Category Archives: Saints

Foundress of the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Beatified

oshj picLast October, a group of forty-one pilgrims consisting of sisters, their relatives, priests and lay people from the Diocese of Youngstown made a pilgrimage to Italy for the beatification of Mother Maria Teresa Casini, foundress of the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which took place on October 31, 2015.

Mother Casini founded the Oblate Sisters in 1894 in Grottaferrata. Their charism is to pray for the sanctification of priests and the holiness of the Church. Mother was beatified in the Frascati cathedral where she was baptized in 1864, two days after her birth.

oshjFor the Oblate Sisters from Hubbard, Ohio, this was an extra-special event because the miracle required for Mother’s beatification occurred in their own diocese. In 2003, five-year-old Jacob Sebest of Campbell, Ohio, was diagnosed with irreversible brain damage after a swimming pool incident. Two days later, on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, after intense prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the intercession of Mother Teresa Casini, young Jacob miraculously awoke from a medically induced coma without any signs of brain trauma. Today he is a healthy, vibrant 17-year-old and a senior in High School.

The day before the beatification, the pilgrims visited Grottoferrata where Mother first established the congregation and where she later died in 1937. They prayed before the historical tabernacle that depicts her vision of the Pierced Heart of Jesus. They also venerated a relic, a braid of Mother’s hair that was cut off when she made her first profession of vows. Unbeknownst to her, said Sr. Joyce Candidi, O.S.H.J., it was preserved “by those who sensed that one day she would be recognized for her great love and heroic virtues.”

Jacob and Bishop Murray
Jacob and Bishop Murray

Jacob and his family were able to make the trip to Italy and greet the Holy Father in Rome after the beatification along with the General Superior and General Counselor of the Oblate Sisters. On the Feast of All Saints, Pope Francis said: “(Mother Teresa Casini) was a contemplative woman and missionary; she made her life an offering of prayer and concrete charity in support of priests. Let us thank the Lord for her witness!”

On November 2nd, Bishop George Murry, S.J., celebrated Mass for the pilgrims in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica at the site of St. Peter’s tomb where they gathered to pray in thanksgiving once again for the life and holiness of Blessed Mother Teresa Casini. After the return home, one pilgrims observed, “As each day goes by, it continues to sink in that we experienced life-changing, as well as once-in-a-lifetime events.”

The Diocese of Youngstown is planning to celebrate Mother Casini’s beatification on Sunday, May 22, 2016, at St. Columba Cathedral.

See additional photos from the trip on Facebook.

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.

St. John Neumann: The Glory of All Emigrants

_5442459Surprisingly, the saint whose feast we celebrate today was not accepted for ordination by his bishop and had to travel around the world in order to fulfill his priestly vocation. St. John Neumann is one of the most famous religious to have been a citizen of the United States and is known for organizing the first diocesan schedule of the Forty Hours’ Devotion in America, as well as, establishing the first system of parochial schools in the United States.

Born in Boehemia in 1811, St. John Neumann sought to serve the Lord by becoming a priest. Unfortunately, the local bishop turned him away citing an excess of priests in the diocese. Undeterred, St. John wrote to bishops throughout Europe who also did not accept him because of the similar circumstances. Finally, the Bishop of New York agreed to ordain him to the priesthood. This meant, however, that he would have to leave his homeland and face many hardships by traveling to live in United States.

After arriving in New York and ordination, St. John Neumann was placed in a parish in western New York. The parish covered a vast area near Niagara Falls forcing the saint to travel throughout the land in order to minister  to his people. His isolated life led him to seek community which he found by joining the Redemptorists. In the Redemptorists, he discovered a community which corresponded to his missionary vocation.

in 1852, St. John Neumann was named bishop of Philadelphia where he quickly became known for his pastoral care. He deeply cared for those within his diocese and learned six languages in order to communicate with them and hear their confessions. As bishop, he organized the first diocesan schedule of the Forty Hours’ Devotion in America and established the first system of parochial schools in the United States. These initiatives proved to be hugely successful and were emulated throughout the country.

St. John Neumann has had a great impact on religious life in the United States. He founded the Third Order of St. Francis of Glen Riddle and is one of the first American citizens who belonged to a religious community to be canonized. Pope Paul VI summarized the activity of the new saint by saying, “He was close to the sick, he loved to be with the poor, he was a friend of sinners, and now he is the glory of all emigrants.”

The Relics of St. Maria Goretti on Tour

Awaiting the body of St. Maria Goretti
Awaiting the body of St. Maria Goretti

Last Monday, October 12, the IRL sponsored a pilgrimage to St. John Cantius Church  in Chicago to see and venerate the relics of St. Maria Goretti (1890-1902), the well-beloved saint of purity and forgiveness. The relics are contained in a beautiful glass casket that all are encouraged to approach and kneel before, asking for Maria’s intercession. Along with the relics is a very interesting set of panels describing Maria’s short life and death. The crowds were large but it was so well-organized that it was a very prayerful experience.

This is the first time that Maria’s body has traveled to the United States and only the second time that she has left Italy. The tour began fittingly enough at Sing Sing Prison in New York. It will end on November 11, 2015, in Oklahoma. Click here for the schedule.

On December 8th, the Church will inaugurate the Jubilee Year of Mercy. There is no better embodiment of the spirit of mercy than St. Maria Goretti who on her deathbed forgave her attacker and murderer, Alessandro Serenelli. Not only forgave, she hoped to see him in heaven. While in prison, he experienced a conversion of heart after Maria appeared to him and handed him 14 white lilies, one for each of her stab wounds, and a sign of her forgiveness.

The glass Casket. Her skeletal remains are enclosed in the wax statue
The glass Casket. Her skeletal remains are enclosed in the wax statue

The crowds for Maria’s canonization in 1950 were so large that the Mass was held, for the first time ever, in St. Peter’s Square. Her mother, though frail, was able to attend. After Alessandro’s death, his spiritual testament was found in which he said: “Now I look serenely to the time in which I will be admitted to the vision of God, to embrace my dear ones once again, and to be close to my guardian angel, Maria Goretti, and her dear mother, Assunta.”

Alessandro became a model prisoner and after his early release, became a Capuchin Franciscan lay brother. He also visited Maria’s mother, who told him in essence: “Maria forgives you, God forgives you. How could I not forgive you?”

Forgiveness, as so powerfully witnessed by St. Maria in her final hours, does not mean that we fail to acknowledge the seriousness and all too often devastating effects of harm done to others.  Rather, forgiveness recognizes that, in our hearts, when we are unable to forgive, we make ourselves a victim of the darkness that encompasses hatred and revenge.  Through the intercession of St. Maria, may this pilgrimage open the hearts and minds of many people to Jesus’ life changing gifts of mercy and forgiveness.

–Cardinal Sean O’Malley
Archbishop of Boston

 

Evangelizing the Peripheries: Pope Francis Canonizes St. Junipero Serra

pope-3-092315As part of his visit to the United States, Pope Francis has canonized the missionary of California, St. Junipero Serra. The canonization marks a new springtime for the new evangelization and an increased effort to proclaim the Gospel to the peripheries.

St. Junipero Serra was born in 1713 on the island of Mallorca off the coast of Spain and joined a Franciscan community at a young age. He quickly garnered notoriety for his intelligence and rich spiritual life. He received the Duns Scotus Chair of philosophy at the prestigious Lullian University, however, he felt called to leave the comfort of his country and desired to go to the New World in order to spread the Gospel there. St. Junipero first worked in Mexico until he was fifty when he accepted an invitation to evangelize what is present-day California. He worked tirelessly to spread the Good News and established missions along the coast from San Diego to San Francisco.

The missions themselves have caused St. Junipero Serra to be a controversial figure with some critics saying that he was an advocate to the oppression of thousands of Native Americans by colonials. Bishop Robert Barron, himself a great evangelist and current auxiliary bishop in California, addressed the controversy in a recent video saying, “What fired his (St. Junipero’s) heart above all was the prospect of announcing the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who had never before heard it, and there is no question that his missions provided the institutional framework for that proclamation.” Bishop Barron emphasized that while St. Junipero was not blameless throughout his life, he was nevertheless a saint who desired to spread the Gospel to people living on the periphery.

During his homily at the Pontifical North American College in May, Pope Francis laid out three key aspects to the life of St. Junipero Serra: his missionary zeal, his Marian devotion and his witness to holiness. The Holy Father said that what motivated St. Junipero Serra to leave everything and journey to the New World was, “his desire to proclaim the gospel ad gentes, that heartfelt impulse which seeks to share with those farthest away the gift of encountering Christ.”

By canonizing St. Junipero Serra during his visit to the United States, Pope Francis is challenging all Catholics to get out of their comfort zone and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to all, even and especially to those on the peripheries. The Holy Father is also highlighting the vital role which religious men and women played and continue to play in proclaiming the Gospel in the Americas.

Co-Foundress of Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus to be Beatified

klaraOn September 27, 2015, the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus will be celebrating the beatification of the co-foundress of their order – Mother  Klara Szczesna. The beatification will take place in Krakow, Poland, with a Mass to be celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Amata, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Mother Klara (Ludwika) was born in Poland in 1863. Her mother died was she was a young girl and she was pressured by her father to enter into an arranged marriage. But she left home secretly in 1886 and joined an underground religious community, since entering religious life was forbidden during the time of the Russian occupation.

When Fr. Joseph Pelczar (later bishop and saint) was looking for women to work with him among the servants of Krakow, the sisters sent him Ludwika. From this collaboration emerged the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, dedicated to the plight of servants, the poor and the sick. Mother died in 1916 at the Motherhouse in Krakow.

cressonThe sisters came to North America in 1959. Their provincial house is in Cresson, PA, and besides Pennsylvania, they also have sisters in Delaware and Jamaica. Their mission is to worship the Triune God in the Mystery of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and to spread the Kingdom of Love of the Divine Heart by serving Christ particularly among girls, the poor and the sick. Their scapular is embroidered with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, their Shield and Protector.

All for the Heart of Jesus!

 

Perseverance in the Priesthood

1arsAfter failing to pass examinations to enter the seminary, confronting conscription into military service and being besieged by attacks from the Devil, one man exhibited great perseverance in pursuit of his vocation to the priesthood. This humble man, St. John Vianney, through prayer and dedication to the will of God, is now celebrated as a great saint and model for all priests.

St. John Vianney faced many obstacles throughout his life including school where his difficulties in the classroom became apparent when he failed to pass the seminary entrance examination. After a second successful attempt, he encountered another impediment when he was drafted into Napoleon’s army. Throughout his life he also faced adversity when experiencing attacks from the Devil. He persevered through his tribulations and was ordained a priest in 1815.

St. John Vianney is known as the patron of priests due to the exceptional pastoral care he exhibited following his ordination. He was appointed parish priest in Ars where he quickly became known for his holiness. He worked to improve catechesis, spent between 16 to 18 hours a day in the confessional and cultivated a rich interior life of prayer and mortification which aided him in his ministry.

Rather than allowpriestly-ordination_2008_01ing any obstacles to consume him, the humble saint utilized these times as opportunities to grow in holiness. Let us continue to pray for all priests throughout the world as they respond to the Lord’s call. Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, sP said, “The Priesthood is God’s greatest gift to man; its faithful fulfillment is man’s greatest gift to God.” Realizing the need priests have for prayers, Father Fitzgerald founded the Handmaids of the Precious Blood, a cloistered community that prays particularly for priests. Consider adopting a priest to pray for, and pray for all priests that, inspired by the witness of St. John Vianney and strengthened by the grace of God, they may faithfully live out their vocation to the “ministerial priesthood which is the means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads His Church.”

The Spiritual Exercises as the Path to Discernment

Loyola-detail

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: www.omvusa.org.

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.
Amen

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.”