Tuesday, November 21, 2017


I paint saints because they embody the great desire to be one, united with the great source of life and love - our true purpose for being... BROTHER ARTURO OLIVAS, OFS

Self Portrait
My dear friend, renowned santero ARTURO OLIVAS passed to the Father, on Saturday, November 18 after an almost  7 year battle with cancer.  Everyone who came into contact with him, from his students to fellow artists were better for knowing him.

Arturo painted Catholic images after the style of New Mexican religious folk artists of the 18th and 19th centuries. These images are commonly known as retablos. Early Santeros, who painted Retablos, used wooden panels and water-soluble paints colored with natural pigments and sealed their paintings with pinesap varnish. Arturo painted his original Retablos using these same materials.

The iconography of the Retablos is based on a centuries old canon governing the depiction of Catholic saints. The Church relied heavily upon the standard use of symbols and motifs to help illiterate faithful in Europe and the Americas identify and learn the stories of the saints. Hence one could travel from the churches and chapels in New Mexico to those of Peru and identify the same saints rendered in distinct regional styles.

The Christmas Card
St Martin de Porres

New Mexican Retablos are distinctive in the bold use of simple lines and colors. The primitive materials dictated the style and training available to artists who were generally self-taught, a distinction Arturo shares with his forebears. The tradition of New Mexican Retablo painting reached its peak during the mid-nineteenth century. Arturo's work incorporates elements of his Spanish and Native American ancestry in order to preserve and teach the faith and customs of his forebears.

Arturo’s family originated in Spain from whence it migrated to Mexico, Texas, New Mexico and California. The Olivas family entered New Mexico in 1695 as part of the so-called reconquest of the region after the 1680 Pueblo Indian revolt which expelled the Spanish-Mexicans to El Paso. About ninety years later another branch of the Olivas family guarded the founding settlers of Los Angeles, California and was later granted the Rancho San Miguel in Ventura which still stands as a public museum.

"My family heritage strongly influences my work. In my youth my father danced the Matachines, an ancient folk dance introduced by the Spanish conquistadors, on the major feast days of the saints. My mother is descended in part from the Tarahumara people of northern Mexico and valued the folk traditions of her people. In my work I incorporate elements of my Spanish and Native American ancestry in order to preserve and teach the faith and customs of my forebears."  (Br. Arturo Olivas, OFS)

OL of Guadalupe
Arturo  became a Secular Franciscan Order in 2007, making his  final profession in 2010. He served as servant minster from 2012 to 2015. His Franciscan vocation meant a lot to him and he was in the process of petitioning for permission for lay religious to wear the habit of the Order ( a custom in later times).

Several years ago Arturo gave us permission to use one of his pieces for our Christmas card. We chose  "The Soul of Mary". Arturo had told me he wanted to present us with one of his works, and knowing my birthday was the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he would give us  that work. Later however knowing of my love of the Sacred Heart, he made for me that piece, giving it to us last year. I am sure it was one of his last pieces, and one which we treasure. 

Arturo's faith, in his  work and health and in his illness are an example to all of us and while he will be greatly missed, his life lives on through his art and his example.

OLRs Sacred Heart of Jesus

Monday, November 20, 2017


It has been a big month for the Holy Father as he furthers the steps for more holy people to  canonization.

The Vatican  last week announced that Albino Luciani – better know as POPE JOHN PAUL I  – has moved forward on the path to sainthood, and can now officially be called “Venerable” by faithful around the world.
The first Pope to born in the 20th century, he is also the most recent Italian-born Pontiff and is often referred to as “the Smiling Pope” by those who knew him or remember his election.

He sent shock waves around the world when he died unexpectedly just 33 days later, making his one of the shortest pontificates in the history of the Church.  He had hardly given four general audiences when he died. The late Pope suffered a brief, unknown cardiac episode the night before he died, which was likely linked to a previous heart problem he thought had been resolved, but was most likely the cause of his death.

Born Oct. 17, 1912, in Italy’s northern Veneto region, Albino Luciani made history when he was elected Pope Aug. 26, 1978, and took a double name after his two immediate predecessors, St. John XXIII and Bl. Paul VI.

Despite living in relative poverty, he entered the minor seminary in Feltre in 1923, when he was just 11 years old, and entered the Gregorian Seminary at Belluno five years later, in 1928. He was ordained a priest July 7, 1935, and after serving in a parish for a few months, in December of that year he was named instructor of religion at the Technical Institute for Miners in Agordo. He became vice-rector of the Belluno seminary just two years later, in 1937 – a position he would hold for the next 10 years.

Literature also played a key role in the future Pope's formation. He had a library full of books in different languages and a special fondness for Anglo-American literature. Though he knew English, French, German and Russian, his favorite authors were from the Anglo world, and included authors such as G.K. Chesterton, Willa Cather, and Mark Twain. (no wonder he smiled a lot!)   Later as cardinal, he even  wrote his own book called “Illustrissimi,” which is a series of letters penned to a variety of historical and fictional persons, including Jesus, King David, Figaro the Barber, Austrian Empress Maria Theresa Habsburg, Pinocchio, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Christopher Marlowe.
At the same time, he also became an instructor at the seminary and continued to pursue his own studies in theology. When his time as vice-rector was complete in 1947, he obtained a docorate degree in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

At just 36 years of age, he was named chancellor of the diocese of Belluno and given the title “Monsignor.” That year he was also nominated secretary for the diocesan synod of bishops. A year later, in 1948, he was named Pro Vicar General of the Belluno diocese and director of their office for catechesis and was named Vicar General of Belluno six years later, in 1954.

In 1958, he was named Bishop of the Vittorio Veneto diocese by St. John XXIII, and was consecrated by the Pope himself in St. Peter's Basilica. 

Bishop Luciani was among the bishops present from around the world for the opening of the Second Vatican Council in 1962, and he attended each of the four sessions before the Council's close in 1965.

In 1969 he was named Patriarch of Venice by Bl. Pope Paul VI, one of the few patriarchates in the Latin Church. The Archbishop of Venice is typically made a cardinal, and Luciani received his red hat from Paul VI in 1973.

He participated in the 1971 Synod of Bishops on “The Ministerial Priesthood and Justice in the World” in 1971, and in 1972 was elected Vice President of the Italian Bishops' Conference, a position he held until 1975.

The last year of his life was a whirlwind in which he participated in the Sept. 30-Oct. 29 1977, Synod of Bishops on “Catechesis in Our Time” and voted in the August 1978 conclave that elected him as Pope after the death of Paul VI.

John Paul I has been hailed as a man of heroic humility and extraordinary simplicity, with a firm commitment to carrying forward the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and a knack for explaining complicated Church concepts in a way everyone can understand. Pope Paul VI  considered him to be “one of the most advanced theologians” of the time.

So far hundreds of graces and favors have been recorded for those who pray to Pope JohnPaul I, and there are already two miracles being studied and considered for his beatification and eventual canonization. Currently the Vatican is trying to decide which to present first.

Now the dilemma, if and when, he is canonized, what do we call him?  Since we have a St. Pope John Paul? 

Friday, November 17, 2017


On Nov. 8, 2017, Pope Francis declared the martyrdom of SERVANT of GOD JANOS BRENNER, thus clearing the way for his beatification. Janos was born in 1931 in Szombathely, Hungary. Full of life and joy, he attended Catholic schools run by the Cistercian order, until the nationalization of schools by the communist government which came to power after World War II as part of the Eastern Bloc.

He felt called to the Cistercian order and after applying to enter, and was accepted as a novice in Zirc in 1950, and took the name Br. Anastasius. However, only a few months after he began formation, the communist government began suppressing religious houses. To protect the men in formation, the novice master moved the young brothers from the abbey to private apartments, where they hoped to continue formation in secret.

It was around this time that Janos, along with a few other novices, moved to the local seminary to begin studying to become a priest, while continuing with his Cistercian formation through correspondence.

Despite the dangers and religious oppression going on around him, journal entries at the time display a deep trust in God and a strong desire to do his will.
He took his vows with the Cistercian order and then was ordained a priest in 1955.
Throughout his ministry, he was known for his willingness and readiness to serve and to sacrifice. Father Janos was especially talented at working with youth, which all the more made him a target of the communist government.

Even when he was made aware of personal threats against his life, and his bishop offered to transfer him elsewhere for his own safety, Father Janos responded: "I'm not afraid, I'm happy to stay."

On the night of Dec. 14, 1957, he was falsely called to give last rites to a sick person in a neighboring town, amid the reprisals for the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

He left his home, carrying his anointing oils and the Eucharist, but was ambushed in the woods outside Rabakethely and stabbed 32 times. He was found dead the next day, still clutching the Eucharist in his hands, which has earned him the title of the “Hungarian Tarcisius.” (St. Tarcisius was a young third century martyr who was also killed while carrying and protecting the Eucharist.)

While the communists had hoped that Father Janos’s death would intimidate the faithful in the area, they could not stop devotion to the young priest’s memory. The Chapel of the Good Pastor was built in 1989 on the spot where he died, and is a popular place of pilgrimage for people throughout the country. The dirty and bloodied surplice he wore when he was killed has been preserved as a relic.

Like Bl. Jerzy Popieluszko  (see Blog 11/2/16) of Poland, who the communists also tried to silence, the death of these young priests only heightened the people’s awareness of their own Faith!  Where are the communists today?  and where are these young saints?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Venerable SOLANUS CASEY  (See Blog May 21, 2017) an American-born Capuchin priest who died in 1957, will be beatified at a Nov. 18 Mass in Detroit at Ford Field, which can accommodate as many as 60,000.

Known for his great faith, attention to the sick, and ability as a spiritual counselor, he will be the second American-born male to be beatified.
Born Bernard Casey on Nov. 25, 1870, he was the sixth child of 16 born to Irish immigrants in Wisconsin. At age 17 he left home to work at various jobs, including as a lumberjack, a hospital orderly, and a prison guard.

Re-evaluating his life after witnessing a drunken sailor brutally stab a woman to death, he decided to act on a call he felt to enter the priesthood. Because of his lack of formal education, however, he struggled in the minor seminary, and was eventually encouraged to become a priest through a religious order rather than through the diocese.

In 1898, he joined the Capuchin Franciscans in Detroit and after struggling through his studies, in 1904 was ordained a “sacerdos simplex” – a priest who can say Mass, but not publicly preach or hear confessions.

He was very close to the sick and was highly sought-after throughout his life, in part because of the many physical healings attributed to his blessings and intercession. He was also a co-founder of Detroit's Capuchin Soup Kitchen in 1929. For 21 years he was porter at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit.

He is also known for his fondness for playing the violin and singing, although he had a bad singing voice because of a childhood illness which damaged his vocal chords.

Even in his 70s, Fr. Solanus Casey remained very active, and would even join the younger religious men in a game of tennis or volleyball. He died from erysipelas, a skin disease, on July 31, 1957, at the age of 87.

 The beatification of Father Solanus  is a great blessing for all Catholics in his example of the love of Jesus Christ. We have a friend in Seattle who believes he was cured by Bl. Solanus after an accident, when another  friend placed a second class relic on his head.  

Sunday, November 12, 2017


It seems every time I  research the life of one holy person, I find the life of another.  We live in a world where most of the news focuses on the negative and yet there are  so many holy people who live among us- many will never be known in our lifetime.

One such woman, who died not 35 years ago was  VENERABLE MOTHER MARY ANGELINE TERESA, who pioneered a different approach to the care of the elderly and infirm.  In addition to fulfilling physical and spiritual needs, she stressed the importance of a home-like atmosphere that encouraged residents to maintain their personal sense of dignity and independence.  To that end Mother Angeline founded a new religious community - the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm.  With six other Sisters she set about making her vision a reality.

Venerable Angeline Teresa  McCrory  was born in 1893 in Mountjoy, County Tyrone, Ireland. When she was seven years of age her family migrated to Scotland and at the age of nineteen she left home to become a Little Sister of the Poor, a Congregation engaged in the care of the destitute aged. She made her Novitiate in La Tour, France and after Profession she was sent to the United States.

In 1926, Mother Angeline was appointed Superior of a Home of the Little Sisters of the Poor in the Bronx, New York. During an annual retreat in 1927, she felt an urge to reach out to do more for the aged for whom she cared. She felt that the European way and many of the customs in France did not meet the needs or customs of America. She also felt that old age strikes all classes of people, leaving them alone and frightened.

Being unable to effect any necessary changes in her present situation, Mother Angeline sought advice and counsel from Patrick Cardinal Hayes of New York. Not only did he encourage her, but he likewise felt more could be done for the aged people in the New York area. 

Eventually, this need was recognized in the United States. In order to accomplish what she felt called to do, and with the blessing of the Cardinal, Mother Angeline and six other Sisters withdrew from the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor and were granted permission from Rome to begin a new Community for the care of the aged incorporating Mother Angeline's ideals. On September 3, 1929, the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm was founded.

In 1931 the new Community became affiliated with the great Order of Carmel and became known as "Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm."

Mother Angeline Teresa’s philosophy of care was to  serve each guest as if serving Christ Himself.  From this relatively new beginning the work of the Congregation flourished and the Community was invited to work in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and as far west as Iowa.  Currently there are 20 Homes in the United States and Ireland.

In 1984, Mother Angeline Teresa died, having the consolation of seeing the Congregation beyond her expectations. She once said: If you have to fail, let it be on the side of kindness. Be kinder than kindness itself to the old people.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


Another recently named as Venerable is SISTER LEONELLA SGORBATI,  an Italian sister  who was murdered in Somalia.

Sister Leonella was born in 1940 in Gazzola, Italy.  As a teenager she wished to become a missionary sister, but her mother did not approve the choice and asked her to wait until she was twenty. She then joined the Consolata Missionary Sisters in San Fre, Cuneo in 1963, making her perpetual vows in 1972.

During this time she took  nursing studies in England (1966–1968), and in 1970 was appointed to Kenya where she was until 1983.

In mid-1983, Venerable Leonella started advanced studies in nursing and in 1985 became the principal tutor at the school of nursing attached to Nkubu HospitalMeru, Kenya.

In November 1993 she was elected regional superior of the Sisters in Kenya, a duty she performed for six years. After a sabbatical year, in 2001 she spent several months in Mogadishu, looking at the possibility of setting up a nursing school in the hospital run by the SOS Children's Village organization.  Hermann Gmeiner School of Registered Community Nursing opened in 2002, with Sister Leonella in charge. The first 34 nurses graduated from the school that year, awarded certificates and diplomas by the World Health Organization because Somalia  had no government since 1991.

Venerable Leonella was keen to train tutors for the nursing school. She returned to Kenya with three of her newly graduated nurses, to register them for further training at a medical training college. She faced difficulties in obtaining her own re-entry visa to Mogadishu, due to the new rules of the Islamic courts that now controlled the city and its environs. She managed to return to Mogadishu on 13 September 2006.

Four days later she was gunned down outside her children's hospital. Her bodyguard, Mohamed Osman Mahamud, was also killed. Two gunmen emerged from behind nearby taxis and kiosks and shot her in the back after about 30 years of aid work in Africa. She was rushed to the SOS Hospital but died shortly after. Her last words apparently were Italian: "Perdono; perdono." (“I forgive; I forgive.”)

This is the most authentic Christian testimony, a peaceful sign of contradiction which shows the victory of love over hatred..

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Now that we have two young men from India as Chaplains, we are interested in news of the Church in their homeland. And the new Blessed comes from the state of our last Indian chaplain, Father Mathew.

While India is a land of diversity of religions, languages, and cultures, it is important to note that  the vast majority are Hindus (82%), while only  2% are Christians.

Martyred Indian BLESSED RANI MARIA VATTALIL, who was slain by an assassin 22 years ago in central India was proclaimed a Blessed at a beatification  ceremony in Indore, Madhya Pradesh state on  Nov. 4, 2017.  

She was born in Kerala  in 1954 as the second of seven children to Paily and Eliswa Vattalil. 

The nun belonging to the Franciscan Clarist Congregation was 41 when Samandar Singh, hired by some landlords, stabbed her inside a bus on February 25, 1995.  She was traveling to Indore, the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh state, on her way to her native state, Kerala, southern India.

The attacker followed her when she ran out of the crowded bus and continued stabbing her. The passengers were too wrought with fear to intervene with some fleeing the scene in panic. The police at 10:45am contacted the nuns to inform them of what had happened and to tell them that their slain sister's remains were still on the side of the road. The distraught nuns contacted the Bishop of Indore, George Anathil, to inform him of what had happened. The Bishop and some priests reached the spot at 2:00pm to find her bloodied corpse still lying on the side of the road. She was taken to the episcopal residence to be cleaned and laid in state. Her body bore 45 stab wounds.

Bl. Rani Maria was targeted for empowering the poor and downtrodden from being exploited by money lenders and unscrupulous businessmen. Bl. Rani Maria dedicated herself to the catechetical formation and educational instruction during her time as a religious as she moved place to place teaching in different areas. She was vocal in matters of social justice and in social activism which led to her death at the hands of those who were opposed to her efforts in aiding the poor and downtrodden.

Eight days before her death, during her last visit to the Provincial House, on the occasion of the Canonical Visit of Mother General Henry Suso, Bl. Rani said, “We should not seek safety and comfort in our mission work. With courage and trust in God more and more sisters should get ready to risk themselves in serving the poor and needy in the undeveloped villages of the missions. I would desire to die a martyr for the love of Jesus and for my poor downtrodden brethren.”

Her Parents

Samandar Singh was convicted of  Bl. Rani Maria’s murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. One of the nuns  visited Singh in  2002 in prison where she expressed her forgiveness. Singh was overcome after witnessing such a gesture and begged for forgiveness for what he had done while expressing repentance. The Blessed’s own mother visited Singh in  2003 and kissed his hands as a sign of forgiveness.

Singh was released from prison in 2006 after the Blessed’s family pleaded for him to be released and he is considered one of their own. He was moved to tears when he learned of her impending beatification in March 2017 and expressed his enthusiasm for being able to attend the beatification.

He said:  “I accept full responsibility for my heinous murder of Sr. Rani Maria. I cannot say that I was instigated, because my own hands stabbed her repeatedly and for this, I will regret my actions till the day I die. In my own small way, I try to follow her example, helping those who are less fortunate than me, like Tribal Christians and all those who are marginalized.”

A documentary was made regarding this amazing act of forgiveness, titled The Heart of a Murderer, which won an award at the World Interfaith Harmony Film Festival in 2013

The conversion of Singh happened in part due to the efforts of Father Michael Purattukara a confrere of our past Chaplain, Father Mathew Thelly.

As well as the movie, there are several good stories on Youtube.

Bl. Rani Maria's Mother with Singh
Bl. Rani Maria is a model of sacrifice and selfless witness. As the Bishop of Indore, Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal expressed it so beautifully: “Blessed Rani Maria is a model for us as she was ready to shed her blood for the sake of the poor and downtrodden”.