Tuesday, January 9, 2018

St. Dunstan

lighthouse mosaic made under the patronage of St. Dunstan

Lately I've been feeling a little guilty about the extent to which my sea glass obsession has taken over my life.  At the end of 2017 more often than not I would begin the day driving into the sunrise to daily Mass when the beauty of the morning would turn my thoughts to the beauty of nature and of Lake Michigan and I would steer my car in the opposite direction from the church and instead head to the beach.  Now I know that private prayer on the beach is something that can lift my soul and please the Lord, but to give up the Eucharist for it, that I'm not so sure is an even trade.  Could it be that sea glass has become a false God to me, I wondered?  And how much sea glass does a person even need?  I have become a borderline hoarder, I'm sure, as jars of sea glass and sea glass mosaics line every windowsill and nook and cranny in my home and are even starting to clutter up my office at work.  Sea glass collecting is more than an obsession, I'm afraid.  It's an addiction.  

Recently, in addition to sea glass mosaics, I've begun to create sea glass jewelry from my better pieces and have opened an Etsy shop, Sea of Glass by Annie.  The name of my shop is based upon Revelation 15:2  "And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name."  

Last January I played along with Jennifer Fulwiler's Saint's Name Generator.   The saint who had chosen to companion me was St. Mark, patron saint of stained glass window makers, which is what started my new hobby of creating sea glass mosaics under his patronage.  This year it's St. Dunstan whose name appeared to me.  St. Dunstan, born in England in 924, became a Benedictine monk and later the Archbishop of Canterbury.  He revived monastacism in England and reformed the church.  He was a skilled musician and metalworker and had used his metalsmith tongs to attack the devil during a temptation, according to legend.

St. Dunstan, whose feast day is May 19th,  is the patron saint of jewelers and lighthouse keepers.  When I learned that fact I knew that God must not mind my sea glass addiction too much because he blessed me with a patron for the year who would surely understand and approve of my hobby.

St. Dunstan of Canterbury, pray for us!

Hear, O Lord, the supplications your people make under the patronage of your bishop St Dunstan,
and grant that they may rejoice in peace in this present life and find help for life eternal. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  (prayer source)

St. Dunstan

lighthouse mosaic at night with porch light behind it

Lake Michigan in January:  a sea of glass

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Blessed Solanus Casey

Blessed Solanus Casey emoji

How rare and difficult it is to be holy!  How wonderful when we discover someone who really stands out in a crowd of faithful and is so well known for their spiritual strength that we all long to model our lives after them.  Sanctity is so rare, in fact, that America can only boast of 15 saints and blesseds from our country.

On Saturday, November 18th, 2017, Fr. Solanus Casey, OFM, was beatified in Detroit, Michigan.  Well known by many for his gifts of healing and prophesy, this man who was the sixth child in a family of sixteen, born in Prescott, Wisconsin and was not particularly gifted in educational skills, a man who was very humble and obedient, has become the latest American example of sanctity recognized by the Church.

I had first learned of Solanus Casey about 30 years ago.  Fr. Jeff VandenHeuvel, a priest who had been assigned at my hometown parish of Holy Innocents in Manitowoc was so gifted in singing his homilies that he recorded several of them on tape as a fundraiser.  I had purchased his tapes and listened to them over and over again until they completely wore out.  One of his homily stories featured Fr. Solanus Casey whom Fr. Jeff described as the lowliest of the Capuchins who became the greatest of the Capuchins.  Fr. Jeff's story so captivated me that I never forgot it and have been intrigued by Fr. Solanus ever since and have turned to him in prayer on many occasions.

Born on November 25th, 1870, Fr. Solanus' vocational call came while witnessing a brutal murder of a woman in Superior, Wisconsin.  Struggling through the academic rigors of seminary which was taught in German and Latin, Fr. Solanus was ordained a "simplex priest."  He could not hear confessions or preach.  His assignment was to become the porter at St. Bonaventure Friary in Detroit and several places in New York and Indiana.  It was through this humble job that Fr. Solanus began to gain notoriety as an excellent listener and wonder-worker.  People would come and share their trials with Fr. Solanus and, with his encouragement toward prayer, people would leave him healed of burdens and suffering.  For those for whom healing would not be possible, Fr. Solanus would encourage them with a reminder that the "Good God" knows what is best.  

Fr. Solanus was known to spend entire evenings in prayer in the church.  He was so closely connected to God and in tune with his faith that he was an inspiration to his brother priests.  He also loved to play the violin, although it's said that he played very poorly.  Nobody could stand to listen to him play so he took his violin to the church to play in front of the tabernacle for Jesus and at Christmas would offer a gift of music to the Infant Christ.

Above all, Fr. Solanus stressed the need for gratitude in all things.  He would say "Thank God ahead of time."  That way you put him on the spot and he will be more inclined to your desires.

There are thousands of stories of miracles and answered prayers through Fr. Casey's help while he was alive.  He would always be sure to remind everyone that it was God who brought the healing and answered prayers, not him.  When he died on July 31st, 1957, he was said to have sat straight up in bed with his arms out like a cross and said, "I give my soul to Jesus Christ."  Nearly 2000 people came for his funeral.  He truly was the least Capuchin who had become the greatest.

Upon exhuming his body in 1987 to be moved from the cemetery to the Solanus Center, he was found to be incorrupt, an occurrence that is extremely rare among the saints.

I was so blessed to personally attend Fr. Solanus' beatification Mass in Detroit.  Making our way through a crowd of 70,000 in the cold, pouring rain only made the occasion more meaningful and memorable.  The following day we paid a visit to the Casey Center to pray at his tomb.  The experience was deeply moving and more than once I had tears in my eyes as I pondered the grace that I had been given.

One of those teary-eyed moments came when Ms. Paula Medina Zarate, a teacher from Panama whose miraculous healing of her skin disease brought about the beatification, carried in Fr. Solanus' relics to be placed at the altar during Mass.  The following description from the Solanus Center in Detroit offers a great explanation about both the relics and the reliquary in which they were contained.

Relics of Fr. Solanus Casey's arm

A closer view of the relics

"Relics are an important part of our Catholic faith. They provide us with a physical, tangible connection to the Communion of Saints, and help us draw closer to God. A relic of Father Solanus Casey was presented during the Beatification Mass this past Saturday. This relic, a portion of bone removed from the arm of the Blessed Porter who reached out to so many people, was carried to the altar by Ms. Paula Medina Zarate of Panamá. Paula received a miraculous healing of a skin disease after praying for the intercession of Blessed Solanus. Brother Michael Sullivan, our Provincial Minister, and Brother Jozev Timmers, who has ministered in Panamá for many years, escorted Paula to the altar. Cardinal Amato later incensed the relic in a humble act of veneration.

The reliquary, or the vessel in which the relic is housed, was designed by Brother Mark Joseph Costello. It is a simple wooden cross that incorporates into its design a wooden dinner plate, which would have been used to feed both the Friars and the poor alike during the lifetime of Blessed Solanus. This provides yet another link to the Blessed Friar who served the poor and who was instrumental in the foundation of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. This relic will eventually come to reside at the St. Bonaventure Chapel at the Solanus Casey Center, where it can be venerated by the many pilgrims who visit the center." http://www.solanuscenter.org/home

Please join me in praying for one more miracle so that our Blessed Solanus may soon become Saint Solanus.

O God, I adore You. I give myself to You.
May I be the person You want me to be,
and May Your will be done in my life today.
I thank You for the gifts You gave Father Solanus.
If it is Your Will, bless us with the Canonization of
Father Solanus so that others may imitate
and carry on his love for all the poor and
suffering of our world.
As he joyfully accepted Your divine plans,
I ask You, according to Your Will,
to hear my prayer for… (your intention)
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“Blessed be God in all His Designs.”
The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron
Archbishop of Detroit
May 2017

To learn more about Blessed Solanus including many fascinating stories of healings and other miraculous events of his life, visit Michigan Catholic.

Pictures from my visit to the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit:

Prayer items of Blessed Solanus

His sandals

Habit and Violin

Blessed Solanus' Prayer Intention Book

The covering for his tomb before the beatification.

Blessed Be God!

Blessed Solanus Casey, pray for us!

Friday, September 22, 2017

South Dakota Spiritual Wonders

Fr. Jim, Paul, Mary and me at Mount Rushmore

When Fr. Jim Kubicki told us that he would be moving from Milwaukee to South Dakota to work at St. Francis Mission on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, Paul said, "I've always wanted to go to South Dakota!"  So without giving Fr. Jim much time to settle into his new home, Paul, Mary and I took an adventurous road trip in my ancient yet economical Toyota Echo, to pay him a visit.  Fr. Jim showed us the time of our lives, acting as our personal chauffeur and tour guide on an unforgettable three-day whirlwind experience.

We witnessed an endless expanse of prairies and sky, field after field of sunflowers, more grazing cattle than we could count, and majestic hills and waterfalls.  The natural beauty of this state was something I didn't expect and will forever treasure.

Although we left home for South Dakota very early in the morning, the drive was longer than expected as we made several stops along the way. Finally, after nearly 16 hours, we turned off the interstate onto a long, desolate country road that seemed as though it would never end.  It was a lonely drive as we passed only one or two other cars along the way and the only scenery we passed were fields and fields and fields.  Still, we found that long stretch of road to be somehow very endearing and beautiful in it's endless expanse of plainness.  

We were greatly rewarded at the end of the drive as we arrived at Fr. Jim's house and were warmly welcomed and then quickly whisked away to a guest house across from the Mission offices and main church, St. Charles Borromeo, where we worked together with Fr. Jacob Boddicker, SJ and some of Fr. Jim's friends from Minnesota who were also visiting, to make a delicious dinner that turned out to be my favorite of the trip despite having eaten at some fabulous restaurants in Rapid City.  There's just nothing else that can compare to a meal made with family and friends.  I think it's the love that goes into it that makes it so delicious!

South Dakota sunset as seen from the guest house.
So many of the trees we saw were bent to the north from years of standing in a strong south wind.

The following day our real travels began as Fr. Jim drove us to see the other-worldy Badlands, Magnificent Mount Rushmore, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Needles Highway in Custer State Park where we saw buffalo, fed wild burros and did a little hiking in the majestic Black Hills,  Rapid City, the second largest city in South Dakota which was remarkably clean and beautiful with a statue of a US president on every street corner, Terry Peak, the second highest point in South Dakota, and the historic Wild West town of Deadwood.

The Black Hills

Hiking on the edge!

The Badlands

The Badlands

In spite of seeing so many natural and man-made wonders in the beautiful state of South Dakota, nothing could compare to the spiritual wonders of daily Mass and learning a little bit about Catholicism from a Native American perspective.  I found that Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Kateri Tekakwitha are largely beloved and almost everywhere!  

The first church we visited, on the night we arrived in South Dakota, was by far the most beautiful and my favorite. St. Charles Borromeo, next to the St. Francis Mission Offices,  was one of three churches in South Dakota that was designated as a Holy Door during the Jubilee Year of Mercy and it will possibly be named a basilica.  Although it's hard to see in my photo as night was beginning to fall under a cloudy sky, the outside of the church is painted lavender, a color chosen by the youth group of the parish.  

ST. Charles Borromeo at dusk

St. Charles Borromeo interior

All of the painted trim in the church has a Native American influence.
Pictured in the mural are the North American Jesuits and Our Lady.

Embroidered print of St. Kateri with a Sacred Heart image found in the narthex.

A most beautiful image of Our Lady of Guadalupe found in the small daily chapel.
We spent our second night in South Dakota at the Terra Sancta Retreat Center.  We were literally wrapped in prayer while we slept here as the quilts on the beds were handmade and we found a lovely inscription inside one of them.  In the morning we awoke early so we had time to explore the grounds before Fr. Jim arrived for Mass in the chapel.  Although we were surprised to find a sign on the door warning of mountain lions in the area, we were able to pray the outdoor Stations of the Cross and were not at all bothered by wildlife.

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Jesus falls the first time.

Jesus meets His mother.

The following morning we had a private Mass at St. Isaac Jogues Church in Rapid City with just the four of us.  When we arrived at the church we found a unique holy water font just inside the front door and many Native American touches such as a buffalo hide under the altar and quilts on the wall. Quilts were prominent in many of the churches in South Dakota.

St. Kateri, Lily of the Mohawks
Our Lady of the Black Hills
St. Isaac Jogues
Buffalo hide under the altar.

Blessed Mother Mary

We paid a short visit to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rapid City for a short time of Eucharistic Adoration in Our Lady's Adoration Chapel and a quick tour of the Mother Church of the Diocese.  The Cathedral had also been designated a Holy Door during the Year of Mercy.

Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Cathedral altar

Brick from the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.
A short stop at Wall Drug was required, after all, what trip to South Dakota would be complete without it?  Having been blinded by the bright sun while in the Badlands, Mary and I made a mad dash for sunglasses and we purchased a toy drum for our grandson, Max, but overall found the highly-advertised commercial shopping center to be very underwhelming with one exception, the Traveler's Chapel.  Designed after New Melleray Cistercian Abbey in Iowa, the cool and quiet chapel was a perfect stop for a quick prayer in the midst of so much commercial.  It was a great reminder that God is everywhere, even at Wall Drug!  
Chapel inside Wall Drug Store designed after New Melleray Abbey in Iowa

One of the most fascinating stops of our trip was also one of our very first.  We spent a little time exploring the Buechel Memorial Lakota Museum at St. Francis Mission where we learned about the history of the Native Americans in South Dakota.  The museum was named for Fr. Eugene Buechel, SJ, a German priest who ministered to the Lakota in South Dakota in the early 1900's and began to collect and catalogue many ethnic artifacts and photos which were the origins of the museum. Perhaps the most interesting artifacts displayed were the Winter Counts, documents on which images had been drawn, first on animal hides and later on paper, depicting the major events of each year in the life of the tribe.  The image below is from the public domain and is very similar to what we viewed..

Winter Count (public domain)

We also learned a little about Nicholas Black Elk whose cause for canonization is underway.  Nicholas Black Elk was a medicine man who spent some time traveling Europe with Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show and was also involved in the battle at Wounded Knee.  After his conversion to Catholicism he spent his time as a catechist and is said to have brought 400 people to Christ.  He used The Two Roads picture depicting the Good Red Road of Jesus and the Black Road of Difficulties to teach the faith.  The picture reminded me a bit of Dante's Divine Comedy.  I could have spent hours studying it.  Upon his death the sky was filled with the lights of the Aurora Borealis, a sign of celebration that this holy man had gone on to his heavenly reward.  

Photo of Lacombe's ladder, 1874
The Two Roads Picture Catechism depicting the Good Red Road of Jesus
and the Black Road of Difficulties used by Nicholas Black Elk

The spiritual wonders of South Dakota will remain with me always, inspiring me with the memory of God's natural wonders and beauties, the kindness of all of the people we met, and the stories of holiness among the Native Americans and religious in this vast state of infinite treasures.  But most of all, the memory of my family and I spending time with Fr. Jim, a good and holy friend, and learning about his work with the Lakota on Rosebud Reservation, a community marked by deep poverty yet striving for holiness, will always bring me joy and inspire me to holiness as well.

Prayer for the Canonization of Nicholas Black Elk
Grandfather! Great Spirit! Behold us, who stand before you, singing our song of thanksgiving for your beloved servant, Nicholas Black Elk. Faithfully he walked the Sacred Red Road and generously witnessed the Good News of our Lord, Jesus Christ among Native people. Grandfather, we humbly ask you, to hear the prayers we plead through his intercession. We ask Holy Mother Church to recognize his sanctity, by acknowledging his presence among the company of saints and as one to imitate in his zeal for the Gospel. Open our hearts to also recognize the Risen Christ in other cultures and peoples, to the glory and honor of God the Father. Amen.

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Nicholas Black Elk, pray for us!  
St. Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us!  
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!