Friday, October 31, 2014

The Pope's prayer intentions for November

Vatican City, 31 October 2014 (VIS) – Pope Francis' universal prayer intention for November is: “That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others”. His intention for evangelization is: “That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors”.

The Sistine Chapel: Before and After

The restoration of the Sistine Chapel began in 1980 and ended in 1994. After this immense work, no one thought that Michelangelo's masterpiece could be seen any better, until now.

With the new lighting system installed in the Chapel, visitors can enjoy the paintings in a whole new light. Before the installation, some details of the creation of Adam were barely recognizable. Now they can clearly be seen with vivid colors.

Before, the blue color of the Final Judgement served merely as a background. Now, the celestial tone intensifies the scene portrayed.

The light that emanates from Christ is another example. Thanks to the 7,000 LED light points, all the details and figures from this work of art gain life and expression.

Michelangelo finished painting the Sistine Chapel on October 31st, 1541. Those who have visited the chapel for over 500 years can say that his masterpiece looks as if it was painted yesterday.

-- Via Rome Reports.

Celebrating All Hallows' Eve and its Catholic Roots

Today we celebrate the eve of All Saints. Pope Sixtus IV in 1484 established November 1, the feast of All Saints, as a holy day of obligation and gave it both a vigil (known today as "All Hallows' Eve" or "Hallowe'en") and an eight-day period or octave to celebrate the feast. By 1955, the octave of All Saints was removed.

All Hallows' Eve

Halloween or All Hallows' Eve is not a liturgical feast on the Catholic calendar, but the celebration has deep ties to the Liturgical Year. These three consecutive days — Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day — illustrate the Communion of Saints. The Church Militant (those on earth, striving to get to heaven) pray for the Church Suffering (those souls in Purgatory) especially on All Souls Day and the month of November. We also rejoice and honor the Church Triumphant (the saints, canonized and uncanonized) in heaven. We also ask the Saints to intercede for us, and for the souls in Purgatory.

Since Vatican II, some liturgical observances have been altered, one example being "fast before the feast" is no longer required. Originally, the days preceding great solemnities, like Christmas and All Saints Day, had a penitential nature, requiring abstinence from meat and fasting and prayer. Although not required by the Church, it is a good practice to prepare spiritually before great feast days.

In England, saints or holy people are called "hallowed," hence the name "All Hallow's Day." The evening, or "e'en" before the feast became popularly known as "All Hallows' Eve" or even shorter, "Hallowe'en."

Since the night before All Saints Day, "All Hallows Eve" (now known as Hallowe'en), was the vigil and required fasting, many recipes and traditions have come down for this evening, such as pancakes, boxty bread and boxty pancakes, barmbrack (Irish fruit bread with hidden charms), colcannon (combination of cabbage and boiled potatoes). This was also known as "Nutcrack Night" in England, where the family gathered around the hearth to enjoy cider and nuts and apples.

Halloween is the preparation and combination of the two upcoming feasts. Although the demonic and witchcraft have no place for a Catholic celebration, some macabre can be incorporated into Halloween. It is good to dwell on our impending death (yes, everyone dies at one point), the Poor Souls in Purgatory, and the Sacrament of the Sick. And tied in with this theme is the saints, canonized and non-canonized. What did they do in their lives that they were able to reach heaven? How can we imitate them? How can we, like these saints, prepare our souls for death at any moment?

A Prayer to be used on All Hallows' Eve

O God, the King of saints, we praise and glorify your holy Name for all your servants who have finished their course in your faith and fear: for the blessed Virgin Mary; for the holy patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs; and for all your other righteous servants, known to us and unknown; and we pray that, encouraged by their examples, aided by their prayers, and strengthened by their fellowship, we also may be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
~The Book of Common Prayer, p. 504.

Related Posts:

Halloween: Another secularization of a Catholic tradition -- St. Louis Review

IT'S TIME FOR CATHOLICS TO EMBRACE HALLOWEEN -- Word on Fire blog by Father Steve Grunow

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fr. Robert Barron: Thomas Aquinas and the Argument from Motion

Atheists, Agnostics, and believers alike appeal to philosophy to support their claims on the existence or non-existence of God. However, Thomas Aquinas' "Argument from Motion" offers a proof that cannot be easily refuted, as it appeals to the the concept of an "actus purus," or the unmoved mover that we call God.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez: Husband, Father, Widower, Priest, Doorkeeper

The saint of the day for October 30 is St Alphonsus Rodriguez, a Jesuit, who was born at Segovia in Spain, on July 12, 1531. From childhood he was devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He loved her as his mother. This childlike devotion to her was the main reason for his sanctity.

When he was a teenager, Alphonsus and his older brother were sent to study in a Jesuit college. On the death of his father in 1545, he was called home from his studies, by his mother, who was burdened with the care of eleven young children. Though only a boy of fourteen, he was placed in charge of the family business, which involved the buying and selling of wool.

At the request of his mother, Alphonsus married the virtuous Maria Suarez. His married life of four years was marked with much suffering. His business suffered, and two of the couple’s three children died in infancy. He was widowed at the age of 32 and his mother died soon aftewards. He sold the business and moved in with his sisters; they helped Alphonsus raise his son, and taught their brother prayerful meditation. When his only son died, Alphonsus decided to follow his call to the priesthood.

Alphonsus wanted to become a Jesuit. Twice he was refused admittance due to his older age, but providence came to his rescue. He entered the novitiate at the age of thirty-seven, and after six months, he was instructed to go to the Jesuit college of Montesion in Palma on the island of Majorca off the coast of Spain, to complete his novitiate training. At the end of his novitiate, he was assigned various duties and was made doorkeeper at the college. He remained in this office for 46 years.

Nothing could be more insignificant in the eyes of the world and more monotonous in itself than such a life. By his deep interior spirit that animated him, Alphonsus transformed and transcended it with his: fervent spirit of prayer, deep union with God, devotion to Mary, especially the Rosary, which allowed him to live constantly in the presence of God even in the most difficult times. His spirit of obedience was remarkable. His love for his fellowmen and his spirit of penance inspired many to follow him. People in high positions came to him in their troubles and difficulties to seek his advice. He exercised a powerful influence for good upon his own Brothers, many of whom reached a high degree of sanctity. Of these the greatest was St Peter Claver, a fellow Jesuit, whom Alphonsus prepared to become the Apostle of Slaves in the New World. Many owed their vocation to priesthood and religious life to him.

The last year of his life, was one of great suffering. He died on October 31, 1617, with the name of Jesus on his lips.

As a humble porter, Alphonsus was always appreciated for his kindness and holiness; however, it was only after his death that his memoirs revealed the quality and depth of his prayer life. It was then that others learned that the humble Jesuit who had been gifted by God with remarkable mystical graces, ecstasies and visions of our Lord, our Lady and the saints.

Alphonsus was beatified in 1825, and was canonized by Pope Leo XIII on January 15, 1888 together with his spiritual disciple, St Peter Claver.

St. Alphonsus is the patron saint of Majorca, Spain.


With those who are perfect and walk with simplicity, there is nothing small and contemptible, if it be a thing that pleases God; for the pleasure of God is the object at which alone they aim, and which is the reason, the measure, and the reward of all their occupations, actions, and plans; and so, in whatever they find this, it is for them a great and important thing.
~ St Alphonsus Rodriguez

Prayer for New Life through Death to Sin (Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez)
Though Your most holy passion and death, I beg of you, Lord, to grant to me a most holy life, and a most complete death to all my vices and passions and self-love, and to grant me sight of your holy faith, hope and charity

Saints and Virtues, All in One New Book

Sarah Reinhard has written an absolutely awesome review of my new book, Seven Saints for Seven Virtues at the National Catholic Register today. You can read it HERE.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hero of the Holocaust: Blessed Maria Restituta, Martyr

On October 29, we celebrate Helen Kafka, better known as Blessed Maria Restituta, martyr.

Helen Kafka was born in 1894 to a shoemaker and grew up in Vienna, Austria. She initially worked as a salesgirl and then as an assistant caregiver at the Lainz public hospital, which brought her into contact with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. At the age of 20, she decided to join the Order and took the name Restituta, after a 4th century Christian martyr.

In 1919, she began working as a surgical nurse at the Moulding hospital in Austria. When the Germans took over the country, she became a local opponent of the Nazi regime. Her conflict with them escalated after they ordered her to remove all the crucifixes she had hung up in each room of a new hospital wing.

Sister Maria Restitua refused and she was arrested by the Gestapo in 1942. She was sentenced to death for "aiding and abetting the enemy in the betrayal of the fatherland and for plotting high treason.”

Martin Bormann decided that her execution would provide "effective intimidation" for other opponents of the Nazis. She spent her remaining time in prison caring for other prisoners; even the Communist prisoners spoke well of her. She was offered her freedom if she would abandon her religious community; but she refused.

Blessed Maria was beheaded March 30, 1943 in Vienna. Pope John Paul II beatified her on June 21, 1998.

Saint Quote:

"I have lived for Christ; I want to die for Christ."

~ Blessed Maria's last recorded words

Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles and Martyrs

October 28 is the feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, apostles and martyrs.

The name of St. Simon usually appears eleventh in the list of the apostles. The first cousin of Jesus, he was born at Cana and is surnamed "The Zealot." He preached in Egypt, Spain, and Libya, leaving behind him the fertile hills of Galilee, where he had been engaged in the healthful cultivation of the vineyards and olive gardens. He later rejoined his brother, Saint Jude, in Persia, where they preached and died as martyrs together.

Patronage: curriers; sawmen; sawyers; tanners

St. Jude, also called Thaddeus or "Courageous", is the author of the short epistle in the New Testament. He was the apostle who asked the Lord at the Last Supper why he had manifested himself only to the disciples and not to the whole world (John 14:22). He was the son of Cleophas and the woman named Mary who stood with the Blessed Virgin Mary at the foot of the Cross as Our Lord was redeeming the world. He is remembered as a Healer and Exorcist, who could exorcise pagan idols, causing the demons to flee and the statues to crumble.

Like all of the other eleven faithful apostles except St. John the Evangelist, St. Jude was martyred. He was beaten with a club and beheaded. His relics are in the Vatican.

Patronage: desperate situations; forgotten causes; hospital workers; hospitals; impossible causes; lost causes, diocese of Saint Petersburg, Florida

Sts. Simon and Jude left the comfort and safety of their secure environment to go out into the world and to preach the gospel, converting many hearts. As simple farmers, they appear to be the least likely candidates to be called to perform such a great task for the Lord. However, the Lord chooses the simple and and the weak and empowers them with grace to do the "impossible." Let us pray that we, too, will be obedient to the Lord in the little tasks He calls us to do each day so that we, too, can carry out His will in our lives and draw others to Him -- an accomplishment which would otherwise be impossible without our permission and acceptance of the gift His grace.

Father, You revealed yourself to us through the preaching of your apostles Simon and Jude. Help us follow their example, to draw others to You through our actions today, as we perform our daily duties and endeavor to carry out your holy will in our lives. Amen.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Blessed Bartholomew of Vicenza: Powerful Preacher, Promoter of Truth and Peace

By Jean M. Heimann

Blessed Bartholomew was born circa 1200 at Vicenza, Italy Vicenza in Northern Italy, and belonged to the noble family of Breganza. He received the habit of the order from Saint Dominic's own hands on occasion of the holy founder’s visit to Vicenza in 1220.

He was a very virtuous man and within a short time, he became prior of the monastery, effectively overseeing several monasteries with great wisdom and fruitfulness. Seven years later, he became Master of the Sacred Palace, an office which had been first held by Saint Dominic himself. It was during this period that Blessed Bartholomew composed his scholarly commentary on the work of Saint Denis, entitled "From the Heavenly Hierarchy.”

 In 1246, Pope Innocent IV appointed Blessed Bartholomew as Bishop of Cyprus, were he served for two years. He was then sent as Papal Legate to King Louis IX of France, who was then carrying on the Crusade against the infidels. The two saints became good friends and St. Louis chose Blessed Bartholomew as his confessor. When the King returned to France in 1252, Blessed Bartholomew returned to his diocese, where he remained for four more years, when Pope Alexander IV assigned him to be Bishop of Vicenza.

The Bishop's primary task was to purge his new diocese of the heresies which had crept into it. Through his preaching, he managed to successfully convert the leader of the heretical party and many of his followers. This so infuriated the infamous Ezzelino (an Italian feudal lord), who at that time tyrannized Northern Italy in the name of the German Emperor, that he managed to have Blessed Bartholomew exiled. The pope then sent Blessed Bartholomew, as his representative, to discuss some essential issues with the King of England. On his way back to Italy, Blessed Bartholomew visited St. Louis, who presented him with a relic of the True Cross and one of the thorns from Christ’s crown, which had been given to him by the Emperor of Constantinople.

In 1259, Ezzelino died and Blessed Bartholomew returned to his diocese, bringing with him the priceless relics King St. Louis had presented to him. As the holy bishop’s ship came nearer to the shore, his flock shouted out: "Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!"  Blessed Bartholomew built a large church to house the precious relics, and attached to it a new monastery for his Dominican order. A noble Venetian widow also offered him a beautiful reliquary which contained a portion of the True Cross, two thorns of our Lord's crown, and relics of the Apostles and other Saints, which he promptly put in his newly-erected Church of the Holy Crown.

Blessed Bartholomew devoted himself with zeal to the duties of his office, rooting out heresy, providing for the needs of the poor, and renovating his Cathedral, which had been ruined by Ezzelino. He various prominently promoted the peace and prosperity both of Church and State. He was constantly chosen as a mediator in the struggles and disputes which affected Northern Italy; his brilliant ability to reconcile between the various factions did much to alleviate the dismal feuds of that period. In 1261, Blessed Bartholomew established the Order of the Knights of the Mother of God (commonly known as the Knights of St. Mary), who were responsible for keeping peace in towns throughout Italy. This order spread widely throughout Italy, and received the approval of the Holy See.

Blessed Bartholomew was well-known for his speaking skills and preached at the second translation of the relics of Saint Dominic in 1267. In 1271, he died and was laid to rest in the Church of the Holy Crown. He was beatified by Pius VI on September 11, 1793.


O God, who made Blessed Bartholomew, Your Confessor and Bishop, wonderful in leading the enemies of the faith from the darkness of error to the light of truth, and in bringing back multitudes to peace and concord, grant, through his intercession, that Your peace, which surpasses all understanding, may keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, who lives and reigns with You, forever and ever. Amen.

Friday, October 24, 2014

St. Anthony Mary Claret: What was the Secret of his Success?

Today is the feast of St. Anthony Mary Claret -- a favorite saint that my husband introduced me to about twenty years ago when he gave a teaching on this incredible man of God. I don't think I have ever heard of any saint who was filled with so much zeal for his apostolate. He was a monk and a mystic who exerted an unusual amount of influence over the laity by obeying the call of God.

Born on Christmas eve, 1807, in the village of Sallent, in Catalonia, Spain, Anthony was a very pious child. When he was eleven years old, the bishop visited his school and asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. Without the least bit of hesitation, he replied: "A priest."

As a young adult, Anthony Claret excelled as a maker of cloth and as a weaver in his father's textile factory. He then studied for the priesthood, desiring to be a Jesuit. Ill health prevented him from entering the Order, so he served as a diocesan priest. He was ordained at age 27 and busied himself preaching in rural areas, organizing conferences for clergy, and writing. Zeal for the salvation of souls spurred him on to preach an estimated 25,000 sermons, write 144 books, and preach countless missions.

During his mission work, he accepted no money and walked everywhere -- from town to town through rugged terrain. He had only one pair of shoes, one set of clothes and a few books. He neither ate meat nor drank wine, and slept only 3 - 5 hours per night.

After one remarkable mission, Father Claret's bishop wrote: "this town has never seen the likes of this. Enemies are at peace. Scandals have been ended. Broken marriages are repaired. Restitutions have been made. No one can withstand the fire of his preaching, the kindness of his manner. Everyone, even the proudest, fall at his feet."

The secret of his success was LOVE. He summed it up this way: "Love is the most necessary of all virtues. Love in the person who preaches the word of God is like fire in a musket. If a person were to throw a bullet with his hands, he would hardly make a dent in anything; but if the person takes the same bullet and ignites some gunpowder behind it, it can kill. It is much the same with the word of God. If it is spoken by someone who is filled with the fire of charity- the fire of love of God and neighbor- it will work wonders." (Autobiography #438-439).

In 1848, he established a publishing house at Barcelona and in the following year, founded the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, or the "Claretians". Shortly thereafter, he was appointed Archbishop of Santiago in Cuba, where he worked for six years to organize and evangelize his diocese. During that time, he visited every parish in his diocese four times (Some of these had not seen a bishop in 60 years) and conducted missions in each one, plus confirmed those who had not been (300,000), and rectified the invalid marriages (9,000). He also founded another new congregation, the Sisters of Mary Immaculate, dedicated to the instruction of the young.

Miracles surrounded his work, and he possessed the gift of prophecy and the reading of hearts. He often saw Our Lord and Our Lady (to whom he was especially devoted), receiving from them instruction, encouragement, and prophecies. At the request of our Blessed Mother, he spread devotion to the Holy Rosary and was considered to be a latter day St. Dominic.

During a single day's visit to the city, he would preach to the local clergy, to several convents of nuns, and (in the evening) to the laity, besides hearing confessions much of the day. For his miracles and preaching, the Spaniards called him another St. Vincent Ferrer.

Though he avoided politics, both political parties considered him to be Spain's most influential man. He was so hated by the revolutionaries that they tried to kill him no less than 14 times and were still searching for him as he lay dying, an old man in exile.

St. Anthony Mary Claret died in the Cistercian monastery at Fontfroide in southern France on October 24, 1870 and was canonized in 1950.

Into his 35 years as a priest he packed 100 years of work.

St. Anthony Mary Claret is the patron saint of the Catholic Press, the Claretians,  Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and weavers.

Favorite Quote

“A son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a man who is consumed with love and who sets on fire everything in his path. He is a man who unceasingly expends himself to light the fire of divine love in the world. Nothing stops him; he places his joy in privations, he undertakes all works for the glory of God; he embraces willingly every sacrifice, he is happy in the midst of calumnies; he exults in torments. He can think of but one thing — working, suffering, and seeking at all times the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls, to imitate Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Here is a clip which presents a glimpse of the event of Canonization of Blessed Anthony Mary Claret with photos and a documentary preserved in the archives of Spanish Radio Television. It was indeed a great moment in the Jubilee Year of 1950.

7 Quick Takes: Apple Picking, Pumpkin Picking, and Amazon Shopping

1. Last weekend, we had a bit of fun doing one of our most favorite activities: apple-picking and pumpkin picking. We drove a  considerable distance to find both this late in the season. It's our favorite orchard in Kansas -- Pome on the Range.

2, We visited the orchards and picked red delicious apples -- Bill's favorite -- and only 50 cents/lb.

3. Then we hitched a ride on the tractor pull -- a hayride without the hay -- to the pumpkin patch.

4.  As we rode back with our wares, a cute couple snapped our picture.

Oh, no! I have hat hair! You can certainly tell we had a good time. Look at those smiles!

We passed by the winesap orchard on the way back to the store, where we picked up some Jonalicious and Jonagold apples.

5. Riding back home, we enjoyed the beautiful Kansas landscape and the sunset.

6.  I saved the best for last. Today, my book, Seven Saints for Seven Virtues, is now available on Amazon!

7. If you missed the Blog Tour for Seven Saints for Seven Virtues, go here for a recap.

Have a wonderful weekend!

For more quick takes, visit Jen at .

Thursday, October 23, 2014

St. John of Capistrano: Victory through the Holy Name of Jesus

The saint of the day for October 23 is St. John of Capistrano, a great Franciscan priest, preacher, and theologian who promoted devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus.

John was born at Capistrano, Italy in 1385, the son of a former German knight of that city. He studied law at the University of Perugia and practiced as a lawyer in the courts of Naples. King Ladislas of Naples appointed him governor of Perugia.

During a war with a neighboring town he was betrayed and imprisoned, where he experienced a deep conversion. Upon his release, he entered the Franciscan community at Perugia. There, he began his brilliant preaching ministry, while still a deacon in 1420. Following his ordination, he traveled to many European countries and Russia, preaching penance and founding numerous Franciscan communities.

St. John of Capistrano was the student of St. Bernadine of Siena, who inspired him to promote devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. While preaching in Italy, they carried a monogram of the Holy Name surrounded by rays. In its origin, the monogram IHS is an abbreviation of the name Jesus in Greek (A later tradition reveals that IHS denotes the Latin Iesus Hominum Salvator, meaning "Jesus Savior of Mankind.") St. Bernardine and St. John blessed the faithful with this monogram, calling upon the name of Jesus and many miracles were recounted. They also advised people to place the monogram over the city gates and the doorways of their homes.

In 1427, Pope Martin V approved veneration to the Holy Name and requested that the cross be included in the monogram IHS. When the malicious Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, Pope Callistus II appointed Saint John (at age 70) to preach a crusade for the protection of Europe. Barefoot and dressed in his humble Franciscan habit, Saint John visited the kings of Europe, uniting them and their armies against the invading forces. In 1456, he led an army of 70,000 Christian soldiers to Belgrade, and when it appeared that they were overpowered by the Muslim army, he ran to the front lines. Holding his crucifix up high, this thin, slight old man kept calling out, "Victory, Jesus, victory!" Emboldened by Christ, the Christian army won an overwhelming victory, freeing the city from siege.

Three months later, St. John died at Villach in Austria. On his tomb there, the following message is inscribed: "This tomb holds John, by birth of Capistrano, a man worthy of all praise, defender and promoter of the faith, guardian of the Church, zealous protector of his Order, an ornament to all the world, lover of truth and religious justice, mirror of life, surest guide in doctrine; praised by countless tongues, he reigns blessed in heaven."

St. John of Capistrano is the patron saint of chaplains, military chaplains, and judges.