Category Archives: Resources

Cultivating Virtues for a Life of Holiness

courtesyWhat constitutes a virtuous life? Upon whose foundation should it be built? The world has many answers but the Church has one − Jesus Christ.

Standing on this foundation are many illustrious saints, none more vital for today than Saint Dominic. With the charism of preaching and teaching, the Dominicans have a lot to offer to the world today. So it is a great gift to those who hunger for the Truth to see that the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, have announced the release of a new Christian curriculum based on the teachings of the great Dominican, St. Thomas Aquinas.

Called Disciple of Christ – Education in Virtue™, this curriculum provides an easy-to-understand and systematic structure for students to learn about the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Its purpose is to instruct students on the virtues they need to cultivate in order to live holy lives as disciples of Jesus Christ.

The Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, Charity), the Cardinal Virtues (Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance) and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Understanding, Knowledge, Wisdom, Fear of the Lord, Counsel, Piety, Fortitude) are presented in an integrated way in a language that children can understand and even adults can learn from.

The resources available include an educator’s guide, so they can fully understand the importance of living a Christian life of virtue, and a Virtue Chart Pack which describes, among other things, the meaning of each virtue, its opposing trait and ways to cultivate the virtue. Suggestions for different age groups are included.

You can also order cards that give real life examples of the virtues, such as “courtesy” as an expression of Justice. Holy cards with an image of a particular saint can be distributed as a reminder of a particular virtue to be cultivated. There are many resources for administrators, educators, families and individuals to compliment the instruction in the classroom or in the home.

The sisters wish to convey the truth that Christian discipleship is the way towards fruitfulness and joy. It was developed “in response to the call for a New Evangelization, firmly conveying the reality that happiness is found in a life of holiness.” It is the Universal Call to Holiness as called for by Lumen Gentium. This new resource gives parents and educators a tool for building holy Catholics for today and for the future.

Year of Faith Saint for the Month

For years, I been receiving a monthly newsletter from Abbaye Saint-Joseph de Clairval in France which usually features a saint or blessed of the Church. These newsletters are 4 dense pages of meaty information liberally laced with quotes from the Holy Father commenting on the relevance for the saint for today. These newsletters are free (sign up here) but donations are welcome. Their goal is to spread the Faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ.

In 2012, the Abbey celebrated the 40th anniversary of their founding. They are a community of monks living according to the Rule of Saint Benedict in obedience to the Catholic hierarchy. They were founded in Switzerland in 1972 but came to France in 1976. A Benedictine monastery was in the town from the 7th century until the French Revolution but the monks of today, who number about 50, now reside in the former minor seminary.

The Abbey has beautiful gifts for sale, including a new CD of Gregorian chant in honor of St. Joseph (available in March). The Liturgy of the Hours is sung in Latin with Gregorian chant. They also conduct retreats both at the abbey and in other countries following the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

“I will ask for an intimate knowledge of Our Lord who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely.”
Spiritual Exercises, no. 104

Novena to the Mother of God for the Nation – September 29 – October 7, 2012

We fly to your patronage, O Holy Mother of God, despise not our prayers in our necessities, but ever deliver us from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin.

Fr. Frederick Miller of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, has composed a novena to make us more aware of the truths of our Faith and to call us to deeper conversion of heart and a life of greater charity. EWTN Global Catholic Network has organized the novena to  pray for the country ahead of the November elections.

Catholics have always turned to Mary when in need so we entrust our cares to her as we pray for religious freedom in our country. Since 1792 our country has been entrusted to Mary and in 1846 we recognized her as our patroness under the title of The Immaculate Conception.

The novena begins on September 29 and ends on October 7, the Feast of the Holy Rosary. Each day delves into a different aspect of Mary’s life:

Day 1: The Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God
Day 2: Mary’s Desire for Virginity
Day 3: The Annunciation
Day 4: The Visitation
Day 5: The Divine Motherhood of Mary
Day 6: The Wedding Feast of Cana
Day 7: Mary at Calvary
Day 8: Mary and the Mystery of Easter
Day 9: The Assumption of Mary into Heaven

Father says that the proximity of the Novena to the 2012 Presidential Election will offer an opportunity to pray for all of our government officials and seek Divine Assistance in the elections. Join EWTN for Mass every morning at 8 am ET starting September 29 and continuing through October 7. Bishops from across the country will lead the Novena to the Mother of God for the Nation. The novena can also be found in the September 23rd edition of the National Catholic Register. O Mary, our Mother, pray for our country!

He Speaks To You

Sr. Helena Burns, FSP, has written a book that is the perfect gift for any young woman starting out in life. But while geared to women in particular, it is a wonderful exercise in spiritual formation for anyone seeking to grow in God’s grace. The goal of everyone should be to become the person God created us to be and with the help of this gem of a book, Sr. Helena invites us to open our hearts “to let the Word Himself love you and become incarnate in you.”

The book has a series of reflections, to-do’s, suggestions and scriptures for each day of the year (even a leap year day is included!). Timeless thoughts from saints, reflections by sisters from other congregations,  recommendations for book reading both old and new, websites to visit, Church documents to pray over are just a few of the items in this content-rich book.

Each month has a theme: God’s love, His life, His Cross, His Will, His family, His majesty, His ways, In His image, In His service, His Mother, His Kingdom and In His arms (last things). Here is one sample of a day.

May 28

Do you know where you came from? From Me! But your existence is the culmination of a long chain of history!

God’s Word: Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord” (Psalm 102:18) .

Words of Wisdom: It is commonly said that whoever doesn’t know history is bound to repeat it. Get to know your roots: your family history, ethnic history, and world history, but most of all get to know your spiritual history by reading and studying salvation history: the Bible and Church history.

To Do:  Read the Acts of the Apostles and watch A.D. or Peter and Paul. Read Church history like A Compact History of the Catholic Church by Alan Schreck. Get a good Bible commentary to help you verse by verse like The New Jerome Biblical Commentary or Collegeville Bible Commentary.

To Journal: How would you describe your little place in the universe? Read Max Ehrmann’s famous poem, “Desiderata” for inspiration.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, no one is an outsider, unplanned, or an accident. Each of us was loved by You from all eternity. I rejoice in my little place in Your creation and kingdom!

I plan to give this book to a young women who is considering religious life. But it is a book that will speak to everyone. I have made a New Year’s resolution (a little early) to faithfully read this book every day starting January 1.

Buy Local (Monastery)

Here is a wonderful picture of Fr. Cassian Folsom, OSB, the recipient of the IRL’s 2012 Pro Fidelitate et Virtue Award, presenting Pope Benedict XVI with a bottle of his community’s newly brewed beer. Since the community’s home is at the birthplace of St. Benedict of Nursia, it is appropriately enough called Birra Nursia (Nursia Beer).

Which is a reminder. Whenever possible, I buy gifts or order cards from our monastic communities, supporting them in the work that helps them to keep their lights on. Try some of these favorites from a few of our IRL communities:

Brigittine fudge: The only community of Brigittine men in the US. Originally founded by St. Bridget of Sweden. Fudge is tops with my mother.

Seignadou Soaps from the Summnit, NJ, Dominican Nuns. Seignadou means “sign from God” and commemorates the sign received by St. Dominic confirming his work. Caribbean Coconut, Citrus Basil, and Cedarwood Sage are some of the scented varieties.

Hand drawn cards – the word “card” does not do justice to these hand-drawn and colored calligraphy cards. I simply tell the Passionist Nuns in Ellisville, MO, what I want (birthday greetings, condolence card, ordination, etc ) and they do a customized card for the recipient. For $25.00 I got a beautiful 8 1/2 x 11 folded, hand-drawn card, sent out immediately.  Smaller sizes available. Must call or write to them: 15700 Clayton Road, Ellisville, MO, 63011 or 636-527-6867. I should add that the receiver is remembered in the nuns’ prayers and masses for all time. What a gift!

The Holy Transfiguration Skete in Eagle Harbor, MI, offers homemade jams in not your usual run-of-the-mill varieties – bilberry, chokeberry, wild crabapple, red currant. They are a Catholic Monastery of the Byzantine rite.

Bon appetit!

The New Media’s Effect on Vocations

At the 2011 National Meeting, Sr. Marysia Weber, R.S.M., a Religious Sister of Mercy, gave a very popular talk on the effect of the new forms of media on priestly and religious vocations.

Sister made the point that studies have shown that people today are more narcissistic, hardly a good foundation for religious life. There is also more of a blurring between fantasy and reality. One example was that of a youngish priest who spent hours on a social networking site after 11:00 pm each night. As a result, he was late for Mass, lost his prayer life, and could not fulfill his pastoral duties.

And how do people hear the voice of the Lord when they are glued to technology 24 hours a day? Can they really give it up for, say, monastic life?

“The internet is a useful tool, but it can be harmful if not used with discretion or excessively,” she said.

If you want a very thoughtful and insightful perspective on these questions and issues, please visit our website to order Sister’s talks. Three topics are covered: The Church and Electronic Media, Unanticipated Effects of Regular Internet Use, and The Interface of Virtual Reality with Actual Reality. They are available on CD and also in MP3 format.

Searching for Someone

Often, educational debt is a stumbling block to a religious vocation. Take the case of Friar Anthony Serviam Maria, a simply professed Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate. In a story in Our Sunday Visitor (4/22/12), Friar Anthony tells how as a layman he went on a retreat with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal where Fr. Stan Fortuna challenged him to name his passion. What he realized was that what he loved (wilderness survival and primitive skills) did little for God. Feeling called to religious life but needing to pay down his debt, he applied for a grant from the Mater Eccelsiae Fund for Vocations, an organization that helps  to eliminate the obstacle an aspirant’s student loans present to answering his vocation.

Today Mater Eccelsiae is making payments on his remaining debt.  The man who lived a “pagan life” searching for something found Someone.


Pope Benedict, Vocations and the Apostleship of Prayer

The Holy Father’s prayer intention for the month of April as announced by the Apostleship of Prayer is:

that many young people may hear the call of Christ and follow him in the priesthood and religious life.”

Amen to that! And the Pontiff’s mission intention is “that the risen Christ may be a sign of certain hope for the men and women of the African continent.”

The Apostleship of Prayer promotes among other things the offering of each person’s daily prayers, works, joys and sufferings to the Lord. Begun in France in 1844 by a group of Jesuit seminarians, the Apostleship of Prayer is truly the Pope’s own “prayer group.” It is, as Pope John Paul II wrote in 1985, “a precious treasure from the Pope’s heart and the Heart of Christ.”

The US National Director is Fr. James Kubicki, S.J., an IRL Board Member. Visit their website for morning offering prayers, the monthly intentions, reflections and much more.


Truth & Life New Testament – FREE APP

For those of you hoping to find something special to listen to during Lent, here it is! The Truth & Life New Testament (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition) on CD! It is a dramatization of the entire New Testament voiced by internationally-renowned actors including: Sean Astin, Michael York, Julia Ormond, Stacey Keach, Malcolm McDowell and many more.

To get a sampling of this beautiful work, a FREE app is available! It includes the entire written text of the RSV-CE New Testament along with the fully-dramatized two hour audio presentation of the Gospel of Mark. This free app is available in formats for a variety of mobile devices at

I played the Gospel of Matthew at home, intending to listen to a few minutes of it and found myself still glued to my seat 90 minutes later. It was amazing how the Gospel leaped to life in a new and riveting way.

The entire set is available for purchase. It includes a forward by Pope Benedict XVI and an Imprimatur from the Vatican. It is the perfect Confirmation or RCIA gift or something wonderful to listen to during Holy Week.


Religious Vocations and Educational Debt

The National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) in collaboration with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University recently published the results of a study on religious vocations and educational debt.

Highlights from the 477 respondents include:

  • There are currently about the same number of men as women in initial formation. Institutes of men are more likely than institutes of women to have more than ten in initial formation.
  • Institutes with at least one serious inquirer in the last ten years report that for about a third of these inquiries (32 percent) the person had educational debt.  The average amount of debt was $28,000.
  • Religious institutes with at least three serious inquirers in the last ten years who had educational debt at the time of their inquiry, seven in ten (69 percent) turned away at least some inquirers because of their educational debt.
  • Although there are a small number of organizations that provide funds to assist candidates with educational debt, most responding religious institutes (or their candidates) have not received funds from any of these sources.

The IRL collaborates closely with two organizations that do assist with educational debt. They are The Labouré Society and the Mater Eccelsiae Fund for Vocations.  The Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations has helped 67 men and women follow their vocations (and have helped another 39 to try their vocations). The Labouré Society has assisted over 220 individuals into priestly and religious formation since 2003 while currently helping over 30 men and women pursue their vocation.

Please support these organizations who do so much to support the priesthood and religious life.