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Blessed Jerzy Popieulszko: Man of the Eucharist and Martyr of Nonviolence

JerzyTom

En route to Krakow to celebrate the 31st World Youth Day this week, thousands of young pilgrims and their leaders have spent time in Warsaw these past days and have visited the grave and museum of the young Polish parish priest, Jerzy Popieluszko (1947-1984) who was proclaimed a martyr in 2010 in Warsaw. I share with you Fr. Jerzy’s very moving story.

Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko:
Sacrament of Nonviolence at the heart of Martyred Polish Priest’s Life

The Eucharist sums up all the teaching, passion and death of Jesus. The Eucharist, is truly the sacrament of nonviolence. The way of Jesus to conquer evil and violence must be the Christian way: the way of nonviolence, of love and forgiveness. The nonviolent way of Jesus is historically at the heart of his teaching, and at the same time at the heart of his passion and death.

This Eucharistic reality was lived out in the life of a young Polish priest, Fr Jerzy Popieluszko (1947-1984) who was beatified as a martyr on the feast of Corpus Christi, June 6, 2010, in Warsaw’s Pilsudski Square. Jerzy Popieluszko was born on September 14, 1947 in the village of Okopy in Eastern Poland. He was from a strong Roman Catholic family. After secondary school, Jerzy entered the seminary in Warsaw, rather than the local seminary in Bialystok. His training was interrupted by two years of military service, during which he was beaten several times for living his Christian faith.

Jerzy1After ordination, the young priest, who never really enjoyed good health, held several appointments before his final appointment to the parish of St. Stanislas Kostka in Warsaw. He worked part-time in the parish, which enabled him to work as well with medical personnel. As a result of his close work with health care personnel, he was asked to organize the medical teams during two of Pope John Paul II’s nine visits to Poland in 1979 and Warsaw in 1983.

August 1980 saw the beginning of the Solidarity trade union in Poland. Workers from the Warsaw steel plant, who were on strike in support of the shipyards on the Baltic Sea, requested a priest to say Mass for them. The lot fell to Fr Jerzy. He stayed with the workers night and day. Solidarity represented for him a vision that he had first learnt from St Maximilian Kolbe: that of spiritual freedom amidst physical enslavement. It was this vision of the truth about the vocation of every man and woman, which Fr Jerzy promoted amongst the workers by his presence.

On December 13, 1981, the communist authorities imposed martial law, arresting many Solidarity activists and launching a program of harassment and retaliation against others. Many who had been on strike lost their jobs, and so their ability to support their families; others were beaten up on the streets and left for dead. Fr. Popieluszko became an important focus in a welfare program to support families affected by martial law.

He regularly attended the trials of Solidarity activists, sitting prominently in court with their families so that the prisoners could see that they were not forgotten. It was in the courtroom that he had the idea for a monthly Mass for the Country, to be celebrated for all the imprisoned and their families. It was not a political demonstration — Fr. Popieluszko specifically asked his congregation not to display banners or chant slogans. His Masses for the Fatherland became well known not only in Warsaw but throughout Poland, often attracting 15,000 to 20,000 people. Fr. Jerzy insisted that change should be brought about peacefully; the sign of peace was one of the most poignant moments of each Mass for the Country.

Jerzy Popieluszko - St Thomas Aquinas Church - Newman Center - Toronto

Excerpts from Fr. Popieluszko’s homilies:

“The position of the Church will always be the same as the position of the people…and when the people are persecuted then the Church shares in their suffering.”

“Solidarity is a constant concern for our country, upholding its internal freedom even in conditions of enslavement. It means that we must overcome fear, upholding our dignity as children of God and courageously bearing witness to what we believe, what we hold in our hearts.”

Fr. Popieluszko was neither a social nor a political activist, but a Catholic priest faithful to the Gospel. He wasn’t a forceful speaker, but someone of deep conviction and integrity. His sanctity lay in fundamental righteousness that gave people hope even in horrendous situations. He knew that all totalitarian systems are based on terror and intimidation. The Communists saw him as an enemy because he freed people from fear of the system. He exposed the hypocrisy of the Communist regime and he taught believers how to confront totalitarianism. How often Jerzy made St. Paul’s words his own in his preaching: “Fight evil with good”.

His message was not just for Poland but for all time: when any government tries to impose untruths, when it distorts history, when it crushes attempts to live by ordinary moral values, then we must speak out. We must conquer hatred with love, lies with truth, anger and fear with courage and hope. This applied in Poland under Communism, but it applies anywhere, at any time. And this applies when such untruths are imposed on children in schools, or public figures are bullied into silence on the subject, or if the Church is so bullied.

Fr. Jerzy never suggested that “freedom” in the abstract is an absolute. What matters most is truth. We are not free to kill, maim, or steal. Any civilization or culture worthy of the name imposes all sorts of restraints on its citizens. But truth is absolute and does not need to be imposed, because it imposes itself. A government that tries to impose an untruth finds that it needs, with increasing pressure, to keep finding ways to prevent the truth from emerging, from pouring out through the cracks in the blocks it keeps trying to push into place.

On October 19, 1984, the young priest was kidnapped by security agents on his way back to Warsaw after a visit to a parish in the neighboring town of Bydgoszcz. He was savagely beaten until he lost consciousness, and his body was tied up in such a way that he would strangle himself by moving. His weighted body was then thrown into a deep reservoir. His killers carried out their task with unprecedented brutality, which shows their hatred of the faith that the priest embodied. Jerzy’s driver, who managed to escape, told what had happened to the press. On October 30, Popieluszko’s bound and gagged body was found in the freezing waters of a reservoir near Wloclawek. Fr Jerzy’s brutal murder was widely believed to have hastened the collapse of communist rule in Poland.

Fr. Jerzy’s funeral was a massive public demonstration with over 500,000 people in attendance. Some say the number was as high as one million people. Official delegations of Solidarity appeared from throughout the whole country for the first time since the imposition of martial law. He was buried in the front yard of his parish church of St. Stanislaw Kostka, and since that day, 20 million people have visited his tomb.

OL CzestochowaA legacy of courage and faith

Over the past 30 years, I have been privileged to pray several times at his grave in the Warsaw working suburb, and to witness the extraordinary effect that this young priest has had on so many young people. He promoted respect for human rights, for the rights of workers and the dignity of persons, all in the light of the Gospel. He practiced, for Poland and for the whole world, the virtues of courage, of fidelity to God, to the Cross of Christ and the Gospel, love of God and of the homeland. He represented patriotism in the Christian sense, as a cultural and social virtue. He was deeply devoted to the Eucharist. More than 80 streets and squares in Poland have been named after Fr Jerzy. Hundreds of statues and memorial plaques have been unveiled to him; some 18,000 schools, charities, youth groups and discussion clubs have been named after him.
This martyr’s life was broken and shared with the multitudes. The blood of his martyrdom has become the seed of faith for his homeland and for the Church. At a time when the priesthood and the Church have suffered much because of the past “sins of the fathers”, the life and death of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko remind us what the priesthood and the Church are all about. Jerzy’s death serves as testimony to the struggle for freedom, basic rights, and human dignity. In one of the earliest addresses after his election to the See of Rome, Pope John Paul II said: The truth we owe to man is, first and foremost, a truth about man. As witnesses of Jesus Christ we are heralds, spokesmen and servants of this truth… We cannot forget it or betray it.

Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko was a gentle priest who always spoke about forgiveness and love, never violence, never anger. He was the hero of an oppressed nation, and is today the authentic vision of priesthood for a new generation of Poles. He is also, and this is what challenged me, a hero to all of us in the West who thought that truth and freedom were easy things to cherish, and now need to draw on his courage and example. Fr. Jerzy provides a model for us, calling us to strive that what we say and do outwardly should always agree with our inward conscience.

Fr. Jerzy’s Litany to Our Lady of Czestochowa – May 1982

Mother of those who place their hope in Solidarity, pray for us.
Mother of those who are deceived, pray for us.
Mother of those who are betrayed, pray for us.
Mother of those who are arrested in the night, pray for us.
Mother of those who are imprisoned, pray for us.
Mother of those who suffer from the cold, pray for us.
Mother of those who have been frightened, pray for us.
Mother of those who were subjected to interrogations, pray for us.
Mother of those innocents who have been condemned, pray for us.
Mother of those who speak the truth, pray for us.
Mother of those who cannot be corrupted, pray for us.
Mother of those who resist, pray for us.
Mother of orphans, pray for us.
Mother of those who have been molested because they wore your image, pray for us.
Mother of those who are forced to sign declarations
contrary to their conscience, pray for us.
Mother of mothers who weep, pray for us.
Mother of fathers who have been so deeply saddened, pray for us.
Mother of suffering Poland, pray for us.
Mother of always faithful Poland, pray for us.

We beg you, O mother in whom resides the hope of millions of people, grant us to live in liberty and in truth, in fidelity to you and to your Son. Amen.


The attached photo is of the stained glass window of Fr. Jerzy Polpieluszko in the Chapel of the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto (Canada). Courtesy of Salt and Light Television archives.

Deacon-structing WYD: From Disciples to Apostles


Last week we saw how important Saints are, not just to WYD, but also to living our Faith.

In 2005 World Youth Day went back to Europe, to Cologne, Germany. This was Pope Benedict’s first World Youth Day. By now, WYDs are an establishment. For me Toronto was very much the WYD that brought it all together. The service component was the key ingredient, but something was missing.

In Toronto we also added something else. Traditionally the Saturday night Vigil was a celebration, a rally, an opportunity for the young people to be with the Holy Father. In Toronto we kept this idea, but made the core of the celebration Evening Prayer. I don’t know about you, but before this, I had never even heard of Evening Prayer. There is so much about our Faith that we don’t know. How many of us don’t know about these “prayers of the Church?” Why are these prayers not taught in Catholic Schools? But I digress…

In Cologne, they kept the Vigil as Evening Prayer, but added Adoration. Of course, this made sense because the theme for that WYD was “We have come to worship him” (Mt 2:2). But it also makes sense because that is the real reason why we gather: to adore. That’s why we go and do service: to adore. Worship is the reason why we respond to the call to being Saints.

wyd08pilgrimsIn the last three WYDs, Sydney 2008, Madrid 2011 and Rio 2013, all these components came together beautifully. We traveled as pilgrims, together with Mary and the Saints, under the Cross, in a spirit of reconciliation and service to meet with the Holy Father, the institutional Church, to learn about our Faith, to connect with and celebrate our Faith and to worship. These last three WYDs included adoration as part of the Vigil with the Holy Father. In Krakow it will be the same.

It is now 14 years after World Youth Day came to Toronto. It is 32 years since that very first WYD in Rome when Pope John Paul II entrusted the Cross to the youth of the world. And three years ago hundreds of thousands descended upon Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro to go and make disciples of all nations. So many young people who, over the years have been simply saying yes to being saints.

Being a saint is not hard. Being a saint doesn’t mean that you don’t make mistakes or that you don’t sin. It doesn’t mean you have to be a nun or a priest or you have to found a religious congregation. Being a saint simply means following Jesus, trying to get to heaven and helping others make it to heaven. Jesus already told us how to do that: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to those who are thirsty, visit the sick and those in prison. And pray. This is something that you and I can do very easily. And if we do, or try to live this way, we will realise that we are no longer just disciples who merely follow Jesus, but apostles whom Jesus sends.

This is what happens at WYD – one arrives as a disciple and having a personal encounter with Christ, we return home sent, as apostles – to share the experience with our families, our friends and all those whom we encounter on a daily basis.

But the good news is that we don’t have to go to a WYD to have a personal encounter with Christ. You didn’t need to go to Sydney in order to “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” and be Christ’s witnesses (Acts 1:8) . You didn’t need to go to Madrid in 2011 to be “rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf Col 2:7) and you don’t need to go to Krakow this summer in order to experience God’s Mercy and share that Mercy with others. This is something that all of us can do right here at home.

You may not be able to go to WYD, but are you willing to let Jesus call you to be an apostle?

Are you willing to live as a saint?

Do not be afraid!


Photos WYD08/Getty Images

Deacon-strucitng WYD: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

St. Faustina Kowalska and St. John Paul II: Patron Saints of World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow

JPIIFaustina

Pope John Paul II’s interest in Divine Mercy goes back to the days of his youth in Krakow when Karol Wojtyla was an eyewitness to so much evil and suffering during World War II in occupied Poland. He witnessed the round ups of many people who were sent to concentration camps and slave labor. In his hometown of Wadowice, he had many Jewish friends who would later die in the Holocaust. During that time of terror and fear, Karol Wojtyla decided to enter Cardinal Sapieha’s clandestine seminary in Krakow. He experienced the need for God’s mercy and humanity’s need to be merciful to one another. While in the seminary, he met another seminarian, Andrew Deskur (who would later become Cardinal), who introduced Karol to the message of the Divine Mercy, as revealed to the Polish mystic nun, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, who died at the age of 33 in 1938.

The Pope of Divine Mercy

At the beginning of his pontificate in 1981, Pope John Paul II wrote an entire encyclical dedicated to Divine Mercy – “Dives in Misericordia” (Rich in Mercy) illustrating that the heart of the mission of Jesus Christ was to reveal the merciful love of the Father. In 1993 when Pope John Paul II beatified Sr. Faustina Kowalska, he stated in the homily for her beatification mass: “Her mission continues and is yielding astonishing fruit. It is truly marvelous how her devotion to the merciful Jesus is spreading in our contemporary world, and gaining so many human hearts!”

Four years later in 1997, the Holy Father visited Blessed Faustina’s tomb in Lagiewniki, Poland, and preached powerful words: “There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy…. From here went out the message of Mercy that Christ Himself chose to pass on to our generation through Blessed Faustina.”

In the Jubilee year 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized Sr. Faustina – making her the first canonized saint of the new millennium – and established “Divine Mercy Sunday” as a special title for the Second Sunday of Easter for the universal Church. Pope John Paul II spoke these words in the homily: “Jesus shows His hands and His side [to the Apostles]. He points, that is, to the wounds of the Passion, especially the wound in His Heart, the source from which flows the great wave of mercy poured out on humanity.”

One year later, in his homily for Divine Mercy Sunday in 2001, the Pope called the message of mercy entrusted to St. Faustina: “The appropriate and incisive answer that God wanted to offer to the questions and expectations of human beings in our time, marked by terrible tragedies…. Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity at the dawn of the third millennium.”

Again in Lagiewniki, Poland in 2002, at the dedication of the new Shrine of Divine Mercy, the Holy Father consecrated the whole world to Divine Mercy, saying: “I do so with the burning desire that the message of God’s merciful love, proclaimed here through St. Faustina, may be made known to all the peoples of the earth, and fill their hearts with hope.”

In his Regina Caeli address of April 23, 2006, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said: “The mystery of God’s merciful love was at the centre of the pontificate of my venerated predecessor.” Now that same Providence has desired that this year, on Divine Mercy Sunday, three years after he was beatified on this same feast, Pope John Paul II, the great apostle and ambassador of Divine Mercy, will be proclaimed a saint.

Mercy is our hallmark

We must ask ourselves: what is new about this message of Divine Mercy? Why did Pope John Paul II insist so much on this aspect of God’s love in our time? Is this not the same devotion as that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Mercy is an important Christian virtue, much different from justice and retribution. While recognizing the real pain of injury and the rationale for the justification of punishment, mercy takes a different approach in redressing the injury. Mercy strives to radically change the condition and the soul of the perpetrator to resist doing evil, often by revealing love and one’s true beauty. If any punishment is enforced, it must be for salvation, not for vengeance or retribution. This is very messy business in our day and a very complex message… but it is the only way if we wish to go forward and be leaven for the world today; if we truly wish to be salt and light in a culture that has lost the flavor of the Gospel and the light of Christ.

Where hatred and the thirst for revenge dominate, where war brings suffering and death to the innocent, abuse has destroyed countless innocent lives, the grace of mercy is needed in order to settle human minds and hearts and to bring about healing and peace. Wherever respect for human life and dignity are lacking, there is need of God’s merciful love, in whose light we see the inexpressible value of every human being. Mercy is needed to insure that every injustice in the world will come to an end. The message of mercy is that God loves us – all of us – no matter how great our sins. God’s mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Essentially, mercy means the understanding of weakness, the capacity to forgive.

Apostle of Divine Mercy

Throughout his priestly and Episcopal ministry, and especially during his entire Pontificate, Pope John Paul II preached God’s mercy, wrote about it, and most of all lived it. He offered forgiveness to the man who was destined to kill him in St. Peter’s Square. The Pope who witnessed the scandal of divisions among Christians and the atrocities against the Jewish people as he grew up did everything in his power to heal the wounds caused by the historic conflicts between Catholics and other Christian churches, and especially with the Jewish people.

I shall never forget the stirring words of St. John Paul II spoke at the concluding mass of World Youth Day at Downsview Park in Toronto on July 28, 2002. These words keep us focused on the importance and necessity of mercy in the Church today.

“…At difficult moments in the Church’s life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent. And holiness is not a question of age; it is a matter of living in the Holy Spirit…”

“…Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it! We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.”

Let us pray with joy and gratitude:

O God, who are rich in mercy
and who willed that Saint John Paul II
should preside as Pope over your universal Church,
grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching,
we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ,
the sole Redeemer of mankind.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God forever and ever. Amen.


 

Photo WYD Krakow

Deacon-Structing WYD: Saints

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Last time we saw how WYD is an opportunity to “proclaim it from the rooftops.” Today, we have some models that we can follow when we gather to live and celebrate our faith.

In the year 2000 WYD returned to Rome for the Year of the Jubilee. On the Holy Father’s message to the youth of the world on the occasion of this World Youth Day, Pope John Paul II wrote “Young people of every continent, do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium.” We are created to be saints, JPII told us we can be, and to help us understand this, every WYD has Patron Saint. One of the Patron Saints for WYD2000 was Pier Giorgio Frassati. This is very exciting because Pier Giorgio was not a priest or a monk. Pier Giorgio was a regular young lay man, someone to whom I can relate.

When we think of Saints, normally we think of “holy” and religious Europeans who lived hundreds of years ago – people who levitated, or who had the stigmata; people like Saint Francis of Assisi. But there is little in common between St. Francis and me.

But Pier Giorgio lived from 1901 to 1924. His sister just died last year. He was a young man, went to university, fell in love – but he lived a good life and did a lot of good, in particular by helping the poor and marginalised, from whom he contracted the tuberculosis that killed him at age 24.

wydpatrons-101x300WYD Toronto’s Patron Saints and Blesseds were mostly young people from different countries, and most of them lived in the 20th century: Agnes of Rome, Andrew of Phu Yen, Pedro Calungsod, Saint Josephine Bakhita, St. Therese, St. Gianna Molla, Marcel Calo, Francisco Castelló y Aleu, Kateri Tekakwitha and again Pier Giorgio. Young Saints who the youth of today can imitate. I would suggest that you go and research the lives of these great people of the Church. For us, there are no greater models for life.

And this is the reason why we need Saints: we all need models to imitate. John Paul II knew this very well. It is no coincidence that more people were canonised and beatified during his 26 years of Pontificate than of all the other Popes put together.

And that brings us to 2002. It’s important to mention that a new aspect was introduced to WYD in Toronto in 2002: the service project. Why gather all these young people together, calling them to live as the saints that they are, and not give them an opportunity to serve – to serve the poorest of the poor, the marginalised and those left out? We had service projects with Habitat for Humanity, with the Canadian Organisation for Development and Peace, and with many local service agencies. After all, don’t we, as Catholics have a preferential option for the poor and are called to act with justice and charity? These service projects were repeated in Cologne, in Sidney and in Madrid. The plan for Rio is to replace the “Days in the Diocese” with “Days of Mission.” Latin Americans have always had a sense of mission when it comes to service.

And this is the most important aspect of WYD. The Pope invites us to go to WYD, but this is not an invitation to a party or just a celebration. The invitation is to go on a walk, under the Cross, together with Mary and the Saints, towards Jesus – in order to meet with the Church and to learn about our beliefs – and to go in a spirit of reconciliation, pilgrimage, worship and service. It’s an invitation to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. It’s an invitation to live as Saints.

But it’s not an invitation to be something that we cannot be. John Paul II said to us, “do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium”. That means we can be. But it’s not an invitation to be saints if we feel like it, or if we’re in the mood. We are created to be saints. The invitation is to say yes to that for which we are created. For many (and for me too) this is very hard to realize – it’s something that scares us. But JPII kept telling us, and Pope Benedict has reminded us: “Do not be afraid.”

Deacon-structing WYD Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Eminent Daughter of Israel, Faithful Daughter of the Church

EdithStein1

On July 29, during his Apostolic Journey to Poland for World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Pope Francis will visit the former concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. He will walk through the main gate with the grotesque Nazi motto “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Will Set You Free) and will meet with some survivors in the Auschwitz part of the former death camp that was operated by Nazi Germans in occupied Poland.

The Holy Father will pray privately at the death cell of Franciscan Fr. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, a friar who offered to die for another inmate, Franciszek Gajowniczek, who survived Auschwitz. Francis will be the third pope to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau, after St John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

The Pope will then pray and speak at the memorial to the victims, located in the former Birkenau camp. In addition to St. Maxilian Kolbe, the Holy Father will also remember St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). Here is a brief biography of this great woman saint of the last century.

Biography

Edith Stein, the youngest of eleven children of a devout Jewish family, was born in Wroclaw, Poland, on October 12, 1891. Following the death of her father when she was only 21 months old, Edith was raised by her mother, who carried on the family business, along with her sisters. Edith eventually grew up to be counted among a small group of women to attend university when she enrolled at the University of Breslau in 1911, and later transferring to the University of Gottingen to pursue her studies under the mentorship of the renowned founder of phenomenology, Edmund Husserl. Husserl eventually chose Edith Stein to be his teaching assistant at the University of Freiburg, and called her the best doctoral student he ever had – even more able than Heidegger who was also a pupil of Husserl’s at the same time Edith was. In 1916 Edith completed her doctoral dissertation and was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy degree summa cum laude.

As the draft began calling up many of her friends for service in World War I, Edith volunteered together with a number of other women students for duty in military hospitals. She requested an assignment in a hospital for infectious diseases, and lovingly cared for soldiers of the Austrian Army who were suffering from typhus, dysentery and cholera. On completion of her term as a volunteer at the military hospital, Edith was awarded the medal of valor in recognition of her selfless service.

She then became Husserl’s assistant at the University of Freiburg, where he had was promoted to a Full Professorship. It was here that her religious struggle began as, in her pursuit of truth, she turned to reading the New Testament and began her gradual movement back towards a faith which she had earlier abandoned. On January 1, 1922, Edith Stein was baptized a Catholic, taking the name Teresa as her baptismal name. She continued to attend the Synagogue with her mother, praying the psalms of Jewish prayer service.

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Following her conversion, Edith discontinued her scholarly career as a student and accepted a position teaching German at the Dominican Sisters’ school in Speyer. For eight years, she worked as a teacher, and balanced her day between work and prayer. Throughout this period, Edith continued her philosophical writings and translations, and took on speaking engagements that took her to cities such as Heidelberg, Zurich, Salzburg. In the course of her lectures she frequently addressed herself to the role and significance of women in contemporary life. Some favorite themes of her public lectures were: “The Separate Vocations of Man and Woman According to God and Nature,” “The Spirituality of Christian Woman,” “Problems of Women’s Education,” and “The Significance of Woman’s Intrinsic Value in National Life.” Edith held a radical feminist stance, manifested a strong commitment to the recognition and advancement of women, and to the value she attached to the mature Christian life of a woman as a source of healing for the world.

In 1931 Edith left the convent school to devote herself full-time to writing and the publication of her works. In 1932, she accepted a lectureship position at the University of Munster, but a year later was told that she would have to give up her position because of her Jewish background. The university administration suggested that she work on her projects privately until the situation in Germany improved, but Edith declined.

Even though she had received an invitation to lecture in South America , Edith became convinced that the time had come for her to fulfill her dream to enter the convent. On October 14, 1933, at age 42, Edith Stein entered the Carmelite Convent in Cologne and took the religious name, Teresa, Benedicta a Cruce – Teresa, Blessed of the Cross, reflecting her special devotion to the Passion of Christ and her gratitude for the spiritual patronage of Teresa of Avila. In the convent, Edith continued to study and write, completing the text of her book, “Finite and Being.” her magnum opus, She also authored “Ways of Knowing God” and “The Symbolic Theology of the Areopagite,” a two-volume translation of St. Thomas’ works while working on “The Science of the Cross.”

By 1938 the situation in Germany had deteriorated significantly, and the S.S. attack of November 8 (Kristallnacht) removed any lingering doubts about the true state of affairs of Jewish citizens. The Carmelite Prioress in the German Carmel arranged for Edith to be transferred to the Dutch convent at Echt, and on December 31, 1938, Edith Stein was driven across the border under the cover of darkness to Holland. There, at the Convent in Echt, Sr. Teresa Benedicta composed three acts of self-oblation, offering her life up for the Jewish people, for peace, and for the sanctification of her Carmelite family. She then settled into a life of teaching the postulants Latin and writing a book on St. John of the Cross. Edith’s sister Rosa had become a Catholic after their mother’s death in 1936, and in 1940 she joined Edith at the Echt Carmel as a Third Order Carmelite.

While the Nazi policy of exterminating Jews was rapidly implemented once Holland was occupied, Jews who professed Christianity were initially left alone. However, when the Catholic bishops in the Netherlands issued a pastoral letter in which they sharply protested against the deportation of the Jews, the Nazi rulers reacted violently by ordering the extermination of baptized Jews as well.
On Sunday, August 2, 1942, all Catholics of Jewish extraction in Holland were rounded up and arrested; two of whom were Edith and Rosa Stein. As neighbors gathered in horror at the door of the convent, they heard these last words of Edith Stein to her sister Rosa as the Nazis took them away: “Come, let us go for our people.” Given an opportunity to be released through her connection to the Catholic Church, Stein faithfully refused saying that Baptism should not be used as an unfair advantage; rather, she needed to share in the fate of her Jewish brothers and sisters.
The night between 3 and 4 August, the prisoners are transported from Amersfoort to the Lager of Westerbork. One of the policemen asked Sister Teresa Benedicta, who had been beaten with a rifle, what religion she belonged to. She answered him: “I’m a Catholic.”

The officer replied: “Not at all, you’re a damned Jew.”
Then the men were separated from the women, husbands from wives, mothers from their children, and any communication was forbidden. It was from the Westerbork Camp that Sr. Teresa Benedicta sent out a last cry for help. She telephoned Utrecht and tried to obtain a temporary stay. She had hoped that the Swiss consulate in Amsterdam could save her save her. Here is the text of a telegram that she enclosed in a letter for the convent at Echt Carmel:

Drente – Westerbork
Barracks 36, 4 August 1942

Dear Mother and dear Sisters,
Tonight we left the distribution center at A. (Amersfoort) and arrived here. We were received kindly. Everything is being done so that we can be freed or at the least be able to stay here. All the Catholics are gathered together here, in our dormitory, all the nuns (two Trappists and a Dominican), Ruth (Kantorowicz), Alice (Reis), Dr. Meirowsky, and others. Two Trappist Fathers are also with us. In any case you must send us our personal papers, our ration cards and bread cards. Up to now we have been sustained entirely by the charity of others. We hope that you have found the (Swiss) Consul’s address and that you have been in contact with him. We have asked numerous people to bring us your news. With us here are also the two nice young girls from Koningsbosch (Anne-Marie and Elfriede Goldschmidt). We are nonetheless calm and content. Clearly until now no Mass or Communion; perhaps that will come later. We are arranging to be able to live only an inner life. With all my heart. We shall certainly write soon.
Yours in corde Jesu,
Teresa Benedicta
If you answer, do not mention this letter.

Written on the margin was a cross and the date August 5.

A good number of eyewitness accounts of Edith’s behavior during her days of imprisonment at Amersfoort and Westerbork spoke of her silence, her calm, her composure, her self-possession, her comforting and consoling of other women, her caring for the little ones, washing them and combing their hair and making sure that they were fed. Guards even said that she moved like an angel among those who lived in filth, squalor and unspeakable terror.

The Stein sisters were killed the same day they arrived, August 9, 1942, burned in the open air, and their ashes buried in a common grave or thrown into a nearby pond. Traveling with her, companions in suffering and martyrdom, besides her sister Rose, Carmelite tertiary and doorkeeper at Carmel in Echt, are other acquaintances: Alice Reis, born in Berlin, whom Edith sponsored at baptism; Dr. Ruth Kantorowicz, journalist and librarian, of Hamburg, whom Edith knew since childhood. Ruth wanted to become a Carmelite nun in Maastricht, but was not accepted into the novitiate. She went into the Ursuline convent in Velno as an external helper, where she was captured on August 2 1942.

Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was 51 years old at the time of her martyrdom. Even though her life was snuffed out during the Holocaust, her memory stands as a light undimmed in the midst of evil, darkness, and suffering. She is a symbol of the inherent unity between Jews and Christians. Dedicated to the good of all persons, she represents a moral force for all humanity.

On May 1, 1987, Edith Stein, a Carmelite nun and a victim of the Holocaust at Auschwitz, was beatified, along with Father Rupert Mayer, a Jesuit priest known for his resistance to the Nazis, during a Mass celebrated by Blessed John Paul II in Cologne, Germany.

On October 11, 1998 in St. Peter’s Square, Blessed John Paul II celebrated Mass during which he canonized Blessed Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, discalced Carmelite and martyr. In his homily, he asked that her witness might “reinforce even more the bridge of mutual understanding between Jews and Christians.” John Paul II called her “an eminent daughter of Israel and a faithful daughter of the Church.” He said:

“From now on, as we celebrate the memory of this new saint (every August 9), we cannot fail to remember from year to year the ‘Shoah’ (the Holocaust), that savage plan of exterminating a people, which cost the lives of millions of Jewish brothers and sisters.”

“Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross says to us all: Don’t accept anything as truth if it is without love. And don’t accept anything as love if it is without truth! One without the other is a harmful lie.”

“Many of our contemporaries would want the Cross to be silenced. However, nothing is more eloquent than the Cross made silent! The true message of pain is a lesson of love. Love makes pain bear fruit and pain deepens love.”

 

On October 1, 1999, Blessed John Paul II declared St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross to be co-patron of Europe, along with St. Bridged of Sweeden and St. Catherine of Siena. John Paul said that together with the two great women, Teresa Benedicta represents that holiness that is for Europe “the secret of its past and the hope for its future.”

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians…”

Martyrology of Edith Stein and her companions EdithStein3(August 2-9,1942)

Sister Charitas (Resi Bock) teacher
nun of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Born June 13, 1909 in Vienna
Arrested August 2, 1942 in the Mother House at Moerdijk
Killed August 9, 1942 at Auschwitz

Dr. Lisamaria Meirowsky
pediatrician, Dominican Tertiary
Born September 7, 1904 in Graudenz
Arrested August 2, 1942 in the Trappist Abbey at Berkel-Enschot
Killed August 9, 1942 at Auschwitz

Brother Wolfgang (Fritz Rosenbaum) Franciscan
Born May 27, 1915 in Witten
Arrested August 2,1942 in the Franciscan convent at Woerden
Killed September 30, 1942 at Auschwitz

Alice Reis, nurse
Born September 17 in Berlin
Arrested August 2, 1942 in the Convent of the Good Shepherd Sisters at Almelo
Killed August 9, 1942 at Auschwitz

Father Ignatius (George Löb), Trappist
Born September 25, 1909 at Hoensbroek
Arrested August 2, 1942 in Koningshoeven Abbey near Tilburg
Killed August 19, 1942 at Auschwitz

Sister Maria-Theresia (Door Löb) Trappist
Born October 22, 1911 in Sawah-Loento (Indonesia)
Arrested August 2, 1942 in Koningshoord Abbey at Berkel-Enschot
Killed September 30, 1942 at Auschwitz

Sister Mirjam (Else Michaelis)
accountant, Sister of St. Joseph at Trier
Born March 31, 1899 in Berlin
Arrested August 2, 1942 at the Franciscan convent of Nonnenwerth at Marienwaard
Killed August 9, 1942 at Auschwitz

Sister Judith Mendes da Costa, Dominican
Born August 25, 1895 in Amsterdam
Arrested August 2, 1942 in the convent at Bilthoven, released August 15 from the camp at Westerbork, February 25 1944 deported to Theresienstadt, transported to Auschwitz 16, May 1944
Killed July 7, 1944 at Auschwitz

Rose Stein, Carmelite tertiary, doorkeeper of the convent
Born December 13, 1883 at Lublinitz
Arrested August 2, 1942 in the Carmel convent at Echt
Killed August 9, 1942 at Auschwitz

Dr. Edith Stein – Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce
Carmelite nun, philosopher
Born October12, 1891 in Breslau
Arrested August 2, 1942 in the Carmel of Echt
Killed August 9, 1942 at Auschwitz

Father Nivardus (Ernst Löb) Trappist
Born October 29, 1913 in Sawah-Loento (Indonesia)
Arrested August 2, 1942 in Koninshoeven Abbey near Tilburg
Killed August 19, 1942 at Auschwitz

CHALLENGES FACING SWISS CATHOLIC ACADEMIC WOMEN
Edith Stein

“…Let’s get to the point: Are we Catholic academics in contact with organized workers, the Swiss Women’s Movement, the Women’s Union, and the Christian Socialists? We are not. Why? Certainly the fault lies on both sides, but it is equally certain it is indeed on both sides. Do we grasp social problems, the burning problems of today? Do they concern us also? Or are we waiting until others find some solution or until we are submerged by the billows of chaos? Is such an attitude worthy of an academic woman? Must we not try to help in deed as well as in thought? I believe this is a theoretical matter primarily in that we should investigate connections and causes so that we may know what help is needed and how to give it. Concretely, we must proceed through Caritas, that means that our love of God must find practical expression. There are manifold ways to fit manifold needs. Let us not be stuck in a rut. We must get in touch with the social ferment of the masses and understand their physical and spiritual needs.

In Cardinal Faulhaber’s commentary on the vesper psalms, he explains the middle verse of the “Magnificat. “He writes: “Who still dares to say that politics has nothing to do with religion and that souls directed towards God, especially women, should stay far from public life? If the quiet virgin of Nazareth, her soul resting completely in God her savior, could be concerned with the happenings on the world scene (middle verse of the Magnificat), then religious people, including women of course, dare not be indifferent as to whether the arm of God is seen in world events. They must not be unconcerned as to whether the God- willed spiritual, political, and economic order is established. Nor may they be unconcerned when dogmatic intellectuals confuse the people with their knowledge when political leaders strike out God’s name from public life, or when capitalistic exploiters are upsetting the economic order. . .”

The example of Mary is relevant here. She is the ideal type of woman who knew how to unite tenderness with power. She stood under the cross. She had previously concerned herself about the human condition, observed it, understood it! In her son’s tragic hour she appeared publicly. Perhaps the moment has almost come for the Catholic woman also to stand with Mary and with the Church under the cross! Concretely: I am not asking the Swiss Catholic academic woman to decide today whether or not woman should take part in public life (it would even be childish presumption to ask for this). But I believe there is something that must be promoted in the name of sound human reason, in the interest of our families, our nation, and our Church. It is that you take an interest in the question, reflect on it, and study it objectively in the light of contemporary development.

…Perhaps through the course of the centuries, our attitude in the Church has been too passive. Perhaps we have left it to exceptional people “to prove the exception to the rule,” people like Teresa of Jesus, Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, etc. The twentieth century demands more! I am thinking specifically of the atheistic movement. How can we oppose this phalanx? Pope Pius XI has already sanctioned the lay apostolate; in fact, he has summoned us to it. Should Catholic action stay a catchword and a cliché which resounds through the assemblies but does not ignite?

Do we understand what the so-called Liturgical Movement is all about? It is certainly not about aesthetics. No, it is about a deeper sharing in the life of Christ and witness to it by means of the Church…”

Taken from the works of Edith Stein as published by ICS Publications in the book “The Collected Works of Edith Stein”, Volume II “Essays on Woman”, 1987.

Feast of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati – July 4

“Verso l’alto”

July 4 is the Memorial (Feast Day) of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. The following is the homily of Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB preached on Monday, July 14, 2008 during WYD Sydney at the Prayer Vigil and Eucharistic Adoration with the body of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, Australia.

Dear Friends,
Dear Wanda, niece of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati,

What an honour and privilege it is to be here with you this evening in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, Australia! Led by the young adults of Canada’s Catholic Christian Outreach [CCO], one of our nation’s outstanding movements for Catholic university students, we have gathered together to adore Jesus, gift of God for the life of the world. And young people of the entire world have also come here, to pray around the mortal remains of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati during World Youth Day 2008.

We have just listened to the blueprint for Christianity in that magnificent text of the Beatitudes from Matthew’s Gospel [5:1-12]. The Beatitudes in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount are a recipe for extreme holiness. Every crisis that the Church faces, every crisis that the world faces, is a crisis of holiness and a crisis of saints.

If there was ever an age when young men and women needed authentic heroes, it is our age. The Church understands that the saints and blesseds, their prayers, their lives, are for people on earth; that sainthood, as an earthly honor, is not coveted by the saints or blesseds themselves.

What was so unique and special about Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati? He was born in 1901, at the turn of the last century in Turin, Italy. July 4, 2008 marked the 83rd anniversary of Pier Giorgio Frassati’s entry into eternal life. Athletic, full of life, always surrounded by friends, whom he inspired with his life, Pier Giorgio chose not to become a priest or religious, preferring to give witness to the Gospel as a lay person. He never founded a religious order or started a new ecclesial movement. He led no armies, nor was he elected to public office. Death came even before he could complete his university degree (the degree was awarded to him posthumously in 2001). He never had a chance to begin a career; in fact, he hadn’t even worked out for sure what his vocation in life would be. He was simply a young man who was in love with his family and friends, in love with the mountains and the sea, but especially in love with God.

FrassatiIcon

Through World Youth Days, Pier Giorgio Frassati has become a special patron to millions of young people around the world, and most especially to the movement “Catholic Christian Outreach” in Canada. Let us consider three highlights of this young Blessed’s life that combined in a remarkable way political activism, solidarity, work for social justice, piety and devotion, humanity and goodness, holiness and ordinariness, faith and life.

Pier Giorgio’s Devotional Life and Love of the Eucharist

Pier Giorgio Frassati developed a deep spiritual life which he never hesitated to share with his friends. His friends remember him saying: “To live without faith, without a heritage to defend, without battling constantly for truth, is not to live, but to ‘plod along’; we must never just ‘plod along.’ ”

The Eucharist and the Blessed Mother were the two poles of his world of prayer. He felt a strong mysterious urge to be near the Blessed Sacrament. He followed Him in the processions, took part enthusiastically in the Eucharistic Congresses, but above everything he loved to spend long hours in nocturnal adoration. And his joy was so much greater when he managed to bring in front of the Blessed Sacrament, his friends, young people he knew, and the poor he looked after. During some Eucharistic vigils, the face of Pier Giorgio would be transfigured with joy and consolation at seeing hundreds of young men and women who were coming to communion.

His spiritual life, like ours, was based on the sacraments. But he went beyond simply doing what is “required”: Sunday Mass, the perfunctory confession before Christmas and/or Easter, and perhaps a small Lenten penance like giving up candy.

The Rosary, the Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina and annual retreats were as much a part of his life as skiing, mountain-climbing or cycling. His life of prayer was his “daily bread,” as it should be for anyone who desires to become a saint. He was an athlete, and he knew well that in order to “reach the goal,” as he was fond of saying, he had to push himself beyond the ordinary if he wanted to be a champion.

In a letter he wrote [July 29, 1923] to the Members of “Catholic Youth” of Pollone, the mountain town north of Turin, Pier Giorgio said:

“…I urge you with all the strength of my soul to approach the Eucharistic Table as often as possible. Feed on this Bread of the Angels from which you will draw the strength to fight inner struggles, the struggles against passions and against all adversities, because Jesus Christ has promised to those who feed themselves with the most Holy Eucharist, eternal life and the necessary graces to obtain it.

Frassati2

And when you become totally consumed by this Eucharistic Fire, then you will be able to thank with greater awareness the Lord God who has called you to be part of his flock and you will enjoy that peace which those who are happy according to the world have never tasted. Because true happiness, young people, does not consist in the pleasures of the world and in earthly things, but in peace of conscience which we can have only if we are pure in heart and in mind.”

These words demonstrate a remarkable spiritual maturity and love for the Eucharist, especially considering the fact that they were coming from a young man who was only twenty-two years old.

Pier Giorgio’s respect for life and sense of social justice

In his own life and times, Pier Giorgio dealt with some of our own contemporary problems and struggles. His love of God and his tremendous sense of human solidarity bonded him with the poor, the needy, the sick, the hungry and the homeless. Frassati had a tremendous respect for human life: all life, from the earliest moments to the final moments. He was constantly defending life wherever it was diminished and under siege.

At the age of 17, in 1918, he joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society and dedicated much of his spare time to serving the sick and the needy, caring for orphans, and assisting the demobilized servicemen returning from World War I. What little he did have, Pier Giorgio gave to help the poor, even using his bus fare for charity and then running home to be on time for meals. The poor and the suffering were his masters, and he was literally their servant, which he considered a privilege. He often sacrificed vacations at the Frassati summer home in Pollone because, as he said, “If everybody leaves Turin, who will take care of the poor?”

Pier Giorgio loved the poor. It was not simply a matter of giving something to the lonely, the poor, the sick – but rather, giving his whole self. He saw Jesus in them and to a friend who asked him how he could bear to enter the dirty and smelly places where the poor lived, he answered: “Remember always that it is to Jesus that you go: I see a special light that we do not have around the, sick, the poor, the unfortunate.”

A German news reporter who observed Frassati at the Italian Embassy wrote, “One night in Berlin, with the temperature at twelve degrees below zero, he gave his overcoat to a poor old man shivering in the cold. His father, the Ambassador scolded him, and he replied simply and matter-of-factly, ‘But you see, Papa, it was cold.’”

In that same letter written to the Members of “Catholic Youth” of Pollone, Pier Giorgio urged his peers with these words:

“The Apostle St. Paul says, “The charity of Christ needs us,” and without this fire, which little by little must destroy our personality so that our heart beats only for the sorrows of others, we would not be Christians, much less Catholics.

Finally there is the apostolate of persuasion. This is one of the most beautiful and necessary. Young people, approach your colleagues at work who live their lives away from the Church and spend their free time not in healthy pastimes, but in vices. Persuade those unfortunate people to follow the ways of God, strewn with many thorns, but also many roses.

But if every one of you were to possess these gifts to the highest degree, and did not have the spirit of sacrifice in abundance, you would not be a good Catholic. We must sacrifice everything for everything: our ambitions, indeed our entire selves, for the cause of the Faith.”

Beneath the smiling exterior of the restless young man was concealed the amazing life of a mystic. Love for Jesus motivated his actions.

Pier Giorgio’s suffering and death

Just before receiving his university degree in mining engineering, he contracted poliomyelitis, which doctors later speculated he caught from the sick for whom he cared. His sickness was not understood. His parents, totally taken up by the agony, death and burial of his grandmother, had not even suspected the paralysis. Two days before the end, his mother kept on scolding him for not helping her in difficult moments.

Not even in those desperate final days could he ever forget his closest friends, the poor. While lying on his death bed he wanted the usual material assistance to be brought to them. It was Friday, the day he visited them. On July 3, 1925, a day before his death, his hand already paralyzed from polio, Pier Giorgio asked his sister Luciana to take a small packet from his jacket and with a semi-paralyzed hand he wrote the following note to Grimaldi: “Here are the injections for Converso. The pawn ticket is Sappa’s. I had forgotten it; renew it on my behalf”.

We know that Pier Giorgio wanted to see Jesus so much that he used to say: “The day of my death will be the most beautiful day of my life.” Pier Giorgio’s sacrifice was fulfilled at seven o’clock in the evening of July 4, 1925. His funeral was a triumph. The streets of Turin were lined with a multitude of mourners who were unknown to his family: clergy and students, and the poor and the needy whom he had served so unselfishly for seven years.

God gave Pier Giorgio all the external attributes that could have led him to make the wrong choices: a wealthy family, very good looks, manhood, health, being the only heir of a powerful family. But Pier Giorgio listened to the invitation of Christ: “Come and follow me.” He anticipated by at least 50 years the Church’s understanding and new direction on the role of the laity.

In beatifying Frassati alone in St. Peter’s Square on May 20, 1990, Pope John Paul II described Pier Giorgio as the “man of the eight Beatitudes” and said in his homily:

“By his example he proclaims that a life lived in Christ’s Spirit, the Spirit of the Beatitudes, is “blessed”, and that only the person who becomes a “man or woman of the Beatitudes” can succeed in communicating love and peace to others. He repeats that it is really worth giving up everything to serve the Lord. He testifies that holiness is possible for everyone, and that only the revolution of charity can enkindle the hope of a better future in the hearts of people. …He left this world rather young, but he made a mark upon our entire century, and not only on our century.”

Conclusion

Tonight, together with the Servant of God, John Paul II, the young mountain climber of Pollone stands at the window of the Father’s house and smiles upon us, as he intercedes for us and for the young people of the world who have come to Sydney to discover the Lord and his holy ones in the vast Communion of Saints and community of the Church. Let me conclude by speaking for a few moments directly to Pier Giorgio on your behalf.

Carissimo Pier Giorgio,

I never had the privilege of meeting you in life. Whoever has met you knows that in your eyes, in your gestures and in your actions, you always carried a little piece of heaven. You shared that with those who knew you in your lifetime, and now with those of us who have known you for the past century.

Since 1925 when you left this earth to return to the house of your father, you have continued your work on our behalf “dall’alto”, from above! In your lifetime you never had the privilege of coming to a World Youth Day. You have watched them from afar, and blessed them with countless graces.

For many years your mortal body remained hidden in the family tomb in Pollone, and then placed in a dark corner of Turin’s Cathedral. Many who visited didn’t even know you were there! I was one of those visitors several years ago. I simply couldn’t find where they had laid you to rest! Such a powerful witness and light must never be hidden, but held up for imitation and inspiration.

We Catholic Christians believe that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, the instrument of God’s work, the frame of God’s house in our midst. And we know, with St. Paul, that “if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling — if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” [II Corinthians 5:2-4]

Your presence among us this evening, both from your vantage point at the window of the Father’s home in heaven and through your mortal remains in this Cathedral, witnesses to your mortality that has been swallowed up by new life. Pier Giorgio, you almost didn’t make it to Sydney! Thank God that the Church in Australia, with the help of the Holy Spirit, prevailed over all those forces which tried to prevent you from attending your first World Youth Day down under!

As we venerate your mortal remains, we give thanks to the Lord Jesus who gave you life, inspiration, strength, hope and the crown of glory. As we reflect on your youthfulness, your simplicity, your beauty, goodness and humanity, we recognize the call given to each of us: to be men and women of the Beatitudes.

Thank you, Pier Giorgio, for listening to Jesus’ words and making them your own. Your example has moved me and hundreds of thousands of others to translate the Beatitudes into Good News with our very lives. Be with us on this great expedition to heaven!

Pier Giorgio, help us to strive for simple hearts, attentive to the needs of others, and friendships based on that pact which knows no earthly boundaries or limits of time: union in prayer. If we do not know the road, and if we often abandon the path, show us the way “verso l’alto” upward to heaven!

If by being superficial we have not put in our knapsack all that we need for the climb, and if we never lift up our gaze because we do not want to take the first demanding steps to set ourselves on the way, show us the way “verso l’alto” upward to heaven!

If we lack the strength to overcome the most difficult passes, and if we have the strength, but prefer to use it to turn back, show us the way “verso l’alto” upward to heaven!

If we never pause to be nourished by the bread of eternal life, and if we do not quench our thirst from the fountain of prayer, show us the way “verso l’alto” upward to heaven!

When we do not know how to contemplate the beauty of the gifts we have received, and when we do not know how to offer ourselves for others, show us the way “verso l’alto” upward to heaven!

If we have committed many sins, show us the way “verso l’alto” upward to heaven!

If we lost hope, show us the way “verso l’alto” upward to heaven!

Three years ago, at the opening ceremonies for World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the throng of young people from the entire world:

“Dear young people, the Church needs genuine witnesses for the new evangelization: men and women whose lives have been transformed by meeting with Jesus, men and women who are capable of communicating this experience to others. The Church needs saints. All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity. Many have gone before us along this path of Gospel heroism, and I urge you to turn often to them to pray for their intercession.”

That is why we have gathered together tonight in this great Cathedral down under! May all the young people who have journeyed to Sydney, and those of us who have been young for a while, find in Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati what Jesus’ Sermon on a Galilean hillside really meant.

Pray for us, Pier Giorgio Frassati. Show us the way “verso l’alto”, upward to heaven and deep in to the heart of God. Teach us how to be Saints for the Church and for the world!

Amen.

A Unity Transcending All Differences

Peter and Paul

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul – Wednesday, June 29, 2014

June 29th marks the great solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. Peter’s journey was from the weakness of denial to the rock of fidelity. He gave us the ultimate witness of the cross. Paul’s pilgrimage was from the blindness of persecution to the fire of proclamation. He made the Word of God come alive for the nations.

To be with Peter means to preserve the unity of the Christian Church. To speak with Paul is to proclaim the pure Word of God. Their passion was to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. Their commitment was to create a place for everyone in Christ’s church. Their loyalty to Christ was valid to death. Peter and Paul are for us a strong foundation; they are pillars of our church.

Affirmation, identity and purpose at Caesarea Philippi

Today’s Gospel story (Matthew 16:13-19) is about affirmation, identity and purpose. Jesus and his disciples entered the area of Caesarea Philippi in the process of a long journey from their familiar surroundings. Caesarea Philippi, built by Philip, was a garrison town for the Roman army, full of all the architecture, imagery, and life styles of Greco-Roman urban civilization. It was a foreign place to the apostles who were more familiar with towns and the lakeside.

Sexuality and violence ran rampant in this religious shrine town known for its worship of the Greek god Pan. In this centre of power, sophistication and rampant pagan worship, Jesus turns to his disciples and asks what people are saying about him. How do they see his work? Who is he in their minds? Probably taken aback by the question, the disciples dredge their memories for overheard remarks, snatches of shared conversation, opinions circulating in the fishing towns of the lake area. Jesus himself is aware of some of the stories about him. He knows only too well the attitude of his own town of Nazareth, and the memory probably hurts him deeply.

The disciples list a whole series of labels that people have applied to Jesus. And these names reveal the different expectations held about him. Some thought of him as fiery Elijah, working toward a real confrontation with the powers that be. Others considered him more like the long suffering Jeremiah, concentrating more on the inner journey, the private side of life. Above all, the question asked of the disciples echoes through time as the classic point of decision for every Christian.

Everyone must at some point experience what happened at Caesarea Philippi and answer Jesus’ provocative question, “You, who do you say I am?” What do we perceive to be our responsibilities and commitments following upon our own declaration of faith in Jesus?

Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus

In the year 35 AD, Saul appears as a self-righteous young Pharisee, almost fanatically anti-Christian. We read in Acts chapter 7 that he was present, although not taking part in the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr. It was very soon afterwards that Paul experienced the revelation that transformed his entire life. On the road to the Syrian city of Damascus, where he was going to continue his persecutions against the Christians, he was struck blind. Paul accepted eagerly the commission to preach the Gospel of Christ, but like many another called to a great task he felt his unworthiness and withdrew from the world to spend three years in “Arabia” in meditation and prayer before beginning his mission.

His extensive travels by land and sea are recounted in his letters in the New Testament. Paul himself tells us he was stoned, scourged three times, shipwrecked three times, endured hunger and thirst, sleepless nights, perils and hardships; besides these physical trials, he suffered many disappointments and almost constant anxieties over the weak and widely scattered communities of Christians.

The final earthly moments of Peter and Paul

According to the ancient tradition, on the morning of June 29, Peter and Paul were taken from their common cell at Rome’s Mamertine prison and separated. Peter was taken to Nero’s Circus where he was crucified upside down, while Paul was taken east of Rome to the area now known as Tre Fontane. The name records the legend of the saint’s beheading, when his severed head reportedly bounced three times, creating three fountains. Artists through the ages have dwelt on their goodbye, often depicting the last embrace between the two friends. The Golden Legend records their parting words:

Paul to Peter: “Peace be with you, foundation stone of the churches and shepherd of the sheep and lambs of Christ!”

And Peter to Paul: “Go in peace, preacher of virtuous living, mediator and leader of the salvation of the righteous!”

The connection between the two saints is also evident in their respective basilicas. Emperor Constantine built the first six Christian churches in Rome from 313 to 328, and among them were St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Paul’s “outside the walls.” Five of the churches face east, as was common in orienting churches at the time. St. Paul’s faces west, so that across the city, both basilicas watch over the sheep and lambs of their city.

A text from St. John Chrysostom is very appropriate at the end of the year dedicated to St. Paul. It comes from his final homily on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. After expressing his ardent desire to visit St. Paul’s tomb in Rome and see there even the dust of St. Paul’s body, St. John Chrysostom exclaims:

Who could grant me now this to throw myself around the body of Paul and be riveted to his tomb and to see the dust of that body which completed what was lacking in Christ’s afflictions; which bore the marks (of Christ) and sowed the Gospel everywhere … the dust of that mouth through which Christ spoke. …

Nor is it that mouth only, but I wish I could see the dust of Paul’s heart too, which one should rightly call the heart of the world, the fountain of countless blessings and the very element of our life. … A heart which was so large as to take in entire cities and peoples and nations … which became higher than the heavens, wider than the whole world, brighter than the sun’s beam, warmer than the fire, stronger than the adamant; letting rivers flow from it … which was deemed to love Christ like no one else ever did.

I wish I could see the dust of Paul’s hands, hands in chains, through the imposition of which the Spirit was given, through which this divine letter (to the Romans) was written.

I wish I could see the dust of those eyes which were rightly blinded and recovered their sight again for the salvation of the world; which were counted worthy to see Christ in the body; which saw earthly things, yet saw them not; which saw the things that are not seen; which knew no sleep, and were watchful even at midnight. …

I wish I could also see the dust of those feet, Paul’s feet, which run through the world and were not tired, which were bound in stocks when the prison shook, which went through parts populated and uninhabited, which walked on so many journeys. …

I wish I could see the tomb where the weapons of righteousness lay, the weapons of light, the limbs of Paul, which now are alive but in life were made dead (to sin) … which were in Christ’s limbs, clothed in Christ, bound in the Spirit, riveted to the fear of God, bearing the marks of Christ.

– St. John Chrysostom, “Homily 32 on the Epistle to the Romans,” Migne, Patrologia Graeca 60, 678-80

Together they built the Church

As ordinary men, Peter and Paul might have avoided each other from time to time. Peter was a fisherman from the Sea of Galilee and Paul a Greek-educated intellectual. But Jesus brought them together as a sign for his Church in which the entire spectrum of humanity would find a new place to call home. Together they worked to build the church. Together they witnessed to Christ. Together they suffered the death of their Lord, death at murderous hands. Paul died by the sword and Peter was crucified head-down. They had a unity that transcended all differences. They teach us about the depth of Christian commitment. For Peter and Paul, insight into Jesus’ true identity brought new demands and responsibilities.

At the close of the Year of St. Paul on June 29, 2009, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI invited each Catholic to hold up a mirror to his or her life and to ask, “Am I as determined and as energetic about spreading the Catholic faith as St. Paul was?” “Is spreading the faith both by example and by my conversations with friends, colleagues and acquaintances even a concern for me?” “What do I perceive to be my responsibilities following upon my own declaration of faith in Jesus?”

[The readings for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul are: Acts 12.1-11; Ps 34; 2 Timothy 4.6-8, 17-18; Matthew 16.13-19.]

This reflection first appeared on the Zenit International News Service in 2010 as well as on the Salt + Light Blog. The complete collection of reflections for Year B, entitled “Words made Flesh,” is now available in book form through our online store. Book editions for Year A and C reflections are coming soon.

Mary Magdalene: Apostle of the Apostles – Archbishop Arthur Roche

Mary-Magdalene-Jesus-cropped

By the express wish of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published a new Decree on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 3 June 2016, in which the celebration of Saint Mary Magdalene was elevated and inscribed in the General Roman Calendar with the rank of Feast.

This decision, in the current ecclesial context, seeks to reflect more deeply upon the dignity of women, on the new evangelisation and on the greatness of the mystery of God’s Mercy. Saint John Paul II paid great attention not only to the importance of women in the mission of Christ and the Church, but also and with special emphasis on the particular role of Mary of Magdala as the first witness who saw the risen Christ, and as the first messenger who announced the Lord’s resurrection to the Apostles (Mulieris dignitatem n. 16). The importance of this continues today in the Church, as is evident in the new evangelisation, which seeks to welcome all men and women “of every race, people, language and nation” (Rev 5: 9), without any distinction, to announce to them the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ while accompanying them on their earthly pilgrimage, and offering them the wonders of God’s salvation. Saint Mary Magdalene is an example of a true and authentic evangeliser, that is an evangelist who announces the central joyful message of Easter (cf. Collect for 22 July and the new Preface).

It is precisely in the context of the Jubilee of Mercy that our Holy Father Pope Francis has taken this decision, in order to underline the relevance of this woman “who so loved Christ and was so greatly loved by Christ”, as Rabanus Maurus affirms on various occasions when he speaks of her (“dilectrix Christi et a Christo plurimum dilecta”: De vita Mariae Magdalenae, Prologus), as well as Saint Anselm of Canterbury who says of her “chosen because you are beloved and beloved because you are chosen of God” (“electa dilectrix et dilecta electrix Dei”: Oratio LXXIII ad sanctam Mariam Magdalenam). It is true that ecclesial tradition in the West, especially since the time of Gregory the Great, has identified Saint Mary Magdalene, and the woman who anointed Christ’s feet with perfume in the house of Simon the Pharisee, and the sister of Lazarus and Martha, as one and the same person. This interpretation continued to influence western ecclesiastical authors, Christian art and liturgical texts relative to this Saint. The Bollandists made a detailed study of the problem of identifying these three women and prepared a path for the liturgical reform of the Roman Calendar. The outcome of this reform of the Second Vatican Council led to the texts of the Missale Romanum, the Liturgia Horarum and the Martyrologium referring to Mary of Magdala. What is certain is that Mary Magdalene was part of the group of Jesus’ disciples, she accompanied him to the foot of the Cross and, in the garden where she met him at the tomb, was the first “witness of Divine Mercy” (Gregory the Great, XL Hom. In Evangelia, lib. II Hom. 25,10). The Gospel of John tells us that Mary Magdalene wept because she could not find the body of the Lord (Jn 20:11); and that Jesus had mercy on her by letting himself be known as her Master, thus transforming her tears into paschal joy.

Taking advantage of this opportune moment, I would like to underline two ideas inherent in the biblical and liturgical texts of this Feast which assist us to better grasp the importance of this holy woman for today

On the one hand, she has the honour to be the first witness of the Lord’s resurrection (“prima testis” – Hymnus, Ad Laudes matutinas), the first who saw the empty tomb and the first to hear the truth about his resurrection. Christ showed special consideration and mercy to this woman who showed her love for Christ by seeking him in her anguish and suffering in the garden, or as Saint Anselm says in the prayer mentioned above with “lacrimas humilitatis” (“the tears of humility”). In this way it is possible to highlight the contrast between the woman present in the  garden of paradise and the woman present in the garden of the resurrection. The first spread death where there was life; the second announced life from a sepulchre, the place of death. As Gregory the Great underlines: “Quia in paradiso mulier viro propinavit mortem, a sepulcro mulier viris annuntiat vitam” (“Indeed because a woman offered death to a man in Paradise, a woman announces life to the men from the tomb”: XL Hom. In Evangelia, lib. II, Hom. 25). Yet, there is more, as we see precisely in the garden of the resurrection where the Lord says to Mary, “Noli me tangere” (“Do not cling to me” Jn 20:17). This is an invitation to enter into an experience of faith that goes beyond materialistic assumptions and the human grasping after the divine Mystery which is not simply addressed to Mary but to the entire Church. This is an ecclesial moment! This is an important lesson for every disciple of Jesus Christ to neither seek human securities nor the vainglory of this world, but in faith to seek the living and risen Christ!

On the other hand, precisely because she was an eyewitness to the risen Christ, she was also the first one to bear witness to him before the Apostles. She fulfils the command of the Risen Lord: “‘Go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples ‘I have seen the Lord’ and she told them that he had said these things to her” (Jn 20:17-18). Thus, as already indicated she becomes an evangelist, that is a messenger who announces the Good News of the Lord’s resurrection or, as Rabanus Maurus and Saint Thomas Aquinas say, she becomes the “apostolorum apostola” because she announces to the apostles what in turn they will announce to the whole world (Rabanus Maurus, De vita beatae Mariae Magdalenae, XXVII; Saint Thomas Aquinas, In Ioannem Evangelistam Expositio, c. XX, L. III, 6). It was with good reason that the Angelic Doctor applied this term to Mary of Magdala, for she is the witness to the risen Christ and announces the message of the Lord’s resurrection just like the rest of the Apostles. For this reason it is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman should have the same rank of Feast as that given to the celebration of the Apostles in the General Roman Calendar and that the special mission of this woman should be underlined, she who is an example and model for all women in the Church.

+Arthur Roche
Archbishop Secretary of the Congregation for Divine worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Decree of St. Mary Magdalene

MariaMagdalena1

The significance of today’s announcement from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments decrees that the liturgical memory of Mary Magdalene becomes a feast, like that of the other apostles. In the Mass and in the Divine Office to be celebrated on July 22, Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, the usual texts in the Roman Missal and the Liturgy of the Hours will be used, but the Mass will also include a specific Preface entitled “de apostolorum apostola” (Apostle of the apostles”), the full Latin text of which is given below. The bishops, upon approval by the Holy See, will make this accessible in the various vernacular languages.

Præfatio: De Apostolorum Apostola

Vere dignum et iustum est,
æquum et salutáre,
nos te, Pater omnípotens,
cuius non minor est misericórdia quam potéstas,
in ómnibus prædicáre per Christum Dóminum nostrum.
Qui in hortu maniféstus appáruit Maríæ Magdalénæ,
quippe quae eum diléxerat vivéntem,
in cruce víderat moriéntem,
quæsíerat in sepúlcro iacéntem,
ac prima adoráverat a mórtuis resurgéntem,
et eam apostolátus offício coram apóstolis honorávit
ut bonum novæ vitæ núntium
ad mundi fines perveníret.
Unde et nos, Dómine, cum Angelis et Sanctis univérsis
tibi confitémur, in exsultatióne dicéntes:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dóminus Deus Sábaoth.

Working translation of preface by Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

Preface of the Apostle of the Apostles

It is truly right and just,
our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
whose mercy is no less than His power,
to preach the Gospel to everyone, through Christ, our Lord.
In the garden He appeared to Mary Magdalene,
who loved him in life, who witnessed his death on the cross,
who sought him as he lay in the tomb,
who was the first to adore him when he rose from the dead,
and whose apostolic duty was honored by the apostles,
so that the good news of life might reach the ends of the earth.
And so Lord, with all the Angels and Saints,
we, too, give you thanks, as in exultation we acclaim:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might …

Read the full text of the decree below:

The Church, both in the East and in the West has always regarded Saint Mary Magdalene the first witness of the Lord’s resurrection and the first evangelist, and with the greatest reverence has always honoured her although in diverse ways.

Given that in our time the Church is called to reflect in a more profound way on the dignity of Woman, on the New Evangelisation and on the greatness of the Mystery of Divine Mercy, it seemed right that the example of Saint Mary Magdalene might also fittingly be proposed to the faithful. In fact this woman, known as the one who loved Christ and who was greatly loved by Christ, and was called a “witness of Divine Mercy” by Saint Gregory the Great and an “apostle of the apostles” by Saint Thomas Aquinas, can now rightly be taken by the faithful as a model of women’s role in the Church.

Therefore the Supreme Pontiff Pope Francis has established that from now on the celebration of Saint Mary Magdalene should be inscribed in the General Roman Calendar with the rank of Feast rather than Memorial as is presently the case.

The new rank of celebration does not involve any change of the day on which the celebration itself takes place and, as for the liturgical texts, the following is to be observed:

  • The day dedicated to the celebration of Saint Mary Magdalene remains the same as it appears in the Roman Calendar, that is 22 July.
  • The texts to be used in the Mass and in the Divine Office remain the same as those contained in the Missal and in the Liturgy of the Hours on the day of the Feast, with the addition in the Missal of a proper Preface, attached to this Decree. It will be the responsibility of the Conferences of Bishops to translate the text of the Preface into the vernacular language so that, having received the approval of the Apostolic See, it can be used and in due time included in the next reprint of the Roman Missal.

Where, according to particular law, Saint Mary Magdalene is legitimately celebrated on a different day and as a Solemnity, this day and rank remains as before.

All things to the contrary notwithstanding.

From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 3 June 2016, Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Robert Card. Sarah
Prefect
Archbishop Arthur Roche
Archbishop Secretary

Pope Francis’ Homily at Mass of Canonization of Maria Elisabetta Hesselblad and Stanislaus Papczyński

PopeCanonization

At 10:30 am on the 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Pope Francis celebrated mass in St. Peter’s Square and presided over the rite of canonization of Blesseds Maria Elisabetta Hesselblad (1870-1957) and Stanislaus Papczyński (1631-1701). Below you will find the homily given by Pope Francis following the Gospel of the day. Also included are two brief biographies of the two new saints.

The word of God, which we have just heard, points us to the central event of our faith: God’s victory over suffering and death. It proclaims the Gospel of hope, born of Christ’s paschal mystery, whose splendour is seen on the face of the Risen Lord and reveals God our Father as one who comforts all of us in our afflictions. That word calls us to remain united to the Passion of the Lord Jesus, so that the power of his resurrection may be revealed in us.

In the Passion of Christ, we find God’s response to the desperate and at times indignant cry that the experience of pain and death evokes in us. He tells us that we cannot flee from the Cross, but must remain at its foot, as Our Lady did. In suffering with Jesus, she received the grace of hoping against all hope (cf. Rom 4:18).

This was the experience of Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary, and Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad, who today are proclaimed saints. They remained deeply united to the passion of Jesus, and in them the power of his resurrection was revealed.

This Sunday’s first reading and Gospel offer us amazing signs of death and resurrection. The first took place at the hand of the Prophet Isaiah, the second by Jesus. In both cases, they involved the young children of widows, who were then given back alive to their mothers.

The widow of Zarephath – a woman who was not a Jew, yet had received the Prophet Elijah in her home – was upset with the prophet and with God, because when Elijah was a guest in her home her child had taken ill and had died in her arms. Elijah says to her: “Give me your son” (1 Kings 17:19). What he says is significant. His words tell us something about God’s response to our own death, however it may come about. He does not say: “Hold on to it; sort it out yourself!” Instead, he says: “Give it to me”. And indeed the prophet takes the child and carries him to the upper room, and there, by himself, in prayer “fights with God”, pointing out to him the absurdity of that death. The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, for it was in fact he, God, who spoke and acted in the person of the prophet. It was God who, speaking through Elijah, told the woman: “Give me your son”. And now it was God who gave the child back alive to his mother.

God’s tenderness is fully revealed in Jesus. We heard in the Gospel (Lk 7:11-17) of the “great compassion” (v. 13) which Jesus felt for the widow of Nain in Galilee, who was accompanying her only son, a mere adolescent, to his burial. Jesus draws close, touches the bier, stops the funeral procession, and must have caressed that poor mother’s face bathed in tears. “Do not weep”, he says to her (Lk 7:13), as to say: “Give me your son”. Jesus asks to takes our death upon himself, to free us from it and to restore our life. The young man then awoke as if from a deep sleep and began to speak. Jesus “gave him to his mother” (v. 15). Jesus is no wizard! It is God’s tenderness incarnate; the Father’s immense compassion is at work in Jesus.

The experience of the Apostle Paul was also a kind of resurrection. From a fierce enemy and persecutor of Christians, he became a witness and herald of the Gospel (cf. Gal 1:13-17). This radical change was not his own work, but a gift of God’s mercy. God “chose” him and “called him by his grace”. “In him”, God desired to reveal his Son, so that Paul might proclaim Christ among the Gentiles (vv. 15-16). Paul says that God the Father was pleased to reveal his Son not only to him, but in him, impressing as it were in his own person, flesh and spirit, the death and resurrection of Christ. As a result, the Apostle was not only to be a messenger, but above all a witness.

So it is with each and every sinner. Jesus constantly makes the victory of life-giving grace shine forth. He says to Mother Church: “Give me your children”, which means all of us. He takes our sins upon himself, takes them away and gives us back alive to the Mother Church. All that happens in a special way during this Holy Year of Mercy.

The Church today offers us two of her children who are exemplary witnesses to this mystery of resurrection. Both can sing forever in the words of the Psalmist: “You have changed my mourning into dancing / O Lord, my God, I will thank you forever” (Ps 30:12). Let us all join in saying: “I will extol you, Lord, for you have raised me up” (Antiphon of the Responsorial Psalm).

Biography of Blessed Maria Elisabetta Hesselblad (1870-1957)

Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad was born in Sweden on 4 June 1870, the fifth of thirteen children. Baptized lutheran, she emigrated to the United States of America when she was eighteen. For many years (from 1888 to 1904) she worked diligently as a nurse at the Roosevelt Hospital in New York where, faced with the suffering and sickness of the patients, she honed her human and spiritual sensitivities, conforming them ever more closely to those of her fellow Swede, Saint Bridget. From her adolescence, Mary’s desire was for the unity of Christ’s flock. Guided by a learned Jesuit, she avidly studied Catholic doctrine and, by conscious decision, accepted the Catholic Faith, being conditionally baptized on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1902. In 1904 she moved to Rome and, by special permission of Pope Saint Pius X, she took the religious habit of Saint Bridget in the residence where the saint had lived, which was then occupied by Carmelites. Led by the Holy Spirit, she refounded the order of Saint Bridget (1911), responding to the circumstances and the signs of the times. Her apostolate was inspired by the great ideal “Ut omnes unum sint” (that all may be one) and this motivated her to give her life to God in order to unite Sweden to Rome. With great courage and foresight, in 1923 she brought the Bridgettine Sisters back to Sweden, to Djursholm, and then Vadstena in 1935.

Her entire life was characterized by continuous works of charity. During World War II, she provided refuge to many persecuted Jews and turned Bridgettine convents into places where her spiritual daughters could distribute food and clothing to those who were in need. on 24 April 1957, after a long life marked by suffering and sickness, she died in the Casa Santa Brigida in Rome, having a reputation for holiness among her Bridgettine sisters, the clergy and the poor, who venerated her as mother of the poor and a spiritual master. She was beatifed by Saint John Paul II on April 9th of the Jubilee year 2000.

Biography of Blessed Stanislaus Papczyński (1631-1701)

Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary (in the world, Jan Papczynński) was born on 18 May 1631 in Podegrodzie (Poland) to poor but fervently Christian parents. He was baptized the same day. After studying at the Podegrodzie elementary school, he went to the Jesuit college and the college of the Piarist Fathers. Having become familiar with the Piarists, at 23 years of age he entered that Institute. In 1656 he professed simple vows, and was ordained priest on 12 March 1661. He became famous throughout Warsaw both as a professor of rhetoric and as a master of the spiritual life: he authored several books, and was a noted preacher and confessor. Among his penitents was the Apostolic nuncio in Poland at the time, Antonio Pignatelli, the future Pope Innocent XII.

In 1670, having obtained the required dispensations, he left the Piarists and founded the Institute of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. The three goals of this Institute were (1) to promote devotion to the Immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, finding in Mary the heart of the Christian life, namely, God’s gratuitous gift of infinite love for humanity; (2) to offer prayers and sacrifices for the dead, especially those who were not prepared to die; (3) to minister to the poor and the marginalized. Stanislaus dedicated himself with apostolic zeal to these charitable purposes until the end of his life. He was faithful to his ascetical observances and to governing the Institute which, in 1699, received Pontifical Approbation.

Stanislaus died on 17 September 1701, in the monastery of Góra kalwaria. His last words were: “Into your hands lord, I commend my spirit”. Having expressed his ardent desire to unite himself to Christ, he blessed his religious brethren and exhorted them to fidelity. He left behind many spiritual writings. Among these are the Norma Vitæ (The rule of life), which treated religious life and the life of his Institute, and the Templum Dei Mysticum (The Mystical Temple of God) in which he proposed a spirituality for the laity. Pope Benedict XVI enrolled him among the blessed in 2007.


CNS photo/Paul Haring