A Flight to Remember

Mother Teresa and PCPAs

Left to right: Sr. Grace Marie, Mother Angelica, Mother Teresa, Sr. Raphael, Sr. Margaret Mary

It was an October evening in the late 1980’s.  Mother Angelica, Bill Steltemeier, Sr Margaret Mary, Sr Raphael and myself were standing in JFK Airport in New York, waiting to board a Pan Am flight to Rome.  Seeing two Missionaries of Charity also waiting ahead of us, I pointed them out to Rev. Mother,  “Oh, look Mother they’ll be on the same flight as us!”  No sooner had I made the observation, then a PR person for Pan Am came up to Mother and said, “Aren’t you Mother Angelica?”  As soon as she answered in the affirmative the woman said excitedly “Wonderful! We also have Mother Teresa on this flight, and we would like to upgrade you and your group to first class, as we have done with Mother.  Mother doesn’t like it, but we don’t give her a choice.”  The lady spoke with a smile that said we didn’t have a choice either.

Before anything else could be discussed we found ourselves being ushered onto a fairly empty aircraft, and there sitting near the entrance of the plane was Mother Teresa of Calcutta!  She immediately got up and greeted Mother Angelica and the rest of us.  I couldn’t believe that these two amazing women were together on the same flight, one who attended to the corporal works of mercy, and the other the spiritual works and…that I was on the flight with them!  Needless to say, this was possibly the only journey in my life that I felt absolutely no fear of any mishap!

I assumed that after the introduction that would be pretty much that for the rest of the trip, with perhaps these two spiritual giants speaking alone to each other.  Mother Angelica and Mother Teresa did sit together and speak for some time, but then, to my joy, in her kindness she sat with Sr Margaret Mary and myself and spoke to us. Her words, as always, were simple yet powerful, some things we had heard a hundred times before, but somehow, out of her lips, the words took on a new and greater meaning because of her great holiness.  She took her time and spoke to each one of us with a thoughtful attentiveness that made one feel regarded and loved.

During the remainder of the trip as she sat with her sisters ( and a brother), one felt her immense prayerfulness of heart, it was a great sense of the cloister that she carried with her. It was clear how she managed to accomplish so much: by her constant attention to and deep union with her Lord.  The Reverend Billy Graham once said of Mother Teresa, “When she walked into the room to greet me I felt that I was indeed meeting a saint.” He was of course right!

We arrived in Rome and said our good-byes. How grateful I was for the opportunity to have met this wonderful woman, a true daughter of the Church, who stopped at nothing to do God’s Will, bringing the light of Jesus to so many dark and hopeless places, just as He asked her, “Bring me into the dark holes of the poor. Come, carry me, I cannot go alone.

There is little doubt in my mind that she will be no less tireless in interceding in heaven for those who ask for her help than she was whilst on earth, for as she once said, “I’m not going to sleep in heaven, but I’m going to work harder in another form.”  She is another member of that great crowd of witnesses whom St Paul speaks about in Hebrews 12, praying for us and urging us ever forward. We join the Church and the world in thanking God for the canonization of this great intercessor for us.  St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

St. Augustine & Humility

St.-AugustineSomehow it didn’t seem so long, but we’ve been away from the blog for a while, so the feast of St. Augustine seems as good a time as any to dust the cobwebs from our digital parlor.

Though he’s been bumped today because his feast falls on a Sunday, it’s not difficult to tie this great Father of the Church into today’s Gospels, since he had so much to say about so many things.  It seems as though half of the patristic readings in the Office of Readings come from him, so we spend a good part of our lives listening to his sermons.  And while we didn’t find a specific homily on today’s reading from Luke (Lk 14:1,7-14), where Jesus encourages us to take the lowest place at the table because every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted, he did have a lot to say on humility.  In fact, he said it was central to the Christian faith and the first rung on the ladder to perfection.

It is significant that Augustine saw his moment of moral conversion in the garden at Milan as being prompted by a little child (he professed unawareness of the gender of the child, or even of the ditty the child was singing). (Confessions 8, 12, 29) It was not a conversion moment that happened in a dialogue with the Bishop [Ambrose], but through the unintended singing of an unseen child who was unaware of the impact being made.  This was a perfect vehicle of conversion for one sorely tempted by pride.   (From augnet.org)

Here is what St. Augustine himself said to us this morning in the Office:

Let us then follow Christ’s paths which he has revealed to us, above all the path of humility, which he himself became for us. He showed us that path by his precepts, and he himself followed it by his suffering on our behalf. In order to die for us—because as God he could not die— the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The immortal One took on mortality that he might die for us, and by dying put to death our death.

This is what the Lord did, this the gift he granted to us. The mighty one was brought low, the lowly one was slain, and after he was slain, he rose again and was exalted. For he did not intend to leave us dead in hell, but to exalt in himself at the resurrection of the dead those whom he had already exalted and made just by the faith and praise they gave him. Yes, he gave us the path of humility. If we keep to it we shall confess our belief in the Lord and have good reason to sing: We shall praise you, God, we shall praise you and call upon your name.

St. Augustine, bishop and doctor, pray for us!

Our Lady of Unity

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Shine on us, dear Lady, with thy bright countenance, like the sun in his strength, O stella matutina, O harbinger of peace, till our year is one perpetual May. From thy sweet eyes, from thy pure smile, from thy majestic brow, let ten thousand influences rain down, not to confound or overwhelm, but to persuade, to win over thine enemies. O Mary, my hope, O Mother undefiled, fulfil to us the promise of this Spring.

-Bl. John Henry Newman

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It was 20 years ago that I became a Catholic, and a couple years after that, when I first began attending the parish named after her, that I first came to know the Mother of God as Our Lady of the Atonement.  But even then, it wasn’t until I entered the monastery in Alabama that I actually began to take a greater interest in her.  I think it started with homesickness, and a longing for everything I was missing from Texas.  But then I came to know her story in much greater depth when I stumbled upon a book called Our Lady and Reunion, in the cloister library.  Imagine my surprise when I opened it up to find Our Lady of the Atonement herself, looking up at me from the title page!IMG_6982

It’s been almost 15 years since I’ve read the book, but one thing that that’s always stuck with me is something that Cardinal Newman wrote about Our Lady’s role in the return of England to the Catholic faith.  Our Lady of the Atonement is the Mother of Unity – this is what her title denotes the At-One-Ment of man with God, and with all men in the Church founded by Christ.  It’s all there, even in the beginning of devotion to her under this new Continue reading

“Give her the joy of vows fulfilled”

Today marks nine years since I professed my solemn vows as a Poor Clare Nun of Perpetual Adoration.  I was trying to figure out what things I’ve shared in past posts, and two years ago I mentioned that I should try to find one of the beautiful prayers from the ceremony.  Well, rather miraculously, I did manage to find it, and I didn’t even have to make too much of a mess in the process!

DSC_0056After the profession of vows and endorsement of the profession card, before she receives the ring, the celebrant prays a solemn blessing over the newly professed nun:


Solemn Blessing of the Newly Professed Nun

Celebrant: Father in Heaven, Source of all holiness, Creator of the human race, Your love for us was so great that you gave us a share in Your Own Divine Life.  Neither the sin of Adam nor even the sins of the whole world could alter Your loving purpose.

In the dawn of history You gave us Abel as an example of holiness.  Later, from Your beloved Hebrew people, You raised up men and women graced with every virtue.

Foremost among them all stands Mary, the Ever-Virgin Daughter of Zion.  From Her Pure Womb was born Jesus Christ, Your Eternal Word, the Savior of the world.  You sent Him, Father, as our pattern of holiness.  He became poor to make us rich, a slave to set us free.  Wit love no words can tell He redeemed the world by His Paschal Mystery and won from You the Gifts of the Spirit to sanctify His Church.

The Voice of the Spirit has drawn countless numbers of Your children to follow in the Footsteps of Your Son.

Among these You raised Your servant Francis who professed evangelical holiness so that, at the command of Christ Crucified, he might in himself and his brothers repair the Church, Your Dwelling, and renew it through holiness of life.

Therefore, O Lord, look upon this our Sister whom in Your providence You have called to follow the poor, humble Francis, the lover of the Cross.  Pour into her the fullness of the sevenfold Spirit so that what she has promised today with joy and gladness through Your giving, she may with the Divine Assistance observe faithfully to the end.

May she be firmly established in true humility; may she be inflamed with love for Christ and a compassionate love for her Sisters; may she prefer nothing to the commands of obedience; may she follow highest poverty, gird herself with the virtue of patience, and not extinguish the spirit of prayer and holy devotion.  May she build up the Church by the holiness of her life, advance the salvation of the world, and stand as a sign of the blessings that are to come.

Lord, Holy Father, protect and guide this servant of Yours.  At the judgment seat of Your Son be Yourself her great reward. Give her the joy of vows fulfilled.  Made perfect in Your love, may she rejoice in the communion of Your Saints and praise you forever in their company.  We ask this through Christ Our Lord.

All respond: Amen.


Please pray for me and all religious, that we may observe our vows faithfully to the end.  It’s so true that God cannot be outdone in generosity, and neither can He be outdone in patience and mercy, which He lavishes on us daily.  None of us could do what we do without His grace and your prayers – so thank you, and know that you are always in our prayers, too.

The American Madonna

OL Atonement

We must understand by virtue of our new birth into the Kingdom of God that the Blessed Virgin is our real mother and not merely a mother that has just adopted us. By baptism we are incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ and by that process of incorporation we are also brought into relationship with the Blessed Virgin, which is intrinsically similar to the relationship which Christ has to the Blessed Virgin as his mother. The Blessed Virgin is not our stepmother. She is our real mother as far as are the Sons and Daughters of the Atonement and members of the Mystical Body of Christ.               -Fr. Paul of Graymoor

On this Independence Day we wanted to remind you of a uniquely American title of Our Lady, one which is lesser known, but no less important, than many of her more well-known titles.  Devotion to the Blessed Mother as Our Lady of the Atonement began with an Episcopalian priest, Fr. Paul Wattson, who was inspired to found a religious congregation devoted to the work of unity, reconciling men with God, particularly by leading those outside the sheepfold home to Christ’s Church.  With the help of Mother Lurana Mary White they founded the Society of the Atonement in the late 1800s.  They eventually came to realize the they couldn’t wait for the entire Episcopalian church to reunite with the Chair of Peter, and so, they and the members of the society made their profession of faith in 1909 and were received into the Catholic Church.  They brought with them this devotion to Our Lady of the Atonement, whose feast day they celebrated on July 9th.

In Rome She is known as “the American Madonna”.  She is Our Lady suffering with her Son at the foot of the Cross.  She wears a red mantle to symbolize the Precious Blood of Jesus, the Blood which makes us at-one with God.  The red mantle is worn over a blue tunic, and together with her white veil, the colors remind one of the American flag.  Independence Day always falls in the middle of the novena leading up to her feast day, and so it is yet another reminder of her special connection with our nation.

May Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of Unity, protect and guide our country, that we may truly be one nation under God, made at-one with Him by the Precious Blood of Jesus.

 

 

A New Saint?

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I knew He would do what He thought best. He did, and I will devote my whole life to working for Him in any way He wants to use me.  -Rhoda Wise, 1939

It’s interesting how the lives of holy people often intersect. Throughout the history of the Church we have many stories of saints who were friends with other saints, and it’s often been said that saints beget saints. Well, we may be one step closer to having a formally recognized “saint” from the US!  After an informal preliminary investigation, the formal cause for beatification and canonization for Rhoda Wise, a wife, mother, convert, mystic and stigmatist from Ohio, will open this October.

Rhoda’s story is amazing – she was miraculously healed from tremendous physical sufferings, and she also endured much suffering for love of God and souls, sharing in the passion wounds of Our Lord for the last six years of her life.  She also had an important role in the early life of Mother Angelica.

Rhoda, while still a Protestant, had learned of St. Therese from Sr. Clement, one of the Mercy Sisters who cared for her in hospital. Sister gave her a St. Therese novena prayer, as well as a small shrine, and a devotion to the French Carmelite saint developed.  Eventually, St. Therese herself appeared to Rhoda and healed her of a very painful open wound on her abdomen, which doctors had said was incurable.

When a teenage Rita Rizzo was afflicted with a very painful stomach ailment, her mother took her to visit the local mystic, who gave her a copy of the novena to St. Therese.  On the ninth day, Rita woke up to find that her dropped stomach was cured, and it was this miracle that helped her to first realize how much God loved her.  Her response was whole-hearted and enthusiastic, leading her to give herself completely to God in religious life.  Our Lord once told Rhoda that Rita would do great things for the Church. “My Rita?” she asked.  Who but Our Lord could have known that a feisty young girl with a difficult childhood would go on to found a global television network and, more importantly, teach the world the beauty and value of suffering.  In this, she was just like her friend, Rhoda Wise.

A 19 year old Rita Rizzo (far left) standing next to Rhoda Wise

A 19 year old Rita Rizzo (far right) standing next to Rhoda Wise

Rhoda entered into eternity on July 7, 1948.  Today begins the annual novena leading up to this anniversary.  Here are the novena prayers, taken from the official website of the Rhoda Wise home.  Please visit the website to learn more about Rhoda’s life and the many miracles God worked through her.


NOVENA  PRAYERS

(These Prayers Are For Private Use Only)

My Friend,  you are my true Friend. My only Friend.  You take part in all my misfortunes.  You know how to turn them into blessings.  You listen to me with great kindness when I tell you all my troubles, and you always have something with which to heal my wounds.

I find you at any time of the day or night, for I find you wherever I happen to be.  You never leave me.  If I change my dwelling place,
I find you wherever I go.  You never weary of listening to me.   I am certain of being loved by You, if I but love You.  My worldly goods are of no value to you, but by bestowing yours on me You never grow the poorer.  However miserable I may be, no one more noble, more clever, or even more holy, can come between You and me and deprive me of your friendship.

And death, which tears us away from all other friends will unite me forever to You.  All the humiliations attached to old age or the loss of honor will never separate you from me;  On the contrary, I shall never enjoy You more fully and you will never be closer to me than when everything seems to conspire against me and cast me down.  You bear with all my faults with extreme patience.  Even my lack of fidelity and my ingratitude do not wound you to such a degree as to make you unwilling to receive me back when I return to you.  O Jesus, grant that I may die loving you and that I may die for love of you.  Amen
– St. Claude de la Columbiere

Rhoda_s_Jesus-294x524O Lord Jesus Christ, our Mediator with the Father, Who has appointed the most blessed Virgin, Thy Mother, to be our Mother also and Our Mediatrix before You; grant that whoever draws close to You to beseech any benefit may receive all things through her and rejoice.  You live and reign with the Father and Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

 

rhoda_s_therese-255x264O beautiful Rose of Carmel, Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus, deign according to your promise to descend from Heaven to visit
those who implore you, and to pour down in profusion those Celestial Graces that are symbolized by the shower of roses that Jesus, your Spouse, has put at your disposal.  Your power is great with his Heart.  He can only listen and hear your prayer.  I have recourse to you then, O Saint Therese of the Child Jesus; assist me in this need (mention your intention.) Speak for me to Jesus and to Mary and obtain for me the grace to live a holy life and die a happy death.  Amen

An Our Father, Hail Mary , and Glory be for the intentions of Rhoda Wise.

 “I do not see the Sacred Heart as others do.  I think that my Spouse’s heart is mine alone, as mine is his alone, and I speak to him in the solitude of this delightful heart to heart exchange, waiting for the day when I will contemplate him face to face.”

(St. Therese in a letter to her sister, Celine, October 14, 1890)


 

I cannot mistrust the grace of God

Sir Thomas More and his Daughter 1844, exhibited 1844 John Rogers Herbert 1810-1890 Presented by Robert Vernon 1847

And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world.  Nothing can come but what God wills.  And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.            -St. Thomas More

Today’s feast of the martyrs Saints John Fisher and Thomas More was the perfect day to have Padre Martin Scott join us on the radio.  His religious community, Siervos de la Divina Misericordia, is dedicated to the Divine Mercy, and he spoke with us today about learning to love God and trust in His mercy and forgiveness by being merciful and forgiving ourselves. It was a great show, and we encourage you to listen here on iTunes.  We never tire of talking with Padre!

As we talked about in the beginning of the show, this second reading from today’s Office of Readings (for today’s optional feast), is a beautiful lesson in trust, taken from a letter St. Thomas More wrote to his daughter Meg from prison. (The English Works of Sir Thomas More, London, 1557, p. 1454)

Although I know well, Margaret, that because of my past wickedness I deserve to be abandoned by God, I cannot but trust in his merciful goodness.  His grace has strengthened me until now and made me content to lose goods, land, and life as well, rather than to swear against my conscience.  God’s grace has given the king a gracious frame of mind toward me, so that as yet he has taken from me nothing but my liberty.  In doing this His Majesty has done me such great good with respect to spiritual profit that I trust that among all the great benefits he has heaped so abundantly upon me I count my imprisonment the very greatest.  I cannot, therefore, mistrust the grace of God.  Either he shall keep the king in that gracious frame of mind to continue to do me no harm, or else, if it be his pleasure that for my other sins I suffer in this case as I shall not deserve, then his grace shall give me the strength to bear it patiently, and perhaps even gladly.

By the merits of his bitter passion joined to mine and far surpassing in merit for me all that I can suffer myself, his bounteous goodness shall release me from the pains of purgatory and shall increase my reward in heaven besides.

I will not mistrust him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear.  I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help.  And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.
And if he permits me to play Saint Peter further and to fall to the ground and to swear and forswear, may God our Lord in his tender mercy keep me from this, and let me lose if it so happen, and never win thereby!  Still, if this should happen, afterward I trust that in his goodness he will look on me with pity as he did upon Saint Peter, and make me stand up again and confess the truth of my conscience afresh and endure here the shame and harm of my own fault.

And finally, Margaret, I know this well: that without my fault he will not let me be lost.  I shall, therefore, with good hope commit myself wholly to him.  And if he permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for his justice.  But in good faith, Meg, I trust that his tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend his mercy.

And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world.  Nothing can come but what God wills.  And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.

Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, pray for us