All posts by Michael Rawls

The Pauper Theologian: St. Anthony of Padua

AnthonyofPauduaToday the Church celebrates the feast of one of the earliest Franciscan saints and a Doctor of the Church, Saint Anthony of Padua. More than aiding one to find lost articles, St. Anthony led a remarkable life that was spurred by an encounter he had with the Franciscan protomartyrs.

St. Anthony was born into a prominent family in Lisbon, Portugal in the year 1195. At the age of fifteen, he joined an Augustinian monastery where he studied intensely and was ordained a priest. His life was changed forever, however, when he encountered the bodies of the first Franciscan martyrs who had been tortured and beheaded in Morocco for their preaching.

Inspired to preach the Good News like the Franciscan protomartyrs, St. Anthony gained permission to leave the Augustinian Monastery and become a Franciscan. He then went to Morocco where he became ill and was forced to return to his homeland. On his return journey, however, strong winds forced him and his companions to land in Sicily where he eventually attended the Pentecost Chapter of Mats. Saint Anthony continued to live as an obscure Franciscan friar until he was asked to give a sermon at a meeting with a group of Dominicans. The depth of his knowledge and holiness shone throughout his speech and he was assigned to preach in northern Italy.

St. Anthony quickly became renowned throughout Christendom for his preaching which he nurtured through his deep prayer life and studies. He died at the age of 36 and was canonized in less than one year. Over three hundred years after his death, St. Anthony’s body was exhumed and his tongue was found to be incorrupt, a testament to his teachings.

Conventual FranciscansThis early Franciscan saint is especially honored among the Conventual Franciscans who have custody of the basilica in Padua where his relics reside. They continue to promote education and study amongst friars especially those in formation like Br. Bernard Fonkalsrud OFM. Conv. who said, “the Conventual Franciscans have always encouraged our friars to seek to learn, inspired by ‘il Santo’ who was really the first Franciscan theologian and teacher. St. Francis entrusted St. Anthony to teach the friars, so long as it did not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotedness. We can see products of this mindset through such examples as St. Bonaventure, Bl. Duns Scotus and St. Maximilian Kolbe.” Br. Bernard and the Conventual Franciscans continue to lead lives inspired by St. Anthony of Padua who himself was inspired by the holiness of earlier Franciscans.

Apostleship of Prayer: June Intentions

ApostleshipofPrayer

The Holy Father’s prayer intentions for the month of May as well as reflections by Fr. James Kubicki, S.J., National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer.

UNIVERSAL INTENTION

Human Solidarity. That the aged, marginalized, and those who have no one may find–even within the huge cities of the world–opportunities for encounter and solidarity.

Solidarity is more than the name of a famous Polish labor union that brought about momentous change in the Communist world in the 1980s. It’s an important part of the Church’s social teaching.

Solidarity recognizes that every human soul is created by God and redeemed by Jesus. Thus, all people are equal before God and deserving respect.

At the beginning of World War II, Pope Pius XII wrote: “A contemporary error is disregard for the law of human solidarity and charity, imposed both by our common origin and by the equality of all men. This law is sealed by the sacrifice of redemption offered by Jesus Christ on the altar of the Cross.”

Pope St. John Paul II wrote that solidarity is “a firm determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.”

More recently, Pope Francis wrote that solidarity is the answer to the “scourges of our own day.” Speaking to the United Nations and quoting from an Argentinian poet, he said: “Brothers should stand by each other, because this is the first law. If you fight among yourselves, you’ll be devoured by those outside.” Who is the one outside the human family who devours? The devil.

And so, in solidarity with people everywhere, we commit ourselves to praying and working this month for the common good so that all people, especially those who are alienated and abandoned may know they are not alone.

EVANGELIZATION INTENTION

Seminarians and Novices. That seminarians and men and women entering religious life may have mentors who live the joy of the Gospel and prepare them wisely for their mission.

Following Christ, we are all called to be missionaries. Pope Francis wrote that “if every baptized person is called to bear witness to the Lord Jesus by proclaiming the faith received as a gift, this is especially so for each consecrated man and woman. Since Christ’s entire existence had a missionary character, so too, all those who follow him closely must possess this missionary quality” (World Mission Day Message, 2015).

He went on: “Mission is a passion for Jesus. When we pray before Jesus crucified, we see the depth of his love. At the same time, we realize that the love flowing from Jesus’ pierced heart expands to embrace the People of God and all humanity.”

Those who have experienced the deep love of the Heart of Jesus and give themselves totally to God’s service as priests and religious sisters and brothers—these consecrated ones are called to share his passion for mission. They cannot keep the Good News of God’s love to themselves. But they need preparation so that their initial experience of God’s love may grow and so that they will know the best ways to share that love.

Seminarians and those beginning consecrated life in religious communities need teachers who will guard the spark that inspired them to serve God. They need joyful and wise mentors who will fan the spark into flame in such a way that it does not burn too fast and burn out but rather burn with the steady light and warmth that is the Sacred Heart of Jesus, “the burning furnace of charity.”

We join Pope Francis in praying that dioceses and communities may commit some of their best people to the formation of future priests, sisters, and brothers.

Thunderstruck: The Conversion and Life of St. Norbert

St._Norbert_Today the Church celebrates the feast of the founder of the Norbertines, St. Norbert of Xanten. St. Norbert grew up enjoying worldly pleasures, however, after experiencing a dramatic conversion went on to bring the light of Christ into the world through his life as a religious priest and bishop.

St. Norbert was born in the latter half of the eleventh century in present-day Germany. He was the son of a count and enjoyed worldly pursuits during his youth. One day, however, St. Norbert was thrown from his horse when a sudden bolt of lightning caused his horse to buck him off his saddle during a terrible storm. This incident spurred a great conversion within the young man and he sought the guidance of a local abbot.

Following his conversion, St. Norbert pursued a priestly vocation and was ordained in Cologne. He quickly became a well-known itinerant preacher and gathered disciples who joined him in working for the salvation of souls. This group grew large and St. Norbert was unsure of what the Lord wanted them to do.

20160213_solemn_profession_8327This uncertainty ended when, according to Bl. Hugh of Fosses, St. Augustine appeared to St. Norbert and said, “I, whom you see, am Augustine, bishop of Hippo. Behold, you have the rule which I have written, under which, if your confreres, my sons, fight well, they will stand secure before Christ in the terror of the last judgment.” Following the apparition, St. Norbert and his first disciples made their religious profession on Christmas Day 1121.

The order quickly grew and now the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey continue the work of their founder. The Norbertine Fathers lead lives of communal prayer and care for souls in Southern California. Their primary mission is to consecrate the entire day to God but also have many apostolates including running a preparatory school for young men. Steeped in 900 years of tradition, the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey continue to lead lives fashioned after their founder, St. Norbert of Xanten.

A Blessed May in Fort Wayne

FortWayneFriarsOne of the IRL’s youngest communities is quickly growing in northern Indiana. The Franciscan Brothers Minor of Fort Wayne, IN welcomed several men into their community this past month through profession of vows and are rapidly expanding after being founded just seven years ago.

The Franciscan Brothers Minor celebrated throughout the month of May with men in formation being invested with their habit and professing vows. They welcomed ten new novices when Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades, Bishop of the Diocese Fort Wayne-South Bend, invested them with their habits on May 18th. The celebrations continued that evening when four friars professed temporary vows. The friars then concluded the month with the solemn profession of vows by three friars on May 31st.

The Franciscan Brothers Minor have grown quickly since their founding as they have tried to grow in holiness by imitating Our Lady through their Marian vow. They strive to observe the Gospel according to the Rule, Testament and the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. It is appropriate that this young community that honors Our Lady welcomed ten novices, four friars in temporary profession and three in solemn profession in May, the month of Mary.

Celebrating 25 Years of Life

SL 25The Sisters of Life celebrated the 25th anniversary of their foundation yesterday in New York. They have grown immensely during the quarter-century and have expanded throughout the United States and Canada. The Sisters held a Mass and block party to commemorate the occasion and all the blessings they have received over the years.

The festivities began with the Celebration of Mass in a packed St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Cardinal Dolan was the main celebrant with several other bishops, a diverse group of religious and lay people in attendance. In his homily, Cardinal Dolan said, “a quarter century ago, we worried – we worried that consecrated religious life was in trouble.” He did, however, state that new orders such as the Sisters of Life are “a booster shot for all of us.”

Sisters of Life Block PartyFollowing Mass, the Sisters of Life took to the streets near their Sacred Heart of Jesus Convent for a block party.  The Sisters served food, had activities for children, as well as provided opportunities for people to go to Eucharistic adoration and confession. An outdoor Eucharistic procession and benediction appropriately concluded the festivities.

The Sisters of Life have grown immensely in the short 25 years since John Cardinal O’Connor founded them in 1991. They are unique in that they take a special fourth vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life along with the three traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Having grown from eight sisters to nearly one-hundred in the short time span, the Sisters of Life look forward to continuing to grow as they promote the sanctity of human life.

St. Catherine of Siena: Messenger of Mercy

Siena Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Catherine of Siena which is particularly significant during this Year of Mercy and 800th Jubilee of the Foundation of the Dominican Order. St. Catherine led an extraordinary life as an advisor to the Holy See, Dominican tertiary, and witness to God’s merciful love.

Catherine Benincasa was born on the feast of the Annunciation in 1347 and quickly grew to have a deep spiritual life first having an apparition of Christ at the young age of 6. After some hesitation from her family, St. Catherine obtained permission to become a Dominican tertiary and experienced a “mystical marriage” with Christ at the age of 21. Following the momentous occasion, she performed works of mercy including visiting the imprisoned whom she hoped would turn to God and nursing the sick even volunteering to care for those afflicted with the most terrible diseases.

St. Catherine soon became renowned throughout Italy for her sanctity and wisdom. During her life, she strove to maintain peace throughout Italy by negotiating peace terms between cities and preaching a crusade in hopes of unifying the Christendom to retake the Holy Land. St. Catherine’s wisdom caused popes to take her counsel as she was influential in convincing Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome and even moved to Rome herself at the request of Pope Urban VI during the Great Schism that occurred in 1378. Her wisdom and profound spiritual insights are also apparent in her writings which led her to be proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI.

8900060944_b1782bb7c7_oThe feast of the renowned Dominican saint corresponds this year with the 8th Triennial General Assembly of the Dominican Sisters International who are currently meeting in Rome to pray, reflect and discuss the future of their preaching mission. The IRL has many Dominican affiliates including the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne who were founded by the youngest child of author Nathaniel Hawthorne, Rose. For more information on affiliate Dominican communities please visit the IRL website.

The Extraordinary Life of St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Spiritual Son

ST.Max
Father Krolikowski with St. Maxymillian Kolbe in 1939.

Many have been inspired to imitate the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, however, Father Lucjan Krolikowski OFM Conv. is unique because he lived in community with the saint for several years as a Conventual Franciscan. The 96 year old priest has led an extraordinary life having lived in community with St. Maximilian, struggled to survive a Soviet gulag in Siberia during World War II, saved and became the foster father to 150 Polish orphans and broadcasted a Catholic radio program for 32 years in the United States.

Fr. Krolikowski entered the Conventual Franciscan friary of Niepokalanow in 1934 at the age of 15 due to his desire to become a priest like St. Maximilian Kolbe. At the time, Niepokalanow was the largest monastery in the world and St. Maximilian was the heart and soul of the community’s apostolate according to Fr. Krolikowski. In an interview with the National Catholic Register, he said, “I’ve met a few saintly people in my life, but Father Maximilian Kolbe was the most saintly, in my estimation. He had an impact on you; you wanted to imitate him.” The friars deeply loved St. Maximilian and many even volunteered their own lives for his release following his arrest.

Soviet troops arrested Fr. Krolikowski in 1940 and sent him to a labor camp in Siberia. At the camp, he cut down trees for 13 or 14 hours each day only occasionally receiving a piece of bread for sustenance. With the war incurring many causalities, soldiers were needed. As a result, Fr. Krolikowski entered training and went to the Middle East eventually becoming a priest in Beirut and spending time in East Africa.

5913110  In East Africa, Fr. Krolikowski met Polish children who had become orphaned after their parents had died in Soviet gulags. When the Communist government of Poland demanded their repatriation, Fr. Krolikowski heroically sought to aid them by emigrating with them to Canada. He recounted this trial in Stolen Children: A Saga of Polish War Children which he wrote with the hope that the book would, “draw attention to the parallel fate of the children of other races and nationalities who are ravaged by the uncontrolled passion for power, wealth, success and ill-understood independence.”

Once in the United States, Fr. Krolikowski continued to lead a life fashioned in imitation of St. Maximilian. He did this by broadcasting a Catholic radio program for 32 years and writing several books including his memoir, A Franciscan Odyssey. When reflecting on his life, Fr. Krolikowski says he would do it all over again because he chose the life of his spiritual father, St. Maximilian Kolbe.

FREE Youth Session at IRL National Meeting

The theme for the National Meeting is “Merciful Like the Father! Celebrating the Year of Mercy.” This special time of grace is intended to challenge all of us to seek out God’s merciful love in our own lives so that we can become instruments of Divine Mercy to others.

 As an added bonus this year, an informative and inspiring Shroud of Turin Exhibit will be on display! After extensive medical, historical and scientific research, the Center for the Study of the Passion of the Christ and the Holy Shroud developed this instructive exhibit explaining the history and the scientific evidence. The exhibit features a full-length image of the Shroud and a life-size corpus of Our Lord reflecting the Gospel narratives and scientific findings. It is truly a fascinating and life-changing experience!

Join the IRL April 2nd in celebrating the Jubilee Year of Mercy at the 2016 National Meeting! For more information and to sign up please visit our website.

IRL Affiliates and the 2016 March for Life

Cantius MarchJanuary 22nd marked the forty-third anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion in the United States. To commemorate the anniversary, pro-lifers from around the country faced great obstacles such as the weather to fill the streets of Chicago, San Francisco and Washington D.C. as a witness to the dignity of all human life.

Over 5,000 people braved frigid temperatures and packed the streets of downtown Chicago on January 17th. Before marching, however, the event began with Masses for Life.  Several Masses for Life around the Chicago area were sponsored by religious orders and were influenced by their spiritualties such as the Franciscan Litany recited at St. Peter’s in the Loop. During the events, over 2,000 of the IRL’s Merciful Like the Father holy cards were distributed by Fr. Jim Heyd and his team.

Winter Storm Jonas wreaked havoc on the east coast during the weekend of the March for Life in Washington D.C. The weather forced many to stay home and participate in local pro-life events, however, many still converged on our nation’s capital to defend life. One group of 165 were led by Fr. Nathan Caswell, SJC  of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius. After attending the March, they unfortunately shared the fate of many and were stranded in Pennsylvania. They made the best of their situation, however,  and were able to celebrate Mass in the hotel’s bar. They were even joined at Mass by sisters from another IRL affiliate, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

walk-for-life16-17Pouring rain could not stop tens of thousands of people from attending the 12th annual Walk for Life in San Francisco. Among those in attendance were students from Thomas Aquinas College. The group led the Walk for Life last year and brought the largest group ever from the school this year with 220 students. The Sisters of Life also attended the Walk for Life and appropriately performed the corporal work of mercy of clothing the naked in this Year of Mercy by  giving their cloaks to protesting women so that they would not become ill before being arrested.

These and other tremendous stories emerged from the events surrounding the forty-third anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Pro-lifers will not soon forget them as they witnessed to the dignity of all human life.

St. Thomas Aquinas: Academic, Dominican, Saint

madonna-and-child-with-st-dominic-and-st-thomas-aquinas-fra-beato-1430Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas. This great saint struggled against the wishes of his family to fulfill his vocation as a member of the Order of Preachers and went on to be an esteemed academic, saint and Doctor of the Church.

St. Thomas Aquinas has had a profound impact on the Church, particularly with regards to his studies in Philosophy and Theology. As a student, Thomas studied under St. Albert the Great and eventually went on to receive his doctorate in Theology from the University of Paris. His academic work has proven to be immensely influential and has received great praise and admiration. Pope Leo XIII even spoke of St. Thomas Aquinas in Aeterni Patris stating, “like the sun he heated the world with the warmth of his virtues and filled it with the splendor of his teaching.”

His academic work as a Dominican, however, almost did not occur due to his family’s opposition. At the age of nineteen, St. Thomas entered the fledgling community of the Order of Preachers in Naples. His family was distressed because they did not believe that a noble like Thomas should join a mendicant order and desired that he enter thomas-2-sizedthe renowned Abbey of Monte Cassino where a kinsman was Abbot. His brothers, imperial soldiers, captured St. Thomas on his way to Cologne and confined him to the castle of San Giovanni at Rocca Secca where they sought to tempt him away from his vocation. After two years, his family relented and he was released allowing him to profess vows in Rome.

After professing vows, St. Thomas went on to have an exceptional academic career though, after experiencing a time of ecstasy at Mass, he ceased to write  saying, “I can do no more. Such secrets have been revealed to me that all I have written now appears to be of little value” St. Thomas’ academic work has proven to be tremendously significant, however, and he is now considered the patron of students and universities. His persistence to fulfill his vocation and search for Truth, makes him an extraordinary figure for students.

The IRL is committed to promoting universities that provide strong formation in Catholic spirituality as students discern their vocation and obtain a college degree. Several colleges in the United States are affiliated with the IRL and provide a Catholic setting where students can seek Truth.