Saint Benedict Center's main site is An online Journal edited by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Richmond, New Hampshire.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Goodbye, O Gentle, Joyful, and Wise!

By Brother André Marie

Our beloved Brother Francis went to his reward on September 5. What follows in my column are some reflections on his death and funerary rites. Our other writers will also pay tribute to him in this issue of the Mancipia.

A Quiet Passage. Brother Francis had received Holy Communion at about 6:40 a.m. the day he died. Shortly afterward, I gave him some fruit juice to drink, since he had eaten nothing the previous day. We wanted him to have nutrition and hydration right to the end. He was alert at that time. The other brothers and I went to mental prayer and Mass. When we returned, I gave him more liquids, and he was alert enough to say, “Enough!” After that, I went to breakfast with the other brothers. We could all hear him clearing his throat a few times — anyone used to his recorded lectures will know the sound! I remarked to the other brothers that he still sounded strong. After breakfast, the other brothers all went off to their respective chores while I went back to give Brother Francis more to drink. As soon as I walked in the room, I knew he had left us. I cannot say what his last words were, but a few days earlier, he told Brother Louis Marie he hoped they would be, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul in peace with you!”

Brother Francis left this world much the same as he entered it: on a Saturday, without noise (he did not cry when he was born, a sign that alarmed the midwife so much that she baptized him straightaway), and, curiously, the day after a full moon. We are consoled that he died on a First Saturday, a day especially dedicated to her that is “fair as the moon.”

Fitting Obsequies. The Mass and other ceremonies were offered in the traditional rite by our local pastor, Father Daniel O. Lamothe, a priest who has shown the Center — and particularly Brother Francis — much kindness. The funeral was a sung Requiem Mass (Missa Cantata), which took place at Saint Margaret Mary Church in Keene, where one of the Manchester Diocese’s regular Latin Masses is offered.

Present in the church were many clerics and religious, including eight priests “in choir,” seated close to the altar during the entire Mass, and assisting with candles in hand at various times. One of these was Abbot Gabriel Gibbs, O.S.B., of Saint Benedict Abbey in Still River. Three other monks were present in choir, two from Saint Benedict Abbey, and another from Saint Anselm’s Abbey in Manchester, New Hampshire. Two were Maronite priests, both long-time friends of Brother Francis: Father Anthony Weiler of the Saint Rafka Retreat Center in Vermont, and Chorbishop Joseph Lahoud, of Our Lady of the Cedars of Lebanon Parish in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. An old friend of ours, Father Carlos Cassavantes, FSSP, was also there, all the way from Texas.

The display of the Church’s catholicity was wonderful to behold: Roman Rite secular priests in cassock and surplice, Benedictine Monks in habit and cuculla, and Maronite priests in their distinctive Oriental exorasons and iconic stoles.

In the loft, the choir of our brothers and sisters was supplemented by priests and layfolk who, with little time together to practice, sung the Gregorian chant and some sacred polyphony most beautifully. The servers were our boys who serve at the Center regularly. The Master of Ceremonies was your humble servant, a detail which makes me conclude that the angels must have been with us, for the ceremony went off virtually flawlessly.

Who is Next? Because we have a chapel and graveyard, we are on familiar terms with the funeral directors. In our conversations surrounding the arrangements, one of them mentioned to me that the same time he was preparing Brother Francis’ body for the wake, he had in his funeral home the remains of a young lady who died in a car accident. A few days later, I was informed that a man from my high school graduation class had also died. He was thirty-nine. When struck with this news, I could not help but think of Brother’s poem, “Who is Next?”

Pray for Brother. Brother Francis revealed to Brother Louis Marie only a few days before his death that he was afraid nobody would pray for him. The piles of Mass cards that have come in tell me that Brother’s fears were unfounded. However, I would urge our friends to pray for him daily. It is our duty in piety to do this for a man we love.

The Best Tribute. With the funeral now quite behind us, and resolved to pray for his dear soul, we think the best tribute we can make to our father, mentor, and teacher is to continue the work which he did, and which he inspired us to do. I mean, of course, our Crusade in all its facets: missionary, academic, and devotional. I’ve already made a promise to a dear friend that, on the anniversary of Brother Francis’ death, we will all be holding in our hands his logic course in book form. Brother considered the study of philosophy integral to the work we do. We have the recordings of all of his lectures on the eight courses, plus his handwritten notes. It will be our duty in the coming years to turn the materials he left to us into the complete set of philosophy books he envisioned. There are other gems in his personal notebooks, too.

Hopes for Unity. Present at the wake and funeral were religious from Saint Benedict’s Abbey, Saint Benedict Center in Still River, Saint Ann’s House, and Immaculate Heart of Mary Convent in Vienna, Ohio. Not present, because unable to be — but most solicitous in sending condolences and prayers — were the brothers with Brother Leonard Mary in Arcadia, California (“Saint Benedict Center West”). Brother Leonard Mary, one of the founding members of the M.I.C.M., has been very ill himself. It is no secret that there have been various divisions among Father Feeney’s disciples. Brother Francis always desired, prayed for, and worked toward unity. Personally, I hope that he is now in light eternal with Father Feeney, Sister Catherine, Brother Hugh, and all our deceased brothers and sisters, asking Our Lady for a greater unity among her Slaves. Ours would not be the first order riven by strife (read Church history if you don’t believe me: Franciscans, Redemptorists, and many others were afflicted with this). But old wounds are healing, and it appears that a unity of purpose, and of charity, is shared by all these groups — each of which has its unique gifts to contribute to the Crusade for Catholic truth and the conversion of America.

Memory Eternal! I have heard that the Arabs say, “Whoever does not have an old man should buy one.” Having the privilege of being close to such a sage “old man,” I very much appreciate this Oriental wisdom, which leads me to my conclusion. I think the following three verses aptly describe Brother Francis, the gentlest, most joyful, and wisest man I’ve ever known. Two of the verses are from the Old Testament’s Wisdom books. The third is from a book that relates wars and memorializes the virtues of warriors. Those who knew Brother will get it.

In the ancient is wisdom, and in length of days prudence — Job 12:12.

The just shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow up like the cedar of Libanus — Psalm 91:13.

His memory is blessed for ever — Maccabees 3:7.

Email Brother André Marie at

Please read Brother Francis’ Obituary and the Ad Rem, The Funeral of Brother Francis, in Thoughts and Pictures.

The first lecture of Introduction to Wisdom course is below.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Ode to Brother Francis

By Sister Marie Thérèse, M.I.C.M., Prioress

This is Brother Francis,”
he said, as he introduced
the lady guest to Brother.
“What a sweet little old man!”
she cooed sugar-sweetly. Bending
over with a grandmothersmile,
she patted Brother on
the head. Brother nodded and
continued to smile graciously
as she proceeded to seat herself
beside another guest for a visit.
After several hours, she excused
herself and slipped out of the conversation. In hushed and surprised
tones, she confided to a sister how amazed she was at
just “how smart” Brother was!

Knock on his door;
He is always there.
Call his name: “Brother Francis?”
“Yes! Come in” cheerfully greets you.
Turning from his desk he is delighted it is you
And welcomes you — there is always time for you.
Yes, you who are unique and special to God,
Are unique and special to him too.
Do you have a question? His face shows delight!
His eyes close,
His fingers move slowly and methodically over his forehead
As though to help the thinking process

While he listens carefully to your perplexity,
And formulates an answer that is both wise and brief,
Carefully fitted to your understanding and need.
Yes, he truly knows all the answers . . .
And though never pretending knowledge,
Rarely gives the answer “I don’t know.”
This man loves Truth and his life beams it!
The ring of his voice when he speaks of Truth
Is strong and clear, joyful and lovingly challenging.
How about a problem?
No need to worry as he shoulders in fatherly fashion
The care you lay before him.
This too shall pass.
Our Blessed Lady is in charge.
What wise counsel then comes forth from his lips — his soul.
His love for God and Mary,
Enkindles love for souls.
Is there a hindrance to their happiness?
A deliberate hiding of Jesus’ Truth?
Crusade! God wills it!
Take up arms and fight!
Take the Rosary and the Truth!
Cry out, “From the Housetops”!
Not a minute to spare, it’s Our Lady’s time,
Go with haste into cities and towns.
Bring — on foot — this loved Truth to loved souls.
Look into their eyes, into windows, look inside
Where they hide from the Truth, and you find them.

“Why do you weep? He is risen!”
You encourage.
“Get up from your bed and walk!”
You challenge.
“See the lilies of the field, see the birds,”
And see God.
Cast the seed of Faith!
Kindle the Fire of Love!
Carry with you that Lord
Whom you received in the Host.
Lend Him your feet and lips.

Crusade! God wills it!
Plead with the shepherds of the flock
To do what they alone can do
For souls — whose value is yet unmatched.
“Please tell them that Truth
That will bring them to Him;
Fulfill the desire of His Heart.
Save them from fire, eternally.
Salvation of souls! God wills it!”

To Rome, the Eternal City, clearly focused on Our Lady’s cause
Minding the pain she bears in her Heart
The price of those children she loves.
Man to man — with great reverence —
Brother presents this beloved cause,
Most dear to his heart and to Theirs
Pleasing God
And maybe not men.

Don’t forget us Brother!
You promised to remember!
Yes, close to Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
And, of course, your Little Thérèse.
Help us as we continue this battle
Not compromising the challenging Truth!
The battle will only be won
When the Shepherd in Rome
Takes up the Crusade’s banner,
Joined by his shepherd generals,
And leads the crusaders in battle
To victory! to victory!
For souls! For Jesus! For Mary!
Crusade! God wills it!
And then . . .
PEACE. . . .
As the Immaculate Heart finally triumphs.
Peace to men of good will.

In Heaven we’ll be quite surprised
At “how smart” Brother really was.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Back Home After 40 Years Away from the Church

By Jack Koehler

One day, early last month, my friend Jim approached me at our workplace, and told me how worried he is about the things happening in the world today, especially with this new administration. I simply replied “Jim, don’t worry; whatever happens will happen.” He looked distraught as he told me his fear that the government would take everything he owns someday.

“Jack, how do you keep so calm?” he asked. “Well, Jim,’ I said, “I say the Rosary faithfully every day and I leave everything up to Our Lady. And I also go to Mass every Sunday.”

A couple of days went by before Jim approached me again. He asked me if I could do him a favor. I said, “Sure; what is it?” He said, “I’d like to come back to church, Jack. Can you help me to do that?” “You came to the right guy, Jim,” I said. “I can take you to the abbey where I usually go to Mass.” “Jack, it’s been over forty years since I’ve been to Mass,” he told me, “and it’s time to come back.”

I told him that I go to the Latin Mass, and that I am friendly with all the priests at the abbey in Still River, Massachusetts. “It’ll be like going to Mass as you remember it from forty years ago,” I assured him. “I can’t wait to go,” he said. “What about bringing your wife?” I asked. “No,” he said, “we were married in the Church, but I can’t tell her now.” “Okay, Jim,” I said, “in due time.” “My mother-in-law goes to Mass though,” he was quick to let me know. “All right, that’s good.” I replied, “Maybe someday your wife will come back; let’s both pray for that.”

Jim met me at my house the following Saturday morning. He knew that he had to go to confession, so he was not surprised when I gave him a copy of the Act of Contrition and the Ten Commandments to make it easier for him to examine his conscience and make a good confession. (Actually he had already done the examination.) When we got to the abbey, I brought Jim to the confessional. Father James was hearing the confessions. That was something; Father James would hear the sins and give absolution to another James. One must never dismiss these little signs of God’s goodness and providence!

I sat outside waiting and, even though it took a while, Jim finished in time so that we made the 8:00 Mass, which is always a High Mass at the abbey. Jim followed along as best he could in the missal. He was very happy to let me know that he remembered some of the prayers from when he was a youngster, a long time ago.

After Mass we went to St. Catherine’s House, where the congregation is invited to come and have coffee and sweet rolls. Strolling down the hallway on the way to the dining area, Jim was taking in all the religious statues, pictures, and icons of the Holy Family, Our Lady, and so many saints.

Later, when I asked him how he felt being back in the Church and the life of grace, he said very humbly, “It’s a relief in a way, Jack, but I feel I haven’t done enough to merit this grace after having avoided the Church all these years.” “Don’t worry, Jim,” I reassured him, “just continue going to Mass, learn the Rosary, and wear the scapular, and you’ll receive more and more graces from heaven.” “Thanks Jack,” he said, “I needed to hear that.”

I also told Jim that there are two Masses every morning at the abbey, and confession is available every morning as well. “That’s good to know,” he said.

We weren’t finished yet. “Come on, Jim,” — I didn’t need to prod him — “I want to introduce you to the sisters next door at Saint Anne’s House.” The door was open, so after making a visit in their beautiful chapel, I introduced Jim to some of the sisters. They were delighted to hear his story and told him to come back for Mass. I showed him the sisters’ garden and we continued taking a leisurely walk around the monastery grounds. “Jim, it’s a piece of heaven; there are three chapels all within a five-minute walk, each of them offering the Latin Mass every morning. It doesn’t get any better than that!”

As we were leaving Jim kept saying how good he felt, like a huge load had been lifted off his shoulders. “Well, be faithful in doing your part and it will only get better from here,” I assured him.

It’s been about two months now since Jim went back to Church. I’ve given him some sacramentals, the Miraculous Medal, the brown scapular, and a booklet on how to say the Rosary. He has the Rosary memorized, except for the Hail, Holy Queen.
I noticed my friend has been much calmer at work now and less stressed about things. It must be grace at work because it’s such a drastic change in such a short time. He goes to Mass now at a local church near his home in North Andover, Massachusetts. He told me that they say the Rosary before and after Mass there, which I was surprised and delighted to hear. “That’s great,” I said, adding, “did you know that if you say the Rosary with a group of people you’ll receive greater graces than you would saying it alone?” “No, Jack,” he replied, “I didn’t know that.” Every time I give Jim something about the Faith to read, or a religious item, he says he can’t get enough of such good things.

Just this past week, on May 4, Jim said he went to Mass and there happened to be a first holy communion scheduled. A cardinal from Spain had come to the parish, and he offered a Solemn High Mass that took over two hours. “It was really nice,” he said. Then he informed me that he had the Hail, Holy Queen memorized and all the mysteries of the Rosary. “Good, Jim,” I said, “now you can say it to or from work if you don’t have time during the day.” “Great idea, Jack, I’ll do that.” Then he said, “You know, I didn’t know each day was a different saint’s feast day. “That’s right, Jim;” I said, “Every day a saint is honored on the Church’s calendar and at Mass, and more than one if you count those who are not as well known. Sunday’s specific Mass, however, always take precedence over the feast days of saints, but they can still get a minor commemoration if the priest chooses to do so at the altar.”

“I have much to learn, Jack.” “And you will, Jim, you will,” I said with a smile, “and so will I.”

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Little Way of an Apostle

By The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

In the feedback from the Catholic America Tour, a common recommendation is that more “practical” considerations be woven into the presentation. Many are saying that the history is interesting and the examples are motivating, but practical “methods” are not sufficiently expounded. To make up for the deficiency, some of us religious and layfolk here at the Center got together and jotted down a list. We hope you find it helpful.

General Dispositions

• Show the people you want to convert — family, friends, co-workers, etc. — that you care for them. This is done in “little ways” (like St. Thérèse) by showing interest in their interests: their families, jobs, hobbies, joys, sorrows, etc. If what interests them interests you, there is a “communion” established between you. That gives you leverage and credibility. If you show people no interest in any tangible way, how do you expect them to think you are interested in their eternal salvation?
• Remember to be pleasant and cheerful. Dour, sad people do not attract others.
• Don’t offend people needlessly. Always be a lady or a gentleman.
• Remember that your enthusiasm will speak to people of the importance of the Faith. If the Faith is truly important to you, this will show in a variety of ways.
• Make yourself a “helpful” person by volunteering in different religious and civic organizations (your parish, Boy Scouts, pro-life organizations, etc.). In these contexts, you can help to influence people.
• Give good example. Saint Peter himself endorsed this as a means to gaining converts: “Having your conversation good among the Gentiles: that whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by the good works, which they shall behold in you, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).
• If you are the mother or father of a family, remember that your family comes first. Living properly the obligations of your state in life is a very effective and practical way to work for a Catholic America — it’s called raising it! Conversely, abandoning the home-base for otherwise noble purposes is sinful and, ultimately, ineffective.

The Soul of the Apostolate

• Live a wholesome Catholic spiritual life, fed on the Church’s sacraments and liturgy, the Rosary, spiritual reading and personal prayer. Ultimately it is holiness you are trying to spread, so work with Our Lord to get it yourself, first. Nemo dat quod non habet. (”No man can give what he does not have.”)
• Make, renew, and live your Marian Consecration according to the formula of Saint Louis de Montfort (Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe also has a good one). You can also consecrate your family to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
• Pray for the person you are trying to convert. Have Masses said. God is interested in what you are trying to do; He might like to hear about it.
• Pray for the grace to be a good apostle for the Faith. Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe’s prayer of consecration to Mary has this intention built into it.
• Pray to the guardian angels of those you’re trying to convert.

Good Habits

• Have “conversation starters” all around. Decorate your house with holy images. Do the same with your desk at work. If there is a rule at your place of employment that you can’t have “religious pictures” in your workspace, then make sure your family pictures have religious images (crucifix, Mary statue, etc.) in them. This is known as being wise as serpents.
• Carry around and hand out Miraculous Medals. Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe called these his “bullets.” (Remember the story of Alphonse Ratisbonne.) You can even leave them with the tip at a restaurant. And make sure it is a decent tip!
• With the knowledge you have of your would-be convert — remember, you’re interested in him, right? — offer him articles on his interests from Catholic sources. (E.g.: “Tom, I know you like U.S. History. Here’s a good article on the diplomat who secured peace with Sitting Bull”. . . and hand him something on Father De Smet.)
• Keep Catholic tracts and/or booklets with you. Hand them out when the occasion arises. (For those who have to be clever as serpents at your workplace, “accidentally” letting these fall out of your briefcase or remain open on your desk can help.
• Be a “public Catholic.” That is, say grace before meals (crossing yourself!), and do other visible acts of faith in a non-pompous manner. Your car can be Catholic, too, in a tasteful way, with a Rosary hanging in the right place, a mini-statue on the dash, and even a side-or rear window holy picture.
• Always show reverence for the Holy Name of Jesus. Bow your head when it is said. Do that and say “Blessed be God” if someone uses the Sacred Name irreverently.
• When someone tells you about his problems, promise him your prayers. You can even have a Mass said. This is a way to show (and act upon) your concern for that individual. In his mind, this will connect your Faith to your practical charity for that person.
• Chances are, the person you are speaking with has a Christian name. Tell him about his patron saint. (If there are multiple candidates — which Saint Andrew? — pick one for him!) You can direct him to a good book on the saint, and encourage him to pray to his patron.

Incidental Practices

• Put Catholic messages on your mail, e.g., “Saint Anthony Guide.”
• Get people to be regular readers of our web site. Send emails recommending particular articles. Put a link to the site on your email signature. If you use Facebook, post articles from our site and Catholic “status messages” on your wall.
• If you read the local paper and see good letters to the editor on hot-button moral issues, send the letter-writer a personal note with kudos and a recommendation to read something Catholic on the same issue (e.g., pro-life, pro-family).

Continuing Education/Formation

• Study as part of the Saint Augustine Institute. Your studies, however modest, will inform your conversations about the Faith, and make you a better apostle. If you organize a study circle — a very good personal apostolate — you can invite people to learn in a group setting.
• Joining the Third Order of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary helps in many ways. For example, by working together at our own sanctity, we assist each other in becoming saints; and by remaining a school of thought with a common sense of purpose, we present a “united front” to the Church and the world. This can make us an organized force for the conversion of America.

“My brethren, if any of you err from the truth, and one convert him: He must know that he who causeth a sinner to be converted from the error of his way, shall save his soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

The Catholic Key Blog: Anglican Bishop Confirms St. Therese is Behind Anglican Ordinariate

The Catholic Key Blog: Anglican Bishop Confirms St. Therese is Behind Anglican Ordinariate

Thursday, October 15, 2009


By Brian Kelly

He was probably in his seventies, a frail little man, maybe five feet-four inches tall or so. Always wore a suit and tie, he did — the same suit coat, every day, the shoulders overlapping his own, the sleeves ending half way down his fingers, and the hem of it almost reaching his knees. It may have fit him, more suitably, when he was younger but he would have had to have been a lot huskier, too.

His name was Giuseppi. I’ve long since forgotten his last name, as it was thirty-seven years ago that I knew him. He was the porter at the religious house where I was staying during the one year I spent studying in Rome. I don’t remember if he had any other duties; if he did it may have been as a dispatcher for the community’s phones, for there were about ten priests living in the house at the time. The system would have had to have been very simple because Giuseppi was a very simple man.

Every morning, at the same time we were saying Matins in the chapel before Mass, Giuseppi would come into the back of the chapel and drop down on his knees and proceed to say in alta voce the beginning of the Our Father in Latin, then he’d slip into Italian for the rest of the Lord’s Prayer, which he completed in sotto voce (almost in a whisper). Then, he’d intone in the very same manner the Hail Mary: “Ave Maria, gratia plena,” he’d bellow, continuing on with the prayer in more subdued Italian. That was about it for his prayers, and he was off to his office by the front door.

Giuseppi was always flashing his gold tooth with his perennial smile. He loved to greet us American students and we were always using him to test our conversational Italian. We would say: “Parla lungo, Giuseppi, lenta prego,” and he would accommodate us with the most affected, slow enunciation just to please us.

We had a tutor for some months who would stop by almost every day to teach us Tuscano Italian. She was a native Roman, a well educated matron, about Giuseppi’s age, and she would always chat with him before she left. She was a good woman and I remember how she was so courteous to the little porter who was always delighted to see her. I’ll call her Maria.

Giuseppi had such a good heart; his biggest joy was to greet us, even if it was just a passing “hello” and “goodbye.” He did not get along with the other employee, a younger man, who served in the refectory; his name was Gilberto, and with his occasional snide remarks — covertly delivered, of course — he let us know that he was more than a bit anti-clerical.

As I said, Giuseppi loved to talk to us. After a few weeks, he started to greet us with this endearing salutation: “Good morning, my dear.” And we would reciprocate: “Good morning, my dear,” with a chuckle. Giuseppi didn’t know why we found the greeting so funny. You see, to impress us, he had been listening to “Learning English” cassettes in his office. The speakers played the part of a husband and wife, and, in Italian, carrissima means “dear one,” so to Giuseppi we were all “my dear.”

I once met him walking down the street after he exited a nearby church. “Comé sta, Giuseppi,” I asked. “Bene, bene, grazie a Dio,” he replied. Then I said something that seemed to really upset him. I was young and it just slipped off my tongue without my thinking how such words, even though said half in jest, might affect someone as humble as Giuseppi was. I told him that I thought that God must love him very much — that much was fine — then I said that I considered him to be a saint.

“No, no,” he protested indignantly. “I am a miserable sinner. I have committed many, many sins.”

We were going in opposite directions, so he just kept walking ahead shaking his head, “No, no, not me, not me.” There was nothing I could say.
Giuseppi quickly forgave me for canonizing him, or he just forgot about it, because every day he continued to give me, and all the young Americans, the same unfeigned smile and the same hearty greeting. Every now and then he’d throw in a new word that he had learned, anxious to see if he understood its meaning correctly, and was pronouncing it right.

One day during Advent he couldn’t wait to talk to me. He was so excited and his face was beaming. He told me that he was taking a train to Florence to see his daughter during his Christmas vacation. Then the tears began pouring from his eyes: “I have not seen her since she was a child,” he said. “It’s been forty years. She is a nun in a convent.”

It was hard for Giuseppi to speak, his voice was choking so, and it was hard for me to understand what he was trying to explain. Somehow, during the World War, while he was stationed in Ethiopia, it seems that his wife and daughter were separated from him. I asked him why he could not find them when he returned home after the war. And this is where I could not understand his answer. Nor did I want to press him about it, for the pain, long buried in his heart, was not looking for words; it had found its escape in tears. All I could get from him was, “They were gone, they were gone. No one knew where they were.”

Well, at some point the daughter must have located her father, for he was going to see her for the first time in forty years. And she was a nun. He was so proud, so happy. “God bless you, Giuseppi,” I said. “You will surely have the most joyful Christmas of your life.” I don’t remember if I got choked up at the time, but if I am so now, just thinking about it, I must’ve been so back then.

When our diminutive porter returned to work sometime after Christmas he told us all about his bambina: “She is a nun, now,” he kept saying; “She’s all grown up, and very happy.” As he spoke he kept blessing himself over and over. But I don’t remember that he cried this time. He was perfectly content; he had received the answer to all those prayers that he offered for so many years, going from church to church (and Rome has one on every block) and stopping by one more church after work on his way home.

Home? Giuseppi didn’t have a home, a family to go to; he lived at a nursing facility for the elderly. It was about a half-mile away. One would have thought that he could’ve slept over at the monastery, at least during bad weather, for he did have a cot in his office on which he would take his daily siesta. Apparently, he never asked for this favor from the abbot or the prior, nor was it offered, as far as I know.

A few weeks later Giuseppi developed a bad cough. Each day it got worse. He tried to hide the fact that he was not well and he forced himself to be there at the door to say “hello” when we would come in from classes. There was no one on the first floor in the house to hear the worst of his fits. We were on the second floor, and there were a few priests on the third floor, but no one on the first. We knew that he must have had a bad cold, but the fact that he was up and about, at least when the doorbell rang, quieted any concerns that “maybe this old man has pneumonia.”

Maria was very upset when she came in to give us our lesson that week in Italian. “Don’t you realize that this man is gravely ill,” she chided us. “He belongs in a hospital.” She did not leave without telling the prior that Giuseppi needed a doctor right away.

He never got to see a doctor. In fact, he completed his usual work day, and then, around six o’clock, headed out into the night winter air for his half-mile walk to the hospice. And what about us students and seminarians? After our Italian class that day we had gone upstairs to our rooms for study period. Maria had spoken to the father in charge and, good man that he was, we assumed that he had heeded her admonition. I’ll never forget how upset she was that Giuseppi was working at all.

The next morning the prior told us that Giuseppi had collapsed against a wall on the way to the hospice and that he had died. It was a secluded spot where he fell, no streetlights, and, especially in the freezing cold, no strollers. His body wasn’t discovered until the sun rose.

Every Mass, at the Memento for the Dead, I still pray for Giuseppi. I should be praying to him. “For him,” “to him,” he knows what to do with the prayers. He was, by his own admission, “a miserable sinner.” And miserable sinners, when they are as humble as Giuseppi, make great saints.

Email Brian Kelly at

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Tribute to Brother Hugh MacIsaac

By Brother Francis, M.I.C.M.

(Note: This was written on the occasion of the death of Brother Hugh, M.I.C.M. (+ July 11, 1979), one of the founding members of our Order, who went to his reward on July 11, 1979. The piece introduced From The Housetops No. 18, which featured the life of Saint John Bosco. Brother Hugh was a real giant of a man who left a deep impression on many souls, and was an intrepid leader at Saint Benedict Center during very difficult times. Brother Francis loved him deeply, and has cherished his memory all these years. We thought it fitting, on the thirtieth anniversary of Brother Hugh’s death, to publish this small tribute in our newsletter. It is especially so inasmuch as its author is now very close to entering eternity himself, where, we hope, he will join his old confrère in beatitude.)

The great apostle of youth in modern times, Saint John Bosco, whose inspiring and most exciting story is the feature of this issue, may be styled “The Saint of Enthusiasm.” But as I present the breathtaking epic to be narrated in the following pages, it is my sad duty to announce to our readers the death of another apostle of enthusiasm, our Superior, Brother Hugh MacIsaac, M.I.C.M., whose last cherished project on earth was to plan this very issue of our magazine, From The Housetops.

Brother Hugh is the one responsible, after God and our protectress in heaven, the Immaculate Mary, for the restoration of this magazine after twenty-five years of interruption; an interruption caused by the Liberal forces within the Church — the very forces that now seem so successful in effecting the demolition of faith and tradition.

Brother Hugh was also our most effective leader in our apostolate to bring the message of faith to all our cities and towns throughout the United States. One wonders how many hundreds, or even thousands, were waiting to meet him on his departure from this vale of tears in the early morning of July 11 of this year — souls who might owe their eternal salvation to the loving and enthusiastic challenge given to them by Brother Hugh during his long apostolate of over thirty years.

“When I go to heaven,” he said recently with his characteristic humor, “after I meet the Holy Family and my patron saint, I’ll ask to see Henry.” Henry was an industrial magnate in Chicago whom Brother Hugh met and sent back to the sacraments a few days before Henry went unexpectedly to meet his Creator.

Another person I am sure was there to welcome him is Professor Augusto Bersani, a leader of the Waldensians [also called the Waldenses]. Brother Hugh labored “with the patience of Job” for twenty-five long years before achieving the conversion of this brilliant man who somehow had wandered into the poisoned pastures of heresy. Professor Bersani finally sent for a priest on his deathbed, and made his peace with God.

I would like to bet that Brother Hugh holds the record for the number of miles on this great country’s highways and byways that he traveled on his own two feet, and also for the number of persons in all walks of life that he confronted with the message of salvation “eyeball to eyeball” (to use one of his favorite expressions) in, one might almost say, every city and town of the United States.

The Waldensian conversion forms another bond with the Italian apostle of enthusiasm, Don Bosco, the hero of this volume. The great saint also labored for the souls of the Waldensians in northern Italy.

And another bond that may be mentioned here is Saint John Bosco’s famous concern for the English-speaking world, the United States in particular. We have always known that in aiming at the conversion of America, we could count on the patronage of Don Bosco; now he will be assisted by his humble devotee, Brother Hugh, a Slave of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

We have been referring to that shining virtue common to these two Catholic apostles under the name of “enthusiasm.” But on the supernatural plane, that virtue should be called “zeal”.

The whole world has been talking about the fiery zeal of Saint John Bosco, and we feel confident that the world will one day be talking about the fiery zeal of our Brother Hugh.

And it is through such zeal, which we think will henceforth become infectious, that we hope to convert America.
“Who is the happiest man? He who loves God most.”
— Brother Hugh, M.I.C.M.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


By Brother John Marie Vianney

In today’s society, the teaching of the world ignores or obscures things that have been known since the beginning of time. It teaches a pagan philosophy and makes it attractive. It ignores history and emphasizes freedom and pleasure to the detriment of one’s life. This is so true, I dare say, that even the most simple truths are now hidden to the point of being secrets. You, dear reader, likely know of these matters, but I write not only for you, but for those who are in the dark. As a Catholic who knows his duty to convert his fellow man, I encourage you to teach the ignorant and I suggest a path for you to follow that guarantees success. It is up to you to reveal the secrets.
Begin slowly and patiently, as a parent with a child. It will do no good to cast your seed upon soil that is dried out and unprepared to receive the good word. You must first nurture the soil with the simple truths of faith and then wait and see if they take root.

Firstly, tell them that God made them in His image and likeness. Let them know that their soul is wholly unique and singular and that it belongs to a person who will live forever. Next explain that God is all-powerful and they belong to Him. They cannot have a better Friend who wills them only good and will give them His paternal protection. Tell them that everything good that they have in this world is a gift from God. Introduce them to their guardian angels, who will be with them at every moment, at every step of the way, while they are on earth. Assure them that the material things necessary for life will be provided if they “seek first the kingdom of God and His justice” (Matt. 6:33).

Explain how God created Adam and Eve and how He promised a Savior after they fell from grace by disobedience, a Savior so great that His birth would split time into what came before His advent and what came after. Show them that the Savior, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, actually gave up His own life on earth so that men would not perish. “For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting” (John 3:16). Describe how God acts daily in the lives of men and give examples of His extraordinary manifestations of grace in the lives of the saints and how these great men and women should be emulated.

Describe the place the Savior’s Mother holds in the plan of salvation. Explain to them how God wills that all His graces come through her, as from a mother to her children. Tell them how much Mary loves them and how they should show their fealty to God by offering themselves to her as slaves of love. Explain how the word “slave,” used in this sense of voluntary servitude to Jesus through Mary, is a good offering of filial submission, which devotion God inspired the great saint, Louis de Montfort, to reveal to the world.

Do not be hesitant to present the truth that there is only one way to God, the way Jesus revealed, through the Catholic Church which He established. Make it known to them that all other religions are man-made and can only lead their followers away from the true God. In a thought, give them the Faith, without which no man can ever be saved.

Now you have a plan. It can be put into act as easily as giving a Miraculous Medal to the bank teller who deposits your check, or by explaining what the medal is that you are wearing outside your shirt to the clerk who is checking out your groceries at the supermarket. It could be activated by giving a green scapular to the attorney you meet to help you write your will, or to the doctor who is treating you, or to anyone, anywhere, any time, who manifests a receptive heart by a kind word or gesture. As long as you are doing His will, even while doing the most ordinary of daily occupations, you are where God wants you to be. Don’t disappoint Him by hiding your light under a bushel basket. Try to help save souls. Tell them the secrets.

Email Brother John Marie Vianney at

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Word of Gratitude

By Sister Marie Thérèse

Dear Friends,
In the last edition of “Convent Corner,” I tried to give you a verbal picture of our beautiful new Saint Philomena Convent and offered you the opportunity to help us establish it. To all of you who sent us your generous donations, I wish to send the sisters’ heartfelt gratitude. A dear priest even sent us two real widow’s mite coins (approximately 2,000 years old) to show the school children! As I promised, your names are on our altar at Saint Philomena Convent, close to the Eucharistic Heart of our dear Jesus. In fact, I decided to put your names in a lovely red leather diary with gilded pages and an image of the Sacred Heart embossed on the front. The picture shown here is our altar, and the inset is the book containing the names of all of you who sent your kind donations. I thought that seeing the special book right next to the tabernacle would remind us even more to pray for all of you.

Just this week, someone promised to donate a life-sized statue of Saint Joseph holding the Child Jesus. A dear friend of ours who has a great devotion to St. Joseph immediately offered to build a stone shrine for the statue when he heard of the gift. We plan to have the shrine located at the turn in our driveway with the intention of obtaining Saint Joseph’s powerful guardianship over our convent (he is, of course, the Father and Guardian of Virgins). Next, the men are planning to come in and install the granite hearth and a donated woodstove with Saint Hubert’s image on it. Then, our brothers have plans to provide us with a generous supply of wood using the trees downed in last winter’s big ice storm.

I want you all to know that we offer our first Rosary of the day specifically for your intentions. Also, I find myself praying little prayers of gratitude throughout the day, such as, “Blessed Mother, please bless our benefactors,” “Please bless their families,” “Dear Lord, help them to know and do Your holy Will and become saints.” I know that the other sisters have prayerful moments of gratitude seasoning their day as well. But more than the specific prayers, we are trying to unite ourselves more closely every day to God through His Blessed Mother. And, as the saints have said (St. Teresa of Avila especially comes to mind), when you do God’s will, He does yours. That is why the prayers of the saints are so powerful. Even if we don’t know all of your intentions in detail, God does; and if our will is to obtain God’s blessing and grace for you, He will care for your needs as we are striving to do His will. My observation is that living in our beautiful and blessedly silent new convent is helping us to become closer to God by aiding us to stay recollected. We are confident in knowing that our cooperation with grace will draw down blessings upon our dear friends.

For those of you who have friends or relatives who might consider it a benefit to have a convent of sisters praying for them, please tell them to send a donation (if they can only afford a small one, that is fine; there is no minimum) marked “for Convent” on the memo line. An imprisoned gentleman received the last Mancipia, saw our offer as a golden opportunity, and now he has the sisters all praying for him. Even though he may desire it, he can’t be near the Blessed Sacrament while in prison, but now his name is very near the tabernacle, and kneeling close in prayer for him are his sisters in Christ.

It isn’t too late to help with the planned repairs and projects. Blessings will come to you and your loved ones from Saint Philomena Convent. And, as you strive to do God’s will, could you pray for your sisters in New Hampshire? Thank you!

Email Sister Marie Thérèse at

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Passion of Saint Joseph

By Brother André Marie, M.I.C.M.

It has always been believed that Saint Joseph died some time before Our Lord's Passion. The Virgin-Father of Our Lord breathed forth his last surrounded by Jesus and Mary, and thus became the patron of a holy death. Whereas the most holy Virgin was predestined to participate directly and most closely in the Passion of Our Lord — so much so that she earned the title Co-Redemptrix — not so, Saint Joseph. To speak, then, of "The Passion of Saint Joseph" is to consider something other than the great carpenter's direct participation in the events of Good Friday.

While his body and soul awaited their reunion — the former in the tomb and the latter in the Limbo of the Just — Saint Joseph's foreknowledge and influence both made him an indirect but very real participant in the drama of our redemption.

To Saint Joseph was given a foreknowledge of Our Lord's Passion. In 1956, the Patriarch himself revealed this to the visionary, Sister Mary Ephrem Neuzel, as part of the revelations of Our Lady of America:

"My heart suffered with the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Mine was a silent suffering, for it was my special vocation to hide and shield, as long as God willed, the Virgin Mother and Son from the malice and hatred of men.

"The most painful of my sorrows was that I knew beforehand of their passion, yet would not be there to console them.

"Their future suffering was ever present to me and became my daily cross. I became, in union with my holy spouse, coredemptor of the human race. Through compassion for the sufferings of Jesus and Mary I cooperated, as no other, in the salvation of the world."

If his foreknowledge of Our Lord's terrible sufferings made him participate actively, albeit indirectly, in the Passion, his influence made him also a unique passive participant. For potencies that Saint Joseph had carefully fashioned for many years were put into act long after his death as his son "trod the winepress alone" (Is. 63:3).

Parents often observe each other's features in their offspring. "You look just like your mother when you do that," or some such thing, is commonly uttered -- evoking either a pleasant or a painful correspondence between spouse and child. Jesus, naturally, looked very much like Mary, having received, as He did, all of His genes from her, and none from her husband.[1]

But genes are not all that goes into a child. Whether we call it education, discipline, or training, the multi-faceted art of child-rearing impresses as much or more of the parent onto the child as do the data contained on the double helix of DNA. Personality or temperament are already determined at birth (of this I am reasonably confident), but character is formed by upbringing. As Saint Joseph was truly father to Our Lord in every conceivable way other than the strictly biological, he was, with Mary, responsible for Jesus' upbringing, that is, the formation of His very unique character. As a father in Israel, he had the duty to foster an environment of respect, love, piety, and religious observance in the home. Head of the Jewish "domestic Church" of the Holy House, he dutifully performed certain household religious ceremonies at which Jesus assisted. As a poor artisan, Joseph also had the duty of teaching Our Lord a trade, and that an arduous one. In this light, we can consider what Saint Paul meant when he wrote to the Hebrews that "whereas indeed he was the Son of God, he learned obedience by the things which he suffered" (Heb. 5:8). Finally, as the male parent of the Boy, Saint Joseph was particularly responsible for imparting the masculine character that the Son of God would bring to His mission to save our race.

In a word, Our Lord's practice of manly virtue was an icon that had been painted by Saint Joseph.

Some may object to the foregoing as detracting from Our Lord's Divinity. An explanation as to why it does not so detract may be helpful. As the Man-God, Jesus had four kinds of knowledge: the divine, the beatific, the prophetic, and the acquired. The last of these, the acquired knowledge (also called "experimental"), is the learning that Jesus accumulated from His daily experiences as man. The Man-God's acquaintance with manhood itself being chiefly by the observation of His earthly father, we can rightly say that Jesus learned to be a man from Saint Joseph.

What this implies is that the most fertile human mind that ever existed observed the habits, movements, utterances, cadences, expressions, rhythms, carriage, and manners of the greatest specimen of sheer manliness that humanity has ever produced.

Jesus learned, and did in like manner.[2]

It is certainly a point of speculation to probe into the thoughts of Mary as she watched her Son suffering for us, so what I say here is nothing I pretend to know from anything save my own musings. But I have some humble confidence that the musings themselves are safe, informed as they are by Catholic orthodoxy.

If we attempt to think Mary's thoughts as the Immaculate One watched Our Lord carry His Cross, we might consider her harkening back to Saint Joseph carrying a heavy piece of wood into his carpenter shop. "He looks just like his father when he does that," she might have said, as Jesus labored under the weight of the wood. A spasm of pain might have brought to the Holy Face an expression learned from the countenance of Saint Joseph, as Jesus the apprentice watched his father wound himself working with wood and nails.

In His childhood, when Jesus was lost, Joseph and Mary "sought [Him] sorrowing" (Luke 2:48). That sorrow Mary saw on her husband's aspect was mirrored on the Holy Face of Jesus, who became, in His Passion, the very "man of sorrows" (Is. 53:3).

The meek and humble resignation that Jesus showed before Pilate, Annas, and Caiphas also had its antecedent in Saint Joseph. Our Lady had likewise seen her spouse embrace God's inscrutable designs when Simeon uttered his terrible prophesy, culminating in those severe words: "Thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts, thoughts might be revealed" (Luke 1:35). What an ensemble of virtues had that prophetical utterance elicited in Mary's man! Compassion, courage, selflessness, a chivalric desire to protect his bride — all these vied for one another and ultimately ceded to meek and humble abandonment to God's will, an abandonment directed by sublime charity for God and man.

Jesus commanded us: "Learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls" (Mt. 11:29). But where did Jesus Himself learn meekness and humility, those little virtues compatible with, and tempered by, manly fortitude? It was principally from Saint Joseph that He would have learned them. Our Lady, of course, provided an example for Jesus. Her plenitude of grace and the delightful perfume of her virtue permeated the holy house of Nazareth as the Magdalene's ointment filled the house of Bethania with its sweetness (John 12:3). But it is not chauvinistic to point out that men are men and women are women. Both sexes are obliged to practice the virtues, but each must practice them in a way proper to itself. The masculine embodiment of virtue was passed on by Saint Joseph.

Carrying His Cross, Jesus half closed His eyes as blood mixed with salty sweat ran into them. This physiological reaction, combined with the inner drive to carry out the will of His Eternal Father, produced a mien of grim determination on Our Lord. Mary had already seen that look in the face of a difficult mission, for just so had Saint Joseph once clenched his jaw and squinted his eyes as dry, sandy winds blew across the deserts of Egypt when Jesus was a Baby and Herod wanted Him dead.

But what of Our Lord Himself? Did He think of Saint Joseph during His Passion? It would seem unnatural to think He did not.

The Church herself begins her thoughts of the Bridegroom's dolors on "the day before he suffered,"[3] Maundy Thursday. On that most holy night, the institution of the Mass and the Eucharist was preceded by the Passover meal, which began with Our Lord's heartfelt words: "With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you, before I suffer" (Luke 22:15). Jesus had seen Saint Joseph preside over many paschal meals, each of them an anticipation of this night whereon the Old-Testament figures would give way to New-Testament realities. It would seem strange if, as He performed the same rites He had seen his father carry out so many times, our Redeemer gave no thought to Saint Joseph.

After celebrating the first Mass, "a hymn being said" (Mt. 26:30), Our Lord proceeded to Mount Olivet, and to the olive garden there, Gethsemane. According to Saint Jerome, that fourth-century biblical scholar who lived in the Holy Land and learned so much of the lore surrounding it, Saint Joseph's tomb was in Gethsemane. Assuming this to be true, and considering how much the Sacred Heart of Jesus loved the most pure heart of his guardian, it follows — as the night does the day — that memories of the "diligent protector of Christ"[4] mixed themselves into the Agony in the Garden.

And later that night, appearing before Joseph Caiphas, Our Lord was likely struck by the same irony we see: that the murderous High Priest, a "father figure" in Israel, bore the same name as the protector of the Holy Family.

From the Praetorium to the Cross to the Tomb, at each station of the sorrowful way, we can find shadows of the Carpenter, and can be well assured that, if we see them, Jesus and Mary saw them, too.

I will not extend this little catalogue of Saint Joseph's sorrowful mysteries much further. Perhaps with your Bible in one hand and your Rosary in the other, you will make your own associations.

I would like to conclude by uniting the purpose of Christ's coming with the mission of his foster father on earth.

Going purely by the explicit evidence of Holy Scripture, there is one word we know for certain that Saint Joseph spoke. It was the Holy Name of Jesus. Saint Joseph not only said it; he gave the "Name which is above all names" (Phil. 2:9) to his Boy. That name means "Savior." On the Cross, when Jesus said, "It is consummated," He was saying that the work His Eternal Father gave Him to do, meriting the salvation of man, was finished. But He was also saying that the name Saint Joseph had given Him was now, alas, fulfilled.

[1] None, that is to say, by generation. But we ought not to forget that Jesus was biologically related to His earthly father. Saint Joseph's father, Jacob, was the brother of Mary's mother, Saint Ann. Mary and Joseph were, therefore, cousins.

[2] Saint Thomas wrote that it would not be fitting for Jesus to be taught, neither by men, nor by angels (ST III, 12, 3-4). In his explanation of Our Lord's acquired knowledge, the Angelic Doctor goes further, affirming that Jesus learned all he learned without teachers. Being the teacher of all, it was not fitting that He should be taught. With all this I agree. But I would like to introduce a distinction here that may be of help, one which I believe to be compatible with the doctrine of Saint Thomas. While He was not, strictly speaking, "taught" by Mary and Joseph, Jesus did learn from them. Saint Thomas also held that the marriage of Saint Joseph to Our Lady was brought about by God in order to serve the Incarnation of His Son (cf., his commentary on St. Matthew's Gospel). The great Thomist Pope, Leo XIII, asserted the following regarding Saint Joseph in the economy of the Incarnation: "Hence it came about that the Word of God was humbly subject to Joseph, that He obeyed him, and that He rendered to him all those offices that children are bound to render to their parents" (Quamquam Pluries No. 3, emphasis mine). I believe that the imitation of a parent's virtues is an office children are bound to render, especially when the parents implicitly or explicitly say "do it this way." Jesus, we are told, obeyed.

In a much celebrated passage, Saint Paul speaks of Our Lord's two natures as the "form of God" and the "form of a servant." He says that Christ Jesus, "emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man." If Jesus was "in habit found as a man," He was not merely one in possession of human nature (Aristotle's "second nature"), but one possessing a particular human nature ("first nature"). In other words, He wasn't just "man"; He was "this Man." Now, this Man was conceived in the womb of a Jewish Virgin, came from a specific family lineage, spoke certain languages with a particular accent, practiced the best customs and manners peculiar to the culture in which He chose to be born, etc. He was a particular Man with particular habits. Now, according to Aquinas, Jesus was taught none of these things, but he did learn them from His own human observation. And who were those He observed?

True, both Saint Joseph and the Blessed Virgin learned from Jesus. This was necessary. He was in very truth their Teacher, whose virtues they would have to imitate to be His followers — to be, that is, Christians. But part of the "admirable exchange" of the Incarnation (referred to by the Church in her Christmastide liturgy — O admirabile commercium) is that the Word of God both took from and gave to the human race. His particular practice of virtue, like the way he behaved at table, his Aramaic accent, or the manner in which He utilized the tools of a carpenter, were learned by observing Saint Joseph.

[3] Roman Missal, the Canon.

[4] The Litany of Saint Joseph.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Lex Orandi Lex Credendi

By Brother André Marie, M.I.C.M.

This ancient Latin axiom is quoted so often, I thought a little explanation of it on our web site would be helpful. A paraphrase of a longer patristic expression, the phrase means, "the law of praying is the law of believing."

The Father of the Church who gave us the axiom is St. Prosper of Aquitaine. He coined it in his controversy with the semi-Pelagians, who held that God's grace was necessary neither for one's first movement towards conversion nor for final perseverance.

According to Prosper of Aquitaine, legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, which is to say, 'the law of prayer determines the law of belief' (Prosper used the equivalent term lex supplicandi in place of lex orandi ). Prosper treats the church's prayer as an authoritative source for theology in arguing that salvation must come entirely at God's initiative since in the liturgy the church prayed for the conversion of infidels, Jews, heretics, schismatics and the lapsed who would not seek the true faith on their own. (Charles R. Hohenstein, “‘Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi’: Cautionary Notes “. Cf. Prosper of Aquitaine, De vocatione omnium gentium, 1, 12: PL 51, 664C.)

The same phrase turns up in an official document of the Holy See, Indiculus, which was a compilation of all the authoritative statements of the popes on the subject of grace. It is believed that this document was edited by St. Prosper himself, as he was Pope St. Celestine's secretary at the time. Here is the relevant passage, as contained in Denzinger's:

Let us be mindful also of the sacraments of priestly public prayer, which handed down by the Apostles are uniformly celebrated in the whole world and in every Catholic Church, in order that the law of supplication may support the law of believing.

For when the leaders of the holy nations perform the office of ambassador entrusted to them, they plead the cause of the human race before the divine Clemency, and while the whole Church laments with them, they ask and pray that the faith may be granted to infidels; that idolaters may be delivered from the errors of their impiety; that the veil of their hearts may be removed and the light of truth be visible to the Jews; that heretics may come to their senses through a comprehension of the Catholic faith; that schismatics may receive the spirit of renewed charity ; that the remedy of repentance may be bestowed upon the lapsed; that finally after the catechumens have been led to the sacraments of regeneration, the royal court of heavenly mercy may be opened to them. (Indiculus, chapter 8; Denz., n. 246 [old edition, n. 139], emphasis ours.)

The editors of Denzinger's inserted a footnote stating that the entirety of chapter eight of this decree agrees with St. Prosper's De vocatione omnium gentium, where the argument first appeared. They also refer the reader to the ancient Solemn Prayers we described above as having been excised from the new Missal. Doubtless, St. Prosper had heard these prayers on Good Friday, as liturgical historians date them back to the earliest persecutions. He probably had them in mind when he wrote this passage.

This highlights the grave importance of tradition in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and all the Church's liturgy. It also shows us that the liturgy itself is a powerful source of Christian truth.

When we Latin Catholics of the West return to our liturgical traditions and show that we take this axiom seriously, the Eastern Orthodox — for whom tradition, liturgy, and the rule of faith are virtually synonomous — will take Catholic unity under the Pope more seriously.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Speeding Ticket to Salvation

By Mr. Jeremy Patria

We all know that God works in mysterious ways, but little did I realize that my penchant for speeding while driving would be the vehicle that God would choose to slow me down onto the sure path of salvation. I was born into a family of practicing Baptists in a small, southwestern New Hampshire village. It is one of those picturesque towns that can be seen on typical New England postcards — and Yankee to the core. Fitzwilliam by name, it is a popular tourist attraction and even hosted a Good Morning, America show several years ago. Our family regularly attended church services and my father, being a Baptist deacon, would frequently deliver the sermon. I attended Sunday school until thirteen years old when, abruptly, we stopped going to church altogether. It seems my parents had a falling out with the pastor, which led to their refusing to attend that or any other church thereafter. Although confused, I just accepted the fact.

My siblings and I, five in number, attended public schools and immersed ourselves in all the activities being offered. I was very active in sports and I was a member of the choir for all four years of high school. Religion of any sort was not on my mind, but I do remember one time when I attended the funeral of the father of a choir member who was Catholic. I was struck by the smoking incense, the reverence and pageantry of the service but, although curious, I did not investigate. I also found it interesting later, after becoming a Catholic, to discover that many of the songs performed by our choir were of Catholic origin.

My everyday life was in no way soft. I had many chores to perform, such as cutting, hauling, and then splitting the ten cords of wood we needed every winter. My parents were not averse to employing corporal punishment whenever I went astray but I knew it was out of love, not meanness. At the same time, we were given much freedom in our social activities and not really monitored as to our comings and goings. After getting my driver’s license, I purchased a car, for I needed wheels to get to a job I had landed in a restaurant twenty miles from my home. And I always drove fast. My heavy foot led to three speeding tickets and the loss of both my license and my job. As Divine Providence would have it, however, I found another job within walking distance from my home and there my conversion began.

I worked in the kitchen as a chef along with a young man my age named Joe Hazelrigg. He told me he came from a family of eight and had recently moved to the area to be next to Saint Benedict Center. He was not shy about his Catholic Faith and this led to many conversations about religion and my own lack of belief. Some of Joe’s friends also became employed at the same restaurant and, after being introduced, I was amazed by the large families they all came from. There was Joe Filipi, one of eight siblings, Heather Fliss, one of thirteen, and Luke LaPlume, one of eleven, and they all confronted me, in their own particular styles, with the Catholic Faith. Because my parents had continued Bible readings at home, I had enough ammunition to hold my own against their arguments. This friendly, and sometimes intense, undeclared war went on for months, until one day I needed a lift some distance away and Joe Filipi volunteered to drive. It was during this ride that grace began its work, or I should say, I finally began cooperating with grace. Joe simply told me that I had a duty before God to at least investigate the Catholic Faith before rejecting it. It was as simple as that. Where before I had been defiant during our conversations, I found myself now more passive, more docile in my outlook. I started attending Mass at Saint Benedict Center, and believe me, with all those large families I never wanted for a ride. I attended lectures on the Faith, socialized with the community, and gradually was convinced that I needed to join. After lengthy instruction, I was baptized and received the Eucharist on March 25, the great Feast of the Annunciation.

Ironically, my parents did not object to my conversion, except in one particular, that of Baptism. My mother stated that it was not necessary for salvation and, after my reciting the verse that says “unless a man be born of water and the Holy Ghost he will not be saved,” she said that although it mentioned water, it did not mean we had to be baptized!! At that point I knew there was no point in furthering the argument. Interestingly enough, my father took me aside shortly afterwards and said, “Jeremy, I don’t know why, but I could never have taught you the things which you have learned from these folks.”

I settled into my new Catholic life, interacting with the families that associated with the Center, while still being very inquisitive about the philosophy and methods of living a truly Catholic life. I was on the lookout for a marriage partner as well, and that is when I was introduced to a truly strange custom called courting. Although in theory I agreed, it was difficult to understand how you could ascertain your feelings for a young woman while parked in the living room of her parents’ house with their numerous children gawking at your every move. Only after attending a traditional Ignatian retreat did I realize not only the absolute necessity of courtship in maintaining purity, but the increase in virtue that the discipline brought to the future spouses.

I did marry a beautiful Catholic girl, Bridget, and together we have started our own Catholic community, being the proud parents of three wonderful children, Regina, Gemma, and José. I want to thank you, Lord, for your ministers, the policemen who gave me those speeding tickets, and for your Church militant, all of whom in one way or another accelerated me in the pursuit of the Catholic Faith.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

When Parents Cry Wolf

By Russell LaPlume

The sky is falling, the sky is falling,” spoke Chicken Little as she ran to warn the king. Most of us are familiar with this tale, and to most, the moral of the story is, simply, don’t cry wolf to alarm people unnecessarily. But this old fable has received several different endings depending on who related the story. The original ending had Chicken Little picking up her barnyard friends (for she had them convinced that the sky was truly falling) and taking them all to warn the king. One of these friends, a fox that pretended to believe the alarm, and, when the time was right, he proceeded to eat them one by one. Another version had a friend, in his dying breath, warn Chicken Little about the fox, giving her enough time to make good her escape. And still another had the sky truly falling and killing the fox before he could exercise his mischief. And the moral of all this? We do not know the day nor the hour when the sky will fall upon us as individuals and a rendering of all of our life’s actions will have to be made to our Redeemer.

In my lifetime it seems that the pace of social, economic, technological, and educational change has accelerated to warp speeds. One can hardly buy any communications device that won’t be outdated in a matter of months. One cannot dream of financial security without the government, or some social entity, changing the rules and severely altering the plans. One dare not express an opinion contrary to that of the liberal masses on such issues as the environment, the government, morals, or education without eliciting their condemnation. But for all this acceleration one fact remains endlessly true: in terms of eternity we are all rushing to that one defining moment when the Face of the Judge will force us to cease and desist and give an account. And it is this one inescapable truth that all parents should impress upon their children. How to do that? Well, that is what this story is about.

It seems that most Catholics (and many evangelical sects) are intrigued with the “end times” and the signs that mark the end of this life and the beginning of eternity. I was certainly engrossed with this theme for many years, having read all I could on the subject. Whether it was the Apocalypse, or writers such as Yves Dupont, Fr. Miceli, Nostradamus, or Hal Lindsey, no author escaped my perusal. It got so bad that I would eat Chinese just to see what the fortune cookie had to offer by way of prophecy. I became so obsessed with the subject that it became my main topic of conversation, and, as I started to raise a family, this preoccupation was dosed out quite heavily to my children along with Catholic truths. I would tell them about the “three days of darkness” (and being from New England where the electric power goes out quite frequently in the winter, I would have to endure the inevitable comment from my children that I was right all along). I would tell them of the indisputable signs of the end times in the “wars and rumors of wars” and the famines and earthquakes forecast almost everyday in the global events as we read them in the press. I would highlight the crisis of faith the Church was enduring as well as the telltale decline of Catholic influence in the world, quoting Our Lord’s words concerning His second coming: “But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8) And, of course, there was the “Comet,” the great ball of chastisement that would one day come to cleanse the world of demonic activity. I would advise them to keep their eyes up towards heaven but with their feet planted firmly on the ground of truth, not on the clouds of passing fancies. I would comment wittily that “it was better to look up and trip over a curb than to look down and get hit by a comet” — of course, I would add that even though you were looking up you still could get run over by the proverbial beer truck.

How much of this stuck I do not know. Was I crying wolf and thereby filling their heads with unnecessary trepidation? After all, are not current events supporting the latter day expectancy of our time? A few short years ago did we not whisper among ourselves that a one-world government was looming over the horizon with headquarters already established in Geneva? And today, is not this very subject advocated by the majority of our world leaders? Most people called us alarmists and conspiracy theorists amongst sundry other epithets. I never considered myself a pessimist, but a realist. Although never abandoning my conviction that we were on a fast track to apocalyptic events, I finally had second thoughts on my approach in dealing with the subject when one day I heard someone jestingly call me “Doom and Gloom LaPlume.” That is when I took a different tack.

I stopped reading these books and started reading history, specifically history that dealt with Catholic events and how they influenced the world. History does repeat itself and, there being nothing new under the sun, I found more sane knowledge to govern my future than any book I read trying to predict it. By way of prophecy I focused more on the Marian messages of Quito, LaSalette, and Fatima, which not only warned of the dire consequences of not following heaven’s plan, but also gave a positive recipe of how to avoid these predicted calamities, or at least to mitigate them. With this newfound knowledge I was able to guide my children in a more positive way, all the while keeping the negative aspects fully cognizant in their minds. They now know that the “end times” will come to pass. They also know that the hour and the moment is of no consequence to them if they remain in the state of grace, keeping always in mind that eternity could be a heartbeat away.

So, is it more important to focus on the “latter day” dire warnings? Or is it better to focus on the “here and now” positive aspects when we instruct, not only our children, but even ourselves? Every person, parent or not, has a different approach, and I am not one to guide him in the application. Personally, I think a healthy mingling of the two (that is the interaction of Catholic history measured against contemporary events and the Marian warnings from heaven), will do most in impressing upon us and our children the fragileness of our earthly existence and the need to keep our eyes heavenward. Then, if we do trip over the curb, we’ll be quick to pick ourselves up and avail ourselves of the sacramental means of gazing upwards again. But, remember, somewhere out there a beer truck is rolling and your name might be on it.

Email Russell LaPlume at

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The May Magnificat

By Brian Kelly

May is here at last. Nature is blossoming with life. “May the sun shine warm upon your face,” as the Irish blessing goes. Easter has come and gone and there is hope in the air. This is the month of Mary, under her title, Mother of God, and she will be crowned all over the world with flowers and song and pageantry. The Church ends the month with the triumphant feast of the Queenship of Mary on the 31st. [This feast has been moved in the new calendar to August 22, which is also the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, while the feast of Our Lady’s Visitation (July 2 in the traditional calendar) has been moved to May 31.]

There are three other months dedicated to Our Lady: August is dedicated to Mary’s Immaculate Heart, September to her Seven Sorrows, and October to the Holy Rosary. But May has a long-standing tradition for being all hers in many Catholic countries. Portugal, for example, has been honoring May as the month of Mary since the thirteenth century.

By the 1700s, however, the May prayers, processions, and crownings became a popular celebration with the Jesuits, who practiced special public devotions at the Gesu, their church in Rome. From there it spread to the whole Church. Pius VII promoted it and Pius IX, in 1859, granted a plenary indulgence to the practice.

Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical on the Sacred Liturgy (Mediator Dei) characterized these devotions as included with “other exercises of piety which although not strictly belonging to the Sacred Liturgy, are nevertheless of special import and dignity, and may be considered in a certain way to be an addition to the liturgical cult: they have been approved and praised over and over again by the Apostolic See and by the Bishops.”

In honor of the feast of the Visitation, May 31, I give you The May Magnificat, a beautiful poem by Father Gerard Manley Hopkins:

May is Mary’s month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why;
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season

Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour?

Ask of her, that mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring?
Growth in every thing

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathizing
With that world of good,
Nature’s motherhood.

Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.

Well, but there was more than this:
Spring’s universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.

This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation.

John S. Stokes, Jr., writing for Mary’s Garden, gives a good explanation why May is dedicated to Mary:

“The month of May, with its profusion of blooms, was adopted by the Church in the eighteenth century as a celebration of the flowering of Mary’s maidenly spirituality. . . . With its origins in Isaiah’s prophecy of the Virgin birth of the Messiah under the figure of the Blossoming Rod or Root of Jesse, the flower symbolism of Mary was extended by the Church Fathers, and in the liturgy, by applying to her the flower figures of the Sapiential Books: Canticles, Wisdom, Proverbs, and Sirach. . . .

“In the medieval period, the rose was adopted as the flower symbol of the Virgin Birth, as expressed in Dante’s phrase, ‘The Rose wherein the Divine Word was made flesh,’ and depicted in the central rose windows of the great Gothic cathedrals — from which came the Christmas carol, ‘Lo, How a Rose E’re Blooming.’ Also, in the medieval period, when monasteries were the centers of horticultural and agricultural knowledge, and with the spread of the Franciscan love of nature, the actual flowers themselves, of the fields, waysides and gardens, came to be seen as symbols of Mary. . . .”

We sing of Our Lady in the beautiful hymn, O Mary We Crown Thee, that she is “the loveliest rose of the vale.” In the Canticle of Canticles, Solomon sings of the “flower of the field, the lily of the valleys, . . . the lily among thorns” (2:1,2). In the King James Bible, “flower of the field” is translated as the “rose of Sharon.” Either way, Our Lady is the “lily among thorns” and the “rose of Sharon,” indeed the “Mystical Rose,” as the Church praises her in the Litany of Loreto.

In the Middle Ages of Christendom, almost every flower had a Marian legend attached to it. The lily, for example, was called “the Madonna Lily.” In Fra Angelico’s fresco of the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel approaches Mary with a lily in his hand. Of the lily, Venerable Bede says that its “white petals [signify] her bodily purity, the golden anthers the glowing light of her soul.”

Another Marian flower is the marigold (Mary’s gold). The faithful in Europe would make garlands out of this flower, which bloomed most brilliantly in early spring, and use them to adorn Our Lady’s altars on Lady’s Day, March 25. There is a tradition that the spice rosemary, taken from the needles of the rosemary bush, received its evergreen-like aroma after Our Lady hung the clothes of the Baby Jesus on its branches during the flight into Egypt. The scientific name for the milk thistle plant is actually carduus marianus, or Mary’s thistle. The cuckoo flower is also called Our Lady’s Smock. Cardamine pratensis, as the plant is called by botanists, is believed to be the fabric used by Our Lady to sew Our Lord’s seamless garment. This garment has been preserved in the Cathedral of Trier in Germany, but it has never been examined by science. In his life of Theresa Neumann, Albert Schimberg notes that the stigmatist affirmed that the relic was indeed the seamless garment of Christ. Finally, there are rosary vines, so called because of their resemblance to the sacramental beads. In fact, the Latin word for a bouquet of roses is rosarius. The word “bead,” incidentally, originally referred to a prayer, and the use we make of this word today came from the perforated prayer balls strung along the rosary line, rather than vice versa.

Other Marian feasts to remember in May are: Our Lady of Fatima, the 13th; Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, also on the 13th; Our Lady Help of Christians and Our Lady of the Way, the 24th; Mediatrix of All Graces, the 31st; and don’t forget to honor Mary on the second Sunday of the month, Mother’s Day. Surely, she will be pleased.

Email Brian Kelly at

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rebuke Him, O God

By Catherine Goddard Clarke*

(Extracted from a longer 1948 From the Housetops article)

There was great glee in hell. Beelzebub was having a meeting of committees, and things were going well.

“I congratulate you, ‘Screwtape,’ he said. “When you first advanced the idea of getting Mr. C. S. Lewis to paint a picture of us, I never believed the Catholics would fall for it. I thought more of them would remember their theology, but you were right, they are farther from it than I had dared hope.” [The devil went on boasting and then told this story:]

“There was, in an old New England town, a man who had fought against coming into the Catholic Church for seven years. He suffered a great deal during that time, and he had to make some real personal sacrifices when he finally gave in and was baptized. One of the first things he did after his baptism was to go and see his mother, in order to teach her the Faith. He had a very difficult time with her, but he never gave up hope. I have known him to put in a long distance telephone call to her from whatever city he might be in on his business just to see how she was getting along with the books that he had mailed her to read. He and his wife made every effort to get back to his mother on Thanksgiving and Christmas, always to assure her of their love and their great desire that she might come into the Church and be with them both on earth and in heaven. It was all to no avail.

“Then one day he dropped in to see a priest, and he explained his mother’s situation to him, and told him that he had spoken strongly to her on the subject of conversion. The priest said to him, “How dare you talk that way to your mother! She has been a good Protestant according to her lights, and a good mother to you!’ The man said, ‘But, Father, she no longer has those same lights. I have very carefully explained the Faith to her, and given her Christ’s challenge. She is in no sense ignorant of the Truth. She is a very intelligent woman.’

“And then he was told: ‘You should not disturb your mother in her religion. Faith is a gift. She may get to heaven a good deal faster than you will — indeed you may find her there before you. You don’t think that only Catholics are saved, do you?’

“My man walked out, thoroughly upset, muttering to himself, ‘In the name of God, why should I have gone through all I did to become a Catholic!’ He tried not to let it [go], but the edge was off the whole thing for him, and I assure you I have made every effort to keep it so. He hasn’t tried to convert anyone since then, and certainly not his mother.”

“Please go on, my lord!” It was the curious little devil again.

“You know the rest of it,” the powerful angel answered. “One makes the most of every opportunity. I noticed that the policy of Catholics used to be to convert, first, by preaching, and second, by living according to that preaching. They called this latter ‘good example.’ Gradually I got them to forget the first principle and to emphasize the second. They are doing a fairly good job of selling themselves, as a result of my foresight, and a very poor job of selling their Christ.”

“Bravo! Bravo!” the cry went up.

“Then, too,” the great one went on, “the following little story will illustrate how far we have come. The Catholics were asked the other day if they held that there was salvation outside the Church. This was their answer: ‘Let us put it this way: heaven is on the distant shore. There are two ways of getting there, by rowboat or by motor-boat. Each will make the shore, but the rowboat takes a longer time. Let us call the motor-boat the Catholic Church.’ Now the non-Catholic merely wants to be assured that he will reach the shore, heaven. And so, much preferring the comfortable and familiar way, he settles back in his rowboat and goes to sleep again.”

“Just as I planned, just as I planned!” Beelzebub was very solemn. “For the first time in the history of the world,” he told his fallen angels, “I have not only been directing you, but I have undertaken a mission of my own, the nature of which is so important that I have not dared to trust it to anyone but myself. You see, she has been appearing in the world. She came down to Fatima, in Portugal, and to Heede, in Germany. Those appearances gave me much to do. I had to work as I never worked before to make men forget and belittle what she prophesied and what she requested them to do in order to forestall my work. But I am pleased to report to you, my sons, that all is well. It is now as if she had never spoken. It is true that her appearances are still mentioned here and there, but men, thanks to my effort, speak of it as they might relate one of their legends.”

* Later known as Sister Catherine, Mrs. Clarke was the foundress of Saint Benedict Center, which began as a lay apostolate in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Are You Ready for the Chains?

By Brother John Marie Vianney

Are you ready for the chains? It is easy to see that personal freedoms, even of conscience, are being undermined by the government and even taken away in our country, and across the world, today. It is easy to see the increasing occurrences of calamities across the globe: earthquakes, floods, famine, pestilence, random violence, etc. The ongoing erosion of our constitutional liberties presages despotism, tyranny. Disasters might lead one to thoughts of the “end times.”

So I repeat, are you ready for the chains? By that I mean the chains of holy slavery. The chains one accepts willingly when one makes his Marian consecration, “An Act of Perfect Consecration to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, through Holy Slavery to the Immaculate Heart of Mary according to the method of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort.” It is the chains willingly accepted in that oblation of the will that I write to you about.

I know there are many of you who have made your consecration in this manner. But there are many who have been delaying it, or perhaps have never heard of it. Are you one of them? Is your spouse, relative, or friend one of them? Wouldn’t May, the month of Our Lady, be a good time to make, or to renew (often done annually), your consecration?

You will need thirty-three days to prepare, so pick a date and count backwards to see when you should begin. There are some special feasts often chosen for the consecration, e.g., Our Lady of Perpetual Help on June 27 (begin May 25), Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16 (begin June 13), the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven on August 15 (begin July 13), the Immaculate Heart of Mary on August 22 (begin July 20), the Birth of Mary on September 8 (begin August 6), etc. There are at least eighteen universally celebrated feasts of Our Lady. Choose one, and then begin.

In such troubled times as these, you will find you have your Blessed Mother as your guide. She is the best “coach” you could ever have. After all, it is she who encouraged, taught, nourished, and watched over the Child Jesus as He grew up. We know that we are in a great struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil, which all combine to prevent us from following in Our Lord’s footsteps and saving our souls. Who is better equipped to guard and protect us, to show us the way, than the Immaculate Heart of Mary?

Let me warn you. Be prepared for the devil to get in your way. Many have begun their consecration preparations and found that the easy path was impeded. Don’t let that challenge stop you. Don’t be discouraged. Pick yourself up if you fall off the track and continue on. Our Lady will help you. After all, is she not the Mediatrix of all Graces? Remember, you only need a little time each day devoted to reading and meditating, and at the end you will have the joy of signing your consecration form!

I should also point out that making your consecration is one of the prerequisites to joining the Third Order of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Be, then, truly devoted to Mary, be one of her spiritual children by making your consecration to her. Offer yourself totally to her. She hears you and will answer. She will never desert you. How could she? She is your mother, now and forever. Now, will you accept the chains?

Every sports team has a fight song. Every country has an anthem. Many cities have a special song dedicated to them. The Italian, the Irish, the French, the Polish, all have songs that speak to their ethnicity, their culture. And, of course, Our Lady has many hymns dedicated to Her. Well, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary have a rousing song written by Father Feeney himself. It is entitled, ‘Tis for the Love of Mary. If you never heard it before, here it is. We sing it here at the Center during special times, e.g., the recent profession of the two sisters, on First Saturday when we have our regular Third Order monthly business meeting, when we end our school plays, programs, etc. We hope you will love it as we do. May God bless you and the Immaculate Heart of Mary always watch over and protect you!

‘Tis for the love of Mary
Each heart becomes a slave
A heart that once was wary
Is through her love emboldened to be brave
Her banner is the only one to wave.
Remember, Virgin Mother,
That never was it known
One needing thy protection
And seeking it was ever left alone
You always come and take him for your own.

Despise not our petitions,
O gracious advocate,
And after this our exile,
And after all the years we still must wait
Take us unto your Heart Immaculate.

Email Brother John Marie Vianney at

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Home Is Where the Heart Is

By Sister Marie Thérèse

I write this latest edition of Convent Corner from a new location. If I look out of the window of the quaint little library I am in, I can gaze out on a lovely convent garden, complete with fruit-bearing trees, bird bath and wooden bench (I might write the next Convent Corner from the bench). Rock walls grace and fortify this cruciform building, forming lovely pathways through the gardens and around the convent. These are surmounted by statues of various heavenly patrons and crowned by an outdoor set of Stations tucked into its own special rock wall with a rugged yet graceful set of stairs leading up the hill behind them. A perfect set-up for outdoor meditation when the weather is agreeable! The silence is penetrating and peace-giving.

The name of this little heaven on earth? St. Philomena’s Convent. For nineteen years as of this fall, we have been living on the main campus of the Center, in the very midst of all the hustle and bustle of our school, office, main chapel, bookstore, visitors, etc. Yes, living in our public work area. And hoping all the while that we would be able to build a convent of our own for our little family of sisters some day.

We were also praying for vocations to St. Philomena. She heard our prayers over the last few years, filling our available convent space with sisters. Watching our space shrink, we presented our need for a convent to our dear little saint, promising to name our new convent in her honor. Two of the novices she sent just made vows on March 25. Even as they made their three-day retreat preceding that blessed day, it was being decided that this would be the new convent.

Having pine floors, hand-made pine doors with black metal hardware, lattices on the windows, two beautiful stained glass windows in the chapel (Our Lady of Knock and St. Francis Solano with his violin) and small shelves lining the long hallway with statues of saints, we feel entirely spoiled in our new convent! Thank you, St. Philomena! It could not be more perfect.

You are probably wondering about the location and history of this abandoned monastery. A group of Franciscan friars built it over a decade ago in a nestled recess at the foot of the densely wooded hill that is crowned by the Center. The land was generously donated by a Catholic lady. The friars built the monastery (called a “friary” by Franciscans) with their own labor and the help of a few lay persons. When completed, it not only was a practical monastery, but a very beautiful one.

Tragically, the Franciscan superior’s health was so poor that, soon after, the friars were forced to abandon their friary and relocate down South to a gentler climate than New England’s. A zealous retired professor purchased it from the Franciscans with his inheritance, intending to move here and use it as a study center for himself and other scholars. Sadly, he was prevented by many circumstances from doing so. From that time, this hidden treasure was left unoccupied. Finally, this winter, after many years, our scholar gave up hope of being able to use it and, instead of selling it, donated it to the Center for whatever need there was, be it a library, office space, or a convent. Brother André Marie encouraged the sisters to use it as a convent, for which we are very grateful!

After so much generosity, we have felt inspired to offer the first five decades of our fifteen-decade Rosary for all of the benefactors of our beautiful convent. Our powerful saint has left room for your generosity, in case you would be interested in helping us to establish our new house. For you, this may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There are repairs needed to the roof, siding, plumbing, and driveway. Someone was generous enough to donate a green-enameled wood stove with the scene of Saint Hubert engraved on its sides. However, we still have to build a stone hearth and need materials to do so.

Don’t think your donations have to be very sizeable! Our Lord was quite pleased with the Widow’s Mite because, though a small amount, it was all she could give and she gave it from the heart. Whatever you send, we would like to put your name under our little chapel altar, right near His Sacred Heart. Just let us know your interest by writing “For Convent” on the memo line of your check. From His throne of mercy, Our Lord will surely see your generosity, and will not allow Himself to be outdone! Blessings will come to you from St. Philomena’s Convent.

Email Sister Marie Thérèse at