Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Works of Mercy in Those Beatified by Bl. Pope John Paul II



"My love, what can I do to make the whole world love you? … Make use once again of this wretched instrument to renew the faith and the conversion of sinners".

This generous outburst, uttered at the feet of her ‘Supreme Good’ – who drew her ever closer to him – constituted the deepest yearning of Anna Rosa Gattorno’s heart, leading her to offer her life totally in a continuous sacrifice for the glory and pleasure of the Father.

She was born in Genoa on 14 October 1841 into a deeply Christian, well-to-do family of good name. She was baptized the same day in the parish of S. Donato and received the names Rosa, Maria, Benedetta.

In her father Francesco and her mother Adelaide Campanella, like their other five children, she found the first models for her moral and Christian life. When she was 12 years old, she was confirmed at S. Maria delle Vigne by Cardinal Archbishop Tadini.

As a young girl she was educated at home, as was the custom in rich families at that time. With her serene and loveable character, open to piety and charity, she was nonetheless firm and knew how to react to the confrontations of the political and anticlerical climate of the time, which did not spare even some members of the Gattorno family.

At the age of 21 Rosa married her cousin Gerolamo Custo (5 November 1852), and moved to Marseilles. Unforeseen financial difficulties very soon upset the happiness of the new family which was forced to return to Genoa in a state of poverty. More serious misfortunes were looming: their first child, Carlotta, after a sudden illness was left deaf and dumb for life; Gerolamo’s attempt to find fortune abroad ended with his return, aggravated by a fatal illness; the happiness of the other two children was deeply disturbed by her husband’s disappearance which left her a widow less than six years after their marriage (9 March 1858) and, a few months later, by the loss of her youngest little son.

The succession of so many sad events in her life marked a radical change which she called her "conversion" to the total gift of herself to the Lord, to his love and to love of neighbour. Purified by her trials and strengthened in spirit, she understood the true meaning of pain and was confirmed in the certainty of her new vocation.

Under the guidance of her confessor, Fr. Giuseppe Firpo, she made private perpetual vows of chastity and obedience on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception 1858; followed by vows of poverty (1861) in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, as a Franciscan tertiary. Since 1855, she had also obtained the benefit of daily communion, which was uncommon in those days. She remained constantly anchored to this source of grace and, encouraged by ever growing intimacy with the Lord, she found support, missionary fervour, strength and zeal in service to her brothers and sisters.

In 1862, she received the gift of hidden stigmata, perceived most intensely on Fridays.

As a faithful wife and exemplary mother, never depriving her children of anything – always following and loving them tenderly – with greater availability she learned to share in the sufferings of others, giving herself in apostolic charity: "I dedicated myself with greater zeal to pious works and to visiting hospitals and the poor sick at home, helping them by meeting their needs as much as I could and serving them in all things".

The Catholic associations in Genoa competed for her, so that although she loved silence and concealment, her genuinely evangelising way of life was remarked by all.

Progressing on this path, she was made president of the "Pious Union of the New Ursulines Daughters of Holy Mary Immaculate", founded by Frassinetti, and was entrusted with the revision of the Rule destined for the Union at the express wish of Archbishop Charvaz.

On that precise occasion (February 1864), redoubling her prayers to Christ Crucified, she received the inspiration for a new Rule, her own specific Foundation.

Fearful of being forced to abandon her children she prayed, made acts of penance and asked advice. Fra Francis of Camporosso, a lay Capuchin, who is hom a saint, to whom she also expressed her apprehension before the serious troubles that were imminent, supported and encouraged her, as did her confessor and the Archbishop of Genoa.

However, feeling her maternal duties more and more acutely, she sought authoritative confirmation in the words of Pius IX, with the secret hope of being relieved. The Pontiff, at an audience on 3 January 1866, instead enjoined her to start her foundation immediately, adding: "This Institute will spread in all the parts of the world as swiftly as the flight of the dove. God will take care of your children: you must think of God and his work" She therefore accepted to do the Lord’s will, and as she then wrote in her Memoirs: "I generously offered them to God and repeated to him Abraham’s words: ‘Here I am, ready to do your divine will’.… Having offered myself for his Work, I received immense consolations…".

Overcoming the resistance of her relatives and, to the disappointment of her Bishop, leaving the associations in Genoa, she founded her new religious family in Piacenza, and named it definitively "Daughters of St. Anne, mother of Mary Immaculate" (8 December 1866). She was clothed on 26 July 1867 and on 8 April 1870 made her religious profession, together with 12 sisters.

Fr. Tornatore, a priest of the Congregation of the Mission, collaborated with her in the Institute’s development. Expressly requested, he wrote the Rule and was then considered Co-Founder of the Institute.

Entrusting herself totally to divine Providence and motivated from the start by a courageous charitable impulse, Rosa Gattorno began with a spirit of motherly dedication to consolidate God’s Work as the Pope had called it and as she too, chosen to cooperate in it, would always call it, attentively caring for any form of suffering and moral or material poverty, with the one intention of serving Jesus in his painful and injured members and of "evangelising first and foremost with life".

Various works came into being for the poor and the sick with any form of illness, for lonely, elderly or abandoned persons, the little and the defenceless, adolescents, and young girls "at risk" for whom she arranged appropriate instruction and subsequent integration in the working world. In addition, she soon opened schools for the people and for the education of the children of the poor, and other works of human and evangelical advancement in accordance with the greatest needs of the time and with an effective presence in ecclesial and civil life. "Servants of the poor and ministers of mercy" she called her daughters, and she urged them to accept, as a sign of the Lord’s favour to serve their brethren with love and humility: "Be humble … only think that you are the lowliest and the most wretched of all creatures who render service to the Church… and have the grace to belong to her".

Less than 10 years after its foundation, the Institute obtained the Decree of Praise (1876), and its definitive approval in 1879. For the Rule, it had to wait until 1892.

Highly esteemed and appreciated by all, she also worked in Piacenza with Bishop Scalabrini, who has now been beatified, and in particular in the institute for deaf-mutes which he founded.

However Mother Rosa Gattorno was not spared humiliations, difficulties and tribulations of all kinds. Despite this, the Institute spread rapidly, in Italy and abroad, thus achieving the Foundress’ ardent missionary desire: "Oh my Love! How I feel myself burning with the desire to make you known and loved by all! I would like to attract all the world, to give to all, to appease all … I would like to go everywhere and shout out for everybody to come and love you". To be "Jesus’ voice" and to bring all people the message of the love that saves was and always remained her heart’s deepest desire. In 1878, she was already sending the first Daughters of St. Anne to Bolivia, then to Brazil, Chile, Peru, Eritrea, France and Spain. In Rome, where her work began in 1873, she organised boys’ and girls’ schools for the poor, nursery schools, assistance for the new-born babies of workers in the tobacco factory, houses for former prostitutes, serving women, nurses for home care, etc. There she also had the Generalate built, with its adjacent church.

In all, at her death there were 368 houses in which 3,500 sisters were carrying out their mission.

The secret of her journey of holiness, of the dynamism of her charity and of the strength of mind with which she could face all obstacles with firm faith and guide the Institute with full dedication, courage and far-sightedness for 34 years, was her continuous union with God and total, trusting abandonment in him: "Although I am in the midst of such a torrent of things to do, I am never without the union with my Good"; her attention and docility to the impulses of the Spirit; her deep and loving participation in Christ’s Passion; her ceaseless prayers for the conversion of sinners and the sanctification of all mankind.

She had a deep sense of belonging to Church and was ever humble, devout and obedient to the directives of the Pope and the hierarchy.

With her fondness of St. Anne, she had a special love for Mary, to whom she entirely entrusted herself, in order to belong totally to God and totally to her brethren.

A pure and simple instrument in the hands of the "superfine Craftsman", conformed to the Poor Christ and with him, a victim of love, she fulfilled in her life the desire she inculcated in her daughters: "To live for God, to die for him and to spend life for love".

She lived like this until February 1900, when she caught a dangerous form of influenza and rapidly deteriorated: her health, sorely tried by her acts of penance, frequent exhausting journeys and an enormous mass of correspondence, worries and serious disappointments, no longer resisted. On 4 May she received the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, and two days later, on 6 May, at 9.00 a.m., having ended her earthly pilgrimage, she died a holy death in the Generalate.

The fame of holiness which had surrounded her during her life, spread after her death and grew unimpeded all over the world.

As an expression of a rare plan of God, in her three-fold experience of wife and mother, widow and then religious and Foundress, in her mission of service to humanity and to extending the kingdom Rosa Gattorno brought great honour to the "feminine genius". Although she was ever faithful to God’s call and a genuine teacher of Christian and ecclesial life, she remained essentially a mother: of her own children, whom she constantly followed, of the Sisters, whom she deeply loved, and of all the needy, the suffering and the unhappy, in whose faces she contemplated the face of Christ, poor, wounded and crucified.

Her charism has spread in the Church with the birth of other forms of evangelical life: Sisters of Contemplative Life; a Religious Association of Priests; the Secular Institute and the Ecclesial Movement for the Laity, which are active in the Church in almost all the parts of the world.

She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 9th April 2000. 

Diary of St. Faustina - On Satan and his hatred for Gods Mercy and Goodness

Satan has admitted to me that I am the object of his hatred. He said that "a thousand souls do me less harm than you do when you speak of the great mercy of the Almighty One. The greatest sinners regain confidence and return to God , and I lose everything. But what is more, you persecute me personally with that unfathomable mercy of the Almighty One." I took note of the great hatred Satan has for the mercy of God. He does not want to acknowledge that God is good. (1167)

As I write these words, I hear the cry of Satan: "She's writing everything, she's writing everything, and because of this we are losing so much! Do not write about the goodness of God; He is just!" And howling with fury, he vanished. (1338)

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Works of Mercy in those Beatified & Canonised by Pope John Paul II

St. John Calabria (1873-1954)

Priest, Founder of the Congregation of the Poor Servants
and the Poor Women Servants of Divine Providence

JOHN CALABRIA was born on October 8th, 1873 in Verona. He was the seventh and last child of Luigi, a cobbler and of Angela Foschio, a maid-servant to the high-class people and a woman of great faith, educated by the Servant of God Fr. Nicola Mazza in his Institute for poor children.

Poverty was his mistress right from his birth. After his father's death he had to interrupt his 4th year of the Elementary School to find a job. The Rector of San Lorenzo, Fr. Pietro Scapini, noticing the virtues of this boy, prepared him privately for the admission examination into the Lyceum at the Seminary. Having passed his exams, he was admitted to and frequented the Lyceum as an extern. His studies were once again interrupted by a two-year military service.

Charity was his lifelong characteristic
it is in this field that he distinguished himself mostly. In fact he served all, offering himself to do the most humiliating and courageous tasks. He won the heart of his fellow soldiers and of his superiors, and helped many to come back to the Church, and to practise faith.

Having terminated his military service, he resumed his studies. One very special cold night of November 1897 - he frequented the 1st year of theology - returning home from a visit to the sick in hospital, he found a boy croaching on the doorstep of his house; he had ran away from the gypsies. Fr Calabria picked him up, took him in, kept him in his house and shared his room with him. It was the beginning of his works in favour of the orphaned and the abandoned boys.

A few months later he founded the "Charitable Institution for the assistance to poor sick people." These were only the beginnings of a life characterised by charity. "Every instant of his life was a personification of St. Paul's marvellous canticle on charity," wrote a Hebrew woman-doctor in her Lettera Postulatoria to Paul VI about Fr. Calabria. She had been in hiding from the nazi-fascist persecution, dressed in a nun's habit in one of his religious Institutes.

Priest and Founder of two Congregations
After being ordained priest on August 11th, he was appointed confessor of the seminary and curate of St. Stephen's Church. He devoted himself with particular zeal to hearing confessions, and to charitable works, helping in particular the poorest and the outcasts.

In 1907 he was appointed Rector of St Benedetto del Monte. He also welcomed soldiers in his house and cared for their spiritual welfare. On November 26th, 1907 he founded the "Casa Buoni Fanciulli." The following year it moved definitely to Via San Zeno in Monte. Today, their Mother House.

Besides the boys, the Lord also sent him lay people, wishing to share with him the offering of their own life to the Lord. With this handful of men totally given to God in the service of the poor, with a life rooted in the Gospel, he revived the apostolic spirit of the Church in Verona. This nucleus of men was the foundation of the "Congregation of the poor servants of Divine Providence" which was approved by the Bishop of Verona on the 11th February 1932 and obtained Pontifical approval on the 25th April 1949.

Immediately after the Diocesan approval, the Congregation spread out to various parts of Italy - serving the poor, the abandoned and the outcasts. It also extended its works to the elderly and to the sick, reviving them in the "Cittadella della Carita." The apostolic heart of Fr. Calabria went to the faraway Paria in India when he sent four of his Brothers to Vijayavada.

In 1910 he also founded the female branch "Le Sorelle" which later became the Congregation by Diocesan Right on the 25th March 1952 bearing the name of Poor women servants of Divine Providence and on the 25th December 1981 it obtained the Pontifical approval.

A prophet of the fatherness of God and search for his kingdom
To the two Congregations Fr. Calabria entrusted the same mission the Lord had inspired him with since his early priesthood: "To prove to the world that Divine Providence exists, that God is not a stranger, but that He is a Father, He thinks of us, on condition that we think of Him and do our part which is that of seeking first and foremost the Kingdom of God and His justice." (Cfr. Matth. 6, 25-34).

To witness all of this, he welcomed gratuitously in his Institutes boys in need, both materially and morally. He founded hospitals and Institutes to help the sick and the old people. He welcomed in his houses for formation both youth and adults poor, to help them realize their priestly or religious vocation. He helped them gratuitously until they reached the theological year of their studies or made their definite choice to embrace religious life. They were free to choose the Diocese or Congregation as the Lord inspired them. He established that his priests exercised their apostolate in poor areas "where their is nothing humanly promising."

He shone like a lighthouse in the Church of God
These are the exact words that Blessed Cardinal Schuster had had engraved on his tomb.

Infact from 1939-40 until his death, contrary to his inborn desire to remain unnoticed, he extended his horizons to the Church frontiers "proclaiming" to all that the world can only be saved by returning to Christ and to his Gospel.

It was in this way that he became a prophetic voice, a point of reference. Bishops, priests, religious and the laity, found in him the sure guide for themselves and for their initiatives.

In this context, the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Triveneto, in their Lettera Postulatoria to Pope John Paul II could write: "Fr Calabria, to prepare the Church of the year 2000 - a familiar expression of his, - made his life a suffering and grief-stricken appeal for conversion, renewal, at Jesus' hour, with impressive accents and insistent urgency... It seems to us that Fr. Calabria's life and his person itself constitute a "prophecy" of your passionate appeal to the whole world: "Aperite portas Christo Redemptori! ".

He understood this radical and prophetic spiritual renewal in which even the laity could be involved. As a matter of fact in 1944 he founded "The Family of External Brothers" solely made up of laymen.

He prayed, wrote, acted and suffered for the unity of Christians. In view of this he kept in touch with, protestants, orthodox and Hebrews: he wrote, spoke and loved but he never entered into discussions.

He conquered everybody's love. Even the Lutheran Pastor, Sune Wiman of Esklstuna (Switzerland), who had had several epistolary sharings with him, on the 6th of March 1964 in a Lettera Postulatoria to the Holy Father Pope Paul VI, asked that his venerable friend be glorified.

And this was also the most mysteriously and sorrowful period of his life. It seemed that Christ had associated him to his agony in Gethsemane and on Calvary, accepting the offering of his life as a "victim" for the sanctification of the Church and the salvation of the world. Blessed Cardinal Schuster compared him to the Servant of Jahve. He died on December 4th, 1954. On the eve of his death he made his last act of charity offering his life to God for the dying Pope Pius XII. The Lord accepted this offer, for while he was dying, the Pope mysteriously and unexpectedly recovered and lived for another four years.

The same Pontiff, unaware of the last charitable gesture of Fr. Calabria but knowing Fr. Calabria very well, when he heard of his death, sent a telegram of condolences to the Congregation in which he defined him "campione di evangelica carità."

Fr. Calabria was beatified by Pope John Paul II on the 17th April 1988 and canonised in 1999.

Diary of St. Faustina...on the New Congregation, her Spiritual Directors, and Praying for the Dying.

1012 + March 8, 1937. Today, as I was praying for the intention of Father Andrasz, I suddenly understood how intimately this soul communed with God and how pleasing he was to the Lord. It gave me immense joy, because I desire intensely that all souls be united with God as closely as possible.

1013 + During prayer today, my soul was overcome with such a strong desire to begin the work, that I could not restrain my enthusiasm. Oh, how ardently I desire that the souls in this Congregation present themselves before the throne of God and continuously implore His incomprehensible mercy on behalf of the whole world, praising and glorifying this unfathomable mercy of God. A mysterious force is driving me to action.

1014 March 12, 1937. I saw the weariness of a certain priest [probably Father Sopocko] for whom the Lord has traced out a hard and difficult road; but the fruits of his work are alive. May God give us many such souls, capable of loving Him in the midst of the greatest torments.

1015 + I felt today how greatly a certain dying soul desired prayers. I prayed until I felt she had died. Oh, dying souls are in such great need of prayer! O Jesus, inspire souls to pray often for the dying.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Works of Mercy in those Beatified & Canonised by Pope John Paul II


Widower, Virginia Centurione Bracelli was born on April 2, 1587, in Genoa, from the family of Giorgio Centurione, duke of the Republic in the year 1621-1622, and Lelia Spinola. Both of them were of the ancient noble origin. She was baptized two days after her birth, received her first religious and literary formation from her mother and private tutor.

She soon felt the need for a cloistered life but she had to succumb to her father’s strong will and marry Gaspare Grimaldi Bracelli on December 10, 1602. Gaspare’s family was both illustrious and wealthy, but he was wholly taken up with gambling and dissolute life. She gave birth to two daughters: Lelia and Isabella.

The conjugal life of Virginia did not last long. As a matter of fact, Gaspare Bracelli, in spite of the matrimony and the fatherhood, he did not abandon his pleasures, which brought him to shorten his life. Virginia, however, with her great patience, prayer and affection, tried to convince her husband to a modest life. Unfortunately, Gaspare get ill died on June 13, 1607, in Alessandria, thus, enabling him to reach a state of grace and peace with God, relieved and assisted by his faithful wife.

At the age of twenty, she became widow, pronounced her perpetual vow of chastity, refusing the occasion of the second marriage proposed by her father. She lived in her mother-in-law’s house, taking care of the education and the administration of the goods of her children and dedicating herself through prayer and act of charity.

In 1610, she clearly felt the special vocation “to serve God through the poor”. Although she was strictly controlled by her father and never disregarded the care for the family, Virginia began to devote herself to the needy. She personally helped the poor by sharing half of her wealth or by means of charitable institution.

Virginia conveniently settled the marriage life of her daughters and totally offered herself to the needs of the abandoned children, the aged, the sick and to elevate the life of the marginalized people.

In autumn of 1624-1625, the war between the Liguorian Republic and the Duke of Savoy, supported by France, increasing the unemployment and starvation, led Virginia to accomodate the first 15 abandoned youngs, and then, with the expansion of the refugees in town, enabled her to provide all their needs, specially the poor women.

On August of 1625, with the death of her mother-in-law, she started not only to received the youngs but instead led herself to town, mostly in the disreputable quarters, in search for the needy and in danger of depravity.

To help the increasing poverty, Virginia founded the “Cento Signore della Misericordia Protettrici dei Poveri di Gesù Cristo”, with the collaboration of the resident organization of “Otto Signore della Misericordia”. She had the specific task of controlling the needs of the poor, particularly the bashful people by means of visiting the house.

To intensify the initiative of accomodating the youngs, precisely at the time of plague and of famine in 1629-1630, Virginia was obliged to rent the empty convent of Monte Calvario, where she transferred on the 13th of April 1631, together with her beneficiaries placed under the protection of Our Lady of Refuge. Three years after, the Institution expanded into three houses accomodating 300 patients. Hence, she thought the opportunity to ask the official acknowledgement from the Senate of the Republic, which was conceded on December 13, 1635.

The beneficiaries of Our Lady of Refuge became for Virginia her excellent “daughters”, with whom she shared the food and clothing. She taught them catechism and train them to work so that they could earned their own sustenance.

Virginia renounced to purchase the Monte Calvario’s convent because it was very expensive, for this reason, she bought two villas next to Carignano’s Hill that , with the construction of the new annex of the Church dedicated to Our Lady of Refuge, became the Mother House of the Institution.

The spirit, which inspired the Institution founded by Virginia, was generally presented in the Rule compiled in 1644-1650. It is confirmed that all the domiciles should form a single Institution of Our Lady of Refuge, under the supervision and administration of the Protectors (noble lay appointed by the Senate of the Republic); there is also the confirmation of the separation between the “daughters” wearing the religious habit, and the “daughters”, who were not wearing habit, but altogether must live - with or without vows – like the most observant monks in obedience and poverty, working and praying. Moreover, they must be ready to give a hand in the public hospital, considering it as a vow.

Meanwhile, the Institution is divided into two Religious Congregation: the “Sisters of Our Lady of Refuge in Mount Calvary” (Suore di Nostra Signora del Rifugio di Monte Calvario) and the “Daughters of Our Lady on Mount Calvary” (Figlie di Nostra Signora al Monte Calvario).

After the nomination of the Protectors (July 3, 1641), who were considered to be the real superiors of the Institute, Virginia disengaged herself from the government house. She was subdued to their needs and behaved according to their consent even in the acceptance of some needy youngs. She lived as the last “daughter” devoted to the household chores, went out in the morning and in the evening to beg for the sustenance of the living. She was a mother to everyone, specially for the sick, giving them most of her availability.

In the past years, Virginia organized a group of social action tight to cure the roots of evil and to prevent ruins: the sick and the disabled were hospitalized in the Institute; the powerful men were sent to work; the women must trained themselves to embroidery frame and seamless stockings, and the children were obliged to go to school.

With the increase of the activities and of the efforts, the collaborators of Virginia declined, particularly the women of the middle and upper class, who had feared to compromise their reputation in dealing with the corrupt people with a guide such as noble and a saint.

Abandoned by the Auxiliaries and by the Protectors of the Institute, for which the government deprived of its power, Virginia, while her physical health was weakening, took the position and became responsible for the sisters in Carignano’s House. Thus, regaining force in solitude.

On March 25, 1637, she desired that the Republic would choose the Blessed Virgin as their Protectress. She pleaded to the Archbishop of the town, the institution of the “forty hours devotion”, which should start in Genoa at the end of 1642, and the preaching of the common missions (1643). She intervened to settle the common and bloody rivalries, which rose up, for petty reasons, between the noble families and the knights. In 1647, she achieved the reconciliation between the Archbishop See and the Government of the Republic, caused of their conflict in relation to the prestiges’ matter.

Without losing sight to the most desolated, she offered her free time to everybody, independently from the social class, who turned towards her for helped.
Gratified by the Lord with exultations, visions, interior locutions and other mystical gifts, she died on December 15, 1651 at the age of 64. The Holy Father Pope John Paul II proclaimed her blessed on the occasion of his Apostolic Visit in Genoa on September 22, 1985.  She was canonised in 2003 by John Paul II.

Diary of St. Faustina - With Mary, Mother of Mercy

Our Blessed Mother also appeared and spoke to Saint Faustina saying, "I am not only the Queen of Heaven, but also the Mother of Mercy and your Mother . . . I am Mother to you all, thanks to the unfathomable mercy of God." (Diary 330 & 449)

For Saint Faustina, Our Lady was a constant source of God's mercy, as mother, guardian, teacher and intercessor. From Our Lady she received a special gift of purity, strength in suffering and countless lessons on the spiritual life. She writes, "Mary is my Instructress, who is ever teaching me how to live for God." (Diary 620) "The more I imitate the Mother of God, the more deeply I get to know God." (Diary 843) "Before every Holy Communion I earnestly ask the Mother of God to help me prepare my soul for the coming of Her Son." (Diary 1114)

Our Lady, too, speaks of the urgency of the message of mercy; "You have to speak to the world about His great mercy and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Him who will come, not as a merciful Saviour, but as a just Judge . . . Speak to souls about this great mercy while it is still the time for [granting] mercy." (Diary 635)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Works of Mercy in Those Beatified by Bl. Pope John Paul II

IVAN MERZ (1896-1928)

Ivan Merz was born in Banja Luka, Bosnia, on 16 December 1896, and was baptized on 2 February 1897. He attended elementary and middle school in Banja Luka and, after a brief period of education at the military academy of Wiener Noustadt, he enrolled in 1915 at the University of Vienna, with the dream of teaching young people in Bosnia; thus, he would be following the example of his professor, Ljubomir Marakovic, who helped Ivan to discover the richness of the Catholic faith.

In March 1916, Ivan was enlisted in the army and shipped to the Italian battle front, where he spent the greater part of two years beginning in 1917. The war experience and its horrors marked a turning point in Ivan's young life and contributed greatly to his spiritual growth, prompting him to abandon his future into God's hands and to strive with all his might towards the goal of Christian perfection.

On 5 February 1918, he wrote in his diary: "Never forget God! Always desire to be united with Him. Begin each day in the first place with meditation and prayer, possibly close to the Blessed Sacrament or during Mass. During this time, plans for the day are made, one's defects are put under examination and grace is implored for the strength to overcome all weakness. It would be something terrible if this war had no meaning for me!... I must begin a life regenerated in the spirit of this new understanding of Catholicism. The Lord alone can help me, as man can do nothing on his own". At this time, Ivan also made a private vow of perpetual chastity.

After the war, he continued his studies at Vienna (1919-20), and then in Paris (1920-22). In 1923 he obtained a degree in philosophy. His thesis was entitled "The influence of the Liturgy on the French authors". He then became a professor of language and French literature and was exemplary in his dedication to the students and to his responsibilities as a teacher.

In his spare time he studied philosophy and theology and deepened his knowledge of the documents of the Magisterium of the Church.

Ivan was especially noted for his interest in young people and concern for their growth in faith and holiness. He started the "League of Young Croatian Catholics" and the "Croatian League of Eagles" within the Croatian Catholic Action Movement. Their motto was: "Sacrifice Eucharist Apostolate".

For Ivan, the purpose of this organization was to form a group of front-line apostles whose goal was holiness. This scope of this goal also flowed over into liturgical renewal, of which Ivan was one of the first promoters in Croatia.

As a Catholic intellectual, Ivan was able to guide young people and adults to Christ and His Church through his writings and organized gatherings. He also sought to teach them love and obedience to the Vicar of Christ and the Church of Rome.

In the face of any misunderstandings and difficulties, Ivan always had an admirable patience and calm, the fruit of his continual union with God in prayer. Those who knew him well described him as a person who had his "mind and heart immersed in the supernatural". Convinced that the most effective way to save souls was through efficacious suffering, he offered to God all his physical and moral sufferings, particularly for the intention of the success of his apostolic endeavours.

Shortly before his death, he offered his life for the youth of Croatia. In short, the young man believed that his vocation was very simply "the Catholic faith".

Ivan Merz died on 10 May 1928 in Zagreb. He was 32 years old.   He was beatified in 2003 by Bl. Pope John Paul II.

Diary of St. Faustina - God and Souls....

307   + 1934. Once during Lent, I saw a great light and a great darkness over house and chapel. I saw the struggle of these two powers...

308 + 1934, Holy Thursday. Jesus said to me, I desire that you make an offering of yourself for sinners and especially far those souls who have lost hope in God's mercy.

God and Souls. An Act of Oblation.

309 Before heaven and earth, before all the choirs of Angels, before the Most Holy Virgin Mary, before all the Powers of heaven, I declare to the One Triune God that today, in union with Jesus Christ, Redeemer of souls, I make a voluntary offering of myself for the conversion of sinners, especially for those souls who have lost hope in God's mercy. This offering consists in my accepting, with total subjection to God's will, all the sufferings, fears and terrors with which sinners are filled. In return, I give them all the consolations which my soul receives from my communion with God. In a word, I offer everything for them: Holy Masses, Holy Communions, penances, mortifications, prayers. I do not fear the blows, blows of divine justice, because I am united with Jesus. O my God, in this way I want to make amends to You for the souls that do not trust in Your goodness. I hope against all hope in the ocean of Your mercy. My Lord and my God, my portion-my portion forever, I do not base this act of oblation on my own strength, but on the strength that flows from the merits of Jesus Christ. I will daily repeat this act of self-oblation by pronouncing the following prayer which You yourself have taught me, Jesus:

"O Blood and Water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a Fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You!"

S. M. Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament
Holy Thursday, during Holy Mass, March 29, 1934.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Works of Mercy in those Beatified by Bl. Pope John Paul II

St. Mary Bernard (Verena) Bütler (1848-1924)

MARY BERNARD (Verena Bütler) was born in Auw, in the Canton of Argovia, in Switzerland, on the 28th of May 1848 and was baptised on the same day. She was the fourth child of Henry and Catherine Bütler, modest but exemplary country people, who educated the eight children born of their marriage in the love of God and of neighbour.

Gifted with excellent health, Verena grew up happy, intelligent, generous and a lover of nature. She began to attend school at seven years of age. The fervour and commitment with which she made her First Communion, on the 16th of April 1860, remained constant in her for the rest of her life.

Devotion to the Eucharist would, in fact, form the foundation of her spirituality. Having completed her elementary studies at the age of 14, Verena dedicated herself to farm work and experienced affection for a worthy young man with whom she fell in love. On feeling the call of God, she broke off the engagement in order to turn completely to the Lord. During this period in her life she was granted the grace of enjoying the presence of God, feeling Him very close. She herself said: "To explain this state of soul to someone who has never experienced anything similar is extremely difficult, if not impossible".

And again: "The Holy Spirit taught me to adore, praise, bless and give thanks to Jesus in the tabernacle at all times, even at work and in real life.

Drawn by the love of God, she entered a convent in her region as a postulant at 18 years of age. However, becoming aware that it was not the place to which the Lord was calling her, Verena very quickly returned home.  Work, prayer and apostolic activity in the parish kept her desire for the consecrated life alive. At the suggestion of her Pastor, Verena entered the franciscan Monastery of Mary Help of Sinners in Altstätten on the 12th of November 1867. She took the franciscan habit on the 4th of May 1868, taking the name of Sister Mary Bernard of the Heart of Mary, and made her Religious Profession on the 4th of October 1869 with the firm proposal of serving the Lord until death in the contemplative life.
She was very soon elected Mistress of Novices and Superior of the Community on three occasions, carrying out this fraternal service for nine consecutive years. Her zeal and love for the Kingdom of God had prepared her to begin a new missionary experience. Having willingly accepted the invitation of Msgr. Peter Schumacher, Bishop of Portoviejo in Ecuador, who, outlining the precarious situation of his people, asked her to come to his Diocese. Mary Bernard clearly saw the will of God, who was calling her to be an announcer of the Gospel in that far away country, in this invitation.

Having overcome the initial resistance of the Bishop of St. Gall and obtained a regular pontifical indult, Sr. Mary Bernard and six companions left the Monastery in Altstätten and set out for Ecuador on the 19th of June 1888. Only their light of faith and zeal to announce the Gospel sustained the Blessed and her companions in the difficult separation from their beloved Monastery and Sisters. In her intentions, Mary Bernard thought of giving birth to a missionary foundation dependent on the Swiss Monastery.

The Lord, however, made her instead the foundress of a new Religious Congregation, that of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Sinners.

They were received paternally by the Bishop, who entrusted to Mary Bernard the community of Chone, which presented a distressing spectacle because of the total lack of priests, scant religious practice and rampant immorality. Mary Bernard became "everything to everyone", placing prayer, poverty, fidelity to the Church and the constant exercise of the works of mercy at the base of her missionary work. She, together with her daughters, began an intense apostolate among families, deepening their knowledge of the language and of the culture of the people. The first fruits did not delay in maturing. The Christian life of the people blossomed again as if by magic.

The new Franciscan Congregation also grew in number and two filial houses were founded in Sant Ana and Canoa. Very soon after however, the missionary work of Mother Mary Bernard was marked by the mystery of the Cross. Many indeed were the sufferings to which she and her daughters were submitted: absolute poverty, torrid heat, uncertainty and difficulties of every kind, risks to their health and security of their lives, misunderstanding on the part of ecclesiastical authorities and, besides, the separation of some Sisters from the community, establishing themselves later as an autonomous congregation (the Franciscans of the Immaculate: Blessed Charity Brader). Mary Bernard underwent all this with heroic fortitude and in silence without defending herself or nourishing resentment towards anyone, but forgiving them from her heart and praying for those who made her suffer.

As if all these trials were not enough, a violent persecution in 1895, begun by forces hostile to the Church, obliged Sr. Mary Bernard and her Sisters to flee from Ecuador. Without knowing where to go, she went, with 14 Sisters, towards Bahia, from where she continued towards Colombia.

The group was still wandering when it received an invitation from Msgr. Eugene Biffi to work in his Diocese of Cartagena. So, on the 2nd of August 1895, the feast of the Porziuncola of Assisi, the Foundress and her Sisters, exiled from Ecuador, reached Cartagena, and were received paternally by the Bishop. They found hospitality in a female hospital, commonly called a "Pious Work". The Lord had led her by the hand towards that asylum, where Mother Mary Bernard would remain to the end of her life. After the house in Cartagena, the Foundation was extended not only in Columbia but also in Austria and Brasil.

With a compassionate heart, authentically franciscan, she engaged above all in relieving the spiritual and material needs of the poor, whom she always considered to be her favourites. She used to say to the Sisters: "Open your houses to help the poor and marginalised. Give preference to the care of the indigent over all other activity". The Mother guided her Congregation over thirty years. Even after resigning from the Office of Superior General, she continued to animate her dear Sisters with feelings of true humility, especially through the example of her life and her words and writings.

Struck by piercing hypo-gastric pains, while at the "Pious Work" in Cartagena, an establishment of her Daughters, and loved and venerated by all as an authentic saint, Mary Bernard quietly went to sleep in the Lord on the 19th of May 1924. She was 74 years of age, 56 in the consecrated life and 38 in missionary life. News of her death spread quickly. The Pastor of the Cathedral of Cartagena announced her passing away, saying to the faithful: "A saint has died in this city, this morning: the reverend Mother Bernard!". Her tomb immediately became a centre of pilgrimage and a place of prayer.

The apostolic zeal and ardour of charity of Mother Mary Bernard are being re-lived today in the Church, particularly through the Congregation founded by her, present at the moment in various countries on three continents. The Blessed can be pointed out as an authentic model of "inculturation", the urgency of which the Church has underlined for an efficient announcement of the Gospel (cf. Redemptoris Missio, n. 52). She incarnated perfectly her orienting motto: "My guide, my star, is the Gospel".

During her life, she found support and comfort in God alone.

From the time she abandoned her homeland, to which she never went back, when she left her dear Monastery in Altstätten and during her untiring apostolic activity, she was always sustained by a solid spirituality of unceasing prayer, heroic charity towards God and her neighbour, by a faith that was solid as rock, by an unlimited trust in the Providence of God, by evangelical strength and humility, and by a radical fidelity to the commitments of her consecrated life. From her contemplation of the mysteries of the Most Holy Trinity, the Eucharist and the Passion of the Lord, she also drew the gift of mercy towards all, which she practised and left as the particular charism of her Congregation. Very devoted to the Virgin Mother of the Lord, she wished her Congregation to have Our Lady Help of Sinners as mother, protector and life model in her discipleship of Christ and in her missionary activity. As a Franciscan, she cultivated the same veneration which St. Francis of Assisi nourished for "Holy Mother Church", Pastors and priests, whom she called "the anointed of the Lord".

The Blessed left an admirable example of the biblical woman: strong, prudent, mystical, spiritual teacher and notable missionary. She left the Church a wonderful testimony of dedication to the cause of the Gospel, teaching all, especially today, that it is possible to unite contemplation and action, life with God and service to humanity, bringing God to men and women, and men and women to God.

The Servant of God Pope John Paul II conferred the title and honour of Blessed her on the 29th of October 1995. The Holy Father, Benedict XVI, inscribed her in the register of Saints on the 12th of October 2008.

Diary of St. Faustina ....on Lack of Consolation in Prayer

23 Toward the end of the first year of my novitiate, darkness began to cast its shadow over my soul. I felt no consolation in prayer; I had to make a great effort to meditate; fear began to sweep over me. Going deeper into myself, I could find nothing but great misery. I could also clearly see the great holiness of God. I did not dare to raise my eyes to Him, but reduced myself to dust under His feet and begged for mercy. My soul was in this state for almost six months. Our beloved Mother Directress [Mary Joseph [14]] encouraged me in these difficult moments. But this suffering became greater and greater.

The second year of the novitiate was approaching. Whenever I recalled that I was to make my vows, my soul shuddered. I did not understand what I was reading; I could not meditate; it seemed to me that my prayer was displeasing to God. It seemed to me that by approaching the Holy Sacraments I was offending God even more. But despite this, my confessor [Father Theodore [15]] did not let me omit one single Holy Communion. God was working very strangely in my soul. I did not understand anything at all of what my
confessor was telling me. The simple truths of the faith became incomprehensible to me. My soul was in anguish, unable to find comfort anywhere.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in Those Beatified by Bl. Pope John Paul II

Blessed Father Enrico Rebuschini

Enrico Rebuschini was born in 1860 in Gravedona near Como (Italy). He came from a middle class family. After his military service, he worked as an accountant for two years.

But being in business was not his heart's desire. He wanted to become a priest, but his father was against it. Eventually his father relented. He enrolled in 1884 as theology student at the Gregorian University in Rome.

In 1886 he suffered a health problem: "Manic Depression" was the diagnosis. This led to the disruption of his studies. He returned home.

At home and at times in the hospital, he overcame the acute phase of his depression. Though not yet fully capable of working, he continued what he used to do in Rome: visit the sick, comforting and helping them cope with their situation.

Given his solid, religious upbringing he himself found help in prayer and closeness to God. He continued to desire to become a priest. His spiritual guide referred him to St. Camillus and to the Camillians.

Enrico ventured to take the step. He began the two-year novitiate in 1887 in Verona and received the priestly ordination in 1889.  In 1899 Fr. Enrico was sent to the Camillian hospital in Cremona. With zeal and reliability, he carries out his assigned tasks as spiritual counselor of the sick, hospital administrator, spiritual director of the 'Daughters of St. Camillus' and confessor.

His life was not marked by outstanding accomplishments but by fidelity in little things. In his later years, his depression recurred. But through his deep and lively relationship to God, he overcame the problem that confronted him.  His contemporaries in Cremona regarded him as "holy father." Precisely through his illness coupled with sensitivity and deep spirituality, he was to many a source of strength.

On his death on May 10, 1938, it became clear that a "saint" had died. In his own sickness he became an example to many sick people. On May 4, 1997, the Church solemnly declared him Blessed.

Diary of St. Faustina....On Looking after the Sick and Suffering Souls

1268 Today I felt more ill, but Jesus has given me many more opportunities on this day to practice virtue. It so happened that I was busier than usual, and the sister in charge of the kitchen made it clear to me how irritated she was that I had come late for dinner, although it was quite impossible for me to have come sooner. At any rate, I felt so unwell that I had to ask Mother Superior to allow me to lie down. I went to ask Sister N. to take my place, and again I got a scolding: "What is this, Sister, you're so exhausted that you're going back to bed again! Confound you with all this lying in bed!" I put up with all that, but that wasn't the end. I still had to ask the sister who was in charge of the sick to bring me my meal. When I told her this, she burst out of the chapel into the corridor after me to give me a piece of her mind: "Why on earth are you going to bed, Sister, etc...... I asked her not to bother bringing me anything.

I am writing all this very briefly because it is not my intention to write about such things, and I am doing so merely to dissuade souls from treating others in this way, for this is displeasing to the Lord. In a suffering soul we should see Jesus Crucified, and not a loafer or burden on the community. A soul who suffers with submission to the will of God draws down more blessings on the whole convent than all the working sisters. Poor indeed is a convent where there are no sick sisters. God often grants many and great graces out of regard for the souls who are suffering, and He withholds many punishments solely because of the suffering souls.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Works of Mercy in the Lives of Those Beatified by Bl. Pope John Paul II

Blessed Eusebia Palomino Yenes (1899-1935)

Eusebia Palomino Yenes was born on 15 December 1899 in Cantalpino, Spain, one of four children to Agustin Palomino and Juana Yenes. Her father worked as a seasonal farmhand, and during winter months when there was no work, he was forced to travel to nearby villages to beg for food, with the little Eusebia at his side. Overjoyed to be in her father's company, she was too young to understand his humiliation in asking for "a loaf of bread, for the love of God".

When Eusebia was 8 years old, she made her first "encounter" with Jesus in the Eucharist and felt called to belong forever and completely to him. A short time later, she was forced to leave school and work to help the family.

Although she was young, she showed unusual maturity in caring for other young children, and when she was 12 she went to Salamanca with her older sister and worked as a nanny. Her love for God continued to grow and was expressed so well through the care she gave to the children.

Daughters of Mary

Every Sunday afternoon, Eusebia went to the Oratory at the "Sancti Spiritus" School run by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians; here she got to know the Sisters. Noting her maturity and responsibility, they asked if she could volunteer her time to help them.

She was immediately available to begin her "mission" and helped the Sisters in the kitchen, collecting firewood, cleaning the school, accompanying the students and running errands. She was always ready to "give a hand" and to transmit a joyful and simple spirit of service to those around her.

"Something deeper' in Eusebia

The students perceived that in Eusebia there was "something deeper" behind her habitual smile and simple way, and they found "excuses" to be with her, receiving counsel and comfort through her words and by her presence. But more than words, it was her life and simple way that spoke to the girls.

Although Eusebia's secret desire was to become a "Daughter of Mary", she did not ask to enter the Congregation because she was afraid she would be refused due to lack of money, resources and education.

She hoped, however, that "if I carry out well my duties here, for love of the Blessed Virgin, one day I will be her daughter in the Congregation". She confided this desire on one occasion to a visiting superior, who told her to "worry about nothing". In name of the Mother General, she accepted Eusebia.

On 5 August 1922 Eusebia began her novitiate and made her religious profession two years later, when she was transferred to the house of Valverde del Camino in southwestern Spain.

Not up to expectations

Upon her arrival the first day, she was openly derided by the youngsters of the school and oratory: she was "little, pale and ugly, with hands that are too big... plus, she has a dumb name", and obviously not what they expected.

Sr Eusebia, however, who felt like a "queen" living forever in the mansion of Jesus her King, remained indifferent to the unkind remarks. She began the next day to "roll up her sleeves" and to carry out her assigned duties: the kitchen, the laundry, answering the door, working in the garden and keeping company with the children at the oratory.

It was not long before the children were "taken up" by the stories she would tell them of the lives of the saints and of missionaries as well as anecdotes of St John Bosco; Sr Eusebia had an excellent memory and the gift of storytelling. Little by little, those who at first had judged and criticized her felt that there was something truly special about the nun and that she really cared about them.

Even outside of the oratory, the parents of the children, other adults and youth, seminarians and even priests sought out her "spiritual counsel". Although Sr Eusebia had no education in theological doctrine, her heart was full of God's wisdom and she made time for everyone.

Victim for the salvation of Spain

In the beginning of the 1930s, tensions and persecutions against the Catholic Church began in Spain, and Sr Eusebia once again made herself "available" to help. This time, she offered herself as a victim to God for the salvation of Spain.

Her offer was accepted and in August 1932 a mysterious illness struck her. Doctors were unable to diagnose this disease which was causing the limbs of her body to wind up, turning her into a "ball of yarn". Her asthma, which had always been "mild", had now worsened and added to her suffering.

Although the pain was excruciating, Sr Eusebia was always a gentle channel of joy and peace, treating those around her with great respect and appreciating those who took care of her.

Sr Eusebia died on 10 February 1935.   She was beatified on 25th April 2004 by Bl. Pope John Paul II. 

The echo of voices of the townspeople of Valverde could be heard following her departure: "A saint has died".

The Two Roads.........St. Faustinas Diary

St. Faustina wrote: "One day, I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end without realizing it. And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it; as they walked, so they fell. And their number was so great that it was impossible to count them.

And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of sufferings befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness, and all these souls entered there. At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings" (Diary, 153).