A Clean Heart Create for Me O God

Repent and Believe in the Gospel © SalveMaterDei.com 2012 EA photographer

“A clean heart create for me O God, and a steadfast Spirit renew within me (Psalm 51:12).” This simple sentiment from Ash Wednesday’s Responsorial Psalm encapsulates the entire purpose of Lent. We are powerless to restore our own hearts to their primitive purity – our spirits to the fortitude that comes with their Baptismal Grace. Alone we can do nothing. The best we can do is to answer God’s call to “Turn to me and be saved;” admitting our human weakness, and casting our cares upon His sacred shoulders.

It sounds so simple. Our souls long to be purified; like the leper (recall the Gospel of the sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time). Like him, our inmost being cries out: “If You wish, You can make me clean (Mk: 1:40).” We hope and pray that Our Lord will respond with same tenderness and pity that He offered the leper. We desire that He will touch us too, and utter the words: “I do will it. Be made clean!”

During this season of Lent we are confronted by our need to be healed, inside and out. We see sin in all its filth; coming face to face with our own guilt, and the need to be made clean. The readings this week both in Daily Mass and the Divine Office Liturgy of the Hours rouse our consciences from the slumber of complacency to an acute awareness of the need to repent.

Thursday’s Vespers reading sets a serious task before us:

“Submit to God; resist the devil and he will take flight. Draw close to God, and He will draw close to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners; purify your hearts, you backsliders. Be humbled at the sight of the Lord and He will raise you on high (James 4: 7-8, 10).”

Cleanse Our Hands and Our Hearts O Lord, © SalveMaterDei.com 2012

Ouch! Those words sting! Speaking as a premier backslider, I know this isn’t going to be easy. In this reading it is as if Our Lord’s gaze meets ours – His is full of love, yet compelling us to change. Are we willing to meet His gaze? It is decision time. Find the courage, resolve, and trust – it is time to transform. We must move from invitation to action and live the call to repentance.

In today’s midmorning reading from the Divine Office, Our Lord explains that His discipline is itself a sign of His Love, and an invitation to healing.

“Whoever is dear to me I reprove and chastise. Be earnest about it, therefore. Repent! Here I stand, knocking at the door. If anyone hears me calling and opens the door, I will enter his house and have supper with him, and he with Me (Revelation 3:19-20).”

What a beautiful call to purification in anticipation of the Great Feast! Our daily purification prepares us for the Eucharist; and subsequently readies us for the Eternal Banquet of the Lord. Just as we respond at Holy Mass, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof; but only say the Word and I shall be healed.” Here too we are called to conversion, to accept penance, change our hearts, and open the veiled depths of our very selves to His abiding Love.

Our Loving Savior makes it clear that this call to conversion in not a static event. Merely calling His name and acknowledging His Divinity is not sufficient; for even the demons know Jesus name, and acknowledge His authority. We are called to go beyond mere recognition to take up our crosses and truly follow Him. We are called to enter into the mystery of our redemption; walking through desert now, and later grasping the wood of cross on the way to Calvary. Each step is to be in sync with Jesus Christ. Yes, conversion must begin today, but it must also continue as long as we draw breath and our hearts beat within the core of our flesh.

We are invited into the desert to pray and to fast with the Lord © SalveMaterDei.com 2012 EA photographer

As Lent begins, we are invited into the desert, to pray and fast with Our Lord. Here, “among the wild beasts” we too will be tempted by Satan (Mk: 1:12-13). Armed with prayer, fasting and alms-giving, we will draw close to Our Lord. We will cooperate with His grace and conquer the personal demons that seek to distract us from the ultimate Good with which our souls long to be satisfied. With confidence, we are called to embark upon this journey, together with He by Whom we are known to be Loved. The call to repent is urgent, and our immediate response is sought. As Our Lord states in the Gospel: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel (Mk 13-15).”

Now is the acceptable time!

As we journey from Ashes to Easter, together may we pray:

“Father, through our observance of Lent, help us to understand the meaning of Your Son’s death and resurrection and teach us to reflect it in our lives. Grant this through our Lord, Jesus Christ Your Son Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever, Amen. (Divine Office, Sunday Evening, Week 1, Lent).”


Ad Jesus per Mariam

M.A. J.M.J.

May God Bless Timothy Cardinal Dolan!

God Bless Cardinal Dolan

Well its official, our beloved Archbishop Dolan is now officially Timothy Cardinal Dolan. I deeply admire Cardinal Dolan, and am thrilled that the rest of the world has had more exposure to the faith, intellect, and genuine goodness of this remarkable individual.

Over the past month, Cardinal Dolan has assumed center stage in a contentious moral and political debate. As President of the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), Cardinal Dolan has courageously championed our constitutional right of Freedom of Religion, – a right President Obama and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius have attempted to trample via the recent HHS mandate forcing Catholic (and other religious) institutions to pay for or offer contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization without co-pay as a required component of “health” insurance. Through it all, Cardinal Dolan has demonstrated his unwavering commitment to the truths of our faith. His example of moral courage and authentic leadership is all the more illuminating when seen in contrast to the political shenanigans and posturing of Obama and his administration.

The kids and I have followed Timothy Cardinal Dolan’s trip to Rome for the consistory eagerly on EWTN, Facebook and Twitter. Our Archbishop Dolan, elevated to a cardinal! Amazing! Every Milwaukee Catholic has at least one favorite Cardinal Dolan story, and I have several.

Our family first crossed paths with this dynamic spiritual leader on August 18, 2002, at Irish Fest, in the Marcus Amphitheater, on Lake Michigan. Our new Archbishop celebrated Holy Mass to a packed crowd, just days before his official installation as Milwaukee’s tenth Archbishop. Sitting there with my then four young children (ages 9 mos., 2, 3, and 6), my husband and I were deeply impressed not only by our new Archbishop’s faith and intellect, but also absolutely charmed by his legendary wit. The electricity at that Mass was palpable; Archbishop Dolan’s love for Christ and Our Lady was as contagious as his humor. I bonded immediately as he confessed a fear of driving on Wisconsin’s winter roads- yep, we had an awesome Archbishop, with the same human trepidation I felt.

The Kids and a painting of Archbishop Dolan at Holy Hill © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012.

As the years passed, my esteem for Archbishop Dolan continued to grow. I watched with interest and admiration as he tackled the numerous challenges of the Milwaukee Archdiocese. Archbishop Dolan shares my love of the Basilica of Holy Hill, National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians. In fact, it was under his leadership that on November 19, 2006, this beautiful, historic church was elevated to the honor of being one of the less than 60 minor basilicas in the United States. The kids and I loved attending Archbishop Dolan’s Masses at Holy Hill. Over the years we had many opportunities to gain a first-hand appreciation of his deep abiding faith, and charismatic personality. We were there at Holy Hill when Archbishop Dolan consecrated the entire Milwaukee Archdiocese to Immaculate Heart of Mary. Over the years, I was impressed by Archbishop Dolan’s sincere devotion to the Blessed Mother. I loved how he used to call Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians “Our Lady’s House;” so simple, so profound, so true.

Holy Hill Basilica, National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians © SalveMaterDei.com, KJ photographer

We were at Holy Hill in June of 2006. Archbishop Dolan’s Masses were usually packed, standing room only. This was no exception, however this Mass was different in another way. On June 6, 2006 a couple of troubled youths spray painted satanic symbols and graffiti all over Holy Hill; they desecrated the outdoor stations of the cross, even the very front door of the church. It cost approximately $33,000 to sandblast the stations and remove those hideous red marks. Soon after, Archbishop Dolan was there for Sunday Mass- I can still remember how his tremendous voice bellowed  “Begone Satan” and with that he announced once and for all that Holy Hill forever belonged to Christ. I still get goosebumps when I think of his amazing, comforting presence that day. He took an angry, grieving congregation, and reminded us of the need to forgive, be healed and let Christ’s love be victorious. He was right – it was shortly after, on the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel that it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI would elevate Holy Hill to the level of a minor Basilica.

An inspiring moment © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012.

I remember the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, 2008. We had just adopted our lovely little girl from Guatemala. Packed in a pew near the back, my seven kids and I waited for Archbishop Dolan’s blessing as he processed toward the altar. We were thrilled that he stopped for just a moment and squeezed the hand of our newest little daughter. It was a lovely Mass- the kids were mesmerized by our gentle, wise Archbishop. The best was yet to come. We were among the last to leave the Church. Remember this is July 16- it is hot in Wisconsin in July, and those vestments can’t be comfortable. Archbishop Dolan graciously stood in the doorway of Holy Hill, conversing with the faithful, and extending his blessing, smiling as if he had nothing else to do, and that each recipient of his blessing was a close friend. As my little brood of seven lined up to kiss his ring, and ask for a blessing, my eldest son (then 12 years old) announced that he aspired to be a Carmelite priest. Archbishop Dolan extended a hand toward him, pointed, and in that signature booming voice announced, “I want to ordain you!” Kenny’s feet barely touched the ground- he was absolutely overwhelmed. Archbishop Dolan continued to chat with him, they conversed about homeschooling, and faith; and then he blessed us. Kenny has carried that moment with him ever since. That solitary exchange provided invaluable support for the budding vocation of a certain young man. As Archbishop Dolan took him seriously, I too began to look at his aspirations with fresh eyes, and a new earnestness.

Archbishop Dolan Blesses Our Little One © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012.

A year later, we were back at Holy Hill. It was a whirlwind weekend. Our newest daughter had just arrived from Ethiopia a mere 18 –hours before. It was Laetare Sunday, and Archbishop Dolan’s last Mass at Holy Hill before moving to New York. He concelebrated a lovely, yet bitter-sweet Mass. Once again, Archbishop Dolan spoke of being at home in “Mary’s House.” He joked about resembling a bottle of Pepto-Bismol in his rose-pink vestments. God had spoiled us. He had given Milwaukee Catholics a tremendous gift, but now it was time to share it with the rest of the world. After Mass, our family stood in line in the Shrine Chapel to get one last word, one last blessing. Archbishop Dolan smiled as he saw Kenny, he called him by name, and asked: “How’s school Kenny, do you still like your teacher?” Kenny stammered that he was homeschooled. Archbishop Dolan, nodded and said, “I know, do you still like your teacher?” Kenny nodded. Amazingly, he reiterated to Kenny, “I want to ordain you!” We were floored. Undoubtedly this holy man of God had crossed paths with thousands of folks in the past year, grasped their hands, heard their stories, and prayed with them; yet he remembered this young man, and his dreams. What a remarkable individual. The Archbishop proceeded to blessed us. We explained that our new little girl had just arrived from Ethiopia. Archbishop Dolan scooped up all 13lbs of our little princess, held her close and again blessed us all. He is an amazing man. It is a privilege to have received his blessing.

May Our Dear Lord continue to bless Timothy Cardinal Dolan, and may he in turn continue to bless all whose lives he touches.


Ad Jesum per Mariam

M.A. J.M.J.

Religious Bigotry and Obama’s HHS Mandate

One Nation Under God © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012. KJ Photographer

Though the mission of this blog is to be one of “praise and thanksgiving,” every once in awhile I need a good rant. The political posturing of the Obama Administration over the past few weeks has provided a surplus of rant-worthy material; however much of it has been covered in other blogs, thus I need to take a different approach. Anti-Catholic bias in America is nothing new. Our 200 year history is replete with stinging, vile examples of this insidious assault on all things Catholic. Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. stated that prejudice against Catholics was: “the deepest bias in the history of the American people.”

I’ll venture a guess that most American Catholics are not aware of the strong history of Catholic persecution and anti-Catholic bigotry in the USA. As George Santayana once stated, “Those who do not learn their history are doomed to repeat it.” In light of the Obama Administration’s recent HHS mandate to force all Catholic institutions to purchase insurance products that cover (without co-pay) all FDA approved forms of contraception (pills, IUD’s, Depo, etc), abortifacients, and sterilization, and Secretary of the Army John McHugh’s directive denying Archbishop Broglio’s Constitutional right to have his pastoral letter read by Army chaplains during Sunday Mass – Catholics must conclude that that the Obama Administration has decided that their place in history will also be marked with anti-Catholic intolerance.

Our nation’s past is littered with similar assaults on our right to freedom of religion. In the 17thcentury, anti-Catholic bigotry was reflected in colonial life. Historian John Tracy Ellis reports that a “universal anti-Catholic bias was brought to Jamestown and vigorously cultivated in all thirteen colonies.” Colonial charters and early laws contained explicit prohibition of Catholics and were carefully worded to exclude Catholics from ever obtaining political power. For example, the Colony of Virginia enacted a law in 1642 prohibiting Catholic settlers – an edict replicated by The Massachusetts Bay Colony. A brief period of toleration ended with the repeal of the Toleration Act in 1654, thus essentially declaring open season on Catholics once again. Puritans murdered Catholics and plundered their property. Even Catholic Maryland capitulated, ousting Catholic leaders, forcing Catholics to pay heavy fines and taxes, banning them from political positions, outlawing the Holy Mass, sacraments, and Catholic schools.

Even some of our Founding Fathers preached religious bigotry while penning documents that spoke of God and religious liberty. For example, Thomas Jefferson stated in a December 1813 letter to Alexander von Humbolt: “History, I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government.” Similarly, in 1788 John Jay sought to require members of the New York legislature to take an oath requiring office-holder to denounce the pope and foreign authorities in “all matters civil and ecclesiastical ….”

Freedom of Worship © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012. KJ Photographer

Anti-Catholic prejudice reached new heights in the 19th century. The anti-immigrant feeling was bolstered by anti-Catholic underpinnings. Just like today, prejudice against Catholics was not only socially acceptable, but truly trendy. Like most good fads, everyone who was anyone was doing it. Mark Twain stated in his best-selling book A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court that he had “been educated to enmity toward everything Catholic.” The Nativist movement of the 1840’s and 1850’s was largely responsible for widespread Catholic persecution. This movement was lead by ill-informed Protestant leaders, like Lynn Beecher and Horace Bushnell. They sought to confine Catholics East of the Mississippi. Beecher’s 1835 “Plea for the West” is an example of the fiery rhetoric used to insight hatred against Catholics. Mob violence against Catholics became common-place. Just like in the early colonies, Catholics were beaten, murdered, and had their property burned. Such a mob torched an Ursuline convent in Charlestown, on August 11, 1834.

The “Know Nothing” movement of the 1850’s gave political clout to the bigoted ravings of these mobs, under the auspices of the “American Party.” This party grew out of the numerous anti-Catholic societies of the era, including the Order of united Americans and Order of the Star Spangled Banner. “Know Nothing” referred to the “I know nothing” response that was officially to be given to non-members who queried members about the existence of such clandestine organizations. Their political influence was not insignificant; in November 1854 the Massachusetts “Know Nothings” elected the governor, held every seat in the Senate, and 376 of the 379 seats in the House. The “Know Nothings” carried every New England state in 1855 except Maine, and also won Maryland, and Kentucky, while showing considerable strength throughout the U.S. In 1856, via the “American Party,” the “Know Nothings” ran former President Millard Fillmore for President (unsuccessfully).

Political tensions also escalated over the issue of Catholic Schools. American Parochial Schools were often run by religious sisters. These institutions provided superior education at a modest cost, while insulating the Catholic students from the pagan influences of the larger society. In 1874, Maine’s Republican Senator James G. Blaine proposed an amendment to the Constitution which stipulated that no public land or money, or money derived from a public source “shall ever be under the control of any religious sect.” While the amendment itself was defeated in 1875, the Blaine Amendment served as the boiler-plate for similar amendments that were incorporated into the constitutions of 34 states over the next thirty-years. The Blaine Amendment found a champion in President Ulysses S. Grant. There were many legal tussles over not merely the funding of Catholic schools, but their very right to exist at all. In 1922 the voters of Oregon passed the Compulsory Education Act- or the Oregon School Act. The basic purpose of this initiative was to eliminate all Catholic schools. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court determined in Pierce v. Society if Sisters (1925)  the Act to be in violation of the Constitution.

From Al Smith’s failed (1928) presidential bid, to John F. Kennedy’s election in 1960, unfounded fears that a Catholic American President would somehow compromise national security and American identity by respecting the authority of the Holy Father played a major role in presidential politics.

Please Pray for Our Bishops! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012. KJ Photographer

It absolutely amazes me that a country with more than 68.5 million registered Catholics could passively accept such pervasive religious intolerance. According to a 2011 Georgetown study, Catholics comprise 22% of the American population; more than 77.7 million Americans identify themselves as Catholic. The United States is home to the fourth largest Catholic population in the World. Data from 2008 demonstrates that there are more that 626 Catholic Hospital Systems in the U.S.; these healthcare systems comprise the nation’s largest group of nonprofit systems, with an annual budget of 84.6 Billion dollars – including the 5.7 billion in donated care annually.

We care for the poor, educate the ignorant, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, heal the sick, comfort the sorrowing, and bury the dead – in a way that provides more services than any other comprehensive charitable effort in the U.S. Yet, as a group we remain the most politically correct entity to slam and against which to discriminate. As the historian John Higham once noted, anti-Catholic bias is “the most luxuriant, tenacious tradition of paranoiac agitation in American history.”

With the line drawn in the sand by HHS secretary Sebelius and the Obama Administration, I fear things will only get worse. Thank Heaven (literally, please!) for leadership of our Bishops, beginning with Cardinal Elect Dolan’s response that this edict offers Catholics “a year in which to figure out how to violate our consciences.” Kudos to the 160+ Bishops who have written to their flock, and publicly renounced this unjust law.

Please pray for our Bishops- that they may be imbued with the grace, wisdom and courage requisite this present darkness. Please pray for our Nation’s leaders that they might dust off the Constitution, and act as statesmen rather than mere politicians. Please pray for our fellow citizens that we might all truly be One Nation Under God, with Liberty and Justice for All.

God Bless You!



For additional information on the history of Catholics in America, you may wish to pick up a copy of: Christ in the Americas by Anne W. Carroll, TAN Books, 1997.

Seek the Lord While He May Be Found….

Basilica of Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012 photo by KJU

…You shall seek the Lord your God and indeed you shall find Him when you search after Him with your whole heart and your whole soul (Deut. 4:29).

Our hearts are indeed restless until they rest in the Lord. Last night as my family was leaving Mass at Holy Hill Basilica, our Lord chose to give me powerful visual reminder of my need to remain close to Him. As usual we were among the last few folks out of the church. As is our routine, we had stayed to spend a few minutes in prayer, then chit-chatted with our dear friend Annie – the choir director – and her parents, asked Fr. Jude to bless us, and waited for the boys to leisurely put away their cassocks and amble out of the sacristy. Turning the corner to elevator we came upon two small, frightened children. They had been separated from their parents, and were deeply distraught. We joined a handful of adults in attempting to calm the youngsters and reunite them with their missing parents. Their sobs and tear-stained faces gripped this mother’s heart.

That overwhelmingly helpless feeling- LOST! We’ve all been there, and it is a heart- wrenching distress.

Feed My Lambs! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012

Several years ago, my husband and I were at the local zoo with our then seven kids and their grandparents. Paranoid as I am about losing a child, my kids were all dressed in brightly colored matching tie- dyed shirts. I often dressed them alike on such outings to make it easier to keep track of my brood. As our little group of eleven wound its way through the crowd, I lost sight of my daughter. When I had last seen her, she had a firm grasp on Poppie’s hand. Thus, I was certain she was safe with him, but when we all settled at the concession stand, my little girl wasn’t among our number. Panic, absolute panic! I can image how Mary and Joseph felt upon discovering that the Child Jesus was not among their caravan of relatives (Luke 3: 41-52). With “great anxiety” we too began to look for our child.

I sprinted across the zoo, frantically calling her name. When I finally found her, in front of the polar bears and seals, there were a few concerned adults comforting my distraught little girl. We had been separated for no more than 15 minutes, however time must truly be relative, because I know that I aged at least a decade in those moments. I was so grateful to those caring strangers who comforted her in my absence, a gratitude that was seconded only to that which I felt to God for her safe return. I hugged her close, and mumbled a quick “thank you” to Our Lord, her guardian angels and the Good Samaritans nearby.

LOST! What an awful feeling! The distress and danger are real, and every fiber of our being cries out to be reunited with those by whom we are known to be loved. The loved ones of the lost child endure an agony as great as that of the missing individual. Indeed, the Blessed Mother and Joseph were not spared this torment; thus, there must be profound lessons and grace that can be gleaned from it. This physical state of being is a living nightmare. However, as frightening as it is to be physically lost, it is even more dangerous to be spiritually lost.

Shelter of the Lost, Please Pray for us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012 EA photographer

Clinging close to Christ is our best defense. The closer we are to Jesus, the less likely we are to suffer the spiritual anguish of being missing. Yet, like my trip to the zoo, and the loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple, there are times that despite our best efforts, we succumb to spiritual dangers and lose sight of God – even if only for a little while. In those moments, we need to stay put, and cry out for Him. Like the Good Shepherd, he will seek us out. Nevertheless, like the children we helped last evening, there are times that the most expeditious way to find our way to Our Beloved is through the parental kindness of another. Just as my maternal instincts kicked into high gear at the sight of these youngsters’ tears, so too Our Heavenly Mother Mary’s maternal protection is secured when we cry out to her in need. She too is acutely familiar with the distress of losing her beloved young Son. Mary’s Immaculate, Motherly Heart will not be unmoved by our pleas – either for ourselves or our lost loved ones. She and St. Joseph will surely help us to be united with our loved ones in Christ Jesus – though God’s timetable and ours may differ.

As the elevator opened and the children were reunited with their equally distraught parents, fear melted into joy. How much joy must there be in Heaven when we repent, seek Sacramental Confession, are spiritually reconciled with our Lord? When Mary and Joseph finally encountered Our Lord in the Temple in Jerusalem:

They found him sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. All who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers. And His Mother said to Him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s House?”

Those words cut across the millennia, and are as relevant for us today as they were when directed to Mary and Joseph two-thousand years ago. When we or our loved ones are lost, we need to cry out for help, humbly grasp Mary’s hand and seek the Lord in His Father’s House. For if we do so, He will rescue us, never letting one of His trusting little lambs be forsaken. We can have confidence in His words: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and save what was lost (Luke 19:10).”

May the Lord bless you and give you His peace.

Ad Jesum per Mariam