Mother Cabrini Shrine Reopens

On September 30, 2012, the chapel that was once part of Columbus Hospital in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood was rededicated by Cardinal Francis George as the Mother Cabrini Shrine. Closed for 10 years, the shrine was once the chapel for the hospital which was torn down to make way for a luxury condominium tower. The shrine is located on the site where St. Frances Xavier Cabrini died in 1917.

Mother was the first American citizen to be declared a saint and the foundress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As an immigrant from Italy, she knew what it was like to arrive in a foreign country and be unwelcome.  But she carried out the Holy Father’s wishes and built hospitals, orphanages and schools in the New World – 67 foundations in her lifetime! Her motto came from Philippians 3:14: I can do all things in Him who strengthens me!”

Pope John Paul II said, “Her extraordinary activity drew its strength from prayer, especially from long periods before the tabernacle. Christ was everything to her.” In keeping with her spirit of prayer, the shrine is open for Eucharistic Adoration every Friday. If there are enough adorers, the hours will increase. When I was there, I was impressed by the steady stream of people who came and prayed.

The shrine itself is incredibly beautiful, a dazzling array of gold mosaics, carrera marble, frescoes and Florentine stained glass. In addition to the chapel, there is a small museum where you can see the bed where Mother died and other mementos of her life. There are also rooms available for meetings which the shrine staff will be using to introduce children along with their parents to the power of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

The shrine is nestled among high rise condos, vintage brownstones, brick apartments and busy Lincoln Park on Lake Michigan. As more people discover this oasis in the desert, perhaps it will become a center for spiritual renewal in the heart of the big city. As we pray for religious freedom in our country, Mother reminds us that “we make a serious mistake …if the foundation stone of our moral edifice be other than Christ and His Church.”

Cistercian Nuns Plan New Monastery

The Cistercian nuns of the Valley of  Our Lady Monastery in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, are making plans for a new monastery.

According to a member of the architecutural firm of Cram and Ferguson Architects, it is “the first new traditional ecclesiastical project to draw on the simplicity and balance of Cistercian monastic architecture, and the first ever undertaken in the United States.” The principal of the firm traveled to Le Thoronet, Sénanque, and Silvacane in France to absorb and understand the ancient Cistercian traditions and architecture, and how to make it practical for today.

The sisters have the fortunate problem of outgrowing the space of their present monastery. Plus the noise of the world has grown around them and they are seeking a more contemplative site suitable to their way of life. The site for the proposed monastery is 229 acres in rural Iowa County southwest of Madison, Wisconsin. The new monastery will be able to house 35 sisters, in order to handle the anticipated future growth of the community. They currently number 17.

The Valley of Our Lady Monastery is an IRL Affiliate community. They were  founded in 1957 by the nuns of Frauenthal Abbey in Switzerland whose own foundation dates to the 13th century. They are the Cistercian Order’s first and only community of nuns in the English-speaking world. They receive their inspiration from the Sacred Scriptures, desert monastic tradition, the Rule of St. Benedict and the documents of the Church’s magisterium. And of course the Cistercian Fathers of the 12th century, most notably, St. Bernard of Clairvaux. They pray the Divine Office in Latin with Gregorian Chant. 

If you would like to donate to the building project, please visit their website.

The nuns also invite us to join them in praying the Sub Tuum, the oldest known prayer to the Mother of God which daily ends their office of Lauds.

We fly to thy patronage,
O holy Mother of God;

despise not our petitions
in our necessities,

but deliver us always
from all dangers,

O glorious and blessed Virgin.



Plus bibo, plus sitio

The more I drink, the more I thirst.

These are the words of Peter in the Dialogues as he thirsts for more miracle stories about St. Benedict. They are pertinent today too for the Benedictine Monks of Norcia who inaugurated a brewery this summer to help sustain the monastery, located on at the birthplace of St. Benedict of Nursia. The beer is called appropriately enough Birrra Nursia and has the motto: Ut Laetifect Cor (from Psalm 104 – how wine is a gift from God to gladden men’s hearts).

The Archbishop reminded those in attendance of the miracle of Cana where Christ performed a miracle which brought joy to the hearts of the wedding party.

Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B., the founder of the monastery, has been undergoing treatment for cancer which, thanks be to God, is now in remission. He joyfully celebrated with Bro. Evagrius as Brother professed solemn vows on August 11th. In July, four young men participated in a discernment program. May God bless them with holy vocations.

If you are interested in becoming a Benedictine oblate associated with the monastery at Norcia, contact Brother Anthony, the Oblate Director. It is necessary to come to Italy for an initial retreat and then begin the Oblate Novitiate which lasts one year.

Oblates are people who are attracted to Benedictine spirituality but those whose state in life obliges them to live in the world. The monks remember all of the oblates in prayer at the closing of the Divine Office: May the Divine assistance remain always with us, and with our absent brethren.

The Martyrs of North America

Yesterday in Rome, St. Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized a saint of the Catholic Church. The faith was brought to her by men who left their countries for certain martyrdom in the New World. At her birthplace of Ossernenon (New York), three Jesuit missionaries lost their lives as they strove to bring the Good News to the natives of the land. Kateri herself was baptized and instructed by a Jesuit missionary and then fled to Canada due to religious persecution.

Pope Benedict XVI said of her:

“May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are. St. Kateri, protectress of Canada and the first American Indian saint, we entrust you to the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in all of North America.”

I did not realize that Kateri’s grave site is revered and known. In an article in the National Catholic Register (10/21/12),  it says that she was placed in a coffin made by sympathetic Frenchman and buried on Holy Thursday, 1680. Her remains were later placed in a marble tomb at St. Francis Xavier Mission in the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake, near Montreal, Quebec. (See photo right)

The National Shrine to St. Kateri is located near Fonda, New York, and has been under the guardianship of the Conventual Franciscans since 1938. The Founder, Fr. Thomas Grassman, OFM Conv., discovered the original Iroquois village in 1950, today the only fully excavated Iroquois Indian village in the country. Nearby is the spring whose water was used to baptize Kateri. The clear water drawn by pilgrims is credited yet today with many miraculous cures.

You can also visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs not far away in Auriesville, NY, commemorating the lives of the martyrs St. Isaac Jogues, St. Rene Goupil and St. John Lalande. It is also the birthplace of St. Kateri who was born there ten years after the martyrdom of St. Isaac Jogues.


Little Sisters of the Poor and the HHS Mandate

The Little Sisters of the Poor have 30 homes in the US serving 2500 residents. Here are some quotes from Sister Constance Veit about the potential impact of the HHS mandate on the poor and elderly that the sisters care for so lovingly.

If we chose to offer insurance without the objectionable services, we would honor our consciences, but we’d have to pay $100 per day per employee. As the cardinal (Timothy Cardinal Dolan) figures it, for an organization with 50 employees, that would mean almost $2 million per year. So if the mandate is still standing in 2014, all of our U.S. homes will be facing serious financial difficulties.

We stand with the U.S. bishops and so many others in advocating that the mandate be struck down, or that, in the very least, there be a viable exemption for freedom of conscience.

I have been a Little Sister for 25 years, and I have never seen our congregation so active on a public issue. So that is an indication of its importance. The only other time I have seen a response like this from our congregation was in the early 1990s, when euthanasia and assisted suicide were being debated in the European Parliament, and our superior general at that time took a public stand. Normally, our lives are very hidden.

What we fear is that, if the federal government succeeds in this case, there are other areas where they could exert pressure or enact measures that could endanger our apostolate — particularly in end-of-life care and in the possible rationing of care to the elderly as a cost-saving measure.

The Brotherhood of Hope

On July 14th, college students at Florida State University (FSU) were able to experience something most unusual and unique: the profession of perpetual vows by Brother Clinton Reed, BH. About 400 college students were in attendance at the Co-Cathedral in Tallahassee, Florida,  as Bro. Clinton gave his whole life over to Jesus.

“I was overwhelmed,” said one FSU junior. “It was such a beautiful image of sacrifice to see this man literally lay down his whole self before the altar.” Bishop Gregory Parkes, himself an FSU alumnus, presided at the ceremony and urged Bro. Clinton to preserve “an undivided heart.”  During the ceremony, Bro Clinton was presented with a broad sword, signifying “the Sword of the Spirit” that is, the Word of God.

The Brotherhood of Hope, an IRL Affiliate Community, began in 1980 as new form of fraternal common life for lay brothers. Their first  apostolic work was in campus ministry at Rutgers University. Today, they also have a presence at FSU, Northeastern University and Boston College in addition to conducting retreats and mission trips. Their motto is Primum Deus, Deus Solum – God First, God Alone.

In the Brotherhood we are a band of Brothers, closer than any other organization of men – whether military platoon or social club – by virtue of our consecration in Christ.

The Reason for Hope

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has a way of succinctly expressing profound truths that really resonate with me. On October 15, a film entitled Bells of Europe (Campane d’Europa) was shown in a special screening for the Synod of Bishops. In it, Pope Benedict expresses the 3 reasons why he is hopeful about the Christian future of Europe:

  • The first reason for my hope consists in the fact that the desire for God, the search for God, is profoundly inscribed into each human soul and cannot disappear.
  • The second reason for my hope lies in the fact that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, faith in Jesus Christ, is quite simply true; and the truth never ages.
  • A third reason is evident in the fact that this sense of restlessness today exists among the young who are beginning their journey making new discoveries of the beauty of Christianity; not a cut-price or watered-down version, but Christianity in all its radicalism and profundity.

He goes on to say that Christianity in Europe has deep foundations. That is Christianity; it is true and the truth always has a future.

Embracing the Past and Looking to the Future

In this Year of Faith, the Holy Father has asked each one of us to rediscover the Faith that we profess, celebrate, live and pray. For religious congregations, it is an opportunity to reflect on their founding charism and embrace with fresh vigor this guiding Spirit made known in a particular time and place in the world.

For the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in East Peoria, Illinois, part of this means a return to a more traditional habit. They will soon be wearing a full length habit with a longer veil, scapular, cord and the Franciscan Crown rosary.

As an aside, the Franciscan Crown rosary commemorates the  seven joys of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the Annunciation, Visitation, Birth of our Lord, Adoration of the Magi, Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, the Resurrection, and the Assumption of Mary into Heaven and her Coronation). At the end of the seventh decade two Hail Marys are added to complete the number of years (72) that the Blessed Virgin is said to have lived on earth.

The congregation is an IRL Affiliate Community whose primary apostolate is to care for the sick and the poor. However, their co-founder, Bishop John Lancaster Spalding, was a great promoter of education. Their Major Superior, Sr. Judith Ann, OSF, recently announced that they would like to expand their work to serve in the schools of the Diocese of Peoria, a return to their roots.

For more information about the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, please visit their website or blog.

The Lord Gave Me Brothers

The month of October is a Franciscan month as well as one dedicated to the Holy Rosary because during the month we celebrate the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4). The vocation blog of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal has a beautiful story about St. Francis that reflects his love for his fellow friars, his brothers.

Fr. Isaac Mary, CFR, tells us that Perfectae Caritatis, the Vatican II document on the renewal of religious life, says that it is much easier to live the vow of chastity in an environment of genuine fraternal charity. One could add that it is also easier to live out a marriage vocation in a house where genuine charity prevails.

Saint Francis had a profound love for God and also for his fellow man. In his short Testament, it is written: “Francis, makes the simple, yet profound statement that ‘the Lord gave me some brothers….'”  One day, one of the young brothers was literally starving from his intense fasting. Francis, rather than embarrass the young brother or chastise him, roused all of the brethren and had them eat grapes “with the young man so that he would not be ashamed of his weakness.”  Francis loved them all with the love of the Father.

Father Isaac Mary concludes: “Fraternal life and charity is meant to be a particular source of joy and strength for a religious in any community.  St. Francis understood this completely and he continues to teach it to us, the brothers whom God has given him!”