Sunday, April 24, 2022

May 2022 - Our Mother Mary

 

When we think of the month of May, Mother’s Day stands out. This is well deserved when we consider all the sacrifices, caring, and concern that we associate with mothers. God gave mothers the strength and compassion needed for their calling.

Jesus gave us many special gifts: He shared His Father with us when he taught us to pray the Our Father, He sent his Holy Spirit to dwell in us and guide us. Finally, on the cross, he shared with apostle John and us: His own beloved Mother.

Through the centuries, devotion to Our Mother Mary has been fostered through Icons (images of holy people) and apparitions (appearances) of Mary in troubled times. Let us focus on some of the devotions in honor of Mary the Mother of Jesus.

With Ukraine and Poland much in the news, let us study the Icon: Our Lady of Czestochowa also referred to as the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. The people of Ukraine and Poland have great devotion to Mary, depicted in this Icon. 

While there are many legends about the origin and history of the Icon, what is most important is her message. The image is of Mary holding the Child Jesus in her left arm. She directs attention away from herself by pointing to Jesus with her right hand. The Child Jesus faces the viewer and extends His right hand in blessing while holding a book of the Gospels in His left hand. Mary is referred to as “One Who Shows the Way.”

The Icon has been honored in many ways: King John II Casimir Vasa proclaimed Our Lady Queen of Poland. Several Popes have recognized the Icon including Pope Clement XI in 1717, Pope Pius X in 1910, Pope John Paul II in 1978, Pope Benedict in 2006, and Pope Francis in 2016. In addition, Orthodox Christians in Ukraine and Belarus have a special devotion to the Madonna of Czestochowa.

The Black Madonna Icon is now housed in the Monastery of Jasna Gora (English: Bright Mount) in Poland. It is said to have miraculously saved that monastery from a Swedish invasion in 1655.

In the United States, there are two shrines: The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa is located in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. There is also a shrine in Garfield Heights in Ohio.

Through the centuries, Jesus has sent His Mother to appear at difficult times to be a comfort to those who are suffering. During an especially painful time in 1531, our Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Christianity, on Tepeyac Hill, now in a suburb of Mexico City. She asked that a shrine in her honor be built there.

However, when Juan Diego brought her message to the bishop, he doubted the reality of the apparition. Therefore, he demanded a sign before he would build a church there. When Mother Mary appeared again, Juan Diego was upset because he could not convince the Bishop of the reality of his vision. Gently, she spoke these endearing words: "Hear me and understand well, my little son, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed .... Am I not here who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection?" (Juan Diego was a grown man, the diminutive 'my little son' was an expression of affection).

Our Lady then instructed Juan Diego to pick some roses on the top of the Hill and bring them as a sign to the bishop. (It was December when that type of rose would not normally bloom). Juan Diego carried them to the Bishop in his tilma, (poncho). When he opened the tilma, the roses fell to the ground. Printed on the tilma was a picture of Our Lady as she had appeared to Juan Diego. 

The bishop fell to his knees and ordered the construction of the Shrine which is visited daily even now and contains the tilma with the imprint of the picture of Our Blessed Mother.  


Our Lady of Guadalupe is credited with the ending of a deadly epidemic of hemorrhagic fever which ravaged Mexico City from 1736 - 1737. Pope John Paul II canonized Juan Diego and declared Our Lady of Guadalupe the patroness of the Americas. 


Might she not help us in the deadly pandemic which we are experiencing now? Let us pray to her who is our Mother too.

On March 27, 2022, Pope Francis made the following Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on behalf of our world, especially Russia and Ukraine, asking for an end to the war and peace in our World.

  

ACT OF CONSECRATION TO THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY

O Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, in this time of trial we turn to you. As our Mother, you love us and know us: no concern of our hearts is hidden from you. Mother of mercy, how often we have experienced your watchful care and your peaceful presence! You never cease to guide us to Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Yet we have strayed from that path of peace. We have forgotten the lesson learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two world wars. We have disregarded the commitments we made as a community of nations. We have betrayed peoples’ dreams of peace and the hopes of the young. We grew sick with greed, we thought only of our own nations and their interests, we grew indifferent and caught up in our selfish needs and concerns. We chose to ignore God, to be satisfied with our illusions, to grow arrogant and aggressive, to suppress innocent lives, and to stockpile weapons. We stopped being our neighbor’s keepers and stewards of our common home. We have ravaged the garden of the earth with war and by our sins, we have broken the heart of our heavenly Father, who desires us to be brothers and sisters. We grew indifferent to everyone and everything except ourselves. Now with shame, we cry out: Forgive us, Lord!

Holy Mother, amid the misery of our sinfulness, amid our struggles and weaknesses, amid the mystery of iniquity that is evil and war, you remind us that God never abandons us, but continues to look upon us with love, ever ready to forgive us and raise us up to new life. He has given you to us and made your Immaculate Heart a refuge for the Church and for all humanity. By God’s gracious will, you are ever with us; even in the most troubled moments of our history, you are there to guide us with tender love.

We now turn to you and knock at the door of your heart. We are your beloved children. At every age you make yourself known to us, calling us to conversion. At this dark hour, help us and grant us your comfort. Say to us once more: “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?” You are able to untie the knots of our hearts and of our times. In you, we place our trust. We are confident that, especially in moments of trial, you will not be deaf to our supplication and will come to our aid.

That is what you did at Cana in Galilee when you interceded with Jesus and he worked the first of his signs. To preserve the joy of the wedding feast, you said to him: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3). Now, O Mother, repeat those words and that prayer, for in our own day we have run out of the wine of hope, joy has fled, the fraternity has faded. We have forgotten our humanity and squandered the gift of peace. We opened our hearts to violence and destructiveness. How greatly we need your maternal help!

Therefore, O Mother, hear our prayer.
Star of the Sea, do not let us be shipwrecked in the tempest of war.
Ark of the New Covenant, inspire projects and paths of reconciliation.
Queen of Heaven, restore God’s peace to the world.
Eliminate hatred and the thirst for revenge, and teach us forgiveness.
Free us from war, and protect our world from the menace of nuclear weapons.
Queen of the Rosary, make us realize our need to pray and to love.
Queen of the Human Family, show people the path of fraternity.
Queen of Peace, obtain peace for our world.

O Mother, may your sorrowful plea stir our hardened hearts. May the tears you shed for us make this valley parched by our hatred blossom anew. Amid the thunder of weapons, may your prayer turn our thoughts to peace. May your maternal touch soothe those who suffer and flee from the rain of bombs. May your motherly embrace comfort those forced to leave their homes and their native land. May your Sorrowful Heart move us to compassion and inspire us to open our doors and to care for our brothers and sisters who are injured and cast aside.

Holy Mother of God, as you stood beneath the cross, Jesus, seeing the disciple at your side, said: “Behold your son” (Jn 19:26). In this way, he entrusted each of us to you. To the disciple, and to each of us, he said: “Behold, your Mother” (v. 27). Mother Mary, we now desire to welcome you into our lives and our history.  At this hour, weary and distraught humanity stands with you beneath the cross, needing to entrust itself to you and, through you, to consecrate itself to Christ. The people of Ukraine and Russia, who venerate you with great love, now turn to you, even as your heart beats with compassion for them and for all those peoples decimated by war, hunger, injustice, and poverty.

Therefore, Mother of God and our Mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the Church, and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine. Accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love. Grant that war may end and peace spread throughout the world. The “Fiat” that arose from your heart opened the doors of history to the Prince of Peace. We trust that, through your heart, peace will dawn once more. To you, we consecrate the future of the whole human family, the needs and expectations of every people, the anxieties and hopes of the world.

Through your intercession, may God’s mercy be poured out on the earth and the gentle rhythm of peace return to mark our days. Our Lady of the “Fiat”, on whom the Holy Spirit descended, restore among us the harmony that comes from God. May you, our “living fountain of hope”, water the dryness of our hearts. In your womb Jesus took flesh; help us to foster the growth of communion. You once trod the streets of our world; lead us now on the paths of peace. Amen.

 

Blessings to all mothers, grandmothers, godmothers,

and all those who provide motherly care. 


Comments:

Stephanie Morris, ASBS, Ph.D. Historian, Certified archivist, emerita

Queen of Peace, obtain peace for our world. From Pope Francis’ “Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

From the cross, Jesus gave His Mother to be the mother of John the Apostle, and John (on our behalf) to be her child. Confident of this, in 1883, Kate (St. Katharine Drexel)asked the Blessed Mother to be her mother after the death of Emma Bouvier Drexel.

St. Katharine urged all to “go to Mary as their Mother.” She also prayed the Rosary for all involved in armed conflicts. St. Katharine urged all to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary. Perhaps our meditation on the Sorrowful Mysteries could include some of our current concerns.

The Agony in the Garden: Pray for those anxious about where they will go, will sleep if they will ever return to Ukraine.

The Scourging at the Pillar: Pray for those in areas under attack.

The Crowning with Thorns: Pray for those wearing a mantle of leadership, deliberating on steps to stop the aggression and aid the afflicted.

The Carrying of the Cross: Our Lord fell and needed help. Pray for those injured that they find support in Our Lord’s wounds and from the help of others.

The Crucifixion: Pray for those killed or injured in this conflict and in our cities.

Our Lady, Queen of peace, bring peace and justice to the whole world.

 

Pat Chiaffa, ASBS

Thank you for including Pope Francis’ Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the blog. It is such a beautiful appeal to Our Mother Mary on our behalf. That Consecration will serve as my Examen of heart and consciousness as I reflect on the daily contributions I make toward peace or toward disharmony.

I pray for peace yet so many times my thoughts reveal deep inner unrest. I recognize that I have strayed from the path of peace that Jesus desires. The more I hear of violence and destruction, the louder I hear the voice of fear. Fear makes for misery and I go about my day feeling broken-hearted, wanting to withdraw and grieve what once was. I am reminded by the Act of Consecration to Mary’s Immaculate Heart that it is my responsibility to seek the Presence of God in the midst of suffering humanity, to step out in faith, and to embody peace and love I want to see in the world. If I can uplift but one person today, I have acted as an agent of change. 

I turn to Mother Mary with the heart of a humbled daughter, seeking forgiveness and asking for her powerful intercession with Jesus for all the times I have chosen to ignore Him and be satisfied with my illusions, for the times I have not respected the garden of the earth, and for those times I chose indifference to others over my own selfish interests. 

I close with the sentiments of Pope Francis. Mother Mary, through your intercession, “may God’s mercy be poured out on the earth and the gentle rhythm of peace return to mark our days… May you, our ‘living fountain of hope,’ water the dryness of our hearts…You once trod the streets of our world; lead us now on the paths of peace.”

May we receive the tender motherly love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary into our hearts this day and share it with all those we encounter.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

April 2022 - Easter Vigil


The Easter Vigil 


Since there is so much in the celebrations of Easter, the high point of the Church Year, I shall begin by giving an overview of the mother of all vigils: the Easter Vigil, and then focus on the making and renewing of the Baptismal Vows in both the Vigil and Sunday Masses.

The Roman Missal explains that during the Easter Vigil “The Church keeping watch, awaits the Resurrection of Christ and celebrates it in the Sacraments.” The Vigil begins in a darkened Church. The large decorated paschal candle, representing the risen Christ, is lit and is carried into the church while the words “Light of Christ” are proclaimed. Usually, small candles, held by the congregation, are lit from the paschal candle and the light is passed from one worshiper to the next until the whole church is filled with light from the candles. I see this as symbolic of the fact that we are to carry the light of Christ into a dark world.

Several readings from the Hebrew Scriptures summarize the story of salvation beginning with the story of creation, the choosing of the Hebrews to be God’s people, and their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Then the readings speak to God’s constant care until Christ comes. Prayers and canticles follow each reading.

After the readings, the altar candles are lit from the paschal candle, and the church is filled with light and triumphant music. The “Alleluias” are heard in the Church again and the first Easter Eucharist begins. Our risen Lord has come into the darkness to light up the world.

Following the Gospel, the Saints are invoked to pray for those to be baptized and/or receive other Sacraments. Then the baptisms and confirmations take place. Those who were baptized in Christian denominations whose baptisms are accepted as valid by the Catholic Church make a profession of faith in the Catholic Church.

The people in the congregation are sprinkled with holy water as a reminder of their own baptisms.  They renew their vows to renounce Satan and promise to serve God in the holy Catholic Church. For those who were baptized as infants or young children, it is an opportunity to consciously verbalize their commitment to Christ.

Since none of us is perfect, it is a way for all of us to start anew to live and love as Jesus has taught us. The Liturgy of the Eucharist follows and the newly baptized will join the rest of the people receiving Holy Communion.

Easter Sunday

The Easter Sunday Masses are like the ordinary Sunday Masses except for the addition of a sequence, the renewal of Baptismal Vows, and several choices for the Gospel readings.
                         

Sequence

Christians, to the Paschal Victim

Offer your thankful Praises!

A Lamb the sheep redeems;

Christ, who only is sinless,

Reconciles sinners to the Father.

Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous

The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.

Speak, Mary, declaring

What you saw, wayfaring.

“The tomb of Christ, who is living,

The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;

Bright angels attesting,

The shroud and napkin resting,

Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;

To Galilee He goes before you.”

Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.

Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!

Amen. Alleluia

Although there are several choices for the Gospel on Easter Sunday, I shall focus on John 20:1-9.  Many believe that aware of how deeply His mother Mary was suffering, Jesus would have appeared to her first. That may well be true. In fact, John concludes his Gospel with the following words: “Now there are many other things that Jesus did. If they were all written down one by one, I suppose that the whole world could not hold the books that would be written” (Jn 21:25).

John, the evangelist, has personally witnessed Mary of Magdala grief-stricken running to tell Peter and himself that the stone had been rolled back from the entrance of the tomb. She fears that His body has been stolen.

In response, Peter and John hasten to the tomb. John, being younger, arrives first but does not enter. When Peter arrives, he goes inside and sees the burial cloths and the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head, not with the burial cloths, but rolled up in a separate place. Then John goes in, sees, and believes. According to John: until that moment, “they had failed to understand the teachings of scripture that he must rise from the dead” (Jn 20:9).

During the Easter Season, we shall be reflecting on the many ways the risen Savior makes himself known to the people. What great joy they must have felt after witnessing the cruel Passion of Jesus to know that He was victorious and that they would someday share in His victory over death.

Reflection Question:  How can I consciously bring the Light of Christ into our world?


Comments:

Stephanie Morris, ASBS, Ph.D. Historian, Certified archivist, emerita

To shine a light, you need to turn on a switch or strike a match to light a candle. To bring the Light of Christ anywhere, we must first have Christ’s light within us.

Any lamp needs fuel. Matthew tells us that the “eye is the lamp of the body” (6:22). During these difficult times, our eyes are almost the only part of our face showing above our face masks! 

Christ’s lamp within us needs fuel. Mother Katharine tells us that prayer and the reception of Holy Communion are the food necessary for a strong spiritual life. If we are open to being fed by the Word of God and to the love He freely offers us, we can fan a little light of God into a fire of His Love radiating from us. This fire will then illuminate our actions.

Do our eyes show that we are listening to those around us who are asking for help or prayers? Do our eyes show the joy and gratitude we feel for the love and mercy God has for us? Few of us are where we would like to be physically or socially or perhaps spiritually.  But we can keep trying to do what God asks of us in a willing manner. Then our lives will shine the Light of Christ to all.

At the Easter Vigil, we will sing: “Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts, Shine through the darkness.” May the Light of Christ shine in and through our hearts today and always.


Pat Chiaffa, ASBS

“But you, beloved, are not in darkness…for you are children of light and children of the day.”  These words from 1 Thessalonians 5:4 came rushing to mind as a result of three individuals who chose to let their lights shine one ordinary day.

Wednesdays are shopping days for mom and me. We adhere to a set pattern. I gather her up and we leisurely walk down the long hallway to the exit where I park the car. Once mom and her walker are in the car, we head to Walmart, the Dollar Store, the supermarket, and occasionally, the State Store to pick up a bottle of Manischewitz Concord Grape wine. She maintains that it warms her “insides.” One blustery cold Wednesday our routine chores were elevated to glimpse Compassionate Presence. The event that set my heart ablaze was not announced or noticed by anyone other than myself but it was one of the strongest sensations of being in the Light that I experienced, at the supermarket, of all places.

All the handicapped parking spaces were taken, so I decided to drop mom off at the entrance of the store. The area was exceptionally congested and noisy due to active construction work.  I pulled up, got out of the car, went over to the passenger side to get mom and walker out.  A young man, who was gathering up shopping carts, paused and asked if I would like him to get a handicap cart for my mother.  Then, from seemingly nowhere, a woman was standing next to us. She told me she would take care of my mother while I parked the car. I was still trying to figure out where those two people came from when I went inside the store and found my mother comfortably sitting on a chair off to the side with a team of three people surrounding her. The third person was a young male store associate who had fetched the chair for mom. They attended to her as if she were a celebrity.  I thanked them repeatedly, and they were genuinely appreciative of my thanks.

The young men who tended to the needs of my mother each had speech and physical impairments. Rather than limit their abilities, these “handy-capable” individuals had innate insights which moved them to be of service to a stranger. There was such simplicity in their actions and in their caring!  I sensed the movement of the Holy Spirit as I held back tears of gratitude. Their response held the intrinsic energy of “We’re here for one another.”  I felt very much a member of the Body of Christ for a few brief moments huddled in this little circle in the bakery department of Giant Market. The woman, who was the supervisor of the boys, had stepped outside for her break which she willingly sacrificed to watch out for my mother.  Mom benefitted from the attention and pampering, but the lesson was exclusively mine. 

Mom’s helpers were shining lamps radiating light all around them.  I felt embraced by warmth in their presence because Presence (The Lord) was shining through them. The big question for me was, “Would I have even noticed the elderly woman, the pressured caregiver, the tired mother?” Regrettably, the truthful answer was probably “No.”   My flame was extinguished, mostly due to my recurrent bouts of negative thinking regarding all the ongoing restrictions surrounding Covid. Would the prolonged darkness of pain, separation, and self-suffocation of masks ever end? Not if I keep fanning the flames of misery.  

God’s Divine Mercy cradled me that day and restored me to renewal. God’s Light is contained in His Word (Holy Scripture). I recognized I was spending so much time reading and listening to all the fear-fueling news that my prayer time with God had slipped to daily snippets. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Light begets light. I chose to reignite my flame that day. That ordinary shopping day was a grace-filled gift for me. Thus, I encourage any reader who may be experiencing distress over conditions “out-there,” to spend adequate time going “within” to commune with Jesus who is “Light from Light.”

“Let your light so shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

Sunday, February 27, 2022

March 2021 - Lent

March 2nd is Ash Wednesday this year. It is the beginning of Lent when we reflect on the sufferings of Jesus, our Savior, who came to ransom us from sin. It is also the time when we try to become closer to Jesus and renew ourselves. We look forward to Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus who promises us that we too can rise and be with Him for eternity if we keep His commandments to Love God and one another.

There are many meanings of the word "Lent" in the English language, but the one we are focusing on is "springtime." When we think of spring, we think, of growth, renewal, and resurrection.

First, I think of an awakening of the vegetation as it makes a path through the soil, pushes obstacles out of its way, and seeks nourishment for growth. All this enables it to provide food and beauty for our world.

That is what "lent" is about. We take time to examine our relationships with God, our brothers, and sisters. We ask the Lord to help us to discern what needs to happen to allow our spirits to grow. We seek to know the obstacles in our path and how to remove them. We also look to ways of nourishing our souls for greater growth.


What are obstacles in my path? 

Do I neglect my prayer life?

Am I unwilling to forgive? Ask the Lord and/or a spiritual friend for help. 

Am I spending too much time watching TV or with social media, or something else so that I do not pray enough? What can I give up in order to spend more time with the Lord? 

Do I enrich the soil by studying the Bible, doing spiritual reading, listening to spiritual songs or sermons, engaging in faith-sharing circles, etc.? Ask the Lord what he wants of you.


In the spring, we also see renewal. Trees, which seemed to be dead in the winter, begin to bud forth and gift us with their beauty and welcomed shade. It may be that the Lord simply wants me to renew a holy practice that I have let go of because of busyness or other reasons.

All this is in preparation for the new life which we will celebrate at the Easter Vigil and Masses with Alleluias and renewal of our Baptismal Vows. Then, we will be able to bring the light of Christ to our world in such need of hope and love - more than ever: This year we are faced with more challenges at the same time than I can remember in my lifetime: 

 

                      The pandemic and all that entails.

                       Lack of adequate hospital beds

                       Lack of adequate medical staff

                      The loss of loved ones 

                       Limited ability to gather with others

                       Widespread misinformation 

                       Blatant lying

                       Gun violence

                       Hate crimes

                       Political division

                       Climate Change

                       Severe weather

                       Drug problems

                       Anxiety problems

                       Depression problems

                       Threat of War

                       Education affected, etc.

 

However, God is still in the heavens, so we should not fear…

                                    

I am with you;

Do not be

Anxious

I am your God

I will 

Strengthen you, 

I will help you,

I will uphold you 

With 

My victorious

Right hand.


- Isaiah 41:10

 

 

Reflection Question: Ask the Lord to help you to know in what area/s he wants you to grow during this Lenten Season.


Comments:

 

Stephanie Morris, ASBS, Ph.D., Historian, certified archivist emerita

“Lento” is an Italian word that signifies a direction in music – to go in a slow manner. Spiritually, we can see Lent as a time to go slowly, to slow down our usually hectic lives, and re-connect with God. If you have ever planted a garden or even grown some flowers from seeds, you know that you have to wait for the seeds to germinate. Growth may be slow but the end results are often beautiful and/or delicious. So, it is with our spiritual life. The seed might be a few quiet minutes with the Lord at the start of our day. This could grow into a calm demeanor during the day and greater trust in God. Mother Katharine said that “Growth must be gradual to be enduring.” We can try this spring to slowly come into a closer relationship with God.

Pat Chiaffa, ASBS

I was truly enlightened by your blog this week. Your description of the spiritual processes of growth, renewal, and resurrection, using the example of how nature removes obstacles in its path as it seeks nourishment for sustenance is so relatable.  We can use this illustration, along with your questions that help us identify some of the obstacles that stand between us and our relationship to God, to offer others an understandable explanation of the importance of Lent in our spiritual development.

The Lord Is My Shepherd  

A Psalm of David.  ESV

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.

    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

February 2022 - St. Katharine Drexel's Missions

February 12,1891 was the Foundation Day for the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament - a Community dedicated to justice for all peoples, especially for Indians, Colored Peoples, and all the oppressed.

St. Katharine Drexel, the foundress of the Community, was a daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia banker, Francis Anthony Drexel. She and her whole family became philanthropists because they believed that their wealth was a gift to be shared with the needy.


As a child, Katharine helped her stepmother, Emma Bouvier, to distribute food, clothing, and rent assistance to the needy, especially to the recently emancipated African Americans. Her sisters Elizabeth and Louise also helped.


The three sisters were encouraged to relate to all people as children of our common heavenly Father. They were aware that these former slaves, although very capable, lacked the education to find good jobs. From this experience, Katharine recognized the need for a good education to enable people to improve their lives. 


Later, when Katharine became a Religious Sister and foundress of the new Community, she stressed education as a way of improving the lives of the oppressed, especially, but not exclusively, among the Native Americans and African Americans.


When construction began for the convent St. Katharine was building for her new Community in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, people began to make threats. A stick of dynamite was found at the construction site of the Motherhouse. Also, one of her first schools was destroyed by arson. However, St. Katharine had great trust in Divine Providence. Therefore, these incidents did not deter St. Katharine from her work.

One of St. Katharine’s early schools was St. Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a boarding school built for Native Americans. I was blessed to have it as my first experience working with Native Americans and Hispanic students.


One misconception which I had brought with me from Boston was quickly dispelled. I had never knowingly met a Native American, so my image was the stoic Indian picture representing the Shawmut Bank. 


It wasn’t long for me to recognize the great sense of humor that the Natives have. This gift probably has been helpful in dealing with prejudice and hardships. 


There were approximately 30 different tribes represented at the school. Hispanic students from Santa Fe attended as day students. A sense of pride in their heritages was fostered in the school. Many became leaders and could interact with one another well because of their experiences at St. Kate’s (nickname for St. Catharine’s School). 

 

On special days when we would have Mass, the students would proudly process into the gym dressed in their traditional garments. At the offertory, the students made prayer requests in their various Native languages. Often at the end of a celebratory service, we would witness an Indian dance by the Eagle Dancers.


Although it was a boarding school, there was a positive, friendly spirit there as evidenced by the many graduates who would return to attend games in the gym.

Also, they would visit the Sisters and staff, many of whom were volunteers from many different areas.


How St. Katharine Drexel Won Against Racism 

Taken from an article by Brook Gregory found in EpicPew.com.

Needless to say, St. Katharine was not popular in the South during the early 1900s. Officials in Macon, Georgia, tried to prevent the Sisters from teaching at one of her schools. They simply did not want white women teaching and interacting with black students and their families. St. Katharine fought the law, won, and the school is still open.


Then, St. Katharine purchased a building with the intention of opening a Catholic Institution of Higher Education in New Orleans, Louisiana. When her plans became public knowledge, vandals broke in and smashed all the windows. St. Katharine made little of it and pursued her dream. Today, the Xavier University of Louisiana, a historically Black Catholic University, is still thriving and providing many professionals for the area and beyond.

A prayer response to a threat from the KKK of the Beaumont, Texas Chapter, is striking. On the door of a parish church, connected with one of her schools, a note was nailed which read, "We want an end to services here. Suppress it in one week or flogging with tar and feathers will follow." A few days later, nature responded in the form of a tornado that completely destroyed the Klan headquarters and killed two of its members. The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Beaumont were never bothered again.

St. Katharine outsmarted racist laws by designing the churches she built in the South in a special way. The people had to be segregated if a service was to be held legally. St. Katharine didn't like the idea that the Black people were roped off and relegated to the back of the church. Since St. Katherine couldn't change the laws, she changed the arrangement of the pews. St. Katharine had two front-to-back rows of pews in her churches. The law couldn't attack her or the people. The pews were still technically segregated, but the people of color were not forced to sit behind the white people. They were seated side by side.

St. Katharine advanced the legal protection of Native Americans and people of color through persistent letter-writing campaigns. Also, she was a vocal advocate of early civil rights legislation.

St. Katharine died at age 96 in 1955 on the eve of the Civil Rights Movement that she helped to advance long before its existence was even considered. The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, their Associates, Partners, Alumni, and friends carry on her Mission today. 


Reflection Question: Ask the Lord to help you to know what He wants you to do to help promote social justice. 

Comments

Pat Chiaffa, ASBS

The information you shared on Saint Katharine Drexel was really interesting. St. Katharine Drexel’s courage and steadfast faith in the face of so many obstacles encountered in her mission is inspiring. She is a wonderful model of loving God and serving our brothers and sisters in Christ. I particularly enjoyed reading of Mother Katharine’s brilliant creativity in rearranging the pews in her churches to get around the racist law. Those of us fortunate enough to know any of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament get to witness her spirit in the activities, prayers, and stories of these dedicated women.

Sadly, racism continues to plague our society and demoralize our youth. An article in The New York Times, by Amy Horman, on January 20, 2020, told of the experiences of 101 black teenagers in Washington, DC over a two-week period. Their stories were tracked by researchers who reported that the teens encountered more than 5600 instances of racial discrimination, averaging more than 5 instances per day for each teen.

The researchers reported that the magnitude of the discrimination faced by black adolescents affects how they feel, noting symptoms of depression, difficulty sleeping, loneliness, and anxiety. Violence continues to escalate in our cities claiming precious lives and breaking the hearts of families. St. Katharine’s words, “if there is any prejudice in the mind, we must uproot it, or it will tear us down,” are as true today as when she penned them.


Stephanie Morris, Ph.D., ASBS, Historian, Certified archivist emerita

Before we can do anything to promote social justice, we should first have a plan. Where are we in society and what actually can we do?

Unlike St. Katharine, few of us have the ability to open schools. We can, perhaps, contribute a little bit to help our parish school. What kind of fundraisers does your parish church and/or school run? Bingo? Bake-sales? Clothing drives? Bazaars? How can you help?

Few of us are in a position to change society; generally, we are only able to change ourselves. We can pray, and prayer works wonders.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said: “I have decided to stick with love. ...Hate is too great a burden to bear.” St. Katharine said, “Love is proven by little things.” A phone call to a neighbor who may not get out of her/his home often - does she/he need a ride or some groceries? Little things are love in action.


Today, St. Katharine Drexel is the patroness of Philanthropists and 

Racial Justice