The New Bethlehem at Greccio

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This fresco was completed by Giotto and his assistants to commemorate St. Francis and his creation of the first manger scene. “I wish to do something that will recall to memory the little Child who was born in Bethlehem,” Francis said, “and set before our bodily eyes in some way the inconveniences of His infant needs, how He lay in a manager, how, with an ox and an ass standing by, He lay upon the hay where He had been placed.”

greccio2Why did St. Francis want to recall this moment in the life Our Lord to the mind of the people at Greccio? Thomas of Celano tells us that Francis “saw a little child lying in the manger lifeless, and he saw the holy man of God go up to it and rouse the Child as from a deep sleep. This vision was not unfitting, for the Child Jesus had been forgotten in the hearts of many; but, by the working of His grace, He was brought to life again through His servant St. Francis and stamped upon their fervent memory.”

The manger was prepared, the hay had been brought, the ox and ass were led in. There simplicity was honored, poverty was exalted, humility was commended, and Greccio was made, as it were, a new Bethlehem. The night was lighted up like the day, and it delighted men and beasts. The people came and were filled with new joy over the new mystery. The woods rang with the voices of the crowd and the rocks made answer to their jubilation. The brothers sang, paying their debt of praise to the Lord, and the whole night resounded with their rejoicing. The saint of God stood before the manger, uttering sighs, overcome with love, and filled with a wonderful happiness.

St. Thomas of Celano from his life of St. Francis

A blessed Christmas to all!

Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration Update

m angelThe Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Hanceville, Alabama, were in the news recently for two very different reasons.

The Catholic News Service reported that Mother Angelica, PCPA, their foundress and founder of EWTN, is receiving nutrients from a feeding tube. Suffering lingering effects and partial paralysis as a result of two  strokes she suffering 14 years ago , she is able to communicate with a squeeze of the hand or gestures with her eyes. On her 92nd birthday in April, the sisters said that she offers all her sufferings for the Church.

It was also announced recently that the Poor Clares of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville will be merging with the Poor Clares from Charlotte, NC. Mother Dolores Marie, PCPA, who is presently the Abbess of St. Joseph Monastery in Charlotte, will be the superior.
In 2002, the Hanceville Poor Clares sent sisters to help their monastery in Portsmouth, Ohio. Sisters were also sent to help reopen their cradle monastery in Troyes, France. Over the past seven years, the community has also made new foundations in Tonopah, Arizona, and San Antonio, Texas.

Mother Dolores Marie and three other solemnly professed nuns of the Charlotte community started out as members of Our Lady of the Angels in Alabama. They were invited to come to Charlotte from Portsmouth, OH, in 2010 by Bishop Peter Jugis.

 Mother Delores says: “I ask your prayers for both of our Communities during this time of transition and for me as I assume the role of Superior of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. …With this new mission before us, our building plans in the Diocese of Charlotte are obviously placed on hold. However, the Holy See has granted that Saint Joseph Adoration Monastery be held canonically open to facilitate a return in the future.”
For more information, see the posting on the Charlotte website.
Lord, we pray for bountiful vocations for the Poor Clares, so that through their lives prayer, poverty and sacrifice, they can continue to serve the Church both in Alabama and North Carolina.

Year of Mercy Icon Explained

For the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the IRL is pleased to introduce this special icon entitled “Merciful Like the Father” in honor of this extraordinary year in the life of the Church. Written by Vivian Imbruglia, it draws one into the message that the Holy Father hopes to bring to the world. God is a merciful Father. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who will leave the 99 sheep to go in search of the one lost soul. Mary is our Mother whose mantle embraces all.

We were honored to have Fr. John Grigus, OFM Conv., bless the icon at the filled-to-capacity Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception at Marytown in Libertyville, IL, on December 8th. The icon can be seen in the Eucharistic adoration chapel, where adoration of the Blessed Sacrament takes place 24 hours a day.

MercyIconMediumIn the center of the icon is Jesus, the Good Shepherd, taking upon his shoulders the lost soul, who has one eye open, illustrating that all it takes is one look at Christ to bring about a transformation. The rays emanating from Jesus are reflective of the Divine Mercy image, the Blood and Water flowing from the Heart of Jesus.

Jesus stands in front of the Holy Door, opened by Pope Francis on December 8th at St. Peter’s in Rome. “Anyone who enters will experience the love of God Who consoles and pardons and instills hope” (Misericordiae Vultus). Marytown is also a designated as a Year of Mercy Holy Door pilgrimage site.

The Blessed Virgin, Our Mother of Mercy, embraces the whole world with her outstretched hands. To her left, the figures are instances in the Gospel when people encountered God’s mercy: the Samaritan Woman, Zacchaeus, Matthew, the Woman who anointed Jesus’ feet, the Prodigal Son, the Repentant Thief, St. Peter, and the Parable of the Lost Coin.

On the right side are saints who made Divine Mercy their special mission in life: Mother Teresa, St. John Paul II, Padre Pio, St. Faustina, St. Maximilian Kolbe (whose National Shrine is at Marytown), St. Therese of Lisieux. The other figures represent the people of God who participate in the saving work of  Christ.

pope-francis-holy-door-640x360“In passing through the holy door, then, may we feel that we ourselves are part of this mystery of love,” said Pope Francis. “Let us set aside all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved. Instead, let us experience the joy of encountering that grace which transforms all things.”

To order holy cards, triptychs, note cards, etc. visit MercyIcon.com or call the IRL office at (847)573-8975. To read about the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peters, visit the National Catholic Register website. To watch the opening of the Holy Door, visit Salt & Light TV.

 

December Intentions: Experiencing God’s Mercy

MErcyIconPope Francis boldly stated that, “No one can be excluded from the mercy of God; everyone knows the way to access it and the Church is the house that welcomes all and refuses no one. Its doors remain wide open, so that those who are touched by grace can find the certainty of forgiveness.” By proclaiming a Jubilee Year of Mercy the Holy Father has emphasized the importance of mercy in our times. In this age, the Year of Mercy is a truly extraordinary opportunity for all to spread God’s merciful love to those who desperately seek it.

The Holy Father has asked the Apostleship of Prayer to pray specifically for people who desire God’s mercy in his universal intention for the month of December. He asked for all members to pray, “that all may experience the mercy of God, who never tires of forgiving” and “that families, especially those who suffer, may find in the birth of Jesus a sign of certain hope.” In presenting these two intentions, Pope Francis is noting  the appropriateness of having the Year of Mercy begin within the context of the Advent season which gives ApostleshipofPrayerus hope in Christ who became a child out of His merciful love.

The IRL has taken Pope Francis’ charge seriously and is celebrating this Year of Mercy by commissioning an icon written by Vivian Imbruglia. This beautiful icon has been utilized in the creation of several devotional items. You can download a Year of Mercy catalogue sheet featuring special icon triptych cards, prayer cards, Gospel of Mercy devotional book, icon prints and greeting cards. These devotional items are a tangible way in which you can open wide the door of mercy to all people.

 As we prepare to begin the Year of Mercy, let us all work to spread this most necessary message in our time. Let us imitate Pope Francis during the Year of Mercy who encouraged the faithful to “allow God to surprise us. He never tires of throwing open the doors of his heart. He loves us and wants to share his love with us.”

Father Hardon Archive & Guild Update

hardon-smileThe Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. Archive and Guild website has a new look that gives everyone interested in the progress of the Servant of God’s cause for canonization a place to go for the most current news.

On the site you will find the approved prayer for the beatification and canonization, a brief biography of Father Hardon, relevant contact information for the Archive and Guild, and some photographs of his life.

The Archive & Guild reside at the Eternal Life Apostolate in Bardstown, Kentucky. Father Hardon’s vast personal library and correspondence are housed there and is being organized and cataloged by Eternal Life volunteers. Father did not waste one minute of time. Ad majorem Dei gloriam!

hardonsjOn the Real Presence Association website are links to many of Father’s writings, all wonderfully organized in categories for easy access. If you look at the Guild website regularly, you will see ongoing postings of some these writings. Though Father wrote many of these some time ago, they are timeless.

Some of the recent postings on the Guild website have been:

Vocations & Commitment – Father explains that the real crisis is not a lack of vocations. “What we are facing today is a massive failure in every state of life to make a lifetime commitment.”

St. Augustine and Marriage – Like in Augustine’s day, “we need to recover the clarity of his faith which saw in Christian marriage the real test of Christianity.”

Pope John Paul II and the Christless Man The modern world has a pathetic need for Christ. “Words could not be more graphic than those of John Paul II in describing the plight of Christless modern man.”

For more information on the Archive and Guild, visit the website (hardonsj.org) or contact them at:

Fr. John Hardon, S.J. Archive and Guild
902 West Stephen Foster Ave.
Bardstown, KY 40004                                                                              800-842-2871, or 502-348-3963

They are happy to send you a free Father Hardon prayer card. Please join the army of people – religious, lay, priest – praying for his cause!

Visitation Sisters Renew Vows

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Visitation Monastery in Tyringham

On November 21, 2015, Visitation Sisters around the world renewed their vows. On the day when the entire Church celebrates the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the day when Sts. Anne and Joachim presented their daughter to the Lord, these daughters of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal presented themselves before the altar of the Lord and professed their eternal devotion to their Spouse.

Joining in this renewal of vows was the the Visitation Monastery in Tyringham, Massachusetts. It is relatively new, the sisters having moved there in 1995 from Delaware. It is called Mont Deux Coeurs or the Mount of the Two Hearts because it is dedicated to the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of His Mother, Mary.

It could also be said that the term Mont Deux refers to the hearts of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal who were the co-founders of the Visitation Order. One biographer said that their relationship went unbelievably deep – “One is forced back to Scripture parallels: the love of Joseph for Mary, the love of our Lord for Martha and Mary.” One could say that the Visitation nuns are twice twice blessed!

VHMThe Visitation Sisters of Tyringham are cloistered, contemplative religious whose lives are dedicated to prayer and to living in community. They try to be gentle instruments of the Lord in the midst of a world increasingly violent and intolerant.

Their “work” is to sing the Liturgy of the Hours throughout the day with the Church. On the first Sunday of the month,  one of the Sisters gives a talk on the Heart of Jesus at the monastery, open to everyone. One of the recent talks was about Leonie Martin (d. 1941), sister of St. Therese of Lisieux. She was a Visitation nun, in Caen, France, and her cause is being promoted.

Leonie was the most difficult of the Martin children, prone to outbursts and a poor student. Can you imagine having a saint for a sister? Yet, she persevered, really persevered and found her heart filled after a long life with the infinite tenderness of God.

Sr. Leonie Martin, V.H.M.
Sr. Leonie Martin, V.H.M.

Here is a Visitation sister’s reflection on what her canonization would mean to so many: “To those millions of souls who see themselves ungraced, ungifted, unlovable, unlikely to succeed (in every conceivable way), Leonie presents the impossible turned possible, the lost sheep hoisted upon the shoulders of the Good Shepherd, Who searches out the least of His flock and gathers them close to His heart.”

 

 

 

 

 

Carmelite Monastery of the Mother of God Turns 50

vocations_7On a rainy day in November, 1965, Mother Dolores and nine other nuns from the Carmelite Monastery of Carmel-by-the-Sea founded a new monastery in San Rafael, California. Mother Dolores, now 93, and the other nuns of the now Carmelite Monastery of the Mother of God are joyously celebrating the 50th anniversary of this event throughout the month of November.

The now Carmelite Monastery of the Mother of God has been striving to respond to Our Lady of Fatima’s message regarding praying for the conversion of sinners and Russian people since its foundation. Early on the sisters learned to sing the Byzantine Liturgy with hopes of one day founding a Carmel in Russia. Fr. Loius Bouier suggested that they first make a foundation in Finland.  Following the fall of communism, the sisters  opened a small foundation in Moscow. The venture proved to be impractical and the sisters sold the small monastery to the Divine Word Missionaries who used it to establish a St. Olga’s Catholic Parish which the Carmelites still prayerfully support.

The Carmelite Monastery of the Mother of God is a truly universal one with sisters from all over the world including sisters from four different continents. The sisters enjoy a peaceful setting with over 400 redwood trees on the monastery grounds creating a place conducive to prayer.  The Monastery has matured immensely since its initial foundation in 1965.

78 people attended the first of three Masses commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Monastery’s founding. The Mass was celebrated by Most Rev. John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe on Nov 1st, All Saints Day. In his homily, Archbishop Wester emphasized the sisters’ Reliance on Divine Providence saying, “my dear sisters, you are living examples of this because you believe in a God who actively works in you in very beautiful ways. It’s not always been easy, but you take on our sufferings and make them your own.”

Apostleship of Prayer November Intentions

ApostleshipofPrayerSince the nineteenth century, popes have asked the Apostleship of Prayer to pray for specific intentions. The Apostleship of Prayer receives two prayer intentions each month from the Holy Father, pledging to pray for them every day. Pope Francis has given dialogue and pastors as the two intentions for the month of November.

The Universal intention for the month of November is dialogue. “That we may be open to personal encounter and dialogue with all, even those whose convictions differ from our own.” In their reflection on this intention the Apostleship of Prayer spoke of a meeting where the Holy Father emphasized the importance of dialogue among individuals saying, “It is the only way for individuals, families, and societies to grow along with the culture of encounter, a culture in which all have something good to give and all can receive something good in return.”

 The evangelization intention  for this month is for pastors. “That pastors of the Church, with profound love for their flocks, may accompany them and enliven their hope.” In their reflection the Apostleship of Prayer speaks about Jesus as the Good Shepherd. They said, “Pope Francis asks us to pray that the Church’s shepherds may follow the example of the Good Shepherd. They should not place themselves above people but should be close to them.”

The Apostleship of Prayer also sets forth a prayer for each month. The prayer for this month is an excerpt from Pope Francis’ Prayer for Peace:

Lord, God of Abraham, God of the Prophets, God of Love, you created us and you call us to live as brothers and sisters. Give us the strength daily to be instruments of peace; enable us to see everyone who crosses our path as our brother or sister. Keep alive within us the flame of hope, so that with patience and perseverance we may opt for dialogue and reconciliation. In this way may peace triumph at last, and may the words “division”, “hatred” and “war” be banished from the heart of every man and woman.

Dominican Eighth Centenary Jubilee Year Begins!

opOn November 7, 2015, the Dominican family began the celebration of the Eighth Centenary of their founding with a celebratory Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome. The ancient Basilica was built in the 5thC and was given to St. Dominic and the Dominicans in 1222. The cell where the saint lived is now a chapel though the dining room, used by St. Thomas Aquinas when visiting Rome, is still intact. As the Mother Church of the Dominican Order, it is the fitting place to inaugurate the jubilee year!

The presider for the Mass was the Master of the Order, Fr. Bruno Cadoré. The congregation consisted of representatives of the Dominican family, the Superior General of the Franciscans Friars Minor, and many friends of the Order of Preachers. The liturgy began with the opening of the ancient door of the Basilica. Father Bruno lit a candle in the doorway symbolic of Saint Dominic as the “Light of the Church.”

Their charism of preaching and their commitment to the mission to proclaim the Gospel in season and out of season is the light they bring to the nations. During the Offertory, Dominican nuns brought forth baskets of rosaries which were blessed by Father Bruno. These are the rosaries that will be used for the rosary pilgrimage in the 202 monasteries of the Order around the world during the year. Each monastery made 2 rosaries and sent them to be blessed. The rosaries sent back will be from another monastery!

The Mass did not end in the usual fashion: “The Mass is ended…” because the celebrations have just begun.

Check out local Dominican monasteries near you for special events!

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