Archive for the 'Saints' Category

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

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

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

Thursday, October 16th, 2014
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.

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The Patroness of Santa Rosa

Thursday, August 28th, 2014
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

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“He Leads, I Follow”

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
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.”




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The Miraculous Medal is Miraculous!

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
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.

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Here is Peter!

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
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.”



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A Culture of Charity

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

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).




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Nescio te! – I Know You Not!

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Sometimes people say when arguing about the Church’s stance on various issues that “Jesus was a product of His times, ergo, if He were on the earth today, we would have women priests, gay marriage, democratic elections for Pope,” etc. etc. etc…..

Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C., in her classic book, A Right to be Merry, says that one thing that makes the daughters of St. Clare bristle is the notion that Saint Clare, with her missionary heart,  became a cloistered contemplative simply because it was the only form of religious life available to women in her day.

Mother wrote:

If Saint Francis had wanted his Second Order to be a missionary order, he was just the man to have made that a fait accompli in no time at all. No one was ever more “original” than the saint who walked at right angles to everything characteristic of his age.

What he founded was was a Second Order of enclosed, praying nuns, because that is what he wished to found. Saint Clare, on her part, did indeed have a missionary heart. That is why she entered the cloister; to be a missionary to all the world.

Any daughter of hers who is not a missionary at heart is in danger of hearing hard words from her Seraphic Mother when she meets her after death: Nescio te!-I know you not!

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The Price of Being Loved

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

The Head of St. John the Baptist

The price of being loved by the Almighty is high, as also is the price of growing in His love. The more precious the commodity, the higher the price; the most precious possession in the world is the love of God. You don’t get this, I don’t say for nothing or cheaply; you pay, and you pay dearly.

Can we be more specific? What does God expect of us who claim that we love Him as recompense for His prior goodness to us and as the wages, so to speak, to merit an increase of His bounty on our behalf? He finally expects these two things:

  • That we are willing to give up whatever pleasant things He may want us to surrender.
  • That we are willing to take whatever painful things He may want to send us.

Between these two, surrender and suffering, or as I prefer, sacrifice and the cross, lies the whole price range of divine love…. The love of God is paid for as Christ paid for the love of His Father with the hard currency of willing sacrifice and the holy cross.

When I was younger, and I thought, smarter, I didn’t talk quite this way. But experience is a good, though costly, teacher.

—Rev. John A. Hardon, S.J.

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Mother and Son

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

I wonder how many mother and son feast days there are in the Church calendar besides the obvious ones involving Jesus and His Mother? Elizabeth and John the Baptist? St. Basil and his mother, St. Emilia?

St. Monica and St. Augustine are remembered, side by side, mother and son, on today’s and yesterday’s calendar.

Monica died in 387 and was buried in the city of Ostia, which was the port city of Rome. The city was covered by the sands of time but can be visited today and is found in a remarkable state of preservation. Monica’s relics were brought to Rome in 1430 and placed in the Basilica bearing her son’s name. In 1945, some young boys digging a hole in Ostia found a fragment of her funerary epitaph which had been written on stone.

In his writings, particularly in his Confessions, Augustine pays great tribute to his Mother whose tears and prayers brought Augustine to the baptismal font in Milan where St. Ambrose welcomed him into the Church. Strangely enough, Augustine is not buried in Rome but rather in Pavia, Italy, though he died in North Africa where he was bishop of Hippo.

Pope Benedict XVI was greatly influenced by Augustine’s theology. We might even say Monica as well for Benedict was appointed Cardinal-bishop of the Augustinian Church of Sant’ Aurea at Ostia where Monica’s remains were originally interred. The Holy Father also chose to have a shell on his Papal arms which harkens back to a legend about Augustine. It seems Augustine came across a young boy using a shell to pour sea water into a hole in the sand. When asked what he was doing the boy replied, “I am putting the ocean into this hole!” When Augustine said that this was impossible the boy responded: so too it is impossible for Augustine to explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

When we despair and lose heart over a loved one’s distance from the Faith, it is good to remember the words spoken by a bishop to Monica, who wept over the dissolute lifestyle of her son:

“It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.”

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