Cistercian Abbey of the Genesee is an IRL Affiliate Community founded in 1951 from the Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, burial place of Thomas Merton. Just over a week ago, they celebrated the entrance of a postulant, Ed Pierson, followed by the priestly ordination of Fr. Isaac Slater who celebrated his first Mass on August 12th.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, patroness of all Cistercian monasteries, intercede for her sons, that they may receive many holy vocations, and honor the legacy handed down by their great Father, Bernard.

The Nine Postures of Prayer

On August 8th, the feast of of St. Dominic, Pope Benedict XVI gave a talk at Castel Gandolfo about Dominic’s life of prayer. He says, “He left behind no writings on prayer, but the Dominican tradition has collected and handed on his living experience in a work titled: The Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic. This book was composed between the year 1260 and 1288 by a Dominican friar. It helps us to understand something of the saint’s interior life, and it also helps us, as different as we are, to learn something about how to pray.”

Here are his nine ways of prayer:

1. Inclinations: Assume a humble posture before God, one that emphasizes your own lowliness before the greatness of God.
2. Prostrations: Lie face down before the altar of God reciting the verse from Saint Luke’s gospel (18:13): ‘Lord be merciful to me a sinner.’
3. Penance: Perform penance by disciplining yourself. Self-discipline is needed and vital to mature spiritual growth.
4. Genuflections: Remain before the altar looking at the Cross with frequent genuflections.
5. Contemplation: Stand before the altar in contemplation with the palms of your hands turned inwards. Then clasp your hands and raise them to your shoulders all the while in fervent prayer.
6. Earnest Intercession: Pray with arms outstretched in the form of a cross. Quote scripture appropriate to this posture.
7. Supplication: Standing erect stretch your whole body upwards with hands joined and raised towards heaven. Often Dominic would open his hands as though in receipt of something. Pray aloud saying: ‘Hear O God, the voice of my prayer when I pray to you, when I lift up my hands to your holy temple.’ (Psalm 27)
8. Thoughtful Reading: Of scripture or scripture commentary. Lose yourself both intellectually and emotionally in this reading, sometimes whispering questions posed in the text.
9. Praying on a Journey: While traveling, lose yourself in prayer, meditation and contemplation.
            Pope Benedict adds that the saint “reminds us of the importance of exterior attitudes in our prayer: kneeling, standing before the Lord, fixing one’s gaze on the Crucified, pausing to recollect oneself in silence are not secondary; rather, they help us to place ourselves interiorly, with the whole of our person, in relation to God.”

Carrying Mary Across the Finish Line

When Meseret Defar won the gold medal in the 5000m race at the 2012 Olympic Games, she pulled out of her jersey an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary holdingthe baby Jesus.

I am reminded that when we cross our own finish  lines from this life into the next, I hope that we will have the Blessed Mother with us on the journey. I saw this prayer at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and jotted it down so I could think of it often.

There is no hound as fleet of foot,

nor young soul so quick to win the race,

nor horse to finish the course,

as the Mother of God to the death bed of one who needs her intercession.

Happy Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary!


Doctor’s Conversion Story

A story in the Chicago Tribune on July 30th noted that a prominent reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. Anthony Caruso, has given up his lucrative practice, saying reproductive technology has gone too far. He is proposing opening the St. Anne Center for Reproductive Health, a facility that would adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. He is currently a doctor at Alexian Brothers Hospital in Elk Grove Village, IL.

In 2002, Dr. Caruso related in a newspaper story how he helped a lesbian couple conceive a baby through IVF. Later, his courageous parish priest asked him to resign from the parish council saying his words and actions had violated Church teaching. This did not make the doctor angry, rather it caused him to think. His wife meanwhile was growing in her faith and attending as a family St. John Cantius Church which offers the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Mass daily. He also read the Church’s document Dignitas Personae, or “The Dignity of a Person,” which explained the Church’s teachings on reproductive health. According the the reporter, Dr. Caruso “walked away from his practice and into a confessional at St. John Cantius Roman Catholic Church to repent.”

The priests and brothers of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius are an IRL Affiliate Community who serve in parishes and help Catholics to rediscover a profound sense of the Sacred through solemn liturgies, devotions, sacred art and music, as well as instruction in the heritage of the Church, catechetics and Catholic culture.

What a testimony to the power of Truth, the heroism of a man truly seeking Truth and how the Truth sets you free.