Thursday, December 31, 2009

Praying for Priests

Let us pray even harder for them in 2010, as the Year of the Priest continues. Here is a heart-breaking story. (Via Esther.)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"The Burning Babe"



The poem by St. Robert Southwell.
As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorchéd with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
Alas, quoth he, but newly born in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I !
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns ;
The fuel justice layeth on, and mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiléd souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.
With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away, And straight I calléd unto mind that it was Christmas day.


(Artwork from Holy Cards)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Book about St. Joseph

It comes highly recommended from Fr. Mark. To quote:
Père Marie-Dominique Philippe's book allies the tenderness of one who has tasted the mysteries of God with a Dominican clarity of thought and theological rigour. I recommend the book to all who desire a clearer understanding of manhood sanctified in various states of life: in marriage, in the diaconate, in priesthood, and in the grace of monastic consecration. At this hour of the Church's earthly pilgrimage, more, perhaps, than ever before, we are in need of the mystery and the intercession of Saint Joseph.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Review from Irenikon

Mary Lanser of Irenikon has written the following review of The Night's Dark Shade:
The story of Raphaelle, Vicomtesse de Miramande, is a ripping good chapter tale! If Elena Maria Vidal is anything at all, as an author, she is marvelously gifted as a yarn-spinning, bell-toned story teller. Ordinarily, I tend not to be a fan of the romanza, but I thoroughly enjoyed the pace and people of this story and will read it again. In fact the next time, I will read it aloud, for all good tales should be told in front of a leaping fire to as many ears as will listen.

In her previous books Trianon and Madame Royale, Elena Maria Vidal crafts her characters directly from the pages of history, giving voice and depth and potency of thought and action to a King and a Queen who left many of their own words behind for her to peruse as she unfolded vignettes of their story for us to become lost in for a time.

In this most recent offering from Elena Maria, The Night's Dark Shade, she draws the characters in the story directly from her own fulsome imagination, from a bit of regional travel perhaps, but primarily from her own experience of life and love, from universal truths and their consequences, from the vagaries of good and evil, invoking God and struggling with mankind as despair is overshadowed by hope. This is the real joy of the story. It is hopeful to its core. Not a saccharine unrealistic yearning, but a solid substantial expectation that in spite of the evils of the world, there is space in our lives for light and love and heart-felt laughter.

In order to find these spaces, however, one must climb through the flinty detritus of human weakness as the wicked are celebrated and the good are driven out to fend for themselves alone; children are left to starve, or murdered in the womb, while sexual excess, cruelty, and license are inconvenient, but expected and tolerated aspects of a totally corrupt humanity. In this abased darkness of human nature, true chivalry comes at the price of creature comforts, and true loves bloom as a false love lies dying.

The story is set in the wonderland of the French Pyrenees in Languedoc, south of the Dardogne, north of Gascony, and east of Hautes Pyrenees and Lourdes. The mountain passes are high and treacherous, with brooding monasteries perched among the peaks. The towns and villages huddle beneath massive fairy-tale fortresses and are graced by Romanesque cathedral churches built to match the forbidding face of the castle walls and buttresses. The call of eagles answer the cry of newborn lambs and the peoples are strong mountain folk, rugged but sometimes far too easily led astray.

The Night's Dark Shade is the story of a woman of the petite nobility of the region, who is bound, by inheritance and title, to the land and to the people. She is bound to a marriage of familial convenience and it is in the breaking of those bindings and the consequential disposition of her heart and soul that the story reaches its climax and unpredictable denouement. The pace is fast, the language formal but clipped and clear and as sharp as the cliff edges that frame the story. Thoroughly delightful change of time and place. Thoroughly recognizable to the contemporary heart.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blessed Mary of the Angels

From Louange de sa Gloire:
Mary of the Angels was born in Turin on January 7, 1661, the last of eleven children of the Count John Donatus Fontanella di Baldissero and of Countess Mary Tana di Santana. When she was fourteen, her father had already died; and she had to overcome resolutely the opposition of her mother in order to enter the monastery of the Discalced Carmelite nuns of St Christine, which had been founded on April 30, 1639, by the princes of Savoy. On November 19, 1675, she gave up her name of Marianna and was clothed in the religious habit; on December 26, 1676, she made her religious profession. Long years of indescribable sufferings, borne with heroic serenity, refined her spirit even to mystical transformation in God. The renown of her holiness imposed itself on the esteem and confidence of her sisters in Carmel and her fellow-citizens. She obtained papal dispensation to be elected prioress at the age of thirty-three, and was confirmed in the same office three more times. She was also entrusted with the office of mistress of novices; and in 1702 she founded a new Carmel at Moncalieri.
She revealed her charity for her neighbor and for her country by continual prayer, by her life of immolation, by her delicacy and care in receiving and consoling everyone. Members of royalty were among her admirers and confidants. She obtained from the Lord the end of the war and the liberation of Turin in 1696. Ascribing that grace to the intercession of St Joseph, she had the joy of having him proclaimed a patron of the city, with a solemn triduum at St Christine's. A few years later she turned to the Blessed Virgin to obtain again the liberation of Turin from the imminent danger of siege and invasion on the part of the French troops. On September 7, 1706, the united forces of Duke Victor Amadeus and Prince Eugene of Savoy gained a decisive victory, as the blessed had foretold. To celebrate this victory, the famous votive temple at Superga was built.

Mary of the Angels lived as a true daughter of St Teresa of Jesus, zealously upholding the full observance of the rule and the counsels. She was distinguished by an unsullied purity — such as to be compared with St Aloysius Gonzaga, to whom she was related on her mother's side — by her intense love of suffering, by her apostolic zeal, by her continual suffrages for the souls in purgatory, by a very tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin and to St Joseph. She was enriched by God with extraordinary charisms. She died at Turin on December 16, 1717, leaving behind many letters and some spiritual autobiographical accounts (unedited).

The canonical processes were begun in 1722. On May 5, 1778, Pius VI proclaimed the heroicity of her virtues; and on April 25, 1865, Pius IX declared her a blessed. Her body rests at Turin in the church of St Teresa, the work of the architect Juvenal Delponte, under a magnificent altar, opposite the monumental chapel of St Joseph, the masterpiece of Philip Juvara. Her liturgical feast is celebrated by the Discalced Carmelites on December 16, with the rank of an optional memorial.

-- Saints of Carmel by Fr Louis Saggi, OCarm.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Empress Zita

The cause of the wife of Blessed Karl of Austria has been introduced. Here is a prayer for the beatification of Zita of Bourbon-Parma which a friend sent me:
God our Father, you redeemed the world by the self-abasement of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He who was King became the Servant of all and gave his life as a ransom for many, therefore you have exalted him.

We ask you that your servant Zita, Empress and Queen, will be raised upon the altars of your Church. In her, you have given us a great example of faith and hope in the face of trials, and of unshakeable trust in your Divine Providence.

We beseech you that alongside her husband, the Blessed Emperor Charles, Zita will become for couples a model of married love and fidelity, and for families a guide in the ways of a truly Christian upbringing. May she who in all circumstances opened her heart to the needs of others, especially the poor and needy, be for us all an example of service and love of neighbour.

Through her intercession, grant our petition (mention here the graces you are asking for). Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

1 Pater, 3 Ave, 1 Gloria Patri

Imprimatur : 09/07/2009
† Mgr. Yves Le Saux
Bishop of Le Mans (France).

We would be grateful to those who have received graces through the intercession of the Servant of God, Empress Zita to contact:

Association for the Beatification of Empress Zita
Abbaye Saint-Pierre
1, place Dom Guéranger
72300 Solesmes, France

Now on Amazon

The Night's Dark Shade is now available from Amazon, for those who have been waiting to get it from there.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Interview with Donna-Marie

It was a privilege for me to interview Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle on the occasion of the release of her new book about Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. She is the author of several books on motherhood, as well as being a columnist and a guest on both radio and television. The following is an excerpt from the press release for Mother Teresa and Me:
Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle is known to millions as the friendly face and soothing voice of Catholic motherhood. Her frequent appearances on radio and television, her many books, and her speaking engagements are the public face of a life devoted to seeking holiness in the context of a happy Catholic family.

She grew up in a in a large, close-knit Catholic family, married, and is raising five children, the youngest now entering college. Family life has always been her first vocation.

But in addition to her work as a mother, Donna-Marie has found opportunities to serve God both close to home and throughout the world. She has been a catechist for over twenty years at her parish and a Eucharistic minister to the sick, as well as a world-renowned journalist and author.

Donna-Marie’s decade-long friendship with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta led to a long correspondence and meetings around the world. Following in the footsteps of Blessed Teresa, Donna-Marie became a lay Missionary of Charity and founded a branch of the lay Missionaries of Charity. Today, Donna-Marie is passionate about encouraging others to follow in the footsteps of her blessed friend, caring for the poorest of the poor.

It was Mother Teresa who constantly encouraged Donna-Marie to keep writing for mothers, women, and families, and she wrote the foreword to Donna-Marie’s book Prayerfully Expecting: A Nine Month Novena for Mothers-To-Be, as well as back-cover endorsements for her other books. Donna-Marie was also blessed with the spiritual guidance and friendship of the late world-renowned theologian, Rev. John A. Hardon S. J.

Remembering Jesus’ request in the Gospel of Matthew that we should care for Him in others, Donna-Marie founded the “Friends of Veronica,” an outreach to the seniors, the sick, and the lonely in nursing homes and hospitals. Their goal is to bring love and comfort in imitation of St. Veronica, who lovingly gave her veil to wipe Jesus’ forehead as He walked to Calvary. Donna-Marie has founded several other apostolates and organizations.

Donna-Marie was invited by Cardinal Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity to participate in an International Congress for women at the Vatican in early 2008 to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem penned by Pope John Paul II.

Donna-Marie has been a frequent guest on EWTN television and discusses Catholic and family and parenting issues on a regular Ave Maria Radio segment called “Mom’s Corner” at “Catholic Connection” with radio host Teresa Tomeo.

She is also an EWTN TV host. Look for Donna-Marie in upcoming EWTN television segments called “Everyday Blessings for Catholic Moms.”

Here is my recent interview of Donna:
1.) Donna, as someone who was born and raised Catholic, can you describe some of the influences in your childhood which made an impression on you and helped you to persevere in the faith at a time when many of your generation were leaving the Church?

Thank you for this interview, Elena. To answer your question, I was very influenced by my mother and her mother (my grandmother) growing up. They kept me grounded in the faith. My other grandparents were deceased by the time I was born. Of course, my father helped with our formation too, but my mother spent all of her time with her eight children and made sure we stayed on the straight and narrow while my father worked endless hours to support us. My mother prayed the Rosary with us growing up and my grandmother had many sacred images around her home. She also loved Pope John Paul II so much and had his picture everywhere in her home. She was Polish, after all! So, every time we visited her, we saw all of those images, pictures, and religious items all around her home. I’m sure it had a powerful effect on me – it has certainly stayed with me.

2.)Your meeting with Blessed Mother Teresa, as you describe in your new book, was nothing short of providential. Can you talk a little about where you were in your spiritual journey at that time and how the meeting with one of the greatest saints of the 20th century came at just the right moment in your life?

God certainly had a plan. I couldn’t have planned any of it myself if I wanted to! But, as you say, the meeting certainly must have come at the exact time that God wanted it to. Of course, I never imagined anything was going to unfold from our first meeting. How could I? I merely took it all in and thanked God for it and then afterward, I continued on my way through the trenches of everyday motherhood and all it entailed. I have recounted how my life unfolded after meeting her in this book.

3.)One of the things that struck me when reading your book is the connection between the spiritual motherhood of a nun like Blessed Teresa and the biological motherhood of a Christian wife and mother, like yourself. Can you tell us how the spiritual guidance of the saint helped you to deepen your own understanding and commitment to your vocation?

That’s a good question. I did see similarities between our vocations. I do talk about that in my book and actually in some of my other books too. I like to weave Mother Teresa’s wisdom throughout my writings to help inspire others. Mother Teresa was never a biological mother, of course. However, she mothered the world, really. She became a mother to us all. Mother Teresa’s spiritual guidance helped me profoundly. I couldn’t even begin to express it. Her letters and conversations with me when we were together and over the phone too were always just what I needed to hear. I took all of the blessings straight to my heart and applied them to my life. I feel that our good Lord would like me to share the blessings with others and that’s what I try to do in my book: Mother Teresa and Me as well as in my other books.

4.) It has become obvious that motherhood has become denigrated in our society. I think that books like yours, not only the new one but your past works, are helping to rebuild the sense of dignity that once belonged to Christian mothers. Do you think that there is a connection with Mother Teresa's menial work with the poorest of the poor and the mundane tasks that are the lot of most mothers?

Yes, I agree and I speak about the denigration of motherhood quite a bit, but I always throw in a heap of encouragement for mothers today. I like to give them a pat on the back and lots of inspiration for their journey. Thank you for your kind words about my books and works. I hope and pray that they do help to rebuild the sense of dignity that was always an integral part of the vocation of motherhood. I am told by my readership that they are being fed by my books and that they are discovering the sublimity of their vocation of raising little saints to Heaven. I am heartened to see a resurgence of Catholic and Christian Moms who are taking their vocation seriously and devoting the time to raising their children properly and with love in their “domestic churches.” Yes, there is a connection with Mother Teresa’s “menial” work among the poor (and you’ll read examples of this in my book) and the “mundane” tasks of mothers. The secret to sanctity and to true happiness is in seeing that these little acts of loving service are huge in God’s eyes. Many of the saints, including St Therese of Lisieux have spoken about the little things. I write about it a great deal. It’s those little things when done lovingly and devotedly that actually open the gates of Heaven for us and others!

5.) Donna, you are a Lay Missionary of Charity. Could you explain what belonging to that confraternity entails and how it enhances your vocation as a wife and mother?

Yes, sure I will. Being a Lay Missionary of Charity is not being part of a confraternity. It is being a part of a Religious Order. It’s like a Third Order. It’s a call to holiness in the lay life, just as any other Third Order is. But the charism of this lay Order is one of seeing Jesus in everyone we meet which is really what every Christian is called to do anyway. I’ll quote from my book here: “As a Lay Missionary of Charity, I lead a normal life as a lay Catholic person but with a specific mission and purpose according to private vows I have taken to live a life according to the charism of Blessed Mother Teresa. The lay Missionary of Charity Movement is deeply prayerful and imbued with the spirituality of Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity. The specific mission of a lay Missionary of Charity is for the salvation and sanctification of our families, for the movement, and for the poorest of the poor all over the world. The vocation of a lay Missionary of Charity is simply to express to others by word and example the influence of God’s love, peace, and joy in our lives. This is accomplished throughout our daily lives and within encounters with all we meet. We are mindful of Blessed Mother Teresa’s words: ‘Love begins at home, in our movement, and in our family.’ We follow Mother Teresa’s inspiration that “works of love are works of peace” and that small things done with great love are very pleasing to Our Lord. Mother Teresa stressed that we should ‘be only all for Jesus through Mary. Let us be pure and humble like Mary, and we are sure to be holy like Jesus.’” To answer your question regarding how being a lay Missionary of Charity enhances my vocation as a wife and mother, it’s the understanding of the call to holiness and the awareness that God is sanctifying my vocation as I give it all to Him. Of course, any prayerful person can achieve sanctification in their family, by God’s grace without being a member of a Third Order or a Lay Missionary of Charity. However, being a part of an Order has the benefit of graces attached to it, especially from the founder’s intercession, in this case.

6) You have had the rare privilege of corresponding with a living saint, living in your lifetime, that is. Donna, can you discuss the reality of being with a saint, and becoming close to a saint, as compared to the false view of saints that many people have? I sense that some Catholics regard saints, especially saintly nuns, as being unapproachable and remote. Please tell us how this is not at all true!

Certainly, Mother Teresa was a very real person with her feet planted firmly on the ground. She was knowledgeable about matters going on around her in the culture and the world. She had seen everything – from all kinds of devastating poverty and disease in Calcutta and many parts of the world to the lack of love and the breakdown of the family in the western world. She didn’t shirk or run from any of it – she faced it square on - not with her head up in the clouds – and she dealt with it with God’s love and mercy to each person she came into contact with. She was extremely approachable, immanently real. She was my friend, mentor and “mother!” Saints were real people like you and me – all differing personalities and each possessing unique gifts. What makes them saintly is their desire to follow the will of God completely with full surrender. That’s what I saw in Mother Teresa, her full surrender to God’s holy will in her life. She wanted to satiate His thirst for souls. She has told us that we are all called to holiness and that “it is not a luxury for a few, but a duty for us all.” In all of our walks of life, we are called to be saints too. That’s what I try to get across in my book: Mother Teresa and Me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Interview

Author Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle recently interviewed me about my life and my new novel, The Night's Dark Shade.

Prince Demetrius Gallitzin

One Sunday in April several years ago, I got up extra early to drive the two hours through the mountains to the Carmelite Monastery in Loretto, PA where our Secular Carmelite community meets once a month. There was heavy fog in the mountains around Altoona and I had to creep along in order not to miss the Cresson exit. I was a nervous wreck and kept wishing that they had canceled the meeting. At the monastery I found that the meeting HAD been canceled; not listening to the messages on one's answering machine can have some unpleasant consequences. I was dismayed, to say the least.

The nun at the Turn told me that Mass about to start down the road at Saint Michael's Basilica. After calling my husband, to whom I conveyed my agitation, I made my way to the venerable mountain shrine, where the Servant of God Prince Demetrius Gallitzin is buried. It had been a long time since I had been in a really beautiful church. Most of the churches where we live are pleasant but some are downright ugly.

Nothing compares to the transcendent feeling of walking into a magnificent Catholic church, in all its Paschal array. Easter lilies, incense, frescoes, marble statues, exposition after Mass, it was like being in heaven. My pilgrimage was meant to be; I asked Prince Gallitzin for his intercession.

Prince Gallitzin was a Russian aristocrat who gave up a privileged life to minister to poor people in the wilderness of what is now the Altoona-Johnstown diocese. (It is still pretty much of a wilderness, if you ask me. One can only imagine how rugged it was 200 years ago.) Here is an account of the life of the Servant of God:

Prince, priest, and missionary, Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin was born at The Hague on December 22, 1770; he died at Loretto, Pennsylvania on May 6, 1840. He was a scion of one of the oldest, wealthiest, and most illustrious families of Russia. His father, Prince Demetrius Gallitzin (d. 16 March, 1803), Russian ambassador to Holland at the time of his son's birth, had been previously for fourteen years the Russian ambassador to France, and was an intimate acquaintance of Diderot, Voltaire, d'Alembert, and other rationalists of the day. Though nominally an Orthodox Russian, he accepted and openly professed the principles of an infidel philosophy. On August 28, 1768, he married in Aachen the Countess Amalie, the only daughter of the then celebrated Prussian Field-Marshal von Schmettau. Her mother, Baroness von Ruffert, being a Catholic, Amalie was baptized in the Catholic Church, but her religious education was neglected, and it was not until 1786 that she became a fervent Catholic, which she remained until her death on April 27, 1806.

Little attention was paid to the religious education of Demetrius, who was born and baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church. In youth his most constant companion was Frederick William, son of William V, then reigning Stadtholder of the Netherlands. This friendship continued even after Frederick William became King of the Netherlands and Duke of Luxemburg as William I. Almost from his infancy the young prince was subjected to rigid discipline, and his intellectual faculties, trained by the best masters of the age, reached their fullest development. At the age of almost seventeen Demetrius became a sincere Catholic, and to please his mother, whose birth (1748), marriage (1768), and First Holy Communion (1786) occurred on 28 August, the feast of St. Augustine, assumed at confirmation that name, and thereafter wrote his name Demetrius Augustine. After finishing his education he was appointed aide-de-camp to the Austrian General von Lillien, but as there was no opportunity for him to continue a military career his parents resolved that he should spend two years in traveling through America, the West Indies, and other foreign lands. Provided with letters of introduction to Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore, and accompanied by his tutor, Father Brosius, afterwards a prominent missionary in the United States, he embarked at Rotterdam, Holland on August 19, 1792, and landed in Baltimore, Maryland on October 28. To avoid the inconvenience and expense of traveling as a Russian prince, he assumed the name of Schmet, or Smith, and for many years was known in the United States as Augustine Smith. Soon after arriving at Baltimore, he was deeply impressed with the needs of the Church in America. He resolved to devote his fortune and life to the salvation of souls in the country of his adoption. Despite the objections of his relatives and friends in Europe, he, with the approval of Bishop Carroll, entered St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore as one of its first students. St. Mary's had been founded the previous year (1791) by Sulpician priests, refugees from France. On March 18, 1795, Demetrius was ordained a priest, being the first to receive in the limits of the original thirteen of the United States all the orders from tonsure to priesthood.

In 1788 Captain Michael McGuire, an officer in the Revolutionary army, purchased about 1,200 acres of land near the summit of the Alleghenies, in what is now Cambria County, Pennsylvania. McGuire was the first white man to establish a residence within the limits of that county. He brought his family from Maryland and built his log-cabin in the valley below the site of the present town of Loretto, in the midst of a dense forest which covered all that portion of the State. His nearest neighbors were fully twenty miles away. Soon relatives and friends followed from Maryland, established themselves in the vicinity, and formed what came to be known far and wide as McGuire's Settlement, later called Clearfield, the lands lying on the headwaters of Clearfield Creek. Some years after his arrival Father Gallitzin named it Loretto, after the city of Loreto in Italy; but it was not until 1816 that he laid out the town and caused the plan of lots to be recorded in the county archives. Captain McGuire died in 1793, bequeathing to Bishop Carroll four hundred acres of his land in trust for the benefit of the resident clergy who, he hoped, would be appointed to provide for the spiritual wants of his growing colony. McGuire was the first to be buried in the portion of this land set aside for a cemetery, which Father Brosius consecrated on one of his early visits to the settlement.

Father Gallitzin first exercised his ministry in Baltimore and in the scattered missions of southern Pennsylvania and northern Maryland and Virginia. In 1796, while stationed at Conewago, Pennsylvania, Servant of God Gallitzin received a sick-call to attend a Mrs. John Burgoon, a Protestant, who lived at McGuire's Settlement, about one hundred and fifty miles distant, and who ardently desired to become a Catholic before her death. Father Gallitzin immediately started on the long journey, instructed Mrs. Burgoon, and received her into the Church. During this visit to the Alleghenies he conceived the idea of forming a Catholic settlement there. In preparation therefore, he invested his means (considerable at that time) in the purchase of land adjoining the four hundred acres donated to the Church, and at the urgent request of the little mountain colony obtained from Bishop Carroll permission to fix his permanent residence there with jurisdiction extending over a territory with a radius of over one hundred miles. In the summer of 1799, he commenced his career as pioneer priest of the Alleghenies. His first care was to erect a church and house of logs, hewn from the immense pine trees of the surrounding forest. In a letter to Bishop Carroll, dated February 9, 1800, he writes:

"Our church, which was only begun in harvest, got finished fit for service the night before Christmas. It is about 44 feet long by 25, built of white pine logs with a very good shingle roof. I kept service in it at Christmas for the first time. There is also a house built for me, 16 feet by 14, besides a little kitchen and a stable."

While the church and house were being constructed, he said Mass for the few Catholics of the settlement in the log house, erected two years previously by Luke McGuire, the elder son of the captain. That house is still standing (1909) and serves as a residence for the descendants, in direct male line, of the founder of McGuire's Settlement. To accommodate the increasing influx of Catholic colonists, Father Gallitzin in 1808 enlarged the log church to almost double its former capacity, and as the population continued to increase, he took down the log building in 1817, and on the same site erected a frame church, forty by thirty feet, which served as the parish church until 1853.

Father Heyden, one of Father Gallitzin's biographers, writes (1869):

"What now constitutes the dioceses of Pittsburg, Erie, and a large part of the Harrisburg new episcopal see, was then the missionary field of a single priest, Rev. Prince Gallitzin. If we except the station at Youngstown, Westmoreland County, where the Rev. Mr. Browers had settled a few years before, there was not, from Conewago in Adams County to Lake Erie–from the Susquehanna to the Potomac–a solitary priest, church, or religious establishment of any kind, when he opened his missionary career. From this statement we may conceive some idea of the incredible privations and toils which he had to encounter in visiting the various widely remote points where some few Catholics happened to reside."

As early as 1800, and frequently thereafter, Demetrius wrote to Bishop Carroll, begging that one or more priests be sent to share his burdens. And so for more than twenty years he was obliged to perform, unassisted, a work which would have proved onerous for several.

Servant of God Demetrius Gallitzin was not only the good shepherd of his multiplying flock; he was also in a particular manner their worldly benefactor. Flowing out his idea of establishing a Catholic colony at the place which he named Loretto, and which he made the cradle of Catholicity in Western Pennsylvania, he, by means of remittances from Germany and loans contracted on the strength of his expectations, purchased large portions of land adjoining the settlement, which he sold in small tracts to the incoming colonists at a very low rate and on easy terms. For much of this land he was never repaid. Moreover, he built, at his own expense, saw-mills, grist-mills, and tanneries, and established other industries for the material benefit of his flock. In accomplishing all this he necessarily burdened himself with a heavy personal debt; not imprudently, however, for he had received solemn assurances that he would obtain a portion of his father's large estate, as well as his share of his mother's bequest. The Russian Government, nevertheless, disinherited him for becoming a Catholic and a priest, and the German prince who had married his sister squandered both his and her inheritance. In these circumstances, he was compelled, in 1827, to appeal to the charitable public; the appeal was endorsed by Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who headed the list with a subscription of one hundred dollars; on the list stands the name of Cardinal Cappellari, afterwards Pope Gregory XVI, who subscribed two hundred dollars. Yet it was not until near the close of his life that the burden of debt was finally lifted. During the forty-one years of his pastorate in the Alleghenies, he never received a cent of salary; he maintained himself, his household, and the many orphans whom he sheltered, and abundantly supplied the wants of the needy among his flock out of the produce of his farm, which by his intelligent method of cultivation became very productive. It is estimated that he expended $150,000 of his inheritance, a small portion of the amount that should rightly have come to him, but an immense sum for the times in which he lived, in the establishment of his Catholic colony in the Alleghenies. For some years (1804-1807) he was rewarded with ingratitude. His actions were misconstrued, his words and writings misinterpreted, his character vilified, his honor attacked, and even violent hands were laid on his person, and all this by members of his own flock. But, with the encouragement of his bishop and the aid of the civil courts, he brought his defamers to acknowledge their guilt, for which they voluntarily and publicly made full reparation before their fellow Catholics in the Loretto church.

For fourteen years after his ordination Father Gallitzin was known to the general public as Augustine Smith. This was the name which he subscribed to all his legal papers and to his entries in the parish register of baptisms and marriages. But, fearing serious difficulties in the future, at his request, on December 16, 1809, the Pennsylvania legislature validated the acts and purchases made under that assumed name, and legalized the resumption of his real name. Notwithstanding his varied labors, Father Gallitzin found time to publish several valuable tracts in favor of the Catholic cause. He was the first in the United States to enter the lists of controversy in defense of the Church; he was provoked thereto by a sermon delivered on Thanksgiving Day 1814, in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, by a certain minister who went out of his way to attack what he called "popery". Repelling this attack, Father Gallitzin first published his "Defense of Catholic Principles", which ran through several editions and was the means of many conversions. This was followed by "A Letter on the Holy Scriptures" and "An Appeal to the Protestant Public".

For twenty years Father Gallitzin had labored alone in a vast mission whose Catholic population was constantly increasing; in 1834, when Father Lemke was sent to his assistance and was assigned the northern part of Cambria County as his sphere of action, the parish of Loretto was restricted within comparatively narrow limits. In the meantime Father Gallitzin's reputation for sanctity, the fame of his talents, and the account of his labors had spread far and wide; and it was his deep humility as well as his love for his community that prevented his advancement to the honors of the Church. He accepted the office of Vicar-General for Western Pennsylvania, conferred on him by Bishop Conwell of Philadelphia, in 1827, because he felt that in that office he could promote the interests of the Church; but he strongly resisted the proposals to nominate him for the position of first Bishop of Cincinnati and first Bishop of Detroit. For many years before his death he lived in the hope of seeing Loretto made an episcopal see, for Loretto was then a flourishing mission and the centre of a constantly increasing Catholic population, while Pittsburgh was a small town containing but few Catholics. After forty-one years spent on the rugged heights of the Alleghenies, he died as he had lived, poor. On coming to McGuire's Settlement he found a dense wilderness; he left it dotted with fertile farms. Servant of God Demetrius Gallitzin was buried, according to his desire, midway between his residence and the church (they were about thirty feet apart); in 1847 his remains were transferred to a vault in a field nearer the town, over which a humble monument was erected out of squared blocks of rough mountain stone. In 1891 his remains were taken from the decayed coffin of cherry wood and placed in a metallic casket; in 1899, on the occasion of the centenary celebration of the foundation of the Loretto Mission, the rude monument was capped by a pedestal of granite, and this in turn by a bronze statue of the prince-priest, donated by Charles M. Schwab, who also built the large stone church, which was solemnly consecrated October 2, 1901.

- information above taken largely from he Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VI, Copyright © 1909 by the Robert Appleton Company.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Calcutta All Over the World

“There is Calcutta all over the world for those who have eyes to see.” ~Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Mother Teresa and Me, the first-hand account of Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle about her ten year friendship with the Saint of the Gutters, is a deceptively slender volume, deceptive in that it is truly a powerhouse of a book. Every page is rich with spiritual insights, simple yet profound, in the manner of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. Although I have heard and read of Mother Teresa from the time I was a child she has never come fully alive for me until now, for through the book I feel that I have met her. The author deftly communicates her own experiences to the reader, from the time she first encounters Mother Teresa after Mass while visiting with the late Fr. John Hardon, to the transformation of her spiritual life and those of others through her long correspondence and further meetings with the saint. Most of all it recalls to mind that the world is unaware of the suffering and starvation, both material and spiritual, that goes on everywhere. Lazarus still begs at the gate.

Donna relates several dramatic incidents in her personal life when Mother Teresa intervened with prayer and consolation, leading eventually to the author's vocation as a Lay Missionary of Charity. The strong Marian aspect of Mother Teresa's spirituality, which she conveyed to everyone who came in contact with her, is described throughout the book. As Donna expresses it:
The Marian dimension of Christian prayer was central to Mother Teresa’s prayer life. Just like Pope John Paul II, she had a deep love for and intimate relationship with the Blessed Mother; we can say that she lived under Mary’s mantle. She didn’t only pray to the Blessed Mother seeking her help; she was also consecrated to her. She put her trust and confidence in Mary, and believed that Mary was truly present in her life. She actually abandoned her life into Mary’s hands and heart, believing that Mary would take care of all her needs and the needs of the poor. Who could understand us and know all of our needs better than the Mother of God?

Just as Pope John Paul II was a great fan of St. Louis de Montfort and his formula for a consecration to Mary, Mother Teresa was as well. She encouraged others to get close to Our Lady too, believing that a healthy devotion to the Blessed Mother was essential to a committed Christian life. (p.91-92)
Only a vigorous prayer life can enable us to see and help the poor. Donna gives many examples of how the Marian consecration bore fruit in Mother's life and in her own.
Mother Teresa’s actions spoke even louder than her words. We know she devoted her entire ministry, at least fifty years of her life, to caring for the poorest of the poor. The poor that she came into contact with were in worse than dire straights. Some of them were dying in the streets, never having known the shelter of a roof over their heads. The poor for whom Blessed Teresa cared sometimes were infected with maggots or covered with leprosy. She put herself in harm’s way of all kinds of diseases and illnesses. Mother Teresa often said that we must seek to understand the poor. We don’t have to run off to Calcutta to encounter the poor. They exist in our own neighborhoods. The poor in our own areas may not have leprosy. They may not be homeless. But they may suffer from what Mother Teresa considers to be a worse disease – the disease of loneliness or of being unloved....

When the rich decide to help the poor by donating something, Mother Teresa lamented that it was often expired foods and unwanted clothing. “We treat the poor like they are a garbage can,” she said. She also pointed out that the most valuable thing we can give the poor is our time. When Mother Teresa counseled us to take care of the poor who reside in our own homes, she wasn’t talking about homeless persons we have taken in. She meant that there may be someone in our family who feels neglected or unloved. We need to be sure that their needs are seen to before rushing off to help the poor outside the doors of our homes. (pp.102-103)
In order to bring Christ to the poor of the world, we need to draw upon the resources of grace that are to be found in prayer and meditation. How can this be done in the chaos of modernity? In the author's own words:
We are surrounded by noise. We live in a world of distraction. With so much overstimulation, it is difficult to settle down and find any peace and quiet, within or without. Sometimes even our own thoughts can prevent us from being quiet in our souls. When there is a momentary pause, we quickly fill it with something. We think about yesterday, we worry about tomorrow, and we have great difficulty staying in the present moments of our lives.

People today seem to crave noise as well as more and more activity. Some of us cannot travel without headphones or a bluetooth on our ears, listening to music or carrying on phone conversations constantly. Our technological world has made the search for silence much more complex. Are we afraid of our own thoughts? Do we have such a need to distract ourselves with activity and racket that we miss the graces that our Lord wishes to bestow on us through silence?...

Even amid our crazy lives, we can discover silence. We should certainly search for silence, even when we are busy with our daily tasks. We can train ourselves to be silent in the depths of our souls. When we ask our Lord to teach us to pray more fervently and more wholeheartedly, he will show us the way to enter the inner oratory of our hearts where we can go to pray often. We can train ourselves to seek silence deep within our hearts.

A mother can find silence even within the noise of her household – in the busyness of caring for her children, folding laundry, cooking a meal, or washing dishes – when she looks inward and offers her heart to God. I am not suggesting that she become oblivious to what she is doing, especially when caring for children. This is a different kind of silence. While folding a load of laundry, cooking her family’s dinner, or nursing a baby, a mother can become meditative, raising her heart to God and thanking him for the privilege of serving him as she serves her family within her vocation of motherhood. (pp. 129, 135)
One comes away from Donna's book with the reinforced conviction that the love of Christ is more powerful than all the evil in the world, no matter how the media portrays the times. How a single life can illuminate the darkness! And each one of us is called to participate, even in a small way.
Most of us are blessed with some sort of suffering; it’s the reality in this life. However, Christ offers us all the graces we need to endure (and even shine) in the midst of our pain, giving us the opportunity to be an example of Christian love to others. When we give all of our pain to him, he sanctifies it and give us peace. Let’s not forget to ask the Blessed Mother for her help as well. I will never forget the prayer Mother Teresa shared with me and which I offer to you: “Mary, Mother of Jesus, be a Mother to me now.” I pray it often and hope you find comfort in it too.
We are burnished and polished with fire sometimes but never without sufficient grace to endure and to shine. Through the sanctification process, self-knowledge unfolds and becomes visible to us in our daily experiences, thus providing us with ongoing opportunities to change our attitudes and offer our lives even more fully to God.

I am absolutely awestruck by the fact that this one woman’s “Yes” to God has affected millions of people around the world. Blessed Teresa’s willingness to embrace poverty of spirit so completely and to blindly trust God with her life transformed her soul and opened wide her heart to the plight of the poor. Her simple message of love reached “the ends of the earth,” one person at a time. She opened our eyes to see the poor all around us.

While most of us are not called to travel to Calcutta to serve the poor, we can remember what Mother Teresa said: “There is Calcutta all over the world for those who have eyes to see.” Maybe our evangelizing to the ends of the earth will actually mean to the ends of our household or our workplace. We can continually expand our reach to needy souls in ever-widening circles in our local communities and beyond. (pp. 182-183)
Our participation in the Passion of Christ, standing beside Mary His Mother at the foot of the Cross, can change lives and save souls, perhaps not as dramatically as Blessed Teresa did during her pilgrimage on earth, but in hidden ways, known only to God, and powerful nonetheless.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mother Teresa and Me

Today sees the release of Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle's memoir of her friendship with Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. I have had the privilege of reading and endorsing a truly unique and uplifting book. Here is my comment:
Donna-Marie has composed a loving distillation of Blessed Teresa’s thought based upon a decade of correspondence and visits with the saint of the ghettos. It is A Tale of Two Mothers, of how a chance meeting of the small, dynamic Albanian nun with a young American housewife became a conduit of grace for many. One comes away convinced that the greatest power under heaven is not wealth or political influence but the loving spirit of a mother, for spiritual motherhood is especially efficacious in bringing a healing touch into the many and intangible Calcuttas of the modern world.
A full review of the book as well as an interview with the author will soon follow.

Friday, December 4, 2009

St. John Damascene and the "Ishmaelites"

When I first came upon this post, I wondered at first glance which ultramontane rabble-rouser had authored it, before realizing that it was from the writings of St. John Damascene. He was the last of the Greek Fathers and lived at a time when the ancient Christian communities were falling into Moslem hands. St. John did not mince words.
They furthermore accuse us of being idolaters, because we venerate the cross, which they abominate. And we answer them: ‘How is it, then, that you rub yourselves against a stone in your Ka’ba [107] and kiss and embrace it?’ Then some of them say that Abraham had relations with Agar upon it, but others say that he tied the camel to it, when he was going to sacrifice Isaac. And we answer them: ‘Since Scripture says that the mountain was wooded and had trees from which Abraham cut wood for the holocaust and laid it upon Isaac, [108] and then he left the asses behind with the two young men, why talk nonsense? For in that place neither is it thick with trees nor is there passage for asses.’ And they are embarrassed, but they still assert that the stone is Abraham’s. Then we say: ‘Let it be Abraham’s, as you so foolishly say. Then, just because Abraham had relations with a woman on it or tied a camel to it, you are not ashamed to kiss it, yet you blame us for venerating the cross of Christ by which the power of the demons and the deceit of the Devil was destroyed.’ This stone that they talk about is a head of that Aphrodite whom they used to worship and whom they called Khabár. Even to the present day, traces of the carving are visible on it to careful observers.

St. Barbara, Virgin and Martyr

She is venerated in both the east and the west.
Barbara was the daughter of a rich heathen named Dioscorus. She was carefully guarded by her father who kept her shut up in a tower in order to preserve her from the outside world. An offer of marriage which was received through him she rejected. Before going on a journey her father commanded that a bath-house be erected for her use near her dwelling, and during his absence Barbara had three windows put in it, as a symbol of the Holy Trinity, instead of the two originally intended. When her father returned she acknowledged herself to be a Christian; upon this she was ill-treated by him and dragged before the prefect of the province, Martinianus, who had her cruelly tortured and finally condemned her to death by beheading. The father himself carried out the death-sentence, but in punishment for this he was struck by lightning on the way home and his body consumed. Another Christian named Juliana suffered the death of a martyr along with Barbara. A pious man called Valentinus buried the bodies of the saints; at this grave the sick were healed and the pilgrims who came to pray received aid and consolation. The emperor in whose reign the martyrdom is placed is sometimes called Maximinus and sometimes Maximianus; owing to the purely legendary character of the accounts of the martyrdom, there is no good basis for the investigations made at an earlier date in order to ascertain whether Maximinus Thrax (235-238) or Maximinus Daza (of the Diocletian persecutions), is meant. The traditions vary as to the place of martyrdom, two different opinions being expressed: Symeon Metaphrastes and the Latin legend given by Mombritius makes Heliopolis in Egypt the site of the martyrdom, while other accounts, to which Baronius ascribes more weight, give Nicomedia. In the "Martyrologium Romanum parvum" (about 700), the oldest martyrology of the Latin Church in which her name occurs, it is said: "In Tuscia Barbarae virginis et martyris", a statement repeated by Ado and others, while later additions of the martyrologies of St. Jerome and Bede say "Romae Barbarae virginis" or "apud Antiochiam passio S. Barbarae virg.". These various statement prove, however, only the local adaptation of the veneration of the saintly martyr concerning whom there is no genuine historical tradition. It is certain that before the ninth century she was publicly venerated both in the East and in the West, and that she was very popular with the Christian populace. The legend that her father was struck by lightning caused her, probably, to be regarded by the common people as the patron saint in time of danger from thunder-storms and fire, and later by analogy, as the protector of artillerymen and miners. She was also called upon as intercessor to assure the receiving of the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist at the hour of death.
St. Barbara is also regarded as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, very popular in the Middle Ages.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Perpetual Virginity of Mary

During Advent we contemplate the mysteries surrounding the Birth of the Savior. We await His coming with the Virgin Mary, whose journey to Bethlehem becomes our own. We will never fully comprehend the mystery of the Incarnation and yet through faith we may grasp the unfathomable. So much of what the Church teaches has been distorted in our times. The teaching on Our Lady's perpetual virginity is often misunderstood, as Fr. Mark explains:
Even in the minds of many of the faithful, enfeebled by a forty year dearth of popular orthodox catechesis, a tragic confusion holds sway concerning the privileges of the Blessed Virgin Mary and, in particular, her virginity before, during, and after childbirth. There are many, alas, who, affected by various mutations of creeping Nestorianism and Arianism, have no grasp of what it means to call the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Those who do not confess the privileges of the Blessed Virgin Mary, honouring them and celebrating them, fall inevitably into one or another of the classic Christological heresies.
Fr. Mark further discusses this beautiful and ancient teaching, as follows:
Ever since the Council of Ephesus in 431, icons of the Mother of God have been marked by three stars: one on her forehead, and one on each shoulder, The three stars signify her perpetual virginity: before, during, and after the birth of her Son....

Ancient liturgical texts reflect the language of the first great Christological councils of the Church. It was crucial, in the context of the prevailing heresies, to invoke Mary as Theotokos, Mother of God, or as Ever-Virgin. It was feared that by referring to Mary as a woman called simply by her ordinary name, something of the mystery of Christ, True God and True Man, might be obscured or compromised. The liturgy in both East and West reflects this ancient preference. While, in preaching and in works of devotion, we often hear the name of Mary without her theological titles, the liturgy calls her Sancta Dei Genetrix (Holy God-bearer) and Semper Virgo (Ever-Virgin).

The most ancient prayer to the Virgin Mother is the Sub tuum praesidium, found on an Egyptian papyrus from the 3rd century. It does not include the name “Mary,” but invokes her as Holy God-bearer (Sancta Dei Genetrix) and Virgin glorious and blessed, (Virgo gloriosa et benedicta).

The liturgy through the ages is consistent in confessing that God Himself is the author of Mary’s perpetual virginity. The same thought is carried over into the ancient rites for the Consecration of Virgins. Virginity, before being something offered to God, is a gift received from Him. It is a gift wholly ordered to union with Christ. Christ is the Spouse of Virgins; He is, at the same time, the blessed Fruit of a virginity received from God and offered back to Him. The liturgy does not separate virginity from motherhood. The virginity given by God is characterized not by sterility, but by an astonishing fecundity.

More on this de fide teaching in the Catechism:
The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ's birth "did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it." And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the "Ever-virgin."
Here are some beautiful quotes from Fathers of Church:
Believe in the Son of God, the Word before all the ages, who was...in these last days, for your sake, made son of Man, born of the Virgin Mary in an indescribable and stainless way, -for there is no stain where God is and whence salvation comes.... (St. Gregory of Nazianzen, Oration on Holy Baptism, 40:45; 381 AD)
According to the condition of the body (Jesus) was in the womb, He nursed at His mother's breast, He lay in the manger, but superior to that condition, the Virgin conceived and the Virgin bore, so that you might believe that He was God who restored nature, though He was man who, in accord with nature, was born of a human being. (St. Ambrose of Milan, Mystery of the Lord's Incarnation, 6:54; 382 AD)
Who is this gate (Ezekiel 44:1-4), if not Mary? Is it not closed because she is a virgin? Mary is the gate through which Christ entered this world, when He was brought forth in the virginal birth and the manner of His birth did not break the seals of virginity. (St. Ambrose of Milan, The Consecration of a Virgin and the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, 8:52; c. 391 AD)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

St. Edmund Campion

Here is the Agnus Dei of the English Jesuit and martyr St. Edmund Campion, whose feast is today. To quote:
....The Agnus Dei [was] carried by St. Edmund Campion on his clandestine missions, and a gift of Pope Gregory VIII. Campion was found hiding in Lynford Grange, Berkshire on July 17, 1581, and was hanged, drawn, and quartered five months later. The Agnus Dei was found wrapped in a list of indulgences stuffed in the rafters of Lynford Grange when the roof underwent renovation in 1959.

Fr. Nicholas Schofield has blogged of Stonyhurst's collection here.
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