The Contemplative Life Today

In an article in Religious Life magazine, Very Rev. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B. was asked about the resurgence of men entering contemplative Benedictine life. What is drawing them, specifically, to his monastery San Benedetto? It is, he said, the experience of a radical faith in God lived out among like-minded brothers.

Father Cassian views monastic life as the perfect instrument for the New Evangelization. It is the best medicine for the God-lessness that pervades society for it is a life imbued with God at every turn, a life filled with His presence and beauty.

Over and over again, people have come into San Benedetto “by chance” and have emerged changed by their experience of the liturgy, reverently celebrated. The Benedictine’s witness of prayer and awe-inspiring liturgy is the contribution the monks can make to the New Evangelization.

Father also mentions the eight vices that are part of the pre-Benedictine tradition: gluttony, lust, avarice, acedia, vainglory, anger, pride and sadness. It is interesting that sadness is mentioned because there is a lot of sadness and aimlessness in the world today. It seems to me that this is the age-old sadness with the age-old answer: Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.


Little Brothers of St. Francis

When a community of faithful religious disbands, it is like a death in the family.

Br. James Curran, L.B.S.F. has been guiding the Little Brothers of Saint Francis for 42 years. A past recipient of the IRL’s Pro Fidelitate et Virtute award, Brother James has been a beacon of light to the poor in Boston. The Good News, he says, that he left “the multitude, the down and out, the people in the streets whom we have embraced in our works of mercy is the good news of God’s Divine Mercy.” Brother strove and succeeded in living the “Gospel without compromise.”

In his letter to his faithful supporters, Brother James says he is “still convinced that God gave us our charism as a simple response to the Gospel and will continue to call others to that forma vita (way of life) so dear to St. Francis: contemplative presence among the poorest of the poor.” May others follow in his footsteps, albeit big ones to fill.

Brother James can be reached at  Don Orione Nursing Home in East Boston, MA.

May God bless him and all those who knelt in profound adoration before the Eucharistic Lord in his little chapel before going out to serve those whom the world has forgotten.


Merry Christmas

(Jesus) was sent by God the Father to save us above all from the evil deeply rooted in man and in history: the evil of separation from God, the prideful presumption of being self-sufficient, of trying to compete with God and to take his place, to decide what is good and evil, to be the master of life and death (Genesis 3:1-7). This is the great evil, the great sin, from which we human beings cannot save ourselves unless we rely on God’s help, unless we cry out to him: “Veni ad salvandum nos! Come to save us!”

Little Sisters of the Poor Shutting Down?

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Little Sisters of the Poor who care for the poor and elderly are concerned that Obamacare could drive them out of business. And that business is not to make money but to provide the aged poor with a loving home for the remainder of their days on earth, free of charge. The sisters rely on donations to  care for their residents.

To be forced to provide a health plan  that includes things like sterilization and contraception coverage to their 300 sisters serving in 30 US cities goes against Catholic moral teaching and a well-formed conscience. The fines for not providing coverage would force the sisters out of business. Is this religious liberty?

The Little Sisters are also in the forefront of the anti-euthanasia fight. As George Weigel said in a column: The Little Sisters of the Poor and their residents are living reminders that there are no disposable human beings; that everyone is a someone for whom the Son of God entered the world, suffered and died; and that we read others out of the human family at our moral and political peril.

Prayer is the best answer to combat evil. Help us, O Lord, to be able to care for your littlest ones in our nursing homes, hospitals, schools.

The New Evangelization in Arizona

The School Sisters of Christ the King hold a special place in the hearts of those of us at the IRL for their founder, Bishop Glennon P. Flavin, was President of the IRL from 1981 to 1987. He founded the School Sisters in 1976 in the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, to serve in the schools of the diocese and to pass on the Faith as the 3rd Millennium approached.

This summer, at the invitation of a priest of the Diocese of Gallup, NM, four sisters traveled to New Mexico to go door to door in the town of LaChee on the Navaho Reservation. Over 200 homes now have a crucifix and/or a picture of the Good Shepherd hanging on the wall, three boys came to Church for the first time and entered CCD, another girl and her mother are interested in RCIA, and 30 children attended Good Shepherd Summer Camp. The sisters went to over 300 homes where they spoke to the people about Jesus, prayed with them, and invited them to Mass.

The sisters asked: was it a success or failure? The answer: “it is not ours to judge…for the evangelizing work of the Church is an extension of Christ’s mission…We, as His members, are just privileged, and commanded, to participate in it.”

This Fall the sisters welcomed two postulants, both from Nebraska, and celebrated Sr. Mary Grace’s reception into the Novitiate. Sr. Teresa Marie made her first profession and Sr. Marie Caritas professed perpetual vows. They are a growing, lively community, very welcoming to young women discerning a vocation. The sisters also rejoiced that a former student has entered the seminary.

The School Sisters of Christ the King, “in the spirit of St. Alphonsus, are devoted to the Passion of the Lord, their crucified King, and have a special love for Mary, their Queen.”

Ut Christus Regnet! May Christ the King Reign in your Hearts!


The Shroud of Turnin – in Summit New Jersey!

It is a dream of many people to to travel to Turin, Italy, to see the Shroud of Turin, the burial cloth of Christ. Well, there is an option closer to home at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey. And this copy of the original has a supernatural quality all its own!

This replica of the shroud was commissioned by Maria Maddalena of Austria, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, in April, 1624. It was placed on the real shroud for a while and this is the amazing thing – the wound on the side of the original STAINED THE COPY! In 1987, 15 scientists from the Association of Scientists and Scholars International for the Shroud of Turin arrived at the Dominican monastery in Summit to study this copy, and they affirmed that the stain on the copy is blood and of same blood type as those found on the original shroud.

The Duchess presented the replica to the Nuns of St. Catherine’s Monastery in Rome who had it in their safekeeping for almost 300 years. In 1924, the nuns in Rome presented the Summit Dominicans with this treasure. For years it was kept within the nuns’ enclosure but now it is available for public viewing. The chapel is located at 543 Springfield Avenue in Summit, New Jersey. It is open from 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM daily.

Pope Benedict XVI asks of us during this Year of Faith that we “may deepen our knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in Him.” The mystery that the shroud teaches us to meditate on is Holy Saturday, the “‘no man’s land’ between the death and the Resurrection, but this ‘no man’s land’ was entered by One, the Only One, who passed through it with the signs of his Passion for man’s sake: Passio Christi. Passio hominis. And the Shroud speaks to us precisely about this moment….The voice of God resounded in the realm of death. The unimaginable occurred: namely, Love penetrated ‘hell.'”

The Power of Truth

Fourteen years ago, Benedictine monks from the French Abbey of Notre-Dame de Fontgombault (a member of the Solesmes Congregation) arrived in Oklahoma to start the new foundation of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek Abbey. In 1998, Most Rev. Edward Slattery welcomed the 13 monks  who began a new chapter of Benedictine life in the United States. It was a long journey home for some of them who had actually left America years before in search of “the purely contemplative form of Benedictine monastic life that seemed to be missing in their homeland.”

It all started in the 1970’s at the University of Kansas when some professors inaugurated the Integrated Humanities Program, a study of Western Civilization as expressed in the Great Books. I know of what they speak for I was a Humanities Major in college taught by a professor dedicated to the classic truths and legacy of Western Civilization. I like to say that my Business major got me a job but my Humanistic Studies major prepared me for life. I am very grateful to my professor.

Anyway, as the students read such things as The Aeneid and The Confessions of Saint Augustine, conversions to Christianity, especially to Catholicism, abounded. A couple of the students went to Europe in search of a monastery that used the ancient Latin liturgy. They found a home at Fontgombault. In 1999, several of the Americans along with some Canadians and Frenchmen, arrived in Tulsa to found Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey under the Patronage of Mary’s Annunciation. Today, there are forty-one monks in residence living in buildings built to last the ages.

Today is a special day at the abbey as His Eminence, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome, will celebrate Holy Mass with the monks in Oklahoma.

If you would like to support the Benedictine monks, please visit their website. You can order Gregorian chant CDs, books, rosaries and other items. They have a beautiful monastery partially completed but more is planned to handle the growth of this young community.

The Best Version of Yourself

The IRL is please to have Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa as our President and in the latest issue of the National Catholic Register, they are highlighting a community that he canonically established in his diocese: the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa.

The sisters describe themselves as Ecclesial, Eucharistic and Marian. They celebrate the sacred liturgy in both the Extraordinary and Ordinary form. The sister’s mission is intercessory prayer and the communication of the truth, beauty and goodness of the Catholic faith. They teach CCD, RCIA, and Confirmation classes and work in the Chancery office amongst other things.

Mother Teresa Christe was originally part of a traditionalist community but the example and inspiration of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Bishop (William ) Skylstad of Spokane drew her and 14 others into full communion with the Church. They wear a habit as a visible sign and witness of their consecration to Jesus. It is blue and white to symbolize Mary’s role in the mystery of salvation.

Because the sisters are growing and needed more space, they are now residing in the former bishop’s residence, renamed  Regina Pacis Convent. They are now welcoming potential candidates (and there is a lot of interest!) called to their way of life to “come-and-see” weekends.

Regarding her vocation, Mother says, “I thought it would entail sacrifice and be unhappy. What surprised me was happiness. If you follow your vocation, you will be the best version of yourself.”

Am I Not Here, Who Am Your Mother?

Today, 12/12/12, is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas. The beautiful image of Our Lady on the tilma (cactus fiber cloak) that can be seen in Mexico City still resonates with people today, just as it did 500 or so years ago with the Aztecs and all the native peoples of South America. The conversions to Catholicism and belief in the Triune God were astounding. As was mentioned in our homily today, as the Reformation drew people out of the Church in Europe, Our Lady gathered them into the embrace of the Church in Mexico.

The image is on a rough fabric that should have deteriorated many centuries ago. The black sash around her waist indicated to the Aztecs that she was with child yet her hair was loose indicating that she was a maiden/virgin.  “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

Because she appeared as a pregnant young women, she has been adopted by the pro-life community as their patroness.

Her hands, as a newsletter from the Sisters Minor of Mary Immaculate says, are clasped in prayer indicating that “she was not God for she was praying to God.” The newsletter contains detailed descriptions of the images on the tilma and their symbolism for the Aztecs then and for us today.

There are many other signs and wonders in the tilma which are endlessly, and in  fascinating way, discussed on various websites. Here is one video talking about the miraculously aspects of the tilma.

May Our Lady of Guadalupe intercede for our country, especially for those who defend and protect the lives of innocent children in the womb.