Friday, November 29, 2019

Foundation of the Little Company

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." Soren Kierkegaard

We sometimes harbor the illusion that the saints "had everything figured out" in their lives as though they possessed some kind of heavenly GPS plotting their journey of life from its beginning to its final destination. Actually, the saints were often as unsure as the rest of us. Many of them needed to pray for God's guidance each day and waited for Him to reveal His will one step at a time. This was certainly the case for St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac, who founded the Daughters of Charity on November 29, 1633.

After St. Vincent delivered an inspiring sermon about the desperate need of a poor family in his parish at Clichy in 1617, parishioners flocked to the home to see how they could help. This experience led St. Vincent to the then-revolutionary idea of organizing charitable efforts for the poor. He gathered influential women together in groups which he called Confraternities of Charity (now known as Ladies of Charity) and asked St. Louise to visit, mentor, and oversee their efforts.

As time passed, the women, who were unaccustomed to menial tasks, began sending their servants instead of going themselves into the homes of the poor. St. Vincent and St. Louise recognized that another approach was needed. The solution came with the appearance of a simple peasant girl, Marguerite Nasseau. She, with her companions, was very willing to carry out the necessary, humble tasks. St. Louise realized that these young women needed support and training. In 1633, she welcomed them into her home. This was a shocking departure from the social norms of the day.

Through their faithful following of the Lord's guidance step-by-step, St. Vincent and St. Louise became the founders of a new type of religious community for women where the sisters were free to venture outside of the walls of a convent to minister directly to those in need.

Ten years later, St. Vincent would say to the Daughters gathered for his conference: "Who would ever have thought that there would be Daughters of Charity? ... I did not think of it ... God thought of it for you," (Conferences to the Daughters of Charity, June 14, 1643). In 1654, he elaborated further: "Now, dear Sisters, the fact is that no one on earth can say, 'I did that.' Mademoiselle [Louise] can't say it, neither can M. Portail, no anyone else. No, Sisters, no one can say, 'I'm the one who did this work,'" (Conferences to the Daughters of Charity, May 25, 1654).

Both St. Vincent and St. Louise recognized the presence of God in the events and circumstances with which they were faced and counted on Him to guide them step-by-step along the right path to accomplish His will. He continues to guide us in the same way, one step at a time.

Are you wondering about God's plans for your future? Trust Him to show you the path He wants for you, one step at a time.

Written by Sister Chris Maggi, D.C.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Feast of St. Catherine Laboure

Catherine Laboure was born May 2, 1806 in the town of Fain-les-Moutiers in Burgundy, France. She was the eighth child of a devout couple, Pierre and Madeleine Laboure.

When Catherine was nine years old, her mother died. She was brokenhearted and she went to the kitchen, took a small statue of our Lady, and said: "From now on, YOU will be my Mother."

The eldest of the Laboure children, Marie-Louise, taught Catherine and her young sister, Tonine, how to care for the household chores. Before too long, the girls were able to assume these responsibilities. So, when Marie-Louise announced she was going to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a Daughter of Charity, Catherine and Tonine were ready to take care of the house.

Catherine was a devout child and would often walk four miles to attend mass in the church there. When Catherine was 12, she made her First Communion in that church where she had been attending daily mass.

Catherine wanted to follow in Marie-Louise's footsteps and become a Daughter of Charity. She knew she had to be able to read and write and she had not been able to attend school as a child. When she was 18, she asked her father is she could go to Chatillon to live with her cousin who had a finishing school. There, she learned to read and write.

Catherine began her postulancy with the Daughters of Charity in Chatillon when she was 24. Three months later, she went to Paris to become a seminary sister. In her daily life, there was nothing to distinguish Catherine from the other young sisters.

From the time that Catherine was young, she had a great love and devotion for our Blessed Mother. In fact, she had a great desire to SEE her and often prayed for this. On July 18, the novice directress spoke about St. Vincent de Paul's devotion to the Blessed Virgin. That evening, when Catherine went to bed, she had a feeling she would see Mary that night.

Around 11:30 that night, Catherine was awakened by a small child who told her to get up and get dressed as the Blessed Mother was waiting for her in the chapel. When she arrived there, she noticed it was all lit up. as it was for midnight mass. Before long, the Blessed Mother appeared and sat in the chair which was usually used by the director. Catherine knelt and placed her hands on the Blessed Mother's lap. They spoke for about two hours, during which the Blessed Mother told Catherine that God wanted to give her a "mission."

On November 27, Catherine was in the chapel with the sisters for evening prayer. Suddenly, Catherine saw the Blessed Mother. This is the simple account given by Catherine:

"She held an orb in her hands representing the earthly globe... Her face was utterly beautiful... And suddenly, I saw rings on her fingers covered with precious stones, one more beautiful than the other...At that moment, an oval frame formed around the Holy Virgin and on it were the words in gold letters 'O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.' Then, I heard a voice saying to me 'Have a medal struck on this model; everyone who wears it will receive great graces; the graces will be inexhaustible for all those who wear it with confidence.' The picture suddenly turned and I saw the reverse of the medal with the letter M surmounted by a cross and, below it, two hearts, one encircled with a crown of thorns and the other pierced with a sword."

Sister Catherine, after receiving her habit, was sent to a hospice in Enghein. There, she cared for retired servants of the royal houses of Orleans. She spent 50 years caring for these retired men, treating them kindly but was firm with them when it was necessary.

In November of 1876, Sister Catherine's health declined. She was no longer able to leave her room. She knew she would not see the new year and asked to receive the Sacrament of the Sick. On evening of December 31, Sister Catherine died quietly. Her face was radiant!

Let us pray the Prayer of St. Catherine Laboure:

Whenever I go to the Chapel,
I put myself in the presence of our good Lord, and I say to Him,
"Lord, I am here.
Tell me what You would have me do."
If He gives me some task,
I am content and I thank Him.
If He gives me nothing,
I still thank Him
Since I do not deserve to receive anything more than that.
And then, I tell God
Everything that is in my heart.
I tell Him about my pains and my joys,
And then I listen.
If you listen, God will also speak to you,
For with the good Lord, you have to both speak and listen.
God always speaks to you when you approach Him plainly and simply.

Let us allow God to speak to us in this way! Happy Feast of St. Catherine Laboure!

Written by Sister Camille Cuadra, D.C.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Second Apparition of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

Today, November 27, is the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. It was on this day in 1830 that the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Catherine Laboure in the Motherhouse Chapel of the Daughters of Charity in Paris, France. Catherine was a seminary sister at the time. During this apparition, Mary asked Catherine to "have a medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces: they shall wear it around their neck. Great graces will abound for those who wear it with confidence."

The symbols on the medal summarize the mysteries of the Christian faith. The front side of the medal pictures Mary with rays of light coming down from her hands. She is standing on half of the globe with her foot crushing a serpent. She told Catherine, "These rays are a symbol of the graces that I pour on those who ask of them of me." In the oval surrounding the image is the prayer, "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you." On the reverse side of the medal is the letter M surmounted on a cross and below it, a heart of Jesus with a crown of thorns and the heart of Mary pierced by a sword. Around the images are 12 stars.

Catherine shared with her spiritual director, Father Aladel, Mary's request to have the medal made. It took two years before he was convinced of the apparition. He then asked and received permission from the Archbishop of Paris to have the medal made.

The use of the medal spread quickly and it became known as the Miraculous Medal as many people gave testimony to being healed and hardened hearts had been converted. In 1836, the Holy See approved the medal and its supernatural origin. It is estimated that over 1 billion medals were distributed by the time of St. Catherine's death.

Do I take advantage of the graces Jesus offers me through the intercession of His Mother? How is God calling me to conversion? How do I express my faith and share it with those in my family and those with whom I am in contact during the day? Do I pray through Mary's intercession for the graces I need and for the world? Do I follow St. Catherine's commitment to prayer, her perseverance in times when she doubted, her comment to the services of others, and her confidence in the Blessed Mother and her Son?

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

Written by Sister Mary Shea, D.C.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Halloween - All Saints' Day

More than 2500 years ago, the Celts celebrated their new year, the end of the harvests, and the arrival of winter all on October 31. This festive ceremony, in honor of the deity Samain (god of death), allowed communication with the spirits of the dead. That day, the doors between the world of the living and the world of the dead were opened. According to legend, that night, the ghosts of the dead visited the living.

Halloween is, above all, a pretext to "party" and forget the long fall evenings, often rainy and gloomy. All Saints' Day is also a celebration, but much more meditative. The atmosphere surrounding each November 1 - and the commemoration of the dead the next day - contributes to giving All Saints' Day a particular character, one which touches the relationship of each individual to death while ensuring more of a social function of cohesion around the memory of the "dear departed."

This celebration is also an opportunity to remember that all people are called to holiness, by different paths though those paths may sometimes be surprising or unexpected.

Holiness is not reserved for the elite. It concerns all who choose to put their steps in those of Christ. The first merit of this All Saints' Day is to help us to fight against a rather subtle, but radical temptation which threatens the Christian life permanently. It is that of seeing in each saint, a life so extraordinary and marvelous that is is inaccessible. Jesus is the one who saves us, the one who transforms us, the one who wants us to become like Him.

All Saints' Day is a feast of communion with the saints and with a God of Love in emphasizing the hope of the resurrection and the joy of those who put the Beatitudes at the center of their lives. All Saints' Day focuses on Christ, the conqueror of death. It is a way to signify that we are all called to holiness and, thus, invited to put our steps in those of Christ.

Written by Sister Michelle Loisel, D.C.

Friday, October 18, 2019

St. Luke: A Man Compelled and Inspired

Today, October 18, we celebrate the feast day of St. Luke, evangelist and author of the Acts of the Apostles. Luke's two works comprise almost a quarter of the New Testament.

A physician from Antioch, Luke encountered Jesus' disciples while caring for the physical needs of the community. The Good News so astounded Luke that he became their frequent companion. St. Paul later referred to him as a "fellow worker." While the chosen twelve were of Jewish heritage, Luke was probably a Gentile, as indicated from his familiarity with the Greek language. Christians have insight into the first 30 years of the church because St. Luke was a faithful recorder of that critical time.

When I was a child, I always loved to hear about the early life of Jesus, especially about His birth. I didn't realize that what I was learning could only be found in Luke's Gospel. Since then, I have continued to be drawn to his Gospel. Some of the other passages found only in Luke have been essential to my personal and faith development, including the stories of The Good Samaritan, The Ten Lepers, The Prodigal Son, and the Parable of the Persistent Widow. From these passages, I have learned about compassion, forgiveness, gratitude, and trust, all of which are so necessary if you intend to be a disciple of Jesus.

St. Luke gathered vital information for his works. This information came from written sources, from talking with the disciples, from eyewitnesses, and from his own experiences of the times. Saints Peter, Paul, and Philip were major sources for him. It is evident that St. Luke allowed the Holy Spirit to be his inspiration as he composed the texts that would one day be accepted into the canon of the Bible.

I doubt that St. Luke realized the impact that his written contributions would have on all of Christianity. Two thousand years later, I am grateful for this man of faith. I hope that I will allow the Holy Spirit to guide me so that I, too, may inspire others to discipleship. Is the Holy Spirit calling you to share your faith?

Written by Sister Susan Pugh, D.C.