The Fruits of the Faith

Christendom College is living proof that if you preach the Gospel and present the truths of the Catholic Faith, the fruits will be there. For the evidence, click here to see a list of the 137 vocations to the priesthood and religious  life that have come from their ranks. And let’s be real here – the college has only been in existence since 1977.

Amongst the communities listed that their graduates have entered are many IRL Affiliates, most notably the Nashville Dominicans who have welcomed 11 Christendom graduates and the Carmelite Monastery in Buffalo, New York who on May 26, celebrated the clothing ceremony of Christendom alumna Kathleen Gilbert (’07).  Taking the name Sr. Mary Magdalene of Jesus Crucified, Gilbert is the fifth Christendom graduate to enter that particular monastery.

The Carmelite Monastery of Buffalo was founded in 1920 by Mother Mary Elias of the Blessed Sacrament who narrowly escaped execution by firing squad by Mexican revolutionaries in 1914. As Mother and her companion knelt before the executioners, Mother prayed, “Little Therese, if you are a saint, as some people say you are, then deliver us, and I promise to found a Monastery in your honor.” Shots were fired and the nuns were left for dead. When they regained consciousness, they found themselves bloodied but completely unharmed. Mother went on to found the Buffalo Carmel and their chapel was dedicated to St. Therese of Lisieux on the very day of her canonization, May 17, 1925.

Inspired by the courageous example of our Mexican Mothers and the heroic virtue practiced by Saint Therese, we fervently aspire to follow the “Little Way” of spiritual childhood. We rejoice in numbering ourselves among the “army of little souls” whom she wanted to follow in her footsteps, repeating her ardent cry: To be Thy Spouse, O Jesus, and by my union with Thee, to be the mother of souls!

Pope Francis and the Franciscans

When Pope Francis was elected and announced that he had taken the name of Francis, Father Michael Perry, now the new Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor said, “I physically started shaking because this man has taken the name of the person we hold as a model who calls us to live faithfully the Gospel. And I started thinking how short we fall sometimes in living the Gospel.”

The Holy Father has energized and challenged  the Franciscans by choosing the name of their venerable founder, St. Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis’ simple life of poverty and care for the poor and marginalized is causing the Franciscans to “to rediscover our own authenticity, and calling us to simplify our lives and to speak less and demonstrate more who we are.”

Father Perry was elected Minister General on May 22, 2013, the spiritual father to 14,000 Franciscans worldwide. The Indiana native said that St. Francis “brings us back to the very core of who we are as human beings. Francis is a convener of humanity, he helps people come together and see what really matters for their lives and that we can live together in peace, we can care for one another and we can care for our world.”

To see the whole article, visit the Catholic News Service.

The Legacy of John Henry Cardinal Newman

The stories that come out of college campus Newman Centers continue to inspire and astonish me. There are college campuses that are seedbeds of vocations (Thomas Aquinas College, Franciscan University at Steubenville and Christendom College come to mind) but it is hard to challenge the vocational record of an active Newman Center on a college campus. Newman Centers all over the country have many beautiful vocation stories, showing that students immersed in Catholic Life truly do discover and live the vocation that God has planned for them.

This past spring break, six students from the Newman Center at the University of Nebraska traveled all the way to Chicago to spend a week with the Little Sisters of the Poor. They served meals, drove residents to doctor’s appointments and generally just visited with the men and women that the sisters serve. One sophomore said the trip inspired her to attend daily Mass for the first time in her life. Another said the trip helped him to focus on the needs of others instead on “the me” and he felt happier and more at peace because of it. “We never expected” said a senior, “that we would build strong relationships with the sisters and the residents.”

At another Newman Center at Missouri Western State University, a then-freshman and her fellow “Newmanites” went to a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students-another great organization) conference where her faith was ignited and she seriously considered religious life for the first time. This past February, she joined the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara.

Take a look at the Witchita State Newman Center list of vocations. There are many priestly vocations, four women in religious life and one man who joined a Benedictine abbey.

Read this vocation story from a young man who attended the Newman Center at Oklahoma State University. Weekly events there included Monday night rosary, Tuesday night Bible study, Wednesday night student Mass, Thursday faith immersion, Friday free lunch, Saturdays of home football games, the students sold food for tailgating parties and Sunday night was Mass and dinner. God willing, this young man will be ordained in three years.

Another young man from the University of Illinois is now studying for the priesthood. At the Newman Center, he said, he found wonderful friends, priests, and religious that “I could never have dreamed existed.” St. John’s Catholic Newman Center is the only residential Newman Center in the country. Cardinal Francis George called it “one of the most important apostolates” in Illinois.

At Texas A&M University (see photo above) where there is the St. Mary’s Newman Center, 37 Aggies have entered formation for the priesthood and religious life in the past 4 years!

If you know of a young person who is planning to head to college, check out ones with strong Newman Centers. Their eternal life may depend upon it!


Leaving the World for the Sake of the World

Like unseen leaven in the world, cloistered contemplative Carmelites strive to foster a life of deep prayer and communion with God thus drawing all people closer to God.  As St. John of the Cross said: “The least action done out of pure love is worth more than all of the good works of the Church put together.” Fortunate is the country and diocese that has Carmelites praying for them!

The Founding Carmelites

It was 50 years ago today, May 27, 1963, that the Discalced Carmelites of St. Agatha, Ontario, moved into their new, permanent monastery, the Carmel of St. Joseph, from their smaller quarters in Kitchener, Ontario. Ten years earlier, they had arrived in Canada at the urgent invitation of the bishop to found the first English-speaking Carmel in Canada. As their numbers grew, the monastery was enlarged and as it continued to grow, a new foundation also under the guardianship of St. Joseph was established in British Columbia in 1991.

It seems amazing that there were no English-speaking Carmels in Canada until the 1950’s. The original sisters, three professed sisters and one novice, came from Cleveland Heights, OH, in 1952 from the Carmel of the Holy Family, a community who had recently sent 6 sisters to the Carmel in Kenya. The Carmel in Ohio traces its roots back to the first Carmel established in the United States in Port Tobacco, MD, in 1790.

One of the sisters in St. Agatha wrote that she was attracted to the Carmelite vocation after reading “The Story of a Soul” by St. Therese of Lisieux. She said, “During my 4 years at university, I have seen the tragedy of many who lived a lifestyle in the darkness of sin and refusal to love God, or even accept Him in their lives. I knew that those are the people who are in most need of prayer. I felt the urge to do something for them.” This woman is now following Christ’s example of prayer and sacrifice for the salvation of souls, for the Church and for all God’s people.

May those who “leave the world, leading a life of prayer and solitude, for the sake of the world” continue to intercede for the people of Canada.

A Powerhouse Saint

The relics of St Anthony of Padua are on the move! Specifically on the move to several locations between Milwaukee and Chicago during June. The tour celebrates the 750th anniversary of the discovery of the relics by St. Bonaventure, then Minister General of the Friars Minor. I was fascinated to read that when St. Anthony’s body was exhumed and examined, it was found to be mostly bones and ashes with one amazing exception: his tongue was perfectly intact! St. Bonaventure exclaimed: “Oh blessed tongue, that ever praised the Lord, and led others to praise Him! Now it is clear how great are your merits before God!”

Why the tongue? Perhaps because St. Anthony was such a powerful and persuasive preacher who brought many into the faith. It was in September in the year 1222, that the young friar was suddenly thrust into the limelight when he was asked at the 11th hour to give a sermon that no one else was prepared to give. His eloquence and knowledge startled those in attendance and his quiet life was no more. In 1931, the seven-hundredth anniversary of his death, in recognition of his profound gifts to the Church, he was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.

Franciscan scholar Sophronius Clasen,o.f.m., wrote: “Immediately after his death, Anthony became the object of an extraordinary devotion; and miracle followed miracle, as the prayers of the sick and afflicted were answered by sudden cures and other wonders. This set on foot a great wave of enthusiasm, and drew large crowds to his tomb, who began to honor him as a Saint even before the Pope had canonized him.” Today, he is still a miracle-worker and his name is invoked for lost articles and for all the poor and oppressed. Father Mario Conte, a Franciscan and executive editor of the Messenger of St. Anthony magazine in Padua who is traveling with the relics, said the exhibition is attracting large crowds. “Somehow,” he said, “people feel that St. Anthony is a friend, he is almost a member of their family, a brother. ”

We at the IRL are blessed to have the relics at Marytown in Libertyville, IL, from June 9th to the 10th.  On Sunday, the 9th, there will be vespers at 7:00 pm while on Monday, there will be day-long veneration of the relics and three masses will be celebrated. A beautiful gift for a loved one, living or deceased, is to enroll them in the the St. Anthony Holy Mass League, canonically established by the Conventual Franciscan Friars in 1937. Mass is offered daily all members with a special remembrance on Tuesdays, in honor of St. Anthony of Padua. This tour and the people who come seeking his intercession is a powerful reminder of what a powerhouse of a friend we have in heaven.

The Winds of the Holy Spirit

The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails

and drives it forward,and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit.

Lacking His impulse and His grace, we do not go forward.

The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God

and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself;

He impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel,

to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission.

Pope Francis

Pentecost Sunday

100 Years in Canada

This year, a community of Carmelite Sisters is celebrating 100 years of service to the people of Canada. They are the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus who were founded by Bl. Maria Teresa of St. Joseph (Anna Maria Tauscher) in Germany in 1891.

In an astonishing short period of time, Mother Maria Teresa had founded homes for abandoned and poor children in Germany, Holland, Italy, England, the US (where the first home for the aged was founded) and Canada. She arrived in New York in 1912 and came to Toronto, Canada, at the request of the Archbishop in 1913.

As contemplatives the Carmelites dedicate themselves to prayer of reparation to the Heart of Jesus and intercession for the needs of the world. Through their apostolic endeavors they bring God’s love to others through their care for children, the elderly and the poor and needy.

Mother Maria Teresa said, “How great is the holy love that binds religious together! It is this love that makes life in the Order a paradise despite all the sacrifices, hardship, and privations.” Mother had a great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and said if He would come to their homes, she would come too, wherever it may happen to be. This love for her Spouse carried her across the ocean and is a Divine love that never rests but “sends forth new flames that consume itself in works of charity toward others.”

Today, the sisters in Canada serve in the dioceses of Toronto, St. Catharines and Calgary. On May 30, they will be holding a 100th anniversary celebration at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Mississauga, Ontario. May they be blessed with many more years of service to the people of Canada.


The Secrets of Fatima

The Feast of Our Lady of Fatima was celebrated this past Monday, May 13th, the 96th anniversary of the commencement of Our Lady’s appearances in Portugal to the three young peasant children: Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia.

It was on May 13, 1982, that Pope John Paul II was shot in a failed assassination attempt. His life was saved, he believed, because our Our Lady “guided the bullet’s path,” and saved his life when he was at the threshold of death. The bullet that was extracted from his abdomen now rests in a crown of our Lady in Fatima. Pope Benedict XVI visted the shrine in 2010. He prayed that the years leading up to the “centenary of the apparitions hasten the fulfillment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.”

On Sunday night, Archbishop Orani João Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro, the city that is hosting World Youth Day, July 23-28, consecrated this important event to Our Lady of Fatima.

On Monday, at the request of Pope Francis, his pontificate was entrusted to the Blessed Mother under her title of Our Lady of Fatima. Cardinal Jose Polycarp, the Patriarch of Lisbon, directed this prayer to Our Lady:

Grant (Pope Francis) the gift of discernment to know how to identify the paths of renewal for the Church,

grant him the courage to not falter in following the paths suggested by the Holy Spirit,

protect him in the difficult hours of suffering,

so that he may overcome, in charity, the trials that the renewal of the Church will bring him.”

It is remarkable how the recent Popes have placed themselves under the mantle of Our Lady of Fatima. Since her messages to the children have such pertinence for today, here is a reminder of what Our Lady said at Fatima:

Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and the end of the war.

Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and pray for them.

I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day.

Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended.

Prayer, penance, reparation, sacrifice. For our salvation and the salvation of the world.




The Ultimate Team

Last October, I wrote a blog entry about Grant Desme who gave up a lucrative contract with the Oakland A’s to join another team—the Norbertines in Silverado, California. Grant was recently interviewed by the National Catholic Register and shared some profound thoughts about man’s vocation in the light of God and what he has learned as a seminarian studying for the priesthood.

Now known as Frater Matthew, he always thought that happiness as a baseball player was just around the corner but he was always left feeling restless. “No matter how well I played or how far I advanced,” he said. “I never gained the complete, lasting happiness I was expecting. There were thrills, but none of them lasted. Everything here below is fleeting.” When he injured his shoulder in 2007, his rehabilitation stint gave him a lot of time to think. “I realized that even if I played 20 years in the major leagues and ended up a Hall of Famer, I would still die one day. No matter what I achieved, I would be just as dead as everyone else in the cemetery.”

Frater Matthew with his family

“I then thought of my particular judgment and how I would be held accountable for every decision I made in life. Eternal punishment or reward would follow, based on whether or not I was a faithful disciple of Jesus. It became clear that I had to get into a deeper, more prayerful relationship with the Lord.”

As a man, Frater Matthew seemed to have it all as a ball player—a big bank account and a shiny SUV. But true masculinity, he says, is “based on self-sacrificing love. Being a man is not about stepping on others, but lifting others up. It’s about using the God-given strength you have to protect others and guide them to eternal life.”

As someone who has been involved with the fraternity of a baseball team, religious life is a good fit for Frater Matthew. “Instead of fighting an athletic battle, we’re fighting a spiritual one,” he says. “We’re united in fraternal charity to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. Every time we offer the sacrifice of the Mass, take part in a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament or pray the Divine Office, we’re doing things that have an eternal effect not only on ourselves, but on the whole Church.”

Frater Matthew ended the interview by saying: “The only thing that will last after death is our relationship — or lack thereof — with God. This is something that should motivate everyone to see past the superficial things of life that clamor for our attention and instead invest our lives in God, trusting in his mercy.”