Thursday, May 11, 2023

May 2023 Blog - Our Mother Mary


May 2023 - 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.



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. 



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.


Friday, March 31, 2023

April Holy Week - Easter 2023


April Holy Week - Easter 2023


Gospel: Luke 24:13-35

We are Easter people and "Alleluia" is our Song. Let us sing "Alleluia" 

here and now in this life, even though we are oppressed by various 

worries, so that we may sing it one day in the world to come, 

when we are set free from all anxiety.

-St. Augustine of Hippo

On Easter Sunday, there are choices given to the priests regarding the Scriptures to be read. Therefore, if you have heard a different Gospel from the one I have chosen, realize that it is just a different choice. I chose it since it seems to include what is contained in the others.

In today's Gospel from Luke, we find the risen Jesus joining two of his disciples on their way to 
Emmaus. When Jesus asked them what they were conversing about, they where talking about the recent crucifixion and death of Jesus. They were confused and troubled because they knew Jesus' body was no longer in the tomb. Had some people removed it? They had witnessed Jesus' miracles. Why had he not saved himself? 

Jesus responded: 
"Oh how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" Jesus then interpreted the prophets for them.

As evening approached, the disciples invited Jesus to stay with them. As they sat down for an evening meal, Jesus said a blessing and took bread, broke it and gave it to them. 
They then recognized Jesus and exclaimed,"Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?" 

They returned to Jerusalem where they found the eleven and others who exclaimed that Jesus had appeared to Simon. 
Together they proclaimed that Jesus had risen. It was the appearances of Jesus in his risen body that had assured them that promise of a Savior had been fulfilled.

There are some parts of the Easter Liturgies which are special :

1. An ancient hymn called a "sequence" used to be sung to add to the ceremony of the gospel procession. Today it can be sung or recited at the Easter Masses. Let us take time to reflect on the beautiful words:

Praise the Pascal Victim


Christian, to the Pascal 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.


2. It is important to meditate on Renewal of Baptismal Promises so that they become more meaningful. Usually, this happens after the reading of the Gospel.


The Celebrant will say:


Dear brothers and sisters, through the Paschal Mystery we have been buried with Christ in Baptism, so that we may walk with him in newness of life.

And so, now that our Lenten observance is concluded, let us renew the promises of Holy Baptism, by which we once renounced Satan and his works and promised to serve God in the holy Catholic Church. And so I ask you.


1. Do you renounce Satan? I do.

And all his works? I do.

And all his empty show? I do. 


2. Do you renounce sin, so as to live in the freedom of the children of God? I do.

Do you renounce the lure of evil, so that sin may have no mastery over you? I do.

Do you renounce Satan, the author and prince of sin? I do.

Since we are weak human beings, we need to ask the Lord's help to keep our promises. 
With his grace, we can be faithful.




Pat Chiaffa, ASBS
One past November I took a mini vacation to Savannah, Georgia. The trip was my first real get-away in forty years, so needless to say I was very excited. Savannah was no exception to the extreme weather conditions that most cities along the east coast were experiencing. I departed Philadelphia in blustery rain only to find it cold and stormy in Savannah. It poured three out of the four days I visited. Sunday, however, was a glorious day and I spent every daylight hour exploring the city. I was greeted by a resident who was walking her dog in one of the town’s historic squares. She quickly assessed that I was a tourist because I was taking pictures of everything. She commented that the one photo I must absolutely take was of the “Resurrection” trees lining the path. She went on to tell me that if these trees are deprived of water for just a few days, their lush green draping foliage turns brown and dries out. If I had visited the prior week, I would be observing dead looking trees. Thus, the blustery cold rain that dampened my sightseeing and lead to turbulent flights “resurrected” these trees to vibrant life. 

Naturally, I was thinking spirituality principles as this hometown lady related the nature of the trees. After all, we go through a similar transformation with every dark period we experience. If we invite Jesus to tread with us through the rainy days of life, we too will emerge renewed like the unique trees of Savannah.

Lent is a time dedicated to reflection and prayerfulness. Acknowledging my sinfulness, I petition God for mercy and strength. During these “examination of conscious” moments, I recognize patterns of behavior that deplete my spirit, deadening it to my soul’s needs. When in this withered state, I am incapable of noticing the needs of others. Worse, I am apathetic to the suffering of others.

Unless I refresh myself with “Living Water,” my soul remains parched. This lifegiving water, of course, is Jesus. I look to the cross and see there the greatest love of all time. Total gift of Self, given that I will have life. We are showered with abundant grace when we meditate upon Christ’s passion and death. Such contemplation puts things in perspective, opens the heart to forgiveness, and reignites within us the desire to move forward as a dedicated disciple of Jesus.

Raised from the depths of my self-imposed separateness from God, self and others, I am restored to life. My “resurrected” self reflects the light, love and oneness of Christ radiating in and through me.

Once again, I celebrate the joy of my “belovedness”, It is Easter!

Stephanie Morris, ASBS, Ph.D Historian, Certified Archivist, Emerita 
Only one disciple on the road to Emmaus – Cleopas – is named; you might be the other. Does your heart burn when reading on listening to the Word of God? Does your soul sing “Alleluia” when you receive the Body and Blood of your Savior? How can you deepen your response to God’s Presence? A few quiet moments spent in gratitude, contrition, praise and petition might help to quiet our restless spirit and allow us to rest calmly in God’s loving embrace.


Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Blog for March 2023


Blog for March 2023


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

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

2) 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?

3) Do I enrich the soil by studying the Bible, doing spiritual reading, listening to spiritual songs or sermons, or 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.

The Feast of St. Katharine Drexel - March 3

St. Katharine Drexel was the first canonized Saint to be born a United States citizen. She 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. 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 she became a Religious Sister and founded a new community,
the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, she stressed education as a way of improving the lives of the oppressed, especially, but not exclusively, among the Native Americans and African Americans.

Today, St. Katharine Drexel is the patroness of Philanthropists and Racial Justice. The following information is taken from an article by Brook Gregory found in

Five Times St. Katharine Drexel Won Against Racism 

1) 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. One of her first schools was destroyed by arson. These incidents did not deter St. Katharine from her work.

2) 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.

3) 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, Xavier, a historically Black Catholic University, is still thriving and providing many professionals for the area and beyond.

4) 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 late, 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.

5) 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. She left us much-needed words of wisdom for today.

"Have a cordial respect for others in heart and mind; if there is any prejudice in the mind, we must uproot it, or it will tear us down."

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


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 grew 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.

Additionally, 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 the churches she financed in order to get around the racist law that Black people had to sit behind the white people in the church.  She arranged for two rows side by side. In that way the groups were separate but at least side by side. Those of us fortunate enough to know any 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, 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.