Sunday, May 30, 2021



St. Elizabeth of the Trinity’s prayer:

                                                    (Anna Kolisnyk- Ukraine)


O my God, Trinity whom I adore, let me entirely forget myself that I may abide in you, still and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity; let nothing disturb my peace nor separate me from you, O my unchanging God, but that each moment may take me further into the depths of your mystery!

Pacify my soul! Make it your heaven, your beloved home and place of your repose; let me never leave you there alone, but may I be ever attentive, ever alert in my faith, ever adoring and all given up to your creative action. 

Thursday, May 27, 2021


We have been seeing many more owls on our small island, than in past years-  the great horned and the barred- but it isn't often in my bird search that I find a bird that is connected to a nun.

SISTER DOROTHY MAE STANG (June 7, 1931 – February 12, 2005)  was an American-born, Brazilian member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who was murdered in Anapu, a city in the state of Pará, in the Amazon Basin of Brazil. 

Sister had been outspoken in her efforts on behalf of the poor and the environment and had previously received death threats from loggers and landowners. Her cause for canonization as a martyr and model of sanctity is underway within the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Because of her fight to save the environment,  she has had a newly discovered, rare owl  named after her -  the Xingu screech owl  (Megascops stangiae). The common name Xingu Screech Owl refers to the area where the new species is found, between the Tapajos and Xingu rivers, where Sister was a very active community leader until her killing.

This  genus,  commonly known as screech owls for their piercing calls, inhabit a wide variety of habitats.There are 21 species of  Megascops  in the Americas. This South American owl is one of two newly described species this year, the other from Northeastern Brazil.These cute little owls, 5-6 inches long,  come in a variety of hues from brown to gray and have  tufts of feathers on their heads.

While this species is new to science, it is  already in danger of disappearing forever, being threatened by deforestation. The Xingu screech owl is endemic to the most severely burned area of the Amazon by the unprecedented 2019 fires.

Sr. Dorothy was born in Ohio and entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur community in 1948 at the age of 17.  She went to Brazil in 1966 to live with the poor. There, she witnessed first-hand ranchers and loggers exploiting farmers and indigenous people, stealing land, cutting down forests, and murdering those who spoke up. Sr. Dorothy said that “only a profound change in our way of living–our values and attitudes–can bring new life to our world.”

"We are only here on the land a few decades. Use every day to bring joy and not greed to our tired land so full of anguish.”

On February 12, 2005, on a dirt road in a rural area in Para, Sister  was blocked by two men who worked in a livestock company. They asked if she had any weapons, and she claimed that the only weapon would be her Bible.  She then read a passage from the Beatitudes.  "Blessed are the poor in spirit ..." She continued a couple of steps but was suddenly stopped when one of the men called her "sister".  The other man fired a round at her abdomen and as she lay on the ground another round was fired into her head.  The men were later tried and found guilty of her murder.  The  whole  affair was a tragic mess, as the men were later released due to corruption in the courts.

In 2008, the American filmmaker, Daniel Junge,  released a documentary titled “They Killed Sister Dorothy”. The film is narrated by Martin Sheen. The film received the Audience Award and the Competition Award at the 2008 South by Southwest Festival, where it had its worldwide première. It is hard to watch, but one gets the idea of what is happening, even to this day, in the Amazon, due to greed.

Sister is often pictured wearing a T-shirt with the slogan, "A Morte da floresta é o fim da nossa vida" which is Portuguese for "The Death of the Forest is the End of Our Lives".

"I don't want to flee, nor do I want to abandon the battle of these farmers who live without any protection in the forest. They have the sacrosanct right to aspire to a better life on land where they can live and work with dignity while respecting the environment." 

                                                    “The death of the forest is the end of our life” Icon by Rev. Bill McNichols, SJ.

Sr. Judith Clemens, a friend of  Sister Dorothy said: "I think it is so beautiful that an owl, which is a nocturnal animal and a symbol of great wisdom, be the animal to honor her. Dorothy had that kind of wisdom."


Monday, May 24, 2021


The beatification of CARDINAL STEFAN WYSZYNSKI , the former Primate of Poland who heroically resisted communism, will take place on Sunday, Sept. 12. in Warsaw.  SISTER ROZA MARIA CZACKA,  a Polish nun who died in 1961 after a lifetime of service to blind people will take place at the same time.


The Cardinal, whom I can remember praying for as a child, is credited with helping to preserve and strengthen Christianity in Poland despite the communist regime’s persecution from 1945 onwards. In 1953, Cardinal Stefan was placed under house arrest by Communist authorities for three years for refusing to punish priests active in the Polish resistance against the Communist regime.

 Born Aug. 3, 1901, in Zuzela, Poland, Stefan Wyszynski was ordained in 1924, serving as a chaplain to Poland's underground Home Army, the AK, under wartime German occupation.

He was named bishop of Lublin by Pope Pius XII in 1946, becoming the country's youngest prelate, and was elevated to archbishop of Warsaw-Gniezno two years later.

Raised to cardinal in 1953, three years after signing a controversial "understanding" with the communist regime, he was forcibly prevented from receiving his red hat until 1957.

He also helped to secure the approval of Karol Wojtyła as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, which ultimately led to Karol Wojtyła’s election as Pope John Paul II in 1978.

Cardinal Wyszyński died on May 28, 1981, 15 days after Pope John Paul II was shot in an assassination attempt. Unable to attend the cardinal’s funeral, John Paul II wrote in a letter to the people of Poland: “Meditate particularly on the figure of the unforgettable primate, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński of venerated memory, his person, his teaching, his role in such a difficult period of our history.”

 Cardinal Wyszynski died during strikes by the Solidarity movement, and his Warsaw funeral was attended by tens of thousands of Catholics in a show of anti-communist defiance.

He is known as the “Primate of the Millennium” because as Primate of Poland he oversaw a nine-year program of preparation culminating in a nationwide celebration of the millennium of Poland’s baptism in 1966.Cardinal Wyszynski died May 28, 1981, during strikes by the Solidarity movement, and his Warsaw funeral was attended by tens of thousands of Catholics in a show of anti-communist defiance.

The Polish parliament declared 2021 the Year of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, in anticipation of his beatification.

 SISTER ROZA MARIA CAZCKA was a Dominican sister who was proclaimed Righteous Among the Nations  (see Blog   April 17,2021).

She was born in 1908 in the town of Kiełczewo, (German Empire), now in Kościan CountyPoland.

At age 21, she joined the Dominican sisters in Kraków  and  made her final vows in 1934.  In 1938, she went to Vilnius to establish a new monastery with a group of Dominicans. The sisters worked on a 12-acre farm outside the city, living in a wooden house with a small chapel.

 During the World War II occupation in Vilnius, with other nuns, she helped many refugees. The nuns also sheltered fifteen Jewish refugees from the Vilna Ghetto from the youth scouting group Hashomer Hatzair,  including Abba KovnerIzrael Chaim WilnerHaika Grossman, Elye Boraks, Chuma Godot, and Izrael Nagel.

The nuns' monastery became a base of the local Jewish resistance, where the Jewish resistance organization  was formed. In 1943, the Germans arrested the mother superior and closed the monastery, but the nuns, though deprived of their main base, continued their activities. In 1944, Sister Roza became a prioress.

That year she also took in two children whose parents were murdered during the war. After the war, due to the borders' change and the loss of Vilnius by Poland, she returned to Kraków.

She had many functions in the Dominican convent in Kraków. She was a porter, organist, and cantor. She was also a prioress of the monastery several times.  

In recognition of her merits, she was awarded the title of "Righteous Among the Nations" in March 1984, at age 76. On March 25, 2018, she celebrated her 110th birthday, and was  called "the oldest living Cracovian" (inhabitant of the city of Kraków). She died in Kraków on November 16, 2018.

All the photos I have found of her show a woman who radiates the joy of her Spouse.

Friday, May 21, 2021



Today we celebrate ST. CRISTOBAL (Christopher)  MAGALLANES JARA,and his companions.  He was  priest and martyr  who was killed without trial on the way to say Mass during the Cristero War after the trumped-up charge of inciting rebellion.

With the mess in Mexico today, I think he is a good intercessor for his people. He was  canonized by Pope St. John Paul II on May 21, 2000.

St. Cristóbal was ordained at the age of 30 at Santa Teresa in Guadalajara in 1899 and served as chaplain of the School of Arts and Works of the Holy Spirit in Guadalajara. He was then designated as the parish priest for his home town of Totatiche, where he helped found schools and carpentry shops and assisted in planning for hydrological works, including the dam of La Candelaria. He took special interest in the evangelization of the local indigenous Huichol people and was instrumental in the foundation of the mission in the indigenous town of Azqueltán.

When government decrees closed the seminary in Guadalajara in 1914, he offered to open a clandestine seminary in his parish. In July 1915, he opened the Auxiliary Seminary of Totatiche, which achieved a student body of 17 students by the following year and was recognized by the Archbishop of Guadalajara, José Francisco Orozco y Jiménez, who appointed a precept and two professors to the seminary.

St. Magallanes wrote and preached against armed rebellion, but was falsely accused of promoting the Cristero Rebellion in the area. Arrested on May 21, 1927, while en route to celebrate Mass at a farm, he gave away his few remaining possessions to his executioners, gave them absolution, and without a trial, he was killed four days later with Agustín Caloca in Colotlán, Jalisco.

His last words to his executioners were "I die innocent, and ask God that my blood may serve to unite my Mexican brethren." He was succeeded as parish priest of Totatiche by José Pilar Quezada Valdés, who went on to become the first bishop of the Archdiocese of Acapulco.


Also a martyr who lived and died for his people was ST AGUSTIN CALOCA CORTES, who was born in San Juan Bautista del Teúl, Zacatecas, on the ranch of La Presa. His parents, Eduwiges and María Plutarca Cortés Caloca, were simple peasants.

 He began his clerical studies at the Guadalajara Seminary, but in 1914 this campus was closed due to the anticlericalism of the Carrancista leaders. He then went to the Auxiliary Seminary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Totatiche established by  (St) Cristóbal Magallanes Jara. In 1919 he re-entered the Guadalajara Seminary to study Theology. He was ordained on August 5, 1923, in the Cathedral Church of Guadalajara.

 At the request of St. Cristobal, Agustin was assigned as a parish priest and as prefect of the auxiliary seminary. In December 1926 he had to flee with eleven fifth year students to Cocoatzco, where he remained until April 1927.


In May, he arrived at the seminary to announce that Mexican government soldiers were approaching Totatiche. He ordered the students to abandon the seminary and disperse among the town's population. After helping the students escape, he was taken prisoner and transferred to a jail in Colotlán where he was reunited with St. Magallanes. He was offered his freedom by a military officer on account of his young age, but St. Agustin refused unless freedom was also granted toSt. Cristobal.

His last words before execution by the  firing squad were, "We live for God and for Him we die."


Tuesday, May 18, 2021



With major strife in the Middle East, it is good to be reminded of someone who spent their life striving for unity in the world.

Pope Francis could declare venerable the French statesman ROBERT SCHUMAN, a key “founding father” of the European Union.

Robert Schuman dedicated his life to serving the common good, seeking peace and reconciliation with Germany to create a community of European states.

His work involved putting an end to the infernal cycle of war, the humiliating defeat, the desire for revenge and more war.

 Father Bernard Ardura, an official in charge of the proposed French canonization said  Robert Schuman’s efforts were ‘“the work of a Christian, which serves as an example, even if the statesman “remained very discreet about his personal life and his faith.”

Robert Schuman was born in Luxembourg in 1886. He had family roots in Lorraine, contested territory lost by France to Germany in the Franco-Prussian War. After Lorraine returned to France, he served as one of the region’s Members of Parliament, in the Christian Democrat political tradition. At one point during the Second World War, he was arrested by the Gestapo and secretly imprisoned, according to his biography on the website of the Robert Schuman European Centre.

He was France’s Minister of Foreign Relations when he announced the forming of the European Steel and Coal Community on May 9, 1950. The move is considered a first step towards the creation of the European Union.

He was also a key negotiator for the North Atlantic Treaty and the European Coal and Steel Community. He served as the first President of the European Parliament which named him “Father of Europe” when he left office.

Robert Schuman died in the Diocese of Matz in 1963. His cause for sainthood began there over 30 years ago.

Last October, Pope Francis discussed Schuman in the context of contemporary Europe.

                                                                                          We can either continue to pursue the path we have taken in the past decade, yielding to the temptation to autonomy and thus to ever greater misunderstanding, disagreement and conflict, or we can rediscover the path of fraternity that inspired and guided the founders of modern Europe, beginning precisely with Robert Schuman…

Today, as many in Europe look to its future with uncertainty, others look to Europe with hope, convinced that it still has something to offer to the world and to humanity..The same conviction inspired Robert Schuman, who realized that ‘the contribution which an organized and living Europe can bring to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations.’ It is a conviction that we ourselves can share, setting out from shared values and rooted in the history and culture of this land.”

In November 2003 remarks to the Robert Schuman Foundation, France’s main research center on Europe, St. John Paul II called Europeans to remember and cherish their Christian roots. He praised Schuman for spending his political life “in the service of the fundamental values of freedom and solidarity, understood fully in the light of the Gospel.”

The monument (at right) "Homage to the Founding Fathers of Europe" in front of Schuman's house in Scy-Chazelles by Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli, unveiled 20 October 2012. The statues represent the four founders of Europe – Alcide de Gasperi, Robert SchumanJean Monnet and Konrad Adenauer.

Sunday, May 16, 2021



We certainly know from artists who write about why they do what they do,  that  it comes from a place deep within them and if it comes from a deep faith, then we are all the better for it. This goes for music as well as visual arts.

We have over the years listened to JAMES MacMILLIAN's  “Seven Last Words from the Cross” during Holy Week.  I came across an article a few weeks ago which led me do some research on this Scottish composer, who many think is one of Britain’s best today.

Sir MacMillan's music is infused with the spiritual and his Roman Catholic faith has inspired many of his sacred works, such as, Magnificat (1999), and several Masses. This central strand of his life and compositions was marked by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in early 2005, with a survey of his music entitled “From Darkness into Light”

Sir  MacMillan and his wife are lay Dominicans, and he has collaborated with Michael Symmons Roberts, a Catholic poet, and also Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Perhaps his most political work is Cantos Sagrados (1990), a setting of Latin American poetry by Ariel Dorfman and Ana Maria Mendoza, combining elements of liberation theology with more conventional religious texts. He has explicitly stated that his aim in writing this work was to emphasize 'a deeper solidarity with the poor of that subcontinent' in the context of political repression.

Scottish traditional music has also had a profound musical influence, and is frequently discernible in his works. When the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999 after 292 years, a fanfare composed by him accompanied the Queen into the chamber. Weeks after the opening ceremony,  he launched a vigorous attack on sectarianism in Scotland, particularly anti-Catholicism, in a speech entitled "Scotland's Shame".

His Mass of  2000 was commissioned by Westminster Cathedral and contains sections which the congregation may join in singing.  Similarly, the St Anne's Mass and Galloway Mass do not require advanced musicianship, being designed to be taught to a congregation.

One of his most important commissions (by the Bishops' Conferences of England & Wales and of Scotland) was to write a new Mass setting for choir and congregation to be sung at two of the three Masses celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI during his Apostolic and state visit to Great Britain in 2010. 

First sung at Mass at Bellahouston ParkGlasgow, on 16 September it was sung again at the Mass and beatification of John Henry Newman at Cofton ParkBirmingham, on 19 September).

“My first aspiration is getting my music to work: to have its own consistency, and a message and a meaning; and then to be able to communicate it, through fellow-musicians, to the listener. It’s a three-way communication that is mystical and magical, and can be really wonderful."

He is a passionate advocacy of community involvement in music and set up the burgeoning music festival The Cumnock Tryst in 2013. Much of his music reflects his strong Scottish roots and interest in all aspects of musical tradition.

“I think music today is as important as ever. It’s a language that speaks beyond words and images, and that’s why it’s so mysterious, and so strangely beautiful.”

There is a wonderful interview on  EWTN-

Thursday, May 13, 2021


Having done a Blog  (May 3) on the dancing Lord and saints following Him, I found this lovely painting of Jesus ascending into heaven, by an Indonesian artist.

 BAGONG KUSSUDIARDJA, born into a Christian family in 1928,  was an Indonesian artist, contemporary dance choreographer and painter.  Bagong’s career kicked off after Indonesia’s independence in 1945. As a dance choreographer, he choreographed more than 200 dances, perfecting his skills by studying  Japanese and Indian dances.

In 1957 and 1958, Bagong trained under the well-known dance choreographer, Martha Graham, known for her boundary-breaking techniques. He then combined the modern moves with traditional Indonesian dances. After his training, he founded Bagong Kussudiardja Center for Dance in 1958, followed by Pade Bagong Kussudiardja Center for the Arts in 1978.

In 1985, Bagong received an honor from the Pope Paul VI award for his fragment Perjalanan Yesus Kristus (The Journey of Jesus Christ). He died in 2004.

Google Cartoon for his 89 birthday

Monday, May 10, 2021


 I recently came across a good poet for this Eastertide.

SERVANT of GOD MARIE (known by the pen-name Marie Noël) ROUGET was born in  Auxerre, Burgandy, France  in  1883.  She is known as the “warbler of Auxerre and she  dedicated a large part of her work to praising God.    Her cause for beatification was opened in 2017.

A noted poet, she won the Grand prix de poésie de l’Académie française in 1962, and was an officer in the Légion d’honneur.

She was born into a very cultivated Catholic family, though  Louis Rouget, her father, was agnostic. He was  professor of philosophy and art history at the Collège d'Auxerre. Her mother, née Marie-Emélie-Louise Barat, was a believer and had a more open and cheerful disposition which influenced her but she was also influenced by her  father’s stern skepticism. Her parents were cousins and both related to St. Madalene- Sophie  Barat, foundress of the Dames of the Sacred Heart.

“Song of Easter,” written for Holy Saturday, 1907, was published in her very first collection Les Chansons et les Heures (“The Songs and the Hours”) in 1920.

Though written at a young age, Marie Noël’s poem already captures with subtlety the spiritual might of the expectation of the Resurrection of the Lord, after the dark and arid Lenten path that leads to the death of Jesus on Good Friday.”   (Woodruff, Sara Elizabeth. “Marie Noël, Contemporary French Poet.” The French Review, vol. 26, no. 6, 1953, pp. 419–425. JSTOR, Accessed 27 Apr. 2021).

She was known for her humility and shunned all publicity, hence taking the pseudonym of Marie Noel (chosen for the brother who died on Christmas eve).

 According to Solène Tadié  (the Europe Correspondent for the National Catholic Register) Marie  was consumed by a constant inner turmoil, torn between her deep thirst for God’s love and presence and guilt over her lack of complete trust in him. “Her work illustrates thereby one of the greatest paradoxes of the mortal soul — that is, the difficult coexistence between the eager expectation of eternal life and the painful mourning of the earthly life.

When her tormented soul couldn’t find relief in writing, which was her main outlet, she was regularly assailed by deep emotional crises — or, as her circles called it, “hemorrhages of sensibility” — which forced her to retire from the world and stay bedridden for weeks at a time.”

Her spiritual director,  Father Arthur Mugnier,  known as the “confessor of the whole of Paris”, helped her channel her pain and anxiety to fuel her creative impulse. Initially she perceived her writing as incompatible with her faith. Father Mugnier helped her to see  these misconceptions. Father Mugnier remained a strong supporter of Marie Noël’s poetry until his death in 1944, calling her “our only, our true Christian poet.

She maintained an important correspondence with intellectuals of her time,  among them François Mauriac, Jean Cocteau,  and Colette.

Almost blind, she died at peace on Christmas night 1967. 

She is said to be one of France's greatest women poets and is linked with Claudel, and Peguy (two of my favorite French writers). Hers is a philosophy of hope (Peguy's favorite virtue).

But this morning the Angel stirred the stone,

O You standing in the light,

Resurrected from the dawn to the feet color of time,

You who in the garden met Mary,

What will you do, gardener of Easter in bloom,

To defend me from Spring?

 (last stanza of Holy Saturday)

Friday, May 7, 2021



WORLD MIGRATORY DAY’s  (May 8) conservation theme is, Sing, Fly, Soar — Like a Bird! 

This day engages participants at more than 700 locations from Argentina to Canada, exploring how to identify birds, how to connect with them, and the beauty of their songs, the mysteries of migration, and the astounding power of flight.   My Shaw Island pal Jim and his wife and I will once more set out to find the birds left on our small paradise.

Several months ago a friend gave me a generous gift of sunflower seeds for the birds on my bay view deck.  At present I have five species of  finch, the most I have ever seen in one sitting:  the glorious goldfinch, purple finches, house finches, pine siskins, and crossbills. 

In 1993, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center created International Migratory Bird Day.

Tracking migratory birds provides information about the places where birds nest, stop to rest and refuel, and spend the non-nesting months.  Then  the habitats they use, the threats they face on the ground, and how  humans can work together to help them throughout their journeys, are examined.

Researchers use a variety of technologies to unravel the mysteries of migration:

Motus Wildlife Tracking System connects researchers around world in the study of wildlife movements. A program of Birds Canada, the system  helps to learn more about World Migratory Bird Day 2020 focal species.

Icarus: This international effort uses satellite imagery to track the patterns of birds and other wildlife. Because the tracker is located on the International Space Station, it can help study bird migrations and better understand how natural hazards and human activity affect bird populations.

Bird Banding: Bird researchers use metal bands, each with a unique code, to identify individuals. Each time a banded bird is recaptured, we learn about its health, age, and movements.

Weather Radar is used every day to detect the movement of drops of rain. It can also detect the movements of birds and other wildlife, especially large flocks as they land in one location or take off from one location.

Light-level Geolocators: These tracking devices use daylight to estimate location. From sunrise/sunset data, the relative time of noon and midnight is used to determine the locations of birds. However, in the shade of a tree canopy, it can be difficult for the device to determine sunrise and sunset times. Because they are lightweight and have a long battery life, light-level geolocators are an excellent option for studying long-distance movements.

Global Positioning System Tags: Satellite receivers attached to birds receive signals from satellites that orbit the Earth and provide the accurate location of the bird. This is the same system your cell phone uses. Researchers only need to capture the bird once to affix the tag. There are 31 GPS satellites in orbit that provide highly accurate location data. You use this data daily on your smartphone to navigate to a store or to check traffic. A GPS tag radios a bird’s location to a receiver, located either on a tower or on another satellite. 

Citizen Science: Everyone can be part of our efforts to learn about bird migrations by sharing their observations. Here are a few programs you can join:

iNaturalist: Share your observations with other naturalists and discuss your findings.

Journey North: Hummingbirds are too small to carry tags, so your observations are an important part of our understanding of their migrations.

Hummingbird Highway: Share your research, pollinator garden, and hummingbird – focused education activities on a map, so that we can make connections to hummingbird conservation.

eBird: Your bird sightings contribute to our awareness of migration across the globe, plus you can keep a list of every bird you see, and where you see it.

Poster images both by Sara Wolman  who lives in Alaska.  In 2014, she took a seasonal Park Ranger position in Katmai National Park and Preserve and then became an Education Specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Alaska Peninsula and Becharof National Wildlife Refuges. There she traveled to remote villages along the Alaska Peninsula to teach art and environmental education to students.

Sara is currently the Visual Information Specialist at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge where she continues to educate the public about conservation through visual media. 

Art is an important part of both her personal and professional life. 

Thursday, May 6, 2021



April 30 Venezuela was given a new saint. DR. JOSE GREGORIO HERNANDEZ CISNEROS was described by Pope Francis  as “a model of personal goodness and civic and religious virtues.”

Dr. Hernández was known as "the doctor of the poor," and through his studies in Paris, Berlin, Madrid, and New York, he became a renowned bacteriologist. He died in 1919 in Caracas  at the age of 54, run over by a car at a time when only a few hundred automobiles traveled the streets of Caracas          

In his message, Pope Francis said the Church was only confirming something that the people of Venezuela already believed: “that the people's doctor stands by God and that together with Our Lady of Coromoto he intercedes for his compatriots and for all of us.”  

Pope Francis described Dr. José Gregorio as an example of a believing disciple of Christ, who made the Gospel the criterion of his life, and was a model of modesty and humility.

“He is a model of holiness committed to the defense of life, to the challenges of history and, in particular, as a paradigm of service to others, like a Good Samaritan, excluding no one,” said the Pope. “He is a man of universal service.”  

One of the most relevant and fascinating aspects of his personality, remarked Pope Francis, was his “service to citizens.” It was a service, he said, “understood from the example Christ left us during the Last Supper, when he set out to wash the feet of his disciples... because he loved everyone.”

The Pope noted that the Beatification of Dr. José Gregorio takes place at a particular and difficult time for people in Venezuela.

He highlighted the suffering aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and said he was especially mindful of the many dead who have paid with their lives, to perform their duties in precarious conditions.

In the midst of all these current difficulties, Pope Francis invited the people of Venezuela to follow this physician’s “admirable example of selfless service to others.”  

The beatification of Dr. Hernández is a special blessing from God for Venezuela,” the Pope underlined, “and it invites us to conversion toward greater solidarity with one another, to produce all together the response of common good so necessary for the country to recover, to be reborn after the pandemic in a spirit of reconciliation.”  

“I sincerely believe that this moment of national unity, around the figure of the people's doctor, constitutes a special moment for Venezuela and demands of you that you go further, that you take concrete steps in favor of unity, without letting yourselves be overcome by discouragement,” he said.  

José Gregorio Hernández was born in the mountains of the Venezuelan Andes in 1864, in Inotú, a small town in the state of Trujillo. His father was Colombian and his mother a native of the Canary Islands, a very devout and deeply religious woman who died when José Gregorio was only 8 years old. 

Dr. Hernández spent much of his life in Caracas, the capital, where he studied and practiced medicine and became known as “the doctor of the poor” because he routinely treated needy patients for free.

Early in his life Bl. Jose longed for the religious life, but the rigors of the life caused  him to leave and he clearly saw that his vocation was to embrace fully the life of the lay apostolate with his ministry in the field of medicine.

Having received a scholarship from the president of the republic, he had studied at the University of Paris, where he specialized in microscopy, normal histology, pathology and experimental physiology. He later continued his histology studies in Berlin and expanded his knowledge of bacteriology. On his return to Venezuela from Paris, he brings new medical equipment to establish a physiological department at Central University of Venezuela. He is the one who introduces the use and knowledge of the microscope into Venezuelan scientific circles.  

He also taught at the University of Caracas, as professor of practical pathology and was the founder of the department of bacteriology. 

As an exemplary layperson, he participated in Franciscan spirituality and was devoted to the charism of St. Francis. His teaching and professional activity were the best way to recognize in the sick the suffering Christ, whom he served with self-denial in his patients, without caring about the hours devoted to serving, healing and comforting them. Each day, as was his custom, Bl. José Gregorio woke up before five in the morning and after praying the Angelus  went to the nearby church of the Divine Shepherdess for the Mass, where he received daily Communion.

One day. rushing to care for a sick patient, he did not see a speeding car  which hit him. The impact threw him into the air and his head hit the edge of the sidewalk. Before dying, he was only able to cry out, “Most Blessed Virgin!”

He was so beloved that newspaper accounts at the time reported that the city was left practically denuded of flowers to make the floral wreaths and bouquets for his funeral.

Tens of thousands of people filled the streets outside the cathedral where the ceremony was conducted, the accounts said, and when the coffin was about to be placed in a hearse a cry went up: “Dr. Hernández is ours!” In a spontaneous display of popular mourning, the coffin was carried to the cemetery on the shoulders of the capital’s citizens.

Over the years, his legend grew. The sick or the injured prayed to him to be cured, and many believed he was responsible for miracles.

His life very much paralleled that of St. Giuseppe Moscati,  the Italian doctor who also gave his life for  the poor and was a scientific researcher, noted for his pioneering work in biochemistry.

His feast will be June 29.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021



In this Blog I am often writing on how important the saints are to our faith.  This month Pope Francis in his continuing catechesis series on prayer wrote:

Today, I would like to reflect on the connection between prayer and the communion of saints. In fact, when we pray, we never do so alone: even if we do not think about it, we are immersed in a majestic river of invocations that precedes us and proceeds after us. A majestic river.

Contained in the prayers we find in the Bible, that often resound in the liturgy, are the traces of ancient stories, of prodigious liberations, of deportations and sad exiles, of emotional returns, of praise ringing out before the wonders of creation… And thus, these voices are passed on from generation to generation, in a continual intertwining between personal experience and that of the people and the humanity to which we belong.

No one can separate themselves from their own history, the history of their own people. We always bear in our attitudes this inheritance, even in the way we pray. In the prayer of praise, especially that which unfolds from the hearts of the little ones and the humble, echo parts of the Magnificat that Mary lifted up to God in front of her relative Elizabeth; or of elderly Simeon’s exclamation who, taking the Baby Jesus in his arms, spoke thus: “Now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word” (Lk 2:29).

Those prayers that are good are “expansive”, like anything that is good; they propagate themselves continuously, with or without being posted on social networks: from hospital wards, from moments of festive gatherings to those in which we suffer silently… One person’s pain is everyone’s pain, and one person’s happiness is transmitted to someone else’s soul. Pain and happiness, all a story, stories that create the story of one’s own life, this story is relived through one’s own words, but the experience is the same.

Prayer is always born again: each time we join our hands and open our hearts to God, we find ourselves in the company of anonymous saints and recognized saints who pray with us and who intercede for us as older brothers and sisters who have preceded us on this same human adventure. There is no grief in the Church that is borne in solitude, there are no tears shed in oblivion, because everyone breathes and participates in one common grace.

It is no coincidence that in the ancient church people were buried in gardens surrounding a sacred building, as if to say that, in some way, the hosts of those who have preceded us participate in every Eucharist. Our parents and grandparents are there, our godfathers and godmothers are there, our catechists and other teachers are there… The faith that is passed on, transmitted, that we have received. Along with faith, the way of praying and prayer have been transmitted.

 The saints are still here not far from us; and their representations in churches evoke that “cloud of witnesses” that always surrounds us (see Heb 12:1). At the beginning, we heard the reading from the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews. They are witnesses that we do not adore – that is understood that we do not adore these saints – but whom we venerate and who in thousands of different ways bring us to Jesus Christ, the only Lord and Mediator between God and humanity.

A “saint” that does not bring you to Jesus is not a saint, not even a Christian. A saint makes you remember Jesus Christ because he or she trod the path of living as a Christian. The saints remind us that even in our lives, however weak and marked by sin, holiness can unfold. Even at the last moment. In fact, we read in the Gospel that the first saint canonized by Jesus Himself was a thief, not a Pope. Holiness is a journey of life, a long or short or instantaneous encounter with Jesus. But he or she is always a witness, a saint is a witness, a man or woman who encountered Jesus and followed Jesus. It is never too late to be converted to the Lord who is good and great in love (see Ps 103:8).

The Catechism explains that the saints contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. […] Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world” (CCC,2683). There is a mysterious solidarity in Christ between those who have already passed to the other life and we pilgrims in this one: from Heaven, our beloved deceased continue to take care of us. They pray for us, and we pray for them and we pray with them.

The connection in prayer between ourselves and those who have already arrived – we already experience this connection in prayer here in this earthly life. We pray for each other, we make requests and offer prayers…. The first way to pray for someone is to speak to God about him or her. If we do this frequently, each day, our hearts are not closed but open to our brothers and sisters. To pray for others is the first way to love them and it moves us toward concretely drawing near. Even in conflictual moments, a way of dissolving the conflict, of softening it, is to pray for the person with whom I am in conflict. And something changes with prayer. The first thing that changes is my heart and my attitude. The Lord changes it so it might be turned into an encounter, a new encounter so that that the conflict does not become a never-ending war.

The first way to face a time of anguish is by asking our brothers and sisters, the saints above all, to pray for us. The name given to us at Baptism is not a label or a decoration! It is usually the name of the Virgin, or a Saint, who expect nothing other than to “give us a hand” in life, to give us a hand to obtain the grace from God that we need. If the trials of life have not reached the breaking point, if we are still capable of persevering, if despite everything we proceed trustingly, more than due to our own merits, perhaps we owe all this to the intercession of all the saints, some who are in Heaven, others who are pilgrims like us on earth, who have protected and accompanied us, because all of us know there are holy people here on this earth, saintly men and women who live in holiness. They do not know it; neither do we know it. But there are saints, everyday saints, hidden saints, or as I like to say, “saints who live next door”, those who share their lives with us, who work with us and live a life of holiness.

                       "Dancing Saints"- Mark Dukes (St. Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco)

Therefore, blessed be Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world, together with this immense flowering of saintly men and women who populate the earth and who have praised God through their own lives. For – as Saint Basil confirmed – “The Spirit is truly the dwelling of the saints since they offer themselves as a dwelling place for God and are called his temple” (On the Holy Spirit, 26, 62: PG 32, 184A; see CCC, 2684).