"To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good. It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop." ~ Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life, n.101
Everything is grace, everything is the direct effect of our Father's love.Everything is grace because everything is God's gift.Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events -- to the heart that loves, all is well.
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A seven-member team of medical experts convoked by the Vatican reported there is no natural explanation for the survival of a child delivered stillborn and whose heart did not start beating until 61 minutes after his birth.
The survival of the child, James Fulton Engstrom of Goodfield, now 3 years old and developing normally, was credited by his parents to a miracle attributable to the intercession of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, a Peoria diocesan priest who gained fame for his 1950s television show "Life Is Worth Living" and his 16 years at the helm of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.
The medical experts' report was announced March 6 in Peoria by the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation, of which Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, is president.
"Today is a significant step in the cause for the beatification and canonization of our beloved Fulton Sheen, a priest of Peoria and a Son of the Heartland who went on to change the world," Bishop Jenky said in a statement, available in full here. "There are many more steps ahead and more prayers are needed. But today is a good reason to rejoice."
The case will next be reviewed by a board of theologians. With their approval, the case could move on to the cardinals and bishops who advise the pope on these matters. Finally, the miracle would be presented to Pope Francis, who would then officially affirm that God performed a miracle through the intercession of Archbishop Sheen. There is no timeline as to when these next steps might take place.
If the Engstrom case is authenticated as a miracle, Archbishop Sheen would be beatified, elevating him from "venerable" to "blessed." A beatification ceremony could conceivably take place in Peoria, according to the foundation, which promotes his sainthood cause. In general, a second miracle would need to be authenticated for canonization.
The saints of the day for March 7 are Sts. Perpetua and Felicity. Perpetua was a convert to Christianity who was born to a noble pagan family. She was martyred along with her maid and friend, Felicity, in Carthage in 203 A.D.
The two women were arrested and imprisoned, along with three other Christians. Perpetua was 22-years-old, with a son a few months old; Felicity was pregnant at the time of the arrest. Their only crime was converting to Christianity.
The account of their martyrdom and courage, The Suffering of Perpetua and Felicity, is one of the earliest historical accounts of Christianity. It is one of the great treasures of martyr literature, an authentic document preserved for us in the actual words of the martyrs and their friends. Perpetua wrote a vivid account of what happened.
"While I was still with my companions, and my father in his affection for me was trying to turn me from my purpose by arguments and so weaken my faith, 'Father,' said I, 'do you see this vessel—water pot or whatever it may be? . . . Can it be called by any other name than what it is?" No,' he replied. 'So also I cannot call myself by any other name than what I am—a Christian.' Then my father, provoked by the word 'Christian,' threw himself on me as if he would pluck out my eyes, but he only shook me, and in fact was vanquished.... Then I thanked God for the relief of being, for a few days, parted from my father . . . and during those few days we were baptized. The Holy Spirit bade me after the holy rite to pray for nothing but bodily endurance.”
While she was imprisoned, Felicity gave birth to a girl, who was taken and raised by one of her sisters. Perpetua wrote regarding her, "She rejoiced in the health of the child, for now she was free to be martyred: from blood to blood, that is, from motherhood to single combat, for after the birth she would be washed by a second baptism, that is to say, in her own blood.
"The prisoners turned their last meal into an agape, a love feast, and spoke of the joy of their own sufferings thereby astonishing most witnesses, and converting some.
On the day of Games, Perpetua and Felicity went to the amphitheater "joyfully as though they were on their way to heaven," as Perpetua sang a psalm of triumph. When the guards attempted to force the captives to wear robes consecrated to Roman gods, Perpetua challenged them: "We came to die out of our own free will so we wouldn't lose our freedom to worship our God. We gave you our lives so that we wouldn't have to worship your gods.
"The three male martyrs threatened the crowd, including the procurator who had condemned them, with the judgment of God, thereby enraging the crowd.
The men were attacked and killed by bears, leopards, and wild boars. A wild heifer was sent against the women. The heifer tossed Perpetua, who got up, straightened her hair, and helped Felicity regain her feet. Absorbed in ecstasy, Perpetua was unaware that she had been thrown, and did not believe it until Felicity showed her the marks on her body. Having survived the animals, the women were to be executed. They exchanged a final kiss of peace. A nervous gladiator tried to kill Perpetua, but failed to finish the job until she guided the knife to her throat.
Patronage Perpetua — Cattle, death of children, martyrs. Felicity — Death of children; martyrs; sterility; to have male children; widows.
Saints Perpetua and Felicity, watch over all mothers and children who are separated from each other. Help all of us to follow your example of faith and courage. Amen.
Traditional Catholic theology has distinguished the “Four Last Things” : Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. We are admonished to meditate upon these things frequently. We WILL die, be judged, and spend eternity either in Hell, or in Heaven (likely after some time in purgatory).
Beginning with the end, or starting with the last things, is paradoxically, a good place for Lent to commence. Continue reading.
Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. (Joel 2: 12-13)
It's that time of year again -- the time of both internal and external recollection that we are setting out on a journey. On Ash Wednesday, the ashes placed on our forehead invite us to begin a new journey of repentance. They invite us to turn back to God and to receive new life. Once again, we are called to let God penetrate deeper into our lives, for indeed, turning back to Him with our whole hearts is a submission to His holy will.
Lent is a time when we permit God to purify our hearts allow Him to unite our wills with His. Lent is a time of interior spring cleaning and obtaining new strength and great graces from God. This is the time of year to take a good look inside of ourselves and take inventory. What bad habit or sin can I work on permanently eliminating in my life? What sin am I really attached to that I can work on removing – not just during this Lenten season, but permanently? Is this sin really that necessary for my survival in this world? What virtue can I replace it with to ensure my survival in the next life?
This Lent, as in all past seasons of Lent, let us permit God to change at least one of our vices into a virtue. Today, let us pray for discernment, that God will help us work on that area of our lives that He wants us to change and ask for His help as we enter into these 40 days of desert with Him.
Heavenly Father, as I begin this journey into the desert with You, send Your Holy Spirit to enlighten me and to give me wisdom as to what it is You desire to change within me. Help me turn away from sin and come to back to You with all my heart through daily prayer and penance. Grant me the grace to persevere on the journey and the willingness to submit and surrender my heart to You. Amen.
Lent is a season of spiritual renewal, a time of quiet contemplation on the Passion and death of Jesus Christ, a period of 40 days in which we enter into the desert to give our lives to the Lord to be transformed, just as He gave His own for us. Lent at Ephesus, the latest album by the monastic Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, certainly does inspire me to open up my heart to receive all the graces of this holy season.
The heavenly voices of the Sisters and the words of their poignant chants and inspiring hymns of glory and redemption lift up the soul, promoting contemplation, as well as the peace and joy that accompany it. The 23-tract CD contains both English and Latin chants and hymns. My favorites include: “Jesus, My Love,” composed by Richard Rolle, a 14th century hermit; “God of Mercy and Compassion,” composed by Fr. Edmund Vaughn, a 19th century Redemptorist missionary, “Divine Physician,” a hymn written in 2012 by the Benedictines of Mary, and “Mother of Sorrow,” an original piece written in 2007 with lyrics adapted from the closing poem of St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s “Victories of the Martyrs.”
If you are unfamiliar with the music of the Benedictines of Mary, now is the perfect time to acquaint yourself with it. In 2012 they released Advent at Ephesus and in 2013 Angels and Saints at Ephesus. Both of these albums skyrocketed to the top of Billboard magazine’s Classical Traditional Music charts. Lent at Ephesus has already debuted at No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s Classical Overall Music Chart and Classical Traditional Music.
This stunning one hour, fourteen minute sound-track is both soothing and soul-stirring. It is a CD that I plan to listen to throughout this Lenten season and for many to come.
•Jesus, My Love
•Christus factus est
•God of Mercy and Compassion
•Hosanna to the Son of David
•Jesu dulcis amor meus
•Jesu salvator mundi
•On the Way of the Cross
•Sacred Head Surrounded
•Adoramus te Christe
•Mother of Sorrows
•Vere languores nostros
•Tenebrae factae sunt
•Come and Mourn
•Adoramus te Christe
•All Glory, Laud and Honor
•Ave Regina caelorum
I have 2 Lent at Ephesus CD's to give away, courtesy of Carmel Communications!
To qualify for the drawing, just send me an email with your full name and mailing address at jean.heimann(at)gmail(dot)com and you are entered! The giveaway ends on Friday, March 7, 2014, so don't delay - enter now!
The saint of the day for March 4 is St. Casimir Jagiellon, a prince whose life of service to God has made him a patron saint of Poland, Lithuania, and young people. He is also the patron saint of bachelors and is represented by a crown and a lily (which symbolizes purity.)
Casimir was born on October 3, 1458, the third of thirteen children of King Casimir IV and Elizabeth of Austria, daughter of Albert II of Habsburg. He and several of his brothers studied with the priest and historian John Dlugosz, whose deep piety and political expertise influenced Casimir in his upbringing. The young prince displayed holiness at an early age. In contrast to the other members of the royal court, he was a shining example of faith, piety, humility, and chastity. He had a great love for the Eucharist and for the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Hungarian nobles prevailed upon Casimir's father to send his 13-year-old son to be their king; Casimir obeyed, taking the crown, but refusing to exercise power. His army was outnumbered, his troops deserting because they were not paid. Casimir returned home, and was a conscientious objector from that time on.
Casimir foretold the hour of his death, and chose to die a virgin, refusing the advice of physicians who told him to marry, suggesting that this would improve his health and possibly prolong his life.
St. Casimir was a charismatic person who was noted for his strong sense of justice and for his charity. In an atmosphere of luxury and magnificence the young prince had fasted, worn a hair-shirt, slept upon the bare earth, prayed by night, and watched for the opening of the church doors at dawn. His charity to the poor and afflicted knew no bounds. The young prince consoled the poor with his gracious words, and frequently helped with generous alms. He was known to visit the sick and served them in their needs counting it an honor as he saw in the afflicted one the person of Christ Himself. Thus he earned the title, "Father of the poor."
He expressed his deep love for our Blessed Lady by frequently singing a beautiful hymn in her honor. He was buried with this favorite song to Our Lady -- a Latin hymn to Mary called "Omni die dic Mariae" which we know as "Daily, Daily Sing to Mary."
Casimir died at the age of 26 on March 4, 1484, a victim of tuberculosis. Buried at Vilnius, Lithuania, his tomb became famed for many miracles. He was canonized in 1522 by Pope Adrian VI.
Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Katharine Drexel, a Philadelphia heiress who abandoned her family’s fortune to found an order of sisters dedicated to serving the impoverished African American and American Indian populations of the United States.
Katharine, the second daughter of Francis Anthony and Hannah Drexel, was born in Philadelphia in 1858. Hannah died about a month after Katherine's birth.
A few years later, Katharine’s father, a wealthy and prominent banker and philanthropist, married Emma Bouvier – a distant aunt to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onasis. Emma was a deeply religious woman. Three years later, Emma gave birth to her own child, a third daughter whom they named Louise. The deeply religious couple taught their children that wealth was meant to be shared with others, particularly the poor.
The three siblings – Elizabeth, Katharine and Louise -- were inseparable. They traveled out west together where they encountered native American Indians who lived on reservations and learned of their plight. These travels instilled within Katharine the desire to alleviate the sufferings of the Indians as well as those of the African Americans.
When she visited Pope Leo XIII in Rome, Katharine asked him to send missionaries to the Indian missions that she as a lay person was financing. He surprised by responding, “Why don’t you go? Why don’t you become one?”
As a teenager, Katharine had considered convent life, but in a letter to Bishop James O’Connor, stated that: she couldn’t bear separation from her family, she hated community life and the thought of living with “old-maidish” dispositions, did not like to be alone, and could not part with luxuries. At that time, the Bishop discouraged her from entering the convent.
After she nursed her stepmother through a three-year terminal illness, Katharine began to realize that all the money her family had could not purchase protection from suffering or death. It was then that her life changed dramatically.
As time passed, Katharine became more and more convinced that she should become a religious. She once again wrote the Bishop, stating that she wanted to give herself completely to the Lord, adding, “The world cannot give me peace.” Thus, Katharine made the decision to give herself totally to God by her service to African Americans and Native Indian Americans. On February 12, 1891, Katharine took vows as a religious, founding the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.
St. Katharine established many ministries, founding schools for African Americans and native Indian Americans, including, Xavier University, the only predominately black Catholic institution of higher learning in the United States.
In 1935, Katharine suffered a severe heart attack and spent the next twenty years of her life in prayer until her death on March 3, 1955. She was canonized on October 1, 2000 by Pope John Paul II.
Quotes from St. Katharine Drexel:
“The patient and humble endurance of the cross – whatever nature it may be – is the highest work we have to do.”
"If we wish to serve God and love our neighbor well,we must manifest our joy in the service we render to Him and them."
"Often in my desire to work for others I find my hands tied, something hinders my charitable designs, some hostile influence renders me powerless. My prayers seem to avail nothing, my kind acts are rejected, I seem to do wrong things when I am trying to do my best. In such cases I must not grieve. I am only treading in my Master's steps."
“And here is the passive way – to be filled unto the fullness of God. The passive way – I abandon myself to it, not in a multiplicity of trials, extraordinary penances accomplished, practices of great works – but in peaceful abandonment to the tenderness of Jesus, which I must try to imitate, and by being in constant union with his meek and humble heart.
What likeness is there between me and my Mother? Do I try to be like her, in her love for Jesus? In her devotion for the cause for which he died – the salvation of souls – in her absolute submission to the will of God, in her patient suffering? Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, too, let me stand at the foot of the cross with you, to learn its lesson and to learn to be like the Mother of Sorrows. Amen. Photos of St. Katharine Drexel
Lent is a 40-day period of preparation for Easter Sunday and one of the major liturgical seasons of the Catholic Church. Signifying the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert after His baptism, it is a penitential season marked by prayer, fasting and abstinence, and almsgiving.
Lent is not necessarily about “giving something up” for 40 days only to return to it on day 41 or afterward, but is a period of ongoing conversion so that we may draw closer to Jesus. When we repent for our sins and then make a permanent- rather than temporary- change in our lifestyle, a spiritual transformation can take place. At the heart of repentance lies the call to conversion. “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15)!
Just months before the canonization of John Paul II, and following a successful run in Spain and Poland, the musical Wojtyla Generation made its way to Rome.
The story has it all: emotion, deception, betrayal and fear. It centers on two rival groups of young people from different nationalities.
One group, called the Papaboys, bases their choices on their faith and the ideals of the Polish Pope. The others, called the Pharisees, base their life choices on appearances, drugs and violence.
According to the director, Rafaelle Avallone, it's not a struggle between good an evil, but a story about the realities young people face today. His goal is to present this values to people that have lost hope.
Wojtyla Generation blends lyrical elements with rock music, in eight different languages, to convey its message of peace and love to a wider audience.
The plan is set to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Ávila. A delegation from her hometown met with Pope Francis to update him and invite him to visit Spain for the celebrations in 2015.
Government of Castilla y León (Spain)
"It was a beautiful moment, very intense and full of emotion. We were able to give the Pope a letter from the President of the Castilla y León Government, on behalf of everyone there, inviting the Holy Father to visit Ávila, for the 500 anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Jesus.”
MIGUEL ÁNGEL NIETO
Mayor of Ávila (Spain)
"We formally invited him, and asked him face to face. We hope he'll be able to go to Ávila. It would be a wonderful occasion.”
The Pope's schedule in 2015 could take him to Spain, though there is no official confirmation yet. For now, the organizers for the fifth centennial celebrations return to Spain hopeful, and encouraged by his warm response to their proposal.
FR. EMILIO JOSE MARTINEZ
Vicar General, Barefoot Carmelites
"It was great when he saw the mayor of Ávila and me coming and said: 'Ah! So these are the ones causing trouble!' What impressed me was the way he listened to us, looked at us, and the way I felt he was cheering us on to continue with our work.”
Activities for the centennial celebrations will also have cultural as well as religious events. They include exhibits, the digitization of St. Teresa's works, as well as film projects. Pope Francis surprised the organizers with his knowledge of the preparations and the events planned so far.
MIGUEL ANGEL NIETO
Mayor of Ávila (Spain)
"The Holy Father gave us a great push forward. We're leaving with renewed encouragement and lots of strength to keep going because he knew perfectly about the events. Second, he welcomed us with such importance that makes us think that we have, that we're headed on the right path for these celebrations on the fifth centennial of St. Teresa's birth.”
St. Teresa of Ávila was born Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada in the town of Ávila in 1515. She renovated the order of St. Carmel, along with St. John of the Cross, and founded 17 convents. Her life and works are on display online at paravosnaci.com. Along with information on the centennial celebration, visitors can take online tours of some of the most emblematic sites for the Spanish saint.
Among Welsh Catholics, as well as those in England, March 1 is the liturgical celebration of Saint David of Wales.
St. David is the patron of the Welsh people, remembered as a missionary bishop and the founder of many monasteries during the sixth century.
David was a popular namesake for churches in Wales prior to the Anglican schism, and his feast day is still an important religious and civic observance.
Although Pope Benedict XVI did not visit Wales during his 2010 trip to the U.K., he blessed a mosaic icon of its patron, and delivered remarks praising St. David as “one of the great saints of the sixth century, that golden age of saints and missionaries in these isles, and...thus a founder of the Christian culture which lies at the root of modern Europe.”
In his comments, Pope Benedict recalled the saint's dying words to his monastic brethren: “Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things.” He urged that St. David's message, “in all its simplicity and richness, continue to resound in Wales today, drawing the hearts of its people to renewed love for Christ and his Church.”
From a purely historical standpoint, little is known of David’s life, with the earliest biography dating from centuries after his time. As with some other saints of sixth-century Wales, even the chronology of his life is not easy to ascertain.
David’s conception is said to have occurred as a result of rape – a detail that seems unlikely to have been invented by later biographers, though it cannot (like almost all of the traditions surrounding his life) be established with certainty. His mother Saint Nonna, or Nonnita, has her traditional feast day on March 3.
David appears to have been the cousin of his contemporary Saint Teilo, another Welsh bishop and monk. He is described as a pupil of the monastic educator Saint Paulinus, who was one of St. Teilo’s teachers as well. There are doubts, however, about the story which holds that David and Teilo traveled to Jerusalem and were ordained together as bishops.
It is clear that David served as the Bishop of Menevia, an important port city linking Wales and Ireland in his time. His leading role in two local councils of the Church is also a matter of record.
Twelve monasteries have their founding ascribed to David, who developed a reputation for strict asceticism. His monks modeled their lives on the earliest desert hermits – combining hard manual labor, silence, long hours of prayer, and a diet that completely excluded meat and alcohol.
One tradition places his death in the year 601, but other writers believe he died in the 540s. David may well have survived to an advanced age, but evidence is lacking for the claim (made by his 11th-century biographer) that he lived to the age of 147. Pope Callistus II canonized St. David of Wales in 1120.