“Dear children! Also today, the Most High is giving me the grace to be with you and to lead you towards conversion. Every day I am sowing and am calling you to conversion, that you may be prayer, peace, love – the grain that by dying will give birth a hundredfold. I do not desire for you, dear children, to have to repent for everything that you could have done but did not want to. Therefore, little children, again, with enthusiasm say: ‘I want to be a sign to others.’ Thank you for having responded to my call.”
Dear Friends, peace & abundant blessings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and His beloved Mother Mary most Holy!!
Tomorrow marks one week since I’ve arrived in Pennsylvania to enter religious life as a
postulant with the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular. Last Saturday was my first day in religious life, and it’s been a fruitful transition. The Order traces its historical roots to penitents of the Middle Ages who sought holiness in daily life, even predating St. Francis of Assisi.
One of the things that I love about the transition is that, in the friary, one’s entire day is consecrated to the Lord with a continual orientation toward prayer. As a community, we do morning prayer, Mass, evening Adoration, and night prayer, praying the Liturgy of the Hours throughout the day. But the community is both contemplative and active. Even during the first week chances at ministry (through the grace of sharing testimony) were present.
One day we arrived at a retreat house run by Franciscan sisters; in attendance were about 30-40 members of the Serra Club, a group that prays for religious vocations. Thus we were invited to individually go up before the group and share our vocation stories, testifying to the Lord’s presence in our lives. One of the treats of the experience included three young novices from the Franciscan sisters sharing their stories with us and then performing sacred music for us.
One young novice played a beautiful rendition of “Ave Maria” on her violin; then the three novices combined on violin and piano to sing and play another Marian classic for us, “Hail Mary, Gentle Woman.” It was a stunning encounter with sacred feminine beauty, both in the young sisters who were performing and in Our Lady whose presence radiated through the immaculate purity of the angelic music that was dedicated to her.
I also had the chance to meet and speak with Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR, the holy man who did so much to transform Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and put it on the map as one of the best Catholic colleges in the world. Fr. Scanlan belongs to the order that I’m discerning with, and is currently a retired friar situated in a main house with his fellow elderly friars, men who have given their whole lives to serving God and His Kingdom.
We have dinner with them each Sunday, and what I noticed in speaking with these men is that they have absolutely no regrets about the choice they’ve made — for religious life — as, in the end, they know they lived the most meaningful existence one can, dedicated fully to the service of the Lord, dedicated completely to fulfilling one’s purpose, one’s call.
Religious life is fascinating. You have encounters which are nothing short of pure gift, gifts from God. It’s also practical, realistic, down-to-earth. We pray a lot but the guys also love playing sports after dinner — check out the fun our sisters have. We’re all different characters, a fraternity of brothers wanting to fight for the Kingdom of God and for the Queen of Heaven, giving our lives for the sacred; for that which counts.
Internally, there always are ups and downs as the devil is never happy when one begins the journey toward vocation. Spiritual attack comes. That’s why it’s so important to put on the armor of God as protection, to defeat the enemy through prayer, sacrifice, Scripture, confession, obedience and fasting. I haven’t used all of these weapons yet but know that they will be invaluable, essential in a life of spiritual warfare.
As I continue on this fresh and passionate journey, I ask for your continual prayers, friends, for myself and my fellow postulants. May God bless us and give us the wisdom and strength to discern, and always follow, His will, His holy call.
St. Francis & St. Clare pray for us!
“More than anything else today, what is needed is the baptism of spirit and fire. This alone can prepare those who shape human life to take their rightful place at the front lines in the great battle between Christ and Lucifer. There is no more urgent task than to be constantly armed and ready for this battle. For, ‘if the salt loses its savor, how can it be restored?'” – St. Edith Stein, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
Today is the feast day of Edith Stein, the German-Jewish philosopher who converted to Catholicism through the inspiration of reading St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography, then herself became a Carmelite nun, falling in love with the beautifully contemplative spirituality of Carmel, and who died a martyr in Auschwitz in the gas chambers. This summer I was blessed to read a great biography of Edith Stein, written by a German Carmelite nun — Waltraud Herbstrith — and have felt a greater bond with this heroic modern saint.
One of the things that Edith Stein has taught me, as a doctoral student and someone who will shortly transition into religious life, is that one can use their scholarship to serve God. For Edith this recognition came when she turned to Thomism. “The recognition that God can be served through scholarship first really struck me while studying Saint Thomas [Aquinas]. It was only then that I could decide to take up scholarship seriously again,” she wrote.
Trained philosophically as a phenomenologist — like Dietrich von Hildebrand and Karol Wojtyla (Blessed John Paul II) — Edith eventually combined and attempted to reconcile phenomenology with Thomism, offering a complementary synthesis of two philosophical systems. Alongside her scholarship, her charity, humility, and goodness were remarkable. It has been widely reported that she comforted many of her fellow prisoners in Auschwitz during that horrific experience, offering them compassion, kindness, and solace.
She prayed that God would accept her life and death for the expiation of the sins of unbelievers, for Germany, and for peace.
Prayer to Saint Edith Stein,
Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, 1891-1942
Dear Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Child of the Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur, Daughter of Abraham, Bride of Christ, Seeker of Truth, Scholar of the Church, Handmaid of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Servant of the Suffering Servant, Presence of Mercy, Victim of victimizer, Embracer of the Cross of Christ-like love, Martyr of Auschwitz, Imitator of Jesus, Conqueror of evil, Friend of God, Edith, Please pray for me. Please intercede for this petition of mine. (Here mention your petitions).
Saint Edith Stein,
Sister Teresa Benedcita of the Cross,
Pray for us.
Ever wonder where Blessed John Paul II picked up that beautiful gesture of kissing the ground when arriving at any new country? He actually learned it from a famous French saint.
“It was a gesture I had learned from Saint John Mary Vianney,” John Paul II recalled in Gift and Mystery, a personal work recollecting important influences and moments that led John Paul II to pursue his priestly vocation as a young man.
Saint John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, whose feast day this week was largely overlooked by many, as it fell on a Sunday this year (Aug. 4), had a great influence on the priesthood of John Paul II, from as early as his seminary years. John Paul II wrote how, as a young priest studying for his doctorate in Rome, he was able to travel to France and “spend some time in Ars.” He would never forget this experience and it would guide him as a priest with great graces and memories.
“With great emotion I visited the little old church where Saint John Vianney heard confessions, taught catechism, and gave his homilies. It was an unforgettable experience for me. From my seminary years I had been impressed with the figure of the Curé of Ars, especially after reading his biography by Monsignor Trochu. Saint John Mary Vianney astonishes us because in him we can see the power of grace working through human limitations.
“It was his heroic service in the confessional which particularly struck me. That humble priest, who would hear confessions more than ten hours a day, eating little and sleeping only a few hours, was able, at a difficult moment in history, to inspire a kind of spiritual revolution in France, and not only there. Thousands of people passed through Ars and knelt at his confessional. Against the background of attacks on the Church and the clergy in the nineteenth century, his witness was truly revolutionary.
“My encounter with this saintly figure confirmed me in the conviction that a priest fulfills an essential part of his mission through the confessional—by voluntarily ‘making himself a prisoner of the confessional.’ Many times, as I heard confessions in my first parish at Niegowic and then in Cracow, my thoughts would turn to this unforgettable experience.”
— Blessed John Paul II, Gift and Mystery: On the Fiftieth Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination
This past Saturday I attended a free concert offered by Kristene DiMarco of the popular band Jesus Culture in Chicago, at the UIC Forum. I made a video (freshly posted) of a powerful song — “Spirit Break Out” — that Kristene performed at the concert. Such an anointed soul and such an inspired song, glorifying God – enjoy!
“Dear children! If only you would open your hearts to me with complete trust, you would comprehend everything. You would comprehend with how much love I am calling you; with how much love I desire to change you, to make you happy; with how much love I desire to make you followers of my Son and give you peace in the fullness of my Son. You would comprehend the immeasurable greatness of my motherly love. That is why, my children, pray because through prayer your faith grows and love is born, the love along which even the cross is not unendurable because you do not carry it alone. In union with my Son you glorify the name of the Heavenly Father. Pray, pray for the gift of love, because love is the only truth: it forgives everything, it serves everyone and it sees a brother in everyone. My children, my apostles, great is the trust that the Heavenly Father has given you through me, His handmaid, to help those who do not know Him, that they may reconcile with Him and follow Him. That is why I am teaching you love, because only if you have love will you be able to respond to Him. Again I am calling you to love your shepherds and to pray that, at this difficult time, the name of my Son may be glorified under their guidance. Thank you.”