Archive for the ‘Year of the Priesthood’ Category

St. Claude de la Colombière, S.J. (1641-1682) – Spiritual Director of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Tomorrow, February 15th, is the liturgical memorial of St. Claude de la Colombière, S.J., spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.  During a period of her life in which she was discredited and distressed, Saint Margaret Mary received this promise from Jesus: “I will send you My faithful servant and perfect friend.” What an eloquent Divine testimony in favor of Father Claude de La Colombière, the Jesuit priest who became the confidant of Saint Margaret Mary and the first person to spread the message of Paray-le-Monial. His story is inseparable from that of the holy Visitation nun. Saint Margaret Mary was the one who received the requests of the Heart of Jesus; but it is because Claude de La Colombière helped her understood the value of the Message, and submitted entirely to the will of God at the cost of immense sacrifices, that the devotion to the Heart of Jesus was able to develop for the greater good of Christendom.


♦    Biography from the Vatican website:  

CLAUDE LA COLOMBIÈRE, third child of the notary Bertrand La Colombière and Margaret Coindat, was born on 2nd February 1641 at St. Symphorien d’Ozon in the Dauphine, southeastern France. After the family moved to Vienne Claude began his early education there, completing his studies in rhetoric and philosophy in Lyon.

It was during this period that Claude first sensed his vocation to the religious life in the Society of Jesus. We know nothing of the motives which led to this decision. We do know, however, from one of his early notations, that he “had a terrible aversion for the life embraced”. This affirmation is not hard to understand by any who are familiar with the life of Claude, for he was very close to his family and friends and much inclined to the arts and literature and an active social life. On the other hand, he was not a person to be led primarily by his sentiments.

At 17 he entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Avignon. In 1660 he moved from the Novitiate to the College, also in Avignon, where he pronounced his first vows and completed his studies in philosophy. Afterwards he was professor of grammar and literature in the same school for another five years.

In 1666 he went to the College of Clermont in Paris for his studies in theology. Already noted for his tact, poise and dedication to the humanities, Claude was assigned by superiors in Paris the additional responsibility of tutoring the children of Louis XIV’s Munster of Finance, Jean Baptiste Colbert.

His theological studies concluded and now a priest, Claude returned to Lyon. For a time he was teacher in the College, then full-time preacher and moderator of several Marian congregations.

Claude became noted for solid and serious sermons. They were ably directed at specific audiences and, faithful to their inspiration from the gospel, communicated to his listeners serenity and confidence in God. His published sermons produced and still produce significant spiritual fruits. Given the place and the short duration of his ministry, his sermons are surprisingly fresh in comparison with those of better-known orators.

The year 1674 was a decisive one for Claude, the year of his Third Probation at Maison Saint-Joseph in Lyon. During the customary month of the Exercises the Lord prepared him for the mission for which he had been chosen. His spiritual notes from this period allow one to follow step-by-step the battles and triumphs of the spirit, so extraordinarily attracted to everything human, yet so generous with God.

He took a vow to observe all the constitutions and rules of the Society of Jesus, a vow whose scope was not so much to bind him to a series of minute observances as to reproduce the sharp ideal of an apostle so richly described by St. Ignatius. So magnificent did this ideal seem to Claude that he adopted it as his program of sanctity. That it was indeed an invitation from Christ himself is evidenced by the subsequent feeling of interior liberation Claude experienced, along with the broadened horizons of the apostolate he witnesses to in his spiritual diary.

On 2nd February 1675 he pronounced his solemn profession and was named rector of the College at Paray-le-Monial. Not a few people wondered at this assignment of a talented young Jesuit to such an out-of the-way place as Paray. The explanation seems to be in the superiors’ knowledge that there was in Paray an unpretentious religious of the Monastery of the Visitation, Margaret Mary Alacoque, to whom the Lord was revealing the treasures of his Heart, but who was overcome by anguish and uncertainty. She was waiting for the Lord to fulfill his promise and send her “my faithful servant and perfect friend” to help her realize the mission for which he had destined her: that of revealing to the world the unfathomable riches of his love.

After Father Colombière’s arrival and her first conversations with him, Margaret Mary opened her spirit to him and told him of the many communications she believed she had received from the Lord. He assured her he accepted their authenticity and urged her to put in writing everything in their regard, and did all he could to orient and support her in carrying out the mission received. When, thanks to prayer and discernment, he became convinced that Christ wanted the spread of the devotion to his Heart, it is clear from Claude’s spiritual notes that he pledged himself to this cause without reserve. In these notes it is also clear that, even before he became Margaret Mary’s confessor, Claude’s fidelity to the directives of St. Ignatius in the Exercises had brought him to the contemplation of the Heart of Christ as symbol of his love.

After a year and half in Paray, in 1676 Father La Colombière left for London. He had been appointed preacher to the Duchess of York – a very difficult and delicate assignment because of the conditions prevailing in England at the time. He took up residence in St. James Palace in October.

In addition to sermons in the palace chapel and unremitting spiritual direction both oral and written, Claude dedicated his time to giving thorough instruction to the many who sought reconciliation with the Church they had abandoned. And even if there were great dangers, he had the consolation of seeing many reconciled to it, so that after a year he said: “I could write a book about the mercy of God I’ve seen Him exercise since I arrived here!”

The intense pace of his work and the poor climate combined to undermine his health, and evidence of a serious pulmonary disease began to appear. Claude, however, made no changes in his work or life style.

Of a sudden, at the end of 1678, he was calumniously accused and arrested in connection with the Titus Oates “papist plot”. After two days he was transferred to the severe King’s Bench Prison where he remained for three weeks in extremely poor conditions until his expulsion from England by royal decree. This suffering further weakened Claude’s health which, with ups and downs, deteriorated rapidly on his return to France.

During the summer of 1681 he returned to Paray, in very poor condition. On 15th February 1682, the first Sunday of Lent, towards evening Claude suffered the severe hemorrhage which ended his life.

On the 16th of June 1929 Pope Pius XI beatified Claude La Colombière, whose charism, according to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, was that of bringing souls to God along the gospel way of love and mercy which Christ revealed to us. On May 31, 1992, he was canonized by the Venerable Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s in Rome.  His feast is celebrated on February 15th.


This excerpt is taken from the book SAINTS FOR SINNERS by Alban Goodier, S.J., IMAGE BOOKS EDITION 1959:

The beatification of Blessed Claude de La Colombière cannot be without interest to English Catholics, more especially to Catholics in London. Anyone passing St. James’s Palace may recall that for two years he lived there, in the last days of Charles II; therefore at that time he must often have been seen, passing down Pall Mall or up St. James’s Street, a singular figure in such a gay world, tolerated because he was a Frenchman, protected because he was the official chaplain of Mary of Modena, the wife of James, then Duke of York. But still more should his memory be dear to English Catholic hearts because it is to him that we owe it that, even in those times of trouble, the first formal petition for the establishment of the Feast of the Sacred Heart was sent to Rome from London. We may add another reason; unless we are mistaken Claude de La Colombière is the last resident in England not a martyr who has been beatified. On that account we would claim him as one of ourselves, closely allied with our martyrs. 

And yet, when we come to study his career, there is singularly little to be said about him; indeed one may assert that he has been remembered more because of his connection with the name of another than on his own account. Had he never come across St. Margaret Mary he might never have been known, any more than Bernadette would have been known, had it not been for the apparitions at Lourdes. Nor, when he is known, is it easy at first to discover the sanctity in its highest degree which was his. There is little to show us that any of his contemporaries and friends looked on him as anything more than an excellent religious, and even that on some accounts might have seemed to need qualification. There are saints whom no man would discover if God did not discover them for him; one of these was La Colombiere. There are saints who have never dreamt they were saints; it would seem that of no one could this be more truly said than of him.  

Claude de La Colombière was one of a family of seven children, two of whom died young, four of the rest embraced the religious life or the priesthood; of his childhood we know practically nothing. At the age of nine he went to a Jesuit school; almost all we know of his schooldays is that he “showed ability”; a remark that will have been made of many of his companions. When he was seventeen he entered the Jesuit novitiate; we are told that he had “a horrible aversion to the life he chose”, but he is not the only novice who has felt the same. He passed through his course of training very much as any other scholastic; if during his theology he was at the same time appointed tutor to the children of Colbert this was nothing exceptional. By an indiscretion of his own he lost that post; this threw him back into the colleges, where he held offices suited to one of rather more than average ability, but not of themselves suggestive of anything exceptional, whether in nature or in grace. He then made his third year of probation; after which, at the age of thirty-five, he was sent as superior to the residence at Paray-le-Monial. During his college days he had taught rhetoric, and had shown a gift for preaching; at the same time he was delicate in physique, and incapable of excessive work. It would seem that these two circumstances had decided his appointment to Paray, where he could exercise his talent without undue pressure or labor.  

His work in Paray was such as might have been expected of a good religious, little more. He took a lively interest in the little Jesuit school that was under him; he founded a sodality for men; he helped in the founding of a hospital; he preached with apparently average success; he was sought for as a confessor and a director of souls; to the outside world that appears to have been all. But he was also extraordinary confessor to the Visitation nuns of Paray, and in that convent at the moment Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque was causing anxiety. Naturally Father de La Colombière soon came across her. He studied her case and at once, against the opinion of others, he espoused her cause; he was rewarded, perhaps not altogether at first to his liking, by being told by the saint that he was the one appointed by Our Lord to be her chief support in the task imposed upon her. Still he did not shrink. He became her staunch friend and adviser; if we may judge from notes written in his journal more than two years later, he accepted this responsibility as a further motive compelling him to aim at the highest sanctity.  

He lived at Paray-le-Monial only eighteen months, after which he was appointed chaplain to the Duchess of York, daughter of the Duke of Modena, in London. There he lived, in St. James’s Palace, for two years, a lonely and cramped life, but, if we may judge from his letters, not without the fruit which an earnest priest in such a situation might have been expected to reap. At the end of that time he was betrayed by a Frenchman whom he thought he had converted. He was accused of reconciling heretics, and of speaking against the king; it was the year of the Titus Oates “Plot,” and La Colombiere, a Jesuit, and living in the household of the Duke of York, must have seemed a likely source of information. He was thrown into prison, cross-examined many times, but clearly knew nothing of what was said to be going on; at length, being a Frenchman, he was banished from the country. But before he could leave his health broke down; the hardships of his prison, added to the rigor of the English climate, had affected his lungs, and he suffered a serious hemorrhage. As soon as he was able he returned to France; there he was given light work as spiritual father in the college of Lyons. But he never recovered. He was removed to Paray in the hope that the climate might suit him better; and there he died, on February 15th, 1682, having just completed his forty-first year.  

A good man, so his brethren thought, but not exactly what was usually ranked as a saint. He had worked no miracles; he had written no books; he had done nothing in particular. His health had prevented him from using his talents as they might have been used; he had lived only six years from his probation, and two of those had been spent in London, hidden away, unknown to his fellow religious, bearing no fruit that could be seen. He was buried as a good man might have been expected to be buried, with the usual becoming ceremony; perhaps there were those among the mourners who regretted that here was another good life thrown away.  

But when he was gone two precious documents were found among his papers. It was true Sister Margaret Mary had always spoken of him as something exceptional, and after his death revered him as a saint, but this was put down to her natural enthusiasm, perhaps a little to her biased judgment, a matter of fidelity to the memory of one who had been her staunch support and champion. But these two documents proved that she was right. None but a man with the highest ideals could have written them; if he had lived up to the standard they laid down, then without a doubt he had lived a life of heroic sanctity. And when his brethren came to reflect upon it, gradually they saw that he had. Gradually his name was dissociated from that of St. Margaret Mary, and the devotion of which she constituted him the first apostle; it was found that it represented one who on his own account deserved a place in the ranks of the Church’s saints.  

Beneath these great ideals, is it possible to trace the natural man on which they are built? We think it is. Colombière has written his double self-analysis, one during his third year of probation, the other during a retreat he made in England, with such simplicity and accurate attention to detail that we are able to infer the things he has omitted without much fear of mistake. And the picture we would draw is something of this kind.  

By nature Colombière was a man given to despondency, to self- mistrust leading almost to despair, even as at one time was his immediate predecessor, to whom he had so great a devotion, St. Francis de Sales. He had a keen appreciation of art and literature, with which there usually goes great sensitiveness of soul, he felt things keenly, above all his own apparent failures, even in the little things of life. Though once or twice he breaks out in expressions of devotion, yet as a rule his prayer was dry and arid; with all his aspirations after sanctity, he can only resign himself to the commonest planes of the spiritual life and look for perfection in that resignation. Behind all this, the placid exterior,interpreted by his contemporaries, and even by modern biographers, as a sign of placidity within, in matter of fact concealed a soul unceasingly troubled by a whirl of temptation, and of passions which he had need of every grace to resist.  

It is in this light that we would read and interpret the three or four characteristics of his sanctity; they were the outcome of the battle he found he had to fight, and of experience of himself, more than of any illumination from without. Margaret Mary had visions and ecstasies, Colombière had none. She was told what she had to do, even in the matter of her own perfection, Colombière had to discover all this by the painful sifting of himself. In the third year of probation he took a vow always to do the thing that was most perfect; we can see that the vow was taken, less because of any great light from above, more because of the trouble he found in battling with his own nature. Later he took another vow, to choose by preference, when the choice was allowed him, the thing that he most disliked; again we see in it the determined conquest of his sensitive nature, more than straining after sanctity. Throughout his life his ideal of prayer was, as it were, to have no ideal; to be content with what was given him, and not even to aspire to more; this was nothing else but the recognition of his common experience, and the determination to turn it into what profit he could. Lastly, in regard to sanctity itself he has language almost peculiarly his own. Much as his soul longed for it, he seemed to think that a nature like his could never attain to sublime perfection; he meets the apparently hopeless prospect by accepting as his goal just that standard which is appointed for him and no more. Of all the saints in the calendar of the Church few can have been less aware of their sanctity than was Colombière.  

To illustrate these characteristics of our saint we have only to compare certain passages in which he expresses his own mind; from first to last there is a certain consistency which enables us to read what is going on beneath. Thus, on the seventh day of his Long Retreat he writes:  

“On the seventh day, during the morning, I found myself attacked with thoughts of mistrust in regard to the aim in life which I am making for the future; I see in it hopeless difficulties. Any other life would seem to me easy to spend in the manner of a saint, so it appears to me, and the more austere, solitary, obscure, separated from all communication, so much the sweeter would it seem to me to be. Much as I dread the ordinary things of nature, such as imprisonment, continued sickness, death itself, all these appear to me pleasant in comparison with an everlasting fight against the surprises of worldliness and self- love, and of that death in life in the midst of the world. When I think on it all, it seems to me that life is going to be intolerably long, and that death will not come soon enough; I understand the words of St. Augustine: “Patienter vivit, et delectabiliter moritur.”  

So he wrote in 1674, when he was preparing for his vow of perfection. Three years later, during a retreat in England, we find him recalling the vow with satisfaction, saying he looks on it as “the greatest grace I have ever received in all my life”; nevertheless the next note is this:  

“I am made miserable on a matter of which I cannot speak; my imagination is mad and extravagant. All the passions toss my heart about; there scarcely passes a day but all, one after another, stir in me the most unruly emotions. Sometimes they are real things that rouse me, sometimes they are pure imaginations. It is true that by the mercy of God I endure all this without contributing much to it of myself and without consenting to it; still, at any moment I catch these foolish passions stirring up this poor heart. My self-love flies from corner to corner, and is never without a hiding-place; I feel very sorry for myself. Still I do not lose my temper, I do not let myself feel annoyed; what would be the use? I ask God to let me know what I ought to do to serve Him and to purify myself; but I am resolved to wait in peace till it pleases Him to work this miracle, for I am quite convinced that He alone can do it: “Quis potest facere mundum de immundo conceptum semine, nisi tu qui solus es?” (Job xv, 4).  

Passages parallel to these might be multiplied. They tell with sufficient clearness the struggle that was always going on with an unruly nature; their proximity to the places where he speaks of the vow makes one suspect that the two are connected. In like manner we may judge of his prayer. It is true that in many places he speaks of his attraction for prayer; nevertheless no less often does he tell us of his dryness, always he emphasizes that his prayer is of the common sort, and that he does not wish it to be otherwise. There is no more striking summary of his mind than the following, taken from the notes of his retreat in 674:  

“Since by the mercy of God I feel myself somewhat drawn to prayer, I have asked of God, with a large heart, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, that He would give me the grace to love this holy exercise more and more, unto the hour of my death. It is the one means for our purification, the one way to union with God, the one channel by which God may unite Himself with us, that He may do anything with us for His glory. To obtain the virtues of an apostle we must pray; to make them of use to our neighbor we must pray; to prevent our losing them while we use them in His service we must pray. The counsel, or rather the commandment: Pray always, seems to me extremely sweet and by no means impossible. It secures the practice of the presence of God; I wish, with the help of Our Lord, to endeavor to follow it. We are always in need of God, then we need to pray always; the more we pray the more we please Him, and the more we receive. I do not ask for those delights in prayer which God gives to whom He will; I am not worthy of them, I have not strength enough to bear them. Extraordinary graces are not good for me; to give them to me would be to build on sand, it would only be pouring precious liquor into a leaking hogshead which can hold nothing. I ask of God only a solid, simple manner of prayer, which may give Him glory and will not puff me up; dryness and desolation, accompanied with His grace, are very good for me, so it seems. Then I make acts of the best kind, and with satisfaction; then I make efforts against my evil disposition, I try to be faithful to God, etc.”  

Shortly afterwards he concludes:  

“Above all things I am resigned to be sanctified by the way that God shall please, by the absence of all sensible delight, if He wishes it so to be, by interior trials, by continual combat with my passions.”  

There seems to be no evidence that he ever deviated from this path, or rose beyond the prayer of simplicity. In the retreat of 1677 he confesses that he finds little help in points for meditation, and decides to fall back upon his favorite method of the practice of the presence of God; that is all. But that is an experience of many souls of prayer, who nevertheless are far from being saints; it is foreseen and prepared for by every writer on prayer, within the Society of Jesus as well as without.  

With all this as a background we may well now ask ourselves what was the characteristic of his sanctity. It has al ready been suggested that the need of unceasing battle with himself led him to make first one heroic vow and then another; the faithful fulfillment of those vows meant the making of a saint. But as a first characteristic trait we would notice Colombière childlike simplicity; to the end he remained a child. This is manifest enough in the spontaneous way he writes of himself; it is manifest no less in his correspondence, in the stories he narrates, in the simplicity of his advice, in the confidence he shows towards his correspondents. But most of all does it appear in his attitude towards St. Margaret Mary. It was simplicity of soul that enabled him to understand her from the first; the same simplicity made him think of her, and speak of her with the greatest reverence; what she told him of himself he took as perhaps his chief source of encouragement. For example, what can be more simply childlike than the following? He has been speaking of his former temptation to vainglory and human respect:  

“Formerly (he says) I was so strongly obsessed with this temptation, that it sapped all my courage, and made me almost lose all hope of saving my own soul while thinking of the souls of others. So strong was it that if I had been free I do not doubt that I would have passed my days in solitude.”  

Then naively he goes on:  

“This temptation began to weaken from a word which N.N. [meaning St. Margaret Mary] spoke to me one day. For once when she told me that while praying to God for me, Our Lord had given her to understand that my soul was dear to Him, and that He would take particular care of it, I answered her: ‘Alas! N.N., how can this agree with what I feel within myself? Could Our Lord love anyone as vain as I am, one whose only object is to please men, and to win consideration from them, one who is steeped in human respect?’–‘O my Father,’ she replied, ‘all this does not really belong to you.’ It is true that this single word of assurance gave me peace; from that time I troubled myself less about these temptations, and they grew weaker and less frequent.”  

In other places Colombiere falls back for his own encouragement on the words of St. Margaret Mary. Evidently, if he was her main support, she in her turn did no less for him. So simple, and childlike, and dependent was
this guide of other souls. 

Nevertheless we have not yet touched upon the quality which seems to us most characteristic of Colombière. With a nature given to mistrust of itself and consequent despondency, with a physique which would never permit him to labor to the extent of his desires, placed in situations which invariably seemed to go wrong, or to give him little scope for his zeal, lastly with a spiritual experience in his soul which was more often desolate than consoling, it is no wonder that there grew within him an unbounded confidence in God, as the one mainstay on which he could rely. He speaks of trust in superiors, of openness with his spiritual fathers, of simplicity in dealing with others, of his love of friendship; but all these are treated more as external signs of self- conquest and charity, they are less considered as supports to himself. When he speaks of confidence in God it is quite different. He sees his sins, but the mercy of God is infinite, and he will not despair. He looks up to God in His majesty, to his Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, to the indwelling of God in the human soul, to the union of the heart of man with the heart of Our Lord by complete surrender; and he flings himself blindly into the arms of God to find there perfect peace. Nowhere does he write with more self-revelation than on the last day of his retreat in England. The passage is a summary of his life; we have but to read between the lines, giving each phrase its full value, and we seem to know Colombière well.  

“On this eighth day (he writes) I seem to have found a great treasure, if only I can profit by it. It is a firm confidence in God, founded on His infinite goodness, and on the experience I have had that He never fails us in our needs. More than that, I find in the memoir which was given to me when I left France, that He promises to be my strength in proportion to the trust which I place in Him. Therefore I am resolved to put no limit to my trust, and to spread it out to everything. It seems to me that I ought to make use of Our Lord as an armor which covers me all about, by means of which I shall resist every device of my enemies. You shall then be my strength, O my God! You shall be my guide, my director, my counselor, my patience, my knowledge, my peace, my justice, and my prudence. I will have recourse to you in my temptations, in my dryness, in my repugnances, in my weariness, in my fears; or rather I will no longer fear either the illusions or the tricks of the demon, nor my own weakness, my indiscretions, not even my mistrust of myself. For you must be my strength in all my crosses; you promise me that this you will be in proportion to my confidence. And wonderful indeed it is, O my God, that at the same time that you impose this condition, it seems to me that you give me the confidence wherewith to fulfill it. May you be eternally loved and praised by all creatures, O my very loving Lord! If you were not my strength, alas! what would I do? But since you are, you assure me that you are, what shall I not do for your glory? “Omnia possum in eo qui me confortat.” You are everywhere in me, and I in you; then in whatever situation I may find myself, in whatever peril whatever enemy may rise up against me, I have my support always with me. This thought alone can in a moment scatter all my trials, above all those uprisings of nature which at times I find so strong, and which in spite of myself, make me fear for my perseverance, and tremble at the sight of the perfect emptiness in which it has pleased God to place me.”  

Could St. Augustine be more transparent? When in his sermons we hear Colombière crying out that even were he in mortal sin he would still never doubt that God would save him, we understand the source of his unbounded hope. He was a very human being indeed; perhaps this was the reason why he was chosen before others to be the apostle of the human Heart of Jesus Christ. “Come to me all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you. . . . Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart. . . . You shall find rest for your souls.” It would be hard to find a more perfect fulfillment of this prophecy than is found in the soul of Claude de La Colombière.  


St. Claude, 3rd from right, with St. Margaret Mary in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, Cathedral of St. Joseph in Sioux Falls, SD

St. Claude, 3rd from right, with St. Margaret Mary in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, Cathedral of St. Joseph in Sioux Falls, SD


I.  My Jesus, My True Friend


My Jesus, You are my true Friend.

My only Friend.

You take part in all my misfortunes.

You know how to turn them into blessings.

You listen to me with great kindness when I tell you all my troubles,

and You always have something with which to heal my wounds.

I find You at any time of the day or night,

for I find You wherever I happen to be.  You never leave me.

If I change my dwelling place, I find You wherever I go.

You never weary of listening to me.

I am certain of being loved by You, if I but love You.

My worldly goods are of no value to you,

but by bestowing Yours on me You never grow the poorer.

However miserable I may be, no one more noble, more clever,

or even more holy, can come between You

and me and deprive me of Your friendship.

And death, which tears us away from all other friends

will unite me forever to You.

All the humiliations attached to old age or the loss of

honor will never separate You from me;

On the contrary, I shall never enjoy You more fully and

You will never be closer to me

than when everything seems to conspire against me and cast me down.

You bear with all my faults with extreme patience.

Even my lack of fidelity and my ingratitude do not wound You

to such a degree as to make You unwilling to receive me

back when I return to You.

O Jesus, grant that I may die loving You

and that I may die for love of You.   Amen.


II.  A Prayer in time of Despair

Lord, I am in this world to show Your mercy to others.
Other people
will glorify You
by making visible the power of Your
by their fidelity and constancy to You.
For my part I
will glorify You
by making known how
good You are to sinners,
that Your mercy is boundless
and that no sinner no
matter how great his offences
should have
reason to despair of pardon.
If I have grievously offended You, My Redeemer,
let me not offend You even more
by thinking that You are not kind enough to pardon Me.


February 14th: Birthday of St. Gaetano Catanoso

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

In addition to being Quinquaqesima Sunday, Carnival Sunday, and St. Valentine’s Day, tomorrow is the birthday of  the great Apostle of the Holy Face of Jesus, St. Gaetano Catanoso.  Father Gaetano is the perfect guide to prepare us for the Feast of the Holy Face on Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras, and our day of Eucharistic Adoration at Salem – in Reparation for those have abandonned the practice of assisting at Holy Mass on Sundays and Holydays of Obligation.

From the Vatican website:

Saint Gaetano Catanoso was born on 14 February 1879 in Chorio di San Lorenzo, Reggio Calabria, Italy. His parents were wealthy landowners and exemplary Christians.

Gaetano was ordained a priest on September 20, 1902, and from 1904 to 1921 he served in the rural parish of Pentidattilo.

Fr Catanoso had a great devotion to The Holy Face of Jesus, and began “The Holy Face” Bulletin and established the “Confraternity of the Holy Face” in 1920. He once wrote:  “The Holy Face is my life. He is my strength”.

♦  Versatility, openness to God’s will

On 2 February 1921, he was transferred to the large parish of Santa Maria de la Candelaria, where he remained until 1940. He was very versatile and his ability to peacefully and diligently serve in such contradictory parish realities earned him the reputation of holiness.

Because he was not conditioned by exterior factors, positive or negative, Fr Gaetano worked well in all situations and settings, striving always to deepen his union with Christ and to do God’s will for the good of those entrusted to his pastoral care. He desired nothing more than to serve at the country parish of Pentidattilo, and his appointment to Candelaria did not make him “puffed up”.

As parish priest of Candelaria, he drew people to Christ by reviving Eucharistic and Marian devotions. He opened institutions, promoted catechetical instruction and crusaded against blasphemy and the profanation of feast days.

Fr Gaetano felt it his duty as a priest to help children and youth who lacked role models and risked being corrupted, as well as abandoned older persons and priests who were isolated and without support. He even helped restore churches and Tabernacles left to decay.

In short, he saw the Face of Christ in all who suffered and would say: “Let us all work to defend and save the orphans, those who are abandoned. There are too many dangers and there is too much misery. With Jesus let us turn our gaze to the abandoned children and youth:  today, humanity is more morally sick than ever”.

Fr Catanoso often spent hours or entire days in prayer before the Tabernacle, and in the parish and beyond he promoted Eucharistic Adoration. He also set up so-called “flying-squads”, teams of priests willing to cooperate in the parishes by giving homilies and hearing confession on these occasions.

♦  Spiritual assistance, Founder

From 1921 to 1950 he served as confessor at religious institutes and in the Reggio Calabria prison. He was also hospital chaplain and spiritual director of the Archiepiscopal Seminary.

In 1934, Fr Catanoso founded the “Congregation of the Daughters of St Veronica, Missionaries of the Holy Face”; its mission: constant prayer of reparation, humble service in worship, catechesis, and assistance to children, youth, priests and the elderly. The first convent was opened in Riparo, Reggio Calabria.

When the Archbishop curtailed the activities of the Congregation, Fr Catanoso showed great docility in accepting this decision. Finally, however, on 25 March 1958, the Constitutions he had written received diocesan approval.

Fr Catanoso died on 4 April 1963, after an exemplary life.  He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 4 May 1997, and on World Mission Sunday, October 23, 2005, he was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI.  His feast was established on September 20th, the anniversary of St. Gaetano Catanoso’s Priestly Ordination.


—Excerpt from the Holy Father’s homily during the Solemn Mass of Canonization of Gaetano Catanoso on October 23, 2005:

“St Gaetano Catanoso was a lover and apostle of the Holy Face of Jesus. “The Holy Face”, he affirmed, “is my life. He is my strength”. With joyful intuition he joined this devotion to Eucharistic piety.

He would say: “If we wish to adore the real Face of Jesus…, we can find it in the divine Eucharist, where with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Face of Our Lord is hidden under the white veil of the Host”.

Daily Mass and frequent adoration of the Sacrament of the Altar were the soul of his priesthood: with ardent and untiring pastoral charity he dedicated himself to preaching, catechesis, the ministry of confession, and to the poor, the sick and the care of priestly vocations. To the Congregation of the Daughters of St Veronica, Missionaries of the Holy Face, which he founded, he transmitted the spirit of charity, humility and sacrifice which enlivened his entire life.”

The Servant of God Jean Martin Eyraud (Nov. 11, 1880 – Feb. 5, 1968)

Friday, February 5th, 2010

TODAY, February 5th marks the 42nd anniversary of the death of the Servant of God, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Jean Martin Eyraud.  In this Year of the Priest, please join me in praying for his Beatifcation, so that Msgr. Eyraud’s exemplary priestly life may be made known in the Church, especially for the edification and encouragement of parish priests.

The Servant of God, Rt. Reverend Monsignor Jean Martin Zozine EYRAUD was born in Le Glaizal, France on the Feast of St. Martin de Tours, November 11, 1880; son of Zozine Eyraud and Frances Gonsonil-Chevillon.  Educated at the Rondeau in Grenoble, France and at the Major Seminary in Gap, France.  Ordained to the Holy Priesthood at Gap on June 29, 1904. Military service: Twenty-second Infantry Regiment as a private, for one year.  Arrived in America in June, 1910. First pastorate: St. Thomas, Pointe-à-la-Hache, La. Arrived at St. Peter, Reserve in June, 1916.  Erected St. Joan of Arc Chapel in Laplace, 1922-1923.  Established St. Peter Parochial School in 1931 and St. Catherine Parochial School for blacks in 1932.  Named domestic prelate by Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel on December 25, 1937.  Presented the Palmes Académique by Pierre Mathivet de La Ville de Mirmont, Counsul General of France, for his work in preserving the French culture in Louisiana. Died at Reserve, Louisiana on February 5, 1968; interred at St. Peter’s Cemetery. Msgr. Eyraud, known affectionately as “The Little Frenchman” served as Pastor at St. Peter Parish in Reserve for 47 years.  A well-respected Churchman, Msgr. Eyraud served his parishioners with self-less energy and fatherly love.  Considered a “Priest’s Priest” among his brethren in the New Orleans Archdiocese, his loving care for and fatherly patience with the many Assistant Priests assigned to him through the years was well-known.  Because of this, generations of younger priests loved him in return, and sought his counsel as a trusted mentor and faithful friend.  The cause for Msgr. Eyraud’s Beatification and Canonization was approved by the Holy See in 2002.

World Day of Communications

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

VATICAN CITY – The Holy Father’s Message for the 44th World Day of Communications – “The priest and pastoral ministry in a digital world: new media at the service of the Word”

Nota Bene: The complete text of the Holy Father’s message is available by clicking here:  World Day of Communications 2010

Pope Benedict told priests on Saturday, saying they must learn to use new forms of communication to spread the gospel message.

In his message for the Roman Catholic Church‘s World Day of Communications, the pope, who is 82 and known not to love computers or the internet, acknowledged priests must make the most of the “rich menu of options” offered by new technology.

“Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources — images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites — which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis,” he said.

Priests, he said, had to respond to the challenge of “today’s cultural shifts” if they wanted to reach young people.

But Benedict warned priests not to strive to become stars of new media.

“Priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart,” he said.

After decades of being wary of new media, the Vatican has decided to dive in head first. Last year, a new Vatican website,, went live, offering one application called “The pope meets you on Facebook,” and another allowing the faithful to see the pope’s speeches and messages on their iPhones or iPods.

Benedict still writes most of his speeches by hand in German and it is younger aides who manage his forays into cyberspace.

A Redder Wine than Cana’s…

Thursday, January 14th, 2010


 — by the Rev. Thomas H. Cosgrove, C.Ss.R. (1919-2008)

If you would fill your flagons

To toast the New Year’s birth,

We know the sweetest vintage

That bubbles on the earth.


A redder wine than Cana’s,

Where water, flaming, flushed.

As if a million rubies

Were thrown within, and crushed.


A dregless draught, and dearer

Than pearls without a taint,

Or relic softly stolen

From the body of a saint.


It wins us timeless treasures,

To live and linger yet

When all the stars are cinders

And when the sun is jet.


And when this toast is taken,

Unlike the ruder wine,

It lifts a man from lusting

And makes him half divine.


But where to find the wonder–

The drink beyond surpass?

Behold!  a priest is lifting

A Cup at Holy Mass.

— January, 1943

Reprinted from the January, 2010 edition of Seelos Center News (Volume XLIX, Number 1), the monthly newsletter of the National Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos.  For more information on Blessed Seelos and his Shrine in New Orleans, go to:
Biographical information on the author of FOR A NEW YEAR’S TOAST:  Fr. Thomas H. Cosgrove was born July 2, 1919 in Kansas City, MO. He made his first profession of vows in 1940 at Mount St. Clements College in DeSoto, MO. Fr. Cosgrove made his final professed on September 2, 1943. He was ordained in 1945 in Oconomowoc, WI. Father Cosgrove served from 1948 to 1951 as a missionary in Cooperstown, ND; Carlisle, KY; and Oconomowoc.  He taught at the Redemptorists’ St. Joseph’s College Seminary in Kirkwood, MO from 1951 to 1954.
Fr. Tom was an Air Force military chaplain for five years from 1954 to 1959; he was stationed in Okinawa and at the Vance Air Force Base in Enid, OK. He also served as chaplain at Cochran Hospital in St. Louis.
Fr. Cosgrove was the pastor at St. Gerard Majella parish in Kirkwood from 1987 to 1989; he also served as pastor in parishes in Grand Rapids, MI; Detroit, MI; Wichita, KS; Kansas City, MO; and Omaha, NE. He also conducted retreats at the Redemptorists’ retreat house in Glenview, IL.
Fr. Tom was an author, editor and contributing editor for many years for the Liguorian magazine and preached about the magazine throughout the United States to help increase its subscription base.
Fr. Thomas H. Cosgrove died on Sunday, September 28, 2008 at the age of 89 at St. Clement’s Healthcare Center in Liguori, MO.
FOR A NEW YEAR’S TOAST was written while Fr. Cosgrove was in major seminary, two years before his priestly ordination.  May he rest in peace.

+ Father Robert J. Fox (1927-2009)

Friday, November 27th, 2009


Please pray for the happy repose of the soul of Father Robert Joseph Fox, retired priest of the Diocese of Sioux Falls and founder of the Fatima Family Apostolate, who died in Hanceville, Alabama at the age of 81 on Thanksgving Day after a courageous battle with cancer:

O God, Thou didst raise Thy servant, Robert, to the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ, according to the Order of Melchisedech, giving him the sublime power to offer the Eternal Sacrifice, to bring the Body and Blood of Thy Son Jesus Christ down upon the altar, and to absolve the sins of men in Thine own Holy Name. We beseech Thee to reward his faithfulness and to forget his faults, admitting him speedily into Thy Holy Presence, there to enjoy forever the recompense of his labors. This we ask through Jesus Christ Thy Son, our Lord.   Amen.

The Reverend Robert J. Fox (December 24, 1927 – November 26, 2009) was a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, SD and a prolific author.  Father Fox ministered in a number of rural parishes in South Dakota, including the parishes of Millbank, Hoven, Bristol, Waubay, Redfield, and Alexandria.  He was the Founder and Director of the national Fatima Family Apostolate and Youth for Fatima Pilgrimages as well as the editor of the Immaculate Heart Messenger. 

He was born in Watertown, South Dakota in 1927.  His father, Aloysius Fox, was a farmer.  Fox was raised in a religious family and developed a vocation at an early age.  After graduating from Watertown High School, Fox studied at St John’s University, a Benedictine liberal arts college in rural Minnesota, between 1947 and 1950.  Fox graduated from the St Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1955.

After priestly ordination, Fox served as a parochial vicar in several parishes where some of his superiors suggested that he start working as a writer.  He started sending in letters and articles to Catholic publications and they were published.  He eventually became a weekly columnist for the National Catholic Register.

Fox became the pastor of St Anthony’s parish in Bristol, South Dakota in 1962.  He was the pastor in a number of parishes in South Dakota between 1961 and 1971. He became the pastor at St Bernard’s Church in Redfield, South Dakota in 1971.

In 1971, Cardinal John Wright, the Prefect for the Congregation of the Clergy asked him to write six books as part of the General Catechetical Directory.  Fox did so and started a prolific career with well over 50 books to his credit.  In 2005, he published an autobiography entitled: A Priest is a Priest Forever.

In thanksgiving for his work for the General Catechetical Directory, Fox built his first shrine to Our Lady of Fatima in Redfield in 1972.  He took his first pilgrimage group to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal in 1974 and continued to do so for almost 30 years.

Fr. Fox gave talks at many conferences across the globe, appeared often on television, and produced a quarterly magazine, The Immaculate Heart Messenger.  He was also a frequent visitor to Russia for the purpose of evangelization, bringing message of Fatima to many Christians in that country.

Among Fr. Fox’s numerous television and radio appearances are several Mother Angelica Live Shows; an appearance on Johnette Benkovic’s The Abundant Life; EWTN Doug Keck’s Bookmark; Daily Mass; WEWN shortwave radio and Sirius Satellite Radio and Relevant Radio.

Prayer had always been first and foremost in his life and often he faithfully fulfilled the 81-day novena which is composed of nine nine-day novenas, in which one prays the Rosary Novena three times (27 days) in request, three times (another 27 days) in adoration, and three more times (final 27 days) in thanksgiving. It was a novena from ancient Catholic traditions he learned while a teenager.

Fr. Fox was responsible for having built four shrines to the Virgin Mary under her title of Our Lady of Fatima since 1972: the second at Immaculate Conception Church in Waubay, SD, the third at St. Mary of Mercy Church in Alexandria, SD, and the fourth at the new headquarters of the Fatima Family Apostolate in Hanceville, Alabama.

He began the Fatima Family Apostolate in 1986 and has been the director of the apostolate since then, as well as the editor of its newsletter.  In 1987, he began the first National Marian Congress in Alexandria, South Dakota.  In June of each year the conference would attract an average attendance of 8,000.  The last Marian Congress in Alexandria was held the weekend of June 13, 2003.  Fr. Fox celebrated his Golden Anniversary of Priesthood (50 years) in 2005.

After his retirement, Fr. Fox moved to Hanceville, Alabama, where he celebrated daily Mass at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, which is part of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery.  He took with him the Fatima Family Apostolate he founded in Alexandria, SD, firmly reestablishing it in Hanceville, Alabama, only 8 miles from the now famous Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Father Fox died in the early afternoon of Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2009.


Books published/authored by the Rev. Robert J. Fox:

  • Religious Education: Its Effects, Its Challenges Today, Daughters of St. Paul, 1972.
  • The Catholic Prayerbook, Our Sunday Visitor, 1974.
  • Renewal for All God’s People, Our Sunday Visitor, 1975.
  • Charity, Morality, Sex and Young People, Our Sunday Visitor, 1975.
  • The Marian Catechism, Our Sunday Visitor, 1976.
  • Saints and Heroes Speak, Our Sunday Visitor, 1977.
  • A Prayer Book for Young Catholics, Our Sunday Visitor, 1977.
  • Principles of spiritual growth]: Phase 2 : module on guilt (Genesis 2 bridges the gap between the old and the new), Intermedia Foundation – 1978
  • Teenagers and Purity; Teenagers and Going Steady; Teenagers Looking toward Marriage, St. Paul Editions, 1978.
  • Ten sermons on the Mother of God,: In light of Vatican II and Our Lady of Fatima, with addendum: Four articles on Communism and the Church, AMI Press – 1978
  • Catholic Truth for Youth, Ave Maria Press, 1978.
  • A World at Prayer, Our Sunday Visitor, 1979.
  • A Catechism of the Catholic Church: Two Thousand Years of Faith and Tradition, Franciscan Herald, 1980.
  • A Catholic Prayer Book, Our Sunday Visitor, 1980
  • Rediscovering Fatima, Our Sunday Visitor, 1982.
  • Prayerbook for Catholics, Christendom Press 1982
  • The Call of Heaven: Life of Stigmatist of San Vittorino, Father Gino, Christendom Publications, 1982.
  • The Mary Book, Mother of Evangelism, Fatima Family Apostolate
  • The call of heaven: Bro. Gino, stigmatist, Christendom Publications, 1982.
  • A Prayer Book for Young Catholics, Our Sunday Visitor, 2nd ed., 1982.
  • Jacinta of Fatima: Her Life As She Might Tell It, Ami Intl Pr, 1982
  • St. Therese of Lisieux: Her Life As She Might Tell It, Ami Intl Pr, 1982
  • St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort: His Life As He Might Tell It, A M I Press, 1983
  • Fatima Today, Christendom Publications, 1983.
  • The Catholic Faith, Our Sunday Visitor, 1983.
  • Opus Sanctorum Angelorum:, AMI Press – 1983
  • The Work of the Holy Angels, AMI International, 1984.
  • Family Bonding Through Discipline, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1987.
  • Families, Seedbeds for Vocations, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1987.
  • Blessed Jacinta and Francisco, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1987.
  • Immaculate Heart of Mary: True Devotion, Our Sunday Visitor, 1986.
  • Guidance for Future Priests, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1988.
  • A Handbook on Guadalupe, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1988.
  • Until Death Do Us Part, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1988.
  • National Children’s Day to Honor Our Lady: Second Sunday of October : a handbook for parents, teachers and pastors, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1988.
  • St. Joseph Promise, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1989.
  • True Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1989.
  • Marian Manual, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1989.
  • First Saturdays, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1989.
  • To Russia with Love, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1989.
  • The Gift of Sexuality: A Guide for Young People, Our Sunday Visitor, 1989.
  • Fox-Sight: Telling the vision of Robert J. Fox, Our Sunday Visitor, 1989.
  • Mary’s White League for Children, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1990.
  • Illustrated Rosary Meditations for Children, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1990.
  • Protestant Fundamentalism and Born Again Catholic, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1990.
  • Fatima Today – The Third Millennium, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1990,2002.
  • Mary Book: Mother of Evangelism, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1991.
  • Only Heroic Catholic Families Will Survive, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1991.
  • Catechism of Church History, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1991.
  • The World and Work of the Holy Angels, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1991.
  • Covenant With Jesus, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1992.
  • Kolbe St. of the Immaculata, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1993.
  • A Man Called Francis, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1996.
  • Mary Through the Ages, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1996.
  • A Young Catholic’s Apology for the Faith, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1995.
  • Jesus – Light of the World, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1997.
  • Catechism on Mary and the Pope Who Changed the World, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1998.
  • Manual of Prayers, Our Sunday Visitor 1998
  • Fundamentals of Faith, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1999.
  • Mary in Mid-America Shrine Book, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1999.
  • Documents on Fatima & Memoirs of Sister Lucia, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2000.
  • The Intimate Life of Sister Lucia, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2001.
  • Light from the East – Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2002.
  • Reclaiming Your Children for the Faith , Fatima Family Apostolate, 2003.
  • Catechism in Poetry , Fatima Family Apostolate, 2003.
  • Messages from the Heart of Your Mother, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2004.
  • A Priest is a Priest Forever – Autobiography, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2005.
  • Ray Likes to Pray, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2006.
  • Fatima is Forever, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2006.
  • Masculinity: The Gentle Man , Fatima Family Apostolate, 2007.
  • Eucharist: Heaven and Earth Unite , Fatima Family Apostolate, 2008.
  • Mary Teaches the Faith at Fatima, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2009.


Mother Cabrini’s First Miracle…1920

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Brother of ‘miracle baby’ continues devotion to St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

Left to right: Frs. Peter Smith & John Francis Xavier Smith

Left to right: Frs. Peter Smith & John Francis Xavier Smith

From the Catholic Northwest Progress, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Seattle, Washington

                                                                                                                                   By Terry McGuire

As the beneficiary of the first miracle attributed to St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Father Peter Smith would have had a compelling story to share this month about his eyesight being restored and his life being saved following a horrific hospital accident just hours after his birth.

In a trip tentatively arranged several years ago, the priest was to visit St. Frances Cabrini School in Lakewood and Villa Academy in Seattle next week. But then God called him home at age 80, in February 2002.

Now his message of praying to the saints for intercession and for nourishing a devotion to the sacraments is being carried on by his younger brother, also a priest: Father John Francis Xavier Smith.

Father Smith will be the homilist Nov. 12 at a Mass at 1 p.m. at St. Bridget Church in Seattle. The liturgy will celebrate the centennial of Villa Academy, a private Catholic school that started as an orphanage founded by St. Cabrini on Oct. 17, 1903.

He will speak in Lakewood on Nov. 13, the saint’s feast day, at a Mass at 11 a.m. at St. Frances Cabrini Church.

Receptions will follow both liturgies. In addition, the archives and relics of St. Cabrini will be displayed in the Villa Academy chapel during school hours Nov. 12-20.

The miracle involving his brother was actually two miracles combined into one, the 68-year-old Father Smith said by phone last week from the New York City suburb of Tuxedo, where he is pastor of a small parish.

On March 14, 1921, Margaret Riley Smith had a normal delivery. Peter Joseph was not only her firstborn, he was the first baby born in New York City’s new Mother Cabrini Memorial Hospital, an extension of Cabrini of Columbus Hospital in Manhattan.

“My mother had told me she was conscious at the time of the birth, and she made the remark what beautiful eyes he had,” Father Smith recalled last week. Like Mother Cabrini, who had died four years earlier, young Peter’s eyes were blue.

But then, less than a few hours later, the attending nurse mistakenly poured a 51 percent solution of silver nitrate into those bright blue eyes, believing the bottle contained the standard one percent solution that was used to bathe the eyes of newborns. The deadly solution destroyed the infant’s corneas and then rolled down his cheek and into his mouth, where he swallowed it.

“The eyes were literally burned out of his head,” Father Smith said.

Specialists summoned to the scene soon determined it was hopeless: Young Peter had not only been blinded, he was dying of double pneumonia, the nitrate having seared his lungs. His body temperature surpassed the 108 degree maximum reading on the thermometer.

In an understatement, Father Smith said his mother later recalled how shocked she was when they returned her newborn to her. His face was covered in bandages, “and the pillow on which he was brought to her was very hot.”

Meanwhile, the sisters at the hospital took the only action they could: They pinned a piece of Mother Cabrini’s habit to the infant’s garment and prayed in the hospital’s chapel for God’s intercession through her.

Foundress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mother Cabrini (1850-1917) had established 67 institutions in her 67 years of life, operations ranging from hospitals to orphanages to schools and childcare centers. Though born in Italy, she had become an American citizen in 1909 in Seattle, and was to leave her charitable legacy in cities around the country, including Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, New Orleans, Philadelphia and New York City.

Following the accident with young Peter, her sisters at the hospital prayed before the Blessed Sacrament for two nights, “and within 48 after his birth, the eyes were perfect,” Father Smith said. “One doctor remarked to the other, ‘Am I seeing things?’ And the doctor replied, ‘No, he is.'”

Still, the sisters thought it strange that his eyesight would be restored yet he was still so close to death, so they prayed a third night, “and within 72 hours after his birth, the eyes were perfect and the temperature was gone,” Father Smith said.

Seventeen years later, as the first of two miracles attributed to the future saint, Peter was invited to Rome for Mother Cabrini’s beatification. While there, he spotted his name at the bottom of a huge banner honoring the nun. He was to note in sermons later that the people around him didn’t realize they were standing closer to the real thing than they were to the name on the banner.

Following the beatification ceremony, the miracle baby was asked to speak on Vatican Radio by Chicago’s Cardinal George Mundelein, who had presided at Mother Cabrini’s funeral. In a broadcast carried to America, the 17 year old noted: “I for one know that the age of miracles has not ended.”

The Smith family, of course, developed a great devotion to Mother Cabrini, Father John Smith said. But the miracle “was not a topic of conversation at home,” he said. “We never mentioned it.”

He said his brother’s vocation to the priesthood — and even his own — were not so much a result of the miracle as it was of being raised in a strong Irish Catholic family that nourished the faith daily.

He said Peter had considered the priesthood as a boy, but then entered Fordham University to study accounting. His entire class of young men was drafted into the Army, and Peter went on to serve in the closing days of World War II in the mop-up operations on Okinawa.

Following the war, he entered the seminary for the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Tex., and was ordained in Manhattan at the altar of the shrine that held Cabrini’s body. The ordaining bishop remarked in jest that the new priest “has Mother Cabrini’s eyes, and she was winking at him.” Proud onlookers that day included the nurse who had accidentally blinded him.

Father Peter, who later wore glasses for nearsightedness, went on to serve more than 40 years of active ministry as a pastor and parish priest in the Diocese of Corpus Christi, then returned to his native New York in retirement. He was serving as a nursing home chaplain operated by the Carmelite sisters when he died unexpectedly of an aneurysm on Feb. 12, 2002.

“On the last day of his life, he anointed 40 people in the nursing home,” his brother recalled, “so he literally died with his boots on.

“I anointed him and heard his confession…The next day he died on the operating table.”

Fourteen years older than he, Father Smith had looked upon Peter and his late brother, Ray, who was 12 years older, as father figures more than brothers. Their father had died when John was one, and the brothers had helped raise him.

Throughout his years of priestly ministry, Father Peter spoke about his role as the miracle baby at parishes, schools and other institutions around the country that owed their legacies to St. Cabrini.

“It was never on the point of he was boasting about himself — but of the power of intercession of Mother Cabrini,” Father Smith said. “He liked to quote the preface of the Mass of the saints, ‘On whose intercession we rely for help.'”

That is also Father John Smith’s message: That it’s important to pray for intercession through the saints, and to nourish a devotion to the sacraments.

“We have such a need for vocations, today,” he said, and they have to come from the home.

“If the parents are not going to church, it’s rather rare….later on that someone in the family would become a priest or religious.”

He notes that St. Cabrini — whose middle name he carries — is cause for celebration in the U.S. because she was the first American saint, who performed works of charity in many American cities. She was canonized in 1946.

A pretty woman, small in stature but very feminine and with an “enchanting voice,” she may have been very unlike the plain style of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Father Smith said, but both were hard workers who were totally reliant on God in their ministries.

“She accomplished so much,” he said. “And she did it with the motto of St. Paul: ‘I can do all things in him who strengthens me.'”


To find the above article on line, go to:

Nov. 11: St. Martin of Tours (c. 315 – c. 395)

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009


Almighty God,
Who didst call Martin from the armies of this world
to be a faithful soldier of Christ:
give us grace to follow him
in his love and compassion for those in need,
and empower thy Church to claim for all people
their inheritance as the children of God;
through Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord,
Who liveth and reigneth with Thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

From Saints and Angels for November 11th at


When Sulpicius Severus first met Martin of Tours he was stunned. Not only did the bishop offer him hospitality at his residence — a monk’s cell in the wilderness instead of a palace — but Martin washed Sulpicius’ hands before dinner and his feet in the evening. But Sulpicius was just the kind of person Martin showed the greatest honor to — a humble man without any rank or privilege. People of nobility and position were turned away from his abbey by chalk cliffs, out of fear of the temptation to pride. From that visit, Sulpicius became Martin’s disciple, friend, and biographer. Little is known of many of the saints who died in the early years of Christianity but thanks to Sulpicius, who wrote his first biography of Martin before the saint died and who talked to most of the people involved in his life, we have a priceless record of Martin’s life.

Born in 315 or 316 in Pannonia, a Roman province that includes modern Hungary, Martin came into a world in transition. Christians were no longer persecuted by the Roman empire but Christianity was still not accepted by all. Martin’s father, an Roman army officer who had risen through the ranks, remained faithful to the old religion and suspicious of this new sect, as did Martin’s mother. Therefore it was Martin’s own spiritual yearning and hunger that led him to secretly knock on the door of the local Christian church and beg to be made a catechumen — when he was ten years old. In contemplative prayer, he found the time to be alone with God that he ached for. In the discussion of the mysteries, he found the truth he hoped for.

He was still an unbaptized catechumen when he was forced to join the army at 15. The Roman army apparently had a law that required sons of veterans to serve in the military. Still, Martin found this so far removed from his desire to be a Christian monk that he had to be held in chains before taking the military oath. Once the oath was administered he felt bound to obey. He was assigned to a ceremonial cavalry unit that protected the emperor and rarely saw combat. Like his father, he became an officer and eventually was assigned to garrison duty in Gaul (present-day France).

Even in the military Martin attempted to live the life of a monk. Though he was entitled to a servant because he was an officer, he insisted on switching roles with his servant, cleaning the servant’s boots instead of the other way around!

It was on this garrison duty at Amiens that the event took place that has been portrayed in art throughout the ages. On a bitterly cold winter day, the young tribune Martin rode through the gates, probably dressed in the regalia of his unit — gleaming, flexible armor, ridged helmet, and a beautiful white cloak whose upper section was lined with lambswool. As he approached the gates he saw a beggar, with clothes so ragged that he was practically naked. The beggar must have been shaking and blue from the cold but no one reached out to help him. Martin, overcome with compassion, took off his mantle. In one quick stroke he slashed the lovely mantle in two with his sword, handed half to the freezing man and wrapped the remainder on his own shoulders. Many in the crowd thought this was so ridiculous a sight that they laughed and jeered but some realized that they were seeing Christian goodness. That night Martin dreamed that he saw Jesus wearing the half mantle he had given the beggar. Jesus said to the angels and saints that surrounded him, “See! this is the mantle that Martin, yet a catechumen, gave me.” When he woke, it was the “yet a catechumen” that spurred Martin on and he went immediately to be baptized. He was eighteen years old.

We don’t know much about the two years that followed but his baptism must have fed his growing desire to make a total commitment to Christ, a commitment that was in conflict with his military role. This conflict came to a crisis when the nomad Franks and Allemanni invaded the empire.

It was the practice at the time to give money to soldiers before battle, in order to infuse the soldiers with a greater love of their country and desire to fight. When Julian lined up the soldiers in Gaul to give them their bounty, Martin refused to accept the money — and to fight — saying, “Put me in the front of the army, without weapons or armor; but I will not draw sword again. I am become the soldier of Christ.” There seems to be no evidence that Martin had been in combat before so perhaps he never had to reconcile his Christian beliefs with war. In any case, it does seem an unfortunate time to make such a decision. Julian, furious at what he saw as cowardice, told Martin he would grant him his wish and put him right in the middle of battle the next day. Until that happened, he had Martin imprisoned. However, against all predictions and all explanation, the nomads sent word that they wanted to negotiate for peace and the battle was postponed. Martin was released from his prison and from the army.

Searching for direction in his new life, Martin wound up in Poitiers, seeking the guidance and example of Saint Hilary. Hilary wished to make this promising young man a priest but Martin, out of humility, refused even to be ordained a deacon. He finally agreed to be ordained an exorcist (someone who performed rituals for those who were sick or possessed) when Hilary told him his refusal meant that he thought he was too good for such a lowly job.

On a trip over the Alps to visit his parents, he was attacked by robbers who not only wanted to steal what he owned but threatened to take his life. Calm and unperturbed, Martin spoke to the robbers about God. One was so impressed he converted and became a law-abiding citizen who told his own story to Sulpicius years later.

But Martin was to find even more trouble in his own home town. Though his mother converted, his father stubbornly refused. When Martin began to denounce publicly the Arian heretics that were then in power throughout the empire — even within the Church — Martin was whipped and driven out of his own hometown!

He could not escape trouble by leaving. When he discovered that Hilary had been exiled from Poitiers as well for the same reason, Martin went to an island near Milan to live as a hermit. The Arians soon discovered that Hilary was even more trouble in exile, because of the writing he did, and let him come back. When Hilary returned to Poitiers, Martin was there to meet him and renew their old friendship. In order to fulfill Martin’s call to solitude, Hilary gave Martin a wilderness retreat. As disciples came to Martin for direction, he founded a monastery for them called Ligug‚. It was there he performed the first of many miracles. When a catechumen died before baptism, Martin laid himself over the body and after several hours the man came back to life. Sulpicius also had talked to this man who was baptized immediately but lived many years after that. Martin remained in this monastery near his teacher and friend until after Hilary died.

This was still the era when bishops were chosen by the people and when the bishop of Tours died, the people decided they wanted an example of holiness as their new bishop. After that their choice was simple — Martin. But as well as they knew his holiness, they also knew he would never agree to be a bishop so they conceived a trick. A citizen of Tours came to Martin and begged him to come visit his sick wife. When the kindhearted Martin got to Tours crowds of people came out of hiding and surrounded him. Unable to escape, he was swept into the city. The people may have been enthusiastic about their choice but the bishops there to consecrate the new bishop declared they were repelled by this dirty, ragged, disheveled choice. The people’s reply was that they didn’t choose Martin for his haircut, which could be fixed by any barber, but for his holiness and poverty, that only charity and grace could bring. Overwhelmed by the will of the crowds the bishops had no choice but to consecrate Martin.

Instead of living in a palace, Martin made his first home as bishop in a cell attached to a church in hopes of being able to maintain his lifestyle as a monk. But at that time bishops were more than spiritual pastors. With the Empire’s administration disintegrating under outside invasion and internal conflict, often the only authority in a town like Tours was the bishop. People came to Martin constantly with questions and concerns that involved all the affairs of the area.

To regain some of his solitude Martin fled outside the city to live in a cabin made of branches. There he attracted as many as eighty disciples who wanted to follow him and founded the monastery of Marmoutiers. He kept in touch with Tours through priest representatives who reported to him and carried out his instructions and duties with the people.

It may seem from this that Martin did not get involved with what was going on but Martin was deeply committed to his responsibilities.

One of those responsibilities was, he felt, the missionary conversion of those who still held to various non-Christian beliefs. In those early days of Christianity such old beliefs survived in abundance. He did not attempt to convert these people from a high pulpit or from far away. His method was to travel from house to house and speak to people about God. Then he would organize the converts into a community under the direction of a priest of monk. In order to let them know of his continued love and to keep them following the faith, he would then visit these new communities regularly.

Of course he ran into resistance. In one rather ridiculous scene, locals decided to get back at him by dressing up as the gods. So in the middle of the night, he was visited by a waggish talkative Mercury, a doltish Jupiter, and an enthusiastically naked Venus, as well as various “wood spirits.” Needless to say, he was unconvinced by this show.

In one town, when he tried to convince the locals to cut down a pine tree they venerated, they agreed — but only if Martin would sit where the tree was going to fall! Martin seated himself directly under the path of the leaning tree and the townspeople began to cut from the other side. However, just as the tree began to topple, Martin made the sign of the cross and the tree fell in the opposite direction — slowly enough to miss the fleeing townspeople. Martin won many converts that day.

Martin tore down many non-Christian temples and always built a Christian church in their place to make a point about true worship and give people a genuine replacement for their false idols. In once case when a huge tower was not torn down under his orders, a bolt of lightning came to destroy it after his prayers.

Martin was also dedicated to freeing of prisoners, so much so that when authorities, even the emperors, heard he was coming, they refused to see him because they knew he would request mercy for someone and they would be unable to refuse. Martin was so dedicated that few escaped his entreaties. One who didn’t was a general named Avitianus who arrived at Tours with ranks of prisoners he intended to torture and execute the next day. As soon as Martin heard of this cruel plan, he left his monastery for the city. Although he arrived there after midnight, he went straight to the house where Avitianus was staying and threw himself on the threshold crying out in a loud voice. Sulpicius tells us that it was an angel who awakened Avitianus to tell him Martin was outside. The servants, certain Avitianus was dreaming, reassured him there was no one out there (without looking themselves). But after the angel woke him up the second time, Avitianus went outside himself and told Martin, “Don’t even say a word. I know what your request it. Every prisoner shall be spared.” Remarkably enough Sulpicius had this story from Avitianus himself, who loved to tell it.

Martin was human and made mistakes. In spite of what we may think of people in earlier times, many were skeptical of his visions of demons, believing them to come from too much fasting. He also announced eight years before he died that the Antichrist had been born. But his visions, whatever the source, are still instructive.

At one point the devil appeared to him dressed in magnificent robes, encrusted with gold and gems, and announced he was Jesus and that Martin was to adore him. Martin immediately saw the mistake the devil had made (and had to make) and asked, “Where are the marks of the nails? Where the piercing of the spear? Where the crown of thorns? When I see the marks of the Passion I shall adore my Lord.” Jesus would not come in riches but with the signs of his suffering and poverty.

Martin’s compassion was as well-known as his miracles. In just one case out of many a father came to him griefstricken that his daughter had never spoken. Martin healed her by asking her to say her father’s name — which she did.

However it was this compassion and mercy that led to what he considered his greatest mistake. Bishops from Spain including a bishop named Ithacius had gone to the emperor soliciting his help in destroying a new heresy taught by a man named Priscillian. Martin agreed completely that Priscillian was teaching heresy (among other things, he rejected marriage, and said that the world was created by the devil) and that he should be excommunicated. But he was horrified that Ithacius had appealed to a secular authority for help and even more upset that Ithacius was demanding the execution of Priscillian and his followers. Martin hurried to intervene with emperor Maximus, as did Ambrose of Milan. Martin stated his case that this was a church matter and that secular authority had no power to intervene and that excommunication of the heretics was punishment enough. He left believing he had won the argument and saved the heretics but after he left Ithacius began his manipulation again and Priscillian and the other prisoners were tortured and executed. This was the first time a death sentence had been given for heresy — a horrible precedent.

Martin’s mistake was yet to come. He hurried back in order to forestall a massacre of the Priscillianists. Once there he absolutely refused communion with the bishops who had murdered the people. This was a strong statement that rejected the persecuting bishops as part of the communion of the Church.

Unfortunately, the emperor Maximus knew the key to Martin’s heart. He had prisoners that supported the former emperor Gratian in captivity and knew Martin wanted mercy for them. Maximus said that he would free these prisoners if Martin would share communion with Ithacius. Martin agreed to do so, but afterwards was so overcome with shame and guilt for giving in to such evil that he never went to any more assemblies of bishops.

On his way home, still weighed down with a feeling that he had sinned by communicating with Ithacius, he had a vision of angel who told him that although he was right to regret what he did, he was wrong to brood over his faults. “You saw no other way out,” the angel said. “Take courage again: recover your ordinary firmness; otherwise you will be imperilling not your glory but your salvation.” This advice we all should remember if we dwell too much on our mistakes.

Martin died when he was over 80 years old on November 8. Historians disagree on the year and place it anywhere from 395 to 402. His feast is November 11, the day he was buried, at his request, in the Cemetery of the Poor.

To read the Life of Saint Martin by Sulpitius Severus (translated with notes by Alexander Roberts) from A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Volume 11, go to:


VATICAN CITY, NOV. 11, 2009 ( In his traditional greeting to the sick, youth and newlyweds, Benedict XVI today pointed to the example of charity given by St. Martin of Tours.

The Church celebrates the feast of the fourth-century saint today. 

Legend has it that while still a catechumen and serving in the Roman army, Martin one cold winter day encountered a half-naked beggar. Using his sword, he divided his cloak in two parts and gave one to the beggar. That night, Martin dreamed he saw Christ wearing the half mantle he had given the poor man.

The Holy Father recalled the saint at the end of the general audience in Paul VI Hall.

“Dear young people,” he said, “[…] consider the example of St. Martin whose feast we celebrate today, as a model of generous evangelical witness. Beloved sick people, trust in the Lord, that he will not abandon you in this time of difficulty.  And you, beloved newlyweds, animated by the faith that distinguished St. Martin, always respect and serve life, which is a gift from God.”

This Sunday: Pope Benedict to canonize Father Damien de Veuster

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Father Damien De Veuster and Saint Philomena

 On October 11, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI will canonize Father Damien de Veuster.

Father Damien dedicated his life to serving the banished lepers on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai and named his church there after his favorite Saint, St. Philomena. On June 4, 1995, Fr. Damien was beatified. His official feast day is May 10. Fr. Damien is the patron of lepers, outcasts, HIV/AIDS and the State of Hawaii!

Joseph de Veuster was born on January 3, 1840, to a farming couple in Tremeloo, Belgium. The fame of St. Philomena had traveled far and wide and he developed a deep love for the Saint. He became a Brother in 1860 taking the name of Damien.

On March 19, 1864, Damien arrived in Honolulu in the kingdom of Hawaii. Damien was ordained a priest on May 24, 1864 – the Feasts of the Finding of the Relics of St. Philomena and Our Lady, Help of Christians.

 As Hawaiians became afflicted by diseases foreigners brought to the islands, King Kamehameha IV decided to segregate lepers and moved them to a settlement on the Island of Molokai. These poor souls, all facing a horrible death, had no one to tend to their spiritual needs. Every priest, at the time of ordination, offers himself as a victim soul for souls, and missionary work requires first and foremost, being prepared for martyrdom. Knowing the risks, Fr. Damien asked to be sent to Molokai. His bishop presented Fr. Damien to the colonists as “one who will father you and who loves you so much that he does not hesitate to become one of you, to live and die with you.”

Father Damien’s first action was to build and establish the Parish of St. Philomena. In the beginning, he tried to protect himself from their disease by avoiding contact with his parishioners, but it was not long before Fr. Damien knew that he had to be one with the afflicted in order to truly comfort, counsel and guide them. He was not only their priest, but their doctor, dressing wounds. He helped to build homes. He built coffins and dug graves. The colony of death became a colony of life as grass shacks became painted houses, organized farming took place and personal pride and dignity were restored to these outcasts.

Fr. Damien served the lepers with startling humility. One of the symptoms of leprosy is that the sufferer salivates excessively. In the chapel of St. Philomena, Father had holes burrowed in the floor so that the lepers could spit their foul and contagious secretions on the floor, which would drain into the church’s crawl space. After Holy Mass, it was Fr. Damien who would enter these crawl spaces and perform the humbling task of cleaning up this spittle.

King Kalakaua awarded Damien the honor of Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Kalakaua. When Princess Lydia visited the settlement to present his medal, she was speechless and saddened to see the conditions there. She shared what she had seen with the world and helped raise huge amounts of money, food, clothing and medicine for the Island.

When Fr. Damien contracted leprosy in 1884 he worked more vigorously than ever to build homes, organize programs and make sure that his parishioners could tend for themselves. He died in 1889 at the age of 49.

Fr. Damien brought hope to the hopeless through his humble life as a victim soul. He gave the lepers of Molokai the gift of a glorious patron, St. Philomena, so that dignity could be found amidst rotting flesh. Fr. Damien often preached of Heaven to those who soon would be facing death.

New edition of CATHOLIC newspaper has arrived!

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

Catholic Sept 2009

In the back of the church this weekend you will find several copies of the very informative and inspirational newspaper, Catholic, published quarterly by the Transalpine Redemptorists in the Orkney Islands of Scotland.  This issue is dedicated to the Year of the Priesthood. 

With the Catholic is a copy of the latest work the Transalpine Redemptorists have printed: Gerardo.  It is the life of St Gerard Majella, C.SS.R., one of the Patron Saints of Expecting Mothers.

St Gerardo 01

I gave each Seventh Grader at our parochial school a copy of Catholic (which included a copy of Gerardo) and have asked them to write a short report on one of the articles.

Three of the brothers from this wonderful community study for the priesthood at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Nebraska.  I have invited them to come out to Salem next month and visit our parochial school, and speak at our weekend Masses, on the work this community is doing for the Church, and to introduce our parish to the Archconfraternity  of the Holy Souls in Purgatory.  For more information on the Transalpine Redemptorists, go to  For more information on the Archconfraternity of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, go to