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

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Forbidden Tree

By Russell LaPlume

I find it peculiar, as I grow older and try to prepare for the heavenly country, to reminisce more and more about my youth. I can certainly apply the words of the author, “they were the best of times; they were the worst of times,” to that of my passage from youth to adolescence. And now, after having embraced the traditional Faith, which I had regrettably abandoned in my young adulthood, I can look back to see just how that abandonment came about.

I was born in 1950 to loving parents of French Canadian descent in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a large mill town filled with every ethnic variety known to man. My parents bore thirteen children, I being number eleven in the clan, and nurtured us all with great earnest in the Catholic Faith. I was sent to the same Catholic school that my siblings had attended before me, which really was a disadvantage, because, by this time, the nuns had learned all they needed to know, in expectation of what I had to offer, from observing the habits of my older brothers. And I did not disappoint them. I was impish and, several times, the nuns had to restrain me by tying me to my desk. Those knots — I don’t know how they looped them — would have defied the efforts of any sailor to loosen.

I can still remember the interior of that school, Sacred Heart by name, with its cavernous classrooms, shoe-stomping stairs, and basement lavatories which, being always poorly lit, were dungeon-like and a great inducement to stay put in the classroom regardless of your needs. And the nuns – oh, how I loved the nuns! They also were from Canada, the Sisters of St. Joseph I believe, and farm girls to the core. It was not uncommon to see them (and Sr. Paul Rita comes readily to mind quite personally) roll up their sleeves and deliver a nasty haymaker to the miscreant: another great inducement to stay out of mischief (or at least not get caught). I really cannot understand when former Catholics, being asked why they left the Church, almost always bring up some episode with a certain sister, blaming her for their departure. They forget the sisters’ patient tolerance of our unruliness, the endless hours they spent in teaching numbskulls the three “R’s” (and they were reading, ‘riting, and religion, I’ll have you know), and the sharing of their intimate faith to mostly distracted students. It was under their tutorship that dirty little boys became civilized altar boys, and giggly little girls learned the rudiments of becoming young ladies. And I’ll never forget the oak tree that stood exactly in the middle of our recess yard. In retrospect it reminds me of the forbidden tree in Paradise, for it was the great dividing line between girls and boys, always patrolled by clapper-wielding sisters ready to stretch the ear of any student whose shadow even crossed that line. And that brings me to the gist of this story.

Our classrooms, from grades one through eight, were arranged so that the boys and girls sat separated. There were three rows each for the boys and the girls, with a double space between the two. To walk down that double aisle without permission from the sister was tantamount to invading a cloister. Lavatory times were also regulated so that the girls went first, then the boys after. I can remember many times when the boys looked squeamish because the girls were running later than usual. “Ladies first” did not make much of an impression to us young boys. The cafeteria was separated also – we all took our lunch at the same time – but after we finished, we boys had to walk through the girls’ recess side to get to our side. Upon leaving the cafeteria, we encountered a line of nuns creating a corridor for safe passage to the boys’ side. At first I thought it was some sort of quality control, because the nuns would stop certain boys and wipe the remainder of their lunch off their chins or uniforms. Much later I realized its true purpose: that of keeping the boys and girls separated. All of these means were employed when we were young and innocent. The “why” is obvious, is it not? It was to impress upon us the biological fact that boys and girls are truly different, and always shall be, in body and temperament. And it was to remind us later that contact with the opposite sex should always be guarded and, unless married, should always be chaperoned.

That figurative oak tree should have stamped forever in my mind the need to separate the sexes and observe that no transgressions should ever occur. As devout as my parents were, for some reason they let us children roam the streets at will. There was minimal diligence in who we played with, or where we were, as long as we were back home before the streetlight in front of our house went on (in later years we figured out how to rig the light to not come on by removing the plate covering the electrical wires, making the connections just loose enough so that with a sharp rap to the pole, the lights would come off and on at will). It all seemed so innocent as children to have someone of the opposite sex as a playmate, but everybody grows up and that familiarity breeds problems. Sooner or later the game of tag takes on a whole new meaning. This pest of allowing children of both sexes to play or socialize together unchaperoned has grown over the past two generations into a moral crisis, even in Catholic families who should know better.

I will always remember the film, “The Quiet Man,” with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. The film concluded with two courting adults riding in the back of a horse-drawn cart that was being driven by their chaperone. You see, even at their advanced age, courting meant being chaperoned. Courting without supervision is properly called dating and, for the safety of our children, should not be tolerated. Not employing this discipline in my own family resulted in several out-of-wedlock childbirths; but thank God we had given them enough of the Faith to repent of their sins and become good, Catholic parents. The sins of the father are visited on the children sometimes, for this blight of the age had happened to me.

In Pius XI’s encyclical, The Christian Education of Youth, he states that those who would not oppose the separation of the sexes, especially in sports, were guilty of denying original sin. The heresy of Americanism is mostly viewed in its spiritual sense; that is, the indifference in regards to other religions. But I think there is a more insidious side to this heresy – that of the discipline side – where we think that we are good Catholics because we attend Mass once a week, maybe say the family Rosary, and oppose abortion, and, therefore, all is covered in our spiritual life. We must remember the social side of Americanism – the side that constantly assaults our children with social activities that co-mingle the sexes. It is a battle for parents – a mighty battle – to keep their children undefiled in this world. We must monitor their activities constantly without letting them lose heart. Satan is seeking an opening to devour them, and if we keep in mind Our Lady’s words at Fatima that more souls go to hell because of the sins of the flesh than for any other reason, our untiring effort in keeping them pure will be rewarded. We need to keep the apple tree of Paradise in our minds and an oak tree in our children’s playing fields.

Email Russell LaPlume at

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Seven Sorrows of Mary

By Brian Kelly

When Our Lady appeared to two Catholic girls in Rwanda from 1981-1984, she asked them to warn and exhort the faithful in her name to return to God, do penance, and recognize and confess their sins in order to avert a horrible chastisement to come. Mary also asked the girls to spread devotion to her holy rosary and to her chaplet of the Seven Sorrows. Her message, which has the approval of the local ordinary, Frederic Rubwejanga, Bishop of Kibungo, went unheeded. The tragedy, which the girls saw in their visions, was horrific. Come April 1994, the country was awash in carnage. The Hutu militia unleashed an inhuman rage on the Tutsi people and moderate Hutus. Eight hundred thousand people died in the one hundred worse days of the slaughter, with the international community doing nothing to intervene. Rwanda is about seventy percent Christian, and over fifty percent Catholic. Most of the victims were Catholic, but so were many of the murderers. It is a horribly tragic episode, having, as a secondary cause, much more to do with ethnicity and the elitism of the ruling Tutsi class than religion. However, priests and nuns were often principal targets of the rampaging Hutus, many of them killed inside their churches, which were also desecrated.

One of the survivors of this genocide was Immaculée Llibagizi, whose book, Left to Tell, was reviewed on our website by Eleonore Villarrubia. Immaculée has become an ambassador for Our Lady, promoting pilgrimages to her shrine in Kibungo. The shrine is dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. She has also written a book on the apparitions.

What was true for Catholic Rwanda is true for Catholics throughout the whole world. If we do not do penance, as Our Lord told the Jews, "[we] shall all likewise perish."

At the 2005 synod of bishops, Bishop Rubwejanga spoke about the massacres, about forgiveness, and about hope:

Also, it is a fact that certain persons were killed in our churches . . . . [Our] challenges never lack, especially the one of reconciliation, but the vast majority of survivors of the national drama have understood, better than ever, the need for the sacrament of the Eucharist that gathers and seals our ties of broken brotherhood. Among the promising signs, there is the increase in the devotion to Our Lady of Kibungo, whose apparitions have been recognized by the local bishop for the past four years. The central message of these apparitions was conversion while there is still time.

[W]hile there is still time. These words should stir us to heed the warnings of our Blessed Mother. Let us appease her sorrows by giving her our love and devotion. With her Immaculate Heart she wishes to hold us in the crossing of her arms and in the folds of her mantle, as she assured Blessed Juan Diego.

September 15 is the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows, but on the Friday before Good Friday, April 3 this year, the Church honors Our Lady's Seven Sorrows in particular:

1) The prophecy of Simeon: "Thy own soul a sword shall pierce."
2) The flight into Egypt
3) The losing of the Child Jesus in the temple; Mary's three days of anguish
4) Mary's meeting Jesus as He carried His Cross to Calvary
5) The crucifixion and death of Jesus
6) The taking down of Jesus' body from the Cross and Mary's receiving it in her arms
7) The burial of Jesus

As we move the beads of our rosary through our fingers, let us meditate on these seven sorrows — not as a replacement for the regular fifteen mysteries, but as a special devotion from time to time, especially during the remainder of Lent. Our Lady requested it when she came to Rwanda. Do you not think that, while the Mother of God suffered these things in her mortal life, she was also offering up, in union with her Son, her interior pain for the salvation of the world? Who can fathom the pain of a heart without sin, immaculate, adorned with the jewels of every virtue in measureless degree? Here was a heart so good that it drew the Son of God to leap from eternity into time so that He could unite Himself with it incarnationally. She was His masterpiece, destined from all eternity to be the Mother of God.

After reading Sister Marie Thérèse's article "I Can't Mediate," in which she provides such excellent advice from the work of Father John Moffat, perhaps Our Lady's sorrows can be made more present to us.

It was for our salvation that Mary received with sorrow the prophecy of Simeon. She knew well that the Mother of the Messiah would suffer in union with her Son when she gave God her "fiat" at the Annunciation. Simeon's words only reinforced, more personally for her, what the prophets had foretold of "the Man of Sorrows."

It was for our salvation that Mary and Joseph took the divine Child and fled the wrath of Herod, so shortly after the Baby's birth. Already He was "a sign of contradiction" as Simeon had foretold. Already His Mother felt the first piercing of her Immaculate Heart.

It was for our salvation that Mary and Joseph willingly endured the sorrow of not knowing for three days what had happened to the Child entrusted to them. This was Joseph's greatest sorrow, that the chosen foster-father had failed in his paternal responsibility; understanding his pain, can you imagine the pain of the Mother? "Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing."

It was for our salvation that Mary ran to meet her Son when she received the news of His apprehension. What sorrow she endured when she could not find a way to get to Him at the Praetorium! What sorrow she felt when she heard the rabble call out for His blood! How she longed to look into His eyes and give Him her support, her blessing even, her strength! She would meet Him on the way to His execution. If she ran ahead of the Cross, she could catch Him as He passed by carrying it. Their eyes meet at last. "O Woman," His gaze seems to say to her, "you know, as no other, that I must be about My Father's business." "My Son," she seems to say to Him, "do whatever He tells Thee."

And so, her Heart would continue to be pierced through again and again, as she sacrificed herself with Him while He was being nailed to the Cross; as He hung on it in agony for three hours; and as He commended His soul to His Father in death. She could still feel the piercing of the lance in her Heart, that Jesus was not able to feel in His own, even as she laid Him in the sepulcher, and, perhaps even more agonizingly, as she walked away. But for the beloved John, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and the holy women, how sorrowful and inglorious a funeral was this!

The Queen of Heaven did not need to look back when she heard the men roll the great stone in front of the tomb. Jesus, her Son, was the Resurrection and the Life.

Email Brian Kelly at

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Third Order has been Hard at Work!

Br. John Marie Vianney

It is a little difficult to realize that the Feast of the Purification marked the second year of my prefecture. Time flies! The Third Order has not been idle.

We have added a monthly quiz to our regular monthly business meeting on the First Saturday of the month. This lighter part of the meeting helps to foster Brother Francis’ philosophy that what we do intellectually as a school should not be all work, but fun as well.

We have renewed the apostolate of the Pilgrim Virgin Statue, which belongs to the Third Order. Right now, the statue is touring the Richmond, NH area. Families keep the statue for a week and say the rosary before it. The statue will be going across the country later in the year.

We began a formation program for tertiaries, which has the hallmark of assigning seasoned mentors to guide candidates through the matriculation process. The program was in the planning and pilot stages for more than a year.

We began a regular pro-life witness program. On the third Saturday of every month, Third Order members (and whoever else wishes to join them) go to the local Planned Parenthood Center in Keene to offer prayers of reparation for the evil work being performed inside its walls. Not only are birth control pills and devices dispensed at this center, but also the abortifacient “morning after” pill. Mothers are given the tools at this facility to kill their pre-born babies.

We have rejuvenated the Circles of Study program by establishing a new website for the Saint Augustine Institute ( The regular business of the Third Order is also published on the SAI website. The circles will be a natural gateway into the Third Order for those who see the value in cultivating a Catholic culture as a united group.

We would also like our Third Order members to make use of the Center’s website, Daily news updates, columns, and articles appear on the home page. Inside the site there is a wealth of Catholic information for family use, personal use, and circle use. The Center has put countless hours of work into creating this site. Take advantage of it. It is easy to navigate once you get used to the headings and related topics. It also has a search engine where you can locate any of hundreds of articles published by SBC.

Our team of officers and directors work hard all year for the good of the order and the crusade to convert America. Our board of officers includes Tertiaries: Br. Michael Maria, Membership Director; Br. Joseph Mary, Local Director; Br. John the Baptist, Financial Secretary; Br. Joseph Mary, Treasurer; Br. Louis Marie, Recorder; and Br. Lawrence Mary, Mentoring Director.

As prefect, my hope is to see every tertiary in a Circle of Studies, even if they have already received their diploma. Veteran graduates of SAI can greatly enhance the quality of circle meetings.

During this year I hope to speak directly with as many Third Order members as I can contact. It would be wonderful for those tertiaries who live anywhere near the monastery to make an annual visit to Saint Benedict Center here in Richmond.

What else can we do to please Our Lord? Remember, February was the month of the Holy Passion of Our Lord. Dedicate yourself to making a good Lent. March is the Month of Saint Joseph. We ought not to forget the greatest of all saints after the Blessed Mother. The foster-father of Our Lord is venerated by the Church with the cultus of protodulia, first among the saints. Our Lady is actually venerated on a plane all her own, with the worship of hyperdulia, beyond all angels and saints. The veneration given to God in Three Persons is that of adoration, or latria, which is divine worship. Br. André Marie, our prior, has a beautiful entry on his Theology Blog on Saint Joseph, the Holy Patriarch of Nazareth, the Patron and Protector of Holy Mother Church. To read this wonderful article go to The Litany of St. Joseph is also on that web page.

Please remember, my brothers and sisters, as tertiaries we are part of an order. (Anyone interested in joining the Third Order should contact our Membership Director at It’s a very special order. Being a member should result in firm commitment, obedience, and loyalty, in addition to single-mindedness, constancy, and perseverance in pursuit of the goals of our crusade. Being a member signifies one’s willingness to work as part of a team toward the team’s common goals. In unity there is strength.

Being part of an order, it is hoped, will insure the personal sanctification and devotion to Our Lady that were a part of your Consecration.1

Even though we are active laymen and women, as Third Order members, we should strive to cultivate a taste for the contemplative spirit. This is the counsel of the saints for all the faithful. Prayer and meditation are necessary for all members of the Church Militant.

Our crusade also needs people motivated to be active evangelizers and docile enough to commit to a period of training and study. A nation cannot be converted on zeal alone, without knowledge. Ours is a special formation, and Brother Francis, although no longer actively teaching, is our exemplar. Listening to his recorded talks on tape or CD is the most excellent way to learn the language and the art of evangelization. You will not find a better teacher anywhere. Isn’t it time for you to join this crusade?

Email Brother John Marie Vianney at

1. Anyone can make his Consecration to Our Lord through Our Lady. You do not have to join the Third Order to do that, but making your Consecration is a prerequisite to becoming a tertiary in our order.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I Can't Meditate

By Sister Marie Thérèse, M.I.C.M.

This is an excerpt from a treasure of a book for religious sisters by Father John E. Moffatt, S.J., entitled: Listen, Sister. I modified it slightly so that you will more easily be able to apply it to yourself. Father proves again and again in his book that having a sense of humor is a great help to progress in the spiritual life. After reading this article, you could, for starters, apply your newly-discovered talent to the mysteries of the Rosary, particularly when you meditate for fifteen minutes to fulfill Our Lady's request for the Five First Saturdays. And now, Father Moffatt:

Listen, my friend. You can't meditate? You never did learn how? Every time you try you make a miserable mess of it? It's just no use? You simply cannot succeed? You have used all the books with their preludes and points and various devices? You have followed directions with meticulous exactness? But the net result is zero? It's not for you? You just cannot meditate?

Listen, my friend. Don't be ludicrous. You can meditate. Everyone can. Good and bad, saint and sinner, learned and ignorant, all can meditate — all do meditate.

The businessman in his office lost in a brown study over the papers on his desk — what is he doing? He is meditating. Meditating on that business deal that is under negotiation. The small boy in the classroom dreaming his dreams as he stares with vacant gaze at the book before him — what is he doing? He, too, is meditating — meditating on the delightful freedom of the vacation time with its sunlit fields in which to roam, its games, its fishing rod, its swimming hole. The sweet girl graduate, as the day of Commencement approaches — how is she engaged through well-nigh all her waking hours? In eager meditation on the coming thrilling event in her young life.

You are not unlike the rest. You, too, can meditate. You can't help but do so. Listen. After you read that paper at the business meeting, or after you performed on the piano for your family, or sang with your exquisite voice at that little family entertainment, and your mother came to your room and told you, with all her motherly sweetness, how "utterly wonderful it was — the most beautiful thing she had ever heard — how proud she was of her child," tell me, did you meditate? Did you meditate? You certainly did. You know you did. You couldn't help it. (For you gentlemen, imagine getting well-earned praise from your boss.)

All the rest of the evening you meditated on the lovely compliment that you had been given. You fell asleep relishing its sweetness. When you half-awakened in the night you spontaneously took up the thread and reveled in a few precious moments of blissful meditation. It was the first thought with which you greeted the dawn, and all day long, and every day for a week or more, your meditation went on unwearyingly, without effort, intertwining itself into the warp and weft of your daily duties, coloring all with its golden glow of most supreme delight.

And how long were the points of that meditation? There were no "points" and no "preludes," either; just one single "point," quite undeveloped, not more than a dozen words long. Yet those few words were plenty and more than sufficient, for hours and days of delightful, effortless meditation. With what relish you savored, over and over again, each single phrase Mother had spoken: "utterly wonderful" ... "most beautiful she had ever heard" — and Mother had heard so many wonderful things in her life; how proud she was of you — no doubt she would tell her friends all about it. With that delight you recalled even the look on her face, harkened again and again to the tone of her voice and its every inflection as she gave you that "point" of your meditation! Yes, and was that not a fruitful meditation? Were you not "walking on air" for days on end with the joy of it all? And did it not spur you on to outdo yourself in the future as opportunity offered?

Yet — yet you say that you cannot meditate! Listen, my friend. Are you willing to admit that, while a simple compliment a dozen words long is sufficient to hold you under its spell in hours of ecstatic joy, you find nothing to hold your attention, nothing to touch your heart, to arouse your affections and resolutions, in all the precious, blessed things your Lord has said to you: "I have loved you with an everlasting love"... "As the Father has loved me, so do I love you"... "I call you not servants now, but friends"... "I go to prepare a place for you so that where I am you also may be"... . "My delight is to be with the children of men"... "come to me and I will refresh you" — and dozens more? Is it possible that, though the thought of a trifling act of kindness on the part of a creature holds you enraptured in its embrace and carries you off on the wings of undisturbed contemplation, you find no response in your mind or heart at the thought of the infinite deeds of kindness the Master has done for you as His way of saying, "I love you"? Christ, for love of you, a Babe on the straw in a cattle shed! Christ publicly whipped in your stead! Christ dying in agony that you might live! Christ, for you, a prisoner under lock and key in His narrow tabernacle cell! Christ nourishing your soul with His Flesh and Blood! Yet you cannot meditate?

Listen, my friend. Go to your room and blush for shame — and meditate.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Follow SBC on Twitter

If you use the popular microblogging application, you can now follow our web site updates on Twitter. We are SBC_Catholic. The headline of every new posting to our site will “tweet,” with a shortened URL showing up at the end. This URL will take you to the article on our site.

Should you find this feature useful, we encourage you to notify your friends who use Twitter to follow us. God bless you and may Our Lady watch over you!