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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

'Live Free or Die!': A New Hampshire Meditation

By Brother André Marie, M.I.C.M.

A displaced Dixie-dweller living in the frozen wilds of New England, I was, until recently, quite unaware of the history of my adopted state’s motto. New Hampshire’s license plate sports the catchy slogan, “Live Free or Die.” The phrase was the personal proverb of New Hampshire’s hero of the War for Independence, General John Stark.

Could there be a Catholic angle to this motto? Perhaps, but let’s first explore it at face value.

There are Granite Staters today, Catholics and non, who say that “Live Free or Die” is more than a motto, and they cite the fact that the stark sentiment behind Stark’s words are still enshrined in Article 10 of New Hampshire’s State Constitution:

Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

The possibilities of open revolution or secession put aside for the moment — these options appear fairly limited, to say the least — the average law-abiding, concerned citizen in rural New England has another option to secure his “benefit, protection, and security” this March: Town Meeting.

New England town meetings generally take place during Lent, which seems particularly apt for some reason. Catholics of the Granite State can use this penitential occasion in a penitential season to recall, in keeping with our State’s motto, our obligation to free ourselves from the bondage of sin. Sin is a sort of slavery, as Saint Paul assures us, and we can revolt against that slavery by giving a supernatural meaning to General Stark’s motto.

A seven-year-old Saint Dominic Savio did it quite well in Italian: La morte ma non peccati, which is usually translated, “Death Rather Than Sin!”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

From Gate of Heaven

By Catherine Goddard Clarke

[ Gate of Heaven Note: These words were written in 1951]

It gives me happiness to write, for those who have wanted to know, of what has become of us since October 28, 1949, the date at which our story ends in The Loyolas and the Cabots. I am happy to tell you this further story, even though briefly, because it is a recounting of the bounty and the protection of us by the Blessed Mother of God.

We who took part in the so-called Boston Heresy Case are, thanks to Our Lady, still together and intact. “Heresy,” by the way, was an accusation made by us, not of us. Our accusation was substantiated by Father William Kelleher’s reply in the newspapers to the charge of the four professors.

We have lost of our number only six. Two dropped out, and four were dismissed, because, though we are not strict without reason, we do have our rules and decorum, which must be lived up to.

At this point a reader may ask, “But are you a religious group?” The answer to that question reveals our secret. Yes, we are a religious community. We are indeed a religious order – perhaps more technically a religious congregation. Each of us has, by vow, dedicated his life to the preservation of the truths of his Holy Faith under the title of Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

We took our vows and became Slaves of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart on the first of January, 1949, three months before we were disciplined by our Archbishop for continuing to profess the defined doctrines of the Church on salvation. It was while Father Feeney was in correspondence with Father Vincent A. McCormick, S.J., the American Assistant to the General of the Jesuits, and while Father was pleading for a doctrinal hearing before his superiors. It was while three of the professors were under severe pressure by Boston College to give up both the Church’s doctrine on salvation and their support of Father Feeney in upholding it.

We were beginning to realize the character of the battle before us, not only for the preservation of the sacred dogmas of our Church, but actually for their restoration. It was to prepare ourselves by prayer and discipline, and to secure graces enough to enable us to face such a battle, that we became a religious order.

It will be asked of us, “Who are you that you should take responsibility for the Church’s doctrine?” Our answer to that, I hope I have brought out in this book. The answer is, as I wrote in the second chapter, that the sacred doctrine of our Holy Church is the responsibility of each Catholic, be he powerful or lowly, learned or unlearned, clergy or laity, rich or poor. Each of us is the Catholic Church. God’s Truth belongs to each of us, and we are each responsible for it.

We live a community life, as Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, with hours of prayer, hours of study, and hours of work. Father Feeney and the young men who someday hope to be ordained priests live in one of the houses known to us as Sacred Heart Hall. Our girls, who have dedicated their lives in singleness to Our Lord and Our Lady, live in a house which we call, among ourselves, Immaculate Heart Hall. Our families live in houses just below Sacred Heart Hall.

We are, during this interval, under fire, waiting for the time when we can present our order to the Holy See, as all other orders must eventually be presented. We know that many of the orders in the Church whose work was most lasting and fruitful began under circumstances similar to ours. We know that many men and women who were later placed upon the rolls of the saints were at some time in their lives under the ban of interdict, and even excommunication. St. Joan of Arc died excommunicated; St. Ignatius of Constantinople died under threat of excommunication. [Editor’s Note: Blessed Mary McKillop (soon to be canonized Australia’s first saint) was also excommunicated by her bishop.] We are not saints – though we pray we may be – and we are not excommunicated. We have offered our lives to God, and have consented to die, if need be, for our Holy Faith, in the saddest way (to our minds) that it is possible to die – under the ban even of excommunication.

We are waiting then, to present our order to the Holy See, to secure the blessing of our Holy Father, and to ask the Holy Father to foundation us as a permanent and abiding battalion in the army of our Holy Faith.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Public Service Message: Town Meeting, Town Elections - Vote Your Conscience

March 9, 2010 is election day in Richmond. Residents must be registered in order to vote. You can find a number of resources on the Internet, via Google, which will tell you how to register to vote in Richmond.

Remember that candidates night is March 4. (You can do a Google search to find out who the candidates are.)

Here is some additional information from the Town's official Web site:

Poll Location
Veterans Hall
150 Old Homestead Highway

March 9th 2010
11:00 AM to 7:00 PM

Town Meeting to follow at 7:30 PM

Regarding their civic duties, Catholics are reminded of the following:
  1. We ought to pray for the welfare of our Town, its residents, and its government.
  2. We should vote according to an informed conscience. The Popes have taught us that, where a society is governed according to free elections, Christians are to discharge their duties as citizens for the greater good of society.
  3. Small town politics can become very animated. No matter what, the Gospel imperative to love one's enemies must always be observed.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


By Sister Marie Thérèse

Dear Friends,

As you can see from the picture, we are delighted to have our new wood stove at our convent. Besides the stove being donated, the beautiful hearth was built with some of the funds that you provided by your generous donations to the convent. A large portion of the wood was gathered by our brothers from the trees that had been damaged in the ice storm of last year. The rest of the wood for our winter supply was donated by a generous family; so it is not costing us anything to run our wood stove. Finally, we have met the challenge of being able to heat our entire convent with the wood stove and the aid by a few fans. So our furnace room has cooled off and we are now saving many hundreds of dollars per month in heating bills. Deo gratias!

The wood stove has benefits beyond just heating our convent. As one of the brothers said after he finished stacking our woodpile, “You’ll have many meditations with your new wood stove.” He was right. You’ll have to excuse me, Dear Reader, for sharing my Christmas meditations with you during this post-Christmas time, but I promise to lead you into Lent and Passiontide with them. The following is a poem in which I found an eloquent exposition of all the aspects of a hot fire, and it is what I have been using for my meditations in preparation for Christmas and for the twelve days of the feast. It was written by an English martyr, Saint Robert Southwell, S.J. (1560-1595).

The Burning Babe

As I in hoary winter’s night

Stood shivering in the snow,

Surprised I was with sudden heat,

Which made my heart to glow;

And lifting up a fearful eye

To view what fire was near,

A pretty babe, all burning bright,

Did in the air appear;

Who, scorched with excessive heat,

Such floods of tears did shed,

As though His floods should quench His flames

Which with His tears were bred:

“Alas!” quoth He, “but newly born,

In fiery heats I fry,

Yet none approach to warm their hearts

Or feel My fire, but I!

My faultless breast the furnace is,

The fuel wounding thorns;

Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke,

The ashes shame and scorn;

The fuel Justice layeth on,

And Mercy blows the coals,

The metal in this furnace wrought

Are men’s defiled souls,

For which, as now on fire I am,

To work them to their good,

So will I melt into a bath

To wash them in My blood!”

With this He vanished out of sight,

And swiftly shrank away;

And straight I called unto mind

That it was Christmas-day.

Because the wood stove needs frequent attention, I find myself drawn to it in my thoughts and then in my steps. It needs to be checked and fueled, and perhaps the heat generated is so great that it needs help to be dissipated throughout the house. I can’t help but think that there are two fire boxes in our house, not counting the obsolete oil furnace. One warms our bodies and the other warms our hearts. Of course, that “other” fire box is the tabernacle. So I have told the sisters that if they get up in the night they should put another piece or two of wood on the fire and also make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.

It is unlikely, Dear Reader, that you have a tabernacle and a wood stove in your home, but the burning fire box that you should have can be found right in your own heart. Yes, it needs attention and fuel. Many of the saints felt that fire physically in their breasts. Saint Philip Neri, for example, would wear his cassock unbuttoned at the top to try to cool himself, and once, overcome by the excessive heat, he jumped into an icy pond which immediately began to boil.

Lent is coming, if it isn’t already here when you read this. This is an excellent time to clean out the furnace in your heart and, with Our Lady’s help, light a fire using the flames in Her own Immaculate Heart and fed by the acts of love and sacrifices you will make during Lent. As Our Lord said, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?” A blessed Lent to you, Dear Reader. Thank you for helping to make these special meditations possible by your generous donations.

Email Sister Marie Thérèse at

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Saint André of Mount Royal, a Timely Canonization

By Brother André Marie, M.I.C.M.

Around here, the news of December 19 was received with great joy. I refer to the publication of the decree, approved by His Holiness, Benedict XVI, clearing the way for the canonization of Blessed Brother André. Because this news is so recent, and because his feast day is coming up this week (January 6, which is also the Epiphany), I would like to invite our readers to share our happiness and consider with us the virtues of this little man.

That this popular Canadian Beatus happens to be my own patron has something to do with our joy, but this is only part of it. Given our longing for the conversion of America, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary are always happy to invoke another American (albeit not a “Unitedstatesian”) as a saint. But beyond these personal and “religio-patriotic” reasons for rejoicing, there is also a certain timeliness to the canonization. In honor of the eight-day observance of the Epiphany, I will offer a perfect octave of reasons for this claim.

1. Miracles. Like Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, Frère André is a modern miracle worker, who shows a cynical, and empiricist age that the true religion still manifests itself by the wondrous divine interventions we call miracles. Not that any wonder-working saint’s essential sanctity consists in the miraculous, but to read the life of “Saint Joseph’s little dog” (as he styled himself) is to read a litany of miraculous deeds. As Moses showed that the God of Israel was the living God, Frère André showed that the God of the Catholics, and the religion of the Catholics, are uniquely true. And he did this with meekness, humility, and a great joy that lent a certain seal of authenticity to his prodigies.

2. Love of the Cross. We live in an effeminate age. By this, I do not refer principally to the moral degeneracy of homosexuality and the turpitude of those who, while not practicing it, sanction this vice. No, I refer to the general softness and hedonism of the age; that is, to the implicit but nonetheless real conviction in our decrepit culture that pleasure is the only real good and pain is the only real evil. Human suffering makes sense and becomes profitable only in the light of grace and under the shadow of the Cross. Frère André belonged to a religious institute dedicated to the saving Rood: the Congregation of the Holy Cross, founded by Blessed Basile Antoine Marie Moreau, whose own life was marked by superhuman sufferings borne with heroic patience. While it is generally known that Saint Joseph is the patron of this Congregation, relatively few are aware that their principal devotion is to the Passion of Our Lord. Their motto: Crux Spes Unica (the Cross, our only hope), indicates this. Our holy man exemplified the “crucified” spirituality of his great religious family: lifelong physical infirmities, inability to eat anything but a type of mush made from flower, frequent stomach infirmities, deprivation of sleep, scandalous false accusations, persecution from his own religious superior. These are just a few of the crosses he carried with admirable courage and forgetfulness of self.

3. French Canada needs him. An Anglophone American speaking of French Canada’s sad spiritual condition may not be well received in those parts, but it is nonetheless true that after the 1960’s “Quiet Revolution” (Révolution tranquille), Quebec and its environs jettisoned their former Catholicity with a precipitous recklessness. Nobody knows this sad truth better than faithful Catholics from these regions. The sainting of a very public figure — whose miracles were, after all, performed among the grandparents of our contemporaries — might kindle the still glowing embers of French Canada’s Faith to a brighter flame. (For more on French Canada’s former Catholicity, I recommend Gary Potter’s Québec and French America: What Might Have Been.)

4. Love of the Gospel. Brother André died in the year 1937, long before Dei Verbum supposedly revived Catholic devotion to Holy Scripture. Yet, he memorized the Sermon on the Mount (every Holy Cross novice had to), and, later, the account of the Passion recorded in each of the four Gospels. These were no mere memory exercises; he meditated on the Scriptures. Now, while it is a terrible injustice to say that the Church in those days did not appreciate the Bible, it is also true that spiritual reading for religious in those days was primarily from devotional books that offered a highly mechanized approach to the spiritual life. The ancient and medieval forms of religious life, on the other hand, laid great emphasis on reading the Holy Scripture, especially in the form of lectio divina. Our saint soon-to-be belonged to a teaching congregation founded in the nineteenth century, but showing a clear continuity with traditional spirituality, as can be seen in his going to the primary sources of the spiritual life: the Gospels. (Our own Founder, Father Leonard Feeney, had a great predilection for the Holy Gospels as the first and last word in spiritual reading, teaching his disciples to love and cherish them and all the Scriptures.)

5. He was “just a lay brother.” Many practicing Catholics just don’t get religious life. And for them, the most useless appendage in the anatomy of religion is the lay brother. (Many years ago, a lay brother penned a humorous article called, “So, You’re a Brother, Father?” seeking to explain to the perplexed just what men like us are.) The idea of living the counsels of evangelical perfection by vow, without the admittedly “useful” addition of Holy Orders, seems to some the waste of a life. The priesthood and the religious life are radically distinct vocations, even though they can coexist in the same man. Saint Benedict was not a priest. Neither were the vast majority of his early disciples, nor the desert fathers, nor the Irish monks, nor the male religious of Saint Francis (who himself was in Holy Orders, but went no further than the diaconate, having been compelled to do so). To canonize a man popularly known as “Frère” or “Brother” will add a much needed luster to our vocation.

6. Defender of the Social Order. The humble little porter opposed the various anti-Christian -isms that made the twentieth century the most sanguinary in man’s history. Good Catholic common sense made him despise communism, which seriously menaced Canada in his day. He made his feelings known in the most innocent of ways. When his arm suffered from paralysis, he told friends, “My arm is acting like a communist.” On his deathbed, he prayed for Catholic Spain, then in the convulsions of war, as General Franco strove to defeat both communists and anarchists. Let us not forget that in French America, just as in Mediterranean Europe and Latin America, liberalism, socialism, and Freemasonry show themselves in much more explicitly anti-Catholic dress than in the Anglo world. “The old fool on the mountain” (as they called him), with his miracles and his calls to conversion and prayer, was a standing rebuke to their snide ideologies. While the little porter does not rank among the well known defenders of the social reign of Our Lord, his whole long life was a very public affirmation of the primacy of God’s rights. Christ the King is most honored by such little ones.

7. Strongly Roman, Papal. When he was on his deathbed, Frère André was encouraged to ask St. Joseph to spare him because he was “needed.” To this, he responded, “There is one who is far more necessary than Brother André in this world: that is the Pope. If the Holy Father passed away, it would be a disaster; he still has much to accomplish.” Brother André did not survive this illness, but Pope Pius XI, who lay sick and dying at the same time, recovered. It is known that the porter prayed for Pius, and we may believe the Pope’s two more years of life were an answer to those prayers. That such a simple, provincial, supremely not cosmopolitan man should concern himself with the well being of the ailing Italian — Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, who lived 4,000 miles away in Rome — is an eloquent testimony to the universality of the Church, and the doctrine that the Roman Pontiff “is father and teacher of all Christians,” possessing “full power to rule, feed, and govern the universal Church” (Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, III). In these days, when a neo-conciliarist notion of collegiality has well established itself in theological circles, trickling down to the masses as frank disregard for the Supreme Pontiff, such an edifying example of intense devotion to the Holy Father is much needed. Included, by the way, among the deeds accomplished by Pius XI in the time “purchased” for him by Frère André were some that seem especially apt. For one, on March 19, 1937 — the Feast of Saint Joseph — Pius published Divini Redemptoris, an encyclical letter condemning Communism. As if in gratitude for his own recovery and with great confidence in Mary’s spouse, towards the end of the encyclical Pius wrote, “We place the vast campaign of the Church against world Communism under the standard of Saint Joseph, her mighty Protector.”

8. Devotion to the Holy Family. Brother André’s Congregation was part of a larger religious family founded by Canon Moreau, consisting of three parts, each one of which corresponded to a member of the Holy Family. The Holy Cross Fathers, whose members were conformed to Christ’s priesthood by virtue of Holy Orders, corresponded to the Holy Infant. Mary was represented by the sisters, called the Marianites of Holy Cross. The Holy Cross Brothers stood in the place of St. Joseph in this family. They were, in fact, originally a congregation of lay brothers founded by Father Jacques François Dujarie and called “The Brothers of St. Joseph.” Father Dujarie entrusted his foundation to Canon Moreau, who merged them into his already existing religious family. All the members of all these three congregations were imbued with devotion to the Holy Family. In these days when family life is so terribly assailed on so many fronts, devotion to the mystery and the persons of the Holy Family is of great value. And the fact that Brother André acquired his solid piety in childhood is an incentive to Catholic parents to imitate the Bessette’s own “holy family.”

As a closing point, I note out that people have been using the comments boxes in our online article on Brother André for posting their prayer intentions. Please feel free to post your own intentions there, too. You may also report there any favors you have received through the prayers of our American saint.