New Catholic Saint Has New England Ties

On the morning of Sunday, October 17, tens of thousands of people will be at the Olympic Stadium in Montréal, Canada to watch the canonization of six new saints of the Catholic Church on jumbo screens live from the Vatican. One of those new saints will be André Bessette who built St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montréal – the largest church in the world dedicated to St. Joseph.

 

Born Alfred Bessette in 1845 in Mont St. Grégoire, he was one of 10 children of Isaac and Clothilde (Foisy) Bessette. A very sickly child due to stomach problems he still could neither read nor write at the age of 25.  After his parents died, he went to live with his aunt & uncle, Marie-Rosalie and Timothée Nadeau.

 

Later, he was said to have lived for a length of time in Woonsocket, R.I. working in the mills – until it was discovered that he could do so little because of his illness.  He also lived and worked in Moosup, CT at the American Woolen Co. on Route 14. Two of his brothers, Claude and Léon, and a sister, Léocadie, later settled in Sterling, MA.

 

Because of his frailty, the religious community (Congregation of Holy Cross) he entered in Montréal only gave him the position of doorkeeper.  He had a great devotion to St. Joseph and would anoint people who came for prayer with holy oil kept near the small space dedicated to St. Joseph.   His reputation grew far and wide but he would get angry with any who suggested that André himself had healed them rather than glorifying God through the intercession of St. Joseph.  In time, he was given permission to build a church in honor of St. Joseph if he could find the money. And find it he did.  Donations poured in. 

 

So what is it about us Catholics (and Eastern Orthodox Christians) with our devotions to saints? St. Paul exhorts us (in Hebrews 12:1) to be confident about our faith journey…because we have “so great a cloud of witnesses”.  We have both the witness of their lives and their continued prayer.  “Pray directly to God”, you say?  We certainly can and do.  However, I like to think of the Communion of Saints as my spiritual support group – people who have gone before me – been there, done that, so to speak.  If I can ask parents, friends, and fellow parishioners to pray for me, why can’t I ask someone who is already in God’s presence?  It is neither idol worship nor putting the saints on a higher plane than Jesus.  Some people I know who question invoking the saints have no qualms themselves about keeping photos (and other mementos) of deceased family members on display in their home…some even “talk” to them. Why not, then, have pictures and mementos of heroes of our great faith? 

 

Why does the Church make saints to begin with?  The Church does no such thing. Never did.  It is God who raises up certain ones for a special purpose.  He always has: Abraham, Moses, Isaac, Israel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, St. Francis, Mother Theresa, Pope John Paul II and countless others through the ages.  The Church simply celebrates God and the great mercies He has shown these people.  None of these “made it” of their own accord.  Both Jews and Muslims make pilgrimages to the graves of their holy people. Muslims have a great devotion to the Virgin Mary and visit Marian shrines.  In fact, a young Muslim sheik in Lebanon recently pushed through legislation that marks the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and asked her to be God’s mother) as a national holiday! Schools and businesses are closed on that day…it is hoped that government entities will soon follow suit.

 

Back to Brother André…on Sunday, October 31st, Mass will be celebrated in the crypt (at the Oratory) where his body lies.  That is the event I would want to be present at.  Family members will have reserved seating and with Bessettes, Nadeaus and Foisy in my family genealogy, I am referring to myself as his “petit cousin” – his little cousin.  It is the opportunity of a lifetime and already I am invoking Blessed André’s intercession so I can be able to make this pilgrimage.   Brother André died in 1937 at the age of 91.  One million people viewed his bodyBrother André was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 23, 1982.

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About Women Priests in the Catholic Church

You may have read columnist Dianne Williamson’s statements about the Catholic Church’s stance on women priests (T&G, 7/18, p. B1); …let me explain/defend the Church’s teaching.

First, there is no such thing as a woman priest.  Such a person would be called a priestess – not priest. In his book, Catholic Christianity, popular Catholic apologist (and professor of philosophy at Boston College) Peter Kreeft states, “A religion with priestesses would be a different religion and would implicitly signify a different God” (italics are that of Kreeft). He continues, “…It is…a fact that Jews, alone of ancient peoples, had no priestesses. For priestesses represent goddesses and priests represent gods. God chose to incarnate himself in a man.” (p. 367)

From there, when a man is ordained a priest, he spiritually/mystically “marries” the Church in a very real way, in imitation of Jesus (cf. 2 Cor. 11:2) who shed his Blood for his Bride, the Church.  Just as God implants life into all human beings (spouses contribute flesh, blood & DNA whereas God provides the soul), so priests mystically infuse life into the Church (the Church as a whole and in particular the parish in which he serves).  Women by nature cannot infuse (or implant) life but rather they receive that life, nurture it and bring it forth – a very high calling indeed because “every mother brings a new image of God into this world” (Kreeft, p 368; see Gen 1:26); thus it is a “different kind of priesthood that a woman has…The two sexes therefore are equal in value, different in nature, complimentary in function”. (p. 368) The Church, too, as Bride, receives life from God through the priest, nurtures it and brings it forth to others. And because all souls are feminine – according to the great saints – men and women receive that spiritual life from God.

Second, because a (validly ordained) priest does stand “In Persona Christi” (In the Person of Christ), he can truly say “this is my Body…this is my Blood”.  A woman could only say, “this is his/Jesus’ Body, this is his/Jesus’ Blood”.

As I said, in order to confect the Eucharist, the priest must be validly ordained – not “done in secret” by bishops who “secretly support their cause”.  All Sacraments are gifts of God to the Church and therefore cannot be performed in secret.  The great exception to this is in areas where there is grave danger of persecution of the Church in some countries.

It must be pointed out that no woman has the “right” to ordination. Neither do men for that matter. Vocations are a gift of God to the Church – no one has a right to such a gift…otherwise it is not a gift.

Thus, the ordination of women as priests is indeed a grave matter against the Sacrament of Ordination and, from there, against the other sacraments as well because priests administer all. God becomes incarnate in today’s world through two means: the birth of a new child (see again Gen 1:26) and through the Holy Eucharist (see JN 6). Violating the Holy Eucharist with false priests, then, IS grave matter.

Ms. Williamson also makes the claim that “except for the Eastern Orthodox Church (which by the way is more than 100 million strong), the Catholic Church is virtually alone in its insistence on an all-male priesthood”. However, Protestants do not have priesthood.  They have ordained ministers – not priests — and that is a huge difference.  Their ordained ministers are roughly equivalent to the permanent deacons in the Catholic Church.  They may proclaim the Gospel, administer the sacrament of baptism and assist in other ways but they may not confect the Eucharist. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia “The deacon is an attendant of the priest, with no priestly powers”. (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12409a.htm).  Anglicans believe in all-male priesthood, too:

“A Protestant minister is a minister. A Catholic priest is both a minister and a priest. The difference is both subtle and great. A “minister” is a preacher, pastor, teacher, counselor (and, of course, administrator). But he does not serve at the altar, he does not administer the Sacraments, and he does not stand in the unbroken line of descent from Christ’s Apostles.” http://www.christchurchanglican.org/ang_topix/male_priests.html

Other mainline Protestant faiths are split over the issue of women priests.  Many of today’s “newer” denominations do not allow women as clergy either.

Offering the Mass/Liturgy belongs to bishops alone and to the priests. Priesthood is male and from an unbroken line from the apostles and priests are “ordained for sacrifice” according to the Rite of Ordination itself.  Protestants took this wording out of their rite centuries ago.  Any so-called women “priests” in the Catholic Church automatically ex-communicate themselves.  Any functions they perform under such conditions are invalid.  Thus the bread and wine they claim to consecrate remain as bread and wine and as such is abuse and mockery of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

Vatican teaching against women priests, therefore, is not an “out-of-touch missive” as Ms. Williamson proclaims.  The Church must remain faithful to what she has received from Christ her Lord…the very same Lord who willingly chose to become incarnate in the only religion that had no female priests. As a very active female in today’s Church, I accept the Church’s teaching.  Not because I have to toe any so-called Vatican line, but because I choose to.  I do personify Christ when I reach out in mercy and compassion and when I teach the faith to children and adults but I do not feel slighted at all in not being a woman priest. Allowing him to reach out to others through me is not on the same level as standing in the Person of Christ. It is the secular feminist movement (alive and well in only a few parts of the English-speaking world and only very recently at that) that is unaccepting of this Church teaching.

I have studied many other faiths but I have never considered them.  My love is with the Roman Catholic Church.

Update: The Telegram & Gazette (Worcester Mass.) was kind enough to publish my article as an opinion piece.

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What is Spiritual Direction?

The Art – and Heart – of Spiritual Direction

In the midst of an ever-increasing secular society, more and more Catholics (and people of other faiths, including Judaism and Islam) seem to be discovering the beauty of Spiritual Direction.  For those unfamiliar with this form of Pastoral Ministry, Spiritual Direction is a deep sharing about God’s actions in a person’s everyday life with one’s director.  It is a means of helping a person to get in touch with what God may be saying in one’s life – not just in our hearts or in prayer but in our relationships, work, events and situations – whether good, bad or indifferent.  Many people seek to find the Holy in their lives, to get in touch with it and to draw from it. According to Fr. Thomas Dube, author of the great spiritual book Fire Within, “God reveals interiorly but it is confirmed exteriorly in Spiritual Direction”.  

 

Who goes for Spiritual Direction?  Anyone who wants to deepen his/her relationship with God – laity, clergy, monks, men and women religious, singles, married persons – even Spiritual Directors have their own Spiritual Directors! 

 

Where does one find a Spiritual Director?  At one’s parish church, Catholic College/University, a monastery or simply by asking around.  Many certified directors choose (but are not required) to hold membership in Spiritual Directors International (www.sdiworld.org). This website has many articles on various topics within Spiritual Direction such as how to interview a prospective Spiritual Director for yourself, ethical issues, misconceptions about Spiritual Direction and how to properly terminate the relationship if it is not working out.  Because a relationship within the context of Pastoral Ministry is an intimate relationship, a sudden phone call or email from one informing the other that the relationship has ended would be unprofessional and inappropriate. It would also need to be brought about with mutual consent after much prayer.  Many who come to direction may be going through difficult issues so the director must know how and when to let go of the relationship. Why would it terminate?  People move on or realize that it is not for them; some directees cannot handle going to Spiritual Direction and outside counseling at the same time (if that’s the case) and, yes, sometimes it happens that what a directee is sharing could be dredging up muck within the director that hadn’t been noticed before.  For this reason, Spiritual Directors should also participate in what is called Peer Supervision. 

 

Spiritual Directors International also has a global map that allows you to enter your location that brings up a list of all its members in that area.

 

What should a person look for in selecting a Spiritual Director? The person should be certified in the field, have their own Spiritual Director, participate in Peer Supervision, be a good match in terms of personality as well as spirituality, capable of being a good listener and maintaining confidentiality and, above all, a Spiritual Director must be a person of prayer.

 

Sr. Aline Plante, P.M. has been offering Spiritual Direction at Marie Joseph Spiritual Center (www.mariejosephspiritual.org) in Biddeford, ME for five years.   A former Provincial Superior for her community (Sisters of the Presentation of Mary) for twelve years and assistant General Superior in Castelgandolfo (Italy, at the community’s generalate) for six, she currently has 10 directees with whom she meets regularly…one of whom lives in Guam and “meets” with her by way of Skype!  Sr. Aline says that she meets with several non-Catholics as well as Catholics and adds that “they all hunger for the Lord…and…they have a sincere desire to grow in their faith”.  

 

Another way for growing in and sharing one’s spirituality is by way of participating in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Available at Campion Renewal Center in Weston, MA (http://www.campioncenter.org/programs/ignatianspirituality.htm); one can choose between a 30-day retreat (a.k.a, the Long Retreat which is done in silence), or the 19th Annotated Version or even the 18th Annotated Version for those unable to be away from home for 30 days.

 

In addition to Ignatian Spirituality, there exists Franciscan Spirituality, Augustinian, Thomistic, Carmelite, Benedictine and others.  Four of these types are described here in these self-assessments designed to help determine a person’s prayer type. Based on the temperament type of persons using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test, one can come to a better understanding of one’s prayer type preference that matches their temperament. For example, Francis of Assisi was able to best “meet” and experience God in all of God’s creation (his “Type” was thought to be ISFP) while Thomists tend to bring logic to their prayer experience. Is knowing your prayer type a pre-requisite for Spiritual Direction?  No but the assessments can give good insight on how you tend to experience and relate to God.

 

http://www.cpt.org/files/WS%20-%20Prayer%20&%20Temperament.pdf

http://www.nesynod.org/2008_convocation/2008_Prayer_and_Temperament.pdf

 

For those who might feel God’s call to become a Spiritual Director, a graduate school program in Pastoral Ministry at many Catholic Colleges or Universities would be a good route – but not the only one. However, most programs would require a student of such to have been going through Spiritual Direction for at least two years. It is truly a humbling experience to be called to guide a person on their spiritual journey – as Sr. Aline says it so eloquently, “It is awesome to see how God reveals himself in a different way to each person”.  

 

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Lectio Divina

Just what is Lectio Divina?  It is Latin for Sacred Reading…a five step “process” for guided prayer. 

Step 1 — Lectio:  the reading itself. Let’s use, for example, Mark 10:46-52 about the blind man, Bartimaeus.  The whole passage would be read slowly and prayerfully until perhaps, something strikes you.  Perhaps it is Bartimaeus’ humility in crying out to Jesus.  Perhaps it’s Jesus’ compassion.  Perhaps – the jeering crowd catches your attention.  Let yourself enter into the scene.  When Jesus asks, “What do you want Me to do for you?”…do you have the courage to name your need to Him?  Do you know your need?  You may need to read the passage more than once.  Pray first to the Holy Spirit to guide you.  Read it aloud in a very soft voice…sometimes we know passages so well we tend to just skim them…hard to do if you read it aloud. The great Carmelite Saint Teresa of Avila could scarcely ever get the words “Our Father” out of her mouth before she’d burst into tears because she was always so struck that the God and Father of Jesus Christ could also allow her to call him Father, too.  Some people stay with a particular passage for days or weeks, drawing all they can out of it.  My own scrolling marquee computer screen saver is, “The Father himself loves you” (JN 16:27).  I also enjoy “…in the tender compassion of our God…” (LK 1:78).  Tender compassion….whew!  A God of all creation, of heaven and earth filled with tender compassion…for the likes of me!  Lord, I am not worthy…but only say the word and my soul will be healed. 

Step 2 — Meditation (Meditation):   Meditate on the scene….what happens?  What is the “cloak” that you wrap yourself in to avoid notice? Sin? Pride? Terrible self-esteem?  Would you have the courage to run to him if he called you to himself? Do you know what your needs are to voice them to Jesus?  In another version of the same passage (Matthew 9:28) Jesus first asks the blind man, “Do you believe I can do this for you?”  Do you believe that Jesus can help/heal you?  Do you believe that he wants to heal you? Will you let go and allow him to heal you? 

Step 3 — Oratio (prayer):  Pray about this. What is your prayer?  “Lord, I want to see”, or, Lord, I am hard on others…I want to learn compassion”, or…

Step 4 — Contemplation (contemplation):  Just sitting in quiet presence/awe of the experience thus far

Step 5 — Actio (action):  What does this experience call me to do? Act on it.  Where does the Holy Spirit lead you?  What must you do?  If you were/are part of the jeering crowd surrounding Bartimaeus, whom do you need to be more merciful to? Are you jeering at our nation’s illegal immigrants?  The co-worker who is often late for work and doesn’t seem to ever get reprimanded? The person who wronged you 20+ years ago and you still speak of him/her with such fire in your voice? After you have named your need to Jesus, what happens next in your life? 

 For a far better explanation of what I can offer, I’ll let you read it direct from one of the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey in spencer, MA: http://www.lectio-divina.org/

***  Interested in making a retreat on Lectio Divina?  Check out Marie Joseph Spiritual Center — www.mariejosephspiritual.org — and check their calendar which will be available online in September 2010.  I believe that Sr. Aline Plante, p.m. who lives there, is excellent in presenting Lectio Divina in the format of a day-retreat or a three-day retreat weekend. The prayer exercises she guides retreatants through are very spiritual and insightful. She also offers a powerful retreat on forgiveness.  Either retreat is well worth the price of the retreat…about $170.00 for the weekend version…retreat, room and fabulous meals – all with the ocean at their door.   

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Come aside for awhile and rest…

Aaahhh…the need to come aside for some refreshment…time with just me and God…time to recharge!  Are you looking for ideas?  Do you enjoy New England any time of the year?  These three places are a feast for the (weary) soul…

1.  Marie Joseph Spiritual Center — Biddeford Pool, Maine (www.mariejosephspiritual.org)

Run by a group of nuns (Sisters of the Presentation of Mary), the atmosphere gets into your veins the minute you walk through the door!  The place was formerly a hotel purchased by the sisters in ’48 and used as an all-girl academy highschool with dorms until it became a spiritual center in ’72.  

At Marie Joseph retreatants can walk the beach or walk around the point and view breath-taking splashes of waves over the rocks or walk to the quaint village. 

People from all around the country find themselves at Marie Joseph. The place is open to individuals or groups of various populations…Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, etc.  Go make a retreat under their sponsorship (see their calendar), spend a day in private retreat or a week or two; bring your own parish group and use their lovely, homey facilities.  The sisters are most accommodating and give powerful prayerful witness to God’s tender love and mercy…bigger than the ocean which beckons at their door.

The chapel here overlooks the ocean.  The view out the east show God’s creativity in spectacular sunrises and the windows on the west show forth awe-inspiring sunsets as only God can do them!

While there, pick up a copy of Sr. Claire Gagnon’s great CD or order one here: http://www.monasterygreetings.com/prod_detail_list/Music_by_Sr_Claire_Gagnon_and_the_Marie_Joseph_Spiritual_Center

If you prefer not to head to the beach, there is…

2.  Our Lady of Hope House of Prayer in N. Ipswich, N.H. Run by the same sisters as Marie Joseph Spiritual Center, this sacred space is located on the edge of the woods in the quiet little town of N. Ipswich: http://presentationofmary.com/retreatwork.html

Silence is observed here from morning till Noon with daily Adoration.  The sisters work hard and are very prayerful in their ministry of retreat work.  The place also has a tiny hermitage building for individuals desiring still more quiet — however, it is only available from March – October, I believe.

3.  Last but not least, there is the formidable Campion Renewal Center in Weston, MA:  www.campioncenter.org

This inviting place is part of the New England Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).  The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius (of Loyola) and and the availability of Spiritual Direction are what keeps retreatants coming back — as well as participating in Sunday morning liturgy (open to the public) at 10:00 a.m.  The Chapel of the Holy Spirit is magnificent (click here http://www.campioncenter.org/panoramas/chapel/chapelpano.html for a virtual tour) and inspires one to pray.  The bookstore is top-notch and is loaded with the latest publications — at this time, however, credit/debit cards are not accepted.  http://www.campioncenter.org/galleries/bookstore1.htm

 Of great worth at Campion are retreats by Fr. William Barry, S.J. and Fr. Jim Mattaliano, S.J., both of whom reside at Campion.  Fr. Barry is the author of many books on Ignatian Spirituality.  Of the others there, I have not had the pleasure.  I’ve read some of Fr. Barry’s books and Fr. Mattaliano is director of the retreat center.

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The Need for Daily Eucharist

Let’s face it…life at times (ok…far more than we care to admit!) is a long, arduous journey — a real desert experience!  With all of its ups and downs, I find that I need frequent nourishment.  No doubt the Word of God feeds and sustains me — as well as the Beauty of His creation.  However, because the Liturgy/Mass offers the very Presence of Jesus in His most intimate way, I find that receiving Him daily in His Eucharist gives me the sustenance that I need.  For those days when I cannot get to daily Mass — and that’s rather often — I create my own 5-10 minutes of sacredness and partake of Spiritual Communion.  Here I have attached the link for you to follow so that you can join me — and spread the devotion — to this great Feast of Food of all foods.  As the late Dorothy Day once said, “I can endure anything between two (receptions) of the Eucharist”.

http://www.franciscanfriarstor.com/archive/prayerrequests/stf_make_a_spiritual%20communion.htm

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Hello world!

…and welcome to my first experience of blogging.  I am third Order Carmelite and a deep lover of the Catholic Church.  Just now I am involved in teaching a course on Adult Catechesis — teaching the basic doctrine of our faith.   I wrote the course because I wanted to allow it to be in a format of direct instruction with plenty of time for Q & A.  I also wrote and gave a two-hour seminar on the Genealogy of the Catholic Church whereby I explain in detail the inter-relationship between the various (three) groups of Orthodox communions, Eastern-rite Catholics (Melkites, Maronites and others) and the Roman Catholic Church. Sharing my Catholic faith with adults is what I am all about.  I hope to share with you teachings of the faith.  Please feel free to post here your love and questions about the Church.

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Question: Why do we need to search for God?

It’s never about our search for God — but about his search for us. He always takes the initiative and pursues us. He never imposes himself on us, however. When God finds us, it means that he has found us to be open to receive all the good that he greatly desires to bestow upon us — grace. When we are “lost”, it simply means that God’s grace has not been allowed within us due to our free will to say no to him if we so choose.

And since there is only one way for God to come to/find us — through Jesus — then the Catholic Church is where we must be for only the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus and provides many means of grace for us — particularly by the Sacraments and most especially in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The Catholic Church is by far the best means for getting to heaven. It is also a hospital for sinners, according to my favorite author (apologist and philosopher), Peter Kreeft. It is a place for sinners like me…the very ones that Jesus came to seek.

An FYI:  I’ve been writing and submitting answers about God and Catholicism on Yahoo Answers as “The Carmelite” for 3 years.  Over time I will be reprinting those questions and answers here on the blog in between regular posts.

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