A Slice of Paradise: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Novena, Day 4

Today was a slice of Paradise. Throughout the stillness of the night I had listened to the serene lapping of rippling water on Lake Michigan. My patio door was open, and the Moon shone brightly over Whitefish Bay, as the stars reflected on the gently moving water.

refreshing Waters of Lake Michigan © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

For most of our week of vacation, the water was like glass. In the nine years we’ve been traveling to this particular spot, the water has never been this smooth, nor the lake so warm and inviting. Our week here has been glorious; a true gift from God. The kids waded out into the bay, and I splashed with them in the gentle flow of the usually tempestuous Lake. We built castles in the balmy sand, and shared the joy of relaxing amid one of the most picturesque vistas I know. This morning, a pink and orange hue melted into a brilliant golden orb reflecting on the sparkling lake. I flopped out of bed, grasped my rosary and Divine Office, and began my day on the patio. The morning sun warmed my physical being, as I thanked Our Lord for the magnificent week He had given me and mine.

The rhythm of the day rapidly changed as we busied ourselves with packing the van, and hitting the road. Yet even so, this joy and peace of this morning’s prayer remained with me. We had tried to find a morning Mass, but the only Monday Mass in our area was at 5:15 p.m., and we needed to hit the road by 11 a.m. I hate missing daily Mass, but today I had no choice. I stopped to purchase a bouquet of roses to leave at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help as is our tradition, and who should I meet in the parking lot of the grocery store, but the Franciscan Friar who is pastor of the nearby church. We chatted and he blessed our van, after a few jokes about our mode of travel. Eight kids sandwiched amid suitcases and beach toys in a large van with two huge luggage turtles strapped on top, sporting a variety of Catholic and Pro-Life bumper stickers, is enough to draw chuckles from the occasional passersby. I’ve got to admit we definitely do not add to the ambience of the local vista.

Statue of Our Lady in the Crypt of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Later we stopped to pray at two of my favorite spiritual fountains of grace. First we visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, in Champion Wisconsin. This is the only approved Marian apparition site in the United States. I love visiting the simple little shrine, where in 1859, Our Blessed Mother demonstrated the depth of her maternal love, by visiting a humble immigrant woman, Sr. Adele Brise, and charged her with the mission to catechize the children of this then wild frontier. Countless blessings and miracles have flowed from this site, the most memorable of which occurred the night of the Peshtigo Fire, when with Our Lady’s intervention all those who sought shelter on the five acre chapel site were spared the ravages of the most devastating fire in U.S. history. Knowing Our Lady still cares for her children, and attentively listens to their prayers, my family and I adored Our Lord, in His Mother’s home – the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Help, and again requested her intercession for our temporal and spiritual needs.

From there we traveled a short distance to visit the Carmelite Monastery in Denmark, Wisconsin. This peaceful convent is home to a community of cloistered Discalced Carmelite Sisters. My family loves visiting this beautiful chapel for a few moments of prayerful solitude.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Today, as we knelt in prayer before Our Lord’s Tabernacle, my heart was full of gratitude and joy. As I turned to walk to the door, I stopped to pray a “Hail Mary” before the ornate statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Above this exquisite statue are three stained glass windows depicting: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Therese of the Holy Face of Jesus. Our Lady is in there in the midst of these great Carmelite saints. She stands in the alcove, half way between them and the Tabernacle of Our Lord. It occurred to me that in a real way she stands likewise for each of us- she is there with each of us near the door, beckoning us to come closer to her Divine Son Jesus. Like the great Carmelite saints whose images are rendered here in stained glass, with Our Lady’s help, one day we too may join the celestial court in eternal rejoicing. Then our moment of Paradise will last for all eternity.

As we focus on the hope of Eternal joy, please pray the fourth day of the novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel with me.

Fourth Day
When you gave us, Gracious Lady, the Scapular as our Habit, you called us to be not only servants, but also your own children.
We ask you to gain for us from your Son the grace to live as your children in joy, peace and love. (pause and mention petitions)
Say: Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.


Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus- Feast of Pentecost, Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help 2012

This statue has been carried in procession for generations, and is believed to have been a favorite of Sr. Adele’s © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012

Today we celebrate the birthday of the Church- the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, Who empowers us with the same faithful, dynamic Spirit of Love as He did St. Peter and the Apostles two millennia ago. I had the privilege of celebrating this Feast at one of my favorite places on Earth: the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, in Champion, Wisconsin. (http://www.shrineofourladyofgoodhelp.com/index.html).

Statue of Our Lady carried in procession © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Those of you who are frequent visitors to Salve Sancta Mater Dei, may recall from my previous posts (such as https://salvematerdei.com/2011/11/08/pilgrims-progress/), that the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is the only approved Marian apparition site in the United States. It was here in 1859, that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a young Belgian immigrant woman, named Adele Brise, and commissioned her to “gather the children of this wild country, . . . and teach them what they need to know for salvation.” Here, on this very spot, the Queen of Heaven condescended from Her Heavenly throne to attend to the catechetical needs of Her children on the wild frontier of the young United States. Over the years, my family has had the honor of spending quite a bit of time at this miraculous location.

© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

My son K.J. has blogged extensively regarding this spiritual haven on his site at http://GodAloneSufficeth.com; last year penning a 10 –part series on the history of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

It is tradition that each year on the last Sunday of May, Holy Mass is celebrated outdoors, to accommodate the crowd. Often the Bishop of Green Bay presides, concelebrating with the Shrine Rector and local priests. Hundreds – often thousands of voices glorifying God, and singing sweet songs of gratitude to Our Lady for Her intercession. Each year, there is a procession around the grounds that were miraculously spared the ravages of the Pestigo Fire, which killed over 2,000 neighboring settlers in 1871. In addition to Holy Mass and the Rosary procession, we worship our Lord during Benediction as the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and carried in procession.

Fr. Peter Stryker, CPM and Fr. Jewel Aytona, CPM © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Again this year, my family had the honor of participating in this grace-filled event: my boys served, and my girls helped to carry the banner of Our Lady during the procession. It was a blessing that this year’s May celebration should fall on Pentecost Sunday. Holy Mass was concelebrated by Fr. Peter Stryker CPM, Shrine Rector, and Fr. Jewel Aytona, CPM. The spiritual welfare of tens of thousands of pilgrims who visit the shrine annually is entrusted to these capable Father’s of Mercy.

Knights of Columbus provide a Magnificent Honor Guard for Our Lady © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Fr. Stryker graciously shared a written copy of his stirring homily from today’s Mass to post here, as a guest blogger. The photos that are interspersed throughout his homily and this post are from our visit today:

Pentecost Sunday, Year B, 2012- Homily- Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help

Homily by Fr. Peter Stryker, CPM 5/27/2012 © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

More than a century ago – a great sailing ship was stranded off the coast of South America! Week after week the ship lay there in the still waters – without a hint of a breeze. The captain was desperate – because the crew was dying of thirst!

And then, on the far horizon, a steamship appeared – headed directly toward them. And as the steamship drew closer – the captain called out: “We need water! Give us water!” From the steamship came this reply: “Lower your buckets where you are!”

Well, the captain was furious with such an indifferent response – yet he called out again: “Please, give us water!” From the steamship – came the same reply: “Lower your buckets where you are!” And with that – they sailed away. The captain was beside himself – with anger and despair. Exasperated – he went below deck.

Yet a little while later – when no one was looking – one of the young sailors lowered a bucket into the sea. He tasted what he brought up – and it was perfectly sweet, fresh water! All that time – the ship was just out of sight – of the mouth of the Amazon River! All that time – they had been sitting right on top – of all the fresh water they could ever desire! Sounds incredible! Yet that situation can happen anytime and anyplace – when it comes to the fresh spiritual water superabundantly available – through the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit!

Christ be Our Life . . . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

How many Christians feel just kind of out of it – just kind of totally drained – when it comes to supernatural direction and inspiration? We all need people in our lives – who can direct us and inspire us on a natural level – so as to help us along in ordinary ways. It’s a fact – that we definitely need one another! Yet it is all the more necessary – that we have a divine person in our life – a God-person – who will direct us and inspire us on a supernatural level. The Holy Spirit is that God-person – the God-person whose mission it is – to fill us with the life and love of Jesus! Thus God the Holy Spirit is that God-person who is – as Jesus tells us in John 16 – “the Spirit of truth”!

How many false and lying spirits are there – in our modern world? False and lying spirits – when it comes to love! False and lying spirits – when it comes to life! False and lying spirits – when it comes to marriage and family! In John 16, Jesus is speaking to his disciples – the first bishops of the Church. And Jesus is speaking especially to Peter – the first pope of the Church!

Eucharistic Procession, Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Jesus guarantees his disciples – a charism. And of course – a charism is a special Holy Spirit gift – for the building up of the common good of the Church! And this particular charism is the ability to teach – without any mistakes – about God, Jesus, and his Church – and about how we are to live our lives! There’s no question about it! The disciples – especially Peter – were blessed with an extraordinary grace! To preach God-given truth – with God-given certainty – through the power of the Holy Spirit!

What happens when people – ignore Church teaching? What happens when people – just do what they want to do? Well, it may happen that their lives – their families – their relationships – will resemble what’s described in Galatians 5. St. Paul says this:

“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.”

Does that sound beautiful? Does that sound truly desirable? No! Yet we know – that with our fallen human nature – any of us are capable of “works of the flesh.” And such “works of the flesh” cause us – to be trouble-making slaves of sin!

Sr. Adele’s Grave, May She Rest in Peace. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Given that life is short – given that few of us, if any of us – will be here on earth a 100 years from now – it makes sense to want to get it together! It makes sense to say, “The Bible is right! God is right! We cannot get it together – on our own power. This is not a job for Congress – and not a job for the United Nations. We need God the Holy Spirit – as our Advocate!”

This annual celebration of Pentecost – is an excellent time to acknowledge – how much more we could be living – a life of truth! God-given truth! Church-given truth! Truth supercharged – by the power of the Holy Spirit!

Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Pray for Us! . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Such a life is described in Galatians 5. St. Paul says this:

“[The] fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

Beautiful life-giving qualities! And such fruits of the Holy Spirit – flow from the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord.

How are we to welcome the Holy Spirit – into our hearts and lives? With fidelity to Sunday Mass – and frequent sacramental confession! With daily prayer – and especially the Holy Rosary! And with works of mercy! Yet isn’t there one simple way – to grow and develop in the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit?

Yes there is! And from the fifth century – we hear about that one simple way – from St. Augustine. He says this:

“Accordingly, we too receive the Holy Spirit if we love the Church, if we are bound together by love, and if we rejoice in the Catholic name and faith. Let us believe it, brothers and sisters: we will have the Holy Spirit in the same measure that we love the Church of Christ. Moreover, we love the Church when we stand fast in her membership and love.”

Eucharistic Rosary Procession © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

And to that – we can all say: “Amen! Alleluia!” This is the day we celebrate the fullness of the peace of Christ Jesus – the peace we share as members of the Body of Christ! Our Lord Jesus is the rock solid present-moment offer of grace to us – by the Father – and in the Spirit of God! Jesus says to us today, “Peace be with you” – and, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Let us eagerly receive the Holy Spirit – so that through us the world may encounter – the Christian mystery of forgiveness and mercy!

Our Lady of Good Help – we long to receive your spouse, the Holy Spirit – and to enjoy free and superabundant access – to fresh spiritual water!

Rev. Peter Stryker, CPM- homily delivered at Pentecost Sunday Mass, May 27, 2012, Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.

Happy Solemnity of Pentecost. May the Holy Spirit fill you with abundance of His many gifts.


Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.

Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

If I Had the Faith of a Child. . . .

Faith of a Child © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011

Unless you become as a small child, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011

If I had the faith of a child, I would welcome each day with delight.

With reckless abandon, I would pursue the task of Life.

If I had the faith of a child, I would treat God as my Father,

With confidence I would speak to Him about little things throughout the day.

If I had the faith of a child, I would view His creation with a sense of wonder.

With gratitude, I would thank Him for the flowers, and snowflakes, and autumn leaves….


If I had the faith of a child, I would realize my smallness,

And I would seek shelter in His Magnitude.

If I had the faith of a child, I would not let a sense of time constrain me,

Rather, I would marvel in the timelessness of eternity.

If I had the faith of a child, I would not grow anxious about complex matters,

Instead, I would trust in His Providence to make it all right.


If I had the faith of a child, my prayers would be simple.

With innocence, I would reflect His purity.

If I had the faith of a child, I would tell Him, “I’m sorry,” when need be,

And I would believe in my heart that His Mercy is greater than my weakness.

If I had the faith of a child, I would see miracles every day,

With simplicity, I would accept the incomprehensible.


If I had the faith of a child, I would make God laugh.

He would delight in my littleness, and I in His Omnipotence.

If I had the faith of a child, I would feel His unconditional Love,

He would fill me with His gifts and I would share them.

If I had the faith of a child, I would possess true wisdom,

For, he would reveal the secrets of His Heart,


If I had the Faith of a child, I would enter the Kingdom of God!

I would hope for Heaven, yet see the Kingdom here around me now.

If I had the faith of a child, I would trust that my every prayer would be answered.

Lord, please, grant me the faith of a child!

MA     JMJ

“Pilgrim’s Progress”

Queen of Heaven Please Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011

What would get 140 people to crawl out of bed on a damp, dark, windy Sunday morning, and forfeit the extra hour of sleep guaranteed only once a year? Yes, they were boarding 3 motor coaches for what is affectionately termed Wisconsin’s “Frozen Tundra.” But this time, the Packers weren’t even in the state, and although a cheer erupted as the bus convoy passed Lambeau Field, our destination was not a mere sporting event, but a pilgrimage to what may become the most revered spot in the United States. Our sacred destination was a place near and dear to my heart, having visited here about 40 times in the past 7 years.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion is the only Church authenticated, officially approved Marian Apparition site in the United States. In 1859, it was here that our Lady, as the Queen of Heaven, appeared to a simple Belgian Immigrant, Adele Brise and commissioned her to: “gather the children in this wild country, and teach them what they should know for their salvation. . . .”  Our Lady promised to help the alarmed Adele, instructing her: “Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross, and how to approach the sacraments; that is what I wish you to do- Go and fear nothing!” Our Lady made good on her promise of help.

 Twelve years to the day of her apparition, a group of faithful Catholics emerged from a terrifying evening of prayer, petition, and procession, to thank Our Lady for her life-saving intercession. It was the morning of October 9, 1871 that this grateful prayer cenacle emerged from the wooden Shrine Church to realize that the Peshtigo Fire (to this day the largest, most deadly fire in U.S. history), had passed them by, leaving the tiny 5-acre, consecrated parcel as an “emerald isle amid a sea of ash.” The Peshtigo fire burned 1.5 million acres (about the size of the entire state of Rhode Island), and yet passed over the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help; sparing those pilgrims who sought her protection, processing and praying the rosary (on their knees) throughout that long, terrifying night. The exact death-toll (settlers and Native Americans) of the Peshtigo Fire will never be known, but it is estimated that between 1,200-2,400 individuals lost their lives in this 2,000 degree hurricane of fire that raged through Northern Wisconsin, jumped Lake Michigan at Green Bay, and devastated countless families.

On this cool November morning, as our comfortable motor coach convoy traversed the lovely autumn countryside, not a trace of the ravages of the conflagration remained. From our comfortable seats, it was difficult to imagine the stifling smoke and ash that billowed from the relentless inferno- a fire so hot that sand and wind combined to spin strings of glass in places where trees had once stood. Today, the promise of Our Lord to “make all things new (Revelation 21:5)” is certainly visible in this lovely vista.

Bishop Don Hying blesses us with Our Lord Jesus© SalveMaterDei.com, 2011

Shortly after we arrived at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, Bishop Don Hying, Fr. Peter Stryker, and Fr. Jewel celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Chapel is beautiful- simple, warm, and inviting. The Tabernacle shines beneath a translucent veil, and one can truly feel Our Lord’s Presence in this Chapel- His Mother’s house. It was a joy to once again see my son serve Holy Mass in a sanctuary built above the very spot where Our Lady descended from Her celestial throne to instruct, warn, and protect.  Bishop Hying reminded us that Wisdom was not the same as knowledge or information. No, true Wisdom is synonymous with possessing a will that is completely in tuned with God’s Divine Will. Bishop Hying explained that Our Lady’s will was so absolutely in harmony with God’s Divine Will, that She is rightfully known as the Seat of Wisdom. He expounded on four of St. Louis de Montfort’s meditations, and directed us to consider our progress toward our ultimate destiny in light of the brevity of this life.

Pilgrims in the Pieta © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011

Holy Mass was followed by Benediction, a Eucharistic Procession around the Chapel, and the recitation of the rosary. After lunch, we again gathered with Bishop Hying for the outdoor Stations of the Cross. The Bishop gave a short, but profound meditation at each station. At the seventh station, as Jesus Falls the Second time, Bishop Hying spoke to us of the need for perseverance. He recognized how challenging it is to be in the middle- the middle of life, of a career, of marriage, of a vocation, etc., – and yet the need to persevere through the daily struggle, carrying the cross that is ours, to the glory that is to come. The breeze was no longer gentle, dark clouds began blanket the sky, and few drops of rain trickled down. The turn in weather suited the mood of the stations and helped to focus our attention on the suffering of Christ. As we processed behind the Bishop, I noticed the faces of the crowd of pilgrims reflected in each and every station. It was as if we were present with our Lord along the Way of the Cross. This was particularly striking when we approached the thirteenth station, the pieta- Jesus is laid in Mary’s Arms. In her private moment of unbearable anguish, we, her newly adopted children, were already present in her heart. God’s Love, and Our Lady’s fiat transcend time and space. Mary’s intercession was as powerful as she beheld Him after the Crucifixion, as it was in 1871, as it is today, and will be tomorrow. With Our Lady’s Good Help, we shall behold the face of Her Divine Son.

It was an awesome trip!

Blessings, M.A. JMJ

** My son continues to post a now 11-part history on the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help at his blog: http://godalonesufficeth.wordpress.com/