Saturday, January 31, 2015

Don Bosco's Popes: The Salesian Education of Pope Francis

The following comes from Zenit:

On October 20, 1990, then-Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, wrote a long letter to Salesian Cayetano Bruno, an historian of the Church in Argentina. The letter was written to remember Enrique Pozzoli, a Salesian friend of the family who baptized Jorge Bergoglio on December 25, 1936 and followed his spiritual journey.

Having finished those six typewritten pages, Fr. Bergoglio added an additional five pages where he brings together some “Salesian memories,” in particular those related to 1949, the year in which, at thirteen, he frequented the Wilfrid Baron School of the Holy Angels at Ramos Mejia, in Greater Buenos Aires.

Fr. Bergoglio remembers with gratitude the Salesians’ spirituality and an education that reflected a true and proper “Catholic culture” which prepared him “for life.”

Below is the unabridged text, published last week in L’Osservatore Romano. The original is in Spanish; this ZENIT translation is from the Italian.

I have just finished the report of my memories of Father Enrique Pozzoli. Now I want to complete my promise to write some memories of my contact with the Salesians, just as they were. And I begin with a somewhat Voltaire-like anecdote. In 1976 we transferred the Provincial Curia to San Miguel. New vocations were beginning to arrive and it seemed appropriate that the Provincial be close to the House of Formation. We began to reform the program of studies: 2 years of juniorate (which disappeared), philosophy separated from theology began to be imposed, substituting that “mixture” of philosophy and theology that was called “curriculum” where one began to study Hegel (sic!). Being at San Miguel I saw the neighborhoods without pastoral care; this worried me and we began to follow the children. On Saturday afternoon we taught catechism, then they played, etc. I realized that we Professors had the vow to teach doctrine to children and the ignorant, and I began myself to do so together with the students. The endeavor began growing. Five large churches were built, the children of the area were mobilized in an organized way … and only on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning … Then the accusation came that this was not an apostolate proper of Jesuits; that I Salesianized (sic!) the formation. They accused me of being a pro-Salesian Jesuit, and perhaps this makes my memories somewhat biased … but I remain at peace because my interlocutor at this moment is a pro-Jesuit Salesian, and he will be able to discern things.

It’s not strange that I speak with affection of the Salesians, because my family was nourished spiritually by the Salesians of San Carlos. As a child I learned to go to the procession of Mary Help of Christians, and also to that of Saint Anthony of Mexico Street. When I was at my grandmother’s home, I went to the Oratory of Saint Francis of Sales (following me there was the present Father Alberto Della Torre, chaplain of aviation). It is natural that I am a fan of San Lorenzo (otherwise something would be missing) and up until recently I kept a “History of the San Lorenzo Club” written by P. Mazza (I believe): I gave it to Don Hugo Chantada, Catholic journalist of “La Prensa”, dogged fan of San Lorenzo. Now he has it. As a child I knew the famous Father confessors of San Carlos: Montaldo, Punto, Carlos Scandroglio, Pozzoli. And as a child I had in my hands the “Religious Instruction” of Father Moret. They had taught us to ask for “the blessing of Mary Help of Christians” every time we took leave of a Salesian.

3.[sic] But the most intense experience with the Salesians was in the year 1949, when I frequented as a boarder the sixth grade in the Wilfrid Baron School of the Holy Angels, at Ramos Mejia. Director Father Emilio Cantarutti, Counselor Father Placido Aviles; Catechist, Father Isidoro Holowaty; Prefect, Father Isidro Fueyo. Working in the Administration was the Deputy Mr. Fernandez [sic]. Of the clerics I remember Mr. (Leonardo or Leandro) Cangiani and Ruben Veiga. Among the elderly priests were Fathers Usher, Lambruschini, Cingolani, etc. It is hard for me to make a partial description of different aspects of the School, simply because I have reflected many times on this year of life and, little by little, I have formed a reflection of the whole, which is the one I want to transmit here. I am aware that it will be somewhat intellectualized, perhaps without the freshness of a simple anecdote, but – on the other hand – I know that this vision of the whole and the one I elaborated gradually and is born of my experience is, in my view, objective.

4. School life was a “whole.” I was immersed in a way of life prepared so that there wouldn’t be time to be lazy. The day passed as an arrow without time for one to be bored. I felt myself submerged in a world that, although prepared “artificially” (with pedagogic resources), had nothing artificial about it. The most natural thing was to go to Mass in the morning, as well as having breakfast, studying, going to lessons, playing during recreation, hearing the “Good night” of the Father Director. Each one was made to live different assembled aspects of life, and this created a conscience in me: not only a moral conscience but a sort of human conscience (social, ludic, artistic, etc.) Said differently: the School created, through the awakening of the conscience in the truth of things, a Catholic culture that was not at all “bigoted” or “disoriented.” Study, the social values of living together, the social references to the neediest (I remember having learned there to deprive myself of some things to give to persons who were poorer than me), sport, competence, piety … everything was real, and everything formed habits that, all together, molded a cultural way of being. One lived in this world but open to the transcendence of the other world. It was very easy for me then in secondary school , to do the “transfer” (in the psycho-pedagogic sense) to other realities. And this simply because I lived well the realities lived in the School; without distortions, with realism, with a sense of responsibility and a horizon of transcendence. This Catholic cultureis – in my opinion – the best that I received at Ramos Mejia.

5. Everything was done with a meaning. There was nothing “without meaning” (at least in the fundamental order; because accidentally there were gestures of impatience by some educators or little daily injustices, etc.). I learned there, almost unwittingly, to seek the meaning of things. One of the key moments of this learning to seek the meaning of things was the “Good night” that the Father Director generally gave. Sometimes the Father Inspector did it, when he passed through the School. In this connection I still remember, as if it was today, a “Good night” of Monsignor Miguel Raspanti who at that time was Inspector. It was at the beginning of October of ‘49. He had gone to Cordoba because his Mother died on September 29. On his return, he spoke to us of death. Now, when I am almost 54, I recognize that that little evening reflection was the point of reference of my whole subsequent life in regard to the problem of death. That evening, without feeling fear, I felt that I would be dead one day, and it seemed to me the most natural thing. When one or two years later I came to know how Father Isidoro Holowaty died, of how he endured for the sake of mortification so many days of pain in his stomach (he was a nurse) until one Wednesday Father Pozzoli, who had gone there to confess the Salesians, ordered him to see a doctor, well, when I came to know this it seemed to me the most natural thing that a Salesian should die this way, exercising virtue. Another “Good night” that made an impression was one of Father Cantarutti on the need to pray to the most Holy Virgin to understand well one’s own vocation. I remember that that night I prayed intensely as I went to the dormitory (if you must note something because two days later Father Aviles flung a comment to me) … and since that evening I have never fallen asleep without praying. It was a psychological moment adapted to giving a meaning to the day, to things.

6. I learned to study in the School. The hours of study, in silence, created a habit of concentration, of a quite strong control of dispersion. Always with the help of professors, I learned a method of study, mnemonic –technical rules, etc. Sport was an essential aspect of life. One played well and a lot. The values that sport teaches (in addition to health) we already knew. In study as in sport the dimension of competition had a certain importance: we were taught to compete well and to compete as Christians. Over the years I have heard some criticisms of this competitive aspect of life … But, curiously, they were done by Christians “liberated” from this pedagogic aspect but who in daily life slaughtered one another for money or power … and did not compete as Christians.

7. A dimension that grew a lot in the subsequent years to the one spent in the School was my capacity to feel good: and I realized that the base was set the year of boarding school.. They educated my sentiment there. The Salesians have a special ability for this. I am not referring to “sentimentalism” but to “sentiment” as a value of the heart. Not to be afraid and to say to oneself what one is feeling.

8. Education to piety was another key dimension. I virile piety, appropriate to the age. In piety devotion to the Most Holy Virgin merits a special mention. They impressed this on me with fire … and, in as much as I remember, also on my companions. And the recourse to Our Lady is essential for life. It goes from the awareness of having a Mother in heaven that takes care of me to the recitation of the three Hail Marys, or of the Rosary. But the Virgin remained, and could not go out of our heart. We were inculcated also, and it remained impressed , in respect and love for the Pope. Sometimes I have heard criticisms of the “piety” that was inculcated in the School (I heard them years later), but they are always the usual rigmaroles of those who do not want to go to Mass because they were obliged to do so in School, etc. It is an anachronistic criticism because it transfers to the field of the pedagogy of piety a precise problem such as that of adolescent or youthful rebellion.

9. Closely united to love and to devotion to the Most Holy Virgin was love of purity. In this connection (and I believe altogether in Don Bosco’s preventive system) there is a very great misunderstanding. I was taught to love purity without any sort of obsessive teaching. There was not sexual obsession in the School, at least in the year I was there. I found more sexual obsession later in other educators or psychologists that shows ostentatiously a “laissez-passer” in this regard (but which deep down they interpreted behaviors in a Freudian key, which saw sex everywhere).

10. There was also room for hobbies, crafts, personal anxieties. Father Lambruschini taught us to sing, with Father Aviles I learned to build machinery to reproduce documents and to use it; there was a Ukrainian Father (Father Esteban) who wished to teach us to serve the table in the Ukrainian rite --- and so many other things (theater, organization of championships, academic ceremonies, taxidermy, etc.) that channeled hobbies and anxieties. We were educated to creativity.

11. How did our educators address crises? They made us feel that we could trust, that they loved us, they were able to listen, they gave us good opportune advice, and they defended us both from rebellion as well as melancholy.

12. All these things configured a Catholic culture. They prepared me well for secondary school and for life. Never (in so far as I remember) was a truth negotiated. The most typical case was that of sin. The sense of sin is part of the Catholic culture ... and what I brought from home in that sense was reinforced, took shape. One could then play the rebel, the atheist … but imprinted deep down was the sense of sin: a truth that could not be thrown out, to make everything easier. I speak of Catholic culture because everything we did and learned had, also, a harmonious unity. There was no “partiality,” but one thing referred to another and they completed one another. Unconsciously one felt oneself growing in harmony, something which I certainly could not make explicit at that time, but yes later. And, on the other hand, everything was of a striking realism.

13. I do not wish to fall into the psychology of the former student, a nostalgic, Proust-like attitude, where the memory selects the rosy part of life and denies the more limited or lacking aspects. There were lacks in the School, but the educational structure was not wanting. It is what I just wrote in the preceding paragraphs. There were things in 1949 that are not applicable in 1990 … but I am convinced that the Salesian cultural patrimony of 1949, this pedagogic patrimony, is capable of creating in its pupils a Catholic culture also in 1990, as it was able to create it in 1930.

Friday, January 30, 2015

I Will Follow

Don Bosco and Pope Francis on the Peripheries

 Though he is member of the Society of Jesus, Pope Francis shares with the Salesians of St. John Bosco a  love for the peripheries, and this is why he has often visited Salesian structures during his pastoral visits.

Pope Francis visited the parish of Sacro Cuore in Rome, the last church built by St. John Bosco, on Jan. 19, 2014, and there he emphasized the work Salesians do there with refugees. When he visited Tirana, Albania on Sep. 21, 2014, members of the Salesian community and of the Don Bosco center filled the crowd with their testimonies. And in Istanbul, Pope Francis had a private meeting Nov. 30 with refugee children at the Don Bosco Youth Center.

These meetings demonstrate the deep appreciation Pope Francis has for the work of Salesians, an appreciation which stretches back to his youth.

Jorge Bergoglio was baptized and had as a spiritual father the Salesian Fr. Enrique Pezzoli, and when he was 13 he spent one year as an intern of the Salesian College Wilfrid Baròn de los Santos Angeles.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the emeritus Secretary of State and himself a Salesian, said in a recent interview with Korazym that “Pope Francis and Don Bosco share many things.”

“Don Bosco started from the peripheries, looked for children in difficult situations, lived with them and donated his life for them. Pope Francis continually invites us not only to entertain a dialogue, but even to stay with people, to walk with them,” Cardinal Bertone stressed.

This culture of encounter, this love for any person, can be detected in the Salesians' commitment to refugees.

One of the latest expressions of this commitment is the “Don Bosco Island” project, about to start in Catania, on Sicily's eastern coast. Cardinal Bertone visited the project Jan. 17 for an informal, and yet very heartfelt, inauguration.

During the visit, Cardinal Bertone encouraged his brothers Salesians to keep up their work, despite bureacratic issues which have slowed down the starting of the center.

Don Bosco Island consists of a refugee center able to welcome around 50 unaccompanied minors.

“Our project does not just deal with providing minors shelter and food. We want them to be integrated in the Italian territory. According to law, unaccompanied minors can stay for only three months in centers, and then they have to be displaced to other areas. Through the Salesian network and our vocational training school, we start them on an educational path, we teach them a job, and the Italian language,” Fr. Giovanni D’Andrea, one of the directors of the project, told CNA Jan. 29.

This spirit is spread in all the Salesians' works for refugees. At Sacro Cuore, the refugee center provides a languaged school and job placament for the some 200 refugees who ask for help and assistance.

“This is not a school. This is a house,” says Sr. Marian, one of the four Missionary Nuns of the Risen Christ who are in charge of the missionary service at Sacro Cuore.

Fr. Stefano Di Fiore is in charge of the Don Bosco center in Tirana. Placed in a former refugee camp for Kosovars, the center is the soul of the block that has been built around it, providing school and activities for the young boys of the area, and currently hosting about 400 children of both sexes.

Fr. Di Fiore told CNA: “Our way of evangelizing must be a practical one. We can provide people with the joy of being together, we can provide them a job, and we have to be very attentive to respect their identity. But the way we do it is Catholic, and everyone knows it, so much so that in Tirana the sentence ‘Don Bosco method’ is common, and refers to our way of doing things.”

Pope Francis met with some of the children of refugees gathered to Don Bosco Youth Center in Istanbul during his voyage there Nov. 30.

Fr. Andrés Calleja Riuz, S.D.B., who is responsible for the center, explained to CNA: “Pope Francis will come here because we are not a school, we are a refugee center, we are a center of learning that kids can use for the future. And they are searching for the future.”

In the year of the 200th anniversary of St. John Bosco's birth, Pope Francis will have another occasion to appreciate the Salesians' work for the peripheries: on May 21, he will visit the first Salesian house, in Turin.

The House is in Valdocco, a block of Turin that was the very periphery of the city in the mid-1800s, when St. John Bosco established there the general quarters of the congregation he had founded.

No Obedience, No Heaven

The following comes from Fr. Dwight Longenecker:
Where there is no obedience, there is no virtue; where there is no virtue, there is no good; where there is no good there is no love; where there is no love, there is no God; and where there is no God, there is no Paradise”  – St. Padre Pio
I became a Catholic because I came to believe in the authority of the church. I had really come to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ delegated his authority to Peter and that the Bishop of Rome was Peter’s successor. Furthermore, I believed that the validly consecrated bishops of the Catholic Church were the successors to the apostles, and the priests were their “fingers”.
So what to do then when these bishops did not conform to my wishes? I will tell you what happened to me–not because I wish to toot my horn, but simply because it happened and I learned from it and you may learn from it too.
In 1995 I left my post as a minister in the Church of England to be received into the Catholic Church. I had no other training and a wife and two children to support. I got a job as an editor at a small video production company and tried my hand at freelance writing. At the same time I applied to the local Catholic bishop for ordination as a Catholic priest under the pastoral provision. At the time, in England, some 750 Anglican priests converted to Rome. The  vast majority were accepted for ordination as Catholic priests including the married men. 
My Catholic bishop accepted me for training and envisioned a role in the diocese as a communications officer. I began my training, but the bishop was promoted. We waited eighteen months for his replacement. I waited another nine months before obtaining a meeting with his successor. I waited another six months for a reply to my application. It was refused because the bishop “Could not think of any way to use me in the diocese.”
I was offered a part time job in a Catholic charity as a fund raiser and this required us to move. So we moved to a new part of the country and I met with my new bishop about ordination. He said “yes” and said they would pick up my paperwork which had already been sent to Rome. We waited six months and learned that “the paperwork had been lost.” We waited another six months and learned that the bishop had changed his mind. He was about to retire and did not want to burden his successor with a priest who had a wife and four children. So we waited for another year until he retired. Then we waited another eighteen months for his successor to be appointed.

Don Bosco's Popes: Pope John Paul II

The following comes from

All the important events of the Salesian Society are highlighted by the Blessing and oftentimes by the presence of the Pope, as in the case of the recent celebration of the centenary of Don Bosco’s death where Pope John Paul II visited The Becchi, Chieri and Valdocco, declaring: “ You know well that the decisive years of my life were spent in a Salesian Parish, the Parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Krakow; I lived a time of conversion precisely in the this Salesian Parish environment... and, coming here, in these places where Salesianity was born, I can relive the experience of my encounter with the Salesians, with John Bosco”. (From his speech on 2.9.1988).

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Don Bosco's Popes: Paul VI

The following comes from the site:

Giovanni Battista Montini, was born on 25th September, 1897. As a priest and later as Archbishop of Milan he had great love for Don Bosco and was a great supporter of Salesian works on behalf of poor youth. He was elected pope on June 21, 1963 and was responsible for steering the Second Vatican Council initiated by his predecessor to its final conclusion. In 1965 Fr. Louis Ricceri was elected the 6th successor of Don Bosco and responded promptly to the Pope’s call to renewal in line with the council’s teachings by convoking the (Special) 20th General Chapter. In 1972 Pope Paul VI beatified Michael Rua, the second successor of Don Bosco and in 1976 declared Bishop Louis Versiglia and Fr. Callistus Caravario martyrs. He raised the status of the Salesian Pontifical Atheneo into a Pontifical University. A year before his death Fr. Egidius Viganò was elected the 7th successor of Don Bosco at the 21st General Chapter at the new Salesian Residence at Via della Pisana in Rome. Pope Paul VI died on 6th August, 1978. His magisteral discourses during the special audiences held at the two general chapters are part of the Salesian legacy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I Need You, I Love You, I Want You by Tenth Avenue North

Don Bosco's Popes: Blessed John XXIII

The following comes from

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was born in Sotto il Monte (Bergamo) on 25th November 1881. He was elected Pope on 28th October 1958. He called the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council. He died on 3rd June 1963. John XXIII was pleased to recall many a time that as a boy he had read Don Bosco’s Catholic readings, “first and most effective addition to his religious and social formation”; he also recalled that as a small child, he had learnt of Don Bosco’s death from the Salesian Bulletin which always came into their home. He recalled too that the picture of Mary Help of Christians, taken from one of the Salesian Bulletins, hung from the wall near his bed. In Rome he solemnly inaugurated the new Temple of St. John Bosco in the Appio district (1950). He chose twelve Salesians to be bishops and Don Bosco’s third Cardinal, His Eminence Raul Henriquez Silva.

Modern-Day Hermits: Answering the Call to Solitude, Prayer

The following comes from The Catholic World Report: 

When Sister Mary Diana, 83, of Springfield, Oregon, became a consecrated hermit almost 40 years ago, she was among the first in the US. “There were some, but not like what you’ve got now,” said Sister Mary Diana, who lives with Sister Mary Magdalene, 89, who was also among the country’s first hermits.

If the ease with which hermits and hermitages can be found on the Internet is any indication, more and more people are discerning the call to a life of prayer and solitude with God.

To what does Sister Mary Diana attribute the increase in hermitic vocations? “Let’s hope it is out of pure love of God, and wanting to spend time with him every day of your life.”

One reason for an increase in the hermitic life is the fact that when Canon 603 was promulgated in 1984, it allowed bishops to accept within their own dioceses hermits who were not affiliated with religious orders.

Canon law allows men and women like Maria, who is now in her 60s and who spent the better part of her adult life raising children, the opportunity to discern whether they have a call to the hermitic life.

It was disappointing to Maria to learn that most Catholic women’s religious orders would not accept her because of her age. Becoming a hermit, however, will give her the chance to partake in the religious life.

Maria, who lives on the Gulf Coast, thinks the increase in hermits may also be a sign of the times. “The call was answered in the early Church when there was heresy and persecution,” she said. “The world had become so wicked; people could not exist in it anymore.”

She said it may also be indicative of the loss of religious orders. “Maybe the Holy Spirit is renewing the hermitic life to bring back the orders we need.”
Sister Mary Diana agreed that some may be turning to the hermitic life because of the culture’s moral decay. “You cannot do anything politically because the cards are stacked against you,” she said, but added that prayer, on the other hand, is always a good option, because it is always successful.

Is the hermitic life lonely?

Although it would be easy to imagine the hermitic life as a lonely one, Sister Mary Diana cheerfully dispels that idea. “How could you ever get lonely in the Lord’s presence?” she asks.

The sisters, who attend a Byzantine Catholic parish, have no structured schedule at all—which is a common feature of Eastern Catholic hermits—but pray and stay close to the Lord at all times. The Lord, however, brings people to them, according to Sister Mary Diana.  She described one day in which she and Sister Mary Magdalene had a strong desire to pray.  Soon after they began praying, a man showed up at the door and became part of their prayer. This person was going through a difficult time, so the sisters stopped what they were doing and ministered to him.

Several years earlier, after they built their first hermitage in another area of Oregon, the sisters offered a cabin for retreats to anyone who wanted to spend time alone in nature with God. “There was no advertising, but people found us,” said Sister Mary Diana. “It became a steady stream of them. We didn’t charge anything. Whatever they wanted to give was up to them.”

When it comes to communicating with people, however, the sisters partake of very little in the way of technology. The only reason they have a phone is because Sister Mary Magdalene has serious health issues. “No radio, TV, newspapers,” said Sister Mary Diana.  “I hear kids talking about iPads and Google. I don’t know what they are and have no wish to know what they are.”
Brother Martin, of the Hermits of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel in Christoval, Texas, said that although he does get lonely sometimes, “There are probably people in cities who rub elbows with people every day, and they are intensely lonely.” He added that being in a location where God is placed first and the fact that he has hermit brothers around keep things from being completely solitary.

The brothers have become like a family to him.
The hermitic life and the call to evangelize
A hermit in prayer. (Photo: Hermits of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel)
In living the life of a hermit, Brother Martin said he imitates Christ.  “In the hermitic life one retreats from the world, much like Christ did when he went off for 40 days in the desert to pray or when he went to lonely places to pray,” he said. 

Some may wonder how the solitary life fits in with the call to evangelize. “Believe it or not,” said Brother Martin, “Protestants seem to identify more with what we do—intercessory prayer. We get a lot of Protestant visitors. They see it in the element of the praying Church. When people come they are evangelized by the place. When people come, they experience the beauty of nature, and Christian art.”

“Protestants seem to understand [the hermitic life] better than most Catholics,” he said. “When [Catholics] see monks, they think we don’t do anything for anybody, but when a person does a good thing, it affects everybody. It’s the Communion of Saints.”

Maria also said that a big part of the hermitic life is praying for the souls of others. “The deeper into Christ’s heart you go, the more elevated you become. It’s like being on a mountaintop, and you can see the whole world writhing in sin, and you feel sorry for the world, and pray for the world.”

As part of their vocation, the brother hermits also make time for guests to the hermitage. “Brothers take turns interacting with visitors,” said Brother Martin. “We show them around. We try to be friends with people.”

In many ways, the hermitage sounds similar to a traditional religious monastery. The difference, however, is that in a hermitage, the hermits live in separate dwellings, and pray some of their prayers privately.

To support themselves, the brother hermits make different kinds of bread, as well as jellies, apple butter, and chocolate fudge. The hermit brothers take the money and divide it by 12—that is their yearly budget.  People also donate, and help with the construction of the hermitage.

People buy the hermits’ wares from their website, through the catalog the hermit monks produce, or at the hermitage gift shop.  Some of the hermits go to a particular location to sell wares.

The hermits must stick to a strict schedule, and, according to Brother Martin Mary, it is physically demanding.  The hermits rise at 3:30 am each day, and when they are not using that time to pray, they are taking care of the large hermitage, gardening, caring for the goats and chickens, tending the grounds, and digging ditches.  There is time allotted for a siesta during the day, but he said that many times they do not end up getting around to it. Bedtime for the hermits is 8:30 pm, if the work for the day has been completed.

Brother Martin Mary said what visitors find most surprising about life in the hermitage is the schedule.  He said it brings a lot of peace to him and the other brothers. “We’re happy and we are fulfilled [through] surrendering of self-will and obedience,” he explained.

Although Maria is discerning whether she has a call to the hermitic life, she, like Brother Martin, sticks to a strict schedule called an horarium. Some of her daily activities include prayer, daily Mass, lectio divina, meditations, study, physical exercise, household chores, and gardening. “It’s a very intensely busy life,” she said. “But it is all centered in silence and solitude, so you grow to the point where you can hear and discern God’s word.”

When it comes to technology, Brother Martin and the other hermits, like Sisters Mary Diana and Mary Magdalene, have no access to radio, TV, or newspapers. However, since the brothers sell their homemade goods online, they must have access the Internet in order to maintain the website and keep up with sales. During those moments, a hermit brother is not allowed to access the Internet himself, but must do it with his superior present or in union with everyone else.
“That way, we don’t get into any trouble,” said Brother Martin Mary.

The brothers’ superior keeps abreast of current events, and informs the other hermit monks of any life-threatening weather situations or major news events. For example, on 9/11 Brother Martin Mary’s superior showed him and the other hermit monks pictures of what occurred on the computer.

Maria, who has not taken any private or public vows, still has access to a cell phone and the Internet, but may have to give those up at some point if she decides to pursue the hermitic life.

Recognizing the call

Prior to becoming a hermit, Sister Mary Diana was a cloistered Dominican nun for 20 years, which she describes as a beautiful vocation. Like Mother Teresa, though, she says she experienced a “call within a call,” in which she discerned she was being called to life as a hermit.

“A seed was planted when I was in the monastery,” she said.

Sister Mary Diana said that although there was not much resistance from her superior and the other nuns at the Dominican monastery when she revealed she was being called to the hermitic life, there was a little misunderstanding at first.  “They felt they werecontemplative,” she said. “But then they understood.”
Brother Martin Mary, who has been a hermit for 12 years, said, “I felt like [the calling] was deep inside me, looking for a life of prayer…believing that it was a way of life. Prayer was something that was helpful to me a lot. I was growing through prayer. I realized that it was the road I need to continue on for the rest of my life.”

Brother Martin Mary was raised Catholic, going to Mass on Sundays.  When he went to college, however, he quit going to Mass.

Through the influence and intercession of his mother, who had left the faith and then returned herself, he started practicing his faith again.

When he made the decision to become a hermit, he met some resistance from his family.  “I am an only child, and to think about a celibate vocation cancels out grandchildren for my parents—that was already hard enough to take,” said Brother Martin Mary.

For his dad, the disappointment also extended to Brother Martin Mary’s abandoned career choice. “In college, I was on my way to med school,” he said. “I had taken the MCAT, started on applications. It was hard to swallow for my dad. I had gone from being a doctor to a shaky idea [of being a hermit.].”
“What was sure for me was if I went to med school, it would be another eight years, 24 hours a day—I wouldn’t have the time to pray a rosary, go to Mass,” he said. “I was seeing that as a reality. If I go down this route, I could lose my vocation.”

He said it was also hard for his mom to give him up.  He said the fact that his mom was such a woman of prayer, she was able to overcome that. His father did as well, eventually.

In 1996, Maria started saying the Divine Office, and the more she said the Office, the more she started to hunger for a religious order. “I approached a number of them, and I was told I was too old,” she said.

Maria also had several impediments, though: a minor child, duties to family, and student loan debt.

“I joined an email list in order to find out about vocations for older women,” she said. She was reading posts about religious orders when she came across a post in which someone identified himself as “semi-hermitical.” She did not know what that meant, so she contacted the author of the post, who turned out to be a superior over hermit monks.  His order had no corresponding women’s order. “It was kind of an eye-opener, that such a life existed,” she said.  From there, she went on a quest, reading everything she could about hermits.

As soon as her impediments were taken care of, she sought an orthodox spiritual director.

Maria grew up as a fundamentalist Christian in heavily Catholic St. Louis, Missouri, where she regularly saw nuns and priests. She converted to the Catholic Church in 1992 after being vehemently anti-Catholic most of her life. Before her conversion, she said, she faced an interior struggle. “I could see this beauty inside the Church, and would be attracted to it, and think I was going to Hell for it.”

“In the ’70s, I became very ill, and on many occasions, the Blessed Mother actually came to me in various ways, and brought me comfort,” said Maria. “At that point, I dropped the anti-Catholicism…I stopped hating the Catholic Church.”

How does one know he or she is on the right path? Maria said for her, it was after years of study, years of saying the Divine Office, and spiritual direction.
If you think you may have a calling to the hermitic life, Maria said, “Don’t give up. Read everything you can.” She said books such as Poustinia by Catherine Doherty and the early works of Thomas Merton have really helped her in the discernment process.

According to Maria, there is a lot of prejudice against the hermitic life. “Most people don’t realize it exists,” and then there are others who “probably have a negative, knee-jerk response to it.”

“My goal is to discern, step by step with my spiritual director, what God wants,” said Maria.

Saint of the day: Thomas Aquinas, Angelic Doctor

The following comes from the Catholic Online site:

St. Thomas Aquinas, priest anddoctor of the Church, patron of all universities and of students. His feast day is January 28th. He was born toward the end of the year 1226. He was the son of Landulph, Count of Aquino, who, when St. Thomas was five years old, placed him under the care of the Benedictines of Monte Casino. His teachers were surprised at the progress he made, for he surpassed all his fellow pupils in learning as well as in the practice of virtue.

When he became of age to choose his state of life, St. Thomasrenounced the things of this world and resolved to enter the Order of St. Dominic in spite of the opposition of his family. In 1243, at the age of seventeen, he joined the Dominicans of Naples. Some members of hisfamily resorted to all manner of means over a two year period to break his constancy. They even went so far as to send an impure woman to tempt him. But all their efforts were in vain and St. Thomas persevered in his vocation. As a reward for his fidelity, God conferred upon him the gift of perfect chastity, which has merited for him the title of the "Angelic Doctor".

After making his profession at Naples, he studied at Cologne under the celebrated St. Albert the Great. Here he was nicknamed the "dumb ox" because of his silent ways and huge size, but he was really a brilliant student. At the age of twenty-two, he was appointed to teach in the same city. At the same time, he also began to publish his first works. After four years he was sent to Paris. The saint was then a priest. At the age of thirty-one, he received his doctorate.

At Paris he was honored with the friendship of the King, St. Louis, with whom he frequently dined. In 1261, Urban IV called him to Rome where he was appointed to teach, but he positively declined to accept any ecclesiastical dignity. St. Thomas not only wrote (his writings filled twenty hefty tomes characterized by brilliance of thought and lucidity of language), but he preached often and with greatest fruit. Clement IV offered him the archbishopric of Naples which he also refused. He left the great monument of his learning, the "Summa Theologica", unfinished, for on his way to the second Council of Lyons, ordered there by Gregory X, he fell sick and died at the Cistercian monastery of Fossa Nuova in 1274.

St. Thomas was one of the greatest and most influential theologians of all time. He was canonized in 1323 and declared Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius V.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Don Bosco's Popes: Pius XII

The following comes from

Eugene Pacelli was born in Rome on 2nd March 1876. In the brief Conclave of 1-2 March 1939 he was elected Pope. He died on 9th October 1958. He approved the Congregation’s decree on Seminaries and Universities of 3rd May 1940, which formally erected the Pontifical Salesian Athenaeum (PAS) On 24th June he canonised Saint Mary Mazzarello. He beatified (5th March 1950) and canonised (12th June 1954) St. Dominic Savio. He proclaimed the heroic virtue of Don Michael Rua (26th June 1953). He introduced the Cause for beatification of Zeffirino Namancurà (10th December 1956), and the Cause for beatification of Dorothy de Chopitea (21st June 1957).

Brother Roger: When a human being is understood

When a human being is understood... from Taize on Vimeo.

Saint of the day: Angela Merici

Today we remember St. Angela Merici! She was a wonderful, holy woman who founded the Ursuline Sisters.

The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

Franciscan tertiary at age 15. She received a vision telling her she would inspire devout women in their vocation.

In Crete, during a pilgrimage to Holy Land, she was struck blind. Her friends wanted to return home, but she insisted on going on, visiting the shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she had her sight. On the way home, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was restored at the same place where it had been lost.

In 1535 she gathered a group of girl students and began what would become the Institute of Saint Ursula (Ursuline Sisters), founded to teach children, beginning with religion and later expanding into secular topics; her first schools were in the Italian cities of Desenazno and Brescia.

 To learn more about her click here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Don Bosco's Popes: Pius XI

The following comes from the

Achille Ratti was born in Desio (Milan) on 31st May 1857. He became Pope on 6th February 1922. He died on 10th February 1939. In Autumn 1883, as a young priest, he went to visit St. John Bosco and his Oratory, where he stayed for two days: he too sat at table with Don Bosco and left full of profound and pleasant memories. That contact he had had with the Saint was always something he spoke about. He put full effort into quickly promoting Don Bosco’s Cause, and the Canonisation was established for Easter Sunday 1934, the closing of the Holy Year. He extended the feast to the universal Church. He is rightly called “Don Bosco’s Pope”. It was due to him that Dominic Savio’s Cause overcame what appeared to be insuperable difficulties. On the 9th July he signed the decree of heroic virtue. On 11th May 1936 he proclaimed the heroic virtue of Saint Mary Mazzarello, beatified on 20th November 1938. Other signs of special regard for the Salesian Society were the granting of the precious Indulgence sanctifying work (1922) and the elevation to the Cardinalate of Cardinal Hlond (1927).

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Don Bosco's Popes: Benedict XV

The following comes from

James Della Chiesa was born on 21st November 1854 in Genova. He was elected Pope on 3rd September 1914. He died on 22nd January 1922. On 6th December 1915 he invested Bishop Cagliero in the purple that would make him the first Salesian Cardinal.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Wise Advice from St. Francis de Sales

This is wise advice from St. Francis de Sales! Thanks to Patrick Madrid for posting this.

"As soon as worldly people see that you wish to follow a devout life they aim a thousand darts of mockery and even detraction at you. The most malicious of them will slander your conversion as hypocrisy, bigotry, and trickery. . . .

"Philothea, all this is mere foolish, empty babbling. These people aren't interested in your health or welfare. 'If you were of the world, the world would love what is its own but because you are not of the world, therefore the world hates you,; says the Savior. We have seen gentlemen and ladies spend the whole night, even many nights one after another, playing chess or cards. Is there any concentration more absurd, gloomy, or depressing than this last? Yet worldly people don't say a word and the players' friends don't bother their heads about it.

"If we spend an hour in meditation or get up a little earlier than usual in the morning to prepare for Holy Communion, everyone runs for a doctor to cure us of hypochondria and jaundice. People can pass thirty nights in dancing and no one complains about it, but if they watch through a single Christmas night they cough and claim their stomach is upset the next morning. Does anyone fail to see that the world is an unjust judge, gracious and well disposed to its own children but harsh and rigorous towards the children of God?

"We can never please the world unless we lose ourselves together with it. It is so demanding that it can't be satisfied. "John came neither eating nor drinking," says the Savior, and you say, "He has a devil." "The Son of man came eating and drinking" and you say that he is "a Samaritan."

"It is true, Philothea, that if we are ready to laugh, play cards, or dance with the world in order to please it, it will be scandalized at us, and if we don't, it will accuse us of hypocrisy or melancholy. If we dress well, it will attribute it to some plan we have, and if we neglect our dress, it will accuse of us of being cheap and stingy. Good humor will be called frivolity and mortification sullenness. Thus the world looks at us with an evil eye and we can never please it. It exaggerates our imperfections and claims they are sins, turns our venial sins into mortal sins and changes our sins of weakness into sins of malice.

"'Charity is kind,' says Saint Paul, but the world on the contrary is evil. "Charity thinks no evil," but the world always thinks evil and when it can't condemn our acts it will condemn our intentions. Whether the sheep have horns or not and whether they are white or black, the wolf doesn't hesitate to eat them if he can.

"Whatever we do, the world will wage war on us. If we stay a long time in the confessional, it will wonder how we can have so much to say; if we stay only a short time, it will say we haven't told everything. It will watch all our actions and at a single little angry word it will protest that we can't get along with anyone. To take care of our own interests will look like avarice, while meekness will look like folly. As for the children of the world, their anger is called being blunt, their avarice economy, their intimate conversations lawful discussions. Spiders always spoil the good work of the bees.

"Let us give up this blind world, Philothea. Let it cry out at us as long as it pleases, like a cat that cries out to frighten birds in the daytime. Let us be firm in our purposes and unswerving in our resolutions. 

Perseverance will prove whether we have sincerely sacrificed ourselves to God and dedicated ourselves to a devout life. Comets and planets seem to have just about the same light, but comets are merely fiery masses that pass by and after a while disappear, while planets remain perpetually bright. So also hypocrisy and true virtue have a close resemblance in outward appearance but they can be easily distinguished from one another.

"Hypocrisy cannot last long but is quickly dissipated like rising smoke, whereas true virtue is always firm and constant. It is no little assistance for a sure start in devotion if we first suffer criticism and calumny because of it. In this way we escape the danger of pride and vanity, which are comparable to the Egyptian midwives whom a cruel Pharaoh had ordered to kill the Israelites' male children on the very day of their birth. We are crucified to the world and the world must be crucified to us. The world holds us to be fools; let us hold it to be mad."

Saint Frances de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life