Monday, February 18, 2019


The Studio of Maneno
Outside of the Studio Maneno
When most Americans hear the name Peru, they think of Lima or Machu Picchu, but those who have followed my blogs from the early days, know there is another part where I spent a total of several months- very north and very dear to my heart. 

Our next man being considered for canonization is an American who spent 20 years in the Prelature of Chulucanas, Peru.  This small, almost unknown to Americans, town, is famous for its pottery, and I made several trips there, always in the evenings, as the trek was inland and hot.  I not only brought home some pieces of the famed pottery- many birds-  but one piece of Mother & Child with bird, was our monastery Christmas card that first year of my visit.

Our Christmas Card Madonna

SERVANT of GOD JOHN JOSEPH McKNIFF, an Augustinian, was born on September 5, 1905, in Media, Pennsylvania.  After completing grammer school, he entered Villanova Prep on the campus of Villanova College, as a postulant. He was accepted into the novitiate in 1923, professed simple vows on June 22, 1924, and solemn vows three years later. In 1927 John graduated with an A.B. degree from Villanova College was sent to the Order's International College, Saint Monica, in Rome, to study theology. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1930, and continued post-graduate studies at the Roman Academy of Saint Thomas, where he earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1932. 
In 1960 Father McKniff was granted an S.T.L. by the Order.

Father McKniff's first assignment after his return to the United States was  teaching. In 1935 Father McKniff volunteered to go to the Philippines, where he taught chemistry at the College of Saint Augustine, Iloilo, on the island of Panay. A serious accident in the chemistry laboratory hospitalized him, and in 1939 he was sent to Villanova Preparatory School, Ojai, CA, to recuperate.

A few months later he was sent to Cuba to teach at the Colegio San Agustin. Within two years he was named pastor of Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje in the old section of Havana City, and for the next 27 years he served the spiritual and physical needs of the people there. He opened a clinic, provided a parish school, enrolled many in the Legion of Mary, and introduced the Augustinian Third Order. With the coming to power of the Castro regime he was one of the few American priests, and the sole Augustinian, not expelled by the government. From 1962 to 1968 he continued to care for the faithful under the most difficult conditions.

When, in 1968, he was compelled for reasons of health to return to the United States the Cuban government took the opportunity to revoke his passport and refuse permission to return. He then served the needs of the people in Troy, N.Y., and Lawrence, Massachusetts.

In 1972, after several requests, Father McKniff was permitted to go to the Prelature of Chulucanas, Peru. There he assisted Bishop John McNabb, O.S.A., in several parishes. He was associate pastor of San Jose Obrero in Chulucanas and taught at the diocesan seminary in Trujillo. During stops at Miami, he would visit former members of Santo Cristo Parish living in exile. In 1994, while in Miami he became ill and on the morning of his flight to Lima, Peru, was taken to Palmetto Hospital in Miami. Over the next weeks his condition grew worse. Visited by many Cuban friends and with his brother Augustinians at his bedside, he died on March 26, 1994. Father McKniff was 88 years of age. 

In 1999, following upon the steady requests of many people of Peru, the diocesan process of the Cause of canonization of Father McKniff was initiated,  not in his native country, but by the poor people in Chulucanas.  Here is one priest who "died with his boots on".

Friday, February 15, 2019


Like everyone today I sometimes get caught up into the web of negativity regarding the situation- crises- in our world today, but some interesting facts have recently come to light from Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times.  It seems that 2018 was “actually the best year in human history.”

Heifer International

Nicholas is a winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, a regular CNN contributor,  and writer of an op-ed column for The New York Times since November 2001. According to The Washington Post,  he "rewrote opinion journalism" with his emphasis on human rights abuses and social injustices, such as human trafficking and the Darfur conflict.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa has described him as an "honorary African" for shining a spotlight on neglected conflicts.

While most of us  think global poverty is getting worse, in reality it is better. In the early 1980s, 44% of the world lived in extreme poverty, which was then defined as making less than $2 a day.  Today less than 10% live in that same poverty.

Every day some amazing things happened last year: over 300,000 people got clean drinking water-  which must mean less disease, almost 300,000 gained electricity,  and over 600,00 hooked up to internet-  this is per day!

All of this means people in third world countries will live longer, have better education and generally have a better life.
Heifer International
So when you are tempted to fall back into a hopeless feeling of “why try?”  just remember that there is hope for us all.  And remember these advances do not just happen on their own, it is caring individuals who make them happen.

Monday, February 11, 2019


As readers know I am always on the hunt for new saints and saints to be proclaimed by the Church. Having a great devotion to St. Marianne of Molokai, I was fascinated to learn of a French couple, both up for canonization, who gave their lives to the lepers in Africa.

SERVANTS of GOD MADELEINE and RAOUL FOLLEREAU, met when they were 15 years old.  Madeleine Boudou was born in Nevers in 1902 and Raoul in  1903.  They were married in 1925. They had 30 years together, being inseparable, always together as one in their work.

At the age of 17 Raoul  published “Book of Love”, centered on the phrase “Being happy is to make others happy.” It sold 10 million copies and was translated into 35 languages. Being a journalist, Raoul was sent as a special envoy of the French newspaper La Nation to follow in the footsteps of Blessed Charles de Foucauld. 

He spent a time of solitude in Tamanrasset, Algeria, a city surrounded by desert among the Tuareg people. Here he heard the voice of Bl. Charles.  When he returned to France, he  had no doubt he and Madeleine would devote their lives to lepers. But after a few years Europe was taken over by Nazi madness.

Raoul was a celebrity: a writer, a poet, and journalist. He had always professed his Catholic faith and his anti-Nazi beliefs openly, to the point of publicly describing Hitler as an “antichrist.” He went into hiding like many in the French resistance, and sought shelter in a convent of nuns on the outskirts of Lyon. He was the gardener, but he continued to work for “his lepers.”

As the war raged on, in 1942 he launched his “first crusade:” an initiative of solidarity called “The hour of the poor.” Over the next few years, others campaigns followed: “Christmas of Fr. Foucauld,” in which he invited people to donate for children in need, “The shoe of the leper,” the “Strike of egoism” and “The day of the leper.” Thanks to his charisma and tenacity, these initiatives enjoyed incredible success.

After World War II, Raoul and Madeleine  traveled from Africa to Asia, stopping at several islands in the Indian Ocean to fully understand the harrowing reality of the lepers: “In the 20th century of Christianity I found lepers in jail, locked up in mental hospitals, buried in desecrated cemeteries and confined in the desert with barbed wire, search lights and machine guns. I have seen their wounds covered with flies, their contaminated hovels, their guards with rifles. I have seen an unimaginable world of horror, sorrow and despair.”

In 1953, with money they had gathered by participating in many conferences around the world, the City of Lepers was inaugurated in Adzopé in the Ivory Coast. It was made up of houses built in the forest, laboratories, a radio station and cinema. Millions of other lepers around the world would also be helped in the years that followed.

In 1968, Roual managed to get 4 million people involved, especially young people, to ask the UN to donate what would be “the cost of a day of war for peace,” and USA and USSR to donate the cost of a bomber to fight leprosy.

The request was ignored, but Roual’s  numbers were impressive: he cured and healed a million lepers; he traveled two million miles to collect millions of dollars for them. Thanks to his dedication, the wounds of leprosy have been diminished.

In all his work, Raoul always had Madeleine at his side as secretary, assistant, counselor — a pure, loving presence. They continually traveled together.

“When you are in two, you are invincible,” said Raoul. He never missed a chance to recall that he could do so only because she was at his side.

Raoul Follereau died in 1977, Madeleine Boudou in 1991. The beatification process began for each separately some years ago. In addition to the great work for lepers, which continues today, the love between those two is a beautiful testament they left. It was their mutual love that guided Follereau’s work. It made him understand that the world needs bread, but also tenderness.

The work of Raoul and Madeleine Follereau lives on through dozens
of organizations around the world. Since 1961, the activity of Raoul Follereau
on behalf of leprosy sufferers in the southern part of the world is continued
by the Italian Association Friends of Raoul Follereau.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019


VENERABLE BERNARDO VAZ de CONCELOS was a Benedictine monk, mystic, poet, and authored  "Canticle of Love". He studied at the University of Coimbra and was part of the St Vincent de Paul Society which did works of evangelization and charity, especially with the poor. He was devoted to regular Eucharistic Adoration.  He was also an editor of the journal which studied democracy.

Venerable Bernardo was born in São Romão Corgo (Celorico de Basto), Portugal in 1902.  He discerned a call to the monastic life and entered the Monastery of Singeverga in 1924. His name in religion was Brother Bernardo of the Annunciation. He was sent to the Abbey of Mont-César in Belgium to study theology, but returned home in a year’s time due a diagnosis of tuberculosis.

The illness weakened his body and yet he was peaceful and trusting in Divine Providence. In a letter to a fellow patient Bernardo wrote:

“Don’t get delivered to sadness that only serves to disable our best energies … it expands your heart and let Him be the life-giving Sun of joy. Joy, but with so many ordeals?  The cross follows us wherever we go and we have to take it.”

While he made his solemn profession in 1928 he would die before he was ordained to the priesthood. 

The last six years of his life were filled with great suffering but he knew how to offer it for the sake of others, making it a "Song of Love"   

His poetry deeply impressed the Catholic media of the 1930s to this day his poems catapult our souls   It penetrates the "theological-liturgical sense of the sacraments”, giving and sacrifices He also wrote the book "The Mass and the Inner Life”.

Brother Bernardo died in the early hours of July 4, 1932, after a long suffering. He is buried in the parish church of São Romão do Corgo.

The holiness of this Portuguese monk and poet "is now recognized not only by the great number of faithful who admire him,  but also by theologians, Bishops and Cardinals of the Holy See who have studied his writings and holiness of life.   We pray that we soon can elevate him to the ranks of a great Benedictine saint.

Saturday, February 2, 2019


New Benedictine monasteries seem to be popping up all over the world in the strangest of places and started by Americans.  Silverstream in Meath, Ireland is one example, but the latest is in one of my favorite places, Tasmania.  I visited there 12 years ago, staying with a vet friend I knew from California. It is so unlike the rest of Australia, being a lot more our San Juan Islands.

Gorgeous hill country of Southern Midlands
“Separated from the Australian mainland by 140 miles of the treacherous pitch and toss of Bass Strait, Tasmania is a byword for is like outer space on earth and invoked by those at the 'centre' to stand for all that is far-flung, strange and unverifiable,” Nicholas Shakespeare writes in his book “In Tasmania.”

Notre Dame Priory is led by Father Pius Mary Noonan, a monk from Kentucky who lived previously as a monk in a French monastery in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain.

Tasmania’s first Benedictine monastery is near the small town of Colebrook on over 2,700 acres of green pastureland  in the island’s idyllic Southern Midlands, which is about 45 minutes north of Hobart.. While I can’t say I visited this town, I did drive several times through this gorgeous hilly country, which had more sheep than people ( typical Australia). Interestingly, the land is named Jerusalem Estate, as the Jerusalem river runs through it.

“For us, the abundance of the house of God is the immense spiritual treasure of the monastic life which it is our honor and privilege to bring to Tasmania, and through it, to the rest of Australia. The abundance is meant to fill the monks to the brim, as they each strive to reach perfection, and it is meant to overflow through the continual prayer that they send up before the throne of God, and also through the retreats which allow souls to share in that abundance in a more tangible way.”  Prior Noonan

The young Benedictines - their average age is less than 30, and most of them, with the exception of one monk and the American prior- come from mainland Australia. In just  two years there are  10 monks.

At present they say daily Mass in the old church in Colebrook. Soon the local bishop is having an old wooden Church moved to the site, so the monks can pray on their own land. Like us they sing Gregorian chant.
As part of their labora, they lead silent and guided retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola

.In 2017 meeting with members of Benedictine communities in Rome, Pope Francis said the order offered quiet and prayer amidst a rushed world.
“In this age, when people are so busy that they do not have enough time to listen to God’s voice, your monasteries and convents become like oases, where men and women of all ages, backgrounds, cultures and religions can discover the beauty of silence,”   These monks “Downunder” certainly fill the bill!