When you follow the link to www.miracolieucaristici.org, you may well be seeing the first website developed by a saint.
Miracoli Eucaristici documents eucharistic miracles which have occurred all over the world. I’m not fluent in Italian, so I can’t comment on the content, but I do know web design, and this is very good web design. All the more so, considering it is nearly ten years old, but still “feels modern.” (Most websites don’t age so well!)
The website was created by Carlo Acutis, who died of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 15. And now, according to Rome Reports, his cause for canonisation is under consideration:
Even if Carlo doesn’t pass the rigorous standards exacted by the Church’s canonisation process, his life and legacy remind us that we’re all called to be saints, and that sanctity is attainable. It can be and should be our daily goal — remembering that holiness is achieved in the little things of today, not in the great maybes of tomorrow.
(Another lesson: somewhere on the web, there is a website that has been developed by someone who will one day be canonised. Hopefully there are many such websites, and many canonisable saints in our midst!)
Today is the feast of St Teresa of Ávila, one of the Church’s greatest theologians and greatest mystics.
Teresa is also unusual, I think, for her eminent common sense, which really isn’t common at all. I quote her often in the confessional and in spiritual direction, and occasionally in my preaching too. I think her insights might be helpful to others only because I find them so helpful myself.
For example, when Teresa was afflicted with one too many crosses, she lamented to God:
“If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so many enemies.”
This demonstrates not only a supernatural attitude to suffering, but also a good sense of humour, and an easy familiarity with God. That’s three characteristics, right there, that I aspire to in my own spiritual life.
On another occasion, Teresa was very impressed by one of her sisters’ heroic penances, and wished to do something similar. Her spiritual director, however, forbade her from doing so. Teresa complained to the Lord, and apologised. His reply, which she not only recorded but also interiorised, is one worth remembering and repeating:
“I prefer your obedience to her penances.
Teresa was a great ascetic, but she was also a person of attractive and contagious joy. So she also showed in deed what she expresses here in words:
“God save us from gloomy saints!”
(This is the sort of thing I can easily imagine Pope Francis saying.)
Long before I was in the seminary, but perhaps when I was discerning my vocation (I forget the precise context), my spiritual director, whose patience was probably tested, exclaimed:
“The closer you get to God, the simpler you become.”
I remembered this and prayed on it often. (I still do.) Much later I learnt that it came from St Teresa.
I’ll finish with one of my all-time favourite quotes, which speaks for itself:
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through 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 on earth but yours.”
Today is the feast of St Thérèse. What a great saint! What a powerful intercessor!
Apparently, Pope Francis employs Fr Putigan’s Novena to St Thérèse. On the one hand, this doesn’t surprise me, since Fr Putigan was a Jesuit priest, and it’s easy to imagine his novena is popular within the Society of Jesus. On the other hand, I am surprised that Francis would pray 24 Glorias every day for nine days. Bear in mind, he’s not a fan of numerical pedantry:
There are some restorationist groups. I know some, it fell upon me to receive them in Buenos Aires. And one feels as if one goes back 60 years! Before the Council… One feels in 1940… An anecdote, just to illustrate this, it is not to laugh at it, I took it with respect, but it concerns me. When I was elected, I received a letter from one of these groups, and they said: “Your Holiness, we offer you this spiritual treasure: 3,525 rosaries.” Why don’t they say, ‘we pray for you, we ask…’, but this thing of counting…
Still, it is evident that the Holy Father certainly does call on St Thérèse for favours, and even dares to ask for the sign of a white rose.
Apart from her intercessory apostolate, St Thérèse is also a great spiritual master. A Doctor of the Church, no less. If you aren’t a student of hers already, it’s time to become one!
I have helped a friend of mine develop a website relating her Little Way of Spiritual Childhood. The site is a veritable goldmine of open domain texts about spiritual childhood and “the little things.”
In addition to texts from and about St Thérèse, the site draws from St Josemaría Escriva, Fr Joseph Kentenich, and several others. Check it out and bookmark it. It certainly deserves more than one visit!
Studying the saints is a good thing. Read their biographies. Read their writings. Be inspired to imitate them.
But the best thing about the saints is that we can foster relationships with them. Talk to them. Ask them for favours. We can approach them the way a small child approaches a favourite aunt or uncle: boldly and sincerely.
Pope Francis gives us a good example of this. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio made no secret of his devotion to St Thérèse — perhaps the greatest of our modern saints; certainly the most popular!
From “El Jesuita” (“The Jesuit”), a book interview written by Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti:
We pause before a vase full of white roses standing on a shelf in the library. In front of it is a photograph of Saint Thérèse.
“Whenever I have a problem,” Bergoglio explained, “I ask the saint not to solve it, but to take it into her hands and to help me accept it and I almost always receive a white rose as a sign.”
On Sunday 8 September, the day after the long prayer vigil for peace in Syria – when some passages from texts written by Saint Thérèse of Lisieux were read out – Pope Francis received a white rose as a surprise.
The Archbishop of Ancona and Osimo, Edoardo Menichelli broke the news, with Francis’ authorisation.
“The Pope told me he received the freshly-picked white rose out of the blue from a gardener as he was taking a stroll in the Vatican Gardens on Sunday 8 September,” Mgr. Menichelli said.
Today is the feast of St Pius X, with whom Pope Francis invites many comparisons.
For example, both popes were “unexpected.” I don’t need to revisit this year’s conclave. The 1903 election of Cardinal Sarto was no less dramatic and surprising. The Secretary of State, Cardinal Rampolla, was the favourite to succeed Pope Leo XIII. But part-way through the conclave, one of the cardinals communicated the Austrian Emperor’s royal veto, which disqualified Rampolla. Cardinal Sarto was duly elected, and one of his first acts as Pope Pius X was the abolition of conclave vetoes.
Pope Pius and Pope France are both seen as ‘pastor popes,’ modelled on the parish priest. Pope Francis has been christened “the world’s parish priest:”
After Mass, Francis stood outside the church and greeted people as they left, patting kids on the head and kissing them, shaking hands and exchanging hugs, with a quick word and a smile for everybody. It’s a scene that plays out every Sunday at Catholic parishes across the world, but one rarely sees a pope doing it. Italian papers immediately dubbed him “the world’s parish priest.”
Pius X was cut from the same cloth. Sarto was not an academic; he was a pastor. He was “promoted” to the episcopate, and then to the cardinalate, and ultimately to the papacy, not because of his learning or administration, but because of his prayerfulness and zeal for souls.
Pius is the only pope of the modern era who delivered a Sunday homily each week. He reformed the Divine Office so that it better accorded with the daily demands placed on the parish priest. He encouraged frequent communion and lowered the age for First Holy Communion.
Pope Francis and Pope Pius are also similar in their governance. Both popes worked with a “parallel curia,” bypassing and often confounding the established curial offices. Sandro Magister elaborates:
In the little office of pope Bergoglio on the second floor of the Casa di Santa Marta, where he has chosen to reside, many things are decided and done that never even pass through the majestic curial offices of the first and third loggia of the Apostolic Palace, a few steps away from the now-deserted pontifical apartment.
The secretariat of state continues its routine work, but much more at work is another secretariat, miniscule but highly active, which in direct service to the pope attends to the matters that he wants to resolve himself, without any interference whatsoever.
A century ago, under the reign of Pius X, it was called the segretariola. Pope Giuseppe Sarto had come to a very negative judgment about the curia at the time, but even after he had reorganized it he was very careful to protect the little personal secretariat with which he had surrounded himself immediately after his election in 1903.
Pius and Francis both exemplify “holy intransigence” — that is, they are decisive leaders, and uncompromising. Insofar as Pope Pius X can be criticised, it is for his efforts to combat modernist heresy. “They want to be treated with oil, soap and caresses,” he is famously quoted. “But they should be beaten with fists. In a duel, you don’t count or measure the blows, you strike as you can.”
Pope Pius was apparently successful in suppressing heresy and dissent. But the madness of the post-conciliar years shows that the Church was not rid of modernism, it was merely driven underground.
These errors notwithstanding, Pius was a good pope, and a holy one. In his own lifetime, many people attributed healings and miracles to his intercession. He always denied involvement. “Mi chiamo Sarto non Santo,” he insisted. “My name is Sarto, not Santo [Saint].”
In his last will and testament, Pius declared, “I was born in poverty, I lived in poverty, I wish to die in poverty.” This, too, finds an echo in Pope Francis: “How I would like a church of the poor for the poor.”
St Pius, pray for us.
Missouri’s “mystery priest” has been identified as Fr Patrick Dowling, an Irish-born priest of the local diocese.
Fr Dowling identified himself quite early, in a comment he left on an online article, but apparently it took several days for the news to filter through. (I must confess, I seldom read comments myself — except on my own blog of course!)
The National Catholic Register reports the details:
Though the highway was blocked off, Father Dowling revealed he “did not leave with the other cars.” After parking as close as he could to the scene of the accident, he said he walked the remaining 150 yards.
He affirmed that it was in the normal duties of a priest, “except that there was something extraordinary it sounds like, in the sequence of events that coincided in time with the anointing.”
“You must remember: There were many people praying there, many, many people … and they were all praying, obviously, for healing and for her safety,” he said.
“I was probably part of the answer to their prayers: I came by, and anointed, and absolved,” he said.
The fact that Missouri is part of America’s “Bible belt” may explain why local emergency workers and local press raised the possibility of an angelic apparition, which national and international press then ran with.
I was dubious of that interpretation, but not because I doubt apparitions. Not at all. It’s just that when I first heard about the story, I immediately thought of this scene:
It comes from Fishers of Men, an 18 minute documentary on the priestly vocation which was released in my second year at the seminary. It was hugely popular with us seminarians, because it resonated so deeply with our own understanding (and awe) of the priesthood.
I know some priests were bemused by the video — especially the accident scene, which presents the priest as an action hero. But a few years later, I was staying at Sydney’s Warrane College, which is on a very busy arterial road. Late that night, the screech of tyres and a terrible crash woke me. I rushed to my window and looked down on an accident scene. Not thirty seconds later, I watched a soutane-clad figure sprinting towards the car wreck.
It was Fr Joe Pro, who was then chaplain at Warrane College. He had obviously heard the crash, grabbed his oils, and ran. Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured, but the scene left a deep impression on me — like the scene from Fishers of Men. (Fr Joe, incidentally, is the great nephew of Bl Miguel Pro, the Jesuit martyr, who like St Toribio was a casualty of the Cristero War, and like St Toribio made several resurrection appearances after his death.)
To my mind, the identity of Missouri’s mystery priest doesn’t downplay its miraculous nature at all. As Michael Brown observes, the story “presented the Catholic faith in the most positive of ways — involved in the supernatural glory and intervention of God.” And as Fr Dowling notes, his presence at the scene was improbable and providential.
Miracles happen, great and small. It would be a shame to miss the small miracles because we are only looking out for big ones.