Category Archives: General interest

The Spiritual Exercises as the Path to Discernment


Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Basque knight who became a great saint and founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola. The Church faithful can be guided by the inspiration of this great saint, particularly through his illuminating insights into discernment.

The very life of St. Ignatius aids in seeking holiness and the peace of God’s will. Bedridden from an injury suffered in battle, Ignatius read books on the life of Christ and lives of the saints which led to him experience a great conversion. These books inspired him to abandon his old way of life and seek to live out God’s will.

In Manresa, Spain, Saint Ignatius formulated the Spiritual Exercises which explain how one should discern God’s will, as he strove to after his conversion. This led him to be proclaimed the patron of spiritual exercises by Pope Pius XI in 1922. St. Ignatius explained that the Spiritual Exercises are a way of “seeking and disposing the soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments and, after their removal, of seeking and finding the will of God in the disposition of our life for the salvation of our soul.”

The four stages of the Spiritual Exercises allow one to discern God’s will which can be particularly helpful when discerning which vocation God is calling one to. Pope Francis, formed in the spirituality of St. Ignatius within the Society of Jesus, said in discussing the Spiritual Exercises that they provoke several questions: “Is Christ the center of my life? Do I really put Christ at the center of my life? Because there is always the temptation to think that we are at the center.” The Holy Father is showing the importance of placing Christ at the center of one’s life in order to truly discern and follow His will for us.

The Church can clearly see the fruits of these Exercises which place Christ at the center of one’s discernment by the testimonies of those who have performed them. Great saints, like those who inspired St. Ignatius’ conversion, have undertaken the exercises including St. Charles Borromeo, “to adopt a more perfect form of life”; St. Teresa of Avila, to become, “the mistress of lofty contemplation”; and St Francis de Sales, “to serve God with the greatest possible fidelity.” These saints are a testament to the power of the Exercises and inspire those in discernment to also learn from the patron of spiritual exercises.

Many within the Church today seek to learn from the Spiritual Exercises with the Oblates of the Virgin Mary being just one example. While performing the Spiritual Exercises under the direction of a Jesuit priest, their founder, Ven. Pio Bruno Lanteri, experienced the mercy of God and strove to become a witness to this mercy by preaching fidelity to the Church and Our Lady. The spirituality of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary flows from the Spiritual Exercises and aids them in becoming experts in spiritual direction. If you would like more information on the Oblates of the Virgin Mary or how you can practice the Spiritual Exercises with them please visit their website:

Prayer of Saint Ignatius
Dearest Jesus teach me to be generous
Teach me to love and serve You as You deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest
To labour and to look for no reward,
Except that of knowing that I do Your Holy Will.

Children’s Book Explains Religious Life

bonosaIt is very hard, if not impossible, to find a children’s book that explains and explores the beauty of a religious vocation. Many children have never ever seen or spoken to a religious sister, brother or priest, and probably do not have the faintest idea what religious life is all about. How will vocations be sparked in young hearts if they are not introduced to this beautiful life of self-giving to God?

Therefore, a new book on religious life by M. Cristina Borges with illustrations by Michaela Harrison fills a big void. Entitled Of Bells and Cells, it explains that we are all called to a vocation in life but some are called in a special way. The book makes it clear that religious communities are families who pass on a way of living, praying and thinking about God from one generation to the next.

Terms like postulant and novice are explained, as well as what daily life in a monastery or convent is like. The ceremonies for new religious, the meaning of a habit and a new name show children that these individuals are entirely dedicated to God. There are wonderful pictures that show the typical habits of Franciscans, Benedictines, Carmelites, Dominicans, Poor Clares, Redemptorists, Carthusians, Missionaries of Charity and the Conceptionists (for trivia buffs the first congregation of women to come to the USA.).

One of the most effective areas of the book is the section on the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, explained in a very appealing way. Religious, she says, who profess the vow of chastity “work to be as pure as the Virgin Mary, giving birth to Jesus in people’s hearts.”

The call to a cloistered or active life is delineated but “all religious imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, doing simple things very well for love of Jesus.” The concept that men who are religious can also be priests is explained in detail along with what a priest as an alter Christus means. Finally, the appendix gives the history behind the aforementioned religious orders as well as the Little Sisters of the Poor and a few religious saints.

The book can be ordered from St. Bonosa Books ( It is a beautiful way to ignite in the souls of young people a desire for this often hidden vocation in our secular world.

National Vocation Awareness Week (Nov 2-8)

381Next month we celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week (November 2-8), a time for all to pray for a culture of vocations for the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life. In other words, to pray for an environment in homes, schools, workplaces and souls where young men and women can hear God’s call to them.

“A culture of vocations is one that provides the necessary support for others to hear and respond to God’s call in their lives,” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “With God’s grace, we help build that culture through fervent prayer, the witness of our lives and the encouragement we extend to those discerning a vocation to priesthood or consecrated life.”

It is especially important to pray for vocations from the Hispanic community which are 54% of the Catholics in the U.S. yet only 15% of the men in the seminary and many of these are foreign-born.

More information and resources for National Vocation Awareness Week, including a prayer card, suggested prayers of the faithful and bulletin-ready quotes are available online at the USCCB website.

Benedictines in the Holy Land

osb dormMany people are aware that the Franciscans are an ever-present presence in the Holy Land. The familiar Jerusalem cross above a door indicates that the Franciscans are the guardians of that particular (usually) holy site and all are welcome to come in.

But the Benedictines are also in the Holy Land at the Church of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes on the Sea of Galilee (Tabgha Priory), and at Abu Ghosh, where the Ark of the Covenant rested for twenty years. Fittingly, the Church in Abu Gosh is called Notre Dame de l’Arche d’Alliance (Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant). Mary can be seen at the top holding the infant Jesus in her arms.

The National Catholic Register recently interviewed Fr. Mark Sheridan, a Benedictine monk at Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. He will celebrate 50 years in the priesthood in February 2015. In the lengthy interview, Fr. Sheridan describes the complex and fascinating life of a Benedictine in Israel.

In 2012, he founded Friends of the Benedictines to “provide financial support the religious, charitable and educational activities of the canonically established monastic communities following the Rule of St. Benedict in the Holy Land.” Their life in Israel is precarious. They rely on pilgrims to support their activities including special assistance to those in need. In unsettled times like today, they suffer.

tabghaIf you are fortunate to go to Israel and can get away on your own, I highly recommend checking out a stay at the Tabgha guesthouse on the Sea of Galilee. It is located in one of the quietest and most beautiful places in Israel. In the 1930’s, this site was excavated and lo and behold they discovered a 1000+ year old Byzantine Church. The ancient mosaics can still be seen in the new Church erected on the site. Also in Tabgha are the Benedictine Sisters from the Philippines from the Congregation of the Benedictine Sisters of the Eucharistic King. They care for the many Filipino workers in Israel.

In the Rule of St. Benedict it says that all guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ (Chapter 53). The Benedictines in the Holy Land continue this practice, receiving pilgrims, Christian and non-Christian alike, showing them the door to Christ.

My Life for Your Freedom

white scapularMy Life for Your Freedom. This phrase captures the spirit of the Mercedarian friars and sisters around the world.

Yesterday, our pastor blessed a whole basket of brown scapulars and offered them to the faithful in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It reminds me that the brown Carmelite scapular, while certainly the most popular, is by no means the only scapular around for the laity. There is also the beautiful white Mercedarian scapular.

The Scapular was originally the long, wide piece of cloth worn around the neck by religious as part of their habit. Today’s religious orders continue to wear such a Scapular but smaller versions are available to lay people.

The Mercedarian friars wear a white habit composed of a tunic, belt, scapular, capuche and shield. The white Mercedarian Scapular can be seen as a “smaller version” of the Order’s habit for laypeople.

The Mercedarian Scapular spiritually unites its wearer to the work of the worldwide Mercedarian Order in its work in ransoming Christians from various types of captivity. The Sodality of the Scapular is a spiritual organization of the laity who have a special devotion to the Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Mercy. They unite themselves spiritually to the work of the Mercedarian Friars in the ransoming of Christian Captives in danger of apostasy. Besides wearing the White Scapular, members offer daily prayers for the Order, the Holy Father, and suffering and persecuted members of the Church.

The wearer of the Scapular places himself under the loving protection of Mary.

For more information on the Sodality of the Scapular, visit the Mercedarians’ website. There is also a YouTube video of a Mercedarian Sodality Scapular Investiture. For information on the Mercedarian sisters, go to their site as well.

Watch 2014 National Meeting Via Live Video Streaming

40thThrough the generosity of Corey and Katherine Huber of the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations, we wish to extend a special invitation to all our IRL affiliates, especially cloistered and monastic communities, and IRL friends to participate in the 2014 IRL National Meeting by viewing all the scheduled chapel events online via video streaming.

To view select portions of the National Meeting on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you can paste this link into your web browser:

Or you can go to the home page and click on the link there.

The link will direct you to a dedicated IRL YouTube channel.

Please note that the times given below are Central Daylight Time. Check the YouTube channel for the times for your particular time zone.


 Friday, April 25, 2014

4:00 pm        Pontifical High Mass (Extraordinary Form) celebrated by Most Rev. James Timlin

7:15 pm       Keynote Address: “Building the Civilization of Love through the Sacred Heart of Jesus,”   Dr.  Timothy O’Donnell

8:15 pm         Rosary & Benediction

 Saturday, April 26, 2014

1:30 pm       “Having Our Answers Ready: Combating the Cultural Climate of Confusion and Scorn,” Sheila Liaugminas

2:30 pm       “Our Shepherds Speak,” Panel Presentation featuring Most Rev. Robert F. Vasa  and Most Rev. James C. Timlin, moderated by Dr. Timothy O’Donnell

4:00 pm       Holy Mass, Main Chapel celebrated by Most Rev. Robert F. Vasa

 Sunday, April 27, 2014

9:00 am       “True Holiness, True Joy,” Mother M. Julie Saegaert, S.C.M.C.

10:00 am       Divine Mercy Chaplet & Relic Veneration

10:30 am       Holy Mass celebrated by Rev. Brian Mullady, O.P.

Please keep in your prayers the dear mother of Katherine Huber, Marjorie, who recently passed away. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace!

Institute on Religious Life Launches New Website

Revised screenThe Institute on Religious Life today launched a completely redesigned The new site is more dynamic and user friendly, houses a great resource of information, and provides expanded audio and video features.

“All of the changes are intended to convey a better sense of our mission and who we are as an organization,” said Michael D. Wick, executive director of the IRL. “We are so happy to launch our new website during the IRL’s 40th anniversary and as the Church prepares to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life which Pope Francis declared to begin this October.”

The new site was made possible by a grant from Our Sunday Visitor Institute. It was designed by Solutio Software of Cheney, Kansas.

“The site will be a great help to young Catholics who wish to know more or are considering the priestly or religious life, something very much needed in our times. And it will connect them to faithful institutes of consecrated life. The VocationSearch database is terrific for learning about the IRL’s 160-plus affiliate communities,” said M. Kathleen O’Brien, IRL director of operations. “We believe it is the premier Catholic vocations information portal—a ‘one-stop shopping’ experience for those who are sincerely discerning their vocation or seeking resources to promote and pray for vocations. From its 8-day ‘virtual’ discernment retreats, to the new Religious Life e-magazine, to vocation prayer leaflets for distribution among family, friends or parishioners, the new site offers all kinds of resources for building up the consecrated life.”

The site has in-depth reflections on the consecrated life, print and audio, including meditations by the IRL’s founder, Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., and talks given by IRL national director Fr. Thomas Nelson, O.Praem. The home page photo rotation features IRL affiliates, as well as real-time entries from the IRL’s “Vocation Blog” and a listing of scheduled events.

Young people who are serious about discernment can sign up for the free “Speak Lord” audio download of the month club or find out about upcoming “Come & See” vocation retreats. “Young people need catechesis and direction to be able to discern the Lord’s calling for their lives and the IRL wishes to provide helpful resources that will allow them to discern God’s will,” notes Father Nelson.

The Institute on Religious Life was founded in 1974 by Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. Early supporters included Bl. Mother of Calcutta and Ven. Fulton J. Sheen. Its mission is to promote and support the consecrated life as a gift to the Church and an evangelical witness to the world.


Men of Christ

menof christOn March 15, 2014, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will host a conference for men (and sons!) entitled Men of Christ. Open to men outside the archdiocese, I know personally from people who have attended the conference that it is an incredible event with inspiring speakers, fellowship, Mass, Confession and Eucharistic Adoration.

The purpose is to empower men to boldly live their Faith!

Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hying, an IRL Executive Board Member, will be the main celebrant for the 4:00 pm Mass. Other guests include:

  • Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee
  • Tom Peterson from Catholics Come Home
  • Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, who will speak on the message of Divine Mercy
  • Michael Coren – TV Host, Radio Personality, Speaker, Author
  • And others

The event will be held at the Milwaukee Theater and will begin at 9:00am (7:00 am Mass will be offered). For more details visit the website: www.Menof

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions – January

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

1. Universal Intention

That all may promote authentic economic development that respects the dignity of all peoples.

Pope Francis sees that the “worship of the golden calf of old (see Exodus 32: 15-34) has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money” which puts making money ahead of people. “Concealed behind this attitude is a rejection of ethics, a rejection of God. Money has to serve, not to rule!”

The universal intention this month challenges us to examine ourselves and our choices, for as the Holy Father declared: “The Pope appeals for disinterested solidarity and for a return to person-centered ethics in the world of finance and economics.”

1 Timothy 6: 6-10 The love of money is the root of all evils.

2. Evangelization Intention

That Christians of diverse denominations may walk toward the unity desired by Christ.

Because there are obvious divisions among Christians, the world has trouble believing in Jesus. Thus, part of evangelization—spreading the Gospel—is work and prayer for unity. At the Last Supper Jesus prayed to the Father that Christians “may all be one…so that the world may know” that the Father sent Him (John 17: 20-23). This unity among Christians must be visible so that the world can see and believe.

During the annual Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 18-25, we pray with Pope Francis that the Holy Spirit may make us one as Jesus and the Father are one—so that the world may believe.

James 4: 1-12 Where do the conflicts among you come from?

For Father Kubicki’s complete reflections, please visit the Apostleship of Prayer.

The Secret Behind the Renewal of Vocations

renewal2A new book was issued in December which sheds light on the priestly vocation crisis and what is drawing young men to the priesthood today. Entitled: Renewal: How a New Generation of Faithful Priests and Bishops Is Revitalizing the Catholic Church (Encounter Books, 2013) it studies the reasons behind the past decline and the current rise in vocations.

The authors Anne Hendershott and Christopher White say that the more parishes and dioceses and religious organizations compromise “with society and the world, blurring its identity and modifying its teachings and ethics, the more it will decline.”

Ms. Hendershott said that “good and holy priests provide wonderful role models for young men who might someday consider joining the priesthood. Conversely, in some parishes—run by progressive pastoral administrators—young men are less likely to answer the call to a priesthood that has been so diminished that the priest is a visiting ‘sacramental minister’ who arrives in time to consecrate the Eucharist and play a subservient role to the female ‘pastoral administrator.’”

Equally disturbing is the role or lack thereof that Catholic Colleges play in the nurturing of vocations. Says Ms. Hendershott: “There was a time when Catholic higher education saw it as their role to nurture priestly vocations. Now, most Catholic colleges and universities seem to do what they can to inhibit them.” However orthodox schools like Franciscan University, Ave Maria, and Christendom College have bountiful vocations. At Franciscan University, the Blessed Junipero Serra Fund provides spiritual and financial support to the 50 or 60 or so young men who are discerning a vocation to the priesthood.

Mr White says that “successful dioceses are led by bishops who are unafraid to be countercultural through their defense of the dignity of all human life, their support of traditional marriage, their efforts to protect and promote religious liberty, their willingness to live faithful and celibate lives.” Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley of Boston was advised to close the seminary when he arrived 10 years ago. “Now,” says Ms. Hendershott, “there are 70 men in Boston studying to be priests, and the seminary has had to turn away candidates for lack of space.”

Both authors are optimistic about the future. Young men and women are being trained to pass on the Faith in its fullness by orthodox colleges, FOCUS, etc. “A Church that continues down this road,” says Mr. West, “will find both its pews and altars full and will be attractive to the world around it!”

For more information, read the entire article in the Catholic World Report or order the book!