World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life

Sunday, February 2, is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord which is also the World Day of Consecrated Life. Pope John Paul II instituted this special remembrance “to help the entire Church to esteem ever more greatly the witness of those persons who have chosen to follow Christ by means of the practice of the evangelical counsels.”

This particular day was chosen because, the Holy Father noted, “the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is an eloquent icon of the total offering of one’s life for all those who are called to show forth in the Church and in the world, by means of the evangelical counsels the characteristic features of Jesus — the chaste, poor and obedient one.”

In support of this day of prayer for consecrated men and women, the IRL has published a novena booklet: Living Signs of the Gospel: A Novena to Support All Consecrated Persons in the Church, written by Msgr. Charles M. Mangan, highlighting excerpts from the Holy Father’s nine messages/homilies for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life.  The goal of this novena is:

1) To pray for consecrated men and women

2) To strengthen consecrated life

3) To pray for vocations to the consecrated life

Please join us in saying this novena during 2013. A  free copy of the booklet may be obtained by calling the IRL office at (847)573-8975 or by e-mailing us at

The New Evangelization in the Land of 10,000 Lakes

I come originally from Minnesota and don’t associate that state with any burgeoning religious institutes. However, there is a young community in New Ulm that is attracting young vocations called the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus (Ancillae Cordis Jesu). They were were founded in 2007 and do various apostolic works in parishes to help people grow in their faith. This was the first religious order to be established within the diocese of New Ulm and to have its Motherhouse within the diocese. Articles about their life and beginnings appeared in The Journal of New Ulm and the Winsted Herald Journal a couple of years ago.

They are called Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus because “we live in imitation of our Lady as handmaid,” said Mother Mary Clare. Mother Mary Clare originally joined the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal but felt called to return to Minnesota.

The work of the New Evangelization is vast and the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus are prepared to go wherever the Lord calls them be it catechesis/faith formation, youth ministry, family life/marriage preparation, liturgy coordination, liturgical music, sacristy work, domestic care of churches and rectories, visitation of the sick and elderly, and education in Catholic schools. Who they are is more important than what they do. But what they do is to further the Kingdom of God as His handmaids.

The next “Come & See” date for young women between the ages of 18 and 30 is April 12-14, 2013. Contact Sr. Regina Marie at with any questions.

And isn’t their homepage picture absolutely beautiful?


Mystical Phenomena

In their book, The Theology of Christian Perfection, Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P.,  and Fr. Antonio Royo, O.P., close their rich and helpful discussion of how to reach Christian perfection in everyday life with a discussion of the mystical miracles in the lives of the saints.

Here are some extraordinary examples (by no means inclusive):

Knowledge of the secret of hearts was given to Sts. Thomas Aquinas, Philip Neri, Joseph of Cupertino, John of God, Rose of Lima, John Vianney.

Hierognosis (immediate recognition of any person, place or thing that is holy, blessed or consecrated as opposed to things that are not) was the gift of Catherine Emmerich and Sts. Frances of Rome and Lydwina.

St. Philip Neri’s love for God was so intense that it was often visible as flames coming from his eyes and head.

St. Francis of Assisi received the stigmata (wounds of Christ’s Passion)  as did Padre Pio.

Jesus sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. This was also experienced by St. Lutgard and Bl. Christina. Theresa Neumann shed tears of blood.

Some saints experienced an exchange of hearts, presumably with Christ, most notably Sts. Catherine of Siena, Margaret Mary Alacoque, Magdalen of Pazzi and Catherine Ricci. A scar was sometimes visible.

Others fasted beyond the power of natural endurance, for example, St. Catherine of Siena and Bl. Angela de Foligno.

Some saints went for long periods without sleep like St. Peter Alcantara and St. Rose of Lima.

Even a modern saint could bilocate, most recently St. Padre Pio, but this also includes Sts. Francis Xavier, Alphonsus Liguori, Martin de Porres and Ven. Mary of Agreda.

St. Joseph of Cupertino was known for levitating but this was also witnessed in the lives of Sts. Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thomas of Villanova and Francis Xavier.

Some mystics seemed to radiate light like Moses, and Sts. Ignatius of Loyola, Francis de Sales, and Charles Borromeo.

A sweet odor often comes from the tomb, relic or body of a saint like Gemma Galgani, Dominic, Rose of Viterbo and Raymond Pennafort. Of course, miracles attributed to St. Therese of Lisieux are often accompanied by the smell of roses.

Then there are the incorruptible bodies of which I have seen my fair share like Bernadette of Lourdes, Vincent de Paul and Pope John XXIII.

Fathers Aumann and Royo pass no judgement on these occurrences saying “that no phenomenon should be attributed to a superior cause if it can be explained by an inferior one.” However, the extraordinary and miraculous examples cited above “show us that God is truly wonderful in His saints.”





Altar Server 101

The Archdiocese of Washington has posted an altar server tutorial/video on their website which is must-see viewing for any prospective altar server. I am always happy when the altar servers in our parish are invisible to me because this means they are aware of and doing their jobs without any paralysis or confusion. This video, however, says the altar servers should be doing and can be doing much more. Their demeanor, their clothes, their actions should all point to the reality taking place, namely “that what takes place on the altar is the making present of the most important moment in all of human history.”

As one of the comments pointed out, the actions and dress of the altar servers should also be a reflection of the attire and aspirations of the people in the congregation, a supreme awareness of the “Presence of God.” Remember when people dressed up for Mass? Like they were going to a wedding? The wedding feast of the Lamb.

The video makes the important point that young boys like dressing up like the priests do. The altar boy, rightly formed and trained, is having implanted in his heart a love for the priesthood and the nurturing of a possible vocation.


A First for Albania

When I was growing up, I remember Enver Hoxha claiming he had established the first completely atheistic country in the world – Albania. Nuns were driven out of their convents and priests were murdered. The homeland of Mother Teresa was devastated and impenetrable  from all but those who pray.

Pope Benedict called Mother Teresa “this chosen daughter of Albania” who “proclaimed to all that God is love and that He loves every human being, especially those who are poor and neglected. In fact, love itself constitutes the true revolutionary power that changes the world and leads it forward towards fulfillment.”

Well, just recently, the Carmelites have established the first-ever Carmelite monastery in the country. A group of Croatian nuns from several communities have left home and homeland to bring the light of Christ to the Albanians in Nynshat. Monsignor Gjergj said that there was so much sin in the country and so many prayers are needed for healing and renewal. For years, the sacraments have been unavailable to the people or the people were not prepared to receive them.

The Carmelite vocation is to live a life of prayer and penance for the Church and for the sanctification of priests. Here, they also pray for the Albanian Church. Many people view the Church as simply a social service organization. He hopes the Carmelites will be a witness of the life to come that is prepared for by sacrifice and suffering and self-abandonment. Now a new springtime can begin.

Pope John Paul II visited Albania in 1993 and encouraged the people  “to continue united and strong on the journey which leads to complete freedom.”

See this YouTube clip of the sisters inaugural time in their new homeland.



Cyber Vocation Talk

To celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week, a Visitation Sister will be available to answer questions about spirituality and vocations by email, chat and telephone from January 14 – 18, 2013.

The event is called “Cyber Discernment Week” and it will be hosted by Sr. Susan Marie Kasprzak, a Visitation Nun.  Sr. Susan Marie will offer her counsel each day throughout the week, from 9 AM to 11:30 AM (EST) and 1:30 to 4 PM (EST), answering questions about such topics as the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, one’s vocation in life, monastic living, and responding to life’s daily challenges. Phone calls made outside of that time will be returned.

“People we talk to are on all spiritual levels and walks of life, and it often surprises me how I can bring the spirituality of our co-founder, St. Francis de Sales, to bear on a person’s situation,” said Sr. Susan Marie recently.

Sr. Susan Marie, who was interviewed on the “EWTN Live” program last May, has been hosting a weekly “Living Jesus Chat Room” on the Visitation’s Second Federation (First Federation monasteries observe papal enclosure) website for almost two years. Each Sunday night at 7:30 PM Eastern Time, a lively online discussion between Sister and various participants can be seen in real time.

“There are many Catholics out there who struggle to draw closer to God,” Sister said. “Some are very knowledgeable in their faith; some are not. They often need an encouragement or some directive to help them in their progress,” Sister said.

Men and women age 18 and up are invited to contact Sr. Susan Marie during the upcoming week. Sister will be responding to emails sent to Or you may visit the “Living Jesus Chat Room,” or call Sister at (718) 745-4452. The event is being publicized by Vocation Promotion, which serves religious communities by providing internet-savvy know-how to assist communities’ work of promoting vocations.

The Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary was founded in 1610 by St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal in Annecy, France, “to give to God daughters of prayer, and souls so interior that they may be found worthy to serve His infinite Majesty and to adore Him in spirit

Parish Visitors Foundress Canonization Underway!

Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, foundress of the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, is on her way to sainthood we hope! Cardinal Timothy Dolan has approved the process opening the way for her canonization. Sr. Maria Catherine, PVMI, Vice-Postulator for the cause, said that she hopes that the process which is now very public will allow “others to know her as we know her.”

Holiness of life is “heroic virtue practiced consistently” in words and by example. Mother had two goals: 1) the holiness of the sisters and herself and 2) leading all souls to that holiness of life which is characterized by love for God and zeal for souls.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said that she was “way ahead of her time” when it came to evangelization. It was not a program to be administered. It was personal, one-on-one.  The Parish Visitors apostolate is to go door-to-door in search of the lost sheep. They lead children and adults to faith in Jesus Christ. They are “missionaries who walk with Mary in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd.”

A typical conversation begins, “Has anyone in this household ever been baptized Catholic?” This simple question has begun the process of re-evangelizing hundreds of thousands of those who have strayed from Jesus. The Sisters strive to draw each person into closer union with Him.

One sister who knew Mother Tallon personally said: “Kindness! Mother had such love of souls and compassion….’You are spiritual mothers….Make every soul count.'”

The Parish Visitors, said Mother Tallon, “speak to the people face to face and heart to heart.”

A Technology Leap of Faith

Not much has changed for the Carmelites over the past 900 years. Their priorities remain unchanged – prayer, solitude and work to support the community. But for the Carmelites of Santa Fe, New Mexico, a new era has dawned – they have a website!

This IRL Affiliate community of 8 nuns was established in 1945 by Mother Mary Teresa who was forced to flee Mexico in the face of the terrible persecution suffered by Catholics in that country. She died in 1997 in Jefferson City, MO, at another Carmel that she also had founded.

The Santa Fe Carmelites are situated in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountains, on the high desert of northern New Mexico.  They are a part of the Spanish Catholic legacy that has been present in Santa Fe for more than 400 years. Santa Fe means Holy Faith!

The charism of the sisters is guided by their foundress, St. Teresa of Avila, and by St. John of the Cross, another Carmelite. They live in the presence of God, in imitation of Mary and the prophet Elijah, who awaited God in his hermitage on Mount Carmel, 900 years before Christ.

See a story about the Santa Fe Carmelites in the Santa Fe New Mexican

St. Benedict & the New Evangelization

The Benedictines have always been in the forefront of evangelization, most notably in Europe where “with the cross, the book and the plow,” they carried Christianity to scattered people (Pope Paul VI).  When the Holy Father declared Saint Benedict the Patron of Europe, he called him the man who “dispelled the darkness by the light of Christian civilization and radiated Christian peace.”

There are shining examples as to the rebirth of Benedictine life. Just look at the growing community at the birthplace of St. Benedict in Nursia, Italy, founded by an American. Then there are the Benedictines of Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma, and the Benedictines of Mary in Gower, MO.

There is also a group of Anglican nuns in England who have crossed the Tiber. Their community, the Community of St. Mary the Virgin in Wantage, Oxfordshire, was founded in 1848 and has always been “at the heart of the Church of England’s religious life” since it was founded.

The current community comprises 40 or so members, of which 10 have left to join the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, organized to allow Anglicans to join the Catholic Church while retaining their beloved forms of liturgy and prayers. They sisters plan to follow the Rule of St. Benedict.

One of those joining the Church is the Mother Superior while another sister was a “priest” in the Anglican Church. They will be leaving their monastery, fellow sisters and all means of support behind. Three of the sisters are in their 80’s. They are courageous women. Mother Winsome says, “We are doing this because we truly believe this is God’s call. The Bible is full of people called to step out in faith not knowing where they were going or how they will be provided for and that truly is the situation we are following.”

Mother Winsome adds: “We believe that the Holy Father’s offer is a prophetic gesture which brings to a happy conclusion the prayers of generations of Anglicans and Catholics who have sought a way forward for Christian unity.”

May Saint Benedict’s intercession bring more monastic communities under the Vicar of Christ.

See the full story in the Catholic

Year of Faith Saint for the Month

For years, I been receiving a monthly newsletter from Abbaye Saint-Joseph de Clairval in France which usually features a saint or blessed of the Church. These newsletters are 4 dense pages of meaty information liberally laced with quotes from the Holy Father commenting on the relevance for the saint for today. These newsletters are free (sign up here) but donations are welcome. Their goal is to spread the Faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ.

In 2012, the Abbey celebrated the 40th anniversary of their founding. They are a community of monks living according to the Rule of Saint Benedict in obedience to the Catholic hierarchy. They were founded in Switzerland in 1972 but came to France in 1976. A Benedictine monastery was in the town from the 7th century until the French Revolution but the monks of today, who number about 50, now reside in the former minor seminary.

The Abbey has beautiful gifts for sale, including a new CD of Gregorian chant in honor of St. Joseph (available in March). The Liturgy of the Hours is sung in Latin with Gregorian chant. They also conduct retreats both at the abbey and in other countries following the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

“I will ask for an intimate knowledge of Our Lord who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely.”
Spiritual Exercises, no. 104