Saturday, June 25, 2016

OUR MERCIFUL FRIENDS

 
Nowitzki Tramonto- Philippines

One of the problems in our Church today, is that many who receive weekly RCIA  learn the tenets of our faith, but since there is so little time to cram in 2000 years of rich history, there is little emphasis on the saints, who should be our intercessors and examples of how to live a holy life, no matter our station in life. Sometimes we read their lives and say, well that was all fine and good then, but what about here and now?

The Magnificat (which I highly recommend to all Catholics and Christians) does a wonderful job of introducing us to old and new heavenly friends, who can pray for us, offer us comfort and basically intercede for us in our daily life.

St Paul in Ephesians (1:15 & 18)  tells us:  wherefore I also, hearing of your faith that is the Lord Jesus, and of your love towards all the saints….  The eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what the hope is of the glory of His inheritance in the saints…

Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners: but you are fellow citizens with the saints and the domestics of God. (2:19)

Not only do those in heaven pray with us, they also pray for us. In the book of Revelation, we read: "[An] angel came and stood at the altar [in heaven] with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God" (Rev. 8:3-4). 
N. Tramonto


People can ask why we pray to the saints when we can ask the Lord directly for what we need? The intercession the saints in heaven does not interfere with Christ’s unique mediatorship .

Of course, we should pray directly to Christ with every pressing need we have. The prayers of the Mass, the central act of Catholic worship, are directed to God and Jesus, not the saints. But this does not mean that we should not also ask our fellow Christians, including those in heaven, to pray with us. 
Since the practice of asking others to pray for us is so highly recommended in Scripture, it cannot be regarded as superfluous on the grounds that one can go directly to Jesus. The New Testament would not recommend it if there were not benefits coming from it. One such benefit is that the faith and devotion of the saints can support our own weaknesses and supply what is lacking in our own faith and devotion.

Personally, I could use all the help I can get in this life, so if I have friends in heaven who can intercede for me, all the better. And as to His Mother (mine also) I trust her intercession more than any.  As a spouse of Christ, why should I  not ask my “mother-in-law” to help me out in my relationship with her Son? 
Wassily Kandinsky- Russia

In addition to our prayers directly to God and Jesus (which are absolutely essential to the Christian life), there are abundant reasons to ask our fellow Christians in heaven to pray for us. The Bible indicates that they are aware of our prayers, that they intercede for us, and that their prayers are effective (else they would not be offered). It is only narrow-mindedness that suggests we should refrain from asking our fellow Christians in heaven to do what we already know them to be anxious and capable of doing.
Communion of Saints- Elise Ritter- USA



O blest communion, fellowship divine! 
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia! 
            from “For All the Saints,” William W. How, 1864  


Thursday, June 23, 2016

ARMENIA

The Holy Father is in ARMENIA, a place I know little about, but feel a distant “bond” through my Mother.  She grew up in Fresno, California where many Armenians came after WWI to settle.  From them she learned cooking and to this day I love their foods: Roasted lamb shanks with vegetables, pilaf, stuffed grape leaves, etc. She had this one great cookbook (this is in the late 1940s) which said if you wanted yogurt (rarely found in a supermarket) go to the phone book and find a name that ended in "ian".  They would probably have homemade yogurt, essential for many dishes. 

I felt the Holy Father's message one which can be said of many peoples over the centuries, but has resonating in this day and in this time. Pope Francis  recalled “the sufferings that are among the most terrible that humanity records”-- a reference to the Armenian Genocide.
45 Martyrs at Nicopolis in Armenia



“I come as a pilgrim, in this Jubilee Year, to draw on the ancient wisdom of your people and to steep myself the sources of your faith, which is steadfast as your famous crosses carved in stone,” the Pope said. “Your history and the events of your beloved people stir in me admiration and sorrow: admiration, for you have found in Jesus’ Cross and in your own wits, the wherewithal ever to pick yourselves up and start anew.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

JOYFUL JESUIT

I recently finished two excellent books I recommend to everyone.

Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life by James  Martin, S.J. who is the cultural editor of America magazine. Someone  called Father Martin one of the funniest, joyous, most light-hearted religious figures in America today. 

He writes: Indeed, the more you know about the actual lives of the saints, the more it strikes you as bizarre that so many statues, paintings and mosaics of the saints show them as unsmiling men and women. These are surely misrepresentations of the holy men and women of Christian history, many of whom were not only joyful but had terrific senses of humor.

Father Martin recalls episodes in his own life where a Christian sense of humor has saved the day for him personally, as well as for others he was ministering to. Often times, the humor came from a friend, a brother Jesuit, or even a stranger, who was able to make an unbearable situation bearable.

As Christians, we should wear our joy on our sleeve, showing a very pessimistic world that we believe in the Resurrection. Joy shows our trust in God, and joy reveals our faith.


The second book, My Life with the Saints, also by Father Martin, deals with some of the saints who touched his own life as a Jesuit.  (Among them are St. Therese, Mother Teresa, Pedro Arrupe (whom I love), and Pope John XXIII.

After reading this I thought it would be interesting to find some joyous saints on my own. The lives of the Saints give us concrete examples of living heroic Christian lives. In each of their lives, they manifest important characteristics of what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ.

Some saints were known specifically for their rich sense of humor. ST. PHILIP NERI, a 16th-century Italian priest, for example, was called “The Humorous Saint.” Over his door he posted a small sign that read, “The House of Christian Mirth.” En route to a ceremony in his honor, he once shaved off half his beard, as a way of poking fun at himself. “Christian joy is a gift from God, flowing from a good conscience,” he said.  And “A heart filled with joy is more easily made perfect than one that is sad.” 

Much of St. Philip Neri’s humor was a way of keeping him humble, as he engaged in what could only be called acts of public silliness, like wearing a cushion on his head like a turban and wearing a foxtail coat in the middle of the summer.


"We are not saints yet, but we, too, should beware. Uprightness and virtue do have their rewards, in self-respect and in respect from others, and it is easy to find ourselves aiming for the result rather than the cause. Let us aim for joy, rather than respectability. Let us make fools of ourselves from time to time, and thus see ourselves, for a moment, as the all-wise God sees us."
St. Philip Neri

ST. FRANCIS de SALES
, the 17th-century bishop of Geneva and renowned spiritual master, espoused what you might call a sensible, cheerful and gentle spirituality. “When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time,” he once wrote. His humane approach to spiritual matters stood in contrast to some of the rigidity of his day. So did his desire to help lay people live a life of deep spirituality- when “real” spirituality was thought to be the province of clerics. His classic text Introduction to the Devout Life was written specifically to help laypeople on their path to God.

ST. JOHN VIANNEY (Patron of the parish priest) learned how to appreciate a good laugh growing up in a happy home. When he would be out doing work on the farm with siblings and friends, he sought to make that time enjoyable and learned a peasant's sense of comic irony. During his time as a priest, he discovered that jocularity was often a very useful way to package some messages that, if stated directly, might wound others' sensibilities.

Much of his best humor was of the humbly self-deprecating kind. When asked once to describe himself at a gathering of clergy, many of whom were seeking positions of importance, he said, "I am like the zeros that have value only when they are next to other numbers." St. John Vianney had a truly Christian view of life and through his humor demonstrated that the Gospel was actually "good news of great joy for all the people."

In our own age we had POPE ST. JOHN PAUL II, who radiated a joy to the whole world. He once said God made us for joy!  He loved people of all nationalities and religions, young and old, smiling and laughing with them, exuding joy wherever he went. In spite of much physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering he still radiated the joy of Christ, certainly and example to us all. 


Other saints in our day and age present us with the idea that joy is what we should strive for in our spiritual life. St. Pio of Pietrelcina said,  "Joy, with peace, is the sister of charity. Serve the Lord with laughter."

Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “Let anyone who comes to you go away feeling better and happier. Everyone should see goodness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile. Joy shows from the eyes. It appears when we speak and walk. It cannot be kept closed inside us. It reacts outside. Joy is very infectious.” 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

IRISH JESUIT of the POOR





Another Jesuit who knew our last  saint to be, Father Willie Doyle, is VENERABLE FATHER JOHN SULLIVAN,SJ (1861-1933).  He was an Irish Catholic priest widely known for his life of prayer and personal sacrifice. He is recognized for his dedicated work with the poor and afflicted, spending much of his time walking and cycling to visit those who were troubled, sick and dying in the villages in County Kildare, Ireland where he taught from 1907 until his death. From the 1920s onwards many people testified to the healing power of his prayers although he never claimed any credit for himself.

John Sullivan was born into a wealthy Dublin family. His father Edward, a Protestant, was a successful barrister who would later become the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. His mother, Elizabeth Bailey, was a Catholic from a prominent land-owning family in Passage West, County Cork. He was the youngest of five children and grew up in privilege in late 19th Century Dublin society, raised as a Protestant as was traditional in Ireland at the time for sons of Protestant fathers and Catholic mothers. Following in his father's footsteps, John read classics at Trinity College Dublin.

John was received into the Catholic Church on 21 December 1896 by Father Michael Gavin SJ at Farm St Church Mayfair, in central London. He began his Jesuit novitiate in 1900 at St Stanislaus College Tullabeg in County Offaly (we once had a land program young woman from this almost unknown county). On completion of his novitiate he was sent for two years of philosophical study to St. Mary's Hall Stonyhurst, the philosophical seminary of the English province of the Jesuit Order. In 1904 at the end of his philosophy he went to Milltown Park, Dublin for his theology studies and was ordained a Jesuit priest by Archbishop Walsh in the chapel at Milltown Park in 1907. He said his first mass at the convent of the Irish Sisters of Charity, Mount St. Anne's, Milltown.

Soon after he took up a teaching post at Clongowes Wood College the Jesuit secondary boarding school for boys near Clane, Co. Kildare. From 1919 until 1924 he was Rector of the Juniorate and Retreat House at Rathfarnham Castle on the outskirts of Dublin. He then returned to teaching at Clongowes Wood College.

In February 1933 after suffering severe abdominal pains he was transferred from Clongowes to St. Vincent's Nursing Home in Lower Leeson St. Dublin. He died  on 19 February 1933, aged 71 with his brother Sir William Sullivan at his side. He was buried in Clongowes Wood Cemetery.

Father Sullivan’s priestly life was one of prayer, personal sacrifice, care for his students, and, most especially, concern for the ill and the poor. He spent hours in prayer on his knees before the Blessed Sacrament or in his room praying the Rosary. Many more hours were spent walking the roads of Ireland to pray for the sick, especially those with incurable illnesses. From the 1920s until his death in 1933, there were many instances of spiritual and physical healing through the mediation of his prayers. 

Fr. John- back right- to his left is Fr. Willie Doyle
While his cause for beatification and canonization is under consideration,  many who knew him already consider him a saint. Father Sullivan often blessed the sick using his vow crucifix; today the crucifix is kept in St. Francis Xavier’s Church, Gardiner Street, where it still used to bless the sick who seek Father Sullivan’s intercession. 


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

CHRIST AT DACHAU

 Every once in a while a story comes across my screen that I feel is worth sharing-  This priest reminds me of our good friend Venerable Father Walter Ciszek (see Blog Mar. 15, 2012).

FATHER HERMANN SCHEIPERS died June 2 at the venerable age of  102.  He was the last Catholic priest imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp  to die.

He was a young priest in 1940 when he was arrested by the Nazis. Dachau, near Munich, had a large population of priests: some 95% of the 2,720 clergymen imprisoned there were Catholic.

His work among young people, soon after his ordination, drew the attention of the Nazis. Because he was sympathetic to Polish forced laborers, celebrating Mass with them and hearing their confessions, he was arrested in 1940 and brought to Dachau five months later. His file stated the true reason for his arrest: “Scheipers is a fanatical proponent of the Catholic Church and thus likely to cause unrest among the population.”

Father Scheipers recalled the way the camp commander welcomed him and his fellow inmates: “You are without honor, without help and without rights. Here, you can either work or perish.”

Father wore the number 24255 on his prison uniform and worked along side the other prisoners as slave laborers.  “The only thing one could do was escape or pray,” Father Scheipers recalled in his memoirs,  Balancing Act – Priest Under Two Dictatorships.  In an interview in 2009 with Greg Hayes, Father Scheipers described the horrors of living and working in this death camp. In spite of the hard life Father Scheipers was always  aware of the closeness of God. 

At one point he was in danger of being sent to the gas chamber, but was spared death when his twin sister, Anna, pleaded with officials in Berlin, warning them of a strong reaction among the Catholic population if the execution was carried out. The courageous Anna also helped save around 500 other priests from the gas chambers.

Fr. Hermann Scheipers in 2011, photographed in Dresden on the occasion of the beatification of Alojs Andritzki, who was killed in Dachau in 1943. Father Scheipers and Blessed Alojs were both in the camp’s sickbay with typhoid fever for some time.


 A fellow priest was not as lucky, and years later, Father Scheipers would movingly recall how he gave him his ration of bread before he was taken to his death. “Every time when I celebrate Mass and break the bread, I think of that,” he said.

In April of 1945, Father Scheipers managed to escape from a death march towards Bad Tölz. It was in Bad Tölz that Amon Goeth, commandant of the Nazi concentration camp in Płaszów, in German-occupied Poland during World War II, was arrested and sent for trial in Poland.

After the war Father returned to his former place of work in the Diocese of Dresden-Meißen. There he resisted those in power in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). When Father Scheipers found his Stasi file after the fall of communism, he discovered that 15 spies had been on his case and that a trial against him for distributing subversive propaganda was to be convened.  “I was in Dachau for the exact same reasons,” he said.  Basically all for being a Catholic priest trying to spread the gospel of Christ!



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

IRISH JESUIT- HERO OF THE TRENCHES


Several more Jesuit saints to be remembered, who were in the seminary together.

FATHER WILLIE DOYLE, S.J.(1873-1917), was an Irish Jesuit priest who was killed in action during the First World War.

Born in Dalkey, Ireland, he was  the youngest of seven children of Hugh and Christine Doyle. He was educated at Ratcliffe College, Leicester. After reading St. Alphonsus’ book Instructions and Consideration on the Religious State he was inspired to enter the priesthood and was an ordained Jesuit priest in 1907. He served for five years on the mission staff. From 1908 to 1915, he gave no less than 152 missions and retreats. His fame as preacher, confessor and spiritual director spread wide and far, and he had a special gift to hunt out the most hardened and neglected sinners and to bring them back with him to the church for confession. He maintained a fervent spiritual life of union with Christ offering himself as a victim for the salvation of souls.


Father Doyle served in the Army Chaplains' Department of the British Army during World War I, appointed as a chaplain to 48 Brigade of the 16th Irish Division. During the Battle of Loos he was caught in a German gas attack.General Hickie, the commander-in-chief described Father Doyle as "one of the bravest men who fought or served out here."


In Seminary- Back- middle-  Fr. John Sullivan to his right (see next Blog)
Fr Doyle had a rather highly strung disposition by nature. While he was physically strong and good at sport, he always suffered ill health and so was not naturally constituted for a life of trench warfare. However, it was his steady practice of virtue over the years, and his cooperation with grace, that created the hero of the trenches who was willing to run across a battlefield battered with shells and bullets to bring help to his “poor brave boys”, as he called them.

 A recommendation for a Military Cross was rejected as "he had not been long enough at the front". Father Doyle was presented with the parchment of merit of the 49th (Irish) Brigade instead. He was killed in the Battle of Langemarck, on 16 August 1917. Fr. Doyle's body was never recovered but he is commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial. He was proposed for canonisation in 1938, but this was not followed through. His papers can be found in the Jesuit archives, Leeson Street, Dublin.




From a review of the 4th edition of the book in The Irish Monthly, 1931, published by the Irish Jesuit Province is O’Rahilly’s  Life of Fr. William Doyle:

    We cannot recommend this work too highly to our readers, for it is one of the best modern biographies we have seen, and has already done much to arouse an intelligent appreciation of Catholic asceticism both within the Church and without. Translations have been made into the German, Italian, French, Spanish, Dutch and Polish languages. Professor O’Rahilly has given us an unique story of one of the outstanding personalities of the Great War and at the same time a study in spirituality which is destined to rank among the classics of modern religious life.




Thursday, June 9, 2016

ANOTHER SAINT of MERCY - JESUIT WORKER

Wm. McNichols


EGIDE van BROECKHOVEN, was a Belgian Jesuit who died in 1967 at 34, crushed by a steel plate at the factory where he worked. Over a period of ten years he wrote down spiritual comments about his day. His diary has been published in several languages, and offers a wonderful example of what a Spirit-filled life can look like in the midst of a normal working class life. He worked along side the poor and the needy, convinced that was where God wanted him to be and where he found his true vocation as a priest. In that work he discovered that  friendship was at  the core of our life, starting with friendship with the Lord Jesus.

He felt that a deep friendship between two people would have God meeting them in the middle and that true friendship has an important sacramental value. For him friendship was an opportunity to find God, for as the relationship deepens it should become more sacred, mystical and intimate, a place where we find all we seek.

From this perspective, Egide shows us a good initial working definition of spirituality as the ability “to transform trivial things into an experience of depth.” ..the difference between a spirituality based on an ascetic flight from the world and one centerd on the world lies in our incapacity to comprehend God’s breadth and depth” (Journal I, 73).

Egide, a mystic in the true sense of the word, established strong relationships with fellow workers and neighbors, who were first suspicious of a young priest wanting to work and relate to them.


The God of above, the God of beyond, the God of immense spaces, loves all human beings; the efficacious sign of this love is the realization of his word: the Good News is announced to the poor people. The immense breadth of God’s love has incarnated itself in Christ and in his will to save us all; this love is expanded by the evangelization of the poor: a sine qua non condition for the Church to continue unfolding Christ’s life, in its breadth, length, and depth, as a space where the deep sea, more powerful than the divine Ocean, can move and give life to all creation with the living Life of God (Journal XXI, 51).

As far as I can find, nothing of his life has been translated into English.