Sacred Path to the Summit of Mt. Carmel with John of the Cross and Teresa of Jesus

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I followed John of the Cross
and Teresa of Jesus
inside the Carmelite Monastery,
seeing their pleasant ways
I ran up the mountain’s
sacred path
seeking The Almighty God
reaching for the
Summit of Mt. Carmel.
– Shrinetower

I. Spiritual Guides: St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross

Opening Prayer: Love and honor to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, to Saint Joseph, Saint Anne, to our Holy Mother Saint Teresa, to our Holy Father Saint John of the Cross, whose powerful intercessions we invoke that the spirit of prayer, penance and apostolic zeal may flourish in the community. Amen

Sanctuary at Philadelphia Carmel

The Triumphal arch, with crucifix suspended, inspired by the crucifix of Fra Innocenzo de Palermo (1637) in the Church of San Damiano, Assisi. – Holy Spirit Chapel Sanctuary at Philadelphia Carmel. Photo courtesy of Friends of Carmel Pinterest.

The origins of Triumphal arch comes from the Roman era when captives were led under an arch to symbolize their submission to the authority of Rome. In later centuries the liturgical procession through the triumphal arch symbolizes Christians, as captives of Christ, being lead to the Kingdom of Heaven. The sacred space of the Sanctuary represents the Kingdom of Heaven.

teresa of Avila medallion
The round medallion of Teresa of Jesus (Ávila) as she looks upward on the altar terra cotta wall over the cloister grilles of the Sanctuary. Her feast is celebrated by the Discalced Carmelite Order on October 15.

john of the cross medallion
The round medallion of John of the Cross, with the Christ on the Cross in his arms on the altar terra cotta wall over the cloister grilles of the Sanctuary. His feast is celebrated by the Discalced Carmelite Order on December 14.

II. The Sanctuary Mosaic

altar mosaic 2

The Sanctuary of the Holy Spirit Chapel; the heart, joy and beauty of Mount Carmel – Detail

From left to right, Teresa of Jesus; the sanctuary doors with the Cross; St. Elisha with hand reaching to the Lamb of God, reaching for the summit of Mt. Carmel; where the Prophet Elijah rides a chariot on the wings of a cloud. The Holy Spirit is in winged flight above St. Teresa who is in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

The images of the Sanctuary mosaic express the reality of divine love in the charism of Carmel. It is love revealed by God in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New, a love that en-kindles our hearts and transforms them. Ultimately this transformation enables one to enter, body and soul into full union with God. Horizontal and spatial concepts of the mosaic echo passages of time in the Old and New Testament history of the Carmelite Order. – The Chapel of the Holy Spirit booklet, Mount Carmel Philadelphia

Symbolic images in the mosaic are:

Fire
Fire symbolizes divine love.
– St John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle 39:14, St. Teresa of Jesus Life 30:20

Fire and Water
Oh, God help me, what marvels there are in this greater en-kindling of fire by water. The water does not impede the fire though it’s the fire’s contrary, but rather makes its fire increase! – St. Teresa of Jesus, The Way of Perfection 19:3

These lamps of fire are living waters of the spirit…although it is fire, it is also water.
– St. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love Stanza 3, #8

Chariot of Fire
in Christian art, St. Elijah is carried into heaven on a chariot of fire, a symbol of Christ’s Ascension. In the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, Christ himself is referred to by the Father as a fiery chariot.Prophet Elijah in chariot
St. Elijah en-route to Heaven “You make the clouds your chariot, traveling on the wings of the wind. You make the winds your messengers, flaming fire your ministers.” Psalm 104:3-4

Elijah the Prophet is called the founder of the Carmelite ideal. There are two accounts of him being taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2:1-12 and Sirach 48:9). His feast is celebrated by the Carmelite Order on July 20.

The Holy Spirit (Dove)
The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Sanctifier, the living Flame of Love. – Romans 5:5

teresa spirit lamb

St. Teresa of Jesus
St.Teresa of Jesus (1515-1582), the foundress of the reformed Carmel (Discalced Carmelites) is portrayed on the mosaic in Adoration of the Eucharist. In her spiritual writings one finds frequent images of fire and water. The Carmelites celebrate her memory on October 15.

The Lamb of God and the Eucharist
Fulfillment is found in Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the sacrificial lamb of god, who gave himself for the life of the world. His sacrifice is perpetuated in the Eucharist. From this divine reality the graces symbolized by the fire and the water are sought and obtained. Mt. 26;26-29; 1 John 5:6-8; Rev:5:6-14

Elisha and Teresa reaching
St. Elisha (hand raised)

St. Elisha (c. 840 BC) was the first disciple of St. Elijah. He was the leader of the prophets on Mt. Carmel.  The Carmelite Order celebrates his memory on June 14.

altar

Under the altar in Latin: Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto
meaning Glory [be] to the Father.

III. The Repository Doors

repository doors
Between Elisha and Teresa of Jesus, with the Cross and triangle superimposed, are the bronze Repository Doors.

repository doors sketch
The Repository Doors Schematic Diagram. – from The Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Mount Carmel, Philadelphia (Booklet)

The symbols that are employed on the doors shows St. Teresa’s image of the Interior Castle, her guide to union with God. They are:

Door
“The door of entry to this castle is prayer and reflection.” – St. Teresa of Jesus, Interior Castle I:i,#7

Castle
The castle is the image of the soul: We consider our soul to be like a castle made entirely out of a diamond or of a very clear crystal in which there are many rooms, just as in heaven there are many dwelling places. – St. Teresa of Jesus, Interior Castle

The soul of the just person is nothing else than a paradise where the Lord says He finds His delight. I do not find anything comparable to the magnificent beauty of a soul and its marvelous capacity. – St. Teresa of Jesus, Interior Castle I:i, #1

Triangle
The triangle is the symbol of the Most Holy Trinity dwelling in the center of the soul.

cross schematicThe soul of the just person is a paradise where the Lord says He finds His delight. – St. Teresa, Interior Castle

Cross
The Cross is the symbol of the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s passion, Death and Resurrection.

Blood and Water
Blood and water flowed out of our Redeemer on the Cross. The Doctors of the Church interpret this to mean that from the pierced Heart of the Son, God the Father pours out through the Holy Spirit, the saving graces of the Church’s Sacraments.

Then the angel showed me the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal clear down the middle of the city street. – Revelation 22:1-2

Jesus Christ who came by water and blood, not with water only, but with water and blood. – 1 John 5:6

Center Room of the Castle
The castle has many dwelling places. Located at the center, is the abode of the most Blessed Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

shellShell
The shell is a symbol of Baptism, the sacrament of initiation to the divine life.

 IV. Blessed Virgin Mary

our lady w spirit 14
Discalced Carmelites are known for their deep devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, dwells with the Holy Trinity in the most profound union, supreme above all creatures, beloved Daughter of the Father, mother of the Son, Spouse of the Holy Spirit Mediatrix of all Graces.  – Mt. Carmel prayer

V. Seal of Mount Carmel (Coat of Arms)

Carmelite coat of armsDiscalced Carmelite Order (OCD) Coat of Arms plaque, located on balcony in front of  Hook and Hastings organ at the Holy Spirit Chapel, Philadelphia Carmel.

organ
Coat of Arms plaque in context within Holy Spirit Chapel.

The coat of arms is a roadmap to the background and religious beliefs of the Discalced Carmelite Order. There are multiple levels of meaning and symbolism of the Seal of Mount Carmel acquired over the centuries.

The Shield of Carmel

In the center of the seal is Mount Carmel, cradle of the Carmelite Order, and the star in the mountain refers to the Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The two stars above are the prophets Elijah and Elisha.

Mount Carmel is the Carmelite’s place of origin located in modern day Haifa, Israel. In the 9th century BC the prophet Elijah lived there and had a profound experience of God. In that same place in the early 12th century some hermits, inspired by the memory of Elijah, gathered there, with a desire “to live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ” (Rule of St. Albert).

cross on teh summit high defThe cross on the summit of the mountain was added in the 16th Century by St. John of the Cross as a distinctive mark of the Discalced Carmelites (OCD) branch of the Carmelites. There is no cross for the Order of Carmelites. (O.Carm.)

The colors are the brown of the mountain and the white of the skies. Brown is the color of earth. White is the reflection of light. It is the color associated with the tunic of Christ at the resurrection, the transfiguration.

On this particular shield, there are three, eight pointed stars. The number three has numerous symbolic meanings; the Triune God in unity of three divine persons: Father, Son and the Holy Spirit; the three virtues of faith, hope and love; and three monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

The three stars also represent the three great epochs in the history of Carmel; the first, or prophetic era, represented by the star inside the mountain, denotes the time of the prophet Elijah to the time of St. John the Baptist; the second indicates the era of those hermits living on Mount Carmel before the arrival of the Latin Crusaders; and the third signifies the present epoch spanning from the first Carmelite community living under the Rule of St. Albert until the end of time.

A deeper meaning of the stars is that they stand as a remembrance to the members of the Carmelite order. The star inside the mountain represents the Carmelites who are still on their way to the Summit of Mount Carmel (Heaven), the other two stars in the sky represent all the Carmelites who have gone before us and have reached the goal of their life’s vocation; union with God in love in the eternal Joy of Heaven.
– from Croatian Carmel Province

The Crown of the King

Ducal crown with hand
Placed atop the shield is a ducal crown and an arm wielding a fiery sword, representing the prophet Elijah.

The golden crown represents  the Kingdom of God on earth, present through “Emmanuel,” “God with us,” Jesus Christ. Carmelites endeavor to serve God faithfully with “a pure heart and a steadfast conscience” (Rule of St. Albert). They understand their vocation to be a call to rooting and strengthening Christ’s Kingdom of self-sacrificing love and goodness in the world. In their service to this King they take their inspiration from the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose patronage they enjoy, and Saints Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, the great reformers of Carmel.

The Sword of The Spirit

Over the crown is an arm and hand brandishing a flaming sword, signifying the fiery spirit of Elijah. Burning with zeal for the Lord “burned like a torch” (Eccl. 48:1).

For Carmelites, Elijah is the solitary prophet who nurtured his thirst for the one and only God and lived forever in His presence. Elijah is the biblical inspiration of the Carmelite life and, like him, Carmelites seek both to continually carry in their minds and hearts “the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God” (Rule of St. Albert) and to live constantly with a loving, contemplative awareness of His presence.
– Discalced Carmelite Friars, Washington Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

coat of arms detail window
Another rendition of the Discalced Carmelite Order (OCD) Coat of Arms at Philadelphia Carmel, in the stained glass window of the Prophet Elijah.

Halo of Stars

In this stained glass window, the halo of twelve stars above the crown represents the prerogative of every Carmelite’s acclaim – the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom St. John saw in an apocalyptic vision as: “a woman clothed with the sun… on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1).

In the coat of arms of the Discalced Carmelites these stars also signify the twelve points of the rule, which are: Obedience, Chastity, Poverty, Recollection, Mental Prayer, The Divine Office, Chapter, Abstinence from meat, Manual Labor, Silence, Humility and Supererogation. (defined as those works or good deeds performed by saints over and above what is required for their own salvation, the merit of which is held to be transferable to others in need of indulgence). – Discalced Carmelite Friars, Washington Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Also shown on this particular Philadelphia Carmel shield or seal, is the Latin legend  referring to the Prophet Elijah’s phrase: “Zelo zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercitum,” which translated means: “With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts.”

This is not present on the Coat of Arms plaque but present in this stained glass window and at the portico entrance to the Holy Spirit Chapel.

Coat of Arms Sources: Philadelphia Carmel Monastery
Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region
Croatian Carmel Province
Discalced Carmelite Friars, Washington Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

VI. St. Albert and the Carmelite Rule

st. albert half
St. Albert of Trapani (1250-1307), from Sicily, at Philadelphia Carmel.

St. Albert wrote the Rule for hermits living in the spirit of Elijah near the prophet’s spring on Mount Carmel near present-day Israel.

Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross would have both prayed to St. Albert for intersessions. He was one of the first saints of the order to be venerated. He is represented here with a lily, a symbol of purity and an urn for water he had blessed. Water is still blessed with his relics and the Carmel and is used for healing the sick.
– The Chapel of the Holy Spirit booklet, Mount Carmel, Philadelphia

VII. Hearing God in Silence

silence please
The Great Spiritual Silence. Listening, loving, believing, preserving.

And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” Mark 6:31

The Apostle would have us keep silence, for in silence he tells us to work. As the Prophet also makes known to us: Silence is the way to foster holiness. Elsewhere he says: Your strength will lie in silence and hope … be careful not to indulge in a great deal of talk, for as Scripture has it – and experience teaches us – Sin will not be wanting where there is much talk, and He who is careless in speech will come to harm; and elsewhere: The use of many words brings harm to the speaker’s soul. – Carmelite Rule of St. Albert, [21a]

angel architecuturally perfectAngel on guard in praying stance. Inside the Holy Spirit Chapel, Philadelphia Carmel.

And our Lord says in the Gospel: Every rash word uttered will have to be accounted for on judgment day. Make a balance then, each of you, to weigh his words in; keep a tight rein on your mouths, lest you should stumble and fall in speech, and your fall be irreparable and prove mortal. Like the Prophet, watch your step lest your tongue give offense, and employ every care in keeping silent, which is the way to foster holiness. – Carmelite Rule of St. Albert, [21b]

Life on Mount Carmel: Contemplation and Prayer

Carmelite spirituality proposes silence and solitude as necessary prerequisites for prayer and contemplation. Silence refers not only to external noise but also to the stilling of one’s internal noises. Silence is the condition for listening attentively to the still small voice of God. Solitude provides the ambiance where one may be alone so as to focus more attentively on the Beloved. Solitude then is not primarily separation or isolation from others, but a place of privileged encounter with the Beloved. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, speak of prayer and contemplation as ‘friendship with God’ and ‘union with God’ respectively.
Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

breviaire-de-therese-de-jesus-d_avila-monastere-st-joseph-medina

Breviary of St. Therese of Jesus on display at the Museo Ferias, Spain in 2014.

The soul does not use words. Is surrounds words with space, and that is what I mean by silence” – Richard Rohr, Silent Compassion

In order to foster and facilitate relationship with God, through prayer and contemplation, Carmelite spirituality proposes certain means, both personal and communal, namely meditation on the word of God, liturgy, silence and solitude, and asceticism (avoidance of indulgence). The Rule of St. Albert urges an unceasing pondering of the Law of the Lord in Scripture and the strengthening of one’s heart with holy thoughts, so that the word of God may abound in one’s heart and lips, and guide all one’s actions.  Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

cross

Asceticism is the means of freeing self from the tyranny of self-will, simplifying one’s life, and preserving all of one’s energy for journeying to God. For St. John of the Cross, the main expression of asceticism involves a radical detachment from inordinate or disordered desires and appetites. Detachment is a way of prioritizing God above all creatures. As such, it witnesses to the primacy and all sufficiency of God. Asceticism is not only at the service of a deeper life with God, but it is also geared to the demands of the apostolic ministry. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

chapel side aisle

Holy Spirit Chapel, side aisle, Philadelphia Carmel. Holy Spirit is principle guide in spiritual life. Photo courtesy of Friends of Carmel Pinterest.

Although Carmelite spirituality highly esteems prayer and contemplation these are always in service of the apostolate. For St. Teresa, while prayer and contemplation are paramount, they are not ends in themselves but are orientated to the support, welfare, and apostolic fruitfulness of all those engaged in the work of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Carmelite spirituality, then, is not simply about self salvation, but a way of co-operating with God in bringing about God’s reign on earth. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

Finally Carmelite spirituality teaches that authentic prayer and contemplation is accompanied by and promotes growth in the human and theological virtues. This leads to a flowering in the Carmelite of the two-fold gospel commandment of love of God and love of neighbor. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

wheel
From credence niche side wall of Holy Spirit Sanctuary. Pattern from church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy (6th century). At the center of the radiating disc contains the first letter of the Greek alphabet, Alpha, the symbol of creation, “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1)

Both Saints Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross teach us that God, the Blessed Trinity, dwells within the human person. Hence, one need not go out of self in search for God but enter progressively ever deeper within oneself to be with God who dwells at the very center of our being.

St. Teresa speaks of this journey within as an itinerary through a castle with seven mansions. St. John of the Cross hymns this reality:

“What more do you want, O soul! And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfactions, fullness and kingdom – your Beloved whom you desire and seek? Be joyful and gladdened in your interior recollection with Him, for you have Him so close to you. Desire Him there, adore Him there. Do not go in pursuit of Him outside yourself. You will only become distracted and wearied thereby, and you shall not find Him, or enjoy Him more securely, or sooner, or more intimately than by seeking Him within you.” (S.C. 1:8)

VIII. The Path of John of the Cross

john of the cross window
St. John of the Cross, Poet and Doctor of the Church (1542-1591)

The model of this portrait of St. John of the Cross was the brother of one of the foundresses of the Carmel of Philadelphia. Contrary to what is seen here, St. John was actually of very slight stature, had a oval lean face with a beard, a broad receding forehead, and was also quite bald. St. John of the Cross was associated with St. Teresa of Jesus in the reform of Carmel. The writings of both these Saints speak about the deepest communion with God and the way that leads to it. – The Chapel of the Holy Spirit booklet, Mount Carmel Philadelphia.

The “discalced” in the name “Discalced Carmelites”, references the practice of wearing sandals or going barefoot instead of shoes. In the stained glass window, John is shown wearing sandals. In Teresa’ s reformed convent of St. Joseph’ s, which she founded in 1562, the nuns wore strap sandals as well.

St John of the Cross’s drawing of the crucifixion.
Drawing of the Crucifixion From Above, by John of the Cross 1641
It influenced Salvador Dali’s Christ of St. John of the Cross 1951.

saint-jean-de-la-croix-peinture-de-celine-martin-carmel-de-lisieux
John of the Cross said that “all prayer is reducible to the pater noster” (Our Father).

John and Teresa Team Up

St. John of the Cross, co-reformer of the Carmelite Order, was born in Spain in 1542 to a loving but struggling family.  At the age of fourteen, John took a job at the hospital of Median caring for the poor and incurable.  He spent the rest of his time learning at a nearby Jesuit school.

John eventually joined the Carmelites of Medina.  He was ordained a priest in 1567, but John became overwhelmed at the idea of fulfilling the duties of the priesthood, and decided to join the Carthusians instead.

St. Teresa of Avila who had come to Medina to found a convent for her Carmelite nuns convinced John to stay with the Carmelites, and he began to help her in the reform of the order.   But his fellow Carmelites were against his attempts at reform and they went so far as to kidnap and lock him up in a small cell.  During this time, John wrote much of his mystical poetry, from his hours of silent prayer, including:

Beloved, in you I find
The mountains, wooded vales;
Choice islands, distant, strange.
The river’s voice resounds
With ever-changing flow.
As whisper soft of breeze
Now sings our love.

After nine months, John escaped the prison cell. Several of John’s books are available on-line:

Dark Night of the Soul

dark_night

Ascent of Mount Carmel

Spiritual Canticle (poem)

John spent the rest of his life establishing monasteries, spreading his reform, and writing many spiritual works, which are now treasured by the Church.  He died in 1591 at the age of 49 – his body is still incorrupt to this day.  He was canonized on December 27, 1726, and was also named a Doctor of the Church.  St. John of the Cross is one of the Church’s most beloved mystics, known for his compassion and deep understanding of the inner workings of the soul. – Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus

IX. The Path of Teresa of Jesus (Avila)

teresa avila window full
St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila, Spain 1515-1582) Doctor of the Church.

In the stained glass window above, St. Teresa of Jesus is writing at a desk. The scroll hanging from the desk reads:

“Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God wants for nothing. God alone suffices.”

Saint Teresa of Jesus is the foundress of the Discalced Carmelite life and is one of the thirty three Doctors of the Church, who are considered guides due to their great significance in our understanding of Church theology. St. Teresa believed in the presence of God in every person.

tersa with Jesus and nails
Jesus gives St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila) a nail. Mt. Carmel Philadelphia.

St. Teresa of Jesus received a profound mystical grace during Holy Communion on November 18, 1572. Our Lord appeared to her and gave her a nail as He declared that she was His bride. At this time she entered the highest degree of the spiritual life, that of Spiritual Marriage. – St. Teresa of Jesus, Spiritual Testimonies #31 – from The Chapel of the Holy Spirit booklet, Mount Carmel Philadelphia.

teresa with child Jesus
The Child Jesus Appears to St. Teresa. Mt. Carmel Philadelphia.

This episode is recounted in the life of St. Teresa. One day the saint was passing a flight of stairs and saw a Child.

He asked her, “Who are you?”
“I am Teresa of Jesus” she replied,
“Who are you?”
I am Jesus of Teresa,” the Child said.

St. John became the spiritual director (confessor) of St. Teresa who was 27 years his junior.

It is right that you pray for all those, living and dead, who have helped us. – St. Teresa of Jesus (Foundations 25:9)

therese-de-jesus-d_avila-peinture-francois_gerard-infirmerie-marie-therese-paris
Teresa of Jesus in 1828 by François Gérard (1770-1837) – Original

Teresa was born in Avila, Spain, on 28th March 1515 and entered the Carmel of the Incarnation there in 1536. She lived there for about 20 years until she felt that God was asking something more of her. After many tribulations and heart-searching Teresa, left the Incarnation on 24th August 1562 to found St. Joseph’s, a new monastery in which she planned and hoped that the original Rule of Carmel would be kept faithfully. There was a great deal of opposition to the new Carmel and it was sometime before she was able to live there in peace. Many condemned her as a woman deceived by her experiences in prayer.

teresa of avila beauty
Teresa of Ávila by François Gérard (1770−1837) detail

Eventually the hostility died down and Teresa was asked to found more of these houses of prayer in other cities of Spain. Over a period of twenty years she founded 15 more houses for the nuns and, in association with St John of the Cross, at least two for the friars. Teresa introduced a fresh orientation into Carmelite life combining silence and solitude with community living and giving the life of prayer a specific apostolic role in the Church and the world.

Prayer was to be the great outreach to others, the one and only work of her nuns. Her energy, resolution and sense of humor were unfailing, animated as they were by her immense desire to serve the Lord as lovingly as she could. She died at Alba de Tormes on 4th October 1582. She was sixty seven years old. When the bells of Avila tolled for her the local citizens said: “The Saint has gone to heaven.” Her feast day is kept on 15th October. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

st. teresa of jesus from Mother Pia
St. Teresa of Jesus sculpture. Shared by Philadelphia Carmel.

St. Teresa’s writings on the four states of mental prayer. In the first stage, believers learn to pray. In the second, they experience the supernatural aspect of prayer. In the third, the soul is bathed in the pleasure of God’s presence, and in the fourth, senses are abandoned in a sort of out-of-body experience where the soul feels only divine union. – from The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus of the Order of Our Lady of Carmel (Autobiography)

incorrupt right foot of Teresa of AvilaIncorrupt right foot of St. Teresa of Jesus.

Teresa entered a Carmelite convent when she was eighteen, and later earned a reputation as a mystic, reformer, and writer who experienced divine visions. She wrote the book The Way of Perfection for her nuns. Other important books by her include her Autobiography and The Interior Castle.

st teresa by bernini
The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Bernini, Basilica of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome. 1652. St. Teresa’s life has inspired great works of art. This marble sculpture was finished 30 years after her canonization.

As St. Teresa of Avila’s friend and confidant, St John of the Cross remarked, ‘At the end of the day, it is by the quality of our loving that we shall be judged.’

In 1571 Teresa wrote to her sister about John, “The people take him for a saint; in my opinion he is one, and has been all his life.”

X. In Closing

Christ Has No Body
by Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

mount carmel sign

A change in seasons at Mt. Carmel.

Inserted into the cornerstone of the Holy Spirit Chapel dated April 15, 1915:

Praise and thanksgiving forever to the Triune God!


Credits:
Philadelphia Carmelite Monastery
The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Philadelphia – Facebook
The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Philadelphia – website
The Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Mount Carmel, Philadelphia (Booklet)
Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region website
Croatian Carmel Province
Discalced Carmelite Friars, Washington Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Friends of Carmel Pinterest
Opening poem – I followed John of the Cross… – by ShrineTower
Opening prayer – Love and honor to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel . . . – From the cornerstone of the Holy Spirit Chapel dated April 15, 1915.

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

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archangel

St. Michael the Archangel by Ludovico Gimignani (1643-1697) Rome, Italy.          Feast Day is Sept 29.

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

and

Cast into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits

Patron Saint of Police

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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.

Artifacts

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.

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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.

St. Vincent de Paul

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St. Vincent dePaul is founder of the Vincentians Catholic religious order. A peasant from birth, he chose the priesthood to make something of his life and succeeded in reaching the highest levels of society through his charm and social skills. A turning point came in midleife when he heard the dying confession of a peasant and determined afterward to devote his life to serving the poor.

The Vincentians operate The Miraculous Medal in Germantown, Pennsylvania which is a suburb of Philadelphia. Along with St. Loiuse de Maillac, Vincent founded the Daughters of Charity to serve the poor and sick. They have a presence in Germantown PA today.

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Vincent instructed priests and religious, “The poor are your masters and you are their servants.”

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A view of the Miraculous Medal Shrine in Germantown Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia.

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Vincent icon in front of St. Vincent’s Seminary building, which is next to the Miraculous Medal Shrine they operate. Vincent died on September 27, 1660 at the age of eighty. He was later named patron of all charitable societies. Sources: Blessed Among Us/Give Us This Day Daily Prayer Guide.

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Inside the Miraculous Medal Shrine.

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Inside the Lower Level Shrine – The Virgo Potens.

Padre Pio’s Connection with Pope Francis and Pennsylvania

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Barto, Pennsylvania. Campus of The National Centre for Padre Pio. San Giovanni Rotondo replica on right.

Padre Pio was famous for bilocation.  He appeared in others dreams, by voice, by his presence, fragrance and bilocating in physical form.  Near Barto, Pennsylvania, Padre Pio bilocated into Vera Calandra’s life, asking her to come to Italy quickly (he was to die several months later) and see him, as her daughter’s health was deteriorating.  It was 1968 and doctors had surgically removed the child’s bladder, but after seeing Padre Pio in Rome, the child miraculously received a new bladder.

This became another of the known miracles attributed to Padre Pio, but not the miracle used for beatification or canonization. Later in life, Ms. Calandra went on to build The National Center for Padre Pio in Barto Pennsylvania, a true devotion to the saint.

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Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the original Holy Family at the National Centre for Padre Pio in Barto, PA.

Pope Francis and President Biden

The Connection: Pope Francis, St. Francis of Assisi, Padre Pio.

Although a Jesuit, Pope Francis has a strong devotion to St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order, as evident by taking the saints name.

Pope Francis has visited and prayed at the site of the original San Damiano Cross in Santa Chiarra (St.Clare) Church in Assisi, Italy.

Padre Pio, a Capuchin Franciscan is intimately familiar with St. Francis, and like Pope Francis, has also prayed at the San Damiano Cross.
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Here is the San Damiano Cross (in Barto, PA) that St. Francis of Assisi was praying, when asked by God to rebuild the Church. This Cross and St. Francis of Assisi is another connection between Pope Francis and Padre Pio. See the symbolism of the San Damiano Cross. 

Pope Francis visited the USA and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, roughly 50 miles from the National Centre of Padre Pio in Barto, Pennsylvania, where the miracle that made Padre Pio a saint originated.

Pope Francis will have the Jubilee of Mercy in 2016, to highlight the Catholic Church’s “mission to be a witness of mercy.” Jubilee for Padre Pio’s Prayer Group will take place Feb. 13, 2016, as the body of Padre Pio will be exposed in St. Peter’s Basilica Feb. 8-14, at Pope Francis’ request.

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Painting in Our Lady of Grace Chapel, Barto PA.

Padre Pio celebrated his final Mass the day before he died, on September 22, 1968. He is and will always remain a Capuchin Franciscan. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio was a stigmatic, he had on his hands, feet and side the wounds of Christ, starting in 1910 and ending a few months before his death. He performed thousands of miracles and could read the hearts of those who went to his confessional. Padre Pio’s feast day is September 23.

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A replica of Padre Pio’s residence in Italy. A humble life. From the Saint Pio of Pietrelcina Museum, Barto, PA.

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Padre Pio’s strong devotion and love to the Blessed Virgin Mary during his lifetime and continues in Heaven.

“No matter how great the trial…never lose heart. Have recourse, with more childlike trust, to Jesus who will never be able to resist bestowing on you some little solace and comfort.” Padre Pio’s Words of Hope

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Painting of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. Padre Pio Spiritual Center.

On June 25, 1950, Padre Pio was seen attending to the death of a fellow monk in Milwaukee. When asked about it he said, “If Christ multiplied the loaves and fishes, why cannot he multiply me?”

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Replica of San Giovanni Rotondo at the National Centre for Padre Pio in Barto PA, about 50 miles from Philadelphia Pa.

“Go Ahead! Courage! In the spiritual life, one who does not go forward goes backward.” – Padre Pio

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Padre Pio met Pope John Paul II before he was pope in 1947 and prophesied his rise to Pope after hearing his confession.

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Church at The National Center of Padre Pio. On right side of altar is Padre Pio. Due to Church infighting, no Mass is offered on the premises. They do have rosary prayers and Stations of the Cross.

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Replica of Our Lady of Grace Chapel that Padre Pio prayed in each day. It is modeled after a 16th Century Capuchin Franciscan Friary Chapel.

“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” – Padre Pio

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“Hands of Padre Pio”, stained glass, National Centre of Padre Pio.

Have courage and do not fear the assaults of the Devil. Remember this forever; it is a healthy sign if the devil shouts and roars around your conscience, since this shows that he is not inside your will.

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He’s with us now.

Padre Pio:

If the people of the world could only see the beauty of ones soul when it is in the grace of God, all sinners and unbelievers of this world would be instantly converted.

Padre Pio, Mystic

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Padre Pio celebrated his final Mass the day before he died, on September 22, 1968. He is and will always remain a Capuchin Franciscan. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio was a stigmatic, he had on his hands, feet and side the wounds of Christ, starting in 1910 and ending a few months before his death. He performed thousands of miracles and could read the hearts of those who went to his confessional.

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Padre Pio was famous for bilocation. In Barto Pennsylvania, Padre Pio bilocated into Vera Calandra’s life, asking here to come to Itlay and see him, as her daughter’s health was deteriorating. This would become a miracle in the beatification of Padre Pio. Ms. Calandra would then build The National Center for Padre Pio in Barto Pennsylvania, a true devotion to the saint.
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“No matter how great the trial…never lose heart. Have recourse, with more childlike trust, to Jesus who will never be able to resist bestowing on you some little solace and comfort.” Padre Pio’s Words of Hope

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On June 25, 1950, Padre Pio was seen attending to the death of a fellow monk in Milwaukee. When asked about it he said, “If Christ multiplied the loaves and fishes, why cannot he multiply me?”

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Replica of San Giovanni Rotondo at The National Centre for Padre Pio in Barto PA, about 40 miles from Philadelphia Pa.

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Padre Pio met Pope John Paul II before he was pope in 1947 and prophesied his rise to Pope after hearing his confession.

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Church at The National Center of Padre Pio. Pio is on right side of altar. Due to Church infighting, no Mass is offered on the premises, sad but true.

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Relpica of chapel Padre Pio prayed in each day.
“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” – Padre Pio

“Through the study of books one seeks God, by meditation one find him.” – Padre Pio

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He’s with us now.

“If the people of the World could only see the beauty of ones soul when it is in the grace of God, all sinners and unbelievers of this world would be instantly converted.”

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.

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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?

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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.

The Miraculous Medal Shrine Goes Green

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The Miraculous Medal is expanding into nature with St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk and a new grotto of Our Lady of Knocks. The outdoor sanctuary will include:

  • A Rosary Walk
  • A Meditation Garden
  • A Marian Garden for Children
  • Our Lady of Knock Statue and Grotto
  • Our Lady of knock Mosaic

The centerpiece of Vincent’s Rosary Walk is our Lady of Knock Shrine which will highlight the Irish heritage of Germantown. On future St. Patrick’s day of March 17th, there will surly be activity in the Garden, once it is complete in late 2022.

Artist edition of the St. Vincent Rosary Walk and Our Lady of Knock Groto.1
St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk design plans. Currently the area is under construction. (Spring 2022)2

According to the Miraculous Medal, the outdoor shrine will expand the spiritual experience for visitors and members. The Meditation Garden will also “serve as an outdoor sanctuary and green space for devotees and the Children’s Garden will provide an educational opportunity to teach the next generations of Catholics and Marian devotees to learn to pray the rosary and love the story of the miraculous medal.”3

Mary, the Mother of God, appeared in an 1830 apparition in Paris, France to Catherine Labourè, now a Saint. November 28th is St. Catherine’s feast day. Her born name is Zoe Labouré.

“Then the Blessed Virgin said to me: ‘Get a medal struck after this model; those who wear it when it is blessed will receive great graces, especially if they wear it round their neck. Graces will be abundant for those who have confidence’.” – St. Catherine Labourè

The Miraculous Medal Shrine is located in Germantown (Philadelphia). As St. Catherine was a member of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and a Marian visionary, the Miraculous Medal Shrine is operated and influenced by The Vincentian religious order.

The chair below is at side altar in Miraculous Medal Shrine.

This is an exact replica of the chair Immaculate Mary sat in while on earth in Paris France.

There is a blessing following each Mass and/or Novena Service at the Miraculous Medal Shrine for those who wish to reverence the relic of St. Catherine Laboure.  Reverencing a relic whether with a kiss, or having it placed on a different part of the body [i.e. over the heart or on the head] is a tradition which dates back to the Middle Ages when the cult of Saints became a devotional practice.  In this, the faithful express their belief in the intercessory prayer of the saint whose relic it is.  In this case, the relic of St. Catherine is offered as the one who first received the message of Mary and faithfully kept to the mission entrusted to her in the making of the medal of the Immaculate Conception [aka. The Miraculous Medal.] – – – From correspondence with Fr. Bill Allegretto, C.M. Associate Director for the Central Association for the Miraculous Medal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

This is a rare photo of St. Catherine Laboure herself!

The medal was designed by Mary, herself, which is amazing! Here is what Mary, Mother of God said, “Have a medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces; they should wear it around the neck. Graces will abound for persons who wear it with confidence”. The Miraculous Medal shows an image of Our Lady of Grace with her hands emitting rays of light, just as she appeared to Saint Catherine. This devotion to Our Lady of Grace on the medal marked a true renewal of devotion to Our Lady in Europe in the mid to late 1800’s.

On the medal Mary asked that this put on it, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

Note that St. Catherine Laboure’s confessor put her account of the apparitions into writing, and that St. Catherine, before her death in 1876 also wrote down her accounts. Up until that time, no one outside her confessor was aware that she received the apparitions. She kept it secret for 47 years!

Exhumed in 1933, her body was judged to be incorrupt by the church, and now lies in a glass coffin in a chapel in Paris, at one of the spots where the Blessed Mother appeared to her.

The following video shows the Miraculous Medal Monday Mass and novena from March 7, 2022. There are many great clips of the shrine in this video.

Famous statue in the Miraculous Medal Shrine front altar.

A popular remembrance of Mary with St. Catherine kneeling at her side, just as she did on November 27, 1830. From theMiraculous Medal Shrine, Philadelphia, PA.

1 2 3 Miraculous Medal website https://miraculousmedal.org

St. Katharine Drexel is Back: An Update

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St. Katharine Drexel has been one active saint in the last several years. This post highlights her new shrine at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul; her life story as Philadelphia’s own revered saint; and the latest redevelopment plans of the former shrine, vacated after she was moved to the Cathedral Basilica.

St. Katharine Drexel Former Shrine Saved from Development

St. Katharine Drexel lived and worked most of her religious life at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and the onsite Chapel of St. Elizabeth. The Sisters decided in 2018 to sell the campus along with the St. Elizabeth Shrine to developers due to declining numbers of the order. After a bidding process a developer was selected, Aquinas Realty. The buildings on the campus will be developed into townhomes (90), active adult rental units (260) and an assisted living facility (300 bed units).1 The Louisa Drexel Morrell building, named after Katharine Drexel’s sister, will be used for events at the complex.

The good news is Len Poncia of Aquinas Realty, will not develop the St. Elizabeth Chapel as previously planned and has assurances from Archbishop Nelson Perez of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for the shrine to remain a Catholic chapel for perpetuity and the crypt to become a muti-religious cultural site.

The historic St. Elizabeth Shrine in Bensalem PA, where Mother Drexel lived and worked as head of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

Inside St. Elizabeth Chapel which will be saved from development.
Developer Len Poncia who saved the St. Elizabeth Chapel and crypt from development. He has a long personal association with the campus.1
Development plans for the campus that once was the home of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.
– Aquinas Realty Partners

The Current Home of St. Katharine Drexel

From the crypt under the Motherhouse at St. Elizabeth Chapel, the saint was moved in 2018 to the Saint Katharine Drexel Shrine at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, where she resides today.

The Tomb of Saint Katharine Drexel and wall mural at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. circa 2022
St. Katharine Drexel Shrine in Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. circa 2022.

The Life and Times of St. Katharine

“On March 3, 2022 we celebrated the feast of our native Philadelphia saint, Katharine Drexel. She lived a long life, close to 97 years old, being born before the civil war started in 1858 in Philadelphia. Her father is one of the richest men in the United States. Her mother dies at birth and her step mother raises her. He Dad and Stepmother were beautiful people and were really devout Catholics and even had a chapel inside their home. They would pray in the morning and her Dad would come home from work and they prayed as a family. They were a great witness to her in their charitable giving, and it was really hands on. The mother would take Katherine out and give food, clothing and shoes to the poor and in some cases bring them into the house. Their father’s belief was their great wealth was entrusted to them to be used for the common good.” 2

Katharine Drexel as a young lady of status.

“Katharine had a charmed life; the best schools and activities. Around the age of 21, her step mother and father die a few months apart and Katherine is thrust into a dark period of her life; anxiety and constantly depressed and is struggling to find a purpose. She meets two priests who are missionaries and talk to her about the plight of the American Native Indians in the United States and goes on a journey to meet these people. Upon return, she is still depressed and then travels across the ocean to Italy seeking restoration. In the process she gets a meeting with Pope Leo 13th and asks him to do something about the plight of the Native American Indians, possibly to finding a religious order or any group to go minister to them. Famously, the Holy Father looks at her and says “You be the missionary, why not you?” As the story goes, she leaves the Vatican meeting and breaks into tears and unrelenting sobs. The challenge of the Holy Father moves something in her. She begins to discern if she is meant to be a religious sister. The idea of becoming a sister grows and she talks to her spiritual director and he doesn’t think it’s a good idea at first, her wealth and lifestyle would be hard to break, since she would have to live in poverty. (In todays money, her wealth is estimated at $300-400 million.) Eventually Katharine convinces the spiritual director and she goes out to the Mercy Sisters in Pittsburgh for about a year and gets some religious formation. Now in her early thirties, she starts her own order and it grows as women are attracted to this order. She then starts the Motherhouse in Philadelphia and take three years to become formed with spiritual practices and religious training. The sisters go south to the Native American community around Pueblo; and so starts the ministry of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, with orphanages, schools and services. She becomes sympathetic to the Black Community in the US. She was born during slavery times (1850) and with the Civil War being over and the slaves becoming emancipated, she sees the horrible conditions and great discrimination and starts to minister to build schools and services, famous for Xavier University of Louisiana, which she got a lot of pushback for this university for black America in early 1900’s.” 3

St. Katharine Drexel at work for the Native and African Americans.

“She took her vow of poverty seriously, living on about a dollar a day. You could see Mothers room on tours or videos. She had a heart attack in early 70’s as she was extremely active. The doctors told her to slow down. She goes through this phase, probably not thinking she was going to live another twenty five years. She says this was her most fruitvile period of her life. She lived with incredible austerity. Meager things in her cell, from mending her own shoes to writing with a pencil so small it was hard to hold the pencil.” 4

Shoes and pencils of St. Katharine.

“The world needs heroic virtue like that of Katharine Drexel.”5

Notes 2 3 4 5: The Life and Times of St. Katharine (above) is paraphrased from the feast day sermon on March 3, 2022 by Fr. Gary Pacitti, St. Basil the Great Parish, Phoenixville PA.

Favorite Quotes:
“The patient and the humble endurance of the cross whatever nature it may be is the highest work we have to do.” – St. Katharine Drexel

“If we wish to serve God and love our neighbor well we must manifest our joy in the service we render to Him and them. Let us open wide our hearts it is joy which invites us. Press forward and fear nothing.”
– St. Katharine Drexel

From St. Katharine Drexel Facebook page.
Quote from St. Basil the Great Parish Facebook page on her feast day March 3, 2022.

St. Katharine Drexel is back, although she never really left.

1 “Inside the plan to redevelop the former Drexel shrine in Bensalem: How historic buildings will be saved and new housing built” by Peg Quann, Bucks County Courier Times, Feb 21, 2022, Updated March 9, 2022.

Video of the latest redevelopment plans by Peg Quann, Bucks County Courier Times, Feb 21, 2022, Updated March 9, 2022:

https://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/videos/news/2022/02/21/developer-talks-st-katharine-drexel-shrine-redevelopment/6882688001/

An earlier post about the former St. Katharine Drexel Shrine:

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

St. Therese of the Child Jesus
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:
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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

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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

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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.

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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:
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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

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Peter Being Called by Jesus.

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

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Peter’s crucification.

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

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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.”

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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

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Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

Building community.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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