Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Feel Called to the Religious Life? - Capuchin Sisters of Nazareth

Please check out the website of the Capuchin Sisters of Nazareth.

Thank you to their chaplain for sharing the following information with me.

I am the Chaplain of the Capuchin Sisters of Nazareth in the Diocese of Scranton PA, and am wondering if you might post a link to their web page on your site. Also could you share this with young girls who are discerning religious life and other home schooling families in your area. The Capuchin Sisters are Franciscans who live a deeply contemplative life and Also have an apostolate. Capuchin Franciscan Sisters

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


The Visitation by Evelyn Pickering De Morgan , 1883

by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

            While the feast of Mary’s Visitation to Elizabeth has been celebrated on other dates, the liturgical calendar revision authorized by Pope Paul VI placed it on May 31 -- after the Annunciation (March 25) and before the Birthday of St. John the Baptist (June 24).

            Most likely the feast of the Visitation originated with the Franciscans in 1263.  However, there is lack of certainty about the origin and the various dates that have been assigned to the feast.  By the late 14th century the celebration of the feast was well established.

Theme of the feast
            The theme of the Visitation feast centers on Mary responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to set out on a mission of charity.  This is reflected in the opening prayer and the prayer over the gifts, and in the canticle antiphons for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer.  With John the Baptist we recognize joyfully the presence of Christ.  The feast clearly celebrates the first chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel.

            Church documents attest to the importance of the feast.

            In its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) , #57, the Second Vatican Council states: 

“This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death; first when Mary, arising in haste to go to visit Elizabeth, is greeted by her as blessed because of her belief in the promise of salvation and the precursor leaped with joy in the womb of his mother.”  (cf. Lk 1:41-45)

            Venerable Pope Paul VI in Marialis Cultus, #7, observes that in the “celebrations that commemorate salvific events in which the Blessed Virgin Mary was closely associated with her son” . . . “the liturgy [of the Visitation] recalls the Blessed Virgin carrying her Son within her and visiting Elizabeth to offer charitable assistance and to proclaim the mercy of God.”

            In Redemptoris Mater, #12, Pope St. John Paul II wrote:

“Moved with charity, therefore, Mary goes to the house of her kinswoman....  While every word of Elizabeth is filled with meaning, her final words would seem to have a fundamental importance: ‘And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her from the Lord’ (Lk 1:45).  These words can be linked with the title ‘full of grace’ of the angel’s greeting.  Both of these texts reveal an essential Mariological content, namely, the truth about Mary who has become really present in the mystery of Christ because she ‘has believed,’ the fullness of grace announced by the angel means the gift of God himself.  Mary’s faith proclaimed by Elizabeth indicated how the Virgin of Nazareth responded to this gift.

Meaning of the feast

            The thrust of chapters one and two of Luke’s Gospel is not simply a family event between Elizabeth and Mary.  The Visitation is an event of salvation history.  Elizabeth, a model of the Old Testament, meets the New Testament in Mary’s faith in the mystery of her own destiny.  But what is most significant is the meeting of their unborn children.  John, who leaps in his mother’s womb, is already anticipating his role as precursor of the Messiah.

            In the Visitation narrative we look to Mary as model of the apostolate of the Church.  She brings Jesus and a blessing on the house of Zechariah.  The experience of the primitive Church was that the power of the Lord was the greatest gift it had to offer.  To bring Jesus will always be the supreme norm of any genuine apostolate.  The Church’s mission is to show Jesus as wisdom and power in each situation of human need.

            While the prayer after communion invites us to recognize the presence of Christ among us in the Eucharist, we must remember that the presence of Christ is discovered not only in the Eucharist.  He is met in others, and he asks us to serve him in others.  Mary’s service for Elizabeth by her visit remains a model for the Christian who wishes to meet Christ in daily life.

Liturgy and life nourish faith

            Like us, Mary had to walk by faith.  One writer likens faith to darkness and light.  It is dark because we cannot fully grasp divine truth.  It is light since faith brings us to truths we cannot know otherwise.  Mary walked in the light of faith.  God told her enough about his plan for her to make each new step.  Faith is not only intellectual, that is, belief.  Faith is also trust and action.

            Pope St. John Paul II in Redemptoris Mater, #14, offers an inspiring account of Mary’s faith. 
“To believe means to abandon oneself to the truth of the word of the living God, knowing and humbly recognizing ‘how unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways’

 (Rm 11:33).  Mary, who by the eternal will of the Most High stands, one may say, at the very center of those inscrutable judgments of God, conforms herself to them in the dim light of faith, accepting fully and with a ready heart everything that is decreed in the divine plan.”

            Faith means to say “amen” (so be it) to the word, the command, and the promises of God.
            An important element of Mary’s faith is also common to ours.  God speaks to us through others.  We come to know God and his saving plan through people in the Christian community; for example, parents, teachers, preachers, and others.  Revelation is not made directly to us.  Except for the special experience of the Annunciation, Mary came to know God’s will through others.

            Mary’s faith, which is praised by Elizabeth, draws her to the dignity of being the Mother of Jesus and still greater to being a true disciple of the Lord.  Faith was not easier for her than for us.  The contrary is true.  For Mary it was more difficult to believe than for the apostles.  She understood more of God’s plan.  Pope St. John Paul II commented that the expression, “blessed is she who believed,” is a key unlocking the innermost reality of Mary.  Being aware that this faith was difficult, involving deep struggle, gives us an insight into Mary’s life and evidence of her likeness to us, sharing completely in the human condition, but without sin.

Friday, May 12, 2017

BOOK BLOG TOUR for Fatima: The Apparition that Changed the World - Book Review

Happy Feast Day!

Today we celebrate the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima.   This day also marks the 100th year anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima, Portugual.  It is fitting therefore that Catholic author and well-known blogger, Jean Heimann 's wonderful new book has been published as we commemorate this blessed occasion.  The book is Fatima:  The Apparition that Changed the World.  This book must be really special as it is not only published by Tan Books, a publishing company noted for their fine Catholic books, but the introduction was written by none other than David Carollo, the executive director of the World Apostolate of Fatima.

Those of us who have a devotion to Our Lady of Fatima will notice that there are plenty of new books available during this  Fatima centennial.  Personally speaking, I was having a hard time wondering which book I should read.  I was looking for a book that would explain in easy to understand terms, chronologically, the events that occurred, and written without any personal bias.  I really believe it was Divine Providence that led me to Jean Heimann's book.  It was as if it were custom written with my specifications in mind.  I think this book, which is not at all long yet chock-filled with pertinent information on all things relating to the Fatima apparitions, will appeal to just about everyone.  All ages, male and female, religious and the laity and even non-Catholics will find this little treasure of a book an invaluable resource.

The book is written in Jean's clear style of writing.  The book begins with a comprehensive timeline of events.  There are many good books that have been written to explain Our Lady of Fatima's messages to the three young shepherd children, but I cannot recall one that specifically explains not only the messages but also when things occurred.  The fact that Jean took the time to give us the timeline alone makes this book a valuable Fatima resource.

Along with the timeline of all the events, there are beautiful photographs throughout the book.  There are also explanations of certain terms which makes the Fatima experience more meaningful.  For example, the writer explains quite clearly what our lady meant by reparation.  It stresses the importance of our Lady's messages such as penance, prayers and sacrifices for poor sinners.  She gives background on the history of the holy rosary.  Her writing also gives us a better impression on the characters of the shepherd children.  This is important because we understand them to be holy children but also your normal, playful children as well.

Jean does not shy away from the scarier messages of hell either.  The reader will no doubt try to avoid hell as much as possible.  She also writes about the Fatima popes and their handling of the Our Lady's messages.

I highly recommend this beautiful little book.  It will give the reader a better appreciation for this Fatima jubilee.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Sister Lucia on Keeping the Lord's Day Holy

"Do you keep the third commandment of the Law of God which requires us to observe Sundays and the Holydays of Obligation?  Do you do so by abstaining from servile work and going to Mass? Remember that God says in Holy Scripture:  Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. (Ex: 31, 15)  Note the expression God uses here:  a day consecrated to the Lord.  Hence, the Lord's Day is not to be passed in idleness, still less in unlawful pleasures, in vice or any kind of sin.  Sundays and Holydays are to be used to bring us close to God by taking part in the Eucharistic Liturgy and other devotions, reading good books which give us a better knowledge of God and of His laws so that we can fulfill them better, and engaging in wholesome entertainment which will enable us to recuperate our physical and moral energies.  Only thus can we have an easy conscience and be certain of fulfilling the Law of the Lord."

Friday, May 05, 2017


by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

          May 13, 2017, marked the one hundredth anniversary of Our Lady's first apparition at Fatima.  She appeared  there each month from May to October in 1917 on the thirteenth of each month.

Like the apparitions of Our Lady at Guadalupe and at Lourdes, her apparitions at Fatima are known far and wide across the world in both religious and secular circles.  To appreciate more clearly the impact of Mary’s appearances at Fatima, it is important for us to know something about the conditions in Portugal at the time of the appearances in 1917.  The events need to be placed in historical context. 

The historical, political, social circumstances

For centuries Portugal had distinguished itself by its zeal for the spread of the Christian faith. But in the eighteenth century the government was influenced by anti-religious ideas and, from that time, Freemasonry set about de-Christianizing the country. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the moral and religious situation in Portugal was abysmal. In 1911, the separation of Church and State became official. The years from 1910 to 1913 were years of terror: priests and bishops were imprisoned or exiled; religious orders were suppressed; almost all the seminaries were closed and confiscated; missions languished or were abandoned. Freemasonry was in control. From 1910 to 1926 Portugal experienced 16 revolutions with 40 changes of government officials. 

The apparitions and their message

Then, on May 13, 1917, a shining Lady appeared to three little shepherds near Fatima, a Portuguese village. They were Jacinta, seven years old; Francisco, her brother, nine years old; their cousin, Lucia, ten years old.

The brilliant Lady encouraged them to pray the rosary, a summary of the Gospel, and to offer acts of penance. Then she asked them to return on the 13th of the next five months. The children were faithful in coming, except for August 13, for the mayor, a Mason, had them imprisoned at that time. He had threatened to cast them into a caldron of boiling oil if they did not reveal the secret confided to them by the Lady.

At each meeting, the Lady revealed to them a little more of God’s designs. She foretold future misfortunes which they were to keep secret for the time being, and which were recently revealed by the sole survivor, Lucia. These had to do with an even more terrible war than the current one of 1914-1918. The Lady asked for the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for only through her could the aid of God come to the world. On the last apparition, that of October 13, she promised a great miracle which everyone would be able to see.

Curiosity drew ever larger numbers that accompanied the little visionaries to each meeting: there were some 25,000 to 30,000 on September 13; about 70,000 on October 13.

That day, on which the great miracle promised by the Virgin Mary was to take place, rain poured all morning. The crowd was soaked.  But at noon the skies cleared. Mary appeared to the three shepherds and revealed her name: Lady of the Rosary. She asked that people be converted and pray. Then, in the sight of the 70,000 spectators, the sun, which had just appeared through the clouds, began to rotate or spin three times.  Each rotation lasted three or four minutes, illuminating the trees, the crowd, the earth, with all the colors of a rainbow. Then it zigzagged in the sky and descended as though to fall into the crowd. People fell to the ground crying for mercy. Then the sun returned to its proper place. The spectators noticed that their clothes were completely dry.

News of this miracle, witnessed by 70,000 people, including a number hostile to religion, spread like wildfire throughout Portugal and made a tremendous impression. The material miracle was but a sign of another miracle, the enlightenment of souls and the conversion of the country. 

The aftermath

Less than two weeks after the last apparition, a first sign of a new attitude manifested itself in the protest by an influential antichristian newspaper against a sacrilegious attack by a group of sectarians at Fatima. In 1918, the bishops were recalled from exile and were able to hold a meeting at Lisbon. The military chaplaincy was reinstated and relations with the Holy See reestablished. At that point, the Masonic lodges had the president of the Republic of Portugal assassinated. They sought to reinstate the control of the anticlericals, but their efforts failed.

Come 1936, a new great danger menaced the land. The Russian Bolshevists decided to establish atheistic communism in Spain and Portugal in order to spread it more successfully in the east and in the west, throughout all Christian Europe. We know what success they had in Spain. Portugal seemed unable to resist their activity, organized with satanic cleverness. To dispel the danger, the bishops saw salvation only in the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1936, they promised, by what was termed an anticommunist oath, to make a pilgrimage of the entire nation to Fatima if Portugal were preserved from the peril which was threatening it.

 While, on the other side of the frontier in Spain, the “Reds” were massacring, profaning, pillaging, burning priests and men and women religious and churches and convents, trying to extirpate the last vestiges of Christianity, Portugal enjoyed peace. And so, in 1938, an enormous pilgrimage of a half-million faithful was on route to Fatima to thank the Virgin for her miraculous protection.

In 1940, Portugal signed with the Holy See the most perfect concordat, from the Christian point of view, ever signed in recent times. The faith is proclaimed throughout the entire country with pride, the sacraments are frequented, Catholic Action flourished, ecclesiastical vocations multiplied.  In eight years the number of religious had quadrupled. In keeping with the prediction of the Virgin at Fatima, the Second World War was much more horrible than the first. Yet, though most of the nations of the world were involved in the indescribable calamities and anguish, Portugal continued with its tranquil life under the protection of Mary. 

The Church’s action

The ecclesiastical inquiry into the facts of Fatima was opened in November of 1917.  However, because of circumstances, a verdict was rendered only thirteen years later, on October 13, 1930. Meanwhile, pilgrimages continued to arrive, always more numerous, and usually on the 13th of each month. Cures were taking place. In 1926, a board of review was established similar to the one at Lourdes. More than a thousand cures, scientifically unexplainable had been registered by 1955.

On the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima, the ecclesiastical authority judged the moment suitable for revealing in part what Our Lady of the Rosary had asked Lucia to keep secret for the time being.

In his radio message of October 31, 1942, to the pilgrims gathered at Fatima, Pope Pius XII consecrated the Church and the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He renewed this consecration the following December 8 in Rome. The bishops of the whole world also made this consecration for their individual dioceses on March 28, 1943. We know that the Pope Pius XII confided to Cardinal Tedeschini that he himself had seen the solar phenomenon on October 30 and 31, and on November 1 and 8, 1954, on the occasion of the definition of the dogma of the Assumption.

          The impact of Fatima

The message of Fatima has been heard in Portugal, and Mary’s goodness has marvelously repaid it. Has it been heard in the rest of the world?  Certainly not enough.  Otherwise wars among nations by armies, and “cold wars,” and fratricides within countries would have ended long ago.

However, not all have turned a deaf ear. The message of Fatima has been received in part, at least, by a great number of Christians.  Devotion to the rosary continues to gain favor and reaches into many countries. As has been said, all the dioceses of the world have been consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by the bishops.   The visits of the Pilgrim Virgin statues have been received with tremendous enthusiasm not only by Catholic populations, but by some Protestants and Muslims as well.

 The message of Fatima has moved many and has contributed to making our era an Age of Mary. It has not spoken its final word. What that word will be depends on the cooperation which Our Lady of Fatima receives from us.  She extends this call and invitation to each of us.

These words of St. Thomas Aquinas, later used by Franz Werfel about Lourdes, apply also to Fatima: “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary.  For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.”


by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

          Any expression of Christian spirituality gives prominent place to Mary, Mother of our Redeemer.   Praying is at the heart of living the Gospel, and that normally includes praying her rosary.  The rosary is a means of summarizing the Gospel.  This enables us to live the rosary by entwining its prayers and mysteries into the very fabric of our lives.
In praying the rosary we offer our Spiritual Mother a garland of roses, our heartfelt conversation. 

          In the rosary we find a unique synthesis of the entire Gospel,  both Scripture and Tradition, in a beautifully Marian format that is easily remembered as we implore God's grace.

          Pope St. John Paul II taught that praying the rosary is "a most effective way of fostering among the faithful that commitment to contemplation of the Christian mystery and a genuine training in holiness."  He regarded the rosary as "an exquisitely contemplative prayer" and "a treasure to be rediscovered." 

          More than one hundred official documents of the papal magisterium attest to the efficacy of the rosary as a school of virtue and contemplation and a means of obtaining divine graces.  The rosary succeeds in protecting our gift of faith from all kinds of sin because it is a gift from God, the  weapon chosen for us by Our Lady.  The Servant of God, Frank Duff, reminded us that the rosary is our "prime devotion" because it contains Mary.  Barbara  Kloss, a twentieth century mystic of Poland, was told by Our Lady, "I am wholly in the rosary.  Seek me there...find me there."

          Archbishop Fulton Sheen once compared the rosary to the Eucharist:  "What the Eucharist is in the order of the sacraments, the rosary is in the order of sacramentals."   This means, he continues, "the rosary contains Mary."

          For Maisie Ward, the noted British writer and publisher, the rosary is a guide to reality.  If the rosary contains Mary, then it also contains the Holy Spirit, spouse of Mary and the Spirit of truth (Jn 16:13), the only true guide to reality.

          Taking his cue from the Joyful Mysteries, Pope St. John Paul II tells how the rosary transports us to reality.  "The rosary mystically transports us to Mary's side as she is busy watching over the human growth of Jesus in the home of Nazareth.  This enables her to train us and mold us with the same care until Christ is 'fully formed' in us (Gal 4:19).  By immersing us in the Redeemer's life, the rosary insures that what Jesus has done and what the liturgy makes present is profoundly assimilated and shapes our existence."

          Since our objective is to live the Gospel, we are called to live the rosary, an epitome of the Gospel, all the time.  This requires skillfully entwining its mysteries in our lives.  By doing so we become divinized by incorporating the virtues of Jesus and Mary by praying always with Mary.  Living the rosary continually requires a deep respect and real love for the rosary by recognizing at its core Jesus, love incarnate -- "the way, the truth, and the life."

          "Abide in me and I in you," says Jesus, because "without me you can do nothing."


Thursday, May 04, 2017

Sister Lucia on Modesty of Clothing - Fatima

"Notice, however, that it is not only for these two reasons -- punishment and penance for our sins - that God clothes us {regarding Adam and Eve's awareness of their nakedness caused by their grievous sin]; it served other purposes too.  Besides being a protection against sin, the modest clothing with which we must c\cover ourselves is a distinguishing mark setting us apart in the stream of immorality and enabling us to be, for the world, true witnesses of Christ."

Thursday, March 02, 2017


by Brother John Samaha, S.A.

Christians have never been required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem as Muslims have been required to visit Mecca to commemorate Muhammad's hegira or flight.  Rather Christian holy places have been transported to churches  across the world in the form of the stations of the cross.  "Making the stations" requires only moving from one station to the next.  The stations themselves, although often accompanied by elaborate artistic depictions, are simply small wooden crosses.

        A tradition holds that the Virgin Mary daily retraced the steps of the way of the cross.  However, only in the Middle Ages did this devotion flourish.  In the earliest centuries of Christianity the focus was on the risen Christ.  Medieval Christians emphasized the passion and death of Jesus and wished to tread in his very footsteps.  Those who could afford to do so made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.   Others had the Holy Land brought to them in the form of the stations of the cross, reproductions of the holy places of Jerusalem erected in their locales. 

        When the Franciscans were given custody of the holy places of Jerusalem in 1343,  they aroused in the faithful an active interest in the passion of Christ.  In the eighteenth century the Franciscan St. Leonard of Port Maurice, "preacher of the way of the cross," spread the devotion widely, making it possible for non-Franciscan churches t0 have the stations.  Previously this was not allowed. 

        Originally fourteen stations were the norm.  In 1975 Pope Paul VI approved a fifteenth station, the resurrection.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

A Lenten Reflection - The Story of a Prince

"There was once a king, lord of many kingdoms, who had one only son, so beautiful, so holy, so amiable, that he was the delight of his father, who loved him as much as himself. This young prince had a great affection for one of his slaves; so much so that, the slave having committed a crime for which he had been condemned to death, the prince offered himself to die for the slave; the father, being jealous of justice, was satisfied to condemn his beloved son to death, in order that the slave might remain free from the punishment that he deserved: and thus the son died a malefactor's death, and the slave was freed from punishment."

- Saint Alphonsus di Liguori, The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ