Tuesday, May 31, 2016


The second of our new American saints is Venerable BROTHER WILLIAM GAGNON (1905-72), who was born in Dover, New Hampshire. He entered the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God in Quebec, and died in Saigon.

Brother William was born of French Canadian parents, living both in New England and Quebec, Canada. He was called from his youth to take care of others. He discovered the fulfillment of this call when he entered the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God.This order, which began under St. John of God in Grenada, Spain, is dedicated to practicing hospitality, especially in caring for the sick and needy. He took vows on 20 November 1932 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. His dedication to those who were  sick and suffering energized his life in following Christ.

His family- nun is his Sister Marie Eva
After having occupied various functions in his community, his dream of being a missionary became a reality when he arrived with two other Canadian Brothers at the Bui-Chu Mission, in the North of Vietnam, in 1952.

For 17 years, his apostolic action concentrated on the implementation of the Order in Vietnam and ministering to thousands of refugees. Hospitality as a way of being and acting toward those in need was empowered by a deep sense of reverence for life and a devotional life of prayer. He had a great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

While at the Bui-Chu Mission , he cared for sick and wounded refugees, many of whom were victims of the Vietnam War, and worked to further establish the Hospitaller Order in Southeast Asia.

Giving water to a patient at the mission in Viet Nam

“He gave of himself in Vietnam,” said Father Agapit Jean of the Parish of the Assumption in Dover. “The work that he did there was amazing. To be able to care for people in a foreign land, especially Vietnam at that time in history, is a wonderful thing. We are able to celebrate that someone from our community is being honored in such a beautiful way.”

He died of a heart attack, having given of himself totally to others. He would be only the second person born in the United States to be canonized, St. Katharine Drexel being the first.

The Blessed's grave in Viet Nam

Friday, May 27, 2016


We will soon have two new saints in our list of Americans both of whom lived and died in our lifetime.  The first is BLESSED ELIZABETH HESSELBLAD (1870-1957), soon to be canonized. She was a Swedish immigrant who converted to Catholicism, re-founded the Bridgettine order in Europe, and saved Jews during World War II.   Elizabeth was the fifth of thirteen children and due to economic hardships she came to New York at the age of 18 to help her family.  She studied nursing and did home care for the sick and aged. Coming into contact with so many Catholics in the area, sparked her interest, which led eventually to her conversion. She was Baptized at the Convent of the Visitation in Washington D.C.

In 1902 she pilgrimed to Rome, where she was Confirmed. She briefly returned to NY, but then returned to Rome where she startd her religious life. In 1906 she received the habit of the Brigittines. She petitioned the Holy See to be able to make religious vows under the Rule of the Order which Brigid had founded, and had been a prominent presence in the Church in Sweden before the Protestant Reformation had taken hold there. She received special permission for this from Pope Pius X in 1906, at which time she assumed the Bridgettine religious habit, including its distinctive element of a silver crown. She worked diligently to restore the Order in Italy and Sweden.

Elizabeth attempted to revive interest in the Order and its founder in both Sweden and Rome. Her proposal to establish a monastery of the Order on the site where Bridget had lived received no volunteers from the few monasteries of the Order still in existence. Giving up on the intention of following the established way of life in the Order, she proposed one which included the care of the sick. To this end she was joined by three young women from England, whom she received in 1911. Their particular mission was to pray and work, especially for the unity of Scandinavian Christians with the Catholic Church.She worked at efforts at inter-religious dialogue and against racism, and became known as "the second Bridget".

She returned to her homeland of Sweden in 1923, where she was able to establish a community in Djursholm, while she worked nursing the sick poor. The new congregation was established in England in 1931. That same year, Elizabeth obtained the House of St. Bridget in Rome for her new congregation. A foundation was made in India in 1937 which drew many new members.

The hiding of dozens of people at the motherhouse was recounted by an Italian Jew, Piero Piperno, as part of his testimony on behalf of another Bridgettine, Brighton-born Mother Mary Richard Beauchamp Hambrough, whose Cause was opened five years ago.

According to Piero, “We were three families, 13 in all. We stayed in three rooms, all the men in one, except an uncle who slept in a dark, small room with no windows, and another two for the women. In the beginning we all ate in one room by ourselves.”

For six months, until the Allies liberated Rome,  the Piperno family hid in the convent, at every moment fearing potential arrest. The nuns did not discriminate between the people they helped, he said, and took in Fascist refugees as well as Jews.

Piero said: “Something which bothered me back then, but which I now understand, was that the nuns that helped us also helped Fascist families. There was great solidarity because everybody was suffering and everybody finally realized we were all in the same boat. “

In addition to their profound humanity and courage, it was noted that the nuns never exerted any pressure on their Jewish guests to convert, allowing them to live their Jewish faith without any difficulty.

In  2004 she was recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations for this work. Elizabeth was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2000.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


When I was younger in religious life I had great admiration for ELIZABETH of the TRINITY, who is soon to be canonized.  While she was a Carmelite, who closely followed in the footsteps of the great St. Therese of Lisieux, she is a good example for Contemplatives of any order, or anyone desiring to be holy.

Elizabeth Catez was born on July 18, 1880 in a military camp near Bourges in France. She was the first of two children, both daughters, born to Joseph and Marie Catez. As a child Elizabeth  was lively and beautiful, but had a ferocious temper and a strength of will that would tax her mother to the limit. Elizabeth"s dark eyes blazed when she flew into a rage. Marguerite, her younger sister later recalled that Elizabeth was quite terrible when she went into one of her rages; "she was a real devil".

With her younger sister "Guite"
At seven years of age, Elizabeth  made her first Confession. The Sacrament affected her profoundly and she gradually learned to overcome her temper tantrums. Her father suffered a fatal heart attack in 1887, at the age of fifty-five. Marie Catez and her two daughters then moved to Dijon. "Sabeth" - as she was affectionately known - was a bright, intelligent girl, full of natural charm and spontaneity. 

She made friends easily and fully entered into the social life of Dijon. She loved music, dancing and travel. Following the Paris fashions she made her own clothes and fantastic hats. An active member of her Parish, Elizabeth ran a youth club for working-class children and was loved by them. She also taught catechism.

She entered the Carmel of Dijon in 1901, receiving the name "Elizabeth of the Trinity." After a few years of apparently uneventful religious life she died of Addison"s disease in 1906, leaving behind her a spiritual message which has intensified with time.

The Presence of God filled Elizabeth’s life. Immersing herself in the Scriptures, especially St. John and St. Paul, she discovered her vocation: to be the "Praise of Glory" of the Trinity. She saw the total transformation of the Christian in Christ as the logical development of the grace of Baptism and she longed to communicate this truth to others. In her own words:

"Let us live with God as with a Friend. Let us make our faith a living thing so as to remain in communion with Him through everything. That is how saints are made. We carry our heaven within us God is giving Himself to us in faith and mystery... It seems to me that I have found my heaven on earth since heaven is God and God is within my soul."

"I confide to you a secret which has made my life on earth an anticipated Heaven: the belief that a Being Whose name is Love is dwelling within us at every moment of the day and night, and that He asks us to live in His company."


Monday, May 23, 2016


One of the things that strikes me when I look for new saints to write about, is that so many lived during my lifetime. I ask myself, how old was I and where was I during this saint's lifetime?

Another great Benedictine saint is BLESSED ALFREDO ILDEFONSO SCHUSTER . He was born in Rome of Bavarian parents in 1880.  His father was a tailor and widower, and Maria Anna Tutzer.

He entered the Benedictine monastery of St Paul-Outside-the-Walls when he was 11, taking the name of Ildefonso, and was ordained a priest in 1904. He served his own community in various offices until he was elected abbot in 1918. He taught at several pontifical institutes, served as consultor to the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and held other high offices. Pope Pius XI appointed him Archbishop of Milan in 1929, consecrated him and created him a Cardinal.

Bl. Afredo gave priority to catechesis and promoted the role of the laity in the parish and in Catholic Action. He denounced Fascism and its racist ideology. He refused to participate in ceremonies involving Mussolini, and condemned racist legislation.  The cardinal was primarily concerned with the spiritual well-being of his flock, the physical needs of the poor, assistance to newly married couples in order to create strong marriages, and with the administration of the Archdiocese. Having a great love of the Liturgy, he founded the Institute of Ambrosian Chant and Sacred Music.

A few days before he died (1954) he withdrew to Venegono Seminary.
His last, moving words were to the seminarians:

“You want something to remember me by.  All I can leave you is an invitation to holiness...”.

When the process of beatification came to a certain point, church officials opened Cardinal Schuster’s tomb and found his body to be incorruptible. One sign of holiness. He was announced as a Venerable Servant of God in 1994 and beatified by St. John Paul II on May 12, 1996.  His feast day is 30 August.

Friday, May 20, 2016


St. John Paul II with the Magi
We are closely connected to a Knights of Columbus Council north of us. They are responsible for the group of youth that come every year to help with haying, building etc. We receive the Knight’s magazine “Columbia” which this month has the cover story on the SAINT JOHN PAUL II National Shrine  in Washington D.C. It is a place of prayer for Catholics and welcomes people of all faiths. It houses a permanent exhibit called "A Gift of Love: the Life of Saint John Paul II" and hosts temporary exhibits relating to the history of the Catholic Church in North America. It has a Chapel with daily services.
The 130,000-square-foot  building is built on 12 acres adjacent to The Catholic University of America and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Jesus is Recognized in the Breaking of the Bread
The main focus of the magazine is the stunning mosaics done by the renowned artist Father Marko Ivan Rupnik. The first mosaics executed were done at the request of Pope John Paul himself in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Vatican in 1999 commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s priestly ordination.
Father Rupnik was born in Slovenia in 1954 and in 1973 joined the Jesuits. He studied both theology and art and was ordained in 1981. Today his art is found all over the world, including Fatima, Lourdes and the shrine of St. Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo. He is director of Centro Aletti, a community of artists run by Jesuits and consecrated women. He has a doctorate and presently lives in Rome.
Wedding Feast at Cana
Father Rupnik says his work as an artist and theologian has always been complemented with work that is more specifically pastoral, teaching and retreats.
He says St. John Paul II shaped his work.  In his 1999 letter to artists the Saint wrote that "the role of sacred art opens us to the mystery of Revelation and the wonder of creation."
I found a video on line where you can get a better view of these works of art. Photographs do not do the colors justice, especially the sparkling gold. His stunning art makes visible the glory of God and the drama of salvation history.

 Father Rupnik and the Centro Aletti artists can be seen in over 130 churches around the world. Here are more works from other sites.

Sts, Cyril & Methodius- Slovenia

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


This week we have seminarians here on retreat before their ordination to the deaconate. Father V. is basing the retreat on a wonderful book MAURICE & THERESE by New York Auxiliary Bishop Patrick Ahern.

It is one of the best books about St Therese of Lisieux, probably because it is some of her last writing. Here we see a more mature, developed saint. It is the collected correspondence between her and a humble young seminarian, Maurice Belliere. “I ask that a nun devote herself particularly to the salvation of my soul, and obtain for me the grace to be faithful to the vocation God has given me, that of a priest and a missionary...If I respond to my vocation I shall save other souls and that good nun to whom I entrust my own soul will have saved other souls as well.”

Though they never met in person, they exchanged twenty-one letters (11 from Maurice, 10 from Thérèse) that opened a window on the heart of St Therese that would have remained forever closed had Maurice not written to Mother Agnes of Jesus at the convent asking for a nun to pray for him. Mother Agnes knew exactly who the nun would be - her own beloved sister, who longed to be a missionary but whose poor health prevented such a physical possibility. “I shall always be happy to call myself your unworthy little sister,” Thérèse wrote in her first letter to Maurice. “I am asking Him that you may be not only a good missionary but a saint all on fire with the love of God and souls.”

In these letters the Saint reveals herself in  ways that we do not find in her autobiography. She shows us her insight into her missionary consciousness, her love for the priesthood, her acute compassion for humanity, her extraordinary availability to souls, and her theology. In his accompanying text, Bishop Patrick Ahern leads us into the worlds of Maurice and Therese and revealing the full beauty of this saint's spirituality.

We find a very human woman who through the love of Jesus helps another human being find the love God. It is very intense and emotional. Her message throughout this lovely work is God is Love!   A message  as relevant today as yesterday- esp. in our sad modern world.

The exchange ended as the newly ordained priest left for Algiers with the Missionaries of Africa on Sept. 29, 1897, the eve of her death. Eventually, Father Maurice was sent as a missionary to Nyasa in Africa (now Malawi).

“I did not realize she had died, but since I have been here I have experienced a certain calm, a joy I did not know before, which has kept me from even a moment’s worry or regret. I was wondering to what I owed this happiness. Now I wonder no longer. The saint was near me with her comforting tenderness and strength.”

Father Maurice would die 10 years later in 1907, his missionary life marked by personal suffering.  Bishop Ahern wrote: “Maurice deserves our attention not because he was great but because he was not… Thérèse makes the quest for holiness easy, in the sense that she makes clear that God asks. of us no more than we can give. . . She draws us, asking only that we trust in the God who is nothing but Mercy and Love.’ This is all she ever desired for Maurice.”

Monday, May 16, 2016


One never knows what one will find in the news, especially when the story is as far away as England, but started in the small town of Bethlehem, CT where our Mother Abbey is.

As a young novice I can remember going to the lovely home of CAROLYN FERRIDAY on the Bethlehem Green for tea (do not remember the occasions).

Caroline ( b.1902-90) was the last owner of what is now known as the Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden, the Bethlehem property she bequeathed to Connecticut Landmarks. Her parents had purchased the property as a summer home in 1912 when she was 10 years old. Caroline lived in New York City during the winters and spent summers in Bethlehem, where she was particularly devoted to her garden and pursued her many philanthropic interests.

Carolyn was a lifelong Francophile. Her father, Henry McKeen Ferriday, having himself lived in Paris for several years as a child, evidently contributed to his daughter’s interest in all things French, which certainly laid the foundation for the story to follow.

It was one of the big secrets of the murderous Nazi regime: a camp of 72 female prisoners used as experiments to test torture techniques. The girls, all high school-age Catholics from Poland, were dubbed the 'rabbits' since they were treated like laboratory animals, and their injuries meant many had to hop instead of walk.

When they war ended, they were rescued by the Red Cross along with the hundreds of other prisoners in Ravensbruck concentration camp - but all accounts of their 'treatments' had been destroyed. It meant their ordeal paled into oblivion as the world grappled to deal with the aftershocks of the Holocaust, particularly the horrific obliteration of the Jews.

But the women were finally brought out of the shadows in 1958 by an unlikely fairy godmother in the guise of our friend and neighbor. She made it her mission to bring them to the States for medical treatment, a road trip across America, Christmas at her holiday home, and a dinner with senators in Washington, D.C. 

The rabbits were not meant to survive; Heinrich Himmler planned to have them all murdered before word got out. They were brought in to Ravensbruck, 50 miles north of Berlin, in August 1942 to test different kinds of surgical procedures.  In total, each underwent six operations, having bones broken, muscle tissue removed, limbs amputated, and more - all without painkillers. The wounds were then deliberately infected so the surgeons could test whether sulfonamide - a kind of penicillin - would cure it. 

At first they operated on male prisoners. Accounts differ on why they switched to women. Some historians say women were typically healthier prisoners. Others say Dr. Gebhardt assumed females would be more docile and submissive. Word of the rabbits leaked outside the walls of Ravensbruck thanks to notes passed from prisoners to sympathetic guards to their families, and so on. 
But for a number of reasons their cause did not receive widespread attention for more than a decade. Ravensbruck was one of the last concentration camps to close, its leaders had more time than most to deal with their incriminating paperwork, which informed and dictated the schedule of the war trials, and the world was reeling at the sheer scale of attacks on Jews. Women and Catholics were not immediately the primary focus.  
Carolyn (Rt.) with four of the Women

In the 1950s Carolyn joined the Association of Deportees and Internees of the Resistance, a group started by four French women, including General Charles de Gaulle's teenage niece, who were all political prisoners in Ravensbruck. The women, like many of Europe's underground resistance workers, were passionate about the rabbits' cause - something Carolyn had never heard of. 
Once she became aware of the story she flew to Poland to meet with a prosecutor who represented Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and persuaded him to represent the rabbits too. She then returned a number of times to meet the women and gain their trust. 

Finally, she came back with an American doctor, who surveyed each of the victims and gave a prognosis for what could be done to treat them.
During that time, Carolyn publicized the cause, raising money for the treatments.

In December 1958, 35 of the women who wished to go flew to America. They stayed for a year. They were spread about various cities across the US based on which hospitals were best for their medical needs.Four of the women spent Christmas in Connecticut with Carolyn.
And all of them united in San Francisco at the end of the year to go on a road trip across America, stopping in Washington, D.C., to be hosted by senators for a dinner.  
Bellamy-Ferriday House

Genevieve de Gaulle (niece of Charles) wrote a memorial tribute describing Carolyn as “a sister to everyone. She helped us to gain recognition first, and then to compensate the victims of pseudo-medical experiments. She brought about this action with all her intelligence, all her generosity. . . .”   A woman of uncommon MERCY.

Saturday, May 14, 2016


Egino  Weinert, Cologne
For as the Apostles' story testifies: "while the days of PENTECOST were fulfilled and all the disciples were together in the same place, there occurred suddenly from heaven a sound as of a violent wind coming, and filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them divided tongues as of fire and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance." Oh! how swift are the words of wisdom. and where God is the Master, how quickly is what is taught, learnt. 

No interpretation is required for understanding, no practice for using, no time for studying, but the Spirit of Truth blowing where He wills, the languages peculiar to each nation become common property in the mouth of the Church. And therefore from that day the trumpet of the Gospel-preaching has sounded loud: from that day the showers of gracious gifts, the rivers of blessings, have watered every desert and all the dry land, since to renew the face of the earth the Spirit of God "moved over the waters," and to drive away the old darkness flashes of new light shone forth, when by the blaze of those busy tongues was kindled the Lord's bright Word and fervent eloquence, in which to arouse the understanding, and to consume sin there lay both a capacity of enlightenment and a power of burning.          Homily from Pope St. Leo


Friday, May 13, 2016


R.M. Prioress & Father Vincent with Maronites

Last week we were graced with three MARONITE monks celebrating their most wonderful liturgy with us. They are in the process of establishing a monastery within the archdiocese of Seattle. Prayer will be the main focus of their life.
There are six major traditions of the Catholic Church: Alexandrian, Antiochene, Armenian, Chaldean, Constantinopolitan (Byzantine), and Latin (Roman). The Maronite Church follows the Antiochene Tradition. 
A Roman rite Catholic may attend any Eastern Catholic Liturgy and fulfill their obligations at an Eastern Catholic Parish. A Roman rite Catholic may join any Eastern Catholic Parish and receive any sacrament from an Eastern Catholic priest, since all belong to the one, holy Catholic Church.  
The Maronites of Lebanon traditionally trace their origin back to the late 4th century when a group of disciples gathered around the charismatic figure of the monk St. Maron. They later founded a monastery located midway between Aleppo and Antioch and evangelized the surrounding population.
The Maronites came into contact with the Latin Church in the 12th century, when the Latin crusader principality of Antioch was founded. In 1182 the entire Maronite nation formally confirmed its union with Rome. There is a strong tradition among the Maronites that their church never lacked communion with the Holy See.
Although reduced in numbers today, Maronites remain one of the principal ethno-religious groups in Lebanon, with smaller minorities of Maronites also found in Syria, Cyprus, Israel and Jordan and the USA. Maronite immigrants have brought their faith to distant lands, while many still regard Lebanon as their spiritual home.
Sts. Rafqa, Charbel & Hardini

The steady emigration of Maronites from Lebanon in recent years has produced flourishing communities abroad. In the United States, there are two dioceses (Brooklyn, NY and Los Angeles)  with a total of 60 parishes and 99 priests serving about 75,000 faithful.

Three of their saints have been canonized in the past few years: Sts. Charbel, Rafqa and Hardini.
A wonderful movie, done in Lebanese with subtitles and found on YOUTUBE  is: St. Charbel

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Mother Catarina (Rt)  with Mother Ruth
Sometimes when we live so close in Community, and things get hectic, we are not aware of what is happening outside, even when it involves one of our own.

As we approach the feast of Pentecost, I advise you all to go to  YOUTUBE  and type in Mother Catarina Boyer OSB in interview with Bill O’Donnell, which took place when Mother was giving a retreat to the Oblates at the Monastery in Pecos, NM.

She is funny, down to earth and gives some basic facts of our life as Catholics that are worth hearing- again and again.  The most important being our relationship to Christ in the Eucharist.

Sunday, May 8, 2016


Even He that died for us upon the cross, in the last hour, in the unutterable agony of death, was mindful of His mother, as if to teach us that this holy love should be our last worldly thought - the last point of earth from which the soul should take its flight for heaven.

                                                                     His Mother - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Friday, May 6, 2016


Ascension-  Peju Alatise- Nigeria

Down in the realm of darkness
He lay a captive bound,
but at the hour appointed
He rose a victor crowned,
and now to heaven ascended,
He sits upon the throne
in glorious dominion,
His Father’s and His own.

            St. Columba’s sixth-century hymn 

Sunday, May 1, 2016


P. Maurus, OSB

The month of May is dedicated to Our Blessed Lady, QUEEN of the MAY. It is the time specially given to her in tribute of faith and love. During this month we offer up to Mary fervent and loving homage of prayer and veneration. In this month, too, the benefits of God's Mercy come down to us from her throne in greater abundance" (Paul VI: Encyclical on the Month of May).

This custom of dedicating the month of May to the Blessed Virgin arose at the end of the 13th century. In this way, the Church was able to Christianize the secular feasts which took place at that time.

The practice became especially popular among the members of the Jesuit Order and by 1700 it took hold among their students at the Roman College and a bit later it was publicly practiced in the Gesu Church in Rome. From there it spread to the whole Church.

Paul VI wrote a short encyclical in 1965 using the Month of Mary devotion as a means of obtaining prayers for peace. He urged the faithful to make use of this practice which is "gladdening and consoling" and by which the Blessed Virgin Mary is honored and the Christian people are enriched with spiritual gifts". 

Mary is the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church and our Mother.  Let us this month pray for hope in our world, for peace in the hearts of all, and a deeper love of her Son.