Spiritual Reflections

My Lenten Sacrifice

For Lent, I’m giving up complaining.
Not about the political order. When that is not working, we have to raise our voices.
Instead, I’m talking about things such as, “This isn’t hot enough for me.” “Why have they moved everything around in this store?! I can’t find my precious bottle of dish detergent!” “That person is a true jerk to me, and I don’t like them.” See the common thread here? Complaining often leads us to place an unhealthy emphasis on “me.” And that is pride. And pride is the root of most if not all sin. So if I want to give up sin, which should a 24/7/365 endeavor, then I must give up pride. And to give up pride, I have to give up the things that tend me toward pride.

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History, Saints Stories

Algerian Martyr: Sr. Odette Prévost

Sr. Odette Prévost of the Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart lost her life for Christ on November 10, 1995. She was the last female of the modern Algerian martyrs to lose their lives.

She was born on July 17, 1932, in Oger, France. After graduation from school, she worked as a school teacher for three years before entering the Little Sisters of the Sacred heart in 1953, taking her final vows in 1959.

First sent to Morocco and then back to France, her order finally stationed her in Algiers in 1968. There, too, she taught students, typically the poorest of the poor.

Sr. Odette spent her nights helping young children with their homework.

Sister would make homemade yogurt so the local children would have “enough protein to grow.” In addition to her free tutoring, she played games with them. Because of this, there “was always a gang of them in the kitchen.”

Days before she died, she asked an Algerian Christian friend for a kiss goodbye. The friend, laughing, said, “‘No, I’ll come back tomorrow.’ She said, ‘Tomorrow might be too late.’”

Encouraged to leave Algeria, she refused “so as ‘to resist through solidarity’ the enveloping violence and chaos to show through their presence that ‘one can live fraternally with difference.’”

Benedictine Father Martin McGee writes, “Odette purposely decided to remain in Algeria in order ‘to be Christ’s own presence.’ She understood her decision to stay in light of the Eucharist–Jesus’ self-offering on our behalf.” In this light, her death on a Friday while on her way to the holy sacrifice of the Mass is fitting.

 

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History, Saints Stories

Algerian Martyr: Sister Paul-Hélène Saint-Raymond

Along with Marist Brother Henri Verges, Sr. Paul-Hélène Saint-Raymond became the first person in the modern era to undergo martyrdom in Algeria on May 8, 1994.

Sister was born in Paris on January 24, 1927, the eighth of ten children. She did scientific studies in Sorbonne but found her religious vocation, joining the Little Sisters of the Assumption in 1952, so she could serve the poor. Subsequently she studied to be a nurse and made her final vows in 1960.

For roughly four years, Sr. Paul-Hélène worked amongst the poor in Rouen, before transferring to Algeria, where she was head nurse at an Algiers health center. She was a whirlwind of activity so that she would exhaust her fellow sisters and had to be told to go easy on them. She became so skilled she could perform minor surgery.

Archbishop Teissier says she was someone who “chose what she wanted to do and she did it.”

Sister Paul-Hélène Saint-Raymond was born in Paris on January 24, 1927, the eighth of ten children. She did scientific studies in Sorbonne but found her religious vocation, joining the Little Sisters of the Assumption in 1952, so she could serve the poor. Subsequently she studied to be a nurse and made her final vows in 1960.

For roughly four years, Sr. Paul-Hélène worked amongs the poor in Rouen, before transferring to Algeria, where she was head nurse at an Algiers health center. She was a whirlwind of activity so that she would exhaust her fellow sisters and had to be told to go easy on them. She became so skilled she could perform minor surgery.

Reflecting on the violence that then reigned, she wrote that “one must start oneself to fight against one’s own violence.” To Msgr. Teissier who warned her of the danger all were facing, she replied, “Father, our lives are already given anyway.”

Sister, an engineer by training, had lived 30 years in the Maghreb (i.e., northern Africa from Morocco to Libya’s western border) serving the people there. Upon her retirement, rather than returning to France, she moved to the capital to assist Brother Henri Vergès in running the library, which served 1,200 young people from neighboring schools.

The French Wikipedia article on her says, “She was very helpful, unfailingly generosity, of a very logical mind, of a lively intelligence, and possessed of a great memory. However, her frankness, her outspokenness, and her lack of tact caused her relational difficulties, and her determined character sometimes made her difficult to live for the other nuns, but her humility, her fraternal spirit and capacity for dialogue promoted reconciliation. Her vast culture and knowledge also makes her known as ‘Madame Encyclopédie.’ The depth of her faith helped her to overcome her inner struggles. She remained very attached to prayer, individual and community.

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History, Saints Stories

Algerian Martyrs: Sisters Angèle-Marie Littlejohn and Bibiane Leclercq

Sisters Angèle-Marie Littlejohn and Bibiane Leclercq were returning from Mass on September 3, 1995, when assassins cut them down.

For 35 years they had lived in Algeria training hundreds of working class girl dropouts in dress making, embroidery, and sewing. Continue reading

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Church News, History, News About Saints, Saints Stories

Algerian Bishops on the Announcement of the Beatification of Their Nation’s Martyrs

Announcement of the beatification of our nineteen brothers and sisters

Statement of the Bishops of Algeria

Our Church is full of Joy.  Pope Francis has just authorized the signature of the decree of beatification of “Monsignor Pierre Claverie and his 18 men and women companions”.  Continue reading

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Spiritual Reflections

Great homily on our veterans

It is so rare that we hear our veterans praised in glowing terms from the pulpit. So when it happens, it’s worth recognizing and drawing to people’s attention.

Some background:

On Sunday, November 12, I went to St. Maron Church in South Philly because they had the relics of St. Maron, the founder of not only the Maronite Order but the Maronite rite within the Catholic Church. It has produced other great saints such as St. Rafka and St. Charbel (aka, Sharbel) Mahklouf, to whom I devoted a chapter in my first book.

I recorded the homily because I thought Fr. Vincent Farhat, the pastor, might mention St. Maron, which I could then use in some form (article, blog post, etc.).

Instead he took me by surprise with a sermon exclusively dedicated to why our veterans are a force for good and for God.

I’ve heard homilies that mention vets before. I’ve heard perfunctory thanks from the pulpit in the past. This was the first time I’d ever encountered such a full-throated appreciation of our vets and what they give to us.

With Father’s graceful permission, I transcribed the homily and present it here for your consideration.

Praise be to God for our veterans! Thank you all, not only for your service, but the sacrifice(s) that service has entailed throughout the years. God bless you each and every one.

(NB: The Gospel passage in the Maronite rite for the day came from John 10:22-39.) Continue reading

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