November 13- St. Francis Cabrini by Michael Dubruiel

A novena to Mother Cabrini is included in The Church’s Most Powerful Novenas by Michael Dubruiel

The Church’s Most Powerful Novenas is a book of novenas connected with particular shrines.  Michael Dubruiel wrote in the introduction to this book he compiled:

A novena to Mother Cabrini is included in

When Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his Apostles to stay where they were and to “wait for the gift” that the Father had promised: the Holy Spirit.  The Apostles did as the Lord commanded them. “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14). Nine days passed; then, they received the gift of the Holy spirit, as had been promised. May we stay together with the church, awaiting in faith with Our Blessed Mother, as we trust entirely in God, who loves us more than we can ever know. 

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Free Catholic Book

If we want to learn anything about the Paschal mystery of Jesus’

Passion, death, and resurrection here on the mountain of the

Transfiguration, we must approach these mysteries on our knees.

It all begins with prayer.

Jesus climbed the mountain to be alone with the three disciples,

to pray with them. Every effort of prayer begins with an

invitation to “come aside.” Just as Our Lord called Peter, James,

and John to come with him up the mountain, he beckons to us

today. When we feel that inner nudge, that desire to pray, we

must pay attention to God’s call.

It may be difficult to respond to the invitation at times. We

need not climb a mountain, at least not literally. However, we do

need a place to “come aside.” It may be a special corner of our

room, or a nearby chapel; no matter where it is, the trip to put

oneself into God’s presence may seem like scaling the side of a

precipice at times. This is to be expected: We are entering a different

realm. As Peter, James, and John discovered, in leading

them up the mountain Jesus had taken them higher than the geological

summit; he had transported them to heaven itself. They

were able to witness Moses and Elijah, conversing with Jesus in

prayer and blinding light!

The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel

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Blessed Solanus Casey

From 2004, by Michael Dubruiel Taming the Wild   Solanus had also been cultivating a patch of wild strawberries which he told the friars he was “taming.” Father Solanus: The Story of Solnus Casey O.F.M. Cap. p.174

 





I had been making my lunch time pilgrimage for several months when I read a chapter from Cathy Odell’s book on Solanus’ time in Huntington. I had literally walked the fields and woods throughout but had never come across any wild strawberries. They must have perished when some of the land was plowed, I figured.


It was a beautiful sunlit day, not a cloud in the sky and very low humidity. I started out walking the perimeter of the property, as was my usual route, and began to pray the rosary. Normally this meant finishing the joyful mysteries by the time I reached the far forest where an Eagle Scout had cleared a trail through the woods. There I would begin the sorrowful mysteries reaching the Capuchin graveyard about the time I reached the third sorrowful mystery (the Crowing with Thorns) where I would prostrate in the direction of the simple wooden cross at the head of the graveyard and pray the prayer of St. Francis, “We adore thee O Christ and we praise Thee because by thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.” Then I would pray the third sorrowful mystery on my knees for the Friars and others buried there, at the same time asking for their intercession for my many needs.


Then I would retrace my steps backward in a slightly different path along the woods rather than through them. At about the same spot where I had discovered an apple tree left over from the orchard that Solanus had blessed, I looked down and spotted something red blooming. At first I thought they were small red flowers that had some how resisted the mowing the lawn had received recently. But on closer inspection I found wild strawberries almost ready to be harvested.


I thought of the irony of my discovery on the very day that I had first read about Solanus’ “taming” of wild strawberries, then I thought of the whole aspect of “taming” the wild.


Looking over the property of what had once been a flourishing center of Catholic spirituality, I could not help but be struck by the apparent failure. What had been tamed here and once again become wild.


It struck me as an apt symbol for the state of Catholicism in the United States at the beginning of the Twenty-first century. The in-roads that the Church had made in converting and bringing Catholic Christianity to this country seemed to have reverted back to its wild state. Those who call themselves Catholic pick and choose what they believe and how they practice their faith. In many ways they mirror the environment they live in with very little to distinguish them from their non-Catholic neighbors.


Of course it also struck me that I suffered from this as much as anyone.


Picking up the wild strawberry, I saw how immature it was. No doubt Solanus’ taming of the “wild” strawberries had resulted in them growing into substantial fruit that was enjoyed by the Huntington Capuchins. Now without that taming, the wild strawberry had once again returned to a small pitiful caricature of what it might have been.


Sadly this is what we also have become. Our influence in our culture is weak and we risk giving scandal to those who look to us as representatives of all that is Catholic. We are “wild” Cathlolics, in great need of being tamed by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

St. Leo the Great – November 10

I attended an early mass at St. Leo the Great’s tomb one morning while in Rome and as I read the office of readings for today by him, I thought how death makes this even more apparent.

St. Leo, pray for us!

From the Office of Readings:

Although the universal Church of God is constituted of distinct orders of

members, still, in spite of the many parts of its holy body, the Church subsists

as an integral whole, just as the Apostle says: We are all one in Christ. No

difference in office is so great that anyone can be separated, through

lowliness, from the head. In the unity of faith and baptism, therefore, our

community is undivided. There is a common dignity, as the apostle Peter says in

these words: And you are built up as living stones into spiritual houses, a holy

priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God through

Jesus Christ. And again: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy

nation, a people set apart. For all, regenerated in Christ, are made kings by

the sign of the cross; they are consecrated priests by the oil of the Holy

Spirit, so that beyond the special service of our ministry as priests, all

spiritual and mature Christians know that they are a royal race and are sharers

in the office of the priesthood. For what is more king-like than to find

yourself ruler over your body after having surrendered your soul to God? And

what is more priestly than to promise the Lord a pure conscience and to offer

him in love unblemished victims on the altar of one’s heart? Because, through

the grace of God, it is a deed accomplished universally on behalf of all, it is

altogether praiseworthy and in keeping with a religious attitude for you to

rejoice in this our day of consecration, to consider it a day when we are

especially honoured. For indeed one sacramental priesthood is celebrated

throughout the entire body of the Church. The oil which consecrates us has

richer effects in the higher grades, yet it is not sparingly given in the lower.

Sharing in this office, my dear brethren, we have solid ground for a common

rejoicing; yet there will be more genuine and excellent reason for joy if you do

not dwell on the thought of our unworthiness. It is more helpful and more

suitable to turn your thoughts to study the glory of the blessed apostle Peter.

We should celebrate this day above all in honour of him. He overflowed with

abundant riches from the very source of all graces, yet though he alone received

much, nothing was given over to him without his sharing it. The Word made flesh

lived among us, and in redeeming the whole human race, Christ gave himself

entirely

.-Michael Dubruiel

St. John Lateran – November 9

A visit to St. John Lateran, from 2006, by Michael Dubruiel:

After a quick lunch (pizza, what else?)we headed toward the Metro station to catch the A Train to St. John Lateran’s to meet up with Zadok who had so generously agreed to give us a tour of two of Rome’s greatest Churches. We were still pretty green when it comes to the whole Metro system and walked (rather than took a bus) to the station, so by the time we finally arrived we were late and Zadok was nowhere to be seen (at least not at the Metro station where Amy had thought he had said he was going to meet us). So Amy went out the other possible exits and Katie, Joseph, the baby (on my back) and I went a bit further and bought a bottle of water. When Amy came to say that he could not be found, we decided to go on further to the Church and see if he might have gone on there when we had not arrived on time. Sure enought there he was…

I should mention that at this point we had already walked quite a bit (given two treks through St. Peter’s, a good half mile to the Metro and another two or three blocks from the Metro to St. John’s) while we stood and listened to Zadok’s interesting history of the surrounding landmarks, Joseph sat. And even looking at the front of the Church’s pavement now, makes me tired to think about even walking that distance. Most people think that St. Peter’s is the Cathedral Church of Rome, but it isn’t–St. John Lateran’s is. While the chair of Peter is in St. Peter’s, the Bishop of Rome’s chair is at St. John Lateran’s and this is the central feature of the apse of the Church, now that I think of it in a similar way to the way that the Chair of Peter is in the apse of St. Peter’s. When St. Francis of Assisi came to Rome to see the Pope, he came here to the Lateran and their are large statues of Francis and his crew directly across from St. John’s that seem to be in communication with the large statues that are on the facade of St. John’s. After his election as pope last April, Pope Benedict XVI came here to the Lateran to be formally installed as the Bishop of Rome (ever wonder why the Bishop of Rome isn’t an “archbishop”?).

St John’s has it’s own Egyptian obelisk (just like St. Peter’s) and a very impressive Baptistry which next to the Pope’s chair is what I remember most about this part of our tour. The Baptistry was huge (I had seen one at the ruins of St. John’s in Ephesus twenty-seven years earlier that was quite small in comparison). There was some type of festival going on outside of the Church that seemed to be a “Mardis Gras” or “Carnivale” type of celebration, remember this was just before the beginning of Lent. So next to the obelisk were booths, screaming kids and some people dressed in costumes giving the “pope’s church” the feel of a regular parish back home.

Across the street we visited the Scala Santa–the holy stairs, said to have been brought to Rome by St. Helena the mother of Constantine and to have been the stairs that Jesus would have walked on during his Passion when he came before Pontius Pilate. The faithful climb up them on their knees and as this picture will attest–there were no shortage of takes on the day we were there, in fact there were so many that it was really impossible to get near the steps to see them.

We walked up the side steps to another chapel called the Holy of Holies because it contained many holy relics and an image of Christ reported to have been painted by St. Luke entitled “picture painted without hands”….any student of Catholic piety knows there are many images reported to have been painted by St. Luke (Our Lady of Czestochova being one example). I had never thought about it much before, but I wonder if another meaning might be that Luke’s Gospel inspired the works? I doubt the people working their way up on their knees think so..

Around the other side of the Holy Stairs was the remains of the Papal dining hall and an impressive mosaic, as we were viewing this site a woman begging rather aggressively started coming at us, and we moved on toward the Church in the distance…St. Mary Major.

Walking along Zadok shared his knowledge of another area of his expertise the Irish Catholic Church begining with the Irish College, its history and various locations. We talked about the contributions the Irish priests had made to the world at large, Africa in particular and the United States (anyone who lives in the South knows the debt the Catholic Church owes to the Irish priests). What a marvel that where the Church is most vibrant right now is where the Irish planted the Faith. Pray for the Catholics in Ireland.

At this point I became very tired, I think the baby might have fallen asleep on my back and as we learned this made him very heavy. So we stopped and Zadok, Amy, Katie and Joseph had gelato. I sat.

Then up and at it again. A short visit into the Redemptorist Church where the original Our Lady of Perpetual Help is enshrined–a modern enshrinement, simple and I must say not much to my liking. Mass was being said so we weren’t able to really get close.

Next to Saint Prassede, a very interesting Church decorated in a more Byzantine style with beautiful mosaics. This church contained the column that Christ was bound to when he was scourged.

Evening was falling as we arrived at Saint Mary Majors, built on the spot where snow fell one August after Pope Liberius had dreamed that this would be a sign for him to build a church dedicated to Our Lady. As we entered the Church, the chanting of Vespers could be heard. My back was aching from the baby on it and I stole away from our tour to go into the side chapel and join in the praying of Evening Prayer. I grabbed a book and went to the first empty seat I could find which was in the front where I sat next to Cardinal Bernard Law. In spite of the comotion that I created, he did not even seem to notice. I fumbled around in the book trying to locate the point the prayer was at, but to little avail and after about five minutes Michael the baby decided to join in speaking loudly his own version of chant–at which point I made my exit. We toured the church and then started making our way back to the Metro station, thanking Zadok for his time and well presented tour.

When we arrived back on Borgo Vitorio we stopped at a restaurant that Amy had spied the evening before. It was in the cellar and proved to be an excellent choice. We had a meal where everyone had what they wanted, for me it was a pasta with cheese and pepper and it was great,Joseph had a cheese pizzza, Katie a giant calzone, Amy another pasta dish, the baby had some of it all.

Evening came, the second day.

Fulton Sheen

From Praying in the Presence of the Lord with Fulton Sheen

Bishop Sheen’s “Now-moment” corresponds to the thinking of the great spiritual writer Jean Pierre de Caussade. In Abandonment to Divine Providence, Fr. Caussade gives the reader a sure way of knowing the will of God at any moment—by simply confronting the present moment with all its reality. It seems simple, but if we reflect for a second most of us will find that we spend most of our lives avoiding the present moment.

A few years ago an English translation of the Father Caussade’s work appeared in the United States changing the original title to read “The Sacrament of the Present Moment.” This captures the essence of Father Caussade’s work and Bishop Sheen’s meditation that in the present time we are presented with an opportunity that is truly unique. Each moment is sacramental.

Most of us are capable of presenting ourselves with some amount of reflection as we celebrate the sacraments. If we celebrated the sacrament of Baptism as an adult certainly we came expecting to be changed by God. Each time we enter a confessional surely we have examined our conscience beforehand and are penitent expecting to be forgiven by God. Undoubtedly every time we approach the altar to receive the Eucharist we expect to encounter God. But what about the other moments of our lives?

As we awake in the morning, is our first thought of God? As we greet our brothers and sisters throughout the day do we expect that God might be present? Every moment of our lives is an opportunity to encounter God who is always present.

Spend some time reflecting on the following:

1. Go over the events of the present day and ask yourself where God might have been in each of them. Is there a consistent pattern to your day?

2. Reflect on the life of your favorite saint, and meditate on how he or she dealt with the people they met in their daily journeys. How could you imitate this saint? What enabled the saint to act in the way he or she did toward others?

3. Imagine as you leave from this time of prayer that God wishes to continue to be present to you as you go forth. How will you react to his presence in others?

PrayerLord, help me to search for you in the garden of life in the same way that St. Mary Magdalene did when she found your tomb empty. May my search be rewarded as hers was by knowledge of your abiding presence. Amen.

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Catholic Meditation by Michael Dubruiel

One time in the late 80’s I was traveling with another friend of mine, Brian, on our way to Chicago. The first night we stopped at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA about twenty miles east of Atlanta.

Fr. Francis (originally a monk at Gethsemani and one of the founding monks of Holy Spirit, then in his 80’s) met us at the Guest House door, “Will you stay?”

Anyone who has read Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain knows this is what you expect to hear when you arrive at a Trappist monastery. There is a double meaning to the question…”Will you stay?” and join our community, “Will you stay?” in the guest house and finally since in the Rule of St. Benedict the stranger is to be welcomed as Christ…Will you stay? Lord as in “Stay with us Lord for the day is far spent.”

We answered “yes” as in yes we’ll stay in the guest house tonight, which we did and attended prayers and Mass–then left the next morning on our way to Gethsemani. We arrived in Gethsemani that afternoon (about seven hours later). No one greeted us or asked us if we would stay. There were a few other pilgrims wandering around but no monks visible. We were settled in the chapel for Vespers when the first monks began to emerge from the cloister and enter into the chapel. Brian leaned over to me and whispered, “Its the same guys.”

Well not exactly. Driving toward Birmingham and away from Gethsemani I thought of my friend Peter who has been a big fan of the Trappists from way back. I knew that he had thought about entering the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit at one timea and still made visits there frequently–I also knew that he had visited Gethsemani several times. His experience and mine of both monasteries knew that one welcomed strangers and the other saw them as an intrusion and to be fair because of Thomas Merton Gethsemani got a glut of strangers.

When I first stayed at Gethsemani the beds were very Trappist–really nothing more than a pallet with a two inch mattress on it. Years laters a beautiful, state of the art guest house was built that was more along the lines of mid range hotel. Now the Welcome Center–the times they are a changing.

I called Pete to share my views about the Welcome Center and I share them here because for the most part they were inaccurate as my return trip proved but they say a lot about how our minds process religious experiences. I told Pete:

“The first thing you notice when you walk in through the cloister wall and into the building is a coffin…it is open but empty. In some ways it is symbolic of immediately reminding you of your final end and asking you the question what am I here for? Several monks were available to answer the question.”

“Over the PA system there was an incessant crackling of flames–they made me think of the flames of Hell (another of the Last Things), when in fact a peak into the room to the left of the entrance showed that it was the Easter Fire being prepared and the flames providing the fire to illuminate the Easter Candle–symbolic of the light of Christ illuminating the darkness. The video featured the changing seasons…the crackling flames were replaced with crackling dead leaves falling from the trees surrounding the monastery, the barren trees introduced the funeral of a monk with living monks keeping vigil reading the psalms all night before the burial of their brother.”

I told Pete that all of this left me with the impression that the Welcome Center was designed as a sort of funeral parlor and that unconsciously the monks were providing the guest with a modern morality play that the visitor was the staring player. Walking out of the Welcome Center I made my way toward the Chapel for Vespers–passing by another gate where the words “God Alone” were engraved. Long time readers of this blog will remember that this gate once graced the right hand column of this blog…the Gospel in two words, a reminder that after death all that matters will be God Alone…a reminder that in this life ultimately what matters is God Alone.

Then the Chapel and monks bending in unison at the waist singing “Praise to the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit both now and forever, until the end of the ages.” punctuating the Psalms of praise and thanksgiving.

Death, Hell, Purgatory and Heaven all in a few minutes of each other. “Will you stay?”

No, not here anyway.

(Later my return to Getsemani later in the week and a more accurate description of the Welcome Center).


-Michael Dubruiel

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