Wednesday, November 28, 2018


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.