Sunday, May 19, 2024

MODERN SAINT FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT

 

 

A friend of Pope Leo XIII and the teacher of St. Gemma Galgani, BLESSED ELENA GUERRA is known for her spiritual writings and her passionate devotion to the Holy Spirit. When Pope St. John XXIII beatified her in 1959, he called her the “modern day apostle of the Holy Spirit”.

She was born into a noble family in Lucca, Italy in 1835, one of six children. She was well-educated and formed in her faith. In her childhood she was known to be talented but timid in nature.

 For much of her 20s, Elena was bedridden for eight years with a serious illness, a time in which she spent meditating on Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers.

 During a pilgrimage to Rome with her father after her recovery, she felt called to consecrate herself to God.

 She attended the third public session of Vatican I in April 1870 and in June met Pope Pius IX.  She was so moved by seeing the Holy Father, that upon returning to Lucca, she vowed to offer her life for the pope.

 Elena wrote more than a dozen letters to Pope Leo XIII between 1895 and 1903 in which she urged him to exhort all Catholics to call upon the Holy Spirit in prayer.

He heeded her request and published three documents on the Holy Spirit, including a letter asking the entire Church to pray a novena to the Holy Spirit leading up to Pentecost in 1895, and his encyclical on the Holy Spirit, Divinum Illud Munus, in 1897.

 Pentecost is not over. In fact, it is continually going on in every time and in every place, because the Holy Spirit desired to give Himself to all men and all who want Him can always receive Him, so we do not have to envy the apostles and the first believers; we only have to dispose ourselves like them to receive Him well, and He will come to us as He did to them”, Elena wrote.

 Against the wishes of her family, in her mid-30s Guerra formed a religious community dedicated to education, which eventually became the Oblates of the Holy Spirit. One of her students, St. Gemma Galgani, wrote in her autobiography about the strong spiritual impact of her education by the Oblate sisters. Bl. Elena personally taught the future saint French and Church history and exempted her from the monthly school fee when her father fell into bankruptcy.

 At one point she corresponded with St. Arnold Janssen SVD (d.1909), a German-Dutch Catholic priest and missionary. He founded the Society of the Divine Word, a Catholic missionary religious congregation, also known as the Divine Word Missionaries, as well as two congregations for women. He was canonized on 5 October 2003, by Pope John Paul II.


True for many spiritual founders, Bl. Elena faced difficulties in the last years of her life when some of her sisters accused her of bad administration, leading her to resign from her duties as superior.  She died on Holy Saturday on April 11, 1914. Her tomb is located in Lucca in the Church of Sant’Agostino. The Oblate sisters whom Bl. Elena founded are found today in Italy, Cameroon, Canada, Philippines, and Rwanda.

 St. John Bosco referred to Elena as a "golden pen" in reference to her spiritual writings.  Her feast is April 11.

 

Saturday, May 18, 2024

SPREADING FIRE

 

I came to bring fire to the Earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! (Luke 12:49)


Fire You came to cast upon the earth
fire, You Yourself, a raining white light.
Fire tongues upon Your apostles
descended—You in glory—tongues
of the Word made Man in the dome
of the heavens;
of the luminous body
that sustains itself on fish—offspring of water—
silent and cold fish of the abyss
that makes its nest far beneath raging gales.

You are fire, which ever rises toward heaven
seeking the sun, its father, its home forever,
fire which sets ablaze our blood and burns
the flesh of sin, the pulp of the fruit
of the tree of knowledge, for Your blood
is fire on the cross, Seraph of Sorrow;
yes truly You are the Seraph, glowing ember
of love, rose of the tree of the cross.

Two black wings envelop Your head,
a pair hovered about Your feet
on the heights of Tabor and of Calvary,
and You fly to Your Father, with Your arms,
wings of fire, splitting the darkness.
And the joints of Your cross shudder
at the mystical rumbling of Your flight.

            Miguel de Unamuno (d. 1936)  - Spain

Sunday, May 12, 2024

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY


The icon, Mother of God of Lasting Things, was written by Mary Katsilometes of Portland. It depicts Mary as a Coast Salish woman holding the Native Child Jesus. It was commissioned by St. Paul Parish on the Swinomish Indian Reservation near La Conner, Wa. Jesuit Father Jerry Graham was pastor at the time. This lovely work was blessed and installed at St. Paul Church during Pentecost Mass on May 23, 2010.

 Both Mary and Jesus wear traditional earth-toned clothing — Mary’s skirt is made of cedar bark strips, and Mother and Child are wrapped in traditional blankets woven of dog hair and tufts of mountain goat fur.

 They are surrounded by moving water, symbolizing Christian baptism as well as creation, and leaping salmon, representing Christ feeding his people with lasting nourishment from his Living Water.

 The figures are framed in an almond shape (mandorla), representing a connection between heaven and earth. The mandorla’s three bands of color represent the Trinity, while the gold leaf used in the icon represents the divine energy of God radiating outward.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

SEMINARIAN MARTYR

 

BLESSED ROLANDO RIVI died as a martyr in a little town called Monchio, in the province of Modena, at the age of 14.  He was born in 1931, and began serving Mass at the age of five and made his first Communion on the feast of Corpus Christi, June 16, 1938.

In 1942, at the age of 11, he entered the minor seminary at Marola, and was admired by his teachers as an exemplary student, and a boy of sincere and serious devotion. As was the custom in those days, he was clothed in the cassock, and wore the saturno as part of the regular clerical dress. Even at this young age, he expressed the desire to become a missionary. He was noted as both an excellent singer and musician, participating enthusiastically in the seminary choir.

 He showed himself to be a leader in every activity, and his grandmother is reported to have said that he would end up as “a saint or a scoundrel.” He was known to encourage his friends to come to church for Mass or devotions after a soccer game. During his summer vacation, he continued to dress and live as a seminarian, with daily Mass, rosary, meditation and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He said that the cassock was a sign “that I belong to Jesus.”

 In the summer of 1944, the seminary at Marola was occupied by German troops, and Rolando was forced to return home. He was able, however, to continue his studies with the local parish priest. He continued to wear the cassock in public, despite his parents’ concerns that this would make him a target of the anticlerical violence then rampant in north-central Italy. By the time Rolando returned home from the seminary, his former parish priest had been moved out of the area for safety’s sake. In the years immediately after the collapse of Italian fascism in July 1943, nearly 100 priests were murdered by Communist partisans in the part of the Emilia-Romagna known as the “red triangle.”

On April 10, 1945, a group of these partisans kidnapped Rolando as he was studying in a little grove near his home. Later, his parents discovered both his books and a note from the partisans warning them not to look for him. He was taken to a farmhouse, beaten and tortured for three days, under the absurd accusation that he had been a spy for the Germans. He was then dragged into the woods, stripped of his cassock, and shot twice in the head. The partisans rolled his cassock up into a ball and used it to play soccer.

 His father and parish priest discovered his body the following day. He was buried temporarily in the cemetery of the town where he was killed, but tremoved a month later to his native place, San Valentino.

Since the day of his death often falls in Holy Week or Easter week, his liturgical feast is kept on the day of this translation, May 29th. 


Thursday, May 9, 2024

DO NOT LEAVE US

 

 



The Ascension, Fray Luis de León

How can You leave Your flock,

O Holy Shepherd, this valley deep and dark,
while You break the pure
air, departing to regions immortal and secure? 

Those once blessed,
now sad, afflicted,
those nourished at Your breast
and now by You dispossessed,
where will they turn their faces?

Can their eyes,
having seen the beauty of Your face,
see anything now that does not fret them?
And to ears that heard Your sweetness,
is not all else clamor and dullness? 

And that swollen sea,
who now shall calm it?
Who tame the burning wind?
With You in eclipse,
what star shall guide the ship to port?

O envious cloud,
do you grudge even our brief delight?
Where do You fly in such haste?
Your departure, so splendid and bright!
But how poor and blind You leave us!

 

Painting- Salvador Dali- Spain

 

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

CRUCIFIXION AT EASTER

 

While the Orthodox Church just celebrated the joyous feast of Easter, May 5 (following the Julian calendar), the  Ukraine is still under seige by the Russians.  Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, said in his Easter greeting that “Ukraine is undergoing its crucifixion on the cross together with Christ.”


“The Savior Himself suffers in the body of the Ukrainian people. This gives meaning to our suffering and serves as a source of our resilience and vitality to win.

Indeed, today Christ even dies in the bodies of our soldiers on the battlefield. He is the one being tortured in Russian captivity, mocked, and once again spat upon by all those who deny the dignity of man in the modern world."

 And in his Angelus this week Pope Francis said: “Please, continue to pray for tormented Ukraine – it suffers a great deal! – and also for Palestine and Israel, that there may be peace, that dialogue may be strengthened and bear good fruit. No to war, yes to dialogue.”   


Painting is by Ukrainian artist, painter, photographer and video-installation artist, as well as a lutenist composer, Roman Turovsky,  who was born in Kyiv in 1961. He studied art under his father, Mikhail Turovsky, also a well-known painter. His family emigrated to New York City in 1979 for creative freedom not granted under the USSR, and many of Mikhais’s paintings reflect the turmoil that his family endured as refugees and immigrants. 

Thursday, May 2, 2024

JOY IN A SHORT LIFE

 


One can tell by the many photos of this new martyr, that she radiated joy.  “The greatest gift is that I know God and I can’t keep it to myself, I have to spread it! If I can help someone, make them smile, make them happier, teach them something, then I want to do it.”

One can ask, why such a giving person, who gave her life to others in such a joyful way, can be taken so young? But perhaps, like many saints, she will do more good  now then when on this earth.


Soon to be blessed,  HELENA AGNIESZKA KMIEC was born on February 9th 1991 in Kracow. She grew up in Libiąż. In 1998, she began her education at the primary school run by the Catholic Educators Association in Libiąż. She attended the middle school and secondary school there, but having completed the first year of secondary school, she left for Great Britain winning a two-year scholarship at Leweston School in Sherborne.

 After graduating in 2009, in October she began her studies at the Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Technology of the Silesian University of Technology, with classes conducted in English. Having received the MSc degree in 2014, she started work as an airline stewardess. 

She loved music and began attending the solo singing class of Joanna Wojnowska at the 1st and 2nd degree State Music School in Gliwice. During the four years of musical education, she performed on stage on numerous occasions, such as concerts and shows, the most important of which was her diploma recital. Singing was always present in her life, and she was a permanent member of the Campus Ministry Choir in Gliwice.

Apart from singing and music, she led an active life: hiking in the mountains and cycling. But her real goal was to help others. She worked with children at a Caritas day room and was involved in the activities of the Catholic Academic Association in Gliwice. 

 In 2012, she joined the Salvator Missionary Volunteering group, associated with the Salvatorian Society. As a member of the group, she was sent for two-week trips to Galgahévíz, Hungary, and to Timisoara, Romania, where she ran day camps for children at Salvatorian parishes.

Before being sent on one of these missions, Helena wrote: “I received the grace of God, … the gift freely given to give to others, and I have to share this gift! All the skills I have, the abilities I acquire, the talents I develop, are not meant to serve me, but so that I can use them to help others.”

In 2013, she went on a two-month mission to Zambia, where she worked with  street children, teaching them to read and write, teaching English and mathematics, and helping them in everyday life at the Salvation Home in the capital city of Lusaka, and the Kulanga Bana Farm in Chamulimba, located around 70km away. 

 On January 8th 2017, she started her service at the missionary outpost led by Servant Sisters of Dębica in Cochabamba, central Bolivia. On January 24th, the day care center for children, where Helena stayed with another volunteer, Anita Szuwald, was robbed. During the incident, the attacker stabbed Helena. She died despite efforts to save her.  She was 26 years old.

In March 2018, a Bolivian court sentenced her killer. Romualdo Mamio dos Santos, to 30 years in prison. 

The President of the Republic of Poland  on February 7, 2017, posthumously awarded the Gold Cross of Merit for her achievements in charitable and social activities and commitment to people in need of help. 

 The  Mass  was presided over by Cardinal  Stanislaw Dziwisz. The funeral ceremony was of a state nature. Helena Kmieć was buried in the cemetery at the parish church of St. Saint Barbara in Libiąż.

 

The beatification process of Helena Kmieć will begin on May 10, 2024 in the Chapel of the Archbishops' Palace of Krakow and from now on she will be entitled to the title of Servant of God. In May 2017, the Society of the Divine Savior established the Helena Kmieć Foundation, whose aim is, among other things, to promote Helena and help children and young people in missionary countries.