Our Lady of Mount Carmel with St. Thérèse of Lisieux at Philadelphia Carmel


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Mount Carmel

God is love. – 1 John 4:8

Be still and know that I am God. – Psalm 46:10

With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God
 of Hosts. – 1 Kings 19:10

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Prophet Elijah reaching for Our Lady above the cloud. The Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Carmelite Monastery in Philadelphia.

Opening stanza of a Carmelite hymn sung on the Feast Day Mass of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16, 2014:

Queen and Beauty of Mount Carmel!
Seen by prophet’s mystic gaze;
Shown above the holy mountain
As Elijah kneels and prays.

Carmel is a place near modern day Haifa, Israel on the Mediterranean Sea where hermits have lived since the time of the prophet Elijah, well before the birth of Jesus.

In the Old Testament, Elijah sends his servant Gehazi up to look out over the sea seven times for a cloud to bring rain to end a drought. Elijah prayed and up from the sea came a cloud to Mount Carmel. According to the ancient tradition of the Carmelite Order, Elijah saw the prefigurement of Our Lady.

In the early 13th century on Mt. Carmel, hermits built their cells around a small chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. These hermits became known as the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This is the origin of the devotion to Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. – Fr. Gabriel Barry, O.C.D.

In the tradition of salvation history, the Brothers of Our Lady claimed spiritual kinship with the prophet Elijah. They strove to perpetuate through their lives of prayer, poverty, and penance the great zeal of this Old Testament saint. In Mary they found the model for a life of dedication and service to Christ. In her they saw the ideal contemplative and they took her as their mother and guide. – Fr. Gabriel Barry, O.C.D.

Cloud-like rising from the ocean,
Pure and free from every stain,
She has claimed his heart’s devotion
Through the ages to remain.
(Carmelite hymn sung on the Feast Day Mass Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16)

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Blessed Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus. Carmelite Monastery, Philadelphia Carmel in Pennsylvania.

The scapular is hanging from Mary’s right hand.

Tender Mother, she has clothed us
With a double garment fair.
Pledge of heavenly protection,
Is the scapular we wear.

On July 16, 1251, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite. During the vision, she revealed to him the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, known as the “Brown Scapular”. Mary handed Simon Stock a brown woolen scapular and promised, “Whoever dies in this garment shall not suffer eternal fire.” The feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel coincides with the July 16th date of the apparition.

The brown scapular is the principle part of the religious habit of the Order of Carmel and has had special importance since the 13th century. Just as Our Lady wrapped the Christ Child in clothing which she herself prepared, so, too, she designated the holy scapular to be a sign of her motherly protection both in life and in death. In so doing, she takes upon herself all the consequences of her spiritual motherhood, guards her children and leads them to God. They, in turn, experience her powerful intercession, for the scapular is an habitual invocation of her whose prayer is always efficacious. – Fr. Gabriel Barry, O.C.D.

There is a Scapular Confraternity of Carmel available to laypeople.

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The Blessed Virgin Mary; Sanctuary Window, Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Philadelphia Carmel.

“Our Lady is depicted as the Spouse of the Holy Spirit”. – Luke 1:35

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St. Therese of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face.

Also known as St. Therese of Lisieux and the Little Flower.
The “Shower of Roses” window was installed before her beatification in 1923 in anticipation of sainthood. One angel is sheathing his sword, now that the battle is over.

The cloistered nuns are on the other side of this separator, where they pray and celebrate Mass. The Host is passed by the priest through a section that opens within the bars.

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The Martin Family Reliquary at The Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Carmelite Monastery in Philadelphia. Photo credit: Fluer Nabert.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia, in 2013, entrusted the relics of Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin and St. Therese to the Philadelphia Carmelite Monastery. The Philadelphia Carmel were the originators of devotion to St. Thérèse of Lisieux in the United States, in the early 20th century.

Shown above are the three individual reliquaries, housing the relics of Therese, Louis and Azellie. This is the first family reliquary for veneration and procession. The reliquary of St. Thérèse, Doctor of the Church is placed highest. Louis and Azellie reliquary are united by wedding rings. The two white lilies are for the parents and the rose is for St. Thérèse. Design by Fluer Nabert, sculpture.

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The entrance to the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Philadelphia Carmel.

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Portico detail, front entrance.

The Latin words mean:
I will bring them to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer. – Is 56:7

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Portico detail.

Inscription in Latin means:
With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts – 1 Kings 19:10

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The walled Monastery is off limits to the public.

The Carmelite Monastery in Philadelphia was founded in 1902, less than five years after St. Thérèse died. The Carmelites have been in the current building since 1910. The entire Monastery complex was completed in 1925.

Many archives from the beginning of the Monastery at Philadelphia Carmel to the modern day have survived and been preserved for public use. The Carmelites created one of the most inspiring religious websites in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It includes digitized historical content from their archives including “Lights on Liturgy” prayers, letters from Cardinals, YouTube video, photos and events. The link is here: Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Philadelphia.

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The altar in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit.

On the left is St. Teresa of Jesus (Teresa of Avila), founder of the Discalced Carmelites along with St. John of the Cross and on the right is St. Elisha with hand outstretched, a prophet who followed in Elijah’s footsteps.

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St. Thérèse of Lisieux (January 2, 1873 – September 30, 1897) explains the Science of Love.

I desire only this science of love…I understand so well that it is only love which makes us acceptable to God that this love is the only good ambition. Jesus deigned to show me the road that leads to Divine Furnace [of God’s love] and this road is the surrender of the little child who sleeps without fear in it’s Father’s arms. – St. Thérèse of Lisieux (SS 187-188)

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Shrine of the Holy Face of Jesus.

Original papal document dated 1895 of an appearance of the living face of Christ on a Veronica’s Veil witnessed by many during veneration.

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The Holy Face of Jesus detail.
In Rome in 1849, a miracle occurred where the Face of Christ appeared during veneration of Veronica’s Veil. It lasted 3 hours with a bright illumination witnessed by a group that was present. An engraving of the image on the veil was made to commemorate the event and a reproduction, authenticated by the Vatican, is now housed at Philadelphia Carmel. In Latin it’s called Sacri Vultus, the Holy Face Relic.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face carried Jesus face close to her heart.

Pope John Paul II proclaimed Thérèse of Lisieux a Doctor of the Church in October 1997, the year of her 100th anniversary of her death, making her the youngest and most contemporary of all Doctors of the Church. Her sisters, also religious, lived to be in their 90’s. If Therese had also lived that long, she would have lived to 1963. That would put her in the same era as Padre Pio, who was born fourteen years after Thérèse in 1887 and passed in 1968 at age of 81 years old.

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Thérèse of Lisieux, a Professed Discalced Carmelite Nun at the Monastery of Lisieux.

I understand that all souls cannot be the same, that is necessary that there be different types in order to honor each of God’s perfections in a particular way. To me He has granted His infinite mercy, and through it I contemplate and adore the other divine perfections! (SS180) – Therese of Lisieux from Walking the Little Way of Thérèse of Lisieux, Discovering the Path of Love. Joseph F. Schmidt FSC 2012

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From the Side Shrine in Honor of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

St. Thérèse was canonized in 1925. The statue of St. Thérèse with the face of Jesus was donated in 1997, the same year Therese was honored as Doctor of the Church by St. John Paul II. She is holding a Doctoral biretta in her right hand.

At the time of her death, Therese knew no more than 50 people, having lived in a cloistered, contemplative convent. As she studied and prayed the science of love from her own experiences, her wisdom blossomed.

I wanted Carmel as soon as I learned of it; I find that all the aspirations of my heart are fulfilled in this Order. – Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

“I am not dying; I am entering into life,” wrote Thérèse of Lisieux a few weeks before her death in Carmel on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24.

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Chapel of the Holy Spirit after Our Lady of Mount Carmel Feast Day Mass, July 16, 2014.

The Carmelites host an Public Novena in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel each July.



A plenary indulgence is given for anyone visiting the Carmelite Chapel on July 16.

From the Novena:

Mary, be mindful of us as we kneel before you.
By your love of God, hear us; by your fidelity to God, intercede for us;
by your power over the devil, protect us.

Trinity Window – Pater, Flius, Spiritus Sanctus

Latin for Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

Closing Prayers:

O Mary, conceived without sin, 
pray for us who have recourse to Thee! From the Flos Carmeli Prayer, Latin for “Flower of Carmel” by St. Simon Stock (1165 – 1265), a Carmelite. This prayer is also a favorite at the Miraculous Medal Shrine, Philadelphia.

Several prayers said by the Nuns at Philadelphia Carmel:

On behalf of those who have said no prayers today, let us say: Our Father… Hail Mary…

On behalf of those who neglect to praise God and thank Him, let us say: Blessed be God. Blessed be His holy name.

On behalf of those who blaspheme and neglect the Blessed Sacrament, let us say: Blessed, praised, worshiped and adored be Jesus Christ on His Throne of Glory and in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. – from Night Litany for Our City.

Aura of Saints Peter and Paul on their Feast Day at the Cathedral Basilica


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Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, you who have done great things. Who is like you, God? – Psalm 71:19

At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones”. – Matthew 11:25

It’s the Solemnity of Peter and Paul, June 29th, a feast day of the highest magnitude at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Saint Peter.

From marble mosaic on the Sanctuary wall at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Philadelphia PA. In the background is Saint Peter’s Basilica, a major basilica in Vatican City, Rome.

You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. – Matthew 16:18

And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” – Luke 9:20

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Saint Paul.

From marble mosaic on the Sanctuary wall at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Philadelphia PA. In the background is Outside-the-Walls Basilica, a major basilica in Rome.

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. – Galatians 1:12

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.

Inside the great dome, at the center, is Mary ascending into Heaven. Around Mary are panel paintings called the “Angels of The Passion. Within each group of angels is an emblem of the Passion; the cross, crown of thorns; twelve in total. The stained glass windows, detail is not shown, are of Blessed Mary holding the Child Jesus, with Saint Peter and Saint Paul on each side. The remaining stained glass windows are Doctors of the Church, including friends of ShrineTower; St. Augustine and St. Basil. The four pillars of the great dome are the four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

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The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin (cont’d).

Closer view of the great dome of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Several of the “Angels of The Passion” panel paintings can be seen.

Mary Mother of God is the patroness of the United States of America.

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Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the patron of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The Umbralino. (Italian for “umbrella”)

The umbralino in the Sanctuary next to the Cathedra or Bishop’s chair. Whenever a Pope visits a basilica, its umbralino is opened. It was last opened on Pope Francis’s visit to Philadelphia in September, 2015.

The Tintinnabulum.

A small gold bell is hanging below an enamel plate with a picture of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. On the other side of the plate is a picture of the Cathedral Basilica. At the top of the tintinnabulum is the papal tiara and Keys of Heaven. If Pope Francis were to celebrate the Mass at Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral Basilica, the tintinnabulum would be used to lead the procession down the Basilica’s main aisle.

Ciborium – View Looking Up.

In the center of the underside of the ciborium is the Holy Spirit symbolized as a dove. The mosaic carries in Latin an inscription which translates: “In every place there is offered and sacrificed in My Name a clean oblation.” From Malachias 1:11.

Story of St. Paul follows from a stained glass window in the apse:
Paul’s Conversion

As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” – Acts 9:3-4

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. – Acts 26:15-16

Paul Preaching to the Athenians (Pagens in Greece).

Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you.” Acts 17:22-23

Paul was beheaded in Rome.

“These are the ones, who living in the flesh, planted the Church with their blood; they drank the chalice of the Lord, and became friends with God.” Entrance Antiphon, Feast Day Mass.

Saint Paul at the front entrance to the Basilica Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, Philadelphia Pennsylvania.

In Archbishop Chaput’s sermon on the Feast day Mass of June 29th at the Basilica, he said most people think of Paul’s symbol, the sword, for his martyrdom, since he was beheaded by the Romans. It really is the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God where the sword penetrates our heart.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:17

Story of St. Peter follows from a stained glass window in the apse:
Jesus Giving Peter the Keys to Heaven.

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” – Matthew 16:19

Peter Being Called by Jesus.

And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

Peter’s crucification.

Peter was crucified upside down, at his request, according to Origen of Alexandria.

Saint Peter at the front entrance to the Basilica Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, Philadelphia Pennsylvania.

Peters symbol are keys, which represent Jesus’ saying, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”

Peter in chains teaching the other prisoners.

On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands.- Acts 12:6-7

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Successor to St. Peter: Pope Francis.

Pope Francis at Mass for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. Photo credit – VaticanRadio.com

Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

Building community.

St. Peter.

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Aura of St. Peter

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Aura of St. Paul

I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. – St. Paul 2 Timothy 4:7

Norbert’s Feast Day at Daylesford Abbey


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Daylesford Abbey, Paoli Pennsylvania, with bronze sculpture, the Abbey Church, and the bell tower on right.

The bell tower consists of three bells that chime and resonate throughout the day. From any angle in looking at the bell tower, you see a cross.

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Detail: Bronze sculpture on Daylesford Abbey grounds.

Blessed Hugh is the lower figure. He was one of St. Norbert’s first disciples and later became first abbot of Prémontré. Above Hugh is Norbert, pointing upward to Jesus. And Jesus is the upright figure with hands raised to heaven.

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St. Norbert, founder of the Norbertine Order, at Daylesford Abbey in Paoli Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Norbert in his own side chapel at the Abbey. The light above is from a skylight opening. It’s June 6th, the feast day of St. Norbert.

Detail of Norbert’s right hand holding the Monstrance with the Host embedded with the insignia JHS.

The most common Christogram is “IHS” or “IHC”, denoting the first three letters of the Greek spelling of the name of Jesus. In Greek capitals Jesus name is ΙΗΣΟΥΣ or IHSOUS in Latin letters. Shortened this becomes IHS(ous) or IHS. In Latin the I and J are interchangeable, therefore JHS is an equivalent meaning of the Holy Name.

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Norbert painting at Daylesford Abbey, Paoli Pennsylvania.

Norbert in a state of ecstasy, receiving a vision from the Lord.
On the right is his Archbishop mitre.

On one occasion, while Norbert was celebrating Mass, a spider fell into the already consecrated chalice. To avoid desecrating the precious blood of Jesus, Norbert swallowed the large spider whole, only to have it expelled through his nose with a sneeze.

Saint Norbert painting by Marten Pepijn 1637, oil on panel a O.L. Vrouwekathedraal Cathedral in Antwerp, Belgium.

The Norbertines at Daylesford Abbey have a deep sense for community. They use the term communio, and practice it by living in open dialogue and consultation individually and collectively with the local community. Being canons regular the Norbertines combine community activity with the contemplative life. Yet unlike monks who live in cloistered, contemplative life and sometimes engage in the community, Daylesford canons regular preach, teach, and administer the sacraments for all who participate when at the Abbey.

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Entrance to Daylseford Abbey complex.

The Daylesford Abbey Spirituality Center brings diverse and innovative programs, from world renowned national speakers like Fr. Richard Rohr. Smaller programs like how to write a collect for the opening prayer of a Mass. Of course the collect written won’t get into the Roman Missal, but understanding the process is fascinating. For some of the larger programs, like conferences and retreats, the Abbey offers 36 rooms for overnight guests with home cooked meals. Dinners before spirituality programs are a nice addition to the Abbey culture.

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The Daylesford Abbey nave with the pews arranged in the foreground facing each other.

There are several Norbertine Abbeys in the US. In addition to Daylesford Abbey, there is St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere Wisconsin and St. Michaels Abbey in California. Each Abbey operates autonomous of one another, with their own unique culture. The Daylesford Abbey would be considered left and liberal of other Norbertine Abbeys. This also differentiates the forward thinking Daylesford Abbey from other religious in the Philadelphia area.

Cross at Daylesford Abbey Church

Since Norbert left no writings except for one small prayer, his legacy is the religious community he left behind. Following St. Augustine “those who sing pray twice” the Norbertines sing their prayers in the Divine Office and have a special devotion to the Holy Eucharist.

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Norbert with Monstrance and Staff, Daylesford Abbey, Philadelphia, PA

Norbert was devoted to the Holy Eucharist and defended the sanctity of the Blessed Sacrament. He is credited for driving a heretic from Antwerp who repeatedly blasphemed the Blessed Sacrament and had it removed from the cathedral and hidden. As part of this miracle Saint Norbert rescued the monstrance, returning it unharmed to the cathedral. We typically see the Monstrance being held by Norbert in paintings of the saint.

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Artwork in one of the several courtyards throughout the Abbey.
The newest edition to the Abbey grounds in Paoli, Pennsylvania is the amazing Daylesford Abbey Stations of the Cross or the Via Crucis. It’s all outdoor along a trail, and each station is an alcove off the main trail. The Station scenes are replicas from the Basilica of San Zeno in Verona, Italy.

Goodbye to Norbert and the Abbey on Norbert’s feast day. It’s a special place for prayer, meditation and learning.

St. Philomena, The Daughter of Light


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St. Philomena in Saint Philomena Roman Catholic Church
 Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. In May, 1802, the relics of St. Philomena were discovered in Italy.


Tomb of St. Philomena in the Sanctuary in Mugnano del Cardinale, Avellino, Italy.

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The catacombs of Priscilla: the Greek Chapel near the body of Philomena. St. Philomena was a second century girl whose remains were discovered in an ancient catacomb in Rome.

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The glass vase, containing a vile of her dried blood, which was found inside the tomb of Saint Philomena, also with bone relics. What would a DNA sample reveal today?

The three tiles on the tomb: LUMENA / PAX TE / CUM FI.

In Latin the tomb read, “Pax tecum, Filumena”, which translates “Peace be with you, Philomena”.

Several years later Philomenia’s remains were enshrined in a village in Mugano, Italy and there begins the interventions and unusual events surrounding this girl of fourteen or fifteen. So great were here intersessions and miracles, that many religious and lay people began following her spirit. One such admirer who experienced “a burning in my heart” for Philomena, was St. John Baptist Vianney (Cure d’Ars) as explained here.

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Painting of Philomena at Saint Philomena Roman Catholic Church
 in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

She was made a saint in 1837 by Pope Gregory XVI. She is the only person recognized as a saint based solely on her intersessions, since little is know of her otherwise. On the spirituality side, Philomena revealed her story to Mother Maria Luisa di Gesu, Foundress of the Oblates of Our Lady of Sorrows on August 3, 1833. Here is what St. Philomena said to Mother Maria Luisa di Gesu of her background.

“Dear Sister, August the tenth was the day of my rest, my triumph, my birth into Heaven, my entering into the possession of such eternal goods as the human mind cannot possibly imagine. That is why my Heavenly Spouse disposed, by His most high decrees that my coming to Mugnano should be on the day which had seen my coming to Heaven! He prepared so many circumstances which should make my arrival at Mugnano glorious and triumphant; giving joy to all the people, even though the priest who brought me had absolutely decided that my translation should take place on the fifth of the month very quietly in his own house. My omnipotent Spouse impeded him with so many obstacles that the priest, although he did all he could to carry out his plan, could not do so. And so it came about that the said translation was made on the tenth, the day of my feast in Heaven.” – Mother Maria Luisa di Gesu

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Exterior of St. Philomena Church in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The church was dedicated on May 27, 1900 in honor of the Saint.

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St. John Neumann while bishop of Philadelphia, was a true promoter of St. Philomena. He said of Philomena, “to whom God denies nothing for whoever invokes her.”

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini carried a small statue of Philomena on her numerous journeys. The Blessed Pius IX (1792-1878) also had a deep and sincere devotion to St. Philomena.

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The side shrine of St. Philomena, with a first class relic below, brought from the Shrine in Mugnano del Cardinale, near Naples, Italy.
All of Philomena’s miracles are explained here.

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Philomena up close.

St. Padre Pio called Philomena the “Princess of Heaven”. Padre Pio used to reply to those who doubted the existence of the Saint: “for the love of God!  It might well be that her name is not Philomena, but this Saint has performed many miracles and it is not the name that did them.”

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Closeup of the first class relic at St. Philomena Roman Catholic Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“My children, St. Philomena has great power with God. Her virginity and generosity in embracing heroic martyrdom has rendered her so agreeable to God that He will never refuse anything that she asks for us.” by St. John Vianney, the Curé d’Ars.

St. Rita of Cascia’s National Shrine on Her Feast Day


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The National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

May 22 is the feast day of St. Rita. Like Elizabeth Ann Seton, Rita of Cascia was a wife, mother, widow and member of a religious community, in her case the Augustinians. Each year, a Solemn Novena from May 13 to May 21 precedes the feast day.

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St. Augustine on watch at St. Rita’s Shrine.

St. Augustine is the founder of the order to which St. Rita belonged. The shrine complex (Upper Church and Lower Crypt) is managed and cared for by the Augustinians.

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St. Patrick on watch at St. Rita’s Shrine.

Irish Americans in the South Philly area were the first benefactors of St. Rita, just before the immigration of Italian Americans.

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National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia is in Philadelphia, PA. The Augustinians friars wanted a parish with Rita as patroness and therefore had the church built in 1907. St. Rita had been canonized a few years earlier in 1900.

The main Upper Church of the National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia, Philadelphia Pennsylvania.

The left side of the nave are Augustine themed stained glass windows. On the right side of the nave are St. Rita of Cascia themed stained glass windows.

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St. Rita supported by patron saints window.

St. Rita approaching the entrance of the Augustinian Convent with her three powerful patrons; St. John the Baptist, St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Nicholas of Tolentine. The family strife within the community from the murder of her husband prevented her from enrolling in the convent. Upon brokering a deal with the warring families, she was later accepted into the convent. Rita is known today as The Peacemaker.

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Rays of Light Window. National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia in Philadelphia, PA.

The rays of light from the power of prayer allowed Rita, through the intercession of her patron saints, to gain entrance to the convent building through locked doors and guarded nuns.

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Stigmata window.

While praying before a crucifix, Rita received a mystical single thorn impression on her forehead (stigmata) that remained for the rest of her life. She shared Jesus’ wound from the crown of thorns. Rita had many mystical experiences during the forty years she lived in the convent. She died there while in her seventies. (May 22, 1457)

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Rose window.

In midwinter, a bedridden and ill Rita asked her cousin to bring her a rose from her family’s garden. The cousin thought the request absurd due to the winter conditions. Rita responded with her now famous saying, “My dear cousin, there is nothing impossible to God.” The cousin went to the garden to find a single rose in full bloom on an otherwise barren rose bush. The rose circulated among the nuns of St. Rita’s Augustinian order. Today, roses are blessed each year in all churches of the Augustinian Order on the feast of St. Rita.

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The Work of Peace mural in the Lower Crypt.

The mural shows St. Rita sitting under an oak tree extending an olive branch, a symbol of peace, to those drawn to her presence. To her left is Blessed Simon of Cascia, an Augustinian friar whose spiritual teachings influenced Rita. On a personal note, the boy releasing the dove, according to iconographer Anthony Visco, is Leonardo da Vinci of Sistine Chapel fame, whom he admires.

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Detail One in the The Work of Peace mural. Lower level of National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia.

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Saints Intercession. Detail Two in the The Work of Peace mural.

Looking closely at the lower right hand corner of the mural are St. Rita’s three patron saints, joined arm in arm; Augustine, John the Baptist, and Nicholas of Tolentino. Behind them are Mother Katharine Drexel and John Neumann, both Philadelphia Saints with their own shrines nearby: St. Katharine Drexel Mission Center and Shrine and The National Shrine of St. John Neumann. To the right, is recently canonized Saint John XXIII and to his left, Francis of Assisi.

Since saints are in heaven close to God, we pray with the saints to God and ask the saints to intercede and navigate the spiritual universe on our behalf. We also ask the saints to pray for us. Certain saints have a particular specialty. For Rita, it’s forgiveness, reconciliation and being the peacemaker.

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Upper Church, Feast Day of St. Rita.
Photo credit: Father Dan McLaughlin, OSA, St. Rita’s Shrine.

Father Michael DiGregorio O.S.A., Provincial Prior of the Augustinian Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova , explains in the St. Rita Shrine Peacemaker newsletter, “a significant dimension of a devotion to Saint Rita includes prayers to seek her intersession before the Lord, who alone is the source and dispenser of graces.”

The Mass includes the general intercessions or prayer of the faithful. Although most intercessions are beautifully scripted some can be spontaneous petitions or intentions, especially at daily mass.

During Mass, in the Creed, we Catholics profess the belief in “the communion of saints” or the relationship we have with the saints. We ask in prayer to those believers in this life and beyond.

Specifically for the Mass on the Feast of St. Rita, the Celebrant says: By their way of life you offer us an example, by communion with them you give us companionship, by their intercession, sure support, so that encouraged by so great a cloud of witnesses, we may run as victors in the race before us.

ascension of rita 2
St. Rita an influencer, given special grace in heaven. Another form of intercession is from recognizing the saints life.

Fr. Michael, in the St. Rita Shrine Peacemaker newsletter says, “The great popularity of Saint Rita is due as much to the power of her prayerful intercessions as the the force of her testimony.” Her life story is surely a testament to her holiness.

ascension of rita
Looking up above the altar, St. Rita is received into heaven with joy. The Solemn Novena of St. Rita is a powerful method of intercession.

The Solemn Novena of St. Rita is prayer and Mass over a nine day period prior to her feast day, to obtain graces from God through her appeal.

The Litany of St. Rita are the prayers said after Mass as a subset of the Solemn Novena of St. Rita. There are many different aspects of her witness and appeal in these prayers.
Fr. Michael explains the Litany in the St. Rita Shrine Peacemaker newsletter, “She (St. Rita) invites individuals to consider particular dimensions of her character and witness, and stirring them, in fact, to invoke her accompaniment and intercession…”

Lord, you have signed your servant, Rita
With the marks of Your love and Passion.

Pray for us, St. Rita,
That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.


More information on The National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia is here.

Ignatian Spirituality at Old St. Joseph’s: God’s Creation Shines


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Image of Iganatius Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.

Ignatius Loyola created a vision on the way to approach spirituality, a “way of proceeding.” These innovative ideas are showcased here in Ignatius life and his classic text, Spiritual Exercises, that today drive Jesuits, laymen and Pope Francis. Old St. Joseph’s Church guides us in our spiritual understanding of Ignatius of Loyola.

David Fleming, in his book What is Ignatian Spirituality, begins by noting in the Preface that in founding the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius was “more interested in a whole-person approach than in rules”. As a result, Ignatian spirituality may be understood as “a spiritual ‘way of proceeding’ that offers a vision of life, an understanding of God, a reflective approach to living, a contemplative form of praying, a reverential attitude to our world, and an expectation of finding God daily”. In other words, Ignatian spirituality entails a worldview and a way of life. – From Fr. Dan Ruff S.J. former pastor at Old St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, Philadelphia Pennsylvania.

I. A Vision of Life, Work and Love

road and sunlight
Sunlight Around the Bend.

Ignatius compares the gifts of God as light from sun and water from a spring source. We share with God everything we have.

“God’s love shines down upon me like the light rays from the sun” says Ignatius.

Ignatius comments that life is about God in our daily lives…all the gifts to us to know God more easily and return love more readily. As good stewards and loving persons we care for God’s world. – David Flemming S.J. author of What is Ignatian Spirituality?

nature 5 oerwout God is the light of the world. Photo by Oer-Wont.

Light is beautiful and mysterious, just like God.

God as a giver of gifts speaks to us through his giving. This is a central theme of Ignatian Spirituality, love shows itself in deeds over words. We are asked to share and give what one has.

streams source of lifeThree Waterfalls.  Ignatius vision directs us to the source of life.

Our one desire: to want and choose what better leads to God’s deepening life in me. –  David Fleming S.J.

Adoration_of_the_Shepherds_1482_85Domenico_Ghirlandaio Santa Trinita FlorenceAdoration by the Shepherds by Domenico Ghirlandaio 1485. Ignatius says, “Look at how God loves.”

The real source of life is the Eucharist.

Christ is in the trenches doing the evangelizing. We are asked or called to work with him. David Fleming S.J. author of What is Ignatian Spirituality says it’s the Call of the King . . . we should think of Jesus as a king, we owe reverence and obedience. This expands to reverence for all the gifts of God’s creation that are given to us.

II. God is Love Loving

Ignatius recovers from his wounds at Loyola by Carlos Saenz de Tejada.

Ignatius says God’s gift is himself in Jesus in the Eucharist. God created Jesus.

By receiving God, we become his hands, feet and voice in our world.

All the things in this world, says Ignatius, are ways to become closer to God.

Old St. Joes altar
Old St. Joseph’s Church and National Shrine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Founded by the Jesuits in 1733, Old St. Joseph’s is the oldest catholic community in Philadelphia. It is a national shrine from a historical standpoint. The current church is the third church on the site, built in 1839. St. Joseph’s University and St. Joseph’s Preparatory School were founded at Old St. Joseph’s.

III. Spirituality of the Heart

heart with old stained glass window
The Heart mosaic stained glass window at Old St. Joseph’s Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Mosaic windows were for church’s that couldn’t afford figured stained glass windows, which at several points over the centuries, Old St. Joe’s was in this category, a poor parish.  The heart referenced by Ignatius is the inner orientation of a person. Ignatius stressed the vision of God is from our hearts not our minds.

organ at Old St. Joesph'sOrgan at Old St. Joseph’s Church, Philadelphia PA. Ignatius had a vision of organs playing.

While praying outside a monastery, Ignatius had a mystical vision, hearing three organs playing at the same time. This was a response from God on the question of whether four prayers should be said: to the Father, Son, Holy Spirit and the One God, or three prayers: to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The three organ response was the answer from God to Ignatius.

2-ignatius-writes-the-spiritual-exercises-in-the-cave-at Manresa.jpg!HD Ignatius writes the Spiritual Exercises in the cave at Manresa. – Carlos Saenz de Tejada

Ignatius wrote the Spiritual Exercises, his landmark spiritual guide, in a Manresa cave after experiencing a vision of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus at the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat in March 1522. This was well before Ignatius took up religious vows.

The Call of the King is a section of the Spiritual Exercises in which the goal is a response from the heart. Ignatius says, listen to the language of the heart. This is a cornerstone to the Spiritual Exercises.

IV. A Reflective Spirituality

nature 3 oer woutBench Inviting Reflection. Photo by Oer Wout.

The Examen is a method for detecting God’s presence during the day. The Jesuits believe reflective prayer at mid-day and before retiring to sleep is a core to the Spiritual Exercises.

Examen points by Ignatius:
1. be grateful for God’s Blessings
2. ask for the help of the Holy Spirit
3. review the day and determine where God is present and where God is left out.
4. express sorrow for sin
5. pray for grace

Author’s personal note – I practiced the examen technique after reading the Fleming book. It really is an effective mechanism to review the day and where God played a role. Many things quietly surface that go unnoticed without using the examen. David Fleming S.J. says if we get any one thing out of the Spiritual Exercises it should be the examen.

V. Sin – A Lack of Gratitude

washing Christ at the Home of the Pharisee by Artus Wolffort (b 1581; d 1641)
Washing Christ’s feet at the home of the Pharisee. By Artus Wolffort d 1641.

In his book What is Ignatian Spirituality, David Fleming S.J. says one of the greatest gospel stories about sin and forgiveness is Jesus’ meal at the home of Simon the Pharisee. When the woman of ill repute anoints Jesus feet with tears and fine oil, Jesus explained she had much to be thankful for: “her many sins have been forgiven, hence she has shown great love” (Luke 7:47)

Sin is a failure of gratitude. Sin is also a lack of reverence for God. We sin because we don’t fully grasp what God has done for us.

Even though we reject God, he still blesses us.

We enjoy the bounty of God’s creation, heavens, moon, sun, stars, fruits, birds, fishes and animals. – David Fleming S.J.
bird 2
Watchful Eyes in Nature.

Ignatius says, “If people but knew you, they would never offend you”.

As we mature as followers of Christ, we grow in our sensitivity to sin, yet even sinners can respond to God’s invitation to join him. – David Fleming S.J.

VI. Spiritual Life is a Pilgrimage

wanderer by oer woutPilgrims are people on “a way”.   Photo by Oer Wout.

Ignatius used the third person to describe himself in his autobiography, using the term, “the pilgrim”. Pilgrimage is all about following Jesus. To be a pilgrim, David Fleming S.J. says is “to let ourselves be led by the Lord.”

sailboatboats booth bay meSailboat in motion.

Stay alert for the Holy Spirit. Some are on a spiritual pilgrimage, others stationary. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises outlined a “way of proceeding.”

VII. God Calls, We Respond

RESSURECTION 1Risen Christ by Tony Visco. Station of the Cross at Old St. Joseph’s Church, Philadelphia PA.

Ignatius pictures the risen Christ calling every person to follow him. God takes the initiative. We respond.

The Calling of St. Matthew - Hendrick Terbrugghen, 1621.jpg!BlogThe Calling of St. Matthew by Hendrick Terbrugghen, 1621

Ignatius used the call of Matthew the tax collector as an example of Jesus inviting people to follow him. Jesus said, “Follow me” and Matthew then got up and followed him.

Active passivity captures the characteristic tone of Ignatian Spirituality. The question we seek is “What more does God want of me”? – David Fleming S.J.

Magis loosely means “the greater thing” or “the better thing”. Magis comes from within the Latin phrase Ad majorem Dei gloriam (AMDG) translated means “For the greater glory of God”. St. Ignatius asked himself and those around him, “What have I done for God? What am I doing for God? and, “What more can I do for Him?” – Fr. Dan Ruff S.J.

“More” is the magis of Ignatian Spirituality.

sailboat at sunset2The Light of God. Booth Bay Harbor, Maine

Ignatius says the purpose of Spiritual Exercises is to facilitate the movement of God’s grace within us “so the light and love of God inflame all possible decisions and resolutions about life situations.”

VIII. God Communicates in Many Ways

Our God is a “media God”. Ignatius liked the theater and was media savy for his day, having put in the first printing press. God is media savy as well.

God’s voice is usually quiet, like Elijah said, “a tiny whispering sound”.

journey-of-the-magi james tissot 1894Journey of the Magis by James Tissot 1894.

God talked to the Magis and they followed.

adoration-of-the-magi-1619 peter paul rubensIncarnation. Adoration of the Magis by Peter Paul Rubens 1619

The Incarnation is the “media event” for Ignatius where God became human in Jesus Christ, according to David Fleming S.J.

Ignatius used this to show that God is present in his creation and uses all aspects of creation to speak to us.

IX. Prayer is a Conversation

our father imageFinding God in all things.

By “finding” God, means engaging God, meeting him and conversing with him.

According to Ignatius, prayer is a conversation with God, like talking to a good friend. He included conversations with other friends in ministries. To converse is one of the ways of loving.

Prayer takes many forms; mystical, devotional, liturgical and sacred reading. All are included in Ignatius “conversar” meaning to “talk with” or ” to converse” according to David Fleming S.J.

the-lord-s-prayer-1896 james tissot
The Lord’s Prayer by James Tissot 1896.

“Lord teach us to pray”.

prayer-in-the-garden-1459.Andrea MantegnaPrayer in the Garden by Andrea Mantegna 1459

Ignatius developed the Spiritual Exercises including prayer as a conversation after years of study before he was ordained to priesthood.

X. Prayer with Imagination

san-ignatius-1961 XUL SOLAR.jpg!Blog
San Ignatius de Loyola by Xul Solar (Argentinian painter) 1961.

While recovery from a battle injury, a cannonball to the leg, Ignatius read the Life of Christ by Ludolph of Saxony. Here he saw God as the God of Love. The book as Ignatius would have seen it is shown below.

Nativity vita christi ludolph of saxony
Nativity by Ludolph of Saxony from Vita Christi (Life of Christ) read by Ignatius.

Vita Christi (Life of Christ) by Ludolph of Saxony also called Ludolph the Carthusian influenced Ignatius greatly. Ludolph proposes a method of prayer which asks the reader to visualize the events of Christ’s life. A version of this was put into the Spiritual Exercises.

MaryWeaving vita christi ludolph of saxony
Mary weaving with Jesus by Ludolph of Saxony from the book Vita Christi (Life of Christ) which Ignatius studied.

Epiphany Vita Christi Ludolph of Saxony 15th cent
Epiphany by Ludolph of Saxony from Vita Christi (Life of Christ).

They Came and Sat

While meditating on the Mystery
a mild breeze seeps through
the locked front door
as Mary, Jesus and Joseph,
came in and sat.

I dreamed of this encounter,
affirming your image
to ancient paintings
with long brilliant white robes,
yet no human can capture
your supernatural mystique
I see now.

As quickly as you entered,
you left . . .

But the transfer occurred
and I know what you said,
“Stay the course and visit Me.
I will see you every day,
every minute, every second,
for I am always with you.”
– Poem by Shrinetower

Get to know Jesus through our imagination, says Ignatius.

XI. Knowing the Jesus who is Poor.

The Jesuits associate being poor with humility.

John Millais_Christ_in_the_House_of_His_Parents_1849Christ in the House of His Parents (The Carpenter’s Shop), by John Everett Millais 1849

Jesus was a common carpenter, a relatively poor and humble man.

Ignatius joins the poor in begging for alms Peter Paul Rubens (1577 - 1640)Ignatius joins the poor in begging for alms by Peter Paul Rubens (1640)

presentation Our Lady of CzestohowaThe Presentation. Our Lady of Czestochowa National Shrine, Philadelphia PA

Ignatius felt we should experience the gospel stories especially those with travel and human interactions, like The Presentation seen here in life like stone figures from Our Lady of Czestochowa National Shrine.

I Have Nothing
In memory of Irene Gage (d 2011)

Nothing to call her own
she had a knack for asking
for the small conveniences of life
like a coat, slippers,
a grocery shopping bag,
a friend to talk to.

Her heart was open, unpretentious
her suffering visible in her face
she knew her situation;
married to a wheelchair
with a broken hip and the riddled life
of a retirement home – road show.

“I have nothing,” she reiterated daily
among her distant acquaintances.
Visible was her grace with God,
an inner family of two,
then a stray comment to put God first.
Like a squirrel she stored grace acorns
for the trip across the abyss,
where nothing was needed after all.
– Poem by Shrinetower

XII. Sharing in the Mission of Christ

unknownSculpture at Old St. Joesph’s Church.

Jesus takes the initiative. We work alongside Jesus.

Ignatius of Loyola FaceIgnatius of Loyola. Picture resides next to Francis Xavier icon at Old St. Joseph’s Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“Everything we have received is a gift from God. We respond to his love by giving it away, by showing it in a way of serving”. – David Fleming S.J. interpretation of Ignatius Spirituality.

XIII. A Way to Clarify Your Values

nature 6 Behind every tree oerwoutBattle of the Light by Oer Wout.

David Fleming S.J. says it’s the Lucifer Flag vs the Christ Flag, although the lines are not well pronounced. Ignatius talks about good and evil and the battle ensues. Our work vision is to overcome all evil in the world.

taking of christ caravaggio WSJ2Taking of Christ by Amerighi Caravaggio 1602. You are there.

Ignatius suggests we imagine we are in the Passion of Christ. In the Taking of Christ painting, Caravaggio painted himself as a witness, in the far right side with hand raised. Ignatius asks us to place ourselves in the Gospels, as witnesses of the sacred saga.

Delivering Victory

The Spirit of Darkness
despises us in victory,
deliver me
from the hands of our enemy, (1)
deliver me
from the demon Lucifer,
the fallen angel
who attacks relentlessly.
Let’s put up a shield
in the battlefield
so the Evil One doesn’t
get the victory.
(1)  Psalm 35:15
-Poem by ShrineTower

 XIV. Greatest Mark of God’s Love

Peter Paul Rubens, c.1632 The Last Supper by Peter Paul Rubens, c.1632

Everything is a gift from God. In the spiritual exercises of the third week Ignatius wants us to pray around two Gospel passages: the last supper (Matthew 26) and Christ washing the apostles’ feet (John 13), says David Fleming S.J.

The Last Supper, when Jesus gave us his body and blood, is the greatest mark of God’s love, according to David Fleming S.J.

christ-washing-the-feet-of-the-disciples Palo VeroneseChrist washing the feet of the disciples by Palo Veronese 1580s.

Jesus is willing to do whatever it takes.

Francis Xavier and the Cross 2Francis Xavier and The Cross, Old St. Joseph’s Church, Philadelphia PA.

The cross is called Christ’s glory, it is saluted as his triumph. – St. Andrew of Crete

Ignatius asks us to imaginatively come into the presence of Jesus on the Cross. We are with the disciples at the foot of the cross, seeing the face of Christ and what he did in response to sin. We are to consider what Christ did in response to sin.

at manresa vision of Jesus at Mass eter Paul Rubens (1577 - 1640)Ignatius Vision at Mass in Manresa Monastery by Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640).

At Manresa, Ignatius has a vision of seeing Jesus at Mass. In his autobiography (recited in the 3rd person) Ignatius says, “at the elevation of the body of Christ our Lord he beheld, with the eyes of his soul, white rays descended from above … The manner in which our Lord Jesus Christ is present in the Blessed Sacrament was clearly and visibly stamped upon his mind”.

station Jesus taken down from the crossJesus falls by Anthony Visco. Old St. Joesph’s Church, Station of the Cross Sculpture, Philadelphia Pennsylvania.

We experience the pain and agony.

feast at simons
Sinner washing Jesus feet at the home of Simon the Pharisee
by Paolo Veronese 1570

Before Jesus gave the disciples the Eucharist, he washed their feet. We are called to be people who serve. – David Fleming S.J.

Eucharist stained glass window behind altarThe Eucharist. Stained glass window behind altar, Old St. Joseph’s Church, Philadelphia PA.

The Eucharist brings us to the most intimate possible relationship with Christ. The Ignatian way is the way of the heart. The Eucharist shows God to be all heart. – David Fleming S.J.

XV. Seeking the Grace of Compassion

Jesus falls -Stations of the CrossJesus Falls by Anthony Visco. Old St. Joesph’s Church, Station of the Cross Sculpture, Philadelphia Pennsylvania.

Per Ignatius, our graced response to pain is called compassion. We experience the pain and agony.

Ask for the grace “to grieve, be sad and weep” over Jesus suffering. Ignatius wants us to experience it as something fresh and immediate. – David Fleming S.J.

XVI. A Way to Discern God’s Will

Bartolome Esteban Murillo Pauls SanctificationPaul’s Sanctification by Bartolome Esteban Murillo 1665.

Ignatius sites two examples of “first time” decisions, or decisions guided by our heart: the Conversion of the apostle Paul and the call of the tax collector Matthew.

MICHELANGELO conversion of st. paul 2The Conversion of St. Paul by Michelangelo 1545.

As Fr. David Fleming says in the little book we are using this year for our One Book One Parish program, Ignatius “underwent a profound conversion while recuperating from his wounds, but it was not a conversion of the intellect or will… His conversion involved his deepest desires and commitments, that essential center of the personality in which [the human person] stands before God. [Ignatius’] religious practice and intellectual understanding deepened over time, but it was his heart that was transformed.” – From the Pastor series by Fr. Dan Ruff, Old St. Joseph’s Church, Philadelphia PA.

MICHELANGELO conversion of st. paul detailConversion of St. Paul by Michelangelo 1545 – detail

“The heart has it’s reasons of which the mind knows nothing”. – Blaise Pascal 1650’s

Ignatius always envisioned Jesuits and their partners as being “contemplatives in action.” He asked his first companions to reflect and pray in order to detect the presence of God in their lives. Then, through discerning Christ’s call, to carry out His mission through action. – NJN Editor

XVII. Working With Others

Ignatius chooses companions at Paris 1528 - 1535Ignatius Chooses Companions in Paris 1528 by Peter Paul Rubens (1640)

Francis Xavier Friend of Ignatius
Francis Xavier friend of Ignatius
. Old St. Joesph’s Church, Philadelphia Pennsylvania.

Francis Xavier is known as the Apostle of the Indies and patron saint of missionaries. He has been called the greatest missionary since St. Paul.

The first seven Companions pronounce vows at Montmartre 15th August 1534 rubens jesuit instituteThe first seven companions pronounce vows at Montmartre, August 1534 by Peter Paul Rubens (d.1640)

XVIII. Being Helpful

a-storta-romersk-maleri-fra-fc3b8r-1611La Storta Vision by Romersk Maleri 1611.

The dialogue of the Ignatius vision at La Storta outside Rome:

Ignatius sees God the Father and Jesus carrying a cross. “Place me with your son”, pleads Ignatius.

“We will be propitious (favorable) to you in Rome”, replies God the Father.

Then God the Father tells Jesus, “I want you to take this man to serve us”.

The Jesus says to Ignatius, “We want you to serve us”.

As prophetized, when Ignatius went to Rome, the Pope approved the Society of Jesus religious order also known as the Jesuits.

Parable of the Workers in theParable of the workers in the vineyard.Vineyard Cesare Roberti  ca. 1590Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard by Cesare Roberti  1590.

We are partners in Jesus in His work. Ignatius guide to Jesuit service is the image of laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20) where the vineyard is a symbol of God’s world. He said the work of Jesuits is to “help souls”.

laboreres in the vineyard red-vineyards-at-arles-1888 vincent van goghLaborers in the Vineyard by Vincent van Gogh 1888

jesus carrying cross?Jesus Carrying the Cross by Anthony Visco. Located behind the palms at Old St. Joseph’s Church, Philadelphia PA.

XIX. Jesus is All Heart

Sacred Heart at Old St. Joe'sSacred Heart Mosaic Window. Old St. Joseph’s Church – Detail

Jesus is all heart.

The great Suscipe prayer by St. Ignatius of Loyola:

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding, and my entire will –
all that I have and call my own.
You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours, do with it what you will
Give me only your love and your grace. That is enough for me.

Christ's Charge to St. Peter feed m lambs (from the Sistine Chapel) - RaphaelChrist’s charge to St. Peter: Feed my Lambs by Rapael from Cistine Chapel.

Show reverence for all the gifts of God’s creation. These gifts allow us to know God more easily, so we can return that love. We are asked to collaborate with God and care for God’s world. – David Fleming S.J.

Calling_of_the_Apostles_1481 Domenico_GhirlandaioCalling of St. Peter by Domenico Ghirlandaio, Cistine Chapel 1481.

On the left are scenes from the life of Moses, and on the right scenes from the life of Christ. Also with halo is St. Andrew. There is a good chance Ignatius saw this painting on his pilgrimage to Rome.

It’s Jesus work, we just help.

XX. Conclusion – Old St. Joseph’s and Pope Francis

Old St. Joseph’s Church, Philadelphia Pennsylvania – Oldest Catholic Community in US.

The Jesuits founded Old St. Joseph’s Church in 1733 making it the oldest Catholic Church in the nation. Yet, the storied Jesuit missionaries were forced to leave Philadelphia in 1799 due to the suppression of the Society. Philadelphia became a diocese in 1808 and the center of all clergy life was at Old St. Joseph’s. In 1833, after the restoration of the Society of Jesus by the Vatican, the resilient Jesuits took back the patronage of Old St. Joseph’s.

francis drexel closeup
Francis A. Drexel, Patron of Old St. Joseph’s Church.

Francis Drexel, the father of St. Katharine Drexel, was baptized and married at Old St. Joseph’s. He supplied funding to remodel the Church in 1886.

st. Joseph looking up
Apotheosis of St. Joseph. Nave ceiling Old St. Joseph’s, Philadelphia PA.

The present Church is third church built on site. It was only church on east coast where a public Mass could be held legally from 1733 until after American revolution.

“Thus at least two-thirds of the Spiritual Exercises is given over to what I call the Godspell grace – spending time in leisurely contemplation of Jesus’ life in the Gospels, seeking to see him more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly, day by day.” – Fr. Dan Ruff S.J. From the Pastor series, Old St. Joesph’s Church.

Pope Francis smiling
Pope Francis  On God In All Things

“Finding God in all things is not an ‘empirical eureka.’ When we desire to encounter God, we would like to verify him immediately by an empirical method. But you cannot meet God this way. God is found in the gentle breeze perceived by Elijah. The senses that find God are the ones St. Ignatius called spiritual senses. Ignatius asks us to open our spiritual sensitivity to encounter God beyond a purely empirical approach.” – Pope Francis on Ignatian Spirituality

Pope Francis Coat of Arms. Much of the symbology reverts back to Ignatius.

The dark blue shield includes the official seal of the Society of Jesus with the blazing yellow sun and the red letters, IHS, the sign for the name of Jesus. A red cross rises up from the letter H and three black nails rest below. The bottom part of the blue shield is an eight point gold star and a gold flower, which represents Mary and St. Joseph.

The shield is surrounded a papal emblem using a gold key to represent the power in heaven and a silver key to indicate the spiritual authority of the papacy on earth united by a red cord.

Pope Francis’ motto at the bottom of the COA is the Latin phrase “Miserando atque eligendo,” which means “having mercy, he called him” (from St Bede the Venerable). The motto is based on the Gospel account of The Call of St. Matthew, the tax collector.

saile at sunsetWitness to God’s creation.

Anima Christi  by St. Ignatius of Loyola

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
Good Jesus, hear me
Within the wounds, shelter me
from turning away, keep me
From the evil one, protect me
At the hour of my death, call me
Into your presence lead me
to praise you with all your saints
Forever and ever

image of Jesuits
The Jesuit worldwide symbol.

Credits: The Jesuit pastor at Old St. Joseph’s Church, Fr. Dan Ruff, suggested the book What is Ignatian Spirituality? by David L. Fleming, S.J. (Loyola Press 2008) as part of a One Book, One Parish Program for 2014. Much of this post is attributed to the Fleming book. The Old St. Joseph’s From the Pastor series were used as guides. I am a visitor at Old St. Joseph’s. Selected photos by Oer Wout. For a FREE on-line copy of What is Ignatian Spirituality? by David Fleming S.J. go here.

Drawn to the Altar: The Extraordinary Form Mass – Observations (Guest Post)


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Recently, we had the Extraordinary Form Mass, the traditional Latin Mass, celebrated here at Most Blessed Sacrament parish where I am the pastor. While both forms of the Mass are the same in what essentially happens, therefore one is not greater than the other, there is a difference in how it happens.

outside blessed sacrament

Most Blessed Sacrament Church, Bally, Pennsylvania. Founded 1741

Delving into the Mass

From the traditional Latin Mass we can learn much about the nature of the Mass that can help us appreciate what the Mass is when offered in the Ordinary Form. Here are some of the things I observed during the Latin Mass. The first is that the priest leads the people as both face east in prayer.  Our parish plans to look at that in future reflections.


Extraordinary Form Mass or Latin Mass. Photo: Church of St-Michel, Fribourg CH

Another thing I noticed is there are more moments of silence. The priest says many of the prayers in a low voice or even inaudibly. The faithful’s participation is more interior than exterior. To participate the faithful need to know what is happening during the Mass. We can certainly apply this to the Ordinary Form Mass as well. Even though most of the prayers are spoken out loud, how much the better will be the faithful’s participation if aware of the meaning of all the signs and gestures and of the words that are spoken.

Drawn to the Altar

I also observed a greater closeness of the priest with the altar in the Latin Mass. The altar is a symbol of the Lord Himself. As I celebrate the Mass I feel a special closeness with the Altar and this has continued to grow over time. It is hard to express in words, but as a priest I feel drawn to the altar. You may notice that at the Mass in the Ordinary Form, the priest reverences the altar by kissing it at the beginning and end of Mass and also we bow to the altar during the Mass. We may also incense the altar. In the Extraordinary Form, the priest also leans on the altar while saying the words of consecration. It is reminiscent of St. John leaning on the chest of Our Lord during the Last Supper. It is a beautiful symbol of the closeness with the Lord in that moment.

mass blessed sacrement ceiling

“The Last Supper” ceiling painting at Most Blessed Sacrament Church

There is also something beautiful about ascending the three steps up to the altar. In the Scriptures God is so often met on a mountain. The crucifixion was on the Hill of Calvary. The priest going up to the altar of God, reminds us he is going to meet God and offer sacrifice for us.

Communion: The High Point of the Mass

One of the most notable differences between the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms is the rite of Communion. Communion is the high point of the Mass and the Extraordinary Form really emphasizes the sacredness of this moment. Each communicant comes forward and kneels (if physically able) and the priest and assisting server comes to each one. The server places the patten under the communicant’s chin and the priest makes the sign of the cross over the communicant with the Sacred Host and says, in Latin,

May the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul for life everlasting. Amen.

The priest then places the Sacred Host on the communicant’s tongue. How beautiful and truly moving is this manner of receiving Holy Communion! Sadly, I believe, the Ordinary Form, with its communion line, quick prayer, and option to receive in the hand fails to help the faithful grow in devotion to and belief in the real presence of Christ and also fails to express that this is the high point of the Mass. While I believe someday we will return to the Communion Rite of the Extraordinary Form, there are a few things we can do in the Ordinary Form right now to help make this better. We can slow down and take our time receiving Holy Communion. We can make a good and deliberate act of reverence to the Blessed Sacrament. We can make an act of faith before receiving and pray after Mass a prayer of thanksgiving. We’ll look more closely at this in future reflections as well.


The Lamb of God insignia in front of Altar, Most Blessed Sacrament Church

Overall I hope the experience of the Extraordinary Form Mass in our parish will help us to understand and appreciate the Mass more and lead to a deeper love for this, the Lord’s greatest gift to us and our most fitting act of worship. – Peace, Father Adam


Altar, Most Blessed Sacrament Church

Guest Post: This is a guest post by Father Adam Sedar, pastor at Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Bally, Pennsylvania. The text is from a recent bulletin article Father Adam created for his parishioners and agreed to share on this blog. Father Adam’s insights into the Mass are timely especially with increased interest in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

Photo Credits: Most Blessed Sacrament Church photos by ShrineTower
Extraordinary Form Mass at Church of St. – Michel photo; by Saint – Michel College, Fribourg, Switzerland



Guest Post: The Ascension of Our Lord in Catholic Art


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Enluminure: The Sacramentary of Drogo (800-900 AD), one of the gospel illustrated manuscripts from the Carolingian Revival.

The Ascension is one of the most central elements of the Catholic faith, referenced in the Apostles’ Creed. The Resurrection of Jesus and his path to Heaven is intrinsic to His role as Son of God. Jesus ascended 40 days after the Resurrection, and it is one of the most important dates in the Church calendar after Holy Week and Christmas. This year Ascension Thursday is May 25th, a holy day.

Since the teachings of the Church revolve around particular aspects of Jesus’ life and teachings (as well as broader concepts in Catholic theology), especially His eternal life, His dying for our sins, life after death and the victory of good over evil, the Ascension has gained a principal place in the minds of the faithful down throughout the centuries.

In times of hardship, Catholics have looked to the Ascension as an example of the promise of eternal salvation. This has rung true since the early days of the Church, through the Middle Ages to the modern era, when many Catholic communities faced persecution and hardship.

As a result, there is a particularly rich body of Catholic art celebrating the Ascension. The relevance of the Ascension, along with the artistic history of the Church and its followers, makes the Ascension one of the most common themes seen in the corpus of Catholic art. Several of the most famous Catholic artists, especially during the Renaissance period, created inspiring works enjoyed not only by those interested in art but by any of the faithful, especially around the joyous period following Easter.

Other Mediums

Interestingly, other persons in the history of the Church have been depicted in their Ascension, such as Saint John and, of course, the Assumption of Mary. Also, several mediums aside from paintings have been used, notably sculpture, engravings and icons. The types of scenes depicted also vary, and all schools of art have produced works on the topic since about 300 A.D.

Giotto Scrovegni 38 Ascension

Giotto di Bondone “The Ascension” c.1305 located at Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy

Types of Works

The two main types of works produced can typically be classed as relating to either the earthly perspective of the Ascension or the arrival of Jesus in heaven itself. From the earthly perspective, it is interesting that most scenes depict a broad range of figures in the Church, even those that would not have been there to witness it (such as Paul, who was not a Christian at the time of the Ascension, and Mary, who was not believed to have been present). Artists did this to emphasize the importance of Jesus’ ascension applied to all of Christ’s followers, not just those who were present.

In many works, there are symbolic depictions of Jesus common in other portrayed scenes of his life. However, these characteristics became particularly relevant and widespread in Ascension portrayals.

This level of standardization across Ascension scenes is notable for those with an interest in comparative art, since the small differences but many similarities between works can inform us about details of the period when they were produced or the opinions of the artists. As an extreme example, if you compare the Ascension in Catholic versus Eastern Orthodox art, you will note the Eastern tradition always has Mary present, which reflects their belief that Mary was there when Jesus ascended.

There are small details of the Ascension that vary from work to work that can provide interesting comparisons. For example, after the Renaissance, the angels are often not part of the image in most cases, whereas earlier, including angels was considered mandatory.

In the post-Renaissance era, Christ is alternatively shown with a banner in his right hand, or using it to make a blessing. In his left hand, he might have a parchment, scroll or Gospel. The action of the right hand is commonly interpreted to mean that he is blessing the entire community of believers, while the book or scroll he holds in his left represents the need to spread the word of the Lord.

Other details of the Ascension scene have changed significantly over the centuries. It was only starting around the 4th century that the Ascension becomes popular in Christian art. Until then, Jesus’ miracles were much more common material for artistic representation.

The same can be said for the Crucifixion, which was even less commonly depicted than the Ascension. Scholars believe that it may have been due to the many theological conferences and debates between 300 AD and 450 AD that caused the change in art. The turmoil regarding the difference among the various churches throughout the then known world brought Ascension scenes to the forefront as a means to help unify the Church.

Whatever the reason, after this time, it became one of the most popular scenes. In many cases, the artist includes a mountain with the Hand of God aiding Jesus in His ascent.

His feet visible through the clouds is a common element, along with His footprints in rocks along the mountains. The Ascension is commonly held to have taken place on the Mount of Olives near present-day Bethany.

The Ascension has been depicted in many manuscripts, especially in the period of 700-1500, in many reliefs commonly up until around 800 (including the first known depiction of the scene), and of course, the many paintings included painted scenes on church domes.


Andrea Mantegna “The Ascension” 1461 Florence, Italy

Northern Europe

Works by Giotto, Mantegna and Garofalo are among the most famous Ascension works. Given that Northern Europe was mainly Protestant after the 15th century and the Reformation, there are fewer works from artists in those countries.

However, in earlier times, there was a common theme in Northern Europe of depicting the feet of Jesus, extending from the clouds while he is on his way to heaven.

Final Thoughts

The Ascension, along with the events of Holy Week, is a good time for reflection for Catholics. This is not only because of the amount of art that exists that can help the faithful gain a better sense of the significance of the event, but also because it contains many components that are central to the faith and comes at the end of the most important time of year for Catholics: the challenges of Lent and the contemplative events of Holy Week.

Catholics understand that the Ascension is a crucial part of our faith. We are fortunate there is such a rich body of art celebrating the event. Ascension art strikes a good balance with the more somber scenes of crucifixion and Via Dolorosa (the road Jesus walked through Jerusalem to on His way to the crucifixion).

The works of some of the greatest artists in history are dedicated to helping us celebrate the important role of the Ascension in Catholic belief. This offers an excellent opportunity to learn more about our faith, in addition to gaining a deeper appreciation of Church art.

Guest Post:
Megan Dahle is a Catholic blogger and internet retailer at DiscountCatholicProducts.com. Her writing emphasizes prayer life, traditions and forms of worship. This is Megan’s second post on the ShrineTower blog.

Enamored with The Holy Mass – My Favorite Parts


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last supper 15

The Last Supper by Bouveret 1896

The Lord has done great things, and leaving us with the Holy Mass ranks up there with creating the universe, creating life and writing the scriptures. In each Mass offered in the world, Jesus comes down from Heaven to be present in us. As mere mortals we partake in the Mass, knowing a mystery is occurring but our soul probably sees what our minds cannot.

There is a lot going on in the Mass. If you look at the source of who’s talking, the direction or target of the communication, it covers a large number of people and heavenly spirits. There’s thanksgiving, offerings, prayers, statements of purpose and addresses. My focus is on the parts of the Mass that standout for me personally, not trying to set one part of the liturgy above the others. It’s actually quite complex when analyzed.

Of course with 2,000 years of edits, clarification and tender loving inputs, it truly is Gods gift to mankind. With the thrones of angels and saints present and God speaking through the bible readings, the Mass is a celebration of epic spiritual proportions.

1. The Seen and Partly Seen are Present

holy mass cover best 1

We enter the Mass in the company of others all around us; saints, souls, God and of course . . . people.  Maybe the non visible participants are tougher to acknowledge, but over time you can tell they are there, we are told they are there and if we listen, we know God is there, for he said “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I” (Matthew 18:20). And the people you see face to face with the newly design churches, they are our neighbors and friends.

Entering the Mass with an open mind and heart, you sense there is something special going on here, there is an order involved and there is a story being told and a certain spiritual presence felt. By acknowledging those participating in the Mass, seen and unseen, we are in essence communicating and praying with them to God.

2. Sacred Art Abounds: God Speaks, Artist Listens, We Benefit and Engage

overview blessed sacrament

Most Blessed Sacrament Church, Bally PA, founded in 1741. Photo: @shrinetower

When entering the Church, I’d be remiss not to acknowledge those beings represented in the icons, stained glass windows and sculptures of the physical space.  Acknowledging and praying with the patrons of the church is the courteous thing to do. We are in their spiritual space. So we can acknowledge the saints we see in the art; and the saints we don’t see, but want to invite to participate. Asking these heavenly bodies to bring our offering requests to the front of the altar personalizes and maximizes the benefits we receive from the Holy Mass.

Basil the Great Mass

St. Basil the Great Chapel, Kimberton PA. Built circa 2005. Nothing but love here.

The Holy Mass at a small country chapel is where we begin. Shown are two Guardian Angels (St. Raphael and St. Michael) guarding the Tabernacle; above is a YHVH window “I Am” in Byzantine style based on a 4th century icon. Saint Basil and Saint Macrina, the patrons, are on each side.

St. Basil the Great Church and Chapel, Fr. Gary Pacitti; presider and pastor; Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, ninth Archbishop of Philadelphia. Wall icons in the chapel by Russian iconographer Niko Chocheli .

Sacred art in a sacred place; Santa Rosa Catholic Church, San Fernando CA. Top: This is my body… this is my blood by Lalo Garcia.

3. The Bible Embedded in the Mass: God Talking to Us


Saint John’s Bible. Calligrapher Donald Jackson produced a hand-written, hand-illuminated Bible using parchment and quill. I have a copy that I treasure.

The Mass does not change in structure yet the content of the readings changes by religious calendar, including Holy Days, saint feast days and memorials. At each Mass, the Old Testament and the associated New Testament is read aloud, or in Eastern Catholic rite’s Divine Liturgy sung aloud, making the Mass invigorating, slipstream new and one of God’s ways of talking to us.

The variety of teachings we get from the Liturgy of the Word readings makes us think, meditate, ponder and witness the Last Supper. Mass readings can be found at USCCB and/or the free app Laudate.



Scott Hahn, in his book, Reasons to Believe, says that the Mass is the Church’s fulfillment of an explicit command of Jesus, recorded in the Gospel and in St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (11:23-25):

“For I received from the Lord what I handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in memory of me.’

In the same way, he took the cup saying, ‘this cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

4. Ringing the Bells: Signal to the Faithful (a miracle is taking place)

padre pio at Mass 2

Mystic St. Padre Pio; Elevation of the Host at the Holy Mass. I’m sure bells were ringing!

The ringing of the bells at consecration is steeped in centuries of tradition. The bell ringing is optional today, yet in the middle ages when one could not hear or see parts of the Mass, the bells signified the consecration, the raising of the host and the raising of the chalice to the congregation. In a large cathedral, the bell ringing would have been a functional necessity. Also, the bells signified the larger tower bells be rung, signifying to the world, a miracle is taking place!


Crepuscular rays Saint Peter’s Basilica, built 1596-1625 Vatican City. Bells were ringing here.

In today’s world, the ringing of the bells shows reverence to that part of the Mass.  It’s a special feeling with the gifts raised and a good place to shift to an adulation prayer, like the Jesus Prayer.

holy spirit

Holy Spirit

The first ringing of the bells is during the The Eucharistic Prayer with the Epiclesis, an invocation calling upon the Holy Spirit to bless the offerings of bread and wine.  This section was modified in 2011 and the new updated Roman Missal, and now packs a powerhouse prayer with “send down your spirit like the dewfall”. Sacred poetry at it’s best. The full verse the priest says at consecration with hands extended over the chalice and paten are:

Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

open my lips

Illustration by Martin Erspamer OSB

The process of the Mass is such that water and wine are turned into the body and blood of Christ, or consecrated, so he is truly present in the Eucharist. This substance change process is key and is called transubstantiation.

typical cathedral phila

Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Eastern Catholic Church 2016

The bible reference: “truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink “(John 6:53-55).

With the elevation of the host is the second ringing of the bells:

Take this all of you and eat of it, for this is my Body, which will be given up for you.

I like this prayer since the priest starts in the third person, “At the time he was betrayed and entered willingly into his passion…”, and then the priest switches into the first person, “take this all of you and eat of it…” representing Jesus Christ.

chalice and host

As Ray Takacs of St. Agnes Church in Irwin PA says, “When I first realized this shift in speaking from third to first person, I was utterly amazed to realize that Jesus is speaking to us through the priest, just as he spoke to the Apostles at the Last Supper over 2000 years ago!”

Walking with them  Jesus explained the Scriptures; sitting with them at table “he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.” Christ is present in each Mass.

The third ringing of the bells is the raising of the chalice:

Take this all of you and eat of it, for this is my Blood, the blood of the new and everlasting convent, which will be given up for you.

Padre Pio at Mass

St. Padre Pio, presider Holy Mass

St. John Chrysostom declares:

It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God’s. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered.

A side note: an opportunity exists to be an adult alter server in the mass, especially when no school is involved and it’s a daily Mass. I remember being asked to serve one morning, after an initial hesitation, I accepted. It was a day of significant realization of the power and glory of the Mass, and the day I became an altar server. It does take some getting used to, but being close to the altar and ringing the bells is enlightening. As the Eastern Catholics say in the Mass, “be attentive”, you never know when you will be asked to serve.

5. Sacred Poetry in the Oration Prayers

The Oration Prayers are some my favorite prayers in the Mass and include: The Collect, The Prayer over Offerings, The Prayer after Communion.

The Collect

An oration prayer is said by the priest alone. The collect or opening prayer is part of the Introductory rite.  Here is a collect from St. Mark’s feast day:

“O God, who raised up Saint Mark, your Evangelist,
and endowed him with the grace to preach the Gospel,
grant, we pray,
that we may so profit from his teaching
as to follow faithfully in the footsteps of Christ.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.”

The collect is a unique short prayer, referencing the first reading and the Saint of the Day or an event. It is found in the Roman Missal, which is the sacred book used by the priest during The Holy Mass at the altar. Some of the nicest prayers in the world are there.

The Oration Prayers in the Roman Missal.

During a seminar, the monks at our local Abbey showed us how the collect is created based on the first reading, typically from the Old Testament. We then created our own collect and shared with the classmates! What a great experience to delve into how the Mass verbiage is created. So much depth and so beautiful. Here is a short collect I created in this class:

O Most High,
Dwell in our hearts so that we
May answer “yes” to
Your Call to Holiness.

An entire blog of collects was created by BlueStone blogger. For each day of the year she created a collect. She shares her method,  “the verses are arranged in trios, all in harmony with an image of Christ, followed by a prayer consisting of five elements found in church liturgy known as “collects”:  the address, the doctrine, the petition, the aspiration and the pleading.” What a site by this collect writer!

Prayer Over the Offerings

Lamb of god 2 medieveal

“Adoration of the Lamb” by Jan Van Eyck 1432 Ghent Alterpiece. Detail: The red altar where the lamb stands reads, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world” and “Jesus the way, the truth, and the life”, both quotes from Gospel of John. In this image and in the book of Revelation the Lamb is Jesus. Directly around the Lamb on the altar are angels who are carrying the instruments in the Passion scenes, like the cross and crown of thorns. More detail here.

The Prayer over the Offerings from the Liturgy of the Eucharist changes daily and is intoned by the priest over the offerings of bread and wine usually brought to the altar by the people. The prayer is sung (or read) by the priest after the people say “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for our good and the good of all His Holy Church”. Here is the unique Prayer over Offerings from the May 11th Mass taken from the Roman Missal. (Sample)

May our prayers rise up to you, O Lord,
together with your sacrificial offerings,
so that purified by your graciousness,
we may be conformed by the mysteries of your mighty love.
Through Christ our Lord.

At the Offertory, our petitions for families and friends, living and passed, and offerings for peace in the world are carried by angels to the Altar of the Lord. (Catalina Rivas)

Prayer After Communion

mass with people

The Prayer after Communion is from the Communion rite of the Mass after the people have received Holy Communion. The priest starts, saying “Let us pray”, and then says the Prayer after Communion.

An example of the Prayer after Communion from the Roman Missal for May 11th (Sample):

Almighty ever-living God
who restore us to eternal life
in the Resurrection of Christ,
increase in us, we pray, the fruits of this paschal Sacrament
and pour into our hearts the strength of this saving food.
Through Christ our Lord.

6. The Power Statement

three lights upper pantocrator

“For the kingdom, power and glory are yours now and forever.” (MT6:13)

My favorite statement, “kingdom, power and glory…” said by the congregation after the Our Father in the Communion Rite is so powerful it resonates in each Mass as a way to praise God. By the power of the Holy Spirit and by the power of the words of Christ, the bread and wine have become the body and blood of Christ. Christ is really and mysteriously made present.

lincoln cathedral majestic

Medieval Lincoln Cathedral England, from 1088. Was the tallest building in the world for 238 years (1311–1549). A sign of power.

Rituals and symbols abound in the Mass, and in the Church. Try to look for an icon, or stained glass window and sing praise to the meaning behind the image.

The angels surround and help the priest when he is celebrating Mass. ~ St. Augustine

7. The Invitation to Communion
The Eucharist Source and Summit LTP by Lalo Garcia

The Eucharist Source and Summit LTP by Lalo Garcia

The Invitation to Communion prayer became part of the Mass dogma very recently, in 2011 when the Roman Missal was revised. In Church history timeline it’s brand new! It is the last prayer before receiving communion.

The priest says, “…Blessed are those that are called to the supper of the Lamb”. We are lucky, we are being called by God.

The next words are spoken by the congregation in preparation for the Divine encounter and are stunning, filled with meaning.

Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

This Invitation to Communion prayer is actually a scriptural response spoken by a Roman centurion when he asked Jesus to heal his sick servant in Matthew 8:8. The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

Bread of Life

“Bread of Life Image” by artist Carol Pascale. Twitter @TheBread_OfLife

Mystic Saint Theresa of Jesus (Avila) in her book Interior Castle talks about the different kinds of  rooms inside our souls. “Under my roof” is where the soul resides with God, within our soul and being.

When we receive Holy Communion, Heaven is opened to us and we are in the presence of God in all His magnificence. And because God is present, all of Heaven – Mary, the angels and all the saints – are present as well. I like to think that for a brief moment, a window has opened up to heaven and all present at Mass are united with each other and with everyone in heaven.
from Unraveling the Mysteries of Holy Mass: Part 6 – St. Agnes Church

What miracles of miracles! If the angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason – Holy Communion!

– Quote from St. Maximillian Kolbe

catalina rivas

Catalina Rivas of Mexico, apparently received messages from Jesus and Mary related to the Mass. Imprimatur from local Bishop.

At the time to receive Communion, Jesus spoke to Catalina, “The Last Supper was the moment of the greatest intimacy with my own. In establishing the Eucharist, I made myself a prisoner of love, to remain with you until the end of the world and not leave you as orphans.” As the priest prayed the Prayer after Communion, Jesus continued, “I have died for love and I am risen. For love, I await each of you, and for love I remain with you.”

8. What the Angels Say

There are many references to Angels and what they have said, and one of their renowned statements is captured in the Mass known as the Sanctus:

Holy Holy Holy Lord God of Hosts,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

We find this Angelic song in the bible:

“Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts.” Isaiah 6:3

8And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing, “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” Revelation 4:8

9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Matthew 21:9

“The Sanctus reminds us that all creatures in Heaven and on earth owe thanksgiving to God.” – Ray Takacs, St Agnes Catholic Church, N. Huntingdon, PA

The Ascension by Giotto Scrovegni Chapel

Ascension (with angels) by Giotto 13031305 Scrovegni Chapel in Padua

Thousands of Angels are present at the Mass. Inviting favorite saints and angels to participate in the Mass may sound uncommon, but is a polite and forward gesture.

As St. John Chrysostom says, “the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar.”

Per Catalina Rivas vision: At the preface as the assembly sang “Holy, Holy, Holy”, everything behind the priest disappeared. Then, at the moment of the Consecration, thousands of angels appeared to the priest’s right, dressed in brilliant white robes. On his left, a multitude of the people appeared dressed in multicolored robes. All were singing together with the people. Mary said, “These are the saints of Heaven, among them are the souls of your relatives who already enjoy the presence of God.” Then, Mary appeared to the right and slightly behind the priest. She was suspended above the floor, kneeling with hands folded in prayer. She said, “It surprises you to see me behind the priest. This is how it should be. I have not been given the gift of the priests to be able to perform the Miracle of bringing my Son to the world.”

Catalina said of her vision, “As the priest prayed the words of the Consecration, he grew in stature and became enveloped in brilliant light. Then as he raised the large host the priest took on the features of Jesus, Himself. At that moment, the host began to grow and upon it was the face of Jesus, smiling at all present”. The Virgin Mary said, “This is the miracles of miracles. At the moment of the Consecration, all here are taken to Calvary, at the instant of the Crucifixion.”

teresa ecstasy

St. Teresa Ecstasy

Once, St. Teresa was overwhelmed with God’s goodness and asked Our Lord “How can I thank you?” Our Lord replied, “Attend one Mass.”

overview of immaculate conception cathedral


The power of the Mass is that a group of people are praising God, giving thanks and asking for favors and spiritual gifts. The Gospel passage, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” really stands out here. Matthew 18:20

They say the Mass doesn’t change but people change in their spirituality over the course of a lifetime. I happen to believe this. In the coming years, my favorite sections may be different, as well as yours. Many come back to the Mass. They see the value. They are influenced by the Holy Spirit.

As mentioned, this post is not meant to be all inclusive of the sections of the Mass, and has no relation to importance of each part. It’s only my favorite parts where I get extra feeling and happiness out of the Mass in singing the praises to God. I am sure if you go to Mass or plan on going, or have gone in the past, you may have favorite parts as well.

Quite possibly, when our time is done, we will be rewarded by witnessing every Mass we attended and actually seeing the Angels and Saints around the priest giving praise to God!


Give Us This Day – Daily Prayer Guide specific to the Mass
Most Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church, Bally PA
St Basil the Great Parish, Kimberton PA
Catalina Rivas, of Merida, Mexico. Although she has an imprimatur of the local Bishop, there is no ruling from the Vatican.  Her writings are summarized in her book, “Live…The Holy Mass”.

Guest Post: Saint Michael the Archangel, Patron Saint of Police Officers


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St. Michael the Archangel by Ludovico Gimignani (1643-1697) Rome, Italy

As the leader of the Heavenly Hosts against Satan, prayers to Saint Michael the Archangel have been a source of comfort for Catholics since the early days of the Church. In fact, he plays a significant role in both the Old and New Testaments, and was also a popular figure among Jews in the era pre-Christ.

Archangel saints play a major role in Catholic teaching. Although the exact number of archangels is open to interpretation, there are only three who are mentioned frequently in the Bible. They are Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. The Church does not place emphasis on the archangel classification, although the archangels are the best known of all angels.

The heavenly host of angels is often described in military terms, which is fitting as Saint Michael is associated with action and protection, fighting Satan for the good of mankind and God. His patronage reflects this—he is Guardian of the Vatican City and patron saint of police, the military, mariners and firefighters, among others.

The many references to Saint Michael in the Bible are also in keeping with this theme. In the book of Daniel (Daniel 12:1), he is mentioned as a protector of Israel, he defeats Satan in the Epistle of Jude (Jude 1:9), and he is mentioned again in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians (Thessalonians 4:16).

His feats are often likened and claimed to have inspired the deeds of the military saints in Catholic theology, such as Saint George, Saint Gereon and Saint Martin of Tours. The story of Saint George slaying the dragon has similar themes to Saint Michael’s fight with Satan, commonly likened to being a serpent.

Significance of Saint Michael

This image of Saint Michael, as a protector of the faith willing to go in harm’s way for the plight of mankind, is one of the reasons many Catholics pray for his intercession during challenging times. This is of particular relevance to those in dangerous professions. He is associated with many events of gravitas in the life of a Catholic, such as being the angel to escort the faithful to heaven.

st michael prayer

A good example of the centrality of Saint Michael as a diligent and combative defender of the faith relates to the composition of the main prayer to him. Sometime around 1880, Pope Leo XIII had a vision of a terrible exchange between the devil and God. According to several sources, he subsequently created the prayer to Saint Michael as a way to ask for Michael’s intercession in times of peril.

While the Church has never confirmed that the vision indeed occurred, the prayer still stands as an example of the significance the Church places on the role of Saint Michael as a protecting and policing force.

Some lines of the prayer resonate strongly with those in law enforcement:

Saint Michael the Archangel,
Defend us in battle,
Be our protection against the wickedness
and snares of the devil


Cast into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits

Patron Saint of Police


His status as the patron saint of police officers is very well known, which parallels this emphasis on his patronage of those working in dangerous occupations and those members of military or martial professions. The NYPD and other police departments consider him the unofficial patron saint. Many police events are named after him around America.

Part of the appeal of prayers to Saint Michael is that he experienced many of the same tribulations as policemen. His courage was tested when combating those who sought to do harm to the faithful. Prayers, icons and medals to Saint Michael often reference the hardship faced by those who put their lives in danger daily.

Police officers, more than those in other professions, can benefit from patronage, such as that of Saint Michael. Not only are they at risk every day, but the pressures of the job can take a toll on their personal lives.

At work or at home, a strong faith to call upon and a sense of the challenges overcome by a patron saint, such as Michael, can bring about further resolve and presence of mind. Taxing and hectic jobs can sometimes make people lose touch with what is actually important like God, faith and family, so it’s also good that the prayers to Saint Michael mention the goal of protecting what is best to keep one’s spirits high during difficult times.


A St. Michael necklace or medal is a traditional token of faith for Catholics, whether or not they are in law enforcement. Saint Michael’s necklace is a good way to keep in touch with your faith as a source of strength during stressful times.

The Church teaches that while medals and necklaces should not be emphasized as a talisman or seen as a holy artifact, they are certainly a valuable way to remind one of the Church and its teaching to strengthen one’s faith. Saint Michael medals often portray the saint with a sword, clad in armor, brandishing the banner and standard of the Lord.


Saint Michael in Art

Saint Michael is typically portrayed in art confronting Satan. There are many such works by the most famous artists in history, including Raphael, Michelangelo and Rubens.

These paintings and sculptures have a very dramatic setting, depicting Saint Michael’s defense of heaven, casting the Devil from into the abyss or pinning him to the ground underfoot. He often strikes a commanding pose, with a shield and a formidable sword.

Final Thoughts

It is fitting that police officers have the patronage of such a high-ranking angel who protects the faithful and was at the forefront of the defense of Heaven itself. Medals and art commemorating this link between the person of Saint Michael and martial professions have been a source of faith for Catholics for centuries. Catholics in the policing profession can fortunately take solace in the knowledge that the chief of all angels is provided as an example to follow of how to confront adversaries in the name of good.

Guest Post:
Megan Dahle is a Catholic blogger and internet retailer at DiscountCatholicProducts.com. Her writing emphasizes prayer life, traditions and forms of worship. Megan likes giving reinforcement to live bravely as a Catholic.


Saint John Paul II Canonization Day


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Saint John paul II

Saint John Paul II, The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Philadelphia Pennsylvania.

Yes, April 27 is the day St. Pope John Paul II was canonized. He attended the Second Vatican Council initiated by Pope John XXIII, who also was canonized on this day.

Born Karl Wojtyla, Pope John Paul was an actor, poet, athlete, playwrite, priest and philosopher.

As Charles Chaput, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia stated: He proved by his life the words of St. Irenaeus that “the glory of God is man fully alive.”

outside with JP2

St. John Paul II visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa on two occasions while a cardinal. Karol Cardinal Wojtyla first visit was in 1969 and again in 1976 while attending the Eucharistic Congress held in Philadelphia. He became the 264th Pope of the Catholic Church two years later in 1978. John Paul II was the first non Italian pope since Pope Adrian VI who died in 1523.

Coat of Arms of Pope John Paul II with the Marian Cross. The Letter M is for Mary, the mother of Jesus, to whom he held strong devotion.

john paul at the door full view

John Paul II created Divine Mercy Sunday which is celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. It is originally based on the devotion to the Divine Mercy that Saint Faustina Kowalska reported as part of her encounter with Jesus.

St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun reported visions and visitations from Jesus and conversations with Him. She could read souls!


John Paul II beatified Sr. Maria Faustina Kowalska on April 18, 1993 and canonized her on April 30, 2000.


St. Paul the Hermit, a strong influence at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa.

The Pauline Fathers, like John Paul II, have a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Their main monastery is in Czestochowa, Poland, where they continue to reside. The Pauline Order received permission from the Holy See to establish a monastery in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, and subsequently built Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine.

upper church 2

In the main church is the Miraculous Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, which was blessed by Pope John XXIII on February 10, 1962, who also became a saint. The Icon of Our Lady hangs behind the altar in the main nave and depicts the Holy Trinity. God the Father, with His arms stretched out like the wings of a large bird, enfolds Jesus Christ and all God’s people. Above them is shown a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit. Below them, a choir of angels, with their golden horns, extol the glory of God.

chapel of divine mercy
The Chapel of Divine Mercy, within The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Philadelphia Pennsylvania. John Paul II died on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, April 2, 2005.

Entrance to the shrine complex.

john paul at the door
Saint John Paul II
Feast day is October 22nd, the anniversary of his inauguration to Pope in 1978.

Revealing the Mystical; St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle


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A Mystical Saint Talks

One tends to reminisce about our own spiritual experiences while reading the Interior Castle and which of the seven mansions described by St. Teresa we may have visited. The book, Interior Castle, is ranked among the top 25 of all time Catholic books. It’s an eerie read. Like any good writer, the Saint appears to talk directly to us, giving little indication of the life or working atmosphere of 16th century Europe from which it was created. It appears relevant today in 2017 as it did in 1577 when the book was released.

an-interior-castle-from-my-viewpointAn impression of a convent or castle in St. Teresa’s time.

Several insights on The Interior Castle:

We are within Him.

St. Teresa says that “God is a very large and beautiful mansion” and since we reside in the mansion any sins we commit are “done in the palace itself, inside God”.

We are inside God’s mansion. This requires meditation to fully understand. Perhaps this is why the book is at times difficult to read, requiring re-reads to fully grasp the message.

God suffers from our misdeeds since we are “his creatures within Himself” (6th mansion.)  A simple eye opening concept.


A mystic writes to us in the future.

More favours hurts.

God gives us “favours” and the more favors we receive, the pain of receiving a favour increases, since we learn more about His greatness, yet we are “being so far and unable to enjoy Him”. This painful desire within the soul, who wants more favours. Yet receiving the favours is not up to us. The soul enjoys the “great delight” at being near to God, but its God who chooses the soul.


St. Teresa of Avila by Lazzarni.

St. Teresa compares the soul as blind and dumb like St. Peter at his conversion (Acts 9:8), preventing him from having any sense of where or how the favour came.


Original manuscript, Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila. (Avila, Spain)

Seeing the Trinity.

“God removes the scales from the eyes of the soul” and reveals the Holy Trinity in all three persons. She saw these three persons and suggests we can too;  one of Substance and one of Power and one of Knowledge; all God alone.

“So what we hold by faith the soul grasps by sight, but nothing seen by the eyes; it’s felt by the body or the soul.”

The Trinity, one of the biggest mysteries of the faith, is explained in the book. This is mind boggling!

cell-of-teresa-of-avila-1Monestary cell of Saint Teresa.

Understanding the Trinity.

The Saint says, “All three Persons communicate Themselves to the soul and speaking to the soul and explaining to it those words which the Gospel attributes to the Lord, namely, that He and the Father and the Holy Spirit will come to dwell in a soul which loves Him and keeps His commandments.”

She references  the Gospel as a means to understand the Trinity, which is probably a good tip.


Artist Kuba Ambrose’s The Interior Castle was inspired by the Saint’s book. Used by permission.

Heaven observation.

“Our Lord brings the soul into this Mansion (7th) of His, which is the center of the soul itself, for they say the empyrean heaven, where Our Lord is, does not move like the other heavens.” Praise his name and “make every effort to serve a Lord who will give us a reward in Heaven.”

I’ve read about these multiple Heavens before, possibly it was in the Gospel, the Book of Revelations. This needs more investigation.

What if we, individually, captured all the questions that puzzle us in our life; in this world; in nature; and document it, to be answered in Heaven, as our reward for getting there. Like, what causes cancer, what miracles weren’t recorded, how close were we to death. More later…

St. Teresa of Avila also know as St. Teresa de Jesus. She wrote the Interior Castles under God’s direction and her superiors when she was 62 years old.

A Mystic Poet as well

Poetry is another way to explain mysticism. Here is St. Teresa’s most famous poem written after coming out of the ecstasy at Salamanca. There are several translations, this one by Megan Don.

I Live Without Living In Me

by Teresa of Avila

English version by Megan Don
Original Language Spanish

I live without living in me,
and I expect a life so high,
that I die because I do not die.

I live already beside myself
since I am dying of love;
because I live in Him,
who wanted me for Himself:
when I gave my heart to Him
He placed this sign in it,
that I die because I do not die.

This divine prison,
the love in which I’m living,
has made God my captive,
and my heart free;
causing in me such passion,
to see God, my prisoner,
That I die because I do not die.

Oh, how long is this life!
How hard this exile,
this prison, these chains
which my soul has entered!
Just waiting to get free
causes me so much fierce pain,
that I die because I do not die.

Ah! so much bitterness in this life
without God as my lover!
Because if to be in love is sweet,
to wait so long is not:
take this burden God,
heavier than steel,
that I die because I do not die.

Trusting in You alone, I only live
because I know I’ll die
because in death I know
that I will live;
death, where I’ll find life
do not be slow, it is you I wait for,
that I die because I do not die.

You see how strong love is;
life, do not hinder me,
you see, all I need do to gain you
is to lose you.
Come on already sweet death
come quickly death
that I die because I do not die.

That life above,
that is the true life,
until this life dies
nothing can be enjoyed in living
death, don’t be coy;
let me live by dying first,
that I die because I do not die.

Life, what can I give
to my God who lives in me?
In losing you,
then I am worthy of gaining Him.
I want to reach Him by dying,
Since I love my lover so,
that I die because I do not die.

Avila, Spain. Home of St. Teresa of Avila


The blog, Teresa of Avila Turns 500 discusses the topic We are within Him in the post “God’s Presence: Part Two”. This blog, several years in the making, is a structured study of the book, helpful for anyone interested in gaining insights and understanding the depth at which St. Teresa describes her experiences, influenced directly from God.

The audio book of The Interior Castle is here.

The ebook of The Interior Castle is here.