Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wisdom from Archbishop Fulton Sheen

“And yet at that moment when a tree of his own creation turned against Him and became a cross, when the iron of His earth reacted against Him and became nails, when roses rebelled against Him and became thorns, at that second when a sickle and a hammer combined to cut down the weeds on Calvary’s hill to erect a gallows and drive nails through hands to render impotent the blessings of love incarnate, He, like a tree which bathes in perfume the ax which kills it, lets fall from His lips for the earth’s first hearing the answer to the riddle of hate and anger: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” ~Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Ah, Fulton Sheen.  I don't think it was possible for that man to have written anything that wasn't soul-moving.  A good friend of mine recently sent me his beautiful poem, Complain! on the value of complaining to God alone.  I could use a lot of work in this area, complaining far too often to others instead of saving my sorrows for God alone, so hopefully the inspiration I feel in reading and re-reading this will become a valuable asset to my spiritual life.  Am I alone in that particular struggle?  I hope not and so I felt that this poem was too good not to pass on.  I am grateful to God for the wisdom of Archbishop Fulton Sheen.  He was, and through his writings continues to be, a great witness to the faith!

          Complain!
by:  Archbishop Fulton Sheen

God does not frown on your complaint.
Did not His Mother in the Temple ask:
“Son! Why hast thou done so to us?”
And did not Christ on the Cross complain:
“My God! Why hast Thou abandoned Me?”
If the Son asked the Father,
And the Mother the Son – “Why?”
Why should not you?

But let your wails be to God,
And not to man,
Asking not, “Why does God do this to me?”
But: “Why, O God, dost Thou treat me so?”
Talk not about God, as Satan did to Eve:
“Why did God command you?”
But talk to God, as Christ to His Father.

And at the end of your sweet complaining prayer
You will say: “Father, into Thy Hands I commend my spirit.”
You will not so much be taken down
As the thief on the left,
But be taken up as the thief
Who heard: “This day, Paradise.”

They who complain to others never see God’s purposes
They who complain to God find that
Their Passion, like Christ’s, turns into compassion.

Only He who made your wound can heal it.
The Love that tightened your bow-strings
Did so, not in hurt, but in love of music.

Do not all lovers ask in doubt: “Do you love me?”
Ask that of the Tremendous Lover
And each scar will seem a kiss!
  
God is not “way up there.”
He is taking another body – your own
To carry on the world’s redemption.

Too few offer Him a human nature
Like Mary at the angel’s call –
So He conscripts you, drafts you,
Inducts you into His Army.

Complain that your shoulders
Ache beneath your pack –
But see His  own, smarting
Under a cross beam.

Complaint to God is dialogue,
And dialogue is prayer.
Not the ready-made, packaged, memorized
Lip-service of the book and candle,
but the encounter and the union
That only lovers know!


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I Want My Daddy!

"But I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their heart and make me feel their affection, born from being together with Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write to me the way one writes, for instance, to a prince or a to great person that one does not know. They write to me as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, with the sense of a very affectionate family tie. Here one can touch firsthand what the Church is - not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian purposes, but a living body, a community of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. To experience the Church in this way and to be able almost to touch with your hands the power of its truth and its love, is a source of joy, in a time when many speak of its decline." ~ Pope Benedict XVI


Recently, upon arriving for work at the WIC Clinic, (Women, Infants and Children) I couldn't help but notice a four-year-old boy hiding under the examination table in the health screening room, too afraid to come out and receive a finger-poke to check his iron.  Despite the reassurances of his mother and the health-screener, he was crying out loudly, "I want my Daddy!  I want my Daddy!"

Like that four-year-old, sometimes only our Daddy will do when we are in need of comfort and reassurance to calm our fears.

Pope Benedict's new room at the Vatican
I can't help but think of how so many people, myself included, like to refer to our Holy Father as Papa, a loving term equivalent to Daddy.  And as he prepares to step into a quiet life of prayer, there are many in our Church who are filled with fear.  We look to the past and see the sins of our Church and the trials that have beset us, and we wonder, how are we going to cope without our beloved Papa? I am reassured with the knowledge that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit who will oversee the upcoming Conclave and will surely bring us a new Holy Father that is certain to lead us with strength, courage, knowledge and love.

Czech Cardinal Dominik Duka
And here's a great way that you can have a hand in choosing our new Pope!  There is a wonderful website where you whisper a prayer to the Holy Spirit, click the button and adopt a Cardinal to pray for as he takes part in choosing our new Holy Father.  I was blessed to adopt Cardinal Dominik Duka of Prague in the Czech Republic.  Now I know that it was truly the work of the Holy Spirit in choosing this Cardinal for me because my ancestry is Czechoslovakian, so I immediately felt a connection with this holy  man.  Of course, I was interested in learning more about him and was fascinated to discover that he has suffered greatly for his faith.  He had to delay entry into the seminary because he was forced to join the army and after his secret ordination into the Dominican order, he served underground for many years because the Communist government withdrew his license to practice as a priest.  For his work with the Dominicans and the publication of several of his books he was sentenced to serve a prison term. How I take my freedom to practice my faith for granted here in America!

Visit this website to adopt your own Cardinal.  Let's put our trust in the Holy Spirit and the power of our prayers that our new Daddy will be every bit as wise and wonderful as our Papa Benny and that he will always point us to our Daddy in Heaven, God the Father.


O Lord, Be with our beloved Pope Benedict as he retires to a life of deep and intimate prayer with you. Be with our Cardinals, as they work to place a new leader in the Chair of St. Peter who will lovingly guide our Church. And be with all of us in the Church as we yearn for closeness with you and strive to cast aside our sinful ways in favor of the holiness You desire from us. Amen.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lead Us Not Into Temptation


One of my Lenten goals is to read Pope Benedict's books, Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week. I am greatly encouraged by what he writes regarding the sixth petition of the Lord's prayer, and lead us not into temptation:
 

"When we pray it, we are saying to God: 'I know that I need trials so that my nature can be purified. When you decide to send me these trials, when you give evil some room to maneuver, as you did with Job, then please remember that my strength goes only so far. Don't overestimate my capacity. Don't set too wide the boundaries within which I may be tempted, and be close to me with your protecting hand when it becomes too much for me.'" ~from Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI

How're you doing on your Lenten sacrificial offerings?  Are you off to a great start or are you caving in to temptation? I wish I could say that I have been doing great, but in all honesty, I have fallen more than once.  Maybe I bit off more than I could chew and overestimated my abilities.  But Jesus gives us a great example in His three falls beneath the cross.  Each time He fell, He got back up and kept on going.  Time for me to do the same!  Giving up is not an option, but offering it up always is!

 "There is still time for endurance, time for patience, time for healing, time for change. Have you slipped? Rise up. Have you sinned? Cease. Do not stand among sinners, but leap aside."  ~St Basil

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Last week I was blessed to hear Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, the National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer, give not just one great talk, but two inspirational lectures.  You can read about his talk on Heroic Catholicism here, and the other one, on temptation, below.  This particular talk was in regards to last Sunday's Gospel reading (Luke 4:1-13) on the Lord's temptation in the desert.


From Fr. Jim's talk:  

We are often tempted to try to be the God of our own lives, to try to take control and use God as a last resort.  We all need conversion.  Pope Benedict XVI stated in his Year of Faith remarks that the world is seeing a spiritual desertification where God is no longer found and people don't believe in God.

From Adam and Eve to the time of Jesus, temptation has always been a fact of life.  It's part of human nature to be tempted because we have an enemy.  Satan is the enemy of human nature and Jesus, being human, was subject to temptation.

It's a mystery why God allows the evil spirit to work in our world.  We don't have an answer.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the power of Satan is limited and not infinite because he is a creature and not God.  But we know that "in everything God works for the good of those who love him." (Romans 8:28) Jesus temptation was part of God's plan.  He identified with us to save us from within.  Christ came into the world to set us free from sin and he did it by fighting the tempter himself until the cross.  The world is improved by fighting temptation.  The ultimate sign of things not going well is the giving in to sin.

The only way this world will become better is one person at a time through each individual struggle.  We carry on this battle in the spiritual desert and we pray for the grace and strength to battle temptation when we pray "lead us not into temptation."

We know that God does not tempt us, but that he allows temptation.  And why does he allow it?

One reason is to teach us humility.  We become humble when we are tempted.  We realize that we aren't perfect and that we are drawn to our own will instead of God's.  Teresa of Avila said that humility is the foundational virtue of all others.  Pope Benedict said, "It can be a penance for us in order to dampen our pride so we can re-experience the paltriness of our faith, hope and love and we avoid a high opinion of ourselves.

God also allows temptation to make us more compassionate.  Through our temptations we realize that we are in solidarity with suffering humanity. In Hebrews 4:15 we learn that "We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin."

Jesus temptations symbolize all of our temptations.  When Satan tempted Jesus to turn the stones into bread, this was a temptation against nature.  Today we see this temptation when someone undergoes gender-altering surgery or when two people of the same sex want to marry.  It's not natural.

We are tempted to power when we believe that we ourselves can change things without the assistance of God through prayer.

When the devil told Jesus to throw himself off the temple because the angels would care for him, he was encouraging the sin of presumption.  We see this today in people who think it's ok to give in to temptation and sin because they can always go to confession afterward.  They are presuming upon God's goodness.

Pope Benedict reminds us that at the heart of all temptations is the act of pushing God aside because we see Him as annoying.  We live as if God isn't important; we think we can make our world better without God.

Another benefit to God allowing us to be tempted is for our growth.  We see this growth even in Jesus, "Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered  and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him."  (Hebrews 5:8-9)  

We know that Jesus was always perfect.  The abyss of all virtues still needed to be exercised to develop and grow and become even more perfect.  Jesus was always obedient but through his testing and trials his perfections culminated in a garden called Gethsemane where Jesus' obedience was even more perfect than His obedience in the desert.  He united His will with the will of the Father.  His obedience reached the pinnacle of perfection.

Every temptation has an opposite virtue.  When we fight temptation we exercise our spiritual muscles to develop them and keep them healthy through hard work, discipline, and suffering.  We shouldn't go looking for temptation, but it will certainly come our way.  When God allows temptation he is giving us the opportunity to grow in a particular virtue.

Virtues are often misunderstood.  They aren't all-or-nothing, in other words, if we have a particular virtue we'll never have to be tempted.  Actually virtues are a matter of degrees.  They aren't something we have and won't lose.  We often falsely equate them with feelings; if we feel holy we are holy.  When Blessed Mother Teresa struggled with the darkness she felt within her, yet acted against it, and worked to only give love and kindness to others, she was living virtue and holiness.

Consider what your major temptations are.  What opposite virtues is God giving you an opportunity to grow?  For example, if you are impatient, God is calling you to patience.  If you live in fear, worry and anxiety, God is allowing you grow in trust and faith.  Are you tempted to uncharitable remarks, gossip and negativity?  You are called to grow in charity toward others.  Lustful temptations can lead to growth in the virtue of chastity.  If you are tempted to despair you are called to grow in the virtue of hope in God's grace.

God often allows temptation to be an especially heavy burden upon those who are closest to him.  They enjoy a special communion with Jesus who suffered temptation until the end of time.  All of the great saints suffered temptation and through it they were drawn to make sacrifices and to be close to Christ.  They offered their burdens as a sacrificial offering for the salvation of souls.

And we can do the same with the burden of our temptations; we can turn them into a prayer.  Any suffering that is attached to a temptation can be offered for others who are tempted in the same way.

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You may also find great inspiration from watching Bishop Donald Hying's video on temptatation.  It's one of my favorites so far!  To view the rest of his "C4 Ignite Your Catholic Faith" videos visit this link.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Gleaming Dust or Gleaming Divinity?

The world of the internet can be so amazing, can't it?  What I love best about the internet is all of the wonderful people I've met online through common interests such as praying for priests.  One such special person that I met online and fervently hope to meet and pray with in person some day soon, is Dawn Meyer.  Through this blog and facebook and the Monthly Prayer Request for Priests, Dawn and I have struck up a lovely friendship.  Dawn, knowing that I am an Oblate of the Precious Blood and with that have a special interest in the founder, Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, recently sent me this profound email which she has graciously allowed me to share here.  I know that she and I are not the only ones who struggle with detachment from material goods and other things which keep us from a closer union with God alone and I felt that her words would touch many hearts.

Dawn writes:
Remember the 30 pieces of silver that Judas accepted in return for handing Jesus over to the chief priests?
(Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?" And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. Matthew 26:14-15)
Consider this....
Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald
"The silver had done no evil, the silver had not enticed of its own, if the silver could have spoken, it would have said, 'O Judas, do not take us for our Creator; we are only gleaming dust, He is gleaming Divinity.'
All sin is the choosing of the dust. Even when it is the choosing of a living creature, what are we but animated dust? And what is the source of our animation? All the beauty of human love, all the beauty and tenderness that is in honest human love, is only a fraction, a faint shadow of the tenderness of God's love." -Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald
It is a powerful image to be mindful of, this "choosing of the dust". In the midst of temptations, the sinful thought, word, or deed looks so enticing, so captivating, so irresistible that we lose sight of the fact that we're really succumbing to a heap of "gleaming dust"! When you look at it that way, it seems preposterous to even contemplate choosing to sin, yes?
The other day I was out shopping and as my eyes did a 360 around the store, taking in all of the colorful items that surrounded me, it occurred to me that every single thing there was all just dust. Flowery wreath for the front door...dust. Mango-colored pillow that would look great on my gray couch...dust. Cute Easter table decorations....dust. You get the idea. Not to say that buying any of these items would be a sin, in and of itself. But in the end, we know that nothing material lasts forever, and the "joy" we feel when taking possession of any material good, pales in comparison to the joy of knowing and loving our Creator.
Hmmmm....gleaming dust or gleaming Divinity? Seems like such an obvious choice, doesn't it?
Mary Immaculate,
help me in my weakness
to resist the tempting heaps of gleaming dust
that present themselves to me every day.
Be my guide, my constant help.
Lead me to always choose your Beloved Son
in His gleaming Divinity, so as to please Him
and merit eternal life with you and the Blessed Trinity.
Amen.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fr. Jim Kubicki's Heroic Catholicism: Can You Live the Faith Today?

It was a bit of short notice, but I learned about a talk that was to be given by one of my favorite friends, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, the National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer,  from a facebook friend who is now, thankfully, a real-life friend as well.  The topic was Heroic Catholicism:  Can You Live the Faith Today?  Fr. Jim's lecture was sponsored by the Marquette University Knights of Columbus for the 2013 Walter Ciszek Lecture.  I wasn't sure that I could fit one more thing into my already busy day, but this talk sounded so intriguing that I knew it was worth a try.  It took a little bit of heroism on my part just to get there after a long and busy day at work, followed by my son's basketball game, then a hastily prepared supper for the few family members that didn't have outside activities that evening, and finally driving in a downpour of winter rain.  But had I missed Fr. Jim's lecture, I would have missed an awful lot because it was fabulous!  I can always count on Fr. Jim to inspire me with his easily understandable lectures, and his talk on heroic Catholicism fit the bill!  His talk was so good that I wanted to share my notes here so that others could benefit from his inspiring words.

Here's my summary of Fr. Jim Kubicki's Heroic Catholicism:  Can You Live the Faith Today?

Fr. Jim began by speaking about a book that was written by a psychologist in 1978.  It was rejected by the publisher because it included a chapter on religion.  Nobody would buy it, they thought.  Finally Simon and Schuster accepted it and released it as a paperback in 1980.  Upon publication this little book made publishing history and was on the New York Times bestseller list for ten years.  It began with these words:  "Life is difficult."  Well everyone already knows that life is difficult but most people don't know how to get through this difficult life so they purchased The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck to find out how to do so.  And the author offered four means of coping with a difficult life:

1.  Discipline-delayed gratification
2.  Love-dispel the myth of romantic love-true love begins when the feelings wear off
3.  Religion-deep faith in God
4.  Grace-the power outside of ourselves that can bring healing and growth

The message in this book is counter-cultural.  We live in a culture that says you can have it your way, don't accept responsibility, make excuses, and everyone is doing  it.  Our culture equates love with sex, it's a "hook-up" culture all about me and how I feel, and religion is unscientific and untrue.

Viktor Frankl
Fr. Jim then shared the story of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist who studied human behavior during the 1920's and 1930's.  He had many patients who had lost all hope in the economic crash of 1929, including their will to live.  The suicide rate was increasing.  Frankl tried to bring healing and hope to those who were suffering.  When World War II began, the United States offered him a visa to America.  But they only offered him one visa so Frankl refused it in favor of remaining in Austria with his family.  Eventually he was sent to Auschwitz.  While he was there he noticed two types of people-those who had strength and health and those who were weak and died.  What was the difference?  Frankl observed that those who survived had purpose and meaning in their lives that went beyond themselves.  The survivors had a sense of transcendence and they willed to live for their family, their art, or their religion.

These two psychiatrists and authors have found that the secret of a good, happy, fulfilled life on a basic level has to do with spiritual values that don't revolve around the self but that goes out to others and to God.  This notion is basic for supernatural happiness and heroic Catholicism.  Heroic Catholicism helps us to live well here and in the hereafter.

Back in the 1960's JFK said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."  Now apply this saying to the Church today.  Most people would turn that around and say, "What can the Church do for me?"  or "I don't get anything out of going to Mass"  or "The Church is all about rules and doctrines."  It was Pope John Paul II who said about Christian living that, "It's a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity marked by a minimalist ethic and shallow religiosity."  We can see his point when we hear people ask "How far can I go before its a sin?" and "What's the minimum requirement to be in good standing with the Church or with God?"

When it comes to love you don't ask about the minimum, you say, "What can I do to show that I love you?"    When we fail to give the maximum in our faith we become not only mediocre Christians, but Christians at risk.  We need to take our faith seriously.  Secularism eats away at our faith.  Pope Benedict XVI speaks about two kinds of atheism:  The theoretical atheism where people struggle to believe in God and practical atheism in which the truths of faith aren't denied but they are detached from life.  People believe in God in a superficial manner and live as though God did not exist.  Practical atheism is more destructive than theoretical atheism.

Pope Benedict XVI
In Pope Benedict's lenten message for 2013 he says, “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.  I observed that being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction … Since God has first loved us  love is now no longer a mere ‘command’; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.” 

This is what makes up heroic Catholicism.  It's a living relationship with the Person who transforms our life.  And what does heroic Catholicism look like?  To find out we look to the example of the saints such as Saint Ignatius of Loyola whose example of discernment revealed a movement of God within his heart leaving him with peace and joy instead of emptiness, and  Servant of God Dorothy Day whom Cardinal O'Connor spoke about as an "idealist in a non-ideal world."

Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ
Fr. Walter Ciszek, also a Servant of God, was a tough and independent young man who entered the Jesuits and went to the Soviet Union as a manual laborer and from there was sent to solitary confinement in Siberia.  It was there that he learned the lesson that you can't depend upon yourself, you have to depend upon God.  When asked how he survived his ordeal he gave a one-word answer:  faith.  And how do we make our faith come alive?  Through prayer such as the morning offering which is one of the best practices of prayer.  Through it we accept from God and offer back to Him all of our works, joys, sorrows and sufferings of our day.  We are reminded of His providence.  We can pray always by making each action of the day a prayer since it has been offered to God.  Through the daily morning offering we become aware of God in the events of our daily life.

Blessed Mother Teresa
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta wrote back in 1955:  "Pray for me for within me everything is icy cold, it is only blind faith that carries me through.  Within me all is darkness."  In 1959 she wrote:  "The whole time smiling.  People pass remarks, they think my faith, trust and love are filling my entire being.  Could they but know that my cheerfulness is the cloak with which I cover my desolation and misery.  The darkness is so dark and the pain so painful."  The world didn't understand this because she felt one thing but did the opposite.  That's virtue and holiness. And we, too, can be virtuous and holy when we, like Blessed Teresa, act against what we feel.

There's an old saying, "Don't feel your way into acting.  Act your way into feeling.  Act and the feeling will follow."  We are heroic when we don't let our feelings control what we do.  Be faithful in the little things we do every day-this is heroic Catholicism.  Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, "The battle between good and evil crosses every human heart."  No one can escape it.

But we know that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He's the truth about God and truth about how to live.  Follow Him for deeper joy and peace amidst trials and struggles because life is difficult.  We are fortunate to have Jesus in prayer and sacrament.  Our greatest prayer is the Mass where we find Jesus in word and flesh, united to us in Holy Communion.  He strengthens us to live this heroic life.

Tom Burnett
A real-life hero of  recent years was a man named Tom Burnett.  Tom was on Flight 93 on September 11th, 2001. At his funeral service a man who had known him during his college years told his wife that the man who was eulogized at the funeral, a man who was said to attend daily Mass, didn't at all resemble the man that he knew in college whose faith was weak.  His wife spoke about how he began to go to daily Mass in 1997.  He didn't tell her about it at first and she had thought that he was simply working more hours.  But when he finally told her where he was spending so much time he said that he felt that God was calling him to something big but he didn't know what it was.  He thought that if he went to church and prayed it would become clearer to him.  He knew that he would impact a lot of people and it would have something to do with the White House but beyond that sure feeling, he just faithfully went to Mass each day and waited to see what God had in store for him.  Now we know exactly what it was that God was calling Tom Burnett to do with his life and as a result of his actions on Flight 93 on that tragic day we all call Tom Burnett a hero.

We are all called to live our faith in a world that eats away at our faith.  Do you have it in you to live that faith today?  You will if you have Christ in the word and Sacrament because Christ will be living in you.  That will give you the courage to live Heroic Catholicism.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ruby Slippers

The following is a re-post of a little poem I wrote in December of 2010.  I think it's fitting to share it again today in honor of our dear Papa Benny-may his days of earthly sojourn be filled with peace and joy!


I wear shoes of red upon my feet
but something just feels wrong
like Dorothy in the land of Oz I know
this earth is not where I belong

I want to click my heels
and slowly count to three
and let my scarlet shoes lead me
to the place I long to be

far beyond this earthly world
to that celestial heavenly dome
and with each step I take there
I'll know that I am Home

when I think of others
as I'm counting one, two, three
I know that I'm in
the best of company

I'm not the only one
wearing shoes of shiny red
for there are many others
including the Pope, our head

if his shoes are red
while he walks this land
I know that my longing
isn't a dream too grand

for he's waiting, too
and biding his time
with a yearning so real
to reach the end of the climb

the Pope and I we're not alone
in our desire for God
for it belongs to many
though not all are ruby shod

Oh, Lord search deep within us
and see what's true inside
a love that's so profound
it cannot be disguised

although all shoes might not be crimson
our love for You is real
please call us to your kingdom
where the bells of glory peel

There's no place like Home
There's no place like Home
There's no place like Home...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What a Saint!!!

In my previous post I shared the story of St. Philomena and how my friend and I were making a pilgrimage to pray to St. Philomena on behalf of her daughter who has been very ill, in great pain and very often bed-ridden for the past few months.  Although our original plan was to travel to Briggsville, Wisconsin to the Shrine of St. Philomena, a winter snowstorm prevented us from making the two hour drive so we settled for a hometown pilgrimage instead.

The snow was softly falling outside as we began our day with a leisurely breakfast and the opportunity to catch up on all of the current news in our lives.  My friend spoke about her excitement over the fact that at that very moment there was a group of pilgrims praying for her daughter at the St. Philomena Shrine in Italy.   Before we left the restaurant I heard a loud knocking noise which I explained away as the kitchen staff working noisily.  But, at the same time that I became aware of the knocking sound, my friend received  a text message from her daughter saying, "I feel fantastic!"  My friend could not remember the last time she had  heard her teenage daughter express anything but pain.  We believed that the prayers of the pilgrims in Italy were already working.

Old St. Mary's

After lunch we went to Old St. Mary's in downtown Milwaukee for the noon Mass.  Old St. Mary's is one of the original fourteen churches that was built in the city of Milwaukee and is the only one of those fourteen that is still standing in it's nearly original glory.  The snow was falling heavier now and we were feeling grateful that we didn't make that two hour drive to the Shrine even though we had both wanted to go there so badly.  As we entered the church and  knelt down to pray we both heard a loud knock.  It was unmistakable in the silence of the church.  In the back of my mind I thought it might have been a noisy furnace, but still, it was most definitely a knocking sound so I told my practical mind to quiet down and gave the credit for the knock to St. Philomena.  After a lovely Mass and some time spent praying, lighting candles and admiring the beautiful Stations of the Cross, we decided we had better get a move on to our next destination-The St. Joseph Chapel inside the School Sisters of St. Francis Convent.

St. Joseph Chapel



We drove across town and found that the streets were much more slippery than they had been when we arrived at Old St. Mary's.  We were more grateful than ever that we stayed close to home.  As we entered the chapel we found the sacristan near the altar.  We were close to a large reliquary about the size of a treasure chest under a side altar and I asked the sister who was sacristan about whose relics were within it.  She told us that the reliquary contained the entire skeleton of St. Leo.  She pointed out the relic behind it of the True Cross of Christ and shared some of the history of the chapel with us about the sources of the marble, the mosaics, the stained glass windows and the stations of the cross.  I told her that I had always wanted to go up to the balcony and asked her if it was possible.  She told us that we could access the staircase in the priest's sacristy and that we were welcome to explore the balcony.  Knowing that St. Joseph's chapel has many relics within it, I asked her if she knew whether or not there might be a relic of St. Philomena there.  She answered that there most definitely would be a St. Philomena relic there and that there was a small chapel in the balcony right above the priest's sacristy that contained thousands of relics.  The sacristan said that it would be awfully hard to find her particular relic considering the fact that there were so many which were above reach and the print was so small it would be hard to read, but she wished us luck in our search and she then excused herself so she could attend choir practice.

reliquary chapel

reliquary chapel

reliquary chapel with catalogue on altar

reliquary chapel

My friend and I had only intended to pray in the adoration chapel but now we excitedly headed for the priest's sacristy first so we could find the reliquary chapel!  When we walked inside the door we were astonished at the amount of relics within the chapel!  After looking for a while, my friend said that there must be a catalogue of relics somewhere. Then she glanced at the altar and sure enough, there was a shoe box filled with alphabetized index cards.  She found one with St. Philomena's name on it that described her relic as being one in a case of eighteen.  Even with that description we still felt as though we were looking for a needle in a haystack.  I began to pray to St. Philomena asking her to knock again if we were getting close and to please help us to find her relic.  Nothing-no knock, no relic.  We decided to take a break and explore the rest of the balcony.

When we came back she was determined to count the relics in each case looking for the one containing eighteen.  Suddenly she gasped, "Here she is!!!"  The St. Philomena relic was hidden in the very bottom right hand corner of a large case.

the case with St. Philomena's relic-she's hidden behind the crucifix on the bottom right



The V.M. stands for Virgin Martyr

After finding her relic, our time in adoration was filled with prayers of gratitude.  We  were so happy that even though we weren't able to travel to the St. Philomena Shrine in Briggville, we really didn't miss a thing since our day was filled with prayers to St. Philomena, the sound of knocking, a positive message from her daughter, safe travels and best of all the discovery of St. Philomena's relic right here in our hometown!  After we made the short but treacherous ride home, my friend wrote to say that her daughter had four hours without pain.  Could it be a miracle?  I would say most definitely and if you were to ask me if I believed that St. Philomena really is powerful with God as so many claim, my answer would be "You bet she is!"  What a saint!!!

St. Philomena: Powerful with God



When I was growing up, my mother used to tell me to pray to St. Philomena whenever I was deeply troubled about problems that seemed to have no solution.  She had given me a framed picture of St. Philomena and her biography so that I could read about her life.  Later, after Paul and I had already married and moved into our house, my sister, knowing my devotion to St. Philomena, had purchased a bumper-sticker sized magnet for my refrigerator that said "St. Philomena:  Powerful with God."  It was a constant reminder to me that I could always turn to St. Philomena whenever I was in need.  I used to think that I would name my first daughter "Philomena" in honor of this beloved saint, which, of course, didn't happen because my only daughter is named Mary Therese after the Blessed Mother and one of my other favorite saints, Therese of Lisieux.

One of my favorite stories that my mom would share with me about this sweet saint was that whenever one of your prayers to her was about to be answered, she would playfully announce it by knocking three times.  I was always listening for mysterious knocking noises in the hopes that St. Philomena was on the job, but can't recall ever hearing them.

Over the years the framed picture, the book and the magnet have all been misplaced, and sadly, I haven't given St. Philomena very much consideration in my prayer...or so I thought.

Recently a friend of mine called me to talk with me about her daughter who has been seriously ill.  I encouraged her to pray to St. Philomena although I'm not sure why she was the one saint out of thousands who first came to my mind.  After our phone call ended, I completely forgot that I had encouraged her to pray to St. Philomena.  But then she called me a week later and told me that she had learned about a group of pilgrims from the United States who would be traveling to visit the Sanctuary of St. Philomena in Mugnano Del CardinaleAvelino, Italy.  She had asked them to take her daughter's picture with them and to pray for her there, which they lovingly agreed to do.  Then she learned that there is a Shrine of St. Philomena right here in our home state of Wisconsin. Furthermore, the shrine is only a two hour drive from our home, in Briggsville, Wisconsin.  My friend told me that she would be traveling there on the same day that the pilgrims would be visiting the Shrine in Italy.  I begged her to let me come with her and my boss agreed to let me have the day off from work.  

I was so excited about going to the Shrine with my friend, but, unfortunately, the weather wasn't going to cooperate.  The forecasters predicted lots of snow which would make that long drive treacherous.  We decided to postpone the trip to Briggsville for a warmer season and will make a little hometown pilgrimage instead, visiting some of the Seven Most Beautiful Churches in Milwaukee for Mass and adoration.  And on our pilgrimage we will be fervently invoking the intercession of St. Philomena who is powerful with God.  Please join us in prayer, if you are able, by praying the Novena prayer at the bottom of this page.  I hope that one day in the near future, I will be able to report that St. Philomena played an important role in the healing of my friend's daughter.

About St. Philomena

Her bones were discovered in 1802 in the Priscilla Catacombs in Rome with the Latin inscription for "Peace to you, Philomena" etched above, and the symbols of arrows, a lance, an anchor and a lily signifying that this was the tomb of a martyr.  The relics were tested and found to belong to a young girl about 14 years of age who had been martyred as early as the year 160 AD.  Later, in a private revelation, Mother Maria Luisa was told the beautiful life story of this young virgin martyr saint who was given to the Emperor Diocletian by her Christian parents in exchange for a promise of peace.  As Philomena refused the advances of Diocletian he tormented her physically again and again with imprisonment, beating and drowning. Each time he unleashed his wrath, angels and the Blessed Mother came to the assistance of St. Philomena, restoring her to health.  One of the most dramatic events occured when six archers sent their burning arrows toward her and through heavenly assistance the arrows changed direction killing the men who had sent them.  Many who witnessed this event were converted to the faith.  Following this failed attempt at killing St. Philomena, Diocletian had her beheaded on August 10th.

Following the discovery of her tomb, many have invoked her intercession including many Popes and  well-known saints.  St. Piux X and St. John Vianney have particularly well-known devotion to her.  On January 13th, 1837, Pope Gregory XVI named her the Patroness of the Living Rosary and proclaimed her to be the great wonder-worker of the 19th century.  Her mission is to draw us to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Her name means "daughter of light."  St. Philomena is the patroness of babies, children and youth.

You can learn more about St. Philomena here or by visiting the links above for the Shrine's in Mugnano and Briggsville.

Novena Prayer to St. Philomena


We beseech Thee, O Lord, to grant us the pardon of our sins by the intercession of Saint , virgin and martyr, who was always pleasing in Thy sight by her eminent chastity and by the profession of every virtue. Amen.

Illustrious virgin and martyr, Saint Philomena, behold me prostrate before the throne whereupon it has pleased the Most Holy Trinity to place thee. Full of confidence in thy protection, I entreat thee to intercede for me with God, from the heights of Heaven deign to cast a glance upon thy humble client! Spouse of Christ, sustain me in suffering, fortify me in temptation, protect me in the dangers surrounding me, obtain for me the graces necessary to me, and in particular (Here specify your petition). Above all, assist me at the hour of my death. Saint Philomena, powerful with God, pray for us. Amen.

O God, Most Holy Trinity, we thank Thee for the graces Thou didst bestow upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, and upon Thy handmaid Philomena, through whose intercession we implore Thy Mercy. Amen.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Novena for the Faithful Departed

Marquette University High School Three Holy Companions Chapel
In my previous post on Achieving Graciousness I wrote about the Tenorio family who had lost their patriarch and yet still found the strength to attend Sunday morning Mass the day after his death, and more than that, some of the children in the family continued to fulfill their liturgical obligations while in their state of shock and grief.  Since that Sunday morning I learned so much about their Filipino culture and faith and have become even more impressed than I had already been.

Filipino's are traditionally devout Catholics and the Tenorio's are no exception.  Angelito Tenorio passed away on Saturday, January 26th  from what was believed to be a heart attack at the young age of 59.  By mid-week, my son Jack (who is a classmate of Anbel, the youngest child in the Tenorio family who had been understandably absent from class all week) came home from school and told us that the family had been holding a nightly prayer service at 6:30 PM each night in their home and everyone was invited to come and pray with them.  We had thought that perhaps Jack meant that the prayer service was just for immediate family members, but Jack said that some of his classmates had been going and assured us that anyone was welcome to join them.  We later learned that another custom associated with the novena prayer service is that the invitations all come about by word of mouth-no formal invitations to prayer are distributed.

Our Lady of Fatima

So on Friday night my children and I paid a visit to the Tenorio household for the prayer service and found the house to be bursting at the seams with people including many of Jack's classmates and their families.  I shouldn't have been surprised by the crowd, though, because the Tenorio family are such kind and loving people to everyone they meet that it is only logical that they would have many friends who would feel called to pray and grieve with them.  The prayer service was actually part of a Filipino tradition that called for a novena of prayers for the Faithful Departed.  A large statue of Our Lady of Fatima, a crucifix, candles and flowers were set up where everyone gathered to pray.  Prayer sheets were distributed to everyone as they arrived.  We began with the rosary and then followed along with the prayer sheets. Following the prayer service, a hearty buffet was served and everyone enjoyed a lovely time.  I was profoundly moved to realize that every night for the nine days following Angelito's death the same scene unfolded in the Tenorio home.  I find it challenging enough to host a large dinner at my home for special occasions once or twice a year, but the idea of hosting such a big event for nine consecutive nights while in a state of grief greatly impresses me.


The final novena prayer was held on Sunday, and instead of being held in the Tenorio home, arrangements were made to pray in the Chapel at Marquette University High School where the oldest Tenorio son graduated and two of the other boys are currently enrolled.  After the novena prayers, a special Sunday Mass in Angelito's honor was concelebrated by three priests with easily two hundred people in attendance.  The High School choir sang for the Mass which was followed by yet another feast in the school cafeteria.


The entire Tenorio family was extremely gracious and kind throughout this time of grieving.  They were thankful for all of the people who took time to join them in their grief and to pay their respects to their beloved deceased relative.  I am deeply indebted to Belinda Tenorio who was able to carry on this beautiful tradition of prayer and respect for her deceased husband with the greatest of strength, dignity and charity.  I learned a lot from her about prayer, hospitality and love for family by observing her composure in deep grief.

This traditional novena prayer is such a lovely way to honor the dead. The funeral for Angelito has been planned for next week Saturday to allow family members who live in the Philippines enough travel time to attend, so joining in the Novena for the Faithful Departed was a beautiful way to hold Angelito in prayer while waiting for his final commendation to God. Would you pray for Angelito, too?

Some of the prayers from the novena are below:

  LITANY FOR THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED

Leader: Lord, have mercy on us.
All: Lord, have mercy on us.
Leader: Christ, have mercy on us.
All: Christ, have mercy on us.
Leader: Lord, have mercy on us.
All: Lord, have mercy on us.
Leader: Christ, hear us.
All: Christ, graciously hear us.

Leader: God, the Father of heaven.
Response (All): Have mercy on the soul of__________________
Leader: God the Son, Redeemer of the world.
God, the Holy Spirit. Holy Trinity One God.
Leader: Holy Mary.

Response (All): PRAY FOR THE SOULS OF THE
FAITHFUL DEPARTED
 Leader: Holy Mother of God.
 Holy virgin of virgins
St. Michael and all archangels and angels
St. John the Baptist
St. Joseph
Sts. Peter and Paul
All Apostles and Evangelists
St. Stephen and all martyrs
St. Gregory
St. Ambrose
St. Augustine
St. Benedict
St. Jerome
All holy bishops, confessors and doctors of the Church
All holy monks and hermits
St. Magdalene
St. Barbara

Leader: From all evil.
Response (All): 0 LORD, DELIVER THEM.
Leader: From your wrath
From the rigor of your justice
From the power of the devil
From the gnawing worn of conscience
From long enduring sorrow
From eternal flames
From horrible darkness
From dreadful weeping and wailing
Through you most cruel death
Through your most holy wounds
Through your holy resurrection
Through the coming of the Holy Spirit
In the Day of Judgment

Leader: You who have the keys of heaven
Response (All): WE BESEECH YOU, HEAR US, 0 LORD
 Leader: You would be pleased to deliver the souls of our
relatives and friends from the pains of hell
You who would be pleased to grant them all the
pardon and remission of all their sins
You who would be pleased to fulfill all their
desires
You who would be pleased to receive them into the
company of the blessed
Leader: Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the
world.
All: Grant Unto them eternal rest.
Leader: Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the
world.
All: Grant unto them eternal rest.
Leader: Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the
world.
All: Grant unto them eternal rest.

CONCLUDING PRAYER
Leader: Merciful Father, hear our prayers and console us.  As we renew our faith in your Son, whom you
raised from the dead, strengthen our hope that our dear departed will share in Christ’s resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.
All: AMEN.

Leader: Eternal rest grant unto 0 Lord.
All: And let your perpetual light shine upon him/her.
Leader: May he/she rest in peace.
All: Amen.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


Prayer for the Deceased

Loving Father, we place our loved ones in your hands, we trust in you that they will be raised to life one day and will live forever with Christ, as you have promised to all those who die in Christ.  We thank you for all your blessings, and for all you have done in your Fatherly care for our loved ones and for us.  Father, hear our prayer and welcome our loved one into paradise with you and all saints.  Help us as we comfort one another in faith that one day, we will all meet together again in ChristWe ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Prayer for Mourners

O God and Father of consolation, your merciful love toward us in unbounded, take our darkness and turn it into light of new life.  Have compassion on us in our sorrow, and be our refuge and strength, lift us from darkness of grief by the healing of your peace and light.  Jesus, your son died for us on the cross, and then rose from the dead, restoring life for all of us. Help us to go forward in life to meet Him, so that after our own life on earth is ended, we may join our loved ones, where every tear will be wiped away.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.
 
Eternal rest grant unto Angelito, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May the soul of Angelito Tenorio and the souls of all of the faithful departed rest in peace.  Amen.