Holy Vocations!

ordinationThe main headline on AOL today was the news that a Catholic priest announced to his parish that he was leaving the priesthood because he had just become the father of a child. The article included comments from some parishioners who expressed the hope that the Church would once again evaluate the stance against a married priesthood. There is no mention of the fact that this priest was ordained with full knowledge that celibacy was a promise he made and was expected to keep. It is sad that people do not keep their commitments/promises  and hurt others around them. (See US divorce rate)

This is why it is all the more encouraging that Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) announced that the number of men enrolled in diocesan seminaries is up 16% since 1995 and 10% since 2005. There are currently 3694 graduate-level seminarians. The factors cited in this increase include the appeal of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, the feeling that the worst of the sex abuse crisis is behind us, and encouragement from parishes and bishops.

Rev. Mark Latcovich, president and rector of St. Mary Seminary in Wickliffe, Ohio, said that they have the largest class in decades (72). He says that current seminarians and priests are “our best recruiters. If they are happy and witnessing their faith and opening their hearts, that enthusiasm and joy is contagious.” (See the complete story in the Washington Post.)

In my own parish, we have had three vocations to the priesthood in the past 10 or so years. The seminary next door, Saint Mary of the Lake, has seen a large increase in enrollment.

For those discerning a vocation, Father Basil Cole, OP, lists the 9 signs that you have a vocation (summarized briefly) : God-centered, joy in serving others, holy hatred for sin, holy dissatisfaction with oneself, humility, fidelity to prayer, loving truth, undivided heart, love of the Church.

May the Church around the world be blessed with holy and persevering vocations!




“The Fewer Men, the Greater Share of Honour”

Sr. Laurence Olivier as Henry V
Sr. Laurence Olivier as Henry V

Among the tidbits of advice given by spiritual directors to those discerning a vocation, I bet not too many are told to read a passage from Shakespeare’s Henry V! But that is just the advice that was given to seminarian Daniel Heenan, FSSP, when he was “looking to run away from” his vocation.

In the St. Crispin’s Day speech given by King Henry V of England (see actor Kenneth Branagh’s stirring rendition on YouTube)  to his outnumbered soldiers prior to the great battle of Agincourt in 1415, Henry says in this excerpt:

He which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day.

Later, these famous lines are uttered by the king: We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

Daniel said, “At first, I thought this was strange advice, but at the conclusion when he chides those who may be fearful to join the battle with the regret that they would later feel for not having acted courageously, the application to vocational discernment became clear. We sacrifice a little, and we inherit a kingdom.”

Daniel will be ordained to the holy priesthood in 2014, God willing, and thanks the to the assistance of the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations, an organization that enables priests and religious who have outstanding student debt to respond generously to the Lord’s call.

We celebrate the feast day of St. Crispin and his twin brother, Crispinian, on October 25, according to the old calendar.

Running for the Mission!

molastephanieOne of the joys in working at the Institute on Religious Life is the opportunity to see emerging communities blossom and grow. One of those communities is the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago, founded by Rev. Bob Lombardo, CFR.

On Saturday, September 21, Sr. Stephanie Baliga pronounced her first vows in the beautiful church of Our Lady of the Angels, exchanging her white veil for a brown one. She joins Sr. Alicia and Sr. Kate who professed first vows in 2012. In October, Matt and Jaime will be invested as novices. And Jessica officially joined them as a postulant on September 8th.

molaSr. Stephanie is a graduate of the University of Illinois (Champaign) where she was on the track and cross country team. On October 13, she and two other former Illini runners will be running in the Chicago Marathon, raising money for the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels. Their goal is to raise $40,000. The mission is located in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Chicago where the Franciscans are bringing the light of Christ to the neighbors and the community through their prayers, outreaches and presence. Click here to find out how you can be a prayer warrior to support their efforts on Marathon Sunday!

And if you want to solve the vocations crisis, check out the activities at the Newman Center at the University of Illinois. Sister Stephanie and Jessica are just two examples of those men and women who have chosen to enter religious life or the seminary. Go Illini!

Defend Life, But Watch for Wolves

francisrioAs someone who does not have cable TV, I miss out on a lot (whether this is good or bad is debatable). But I did miss most of the coverage of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and his trip to Brazil as covered by EWTN. Therefore, watching this video, put out by the Mercedarians, is a real treat.

The Mercedarians have taken footage of Pope Francis’ drive through the enormous crowds as the backdrop for a very interesting narrated talk that the Holy Father gave when he was still Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Given on August 31, 2005, the feast of St. Raymond Nonnatus (one of the first Mercedarians), he spoke about the culture of death and the need, in the face of persecution, to stand up for life. He picked a very appropriate feast day for this talk because St. Raymond Nonnatus (which means “not born”) was cut from his mother’s womb after her death in childbirth, thus his life was spared.

Here are a few tidbits of the then-Cardinal’s talk:

I was reading a book a while back, where this disturbing phrase was found: “In the world of today, the cheapest thing is life, what costs the least is life” — which is, therefore, the most disregarded thing, the most dispensable thing.

This elderly man, this elderly woman, are useless; discard them, let’s throw them in the nursing home like we hang up the raincoat during summer, with three mothballs in the pocket, and let’s hang it in the nursing home because they’re now disposable, they’re useless.

This child who is on the way is a bother to the family. “Oh no, for what? I have no idea.  Let’s discard him and return him to the sender.”

That is what the culture of death preaches to us.

This child that I have at home, well, I don’t have time to educate him. Let him grow up like a weed in the field, and this other child who doesn’t have anything to eat, not even little shoes to go to school, and well, I’m very sorry, but I’m not the redeemer of the whole world.

That’s what the culture of death preaches. It’s not interested in life.  What interests it? Egoism. One is interested in surviving, but not in giving life, caring for life, offering life.

Today, in this shrine dedicated to life, in this day of the patron saint of life, Jesus again says to us: “Care for it! I came to bring life, and life in abundance, but care for it!  You are going to be surrounded by wolves; you are to be the ones to defend life, to care for life.

Care for life! What a beautiful thing one sees — which I know! — that a grandfather, a grandmother, who perhaps can no longer speak, who is paralyzed, and the grandson or the son comes and takes their hand, and in silence cherishes them, nothing more.  That is caring for life.  When one sees people who take care so that this child can go to school, so that another doesn’t lack food, that is caring for life.

Open your heart to life!

St. Raymond, Patron Saint of expectant mothers and midwives, pray for us!


The Enduring Story of the Story of Soul

A drawing of St. Therese by her sister Celine

When the relics of St. Therese of Lisieux came to Chicagoland some years ago, the crowds that descended upon the Carmelite Monastery in Des Plaines were tremendous. Just to be in the presence of some of the earthly remains of this cloistered apostolic missionary inspired a lot of people to leave the comfort of home to venture out into the deep. One hundred plus years after her death, she continues to draw people to Christ.

Now there is another opportunity to venerate unique relics of this Doctor of the Church. On Thursday, September 19th, visitors to Santa Teresita, a nursing home for seniors in Duarte, California, will have the privilege of viewing the writing case of this beloved saint. St. Therese used the writing case (escritoire) to compose her spiritual masterpiece, Story of a Soul, as well as seven of her eight plays, 47 of her 62 poems, 95 of her 266 letters and 16 of her 21 prayers. It is the first time that this precious memento has left France. Also included in the display are a pen and inkwell that she used.

The tour is sponsored by the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States. The relics will be on display in St. Joseph Chapel at Santa Teresita from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on the 19th. Additional stops in escriore2September include San Antonio, Saint Louis and Metuchen, NJ. On October 1, St. Therese’s Feast day, the relics will be viewable at the Ven. Fulton J. Sheen World Mission Dinner in New York City. On October 4, they will be at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.  The latter event will be broadcast live, beginning at 10 a.m., on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).

Santa Teresita is run by the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. Their home for the elderly is named not after St. Teresa of Avila, their revered patroness, but St. Therese, the Little Flower. They were founded by Venerable Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament to provide loving service to the people of God in a variety of ministries.

“The soul of each Carmelite raises herself to Christ, who is her heaven, while her shadow falls in charity upon earth doing good to all people.” – Mother Luisita



Today I Begin

Br Joseph-Solemn Vows 339One of the rarest vocations in the United States seems to be the call to be a hermit.  In fact, there seem to be only two Carmelite men’s communities of true hermits in the United States. Therefore, it is with rejoicing that one hears about the profession of a man or woman to this most ancient of vocations.

The Carmelite hermits trace their lineage back to the 13th century when a group of hermits living on Mount Carmel in Palestine came together under a formula vitae which developed into the Carmelite Rule. Because of the Prophet Elijah’s association with Mount Carmel, the hermits adopted him as their spiritual father. A colony of hermits is called a Laura in which each hermit has an individual hermitage.

Paul Wathen was living in Colorado when he became interested in the writings of St. Teresa of Avila and felt drawn to the contemplative life. As a graduate in electronics and computer science from Indiana State University, Paul was living a good life. Then the 40 year-old made a trip to the Hermits of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel in Christoval, Texas, and received special graces that weekend. “God let me know this was where He wanted me to be. I found a lot of peace.”

Brother Joseph Mary MotherPaul, now Brother Mary Joseph of the Holy Rosary, says the life is not for everyone. But with God calling him, he could not say no. Telling his mother was easy. she was not only supportive, but overjoyed!

The story of the founding of the Christoval hermits is a miracle in itself. Fr. Fabian Rosetti located the isolated land that he wanted for a hermitage but the owner wouldn’t part with it for three reasons: Fr. Fabian was Catholic,  he was a priest, and he was Hispanic. But God’s plans with prayers and sacrifices could not be stopped. Father got his 200 acres with many Protestant workers assisting in the building of the hermitage. In fact, a good number of their regular visitors and friends are Protestant!

See the complete story in the Southern Indiana Catholic newspaper.

Every day I must say to myself: Today I begin –  St. Anthony of the Desert


bear witness to the passing nature of the present age by the inward and outward separation, from the world. By fasting and Penance, they show that man does not live by bread alone but by the work of God. Such a life “In the Desert” is an invitation to their contemporaries and to

I Know the Plans I have For You


For I know well the plans I have for you, says the Lord,

plans for your welfare and not for your woe; to give you a future full of hope!

Jeremiah 29.11

Do you know of a young woman who is considering a religious vocation? Is the Lord causing your heart to stir as you ponder a life devoted entirely to His service? Is religious life dying in our country?

Let the Imagine Sisters video, Light of Love, help you with these questions!


In association with, among others, the Institute on Religious Life, this hour-length video gives the viewers an in-depth look into the lives of 5 young sisters from the following communities:

  • Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, Alton, Illinois
  • Carmelites Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles
  • Franciscan Sisters of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother, Steubenville, Ohio
  • Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, Santa Clara, California
  • Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, North Haledon, New Jersey

Utterly joyful and incredibly “normal,” the sisters describe their work, their love for Jesus and their fraternal life in community. Whether caring for the sick, teaching children, caring for the elderly, or whatever their work maybe, the sisters’ apostolates are an outpouring of their relationship with Jesus. As one sister said, “you really cannot separate your prayer from your work because when you praying unceasingly in your heart, our Lord is always with you.”

A study guide (one page), an in-depth discussion guide and additional discussion questions are available.

First Things has a nice review of the film.

Give it a look! Be inspired and spread the word!

May God reward you!

light of love

The Lantern of Life!

grotto KSThe IRL is comprised of bishops, priests, brothers, sisters, laity and colleges who work together to support and foster vocations to the consecrated life (click here to become an Associate Member!!). It is somewhat surprising to see colleges on the list but it is really no surprise because some colleges are virtual powerhouses of vocations.

One of those is Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. In 2012, for example, seven women who attended the college professed final vows as Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George.

On September 9, 2013, the college was consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary on the feast day of her birth. Their President, Stephen Minnis, recounted the many times that the Mother of God had interceded on the college’s behalf, most notably from the very beginning!

It seems that the founder of Benedictine College, Fr. Henry Lemke, OSB, found himself lost on the Kansas prairie in 1856 in a driving rainstorm. Certain that he was going to die, Father lifted his heart to Mary, whom as a convert to the faith, he had never prayed to in his life. “Mary,” he said, “I have never called upon you before; but if you can help me, I’ll be forever devoted to you.”

Just then he saw a faint light. In a prairie house, a mother had lit a lantern because her young daughter had had a vision of a women in white who told her to call her mother. Hearing her daughter’s cry, the mother lit the lantern.

Fr. Lemke believed that the Blessed Mother had saved his life. Two years later, in 1858, he founded Benedictine college, the same year that the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Bernadette in Lourdes. In fact, the college dedicated a new Lourdes Grotto in 2008 on the 150th anniversary of the apparition and the college’s founding. Legendary Notre Dame  football coach Lou Holtz gave the first donation.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann was present during the grotto dedication and recalled that the weather forecast had been for rain, rain, rain. He called President Minis and asked him to call out the Memorarae Army to pray for good weather. An air traffic controller was amazed “that the storm system that had rolled across Kansas at a steady clip” inexplicably stalled outside of Atchison for approximately 5 hours, “clearing” the way for the dedication.

In this college so devoted to Mary, Mr. Minnis estimates that over 250 students a year consecrate themselves to Mary. St. Benedict Abbey Abbot James Albers said, “She is the avenue of Christ to the world. We need to model our Yes on her Yes in bringing Christ to the world.”

The students agree. “Many of the professors remind us of how important Mary is in our faith lives,” said one young adult, “That through Mary we can be closer to Christ’s heart and live our lives in a more efficient and straighter path to salvation.”

For the complete story visit the National Catholic Register.

A Seed and a Sign

pcc pope francisOn August 11, 2013, the Poor Clares opened up a “Poor Clare” museum in Albano, Italy,  near Castel Gandolfo (the summer home of the Popes) and on August 15th they had a most illustrious guest: Pope Francis himself! The Holy Father spoke with the nuns and prayed at the tomb of Sr. Maria Chiara Damato whose cause for canonization is underway.

The Poor Clares of Albano suffered grievously during World War II.  As the Allies marched north in Italy, they took to heart Pope Pius XII’s plea and the entire community offered themselves “as victims for the longed-for peace in the world.”

On February 1, 1944, a bomb fell nearby, shattering the stained glass windows in their chapel. As they were recovering from the shock of this blow, a second bomb made a direct hit on the monastery and several sisters were killed. The surviving sisters moved into temporary quarters which they shared with other refugees. In fact, over 40 babies were born to refugee mothers in the Papal apartments during the war.

On February 10th, bombs hit their temporary home resulting in great loss of life. Sr. Maria Chiara was one of the injured: “I am happy to suffer with Jesus suffering on the Cross, but with a happiness full of inner joy.”  The suffering would not be wasted. Msgr. Giovanni Battista Montini, later Pope Paul VI, predicted that it would rebound on the community with a flourishing of vocations. Indeed, with the end of the war in 1945, vocations came.

chiaraSr. Maria Chiara of St. Therese of the Child Jesus was inspired to enter cloistered life in part because of the example St. Therese of Lisieux. In emulation of her namesake, she too asked to be afflicted with tuberculosis and offered her sufferings and death for the sanctification of priests. After caring tirelessly for the refugees, she died in 1948. She was only in her thirties.

When the now-Pope Paul VI visited the community in 1971, he paused in front of a stone slab that listed the names of the 18 sisters who died during the bombings. His visit, he said, had a purpose. It was “intended as a response to the tacit objection which viewed cloistered nuns as marginalized from life, from reality and from the experience of our time.” He added, “You, who are faithful to the Rule, to life in community, to poverty, are a seed and a sign.”

For more information, see the Catholic News Service article.


Striving to Reach the Goal

mother_mary_salvador_webOn May 13, 2013, Mother Mary Salvador of the Heart of Jesus, C.P., was laid to rest in the Passionist’s community cemetery in Ellisville, Missouri. Anyone who called the Passionists to request prayers or one of their handmade note cards was greeted with the sweet and gentle voice of this dear sister.

Mother was actually an active sister who 20 years after her entrance into religious life transferred, “to our great joy” as the nuns said, to the Passionists.

This link directs you to a short video of Mother Mary Salvador and her reflection on the Passionist vocation and the value of suffering. She reminds us that to reach the Resurrection, it is necessary to pass through Good Friday. No one questions the sweat, sacrifices, pain and labor that an athlete goes through to reach the finish line. We have a much greater goal in store for us – a heavenly union with God!

The Passionists’ motto is: May the Passion of Jesus Christ Be Always in Our Hearts. Like Jesus, who bore our sins on the Cross, the sisters take our sufferings and offer them on our behalf to Jesus, that it might bear fruit in our lives and give us the hope and grace to see beyond it. It is not a simply desire for endurance in suffering; it is the hope that we will experience a foretaste of the glory and joy that is to come.

Please pray that these sisters will receive many holy vocations. Our poor, suffering world needs their witness for without the remembrance of the Passion of Christ and what it won for us, the light of faith will grow dimmer in our world.