Sunday, May 31, 2009


The icon above comes from the Stavronikita Monastery on Mt. Athos. Look at it carefully. The Apostles are gathered in a horseshoe formation - the traditional plan of an assembly of equals. In the centre an old king emerges from a doorway bearing a scroll while from above heaven is open and the Spirit descends on them as tongues of fire. Just a typical image of Pentecost right?

Yet there is no Mother of God and only the Apostles are present, indeed Paul replaces one of the Twelve, Matthias! What is going on here? In this icon the Church is teaching us that Pentecost is not a day but an event. The Church is Pentecost.

As Fr. Barron explains in one of the videos on the sidebar only Christianity proclaims that "God is love". Other religions may say God loves but we say God is love. God is love implies that in God there is a Lover, a Beloved and Love between them. The Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved, and the Love of the Father for the Son is the Holy Spirit. This love was revealed by the Son on the cross. He needed no nails to hold Him on the cross. He willingly embraced the cross to give us as concrete an image of the Father's self-giving love for the Son and the Son's loving obedience as was possible and to make it possible not only to know of but experience that love here and in the world to come.

When we were baptised and confirmed we were immersed into the Son so that the Father loves each and every one of us, individually, as He loves the Son. The love He loves us with is the Holy Spirit. This is not one event but an eternal self-gift of the Father to the Son into Whom we have been incorporated.

So in the icon above we are reminded that the Church is a body, the body of Christ and it therefore has an organic nature, an order instituted by Christ, a sacred order or hierarchy. The Spirit is given to the Church through that sacred order. That is why the Gospels tell us of different 'givings' of the Spirit. Christ breathes on the Apostles and yet the Spirit descends on the Church assembled in the upper room and again on the gentiles. The Holy Spirit is eternally processing from the Father and returns to the Father through the Son. So the Spirit is always being poured out on the Church. It is He who conveys to us all and every gift of the Father. As it says in the Creed hE is the Lord and Giver of Life. Love is the Lord and the Giver of Life. The universe is no accident nor are we. Love is our origin and our destiny and, although fallen, the creation is recreated by the Father through His Son in the Holy Spirit and we are bathed in their Uncreated Light. Pentecost is about this New Creation, the Kingdom made manifest that is the Church.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


With our sixth year students graduating I have not had much time or energy to blog. I am still busy but I'm taking a few moments to comment on the darkness revealed by the Inquiry into Child Abuse.

There is anger, hurt, embarassment, confusion, a sense of betrayal, a desire to deny, some 'blame-gaming' and a lot of pain around this. First two points I'd make is that the media are not a balanced or trustworthy source of information. They are too pressurized and eager for news to analyse or question their sources. Secondly is that those who can should read the report here. I doubt many will read all 3,000 pages.

A teacher in the school where I work asked "What kind of society allowed this to happen?". What kind of Church? In the 1850's, not long after the famine, there were 77,000 children in the Irish workhouses and unknown numbers living rough and running wild. The British Government eager to deal with the problem established the Reformatory and Industrial school systems through Britain and Ireland. In Ireland the Catholic Church was in the process of rebuilding itself after the Penal era and wanted to keep the Irish Catholic. The Government wanted to keep the costs low and the Religious Orders wanted to be involved, to make a difference. It worked but at what price?

The myth out there is of 'Clerical child abuse' and the 'paedophile priest'. I want to make it clear that I find it appalling that anyone, especially a priest or religious, should do such things to a child, one of the most vulnerable of people. This was not about sex, it was about power and abusing that power at the expense of the weakest. Yet when one reads the report, at least for the girls, the single biggest abusers of children were laymen, the fathers and sons of homes to which the girls were sent either to work or on holiday. Lay people were involved in abuse in other ways - often through working in the homes and were often as vicious as any others.

People claim ignorance, that they did not know. Some knew - Bishops, priests, religious sisters and brothers, police, doctors, nurses, care-workers etc. They knew and said nothing.

If you haven't seen the film Downfall you should. It's very good. It tells the story of Hitler's last days from the point of view of Traudl Junge his personal secretary. At the end of the film she speaks about her own involvement and her shock when she learned about the fate of the Jews. She talks about how she long denied she had any responsibility for what happened. Then one day she passed the plaque commemorating Sophie Scholl who, along with her brother and a friend, were executed for opposing the Nazi regime. She realised that Sophie had been the same age and that she could have found out but she chose not to. People in Ireland did not know because they did not ask. They did not ask because they did not want to know.

Irish society and the Irish Church forgot its ideals, became complacent, lacked not just the proper skills but the basic, genuine charity and compassion and failed to listen and to act. Indeed it penalised those who chose to do the right thing. It, we, were guilty of cowardice.

So we are all in need of God's mercy. We are, as Catholic Christians, part of the Body of Christ against whom these crimes have ultimately been committed. If one part sins all are affected. If one part is in pain and is hurting the rest cannot go on as normal. If one tries to isolate oneself from this and say "I am innocent, I was not involved" then one effectively cuts oneself off from the Body and from the Church.

People may object that it was a different time, a time when blind obedience was emphasized. Forgive me but that excuse was not accepted at Nuremberg so why should we accept it now? Sophie Scholl made it her business to find out. Sophie Scholl made it her business to speak out despite the Gestapo and informers. Where was Ireland's Sophie?

This Saturday the Gospel of the day invites us to hear Jesus' words "Whatever you ask of the Father in my Name He will give it to you." I say that we need to ask for the Holy Spirit and He bring with Him the gift of forgiveness. I say that we need to beg God for mercy and the grace of repentance and conversion of heart. I say we need the grace of taking the Gospel seriously and of making it the true measure in our lives not the mores of our society. I say we need to ask the Father for the courage to oppose evil and speak out.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


"If you speak of God, speak with love. If you speak of yourself, speak with love. Take care that there is nothing in you but love, love, love."-St. Bernadine of Siena

Born in 1380 in a town near Siena, Italy, Bernardine was the son of an Italian governor. His parents died when he was seven. His relatives loved him as if he were their own and gave him a good education. Tall and handsome, he was a boy who was so much fun that his friends loved to be with him (teachers just love such students). Yet they knew better than to use any foul language when he was around. He would not put up with it. Twice when a man tried to lead him into sin, Bernardine punched him and sent him on his way.

Bernardine had a special love for the Blessed Virgin. She was the one who kept him pure. Even when he was a teenager, Bernardine would pray to her as a child talks with his mother. Bernardine was tender hearted and felt great pity for the poor. Once, his aunt had no extra food to give a beggar. The boy cried, "I'd rather go without food myself than leave that poor man with none." When a plague struck the area in 1400, Bernardine and his friends volunteered their services at the hospital. For six weeks they helped the sick and dying day and night until the plague had ended.

1402 Bernardine joined the Franciscan order. He was twenty-two. Evenutally he was ordained a priest. After several years, he was assigned to go to towns and cities to preach and reminded people about the love of Jesus. Urban life was not easy and vice, corruption and bad habits were ruining both young and old.

"How can I save these people by myself?" Bernardine asked the Lord in prayer. "With what weapons can I fight the devil?" And God answered, "My Holy Name will be enough for you." So Bernardine spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. He used this Name a great many times in every sermon. He asked people to print Jesus' Name over the gates of their cities and over their doorways-everywhere. Through devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus and devotion to the Blessed Mother, Bernardine brought thousands of people from all over Italy back to the Church. St. Bernardine spent forty-two years of his life as a Franciscan. He died at the age of sixty-four in Aquila, Italy on was May 20, 1444. He was declared a saint just six years later, in 1450, by Pope Nicholas V.

To this day the name of Jesus or 'IHS', the symbol of that name, abounds in Italy. Considering how often that name is taken and used without thought, without awareness of its significance, perhaps it is time to re-devote ourselves to the Holy Name before which every knee must bend. There could be no finer tribute to Bernardine than to follow in his footsteps.


Our sixth year students finished up today! Tomorrow night we have their Graduation service and off they go to enjoy themselves before settling down to study (yeah right).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I came across an article via Insight Scoop from Sandro Magister. It's about the Islamisization of Rotterdam, a symptom of the de-Christianization of Europe. Read it here. It'll make you think.

Further to this question one could do worse than get the other side of the story by reading this article. It seems the video I have below is not the whole story. Even Homer nods and this friar fell off his seat!

Monday, May 18, 2009


One doesn't get to heaven in a carriage!

Let us love God who deserves it!

Crispin was born and baptised Peter Fioretti in 1668, at Viterbo, Italy. His twice-widowed mother dedicated him to the Blessed Virgin, an act he never forgot. Throughout his life he referred to the Mother of God as his "Momma". His paternal uncle, Francis, educated him and trained him as a cobbler.

At twenty-five he asked to join the Capuchins wanting to imitate Felix of Cantalice. Despite family opposition he joined the Order. The Novice Master was also concerned that Peter was too frail and advised that he leave but the Provincial intervened (only Provincials can accept men into the Order even over the objections of formators!). In 1693 Peter was received into the Roman Province and was given the name 'Crispin' after the patron saint of cobblers. After profession he served as cook for three years at Tolfa, then infirmarian at Rome, cook again, orchardkeeper, and lastly, for the next thirty-eight years, questor at Orvieto.

Like his role-model he was a friend to all and somehow managed to integrate his busy workday with a deep interior life. He begged not only for the friars (necessities only) but for all the poor and he would nurse the sick during plagues, visit prisoners, and go to the aid of anyone he thought was in need (foundlings especially). He once arranged for a preacher to hold his sermons under the window of a notoriously sinful woman bringing about her conversion.

Crispin's whole ministry was marked with joy and compassion. His insight and wisdom drew people to seek his counsel. Following Capuchin (and Franciscan) tradition he opposed injustice and upheld the rights of workers and opposed the injustices of the merchants. Among the crosses he had to carry was the opposition of his fellow Capuchins.

In the winter of 1747-48 he fell ill and was sent to Rome. He recovered temporarily but died on May 19th, 1750 at the age of eighty-two and is buried in the same church, the Immaculate Conception, as Felix of Cantalice. He was canonized in 1982.

Crispin's life can teach us that no life is so busy that there can be no room for God or our neighbour - if we think it is then we need to reconsider before its too late; joy rooted in God's love for us should season all we do; practical compassion for those in need is a prayer too (perhaps the best).

FELIX OF CANTALICE - "Brother Deo Gratias"

Can you believe it I forgot the feast of Felix of Cantalice? I can't find my Ordo and never checked this morning (got up late, in a rush) and so belatedly I pay my respects to this humble hero of the Capuchin reform. Born in 1515 he was the third of five brothers. Raised to be a farm labourer from the age of ten he worked in the fields. He was illiterate and a cousin had to read to him usually from the lives of the Desert Fathers. These stories inspired Felix.

One day an angel appeared to him and told him to go and join the Capuchins (O that the angels would send us a few more Felixs today!). The Capuchins had only just been founded and were still restricted to Italy. Three times he tried and it was 'third time lucky'.

The Guardian (superior) brought him to the church and told him to pray before the crucifix that he be enlightened. That evening, having completely forgotten about Felix, the Guardian returned only to find Felix still praying. Deeply impressed he accepted Felix telling him "Jesus will no longer be alone. You will help Him carry the cross".

So in 1543 the twenty-eight year old farm labourer set off for Rome to present himself to the Provincial Minister. At the Roman friary of St. Nicholas de Portis he was received by the saintly Bernardine d'Asti who introduced him to the Roman Provincial. Having completed his difficult novitiate Felix made vows on May 18, 1545.

His hopes of a secluded life in the woods were not to be. In 1547 he was sent to Rome where he would quest for the rest of his life. He would beg, eyes down cast, and accept every interaction with a humble 'Deo Gratias' - so much so that he became known as "Brother Deo Gratias". He could refuse no request for help and when he could not meet it from his own bag he would go to the rich. Felix also visited the sick in the hospitals and comforted them. He urged them to see their sickness as a gift from God (he was no stranger to sickness himself). His reputation as a healer spread too. He would bless people with the crucifix or give them some of the wine he had begged and they would be healed.

Coming from a poor background he had no airs and graces. He could be quite direct - even with Popes! He foretold that his friend the Franciscan Felice Peretti (whose father was a Slovene and a convert from Serbian Orthodoxy) would be Pope and later upon meeting him gave him a piece of stale black bread. "Excuse me, Holy Father, but you're still a friar" he told the Pope. I'm sure the Holy Father enjoyed that.

Being illiterate Felix had to memorize his prayers and other texts and would mull over them as he walked or prayed in the chapel. He was often lost in prayer spending many hours at night praying for all those who called on him for help. He was not ashamed to seek knowledge from the educated. Behind his rustic manners and speech there was an inquisitive intelligence and he used it, with God's help, to help the ordinary people of Rome. His talent for song appears in the spontaneous hymns he could compose. Felix must have had a beautiful voice for he was often invited to sing.

Everybody knew Felix. Even the children in the streets called him "Papa". He would give special attention to mothers and their babies and of course the sick. He quested until a few days before he died resisting attempts to take the task from him. On April 30, 1547 he became sick and he told his brothers "This little ass has dropped; it will not rise again". He saw the Virgin and the angels just before he died, his face radiant, and greeted the Blessed Sacrament with "O Sacrum Convivium". He died on May 18th, 1587. He was canonized in 1712 the first of the Capuchin saints.

His body is kept in the church of the Immaculate Conception on the Via Veneto, Rome above the more famous Capuchin cemetery or 'Bone yard'. (The Italians maintain it was a mad French friar who decorated the crypt with the bones of the dead) Sadly the church is in need of a complete overhaul and restoration. If you are nice to the sacristan he may bring you round, through the old choir, to see the cell where Felix lived.

What can we learn from Felix? I would suggest that being oneself, one's true self, is no bar to being holy; that love of one's neighbour is the best method of evangelisation; that prayer is the heart of life.


Also over at Divine Ripples there is this video clip, a commercial that promotes the faith. It's good to remind ourselves amidst the propaganda that while there are those who have seriously disgraced our Church there are many, many who quietly and courageously give witness and do immense good in the name of Christ and His Church. In addition there are our brothers and sisters of the Orthodox Churches and those of the Protestant ecclesial communities who give a like witness. Together that witness could be so much more vivid and effective. Pray that we will all be one!


I found this over at Divine Ripples and it really is a wake-up call. Coupled with what I have read and watched about Islam I believe we need to face up to our reality. The Western 'post-Christian' world is contracepting and aborting its future away. Our societies are committing slow suicide and with the death of the West the ideal of a free, rational, scientific world will die too. That ideal is built on the marriage of a Judaeo-Christian worldview with that of the rational-scientific Romano-Hellenistic (Greek) one. The future of the human race depends on Europe and the secularists and materialists are leading us down the path to perdition - the blind leading the blind!
This is not the fault of Islam. It is our fault. It is up to us to share our faith and not take it for granted.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Fr. Tim Finegan over at the Hermeneutic of Continuity found this video from "New Moment New Ideas Company" which they made for the Government of the Republic of Macedonia's Ministry of Education and Science. It's to promote religious education in schools. As I work as a chaplain in a school I agree that religion should be taught unfortunately one immediately gets into the problem of which religion? What we have in Ireland is a system whereby religion is compulsory unless one has a genuine reason for not doing it (e.g. different faith or none at all) but only examined at the Junior Cert level (at about age 15). The status of religion in senior cycle is a problem too. Since it generally isn't taken as an exam subject it lacks any real status among staff and students alike. It's easy to dismiss it as a waste of time when one does not have to answer questions on it. Making it an exam subject means one has to decide what gets examined and how and if everyone has to do it (which would add to the pressure of the Leaving Cert).
What of course gets left out in all these considerations is that religious education alone gets students to ask the deeper questions and to begin their search for the truth, to understand that there's far more to the world than can be measured by experiment and that there is order, meaning and purpose to the cosmos.
Hopefully they realise that not only is there a God but that He sent His Son to save us.


Courtesy of At Home in My Father's House and Hermeneutic of Continuity I have this video of 80 year old Fr. Norman Weslin of Omaha, NE, former army colonel and founder of the Lambs of Christ, being arrested outside Notre Dame University after he and his group attempted to protest the University's honouring of President Obama. I am appalled that anyone should treat an elderly brother-priest like this despite the gentleness of the police. They were praying and singing in defence of Catholic teaching outside a Catholic University and the police arrested them. Who ordered the police to do this? Who pressured the police to arrest an old priest? How can a university retain its Catholic credentials after tolerating this, let alone after inviting the most pro-abortion President the United States has ever seen?

Shame on the police for doing this.

Shame on those who ordered them to do this.

Shame on this University's President Fr. Jenkins for allowing this.

Shame on Fr. Jenkins and his supporters for inviting President Obama.

When one defends the indefensible one quickly ends up defending the abominable.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


The image above is of the modern statue in Lismore, Co. Waterford, Ireland and carved from a ligthning-blasted tree. The article below is from here.
St. Carthage, whose name is also given as Mochuda, was born of a good family, in what is now County Kerry, Ireland, about the year 555. He spent his youth as a swineherd near Castlemaine, and became a monk in a neighbouring monastery under the guidance of St. Carthage the Elder, subsequently receiving priest's orders. In 580 he determined to lead a hermit's life, and he built a cell at Kiltallagh, where his fame soon attracted pilgrims. After a few years the jealousy of two neighbouring bishops forced him to quit his hermitage, and he proceeded on a visit to Bangor, where he spent a year. On the advice of St. Comgall he returned to Kerry and founded churches at Kilcarragh and Kilfeighney. He then visited Waterford, Clonfert-molua (Kyle), and Lynally, whence, on the recommendation of St. Colman Elo, he settled at Rahan, near Tullamore, in the present King's County.

St. Carthage founded his monastery of Rahan about 590, and soon had hundred of disciples. He was consecrated Abbot-Bishop of the Fercal district, and composed a rule for his monks, an Irish metrical poem of 580 lines, divided into nine separate sections -- one of the most interesting literary relics of the early Irish Church. Numerous miracles are also recorded to him. At length, Blathmaic, a Meathian prince, instigated by the neighbouring monks, ordered St. Carthage to leave Rahan. This expulsion of the saint and eight hundred of his community took place at Eastertide of the year 635. Journeying by Saigher, Roscrea, Cashel, and Ardfinnan, St. Carthage at length came to the banks of the River Blackwater, where he was given a foundation by the Prince of the Decies, and thus sprang up the episcopal city of Lios-mor, or Lismore, County Waterford.

Great as was the fame of Rahan, it was completely eclipsed by that of Lisemore, although St. Carthage lived less than two years at his new foundation. He spent the last eighteen months of his life in contemplation and prayer, in a cave near the present St. Carthage's Well. When at the point of death, he summoned his monks and gave them his farewell exhortation and blessing. Fortified by the Body of Christ he died on the 14th of May, 637, on which day his feast is celebrated as first Bishop and Patron of Lismore. Short as was St. Carthage's stay in Lismore, he left an ineffaceable impress of his labours in a famous abbey, cathedral, and infant university, but more so in the shining example of an austere and blameless life. Purity was his transcendent virtue, and to guard it he practised the severest penances. On this account St. Cuimin of Connor thus writes of him in an Irish quatrain:

The beloved Mochuda of mortification,
Admirable every page of his history.
Before his time there was no one who shed
Half so many tears as he shed.

Usher had two manuscript copies of the Irish life of St. Carthage; and in 1634 Philip O'Sullivan Beare sent a Latin translation to Father John Bollandus, S.J. The "Vita Secunda" is the one usually quoted. In 1891 the present writer discovered the site of the Relig Mochuda in which St. Carthage was buried.

His feast is celebrated on May 15th.


The image above showing a head inside a glass case is of a reconstruction of the face of St. Margaret made from her skull. She certainly seems to have merited her reputation as a great beauty. Her mummified body is on display in the beautiful basilica which was originally built just after the death of Margaret.

Margaret was born at Laviano in Tuscany in 1247; died at Cortona, 22 February, 1297. her mother died when Margaret was seven and her father remarried when she was nine. She did not get on with her step-mother. At seventeen she fell in love and eloped with her young knight. They lived together for nine years and had one son. He promised to marry her but never did. She never lost her compassion for the poor and sick and dreamed of living a virtuous life. She prophesied her neighbours that she would die a saint.

Her lover was murdered while on a trip and her world fell apart. Returning all her jewels she headed for her father's home but received no welcome from his wife. She prayed desperately and was led to go to Cortona to seek the help of the Franciscan friars.

At Cortona two women noticed her and took her home. They soon introduced her to the friars and she began her period of probation as a Franciscan tertiary. For three years Margaret had to struggle hard with temptations. She was torn between the call of the world and the call of God but more and more she listened to her heart and the Lord's summons. She fasted and engaged in some extreme penances but the friars kept her balanced.

After three years of probation Margaret was admitted to the Third Order of St. Francis, and from this time she lived in strict poverty. Following the example of St. Francis, she went and begged her bread. But while she lived on alms, she gave her services freely to others; especially to the sick-poor whom she nursed.

Around this time that the revelations began. It was in the year 1277, as she was praying in the church of the Franciscan Friars, that she seemed to hear these words: "What is thy wish, poverella?" and she replied: "I neither seek nor wish for aught but Thee, my Lord Jesus." From this time forth she lived in intimate communing with Christ. At first He always addressed her as "poverella", ('little poor one') and only after a time of probation and purification did He call her "My child".

Even though Margaret led a more and more reclusive life she was yet active in the service of others. She prevailed upon the city of Cortona to found a hospital for the sick-poor, and to supply nurses for the hospital and she instituted a congregation of Tertiary Sisters, known as le poverelle. She also established a confraternity of Our Lady of Mercy; the members of which bound themselves to support the hospital, and to help the needy wherever found, and particularly the respectable poor. Moreover on several occasions Margaret intervened in public affairs for the seek of putting an end to civic feuds. Twice in obedience to a Divine command, she upbraided Guglielmo Ubertini Pazzi, Bishop of Arezzo, in which diocese Cortona was situated, because he lived more like a secular prince and soldier, than like a pastor of souls. He was killed in battle at Bibbiena in 1289.

In 1288 Margaret moved her home to near the ruined church of St. Basil above the city for the sake of greater quiet. It was here that she spent her last years, and in this church she was buried. Margaret was canonized on 16 May, 1728. (based on the article in the on-line Catholic encyclopedia). Her son became a Franciscan friar.

From Margaret we can learn that no one is beyond hope or God's mercy. Nothing we can do can make God love us more nor can anything we do make Him love us less. Yet He loves us too much to leave us as we are. Gently, ever so gently He invites us to follw in the footsteps of His Son and learn from Him. Wit great tenderness and care He seeks only our good and our thriving. Margaret had the courage to turn to Him. So can we.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Leopold (Bogdan John) Mandich was the youngest child of twelve, born in 1866, in Herceg Novi (Castelnuovo), on the Adriatic coast of Dalmatia. At the time it was a multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-faith area. Both sides of his family were of noble origin and though once wealthy they lost their fortune. It was a bad experience at confession that inspired him to be a priest who would bring mercy to sinners. In 1882 he entered the seminary run by the Capuchins at Udine and in 1884 he entered the Novitiate. He made final vows in 1888 at Padua, Italy. He was ordained in 1890.

All this was despite his poor health. He was less than five foot tall, stooped, with a pallid complexion, poor eyesight, weak stomach and arthritis. His poor health meant he was not allowed to return to work in his homeland but instead was tasked with hearing confessions. he longed to work for the reconciliation of the Orthodox with the Catholics and recognizing that the way to unity was through love he dedicated his ministry in the confessional, indeed his whole life, to that end. For thrityfour years he heard confessions often for many hours at a stretch.

Community living is not easy and Leopold suffered misunderstanding, jealousy and prejudice. In the community as in the confessional Leopold strove to conquer himself for Christ or rather to let Christ conquer him and to greet each person with love, treat them with dignity and respect and share with them the compassion of the Lord.

He said:
"Some say that I am too good. But if you come and kneel before me, isn't this a sufficient proof that you want to have God's pardon? God's mercy is beyond all expectation"

He also said
"If the Lord wants to accuse me of showing too much leniency toward sinners, I'll tell him that it was He who gave me this example, and I haven't even died for the salvation of souls as He did".

Leopold would often tell penitents "Be at peace; place everything on my shoulders. I will take care of it." As he explained "I give my penitents only small penances because I do the rest myself." His room was tiny 6'7" by 4'3", an icebox in winter and an oven in summer.

He encouraged the formation of orphanages and other charitable works and promoted devotion to the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin, his "Parona benedeta" or 'my holy boss'. He visited the sick frequently, in and around Padua and in the friary. Leopold believed the only death worthy of a priest was death from apostolic work! Cancer killed him in 1942. He died as the friars were singing the last verse of the Salve Regina "O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!" He had been a Capuchin for sixty years, fifty-two as a priest. He foretold the bombing of the friary and the survival of his cell. He was canonized in 1983.

I have visited and stayed in the friary in Padua. I prayed in the chapel where he would pray and venerated his relics. The friars have built a little museum where one can see the tributes to Leopold from all over the world but what stands out in my mind are the lines of people waiting for confession. Leopold's ministry continues in Padua.


Bornin 1701, the second of nine children, Ignatius was originally baptised Francis Ignatius Vincent Peis and he came from the town of Laconi, Sardinia. The family were poor farmers and Ignatius was promised from before birth to St. Francis in return for a safe delivery. Ignatius received the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist when only six and referred to the Church as 'my home'. People called him the 'little saint'. Despite his vow Ignatius' father would not let him become a friar. Eventually Ignatius revealed to his parent's his own vow to become a Capuchin and they relented.
In 1721 Ignatius attempted to join the Order at Cagliari but was refused on the grounds of his frail health. The family had recourse to their protector the Marquis of Laconi who convinced the Provincial give the lad a go. In 1722 Ignatius made his vows. he had a number of jobs and worked as a cook for a while. For the last forty years of his life he would quest for the friary of Buoncammino.
He was no scholar but an illiterate peasant with a rough dialect. What he lacked in education he made up for in devotion to Christ and the people recognised his holiness. He would frequently refuse the offerings of the poor by telling them to hold on to the gift until he needed it. His was a ministry of personal example, self-effacing, compassionate, and full of faith. Even though he was blind for the last two years of his life he still ministered. He died in 1781 and was canonised in 1951.
What can we learn from Ignatius? We can learn that it is not learning but humble obedience to the Lord that matters - doing His will. That compassion for others, loving them as we find them that builds the bridges to faith. As Cardinal-Bishop Jacques de Vitry said of the friars in 1216 "one loving heart sets another heart on fire." Ignatius loved hearts into a flame for God. We can do that too.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


"When you have some spare time, go off by yourself and pray."

Jeremiah (John) Kostist was born on June 29, in 1556, at Tzazo in Wallachia, Romania. His family were good Christians and his grandfather would take him to cut wood for the poor, while his mother used excess grain to make bread for them. In his home area there were few Catholics and many Orthodox and Protestant Christians, as well as Muslims. At 18 he left for southern Italy where he met the Capuchins at Bari.
In his early twenties he moved to Naples and after a while he joined the Capuchins there in 1578 where he took the name Jeremiah. From 1579 and for the next forty years he ministered at St Ephrem's friary which had room for 160 friars and was still overcrowded. He often gave up his bed, room and privacy to provide for others. The only privilege he sought was of serving the most critically ill. He spent much of the night in prayer. Indeed, his advice to the friars was "When you have some spare time, go off by yourself and pray."
After walking seven miles in the cold rain on a mission of mercy he caught double pneumonia and died on March 5, 1625. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1983. His feast day is May 8th.

Friday, May 1, 2009


The Fifth Joyful Mystery
Our Father
When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. Hail Mary

After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Hail Mary

When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts. Hail Mary

He was sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Hail Mary

Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. Hail Mary

"Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." Hail Mary

"Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" Hail Mary

But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Hail Mary

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. Hail Mary

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men. Hail Mary

Glory be to the Father...

"Why are you searching for me?" One could be forgiven for thinking that here we are dealing with typical teenager 'lip'. But Christ was God and man. It is His very Being that drives Him to act so. He is the Father's will made manifest, the perfect image and likeness of His Being, the Father's Word, Image and Son. Doing the Father's will is what the Son does. Mary and through her Joseph knew this but in their panic and concern they had forgotten and missed Him. Here He speaks of His mission: to do the Father's will. He comes to enlighten Israel and mankind and He begins in Jerusalem, in the temple (the icon of Him who is the Temple) and amidst those who should recognize Him but do not: the doctors of the Law. Learning is not always wisdom or insight; it is not always the path to God. It is the poor and ignorant (His mother and St. Joseph) who seek Him, find Him and hear the Gospel proclaimed: "I must be about my Father's business". In the icon above (Novgorod, fifteenth century) Christ sits above the learned as He who is Wisdom itself and who teaches those who will listen. He sits as the God-man Emmanuel come to enlighten a world sunk in darkness.
It is fitting that I get to write this today on the feast of St. Joseph the worker. In these days of recession it is his example and his intercession that we need. Notice his silence. He says nothing in scripture but his actions speak volumes. He supports Mary and her Son. He works, he leads by example, he contemplates the mystery of God's saving actions and above all he obeys. He is truly a righteous man.


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