St. Paul the Hermit Embraces Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine in Pennsylvania


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DSC_0174 St. Paul the Hermit

Paul the Hermit is also known as Saint Paul of Thebes, the First Hermit (230-343). The above painting of Paul the Hermit resides in a side chapel at Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine in Doylestown (Philadelphia) Pennsylvania. The lions in the background are Paul’s protection. The chapel is dedicated to St. Paul the Hermit whose feast day is on January 15.

st. paul the first hermit St. Paul the Hermit at the entrance to Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine.

The Pauline religious order was founded by Blessed Eusebius in 1250 in Hungary. The members of the order were hermits, living in caves in Hungary. For their patron saint they chose St. Paul the Hermit and are called the Pauline Fathers. “Alone with God alone” is the Pauline motto. The order adheres to the Rule of St. Augustine, which was given to them in the year 1308.

pauline order symbol From the coat of arms of the Paulines. The date palm represents how St. Paul the Hermit produced clothing using the leaves of the palm tree. The fruit of the palm tree helped sustain the Hermit in the desert. The Raven with a loaf of bread in its beak is the bird, through Gods intercession, brought half a loaf of bread to the Hermit every day for 90 years.

The monastic order spread throughout the countries of Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Austria and Bavaria. The Paulines have a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and reside and operate Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine in Pennsylvania. The monks can be seen on the campus praying the rosary in their all white habit with a large five foot wooden rosary hanging on their sides.

DSC_0136 The Chapel of Saint Paul the Hermit, at Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine in Pennsylvania. Three additional side chapels in the Lower Church are dedicated to Our Lady of Nazareth, Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

lower church altar on adoration day Lower church altar on Adoration day. A replica of Our Lady’s Chapel from the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa Poland is above. The black and silver altar with the central replica painting of the Black Madonna. The original from 1382 resides in Poland.

Jesus in the window Jesus in the stained glass window, from the Upper Church.


story of A massive 100 foot high stained glass window with the storyline of Americas founding fathers, the Paulines, and St. John Paul II to name a few.

Blessed Pope Paul St. John Paul II looking out at the Pennsylvania countryside. How good it all is at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa.

Guanella: Saint of the Poor, Founder of Servants of Charity and Daughters of St. Mary of Providence


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Don Guanella 1912 Special envoy to USA
There are not many photos of the Saint, but here is one of Guanella in his 1912 envoy to USA. He passed away three years later in Como, Italy on October 24, 1925. Guanella dedicated his life to serving the poor, orphaned, elderly and handicapped. He joined the Salesisans in 1875 for three years at the request of John Bosco, who also became a saint.

Daughters of St. Marys of Providence sign 100 yrs

One of the religious orders founded by Guanella is The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence, sometimes called the Guanellians. Here are the outskirts of Philadelphia, in Elverson, PA resides the congregation, who celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2013.


The Potts Mansion, called “Langoma”, once occupied by Joseph Potts, from the John Potts iron foundry family of the 1800’s. The a 67-room mansion contains 183 windows, 20 fireplaces and 22 bathrooms with staircases made of marble, onyx and alabaster, and the stained glass window made of Tiffany glass. Today, it is the center for religious retreats. Behind the mansion are several residential buildings for senior citizens, a chapel, trails and a large indoor pool. Every August, the St. Mary of Providence Retreat Center holds a summer festival complete with a mansion tour. The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence took over the mansion in 1948.

Mansion Chapel 1

The chapel on the grounds of the Potts Mansion. There is also a chapel inside the mansion, where Daily Mass is celebrated.


On the feast of Guanella, on October 24 in Italy, his body was moved into the church in a religious celebration, where it complimented the altar during celebration of Mass.


A closeup view of St. Guanella, resting in peace.

crest 3 servants of charity

St. Guanella was a member of the Apostleship of Prayer / Salesian Congregation for three years before starting the two charity orders; Daughters of St. Mary of Providence and Servants of Charity.

cured PA-Man

The Philadelphian Bill Glisson, whose was the recipient of a miracle orchestrated by God, through the request of St. Guanella, which was the third miracle required for canonization as a saint.

An overview of St. Guanella by a Salesisan, including thoughts around the cannonization by Pope Benedict

Philadelphia news broadcast on the miracle as told from Bill Glisson, the cured rollerblader and subsequent canonization in Rome, attended by Bill.

Another news broadcast from a slightly different point of view.

Guanella at Mansion 3

The three professed vows at the time were: poverty, chastity and obedience. Guanella added a fourth vow; assisting the contagious sick people of the world. (Guanella icon from chapel at Daughters of St. Marys of Providence center, Elverson PA.)

logo of daughters of st. mary of providence

Crest of Daughters of St. Marys of Providence.

St. Francis of Assisi Feast Day, Pope Francis, the San Damiano Cross, Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput


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Francis, the man of God, left home behind,
abandoned his inheritance and became poor and penniless,
but the Lord raised him up.
– Entrance Antiphon: Mass St. Francis of Assisi Memorial, October 4, 2013


This painting, called “Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata” was made in Netherlands (15th-16th century) and resides in the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art.

Italy Vatican Pope Assisi

Although Pope Francis is a Jesuit, he chose the papal name Francis in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. He has admitted that his favorite saints are Saint Augustine and Saint Francis. Pope Francis has been called an innovator, the church’s Steve Job’s. (NYT 10/3/13 Why Italians Love Francis)

pope francis with st. francis of assisi on feast day

Pope Francis with icon of St. Francis, Assisi Italy 2013.

As we bring you these offerings, O Lord,
we pray that we may be rightly disposed
for the celebration of the mystery of the Cross,
which Saint Francis so ardently embraced
Through Christ our Lord.
– Prayer over the Offering: Mass St. Francis of Assisi Memorial, October 4, 2013

francis of assisi
St. Francis of Assisi in Assisi wall painting. St. Francis of Assisi is Founder of Franciscans religious order. St. Anthony of Padua and St. Padre Pio are of the Capuchin Franciscan order. Padre Pio had the stigmata, much like Francis of Assisi. Charles Chaput, the Archbishop of Philadelphia is also a Capuchin Franciscan.

francis in assisi with dove

Pope Francis in Assisi with dove 2013 Feast of St. Francis.

Grant us, we pray, O Lord,
through these holy gifts which we have received,
that, initiating the charity and apostolic zeal of St. Francis,
we may experience the effects of your love
and spread them everywhere for the salvation of all.
Through Christ our Lord.
– Prayer After Communion: Mass St. Francis of Assisi Memorial, October 4, 2013

st. francis cross at st basil
The cross of St. Francis, called the San Damiano cross has deep meaning to Catholics. This cross is a variation of the original cross where Francis heard God speak, “Build my church”. It is located in St. Basil’s Chapel in Kimberton Pennsylvania.

The San Damiano Cross at the Padre Pio Center in Barto, Pennsylvania. The cross is called an icon cross since it contains images of people who give it meaning.

san damiano Cross PADRE pIO CENTER CLOSEUP
Closeup of the San Damiano Cross at the Padre Pio Center in Barto, Pennsylvania. The original cross is revered in Santa Chiarra (St.Clare) Church in Assisi, Italy. Painted on walnut wood in Umbra in the 12th century, the name of the painter is unknown. in 1257 the Poor Clares left San Damiano and took the cross with them, keeping it safely for 700 years. In Holy Week of 1957, it was placed on public view for the first time over the new Altar in San Giorgio’s Chapel in the Basilica of St Clare of Assisi.


Above is the original San Damiano cross in Italy. The largest figure and giving light to others in the icon is Jesus Christ. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. ” (John 8:12) Christ stands upright, not nailed, not a corpse, but of God Himself, incorruptible unto eternity and the source of life, radiating the hope of the Resurrection. The eyes of Jesus are open: He looks out to the world, which He has saved. He is alive, the one who is eternal. Jesus’ vestment is a simple loin cloth – a symbol of both High Priest and Victim. The chest, throat and neck are very strong, Jesus gives power of re-creation to His Disciples (John 22:23). He breathed on His Disciples (John 20:22), the Greek word used recalls the moment of Creation (Gen 2:7). The shadow over the face of Jesus is increased by the fact the halo and face are tilted forward on the original Icon. The humanity of Christ veils the true glory of the Word who lives in the super luminous darkness of the Godhead. Behind the outstretched arms of Christ is His empty tomb, shown as a black rectangle.

five figures

The next largest figures are the five witnesses of the crucifixion and witnesses of Jesus as Lord. On the left side are the Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist, to whom Jesus entrusted his mother. On the right side are Mary Magdalene, Mary, Mother of James, and the centurion who in Matthew’s Gospel account asks Christ to heal his servant, who is also depicted on the cross on the shoulder of the centurion (Matthew 8:5-13). Both Mary and Mary Magdalene have their hands placed on their cheeks to reflect extreme grief and anguish. The first four witnesses are saints who gave their lives for the Lord and are therefore represented with halos of sanctity. The names of the five major witnesses are written beneath their pictures.

More on Mary and John. As in John’s Gospel, Mary and John are placed side by side. Mary’s mantle is white meaning victory (Rev 3:5), purification (Rev 7:14); and good deeds (Rev 19:8). The gems on the mantle refer to the graces of the Holy Spirit.

The dark red worn under the mantic indicate intense love, while the inner dress is purple – the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 26: 1-4).
Mary’s left hand is raised to her cheek – her acceptance and love of John, and her right hand points to John while her eyes proclaim acceptance of Christ’s words “Woman, behold your son… ” (John 19:26). The blood drips on to John at this moment. John’s mantle is rose color indicating eternal wisdom, while his tunic is white – purity. His position is between Jesus and Mary as is fitting for the disciple loved by both of them. He looks at Mary “Son, behold your Mother”, but points to Christ.

left figure

On the lower left is Longinus the traditional name of the Roman soldier who pierced the side of Jesus with a lance. He is represented here as holding the lance and looking up at Jesus. The blood running down the right arm of Jesus begins at the elbow and drips straight down and will land on the upturned face of Longinus.

right figure
In the lower right is Stephaton, the traditional name for the soldier who offered Jesus the sponge soaked in vinegar wine. From his posture, one can see that he holds the staff and sponge in the same way that Longinus holds the lance.

Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene is next to Christ making her very special; her hand is on her chin indicating a confided secret “He is risen “. She wears scarlet, which is a symbol of love; her mantle of blue deepens this.

Mary Clopas. Some authorities make her the mother of James. She wears garments of an earthen color a symbol of humility, and her light green mantle – hope. Her admiration of Jesus is indicated by the gesture of her hand.

The Centurion of Capernaum. He holds a piece of wood in his left hand, indicating his building of the Synagogue (Luke 7: 1 – 10). The little boy beyond his shoulder is his son healed by Jesus. The three heads behind the boy show “he and his whole household believed” (John 4: 45 – 54). He has extended his thumb and two fingers, a symbol of the Trinity, while his two closed fingers symbolize the hidden mystery of the two natures of Jesus the Christ. “Truly He is the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).

hand of the father

The Ascension is portrayed within this circle of red: Christ is breaking out of the circle, holding a golden cross which is now His Royal Scepter. His garments are gold – a symbol of royalty and victory. His red scarf is a sign of His Dominion and Kingship; exercised in love. Angels welcome Him into Heaven. IHS are the first three letters of the name of Jesus. The little bracket above indicates it is shorthand. NAZARE is the Nazarene; REX is’ king’ and IUDEORUM is ‘of the Jews’, which is reported in St John’s Gospel “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews”

The Hand of the Father. From within the semi-circle at the very top of the Icon, He whom no eye has seen reveals Himself in a benediction. This blessing is given by the right hand of God with the finger extended – the Holy Spirit. The Father gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to all because of the merits of the Christ’s Passion

Numbers. There are 33 figures in the Icon – Two Christ figures, 1 Hand of the Father, 5 major figures, 2 smaller figures, 14 angels, 2 unknown at His hands, 1 small boy, 6 unknown at the bottom of the Cross and one rooster. There are 33 nail heads along the frame just inside the shells and seven around the halo.

unknown saints soldiers

The Unknown Saints. At the bottom of the Icon are six unknown saints whom Scholars postulate are SSTs Damian, Rufinus, Michael John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, all patrons of Churches in the Assisi area. St Damian was the Patron of the Church that housed the Cross and St Rufinus was the Patron Saint of Assisi. There is too much damage of that area to make a proper identification.

The Rooster. The inclusion of the rooster recalls the denial of Peter who wept bitterly. Secondly, the rooster proclaims the new dawn of the Risen Christ 1 the true light (1 John 2:8). “But for you who revere my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2 or 3:20 depending on your translation).
(Adapted from The Franciscans Friars web site)

Charles J Chaput coat of arms
The coat of arms of Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput.

The coat of arms is a written playbook of Archbishop Charles Chaput. It describes the Archbishop’s background, upbringing and beliefs and references the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Specific to St. Francis, is above the gold line which shows the insignia of the Capuchin Franciscan order, which Archbishop Charles joined in 1965. The sacred wounds that appear on the palm of each hand make it easy to identify the arm of the Lord Jesus and that of Saint Francis of Assisi, with whom the Lord shared the Stigmata in 1224.

Behind the arms, which are crossed like an “X” (in saltire) appears a particular type of Cross, shaped like the Greek letter Tau, similar to the Roman capital “T”. Saint Francis often marked his own letters with a Tau; his biographers suggest that the practice may have started after he heard a homily given by Pope Innocent III, at the opening of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. The pope referred to a passage in the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (9:4), in which the prophet has a vision of the Lord preparing to purify his holy city, and ordering an angel to mark with a Tau all the people who separate themselves from corrupting influences and who pray and do penance for those who are affected by the evil in the world. For Saint Francis and for his spiritual children, the Tau remains an important call to conversion, and a reminder of the prophetic mission to work for the evangelization and renewal of the world.

(excerpt from Archdiocese of Philadelphia Charles Chaput Coat of Arms.)

Pope Francis discusses Saint Francis on his feast day.

St. Vincent de Paul


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4 Vincent de Paul

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.

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

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

vincent at entrance2
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.

mm shrine entrance

mm church overview
Inside the Miraculous Medal Shrine.

lower shrine close up
Inside the Lower Level Shrine – The Virgo Potens.

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.


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.

 “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


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?”


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


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

pio church

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.

chapel replica
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

pio on deathbed
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.”

Silent video enhanced of St. Padre Pio.

St. Thomas of Villanova: The Man, The Church, The University


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st. thomas of villa statue

St. Thomas of Villanova, an Archbishop, educator and carer of the poor. The patron saint of Villanova University, shown in the plaza in front of St. Thomas of Villanova Monastary. He lived from 1488-1555. His feast day is September 22nd.

st. thomas of villa statue detail

Details depicts Thomas dressed as a bishop with crozier and mitre, giving alms to poor children.


St. Thomas of Villanova Church on the campus of Villanova University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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St. Thomas attended Arts and Theology at the University of Alcala de Henares and eventually became a university professor. He decided to leave the university setting and entered an Augustinian monastery.


Later in life St. Thomas received mystical encounters with God, having ecstatic visions during Mass. He sucumbed a heart condition in 1555 at the end of Mass. He is said to have died on the floor rather than in his bed, which he insisted on offering to a poor man who had come to his house.

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He was a great preacher and Emperor Charles V, upon hearing him preach, exclaimed, “This monsignor can move even the stones!” He also had a great devotion to the Virgin Mary, whose heart he compared to the burning bush that is never consumed. He was canonized by Pope Alexander VII on November 1, 1658. His feast day is celebrated on September 22.

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St. Augustine statue with his own heart set on fire with the love for Christ. The friars of his religious order founded Villanova University, where they administer today.
rita at villa
Another Augustinian, St. Rita of Cascia, shown here at one of the courtyards in the St. Augustine Center for Liberal Arts at Villanova University.

St. Augustine’s Philadelphia Storyboard


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close up augustine

A Bishop and Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine continues to wield influence.

outside 2013

St. Augustine R.C. Church is a historic shrine in downtown Philadelphia Pennsylvania. It was established in 1796 by the Irish Friars of the Order of St. Augustine and is the fourth oldest church in Philadelphia. The Augustine Academy founded in 1811 became Villanova University, the oldest Catholic school in Pennsylvania.

thomas of villanova
Thomas of Villanova, an Augustinian in the entrance to St. Augustine Church. Villanova University is currently staffed by and operated by Augustinians.

It has been said that Augustine wrote over 100 books and 5,000,000,000 words, inspiring many theologians of his time and our time. He is one of the four Great Fathers of the Latin Church.

“In the midst of the Church he opened his mouth, / and the Lord filled him / with the spirit of wisdom and understanding / and clothed him in a robe of glory.”
Entrance Antiphon Cf. Sirach 15:5 Mass at St. Augustine Feast Day, Aug 28, 2013.

main altar st. augustine

Inside the historic shrine.
“The five external senses are the doors by which life and death enter the soul.” -St Augustine

St. Rita of Cascia, an Augustinian nun, in the back of St. Augustine Church. The National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia is nearby and is one of the five official shrines in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

heaven with Augustine
Heaven with Augustine. The ceiling frescoes depict scenes from “St. Augustine in Glory.”

Teresa of Avila, taught by Augustinian nuns, also at St. Augustine Church.

Leaving St. Augustine Church.

saying on entrance

Jim James – All is Forgiven


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Son of man
Was born in Bethlehem, called God
All us plan
Same old hallway to man
With words from God
Who said that all is forgiven
All is forgiven, oh Lord
Who said that all is forgiven
All is forgiven
Oh Lord

Oh show all to path
That rarely leads
To the promised land, oh Lord
I follow all the wrong dreams
Lost in man’s schemes
Oh Lord
I pray that all is forgiven
All is forgiven
Oh Lord
I pray that all is forgiven
All is forgiven
Oh Lord

I pray that all
I pray that all


Sting – Dead Man’s Rope


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A million footsteps, this left foot drags behind my right
But I keep walking, from daybreak â??til the falling night
And as days turn into weeks and years
And years turn into lifetimes
I just keep walking, like I’ve been walking for a thousand years

Walk away in emptiness, walk away in sorrow,
Walk away from yesterday, walk away tomorrow,

If you’re walking to escape, to escape from your affliction
You’d be walking in a great circle, a circle of addiction
Did you ever wonder what you’d been carrying since the world was black?
You see yourself in a looking glass with a tombstone on your back

Walk away in emptiness, walk away in sorrow,
Walk away from yesterday, walk away tomorrow,
Walk away in anger, walk away in pain
Walk away from life itself, walk into the rain

All this wandering has led me to this place
Inside the well of my memory, sweet rain of forgiveness
I’m just hanging here in space

Now I’m suspended between my darkest fears and dearest hope
Yes I’ve been walking, now I’m hanging from a dead man’s rope
With Hell below me, and Heaven in the sky above
I’ve been walking, I’ve been walking away from Jesus’ love

Walk away in emptiness, walk away in sorrow,
Walk away from yesterday, walk away tomorrow,
Walk away in anger, walk away in pain
Walk away from life itself, walk into the rain

All this wandering has led me to this place
Inside the well of my memory, sweet rain of forgiveness
I’m just hanging here in space

The shadows fall
Around my bed
When the hand of an angel,
The hand of an angel is reaching down above my head

All this wandering has led me to this place
Inside the well of my memory, sweet rain of forgiveness
Now I’m walking in his grace
I’m walking in his footsteps
Walking in his footsteps,
Walking in his footsteps

All the days of my life I will walk with you
All the days of my life I will talk with you
All the days of my life I will share with you
All the days of my life I will bear with you

Walk away from emptiness, walk away from sorrow,
Walk away from yesterday, walk away tomorrow,
Walk away from anger, walk away from pain
Walk away from anguish, walk into the rain.

St. Dominic and the Rosary


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dominic face 2 best

Dominic was a 13th century Spanish priest who founded the Dominicans. He and his followers lived an austere and pious lifestyle based on the original apostles lifestyle. Their contemporaries were the Benedictines. Rather than live in a monastery, they went out to the people on the open road. Without money, they would travel on foot from town to town preaching the Gospel. St. Dominic is the patron saint of astronomers. His feast day is August 8th.

Tradition holds that Dominic received the rosary structure from Mary, Mother of God in a vision. The 150 Hail Mary’s are said to honor the 150 psalms in the bible, with 15 decades of ten Hail Mary’s each.

Dominic and the Rosary
St. Dominic Receiving the Rosary, St. Basil the Great, Chester County PA.

“A man who governs his passions is master of the world. We must either command them, or be enslaved by them. It is better to be a hammer than an anvil.” (anvil in this sense is a heavy iron block)

Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description.”

This writeup, A brief history of the Holy Rosary. explains the rosary foundation.

Ignatius of Loyola – Feast Day, Founder of Jesuits; Pope Francis religious order


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Ignatius pic monkey
St. Ignatius Of Loyola (Author rendition).

“The goal of Ignatian prayer and ministry is not to find God but to allow God to find you”

The leading Jesuit voice in Philadelphia is at Old St. Joe’s with Father Duff Society of Jesus (SJ) presiding. The emphasis is certainly on the Jesuits today, from Pope Francis (a Jesuit) and his exuberance recently displayed from the World Youth Day in Rio, to James Martin SJ of America Magazine author of the famous book My Life With the Saints. And of course, it all started with the founder of the Jesuits, the great Ignatius of Loyola, whose feast is celebrated today.

Entrance at Old St. Joseph’s National Shrine, Philadelphia PA

From Paul Coutinho, S.J.:

Ignatius is one of those Great Seers (Rishis) who attained Enlightenment (Satori in Zen Buddhism) on the banks of the river Cardoner. It was here that ““the eyes of his understanding began to be opened, not that he saw any vision, but he understood and learnt many things, both spiritual and earthly and this was so great an enlightenment that everything seemed new to him”” (Aut 30). From this moment on Ignatius was convinced that ““if there were no Scriptures to teach us these things of faith, he would be resolved to die for them, solely because of what he has seen”” (Aut 29). Ignatius found his own secret religion that helped him to scale mystical heights and also led him into constant conflict with people in power and institutions of his time.

We know that the Ignatian mysticism of service is nothing if not a deepening of our union and communion with the Divine. It is not so much doing things for God but it is a being in the Divine. Ignatian gazing or seeing is a spiritual method and exercise of contemplation where we open ourselves to what we contemplate and allow what we contemplate to seep into our hearts, filling us and transforming us into the mystery that we contemplate. Ignatius spent hours of his life gazing at the sky and through his contemplation would be moved to serve the Divine Majesty. ““It was his greatest consolation to gaze upon the heavens and the stars, which he often did, and for long stretches at a time, because when doing so he felt within himself a powerful urge to be serving Our Lord.”” (Aut 11).

What is Ignatius trying to tell us? If we have not shared our experiences of God with someone in one way or another, then we have lost them. But when we take the opportunity to share our experiences with someone, we will be confirmed and grow in those experiences.

Above excerpts from:
NUMBER 116 – Review of Ignatian Spirituality
Editor: “IGNIS” Ignatian Spirituality, South Asia Gujarat, India


From Brian O’Leary, SJ:

Ignatius chose to live with the tension between accepting both the validity of inner experience and the authority of the Church.

From his conversion onwards the element of movement played a central part in the spirituality of Ignatius. At Loyola he noticed how different spirits moved him and through this he learned the rudiments of discernment. When later he offered descriptive descriptions of consolation and desolation in the Spiritual Exercises (SpEx. 316, 317) the text can, according to some commentators, be best understood in terms of inner movements towards God (consolation) and inner movements away from God (desolation).

Within the Autobiography itself the centrality of movement can be demonstrated by a comparison between the very first sentence in the text and a statement referring to the time when Ignatius was dictating his story:
Up to his twenty-sixth year he was a man given to worldly vanities, and having a vain and overpowering desire to gain renown, he found special delight in the exercise of arms. (Aut 1)
He made a solemn avowal, the gist of which was to inform me that his intention had been to be sincere in all that he had related…and that his devotion, that is, his ease in finding God, was always increasing, now more than ever in his entire life. At whatever time or hour he wanted to find God, he found him. (Aut 99)

Above excerpts from:
Brian O’Leary, SJ
Consultant in Ignatian Spirituality Dublin, Ireland

Altar, Old St. Josephs Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Here, the pastor of Old St. Joe’s, Fr. Dan Ruff, gives the “Ignatius Story”:

For many of you, this will be old news; but I am keenly aware that we constantly have new parishioners registering.  I am also often surprised to discover that some “old-timers” still have not heard the basic “Ignatius story.”  So here is the nickel version . . .

Iñigo Lopez de Loyola was born (we think) in 1491 in the little village of Azpeítia in northern Spain.  The village – now called Loyola, after its “favorite son” – is in the Basque Country; and Iñigo’s own family (he would not adopt the name Ignatius until adulthood) were of the Basque landed gentry.  The 13th child, he was orphaned very early in life and was raised by his older brother Pedro and his wife Maria.

Born into a world still dominated by the feudal system, the 13th child did not have much claim to family inheritance; so Iñigo no doubt counted himself fortunate when his brothers used their influence to place him, at the age of 15, as a page in the house of Juan Velásquez de Cuellar, the treasurer of King Ferdinand of Castile.  There, the young man received a formal courtly education, although the evidence suggests that he took to sword play and courtly rituals more than he did to book learning. 

When his patron died in 1517, Iñigo was able to secure a similar post in the retinue of Antonio Manrique, Duke of Nájera and Viceroy of Nazarre.  I like to think that if he were alive in, this whole “courtier” phase of Ignatius’ youth would correspond to his becoming a congressional “page” with business or political aspirations.  The real motivation was the chance to network, rub elbows with the powerbrokers, and enjoy the parties and “perks” along the way. 

Late in life, in his so-called “Autobiography,” Ignatius would characterize his youthful self as having been much given over to vanity and worldly ambition.  We also know that, like many a brash young man, Ignatius indulged in the occasional “youthful indiscretion,” relying on his political connections to protect his reputation and get him out of his self-made scrapes.  At one point, for instance, he was taken to court for having injured someone in a hot-headed brawl; and rumors persist about illegitimate children.
In 1521, when he was already 30 years old, Ignatius ‘ duties to the Duke of Nájera found him defending the fortress of Pamplona with a small contingent of Spaniards against an army of French invaders.  Ignatius and his comrades were greatly outnumbered, but our young hero – displaying great courage and pluck (bravado?!) – persuaded them that they could successfully defend the besieged fortress.  Things were going surprisingly well until a French cannonball came over the ramparts and seriously injured both of Ignatius’ legs.  With their “cheerleader” laid low, the Spaniards soon surrendered; and the French victors, impressed with Ignatius’ valor, agreed to transport the injured man to the family home in Azpeítia (Loyola).

View of Organ, Old St. Joseph’s, founded 1733 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

Once there, Ignatius nearly died of infection; but that did not prevent his having the right leg rebroken and reset – not once, but twice (both times unsuccessfully)!  Why?  In hopes that he could once again wear the fashionable tight hose that would show off his fine calves to the ladies at court!  As the long lonely bedridden months stretched on, Ignatius was reduced by depression and boredom to reading the only two books available – a life of Christ and a collection of lives of the saints.  Attending to his daydreams, he began to find that his old ambitions for fame, glory, and the hand of a beautiful woman, while still attractive, left him unsatisfied.  By contrast, new thoughts of serving God and imitating Sts. Francis and Dominic seemed to offer him deeper and longer-lasting satisfaction.  Thus began Ignatius’ great conversion, and his discovery of what would become “discernment of spirits.”

In 1522, having recovered his health (but left with a permanent limp), the new convert went to the monastery at Montserrat where he made a 3-day general confession and kept a knightly vigil-at-arms at the altar of his new “Lady fair,” the black Virgin of Montserrat.  Leaving his armor behind there, he dressed in a pilgrim’s sackcloth, substituting a walking staff for his sword.  Intending to pass through the town ofManresa, he ended up instead residing in a cave for 10 months of solitude and prayer, living on alms and building a friendship with God and Jesus. 

His extensive notes would become the basis for his “Spiritual Exercises” – the famous manual which would ground Ignatian spirituality and eventually win its author the title of “patron saint of retreats.”  It is noteworthy that he wrote the “Exercises” and began to lead others through them while still a layman with no thoughts of religious life or priesthood.  His lay status would lead to repeated arrests by the Inquisition, which would eventually lead to theology studies at theUniversityofPariswith an eye toward ordination.  His school chums there, having made the “Exercises” under his guidance, would eventually become the first members of the Society of Jesus (the Order was given papal approval in 1540).

Ignatius envisioned a priestly order of well-trained men, distinguished in virtue, who would serve the universal (global) Church at the pope’s good pleasure, going wherever they might “help souls” – particularly where the need was greatest, and where others could not and would not go.  That sense of Jesuit mission would eventually dictate that a missionary, Fr. Joseph Greaton, S.J., would found a parish in colonial Philadelphia 279 years ago.  And here we are.  Come celebrate our Ignatian heritage on July 31!

Above excerpt from Fr. Daniel M. Ruff, S.J. “From the Pastor” Old St. Joseph’s Parish July 2012

A fine Ignatius blog is here.

“Go forth and set the world on fire.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola

St. Macrina the Younger, Sister of St. Basil


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2 macrinaThe St. Macrina mural by famous Georgian iconographer and painter, Niko Chocheli from the former Soviet Union. St. Basil the Great RC Church, Pennsylvania circa 2005

St. Macrina was born around 327 AD with her feast day being July 19th (the day of this post). After the death of her father, she helped her younger brothers in their religious education, especially, St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Peter of Sebaste. She became known to her holy brothers as “Macrina the Great” and “Macrina the Teacher” by her brothers. Note that Macrina the Elder is the grandmother of Macrina, Basil and Gregory.

With her families wealth, Macrina founded a convent and became a nun. In 379 St. Gregory returned home and found his sister sick and near death. They conversed about death and the afterlife. These final days are included in a book called The Life of Macrina, by St. Gregory of Nyssa.

Several last words of St. Macrina:
“Oh, Lord! Thou didst destroy the fear of death. Because of Thy sacrifice, true life begins when the present life finishes. We will sleep for a while and then, to the sound of the trumpet, we will resurrect. Thou didst save us from the curse of the sin, redeeming us from both sin and its curse.”