Thank you, Pope Francis, for adding the Feast of Our Lady of Loreto--December 10th--to the General Roman Calendar as an Optional Memorial!
Let us rejoice.
A humble contribution, The Hope That Is In You: Reflections About Our Catholic Life, is now available in a Kindle edition on Amazon (www.amazon.com).
Many thanks to Mrs. Carla Haiar for her excellent technical assistance.
Thorlak of Iceland: Who Rose Above Autism to Become Patron Saint of His People by Aimee O’Connell. Illustrated by Sigurbjorg Eyjolfsdottir. Foreword by John C. Wilhelmsson. San Jose, California: Chaos to Order Publishing, 2018. Paperback. Large Print. xviii + 251. $19.95.
Another time and place, to be sure. But, oh, so relevant for our era!
This is how one could rightly sum up the milieu of Saint Thorlak of Iceland (1133-1193). Canonized on January 14, 1984 by Saint John Paul II (1978-2005), Saint Thorlak is remembered for his outstanding personal holiness and apostolic contributions, both of which are a marvel to consider.
Sanctity and a concern for those who suffer are always in vogue. Although in a location and century much different from ours, at least in part, Saint Thorlak, the Patron Saint of Iceland, gives witness to the perennial values that never become outdated regardless of surroundings or epoch.
Steeped in God’s grace, this humble man, who was ordained to the Holy Priesthood at the age of eighteen, did not allow the challenges of autism to frustrate his generous response to the Lord. He embraced his Catholic Faith and sought the Grace that comes only from Jesus Christ through Mary, His Mother.
Many intricate details of the life of Saint Thorlak, whose Feast is December 23rd, have been lost to history. Nevertheless, we have what is required: sufficient knowledge to appreciate what the Creator accomplished through this priest and bishop. His tireless service edifies almost 900 years later.
I am grateful for a look at some biographical data about the authoress of this book that is provided on the Amazon author’s page: “Aimee O’Connell is the founder of the Mission of Saint Thorlak, an online apostolate inspired by its namesake ‘to understand, recognize, address and prevent spiritual starvation, letting people with autism lead us on our way.’ Aimee brings many perspectives to her writing: she is a Third Order Carmelite, a certified school psychologist, a wife and mother of three, and a person herself who has autism. She has worked in school and day treatment settings as a therapist, psychologist, advocate and consultant, and has authored several articles on autism and spirituality. Aimee currently devotes her days to the continuous discoveries and adventures of homeschooling with her children.”
I join my voice to the many who have thanked and congratulated Mrs. O’Connell on her patience and dogged research. In an age that desperately needs good examples and unfailing outreach to those with autism and all who carry the heavy Cross of Christ, Thorlak of Iceland: Who Rose Above Autism to Become Patron Saint of His People offers hope to all of us.
V. Saint Thorlak of Iceland.
R. Pray for us.
And so the wonderful fact that God is not alone in the work of redemption, but that creatures too, in their measure, truly share in that work, is illustrated nowhere more clearly than in Mary. It is true that the fact that Mary had such privilege was due to grace alone, that she was called from eternity to be the Mother of God and was from the beginning immersed in Christ’s redeeming grace, so that she was conceived Immaculate, without stain of original sin. It was grace too, and grace alone, which gave her heart its ardent and complete devotion to the Savior and its maiden resolution, so that she ‘knew no man’ (Lk. i, 34) and as ‘Virgin of virgins’ was that closed door ‘through which no man shall pass, because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it’ (cf. Ezech. xliv, 2). Yet the grace of God does not offer violence, but would be freely accepted. And therefore, however infinitely small Mary’s own activity may appear in comparison with the activity of God, there remains a human strand in the divine robe of our salvation, the ‘Be it done unto me’ of Mary.
“And the Catholic exalts Mary above all angels and saints (hyperdulia), because it has pleased God to give her decisive words this effective position in the work of redemption. The Fathers from the time of St. Justin Martyr continually urge this importance of Mary in the history of salvation, and contrast it with the sin of the first woman. Just as Eve’s consent to the serpent’s temptation brought sin and ruin, so did Mary’s consent to the angel’s message introduce redemption. So Mary possesses not only a personal relation to the Son of God and her personal salvation, but also a relation to the ‘many’ who are redeemed by her Son. She is mother not of the Redeemer alone, but also of the redeemed; and so she is the mother of the faithful. The Catholic acknowledges in heaven not only a Father, but also a mother. Though by her human nature she is infinitely distant from the Father, yet her special graces have raised her to a wonderful nearness to God, and as mother of the Redeemer she reflects God’s goodness and bounty with an inwardness and a truth that are possible to no other creature. When the Catholic speaks of his Heavenly Mother, his heart is full with all the strength of feeling that is contained in that word. Mary is as it were a gracious revelation of certain ineffable and ultimate traits in the nature of God, which are too fine and too delicate to be grasped otherwise than as reflected in the mirror of a mother. Ave Maria!”
A Son of God and Son of Mary: The 102nd Anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, Sunday, October 13, 2019
The Radiance of Christ: The Priesthood of Monsignor Kenneth W. Roeltgen. Inspiration for Priests, Religious and Laity by Margaret Ann Fiore. Meadville, Pennsylvania: Christian Faith Publishing, Inc., 2019. Paperback. 148 pages. $19.95.
This work is a heartfelt tribute to the late Monsignor Roeltgen, whose priesthood is measured not so much in years (less than twenty-five) but rather in fervor as well as in souls encountered and fortified.
The pages herein trace the life and vocation—first, religious, and later, priestly—of Kenneth William Roeltgen, who was born on December 22, 1947. A devout boy from an observant Catholic family in New Jersey, Ken was a faithful son, student, altar boy and athlete, not to mention a kind youth towards his neighbors, particularly the elderly. He was indebted to his beloved parents, siblings and the Sisters of Notre Dame at Saint Leo Catholic School for a solid Catholic formation.
He answered God’s call to the Consecrated Life. On the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, September 8, 1965, he received the religious Habit of the Congregation of Saint Francis Xavier, also called the Xaverian Brothers. His name was “Meric.” From 1971 until 1976, Brother Meric, C.F.X., taught at Saint John’s High School in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.
Discerning a divine summons to the Holy Priesthood, Brother Meric, now known again as Kenneth Roeltgen, in 1976 began his studies as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Washington, initially at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and subsequently at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. His Eminence William Wakefield Cardinal Baum, the Archbishop of Washington, ordained him to the Sacred Priesthood on May 19, 1979. The next day, Father Roeltgen offered his First Holy Mass in Saint Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Whether as the Associate Pastor of Little Flower Parish in Bethesda, Maryland, the Vocation Director of the Archdiocese of Washington, the Director of Continuing Education for the Clergy or a Procurator-Advocate in the Archdiocesan Marriage Tribunal, Father Roeltgen exercised a dynamic priestly ministry, springing from the virtues of charity and humility. The joy of Christ, which would become a hallmark of who Father Roeltgen was and what he did, was already observed by those whom he met.
Full disclosure: I was a newly-ordained deacon at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary when Father Roeltgen began his term as the Rector on July 1, 1988. The goodness, cheerfulness, welcoming spirit, approachability and hope in Jesus Christ expressed by Father Roeltgen to me and my brother seminarians called forth from us both confidence and love. We really trusted that our Rector was leading us in the path indicated by Holy Mother Church for those who were preparing to become priests.
My family and I were very thankful that Father Roeltgen attended my Ordination to the Priesthood on June 29, 1989, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, in Saint Joseph Cathedral in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The years as the Rector of “The Mount” were full for Father Roeltgen. He cooperated with the administration of Mount Saint Mary’s University in a plethora of projects. His good will, affability and competency were noted and appreciated.
Of course, his delight was to be hospitable to the seminarians and the visitors who often came to the Seminary. In December of 1995, Mother M. Teresa of Kolkata was one such guest.
In 1997, Monsignor Roeltgen left Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary to become the Pastor of Saint Stephen Martyr Parish, which is located in the Foggy Bottom area of Washington, D.C. Again, much activity, always rooted in the Sacraments, resulted. This would be Monsignor Roeltgen’s last assignment before the painful illness to which he freely and fully submitted and his death at the age of 54 on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 7, 2002.
Margaret Ann Fiore, whose life significantly intersected with that of Monsignor Roeltgen’s, has written a beautiful encomium that is filled with gratitude for this holy priest and his Christ-like efforts; however, the notable professional accomplishments of the authoress, who serves on the Rector’s Council of Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary and was the third president of the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses, play second fiddle to the considerable spiritual riches that she received from the personal example of Monsignor Roeltgen and his sagacious words.
Generously sprinkling this text with a helpful chronology, pictures, historical facts and testimonies of those who knew the subject, Miss Fiore presents various characteristics that Monsignor Roeltgen demonstrated throughout his years as a priest: ardent love for the Most Blessed Sacrament as evidenced in the daily celebration of the Mass and the daily Eucharistic Holy Hour; tender affection for Our Blessed Lady as seen in his daily recitation of the Most Holy Rosary and his poignant homilies that encouraged Marian veneration; abiding awareness of our Guardian Angels and the Poor Souls in Purgatory; genuine care for the sick and the dying; sincere esteem for the Holy Priesthood.
I happily recommend this volume, and I hope that its readership is wide and its influence even greater.
O Blessed Lady, Please Send More Nicholas Gilroys to Us: The Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (The Extraordinary Form), Friday, October 11, 2019
Nicholas Gilroy: Viva Christo Rey by Father Stephen Gemme and Deacon George O’Connor. Middle-town, Delaware, 2019. Paperback. 177 pages.
This present work, composed of twenty-two short chapters, is the second book in the Nicholas Gilroy Series. Nicholas Gilroy: Viva Christo Rey follows the inaugural volume, Nicholas Gilroy: Our Lady and the Guardian. Both are available on Amazon (www.amazon.com).
Young Nicholas is a seminarian who returns for his second year in Saint Peter’s High School Seminary in Baltimore. He is a devout, studious and athletic sophomore, and he seeks to be a good example to his fellow seminarians, 140 in all, including his close friends, Jose, Luke and Adam Marshall, who is a former gang member.
Father Stephen Reynolds, the Seminary’s respected Vice Rector, is the instructor of a course about the Sacraments. Nicholas has eagerly awaited this class. The information imparted is very useful and absolutely necessary for the future of these seminarians. Father Reynolds concludes the first class by leading his students in the “Renunciation of Sin and Profession of Faith,” a liturgical text that comes from the Mass on Easter Sunday.
The Rector of the Seminary, Father David Kelly, introduces the seminarians to the first three-day Retreat of the academic year. Father Reynolds then offers a powerful meditation, presenting the seminarians with the figure of Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio, a fifteen year-old martyr during the Cristero War in Mexico. The Retreat ends with the Mass celebrated by Cardinal Daniel Patrick Murphy, the Archbishop of Baltimore, and a sumptuous banquet.
After the delicious meal, Father Reynolds informs Nicholas and Jose that they are invited to accompany him to Saint Juan Diego High School Seminary in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for a student exchange program during the current school year. Although the boys are not obliged to accept, they unhesitatingly agree.
Having arrived in Mexico, the trio, met by Father Enrique Ramirez, the Rector of Saint Juan Diego High School Seminary, go to their new place. They are aware that they are in the land visited by Our Blessed Lady in 1531 during the famous apparitions to Saint Juan Diego.
Nicholas and Jose concur to perform some apostolic work at the Home of the Holy Family, an orphanage for about one hundred boys, ages one to seventeen, which is operated by the Missionaries of Charity, the Religious Institute founded by Mother M. Teresa of Kolkata. The two seminarians meet Javier Santiago, a senior at Saint Thomas Aquinas Academy, which is a private Catholic high school in San Miguel de Allende. Hailing from a wealthy family, Javier confides in Nicholas and Jose that he longs to become a priest.
When not receiving the Sacraments, praying, studying or playing soccer, Nicholas, Jose and Javier work at the Home of the Holy Family and quickly become soccer coaches for the orphaned boys.
On December 12th, Father Reynolds, Nicholas and Jose, chauffeured by Pablo, the caretaker of the Home of the Holy Family, make the three-hour trip to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City to attend Mass there on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The devotion of the Mexican people on this special day is particularly palpable.
Although Christmas Day is different for Nicholas because he is apart from his family, he is grateful for the opportunity to attend, with Jose, the Christmas Mass celebrated by Father Reynolds in the Home of the Holy Family. And during the Christmas recess at the Seminary, Father Reynolds encourages the two boys to begin a Novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe, complete with daily Eucharistic Adoration, the recitation of the Holy Rosary and the Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The trio, along with Miguel, an orphan at the Home of the Holy Family, visit the home of Javier on January 6th, the Feast of Los Reyes Magos—the Three Kings. Mr. and Mrs. Santiago and their four children heartily welcome Father Reynolds, Nicholas and Jose. But Mr. Santiago forthrightly expresses his desire to Father Reynolds: his son, Javier, must not become a priest.
Candlemas Day, February 2nd, dawns. Mr. Santiago arranges a soccer match between the boys of the Home of the Holy Family and the students of Saint Sebastian High School in San Miguel de Allende, followed by a tamales party.
Father Reynolds schedules a pilgrimage for the spring break, with Pablo as the guide, for Nicholas, Jose and Javier to the Shrine of San Jose Sanchez del Rio in Saint James the Apostle Church in Sahuayo. The boys even walk to the town’s Cemetery where Saint Jose was martyred.
The final four chapters of Nicholas Gilroy: Viva Christo Rey are filled with excitement and intrigue. Perhaps it would be best for this reviewer to stop here so to allow each reader the thrill of the last thirty-three pages. (And Chapter 1 has its share of mystery that will also engage the reader.)
Father Gemme and Deacon O’Connor weave a well-crafted story that is sure to edify. The two authors liberally sprinkle the text with helpful references to Catholic theology and spirituality. Let us hope that there will be a third volume.
Nicholas Gilroy is a pious, idealistic young man who is not unlike seminarians throughout the decades. We pray for many more of them.
Giving Attention to Our Lady’s Rosary: Memorial of Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor, Monday, September 30, 2019
There are many helpful quotations about the Rosary that are especially relevant during October. They may be incorporated into homilies, classes, Sunday parish bulletins and parish newsletters. Here are only a few quotations.
*“The Rosary is a prayer that always accompanies me; it is also the prayer of the ordinary people and the Saints . . . it is a prayer from my heart.” Pope Francis
*“Our Lady has never refused me a grace through the recitation of the Rosary.” Saint Pio of Pietrelcina
*“The Rosary is the best therapy for these distraught, unhappy, fearful, and frustrated souls, precisely because it involves the simultaneous use of three powers: the physical, the vocal, and the spiritual . . .” Venerable Fulton Sheen
*“Cling to the Rosary as the creeper clings to the tree—for without Our Lady we cannot stand.” Saint Mary Teresa of Kolkata
*“Love the Madonna and pray the Rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today. All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother.” Saint Pio of Pietrelcina
*“The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary’s own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer. Without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its meaning, as Pope Paul VI clearly pointed out: ‘Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: ‘In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words’ (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are disclosed.’” Saint John Paul II
*“Never will anyone who says his Rosary every day become a formal heretic or be led astray by the devil.” Saint Louis Marie de Montfort
*“The Holy Rosary is the storehouse of countless blessings.” Blessed Alan de la Roche
*“There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot solve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.” Servant of God Maria Lúcia of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart
*“The Rosary is the most beautiful and the most rich in graces of all prayers; it is the prayer that touches most the Heart of the Mother of God . . . and if you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary.” Saint Pius X
*“No prayer is more meritorious for the soul and more glorious for Jesus and Mary than a well recited Rosary.” Saint Louis Marie de Montfort
*“Today, together we confirm that the Holy Rosary is not a pious practice banished to the past, like prayers of other times thought of with nostalgia. Instead, the Rosary is experiencing a new Springtime. Without a doubt, this is one of the most eloquent signs of love that the young generation nourish for Jesus and His Mother, Mary. In the current world, so dispersive, this prayer helps to put Christ at the center, as the Virgin did, who meditated within all that was said about her Son, and also what He did and said. When reciting the Rosary, the important and meaningful moments of salvation history are relived. The various steps of Christ’s mission are traced. With Mary the heart is oriented toward the mystery of Jesus. Christ is put at the center of our life, of our time, of our city, through the contemplation and meditation of His holy mysteries of joy, light, sorrow and glory. May Mary help us to welcome within ourselves the grace emanating from these mysteries, so that through us she can ‘water’ society, beginning with our daily relationships, and purifying them from so many negative forces, thus opening them to the newness of God. The Rosary, when it is prayed in an authentic way, not mechanical and superficial but profoundly, it brings, in fact, peace and reconciliation. It contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and love at the center of each ‘Hail Mary.’” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
*“Whoever spreads the Rosary is saved.” Blessed Bartolo Longo