Saints Stories, Uncategorized

The Saint Who Helped Start a War

St. Auguste Chapdelaine
Memorial: February 29

Auguste Chapdelaine was born on February 6, 1814, in the tiny northwestern French village of La Rochelle-Normande.

Not much is known of his early life other than that his family were farmers, he was strong, and for this reason his parents were reluctant to “lose” him to the priesthood since they needed able-bodied people to work their land, especially as they grew older.

Ironically, it was the sudden death of two of his brothers that made his parents realize God’s calling for their youngest, and so they submitted to His will. Auguste entered the minor seminary at age 20.

He was much older than his fellow students, most of whom were ages 12-13. As a result, they called him, “Pops.” The nickname stuck for the rest of his life.

He received ordination in 1843, and after several months waiting for an assignment at home, his bishop appointed him as a parochial vicar in Boucey, France.

Before this appointment, he had told another one of his brothers, “I did not become a priest for those who already know God but for those who don’t.” Nonetheless he bided his time, and for seven years served the roughly 650 souls in the village.

Finally, around 1851, he was able to join the Foreign Missions of Paris (PIME) to work in one of their mission fields. The people of Boucey had grown to love him so much, they packed the church for his last Mass. Some didn’t understand why he wanted to leave them when he was so well regarded and his work so valued. Others perfectly understood his zeal to spread the Good News and blessed him on his way.

Before leaving for mission territory, he had to be evaluated by his PIME superiors at their seminary in Paris, called the “Polytechnic Institute of Martyrs” due to the huge number of its graduates who had given the ultimate witness for the Faith.

During his stay, he wrote a Carmelite who taught in Boucey, “If it’s true what they say, that Paris is the center of dissoluteness, it is also the home of much virtue.”

Finally after about a year in the French capital, he had his evaluation. Afterward he wrote his mother, “I am being sent to China. You must treat this as a sacrifice made for God, and He will reward you in eternity. At your death, you shall appear before Him in confidence [and He will remember] your generosity for His greater glory in sacrificing what is dearest to you. Please sign the letter you will send me as soon as possible s a sign of your consent and also as a sign of your forgiveness for all the sorrow I have caused you. And as sign of your blessing, please add a cross after your name.”

He then wrote his brother, Nicolas, “I thank God for the wonderful family He has given me and for the conduct of all its members…. It has been my greatest happiness on earth to have had such an honorable family.”

The journey was arduous. Departing in May from Le Havre, Netherlands, it took two weeks for the storm-tossed ship he and six other missionaries had boarded  just to exit the English Channel. Then because of unfavorable winds, rather than going around Africa, the ship’s captain headed west at the Canary Islands and made for Brazil, where they landed June 6, 1852. The seven men were in a 4’x6’ cabin with no ventilation, and once they passed the Equator, their room became unbearably hot. When they reached the southern tip of South America, of course they were in winter. Then, once around the Horn, instead of heading straight to China, bad winds forced them to make for Australia. They had not touched land in three months but finally landed in Singapore in September. They then made their way to Vietnam where, after some time, a Portuguese ship offered them passage to Hong Kong. But being monsoon season, they had to take refuge in Borneo and then head to the Philippines. All along the way, storms and hurricanes buffeted their ship.

They finally landed in Macau on Christmas Day, and reached Hong Kong on January 10, 1853.

First he stayed in Hong Kong for a period. Then in October 1853, he took a journey of three days to the west, during which he was beaten and robbed. Finally he arrived at the village of Yaoshan, Xilin County, Guangxi Province. He celebrated his first Mass there for 300 souls on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1854. Accompanying him was the lay catechist and future martyr, St. Jerome (aka, Hieronymus) Lu Tingmei († January 28, 1858). Ten days later authorities arrested him for illegal missionary activities.

The reason was that at this time in China’s history, Christianity was only legal in five open ports. Everywhere else, it was not permitted. Because of the threats he received after his release from jail, he traveled to neighboring Guizhou (aka, Kweichow) Province. By the end of the year, however, he had returned to minister to his people. His efforts led to several hundred people forswearing paganism, embracing Christ as their Savior, and entering the Church.

In February 1855, the pagan wife of a new convert didn’t like her husband chastising her for not being more like the Christian wives he knew. She complained to her brother and uncle, who denounced St. Auguste. Thus he was again arrested sometime between February 22 and the night of February 24-25, 1856 (sources vary), charged with the crime of propagating an illegal religion. Under Chinese law at the time, this was a capital crime.

When the local mandarin attempted to question him, Father, like Christ at His own trial, said very little. Furious at what he considered to be disrespect, the official had him flogged 150 times on the cheeks. The very first lash drew blood. We can only imagine what damage the other 149 blows did. Next Father received 300 lashes with a cane on his back. They stopped only when they saw he could not move.

But when they went to drag him back to his cell, after only a few steps, he rose and began walking as if in perfect health. The Chinese couldn’t believe their eyes. The saint told them, “It is the good God Who protects and blesses me.”

They next placed him in a custom made cage. His head fit through a hole in the top, and it was just tall enough for him to barely touch his toes on the ground. Furthermore the cage was constructed to hold his arms in place so that he could not use them to pull himself up in order to breath more easily. Thus he was always hovering between suffocation and barely breathing.

The mandarin offered to spare his life, however, provided he came up with a ransom of 400 silver talents. “I have no money,” he said, “only books.” What about 150 talents, then? he was asked. He replied, “Let the mandarin do what he pleases with me. I am in his hands.” Thus on February 29, 1856, they beheaded him. They needn’t have bothered, though. He had been beaten so badly and his body had been so tortured, he was already dead.

He had not sought out martyrdom. Not long before his arrest, he was reputed to have said, “He Who gives us our lives demands that we should take reasonable care of the gift. But if the danger comes to us, then happy those who are found worthy to suffer for His dear sake.” Nonetheless die he did.

Martyred at around this same time was St. Agnes Tsao Kou Ying, one of his lay catechists who had been stuck in the same sort of cage as he had been. Their cages were placed side-by-side, and while they could see one another, they could not talk. Doing so was impossible.

Also giving his life was St. Lawrence Bai Xiaoman, a layman who had promised to accompany Father to death if need be for the sake of Jesus Christ and the salvation of souls.

Learning of his death, the head of the French mission at Hong Kong sent this protest to Ye Ming-Chen, governor of Guangdong:

“The captivity of Mr. Chapdelaine, the torture he suffered, his cruel death, and the violence that was made to his body constitute, noble Imperial Commissioner, a blatant and odious violation of the solemn commitments to which he was consecrated. Your government therefore needs to give [some reparation] to France. You will not hesitate to give it me fully and entirely. You will propose the terms: I will have to then decide if the honor, dignity, and interests of the Government of my great Emperor allow me to accept. My desire is also to go to Canton and to confer in person with Your Excellency. You know an hour of friendly conversation more often than not advances the solution to important affairs than a month of written correspondence.

The Chinese were frankly tired of the foreign powers throwing their weight around. China, after all, has always been a great and mighty nation. Were it not for the Europeans’ advanced military technology—ironically, technology that had its birth in China—China would have swatted these “bearded foreign devils” away like flies.

Thus it shouldn’t surprise us that the Chinese government refused to apologize or offer compensation or any satisfaction for the life of Fr. Chapdelaine. After all, had he not clearly broken Chinese law by breaching the interior and preaching an illegal religion? He had. And was not the punishment for this beheading? It was. So for what was there to apologize? Abbé Chapdelaine wasn’t the only French citizen arrested for such activity. At the time, six of his countrymen were in custody for attempting to spread the gospel.

Furthermore, Father’s activities took place in territory where rebels were active (see the Christianity-inspired Taiping Rebellion here). How could it not be that a Frenchman – whose Christian government had not shown itself overly friendly or necessarily an ally to China – was doing something other than preaching religion? In fact, the Chinese viceroy asserted that Father’s activities had nothing whatsoever to do with religion. He was an agitating agent working against the government.

This turn of affairs was not necessarily disadvantageous to the French. Many of their countrymen had suffered martyrdom for their missionary work, and their government had never once taken action or retaliated. Now the sense was, “Enough is enough.” As the aforementioned minister wrote his nation’s Foreign Office:

If, in a word, the Representative of His Imperial Majesty would not but fail in his duty if he did not take advantage of the opportunity offered him to fix with one blow the errors or mistakes of the past and to bring out of the martyrdom of a missionary the complete emancipation of Christianity [in China].

As a result of the Chinese government’s refusal to apologize in any way, France thus used the incident as a pretext to join the United Kingdom in the Second Opium War. Britain’s purpose for the war was to have China legalize the opium trade (heroin comes from opium), expand its access to near-slave-wages Chinese labor (abuses of Chinese workers had led their government to cut off English access to such labor), and get China to exempt foreign imports from internal transit duties.

The war lasted until 1860. While it obtained for foreign missionaries access to China’s interior, all in all it was a shameful mess. One could say about it what the English politician Gladstone said about the First Opium War: “I feel in dread of the judgments of God upon England for our national iniquity towards China…. [This is] a war more unjust in its origin, a war more calculated in its progress to cover this country with permanent disgrace.”

Pope St. John Paul II canonized St. Auguste and other Chinese martyrs on October 1, 2000, the same day (perhaps not coincidentally) as the anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. The next day the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily released an article showing all the ways those canonized were actually bandits and other types of miscreants. It accused St. Auguste of raping women, of living with a woman named Cao, and of bribing officials on behalf of “bandits.”

Needless to say, the charges were the sorts of lies and politically motivated propaganda at which all communists excel.

God have mercy on their piddling souls.



Father’s cage.

This and That, Uncategorized

Women Who “Waste” Their Lives in the Religious Life

I recently wrote an article for National Catholic Register on the challenges cloistered religious orders faced in terms of attracting vocations. (You can read it here.) For it, I interviewed several recent entrants of various convents about why they chose this very different yet traditional path for their vocation.

The first I spoke with was an African American young lady named Sr. Angela Helm, 24, who is a Discalced Carmelite at the order’s monastery in Port Tobacco, MD, and originally from Washington, DC

When I asked her why a cloistered life and not that of an active religious life (e.g., as part of an order that teaches, works with the poor, does nursing, etc.), she told me, “I find it really hard to focus on more than one thing at once, so it would be hard for me to live in the world and live for God. So I wanted to be somewhere where they choose living for God specifically.”

Through her research she says, “I became interested in Carmelite spirituality. I Googled Carmelite monasteries near me. There was one in Baltimore, but the one in Port Tobacco looked more like what I was looking for, so I drove over and checked it out. I became a postulant last August. I’m scheduled to receive the habit on February 22, 2016.”

I asked her what she did before becoming a religious. She says, “I was working my way through school and working a few part-time jobs at the same time.”

How did she come to realize she wasn’t supposed to finish school but that God was calling her to the religious life? She replied, “At times I kinda felt called to it. It was a struggle for me, but once I made the decision, it was a huge relief. It pushed me back into my faith and made it strong. I asked God, ‘What’s next?’ at Mass, and I then had an image of me kneeling in a Carmelite habit. By the end of Mass, I knew. It made me chuckle because after Mass was over, a seminarian announced it was vocations awareness week in the archdiocese.”

Sr. Aisling, 39, came all the way from Dublin, Ireland, to enter the Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, NJ.

So how did a nice Irish girl like you find your way to New Jersey, I asked her. She said, “I’d known about the monastery for a decade because of the blog. Of course, I tried to find something closer to me, but nothing was working out in Ireland. About three years ago, they invited me to make a visit, and I just fell in love with the place.

“I’ve always been attracted to the idea of cloistered life,” said Sister, “but I did look at active ministries for quite a long time. I was a nurse for 20 years and the idea that I wouldn’t necessarily use those skills again … But the idea of cloistered life kept coming back to me, and after doing more investigating, I discerned much more of a call, that I was much more drawn to that type of life.”

Asked what other things the Sisters had done to make themselves known to her, she replied, “They published a few books I’ve read over the years. The website’s very attractive, and when I contacted the novice mistress, they responded right away and were very friendly. And when I went to visit, I really did fall in love with the place.”

Sr. Jacinta, 20, originally from Montana, chose the Benedictines of Mary in Gower, MO.

She told me, “What attracted me about cloistered life was the true joy that radiated from the community. [When I went to visit], using my eyes of the world, I couldn’t perceive why the Sisters were so happy, and their joy attracted me. When I looked at them, I thought, ‘They shouldn’t be happy, and they shouldn’t want to be here,’ but you could tell they didn’t want to be anywhere else. They had what the world didn’t: Jesus. I had never considered myself ‘religious growing up, but the contemplatives attracted me because they were out of the world, and it felt like a strong fortress of faith and goodness.”

I asked what other factors contributed to her vocation. Sr. Jacinta said, “I was so blessed to grow up in a strong close knit family, and when I was discerning and visited, I found that same atmosphere of love.”

Another thing, she said, was “the silence. It was so utterly beautiful and so different than anything I had experienced. I could finally hear my soul, and it was crying for this sort of experience.”

Being a religious was not her first choice. “I had originally planned to be a nurse in the world,” she said, “when God asked me to do something else for Him. Once I discerned I had a vocation, I was hoping for an active order of nurses, but there weren’t any that attracted me. I started looking into the religious life and the differences amongst the various types of callings, and I learned what contemplatives were. When I started talking to my spiritual director and looking at websites, I could not get it out of my head how people could live in a small area for their whole life. The thought wouldn’t leave me alone, and it went from a constant wondering to where I finally had to try for myself.

“The impact my first visit made on me left me in shock. ‘Common sense’ was failing me. Inside the walls of the convent was such joy—especially during recreation when the roar of laughter shook the house—that I didn’t want to leave. My mind was telling me that everything they were doing was pointless and a waste of time. Yet people in the world who had all they wanted on a material level did not have the true peace that radiated from their whole person.

“What I was experiencing was the joy of the cross, and that is what attracted me and drew me to the contemplative life. The convent did nothing special to draw me in except share the love of Christ and just live their life.”

Sr. Maria Faustina, 25, from Mason, OH, is at the Passionist monastery in Whitesville, KY.

She says, “There were several elements that attracted me to the cloistered life. First of all, I instinctively knew that if I was ever called to the religious life, I had to be a contemplative religious. In the midst of my busy daily life, I felt very drawn to spending extended periods of time in prayer and I would strive to find time after a busy day to go into my room and just be alone with the Lord. Prayer energized me more than anything else, and if I filled my day with constant activity and hardly any prayer, I was left feeling very frazzled and spiritually empty.

“I especially enjoyed Lectio Divina, praying with the Scriptures and just speaking to the Lord from the heart and listening to Him. Gradually, my call to prayer became stronger, until I was ultimately inspired to give my entire life to prayer and adoration of the Lord – to be a living, breathing prayer to the Lord.

“Secondly, I truly began to understand the value of prayer when I read writings from the saints, such as St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Faustina. I was also very impacted by Our Lady’s messages at Lourdes and Fatima. I realized how essential prayer truly is for the world and for souls. Prayer changes history: world history and personal histories. Fr. Thomas Nelson, OPRAEM says somewhere that cloistered contemplatives are called to fight in the front lines of the spiritual battle. In light of all of this, I began to feel an increasing urgency to give myself to the Lord in a life of prayer. It felt as though this was how I could best unite myself with the Lord in saving souls.

“Thirdly, I had a great desire to be completely set apart for the Lord. Cloistered contemplatives are called to be like Mary of Bethany, sitting at the feet of Jesus. We give up the freedom to roam around physically in the world, so that our souls have the freedom to fly to God. What we give up in physical freedom, we truly do gain in spiritual freedom, which is a freedom that will endure eternally. The enclosure is a very efficacious aid to staying recollected in God throughout the day, to give whole-hearted and undivided attention to Him. For me, this all became increasingly attractive.

“Ultimately, we are all called to be saints, and after much discernment I became convinced that this was the path that God had marked out for me, and I just needed to go forward and follow Him. I felt a great attraction to cloistered life, but what ultimately made me choose it above all other paths was the conviction that it was God’s plan for my life.

Asked how she found her vocation and, in particular, found her monastery, she responded, “When I was studying abroad in Rome during my junior year of college, I began searching ‘signs of a religious vocation’ (or something along those lines) on the Internet, and the website to St. Joseph Monastery kept coming up.

“When I went onto the website and read about the charism and devotion of the Passionist nuns, it seemed that this group of nuns practiced the very spirituality which God had already been forming in me throughout my life. Nevertheless, I put the website and the community in the back of my mind and didn’t think much more about them.

“A year later I began meeting with a Dominican priest for spiritual and vocational direction. I had not said anything to him about this community, but about five months into meeting with him, he found the website of this very same community and recommended that I visit them, since they seemed to match my personal spirituality.

“To me that was a pretty clear indication that God wanted me to visit this community. As I continued discerning with them, their blog was a helpful way to follow the life of the community. In the end, it was helpful that St. Joseph Monastery had a website that was easy to find. That, combined with direction, aided my discernment.

Before entering the religious life, she had graduated from the University of Dayton where she majored in foreign languages with a concentration in Italian and Spanish and minored in business administration with a concentration in international business. Following graduation, she “worked for two years after college as an SAP (Systems, Applications & Products) Consultant before I entered the religious life.”

Please pray for all of these great young women.

(Cover photo credit: Toni Greaves)


Saints Stories, Uncategorized

The Decorated War Veteran Missionary Orphan Keeper

Bl. Daniel Brottier, CSSp

Memorial: February 28

At times the Lord makes the road taken by some souls so difficult, that even though they are convinced they are doing His will, they are forced to depart from that path, despite their predisposition to stay the course. Later, however, they often become a giant in other fields.

So it was with the life of Bl. Daniel Alexis Brottier, CSSp, born September 7, 1876, in La Ferté-Saint-Cyr in the diocese of Blois.

From childhood he revealed a deep piety and a great devotion to Our Lady. Sometime as a young boy, he told his mother, “I won’t be either a general or a pastry chef—I will be the Pope!” His mom said that he had to first become a priest. So little Daniel retorted, “Well, then I’ll become a priest!”

28-02 Bl. Daniel Brottier 4

And so he did. He entered the seminary in 1890, successfully passed the minor orders, spent a year in military service, and received Holy Orders on September 22, 1899, at age 23.

28-02 Bl. Daniel Brottier 2

For his first assignment he was sent to teach at the ecclesiastical College of Pontlevoy, but he was a man of action and activity. He grew bored and sought to become a missionary. So on September 24, 1902, he entered the Congregation of the Holy Spirit as a novice at Orly near Paris, taking his religious vows the following year. Shortly thereafter he departed for the distant French colony of Senegal. His dad opposed this because of his poor health. His concerns turned out to be well-founded.

His sojourn in Africa was never idyllic. It was tough for this restless man, first because he did not go to the countryside, where he wanted to be. Instead, he was kept in the city, although he made the best of his time there. He taught high school and founded a kindergarten, a local child welfare center, and the choir, which is still active.

However he stayed there only three years or so due to the violent and constant migraine attacks that hit him. Thus it was that he returned to France in 1906. After convalescing and getting healthy, he went back to Senegal the following year but once again the same malady reappeared – violently so – and after some time he had to permanently return to his homeland in 1911.

He thought that maybe God was calling him to the contemplative life. So after returning to France, he spent some time at the monastery in Lérins. He soon realized he was not out to be a contemplative.

As he wrote his siblings, “I lived unforgettable hours in the recollection of the cloister in an atmosphere of sacrifice and immolation. But the lack of sleep, and especially of food, wore me down, and after a few days I had to yield to the evidence: I was not made for this kind of life.”

Back home in France, he founded a charity in order to fund the erection of the cathedral in Dakar, Senegal’s capital. This work was interrupted when the former soldier was called to serve as an army chaplain during World War I. From 1914 to 1917, he heroically strove to help soldiers on such bloody fields of battle as Verdun, Flanders, and Lorraine, often acting with no heed of the danger around him. Indeed despite 52 months in the heart of combat, he suffered not a single wound. He attributed his protection to St. Thérèse of Lisieux. His heroic service earned him five battlefield commendations and two medals, the Croix de Guerre and the Légion d’Honneur.


After the war he founded the National Union of Servicemen, one of the first French veterans organizations.

He also served for nearly 13 years as director of a charity in the Parisian suburb of Auteuil, France. The organization took in abandoned children and orphans and trained them as apprentices. His goal was to give them the life they otherwise would not have had.

Such was his devotion to the Little Flower that he dedicated the chapel he built at Auteuil to her shortly after she was canonized. It was the first house of worship named in honor of St. Thérèse. Indeed, all of his work he dedicated to her.

And what work. Whereas Don Bosco had educated young men in traditional arts such as woodworking, typesetting, and metal fabrication, Fr. Brottier trained his charges in these skills but also running cinemas, photography, and film production.

Of the amazing work he accomplished, he wrote, “My secret is this: Help yourself and heaven will help you. … I have no other secret. If the good God worked miracles [at Auteuil], through Thérèse’s intercession, I think I can say in all justice that we did everything, humanly speaking, to be deserving, and that they were the divine reward of our work, prayers and trust in providence.”

28-02 Bl. Daniel Brottier 3

When he arrived at Auteuil, the orphanage had 140 children. When he died on February 28, 1936, worn out by fatigue, there were 1,400. By 1960, there were more than 20 such institutes serving more than 2,000 orphans.

In 1962, his body was exhumed as part of his beatification process. He was found to be incorrupt. Perhaps not surprisingly, therefore, he has had many miracles attributed to his intercession.

Saints Stories, Uncategorized

Martyred for Love of the Heart of Jesus

Bl. Marie Deluil-Martiny of Jesus, Virgin and Martyr

Memorial: February 27

Consecrated to the Mother of God by her own mother while in the womb, Marie Deluil-Martiny was born in Marseille, France, on May 28, 1841, the firstborn of five children in a very distinguished family. (Through her mother, she was the great niece of Ven. Anne-Madeleine Remuzat, who helped spread devotion to the Sacred Heart.) Called by one 19th century prelate “the St. Teresa [of Avila] of our century,” she still captivates all who encounter her due to the depth of her teaching and the holiness of her life.

Bright, even brilliant, highly educated, and very curious about society and history, she desired from an early age to consecrate herself to God in a unique way that would lead others to gradually experience an explosion of love for Him.

Not surprisingly, she was a precocious child. For instance, at age 15, she led some school friends in establishing a new “religious community,” the “Oblates of Mary. Amazingly the Sisters who taught Marie complained about her “mischief” to St. Eugene de Mazenod, archbishop of Marseille. He calmly told them, “She will be St. Marie of Marseille.” Nonetheless the Sisters dissolved the group.

At age 17, she went on a retreat to discern her vocation. During it she wrote in her journal, “Jesus Christ is the only One to love. At my death, I would like to have loved no one but Him…. To live properly in the world, I must abhor sin and flee its occasions, hate the world and what is of the world … Come and follow Me, Jesus said. O God, how beautiful these words are! … It is mine if I want it!”

So it was that, despite having several proposals of marriage, she discerned a calling to make herself entirely His.

27-02 Bl. Marie de Jesus Deluil-Martiny as a young woman

t was around this same time that she went to confession to St. Jean Marie Vianney, the Curé of Ars, and revealed to him her desire for a religious vocation. He told her, “Yes, it is wholly the will of God, but you will have to wait a long time in the world.”

And so Marie took a private vow of perpetual virginity, even though she would not be in a monastery. She could not be. All of her siblings had died. Furthermore, the strain of this loss compounded with her father’s going broke left her parents in need of care. So she stayed and looked after them. In the meantime, she resolved to proclaim Christ by performing a hundred good works, serving the poor, helping the priests and missions, and spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Marie even assisted St. Daniel Comboni during his travels in France.

10 - Daniel Colomboni
St. Daniel Comboni

According to the Monks of Clairval, who write many excellent saints biographies, “In 1864, she learned about a new association, started by a nun from the Visitation Convent in Bourg-en-Bresse, called the ‘Honor Guard of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.’ Its purpose was to glorify, love and console the Sacred Heart through the offering of oneself with Him in a life of prayer, penance, and charity, in reparation for the sins of the world. Marie soon received from it the title ‘First Zealot’ for the work she did in spreading its printed materials, pictures, and medals throughout the world to many souls, including bishops.”

Two years later, she went to hear Fr. Jean Calage, SJ, preach on the Sacred Heart, and she was enthralled by his explanation of the significance of the water and blood that gushed forth from the side of Our Lord.

Afterward, she approached him and confided her frustration at not being able to enter a convent. He told her, “You are called, that is for certain, but the time has not yet come. Entering religious life at the present time would disrupt God’s plans. He has special plans for your soul… You must prepare yourself through detachment from yourself.”

Thanks to this spiritual guidance, she kept faith and persevered while God purified her soul. During this time she spent hours before the Tabernacle, praying, seeking, meditating on the things of God, and like Our Lady, keeping them all in her heart.

One topic that captured much of attention was this: She knew the Lord wanted her to cooperate with Him in making reparation for sins (cf. Col 1:24), but what did that mean?

Then on September 7, 1867, as she prayed before the Real Presence, she heard Jesus tell her, “I am not known, I am not loved… I wish to make souls for Myself who understand Me… I am a torrent that wants to overflow and whose waters can no longer be held back!… I wish to make Myself cups so as to fill them with the waters of My love… I am thirsty for hearts who appreciate Me and who enable Me to fulfill the goal for which I am here! I am insulted, I am desecrated. Before the end of time, I want to be compensated for all the insults I have received… I want to distribute all the graces that have been refused…!”

In response, Marie wrote in her prayer journal, “The world no longer wants Him. Today, some blush at Him, while others hate Him and scorn Him. They try to chase Him from hearts and from society. To these dishonors, scorn, and satanic profanities, let us answer loud and clear: He must reign!”

The next year, praying before a statue of Our Lady of La Salette, she felt the following inspiration: “The Blessed Virgin wants victims who, in union with her pierced heart (cf. Luke 2:35) and with Jesus sacrificed, interpose themselves between the crimes of men and the justice of God.”

This prompted from her this prayer: “O Jesus, receive me from the hands of the Most Blessed Virgin and offer me with You, sacrifice me with You… I offer myself for this sacrifice as much as You wish and my weakness allows… I will consider all the crosses, all the sufferings that Your Providence sends me as proofs that You have accepted my humble offering.”

It was around this time that the seeds of the religious order she wound found were planted in her mind. She wrote, “Just as Mary on Calvary, united to the Eternal Priest, offered her Divine Son, and then renewed this offering through the hands of St. John, the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus, united with all the priests in the world, will offer the Eucharistic Jesus sacrificed on every altar. They will especially offer the Blood and Water that came forth from the divine wound of the Sacred Heart. They will be the adorers of the Eucharist solemnly exposed in the chapels of their convents, and will dedicate themselves to surrounding Him with the most profound signs of respect and love. This will be their life, their reason for being…”

God took her prayer seriously, for “humiliating trials” followed. To strengthen her, Fr. Calage wrote, “Strive to abase your spirit. Your soul is malleable, and you are obedient, but your spirit must be humbled… The ordinary means that God uses to humble the spirit are humiliations and temptations. They show you what you are without grace, something hideous and abominable.”

In time, God’s plans for her life came to fruition. She was ready to found her religious order. However the political situation made it impossible to do so in France. So with the invitation of the Belgian Msgr. Oswald van den Berghe, rector of the world’s first basilica dedicated to the Sacred Heart, she moved to Berchem, Belgium. There, on June 20, 1873, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, she founded the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus.

Their charism was devotion to the Sacred Heart, living a cloistered life, adoration of the Eucharist, prayer, and offering their sufferings for a) the conversion of a world that is far from God and b) the sanctification of priests.

The center, in fact the only One in her life, was the eucharistic Jesus offered to the Father on all the altars of the world, present in the Tabernacle, worshiped night and day, and experienced in the intimacy of sanctifying grace and charity. She took the name Mother Marie of Jesus, saying her model in doing so was Our Lady.

She didn’t impose austere penances or direct the Sisters to seek out these. Instead, she said, “The sufferings caused by heat or cold are good windfalls for a mortified soul. To say nothing on these occasions is a precious mortification, because no one sees or notices it; everything is for Jesus alone.”

Furthermore Our Lady had told her in prayer, “For the future institute, the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the celestial offering of the Divine Victim sacrificed on the altar, will compensate most excellently for the corporal mortifications that some constitutions can no longer bear.”

So many young people flocked to the new foundation of Mother Marie, that she soon founded two other monasteries, one in Aix-en-Provence, France, and the other on some property she inherited from her mother, La Servianne in Marseille.

Having grown so much in intimacy with Jesus, she taught how to have this intimacy with Him by being a gift to her “daughters,” who loved her like a mother. She wasn’t always easy. Mothers rarely are. In fact, the good ones aren’t. But they knew she loved them and wanted the greatest good for them. Indeed she sat with them for hours when they got sick and cared for them herself.

Her selfless attitude is summed up in a letter she penned to one of her spiritual offspring. In it she wrote, “Isn’t it ridiculous for us to spend our time thinking about ourselves, admiring ourselves, or complaining, getting upset over our little troubles which seem so big to us, limiting ourselves by groaning over our misfortunes, when the great plans of God and the salvation of souls are calling us, when we have a God to love and serve, and souls to help and save? We are like a man who, in the middle of a terrible fire that is burning down his house, and that is going to kill his mother, his father, his children, instead of hurrying to put it out, is in a corner wailing that his clothes got soiled from carrying buckets of water, and is busy picking off, with lamentations, each bit of ash that got on his clothes. Oh! That is what we do when, in the midst of this unhappy world that is trying to burn down the Church and that insults Jesus Christ Our Lord, we spend our time complaining about our ills or our own trials, etc. We shrink in on ourselves when we could expand in embracing God, and become saints by serving His cause through our renunciations and sacrifices. A good flap of the wings and, with the aid of grace, let us rise up, let us leave the earth—above all, leave ourselves—and no longer see anything but Jesus!”

In September 1883, she hired 21-year-old Louis Chave. From a poor family and orphaned at 10, he was destitute, so she took him on “to pull him out of poverty. But soon, he showed himself to be lazy, rude, and demanding, and moreover, was involved with the anarchists” (who also were typically atheists who hated Catholicism). So Mother fired him.

On February 27, 1884, Ash Wednesday, Mother Marie of Jesus was taking her recreation by walking in the garden at La Servianne. Chave lay in wait, and when she came to where he was hiding, he jumped out. She spoke a kind word to him, and he responded with his revolver, plugging one bullet into her head and another into her neck, severing the carotid artery, and doing so simply out of hatred for the faith. Thus she this victim soul died as a “virgin and martyr,” which she had always wanted. Her last words were “I forgive him … for the Institute!”

Chave later died in a shootout with police. A note he left behind showed his was a premeditated act, that he had wanted to start a revolution, and the first act was killing this good woman.

When Mother’s body was exhumed on March 4, 1989, in preparation for her beatification, she was found to be incorrupt.

27-02 Bl. Marie de Jesus Deluil-Martiny in her coffin

On October 22, 1989, Pope St. John Paul II beatified her at St. Peter’s in Rome.

With her humble and extraordinary life, filled as it was with the love of giving and incredible joy, she shows us that Jesus’ Crucifixion and the Eucharist—because these are the center of everything—are the only source from which to draw upon the real life of grace and holiness. And the Virgin Mary is our model and guide to Him.

For information, please contact:

Daughters of the Heart of Jesus
Via dei Villini, 34
00161 Roma


Spiritual Reflections, Uncategorized

Notes from a Lenten Retreat

On Saturday, February 20, 2016, I attended a retreat at St. Maron Church, Philadelphia. I took notes of the talk given by Mother Marla Marie of the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light, the retreat mistress. She was down from Dartmouth, MA, for the Maronite Youth Organization’s Lenten retreat, which drew youth from Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Anyway, I found her talk very helpful, very healing, and I hope you do, too.

God didn’t create us to be average. He created us to be holy. He created us to be saints. He created us to be divinized. And one of the greatest things about being holy is that everyone can be above average. Everyone can excel. Because God made you for Himself, and He gives you everything you need to reach Him. God is love. God is mercy. He gives us all the tools we need, all the help we need, all the love. Even all of the ups the downs, the joys, the sorrows every one of us experiences, they’re all God’s tools to help us reach that level He’s ordained for us.

The Holy Father Pope Francis challenged us this year by declaring the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Mercy is an everyday style of life for Christians, but he wants us to focus on that more directly. Mercy is God’s greatest quality. It is His greatest attribute. It reveals the face of God and how God looks at us.

By contemplating mercy, we begin to see how God looks at us. Each one of us here has received God’s mercy and love in superabundance. Think about God’s mercy in your life for just a moment. Go through your life in your mind’s eye and how you have experienced that mercy in sometimes unsuspected ways. Sometimes it is in our darkest times. But as Jesus says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). We are grains of wheat.

We’re like Jean Valjean in Les Misérables. See this clip:

Each one of us have been like that beggar and thief. And God has been like that Monsignor who has challenged us to our potential. And we have to be that way when we face the Lord in our prayer. We must know He is truly looking down on us with compassion and love. God sees to all our needs. He helps us cross those mountains in our times of difficulty.

Hate destroys the hater.

There is the story of the man who got shot and who reacted with great joy. His friends asked him why he was celebrating the shooting. “I wasn’t celebrating that I got shot. I was celebrating that I lived.” Good Friday seems like the greatest tragedy, and yet it is the cause for our greatest celebration. It is God’s mercy poured out on us so that we may live forever in Him.

For God, He is mercy. For us, mercy is hard work. Nonetheless we are called to be perfectly merciful. Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matt 5:48) could be put another way: Be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

This type of mercy can only come from God. We don’t have that type of mercy in us. We have to be more intentional in mercy with ourselves and others. Sometimes we have a guilt that’s misdirected. We’re called to be above average so we can be channels of mercy ourselves. But how? We need to go to the source, Jesus Himself. Jesus said I am the Way. Through Him we can forgive because He has forgiven.

The Bible is the word of God. But what does that mean? The Divine Liturgy [i.e., the Mass] is interwoven with Scripture. It is Scripture come alive. You’ll see the Old Testament and New Testament throughout our prayers. The Bible is an awesome and precious book, unlike any other. It’s God’s word. When you break open your sacred scriptures, you’re opening to a presence, not just words on a page or a recitation of things that happened a long time ago. It’s Jesus. It’s alive. It’s not a presence like we find in the tabernacle, but it’s the presence of God.

So when you take your Bible and open yourselves to it, you open yourself to the Presence of God. Let it penetrate your soul, and water that seed so that it can grow and transform your life. Scripture is a two-edged sword (cf. Heb 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”). It’s not a “book.” Books, we read. But the Bible? We absorb it. In it, we get to know Him. If you do not know Him, how can you love Him? How can you grow in Him? Christ lives in Scripture.

We don’t venerate our favorite novel, but the Bible we do. We and the Church venerate the divine scriptures in the same way as we and she venerate(s) the Body of the Lord. Have a special place for your Bible in the home. Let it permeate your house like incense. “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ,” said St. Jerome. He also said, “When we pray, we speak to God. But when we read Scripture, God speaks to us.”

Mother encouraged the practice of lectio divina.

St. Benedict says, “lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the scriptures.”

Prayer changes us, transforms us. In it, we encounter Christ. It rids us of the confusion with which sin torments us.

To be in a place of prayer, we need silence. We need quiet. People avoid quiet because we’re afraid of what we might find inside ourselves. But we need that quiet because in it what we’ll really find is God. God is mercy. He is not there to punish or scold but to transform us.


Sainthood Cause Opened for American Foundress

Have you ever heard of the Parish Visitors of Immaculate Mary, the PVIM Sisters? If not, don’t worry. You’re not alone. But they’re a remarkable group of very passionate women religious who are dedicated to spreading the Faith.

Headquartered an hour and a half north of NYC in Monroe, NY, they go to homes within a parish boundary, looking to evangelize and catechize Catholics and fallen away Catholics.

As their website says, “In imitation of the Sacred Heart of the Good Shepherd, Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate combine a contemplative prayer life with missionary visitation to parish families, and religious instruction.

“Parish Visitor Sisters visit families and individuals where they live, door to door as well as along the way, in order to win souls for Christ.

“We do this in the name of the parish pastor, who knows that, in addition to the faithful Catholics, there are many others who have strayed away or are living on the fringes of the Catholic faith. These souls are dear to the Good Shepherd, who came to seek out and bring back the lost sheep. This is the New Evangelization called for by the Church!

“We reach out to persons as a friend, with compassion and gentleness, while upholding the teachings of the Church. A typical conversation begins, ‘Has anyone in this household ever been baptized Catholic?’ This simple question has begun the process of re-evangelizing hundreds of thousands of those who have strayed from Jesus. The Sisters strive to draw each person into closer union with Him.”

Now they are seeking to introduce the beatification cause of their foundress Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, PVIM.

From a recent news article on the introduction of her cause: “All of us need heroes and heroines – persons we can look up to, persons who exemplify for us the desires of our own hearts to be the persons God created us to be,” Accordino said. “Mother Mary Teresa Tallon is one of those people who mirror for us how to follow Jesus Christ in the everyday through her life of extravagant love for God, for His Church, and for His ‘neglected children.’”

To learn more about the cause, write:

Sr. Maria Catherine Iannotti, pvmi
Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, Marycrest Convent
P.O. Box 658
Monroe, NY 10949-0658




February 25: Martyred in China

Ss. Luigi Versiglia and Callisto Carabario
Memorial: February 25

St. John Bosco had a dream once of China. In it he saw two chalices, one filled with sweat, the other with blood. Hence why the two saints we feature today hold the palm branch, the ancient symbol of martyrdom and a blood streaked chalice.

The devotion these men showed to the Chinese and the success they had in gaining converts is remarkable. What is even more remarkable is their total willingness to do whatever was necessary to promote and defend the faith and the people they served. What the story linked to here doesn’t reflect is how badly they were beaten for trying to save the lives and prevent the rapes of the ladies. The bandits and communists who kidnapped them would have raped and possibly killed these women, but Fr. Carabrio and Bishop Versiglia protected them with their bodies, and the villains made them pay dearly for it. They beat the living daylight out of them.

Read the story linked to above. You’ll be glad you know the story of these brave men.


She Was a Hit as a “Home Nun”

Bl. Josefa Naval Girbés
Memorial: February 24

She was the eldest of five children raised in a devout family. When her mother died at age 13, the family moved into her maternal grandmother’s home, and she dropped out of school because she had to take on the role of mother to her younger siblings. In addition, her grandfather and uncle—who also lived in the home—had poor health, and she had to take care of them, as well.

As one might imagine, this was not an easy responsibility to assume for someone so young, and she turned to her parish priest for direction. Since she was a daily Communicant, she saw Father often. Through his gentle leading her to a deeper relationship with Christ, she fell more and more in love with Our Lord and at 18 took a perpetual vow of chastity.

Her love for Jesus and thirst for holiness continued to deepen, as did her love for the Blessed Virgin, and compelled by this love, she sought different ways to bring others to Him. For this reason, she served her parish as a laywoman, opening in her home a school for girls where she taught needlework for free. While the girls were learning this skill, she would turn the conversation to holy things or read from good spiritual works or they would pray the Rosary together. Through these means and, more importantly, by her example, many young women were formed to be models of Christian charity.

This was all well and good, but she did have one complaint: The limited space of her home had grown insufficient for the number of women who came. Plus she wanted to expand this outreach to all the youth of her hometown of Algemesí, Spain. After all its influence on the spiritual life of the girls contributed not a little to many of her students choosing the path of consecrated life in various congregations. (With God’s grace she was soon able to find a larger space for her meetings.)

Her dedication to her family and to the many young ladies who regularly gathered in her home prevented her from being a religious. She was, really, a “home nun,” which in the nineteenth and early twentieth century was a path taken by many who did so much good outside of the cloister.

Josefa extended the work of her apostolate by teaching catechism to children, organizing formation meetings for married and unmarried women. Furthermore as a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, she assisted the sick. She also advised husbands and wives, helping them solve their problems and thus turning family discord into peace.

Afflicted with a heart condition in her old age, she eventually died from condition on February 24, 1893, and she was buried in the habit of the Carmelite Order, of which she was a tertiary member. Her feast amongst the Discalced Carmelites is November 6.

As one commentator put it, “Her entire life proves how one can reach holiness in all states of life in a total consecration to God and in a selfless love for one’s brothers and sisters, even while living in the world. Without extraordinary gifts and without dazzling events in her life, the Servant of God was an exceptional woman in her genuine simplicity as a daughter of the people. She carried out her duties faithfully, in intense union with God, in the midst of the ordinary circumstances of her working day.”


The transfer of Bl. Josefa’s remains from the local cemetery
to the Church of St. James on October 20, 1946.