Thursday, July 30, 2009
(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? 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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
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 email@example.com.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
The United States of America are badly in need of conversion. My readers, I think, will take this as axiomatic, so I shall not attempt to prove it. Instead, I would like to propose, in very simple terms and briefly, that Marian consecration is a most excellent way to bring about the conversion of America (i.e., the great majority of Americans) to the one, true Faith.
Why? The answer is quite simple. Saint Maximilian Kolbe reveals it in these tender and grave words addressed to the Holy Virgin: “For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus” (from his Act of Consecration). The Saint goes on to explain that “God is hers [Mary's] with all the treasures of grace for the conversion and sanctification of souls. … In this act of consecration we beg her to use us to destroy the whole serpent coiled about the earth, the serpent representing the various heresies.”
Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces: that is why the grace of conversion will come through her. Our dear Founder, Father Leonard Feeney, explained it this way:
From Mary, all grace overflows into us. She is the Mediatrix of All Graces. Nothing comes from God to us except through Mary. Nothing goes from us to God except through her. Saint Bernardine of Siena says, “All the gifts and graces that we receive from God are given by Mary, to whom, when, and as she pleases.” Saint Louis Marie de Montfort says that no one gets into Heaven without venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary. (from “The Mother of God”)
Lex orandi lex credendi. The Law of praying is the law of believing. All prayer and devotion has a doctrinal foundation, and the practice of Marian Consecration is founded upon the doctrine of Mary’s universal mediation. If Mary were not the mediatrix of grace, this form of devotion would make no sense, as Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe himself observed.
When I speak of “Marian consecration,” I mean personal consecration, whereby an individual consecrates himself according to the formula of Saint Louis de Montfort, that of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, or some other act of Marian consecration. But I do not restrict my meaning to personal devotion. There is a great tradition of consecrating entire nations to Our Lady. (So, at Fatima, the Blessed Virgin promised that Russia would convert to Catholicism when the Pope, together with all the bishops of the world, consecrates that great nation to her Immaculate Heart.) Portugal, Spain, France, Poland, and other Catholic nations have been consecrated to Our Lady at various times and have reaped heavenly blessings from these acts.
The United States were dedicated to the Immaculate Conception by Bishop John Carroll, its first bishop, in 1792. In 1846, all the bishops of the nation officially named the Immaculate Conception the Patroness of the United States. An act of Consecration to the Immaculate Conception was made by the Bishops of the U.S. on the occasion of the dedication of the National Basilica in 1959 (the formula used was the same as, or very close to, the one employed by Bishop Carroll). Finally, in 2006 the Bishops renewed this act, this time consecrating the nation to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary.
If the acts of our hierarchy are to have any lasting effect, we Catholics of every state in life must make, renew, and live our own personal Marian consecrations. All advocates of total consecration to the Blessed Virgin tell us that the consecration is not a passing act. For it to be fruitful, it must be lived. We Catholic Americans have great examples of living the Marian consecration in the persons of Saint Katharine Drexel and the Servant of God, Father Thomas Fredrick Price.
I should like to emphasize that Marian consecration is not a phenomenon on the edges of Christianity. It is not merely a form of devotion that grew out of this or that school of piety. Although different schools have given it shape — especially the “French School,” out of which comes Saint Louis de Montfort — Marian consecration is a thing central to the Gospel. This is because Christians are by grace what Christ is by nature, children of God. Christ is constantly renewing the mystery of His Incarnation in the Mystical Body, and Mary is an active participant, being Mother of the Body as well as of the Head. Beyond that, the Christian life is a conformity to Christ, and by drawing close to the Sinless Mother of God, we are made more conformable to Jesus, for she is the “great mold of God,” as Saint Louis de Montfort said. Further, in giving Our Lady and Saint John to one another at the Foot of the Cross, Our Lord entrusted — consecrated, even — all the members of his Mystical Body to His Immaculate Mother. What He did on the Cross, we must second by our own volitional acts, and the act of perfect consecration to the Immaculate Virgin is an excellent way to do this. For, in so doing, we invite into our souls her who obtains for us “the grace of conversion and growth in holiness.”
“Victory, if it comes, will certainly be a victory through Mary”!
(Our store site has several resources to help in making and living one’s Marian consecration.)
Thursday, July 2, 2009
I’m sure most conversion stories start off cheerful and upbeat. However, the conversion which you are going to read about is not such a story. This is an account where Catholicism and an everyday not-so-mild-mannered citizen stand toe to toe for a good old-fashioned brawl. Hopefully, you can take comfort in knowing the fact that she did indeed become a Catholic — not unlike a lobster or a steak dinner, grand and glorious only after the chef had his way. Much like God the Father, I suppose, tenderizing or boiling our stubborn will out of us, until He can season it with His supernatural grace.
Christie’s story begins in the valley of Utah surrounded by mountains thirteen thousand feet high. Her father, Dick Hepworth, was married to her mother, Mary Patricia. It’s fair to say that living in Utah pretty much made her Mormon by association. She went to Sunday school and went through all the motions, but had no serious convictions in her beliefs. Her parents believed in God enough to ask for His help in raising their daughter, Christina Marie. She was a normal child, interested in the things that most children are, such as the insatiable curiosity of what it would be like to stick your hand in a lawn mower, while it was running, of course. Thanks to quick thinking on the parents’ behalf, a blood transfusion, and many hours of surgery, you can barely see the scars. A year later, after falling out of a camper during their annual family vacation, she had to be air-lifted to a hospital to save her life.
Not too many years passed when Christie’s parents divorced. Fast forward through years of dance, gymnastics, cheerleading, boyfriends, slumber parties, and other activities common for teenage girls, and she finds herself a graduate from school, but not sure what to do with her life, so she flies to Europe to get a taste of the European experience. Christie stayed there for the next two years and survived by dressing in a clown suit and selling balloon animals on the street. When people found out she was Mormon they would mock her religion and ask her how many wives the men were allowed these days. Ironically, she came back more grounded in her Mormonism than when she left, and this is where her conversion story begins.
Working at a five-star, fine dining establishment (Denny’s) she had the misfortune to meet an extremely handsome mountain man from Maine. In a short matter of time these two found themselves outside the walls of work enjoying each other’s company. The man from Maine, who had captured her attention, unbeknownst to her, was on the hunt for a bride. I believe it was during the first date that I told her what I was all about. I explained, not holding back at all, that my wife was to be Catholic, have lots of children, and resign herself to God’s will. At that moment she knew that she was not the one I was looking for. I’m not sure why there was another date after that — it could have been my muscular physique, my radiant blue eyes, or perhaps it was my fake Boston accent.
Whatever the case, two dates soon became four, and four turned into eight. It was not too long before we fell in love. It was a well-reserved courtship however, because she knew ultimately how I stood religiously — and I wasn’t even practicing at the time. When it came right to it we both tried not to love each other. She had no interest in being Catholic, and I was tired of not being a good, practicing Catholic. Due to my own weakness I could not stay away from Christie. She was strong-willed, and firm in personality, and I was sure that if I could convert her she would make an awesome Catholic. The more I try to recall the moment of her conversion, the more I have come to realize that it just didn’t happen overnight. We had all-night conversations about the Faith, complimented with coffee, cigarettes, and raw emotion. I am sure these talks helped, although I don’t think they were enough. No, I think my wife’s conversion was ultimately due to three major influences.
The first would be my mother. She raised me to be a good Catholic, having instilled in me the fear of God. I knew that, with her, marrying a non-Catholic was not going to be an option. As Christie grew more interested, my mother began giving her catechism lessons over the phone; she sent her Catholic books, a Catholic bible, tapes, movies, pamphlets, letters, green scapulars, medals, holy water, all the things about the one true religion that could be sent in the mail. And she prayed.
The second source would be my wife herself. She could think logically in spite of the emotional side effects. In short, she had good will and she cooperated with God’s grace. Christie put on her scapular on Sept. 11, 2001, after the Twin Tower attack. I called her from work that day and asked this favor of her, just in case there were worse attacks to come.
Thirdly, and I am sure it comes as no surprise, there was our most holy mother Mary, who, either through the scapular, through the Rosaries being said daily, or simply through an uncountable number of ways in which Mary dispensed her graces, the seed took root in Christie. I would like to publicly and in writing say to our Holy Queen: “Thank you.”
In April 2002, we traveled to Maine to meet and see my family. My wife attended her second Mass that trip and that is when she was baptized and received her first Holy Communion. Three days afterwards, we received the sacrament of Matrimony. Later, when we returned to Utah, Christie’s mother fell ill. She was in intensive care for three weeks. Hearing of Christie’s conversion, she requested that we have one of those Catholic Masses said for her. That evening she fell into a coma. She was conditionally baptized and passed away wearing the brown scapular.
My wife and I are the recipients of God’s abounding generosity. We are the proud parents of six strapping young lads: Tavin James, Sean Patrick, Tristan Matthew, Brendan Timothy, Joseph Shay, Killian Vincent and another one on the way. I am blessed and proud to say we all recite the rosary together daily as a family and, of course, we all wear Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s brown scapular.
This is the brief story of my wife’s conversion to the one true Faith.
Email Rick McCann at firstname.lastname@example.org