With the passing of St. Patrick’s day, I am reminded of a famous Irish-American who just might be called “Saint” one day.

Yes, the cause for Ven. Fulton J. Sheen is basically on hold, but that doesn’t mean we should forget about him. A biographer of his wrote a final chapter concerning the sanctity of his life that is now available free online.

Now is the time to read more of Sheen’s works, listen to his talks, or watch videos of him (there are a number of them on YouTube).

Remember, he needs the support of the faithful at this time, and I suspect he will help those who ask his intercession in a particularly strong way.

Vicki Thorn has an article at Catholic Pulse that explains that, after all these years, the dangers and problems of chemical contraception (which is supposed to be, of course, very safe) are finally coming out in books and even a planned documentary. I quote from her article below:

It seems to me that there is a tidal wave of awareness surfacing among women that birth control is not good for our bodies. In 2013 the book Sweetening the Pill: or How We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control by Holly Grigg-Spall was published by Zero Books. Ricki Lake is working on a documentary based on Holly’s book. It is interesting to see there is a new term being used in the media by supporters of contraception to describe those who warn of its dangers: “Birth Control Truthers.” It seems to ring true in truth and title, though it is supposed to be derogatory!

It seems that women and men have not been really informed as to the side effects of chemical contraceptives. Many are quick to say of these potential side effects, “But the chances are so low!” but if it happens to you or a loved one, it becomes 100 percent.

And, of course, there are times, more commonly for younger women, that the pill does not prevent pregnancy.

Full Article: The Real War on Women

We are now up to 36 Doctors of the Latin Church, and this doctor is an Armenian monk who lived from about A.D. 950 to 1003. Pope Francis declared him a Doctor on February 23.

His famous book of Lamentations, also called “Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart,” contains 95 prayers. They are really quite impressive. The style is somewhat similar to St. Anselm of Canterbury, who was born 30 years after St. Gregory died.

The prayers are available in English in an online edition. Here’s an example from prayer 5:

You made me in your glorious image,
favoring a weak being like me
with your sublime likeness,
adorning me with speech,
and burnishing me with your breath,
enriching me with thought,
cultivating me with wisdom,
establishing me with ingenuity,
setting me apart from the animals,
endowing my character with a thinking soul,
embellishing me with a sovereign individuality,
giving birth as a father, nurturing as a nurse,
caring for me as a guardian,
You sowed a wayward being in your courtyard,
irrigated me with the water of life,
cleansed me with the dew of the baptismal fount,
nourished me with heavenly bread,
quenched my thirst with your blood,
acquainted me with the impalpable and
unreachable,
emboldened my earthly eyes to seek you,
embraced me in your glorious light,
permitted my unclean earthly hands to
make offerings to you,
honored my base, mortal ashes,
like a flicker of light,
imprinted upon a worthless wretch like me
your father’s image, awesome and blessed,
out of your love for mankind.

_____________________________________________________

This is a small taste of the profound humility and thought contained in these prayers. It’s good to get a new Doctor once in a while, so we can appreciate writings that we haven’t heard of.

The Marians of the Immaculate Conception received Pontifical status in 1699, but did not get their own rule at the time. Instead, they were put under The Rule of Ten Virtues (modified for a male community), a rule for a community called The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and more commonly known as the Annunciade (Annunciation Sisters).

They were founded in 1501 by St. Joan of France (the family name de Valois) with the support and counsel of a Franciscan, Fr. Gilbert Nicolas, also known by the name of Blessed Gabriel Maria.

The first convent of the Annunciades was founded in 1501 at Bourges – the seat of the Duchess of Berry. St. Joan died in 1505, but the evangelical work begun by her grew, producing over fifty convents that existed up until the time of the French Revolution, which destroyed nearly all of them.

Today the Order numbers around eighty nuns living in eight convents in France, Belgium and Costa Rica. A new foundation has begun at the Marian Shrine in Liche?, Poland, which the Marians administer.

For further information (in English, no less!), you can check out this website started by the sisters in Poland: The Annunciade.

That Emile Berliner really started something with his “gramophone.” Recently I got a “Premium Gramophone,” which is a kit from Japan that allows one to play 78 RPM records in a way very similar to the early days of Berliner’s gramophone, an image of which was used on the RCA label for a long time (now owned by Sony).

78 RPM records help one to understand the history of music, at least for a little over 100 years. There have been lots of trends and shifts in style, but sometimes I think they were more clever in the early days with novel uses of language (an old Jazz piece is called “Celery Stalks at Midnight”). Yes, problems like racism show up in these old discs, but also the value of prayer is prominent, even in some pop tunes. They had their pluses and minuses.

We are more advanced technologically, but our new-fangled forms need electricity. The old gramophone just needs lots of needles and energy from the hand to turn a crank. There’s a certain refreshing “newness” to this liberation from the grid, even if sound quality ain’t all that great. There are definitely things to learn from the old discs and the completely mechanical process of sound reproduction. Sometimes things don’t have to be as complicated as you think they do.

The picture below shows the gramophone playing a Columbia Symphony Series 12 inch record–with a great looking label from the 1910s era.

The Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception have been promoting devotion to Divine Mercy since 1941. They promoted St. Faustina’s messages from 1941-1959, but then a ban was put on them by the Vatican because of faulty translations and the inability to access the original Diary at the time. Thanks to the work of Archbishop Karol Wojtyla, the objections were resolved and the ban was lifted in 1978, six months before he would become Pope John Paul II.

Once again able to talk about Sister Faustina, the Marians worked to edit her Diary in the original Polish and then produce an English translation. They knew a film should be made about her life and the message of Divine Mercy. This was done in 1987. The film, Divine Mercy No Escape, premiered on September 15, 1987 at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. There was a good reason for this. At the time, Pope John Paul II was making a papal visit to the United States and meeting with various groups. One of the groups was all of the bishops of the United States. He met with them in Los Angeles on September 16 at the Minor Seminary of Our Lady of the Angels. The day before, the Marians took the opportunity to invite the bishops to the premiere. All together, 67 of the bishops were able to attend, along with several hundred people who were benefactors of the film.

This is all well and good, but it is now 27 1/2 years later. That was the first and last showing of Divine Mercy No Escape in Hollywood.

Now, I’ve been given the opportunity to have a small showing of the original film at Family Theater Productions, Sunset Blvd. Hollywood. You may know of this place as the result of Fr. Patrick Peyton’s work to promote Family Prayer, and in particular to enlist the help of people in Hollywood for this cause. Many radio and television programs have been produced there over the years.

I’m showing the movie as an example, with all the aspects that work, and attention also to things that don’t work or have become dated. The movie is very much a product of its age. It does introduce people to St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy message, but also tries to show mercy in action through examples from its time. The movie has a certain effectiveness, and certain scenes are still quite powerful, but some parts can be seen as a bit “quaint” by today’s standards.

I want to show the movie primarily to Catholics that live and work in the Hollywood area to show both goals to shoot for and pitfalls to avoid. Perhaps the movie has a message for them–something unexpected. The point of the movie is spiritual enrichment, but it can also help foster new ideas to promote spiritual enrichment among those who work in media.

The screening is on January 27, 2015. There will be social time at 6 PM with light fare and the movie will begin at 7 PM. Space is limited. Contact lbilleci@familytheater.org if you are interested.

I have to remind myself–it’s the year of consecrated life as designated by Pope Francis from Nov. 30, 2014 to Feb. 2, 2016. So, it’s really about a year and 2 months.

In general, the promotion of such a thing falls upon consecrated individuals and communities.

Pope Francis is asking religious to “wake up the world.”

I have some ideas, but, you know, it’s really all within the realm of divine providence. In the end, God has to provide the means, but we also have to cooperate.

Note that Jesus gave St. Faustina a very tall order: “My daughter. Speak to the world about My mercy; let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy; let them profit from the Blood and Water which gushed forth for them.” (Diary 848)

Speak to the world? What sort of platform did she have? She wrote things in notebooks, and much of her Diary would not be published until the 1980s. Speak to the world?

That call to “speak to the world” is a call that lots of folks have been involved in since St. Faustina received that message. We Marians are involved in that call by publishing her diary in English and Spanish. But it takes helpers to help, intercessors to intercede. We need others to get the message out.

So, the call of Pope Francis to “wake up the world” is a call that Jesus gave St. Faustina. Fortunately, when Jesus gives such a call, He also gives great means, although not necessarily in the timely fashion we would like. But if we are part of the means, we have to do our part. Is Jesus telling you to speak about this message of His Divine Mercy?

You probably don’t know that the song “Faith of Our Fathers” was written by a Catholic priest and the “fathers” were those who were martyred in England when Catholicism was illegal.

And… the original version has a verse that goes like this…

Faith of our fathers, Mary’s prayers
Shall win our country back to Thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
England shall then indeed be free.

During October, the month of the Rosary, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England, is distributing free copies of a Rosary CD and asking the faithful to pray for the evangelization and conversion of England.

Zenit Article

I agree! Let’s ask Our Lady to pray for the revival of the Catholic faith in England.

The chaplain to the Solidarity Movement was killed October 19, 1984. It looked bad for the Solidarity Movement.

But, meanwhile in Rome…

Today, the feast day of St. John Paul II, seems an opportune moment to remember how tough things really were in Poland, even with John Paul II as Pope. But, of course, we know how the story ends–at least in Poland.

Here’s a little article on the 30th anniversary: When the Communists Murdered a Priest

According to Amazon and other sources, many Schoenstatt books are out of print.

Well, actually, they aren’t. They are very much in print and available quite inexpensively.

Schoenstatt has not gone with the ISBN system, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

However, it makes the books fairly “invisible.”

You can order books like Mary Our Mother and Educator, Everyday Sanctity, God My Father, Marian Instrument Piety, The Marian Person, With Mary into the New Millennium, etc. from the Schoenstatt Sisters in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Click here to order books.

So, the mean Vatican is opposed to the religious sisters of the US! Isn’t this awful.

Well, that’s what a Time Magazine opinion article explains. But is this the whole story? Nope. This situation has been around a while now, and attempts to give a particular spin continue, but not all religious sisters are on the same page.

Or even planet, it seems. Universe?

I don’t think I need to go over the differences between the CMSWR and the LCWR and all that. I did in a previous post that has picked up some “hits” lately, probably due in part to the Time article.

Consider the Institute on Religious Life. This site is the antithesis of the Time article. Just look, and everything about it is the opposite of what the article says. Truly, this is a different universe. Take a look at the upcoming women’s retreats. No angst over Vatican investigations here. No Vatican investigations, in fact. These are CMSWR communities. Totally out of touch with the “times,” (and Time Magazine for that matter) but growing in real time (with a particular focus on eternity).

Carl Olson gave a response to the Time article, but really, all this digital ink doesn’t make a difference in particular communities. The battle lines were drawn long ago. The demographics continue to unfold (or unravel), and the reality, while being raged against on one side, is simply a matter of time.

Nancy Schreck, OSF, really did say something of the cold, harsh reality in many LCWR communities in her keynote address at the 2014 LCWR Assembly: “As a leader I believe that ‘God is doing something new,’ but what fills my days are: funerals, data on declining demographics, leadership team decisions to discontinue a precious ministry of the Congregation, worry about our sisters in Liberia and in North India, selling property, taking down buildings in trying to right size property and holdings. I believe that ‘God is doing something new,’ but when being called to address the congregation at Chapter I wonder what to say that can provide hope and encouragement.”

The encouragement is over at the Institute for Religious Life site with lots of young smiling faces, but it is a stinging rebuke to LCWR leaders. They never intended to die out, but based on the results, you would think that was the goal.

Certain prophets could see it coming a mile away. And among them is the famous Fr. Thomas Dubay, who said years ago “For religious, in their apostolates, giving a saintly example has a profound external impact. The best thing you religious can do for your community is to live a life of holiness. This is the problem with the lack of vocations. It is the elephant in our parlor, the problem we can’t address, but which is obviously there. We don’t discuss the main problems we have in our communities. Our communities are struggling and are not drawing new vocations, but we don’t discuss why!”

I think there are holy sisters in LCWR communities–sisters that have been completely ignored. They knew what to do and had the answers, but holiness (which includes piety) was seen as old fashioned. Activism–that was the most important thing. As the Time article points out, you don’t need to be a religious sister to be an activist. It was true 50 years ago, and it is definitely true today.