Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Little Sisters of the Poor

Dioceses in the USA are celebrating Fortnight for Freedom at this time of year, and the Bishops have proposed the Little Sisters of the Poor as the first example of Religious Freedom. 

The founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor, St. Jeanne Jugan was beatified by St. John Paul II in 1982.  For the past few years, my wife and I have visited nursing homes for Christmas Eve and played Christmas Carols on piano for the residents.  Since moving to St. Paul in 2014, we have been able to go caroling at the Little Sisters Holy Family Residence down town.  There, I have begun to learn more about the Sisters and have truly appreciated their fight for freedom. 
Whereas at other nursing homes the employees smiled and waved at me for playing piano, the Sisters brought us a gift basket, sang along, and truly have been interested in our family ever since.  They just downright care about people. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Venerable Solanus Casey

Fr. Solanus Casey was declared Venerable by St. John Paul II in 1995.  I first visited the Capuchin’s tomb at St. Bonaventure Monastery in 2008 and continued to do so nearly every week until 2010.  I never figured that I would be living in the State where Solanus worked as a logger, prison guard, andstreetcar operator and also where, honestly, he is more often invoked for intercession than in Detroit.  There are more pilgrimages from Minnesota and Wisconsin to his tomb, than anywhere else. 

Yet, despite my proximity to his burial place in Detroit I admit the least impression of his holiness on me while I was there.  Not until I moved to Minnesota have I begun to realize his influence.  I am rooting for his canonization (insofar as that’s possible), and can fully reflect on how fruitful his prayers are.  His simplicity in particular is an attribute that I most want to imitate, with his characteristic emphasis on gratitude to Christ.    

Friday, June 3, 2016

Cor Jesu: Furnace of Charity

While visiting the Parish where my wife and I married in 2012, St. Isidore of Grand Rapids, I came across a book by Dr. Timothy O’Donnell entitled Heart of the Redeemer.  In it, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is thoroughly accounted for both historically and mystically.  References from early Church Fathers, Thomas Aquinas, and especially St. Margaret Mary Alacoque make a compelling argument for the authenticity of the Heart of Christ as a revealed source of grace. 

Here’s what St. John Paul II has to say verbatim: “The Heart of the Redeemer vivifies the whole Church and draws men who have opened their hearts to the ‘unfathomable riches’ of this one Heart” (p. 229 of O’Donnell as quoted from 6/24/79 Angelus of JPII).

I have had the privilege to participate in the Sacred HeartEnthronement offered at St. Patrick Parish in Columbus, as well as the SacredHeart Congress in Ohio.  There, a priest said to those listening, “I am going to bless the hell out of your homes!”  Truly, hell cannot abide the “furnace of charity” (fornax ardens caritatis) that is the Heart of Jesus.    

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Conrad and Wojtyla

The first novel of Joseph Conrad (Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski) I read in 1998, by recommendation of a priest—himself a navyman/sailor, was …of the Narcissus.  Even then, I was impressed by how well a Pole could write in English as a second language.  Turns out, Conrad (the Author’s) father Apollo was quite a linguist and translator: French, German, and English.  Apollo’s father, Teodor Korzeniowski, was a captain of the Polish army during the 1830 Insurrection against Russian rule.  Much like Captain Wojtyla, Karol’s father, the military influence of the family brought a sense of honor and belonging to the Polish cause for independence (from Russia, etc.)—not to mention the fact that the Konrad Korzeniowskis were devoutly Catholic[1]. 

Unlike Wojtyla, however, Joseph Conrad has been accused of ex-patriotism, as though his exile were chosen and voluntary.  In reality, Conrad’s father was imprisoned by occupying Russian officials in Warsaw and then his entire family was sent to Vologda in Northern Russia in 1862.  In 1863, the family was allowed to move to Chernihiv in the Ukraine, but Joseph lost his mother there to tuberculosis.  Six years later, Joseph would also lose his father even though they had returned to Poland—specifically Krakow. 

So, Joseph Conrad and Karol Wojtyla held a number of things in common, the most severe of which was being orphaned—though Conrad at a much earlier age than Wojtyla.  This, and not ex-patriotism, was the reason for Conrad’s British citizenship after more than 20 years as a seaman.  And, it’s interesting to note that Conrad appealed to the British government on behalf of Poland, acting as a kind of ambassador to his homeland for the sake of freeing her from the clutches of Soviet Russia. 

Accompanied by his wife and two sons, Joseph Conrad visited Poland only once and was subsequently detained there by the First World War in 1914.  Concerning his popularity in Poland: During World War II, his Lord Jim, “became one of the leading moral authorities for the young members of the Polish underground army and civil resistance.”[2]


“The first ever full edition of Conrad's works (27 volumes) was published in Poland in 1972-74, with one supplementary volume containing material confiscated by the Communist censors, and published by Polish émigrés in London.”[3]

Therefore, Conrad’s physical absence from Poland allowed him to be much more influential the world over.  Secondly, it put him in touch with a more lucrative English-reading audience which in the wake of the British Empire still fed on stories of the sea and colonies. 

My favorite of his works has become his largely auto-biographical Mirror of the Sea which details his prosaic and poetic account of nearly every nautical circumstance imaginable to a pre-iron ship sailor.  He personifies all the winds and their characteristics, and boasts of his recognition of them in contrast to other “deaf” sailors who subsequently risked the lives of the crew on account of their deafness.  He also specifically mentions rosary beads when trying to describe his perception of business on the river Thames:

Such as the beads of a rosary told by business-like shipowners for the greater profit of the world they slip one by one into the open: while in the offing the inward-bound ships come up singly and in bunches from under the sea horizon closing the mouth of the river between Orfordness and North Foreland[4].

His imagination is thoroughly Catholic on many accounts, and I admire his recognition of devotional prayer in such things as ships. 

I had the good fortune recently to travel with my nuclear family on an iron Steam Ship, much like the Patna of Conrad’s Lord Jim, across Lake Michigan from Manitowac Wisconsin to Ludingtion.  The original ship owners name was Conrad too.  While on board, I envisioned the predicament of Jim--although in my case with two children—as the 900 foot depth of waters surrounded us on every side.  I showed my oldest son the lifeboats and the waves, knowing with conviction that he, my wife, and youngest son would all take my place in the event of an emergency.  I would see to it that they survived or else I would be left with the same shame as Lord Jim.

 That’s the type of circumstantial courage-testing that Joseph Conrad is able to evoke in his works.  It brings out a kind of magnanimity akin to Karol Wojtyla’s.  When I looked at the open water onboard the SS Badger, I could almost breathe in the strength of soul necessary to lay down my life for my family.  The very passage inspired me to greatness and memories of the same.          
Wojtyla's way of laying down his life was celibacy.  Conrad's was marriage and family, although in those days much of that vocation was spent on the ocean.  Nevertheless, he loved his wife and sons amidst tremendous danger and hardship caused by World War--and for that, in addition to his written works, he should be commended.

[2] Ibid
[3] Ibid
[4] Conrad, Joseph. Mirror of the Sea.  Chapter 31,

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Pentecoste Novella

See also Peter Kreeft's History of Charismatic Renewal here


Before the Duquesne outpouring of the Holy Spirit in 1967, before the New Evangelization asked for by Paul VI and John Paul II, and just before Vatican Council II:  St. John XXIII prayed for a "Pentecoste Novella".  It is a documented request, and not just a rumor.  The Pope did, in fact, refer to a "New Pentecost".  He may have been overly optimistic in his hopes for VCII.  Nevertheless, those were his exact words and they deserve attention in the light of what many, including Father Raniero Cantalamessa, call "The Baptism in the Holy Spirit". 

St. John Paul II appointed Fr. Cantalamessa Papal Preacher when he heard him joyfully preaching on the streets of Rome to any and everyone who would listen.  How wonderful that this formerly reserved and quiet Capuchin Priest had suddenly unleashed on the world all of his contemplative fruit and apostolic labor!  He received the "Baptism in the Holy Spirit" and defends it vigorously as a verifiable means of grace that God uses to supplement (but by no means replace or overshadow) the Sacraments of Initiation.  And particularly in terms of Pentecost, Fr. Cantalamessa says:

In addition to the renewal of the grace of baptism, the Baptism in the Spirit is also a confirmation of one's own baptism, a deliberate "yes" to it, to its fruit and its commitments, and as such it is also similar to Confirmation too. Confirmation being the sacrament that develops, confirms, and brings to completion the work of baptism. From it, too, comes that desire for greater involvement in the apostolic and missionary dimension of the Church that is usually noted in those who receive the Baptism in the Spirit. They are more inclined to cooperate with the building up of the Church, to put themselves at her service in various ministries both clerical and lay, to witness for Christ -to do all those things that recall the happening of 
Pentecost and which are actuated in the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Thus, there is an unmistakable link between the prayer uttered and documented for a 
"Pentecoste Novella", and the "Baptism in the Holy Spirit".  The link is the actual Person of the Holy Spirit manifesting Himself with Charismatic gifts in the lives of the Baptized!  And this is nothing modern or contrived, Saints have experienced the same "Baptism in the Holy Spirit", e.g. St. Patrick's Confessio:

More and more did the love of God, and my fear of him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved so that in a day [I said] from one up to a hundred prayers, and in the night a like number; besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow,in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time." (Par. #16)

St. Simeon's 

"If one is not baptized in the Holy Spirit, one cannot become a son of God and co-heir of Christ." (Cat. XXXIII (112, 259))

St. Cyril of Alexandria's 
That Christ is One:

"How then does He Who has been baptized and Who received the open Descent of the Spirit, 
baptize with the Holy Ghost and perform what belong to and beseem the Divine Nature alone? for He is the Bestower of holiness. And in proof of this the Incarnate Word breathed, as a bodily act, His own proper good, upon the holy Apostles saying, Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (LFC 47 (1881) pp.237-319)

Yves Congar agrees with St. Cyril's reference above by clarifying:

The nouns 'baptism in the Spirit' are not used by New Testament authors, who instead used the verb '
baptize in the Spirit', always precisely in order to mark the difference between this and the baptism of John, because the verb drew attention to the One who was baptizing.  This was Jesus, inaugurating, especially from the time of his own anointing as the Messiah and the gift of Pentecost onwards the eschatological régime of the Spirit (191, Volume II of I Believe in the Holy Spirit)

And here are Congar's own words concerning an actual time of prayer and laying on of hands for a Life in the Spirit Seminar(196, Volume II of I Believe in the Holy Spirit):

There is usually a certain preparation and instruction together with prayer.  When the moment has arrived, several members of the group pray over the 'candidate' and lay their hands on his head or shoulders.  Although the brethren, the community are mediating, it is only God who is acting.  Sometimes nothing may seem to be happening to the 'candidate'.  At other times an experience of peace and joy and a deep feeling for prayer ensues in a few days.  At yet other times, he is invaded by the power of God, who seizes hold of his whole being--his heart, his mind and his feelings.  He is perhaps conscious of a gentle inner pressure which makes tears flow.  A desire to give thanks rises from his heart to his lips, and this may be expressed as praying in tongues.  The Spirit is making himself manifest.  His coming is powerfully experienced.

I first learned of the "Baptism in the Holy Spirit" from a Benedictine Monk, and have seen and heard many other Religious teach about it (Diocesan Priests, Bishops, Dominican Nuns, even Trapists!)  It is by no means a mere "experience" reserved for lay members of Charismatic Groups.  Fr. Cantalamessa continues:

It is also not difficult to discover in the lives of the saints, the presence of a spontaneous effusion, especially on the occasion of their conversion. The difference with the Baptism in the Spirit, however, is that it is open to all the people of God, small and great, and not only to those privileged ones who do the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises or make a religious profession.

Lastly, "Baptism in the Holy Spirit" is a phrase taken directly from the mouth of St. John the Baptist, "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire!".  It is not meant to be isolated in time or place but seen as integral to the life of every baptized Catholic.  Saints endured martyrdom in the power of the Spirit and not just on their own strength.  How else would St. Lawrence have said in the flames, "Turn me over, I'm done on this side"!   

Four Heresies to avoid in regard to life in the Spirit
1) Montanism--exemplified by Tertullian under the leadership of Montanus: overemphasized prophecy and asceticism to the point of suggesting two different churches (the church of the Bishops vs. the church of the Spirit)
2) Modernism--See my post on St. Pius X
3) Donatism--The belief that only priests in a state of grace can confer valid Sacraments
4) Pneumatomachism--The view of the Spirit as Object rather than as Person.  A utilitarian belief in the Spirit vs. a true Theology of the Holy Spirit

For more info on these Four see Yves Congar's 
I Believe in the Holy Spirit.  Crossroad Publishing Company: New York, 1979 & 1997.