An Army of Spiritual Mentors

samaritan womenOne of the biggest requirements for men and women discerning religious life is a good spiritual director. But often, the parish priest is too busy, the diocese is focused on priestly vocations and others potentially available are not a good fit or equipped to provide good spiritual mentoring.

Therefore, it is with great joy and interest, that we promote this wonderful program called “Catholic Spiritual Mentorship: Forming You to Form Others in the Interior Life.”

Offered by the Apostles of the Interior Life in collaboration with the Holy Family School of Faith, Catholic Spiritual Mentorship is a two-year course of study combining eight distance learning courses with four one-week intensive sessions offered in-residence at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.

According to their brochure:

  • The program is designed to form Spiritual Mentors to serve as guide and companion to others on their journey to holiness. We are looking for Catholics who have a desire to develop a deep prayer and sacramental life, a desire to increase their knowledge of the Catholic faith, a desire to grow in the virtues and a desire to help others do the same.
  • While many people in the program are from the greater Kansas City area, we have had participants from 15 different states and dioceses across the United States. This diverse group includes many lay people, permanent deacons,and religious sisters.

They are currently accepting applications for their next session. If you would like more information, please call (913) 310-0014 or email:

The Apostles of the Interior Life were founded in 1990 by Fr. Salvatore Scorza who, as a young seminarian, envisioned a community of young consecrated people with philosophical and theological backgrounds that would seek out their brothers and sisters and guide them to meet God.

Their four pillars are: Prayer (four hours daily including the Mass, Adoration and the Divine Office); Community life; Intellectual formation (at least 5 years of study); and Apostolate (missionary, especially on college campuses, formation of spiritual mentors, retreats, etc).

They are present on the following US college campuses: the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL; the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS; the University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI; and Texas A&M University in College Station, TX.  In 2009 a Provincial House was established in the Archdiocese of Kansas City, KS. In 2012, the first five brothers were ordained to the Priesthood.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, KS, says: “My dream … is to be able to awaken in the hearts of many a yearning for holiness. If we are able to succeed in this area, we will need an army of spiritual mentors who will be trained to help guide and assist others in developing a rich life of prayer.”

The icon for the Apostles of the Interior Life is of Jesus greeting the Samaritan women at the well. May these spiritual mentors draw many to the well of living water, to Jesus Christ.

St. Therese and Two Prisoners’ Conversions

st therseIn the The Story of a Soul, the Carmelite nun St. Therese of Lisieux recounts the conversion story of Henri Pranzini, a triple-murderer whom St. Therese feared would die impenitent. Calling Henri her “mon premier enfant” (my first child), she “wanted at all costs to keep him from falling into hell, and to succeed I employed all means imaginable, feeling that of myself I could do nothing. I offered to God all the infinite merits of Our Lord.”

After Henri’s execution in 1887, Therese learned of his last moments. “He turned, took hold of the crucifix the priest was holding out to him, and kissed the sacred wounds three times! Then his soul went to receive the merciful sentence of Him who declares that in heaven there will be more joy over one sinner who does penance than over ninety-nine who have no need of repentance!”

card_295_Jacques_Fesch2237-final-front-webI mention this because Crisis magazine recounts the conversion story of another infamous murderer, Jacques Fesch, who was executed for murder on the Feast Day of St. Therese, September 1, 1957. Calling his childhood “utter wretchedness,” he was robbing a store when things went horribly wrong. In prison, he confessed to the chaplain that he “had no faith.” But his lawyer was a devout Catholic, concerned for his client’s soul.

A book about Our Blessed Mother sparked the start of his conversion. Later, Jacques recalled: “At the end of my first year in prison, a powerful wave of emotion swept over me, causing deep and brutal suffering. Within the space of a few hours, I came into possession of faith, with absolute certainty. I believed … Grace came to me. A great joy flooded my soul, and above all a deep peace.”

The night before his execution, he wrote, “Suddenly the thought comes: no matter what I do, Paradise is not for me! Satan is behind this. He wants to discourage me. I throw myself at Mary’s feet…I am going to recite my rosary and the prayers for the dying, then I shall entrust my soul to God…. But, good Jesus, help me!”

On Tuesday, October 1, the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, Jacques made his last Confession, and received Holy Communion, offering his life for the conversion of his father, for those he loved, and for the man he had killed.

His last words, before he was guillotined, were to ask the priest for the crucifix which he kissed. In this moment, St. Therese was surely praying for his same intentions and for this child of God who returned to the Father who created him.

Jacques said he lived like a Carthusian monk while in prison. His prison cell was a monastic cell. We often get profoundly moving letters from prisoners who live like Jacques – repentant, expectant, and prayerful. We send them, free-of-charge, IRL  materials to help them on their journey. Most are grateful that a real person bothers to respond to their letters at all. They often feel invisible. Please pray for these “monks in blue” that they may experience God’s mercy and forgiveness, live truly holy lives and offer their prayers and sufferings for the good others, particularly those they have harmed.

Happy New Year to you all.

Apostolic Visitation Report – Some Highlights

Mother Agnes Mary(r) and Sister Sharon Holland (l)
Mother Agnes Mary(r) and Sister Sharon Holland (l)

On December 16, 2014, the final report of the apostolic visitation of U.S. women religious was released by the Vatican. The apostolic visitation’s purpose was “to look into the quality of the life of religious women in the United States” amid concerns about the rising median age of religious, lack of vocations and the rise of secularism in some communities.

Addressing the media were the current prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL), Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, and the congregation’s secretary, Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, OFM. Also present were Mother Mary Clare Millea, ASCJ (Apostolic Visitator); Sr. Sharon Holland, IHM, of the LCWR; and Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, SV, of the CMSWR (who will receive the IRL’s 2015 Pro Fidelitate et Virtute award at this year’s National Meeting in April. Mother Mary Clare was the recipient of the 2013 award).

Despite some communities’ initial concerns regarding the purpose of the apostolic visitation, the general reaction from those involved was overwhelmingly positive.

Some highlights:

  • 341 religious institutes of both diocesan and pontifical right, encompassing approximately 50,000 women religious, were visited.
  • The median age of apostolic women religious is in the mid-to-late 70s. The number of religious has declined from 125,000 in the mid 1960’s to 50,000 today.
  • The majority of women religious have a strong sense of the history of their institute and the charism of their foundress/founder
  • The majority of the religious institutes work with lay collaborators. However, the essential difference between the vowed religious and these lay persons should be respected and celebrated.
  • Aspirants to religious life tend to be older, more educated, and more culturally diverse than in the past. They often have extensive professional backgrounds but less prior theological and spiritual formation. Many wish to be externally recognizable as consecrated women (ie. habits).
  • Caution is to be taken not to displace Christ from the center of creation and of our faith. Institutes should ensure that their spiritual practices and ministry are in harmony with Catholic teaching about God, creation, the Incarnation and the Redemption.

Our times need the credible and attractive witness of consecrated religious who demonstrate the redemptive and transformative power of the Gospel. Convinced of the sublime dignity and beauty of consecrated life, may we all pray for and support our women religious and actively promote vocations to the religious life.

Click here to read Ann Carey’s (Sisters in Crisis) assessment of the document.


King David’s Wine

"Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard." Genesis 9:20
“Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard.” Genesis 9:20

On New Year’s Day 2015, many are probably remembering the toast they made the night before for a happy and prosperous New Year.

Therefore, it is interesting to learn that a scientist and winemaker in Israel named Elyashiv Drori is on the quest to produce wines that were served in King David’s time 3000 years ago. This isn’t as farfetched as it seems, for 4 years ago, he discovered an old, abandoned cultivated grapevine in Israel that had managed to survive the vicissitudes of heat and drought for centuries on its own.

Archaeologists have unearthed ancient wine presses and certainly the Bible talks about wine in the Old and New Testaments. The Blessed Mother mentions it at the Wedding Feast of Cana (John 2) and Jesus was offered wine vinegar while on the Cross.

Often, in countries where the water is not safe to drink, wine or beer is a safer substitute (taken in moderation of course). Elyashiv and others have scoured the countryside looking for indigenous grapes and so far have found 100 that are unique to Israel. He hopes that DNA samples taken from plant remains found at archaeological sites will match one of the vines that he has identified. In fact, near Jerusalem’s Old City, archaeologists have uncovered the remains of grapes stored nearly 3,000 years ago, preserved under layers of dirt. Elyashiv Drori seems to be coming nearer to his goal of growing vines and harvesting grapes that he can turn into real ancient Israeli wine, a glimpse into the past that King David might have tasted and recognized.