Monday, April 29, 2013


Zita   1911

We have considered Bl. Karl of Austria, now we look at his wife  Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma (Zita Maria delle Grazie Adelgonda Micaela Raffaela Gabriella Giuseppina Antonia Luisa Agnese).  She was born in 1892, near Lucca, Italy. She was the seventeenth child of the dispossessed Robert I, Duke of Parma and his second wife, Infanta Maria Antonia of Portugal.

In 1911, Princess Zita married Archduke Karl of Austria, the great-nephew of Emperor Franz-Joseph. This union satisfied dynastic demands but it also represented a marriage between two people bound together by a profound love and nourished by the same Catholic faith.

In 1914, the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Heir to the Throne of Austria-Hungary, left Karl in the position of Heir Apparent to the Emperor. In 1916, when Franz-Joseph died, the young Archduke (he was 29 years old) became Emperor Karl I of Austria, and King Karl IV of Hungary.

During the two years of his reign, from 1916 to 1918, Empress Zita stood by her husband’s side, supporting all of his initiatives.  At the same time, the couple led an exemplary life, marked by great piety and blessed by the birth of eight children.

Zita as Empress
After the end of World War I in 1918, the Habsburgs were deposed when the new countries of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs States were formed.

By the fall of the next year Austria-Hungary was coming apart forcing Charles and Zita and their family to flee the country to Switzerland. Zita was a great source of strength and comfort to her husband in these hard times and the strain on her had to be great. In 1920 she showed again what she was made of when she accompanied Charles in his effort to regain his throne in Hungary. After both attempts failed the family eventually settled on the Portuguese island of Madeira where Charles died not long after. After her husband's death, Zita and her son Otto served as the symbols of unity for the exiled dynasty.

Zita & Karl with first 4 children
A widow at the age of 29, expecting a child that would never know her father and lacking any resources, Empress Zita started a long exile moving to Spain and later to Belgium. When Engelbert Dollfuss became chancellor of Austria the possibility of a restoration seemed good but all hopes were ended when Dollfuss was assassinated and Austria was occupied by Germany. World War II and the invasion of Belgium forced the family to flee to the United States where two of her sons joined the American army. Empress Zita contributed by raising money in the US and Canada.

She never remarried and carried on with the same grace and dignity she always showed, raising her children in royal fashion and never giving up hope for a Hapsburg restoration. In 1982 she was finally allowed to return to Austria where she died, still loved and respected by all, in 1989 at the age of 96. Her funeral was attended by 6,000 people, over 200 Hapsburg and Bourbon-Parma royals and a personal representative of Pope John Paul II.


On October 3, 2004, Pope John Paul II beatified Emperor Karl.  The Church assigned the celebration of the feast day of Blessed Karl of Austria to October 21, the day Zita and he were married.  The edifying life of Empress Zita, her unshakeable faith, and her moral strength in adversity make her a model of an exemplary wife and Christian mother.  Through her family ties that cross over international borders, Empress Zita is a symbol of peace among the nations. Her cause for canonization has been introduced.

Zita with her 8 children

Zita & Karl

Friday, April 26, 2013


Royals seem to be much in the news these days, especially with a new king for the Netherlands, the first in four generations, to be "crowned on April 30. I find it fascinating that some modern royals are being considered for canonization. Remember Jesus' words that it is easier for a camel to fit thru the eye of a needle than a rich man to gain eternal life. Yet some have lived such exemplary lives that they deserve our consideration.

BLESSED KARL, was a model of holiness in his public, family and spiritual life. He was beatified on October 3, 2004.

He was, among other titles, the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was the last Emperor of Austria, the last King of Hungary, the last King of Bohemia and Croatia, and the last King of Galicia and Lodomeria, and the last monarch of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine

Charles of Austria was born August 17, 1887, in the Castle of Persenbeug in the region of Lower Austria. His parents were the Archduke Otto and Princess Maria Josephine of Saxony, daughter of the last King of Saxony. Emperor Francis Joseph I was Charles' Great Uncle.

Charles was given a deeply Catholic education. A stigmatic nun prophesied that he would undergo great suffering and attacks would be made against him.  A deep devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus began to grow in Charles and he turned to prayer before making any important decisions.

Karl and Zita
On the 21st of October, 1911, he married Princess Zita of Bourbon and Parma. The couple had  eight children during the ten years of their happy and exemplary married life. Charles declared to Zita on his deathbed: “I'll love you forever.”

Charles became heir to the throne of the Austro‑Hungarian Empire on June 28, 1914, following the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand. World War I was underway and with the death of the Emperor Francis Joseph, on November 21, 1916 Charles became Emperor of Austria. On December 30th he was crowned apostolic King of Hungary.

Charles envisaged this office also as a way to follow Christ: in the love and care of the peoples entrusted to him, and in dedicating his life to them. He placed the most sacred duty of a king -a commitment to peace- at the center of his duties during the course of the terrible war. He was the only one among political leaders to support Pope Benedict XV's peace efforts.

Bl. Karl with firstborn, Otto
As far as domestic politics were concerned and despite the extremely difficult times, he initiated wide and exemplary social legislation, inspired by social Christian teaching. Thanks to his conduct, the transition to a new order at the end of the conflict was made possible without a civil war. He was, however, banished from his country.

The Pope feared the rise of communist power in central Europe, and expressed the wish that Charles re‑establish the authority of his government in Hungary. But two attempts failed, since above all Charles wished to avoid the outbreak of a civil war.

Charles and his family were exiled to the island of Madeira. Since he considered his duty as a mandate from God, he could not abdicate his office. Reduced to poverty, he lived with his family in a very humid house. He then fell ill, accepting this as a sacrifice for the peace and unity of his peoples.

Karl & Zita & seven Children
Charles endured his suffering without complaining. He forgave all those who conspired against him and died April 1st 1922 with his eyes turned toward the Holy Sacrament. On his deathbed he repeated the motto of his life: “I strive always in all things to understand as clearly as possible and follow the will of God, and this in the most perfect way”.

The English writer, Herbert Vivian, wrote:  "Karl was a great leader, a Prince of peace, who wanted to save the world from a year of war; a statesman with ideas to save his people from the complicated problems of his Empire; a King who loved his people, a fearless man, a noble soul, distinguished, a saint from whose grave blessings come."

The French novelist, Anatole Franc, stated:  "Emperor Karl is the only decent man to come out of the war in a leadership position, yet he was a saint and no one listened to him. He sincerely wanted peace, and therefore was despised by the whole world. It was a wonderful chance that was lost."

One wonders what the world would be like today, specially the Eastern European countries, if  leaders had listened to Bl.Karl. Peacemakers do not seem, even in our day and age, to stand a chance against political leaders who have so many agendas, which include greed, hatred, and bigotry.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


In NOV. 4, 2012 I did a blog on  SERVANT of GOD FATHER EMIL KAPAUN. Recently he was given recognition for the care of his men by our government. In paying tribute to Father Emil Kapaun President Barack Obama told multiple stories of the “shepherd in combat boots” from Kansas who voluntarily stayed behind with the wounded to face certain capture, rather than evacuate when his division was overrun at Unsan, Korea, in November 1950.

“This is the valor we honor today – an American soldier who didn’t fire a gun, but who wielded the mightiest weapon of all, a love for his brothers so pure that he was willing to die so that they might live,” the president said.

A Catholic Korean War chaplain who selflessly pulled wounded men from enemy fire and helped his fellow prisoners of war keep a sense of hope was honored posthumously with the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military honor, in a White House ceremony.

Some of Father Kapaun’s fellow prisoners, who walked out of their prison camp carrying a crucifix they’d fashioned to honor their deceased chaplain, were in attendance at the ceremony. The medal, given to members of the armed forces for distinguished gallantry above and beyond the call of duty in active service, was presented to Ray Kapaun, a nephew of the priest, who never knew his uncle.

In attendance was Herb Miller, who, as a sergeant in 1951, was injured when a grenade exploded near him. As Obama told the story, a Chinese soldier was about to execute Miller, when Father Kapaun stepped in to stop him. The priest then carried Miller and assisted other wounded prisoners on a lengthy march to a prison camp at Pyoktong.

“He carried that injured American, for miles, as their captors forced them on a death march,” said Obama. “When Fr Kapaun grew tired, he’d help the wounded soldier hop on one leg. When other prisoners stumbled, he picked them up. When they wanted to quit, knowing that stragglers would be shot, he begged them to keep walking.”

Father Kapaun’s actions that day are what was being recognized with the Medal of Honor, Obama said, but he continued with stories of the priest’s selfless actions in the prison camp – helping smuggle in more food; giving away his clothes to freezing men; fashioning pots to boil water to battle dysentery; praying with the men in their huts; celebrating Easter Mass.

Father Kapaun received the Bronze Star before his capture and the Distinguished Service Cross after he died. Within the Catholic Church he has been recognized by the Vatican as a “Servant of God”, a first step in the investigation of someone who is being considered for sainthood.

The Movie
Suffering from an assortment of ailments, Father Kapaun died in that prison camp in Pyoktong on May 23, age 35, after six months in captivity.

Monday, April 22, 2013


As a young girl
As I mentioned in an earlier blog many of us in the monastery grew up on CARYLL HOUSELANDER. She was an English laywoman, who had a very definite sense of her vocation to awaken others to the presence of Christ in the world. This conviction was implanted from her childhood by a series of mystical experiences that continued throughout her life. I remember reading a story of a Bavarian nun that the young school children would tease. One day Caryll found her weeping in the back of the cloak closet cleaning mud from the children's shoes. Caryll saw  the nun’s head weighed down by a crown of thorns. From this vision, she came to understand that Christ was suffering in this nun.

Another time, while she stood on a crowded underground train in London, she looked at the people around her, “quite suddenly I saw with my mind, but as vividly as a wonderful picture, Christ in them all…living in them, dying in them, rejoicing in them, sorrowing in them.” When she left the train “it was the same here, on every side, in every passerby, everywhere - Christ.” This vision lasted intensely for several days and altered her life completely.

Caryll supported herself by woodcarving and decorating churches. Later she wrote poetry and children’s books. Her true mission, however, consisted in her relationships with others, not just friends, but strangers, neurotics, and friendless people whom others avoided.

As a teen, she suffered from various ”illnesses",and possibly had an eating disorder. She also had a  fear of people: “Even in my own home I could not bring myself to enter a room in which there were other people, even people I knew well, until I had first gone to the door two or three times and failed to force myself to walk in.” From her descriptions, it seems likely that she suffered from panic attacks. For these and other oddities she was pronounced, in the jargon of the day, “neurotic.

Simply through attention and friendship, she sought to awaken others to a sense of their own divine self.  During the Second World War she offered a message of consolation to those struggling with their faith, telling them that Christ was truly present in the sufferings of the world.

"The arms of Christ stretched on the cross are the widest reach there is, the only one that encircles the whole world.”  She saw these children (and adults) of war as the infant Christ, for whom the only acceptable response was the gift of self. The infant Christ depended on each person to be as a mother, carrying Him into the world, and this is what she worked hard to do. One eminent psychiatrist who referred troubled patients to her, Dr. Eric Strauss, said she “loved them back to life.” She was, he said, a “divine eccentric.”

As with so many mystics, Caryll was paradox. She preached a social gospel, yet she was a virtual recluse. She felt overwhelming sympathy for the world, yet she had a razor-sharp tongue and biting sense of humor.  She swore, told off-color jokes, liked gin, and chain-smoked. And by all accounts, she was a difficult person. She was not patient, kind or gentle. She did not suffer fools gladly or even tactfully. She did not expect “to find people good, but I expect to find Christ wounded in them, and of course that is what I do find.” And for human woundedness, she had an overwhelming, some would say pathological, empathy. Much of her spare time was devoted to occupational therapy for the benefit of child refugees from the Continent, whose nerves had been jarred, and shell-shocked soldiers, in the war.

"It’s always easier to see a finely carved Christ hanging on a gilded cross than it is to see him in our boss, our estranged sister or our enemy in war. But wounded and helpless people in war camps, prisons, workhouses and mental asylums were “obliged to offer themselves to God in the hands of other people, like the Host in the priest’s hands at the Mass.”

Her first book, This War is the Passion (1941), explored individual suffering in the body of Christ during war.  The Reed of God (1944), the one she is most known for, was followed by The Flowering Tree (1945), The Passion of the Infant Christ (1949), and the posthumously published autobiography, A Rocking-Horse Catholic (1955). In spite of her solitude, she maintained a vast correspondence with people all over the world who sought her spiritual guidance.

She died of breast cancer in  1954 at the age of 52. Christ is a "needy Christ, one who needs the comfort and compassion of creatures, a Christ whose own divinity is insufficient without its reflection in humankind".

Her writings are very significant for our troubled world! Many would find consolation in her writings.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Egino Weinert- German

This Sunday is known as GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY because, in each year of the liturgical cycle on this 4th Sunday of Easter, the Gospel of  John  is read where Jesus speaks of Himself as the "Good Shepherd".

There is a wonderful story of a young Scottish clergyman who took the much-loved 23rd Psalm as the subject of a talk to a group of children. There was a lot they didn't know, he told them. In fact they were pretty much like sheep themselves and, of course, sheep need a shepherd. He then asked the children who they thought the shepherd was, and after thinking about it a little while, one lad piped up, "Jesus is the shepherd." The young minister looked taken aback. "Then who am I?", he asked the child. "Oh, you're the sheep-dog; there's only one shepherd."

Julia Stankova-  Bulgarian
The Ancient Israelites were a pastoral people and there were many shepherds among them.  Many Old Testament heroes were shepherds, among them the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob, the twelve tribes,  Moses, and King David. In the New Testament, angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds, not to any of the rulers, religious leaders or rich people.

Where did Jesus get this notion of Good Shepherd?  'Look, I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it.  As a shepherd looks after his flock when he is with his scattered sheep, so shall I look after my sheep.  I shall raise up one shepherd, my servant David, and put him in charge of them to pasture them; he will pasture them and be their shepherd.    Ezekiel 34:11-12 & 23

Anjolie Ela Menon- India

Ion V. Danu- Canadian
While sheep have many positive qualities, they also have a bad reputation for being rather stupid  because of their tendency to follow each other in what seems like pointless wandering.  Sheep  actually  have about the same intelligence as  cows and just a little less smarter than pigs, who we know are smarter than most dogs. Sheep group together because they are social animals and they can protect themselves better when they stick together.  They’re not really dumb, they just have a hard time protecting themselves without a shepherd.

Fr. Vladimir Lysak- Canadian
It often amazes me when I hear bishops and priests giving homilies about sheep and shepherds. Believe me, they are clueless about these beasties as is anyone who has not had the joy (and pains) of raising them. The good shepherd knows his sheep and they know him. I can be away for some days and the Community never hears the sheep, but when I step out of the car and call, they all bleat.

I have often thought it amazing  that Jesus who called Himself our Good Shepherd became the Lamb of God.  "The good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep."

Here are some wonderful modern images of the Good Shepherd  from around the world.

Gloria Ssali- Uganda & UK

Zaki Baboun- Palestinian

Hanna Varghese- Malaysia

Fr. John Guliani- USA

Sieger Koder- German Priest

Thursday, April 18, 2013


(I used to cross country ski at our Abbey)

A few years ago, a friend gave me a box of cards of some nuns skating. I then found the artist, MARGARET LOXTON, and, that she had painted many scenes with nuns- all fun!  She was born in London in 1938  but only began painting in 1981 after her family had grown up.

Winter at the Convent (the card that started my search)


Within three years of putting brush to canvas, she won the prestigious painting prize at the 1984 City of London Festival. While English to the core she was inspired by France and began painting seriously.
In 1986, she was invited to exhibit at several French museums, including the Musée Fabre, Montpelier, where she attracted the attention of the French media. During this time, she travelled the French countryside and developed a deep affection and empathy for the way of life she found there.


Her work has been praised for its sense of color, strength of composition and gentle humor, and can now been found in numerous private collections around the world. Her work is much sort by private collectors throughout the world.


    Her nuns look like Benedictines but I have not been able to find   where she got her inspiration. She also loved painting sheep.  Enjoy!


Nuns at Large

Bike Ride

Monday, April 15, 2013


Clare Cresap Villa

Based on the course of their lives and the circumstances surrounding them, saints often serve as "patrons" of certain peoples, places, things, and occupations, as they intercede for us before God.

A few years ago, I did a collage of  KITCHEN SAINTS, ie. saints who are patrons of cooks and chefs.  After much digging I found over 30 patrons of cooks, bakers and chefs. I gave it to Mother Catarina for Christmas and it now hangs in our large preserving kitchen on the farm.

Among the many patrons are:

St. Martha who prepared the meal as her sister Mary sat at the feet of Jesus. In spite of her complaints, Martha is known for her humility in her service to her Lord.

St. Lawrence, one of seven deacons under Pope St. Sixtus,  was condemned to death by the Prefect of Rome.  The story goes that as he was being grilled, he called out to those torturing him saying, ” Turn me over, I’m done on this side!”. Then he prayed that the city of Rome might be converted to Jesus and that the Catholic Faith may spread all over the world.  Just before he died, he said, “It’s cooked enough now.”

St. Elizabeth of Hungary is patroness of bakers because she gave food, especially bread, to the poor.

St. Francis Caracciolo is the patron of  chefs. Founder of the Clerics Regular Minor, he is an example of Eucharistic devotion for the nourishment of our souls.

St. Hildegard von Bingen had many ideas on how to eat healthily. Today, there is a revivalist culture around her teachings on how to eat to stay healthy, especially information of her medicinal and herbal remedies. She is called Germany's "first foodie".

In the Orthodox Church, we have St. Euphrosynus the Cook, a simple man, but a man of God. He served as the cook in a monastery in Palestine in the ninth century. One night, the spiritual father of this monastery saw himself in Paradise, and saw Euphrosynus there as well. Euphrosynus picked and gave him three apples from Paradise. When the spiritual father awoke, he saw three unusually beautiful and fragrant apples by his pillow. He quickly found Euphrosynus and asked him: "Where were you last night, brother"?  "I was where you were, father,'' he replied.

St. Euphrosynus
The spiritual father then revealed the entire incident to the monks, and all recognized the sanctity and godliness of Euphrosynus. But Euphrosynus, fearing the praise of men, immediately fled the monastery and hid in the wilderness, where he spent the remainder of his life."

Even Dorothy Day, is mentioned as patroness of cooks due to her life of feeding the poor in our own country.

Perhaps the most famous (at least in our culture) is SAN PASQUEL (St. Paschal Baylon). He was a 16th century Spanish shepherd who became a Franciscan lay brother. He served his fellow Franciscans in various capacities in the monastery as shepherd, gardener, porter, and cook. Since childhood he had developed a deep sense of the presence of God and was particularly devoted to the Eucharist. San Pascual was known for his administrations to the poor and for his many miraculous cures.

Arturo Olivas
Gustavo V. Goler
Today San Pascual is chiefly known as a patron of the kitchen due to his work as a cook. Often in religious art he is shown dressed in the brown robes of a Franciscan with a cat at his side ( my favorite by C.C. Villa he holds a lamb).

The lovely thing about St. Paschal is the grace of recollection which often absorbed him as he went about his duties. Deeply united to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, he was on occasion favored with the grace of seeing the Holy Eucharist when unable to be present in church.

I find it interesting that early paintings do not show him in the kitchen but rather kneeling in rapt contemplation of the Eucharistic host suspended mid-air in a monstrance.

19th Century

19th C. Mexican
 In the USA his image has become an ubiquitous element of “Santa Fe-inspired” décor.
Many are rendered in the traditional New Mexico Santo or religious Saint style. Santos have been depicted in this folk art style since the late 18th century.

Ann Burt
Virginia M. Romero
Victoria de Almeida

Jan Oliver