Friday, September 22, 2017

PATRONESS OF SUFFERING


So many ask our prayers- illnesses of all kinds, family troubles, etc - so I am always on the look out for new saints that can intercede for those in dire straits. One I had never heard of is ST. ALICE OF SCHAERBEEK (ADELAIDE or ALEYDIS).

She was born at Schaerbeek, near Brussels, then in the Duchy of Brabant, in 1204. A frail child, at the age of seven, she was sent to be boarded and educated at the Cistercian La Cambre Abbey, where she remained for the rest of her life. The name of the abbey is derived from the Latin: Camera Sanctae Mariae (Chamber of Our Lady).

Alice was a very pretty girl, soon showed a high intelligence and a great love for God. She became a laysister at the abbey. However, at an early age, she contracted leprosy and had to be isolated. The disease caused her intense suffering, which she offered for the salvation of sinners and the souls in purgatory.

Eventually she became paralyzed and afflicted with blindness. Her greatest consolation came from reception of the Holy Eucharist, although she was not allowed to drink from the chalice because of the presumed danger of contamination. However, it is said that the Lord appeared to her with assurance that He was in both the consecrated bread and the wine. She died in 1250, at the age of 46.

By decree of July 1, 1702 Pope Clement XI granted to the monks of the Congregation of St. Bernard Fuliensi the faculty to celebrate the cultus of Alice. Devotion to Alice as a saint was approved in 1907 by Pope Pius X.

 
Thomas Merton wrote that the life of St Alice should be placed in the hands of every monk. He presented her as the perfect illustration of Chapter Seven of the Rule of Saint Benedict, "On the Degrees of Humility".

Father Chrysogonus Waddell (another monk of  Gethsemani)  ranked her with Sts. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and Elizabeth of Trinity. He saw her as the icon of that particular stream of Cistercian spirituality that expresses Jesus crucified.


There is much sickness and related suffering in our world today. We pray that like St. Alice, we to turn our suffering into good, praying that the Lord in His Mercy will give us the strength to endure and that we know the consolation found in His Body.

Monday, September 18, 2017

WOMAN IN BLUE IN TEXAS

As we pray for the people of Texas and Florida and other places ripped apart by hurricanes and other calamities, I am reminded of a story which has recently come to mind of a nun from many years ago.
  

In the 1620s, the Jumano tribe in Texas (before it was Texas) were allegedly having mysterious encounters with what they called the “Lady in Blue”, a young lady, dressed in a habit with a blue cape who spoke to them in their native language and instructing them in the Christian faith.


At the same time, thousands of miles away, in a cloistered convent in Spain, VENERABLE MARIA de AGREDA was reporting mystical visits that would occur during prayer of visits to a tribe of native people in what was then called New Spain. When she came, she encouraged the natives to go to the missions where the Franciscan priests would baptize them.

According to records kept by the missionaries in the area, Sr. Maria’s promptings led as many as 2,000 Jumano natives to be baptized. Most of their ancestors in the San Angelo area are still Catholic, and still have a strong devotion to the “Lady in Blue” who brought them the Catholic faith.


From her cloister, having never traveled to the New World, Sister Maria was able to describe the new plants and animals there, as well as the way the people dressed and painted themselves. She described the landscape as a place where two rivers meet.

Especially remarkable, is her description of meeting a leader with one eye, while the Franciscan missionaries in the area at the time also reported meeting a Jumano leader with one good eye and one bad eye.

According to the Texas Almanac, Friar Alonso de Benavides of the Franciscans in New Mexico was the first to confirm the story of the “Lady in Blue.” He reported the incidents of her appearances to the Spanish court in 1630, and shortly thereafter was able to interview Sr. Maria de Agreda at her convent, where he was able to cross-reference the details of the apparitions from both Sr. Maria and the Jumano natives’ perspective.

Reportedly, the bi-locations of Sister Maria ceased the Jumano native people were able to receive the sacraments.


Two years after her death in 1665 severe damp was discovered in the crypt of the convent in which she was buried. When her coffin was opened her body was found to be completely incorrupt. In the 322 years to 1989 her body was examined 14 times and reported to be intact on each occasion. In 1989 her body was reported to have remained completely unchanged since 1909
Prado, Madrid, Spain

. Many people have visited her including kings, queens, cardinals, bishops, princes, dukes and ambassadors and many of the faithful. She sleeps in the church of the convent to the right of the altar. Her face is now covered by a thin wax mask but her hands are not and are reported to look quite normal.


Venerable Maria de Agreda, who besides her mystical experiences and apparitions was a prolific writer, particularly on the topic of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her best-known work is “The Mystical City of God: Life of the Virgin Mother of God,” in which she writes about details of Mary’s life that she said came to her in prayer. 

For a woman so little known by most of us today, she certainly had an impact in her lifetime as well as the years that followed. There were so many paintings of her, it was hard to choose.  We pray she has the same impact today!

Convent in Agreda, Spain

With St. John the Evangelist

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A MONK NEVER MET

When I made my first retreat at Regina Laudis, contemplating monastic life, I was on my way to Germany, where I would study sculpture. One of the nuns knew a monk in Luxembourg and asked if I would stop to see him, knowing that I was flying direct to Luxembourg. Alas, I did visit the great Abbey, and had lunch there (my first experience of European monastic hospitality) but the monk was in travels. Only much later did I realize how well known he was, and even later able to read some of his writings.

DOM JEAN LeCLERCQ, O.S.B. was a French Benedictine monk, and author of a classic study on Lectio Divina and the history of inter-monastic dialogue.

He was  born in AvesnesPas-de-Calais, in 1911. As a young man, he entered  the Abbey of St. Maurice and St. Maur in Clervaux, Luxembourg. Although he would have preferred to remain a simple monk, he was eventually ordained to the priesthood. He studied extensively at the Benedictine College of Sant'Anselmo in Rome, and at several universities in France, interrupted by two terms of compulsory military service.  
With Thomas Merton

In 1946, he began a 30 year assignment to compile the writings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, during which time he traveled through much of Europe to accomplish his research. An acclaimed monastic scholar, he later traveled around the world, lecturing and studying, before finally returning to Clervaux shortly before his death in 1993, age 82.


Dom LeClercq is perhaps best known for his seminal work “The Love of Learning and the Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture”.


He is also the author of many other books, including, "A Humanist Hermit; Blessed Paul Giustiniani" (1951), "Alone With God" (1955), "The Love of Learning and the Desire for God; A Study of Monastic Culture" (1957), "The Spirituality of the Middle Ages" (1969), and nine volumes on St. Bernard, the last of which was published in 1977. 







Saturday, September 9, 2017

NEW SAINTS FOR COLUMBIA

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is in Columbia this week and yesterday he beatified two martyrs from the country, both of whom were killed in hatred of the faith within the last 60 years.



BL. (BISHOP) JESUS EMILIO JARAMILLO MONSALVE AND FATHER PEDRO MARIA RAMIREZ RAMOS are “a sign of God's presence in Colombia, as promised at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, where it says: “I will be with you always, to the close of the age.” They are “an expression of a people who wish to rise up out of the swamp of violence and bitterness,” the Holy Father said at the Mass.

Bl. Jesus Jaramillo, known for his care of the poor, was a Xaverian Missionary who served as bishop of Arauca. He became a target of the National Liberation Army, a Marxist guerrilla group in Colombia, when he spoke out against their kidnappings and involvement in the drug trade. Members of the guerrilla group kidnapped and killed him on Oct. 2, 1989. He was 73 years old.

Born in La Plata in 1899, Bl. Pedro became priest in 1931. When civil war erupted in Colombia between conservative and liberal groups, he was serving as a pastor in Armero. Local families offered to smuggle him to safety, but the priest refused to abandon his people.

On April 10, 1948, he was dragged out of his church by a group of rebels, who accused him of hiding weapons for conservatives. They lynched him in the town square. He died forgiving his killers.

The Holy Father said the two martyrs are an example of what it means to make reconciliation concrete. “The most powerful protagonists in the peace-building process are those people who have been victims of violence themselves, but have overcome the temptation to act with vengeance.

What is needed is for some to courageously take the first step in that direction, without waiting for others to do so. We need only one good person to have hope! And each of us can be that person!”

“Every effort at peace without a sincere commitment to reconciliation is destined to fail.”

Friday, September 8, 2017

OUR MOTHER'S BIRTHDAY



Today on the feast of our Lady’s Birthday, we pray for all who are suffering due to natural disasters, that  Mary, Consoler of the afflicted, may obtain from her Son the grace of comfort and mercy.

Lift Up Those Who Have Fallen

Holy One, You are our comfort and strength
in times of sudden disaster, crisis, or chaos.
Surround us now with Your grace and peace
through storm or earthquake, fire or flood.

By Your Spirit, lift up those who have fallen,
sustain those who work to rescue or rebuild,
and fill us with the hope of Your new creation;
through You, our Rock and Redeemer.
            - Author Unknown 

Friday, September 1, 2017

NEW MARTYR- TIES TO AMERICA



June of this year Lithuania was given a new saint when ARCHBISHOP TEOFILIUS MATULIONIS was beatified.
(Painting by the Polish artist  Zbigniew Gierczak, shows him in his bishop's garb under his prison uniform.)

He suffered repeated imprisonment by Soviet communists during his lifetime. While residing in St. Petersburg, he witnessed the horrors of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, but continued to live in the city then renamed Leningrad. In 1923 Father Teofilius was arrested and sentenced to three years imprisonment for refusing to cooperate with the communist authorities. In 1929, Bishop Anton Maleckis secretly consecrated Father Teofilius bishop. That year Bishop Matulionis was arrested again and sentenced to 10 years in a concentration camp in the Solovetsky Islands, Russia.

After four years of hard labor and subsisting on starvation rations, he was released as a part of a prisoner exchange between Lithuania and the Soviet Union. from 1933 until 1940, He was appointed as ordinary of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys, Lithuania from 1933 until 1940. During that time he also traveled abroad, visiting Rome, the Holy Land, and the major Lithuanian parishes in the US. While in Chicago, he blessed the monument to the Lithuanian pilots, Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas, which was erected in Chicago’s Marquette Park and remains there to this day. He spent 18 months in the USA.
In the USA- 2nd from left

With the occupation of Lithuania by the Red Army in 1940, he faced further persecution. In December of 1946, he was arrested and imprisoned in the notorious Vladimir Prison and later exiled in Mordovia. He was eventually released in 1956 but was not allowed to resume his duties or even to return to his own diocese. He took up residence in Birštonas.

In 1957, he secretly consecrated Vincentas Sladkevičius bishop. For this “transgression,” the Soviets further exiled him to the town of Šeduva.

Pope  (St.) John XXIII bestowed the title of  Archbishop to Teofilius Matulionis in 1962 and also extended to him an invitation to attend the Second Vatican Council. That same year, after a police raid of his apartment, Archbishop Matulionis died under suspicious circumstances. His remains were exhumed in 1999 and tests confirmed that he had been poisoned with a lethal injection.

 1895 (right)- with brother 
On December 1, 2016, Pope Francis declared that Archbishop Matulionis had died “in odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith) and thus approved the process of his beatification, allowing it to proceed. The miracle required for beatification is waived in cases of martyrdom, since martyrdom itself is deemed to be a miracle of grace.


Bl. Teofilius  is characterized by his especial loyalty to the Church. Although he  constantly faced  persecution, he never compromised his faith. He trusted in God and persisted in following God’s will, regardless of  the circumstances in which he was placed – prison, concentration camps, exile, his home diocese or abroad. He was a living example of the Christian faith for everyone.


In an April 13 pastoral message, the Lithuanian bishops' conference said Archbishop Matulionis had "lived the Easter message" and that he had consistently shown "peace, confidence and goodness," even to his persecutors.

The Prisoner


Archbishop Grusas said the martyred prelate had "offered up his sufferings for the conversion of Russia," while also "moving the church forward" by instructing clergy to remain with their flock even if it meant persecution and exile.  He suggested that Archbishop Matulionis invitation from the pope to attend Vatican II appeared to have been the "last straw" for Lithuania's Soviet rulers.

The last Lithuanian to be beatified, Bishop Jerzy Matulewicz-Matulaitis, who lived from 1871 to 1927 and was the founder of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, was declared blessed in Rome by St. John Paul II in 1987.

The church also is seeking the beatification of Bishop Vincentas Borisevicius, who was shot in 1946 for alleged links with underground fighters, and Archbishop Mecislovas Reinys who died in a Russian prison in 1953.

With Children 

Archbishop Grusas said, however, that beatifications had been delayed by a lack of canonically trained experts in the Lithuanian church following Soviet rule. He said with recent funding and technical support he hoped the cases of other martyrs could be brought forward.


"We're dealing with recent history, but as we rebuild our church, we're gaining the resources and expertise we need.”