Category Archives: Saints

Ada Carmelites: Refugees and Foundresses of Many

adaIn 2016, the Carmelite Nuns in Ada, Michigan, will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of their founding. In 1916,  sixteen Carmelite nuns (12 professed and four postulants) fled the terror and raging persecution in Mexico and came to the United States.

After traveling to Cuba, New Orleans and Saint Louis, they finally found a home in the Diocese of Grand Rapids under the paternal care of Bishop Henry Joseph Richter. Their monastery was placed under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  From this sacrifice of family and country came bountiful blessings. New foundations bloomed from Grand Rapids back to Mexico in 1919, then Buffalo, Detroit, Littleton, Traverse City, Iron Mountain and Denmark (WI).

Their original frame house in Grand Rapids was expanded and added on to many times to accommodate growth. Finally, in 1984, they were given ten rural acres outside of town in which to build a permanent, quieter home. They moved to Ada (Parnell), Michigan, in 1991.

This year, the are celebrating the 500th anniversary of their foundress’ birth. Commenting on St. Teresa of Avila, foundress of the Discalced Carmelites, Pope Francis said: “(Teresa) asked her sisters not to waste time discussing ‘matters of little importance’ with God while ‘the world is in flames.'”

Be rooted in prayer, in communion with Jesus. Pope Francis said: “The prayer of Teresa was not a prayer reserved solely to a space or time of day; it arose spontaneously on the most diverse occasions. … She was convinced of the value of continual, if not always perfect, prayer. … To renew consecrated life today, Teresa has left us a great heritage full of concrete suggestions, ways and methods of praying that, far from closing us in ourselves or leading us merely to inner balance, enable us always to start again from Jesus, and constitute a genuine school for growth in love for God and neighbor.”

Blessed and Married: the Beltrame Quattrocchis

Bl. Luigi and Maria
Bl. Luigi and Maria

Two couples attended the recent Synod on the Family but not in the way that you might think. Pope Francis venerated the relics of Blesseds Louis and Zélie Martin, their daughter, St. Therese of Lisieux, as well as the relics of Blessed Luigi (d. 1961) and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi (d. 1975) at the Synod’s Opening Mass.

Between the two families, the couples had nine children and eight vocations to the priesthood or religious life. Of the Martin girls, Pauline, Marie, Céline and Thérèse became Carmelites while Léonie entered the Visitation order. The Quattrocchis had two sons and two daughters. Filippo and Cesare became Benedictines (Cesare later became a Trappist) and Stefania, a Benedictine nun. Their youngest daughter Enrichetta cared for her parents. She was a miracle baby for her mother was advised to abort her during a difficult pregnancy. Three of the children were able to attend their parent’s beatification.

The Quattrocchis, said Pope John Paul II, remind us that “the path of holiness lived together as a couple is possible, beautiful, extraordinarily fruitful, and fundamental for the good of the family, the Church and society.” They were the first married couple to be beatified together!

 Luigi and Maria were married in 1905 at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome. They lived lives of extraordinary charity and spiritual fervor as Third Order Franciscans. Luigi was a lawyer and attorney general of Italy while Maria was a mother, author, volunteer nurse during World War II and one who accompanied the sick to Lourdes. They prayed the rosary together as a family and were devoted Catholics. Their feast day is not the day of their deaths but rather, appropriately, the day of their wedding anniversary: November 25th.

In the beatification homily, Pope John  Paul II encouraged husbands and wives to “embrace your role and your responsibilities. Renew your missionary zeal, making your homes privileged places for announcing and accepting the Gospel in an atmosphere of prayer and in the concrete exercise of Christian solidarity.”

God’s Little One: The Life of Margaret Sinclair, Poor Clare

ven margaret sinclairA Poor Clare Colettine nun whose cause is open for canonization is the subject of a new feature film in production by White Lyon Films under the direction of screenwriter Dianne Thomas. Margaret Sinclair, known in religion as Sr. Mary Francis of the Five Wounds, was a Scottish-born working girl who joined the Poor Clare Colettines of Notting Hill in London. She died at the young age of 25 and her memory and impact have grown with the passing decades. Described as “a striking contemporary example of evangelical heroism,” many miracles have been attributed to her intercession.

Margaret was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1900 to a poor, working class family. She left school in 1914 and worked in factories to support her family. After helping a young man recover his lost Faith, he proposed marriage but she said, “I have done what God inspired me to do, to help you the little I could, to regain the light. From that point God and his Blessed Mother must have showered down blessings on you, because you have remained steadfast, and I trust God that you will continue doing so, because you know He is the only real happiness.”

Her sister joined the Little Sisters of the Poor while Margaret left home and country to become a Poor Clare Colettine in Notting Hill, London, as an extern sister. She desired enclosure but the sisters thought that her lack of education would make the chanting of the Liturgy of the Hours in Latin too difficult for her. She was clothed in her habit in 1924 in the presence of her family and her sister, now a novice.

sinclair pccIn 1925, she contracted tuberculosis of the throat and was moved to a nursing facility where she was lonely for the monastery and her mother abbess. However, her bed was a magnet for visitors, for her joy was radiantly evident. In her suffering, she said, “If I can gain one soul for Jesus it will be worth it all.” She died on this day in 1925, in her habit, with a copy of her vows at her side.

 Sister Mary Francis was declared Venerable by Pope Paul IV in 1978. During Pope John Paul II’s visit to Britain in 1982, he said, “Margaret could well be described as one of God’s little ones who, through her very simplicity, was touched by God with the strength of real holiness of’ life… I fully appreciate the aspirations of the Catholics of Scotland, and elsewhere, for that singular event to be realized, and I know you are praying that it may come about.”

You can read a short biography of her life by a Poor Clare nun and watch a documentary. Travelers to Scotland can visit The National Shrine of the Venerable Margaret Sinclair in the Redemptorist church of St Patrick’s Cowgate, Edinburgh.


Relic of the Assassination Attempt on Pope St. John Paul II

Pope JP II VestOn May 13, 1981, Anna Stanghellini, was privileged to be a nurse in attendance at the “Agostino Gemelli” Hospital where Pope John Paul II was taken for emergency surgery after the assassination attempt on his life. To save time, his blood-soaked undershirt was cut away and dropped to the floor. Anna picked it up, carefully wrapped it and kept it in her home for the next 19 years.

In 2000, she gave this relic to the Provincial House of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent of Paul with whom she had once been in the novitiate. The Vatican had doubts about the authenticity, so Sister Beatrice, the former Provincial, reluctantly loaned it to them for examination. Happily, it was soon returned and today is in a side chapel of the Provincial House on via Francesco Albergotti.

Blood stains are visible on the shirt, as are three bullet holes and the initials “JP” on the collar. Documents attesting to its authenticity are also on view.

Sister Amelia, the Superior of the “Regina Mundi” House (a home for the elderly and sick religious), says: “It’s a gift and a responsibility. It’s a gift because we feel honored to be the custodians of such a precious and significant relic of the Holy Father; a responsibility because we have made ourselves available to receive all the people who come here to pray.”

Visitation Musings

Tyringham Visitation
Tyringham Visitation

Today, the Feast Day of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, is a good to day to highlight the Visitation Nuns in the US. Three are Affiliates of the IRL: Tyringham, MA; Toledo, OH; and Snellville, GA.

Visitation communities are usually of interest to women of an older age, widows, etc. who feel a call to religious life, perhaps newly realized or a call always there that is now being pursued. The communities in Snellville and Toledo do consider belated vocations. As the Snellville nuns told us, “The founder set no age limit for admission.”

St. Margaret Mary was educated in a Poor Clare school but when she visited the Visitation convent in Paray-le-Monial, France, she heard these words in her heart: “This is where I want you.” The Order was founded by St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal in 1610. The emblem of the Visitation nuns is a heart pierced by two arrows, surrounded by the Crown of Thorns. It was a foreshadowing of revelations to come, 60+ years later, to St. Margaret Mary who received the revelations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In these revelations, Jesus made known that He was not despot to be feared but a God of love who invites us to come to Him as a child to a Father.

miToday is also the anniversary of the Militia Immaculatae, founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe on this day in 1917. The MI’s mission is “To Lead Every Individual With Mary to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.” The day after his ordination in 1918, Maximilian celebrated his first Mass in Rome at an altar at the Basilica of S. Andrea delle Fratte where the Blessed Virgin Mary had appeared to the Jewish Alphonse Ratisbonne who was instantly converted. May the Immaculate Heart of Mary lead us too to a love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Patroness of Santa Rosa

St. Rose of Lima, St. Joseph Cathedral, Macon, Georgia
St. Rose of Lima, St. Joseph Cathedral, Macon, Georgia

The President of the IRL is Most Rev. Robert Vasa, Bishop of Santa Rosa. A relatively new community of sisters founded in the diocese is called the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa. Who or what is Santa Rosa? It is none other than St. Rose of Lima, patroness of the Americas and of the Diocese of Santa Rosa!

We recently celebrated the Feast Day of St. Rose of Lima on August 23rd but her traditional Feast Day was August 30th, so we can honor her life in between both dates with this little interesting history.

St. Rose of Lima was born in Lima, Peru, April 20th, 1586, the first canonized saint of the New World. Though very beautiful, she did what she could to appear unattractive to men for she had taken a vow of virginity at a young age. In 1597, she was confirmed by the Archbishop of Lima, Turibius de Mongrovejo (d. 1606, canonized 1726). Like St. Catherine of Siena, she became a Third Order Dominican. Her life of prayer and penance and dedication to the poor was carried out from the family home for her parents did not want her to enter a convent. She died in 1617 and was canonized in 1671.

On St. Rose’s feast day in 1828, a priest was celebrating Mass on a creek bank near the site now occupied by St. Eugene Cathedral in Santa Rosa, California. A group of Native Americans watched from a distance so Father Juan went over and explained the Faith to them and the necessity of baptism. A young girl stepped forward and asked to be baptized. She received the name of Rosa, hence the rivlet and the area got their names. There is a plaque commemorating the event on a path along the creek.

St. Rose of Lima, pray for the diocese and the Marian Sisters, that they may be people of dedication to prayer and to selfless service to those in need.

“Apart from the Cross,

there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.”

— St. Rose of Lima

“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.”




The Miraculous Medal is Miraculous!

Grave of Alphonse
Grave of Alphonse

Today is the Feast of the Miraculous Medal and tomorrow we celebrate the Feast Day of St. Catherine Laboure who propagated the devotion. It testifies to the power of the Miraculous Medal that an “inanimate” object gets its own feast day!

One of the most famous converts due to Our Lady’s intercession via the Miraculous Medal is Alphonse Ratisbonne (1814-1884). While I was living in Jerusalem at Ecce Homo Convent (run by the Sisters of Sion) on a sabbatical from my computer job, I visited the Sisters of Sion’s convent in Ein Karim. While wandering through their incredible garden of Eden of fruits and foliage, I stumbled across Alponses’ grave in a remote corner of the garden. How did his remains get there? I was so driven to find out that I ended up writing a book called “A Spiritual Pilgrimage to France.”

Anyway, Alphonse, a Jewish non-believer, was dared by a friend while visiting Rome to wear a Miraculous Medal and to pray the Memorarae twice a day. He did so and while in the Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte had a vision of the Blessed Mother and was instantly converted. His brother Theodore, a Catholic convert and priest, had the joy of announcing in the Basilica of Notre Dame des Victoires in Paris that his brother had become “a fully believing Catholic.” This is the same Church that filled St. Therese of Lisieux with delight as she made her journey to Rome before her entrance into Carmel. Sant’Andrea delle Fratte is also the Church where St. Maximilian Kolbe celebrated his first Mass, at the very altar where Alphonse experienced his vision. We at the IRL are privileged to be housed at Marytown, the National Shrine of St. Maximilian, a great proponent of the Miraculous Medal. Life is full of twists and turns and coincidences.

Ecce Homo Covent Chapel
Ecce Homo Covent Chapel

To wind things back up, Alphonse after his conversion became a Catholic priest and with his brother Theodore co-founded the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion and came to the Holy Land to bring the Good News to the Jewish people. He built Ecce Homo convent on the Via Dolorosa, run by the Sisters of Sion, which today is a pilgrim house and hosts a biblical studies program. I was there as a volunteer for three months, an experience I highly recommend.

Alphonse died in Ein Karim and was buried inside the walls of the Sisters of Sion’s convent. His room at Ecce Homo is left as it was when he was alive. Maybe if you ask the sisters, you can have a private viewing.

God bless all who wear the Miraculous Medal with faith. May the Blessed Mother be their protectress and intercessor for all their needs, all through their lives.

Here is Peter!

Pope Francis Praying at the Tomb of St. Peter
Pope Francis Praying at the Tomb of St. Peter

The Year of Faith is going out with a bang!

For on Sunday, the bones of St. Peter will be on display for the veneration of the faithful in St. Peter’s Square for the first time in history. This momentous event will take place during the concluding Mass for the Year of Faith on November 24.

It was in 1950 that Pope Pius XII made the announcement that “the tomb of the prince of the apostles” had been found. For those of you who have visited Rome and toured the Scavi (excavations of Peter’s tomb), you know what an emotional impact that this viewing will have on the faithful. I will always remember the goosebumps I had while traveling on the subterranean ancient Roman floors beneath the Vatican crypt and hearing the guide say: Here is Peter!

Looking down to the tomb of St Peter, over the altar in St. Peter’s

The controversial story of the finding of Peter’s bones is told in a riveting and recently republished book by Fr. James Evangelist Walsh. Whether the bones are truly Peter’s can not be known for certain (though I am convinced), but let us say that the bones were found directly under the altar of St. Peter’s, they are of a robust man 60 or so years of age, the bones were wrapped in purple cloth interwoven with gold-thread (a sign of the  great dignity of the person) and the location of St. Peter’s was built over the awkward location of this tomb. What is known for certain is that pilgrims have venerated this location from the beginnings of the Church.

Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”



A Culture of Charity

moermanThe Daughters of St Mary of Providence, founded by St. Louis Guanella in Italy, are celebrating 100 years of the Guanellian presence in the United States.

In our day, when you read stories that are absolutely depressing not to mention discouraging and horrific regarding the sanctity of human life, it is so refreshing and encouraging to look at the lives of these sisters and the love they have for the most vulnerable in our society. They were founded by St. Louis to care for marginalized persons who were orphaned, sick,  handicapped or elderly.

On June 13th, the National Catholic Register had an article entitled: “Barbarians from the North: Child Euthanasia in Belgium and the Netherlands.” LifeSite News reported earlier this year that 90% of children with Down Syndrome are aborted. The Telegraph reported on the 20th that a Somali girl had been smuggled into Great Britain to have her organs harvested. In other words, killed so someone else might live.

Guanella2I shudder to think of who or what entity is deciding on who lives and who dies in our world. Whose life is more valuable? Whose life is “less valuable” because they are paralyzed, infirm, mentally ill, disabled, old? Who is playing God?

And what does all this have to do with the Guanellian sisters? Well, their mission in part is to “help people with developmental disabilities meet life’s challenges and reach their highest potential in spiritual, emotional, mental and psychological growth, at the same time promoting their dignity as human beings.” Their founder, St. Louis, reminds us that “the handicapped, aged and orphans are God’s treasures.”

We are fortunate at the IRL to have in our midst the sisters’ Mount St. Joseph home, a residence for adult women with developmental disabilities. Located in Lake Zurich, Illinois, the sisters have been caring for these children of God since 1935 when the location, a farm, was purchased. Here each person is supported and challenged to live their life to the fullest extent possible while maintaining their dignity as human beings.

Cardinal Francis George, celebrating a 100th anniversary Mass with the sisters in May, said that they are a model of discipleship and it is through their service that they profess Jesus Christ. “It is the charity that they show in their lives that tells people that there is more to life than what is in front of us right now. That each of us has a personal dignity…we are related directly to a loving God who cares for us and therefore asks us to care for one another.”

Happy feast day of St. Louis Guanella to the communities that Louis founded: the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence and the Servants of Charity (for men).