Sunday, July 15, 2018

Discernment & St. Catherine Laboure

Today is the anniversary of the day Saint Catherine Laboure had her first vision of Mary which led to the making of the Miraculous Medal. The blog on June 8 gives important details of the medal that Mary told Sister Catherine to have made. This is one of the favorite medals used in the Catholic Church.

Saint Catherine was a seminary sister in 1830 in Paris, France when he first vision of Mary occurred. There is an amazing parallel between he feelings regarding her visions and that of a person discerning her vocation in this day and age. Some of them, as I see and as I once experiences, are as follows:

1) Doubt. Catherine doubted if she actually saw Mary and a person can doubt if they are really being called by God to consecrated life.

2) Wonderment. Catherine probably wondered why God would choose an unimportant person as herself to see Mary. Similarly, a person can wonder how God can call someone like herself to consecrated life. God loves us deeply as individuals rather than as part of a human group so this isn't surprising. He calls many different personalities.

3) Patience. It may have been difficult for Catherine to learn from Mary what her mission in life would be. Mary revealed it later. Just as it was with Catherine, it may be difficult for a discerner at first to realize her mission in life. Waiting patiently and trusting in God's love is so important in the process.

4) Obstacles. Catherine had to overcome obstacles in her mission of having the Miraculous Medal made and distributed because, at first, the clergy didn't believe her story. A person discerning a vocation might force various obstacles to overcome in her discernment. This is all a part of the journey. Prayer and spiritual direction can make all the difference.

5) Peace. Catherine found peace when she finally did what God had asked for her through Mary. A person discerning a vocation to the consecrated life will receive much peace after a decision is reached with the help of God and the inspiration of the community of saints.

Saint Catherine Laboure is an amazing saint of the Church. We can learn a lot by reading her story. The inspirations we receive will be very valuable.

Saint Catherine, pray for us.

Written by Sister Carmeli Proano, D.C.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Little Way of Marguerite Naseau: Following Providence Step by Step

Somewhat interested in playing the guitar, one day I asked a sister how she learned to play. Did she have formal lessons in the Seminary? Was she in a band before coming to the Community and picked it up from a friend? Did she use a book and study music theory or learn it by ear? She replied, "I learned from the Marguerite Naseau School of Music."

I was puzzled. I knew Marguerite Naseau, that she was the first Daughter of Charity, and that she died before the Little Company officially existed. I was aware that St. Vincent referred to her as the "ideal Daughter of Charity," emphasizing her modest country upbringing as a "true village girl" and her genuine living of the virtues of humility, simplicity, and charity.

But a school of music? That didn't seem to fit. The sister went on to explain: "I learned to play the guitar like Marguerite learned to read. I asked different people how to play a chord here and there and, eventually, I could put the chords together to play a song." St. Vincent comments on this method of learning in his July 1643 conference on "The Virtues of Marguerite Naseau."

"Moved by a powerful inspiration from heaven, the idea came to [Marguerite Naseau] to teach young people, so she bought a primer and, since she was unable to go to a school for instruction, went and asked the pastor or the assistant to tell her the first four letters of the alphabet. On another occasion, she asked about the next four and so on for the rest. Afterward, while minding the cows, she would study her lesson. If she saw a passerby who looked like he knew how to read, she would ask, 'Monsieur, how is this word pronounced?' In this way, she gradually learned to read, then taught other girls in her village" (Coste Vol. IX, #12, pg. 65).

Marguerite gradually learned to read...Sister eventually could play a song. This village girl school of learning seems to take time and requires a lot of patience. It also demands trust that the right person will come along to pronounce a new word for you or to teach you a new chord. What strikes me the most about this method is the humility is takes to acknowledge your dependence on others and the simplicity it requires to invite someone to share their knowledge or experience with you.

Sometimes, we fool ourselves into thinking that we can figure out all of the answers if we spend enough time "Googling," or we can learn how to do anything by watching a few YouTube videos. Asking Siri is not the same as asking a living, breathing person standing right next to you. Perhaps we can gain some knowledge...but what about wisdom? St. Vincent wrote, "Wisdom consists in following Providence step by step" (Coste Vol. II, #720, pg. 521). Divine Providence is manifested through our daily encounters with the people, events, and circumstances of our lives. May we view the limits of our own knowledge not as limitations, but rather as opportunities to meet grace, following the Little Way of Marguerite letter at a time, one chord at a time, one step at a time.

Written by Sister Kara Davis, D.C.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Daughter of Charity Martyrs of Arras

During the French Revolution in the late 1700s, a number of Daughters of Charity were among the hundreds of faithful priests, religious, and ordinary catholics who were killed because they would not take the oath required by the revolutionary government of France. This oath separated those who took it from the Catholic Church in Rome. June 26 is the feast day of these five Daughters of Charity who were guillotined by the revolutionary government. The focus here will be on the four Daughters of Charity from Arras who were martyred in 1794. One other sister, Sister Marguerite Rutan, was guillotined in the city of Dax.

The House of Charity at Arras was founded by St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac. The sisters served those in poverty with great zeal and creativity until the time of the French Revolution. Seven Daughters of Charity were serving there, visiting those in need in their homes, providing a free school of girls, and serving the sick in a dispensary. Benefactors were generous, the sisters were esteemed, and the ministries were in a prosperous condition.

This was all to change drastically. A government came to power that was hostile to the monarchy and
to the Catholic religion. In 1789, the Motherhouse of the Vincentian Fathers and Brothers was pillaged. Superiors wrote to the sisters, encouraging them to remain faithful to the service of those in poverty for as long as possible, but to be willing to lay aside the habit in order to continue their service of love. In 1792, all religious congregations were suppressed by the government. The Motherhouse was transformed into a barrack for soldiers. A number of sisters returned to their families and some were helped to escape to Belgium.

At Arras, four Daughters of Charity continued their service: Sister Madeleine Fontaine, local superior, age 71; Sister Mary Frances Lanel, age 48; Sister Theresa Madeleine Fantou, age 46; and Sister Jean Gerard, age 41. They were unwilling to take the oath and so they were arrested on February 14, 1794. Confined for several months to various prisons, they ministered to their fellow prisoners with great kindness.

Then, they were summoned to the revolutionary tribunal in the town of Cambrai. On the road from the prison to the tribunal, they prayed, sang spiritual songs, and consoled the other prisoners, repeating several times that their blood would be the last shed at Cambrai. Their peace was remarkable on the way to the scaffold. They were guillotined, but the prophecy of Blessed Madeleine was fulfilled--they were the last to be executed at Cambrai.

God rewarded their daily fidelity to His will with the extraordinary grace of martyrdom. They were beatified by the Church on June 13, 1920. May God also give us the wisdom to make good decisions about the situations that demand our response and the courage to embrace the daily sacrifices that are asked of us!

Written by Sister Marjory Ann Baez, D.C.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Nativity of John the Baptist

"He will be great in the sight of the Lord; and many will rejoice at his birth" (Luke 1:15;14)

The life of St. John the Baptist in this reflection will be examined in three areas: in the liturgy, in sacred scripture, and in God's plan of salvation.

John the Baptist in the liturgy:

Besides the birthday of Jesus, there are only two saints whose birthdays are celebrated in the church's calendar: the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. This emphasizes the important roles of these two figures in God's plan.

This year, the church is celebrating the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist on Sunday, June 24, six months before the birthday of Jesus.

John the Baptist in sacred scripture:

What do we know about John?

Similar to the birth of Jesus, the birth of John was announced by the angel Gabriel to his father, Zachariah. John was given to his parents, Zachariah and Elizabeth, when Elizabeth was already past the age of childbearing. Yet, with God's gracious intervention, Elizabeth was able to conceive and give birth to John.

His name was also designated by the angel Gabriel before his birth: "you must name him John," (Luke 1:13). In Hebrew, John means God's grace/favor.

John was sanctified specially by God's grace: "...from his mother's womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit," (Luke 1:15). Inside his mother's womb, he experienced the presence of Jesus when Mary, pregnant with the Lord, visited Elizabeth. The gospel says when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby in her womb, "leapt for joy," (Luke 1: 41; 44). Some in the church understand this as the moment John was freed from original sin.

John the Baptist in God's plan of salvation.

John the Baptist arrived at the period of critical transition between the Old and New Testament. Like many people of the Old Covenant, he had lived and longed for the promise of the Messiah to be fulfilled. However, as one of the people of the New Covenant, he had seen the Messiah, labored for Him as His messenger and prophet, and he enjoyed the grace of redemption which Jesus granted him ahead of time.

The gospels portray John the Baptist as a simple and humble person and the messenger for the Messiah. He regarded others as better than he was. "...[He] who ranks ahead of me...; he must grow greater, I must grow smaller," (John 1:30; 3:30). John's zeal in carrying out his mission led him to his martyrdom. He was beheaded as a result of his boldness of speaking the truth against the adultery of King Herod and Herodias.

Celebrating the Nativity of John the Baptist is celebrating God's favor and God's redemption. It also calls us to meditate on his virtues of humility and simplicity, virtues that our founder, St. Vincent de Paul, repeatedly reminded us to keep making an essential part of our lives.

Written by Sister My Hanh Cao, D.C.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

The word "heart" brings to our minds LOVE and the emotions that emit from the word. A popular Marian devotion is that of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is celebrated close to the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

According to the doctrine of the Church, Mary is the Immaculate Conception. This gift to Mary from God was in preparation for the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ.

Mary was conceived without original sin and was preserved throughout her life from committing sin. Because of this grace, her heart is called immaculate. In her carrying Jesus within her, His heart was created and given the life of a human and the unconditional love of God. This is why the two hearts are honored so close together.

The Daughters of Charity recognize the Immaculate Heart of Mary with special devotion. In 1830, Mary appeared to St. Catherine Laboure, a young French Daughter of Charity, and asked her to have a medal made and distributed to the faithful, especially for the grace of the conversion of sinners. The medal was to be worn around the neck.

On the front of the medal was the image of Mary, encircled with the words, "O MARY CONCEIVED WITHOUT SIN, PRAY FOR US WHO HAVE RECOURSE TO THEE." These words, directly from Mary, were confirmation of the dogma of her Immaculate Conception. On the reverse of the medal, is an image of the Cross of Christ surmounted by the letter "M." Beneath it are symbols of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

This apparition to St. Catherine Laboure spread the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary while other apparitions confirmed Mary's title as the Immaculate Conception.

Let us join in prayer on June 9, the day the Church commemorates her Immaculate Heart, and June 8, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and ask Mary to help us live our lives with integrity and for the graces needed to live our life centered in prayer with a great love for Mary, her Son, and all those we meet.

Written by Sister Martha Garcia, D.C.
Miraculous Medal Photo Source: ChurchPop