Thursday, December 13, 2018

SAINTS OF THE LIGHT


In today’s feast iwe celebrate one of the great martyrs of the early Church, ST. LUCIA (Lucy).  Because her torture reportedly included the gouging out of her eyes, Lucy, whose name means light, is associated in a special way with Christmas and the biblical image of Jesus as the light of the world. Her feast day is a major holy-day in Scandinavia and usually marks the  beginning of the Christmas. Often her feast day is celebrated by candlelight processions, usually involving girls holding candles or wearing a wreath of candles.



It may be no accident that ST. JOHN of the CROSS’ feast day is celebrated during the Advent season (December 14), for it is he who is best known for his moving account of the “dark night of the soul” that all Christians must experience on their way to God. This darkness may be terrifying, but it is no cause for despair. As one Carmelite nun has written: “The darkness of that Bethlehem night held the glory of God’s greatest gift to humanity. The Carmelite friar’s description of going to God through the night is not a sad dirge at all. He tells us that the night he describes is really God coming to us with the intensity of a light so dazzling it overwhelms our capacity to see. We walk through the nights of our lives with the assurance that we will see a new dawn, more glorious than any we have looked at before.”

Like the shepherds waiting in the darkness of that night in Bethlehem, so too are we standing vigil for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

If St. John of the Cross  teaches us about the darkness that precedes our encounter with God, St. Lucy reminds us to look forward to the heavenly light that will follow.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

PATRONESS OF THE AMERICAS- LIGHT TO THE PEOPLE


We just finish celebrating the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when we celebrate another great feast of our Lady. On December 12, we honor OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE, patroness of  all the Americas. December 9th is  the  feast of  Aztec  ST. JUAN DIEGO who was given the extraordinary grace of a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Juan  was walking on Tepeyac hill, now part of Mexico City, on December 9, 1531, when he heard music and saw a beautiful woman in a striking garb, surrounded by  golden rays, with garments  as brilliant as the sun. .

The image of Guadalupe relates to Immaculate Conception imagery, which drew aspects of its symbolism from the Book of Revelation  which  describes the Woman of the Apocalypse as “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” In the Guadalupe image, twelve golden rays frame her face and head, a direct reference to the crown of stars.

The moon for the Meso-Americans was the god of the night. By standing on the moon, Mary shows that she is more powerful than the god of darkness. The crescent moon under the Madonna’s feet is usually a symbol of her perpetual virginity, and refers to her Immaculate Conception.

The aureole or luminous light surrounding our Lady is a sign of the power of God who has sanctified and blessed the one who appears. The rays of the sun would also be recognized by the native people as a symbol of their highest god, Huitzilopochtli. Thus, the woman comes forth hiding but not extinguishing the power of the sun. She is now going to announce the God who is greater than their sun god.


The stars on the Lady’s mantle shows that she comes from heaven. The stars also are a sign of the supernatural character of the image. The research of Fr. Mario Rojas Sánchez and Dr. Juan Homero Hernández Illescas of Mexico (published in 1983) shows that the stars on the Lady’s mantle in the image are exactly as the stars of the winter solstice appeared before dawn on the morning of December 12, 1531.  

No small wonder that this miraculous mantle, which still exists intact after 500 years, defies scientific
scrutiny.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

SECOND SUNDAY of ADVENT





A longtime friend of our Abbey in CT (and close to our Mother Ruth who died in August) is Br. Victor-Antoine D’Avila-Latourrette OSB who lives in the Hudson Valley of NY.. He has written many books-  from cook books (The Monastic Kitchen), to blessings at meals to understanding monastic life (A Rhythm of Life- The Monastic Way).   He has much to say abut Advent  in his book Monastery Journey to Christmas. Great insights for meditation during this holy season of preparation for the Lord's coming.  Slow down and read a page a day! 

“ We wait and wait for the Lord. We become very conscious of the waiting. It is an eager waiting, full of anticipation and wonder, for as with the prophets of old, our companions on the road, we long to see his face.

The Lord, of course, is very much aware of this patient waiting, of this deep yearning for him, and he is ever ready to come into our lives and fulfill our deepest desires. Advent waiting is always twofold. On our part, we await prayerfully, consciously, and anticipate his coming. On God’s part, he is eager to arrive and find a warm dwelling place in our hearts. The greater our desire and patience in waiting for him, the fuller we shall be filled with his presence.

If we learn to cultivate this inner attitude of waiting for him steadily, faithfully, not only during the Blessed Advent days, but throughout the whole of our lives, we shall likewise be rewarded with the grace, joy, and warmth of his real presence in the innermost of our hearts."


Friday, December 7, 2018

MARY, THE SOURCE OF ADVENT LIGHT





(Immaculate Conception- Peter Paul  Rubens, 1628)

There  are very few saints we celebrate in December, but those we do celebrate seem to be connected to light.

Foremost in our minds and hearts in Advent, as we prepare for the coming of her Son, is the Mother of our Savior.  As Pope Benedict once wrote: “For Mary, as for Abraham, faith is trust in, and obedience to, God, even when He leads her through darkness. It is a letting go, a releasing, a handing over of oneself to the truth, to God. Faith, in the luminous darkness of God’s inscrutable ways, is thus a conformation to Him.”

Two Marian feasts fall during Advent. The first of which is:OUR LADY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, patroness of the USA., on December 8.

According to St. (Pope)  Paul VI in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus, “The Church asks Mary’s intercession for those who have closed their eyes to the light of this world and appeared before Christ, the eternal Light”. Mary, far from detracting from the light of Christ, actually acts as a mirror shining in the darkest times to point us toward the source of true Light-God.

Venerable Fulton Sheen spoke of Mary as the reflection of the light of Jesus.   
“God who made the sun, also made the moon. The moon does not take away from the brilliance of the sun.  All its light is reflected from the sun.  The Blessed Mother reflects her Divine Son; without Him, she is nothing.  with Him, she is the Mother of men”. (The World's First Love: Mary, Mother of God)



Thursday, December 6, 2018

WINTER LIGHT


OLR Chapel in Winter

To those who are not used to it, life in the Pacific NW  can get a bit gloomy in December, especially when it rains day after day.  I think it is no coincidence that the Church chooses to  celebrate the coming of the Light at this time when all things appear to be “dead”.  It is in the silence that He chose to come to us- not in the garish summer’s heat.  Advent reminds us to wait, to hope, just as we await the signs of spring after a cold, dark winter. It is the time of longing, of anticipation that we will be freed of the darkness in our lives. 

St Maximus Bishop of Turin (5th Century) an outstanding Biblical scholar and preacher revered for his writings wrote: “ The depressing shortness of the days itself testifies to the imminence of some event which will bring about the betterment of a world urgently longing for a brighter sun to dispel its darkness. In spite of fearing that its course may be terminated within a few brief hours, the world still shows signs of hope that its yearly cycle will once more be renewed. And if creation feels this hope, it persuades us also to hope that Christ will come like a new sunrise to shed light on the darkness of our sins, and that the Sun of Justice, in the vigor of his new birth, will dispel the long night of guilt from our hearts.”

Sunrise from Monastery 


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

CALL TO HOLINESS IN A NEW YEAR


In a pastoral letter marking the first Sunday of Advent, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury dedicated 2019 as the diocesan YEAR OF HOLINESS, calling attention to the Second Vatican Council's emphasis on the universal call to holiness.

“It is this universal call to holiness which I wish all of us, clergy and people, to focus upon anew. It is striking that, amid all the crises of the 20th Century, the central message of the Second Vatican Council was that every one of us, in every state of life, is called to the fullness of the Christian life and the perfection of love: that is, called to become nothing less than a saint,” Bishop Davies wrote.
“Advent is a time of renewed hope leading us to the light of Christmas,” he said. “It is a journey we make in the darkest days of our year. Such days evoke the dark shadows in the world around us, and those failures in the lives and witness of Christians which have at times cast dark shadows over the face of the Church, obscuring for many, the clear light of Christ shining from her.”
He said that “our renewal in holiness” is “the only renewal of the Church which will ever matter … It is why only saints resolved the crises the Church has faced throughout history and why they have proved to be the great evangelisers.”
“It is also why, today, amid the dark shadows of scandal and the challenge of a new evangelisation of western societies, it is urgent to recall this one goal of every Christian life for it is in the saints that the true face of the Church shines out. For, though they can have their place, no pastoral programme; no discussions amongst us; no re-organisation or re-structuring can ever accomplish this; only our striving for holiness to become the saints we have been called by God to be.”
Both “our Christian calling and the ultimate goal of every human life” is “to become, in the end, a saint,” said Bishop Davies, recalling that Christ told us “that this is the one thing which alone matters.”
The bishop noted that Pope Francis wrote in a recent letter that “the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.”
Andrea di Bonaiuto

“A saint is someone who reaches the complete and everlasting happiness of Heaven. We might say that holiness is happiness … it is only by being holy that we can be truly happy.”
Bishop Davies said: “The Holy Father writes, 'Do not be afraid to set your sights higher, to allow yourself to be loved and liberated by God'. For holiness, he writes, is 'the extent that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we model our life on Christ’s'. We can never reach this goal by our own unaided efforts. By the grace of God we can!”
He encouraged everyone in the Diocese of Shrewbury to recall in the coming year that there is found in the Church, holy though composed of sinners, everything needed to grow in holiness.
“In daily prayer, frequent Confession and, above all, in the Holy Eucharist, we are given the Divine means, the grace to reach this goal,” wrote Bishop Davies.
“This is our purpose as we enter anew into Advent,” the bishop concluded. “Let us ask Our Lady, she who is 'full of grace', to accompany us along the path to the holiness, the true happiness to which we are called. In the beautiful words of the Second Vatican Council, we know that in the most Blessed Virgin Mary the Church has already reached perfection and in our struggle she shines out for us as a sign of certain hope and consolation until the day of the Lord shall come in splendor.”

Monday, December 3, 2018

ADVENT READING



One really good way of preparing our hearts for Christ’s coming during Advent and welcoming Him at Christmas is through daily reading.  There are many good books by modern authors as well as ancient.  

Our favorite book to read in Advent is Father Alfred Delp’s  Advent of the Heart (see Blog  6/3/2016 for more on this Jesuit martyr)

The publisher writes,
His  approach to Advent, the season that prepares us for Christmas, is what Fr. Delp called an “Advent of the heart.” More than just preparing us for Christmas, it is a spiritual program, a way of life. He proclaimed that our personal, social and historical circumstances, even suffering, offer us entry into the true Advent, our personal journey toward a meeting and dialogue with God. Indeed, his own life, and great sufferings, illustrated the true Advent he preached and wrote about.
 From his very prison cell he presented a timeless spiritual message, and in an extreme situation, his deep faith gave him the courage to draw closer to God, and to witness to the truth even at the cost of his own life. These meditations will challenge and inspire all Christians to embark upon that same spiritual journey toward union with God, a journey that will transform our lives.



Another good book is Advent with St Teresa of Calcutta, meditations which call us to consider how we might love more deeply, surrender more completely, and let go of all the things not necessary in our busy lives, so there is more room to receive the Lord into our hearts.




Waiting for Christ: Meditations for Advent and Christmas by Bl. John Henry Newman.  (The Vatican just announced  his canonization will take place in 2019)

These beautiful meditations give us reflections on preparing for the Lord's coming at Christmas and the end of time, Our Lady’s  role in salvation history, as well as God's call for each and every one of us to holiness.

It is not too late to start.  Go to Amazon.com (you can even get books used for less than regular price) and you will have in a few days! Blessed Advent!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT




Today we begin  preparation for the Nativity of the Lord by the lighting of the first candle on the Advent wreath in our Chapel. For me it is a special remembrance of a time when I visited the newly "freed" East Germany.  My friends  took me to a very famous artist's home,  primitive but lovely, hidden in a deep woods.  He did pottery among other arts.  I chose a ceramic advent wreath which would hold the 4 candles as well as some greens. It was a lovely blue-green and made from local clay,  Sad to say the artist died soon after my visit.


The Advent wreath is a Christian tradition that symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent in the liturgical calendar of the Western church. It is usually a horizontal evergreen wreath with four candles. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, the first candle is lit.  Monasteries traditionally do this on the Saturday before just before the first Vespers of Sunday. An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week until, by the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit.

The Advent wreath originated a few hundred years ago among the Lutherans of eastern Germany. It probably was suggested by one of the many light symbols which were used in folklore at the end of November and beginning of December. The Christians in medieval times kept many of these lights and fire symbols alive as popular traditions and ancient folklore.

In the sixteenth century the custom started of using such lights as a religious symbol of Advent in the houses of the faithful. This practice quickly spread among the Protestants of eastern Germany and was soon accepted by Protestants and Catholics in other parts of the country. In modern times the tradition is found in all catholic countries.

The traditional symbolism of the Advent wreath reminds the faithful of the Old Testament, when humanity was “sitting in the darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 2:79); when the prophets, illumined by God, announced the Redeemer; and when the hearts of men glowed with the desire for the Messiah. The wreath — an ancient symbol of victory and glory — symbolizes the “fulfillment of time” in the coming of Christ and the glory of His birth.

In our monastery Mother Prioress lights the first candle  and the following Saturday the next nun in rank. Because we immediately pray Vespers, no specific prayers are said, but in many Churches and homes there are  special prayers.

On the First Sunday of Advent, the father of the family blesses the wreath, praying: O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth  Your blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from You abundant graces. Who lives and reigns forever. Amen”.  The youngest child then lights one purple candle.

During the second week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Your only begotten Son, that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve You with pure minds. Who lives and reigns forever. Amen.” Another child then lights the purple candle from the first week plus one more purple candle.

During the third week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, we beg Thee, incline Your ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Your visitation. Who lives and reigns forever. Amen.” The mother then lights the two previously lit purple candles plus the rose candle.

Finally, the father prays during the fourth week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Your power, we pray You, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Your grace, Your merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Who lives and reigns forever. Amen.” The father then lights all of the candles of the wreath.


Since Advent is a time to stir-up our faith in the Lord, the wreath and its prayers provide us a way to augment this special preparation for Christmas. This  tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our homes and not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.

The message from Pope Benedict XVI is very clear as to why we have these four weeks of preparation- beyond the hustle and bustle of material  concerns. 

"Advent is a time of openness to God’s future, a time of preparation for Christmas, when He, the Lord, who is the absolute novelty, came to dwell in the midst of this fallen humanity to renew it from within. In the Advent liturgy there resounds a message full of hope, which invites us to lift up our gaze to the ultimate horizon, but at the same time to recognize the signs of God-with-us in the present. The Lord wants to do in Advent: to speak to the heart of His people and, through them, to the whole of humanity, to proclaim salvation." 
                           

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

APOSTLE of the CATECHISM



In the last Blog, we mention that Bl. Giovanni Battista Scalabrini was  the mentor of Bl. Clilia Merloni.

BL. GIOVANNI BATTISTA SCALABRINI was the Bishop of Piacenza from 1876 until his death  He was the founder of both the Missionaries of Saint Charles and the Mission Sisters of Saint Charles. His rise to the episcopate came at a rapid pace after giving a series of lectures on the First Vatican Council in 1872 and his staunch dedication to catechism which led Pope Pius IX to dub him as the "Apostle of the Catechism". Successive popes Leo XIII and  (St.) Pius X held him in incredible esteem and both failed to convince him accept archdioceses or the cardinalate.
Giovanni Battista Scalabrini was born in Fino Mornasco the third of eight children. Two brothers emigrated to the Americas. In his adolescence he wrote a poem in praise of the life of St Aloysius Gonzaga and had a devotion to St Joseph and St Francis de Sales as well as St Charles Borromeo which extended for the remainder of his life.
He first attended the local state high school where he demonstrated a remarkable intelligence that made him a top student held in high esteem and then entered the Liceo Volta college in Como where he often received prizes for his academic excellence; he had interests in both science and foreign languages.
Bl. Giovanni did his philosophy and theology studies in Como and was ordained in 1863.  
After ordaination he expressed a strong desire to join the missions in the Indies but Bishop Marzorati had other ideas for him and said to him: "Your Indies are in Italy". The bishop instead appointed him as a professor and rector of seminarians, where he taught Greek and history.  In 1870 he was appointed as the pastor of the San Bartolomeo church where he remained until 1876. He distinguished himself during a cholera epidemic in 1867 through his tireless efforts to alleviate the suffering of the victims.

In 1876 he was appointed Bishop of Piacenza by Pope Pius IX. It was  St John Bosco who advised Pius IX to appoint Bl. Giovannii as a bishop. 


He made five pastoral visits across his diocese which proved to be an exhaustive but effective mission of evangelization and his efforts at reforming seminaries and pastoral initiatives earned him praise even from the secular detractors who criticized him for his strict obedience to the pope.

 The bishop's episcopal tenure resulted in the establishment of the "Saint Raphael Association" dedicated to the care of Italian migrants which proved to be a cause he held close to his heart. This solidified through the actions of his twin religious congregations and his visits to both Brazil and the USA where he went to meet Italian immigrants. Bishop Scalabrini also held three important episcopal gatherings in his diocese that revitalized parish and diocesan practices and made his diocese the ground for the first-ever National Catechetical Congress in 1899.

 His holiness was well-renowned across the Italian peninsula and there were countless who attested to his saintliness in an ensuring canonization process. St.John Paul II  beatified Bishop Scalabrini in Saint Peter's Square on 9 November 1997.  His feast is celebrated June 1.

Monday, November 26, 2018

A SAINT WHO SAW LIFE'S TRIALS


On November 3 MOTHER CLELIA MERLONI was beatified in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome. Her most difficult life is a testimony to us all  that in spite of life’s trials, one can attain sanctity. 


The new blessed was born  in 1861 in Forlì, Italy.  Her mother died in 1864 and her maternal grandmother became her guardian. Her father remarried in 1866 and both her grandmother and stepmother did their best to instill religious values and a love of God in her. Her father became  so engrossed in his work and his rising socio-economic status, that his faith became nonexistent, leading him to become an anti-clerical Freemason.

Despite her frail health her father sought to provide her with the best education  possible in order to prepare her for following him in his business. She attended a private school in her town where she learned basic skills such as reading and mathematics, while also learning sewing and piano skills.

Clelia began to demonstrate signs that her father's business ambitions were not intended for her. Due to this  her father began to grow suspicious of the grandmother and forced her from the home. The situation became aggravated when marriage struggles saw  Clelia's stepmother leave the household to live with other relatives. Clelia often fled to her room to do penance for her father's misdeeds and wore a pebble in her shoe to offer her sufferings for her father's withdrawal from the faith. 

The death of her father in 1865 – who reconciled to the faith before his death – saw his estate left to Bl. Clelia.

She then  joined the Figlie di Santa Maria della Divina Provvidenza – the order that St Luigi Guanella founded , but while there  realized a call to form an order that would be devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She founded that order in 1894 with three friends.

In 1896 a financial disaster, due to her dishonest financial administrator,  bought about great humiliation on the order which in turn led to public opinion turning against them.  Bl. Clelia was soon told that her life was in danger and was advised to leave Viareggio.  She sought refuge with the order based in Broni.

It was to her benefit that she later met the Bishop of Piacenza Bl Giovanni Battista Scalabrini in 1900. He not only approved the rule for her order, but also accepted the profession of  the future blessed and ten other religious. Bl. Clelia  desired that the congregation be extended to the foreign missions and on 10 August 1900 six of the religious departed  for Brazil.  

Bl. Giovanni Battista

In 1902 six sailed on the British ship  "The Vancouver" for Boston to aid the Missionaries of Saint Charles Borromeo, the order  founded by Bl. Giovanni. By 1903 there were 30 houses with 200 sisters.

The death of Bishop Scalabrini 1905 saw the decline of Bl. Clelia's good standing among the congregation and in 1911 the Vatican removed her from the leadership. She withdrew from the public due to this and in 1916 both requested and received a dispensation that would release her from her religious vows. 

During her exile Pope Benedict XV granted the decree of praise of the order in 1921. In 1928 she requested permission to renter the congregation and  was welcomed at the motherhouse in Rome where the order was now based. 

The present  Superior General, Marcellina Vigano issued a circular letter that read: "Our most ardent desires have finally been fulfilled! ... Our beloved Mother Foundress is once again with us all of the seventh of this month. The Sacred Heart has restored her health so that she may now enjoy here in the motherhouse, surrounded by the love of her daughters, that peace and quiet which she needs so much, after so many trials and sorrows".

Bronze by Michael Alfono- Hamden CT
Bl. Clelia Merloni died on 21 November 1930 and she was buried at Campo Verano but was later exhumed and found intact in 1945. Her remains were then transferred to the motherhouse of the order. The order itself now has 1200 members in nations such as Taiwan and Switzerland .




















Wednesday, November 21, 2018

THANKSGIVING BLESSINGS


This is the week of Thanksgiving, and we have much to be thankful for, especially in light of people homeless due to the devastating wild fires in California.

Koko & Bella

It  has been a sad week for us in the monastery as we had to put down our beloved PWD BELLA  Sunday after Mass.- this coming less than 2 months after the death of KOKO  (see Blog on monastery PWDs  1/27/13).

In my grief I pondered the meaning of loss in our lives, and how often I have heard people say:  well, if there is no heaven for my beloved pet, I want no part of it!  To my mind this totally negates the gift of Christ in our lives- it is saying that in the end Jesus is not enough for us!

As we give thanks tomorrow for all we daily receive, let us especially be mindful of the greatest gift of all-  the Eucharist, which nourishes us beyond comprehension!

Monday, November 12, 2018

UPDATE ON FUTURE AMERICAN SAINT



SISTER THEA BOWMAN was  the first African American woman to address the U.S. bishops' conference.  Now, nearly 30 years after her death, Sr. Thea will once again feature at the U.S bishops' conference - but this time, they will be voting to approve the opening of her cause for canonization. (see Blog 10/4/2016)

As a novice-  Franciscans of Perpetual Adoration

 
When she spoke to the U.S. bishops in 1989 she told them:.

“We as Church walk together. Don’t let nobody separate you, that’s one thing black folks can teach you, don’t let folks divide you. The Church teaches us that the Church is a family, a family of families, and a family that can stay together. And we know that if we do stay together...if we walk and talk and work and play and stand together in Jesus’ name we’ll be who we say we are, truly Catholic. And we shall overcome - overcome the poverty, overcome the loneliness, overcome the alienation, and build together a holy city, a new Jerusalem, a city set apart where...we love one another.”

Her words are as true to day as they were in her lifetime!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

NEW AMERICAN SAINT


On Nov. 8 Pope Francis  approved the beatification (sometime in 2019)  of American Br. James Miller, who was martyred in 1982 in Guatemala.


 American born BROTHER JAMES (SANTIAGO) MILLER, FSC, was born in Stevens Point, Wisconsin in 1944. He first met the Christian Brothers when he attended Pacelli High School there, and he entered the juniorate in Glencoe, Missouri, in September 1959. He began his year of novitiate in 1962, and following his formation years he started teaching.

He coached football, and taught Spanish, English, and religion in a high school in St. Paul, Minn. There his construction and maintenance abilities gained him the nickname "Brother Fix-It."
After professing his perpetual vows in 1969, he was sent to Bluefields, Nicaragua until 1974 when he was sent to Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.

In July 1979 his superiors directed him to leave the country because the Sandinista revolution was in progress, and they feared he might be at risk. 

In January 1981 he was allowed to return to Central America, this time to Guatemala. He taught at the secondary school in Huehuetenango and worked at the Indian Center where young indigenous Mayans from rural areas studied and trained in agriculture.


The relations between the Brothers at the Indian Center and the Guatemalan military were often strained. To meet its quota of army conscripts, the government often rounded up Indian boys from the streets. Although students were exempt from military service, the boys from the Center were often conscripted into the army. When that happened, a Brother would present proof to the authorities that the boy in questions was a student. The military would then reluctantly release him.

Two days before Brother James was killed, a Mayan pupil was forced into the army. A Brother tried to obtain his release from the authorities, but his petition was refused. By his adamant demands the Brother infuriated these authorities. In the afternoon of February 13, 1982, while he was repairing a wall at the Indian Center where his boarders lived, three hooded men shot Brother James point blank. He died instantly.


Some saw his death as a warning to the Brothers to cease interfering in government affairs. Attempts to identify his assassins were unsuccessful. Brother James’ cause of martyrdom was undertaken by the Diocese of Huehuetenango in 2009.

Brother James’s killing was one in a string of assassinations of priests and religious in the country, including that of Bl. Stanley Rother five months later.

Aware of the danger present to him in Guatemala, in one of his last letters before he died, Brother James wrote: “I am personally weary of violence, but I continue to feel a strong commitment to the suffering poor of Central America. …the Church is being persecuted because of its option for the poor.”


The  Brother James Miller icon  at the top was painted by Nicholas Markell. The gold circular surrounding the head of Brother James Miller is called a “nimbus.” As with most sacred art, the nimbus is symbolic. Unlike the halo in Western spirituality that represents a canonized saint, the nimbus in Eastern spirituality represents the indwelling of Christ in the person.  I love this image as he hold the lamb, representing Christ


Monday, November 5, 2018

BLESSED MONKS of TIBHIRINE


News that the beatification of Bishop Pierre Claverie and his 18 companions, who were martyred in Algeria between 1994 and 1996, will be Dec. 8, at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Cross in Oran.

The new blesseds “have been given to us as intercessors and models of the Christian life, of friendship and fraternity, of encounter and dialogue. May their example aid us in our life today,” the Algerian bishops wrote.
“From Algeria, their beatification will be for the Church and for the world, an impetus and a call to build together a world of peace and fraternity.”

Bishop Claverie was a French Algerian, and the Bishop of Oran from 1981 until his Aug. 1, 1996 martyrdom. He and his companions were killed during the Algerian Civil War by Islamists.



In addition to Claverie, those being beatified are: Brother Henri Vergès, Sister Paul-Hélène Saint-Raymond, Sister Esther Paniagua Alonso, Sister Caridad Álvarez Martín, Fr. Jean Chevillard, Fr. Alain Dieulangard, Fr. Charles Deckers, Fr. Christian Chessel, Sister Angèle-Marie Littlejohn, Sister Bibiane Leclercq, Sister Odette Prévost, Brother Luc Dochier, Brother Christian de Chergé, Brother Christophe Lebreton, Brother Michel Fleury, Brother Bruno Lemarchand, Brother Célestin Ringeard, and Brother Paul Favre-Miville.

The Monastery
The best known of Bishop Claverie's companions are the SEVEN MONKS of TIBHIRINE , who were kidnapped from their Trappist priory in March 1996. They were kept as a bartering chip to procure the release of several imprisoned members of the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria, and were killed in May. Their story was dramatized in the 2010 French film Of Gods and Men, which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. I encourage everyone to see this amazingly well done movie.  This beautiful film portrays the life of faith, the religious life, liturgical prayer and the Holy Mass which all contribute to the strength these men would need in the end.

The prior, Christian de Chergé, sought peaceful dialogue with the Muslim population of the area and provided employment, medical attention, and education to the locals. Dom Christian accepted that the current political tensions and violent militias were a threat to his life. According to the Trappist order, he wrote a letter to his community and family, citing the peace felt giving his life to God.  


“If it should happen one day – and it could be today – that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to engulf all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church and my family to remember that my life was given to God and to this country,” he wrote.

The seven Cistercian monks of Tibhirine had been abducted in March 1996 in their monastery of Our Lady of the Atlas, 80 km south of Algiers. Their death was announced on May 23 by a statement from the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). The heads of the Trappist monks were found on May 30, 1996, without the mystery of their death being fully clarified.

After the death of the monks of Tibhirine, Bishop Claverie knew his life was in serious danger. A bomb exploded at the entrance of his chancery Aug. 1, 1996, killing him and an aide, Mohamed Bouchikhi.



Thursday, November 1, 2018

MORE HOLY NURSES




ST. MARIA BERTILLA BOSCARDIN  was born to a poor peasant family headed by Angelo Boscardin who, by his own account, was a violently abusive drunk. Anna had little education, was simple and innocent, and was considered mentally slow; referred to as the goose (as in, “silly as a….”).  She worked as a house servant in her youth, joining the Sisters of Saint Dorothy, Daughters of the Sacred Heart at VincenzaItaly in 1904, taking the name Bertilla. After working in the convent‘s kitchen and laundry, she trained as a nurse in 1907.

She began working in a hospital with children suffering from diphtheria. There the young nun seemed to find her true vocation: nursing very ill and disturbed children.  She was a great favorite for her simple, gentle way with the young patients.


Later, when the hospital was taken over by the military in World War I, Sister Maria Bertilla fearlessly cared for patients amidst the threat of constant air raids and bombings. A supervisor, angry at Bertilla’s growing reputation, reassigned her to the hospital laundry. Her congregation’s Mother-general heard of this vindictive treatment, and transferred Sister Bertilla back to nursing, making her the supervisor of the children‘s ward in 1919.

She died in October 1922 of cancer after suffering for many years from a painful tumor. She was canonized by Pope John XXIII in 1961.  Among the many gathered included family members and an unknown number of her patients.


There have been many healing miracles reported at her tomb. Her feast is celebrated  October 20.












BL. ESTHER PANIAGUA ALONSO, born in 1949 in Leon, Spain,  was the daughter of Dolores Alonso and Nicasio Paniagua. Esther joined the Augustinian Missionary Congregation at age 18, making her perpetual vows in August 1970. Trained as a nurse, she was assigned to a hospital in the Bab El Oued neighborhood of Algiers, Algeria where she was especially drawn to handicapped children, and where she came to love the Arab people and culture. Shot three times in the head, she was murdered by members of the Armed Islamic Group while walking to Mass. on Sunday 23 October 1994  with Sister Caridad Álvarez Martín . 

In 1994, faced with the country's civil war situation, when asked if she was afraid of the situation she replied, "No one can take our life because we have already given it. Nothing will happen to us since we are in the hands of God ... and if something happens to us, we are still in his hands. " 

 In spite of the requests of her hierarchy and the Spanish ambassador in Algeria, she refused to leave the country, saying, "At this moment, for me, the perfect model is Jesus: He suffered, He had to overcome difficulties and resulted in the failure of the cross, from which springs the source of life.”

She will be beatified with other Algerian martyrs, including the monks of Tibhirine,  December 8, 2018. (Next Blog)  Her feast day will be October 23.