The Praying Mother
With the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta nearing, the thought of honoring this wonderful woman who we associate with India is exciting. As well-known as she is, however, India is hardly without other saints, too. Upon only a bit of research one sees that the list of holy ones is rather large, from the names of those whose cases have just been opened, to those already canonized. But when many of us think of saints from India no doubt the ones who come to mind first are those who were not actually from there, such as St. Thomas the apostle or St. Francis Xavier the great Spanish Jesuit missionary, and of course, Mother Teresa who was a native of Albania, (though she can rightfully be ‘claimed’ by India since the origins of her religious community and just about all of her ministry were in that very populous nation.) India is a country where the majority of the population is either Hindu or Muslim, but there are also enclaves of Christians; among the ranks of these are many from the Syro-Malabar rite,* one of the many rites which exist within the Catholic Church. The particular saint I would like to highlight was from this community, referred to as “the Praying Mother” by those who knew her because of her reputation for deep prayer throughout her life. This holy one, whose feast day is August 29, is St. Euphrasia Eluvathingal, from whom we can learn much about prayer and humility.
St. Euphrasia was born in 1877 in the village of Katoor in the Syro-Malabar archdiocese of Trichur, Kerala, India, and was given the name Rosa. Her mother was rather devout and taught her how to pray the Rosary and also about her patron, St. Rose of Lima. At the age of 7, Rosa had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary who she said taught her how to pray with the angels. A few years later when she was in school, already at the Carmelite convent she would eventually enter, she had a vision of the Holy Family during a serious illness which almost claimed her life. She believed that the Holy Family saved her; this vision was detailed in a letter written by the Superior of the community at that time. Taking the name Sr. Euphrasia of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, she entered the community in 1897 and lived as a Carmelite until her death on August 29, 1952. For much of her religious life she was in frail health, yet she managed to be novice mistress for nine years and then superior of the community for three years. During her religious life she was known to spend long hours in prayer for repentance, reparation, and intercession for the sick or for Church leaders including the pope, bishops, priests and religious. Her story is actually rather nondescript, and yet her reputation as the Praying Mother was well known to those throughout the archdiocese.
Unlike (soon-to-be Saint) Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who would spend her life picking up the poor from gutters, St. Euphrasia ‘picked up’ the sick and those who served God’s people through her prayer from behind the convent walls. Known for her humility and deep devotion to Jesus, she offered advice and love to those who came seeking guidance, but her ministry consisted mostly of intercessory prayer. Her impact was deep, even though she rarely, if ever, left the walls of the convent during her religious life. What we can learn from the Praying Mother, then, is that we do not have to do spectacular feats in order to grow in holiness, but rather we need to respond to the call which we have been given. Not all of us are called to spend endless hours in a chapel, and not all of us are called to go into the streets of the city helping the poor, but all of us do have a call to grow in holiness using whatever gifts we have received. St. Euphrasia teaches us that obedience to our call means simply being who we are and letting God work with what we offer Him in return. It is God who gifts us with growth in holiness; it is His work, not ours. But what we do is to cooperate with God, allowing Him to do His work in us (since He never forces anything on us) by desiring growth, making an offering of our lives as a return gift to Him in response to His love. We simply need to enter into the life we have been given with eyes and ears open to that which is before us. Our ministry lies in being responsive to grace and to the situations which present themselves daily.
In the first reading of the Sunday Mass of this week the writer says that we are to conduct our affairs with humility and that the more we humble ourselves, “the greater” (holier) we are. He goes on to say, “What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength search not.” (Sirach 3:21) The writer is saying that we should not seek grandiose gifts or works, but instead we should seek humility which will open our eyes to the opportunities which arise each day. Jesus emphasized the same point in the Gospel (Luke 14: 7-14) when He said for us not to seek a high position. Similarly, we should not seek to do things because we think they are higher, more important, or more difficult. That would be prideful. We should instead contribute our efforts to the areas in which we have been gifted or called. No matter how small or unseen, all work done for God builds the Kingdom and all efforts are needed. Jesus taught us to live simply with love, mercy, and compassion and in so doing we will grow in holiness. We do not have to seek holiness, but with the proper disposition, a sincere heart, it will find us.
St. Euphrasia teaches us to dedicate ourselves to prayer. It would be nice if we desired to spend hours before the Blessed Sacrament or in our rooms in prayer, but that is not always realistic to those who live active lives. However, we do need to spend some consistent time in prayer in order to cultivate the eyes and ears we need to become aware of our specific call. If we want to become sensitive to others, it is important to let Jesus teach us how to see the opportunities for service and care which are there. We can develop an attitude of prayer which becomes the atmosphere of our daily lives, so that when we are not actively praying, we might see every moment as either filled with beauty, pervaded by the presence of the magnificently creative God, or aware of the suffering Jesus who is with His people in need of care. What St. Euphrasia teaches us is that it is our attitude which makes all the difference. She had no intention of being well-known, but rather she simply responded in humility to the One she loved. It was her love for Jesus which inflamed her love for His people to such a great extent that since her death miracles have occurred through her intercession. She has not ceased in this love, but continues to be true to God’s call from her place in Heaven with her beloved Lord Jesus. Her tomb is a pilgrimage site in India, with many claiming to have had healing through the intercession of this humble sister, now a saint.
It is important for us to recognize that (thankfully) not all saints are the same: they can be active or contemplative, religious or laypeople, of various ethnicities, and live in many different times and places. Therefore, we can all become holy, but in our own way, as we are. Our works and our prayer do have effect: the smallest thing done with love can move mountains and bring healing and joy to those who might not find it otherwise. St. Euphrasia reminds us that we have received a call from God, given uniquely at our baptism, and for most of us as it was for her, it might seem nondescript. But wouldn’t it be a wonderful return if we, too, could be a ‘praying mother, father, sister, or brother’ for someone else or for the wider world? And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could put our efforts into action through works of mercy and kindness so that our lives touch those of others? It is more than just possible; it is our call as followers of Jesus Christ. Therefore, whether it is through action or prayer we can do as Jesus teaches us, which is to open our hearts “to the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind who cannot repay you.” (Luke 14:14) In doing so we will become like St. Euphrasia, responding to the Lord in humility.
May we ask for the intercession of St. Euphrasia, the Praying Mother, that we might respond as generously as she did! May we ask the Praying Mother to help our world to grow in peace which will prevail over the evil spirits of greed, hatred, rivalry, intolerance, suffering, poverty, and violence! May we respond to the graces we have been given, returning our efforts as gifts of love to Jesus! May we have a desire to grow in prayer that our eyes might be open to opportunities for kindness and mercy! And may we be moved to an attitude of prayer, conversing often with the Lord! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
(For Fr. Roy, SJ, a priest of both the Syro-Malabar Rite and the Latin Rite, and a good friend.)
NOTE: Next post will be Sept. 12
* Here are some links which are helpful in understanding the Church in India and the Syro-Malabar Rite. The rite refers to the ritual used for liturgy and includes some small differences in prayers and tradition, though basically within the Catholic Church it is the same Mass being said universally. The majority of Catholic Churches use the Latin (Roman) Rite, but there are other rites which are part of the one Catholic Church.
-About the Syro-Malabar Church: http://www.syromalabarchurch.in/syro-malabar-church.php
-About the Catholic Church in India, with a list of holy men and women: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_in_India
Here are some links to information I used in researching St. Euphrasia:
The first photo is of the Marth Mariam Syrian Catholic Church (Syro-Malabar Rite) in Kerala, India. It is found in the above Wikipedia link. I chose this because the church is located in the same area of Kerala, India, where St. Euphrasia lived as a sister.
The second image is a painting of the Praying Mother, St. Euphrasia Eluvathingal. I chose this image because it not only captured the likeness of St. Euphrasia, but in it she is holding a crucifix and her rosary, showing her to be a woman of prayer. I also liked the gentleness of her face and smile. It can be found at https://www.rejijoseph.com/product/st-euphrasia-008/
Third, is an icon called Jesus Christ Extreme Humility by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I chose this icon because it seemed to highlight the teaching of Jesus in the passage from Luke. Jesus taught about humility because He was humility incarnate. Only a magnanimous, merciful God of Love would choose to come humbly into the world and then leave it in the most humiliating of ways. Jesus lived what He taught as a perfect example for us of what it means to pour ourselves out for others. You can find this icon at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/jesus-christ-extreme-humility-036-william-hart-mcnichols.html
Next is a photo I recently took in Kenilworth Park in Washington, DC. I chose this because of the serenity and peace that the lily pond seemed to communicate. But if you look really closely, not all the lily pads are the same. It spoke to me symbolically of the saints who are not all the same. Some of the lilies even managed to put forth beautiful flowers, like a saint wrapped in the 'odor of sanctity.' Either way, they show us that although the lily pads seem nondescript, they are all capable of putting forth beautiful flowers, just as we can blossom into holiness if we cooperate with the invitation of grace.
Last is another of my photos, taken in a church in Turin, Italy. I chose this photo because the woman was a solitary pray-er; she was rapt in prayer before the altar with the icon of Mary above it, having sought a place where she could pray without distraction.
Entrusting Ourselves to Mary
During these times when many of us are concerned about where we might be headed it would be easy to think we are the first people to have been in a dilemma over the world situation. It would be short-sighted to think so, however, because both good and evil powers have been around throughout history. We have never been alone because God has always sent help through inspired spiritual leaders which culminated in sending His Son, but continues through the holy ones who imitate Jesus and spread His message. The Bible teaches that the most important leadership is that which we are offered from Heaven. In addition to the wisdom contained in the Old Testament, the way taught by Jesus Christ was handed down by four evangelists who each emphasized different parts of the message, tailoring their writing to the needs of the group for which they wrote. In the end, it all boils down to the same thing: God loves all people and desires that we would be with Him in Heaven forever, and therefore He sent His Son to us to save us from the power of sin and death. In order for God’s Kingdom to come to fruition, however, He needs people willing to work with Him toward this end. The most holy among these is the Virgin Mary, Mother of Love, Mother of Mercy, Mother of Jesus Christ.
The celebration of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary (August 15) brings to mind Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles because he wrote about Mary more than any other evangelist, though the information about her may still seem sparse to us. It is good to want more about her: that can lead to meditating upon what has been recorded so that we can allow the Spirit to help us to know Mary better. In the writings of Luke there are a number of important themes, all of which are interconnected. One of these is how Jesus was inclusive of all people, in particular the most marginalized and outcast among them. This group included women, especially the widowed without children (considered as the poorest of the poor), the ill, disabled, possessed, (all fallaciously considered somehow ‘cursed’ by God), the poor, and foreigners, (deemed as those outside the law and therefore unclean). Luke also focused on the power of the Holy Spirit who would guide us after Jesus died and rose. All of this was tied together in Luke’s focus on Mary, the mother of Jesus, without whom there would have been no birth of Jesus, the Son of God, and subsequently there would have been no birth of the Church.
Luke was very intentional about making sure we understand the importance of Mary’s role in salvation history and in the virtues she models for us. She was full of grace which means that her soul was filled with gifts from the Holy Spirit and therefore in her there was no room for sin. She had been conceived without sin because God had anticipated her participation in His plan. It makes sense for us to understand that in being filled with Jesus during her pregnancy and then being with Him throughout His life, she would have known what His way was about. But as Jesus’ mother, she was also His teacher. In other words, that which was important to Jesus in His teaching would have been affected by her, and she by Him. So it is not a stretch to say that the theme Luke highlighted from Jesus’ teaching about being inclusive of the marginalized and outcast was something important to her also. She was the first disciple of Jesus, following His way through her prayer, pondering all that God was doing, long before He was born.
In the Acts of the Apostles Luke tells us that after Jesus ascended, Mary, the apostles, and some other disciples gathered in the Upper Room to pray as He had instructed. Luke stated that there were about 120 people gathered in the space, yet he only identified the eleven remaining apostles and Mary by name. That tells us that Mary was central to the group, given great respect. Also, if we read Acts 1 carefully we will notice that Mary was with the 120 when Peter began the process of selecting the new 12th apostle. Her discernment and intercessory prayer must have been essential to the apostles, and perhaps they even asked her to share her thoughts on the selection. It is not a surprise then to see that at Pentecost Mary was at the center of the community of men and women, praying, deeply immersed in doing the will of God to bring the Holy Spirit down upon them so that the Church might come to birth and the newly empowered believers would go forth into the world to share the Good News.
After the Pentecost event we hear nothing more of Mary in Scripture, though Tradition has it that in the care of John the apostle she lived in Ephesus before returning to Jerusalem where she subsequently died and was assumed into Heaven. We do not know exactly how many years were contained in that span, but we know she spent her time interceding for the church by consulting the Holy Spirit in prayer, serving those who labored for her Son. Because of all she had done in the greatest of humility and having borne much suffering, God gave Mary the great gift of reuniting her body and soul at the moment of her death. Tradition attests to Christians who witnessed this event. Though God made her Queen of Heaven, Mary does not simply sit on a throne and watch life in the cosmos evolve or devolve. Rather she is most humble, doing as she has always done: she intercedes for the fate of the world, for the homeless, the marginalized, those who are considered foreigners, the suffering, the poor, and that the hearts of evildoers would be changed. She aligned her will with God’s throughout her life and though now Queen, she continues to serve Him with great love. God has sent her into the world many times, allowing her to appear in order to give messages of warning or guidance, desiring to save us from the dangers of evil. Therefore, turning to her for help is imperative, and perhaps now more than ever. Mary, like Jesus, desires for us to receive the mercy and love of God and to save us from the effects of evil.
As stated earlier, Luke emphasized the connection Jesus made between the outcasts and the work of the Holy Spirit: it is the little ones (the humble) who are most open to the Spirit working within them. God offers the power of grace to everyone, but is especially sensitive to the marginalized and the powerless. We learn from Mary to ponder and to intercede in prayer, but we do not stop there. We also learn to let her be our role model, imitating her desire to serve the powerless and the voiceless with the mercy and compassion taught by Jesus. She calls us to prayer and to action, therefore we need to respond. This is what it means to be Christians, disciples of Jesus: we cannot wait for someone else to do it, but rather we must realize that God needs us as His hands and feet to continue the work of building the Kingdom now, in our present generation. If we do not know how to proceed we can ask Mary to intercede for us that we may have the gifts of discernment and wisdom especially when choices are difficult. We can pray for the gift of perseverance, along with an enlivening of the gifts of faith, hope, and love which we received at our baptism. And then we can go about the task of being a presence of compassion and mercy by doing little things with great love, returning to the Gospel for advice and guidance.
Rather than allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by the volume of needs in the world or by the sense of being powerless over the forces of evil surrounding us, we need to remain clear that we are not alone on this journey of faith. We have the Father’s presence, the love and mercy of Jesus, and the grace of the Holy Spirit. We also have a perfect mother, Mary, who will continue to intercede for us that we might be protected from evil, persevere through any suffering we might endure, have the desire to meet God in the reflection which comes with prayer, and have the courage to act with love and mercy no matter how small or large the gesture. We need not fear, but let us not become complacent either. Let us remember that the promises of God are always fulfilled. Christ will return, and until then He has left us His Spirit to guide and empower us. He has also entrusted us to the care of Mary. We are indeed blessed.
May we ask for Mary’s intercession that we would be empowered, cleansed, healed, guided, and protected from the powers which seem rampant in the world! May we accept the gift of the Holy Spirit by working alongside Mary, praying for our world and then acting upon our prayer! May we take the time to ponder prayerfully along with Mary, that we may be filled with discernment and wisdom in our words and deeds! May our eyes be open to the beauty of God’s Kingdom so that we may value what we have been given in our relationships, in the gift of nature, in faith, and in mercy! And may we work together as one community, one Body of Christ, in building the Kingdom, ever hopeful and trusting in the power and mercy of Jesus Christ! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
Note: Next entry: August 29
The first photo is one of mine, taken from high atop a hill, at the Hohensalzburg Castle, in Salzburg, Austria. You can see the Cathedral and also the Salzach River which divides the city into the old city and the new city. I chose this photo because it seemed to encompass the old and the new, from the 11th century castle where the photo was taken to the modern parts of Salzburg. Since there is a lot of history contained in this photo, and there is the flow of the river, it seemed to symbolize much of what is contained in the text in the first paragraph.
Second is a painting of the Annunciation by Bl. Fra Angelico. I chose this because I think the artist truly captured the purity of Mary in this work. Though the angel has knelt acknowledging that she is full of grace, her folded hands speak of her humility, a sign of the very grace the angel is acknowledging. Her heart already has room for Jesus and for the many who He would entrust to her care.
The third image is a painting of Pentecost by Duccio di Buoninsegna. Mary is in the center of the apostles, interceding as all are filled with the Holy Spirit. While there are many beautiful renditions of Pentecost, I chose this one because the halos of Mary and the eleven apostles in the painting seem to be joined as one; just as the community was one in the Spirit, the artist seems to have captured the unity by connecting them in this way.
Fourth is an icon called She Who Reigns. Atop the icon, we see the Creator, God the Father, appearing as Michelangelo’s God the Father creating the world. The Spirit is painted as the Shekinah, the cloud of protection. Mary is not simply sitting idle while God is working around her: she is in the midst of it all, just as at Pentecost. Mary is interceding, working with her Son who stands on her lap. He is blessing the world, which is depicted as a golden orb, praying over it, simultaneously pointing to the Father and Spirit, but also upward to His mother, as if to affirm her wisdom and that He has heard her prayers of intercession for us. Notice that her hand is on the globe also. This seems to be because she is working with Jesus and has a tender love for all God has created, too. The straight line formed by Jesus and Mary, upwards to the Spirit and the Father shows a unity of love, intention, and mercy. I think this icon is needed now more than ever because she is one who protects through her prayer.
For the fascinating story behind this icon you can go to: http://www.serfes.org/royal/miracle4.htm
Click here for She Who Reigns: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/she-who-reigns-276-william-hart-mcnichols.html
Next is one of my own photos taken in Pollone, Italy, in the house of the Frassati family. The shoes are those worn by Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. I chose this photo because Pier Giorgio was a man of action, inspired by his faith and the Holy Spirit to put that faith into action. He worked for the poor and for justice. He became the hands and feet of Christ.
Last is another of my photos, a stained glass window taken in the Salesian church in Turin, Italy. (St. John Bosco and St. Dominic Savio are entombed there.) I chose it because I love the beautiful colors in this symbol of Mary. The letters A and M are superimposed: Ave Maria (Hail Mary). The sword which runs through the letters represents the sword which Simeon said would pierce her heart. (Luke 2:22-38, specifically verse 34.) The crown symbolizes that she is Queen of Heaven.
Immersed in God’s Merciful Grace
In the Letter to the Hebrews the author states that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. This is a reference to the saints who are all around us, both seen and unseen, but especially those already at the great banquet in Heaven. They are witnesses because they dedicated their lives to Jesus and to living the gospel message. Not only do we have a vast array of holy ones who are already canonized or in process of being officially named a saint, but we have the unrecognized men and women with whom we ‘rub elbows’ and who might seem so ordinary that we never stop to think of them as such. Among the saints recognized by the Church there are those whose story has stood out, inspiring many. But there are also holy ones who are overshadowed not only in life, but are eclipsed in death by the well-known saints. Such is the humble Capuchin friar named Fr. Solanus Casey, (1870-1957), not yet canonized, but whose cause is still in process. This man dealt with the humiliation of being thought of as ‘not smart enough’ and therefore was a doorkeeper for a good deal of his religious ministry. Despite this designation, his intercession was responsible for many healing miracles during his lifetime. On the liturgical calendar he is overshadowed by St. Ignatius of Loyola; they both died on the same day, and therefore share a feast day.* But I think Fr. Solanus would be more than just a little okay with that because humility was the basis of his holiness. He was immersed in grace and he called others into that same grace.
Fr. Solanus Casey was the first American-born man declared ‘venerable,’ a term which means he lived a life of heroic virtue and holiness and that there is a case for canonization being considered. He was born to Irish immigrant parents as Bernard Casey in a small town in Wisconsin, 6th of 16 children. He was an ordinary young man, and at some point decided he felt a call to the priesthood. Unfortunately seminary classes in his diocese at the time were taught in German and Latin and so he was unable to do well. It was suggested that he might do better in a religious order, so he applied to enter the Capuchins, an order of Franciscans known for work with the poor. Given the name Solanus, he had a similar problem there; unable to do well because of the German and Latin, he struggled terribly. He was observed to be a deeply spiritual man so they allowed him to be ordained as a ‘priest simplex,’ which means that he could preside at Mass, but would not be given the faculties to hear confession or to preach. In other words, he had to live with the humiliation of being regarded as not smart enough to function fully as a priest.
The ministry for which Fr. Solanus is most remembered was his time as porter (doorkeeper and receptionist) at the Capuchin monastery in Detroit. He also said Mass every Wednesday for the sick, a Mass that was usually overflowing. It is reported that many felt that the cures they or their loved ones received were the result of his prayer. Fr. Solanus, however, felt that the miracles had nothing to do with him, but rested solely with the grace and mercy of God. Many recounted that when they met with him, he exuded a peace and calm that would make them feel that they had his entire attention, even if there were lines of people waiting to see him. It seems that even though he had to live with the humiliation of being a lowly doorkeeper, he found the road to holiness on the path which was laid before him by God.
Fr. Solanus once said, “We are continually immersed in God’s merciful grace like the air that permeates us.” It seems that he understood that grace is a gift which is offered to each one of us and that someone as seemingly ordinary as he could grow because of such a gift. He was not at all a stupid man, yet he was able to come to peace with the label of ‘simplex priest’ because he learned to recognize that it does not matter if we have recognition or not, and it does not matter if we are on the road we hoped for or not. Rather, what matters is that we are on the road God intended for us, and that we realize that He is with us. Every road, even the one which we do not want to tread, or which might be fraught with suffering, has importance and value. On every road we meet fellow travelers whose lives we might be able to touch with a simple kindness, or even a heroic deed, although we will not know what we will be called to do until we get there.
Fr. Solanus teaches us that no act or service is too lowly to be used by God. Something as simple as being a porter can put us in the path of the suffering or lonely. Through prayer we can immerse in the grace of God which is offered to us continually, and grow gradually in holiness. According to his biographers, Solanus did not become holy on the day of his entrance into the Franciscans, nor did he become holy at ordination. He did not even become holy on the day they sent him to be a porter. His holiness came with a lot of inner work, much prayer, and some suffering. He had to allow grace, which he came to see is “like the air which permeates us,” to work on him so that he could conquer his anger at the humiliation leveled upon him, and so that he could move past his sensitivity to criticism.
The most important word in the phrase ‘becoming holy’ is the first one: becoming. Though some saints are perceived as having been born with a tendency toward holiness, all had to work hard at growing into the acceptance of their flaws and in the obedience which opens hearts to complete trust to the Lord. Therefore, growing in holiness is a process of becoming that will look different for everyone. No matter what it is we do, no matter where it is we have come from, each one of us can take the stuff of our daily life and allow it to become the road to holiness. The (opening) quote from Hebrews seems to describe the process Solanus went through: “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us….” (Hebrews 12:1) Like Solanus we will need to recognize the obstacles which are part of our personality, our wounds and failings, and allow God to transform them. Once we acknowledge that we need God for this process to take place, and that we trust Him to take our frail gift of self and transform it, God will do it. This recognition leads to humility; once we get to that point, we also become more reverent toward the presence of God within our own poverty, toward God’s presence in others, and then are filled with gratitude that God would offer so many gifts of grace to each and every one of us.
Fr. Solanus teaches us that the ability to see oneself as flawed and in great need of God’s help means to step out of God’s way so that He can give what is really needed rather than what we think is needed. Part of the process, however, is coming to see that God loves us so much that despite our weaknesses we are loved deeply and are of great value to Him. Further, we need to realize that we are not alone in this: all people are loved abundantly and are of great value to God. In other words, holiness is possible for anyone who seeks it and has a willingness to work with God. As Fr. Solanus indicated, all we have to do is breathe in the grace of God, accepting the gifts He offers so that we might affect the world which is in such need of God’s touch. Our prayer, little works of kindness, service, forgiveness toward those who have hurt us, efforts at reaching out to the suffering or poor, self-control when we want to lash out, desire to be more Christ-like, and our perseverance in trials; all these things do make a change in our world, regardless if it is visible to us or not. And like Fr. Solanus, our prayer is effective, especially if we trust in our God to whom we address it. Let us never stop praying for ourselves or for our world, immersing ourselves in God’s merciful grace, so that we can bring others into that mercy and grace too.
May we persevere in prayer, no matter what our trials, so that we may grow in relationship with Jesus! May we be inspired by Fr. Solanus so that with the help of God’s grace we may move against designations or labels which might otherwise hold us down! May we ask the intercession of Fr. Solanus for those who have lost the ability to respect themselves or others because of a wounded perception of who they are before God! May we become immersed in God’s grace so that we might work for peace in our world! May we trust the great cloud of witnesses to intercede on our behalf! And may we grow in our desire for holiness, working with God in the process of becoming who He truly created us to be! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
* St. Ignatius of Loyola is on the liturgical calendar (and not Solanus Casey) because Fr. Solanus is not yet a canonized saint; he is considered “Venerable” and needs a recognized miracle performed through his intercession that occurred after his death to be beatified and given the title “Blessed;” and then one more miracle after that is needed in order for him to be canonized as “St. Solanus.” St. Ignatius is already canonized and therefore will supersede Solanus for the time being. So if you have a need, (especially for physical healing), or know someone who does, pray to Fr. Solanus for his intercession and maybe we can help him along!
Here are some sites with information on Fr. Solanus, all of which I used for my research into him:
NOTE: Next post - August 15
IMAGES:The first painting is a fresco called Paradise, by Giusto de Menabuoi, (1376). It is in the dome of the Baptistery in the Padua Cathedral in Padua, Italy. It depicts Jesus surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, that is, the saints. I chose this because I loved how there seem to be countless holy men and women surrounding Jesus, as if emanating from Him and flowing outward to the viewer. I also love that directly beneath Him and also the largest saint in the fresco is Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the most prominent of all the saints.
The second work is an icon by Fr. William Hart McNichols called Venerable Solanus Casey The Healer. I love that with one hand he is ladling soup to give to the poor and the other is in a gesture of blessing, pointing upward to Mary who appears to be depicted as Our Lady of Sorrows. (See Fr. Bill's icon Our Lady of Sorrows at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/our-lady-of-sorrows-028-william-hart-mcnichols.html.) Fr. Solanus knew sorrow in living with the designation as 'simplex priest,' an insult which was always with him because of how it limited him in his priestly ministry. Yet he attained holiness because he persevered, allowing God to design the path to holiness which he trod. I like that his hand is in a gesture of blessing, which reminds us of his intercession for the sick and the many miracles which were attained through his prayer. Click here to go to the page with the Solanus Casey icon: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/venerable-fr-solanus-casey-the-healer-038-william-hart-mcnichols.html
Third is a photo I took while in New Mexico. The variety of clouds in this photo reminds me of the grace of God which is "like the air which permeates us." The clouds in the foreground are on the move, and almost seem to be moving in the photo. The one in the background seem static, a great cloud which paints the sky as if totally immovable. God's grace is like that: it is dynamic and moves us to action, but God Himself is a rock of stability upon whom we rest.
Next is a photo I took in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the main driveway of St. Joseph on the Rio Grande Catholic Church. This bush was exploding with yellow flowers and I could not help but be amazed at the exquisite color. I chose this photo because I thought of what the same bush must look like when it is not blooming. It is probably an ordinary green, similar to other bushes, yet when it goes through the transformation brought upon by blooming, it erupts into color. This is what the process of becoming can be like for us: we can seem to erupt with holiness, but we have to go through the process of becoming to get there.
Last is a painting by Vincent Van Gogh called A Wheat Field with Cypresses. I chose it for two reasons. The first is that I loved the effect of the wind and clouds that are clearly making the wheat, and even the evergreen tree, sway. But the second reason is that this was painted while Van Gogh was in the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole mental asylum near Arles, France. Van Gogh knew he was flawed and yet he worked incredibly hard to overcome his mental issues: he voluntarily became a patient there. And he considered this one of his best summer paintings, perhaps because it represented the fruit of his labor, both his inner work and his art. Click here for more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat_Field_with_Cypresses
Heart Speaks to Heart