Thursday, March 22, 2012


This past year I got the Community a DVD set- Servant of All,  about the life of
the SERVANT of GOD ARCHBISHOP FULTON J. SHEEN.  I was deeply moved by this very holy,  very bright man.

For 20 years he hosted the night-time radio program The Catholic Hour (1930-1950) before moving to television and hosting the program Life is Worth Living  reaching as many as 10 million viewers. I was young at the time but I remember my non-Catholic mother watching it on a regular basis (1952-1957).  I remember him sweeping in with that magnificent "cape". Having grown up near Hollywood, I suppose I just thought it was "show-business". What I did not understand was that when it came to authoritative moral teaching, Catholics and non-Catholics alike listened to Msgr. Sheen because he was someone they could trust to "tell it like it is."  His show was up against Milton Berle and Frank Sinatra, yet at times he out-paced them drawing larger audiences. Twice he won an Emmy Award for Most Outstanding Television Personality, the only religious person to ever do so. When he won the Award in 1952 he said: "I feel it is time I pay tribute to my four writers-Matthew, Mark, Luke and John."

Archbishop Sheen with Bl. Pope John Paul II

He was born Peter John Sheen in 1895 in El Paso, Ill. and ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria in 1919. Due to his brilliant mind he soon rose in the ranks of the Church as one of the greatest theologians of the 20th Century. But he never lost his love of the poor and interacted with them often. It is said he lived simply and gave away all he had. He was director of the The Society for the Propagation of the Faith (to serve the missions). All Catholic school children of my era saved their pennies for the children in mission lands.

Archbishop Sheen died December 9, 1979. He had a great devotion to the Mother of God, and it seems fitting that she would take him between her two great American feasts: The Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 12). 

Archbishop Sheen had the ability to relate complicated topics with great insight and humor that appealed to everyone, from the theological scholar to the uneducated and the non-Catholic. His words are still powerful and inspiring today, continuing to change the lives of thousands all over the world. He wrote 66 books, covering varied topics, many of which are still in print today. Many of his homilies, talks, retreats, and programs have been put on tape and are readily available. We could have no better patron saint of our 21st Century multi-media!

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I cannot remember exactly the year I first met FATHER WALTER CISZEK, SJ.  I do know I was a novice so it must have been in the early 70s.  Who knew when he first came to visit us that he would one day be on the path to sainthood.  At present he is Venerable.  We have been praying to him for a miracle in healing of Mother Felicitas’s son Carl, who has pancreatic cancer.  We tell this saint to be, if you are going to get that final stamp of approval, you do need the miracle! So why not for us???

Father was born in the mining town of Shenandoah in Pennsylvania of Polish parents.  According to the story he was a member of a gang, so all were surprised when he announced in the 8th grade that he wanted to be a priest.  I do remember his once telling us that his “rough” childhood most likely prepared him for the trials ahead.

After joining the Jesuits, he informed his superiors that God wanted him to go to Russia, so he was sent to study in Rome at the “Russicum,” the Jesuits’ Russian center, and in 1937 he celebrated his first Mass in the Byzantine rite. Aiming to infiltrate Russia through Poland, he taught ethics in a seminary in Albertyn, Poland. But in 1939 Hitler invaded from the west and then the Russians came from the east, invading the seminary. In 1940 the Ukrainian Archbishop of Lvov permitted him to enter Russia, and he headed for the Ural Mountains, a two-week trip in a box car with 25 men. While hauling logs in a lumber camp, he said Mass furtively in the forest. Secret police arrested him as a Vatican spy when they found his Mass wine, which they called nitroglycerine, and kept him in a cell 900 feet square for two weeks with 100 other men.

After six more months, beaten with rubber clubs, starved, and drugged, he signed a confession. This he later called one of the darkest moments of his life. On July 26, 1942, he was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor, starting with five years of solitary confinement in Moscow’s notorious Lubyanka prison. He was then sent to Siberia. After a slow 2,500-mile trip in a sweltering boxcar, he was sent on a barge to Norilsk, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, working 12-hour days shoveling coal into freighters, with rags for shoes. In hushed tones he said Mass for Polish prisoners using a vodka glass for a chalice and wine made from stolen raisins. Having been transferred to work in the coal mines for a year, he became a construction worker in 1947, returning to the mines in 1953.

Throughout his lengthy imprisonment, Fr. Ciszek continued to pray, to celebrate Mass, hear confessions, conduct retreats, and perform parish ministry. He was presumed dead by both his family and the Jesuit Order until he was allowed to write to America in 1955. What got him through those years?  “No danger could threaten me, no fear could shake me, except the fear of losing sight of Him. The future, hidden as it was, was hidden in His will and therefore acceptable to me no matter what it might bring. The past, with all its failures, was not forgotten; it remained to remind me of the weakness of human nature and the folly of putting any faith in self. But it no longer depressed me. I looked no longer to self to guide me, relied on it no longer in any way, so it could not again fail me. By renouncing, finally and completely, all control of my life and future destiny, I was relieved as a consequence of all responsibility. I was freed thereby from anxiety and worry, from every tension, and could float serenely upon the tide of God's sustaining providence in perfect peace of soul”.

In Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, Father quickly established several parishes. Then came four years just south in Abakan, working as an auto mechanic. In 1963 the KGB hauled him back to Moscow and handed him over to the American consulate in exchange for two Soviet agents. As the plane flew past the Kremlin, he related, “Slowly, carefully, I made the sign of the cross over the land that I was leaving.”  In New York he gave spiritual direction at Fordham University in a residence now named for him, writing his monumental books With God in Russia and He Leadeth Me. Believe me, these books read better than the best mystery novels!

In spite of all those years of deprivation Father lived till the age of 80. He was remembered by us all as a man of prayer, totally submissive to the will of God, but with an ever present smile, and a wonderful sense of humor.  “The power of prayer reaches beyond all efforts of man seeking to find meaning in life. This power is available to all; it can transform mans weaknesses, limitations and his sufferings”.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Its is amazing how many saints knew each other in their lifetime. They say opposites attract but I am sure that those who follow the path of the Lord also attract one another. They seem to support one another in their search for Truth. Examples are Sts. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac, who co-founded the Daughters of Charity. In more modern times we have St. Damien of Molokai and the soon to be canonized BLESSED MARIANNE COPE, O.S.F., also known as the Blessed Marianne of Molokai, (1838-1918). She was a member of the Sisters of St Francis of Syracuse, N.Y. In 1883, Mother Marianne, a Superior General of the congregation, received a plea for help in caring for leprosy sufferers from King Kalākaua of Hawaii. More than 50 religious institutes had already declined his request for Sisters to do this. She responded to the letter enthusiastically:
"I am hungry for the work and I wish with all my heart to be one of the chosen ones, whose privilege it will be, to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of the souls of the poor Islanders... I am not afraid of any disease, hence it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned lepers".

In 1888 she moved to Kalaupapa, both to care for the dying Father Damien- who was already known internationally for his heroic care of the lepers -and to assume his burdens. She spent many years caring for the lepers on the island of Molokai. Despite direct contact with the patients over many years, Bl. Marianne was not afflicted by the disease, considered by some to be miraculous. The community which she founded on Molokai continues to minister to the few (about 12) patients afflicted with Hansen’s Disease while the Franciscan Sisters also work at several schools and have ministries throughout the Hawaiian islands. While I lived on Oahu I often went to daily Mass at the girls school run by the sisters of her order, in Manoa Valley, just blocks from where I lived.

I was fortunate to visit Kalaupapa, Molokai, when it was still a "leprosarium". Permission had to be obtained from the health department, which was gotten through doctor friends. I then flew in with the mailman, an adventure in itself as the tiny runway was either a hit or miss affair- missing meant going into the waters.  I was told to bring my own lunch in a sack, as there were no facilities for guests. I was met at the two-seater plane by my "guide" for the day, an elder who had contracted Hansen's Disease in the days before the sulfa drugs. She drove the small car with great efficiency, considering she had no fingers on her hands. I met many of the people that day, there being about 100 left in the colony. In the hospital itself there were still the sisters and about  20 patients. All of the people living there were doing so by choice. While their disease had been arrested, they were scarred and felt more comfortable in their "paradise". A fond memory is of the man who filled my lunch bag with gardenias from his garden. Many hedges of this fragrant flower surrounded his small home. When he noticed me smelling the flowers he came outside and told me to take all I wanted and helped me pick them. I found a cheerfulness among these people and a great love for the sisters who cared for them as well as pride in their Father Damien.

Bl. Marianne will be canonized on October 21, 2012, along with BL. KATERI TEKAWITHA. another great North American saint.

Monday, March 12, 2012


At this time last year I wrote of the death of my brother Jeff. Just as we celebrate his one year passing to the Father, we bury our elder Mother Martina. She would have been 90 in September.

Mother  entered religious life later in life, having raised three children. For years she was house mother to a men's ag fraternity at U of Arizona.  Her “boys” were often in touch with her even after  they started families of their own. Mother will always be remembered by her cheerful demeanor and graciousness. She had a deep love of  Our Lady who we are sure got us through the day. Rain was expected but at Communion we had full sun which remained throughout the burial.

Neighbors came to help lower the coffin, and all the community and guests added their symbolic shovels full of dirt to the grave.

In his homily at the funeral Mass Father spoke of Lazarus and the suffering of his sisters Martha and Mary, not to mention Christ's own grief.  The raising of Lazarus from the dead is Christ's way of saying, “I am the resurrection, do you believe this?”
This time of Lent is a "rehearsal" for our own death. The focus of this time is on renewing our lives in  the service of the Lord- of becoming more like Jesus. All the small  sacrifices we make during this time are but symbols of what is meant to be happening inside each of us during Lent, that is dying to our old way of life and rising to new life with Jesus.

Lent, from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “springtime”  is the  springtime of  our soul, a time for preparation, planting, and growth. Lent is not so much a journey of so many weeks as it is a  pilgrimage, for all of us who are baptized into Christ.  A time to journey together with Christ to the cross where our sins are put to death, and then to the empty tomb, where we are given new life in the risen Christ who is our Hope.

As we buried Mother Martina next to my brother we rejoiced with her in her new life in Christ, who is the Resurrection and the Life for all who believe and hope in Him.

On February 10, the feast of St. Scholastica, twin to St. Benedict and foundress of our Order, our Mother Prioress Therese celebrated 50 years of vows.  It was a quiet but very happy celebration for us. (this in another blog)