Monday, December 9, 2019


If you follow the Mass readings throughout Advent you can plainly see the two great figures of the Gospels, besides Jesus, are John the Baptist and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  John and Mary seem to be complete opposites.   The Baptist is an ascetic living in the wilderness calling people to repent, while our image of Mary is often one of docile maiden.  But I believe Mary had the same boldness and courage as John the Baptist.   How else would she have had the nerve to say “Yes” to God’s messenger if she had not been “Full of Grace?”  (Luke 1:28)  
In Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 3:1-12), John the Baptist doesn’t mince words.  He spoke truth to power.  Convert, or else!  How many of us would be so bold or have the courage as to challenge the authorities to, “Repent. The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 

Commercial! If you want to know my take on the John, read my novel, HERE I AM, The Life of John the Baptist.  Order online: BOOK PATCH HERE I AM 

Because Sundays’ in Advent displaces any feast days, today’s Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception has been moved to Monday.  This feast proclaims that Mary was conceived without sin.  It’s not to be confused with the Annunciation of the Lord, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and therefore without sin.  To add to the confusion, the Annunciation reading is the Gospel used for the Immaculate Conception.   

The foundress of the Redemptoristine Nuns, Bl. M. Celeste Crostarosa (1696-1755) gave daily reflections to her community in Foggia, Italy during the Advent of 1751.   Today, I am going to share what I gleaned from Celeste’s prayer style and how she praised the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout Advent.

Celeste muses on the Annunciation for the first eleven days of Advent.  She continues for another six days on the Visitation, and then Celeste devotes twenty days to the Canticle of Mary.  After 31 days of Advent, she finally gets to the Birth of the Lord!  Mind you, the longest Advent can be is 28 days.  That is how effusive and lavish Celeste is in her prayer and in sharing her meditations.  In this talk I will concentrate on the meditations on the Annunciation, which I will later apply to the Immaculate Conception.

Bl. Celeste’s style of prayer:
Celeste had a pattern to her meditations.  She always began with Lectio Divina: Selecting a short verse to ponder over from the Gospel.  For instance:  … the Angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man… (Lk 1:26-27) 

Then Celeste would always invite herself, and her community, to prayer.  She uses a refrain like this as an invitation:  “Enter, my soul, in meditation into this sea of grace and listen to this happy annunciation.”    As each day passes she continues with the next verse of the Gospel passage and repeats the invitation to prayer with slight variations according to the passage:  “Enter my soul, to celebrate the marriage…of Mary and Joseph.”  “Enter, my soul, with the light of faith.” Later she switches to, “Consider, my soul, how this most Prudent Mother listens…”  I can imagine Celeste being an eye-witness to these exchanges of the Archangel with the BVM and watches Mary closely that she in turn might emulate our Lady in all her responses.

Celeste was very descriptive in recounting the scene from Lectio Divina and draws her sisters in to share for themselves what their Holy Mother foundress was experiencing.  Celeste is often full of wonder and amazement, and exclaims:  “Oh admirable mystery!”  “Oh incomprehensible gifts!”  “Oh sweetness of love! Oh love of Sweetness!”

Bl. Celeste tends to speak with exclamation marks. 

Celeste, as she is known to do, turns to the theme of humility.  She often calls it ‘annihilation.’  But what she means is a total emptying of self that she may be pure.   She longs to be like the Virgin Mary, and Jesus, who emptied himself to become Mary’s child.  In Celeste’s humility she asks pardon for her pride and “disordered concerns” and asks for “true knowledge of herself so that she may be worthy to possess God.”  “I beg you,” Celeste prays, “not to refuse the company of this most miserable creature.” 

It seems to me, that those who are truly close to God see themselves as empty and in darkness in comparison to the Glory of the Eternal Father.  In her darkness she prays to be enlightened: “Oh Mother of Humility!  Admit me into your school to learn…holy fear.”  Celeste continues, “Teach me how I am to fulfil the will of God…”

Sometimes Celeste can be quite demanding.  She boldly says: “Make me love God alone.”  “I shall not depart from your most loving feet until you grant me what you yourself have obtained.”  “Do it for me.” 

Ultimately, Bl. Celeste works herself up to a fever-pitch thanking the Lord. With exalts of joy she is driven to say many times, “What a work to make every loving soul crazy with love!”  “Oh unheard of excesses that makes every faithful soul crazy with love and joy!” 

In her childhood, Celeste was known for her exuberant ways.  In Scala, when Celeste was a young religious, she was inspired by the Lord to form a new religious Order.  At that time, people called her crazy.  Thankfully, years later, she was able to form the Redemptoristine Nuns in Foggia in peace, despite of what was being said of her, because Celeste’s pure faith and trust led her to follow the Redeemer unreservedly.

What can we glean from Celeste about the Immaculate Conception from her meditations on the Annunciation?

She says, “Who can describe the greatness of Mary?  The Eternal Father looked with love on Mary as His daughter; the most holy among the children of Eve.”  She was predestined before the foundation of the earth to be “immune from the fault of Adam.”  

God knitted Mary in the womb of her mother Ann with all the graces and virtues of Jesus the Christ, and adorned her with faith and hope; a true knowledge of her lowliness combined with trust, boldness of heart, courage and pure love. 

Celeste exclaims, “God who has no beginning and is Creator of all, why so many excesses?” She answers herself, “I can hear God replying, ‘Only for love, only for love, only for love.’  Oh fortunate Maiden, you are the only one who has had such favors! What a splendid work to make every loving soul crazy in love with God!” 
Let me read some of the Third Day of Advent Meditation to give you an idea of her exuberance in prayer and sharing.  It’s as if in her Lectio Divina she is eavesdropping on the conversation between the Blessed Virgin and the Archangel Gabriel, and then wishes to share the lights of her own contemplation.

She begins with the Lectio Divina of the Gospel passage from Lk 1:28, 42    And the angel Gabriel came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you!  Blessed are you among women… and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”  

“Enter, my soul, with this divine and heavenly ambassador, into the little house of Nazareth and look at your Lady Mary there.  See how this fortunate and humble virgin, hidden away from the world and all its creatures…for she is great only before the most pure eyes of her God.   And while she is absorbed in her most profound contemplation, behold, the Archangel Gabriel!  After bowing profoundly before her, his greeting follows, ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’

“Hear the Angel of the Lord call her fortunate and blessed among women.  O my Lady and Queen!  You are full of grace because the Lord is with you.  You are full of God, because you are the Temple and the Ark of the divine Wisdom.  ….Oh blessed fruit of Mary’s womb!...Not only did Jesus repair the ruin that the sin of our first father Adam had caused in our human nature,  but still more,  Jesus raised our human nature to indescribable dignity!

“O divine Lady!  Obtain the possession of God for me. Obtain that humble hiddenness, that feeling of lowliness in myself; a true knowledge of my own nothingness, so that I may be worthy to possess God and be filled with God.  Make me love God alone, so that God may live in the Life of my heart.”

So we see that Bl. M. Celeste’s style of prayer was full of fervor, humble yet bold.  She addresses Mary with such familiarity.  We hear in her ponderings of the Gospel what she mined of the spiritual truths and enthusiastically shared them with her community. 

Theologians had been pondering the Immaculate Conception since the twelfth century. Celeste was contemplating the Immaculate Conception one hundred years before this important article of faith was officially proclaimed by Pope Pius IX as ineffable in 1854.   The tenet of faith is that Mary was free from original sin by virtue of the merits of her son Jesus. The Church teaches that God acted upon Mary in the first moment of her conception, keeping her "immaculate."   This is referred to as Mary's pre-redemption by Christ.

It is amazing how Bl. Celeste encapsulates the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception especially in the Fifth Mediation as she explicitly says, “Oh most fortunate Maiden, you are the only one who has had such favors. What grace, my beloved Lady!  The divine Father, from God’s holy Eternity, looked upon you as His highly favored daughter, immune from the fault of Adam…  From eternity you were predestined, before the foundations of the earth were made, when the depths were not as yet formed, before the mountains and valleys existed, and before the sources of the water were created, in you God delighted.”

Throughout her life, Celeste’s main desire was to be united with Jesus.  Her spirituality was of being a ‘viva memoria: a living memory of Christ.’  This is evident at the end of the Third Meditation where she says:

“Who can bless You, Jesus, as they ought and give You thanks according to Your merits!  And, just as You awaited the precious hour of Your Incarnation with infinite love, so unite Yourself to my flesh in the womb of Mary.  I long so for that precious hour when I shall be united with You and transform myself into You, the true Life of my heart.”

In today's Gospel, John the Baptist calls us to repent.
Tomorrow’s Gospel points to Mary Immaculate as ‘Full of Grace.’
 Celeste tells us we are united by our sharing in our common humanity with the Blessed Virgin and her Son, Jesus.  In her meditations Celeste says, “God imprints on our own nature the divine perfections God has put in Mary, our Mother.”   

What is our response to such a “stupendous and divine work?”  This work began with our baptism and continues with our repentance, our self-emptying, and our contemplation guides us into the transformation of our soul into God.   How can we respond?   How about being bold, be crazy in love with God and say, “Yes!”

The Associates made these tissue paper roses at the feet of our lady.

This poem is an invitation to use your imagination in pondering the Annunciation and answer the angel’s call in our lives.


Were others asked?
A lassie from an isle in a distant sea?
A maiden in North Africa
or a slave girl from the Congo?
How many times were angels sent
and returned, unheard, unheeded?
Was Mary tenth on salvation’s list.
Or the hundredth?
And you, my soul.
was fiat spoken
when the angel came?
                   Bishop Robert Morneau

This week we are treated to three feasts of our Lady: Immaculate  Conception, Our Lady of Loreto, the newest one promulgated just this year by Pope Francis,  and the much beloved, our Lady of  Guadalupe. 

The Immaculate Conception became doctrine in 1854.  Three years later, the 14 year old Bernadette Soubirous, an ignorant peasant from the foothills of the Pyrenees,  described her vision at Lourdes: “…out of the dark niche came a dazzling light,  and a white figure of a small young lady appeared wearing a white veil, a blue girdle and with a yellow rose on each foot.”  After asking her name many times, on the Lady’s 16th appearance, she answered, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”   If you haven’t seen it in a while, I recommend you see the beautiful 1943 movie, Song of Bernadette.

According to tradition, on Dec 10th , the Holy House of Loreto was carried by angels from Nazareth to the Italian hillside town of Loreto that night in 1294, after making a three-year stop in Croatia.   Custodians of the shrine have said the stones of the house were removed from the Holy Land and carried by ship by a member of the Angeli family.    In either case, tradition holds that the small house, made of three stone walls, is the place where Mary was born, where she was visited by an Archangel Gabriel and conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit, and where the Holy Family later lived.   The decree said the shrine in Loreto "recalls the mystery of the Incarnation."   
Despite the possibility that the house came by way of ship, Our Lady of Loreto is still the patron saint of air travel.
The Blessed Virgin appeared four times to Saint Juan Diego at Tepeyac in 1531, On the fourth visit on 12th of December, after failing to get the local bishop to agree to build a church in our Lady’s honor, the Virgin Mary reappeared to Juan Diego and told him to bring her flowers from the top of the Hill of Tepeyac, whose cold, stony summit was normally barren at this time of year.  To reassure Juan, Guadalupe identified herself as the Virgin Mary, "Mother of the very true God" and said, “Am I not here, I who am your mother?” 

He followed her wishes, and to his surprise found roses growing.  He brought them to the Lady, who arranged them inside his cloak, and she told him to go show them to the unbelieving bishop.  When Juan Diego saw the bishop, he opened his cloak, the flowers fell to floor, and lo and behold, on the fabric was the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.  Her likeness on the tilma shows a young pregnant woman with a dark complexion, a mixture of indigenous and Spanish features, signifying Our Lady of Guadalupe represents the unity of all people.   She is the patron of the Americas, especially of the indigenous and the poor. 

Thursday, October 31, 2019


I woke up with this phrase in mind, ‘fumbling toward heaven.’  It didn’t seem to be connected with a dream or anything – it just was there.

But it got me thinking about football. A fumble is when someone on the opposite team makes you drop the football and recovers it for their side.  I am going to stretch this metaphor so run with me on this one. 

Jesus is the football we carry through life tucked under our arm close to our heart.  We are advancing through the game of life toward our goal: heaven.   When certain circumstances of everyday life dislodge Jesus from our heart and make us drop the ball, how do we get it back?  In the second letter to Timothy St. Paul writes, ‘God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but rather a spirit of power, and love and self-discipline.’

Relying on the Spirit of Jesus we gain the power of the practice of self-discipline to scoop up the ball of Love and continue to carry it to our final destination. If we are called to be Jesus to each other and the world, then it shouldn’t be so hard to stoop down to lift up Jesus, ourselves and one another.

Sometimes, we feel like we drop the ball constantly but thank goodness we have fans to cheer us on whether we are in possession of the ball or not.  Who are our fans?  Family and friends, co-workers, and all the angels and saints are cheering us on!  Not only are they fans but also our team!   They offer prayers and lend support, especially when the everyday cares and set backs get us down.  In our most desperate hours, we throw a ‘Hail Mary’ forward pass to our Lady and she is there to help us.

To all eyes, Jesus’ death on a cross seemed like the biggest fumble ever.  But those who gathered below his cross: his Mother, John and Magdalene, believed and hoped in Jesus who came to save and bring them to heaven. And we know their hope was not in vain. 

So, let us not be like Lucy who whips the football away just as Charlie Brown comes up to kick it.  Let us be like Charlie Brown who, even though he fumbles, he always believes and hopes.  Let us never ever give up hope.  Let us continue to fumble our way to heaven believing in Him who comes to save.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

HOLY REDEEMER SUNDAY, Third Sunday of July

On this third Sunday of July, we Redemptoristines, along with our Redemptorist priests, brothers and associates around the world, celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Redeemer.  The official name of the Redemptoristines is actually the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer.
This feast celebrates the mystery of our salvation:  God the Father gives the Son, born of the Virgin Mary, to become the living image of God’s own Love and by the Love of the Son who, in giving Himself for us, restores us to our original dignity.   This abundant outpouring of love is revealed today in our Redemptorist family by our witnessing, through prayer and mission, to Christ’s life of love for the salvation of the world. 
Twice this past weekend, I had the opportunity to witness reflections of God’s Love.  The first was my nephew’s wedding to his beautiful bride.  They looked at each other with such love as they were united together in a life of love: ‘…to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, all the days of my life.’ 
The second was when I visited my friend in the nursing home.  At one point her husband passed by the window where we were sitting and she looked with such love at the door then: expectant, waiting.  He appeared at the threshold with the same look of love. A redemptive love that said, ‘I am here for you, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish you all the days of my life.’     
By loving as God does, Jesus, the visible image of God, restores us to our original dignity.  These two couples reveal to each other, and us, the Life of Love that restores us, unites us, redeems us.  

Friday, June 7, 2019


It is our custom to select cards with the fruits and gifts of the Spirit on Pentecost to serve as a reminder of what we already possess as baptized individuals into the one body of Christ. 

Just as this watercolor of the outpouring graces of the Holy Spirit washes across this one piece of paper so too is our community awashed with graces.  Yet, when the one piece of paper is divided into many cards, each individual card, though unique with its flowing design, is still of one piece.  We are like that: all connected yet having our own special  gifts and talents to offer in service to our community and to our world.   

When I was painting this watercolor I was humming a song I heard from a cassette tape made by the St. Alphonsus ‘Rock’  Church in St. Louis, ‘Spirit, Fall On Me,’  imagining the graces falling down upon us all like a waterfall - imagine Niagara Falls - with plentiful water, refreshing water.  That is God’s way with graces – showering on us plentiful Redemption.  

At the bottom of the waterfall are ripples pushing out further and further ever expanding from the base of the waterfall to affect everything around it.  We are those ripples when we use those graces that have fallen on us for the benefit of all. 

As we receive the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit may we be refreshed by the plentiful graces falling on us by the powerful, joyful out-pouring of the Spirit upon us individually and as a community and ripple-out those graces to the entire world. 

Monday, March 11, 2019


Excerpts from the Intent of the Father 
and the Associate Constitution

With desire I have desired to give my Spirit to the world and to communicate it to my creatures endowed with reason, in order to live with them and in them until the end of the world.

So that my creatures, then, might keep in mind the never ending love with which I have loved them, it has been my good pleasure to choose to make of you a living memorial (“viva memoria”), for all the people of the world.   (So that) His works are always alive before me. (To) continue the mission of the Redeemer and so guide the world towards that which is the end and fulfillment of the world:  becoming a new heaven and a new earth where God will be all in all. 

Consequently, stamp on your spirit the features of his life and be on earth living and inspired portraits of my beloved Son.  You will carry Him about as the Life of your heart, as the Goal of your existence and as the Master of your spirit.

What phrase or sentence touched your heart?

Painting by Briton Riviere:   The Temptation of Jesus in the Desert

Today’s Gospel was the Temptation in the desert.

What do you see in this picture?
Area looks desolate – no vegetation  ~ Spring brings new life.
Lent means Spring, as in the lengthening of days.  This year Easter is so late that it truly will be light and bright on the day of resurrection.

Is this twilight between sunrise or sunset?
Red sky at night sailor’s delight.  Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.
‘Stars’ ~ Venus above his head and Jupiter by his shoulder
This past February, Venus and Jupiter rose before the sun each clear morning in this configuration, so this could well be a winter scene.

Vulture symbolizes:  purification / insight to choose your path  / Death or doom  (vulture’s heads are bald to keep them clean while eating carrion and they urinate on their feet to sanitize them from bacteria in the carrion.

On what is Jesus sitting?     It looks like a throne.   Devil tempts him with worldly power.  But, as Blessed Celeste says, ‘Christ reigns from the Throne of the Cross.’

What is Jesus thinking?  

This Lent, how can I strive to live more fully
the love of Christ in my life?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019


     What is your relationship to soil?

    Without dirt we would not have 
                   bread and wine 
                  for the Eucharist.
 So the dirt beneath our feet is holy.  

Have you ever had an experience of 
                    ‘holy ground?’

How can we show our reverence to the earth? 

   How could we prayerfully live sustainably 
in our choices of buying food, preparing food, 
       disposing of scraps, using leftovers…?

      How can we express our gratitude? 

    During this Lent how can I keep 
           my soil/soul life healthy?

What do I hope will bloom this Easter?

Friday, February 1, 2019


Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.     - Prayer from the Blessing of the Throats

Saturday, February 2, marked the end of the Christmas/Epiphany season.  (You can take down your decorations now.)  The day is known as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of Jesus to God in the Temple at Jerusalem 40 days after his birth.  The Light of Christ has come into the World!

This day is also called Candlemas day because around the world in churches and monasteries candles are blessed for the coming year. In Germany, and other countries, at the end of Evening Prayer on Candlemas Day and in anticipation of the feast of St. Blaise, they bless the faithful’s throats with lit candles.  I can only imagine the blaze that could cause if the priest were not of steady hand!    

In our monastery in Beacon were celebrate this ritual, without lit candles, thank you, for our own good health against diseases of the throat and other ailments, and for all the sick recommended to our prayer.

St. Blaise died in 317 and was a physician, bishop and martyr. The most famous legend about him was while he was in prison for refusing to renounce his faith, he miraculously cured a little boy who was choking to death on a fish bone.

May Christ our Light, through the intercession of St. Blaise, cast out all shadows of doubts and fears and cure our illnesses as we joyfully sing full-throated in praise to the God who hears and answers our prayers.  Have your throats blessed.  And as an extra precaution, get your flu shot!