Tuesday, October 31, 2017


National Vocation Awareness Week is an annual week-long celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States dedicated to promote vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations.  

At this time all Catholics are encouraged to take time to pray for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.  Today with the loss of so many Catholic schools, it is up to parents and other lay people  to  educate our young people about the importance of silent prayer, taking the time to truly listen to God's voice in their hearts. Only then can they develop  a readiness to give themselves to a life of sacrifice, following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

We have spoken in past Blogs of the youth who come each summer to spend a week here in work and prayer. They come through a local SERRA CLUB, an organization to promote and foster vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life

Serra USA was formed in 1935 when a small group of lay people in Seattle  decided to form. They chose Father Junipero Serra, the great missionary, as their patron and named the organization SERRA Club of Seattle.

Now Serrans are found around the world.  They are men and women of all ages and from all walks of life. Members range from lawyers, doctors, and business people, to nurses, clerks,  stay at home workers, and retirees.  All are dedicated to promote and foster vocations to the priesthood in the Catholic Church as well as encourage and affirm vocations to consecrated religious life. 

Whatever is the need to support Priests and Religious, members of Serra are ready to move ahead and follow the words of St. Junipero Serra.  His motto was “Always forward, never back.”

Archdiocese of Seattle Vocation Prayer

God our Father, You call each of us to use our gifts in the Body of Christ. We ask that you inspire those whom you call to priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life to courageously follow Your will. Send workers into your great harvest so that the Gospel is preached, the poor are served with love, the suffering are comforted, and Your people are strengthened by the sacraments. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, October 30, 2017


It is interesting to note that the Opus Dei movement has perhaps more people up for canonization than the Benedictines-  14 at latest count.  In August  we did Blogs on a family of three- husband and wife Eduardo & Laura de Landazuri and his sister Guadalupe. Another very loving couple has come to attention who were faithful to the spirit of Opus Dei. They passed on to their children and to many other people their example of Christian life and marriage, of a “bright and cheerful home,” as St. Josemaria used to say.

SERVANT OF GOD TOMAS ALVIRA was born in Villanueva de Gallego, near Saragossa, on January 17, 1906, and died in Madrid on May 7, 1992. After earning a doctorate in chemistry, he taught at the Natural Science Institute in Madrid.

In 1937  he met Josemaría Escrivá , the founder of Opus Dei, where he heard for the first time the possibility of being holy in daily life, in professional work, both in celibacy and in marriage.

In 1939 he married Paquita in  Zaragoza and teaching at Ramiro de Maeztu , where he met an exceptional faculty, including  future Nobel laureate Vicente Aleixandre.

Tomas was famous for his pedagogy principle in which the teacher tries to awaken in the student the love of learning, considering it as a good in itself. He felt teachers should not encourage students to study for the prize or for the punishment, but rather for the pursuit of knowledge.  He managed to combine a demand for learning yet respect and genuine affection for his students.   Strength and tenderness; exigency and affection: possibly this was his secret.

In 1957 he was appointed National Councilor for Education. He subsequently participated in the creation of Development of Teaching Centers . From 1973 to 1976 he was Vice-director of the Experimental Center of the Institute of Education Sciences and then  Director of the University School for the Promotion of Teaching Centers. Its greatest innovation was the creation of the Living Classroom .

With Pope (St. ) John Paul II

He started the COU Center for the Promotion of Teaching Centers and the University School of Teachers of the same Institution, where he was director until 1986.

SERVANT OF GOD  PAQUITA ALVIRA was born in Borau, near Huesca, in 1912. She worked as a high school teacher during the Spanish Civil War years

She and Tomas had nine children, the first of whom, Jose Maria, died at five years of age. The young family moved to Madrid in November 1941, where Tomás took up his teaching position at the Natural Science Institute. Both were Supernumeraries of Opus Dei: Tomás since February 1947, and Paquita  1952.

They strove for sanctity through the heroic and persevering exercise of the Christian virtues. The Holy Mass was the center and root of their interior life. Assisted by divine grace and living in God's presence, they imbued their ordinary daily activities with supernatural meaning.

Both suffered painful illnesses towards the end of their lives, and offered up their suffering with a deeply supernatural outlook.  She died in 1994 and Tomas in 1992.

 Their daughter, Maria Isabel, who currently lives in France, when asked about her parents relied:

Their being members of Opus Dei was a source of happiness which they radiated to those around them, starting with the family. Ever since I was a child, I saw that Opus Dei was first and foremost in the life of my parents; it made us desire to be like them. They transmitted to us a deep love for God, for the Church, for the Work and its founder in a very natural way and in an atmosphere of freedom, through their example and their everyday lives. I have always considered their vocation to Opus Dei as a great gift from God to the whole family.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


The martyr who will have his cause for canonization introduced along with Father Guardini is  FRITZ MICHAEL GERLICH , a German convert to Catholicism,  who systematically denounced the Nazi barbarism and Hitler for over 13 years.  After his arrest, he was sent to the concentration camp of Dachau where he was killed.

Fritz was born in Stettin, Pomerania, and grew up as the eldest of the three sons of  a wholesale and retail fishmonger.  In 1902 he began his studies at the University of Munich, first majored in mathematics and natural sciences before switching to history. At the university, he was an active member of the Free Student Union. He wrote his doctoral dissertation "The Testament of Henry VI" and completed it in 1907.

On 9 October 1920, he married Sophie Botzenhart in  Munich.

In 1923 while working for a newspaper , Fritz Gerlich denounced “one of the most serious betrayals in German history,” referring to Hitler’s failed attempt to take power on November 8 of that year.

Fritz said Hitler was an “idiot,” but a dangerous one, because he knew how to manipulate others into doing what he wanted them to do.  In 1927, his life took an unexpected turn.  Used to living as an agnostic, he met Therese Neumann, who died in 1962 and whose cause for beatification is in process. 

She was known for bearing the stigmata and for having survived for 35 years without food or water, living only on the Eucharist. Initially, he wanted to expose her stigmatism as a fraud, but Fritz came back a changed man. Through his encounter with her, Fritz embraced the faith and was baptized on September 29, 1931, taking the name of Michael. From that year until his death, his resistance became inspired by the social teachings of the Catholic Church 
Therese Neumann

Fritz was not allowed to express his opinions in his articles and so he decided to found a new publication, in which he continued to criticize Hitler and  warned of the coming barbarism of Hitler.

In one of his more outspoken editorials he described Hitler as full of hatred and surrounded by a group of people “who all share one common objective: the desire to destroy.”

He also warned of the Nazi’s anti-Semitic plans to proclaim “a new religion on the basis of the myth of race.”  As the elections were held which put Hitler in power, Gerlich wrote: “Those who don’t vote today assume a grave responsibility before God, their children and their children.  And moreover we say: it is the duty of every Catholic to vote for the parties that defend the eternal principles of the Church.”

After the Nazis seized power on 30 January 1933, Fritz was arrested  in March despite his plan to flee to Switzerlandand held at the Dachau concentration camp, where he died on 30 June 1934 during the Night of the Long KnivesI am ready to respond with my life for what I have written. I will not retract.  I am a Catholic,” he proclaimed.

Artist- Andreas Pruck
 His killing was officially announced days after his murder, and the announcement was published in the international press at the time.

Fritz Michael Gerlich was portrayed in the TV movie Hitler: The Rise of Evil by actor Matthew Modine.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017


In this month dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, the news just came that the cause of FATHER ROMANO GUARDINI  (See BLOG  8/2/2016) will begin officially with Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady in Munich on December 16, alongside that of Nazi resistance fighter Fritz Michael Gerlich (See ff BLOG_)..

Father Guardini, who died in 1968, is considered one of the most important theologians of the 20th Century. His work ‘The Spirit of the Liturgy’ was a major influence on the Liturgical Movement, and he became a key thinker for the council fathers at the Second Vatican Council.

Pope Francis has previously said he is “convinced that Guardini is a thinker who has much to say to the people of our time, and not only to Christians”.
In the 1980s the future Pope began a doctoral dissertation on Guardini in Germany, but later abandoned it.

Benedict XVI has referred to Guardini as “a great figure, a Christian interpreter of the world and of his own time”. In 2000, he wrote his own book entitled The Spirit of the Liturgy, inspired by the theologian.

Father Guardini was born in Verona in 1885. After the war, he was appointed to a chair in Philosophy of Religion at the University of Berlin. But he was forced to resign in 1939 after clashing with the Nazis. His first major work, The Spirit of the Liturgy, was published during World War I.

Following the World War II, he became first a professor in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Tübingen and then a professor at the University of Munich. He died in Munich on October 1, 1968.

Many of Father Guardini's major works have been translated into other languages, including The Lord..

Sunday, October 22, 2017


When our world seems so close to a great war, it is good to remember some who  not only gave their life for our country, but to God as well.

On Oct. 17 in St. Landry Church before family, the local bishop, school students and local dignitaries, heroic Second World War chaplain Father Joseph  Verbis Lafleur posthumously received a second Distinguished Service Medal and Purple Heart for actions on board a Japanese prisoner of war ship that cost him his life but saved scores more.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-La., presented the medals to Father Lafleur’s nephew Richard Lafleur and his wife, Carol, at at St. Landry Catholic Church, where the priest celebrated his first Mass following ordination in 1938.  It was the second event honoring the chaplain in as many months, following an annual memorial Mass Sept. 7 attended by some 800 people.

JOSEPH VERBIS LAFLEUR was born into a large Cajun family in Ville Platte Louisiana in 1912.  From early childhood his desire was to be a priest.  Entering Saint Joseph’s Minor Seminary in Saint Benedict, Louisiana he quickly became noted for his good humor, quick wit and athletic prowess.  He also had a marked interest in French military history and would recite the last words of Marshal Michel Ney before his execution by the restored Bourbons after the Hundred Days:  “Come see how a soldier dies in battle, but he dies not.”
After  ordination in 1938 he was assigned as assistant pastor at Saint Mary Magdalene in Abbeville, Louisiana. In the depression era Louisiana knew poverty that people today would find hard to believe.  Father Lafleur supplied balls, bats and gloves to the boys in his parish and helped organize baseball games.  After his death some of the boys learned that Father Lafleur had purchased the equipment by pawning his wristwatch.
Father LaFleur joined the Army Air Corps in 1941  six months before Pearl Harbor.  Four months later Lieutenant LaFleur was sent with the 19th Bombardment Group to Clark Field in the Philippines.  The new chaplain was popular with the men:  he helped organize a baseball team, founded a discussion group and his door was always open to them.
On December 8, 1941 the Japanese attacked Clark Field and Chaplain LaFleur sprang into action.  Ignoring exploding bombs and flying shrapnel he helped treat the wounded and administered the Last Rites to those beyond human help.  For his actions that day he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
As the Philippines were conquered by the Japanese Father LaFleur passed up an opportunity for evacuation, stating that his place was with the men.
Over one-third of all Allied POWs in Japanese hands died.  Death from starvation, at the hands of the brutal guards or disease was a constant fact of life for every prisoner of the Rising Sun.  Into this hell on earth Father Lafleur brought Christ.  So long as he had a little bread and wine he said Mass for his fellow prisoners.  While in captivity Father Lafleur built a makeshift chapel which he called Saint Peter in Chairs.  His fellow POWs flocked to his services, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

As best he could Father LaFleur also ministered to the physical needs of his flock.   He would continually visit and assist the many sick.  He would often exchange his clothes for those worn by another prisoner and he would give away some of his own food to help out men who seemed to need it.  Moved by this charity, other prisoners began to give to Father LaFleur pieces of their own clothing and scraps of their own food for him to distribute.
As the war progressively turned against Japan, orders came out from the Japanese High Command to begin shipping POWs back to Japan to serve as slave labor.  Father LaFleur and 749 other prisoners were on board the ship the  Shiniyo Maru when the USS Paddlefish torpedoed it off the coast of Mindanao on September 7, 1944.  The sinking occurred because the Japanese adamantly refused throughout the war to indicate when a ship was carrying POWs.  Father LaFleur, despite the urgings of his fellow captives, refused to leave the ship’s hold, instead holding the ladder so that other men could attempt to climb out of the hold and escape.  That was the last anyone ever saw on this Earth of Father LaFleur.

There is a plaque to Father LaFleur at the Notre Dame seminary in New Orleans:  It is inscribed:
“Venez voir comment meurt un pretre en bataille …mais il ne meurt pas.” – “Come, see how a priest dies in battle, but he dies not.”

Painting in Our Lady of the Saints, Ville Platte by David Andrews
Pictured: St. Katherine Drexel, King St. Louis IX, Father Joseph Verbis,
Ven. Henriette De Lille, Bl. Francis X. Seelos & Ven Cornelia Connolly

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


One of our nuns here is Mother Dilecta. Many years ago we had a young man from the Czech Republic come and spend summers with us while he was at school in the USA.

When I was able to go to Prague a few years later he was my guide, taking me to many of the wonderful monuments of his homeland. He had always been fascinated by Mother Dilecta’s name and wondered if it was related to a nun from Prague who lived in the 17th century named Elekta.  He took me to her convent where I was able to meet her as well as one of the nuns.

One of them sits in a chair in the Church of St. Benedict at Hradčanské Square in Prague and exalts sacred respect not only among the faithful, but also among experts. The body of the VENERABLE ABBESS MARIE ELECTA (1605-1663) is miraculously preserved even 350 years after death!

Mother Marie Elekta died in 1663, seven years after establishing a new order of  Carmelites in Prague. This Italian-born nun, Caterina Tramazzoli, was greatly respected as a superior  by the other nuns for her devotional and humble nature. After her death the nuns often went to her grave in St. Elijah's Chapel to pray, and then things started to happen.

One of the sisters always smelled violets, and another would see a heavenly glow. Others, when touching their heads on the gravestone were  relieved of headaches.  In 1666 the grave was opened and according to the original reports, the cavity of the tomb and the coffin itself were flooded with black, smelly water. The body of Mother Marie Electa remained intact, which those present considered a miracle. When they washed it with vinegar and a mixture of herbs (which is why her body is dark today), they found it still flexible. So they tried to sit her down in a chair. At first it did not work, but then she began to bend. Her neck had been broken when they stuffed her into a too small coffin, but she raised her head  in obedience to her nuns.
The Carmelite Monastery 

Inside the Church
As early as 1677, 14 years after her death,  her body was studied by physicians and professors at the Medical Faculty of Charles University . And, according to the surviving protocol of that time, the body of Marie Electa was found to be "perfectly intact, having skin completely preserved, brown or chestnut, and all limbs bendable and spouting a liquid of jasmine scent." The integrity of the body unanimously declared "totally miraculous and all natural forces beyond".

A similar conclusion was reached by a panel of leading experts from the same faculty more than 300 years later when they wrote in their 2003 report: "The Commission regards the survival of the intact body  as remarkable and extremely rare.”

Her Hands

Venerable Marie Electa miraculously survived during the period of Communism, when the nuns had to leave their monastery in 1950, being sent  to either factories or internment camps. At first  they  did not want to leave without the abbess, but the the Archbishop of Prague told them: "Leave her here if she is holy, she will take care of herself and her monastery." 

And  so she stayed all through the years the Communist regime, while the monastery was converted into a hotel, sitting in her niche waiting the return of the Carmelites in 1992.   When I saw her in 1998 she was behind the glass and grate in the niche to the right of the altar of the church. She has slightly open eyes and she looks as if like she is still smiling, letting us know she has seen things we can only dream of.

Friday, October 13, 2017


In  a Blog last week I  wrote of the great Benedictine Bl. Dom Marmion. While he is  well known for his writings, many are unaware of his disciples and the correspondence he conducted with men and women throughout the world, especially religious men and women who turned to him for spiritual direction.
I have just finished his biography and am astounded that someone in his position had the time to write so much.

One of his  disciples was a monk, DOM PIUS de HEMPTINNE who left behind precious spiritual writings of his own. In a recent reading of the life of Bl. Marmion, I came across this monk and wondered who he was, especially since he had the same last name as the then abbot.

This holy young monk lived from 1897-1907 in the Abbey of Maredsous. I cannot find much more about him, though know he was the nephew of  Dom Hildebrand de Hemptinne, the  second Abbot  (and later first Abbot primate of the Benedictine Order) of the Belgian Abbey where Bl. Marmion became the 3rd Abbot.  This young monk's aunt, Dame Cecile de Hemptinne, was the first abbess of St. Scholastica's Abbey at Maredret (just a few miles from Maredsous).  He also had a brother, Dom Jean, who was a monk in the same abbey.

Born of a noble Belgian family in 1880 he died at the age of  27, of an illness I could not determine. After his ordination to the priesthood he was made housemaster at the abbey school.  He was always fail in health and in his last months he returned home to be nursed by family (not uncommon in those days). Dom Marmion was with him in his last days, giving him solace and blessings.      

Some of his treasured writings, which I share, I found from the monks at Silverstream in Meath, Ireland. His prayers and meditations are magnificent, though sometimes highly intricate and stylized. Many of his spiritual thoughts were inspired by the conferences and lectures of Bl. Marmion.

Dom Pius  gave expression to a profoundly Benedictine fusion of liturgy, personal prayer, and the whole of life, including the message of the natural world. His message encourages us to live ever more deeply the meaning of the sacred mysteries, never mind the wording, which is from another era- the message is timeless!

His famous relatives: Dom Hildebrand &  Aunt Agnes (Cecile)

O Jesus, from this day forward grant that the souls given into my care may drawn from my poor heart the grace that Thou givest me. It is Thou Thyself who hungerest; eat, then, and drink all that Thou findest in my poor house. May my soul be a manger where Thy lambs can be filled with Thee. (1902, pp. 148–49)

Most holy and eternal Father, your divine Son has taught us that no one can come to Him unless you draw him, and that none shall be lost of those whom you have given Him. I beg of you, therefore, in the name of the mutual love you bear to Him and He to you, to offer me and all whom I love to this divine Son, begotten of you, so that being born again in Him, your Word, we may have a share in the eternal glory which He gives to you, and that we may thus be sanctified in you.

 Eternal Son, whose holiness is equal to that of the Father, you have promised that “when lifted up from the earth, you would draw all to yourself.” Draw me, then, to you, O well-beloved of my soul, that being fed by you I may live by you, even as you live by your Father.

 Holy Spirit, who descended upon the Virgin to accomplish the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, come down upon me, O joy of my heart and strength of my soul! Impregnate me, to the end that Jesus Christ may grow in me, so that by your power, the closest union may be effected between my Savior and my poor soul, inflamed by your love.

O adorable Trinity, look down and behold how I burn with longing to glorify you — see how my soul shrinks into nothingness — see how little it is — how it abandons itself utterly to you! . . . I love you by the Heart of Jesus and by every one of the souls on earth, and therefore I will bring them all to you. To this end, Christ Jesus, only object of my desires, I take refuge in the bosom of your Father, and in His Name I give you all these precious souls, that not one of them may perish. Uniting myself to you, I offer them all to the Father, for the eternal honor and glory of the most adorable Trinity. Amen. (1901)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


On the feast of the Holy Rosary, I posted a very modern, very lovely painting by an artist I had never heard of, but I think deserves mention. She was SISTER MARY of the COMPASSION, a Dominican nun born Mary Constance  Rowe in 1908. 

She was the daughter of Victor Weston Rowe, a Music Hall Artiste and Melfredine Josephine Fournier Rowe. She showed great promise as an artist and, after the Clapham School of Art, studied at the Royal College of Art in London and won the Prix de Rome in 1932 for mural painting. The prize money gave her two years of further study in Rome. While there became interested in the Catholic faith and later took instructions at the Brompton Oratory (The Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) and was baptized there on 8 September 1931 as Constance Dorothy Mary Rowe.

In 1935  she traveled to New York only to find her way to Union City, a place where she would remain for the rest of her life.  She entered the Community of the Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary, also known as the Blue Chapel, in Union City, N.J. in 1938.

Sister Mary worked in many media types including textile, mosaic, and clothing. Her paintings include use of water colors, oil, and gold leaf  on textures such as paper and wood. Echoing the style of Renaissance painters before her, Sister Mary painted portraits of the Madonna and important events such as Christ's removal from the cross.

One of her major works was a painting of Dominican saints surrounding a crucified Christ. The life-size painting (8 by 4 feet) is currently housed at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

According to Sister Maria of the Cross of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit; Sister Mary was commissioned by the House of Studies during the '50s to paint an artwork there. The painting adorns the refectory of the house, regarded by some as the largest, most ambitious painting embarked on by Sister Mary.

Pictures of hers were included in a 1939 New York exhibition of work by Catholic artists staged for the benefit of refugees who had arrived in the USA from Germany. Another of her ventures was the design of costumes and sets for an opera performed by the Music Department of Hunter College, New York. She also wrote a short book called “An Artist's Notebook”, in which she gave her thoughts on how art should be approached and how she approached it, offering occasional comments on the work of some artists. 

Jesus with Mary Magdalene
Sister Mary of the Compassion died in 1977 after a medical checkup a week prior deemed "nothing wrong" with her. She died at the age of 69. 

Friday, October 6, 2017


Artist- Sr. Mary of the Compassion, OP ( Constance Mary Rowe)

This year we celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the Marian apparitions at Fatima, Portugal, witnessed by three shepherd children who reported that they saw visions of Mary beginning on May 13, 1917.

Whatever the significance of the Fatima apparitions is for each us personally, this 100-year anniversary of the apparitions is a reminder of the central message of the Gospels, calling everyone to conversion and bringing us closer to Christ. In our mad, mad world, in which things so often seem upside down, it is good to take the time to reflect on our Mother Mary’s message to us all-  love my Son, love me!

In the joy of the Gospel, we will be the Church robed in white,
the whiteness washed in the blood of the Lamb,
blood that today too is shed in the wars tearing our world apart.
And so we will be, like you, an image of the column of light
that illumines the ways of the world,
making God known to all,
making known to all that God exists,
that God dwells in the midst of his people,
yesterday, today and for all eternity.
                  (Pope Francis)

Monday, October 2, 2017


Sometimes when I read something written by a saint, I wonder why I even try to utter a word- they can say so much more eloquently what is in my heart than anything I could ever do, and they inspire me by their faithfulness and love of Christ.  One of my favorites (see Blog May 8, 2017) is BLESSED COLUMBA MARMION whose feast is tomorrow. Picking up our theme of adoration in the Eucharist:

'We show our adoration by going to visit Christ in the tabernacle or exposed monstrance. Would it not indeed be a failing in respect to neglect the Divine Guest who awaits us? He dwells there, really present. He who was in the crib, at Nazareth, upon the mountains of Judea, in the supper-room, upon the Cross. It is the same Jesus who said to the Samaritan woman, 'If you knew the gift of God.'.

Bl. Columba Marmion, whom Fr. Benedict Groeschel called "this great and original spiritual writer," has much to teach Catholics of the 21st century. I recommend  “Christ, the Life of the Soul” to all. Father Grosehel further added, “ he was deeply imbued with the Church Fathers, and particularly St. Augustine. He built everything on the Church Fathers and offered to us a very beautiful foundation."

Although Bl. Marmion has been somewhat forgotten in recent time, it is important to remember that his books were bestsellers, and were translated into about a dozen languages. As a retreat master, he was in great demand, and was even a confessor to Belgium’s Cardinal Désiré-Joseph Mercier (Blog 5/11/17).  Pope Benedict XV kept his book, "Christ the Life of the Soul", on his nightstand. 

This brilliant, yet humble abbot is still alive and well and has much to teach those seeking to have a deeper relationship with Christ and like St. Benedict himself, I think he is definitely a man for our times!.