May All Who Seek Find Him

manger star

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. 

Matthew 2:9-12

Christmas Greetings

christmas giorgione

“Christmas is the celebration of the presence of God who came among us to save us.The birth of Jesus is not a fairytale! It is the story of a real event, which occurred in Bethlehem two thousand years ago.

Faith allows us to recognise in the Child born to the Virgin Mary the true Son of God, made man for our love. In the face of the child Jesus we contemplate the face of God, who did not show Himself to us in strength, in power, but in the weakness and fragility of a newborn.

This is our God, who comes so close to us, as a child. This Child shows the trust and tenderness of the boundless love with which God surrounds each one of us. This is why we celebrate Christmas, reliving the same experience of the shepherds of Bethlehem.”

-Pope Francis, December 20, 2013

Behold, I Bring You Tidings of Great Joy!

angels xmas eve

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people;for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”

Pope John Paul II Eucharist Center Opens

There are many reason to visit the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, but now there is another reason: the opening of the John Paul II Eucharistic Center.

Sister Mary Jacinta of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration says that many of the people who visit the shrine are not Catholic. Some even come from local colleges on buses to see what a traditional European Church or art looks like. Like the name suggests, Adoration is an important part of the Order’s charism and the exhibits aim to show the purpose and meaning behind Perpetual Adoration. And unfortunately, many Catholics do not understand the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist so it is an educational encounter for them as well.

The exhibits include:

  • Multimedia displays showing how the Passover meal foreshadows the Eucharist
  • Video/depiction of the Last Supper
  • Large paintings from the Masters such as Caravaggio
  • Interactive computer stations where visitors can ask Questions
  • A description of Eucharistic miracles and Eucharistic saints
  • Activities for Children as well

The center is named after Pope John Paul II because of his deep love for the Eucharist. “The Holy Father understood the importance of true culture,” said Sr. Mary Jacinta. “The Eucharistic Center highlights the culture that has flourished from the Church’s Eucharistic life.”

See the complete story in the National Catholic Register.

jpii pics hanceville






Get Your Fruitcakes Here!

fruitcake2There is a charming article in the Kansas City Star about the Trappist (Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance) monks at Assumption Abbey in Ava, Missouri, who make a popular fruitcake. One could expect that these men, who live in silence most of the time, to be somber and introspective with one foot in heaven. One foot in heaven they may have and if so, heaven will be a lively place once they get there, God willing!

The monks are getting up there in years yet they still produce the fruitcakes and run the abbey as they have been doing for the last 60 plus years. It’s getting more difficult as the monks age. Boniface is 87, Robert is 88, Thomas is 85. These are three of the monks who are the backbone of the abbey. Many of them were in the military in World War II when monastic life was viewed as a spiritual Marine Corps. Then Vatican II came, says Cyprian, and “it was no longer a favorable environment for fruitcake3spiritual life.” Cyprian says, “I’ve accomplished everything I’ve wanted except to join my brothers in the cemetery.”

Thankfully, help is on the way. Monks from Vietnam are coming in stages to fill out the ranks. They will carry on with the fruitcake tradition, and may even mail some back to Vietnam, though Father Peter from Vietnam says, “Americans like very heavy food.” The monks, in fact, used to make concrete blocks but now make fruitcakes. “We had to change the recipe slightly,” Cyprian said. “And fruitcakes are easier to stack.”

Boniface sometimes bakes over 40 loaves of bread a day. The difference between a cook and a chef, he says,  is that a cook has to do his own dishes. He also has a soup called MustGo soup. “I go through the refrigerator and say, ‘This must go.’”

Assumption Abbey is a daughter house of New Melleray in Iowa and was founded in 1950. The Abbey produces an astounding 30,000 cakes annually, their main source of income. To place an order, click here!


“He Leads, I Follow”

Bishop Kevin Rhoades and Sisters Praying at the Casket of Mother Theresia
Bishop Kevin Rhoades and Sisters Praying at the Casket of Mother Theresia

One of the most moving events during the beatification ceremonies of Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel was the translation of her body from the Motherhouse in Olpe to a new adoration chapel in the Church of St. Martin in the same town.

I do not know if this is a normal occurrence during a beatification (I think it is) but it signifies something important. The beatified goes from “belonging” to a precious few to becoming a member of the worldwide family of God. I would imagine that the congregation feels like they are losing a little something of their own while gaining something of universal eternal value: the witness of their beatified son or daughter uplifted for the benefit of all.

Mother Maria Theresia is the foundress of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration. They serve in Germany, the U.S., Brazil and the Philippines. In America, they have a thriving Province in Mishawaka, Indiana. These sisters sponsor the Sisters of St. Francis Health Services, a healthcare system which upholds the moral values and teachings of the Catholic Church (how refreshing!). They also serve in schools and colleges.

Within dioceses, they care for poor, sick, elderly, and incarcerated in imitation of the preferential option for the poor as practiced by St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Theresia.

Their most important “apostolate” is Perpetual Adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament. What innumerable graces flowed down during adoration, Mother Theresia believed!

If you want more information about the Sisters, please visit their website. There is also a Come & See weekend for young adult woman, January 2-5, 2014.

Mother Theresia’s motto was: “He Leads, I Follow.”




December Prayer Intentions from the Holy Father

Here are the Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions for the month of December courtesy of the Apostleship of Prayer as well as an excerpt of their reflection for each intention:

child11. General Intention: That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.

On Christmas a few years ago, Pope Benedict spoke of “children who are denied the love of their parents…, children who are brutally exploited as soldiers…, and children who are victims of the industry of pornography and every other appalling form of abuse.” What can change this evil? “Only through the conversion of hearts, only through a change in the depths of our hearts can the cause of all this evil be overcome.”

We pray for this conversion as we pray that victimized children may find the love and protection they need.

child22. Mission Intention: That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior’s coming.

We Christians are preparing not only for the celebration of Christmas but also for the second coming of Christ. While Advent is a designated season for this preparation, we may also experience Advent every time we prepare to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion. When we ask in prayer that we may be more like Mary, we prepare ourselves to receive the Word of God and give Him flesh in our lives.

May each Mass and daily offering help us to prepare humanity for the Savior’s coming.

She Knew What To Do

pcc sr eugenia
Poor Clare Missionary, Sis­ter Euge­nia Bonetti.

In a new book called “The Little Flowers of St. Francis,” by Andrea Tornielli, Pope Francis relates how his life was saved many years ago by a nun. At the time, he was 21 years old and suffered from three cysts in his lung, requiring the removal of part of the lung. The doctor put him on antibiotics but a nun increased the dose because, as he said, “The nun who was on the ward tripled that because she had an intuition, she knew what to do, because she was with the ill all day long.”

A lesson to ponder. The closer we are to suffering, the better we will know what to do. God came down and dwelt amongst us to show us the way, the truth and the life.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Setting Captives Free

o de m capturedI seem to overdo posts on the Mercedarians but I love their fourth vow: to offer themselves as “ransom” in place of someone who is in danger of losing the faith. The picture to the right depicts The Martyrdom of Saint Serapion by Francisco de Zurbarán. Hung by ropes, he is obviously at the end of his life. A beautiful picture of self-sacrifice resembling Christ’s image on the Cross.

Serapion was born in Ireland and entered the army of King Richard the Lion-Hearted. While fighting with the Christians as they were battling the Moslem army in Spain, he met St. Peter Nolasco and the Mercedarians. He joined their “army” and received the habit in 1222.

spencer o de m
Fr. Spencer (center)

Serapion was captured in Algeria during his fourth redemption of a Christian held captive by the Moors. In this month when many of us are saying the Novena to St. Andrew, Serapion is a fitting martyr for he was nailed to an X-shaped cross, like Saint Andrew’s cross, and savagely dismembered. The barbarian and cruel King of Algiers, Selín Benimarin, was the one who gave the Church and the Mercedarian Order this martyr on November 14, 1240.

The Mercedarians carry on their work today focusing their priestly ministry specifically at the service of those in danger of losing their faith from modern forms of captivity. They are celebrating the ordination to the priesthood of Fr. David Michael Spencer, O de M, who was ordained in November 17th. (Click here to see ordination video). Father Spencer is parochial vicar of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Philadelphia.



Men and Women Who Can Awaken the World

superiorsLast week, Pope Francis announced that 2015 would be a year dedicated to consecrated life. Needless to say, we at the Institute on Religious Life are very excited!

The Holy Father made the announcement during the 82nd General Assembly of the Union of Superior Generals in Rome. Although a brief meeting with the Union was planned, the Holy Father spent an estimated three hours answering questions from the 120 participants.

According to the Holy See Press Office, the first questions to the Pope dealt with the mission and identity of consecrated life. “A radical approach is required of all Christians, but religious persons are called upon to follow the Lord in a special way: They are men and woman who can awaken the world,” the Pope said.

“Consecrated life is prophecy. God asks us to fly the nest and to be sent to the frontiers of the world, avoiding the temptation to ‘domesticate’ them. This is the most concrete way of imitating the Lord.”

The Holy Father said that the formation of religious must be founded on four fundamental pillars: spiritual, intellectual, communitarian and apostolic. The aim, he said, “is to form religious persons with a tender heart, not acid, not like vinegar. We are all sinners, but not corrupt. Sinners are to be accepted, but not the corrupt”.

The Holy Father concluded the meeting by thanked participants for their years of service to the Church and announced 2015 as a Year dedicated to consecrated life. “Thank you for what you do and for your spirit of faith and your service. Thank you for your witness and also for the humiliations through which you have had to pass.”