Feast of St. Andrew Novena (reprise)

St. Andrew in Tryptich above main altar, Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA photographer

Happy Feast of St. Andrew! As this feast is celebrated in both the Western and Eastern arms of the Church, it is one of my favorites. Intuitively, there seems to be something significant in beginning Advent with the feast of a martyr and an apostle. It is as if we are subtly reminded that this season is meant to be one of penance and evangelization.

Scripture and Sacred Tradition tell us much about St. Andrew. He and St. Peter were the sons of Jonas, and they lived in Bethsaida, which was a town in Galilee on the shores of the Genesareth. As we examine St. Andrew’s life, there are lessons that may translate into a more personally fruitful Advent.

St. Andrew did not journey out to the desert to see St. John the Baptist out of curiosity, nor was he merely following the crowd. No, St. Andrew was ready to leave behind all that mattered and become a true disciple of St. John the Baptist. In penance and prayer this Advent, we too can follow the voice of one crying out, “Prepare the way of Lord!”

Later, when St. John the Baptist identifies Jesus by stating: “Behold the Lamb of God,” St. Andrew is again prepared to forsake his spiritual security in order to embrace a deeper relationship with the Messiah. For St. Andrew to follow Jesus Christ from Capernaum to Jerusalem, he must leave John the Baptist to his mission in the desert. This Advent, we too can grow beyond the comfort and complacency of our spiritual security, by reaching for a closer union with Jesus. Like St. Andrew, Jesus asks us to risk that which matters most in our lives. Similarly, Jesus asks us to place it all- our fears, dreams and lives- in His hands with confidence.

Once St. Andrew finds Jesus, he introduces Him to his brother Peter. This Advent, we can bring Jesus to those around us. Like St. Peter, they too may feel the call to forsake everything and follow Him. Evangelization doesn’t necessarily mean shouting from the roof-tops (not recommended in the slippery, frozen tundra of Wisconsin). Rather, just by quietly living Christmas as Christians, we bear witness, and bid others to do the same. We are called to invite- He will do the rest.

The Holy Apostles and the Blessed Virgin at Pentecost (Basilica at Holy Hill) © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA photographer

St. Andrew accepted Jesus’ command to: “Go forth to all Nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit… (MT 28:19).” He traveled beyond his comfort zone preaching the Good News along the Baltic, into what are now Russia, Romania and the Ukraine. St. Andrew was later martyred in Patras, Greece, where he was tied to a cross. Tradition holds that St. Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped cross out humility- not feeling worthy to die as Our Lord. This Advent, if we embrace our crosses with similar humility it can’t help but bear fruit.

One of my favorite things about this feast is the novena which begins today. This novena is a poignant reminder of what really matters during this Sacred Season. The repetition of this lovely verse provides a rhythm that gently flows from day to day- reinforcing the true meaning of Christmas. The rhythm is strong enough to offer an oasis for those of us seeking respite from the chaotic noise of the secular season.

Hail and Blessed Be the Hour and the Moment in Which the Son of God was born of the Most Pure Virgin Mary. . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

It is piously believed that whoever recites the following prayer fifteen times a day from the Feast of St. Andrew to Christmas Eve will obtain their request.

The prayer is:

Hail and Blessed be the Hour and the moment in which the Son of God was born of the Most Pure Virgin Mary at midnight in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayer, and grant my desires through the merits of Our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother.

+MICHAEL AUGUSTINE, Archbishop of New York
New York, February 6, 1897

One may choose to recite all fifteen prayers at once, or it can be or broken up and prayed throughout the day- perhaps with the meal prayer or the Angelus.

I have been praying this novena annually for fourteen years, and have never been disappointed. One Advent, I was reciting this prayer for the child I was carrying. It was a dangerous pregnancy for the baby and I – there was a real chance that both of our lives were in jeopardy. My beautiful, healthy baby girl was born (one month early) exactly ten days after the novena ended. A year later, I prayed this novena for my Dad and his conversion. He was officially received into the Catholic Church fourteen days after the novena ended, and died of cancer just sixteen days later. Each year I have prayed it, I have truly felt an abundance of grace. This novena is powerful!!! I invite you to join my family as we pray the Christmas Novena this year.

Advent Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,



The Lord is King, He is Robed in Majesty!

The Lord is King, He is Robed in Majesty © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA photo

The Lord is King, He is robed in Majesty; the Lord is robed, girded with might. The world will surely stand in place, never to be moved. Your throne stands firm from of old; You are from everlasting, Lord (Psalm 93: 1-2).

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. On this day, we bow our heads and acknowledge the dominion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and His Divine authority over everything in this world, and indeed the entire universe. Scripture clearly elucidates Christ’s Kingship. For example, today’s First Reading states:

As the visions during the night continued, I saw one like a Son of Man coming, on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before Him, the One like a Son of Man received dominion, glory and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, His kingship shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7-13-14).

All Nations Shall Come to Adore Him. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA photo

This Solemnity originated as a feast, in response to mounting cultural pressures to succumb to rising tides of secularism. In 1925, Pope Pius XI penned the Encyclical Quas Primas, thus initiating this feast, under the title “D. N. Jesu Christi Regis,” Our Lord Jesus Christ the King.

Earlier that year, the Pontiff was reportedly walking in the Papal Gardens with a cardinal, who noted how dejected the pontiff seemed. In the conversation that ensued, the Holy Father discussed his frustration with the flood of –isms that were spreading darkness throughout the world. He detailed the ramifications of: Mussolini’s Fascism, Hitler’s Nazism, Stalin’s Communism, Freud’s psychological determinism, and the American materialism that was manifest in the roaring twenties. Pope Pius XI explained that Christ and His dominion remain the solitary answer to humanity’s deepest yearning. These other false doctrines fail to satisfy our longing and need for Christ and His Kingship. It is only in submission to Christ as our Sovereign, that the human soul finds fulfillment and peace.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty (Revelation 1:8).” © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

This exchange prompted Pope Pius XI to write the encyclical Quas Primas, and initiate the Feast of Christ the King in 1925. The Holy Father envisioned that this Feast could have multiple effects. First, He hoped that the rulers of this world would understand that they are bound to respect Christ (Quas Primas 31). Pope Pius XI also hoped that the nations of the world would accept that the Church has a right to freedom, and immunity from the state (Quas Primas, 32). Similarly, the Pontiff hoped that The Feast of Christ the King would empower Christians with courage and strength, as we are reminded that Jesus Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, bodies and wills (Quas Primas, 33).

The Alpha and the Omega, Corpus Christi © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.EA photo

As we look at recent threats to religious liberty in this country, most notably the Obama Administration’s HHS Mandate requiring Catholic (as well as other) Institutions and employers to provide “health” insurance coverage which will include (without co-pay) contraceptives,abortifacients, and sterilization, we see how the antecedents envisioned by Pope Pius XI have blossomed into real threats to the religious freedom and moral life of the contentious Christian faithful. Those whose religious principles hold that all life is sacred from natural conception to natural death, have been told they will have to either violate their consciences or violate the law of the land. Our religious freedom is rapidly being confined to the 4 walls of our homes, as state sanctioned assaults on religious freedom are more commonplace. Thus, Pope Pius’ objective to urge world leaders to respect the authority of Christ, to protect the religious freedom of Christians, and to empower Christians to remain courageously stalwart while embracing the reign of Christ in our hearts, minds and bodies (Quas Primas 31-33) bears as much significance today as when Quas Primas was penned 87 years ago.

As contemporary Americans, the concept of kingship seems a bit foreign to us. Didn’t we throw that off in 1776? That staunchly independent streak of ours seems to balk at the slightest hint of subservience to royalty. We like to think of Jesus as our friend and brother (as indeed He is), and seek Him as our Merciful Savior; however, when it comes to acknowledging Jesus as our Sovereign King, and submitting ourselves to His Reign, there we find difficulty. This is especially true when it comes to personal moral decisions, those that seem to go against the grain of contemporary society, or expose us to the discomfort of appearing at odds with popular culture.

The Lord Our All-Powerful God is King © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.EA photo

It is precisely here, where that discomfort lies, that drive of autonomous rebellion to His authority begins; at this explicit juncture we must decide whether we are truly loyal Christians, or not. In this political and cultural climate, as threats to conscience and religious liberty escalate, we are in a real way being called to decide to Whom we owe our highest allegiance. Whom do we wish to serve? Will we stand with Jesus Christ? Will we acknowledge and accept His ultimate and legitimate authority over our hearts, minds, and souls? Are we embarrassed or reluctant to admit that His Dominion exists in our everyday lives? Does He reign in our homes – yes, even our bedrooms?  What about at work, in our boardrooms? How about our voting booths? Is He present when we surf the Internet, when we chat on the phone, or when we relax in front of the television? If Jesus Christ is truly our Sovereign King, then we must willingly give Him dominion over every aspect of our lives: private, public, and political.

All Power, Honor, and Glory © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA photo

Recall Jesus commands us in Sacred Scripture to: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s; but render unto God what is God’s (Mark 12:17).”

Today’s Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe is an opportune time to examine our relationship with Jesus, and to recommit ourselves to His service. For whether or not we choose to acknowledge His Sovereignty, it does objectively exist: He is in fact, the Eternal King. Even a casual observer of recent global geo-political history has to admit that earthly rulers and their policies come and go, even geo-political boundaries are subject to change. The map of Eurasia appears vastly different than it did 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even 20 years ago. Our present world is in flux. The powerful of this world are eventually replaced by those who are more powerful; the prosperous by those with more wealth, the attractive and popular by those who are more so. These superficial realities are indeed fleeting, and allegiance to them is fidelity to the transient. However, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).” Ultimately our time on earth is relatively short when compared against the backdrop of eternity. Our choice to submit to His authority has eternal ramifications. If we serve Him in this world, we shall enjoy perpetual peace in His Kingdom for all eternity. If we choose to rebel against His authority – and we have the free will to do just that – then we shall have all eternity to ponder that decision as well.

Lamb of God You take Away the Sins of the World. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

On this Solemnity, let us consider carefully the choice before us. Recall in Revelations 3:16 how Our Lord spoke of those who failed to make a conscious choice to commit themselves to Christ: “So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” With that in mind, let us renew our consecration to Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Together let us recommit ourselves to serving Him in this world, working for the greatest honor and Glory of God in time and Eternity.


Ad Jesum per Mariam,


Pro Orantibus Day 2012 – A Moment of Gratitude for Those Who Pray

Blessed are the Pure of Heart, For they Shall See God © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. KJ photo

“The prayer of him that humbleth himself, shall pierce the clouds: and till it come nigh he will not be comforted: and he will not depart until the Most High behold (Ecclesiasticus 35: 21).”

Prayer is the ultimate gift. Its swiftness surpasses the speed of light as it moves from the heart of the suppliant to the Heart of the Divine. No human construct can compare with this acute form of communication. Human longings are transformed by the Spirit into a reality that is intelligible to God alone. Scripture assures us:

“In the same way, the Holy Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the One Who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because He intercedes for the holy one’s according to God’s Will (Romans 8: 26-29).”

Prayer is the voluntary movement of the human soul in response to Divine Love. It is sublime and efficacious.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face once stated:

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart, it is a simple look toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy (Manuscrits and Autobiographies, C25r).”

When one offers to pray for another, it is a tremendous gift; when one offers his or her very life in the service of contemplative prayer, the gift is incomparable.

“We Share the Fruit of Life Through You, O Daughter Blessed by the Lord.” © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 KJ Photo

Today, on the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Mother in the Temple of Jerusalem, it is fitting that we should celebrate the vocations of those cloistered and monastic men and women who dedicate their lives in prayerful service to the members of the Body of Christ. Pro Orantibus Day was instituted by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1997 as an ecclesial event to be annually observed worldwide on November 21. Pro Orantibusliterally translates to: “For those who pray.” In essence, we are offered an opportunity to offer a measure of prayer for those who spend their lives praying for us.

Hallowed Halls of Prayer – Carmelite Monastery Denmark © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Today, the entire Church pauses for a moment of gratitude for those hidden religious whose prayers truly are vital to the health and well-being of the Body of Christ. These men and women live the exhortation to “pray without ceasing.”

Origen once stated:

“He ‘prays without ceasing’” who unites prayer to works and good works to prayer. Only in this way can we consider as realizable the principle of praying without ceasing (Origen, De orat. 12: PG 11, 452C, Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 658).”

As we honor Our Blessed Mother today, contemplating her purity, sacrifice and prayer, it is appropriate that we should also honor the contemplative religious whose daily labor of love sustains the work of the Universal Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church (p. 644, 2679).” Let us reciprocate the gift of prayer, both by thanking God for the contemplative religious who pray for us, and by invoking Our Lady’s intercession. Let us ask Her to protect their vocations by holding them tenderly to Her Immaculate Heart, and to send new laborers to the vineyard of Her Divine Son.

May Your Mother Intercede for us Lord © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

Please join me in prayer for our monastic and cloistered contemplative Religious, including their seculars, tertiaries and oblates. Together let us thank God for all who pray.

Happy Pro-Orantibus Day 2012!


Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.

Happy Anniversary Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill!

Adore the Lord in His holy court. Let all the earth be moved at his presence (Psalm 95: 6, 9). © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 KJ photo

“Them I will bring to my holy mountain, and make joyful in my house of prayer; their holocausts and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples (Isaiah 56:7).”

The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians is one of my most cherished places. Years ago I stated that if God were to bestow a kiss on the people of Southeastern Wisconsin, it would look like Holy Hill.

Sanctuary of the Upper Church, Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Among my earliest memories, Holy Hill features prominently. I recall journeying with my family from our home in Michigan to visit this National Shrine of Mary, at Holy Hill. I was about 3 years old at the time and had never seen such a glorious church! The beauty and magnitude of this magnificent structure dedicated to the Mother of God, impressed me deeply. I recall climbing (and climbing) what seemed like a gazillion steps, from the lower parking lot to the upper church, and later that day climbing all 173 steps to the top of the tower. My father did not like heights, and part way up the tower, he turned around and headed down to the landing. Grasping my mother’s hand, I headed up the narrow winding stairs, to the top of the tower. I remember peering out the round window near the summit of the climb. I felt like I was on top of the world and could see forever! (Little did I know that three decades later, both the neighborhood in which I would raise my children and the cemetery where my parents’ mortal remains rest could be seen from that very window.)

173 steps to the top © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

In the 1980’s, I would visit Holy Hill with my fiancé and my parents. About a half hour before Mass, my betrothed and I decided to climb to 173 steps up to the tower. Mom and Dad opted to wait for us in the main church, while we quickly buzzed up the stairs. As I confidently sprinted up the first few flights, I remarked to my husband-to-be: “I can’t imagine why this bothered Dad, it’s just a bunch of stairs.” Well, pride goes before the fall, or in my case the sudden fear of falling. As soon as those words of hubris were out of my mouth, I looked down the center of the stairwell, and gasped. In an instant, I discovered a fear of heights I never knew I possessed. Like my Dad, I turned around and headed down the stairs. Now, twenty-plus years later, I still haven’t managed to make it to the top of the tower I had climbed in my youth.

Under the scaffold during the renovations © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Yet those towers feature prominently in so many memories- my children have literally grown up in the shadow of the Holy Hill towers. We have been blessed to attend near-daily Mass at Holy Hill for years. My sons enjoy the privilege of serving Mass frequently, and my older children sing in the choir. We have developed deep and lasting friendships with the wonderful Carmelite friars who dedicate their lives to the care of the Shrine and its pilgrims.

The Discalced Carmelite Friars are Stewards of this Sacred Site © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

It is impossible to express with mere words what this sacred space means to my family and I. Through the years, Holy Hill has captured a cherished place in our hearts. The tapestry of memories includes threads of joy, laughter, tears, and friendship. First Communions, First Reconciliations, graduations, May Crownings, Corpus Christi Processions, and the funerals of dear friends – our family has celebrated sacraments and milestones within these hallowed walls. Mom and Dad’s wakes were celebrated in the Old Monastery Inn. Truly, from my parent’s gravesite the view of Holy Hill is magnificent. I could never have imagined in 1968 that our bond to this sacred site would be so great.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the April 28, 2012 Mass of Thanksgiving © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Today, Holy Hill celebrates a milestone of its own. On July 16, 2006, the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, then Archbishop Timothy Dolan announced that Pope Benedict XVI had approved the elevation of Holy Hill to the status of a minor Basilica. The occasion of the announcement was not only the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, but also the 100 anniversary of the arrival of the Discalced Carmelite Order. Four months later, on November 19, 2006, Archbishop Dolan celebrated the Mass officially dedicating The National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians as a minor Basilica. Today, we celebrate the sixth anniversary of this dedication.

Cardinal Dolan’s Mass of Thanksgiving, April 28, 2012 © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Holy Hill is a treasure. On April 28 of this year, Cardinal Dolan returned to this beloved Shrine to offer a Mass of Thanksgiving following his elevation to Cardinal. Over the years I have often heard Cardinal Dolan describe Holy Hill as “Mary’s House.” Perhaps this is why Holy Hill bears such significance for many of us. Our lives unfold here, and we sense that the Blessed Mother is truly a heart-beat away. Through Holy Hill, we are linked to Our Lady and her Beloved Son.

Mary Help of Christian, Pray for Us! (Shrine Chapel) © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 EA photo

During this Year of Faith, Archbishop Jerome Listecki, in accord with the Apostolic Penitentiary, has declared that the Christian faithful of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee who, having fulfilled the required conditions of Sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion, prayers for the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions, “and in a spirit of total detachment from any inclination to sin may benefit from a Plenary Indulgence” by visiting the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians in the form of a Pilgrimage. “Pilgrims must participate in a liturgy, or at least pause for an appropriate time in prayer and meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, Invocations of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and where appropriate of the Holy Apostles or patron saints.” The full text of the official decree can be found at: http://www.archmil.org/Year-of-Faith/Plenary-Indulgence.htm.

“Blessed are they who dwell in Your House, O Lord.” © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 EA Photo

The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill is a uniquely cherished site. Please join me in praying for continued blessings to flow from this sacred Shrine. Please pray for the pilgrims who visit and for the dedicated Carmelite Friars who are stewards of Mary’s House. All for the Greatest Honor and Glory of God!

Happy Anniversary! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 EA photo

Happy Anniversary Holy Hill!

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.


For All the Saints, Who From Their Labors Rest: Two Carmelite Feasts

The Souls of the Just are in the Hand of God…© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

“By Your own Blood, Lord, You brought us back to God; from every tribe and tongue, and people and nation, You made us a kingdom for our God (Evening Antiphon, All Saints’ Day Liturgy of the Hours).

Writing this at about midnight, I seem to have one foot in yesterday and the other in tomorrow. These two days, November 14 and November 15, bear significance for Discalced Carmelites. On November 14th, they celebrate the Feast of All Carmelite Saints, and likewise, the 15this traditionally celebrated as the Feast of All Carmelite Souls.

At this midpoint in November, we are again called to focus our attention on the magnificent doctrine of the Communion of Saints. We honor those men and women of heroic virtue who have persevered in faith, and with an abiding love for Christ, have kept their baptismal garments pure. Likewise we pray for those brothers and sisters in Christ who have been called from this earthly existence, yet whose imperfect character has temporarily deprived them of the glorious Beatific Vision. We are cognizant that these beloved souls are engaged in a process of purification, and that our prayers may assist them.

Scripture tells us:

“The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed in the eyes of the foolish to be dead; and their passing away an affliction and their going forth from us utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed they be punished, yet their hope is full of immortality. Chastened a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of Himself. As Gold in a furnace He proved them, as sacrificial offerings He took them to Himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine. … (Wisdom 3:1-7).”

As we pray for the beloved souls in Purgatory, we are reminded of the need to remain in a state of grace for that moment when we shall meet God face to face. Thus, while glorifying God for the graces He has lavished upon both the Saints Triumphant and the Suffering Souls in Purgatory, we also contemplate the fragility of our own mortal flesh, and gaze momentarily into the vastness of eternity.

My Soul is Thirsting for the Living God; When Shall I See Him Face to Face? SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

While our All-loving God has created us with the ultimate solitary purpose of delighting in Eternal Bliss with Him in Paradise, He has also given each of us a free will. We each have the marvelous gift to choose to spend eternity with Him in perpetual joy, or to permanently sever our bond with God, and spend Eternity far from the abyss of His merciful love. Our destiny depends upon the path we take, and the choice is truly ours.

Scripture tells us:

“I call heaven and earth today to witness against you. I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life , then, that your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding His voice, and holding fast to Him (Deuteronomy 31:19-20).”

Fortified with the doctrine of the Communion of Saints, we realize that our all-loving God has provided us with the gift of companions on this journey. Not only are there companions who breathe the same air we do, and walk the face of the earth in the space and time that we share, but there are also companions who have already labored through life, and who now desire to assist us with their wisdom and prayers, as they inhabit an existence which transcends earthly space and time.

For those of us who are drawn to Carmelite sanctity, the companions are myriad. The life of each Carmelite saint reflects a unique aspect of the Carmelite spirituality; and studying their lives affords one the opportunity to apply their inimitable virtues to her own life. In my own life, I have discovered these Carmelite Companions to be an invaluable source of spiritual blessing.

The Holy Mother, St. Teresa of Jesus, Doctor of the Church …© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

From the Holy Mother, St. Teresa of Jesus, I seek to learn how to pray. St. Teresa of Avila, the great Carmelite reformer, is a magnificent teacher. I turn to St. Teresa, the great Doctor of the Church, via her writings, especially her autobiography (Life of St. Teresa), The Way of Perfection, and The Interior Castle. The more time I spend with St. Teresa, the more I find my prayer life does indeed deepen. Much of St. Teresa’s writings were penned as counsel for her sisters; guides to teach them how to pray. Her approachable manner allows the reader to comprehend theologically rigorous material with refreshing clarity. St. Teresa’s wisdom and guidance on this journey are incomparable.

Though not even canonized as a Blessed, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (1614-1691) remains one of the most influential Carmelite companions on my journey to the foot of the Throne of the Almighty. The letters of the wise lay-brother were collected and published into a book entitled, Practicing the Presence of God. I had the grace to stumble upon this volume in college, and it profoundly impacted the way I viewed my relationship with God. Through Brother Lawrence’s eyes, I continue to develop a more intimate relationship with Christ, and strive daily to recognize His presence in my mundane life.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face …© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face has taught me how to turn my miniscule deeds into gifts for God. The “Little Way” of this beloved Doctor of the Church is so relevant to my life! Like Therese, harsh penances scare me, and heroic deeds are well beyond my limited capabilities. However, like her, I long to give my best to God, and through her writings in The Story of a Soul, I find hope that my insignificant human struggles are actually valued by my Loving Creator. I love her passion, and resonate with her temper. Therese learned to channel those tempestuous qualities into a “Zeal for the Lord God of Hosts”. Following her example, I too hope to one day find my turbulent temperament has truly rested in the peace of Christ.

The young St. Teresa of the Andes is another of my favorite Carmelite companions. Through her biography, God, the Joy of My Soul, I am learning how our Lord gently calls us to love. In St. Teresa of the Andes, I see a paradox of youthful exuberance and mature spiritual depth. Reading her biography has caused me to become more cognizant of spiritual depth of others – especially the depth that is present in children and young adults. I see their innocence and joy, as they approach the omnipotence of God, and it makes me yearn to approach Him with these virtues as well. I have learned that I am better equipped to nurture the spiritual inclinations of my own children, when I view their intimacy with God in awe and wonder.

St. John of the Cross has taught me the value of suffering. Through his collected works, including the Dark Night of the Soul, I have come to realize that intimacy with God is not reflected in consolations and cozy feelings. When St. Paul tells us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12),” it is clear that we are not promised a warm fuzzy feeling as a reward for union with Christ. Through St. John of the Cross, I begin to grasp the essential role of the cross in my own life, and take ever-so-tiny steps to embrace that cross, and follow the Wisdom Who has wrought it for my salvation.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross …© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

The extraordinary St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is a special companion on my journey. Philosophically, Phenomenology has never been my cup of tea. I avoided it like the plague in graduate school. However, I have learned much from this learned Carmelite philosopher. Edith Stein was born a Jew, and later became an atheist. However, her unquenchable desire for True Wisdom allowed her to reason her way to God. She possessed a magnificent mind and after earning a doctorate in Philosophy, she studied with world-renowned academic philosophers. Yet, academic success did not quell the longing of her soul. One night, Edith stumbled upon a copy of St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography- she devoured it, finishing it that very night. Finding it to be the truth, her soul found rest. Edith Stein was baptized, and she soon entered Carmel as Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, and wholly surrendered her life to God. As the Nazi regime hunted both St. Teresa and her sister Rosa (who had also become a Carmelite sister) that act of total surrender would profoundly demonstrate the glory of the One to Whom she had become espoused. In the days preceding her death in Auschwitz, St. Teresa cared for the children and other inmates with gentleness and joy. She reflected Christ’s mercy even in the shadow of the gas chambers. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross continues to teach me the value of courageous daily surrender to the Will of God.

My favorite Carmelite Saint is Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, whose feast we celebrated just last week on November 9. Blessed Elizabeth was born in a military camp in Avor, France. She lost her father at the tender age of 7, and lived in a comfortable middle-class environment with her mother and sister. Elizabeth was an accomplished pianist, and had been sent to study music at the conservatory in Dijon when she was a mere 8 years of age. She would practice for 5-6 hours a day, and was no stranger to diligent study. Though music and laughter were abundant in her life, she possessed philosophical and theological depth. From the time of her First Holy Communion, St. Elizabeth desired to give herself completely to God. In her teens, she became mystically aware of the indwelling presence of the Most Blessed Trinity. Her entire life would become a living prayer to the Trinity, Whom she truly understood lived within the depths of her soul. Elizabeth realized that as the Trinitarian God dwelled within her soul, the door to Heaven was in an authentic way, her very heart. I love the way she expressed this reality through her letters, and highly recommend these valuable spiritual writings which can be found published in the Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity.

St. Simon Stock Receives the Brown Scapular from Our Lady of Mount Carmel …© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

The Canon of Carmelite Saints is replete with heroes, martyrs and mystics. St. Simon Stock, whose vision of Our Lady of Mount Carmel has given us the Brown Scapular as a protective garment of grace is a favorite patron to many. Among my personal favorites are the brave martyrs of Compiegne. These 16 Carmelite sisters ascended the scaffold of the guillotine in Paris on July 17, 1794 signing the Veni Creator Spiritusand professing their vows in defiance of Robespierre’s Revolutionary Government. Their pure oblation is credited with ending the Reign of Terror a mere 10 days later. The ranks of powerful celestial Carmelite companions are enormous. These intercessors have so much to teach us as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, winding our way along the path to Eternity.

Yet while the number of canonized Carmelite saints is extensive, even larger is the number of hidden Carmelite saints; those who have labored quietly, living solely for Christ, and Him Crucified. Even greater still is the number of holy Carmelite men and women, engaged in the task of Purgatorial purification, whose prayers can benefit us greatly. Through these two days, as we celebrate their merits, and glorify God their Creator, let us endeavor to emulate their virtues in the hope of one day joining them all in Paradise. As we thank God for our Carmelite Saints, let us also petition Him for the repose of the souls of those Carmelites in Purgatory. With them, let us remain Zealous with Zeal for the Lord God of Hosts.


Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.

The Souls of the Just are in the Hand of God – Reprise

Much to my dismay, life has gotten in the way of regular blog posts. Forgive me for cheating and reposting last year’s All Souls’  Day piece, and please join me in prayer for the souls of all the faithful departed.

“I Believe in the Communion of Saints. . . .and in Life Everlasting.” © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 KJ photo

Today we celebrate the feast of All Souls Day. Like yesterday, we once again gather to rejoice in the communion of saints- celebrating the unbroken unity that is the Church Triumphant (those in Heaven), the Church Suffering (beloved souls in Purgatory), and the Church Militant (those of us on earth striving to reach our eternal beatitude). While yesterday’s solemnity was a joyous celebration of virtues of those saints who stand in perpetual adoration of the Lamb of God, today’s celebration is a more subdued supplication for our beloved siblings in Christ who- though saved- have yet to reach the eternal celestial joy of the saints. The Church teaches that Purgatory is the name given to that final stage of purification of the elect; a purification that those who die in an imperfect state of grace undergo before reaching blessed communion with the Most Holy Trinity. Today’s First Reading reflects the scriptural basis for this doctrine which was reiterated through the Church Councils of Florence and Trent (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1031).

“The souls of the just are in the Hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed they be punished, yet their hope is full of immortality.  Chastened a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of Himself (Wisdom 3: 1-5).”

I believe with my heart that our prayers can relieve the burden of the souls in purgatory. Yes, I believe it as a matter of faith because the Holy Church teaches it; however, I also believe it because I have personally felt its fruits.

Almost eleven years ago, I lost my Dad to multiple myeloma. I was devastated. My Dad – the kids’ Grandpa George- had been my hero, and my closest friend. I used to tell him that I felt I had an inkling of what God the Father must be like, because of his humility, and gentle goodness. Dad lived with us prior to his death, and his memories were everywhere I turned. My heart was in shreds. About three weeks after his death, it was my birthday, and I was feeling particularly low. I prayed my heart out, and begged Jesus for a sign. I remember asking very directly: “Lord, I know I’m not supposed to test you, please don’t think of this request as a test. However, I really need a sign that Dad’s O.K. I need to know he’s in Heaven. Pardon me for being specific, but could I please have a single rose- a white one, just so I know he is ok? Now I don’t want a dozen red ones, just a single white rose, would let me know he is ok. Thanks Lord.”

The Souls of the Just are In the Hand of God © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

On this cold day in February, about a half-hour after I uttered that prayer, my doorbell rang. Astonished, I opened the front door, to find a floral delivery truck- “Flowers by GEORGE!” The delivery person was standing there with a single RED rose in a glass vase. I was thunderstruck! After I stammered something to the kind delivery man, I hastily read the card (which remains in my Bible to this day). It was from a woman named Mary, whom I had met once while touring the senior living apartment my Dad had hoped to call home had he survived the bone marrow transplant.  Thrilled as I was to have received an immediate answer to my prayer, I was confused. This was a single RED rose. I had requested a WHITE one. I immediately thanked our Lord, and pondered what this sign meant. Was Jesus telling me- He picked the sign, that I shouldn’t? What could this mean? I took it to mean- at the very least- that Dad was ok. I still continued to pray for the repose of his soul (and do to this day).

Over the years there would be an occasional white rose in my garden, and I’d question- whether it might be the rose of my request. Though deep in heart, I always knew prayers were needed.  About seven years after Dad’s death, we had just attended the All Souls’ Day Mass at St. Boniface- the very Church where we celebrated both of my parents’ funeral Masses. I was winding though the bottle-necked crowd with seven small children in tow, and counting heads to make sure all were present and accounted. Deacon Jim was deep in discussion with a fellow parishioner as my little convoy passed by, when he abruptly interrupted his conversation. He said, “Excuse me, but this lady needs this,” and proceeded to hand me the largest, most gorgeous long-stem, single WHITE rose I had ever seen. As my tears began to fall, there was a chorus of little voices at my feet- “Mommy, does this mean Grandpa is in Heaven?”  I responded that it may very well mean just that. We returned to the Church, to give thanks. Later, I brought my precious white rose to the Shrine Chapel at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill, in thanksgiving to Our Lady for Her intercession.

I have pondered often the significance of my sign. Truly I KNOW Jesus answers our every prayer- not necessarily in the way we want, nor in the time-frame we want. However, He does love us deeply, and responds to our needs from His Abyss of Love. I still pray for the repose of the souls of both my parents, my father-in-law, my godson Dan, and so many other loved ones. Yet, I know they are safe, and have every confidence in the words of today’s reading, “The souls of the just are in the Hands of God, and no torment shall touch them. . . .”

Please join me in praying for the Poor Souls, and have a Blessed All Souls’ Day- M.A.  JMJ