Tag Archives: Pope Francis

A Tranquil Oasis

nazarena-6NazarenaYesterday, Pope Francis met with Camaldolese Nuns at the Monastery of Sant’Antonio Abateas (St. Anthony the Abbot) in Rome as the Church celebrated Pro Orantibus “(For Those Who Pray”) Day. The Camaldolese family is one of the ancient monastic orders in the Church, founded by St. Romuald a thousand years ago. They follow the Rule of St. Benedict (but also check out St. Romuald’s brief Rule) and most but not all of the communities existing today are part of the Benedictine Federation family.

The Holy Father greeted the 21 sisters and celebrated Vespers with them. The monastery was once noted for its resident American anchoress, Sister Nazarena of Jesus, who was born Julia Crotta in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Before entering religious life, she studied music at Yale and received a degree from Albertus Magnus College. She became an anchoress in 1945 and lived for 45 years in a tiny room attached to the chapel.

In sister’s cell was a plank for a bed, a small bathroom, a table and a chair (see old story in newspaper done while she was alive). For food, she lived on bread and water with an occasional grape or boiled carrot as a treat. She had a small window to the outside world and another opening into the chapel when she, unseen, participated in Mass ( a priest gave her daily communion).

When the abbess was asked if Sr. Nazarena was insane, she said, “Sister Nazarena is fully sane and has all her faculties. In a wild, self-seeking world, she has found an oasis that has given her tranquility and made her happy. She is the most serene person I have ever met.” Sister died in 1990 at age 82. Pope Francis went to her cell during his visit.

A book on her life by Thomas Matus is available at Amazon.com.




Thank you Faithful Men and Women

Pope John Paul II on Mount Nebo
Pope John Paul II on Mount Nebo

Here’s a thought for the day, courtesy of Pope Francis — visit an elderly priest or religious!

At his daily Morning Mass (See Zenit for complete story) on October 18, Pope Francis called to mind three Biblical figures who endured the solitude and anguish of their older days.

First, there was Moses, “the courageous leader of the People of God” who led God’s people out of the slavery of Egypt into the Promised Land. But at the end of his life, he stands on Mount Nebo looking towards Jerusalem but he himself will not enter it.

Then, there was St. John the Baptist whose life “finished under the power of a weak, corrupt and drunken ruler who in turn was under the power of an adulteress’ jealousy and the capricious wishes of a dancer.”

Finally, there is Saint Paul who said in his second Letter to Timothy (read at Mass on Friday) (2 Tim 4:10-17)) that everyone had abandoned him yet, says the Holy Father, “the Lord was close to him and gave him the strength to complete his mission of announcing the Gospel.”

Remember the priests and religious whose active ministry might be complete but whose active prayer life and wisdom is a blessing for the world. It is also wonderful to give to the Retirement Fund for Religious appeal to help those who have insufficient funds for their care.

St. Francis and Pope Francis

Assisi si prepara a visita Papa FrancescoToday, the Church celebrates the Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi.

Pope Francis will be visiting Assisi today on this Feast of St. Francis of Assisi who happens to be Italy’s patron saint and the Holy Father’s namesake. According to news reports, John Paul II visited Assisi six times, and Benedict XVI, twice.

It seems that of all the saints, Saint Francis holds a special place in our Popes’ hearts.

Pope John Paul II said during a visit in 1978: “You, who brought Christ so close to your age, help us to bring Christ close to our age, to our difficult and critical times. Help us! These times are waiting for Christ with great anxiety…”

Pope Benedict said in a 2010 General Audience: “The witness of Francis, who loved poverty as a means to follow Christ with dedication and total freedom, continues to be for us too an invitation to cultivate interior poverty…”

You can watch Pope Francis’ visit LIVE on Vatican TV.



Defend Life, But Watch for Wolves

francisrioAs someone who does not have cable TV, I miss out on a lot (whether this is good or bad is debatable). But I did miss most of the coverage of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and his trip to Brazil as covered by EWTN. Therefore, watching this video, put out by the Mercedarians, is a real treat.

The Mercedarians have taken footage of Pope Francis’ drive through the enormous crowds as the backdrop for a very interesting narrated talk that the Holy Father gave when he was still Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Given on August 31, 2005, the feast of St. Raymond Nonnatus (one of the first Mercedarians), he spoke about the culture of death and the need, in the face of persecution, to stand up for life. He picked a very appropriate feast day for this talk because St. Raymond Nonnatus (which means “not born”) was cut from his mother’s womb after her death in childbirth, thus his life was spared.

Here are a few tidbits of the then-Cardinal’s talk:

I was reading a book a while back, where this disturbing phrase was found: “In the world of today, the cheapest thing is life, what costs the least is life” — which is, therefore, the most disregarded thing, the most dispensable thing.

This elderly man, this elderly woman, are useless; discard them, let’s throw them in the nursing home like we hang up the raincoat during summer, with three mothballs in the pocket, and let’s hang it in the nursing home because they’re now disposable, they’re useless.

This child who is on the way is a bother to the family. “Oh no, for what? I have no idea.  Let’s discard him and return him to the sender.”

That is what the culture of death preaches to us.

This child that I have at home, well, I don’t have time to educate him. Let him grow up like a weed in the field, and this other child who doesn’t have anything to eat, not even little shoes to go to school, and well, I’m very sorry, but I’m not the redeemer of the whole world.

That’s what the culture of death preaches. It’s not interested in life.  What interests it? Egoism. One is interested in surviving, but not in giving life, caring for life, offering life.

Today, in this shrine dedicated to life, in this day of the patron saint of life, Jesus again says to us: “Care for it! I came to bring life, and life in abundance, but care for it!  You are going to be surrounded by wolves; you are to be the ones to defend life, to care for life.

Care for life! What a beautiful thing one sees — which I know! — that a grandfather, a grandmother, who perhaps can no longer speak, who is paralyzed, and the grandson or the son comes and takes their hand, and in silence cherishes them, nothing more.  That is caring for life.  When one sees people who take care so that this child can go to school, so that another doesn’t lack food, that is caring for life.

Open your heart to life!

St. Raymond, Patron Saint of expectant mothers and midwives, pray for us!


A Seed and a Sign

pcc pope francisOn August 11, 2013, the Poor Clares opened up a “Poor Clare” museum in Albano, Italy,  near Castel Gandolfo (the summer home of the Popes) and on August 15th they had a most illustrious guest: Pope Francis himself! The Holy Father spoke with the nuns and prayed at the tomb of Sr. Maria Chiara Damato whose cause for canonization is underway.

The Poor Clares of Albano suffered grievously during World War II.  As the Allies marched north in Italy, they took to heart Pope Pius XII’s plea and the entire community offered themselves “as victims for the longed-for peace in the world.”

On February 1, 1944, a bomb fell nearby, shattering the stained glass windows in their chapel. As they were recovering from the shock of this blow, a second bomb made a direct hit on the monastery and several sisters were killed. The surviving sisters moved into temporary quarters which they shared with other refugees. In fact, over 40 babies were born to refugee mothers in the Papal apartments during the war.

On February 10th, bombs hit their temporary home resulting in great loss of life. Sr. Maria Chiara was one of the injured: “I am happy to suffer with Jesus suffering on the Cross, but with a happiness full of inner joy.”  The suffering would not be wasted. Msgr. Giovanni Battista Montini, later Pope Paul VI, predicted that it would rebound on the community with a flourishing of vocations. Indeed, with the end of the war in 1945, vocations came.

chiaraSr. Maria Chiara of St. Therese of the Child Jesus was inspired to enter cloistered life in part because of the example St. Therese of Lisieux. In emulation of her namesake, she too asked to be afflicted with tuberculosis and offered her sufferings and death for the sanctification of priests. After caring tirelessly for the refugees, she died in 1948. She was only in her thirties.

When the now-Pope Paul VI visited the community in 1971, he paused in front of a stone slab that listed the names of the 18 sisters who died during the bombings. His visit, he said, had a purpose. It was “intended as a response to the tacit objection which viewed cloistered nuns as marginalized from life, from reality and from the experience of our time.” He added, “You, who are faithful to the Rule, to life in community, to poverty, are a seed and a sign.”

For more information, see the Catholic News Service article.


Vocations and Commitment

Sr. Jeanette Marie, the Vocation Directress for the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, was heartened as she said to hear the Holy Father, Pope Francis, describe one of the things that prevents young people from entering religious life. The issue is Commitment!

As everyone knows, the popularity of marriage is in a steep decline. People live together and then move on. It used to be said that “I am living with him/her to see if marriage is in the cards” which it usually wasn’t. Now it is: “I am living with him/her until the next him/her comes along.”

This problem casts its long shadow on religious life and vocational discernment. A religious vocation is to eternity. Sr Jeanette wrote that we live in a culture that fails to see the good of making a lifetime commitment; a culture that says, “I will choose this vocation provided that everything goes OK.”

In his talk, Pope Francis said, “To become priests [or] Religious – is not primarily our choice. I don’t trust the seminarian, the novice who says: ‘I have chosen this path.’ I don’t like this. It’s not right! But it is the response to a call and to a call of love. I hear something within me, which makes me restless, and I answer yes. The Lord makes us feel this love in prayer, but also through so many signs that we can read in our life, so many persons that He puts on our path.”

Sr. Jeanette  believes that there are three things you can do to come to a decision about religious life:

  • learn about religious life and celibacy
  • pray about your vocation, seeking the guidance of your parents and spiritual advisors
  • plan to arrive at a firm commitment towards your calling – before it’s too late!

The Mercedarian sisters will have a discernment retreat for young women October 11-13, 2013, in Baton Rouge, LA. Now is the time to test your commitment to follow the Lord in faith!





Entrustment to Mary

On this feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major which Pope Francis visited on the eve of his departure for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, it seems appropriate to post the counsel he gave to seminarians, novices and those discerning a vocation in a gathering held on July 7, 2013:

I entrust you to the intercession of Mary Most Holy.

She is the Mother who helps us to take life decisions freely and without fear.

May she help you to bear witness to the joy of God’s consolation,

without being afraid of joy,

she will help you to conform yourselves to the logic of love of the Cross,

to grow in ever deeper union with the Lord in prayer.

Then your lives will be rich and fruitful! Amen.

With cloistered Nuns in Rio de Janeiro

Go and Make Disciples

Jesus did not say: “if you would like to, if you have the time,” but: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church, and that includes you; but it is a command that is born not from a desire for domination or power but from the force of love, from the fact that Jesus first came into our midst and gave us, not a part of Himself, but the whole of Himself, He gave His life in order to save us and to show us the love and mercy of God.

 Krakow 2016



Pope Francis and the Franciscans

When Pope Francis was elected and announced that he had taken the name of Francis, Father Michael Perry, now the new Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor said, “I physically started shaking because this man has taken the name of the person we hold as a model who calls us to live faithfully the Gospel. And I started thinking how short we fall sometimes in living the Gospel.”

The Holy Father has energized and challenged  the Franciscans by choosing the name of their venerable founder, St. Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis’ simple life of poverty and care for the poor and marginalized is causing the Franciscans to “to rediscover our own authenticity, and calling us to simplify our lives and to speak less and demonstrate more who we are.”

Father Perry was elected Minister General on May 22, 2013, the spiritual father to 14,000 Franciscans worldwide. The Indiana native said that St. Francis “brings us back to the very core of who we are as human beings. Francis is a convener of humanity, he helps people come together and see what really matters for their lives and that we can live together in peace, we can care for one another and we can care for our world.”

To see the whole article, visit the Catholic News Service.

The Winds of the Holy Spirit

The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails

and drives it forward,and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit.

Lacking His impulse and His grace, we do not go forward.

The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God

and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself;

He impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel,

to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission.

Pope Francis

Pentecost Sunday