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!

Blessings,

Ad Jesum 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.

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam

M.A. J.M.J.

Liebster Surprise!

As members of the Body of Christ, we are all in this together. Thus, “if one part is honored, all parts share its joy (1 Corinthians 12: 26).” Last week I had the privilege of receiving recognition as one of the recent recipients of the newly circulating Liebster Blog Award. This award is bestowed upon small blogs; those with 200 or less registered followers (trust me, I qualify on that point). To merit this award, recipient blogs are to reflect a certain  je ne sais pas: a unique, endearing and beloved (Liebster) quality.

clip_image002

I am always checking for new posts on my dear friend Anne Bender’s blog, Imprisoned in My Bones. I was flabbergasted (and delighted) to read that she had bestowed Liebster Award on Salve Sancta Mater Dei, mentioning also my son Kenny’s blog: God Alone Sufficeth. Anne and I share the unique privilege of mothering sons who aspire to the priesthood. The joys and challenges involved in preparing them to discern and answer God’s call (whether it ultimately be to the priesthood, or to married or single life) are many. Our friendship has blossomed as we rejoice (and commiserate) over the many facets of our God-given vocation.

Anne is rock solid Catholic; a formidable woman of heart. She is Mom to five terrific children, and an aspirant to the Oblates of the Precious Blood. Anne brings Christ’s love to so many, not only through her blog, but also through her work as a certified nutritionist/WIC counselor, and through her work initiating the Roses for Our Lady organization. Imprisoned in My Bones has been an inspiration to me! Anne’s sincere, well-written and witty style is itself endearing. Without her encouragement, I would not have had the gumption to initiate Salve Mater Dei. Thus, I am grateful both for her mentoring and the Liebster Award.

Let me give you a hand. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012

The purpose of the Liebster Award is to recognize noteworthy small blogs, and augment the process of having good readers stumble upon them, identify the nuggets they contain and thereby increase the visibility of these budding sites. The requirement of the Liebster Award is that the recipient is to pass the award on to five blogs they love (including links), in hopes that others will likewise recognize their inspirational value. As this award was bestowed in essence on both Kenny and I, we have collaborated in identifying five terrific blogs we wish to honor.

The first blog we unanimously picked is: Writings of a Boy Discerning God’s Call. This blog is run by Anne Bender’s son, John. This was the first blog either Kenny or I stumbled upon, and the impetus for his (and our) venture into this form of evangelization. Nearly two years ago, when Kenny returned home from the St. Francis de Sales Seminary, “Is it I Lord?” Summer Camp with the enthusiastic request to initiate a vocations blog, I met him with an equally resounding “NO!” No adolescent of mine was going to have a presence on the Web. Not happening. No way. No negotiation. Ne dit jamais jamais. . . .

Boy Discerning God's Call. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012

I must admit my technological ignorance, for at that point I didn’t even know what a blog was. It sounded like some take on Christmas dessert – you know, a yummy Yule cake-roll type of confection. Kenny was undaunted. He patiently showed me John’s outstanding blog, and demonstrated how John’s passion for Christ was subtly supporting his own priestly aspirations. Like Kenny, I became a frequent flyer on John’s blog. I enjoyed his depth, honesty and humor. Through his posts, I found Anne’s Imprisoned in My Bones. One good thing led to another. Over the months, I found myself softening my position with regard to Kenny’s request – especially when he’d announce that he hoped his blog would provide the seeds of his future homilies (words that melt a mom’s heart). It was John’s outstanding blog that propelled our efforts. Now, as John prepares to enter St. Francis de Sales Seminary, and encounters the challenges of rigorous psychological and academic testing we continue to watch in admiration and prayer. John Bender and his Writings of a Boy Discerning God’s Call continue to be an inspiration to us.

Carmelite Community of Holy Hill Basilica © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012

The second blog we chose to receive the Liebster Award is The Discalced Carmel – Called to the Royal Road of Prayer, run by Fr. Michael Berry, OCD. Fr. Michael Berry is the Vocations Director for the Discalced Carmelites of the Immaculate Heart Province. Anyone who has ever had the privilege of hearing one of Fr. Michael Berry’s homilies at Holy Hill Basilica, National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, knows the depth of his intellect and the fervor of his devotion. This dynamic, young Carmelite has an uncanny ability to distill the insights of Carmel, and make them accessible to the rest of us. I love his posts on St. Teresa of Avila, as well as his Easter homily. It has been a little while since Fr. Michael posted – like good strong coffee, I’m sure greatness must be brewing. Thus, he is the second recipient of the Liebster award.

It is interesting that three of the five recipients that Kenny and I chose have a role in vocations: one vocations director, and two young men discerning the priesthood. The third Liebster blog is: On With The Motley, by the Licensed Fool. Like the next two recipients, neither Kenny nor I have ever met this young man (who resides in England) however, we both enjoy following his road to Christ. LF began this blog as a journal to collect his personal thoughts as he discerned whether or not God was indeed calling him to the holy Priesthood. After several years of discerning, LF believes he is being called to the life of a Franciscan Friar. This blog reflects the many of same endearing qualities of the other recipients: faith, honesty, humor to name a few. Both Kenny and I thoroughly enjoy following On With the Motley, and hope you will as well.

The Sword of Peter is our fourth choice for recipient of the Liebster Award. This blog, by Jeff B. Harris is unlike any other, and we enjoy it! With the nature of his site, I presume Mr. Harris will have to waive the requirement to pass this award on to five other blogs. Surprisingly, this site does not contain a single cleverly written essay. Rather, every two weeks, Mr. Harris posts an outstanding Catholic cartoon. This is Catholic cultural satire at its finest! Mr. Harris is quite talented, and unabashedly bold about his pro-Catholic position. These cartoons are bound to offend some. They are neither for the faint-of-heart nor the RCINO’s (Roman Catholics in Name Only). Mr. Harris’s cartoons are equally humorous and hard-hitting; not to mention refreshingly politically incorrect. I wish this site were better known – hence the Liebster Award.

He is the Alpha and the Omega  © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012

He is the Alpha and the Omega © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012

The final recipient of the Liebster Award is a site that I recently began to follow: Flos Domini. This site is run by a faith-filled young woman who is attending a state liberal arts college in Virginia. She is passionately faithful to the Magisterium, and candid about the challenges involved in living her faith in a secular, often pagan, college atmosphere. This well written blog is sincere and insightful. The author of Flos Domini deserves kudos and encouragement as she strives to live each day for Christ, and bring the Hope of His Light to her peers. This blog deserves the Liebster Award and the increased visibility that accompanies it.

We are all striving to give the greatest honor and glory God, the Alpha and the Omega. He is the source of every inspiration, the foundation of each effort, and the ultimate goal of all action.

Reflecting on the Reason for every breath we take, together may we pray:

Father,

may everything we do begin with Your inspiration

and continue with your saving help.

Let our work always find its origin in You,

And through You reach completion.

We ask this through Jesus Christ Our Lord,

Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,

One God , forever and ever. Amen. (Morning Prayer, The Divine Office)

Thanks again, Anne!

Blessings in Christ,

Ad Jesum per Mariam

M.A. JMJ

New Beginnings….

Mother Thrice Admirable Please Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.

Mother Thrice Admirable Please Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.

Happy New Year! Today we begin a new liturgical year- the Year of Faith. We are all present at a unique moment in history – as Advent 2011 dawned, we inaugurated the use of the third edition of the Roman Missal. This sublime rendition of the Roman Missal reflects a more accurate translation of the Latin. The phrases we (and our priest celebrant) now pray are more direct translations from scripture and the ancient Mass. This third edition of the Roman Missal is truly beautiful- and affords us the opportunity to enhance our worship of God, by participating in a rich and vibrant liturgy.

A year ago today, my family and I had the privilege of being present at another new beginning- arguably the most beautiful, unique wedding we had ever attended. We were guests of the bride’s family- acquaintances for many years. The church was packed to standing room only – indeed some of the crowd stood in the vestibule. The flowers were lovely; the choir angelic. The nervous parents, and family of the bride shone with delight as the guests entered the chapel.

 The bride was our friend Rachel. We were acquainted with her family through homeschooling, attending the same parish, and together frequenting the Holy Hill Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians. From a distance, I had watched over the years as this bubbly carrot-topped girl matured in wisdom and grace into a lovely young woman. She and her equally awesome sister, Gabe, were baby-sitters for our young children.  As the guests entered the chapel, I remembered that Rachel had recently graduated from Thomas Aquinas College. I recalled the year prior, lending  Rachel the many volumes of  Copplestone’s History of Philosophy for a course she was taking at TAC, and being impressed at her intelligence and philosophical maturity.

Well here I sat, sincerely praying for this lovely couple- for this formidable young woman and the enormous step in life she was about to take. The music began, the bride glowing in her elegant white wedding dress emerged – wisps of her lovely red hair peeking through the veil. The jubilance of the congregation- full of family and friends – was palpable, as the radiant bride slowly walked up the aisle. There couldn’t have been a dry eye in the chapel.  She nervously smiled at her sister Brides of Christ as she approached her seat. Yes – remember I said this was unlike any wedding I had ever attended- our dear friend Rachel was about to become Sr. Maria Faustina.

Congratulations Sr. Maria Faustina! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. Photo by Mr. Joseph Mentink, used with permission of the Yank Family

Congratulations Sr. Maria Faustina! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. Photo by Mr. Joseph Mentink, used with permission of the Yank Family

As the ceremony progressed, Rachel, clad in an elegant white gown, was escorted out to exchange her secular wedding clothes for the raiment appropriate to her chosen vocation. She returned wearing her new wedding dress, the lovely blue habit of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary. She professed her promises as a novice, and the celebration of the Holy Mass continued. I remember praying intently for this beautiful young woman, and her fellow novices- four of whom sat supportively nearby. Sr. Faustina is part of a novice class of eight young Brides of Christ. On another part of the globe, two of her fellow novices were being received simultaneously in similar ceremonies in their homeland of Puerto Rico. They would soon return to Wisconsin to resume prayer and study with their novice class.

Blessings! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. Photo by Mr. Joseph Mentink, used with permission of the Yank Family

Blessings! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. Photo by Mr. Joseph Mentink, used with permission of the Yank Family

After the ceremony, the Sr. Faustina with her family and Community of Sisters walked across the drive to the tiny Schoenstatt Chapel, where Our Lord is always present for Adoration. Here they were able to give thanks for the tremendous graces of this sunny November day. Like any nuptial celebration there were hugs and kisses, smiles and photographs – all mingled with a few joyful tears.

Like any wedding, the reception was an exuberant celebration- the culmination of hours of preparation and labor. At the Schoenstatt Retreat center, the tables were lovely- set with china, candles and flowers. Sr. Faustina’s Mom and Dad (Judy & Joe) greeted guests, beaming with genuine pride and satisfaction as their daughter mingled with visitors and accepted the heartfelt congratulations of so many well-wishers. Her sister Gabe, and brother Tom, shone with approval as well. After the Blessing, there was delicious food, prayer, songs, and much laughter. The celebration lasted for hours.

Forever Family! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. Photo by Ms. Jacinta Stephens, used with permission of the Yank Family

Forever Family! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. Photo by Ms. Jacinta Stephens, used with permission of the Yank Family

In the year that has followed, Sr. Faustina and her seven fellow novices have grown close to their Groom through intense prayer, study, and work. I love chatting with Sr. Faustina’s parents after Mass, hoping for a word on how she is doing. Throughout the year,  while on weekend retreats at the Schoenstatt Shrine, three of my daughters and I have often seen Sr. Faustina attending to her daily duties. Each time we see her, she is full with joy, just as on the day of her reception. Whether she is working in the kitchen, fielding calls on the switchboard, or in silent prayer in the chapel, there is a sense of peace that envelopes Sr. Maria Faustina.

Each day, she and the sisters of her community give a perpetual fiat– an everlasting “yes” to Christ, just as the Mother Thrice Admirable- Our Blessed Mother did with every day of her earthly life. Their witness is a profound reflection of the love of Christ alive and well in today’s world. Thank you Sr. Maria Faustina and fellow Schoenstatt Sisters for your yes! Thank you Joe and Judy for raising such a incredible daughter! Thank you Jesus and Mother Thrice Admirable for the graces you have given us all through these children of yours!

Happy Anniversary!

M.A.   JMJ

A.M.G.D.