Hope at Harvard


Harvard SquareUsed under CC license

Growing up, I always loved our family’s occasional trips to the ivy-clad buildings of Harvard, and Cambridge’s lively streets - and dreamed of one day attending that center of learning and my dad’s alma mater. While I ended up in a college across the country, that town still has a special place in my heart. So it was with sadness that I heard of the recent atrocity that was proposed. However, reading this article filled me with such hope and joy at the faith that we share in our Lord.


St. Paul’s Church, Cambridge – used under CC License

There, in that bastion of anti-Catholicism (from its roots in the Puritan culture out of which it sprung), a spontaneous outpouring of love for our Lord was visible to all: more than 2,000 people (including the president of Harvard, Drew Faust, who went to show her solidarity with the Catholics) walked from MIT, through the streets of Cambridge with a monstrance, then filled St. Paul’s Church in Cambridge for an hour of Adoration. The Catholics could have reacted with hatred, or disgust, but instead they reacted with love, and in consoling Jesus’ heart, they most likely consoled and gave hope to many who witnessed that celebration of love of our Lord! Such a clear example of our Lord bringing such good out of everything, even something that could have been so so terrible.

Please go read the article yourself, for an eyewitness account of the events of that evening: Victory at Harvard: Satan defeated, the Eucharist Enthroned

Our Lady of Fatima

“Mother of all individuals and peoples, you know all their sufferings and hopes. In your motherly heart you feel all the struggles between good and evil, between light and darkness, that convulse the world: accept the plea which we make in the Holy Spirit directly to your heart, and embrace with the love of the Mother and Handmaid of the Lord those who most await this embrace, and also those whose act of entrustment you too await in a particular way. Take under your motherly protection the whole human family, which with affectionate love we entrust to you, O Mother. May there dawn for everyone the time of peace and freedom, the time of truth, of justice and of hope.”
-Pope St. John Paul II (June 7, 1981)



Le Printemps (1874), Claude Monet

Awaking this morning to the sound of rain, I finally accept that spring has come to stay here in Ohio. For weeks, nay months, we’ve been in this strange in-between state where one day would be sunny and 75°; but the next we’d be reaching for woolens and boots following a nighttime snow-shower.

During these springtime weeks, I always feel a bit uncomfortable. Yes, I do love spring, but there’s an unsettledness that “settles” in, and I recently was wondering why. Fall I LOVE, Summer is always busy and beautiful, Winter is comfortably quiet and settled, but Spring? It’s back and forth, up and down, here one minute, gone the next…..in a word, it’s unpredictable.

Thinking about the seasons in terms of the spiritual life, I realised that each of them maps to a different sort of spiritual “place”. And springtime is that place of uncertainty, doubt, ups and downs – to put it succinctly: growth. Spring is the time where the ground is dark, wet, dirty; only to suddenly burst into the greenness of new life. It always takes me1280px-Gordale_Beck by surprise, because it seems as if you wake up one morning and everything is green where last night was shades of grey and brown. Yet, while it appeared overnight, it didn’t happen that fast. It’s a long slow process that begins as winter fades away; the trees slowly thaw and even though it’s hidden, there is growth. Growth in secret. Under the ground the seeds are sprouting, working, so that they can break through the heavy earth. It does take work. And time.

Watching Nature taught me two things: Spring is uncomfortable; and….growth is often hidden.

450px-Spring_2005It’s uncomfortable, because it reminds me of those things in my own life that are struggling to come back to life; or the seeds I’ve planted that need to finally bear fruit. In winter, I can curl up with a book and some tea; the world is sleeping….resting, and I can too. But in Spring, all of creation – this glorious Earth we call home – proclaims: “rise from sleep, move beyond the old growth of the past year, put out new shoots”! And that growth is not comfortable.

Not only uncomfortable, but it’s often hidden. Even from ourselves. We strive for detachment in this area, or patience in that; yet all we can see are the same failings repeated, the same sodden ground that looks beyond rescue. Yet, just like the seed under the ground, we must not give up – because growth is hidden, and one of these days the seed we’ve been watering, nourishing in our secret hearts will break through the ground and spring to life.

Frühlingslandschft_Aaretal_SchweizSo just for today, I’m going to try to cultivate the new life our Lord wants to see in my heart. Let it be watered by grace, fed by prayer, and grown by the free gift of the Spirit. It’s Springtime on the earth; what about in my heart? In your heart? Let us learn from the rhythms of the earth, and let Spring blossom in our hearts today!

Signs of Hope and Renewal in the Church: the CDF Provides Continued Direction to LCWR

Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the CDF

Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the CDF

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has just published the opening comments of Prefect Cardinal Gerhard Muller’s meeting with the superiors of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

The LCWR has been placed under the guidance of Archbishop Peter Sartain and have been given the opportunity to amend their statutes based on a doctrinal assessment conducted by the Holy See. A mandate was given to the LCWR to guide the process of revising their statues and to provide a framework that would draw them closer to the Church and away from error. In the past, this organization has not only supported and advanced dissident theologians and novel teachings inconsistent with the Faith but has also failed to reflect a proper understanding of consecrated life.

The CDF has worked closely with the infrastructure of the LCWR, with no little resistance, to bring the organization of various women’s communities more fully into the life of the Church. The Cardinal’s comments, delivered on April 30, 2014, are in indication of the progress made and a sign of the Church’s deep love and commitment to assisting the LCWR.

Cardinal Muller’s commentary can be found here at the Congregation’s website. He gives specific examples of how the Holy See will continue to guide the LCWR and seek to correct past errors. In conclusion, Cardinal Muller summarizes the hope of the Church:

In the end, the point is this: the Holy See believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church. The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration.

May 4 – Feast of St. Monica (old calendar)

Saint Monica was a woman who never gave up. Despite the many personal obstacles she faced, her holy example and long hours of daily prayer brought about the conversion of her husband, her husband’s mother, and her sons, Saints Augustine and Navigius, to say say nothing of accomplishing her own sainthood.

Born into a Christian family in Tagaste, Northern Africa, in AD 332, Monica received a strict upbringing from the family maid, who would not even allow her a drink of water other than at mealtime. Why? Because, as she warned Monica and others in her care, “You drink water now because you cannot get at the wine. When you marry and are in charge of your own wine cellar, you won’t want water, and you will continue your custom of drinking.”

Monica, it seems, paid no heed. Her parents would send her to the cellar to bring wine for their meals, and Monica began by taking little tastes before bringing it to the table. In time, tastes became mouthfuls, and mouthfuls, whole cups. Thus, she fell into sin, as her son Saint Augustine later wrote, “little by little,” drop by drop, as so many do.

One day the maid caught Monica drinking and called her a “wino.” Deeply hurt by this insult, Monica admitted to herself her sad condition and turned away from it. As Augustine later wrote: “Just as flattering friends can bring us down, so quarrelsome enemies can correct us.”

Excerpted from Fr. T. G. Morrow’s book Who’s Who in Heaven. For ordering information, visit our website.

Note: May 4 was her feastday on the old (pre-1969) calendar; it is now celebrated on August 27, the day before her son St. Augustine’s feast.

In the Mirror of Work

work,laundryAn employee at our local grocery store lives down the street from our family. Regularly, I see her walking the mile-and-a-half stretch to her job. The scene changes with the weather and time of day, but there’s one thing I can count always count on: She’ll be smiling. A big, joyful smile, not only with her mouth but with her eyes.

In her shoes, many people would be doing the opposite. She’s not going to a party, after all; she’s going to work. Alone. On foot. Sometimes in rain or snow. Yet, while I pass her in my warm car together with my loved ones, this woman who lacks visible comforts somehow bestows comfort to me. The glow of her face warms my heart. Her happiness is catching.

In the book The Mother of Christ, Caryll Houselander writes that “work…is one of the greatest of all means to human happiness as well as to human goodness.”

The woman I see walking to work seems to know this secret well.

In my lifetime, I’ve encountered thousands of workers. They’ve fixed my car, sold me shoes, served my dinner, and administered surgical anesthesia. Many did their jobs well. But a few did more than their jobs. They lived Houselander’s words. They worked, and happiness and goodness followed.

Work and Happiness

For as long as my young children can remember, we’ve taken a weekly trip to our local library. And for as long as they can remember, a librarian named O.J. has been a special part of that trip. Not just because he checks out their books, but because he makes them feel important.

As he scans their books, O.J. asks the children questions about their lives and listens with genuine interest to their answers. His smile tells them he is always happy to see them. One year, when the children told him that their birthdays were coming up, he remembered and had cards waiting for them at the desk. When our new baby was born, he was as thrilled for our family as a proud uncle would have been.

On a library shelf in the children’s section, there’s a picture book called The Growing-Up Feet. In the story, the two main characters—a young brother and sister—can’t wait for their mailman, Mr. Lemon, to come each day. Not because they want the mail, but because they want to show him things. Important things, like their new rain boots. Because they know Mr. Lemon will always be as excited as they are.

In a way, O.J. is my children’s Mr. Lemon. Both of them—the fictional character and the real one—bring others happiness through their jobs.

Ecclesiastes 5:19 says that when God enables man to “accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God.” A gift, not only for the happy man, but for all those he encounters in the course of his work.

Work and Goodness

Several years ago, in the early stages of my third pregnancy, a phlebotomist in my doctor’s office took my blood and talked joyfully with me about the blessings of motherhood. Weeks later, she took my blood again, this time with tears in her eyes. Quietly and sadly, she told me how sorry she was that I had miscarried.

I haven’t seen her in years, and I don’t even know her name. But even now, her tears are a part of my healing. Reaching beyond her job to meet me in my joy and in my grief, the phlebotomist used her work as, in Houselander’s terms, “a means to human goodness.”

In his encyclical Laborem Exercens, Pope John Paul II says that “through work man…achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes more a human being.” From what I’ve seen, that person who, through his work, becomes “more a human being,” will be quicker to recognize that very humanity in those he serves. Quicker to see those he works for as people, not just customers.

As the years fade, so does my memory. Yet etched there—easily accessible even when I’ve forgotten my own age—are the faces of people whose work taught me something about human goodness.

The furnace repairman who, when our heat went out in the dead of winter, offered to come over right away, at 9 p.m., not the following morning during “office hours.”

 The contractor who, when my daughter got injured while he was working in our house, immediately stopped and prayed aloud over her.

The church custodian who told me she prayed for all the people who sat in the pews she cleaned. And who once referred to my fussy, crying baby as “an angel singing.”

“Through work,” Houselander writes, “modern man can…restore God’s image and likeness in himself.” Workers who show compassion to, listen to, laugh with, cry with, care for, pray for, and even just smile at the people they serve, fill a job description far greater than the one for which they were hired: They reflect God’s image and likeness to the world.

They let us see His reflection in the mirror of work.

Two New Pope-Saints – John Paul II and John XXIII!!!

Canonization_2014-_The_Canonization_of_Saint_John_XXIII_and_Saint_John_Paul_II_(14036819834)Sunday was quite a special day for the Church: two new saints! These past days have been quite thought-provoking for me, as I look back to my childhood – where the only Pope I “knew” was Pope John Paul II.

As a girl I travelled to Rome with my family, where we attended several Papal Masses in St. Peter’s Square. Looking at pictures of the canonisation – crowds spilling out of the square – brought back memories of that same square back in 2000 and Pope John Paul a tiny little speck up at the altar. Following Mass, we children all rushed the barriers trying to get as close as possible to this man whom none of us had ever met, yet we instinctively loved as Christ’s vicar on earth. As he rode by on the Popemobile, his tired face looked out at us with so much love; his weary hands raised in blessing – a moment we will all treasure for the rest of our lives.

They say that “a picture says a thousand words”, so head on over here to see extensive photo coverage of the day! I also was moved by what Joanna Bogle wrote on her blog (having been an eyewitness!) that was not noticed by the media: the piles of young people there: praying….going to confession…….being pilgrims. They were there not just out of curiosity or to see the (albeit beautiful) spectacle; they were there because these Popes were men that they loved and knew, who showed them what it looked like to have Christ’s love shining from their faces, how to be joyful Christians in a shadowy world, how to hold fast to the truth, yet always with great, great love!

Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, pray for us!

Photo by Jeffrey Bruno, used under cc license

April 29 – Feast of St. Catherine of Siena

Innocent and full of joy, at six years old Saint Catherine of Siena was given a privilege few other children her age receive: a vision of Christ Jesus, shining in glory, sitting on a throne surounded by saints. In this vision Christ smiled at Catherine warmly, held His hand over her, and blessed her. She stood motionless until her brother, standing nearby, grabbed her arm to see what was the matter. “Oh!” she exclaimed, “If you just saw what I see, you would never take me away from such a beautiful sight!” Tears streamed down her cheeks.

This special moment, so early in her life, created within Catherine a deep thirst for holiness. The matters of this world and even the games of her friends no longer appealed to her. Only Christ mattered. She desired only to be alone to seek Him, to pray and do penance. But, when she was with friends, she tried to teach them to be holy and to pray or do penances.

Even though Catherine was the second youngest of twenty-five children born to her parents, Giacomo and Lapa, the family had room for one more. They adopted a young boy who was planning to enter the Dominicans. After dinner he would often read the stories of saints and martyrs to the family, and this made a deep and lasting impression on young Catherine.

When Catherine turned twelve, her parents encouraged her to improve her appearance, hoping she would marry soon. Entirely sure of herself, Catherine told them she would never marry. She repeatedly said that she had already chosen her desired spouse–Christ–and would accept no other. It was to be God or no one.

Excerpted from Fr. T. G. Morrow’s book Who’s Who in Heaven. For ordering information, visit our website.

Happy Easter – Pope Francis’ “Urbi et Orbi”

The Resurrection of Christ - Waldburg-Gebetbuch (1486)

The Resurrection of Christ – Waldburg-Gebetbuch (1486)

Happy Easter to all! We hope that you had a very blessed Easter, and your hearts are filled with the joy of the risen Lord!

These words from Pope Francis should inspire us and remind us of the hope we have because of our resurrected Lord:

This is the culmination of the Gospel, it is the Good News par excellence: Jesus, who was crucified, is risen! This event is the basis of our faith and our hope. If Christ were not raised, Christianity would lose its very meaning; the whole mission of the Church would lose its impulse, for this is the point from which it first set out and continues to set out ever anew. The message which Christians bring to the world is this: Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and made him the Lord of life and death. In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death.

That is why we tell everyone: “Come and see!” In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast… “Come and see!”: Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.

With this joyful certainty in our hearts, today we turn to you, risen Lord!

Go here to read the full text of his Easter message. May we all go forth to proclaim with our lives the joy we have in Christ’s resurrection – may each of our lives become an unspoken “come and see” to all we encounter!

“Urbi et Orbi”

How you can “console the heart of Jesus” this Good Friday

The Crucifixion - Andrea Mantegna (15th-cent, Italian)

The Crucifixion – Andrea Mantegna (15th-cent, Italian)

As I write, we are entering the sacred days known as the Triduum. Looking back over the past forty, I am shocked at how fast they’ve gone. It was a hard Lent (most notably because of the sudden death of my grandfather) and consequently, a good one. Mercifully small in comparison to His, I received a taste of the loneliness, sorrow, and desertion that our Lord chose to experience during the forty days before His passion. Human loneliness and suffering is a part of life after the Fall, but He did not have to experience it – He chose to so that He might be with us in our sorrow, and give meaning to our suffering.

Reading Mark’s account of the Passion this morning, I was struck by this passage:

Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, ”Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross.” Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.”

The people mocked Him for His inability to help Himself. Yet, they did not realize that it was not inability, but choice that kept Him on the Cross. He stayed there, because He did not want to save Himself; he wanted to save us. The people who stood there mocking Him, the soldiers who crucified Him, me when I betray Him like Peter did, you when you desert Him in His hour of need.

I have always dreaded Good Friday – as a child it meant small meals and hours of quiet with a long service thrown in there…..all things that are anathema in a child’s mind. But about 6 years ago a friend of my family’s gave us a copy of his thesis that is now available as a book: Consoling the Heart of Jesus (by Fr. Mike Gaitley). I’ll never forget Good Friday that year; I was 21 years old, and home from college for a year, so was attending services with my family…..in an echo-ey church, I sat there…..when things came together, made sense to me. I always knew that, yes, our Lord came to suffer and die for me – but it left me hopelessly resigned to never being able to do anything in return for such an enormous gift. Therefore why bother even trying…how would my puny sacrifices help in any way the suffering He did all those years ago? However, Fr. Mike’s words spoke to me: “you don’t have to do anything stupendous, just be with our Lord during this time. Tell Him you want to walk this journey with Him, as He walked it for you 2000 years ago. That’s all.”

All of a sudden an immense burden was lifted from me. No, Good Friday did not surpass my birthday or Christmas as my favourite day of the year, but my fear was gone. I could now look forward in a certain way to the fact that – small and insignificant as I was – I could do something for our Lord. That was doable. Not a Herculean task, like martyrdom or giving up sweets for 40 days, but a simple one: giving myself and doing nothing. My friendship, my time to be with Him during His suffering: “Could you not watch one hour with me?” as Jesus so famously asked Peter….

I need to be reminded of the flame that lit my heart that year, because time and life tend to chip away at our once-earnest resolutions. Today, let us all be reminded of the Love that never has dwindled since that day when our sin nailed It to the cross. Let us each spend time with Him, in silence…. sitting there, being with Him while He suffers, prays and prepares for His Calvary. Because we know that when we go through ours He’ll be there….waiting, watching, lifting us up so that when the days of darkness pass, we too will experience the Joy of life anew.