Wednesday, August 29, 2018


Newly named VENERABLE, TERESA FARDELLA de BLASI was  born in New York on 24 May 1867 of a noble family (the Counts and Marquis of Torrearsa) from Trapani (Sicily), Italy. In 1869 the family returned to Trapani. When Teresa was 11, her Irish mother died leaving her to be educated in a college directed by her aunt until the age of 16. 

Teresa had a great desire to consecrate her life to God, but her father had already decided on her marriage to Officer Raffaele De Blasi. Teresa accepted the will of her father, trusting in God. Her husband's work commitments brought Teresa from one city to another.  Despite this and never neglecting her family duties, she had a profound love for the Eucharist and love of the poor. 

In 1895, in one of the many transfers of her husband, she arrived in Mantua where she started with the simple "soup of the poor". Assisted by the then Bishop Giuseppe Sarto, (later St.Pope Pius X) , she founds the religious community of the" Poor Daughters of Mary Most Holy Crowned, Perpetual Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus ". 

Although she  was  of a noble and wealthy family, she lived as  the poor,  trusting with particular devotion in the help of Divine Providence. The charitable projects she started, were supported by important spiritual fathers as well as by a deep friendship with Bl. Teresa Grillo Michel, also  a foundress. 

In the various stages of spouse, mother, foundress, widow, Teresa  shortly before dying, was able to realize her dream of becoming a nun, consecrating herself as a spouse of Christ. She died in Trapani on August 26, 1957. 

While she is considered an Italian saint, she was born in our own country, so we have a share in her life and holiness.

Saturday, August 25, 2018


I was taught by sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the first of the St. Joseph nuns to come to the USA in 1836.  I had two friends in the St. Joseph of Orange Order (established in California in 1912) , and in fact thought of joining them myself, to become a doctor and  be off to their missions in the Solomon Islands.  But the Lord later called me to a more contemplative life.  Imagine my surprise when I I recently came across this fascinating story of 4 sisters who wound up fleeing the Solomons.

Four sisters of this California congregation became stranded behind Japanese enemy lines during World War II. Two of the Sisters were teachers, and two were nurses. They had arrived in the Solomon Islands in December 1940. These young women were new to missionary life, confronting an unknown culture for the first time, and did not speak the languages spoken on the various islands. Also, they had to learn how to get around the jungle. One year after they arrived, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese quickly occupied many of the islands in the South Pacific. The sisters had been deeply involved in a village on the island of Buka. They had no idea that the Japanese wanted Buka for an airfield.

Sister Hedda Jager was the one who recorded their daily lives in journals. No matter what kind of day she was having, she always managed to record the day’s happenings.

As the Japanese got closer and closer, Sister Hedda recorded how these young religious changed from working as missionaries to being filled with "holy" terror. They made it to Bougainville where they learned  how other missionaries in the Solomons had been tortured and executed.

There were Marist missionary priests on the island and, knowing what the fate of the nuns would be if captured, they managed to hide the sisters for months in the jungle. On New Year’s Eve 1942, the priests managed to get the sisters and 25 others to the beach in Teop Harbor. It was then they all learned that a submarine would be their means of rescue. (That would have finished me then and there!)

On New Year’s Day 1943, in the early morning darkness, the submarine Nautilus pulled to within 100 feet of the beach and the terrified passengers were safely taken on board and brought to safety.

Sister Hedda wrote in her journal: “You cannot put into words the feeling that one has for those of one’s own country, especially when one is miles from home and running away from the Japanese.”

When the war ended the four Sisters returned to Buka to continue their work. The last of them passed away in 1999. Lives given for their adopted people.

Sister Hedda’s journals have been published in book-form under the title Trapped in Paradise .

Included in the 300-page book are maps, photos, biographies of key individuals in the story, a glossary, and a book guide. “War Comes to Buka” by Father Joseph Lamarre, the sisters’ pastor, is also included. He provides his account of 30 months in a Japanese prison camp, describing what the sisters may have experienced had they not been rescued by submarine.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


In the midst of the on-going scandal in our home Church, I call to attention two possible American saints. to finish off the month of August, and to give us hope, that no matter how bad things seem to be, there is always more good.

SERVANT of GOD MARY VIRGINIA MERRICK,  born in Washington, DC, in 1866,  was a pioneer in American Catholic social reform. At age 20, despite being paralyzed, from a fall, and confined to her bed or reclining wheelchair, she started the Christ Child Society in 1887 to provide for needy infants, children, and their families in the Washington, D.C. area. During her lifetime she grew the National Christ Child Society to 38 chapters and today it operates chapters in 43 locations with nearly 6,000 members.

If she is canonized,  Mary Virginia Merrick will be one of the first U.S.-born saints in the Church and among a small number of disabled saints.

Mary Virginia  was born to prominent parents Richard and Nannie Merrick. Her father was a well-known lawyer, a founder of Georgetown University Law Center, and a descendant of former Maryland Governor Leonard Calvert. The family of Nannie Merrick was well known for its success in business and its work in establishing Washington, D.C.'s first art collection, the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Mary Virginia grew up in a devoutly-Catholic environment fostered by her parents and was educated by French nurses and tutors who stressed the importance of the Catholic faith. She developed a deep faith and a love for helping others at an early age while visiting and assisting local poor and vulnerable families with her mother. She aspired to become a nun after a religious conversion experience soon after her eleventh birthday.

In her early teen years, she had a fall from a playhouse, beginning the deterioration of her health and her eventual confinement to a bed or recumbent wheelchair.

With her sisters Nanny & Margaret

As a teenager, Mary Virginia began to sew clothing for poor children from her reclining position, eventually organizing a small sewing circle to complete a layette in honor of the "Christ Child" to be given to a poor infant during the Christmas season. The following year, she encouraged a child of one her family's employees who told her he was unlikely to receive a Christmas gift to write letters to the Christ Child to request one. Thereafter, children began sending letters to the Christ Child requesting Christmas gifts, and she and her friends would fill the requests, noting them "from the Christ Child."

After her parents died suddenly when she was 18, she began conceiving the idea of the Christ Child Society envisioning an organization to serve poor children and families in the community inspired by seeing the Christ Child in every child.

The members of the original Society of 1887 consisted of her own  family members and friends, growing to become fully active in distributing layettes and garments and answering Christmas letter requests in 1890. In 1891, Mary Virginia hosted 41 poor children in the D.C. countryside for two weeks. This was the beginning of the Society's Fresh Air program. A Council was formed in 1894 to consist of the supervisors of different Society committees, and a Board of Managers was established in 1902. Mary Virginia believed firmly in lay service in the Church and she founded the Christ Child Society based on that belief.

In 1900, she opened the first official Christ Child House in Washington, D.C., featuring a library and offering musical classes for children, nurse-taught classes on the care and treatment of children for underprivileged mothers and many other classes. The Christ Child Society was formally incorporated in 1903, marked with a published mission of providing improved instruction and relief for poor children in Washington, then a segregated city, "regardless of race, creed, or color."

Life Magazine- George Skadding  1951
The Society also established a Committee on Dental Work, to provide free dental care for children in the public schools of the District, with significant funding from the U.S. Congress, as well as a program providing D.C. children with medical aid, braces and orthopedic supplies. The Society later turned over its significant children’s clothing distribution duties to the then-forming Catholic Charities organization in Washington, D.C.

Mary Virginia focused the society's early work on programs in the city’s poor neighborhoods, through service to minority and immigrant families, offering English language and other skills classes and religious instruction. In 1913, Merrick created a "Colored Auxiliary Committee" within the society. Some historians have criticized Merrick for allowing such racial segregation, while others have praised her for giving black members a representative on the society's board and autonomy in making decisions about internal operations in a time when African-American rights were severely limited in many other aspects of life.

Even as the Society's work grew in scope, professionalism, and geographic footprint, Merrick emphasized the Society's devotion to the Incarnation as the guiding force behind its ambitions as well as its members' personal service to children.

Life Mag.  George Skadding- 1951

In 1948, health concerns forced Mary Virginia  to resign from her position heading the National Society, but she was still elected Honorary National President of the Society, and served in that position until her death in 1955. She spent the last 30 years of her life in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where she was cared for by her sister and three secretaries and continued to work on behalf of the Society. Near the end of her life, in 1954, she said of her life's work:"The guiding principle of the Society has always been personal service rendered for the love of the Christ Child to the least of these little ones. In developing this purpose the Society has widened and deepened its activities to meet the exigencies of its time."

On January 5, 1955, Merrick was taken to Georgetown Hospital after complaining of pain, and died there of a cerebral hemorrhage on January 10, 1955, at the age of 88. Upon her death, the Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle, predicted she would be the first U.S.-born saint in the Catholic Church.

Mary Virginia Merrick led a life of virtue, both socially and spiritually, as recognized by social reformers and members of the Catholic faith alike.  Her message in support of conscience, in rejection of materialism, and in acknowledgement of human dignity remains just as relevant today as it did in the 20 century.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


I can never stress enough the effect of saints in our lives. When our youth group was here this summer I told them to look to teens their age who are up for canonization as role models.  When the going gets tough, the saints are there for us!

On July 31, the Holy Father gave a homily to  altar servers from across the globe.

“Do everything for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). So St Paul told us. To give glory to God in everything we do: that is the ultimate criterion for all our words and actions. It sums up what it means to be a friend of Jesus. It shows us the way when we are unsure about the right thing to do. It helps us recognize God’s voice speaking in the depths of our conscience so that we can know his will. God’s glory is the needle of our moral compass.

St Paul also gives us another criterion: “Try to please everyone in everything, so that they may be saved. All of us are God’s children; we all have the same desires, hopes and aspirations. When some of us grow discouraged, the rest of us should try to brighten their day and cheer them up. This helps all of us to remain friends and to show the love of God and the joy of faith in our everyday lives. If we keep doing this, it will help our brothers and sisters to come to know Jesus, our one Savior and the hope of the world.

Maybe you are wondering: “Can I do this? Isn’t it too much for me?” Certainly, it is a great mission, but it is not impossible. Once again, Saint Paul encourages us: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”. We can carry out this mission by imitating Jesus, like the apostle Paul and all the saints. Let us look to the saints. They are the living Gospel, because they translated the message of Christ in their own lives. Let us imitate the saints. Let everything we do be for God’s glory and the salvation of our brothers and sisters. But be attentive and remember: follow the saints on this path. On this path of holiness there is no room for the lazy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


Any newcomers to my Blog, may not know that I am an avid birder.  For about 8 years I also had a 4-H birding group that always cleaned up at our county fair with their research projects.

News of a new study (why does it take modern people so long to figure things out?) shows that natural sounds can help relieve stress.

We all know that  some noises, like TV, the radio, traffic, and even loud  conversations (ever tried to read in an airport when people are yaking on their cell phone?) make it hard to concentrate.  The songs of birds may make it easier. One expert thinks that birdsong relaxes people physically while stimulating them cognitively.  As the body relaxes while the mind becomes alert.

In a children’s hospital in Liverpool, England, the  sounds of birdsong carry along the hallways. It’s a recording of the dawn chorus from a nearby park, and the intent is to calm the anxious young patients. This hospital is one of a number of places in Europe where birdsong recordings are used to foster an uplifting and therapeutic experience.

Institutions have begun to put this logic to work. A primary school in Liverpool played a soundscape of birdsong and other nature sounds after a lunch break, when students would normally be drowsy. This appeared to help them concentrate and become more alert. And birdsong is now used at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, where a lounge plays bird sounds to help travelers relax before flights.

Researchers at the University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Queensland suggests that lower levels of depressionanxiety and stress were associated with the number of birds people could see in the afternoon. It discovered the benefits for mental health of being who were able to see birds, shrubs and trees around the home, whether people lived in urban or more leafy suburban neighborhoods.

According to the study, visual observation of nature is helpful in lowering the stress and anxiety for human beings. Daniel Cox, University of Exeter said, "This study starts to unpick the role that some key components of nature play for our mental well-being. Birds around the home and nature in general, show great promise in preventative health care, making cities healthier, happier places to live."

Research conducted by Cox found that watching birds makes people feel relaxed and connected to nature which played a vital role in lowering down stress and anxiety levels in a person.

Therefore, not merely physical health benefits but nature in every form benefits our over-all health. Fresh oxygen, challenging treks, beautiful scenery, melodious nature sounds, etc., all contribute to your health if observed keenly. 

Experts (not birders obviously)  say if you’re feeling stressed out, try playing a bit of birdsong.  Any birder can tell you,  listen to the real thing.

Thursday, August 9, 2018


Praying- Dorina Costras (France)

Interesting article this past week which give some statistics that make the USA not as  bad as it can sometimes seem. The U.S. remains a deeply religious  country and the most devout of all the rich Western democracies.

Americans pray more often, are more likely to attend weekly religious services and give an importance  to faith in their lives than adults in other wealthy, Western democracies, such as Canada, Australia and most European countries, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.

More than half of American adults (55%) say they pray daily, compared with 25% in Canada, 18% in Australia and 6% in Great Britain. The average European country stands at 22%.  When it comes to their prayer life  Americans are more like people in many poorer, developing nations than people in richer countries. We compared to Bolivia (56%), Bangladesh (57%) and South Africa (52%).  

Prayer before Meal- Vicente Manansula (d. 1981)

As it turns out, the U.S. is the only country out of 102 examined in the study that has higher-than-average levels of both prayer and wealth. In every other country surveyed with a gross domestic product of more than $30,000 per person, fewer than 40% of adults say they pray every day. Countries we tend to think of a very Catholic  seem to have lost their roots. Once very religious Italy has a percentage of 22, Ireland  less than 20, Germany has  less than 10.  We pray that prayer in our country continues.

Monday, August 6, 2018


Mother Ruth with Mother Catarina

Our oldest nun, Mother Ruth Barry, died om Saturday August 4.  It was not unexpected as she just reached her 91st birthday.  She had still been doing the community’s wash until a few months ago, and in the last weeks we saw a rapid decline.  Her last words to Mother Prioress were:  I want to go to the Lord.  I am ready.

Mother was born in Wrens, Georgia to a tenant farmer, whose main crop was cotton. Her mother made her her own picking bag when she was four, so she could join the family in the work.  Mother loved telling stories of her life on the farm.  She had too many brothers and sisters to remember (for us anyway) and kept in frequent contact with her nieces and grand nieces and nephews, all of whom still live in the south.  She worked for many years in New York before joining our Abbey in Connecticut in 1968.  

Clean up

She loved the outdoors and for years was in charge of the  vegetable gardens, and  was the Abbey Shepherdess.  Her  Cheviot sheep were her pride and joy.  When she came to Shaw Island she helped me with our Cotswold sheep and kept a sharp eye on them and the llamas, even as she aged.

         While we mourn her passing, we also rejoice that she is with the Lord in His glory.

The Shepherdess
She walks-the lady of my delight-
A shepherdess of sheep.
Her flocks are thoughts. She keeps them white;
She keeps them from the steep;
She feeds them on the fragrant height,
And folds them in for sleep.

She roams maternal hills and bright,
Dark valleys safe and deep.
Into that tender breast at night
The chastest stars may peep.
She walks-the lady of my delight-
A shepherdess of sheep.

She holds her little thoughts in sight,
Though gay they run and leap.
She is so circumspect and right;
She has her soul to keep.
She walks-the lady of my delight-

A shepherdess of sheep.
Alice Meynell

With Shanley

Thursday, August 2, 2018


I grew up with the phrase “The family that prays together stays together”  The priest who coined that phrase, VENERABLE PATRICK PEYTON, is one step closer to sainthood.  As they say there is a saint for everybody, and we all have our favorites.  Father Peyton was not one of mine, though I certainly have nothing against the man.  Maybe because I grew up in  a family with a mixed marriage (my mother never converted, in spite of  “Catechism classes” two times).  So we never prayed the rosary at home, nor do I remember in grammar or high school having the rosary said on  a regular basis.

I do remember once going to the L.A. colleseum for May rosary  with my best friend Alice's family and Father Peyton leading us in the rosary.  Most probably for me, because I grew up with Hollywood nearby, I did not pay much attention to personages related to it.  Fortunately, all the nuns I had for 12 years in school heavily enforced in our small minds the true meaning of the Eucharist, so for me that is where my devotion has been foremost.

This does not mean I do not have great devotion to our Blessed Mother or that I never say the rosary. On the contrary, I seem to pray it more now that I am older, and havemore and more time for Adoration. Also having been a Benedictine for almost 50 years I have the Divine Office  which takes up most of my prayer day.  

But back to our venerable. He was born in County MayoIreland  in 1909, sixth in a family of four girls and five boys living in a small cottage on a 14-acre stony farmland near the foot of the Ox Mountains. The Peyton family was a deeply religious  subsistence-farming family. Later on, some members of the family migrated to the United States.

With his brother Thomas

Patrick was one of the children having the privilege of going to school. He was sent to his mother's relatives in Bonniconlon to study. As a young man, Patrick was rebellious and had moments of defying authority, resulting in dropping out of school. Despite the youthful rebellion, he remained close to his family, respectful of his parents, and was deeply religious. By his teen years, he was contemplating a vocation to become a priest. His curiosity about pursuing a vocation was set aside for a couple of years. Instead he would concentrate in helping his family earn a living when their father became too ill to work the farm.  

Some of his elder sisters were already in America and were sending remittances to help the family left behind. In 1927, his sisters in America sent word that Patrick and his older brother Thomas could sail to the United States and join them in Scranton, Pennsylvania. On May 13, 1928, the Peyton brothers set sail.

The two took the train from New York to Pennsylvania and lived at the home of their already married sister Beatrice, who was working as a housekeeper for the state Attorney General. Patrick's sister Nellie had already spoken to Monsignor Paul Kelly of the St. Stanislaus Cathedral and told of Patrick's inclination to pursue a priestly vocation. Monsignor Kelly told Nellie to bring her younger brother Patrick to the cathedral as soon as he arrived. By June 1928, with hard luck in finding a job, Patrick finally met Monsignor Kelly and was offered a job of becoming the cathedral's sexton.

During the spring of 1929, Father Pat Dolan of the Congregation of Holy Cross came to the cathedral in Scranton in search of new seminarians. Patrick and his brother Thomas formally entered the main seminary of the Congregation of Holy Cross in Notre Dame, Indiana in 1932.

After completing high school studies at the Holy Cross School in Notre Dame,  Patrick was admitted to the Moreau Seminary within the University of Notre Dame in 1932, pursuing a  Bachelor of Arts, excelling in Philosophy.

In 1938, Patrick's health took a turn when he started coughing blood. For months he refused to acknowledge his hemorrhages until he could no longer concentrate on his work. He was brought to nearby Providence Hospital. Doctors discovered advanced stages of tuberculosis on the upper lobe of Patrick's right lung. At the start, Patrick was despondent and feared this was the end of his young life. His sister Nellie traveled to Notre Dame and reminded him of the never-ending love of the Blessed Mother and how their family lived the life of prayer, especially the Holy Rosary. Father Cornelius Hagerty was also influential in this stage of Patrick's life, encouraging the young seminarian to give it all up to God and seek the hand of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The doctors discovered that the patches in his lungs disappeared.

He immediately packed his bags and left for the Holy Cross College in Washington, D.C. to complete his theology studies and take his final vows. In May 1941, a special dispensation from the Vatican allowed Patrick to be ordained as a priest but he must complete his studies after being subjected to severe illness. On June 15, Patrick and his brother Thomas were finally ordained at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in the University of Notre Dame as members of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

His first assignment was in Albany, New York as the chaplain of the Holy Cross Brothers of the Vincentian Institute. But he was certain that his return to health was for a different, specific purpose.

From Albany, New York, Father Peyton's mission started as letters of appeal to Bishops, the Catholic lay, even to non-Christians arguing and appealing the importance of the families praying the Family Rosary as the war raged on. Father Peyton won points for his mission to bring families together later on especially after the end of the war.

Utilizing radio, filmsoutdoor advertising and later television, with the help of celebrities, artists and advertising practitioners, Father Peyton was one of the first pioneers of evangelism using mass media.

He would also pioneer in conducting public rallies to bring families to pledge to pray the Rosary as a unit. These Rosary rallies attended by millions would become the most significant event where Father Peyton could be best remembered. According to historian Hugh Wilford, "Peyton himself was deeply conscious of the political dimension of his mission, proudly proclaiming in a 1946 radio broadcast, 'The rosary is the offensive weapon that will destroy Communism—the great evil that seeks to destroy the faith'.

These Rosary Crusades were duplicated in different dioceses with attendees growing in numbers taking Father Peyton across the globe from Brussels to Madrid,  across Asia to Manila,, down south of the equator to New Zealand and Papua New Guinea and into several South American cities like Peru and  Brazil. He was a popular and charismatic figure  known for his strong Irish accent.

With a Cold War threatening a new world peace, Father Peyton was highly instrumental in promoting prayers, winning the hearts of leaders and non-Christians, making visible the messages of the Blessed Virgin Mary, including the recognition from the Vatican from Pope Pius XII to Pope John Paul II. His efforts throughout the tumultuous period of human history in the 20th century earned him the title "The Rosary Priest".

Controversy hounded Father Peyton throughout his ministry as some accused him of being a front for American intelligence during his missions in Latin America. Father Peyton's Rosary Crusades in Latin America were funded and, to some extent, directed by the Central Intelligence Agency, which was interested in combating leftist political movements in Latin America. While the CIA determined the locations of the Crusades, it did not influence the methods employed or Father Peyton's goal of promoting family prayer, the Rosary and devotion to the Blessed Mother.

Others accused Father Peyton of living an ostentatious lifestyle, living a life with Hollywood artists who volunteered their efforts in helping promote his mission. But Father Peyton maintained that he never solicited funds for his ministry, and the well-off were more than generous to voluntarily donate a portion of their wealth all in the name of the Blessed Mother.

Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., died peacefully holding a Rosary in a very small room on June 3, 1992 in San Pedro, California.

Venerable Patrick Peyton's work continues today in his original Ministries, Family Rosary, Family Theater and Family Rosary International, and in the Father Patrick Peyton Family Institute.