Friday, July 20, 2018



 VENERABLE BENEDETTA BIANCHI PORRO born in 1936 was an Italian Roman Catholic. Born in the Romagna, she became ill with polio as a teenager. She pursued a medical career and was perceived to be a brilliant student, but the aggressive progression of her illness forced her to abandon all hopes for a medical career. She instead devoted herself to surgeries for her own health but failed to cure her ailments; instead her health took on a rapid decline.

Daughter of Guido Bianchi Porro and Elsa Giammarchi, the second of six children. Afflicted with polio at an early age, leaving her with a crippled left leg and a need to wear a brace to prevent her spine from deforming. A clever and happy child, she began keeping a diary at age five; it became a lifelong record of her faith and the way she carried the cross of her disability. Much of her primary education was provided by Ursulines. In her teens she began to lose her hearing, and her overall health continued to deteriorate.

At age 17 she enrolled in the University of MilanItaly with a plan to study physics, but later changed to medicine. Some teachers objected to having a pre-med student who was so deaf that had to have written questions during an oral examination, but Benedetta was an excellent student.

In 1957 her studies had reached a point that she was able to diagnose herself finding  she had Recklinghausen Disease­-Neuro-Fibromatosis which leads to paralysis of the nervous system. She had surgery in 1958 to treat part of the condition, but it was of little benefit, and left the left side of her face paralyzed. She continued her studies, but in 1959 she began losing the sense of touch, taste and smell, was completely deaf, and had to give up the idea of a medical career.

Benedetta had further surgery in August 1959; it left both legs paralyzed, and the young woman wheelchair bound. She then turned her sick room into a center of support and communication for others. Her friends from medical school were frequent visitors, and she began correspondences; in person or in print she was uniformly optimistic about life and the love of God. Benedetta and her family visited Lourdes in May 1962 in search of a cure.  She took the hand of a paralyzed girl lying next to her, who was completely healed, but there was no change for Benedetta.

In 1963 Benedetta had another operation which it left her blind. She could barely speak, and could only move her right hand. However, the number of her visitors increased as word of her holiness and her gentle understanding of to love God even these circumstances. Patience, said Benedetta, was “the weapon with which Christ conquered the darkness”.

To a visiting priest she explained: “In living we must make known to him, and to him only, the meaning of our lives, which sometimes he lets us catch a glimpse.”

She went again to Lourdes and as her family waited for her to be healed, she received her own miracle – the understanding that she would not change a thing about her condition. She died in 1964 at the age of  28.  Her father said that her deformed face, tired from the long suffering,returned to being as beautiful as it was when she was young. 

She was proclaimed Venerable on 23 December 1993 on the account of her good deeds and model life.

Sometimes I find myself defeated under the weight of this heavy cross. Then, I call upon Jesus and lovingly cast myself at His feet; He kindly permits me to rest my head on His lap. (Venerable Benedetta in a letter to a friend)

Sunday, July 15, 2018


These past BLOGs have been dedicated to holy lay people: doctors, an engineer and now a politician.  A politician?  How can anyone in politics be holy?  With God nothing is impossible.

Recently made venerable is  GIORGIO LA PIRA  who was known as  the “holy mayor” of Florence.
Giorgio was born  in 1904 in Pozzallo to a Sicilian packing-house worker the first of six children.  His Catholic upbringing and in particular the teachings of St Francis of Assisi had a vital role in shaping his political and philosophical beliefs. He saw all that he did and each position he took as an expression of his spiritual beliefs. In 1924 he experienced a profound religious calling that would forever set the pattern for his life. Giorgio became a Third Order Dominican in his early twenties.

 He studied accounting in Messina and  received a law degree from the Florence college in 1925. He became professor of Roman Law there in 1933 and his openness made him popular with the students.
As the mayor of Florence from 1951 to 1965, Giorgis’s influence extended well beyond his municipality. He made several official trips behind the Iron Curtain to Russia, China and Vietnam during the Cold War to promote peace and human rights. Before traveling to Moscow,  he visited Fatima and wrote to cloistered religious orders asking for their prayers for his journey.
At home in Italy, Giorgio advocated for the poor and for workers rights. He also contributed to the writing of the Italian Constitution after World War II.
His political perspectives were controversial in Italy, and some have criticized his openness to dialogue with communist parties and leaders.
However, he was  well-respected by religious leaders, even beyond Catholicism. In 1960, he began a friendship with Athenagoras I, the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, who famously asked the mayor to bring an unprecedented gift of candy to Pope John XXIII, as a way to foster relations between the two churchmen. Four years later, Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI held a historic meeting in Jerusalem, which led to the rescinding of excommunications issued after the Great Schism in 1054.
He chose to live in simplicity in a cell in the monastery of San Marco in Florence until bronchitis forced him to move out.
After La Pira died in 1977, Pope Paul VI honored him in an Angelus address.
Pope Saint John Paul II spoke of the important role Giorgio La Pira played in the reconstruction of Europe, and chose to celebrate the “Jubilee of Governors” in 2000 on the date of  Giorgio’ s death, Nov. 5. 

 A quote from the former mayor of Florence was also selected as the motto for the celebration, “Our participation in a Holy Year is not an act of piety but a political act, because it must contribute to the realization of God’s plan in history.”

Thursday, July 12, 2018


We have been dealing with saintly physicians in the past Blogs, now here is another profession, which I am sure needs a patron.

As a student, SERVANT of GOD MARIO HIRIART’s spirituality began to radically transform his life and nature. As an engineer and later as university professor, he felt called to live a radical Christian life and to unite work, faith, apostolic commitment, leisure, and prayer in an organic way. As promoter of a distinctive lay spirituality he decided to join the Institute of the Brothers of Mary. He wanted to commit all his time, energy, and talents to make God present and able to be experienced in the contemporary world marked by the rhythm and laws of industry, research, and technical enhancement.  

In his lessons, in his apostolate among youth, and in his personal reflections he worked on an deeper understanding of and convincing response to the challenges imposed on Christian lay persons in a growingly secularized world.

At the same time he grew into a deep personal relationship with Jesus to whom he offered his life as a living sacrifice.  At age 33, he accepted his terminal illness of cancer as a final possibility to give all for the Lord whom he desired to emulate.

Mario was born in Santiago, Chile in 1931 in an affectionate family with ethical principles, but not religious. His maternal grandmother, an invalid aunt and his "nanny" Teresa communicated taught him the faith and how to pray. He studied at the school of the Marist Brothers of Santiago, where he stood out as a good student. In the last years of the study he joined a youth group of Catholic Action, where he began to grow towards a more active Catholicism.

The year that he began his university studies at the School of Engineering of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, he formed with some friends the first group of young people of the Schoenstatt movement in the capital. He was able to meet the founder, Father Joseph Kentenich in those foundational years. Father Jose  taught him fidelity to the Lord and His Blessed Mother. 

(The Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt was founded in Germany in 1914 by Father Joseph Kentenich, who saw the movement as being a means of spiritual renewal in the Catholic Church.The movement is named Schoenstatt, which means "beautiful place", after a small village close to the town of Vallendar near Koblenz in Germany.)

His great love for Mary deepened his relationship with Christ in the Eucharist, and ignited his dedication to others.  He was a brilliant working for a top engineering firm, but decided to devote himself to the education of youth, so he could lead them to Christ.

Understanding with pain that the path of marriage was not for, he decided to follow the Lord's call to be a lay saint, to dedicate himself exclusively to serving Him, yet staying in the world, doing the ordinary extraordinarily.

He left his home, to do his novitiate at the Secular Institute of the Brothers of Mary. There he served young workers in a technical school and traveled, encouraging many young people and couples to make a radical choice to live their faith and to engage in the construction of a Christian order of society and in public service.

After his return to Chile, he began to do classes at the engineering school of the Catholic University. He created a book bank to facilitate his acquisition to the most needy students and  was an example, a teacher and a friend. Mario  is still remembered for his smile, his love of poetry, music and singing. He played guitar and had a special joy in the contemplation of nature.

The Holy Spirit led him to a fullness of the Christian life according to the ideal he had assumed: to be " like Mary, living Chalice, bearer of Christ ". He knew suffering and loneliness. His bad health martyred him with permanent ailments, until a hidden cancer ended up totally undermining his physique.

With Father Joseph

On a trip to then USA to speak with Father Jose, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and died the day after meeting Father Joseph. He died in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on July 15, 1964 at the age of 33, accepting  his terminal illness of cancer as a final possibility to give all for the Lord whom he desired to emulate. 
His remains rest after the Schoenstatt Shrine in Bellavista, La Florida, Santiago de Chile. 

He will become the first lay saint of Chile, being an example to all lay people, that holiness in the secular world is not impossible!  Maria lived out  the aim of Schoenstatt  which seeks to grow as free, dedicated, and active witnesses of Christ in modern life by uniting the faith with  everyday life, seeing Mary guide.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


This  week our youth group who come annually, are here with many projects,  from building to bringing in over 1,000 bales of hay. So it is appropriate that news of a new venerable is given to youth around the world.
CARLOS ACUTIS ( see BLOG  12/7/13), who died of leukemia at the age of 15, offering his suffering for the Holy Father and for the Church, was recently ungraded to Venerable.

Venerable Carlos was born in London in 1991, to Italian parents who soon returned to Milan. He was a pious child, attending daily Mass and frequently praying the rosary.
Exceptionally gifted in working with computers, Carlos developed a website which catalogued Eucharistic miracles. This website was the beginning of The Eucharistic Miracles of the World, an international exhibition which highlights such occurrences.
Carlos said that “To always be close to Jesus, that’s my life plan. I'm happy to die because I've lived my life without wasting even a minute of it doing things that wouldn't have pleased God.”  Don’t we all wish we could say that before we die?
He also said that “our aim has to be the infinite and not the finite. The Infinite is our homeland. We have always been expected in Heaven,” He called the Eucharist “my highway to heaven.”
Venerable Carlos died of leukemia in Monza, near Milan, Oct. 12, 2006

Abbot Michelangelo Tiribilli, the then-Abbot of the Territorial Abbey of Montel Oliveto Maggiore, wrote in the foreword to a biography of Carlos Acutis that “By looking at this adolescent as one of them and as someone who was captivated by the love of Christ, which enabled him to experience pure joy, today's adolescents will be in contact with an experience of life that doesn't take anything away from the richness of their teenage years, but which actually makes them more valuable.”

May he be the patron of so many youth who are addicted to new technology! 

Sunday, July 8, 2018


On May 19, Pope Francis issued a decree that recognized the heroic virtues of BROTHER NORBERT McAULIFFE, an American missionary in Africa,, granting him the title of “venerable”.

The new Venerable was born in 1886 in Manhattan, New York, and eventually joined the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, a relatively new religious congregation at the time. The congregation was founded by in 1821 by Fr. André Coindre in France and by the time of his death was beginning to spread around the world.

Father Coindre had envisioned a community of brothers trained to work with the poor through the establishment of schools. The congregation is primarily made up of religious brothers, with only a few members being ordained priests.

According ot their Rule of Life, “Our love for our brothers and the young people in our care radiates from the love Jesus has for us. Our dedication to others, marked by respect, kindness, and concern, will be a sign to them of the compassion of Christ.”

Brother McAuliffe served as a director of their house in Metuchen, New Jersey, for  six years before being sent as a missionary to Uganda, Africa. There he established the congregation’s first mission. The country at the time was under British rule and the people were receptive to Brother McAuliffe’s missionary activities. He remained there for 20 years until his death on July 3, 1959 at the age of 72.

During the slaughter of people in Uganda in 2003, Archbishop John Baptist Odama prayed that Brother McAuliffe among others would intercede for the people:  Many of us have been forced to abandon their flock and have suffered even death in this conflict. This is devastating. I cannot ignore your sufferings but please… Servant of God Brother Norbert McAuliffe (Dano ma lego)… and others are all with us and praying for us."  

“We are only earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us. We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted , but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed, always wherever we may be we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too may always be seen in our body” (2Cor. 4:7-13).

Venerable Norbert's  legacy lives on in Uganda and his life is still an inspiration to the African people he ministered to in the region. Interestingly enough it is the bishops of Uganda who are leading the cause for his canonization, not his American Community.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


Several weeks ago seven young priests came to our monastery for a much needed break.  The Holy Father's prayer intention for the universal Church for the month of July is  for "Priests and their Pastoral Ministry".

Let us pray together that priests, who experience fatigue and loneliness in their pastoral work, may find help and comfort in their intimacy with the Lord and in their friendship with their brother priests.

Saturday, June 30, 2018


 While not  (yet) on the path to sainthood, a local well known doctor certainly fits the  profile of a  saint. He is very dear to our hearts as he saved the life of one of our sisters, who is no longer with us, but who had an extra ten years added to her life due to his intervention.

Pioneering heart surgeon LESTER SAUVAGE  was born in Wapato, across the mountains from us, near Yakima, in 1926.  His father was a sportsman who owned a  poolroom and bar called Jack’s Place. The two often went fishing together. Dr. Sauvage thought that some of his skill as a surgeon was because  of the many hours he spent cleaning fish with his father.

The family moved to Spokane in 1942 because his mother, a devout Catholic, thought the children could get a better education in the Catholic schools there.

His first career goal was to become a Major League baseball player. But his mother insisted that he focus on his education instead. He entered medical school in an accelerated pre-med program at Gonzaga in 1943, in the middle of World War II, at a time when medical schools were scrambling for students when he was just 17. 

In 1944 he left for medical school at St. Louis University in Missouri. It was an exciting time in medicine, on the eve of the era of open-heart surgery. Within a decade, a heart-lung machine would be developed, making it possible for the human heart to be stopped, repaired, and restarted. Advances in medicine were opening a whole new field of cardiovascular surgery. By his senior year in medical school, Lester decided to specialize in that field.

He completed a one-year internship at the King County Hospital (now Harborview Medical Center) in Seattle in 1949 and immediately began a residency in vascular surgery at the University of Washington. His residency was interrupted when he was drafted into the Army Medical Corps in 1952, during the Korean War. He was given the rank of lieutenant and assigned to the Division of Experimental Surgery in the Army Medical Service Graduate School at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C.

At Walter Reed, Sauvage became involved in research to find better ways to repair blood vessels that had been damaged by rifle fire or other war-related injuries. He conducted a series of experiments involving the insertion of blood vessel grafts in the aorta in the chest of young pigs. The work led to his first major research paper, "The Healing and Fate of Arterial Grafts," published in 1955.

In 1956 he married  a Seattle University nursing student. Within weeks, the young couple left for Boston, where Dr. Sauvage began a second residency, in pediatric and cardiovascular surgery, at the Children’s Medical CenterThe couple went on to have eight children.

In addition to a busy private practice (averaging more than 260 operations a year for 32 years), he also carried on important clinical research. With his colleagues at his initially small laboratory (now the Hope Heart Institute), he made major contributions to the development of coronary bypass surgery and artificial replacements for diseased arteries and valves.

By the 1970s, Dr. Sauvage was one of Seattle’s busiest and best-known surgeons. In addition to his private practice at Providence Hospital, he had become chief of cardiac surgery at Children’s Hospital. He was legendary for his stamina, working 20 hours a day for six and sometimes seven days a week. 

He was also known for his extraordinary attentiveness to patients. He visited them at all hours in the hospital and willingly provided personal services, from washing their hair to spoon-feeding them. On at least one occasion, he sent his assistants off to rest while he cleaned the operating room himself. Staff and patients called him "Saint Sauvage”.

 Dr. Sauvage retired from clinical surgery in 1991, after more than 32 years of practice, but he remained active in research and writing. He wrote three books for lay people: The Open HeartYou Can Beat Heart Disease, and The Better Life Diet.    His primary emphasis at the end of his career was on the prevention of heart disease. "We’re not going to defeat heart disease with a knife.  Prevention is where we should be, more than having more sharp knives and more operating rooms and more talented surgeons."

Dr. Lester Sauvage died on June 5, 2015, at the age of 88.

His deep Christian faith remained an important part of his life. As a surgeon, he often spoke to his patients about spiritual issues, and took pride in ministering to their inner lives as much as to their physical problems. "People who are afflicted with these problems are brought into a close glimpse, if you will, with eternity. If I can give a little guidance to people to enlarge their horizon or what they see, then I think I've done something that's every bit as important as putting a stitch in some artery someplace or another”. Our Community has fond memories of his care for our Mother Francis of Rome.