It was with great joy we had the opportunity to talk with Fr. Thomas Dubay. His work on “Fire Within” and all the programs he gave us on EWTN was instrumental in my spiritual growth. In those early days, he was like having a distant spiritual director who guided me, as well as the rest of us, toward a deeper relationship with Christ.
He told me once, “Kris, the best theology books are the lives of the saints; you study them and you won’t be led astray.” Fr. Thomas Dubay, in a very real way, helped inspire the work of this blog and its mission.
Fr. Thomas Dubay is one of the most popular and respected retreat masters and spiritual directors in the USA. He is the author of the perennial best-selling book on prayer and contemplation, Fire Within. In this book, he responds to the call to priests by both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI to help believers and all those interested in spirituality to develop a deeper prayer life and union with God.
As in his other popular writings, Dubay’s style is profound and meditative yet clear and readable. He gives an overview of the spiritual life and journey for anyone seeking to grow in the love of God and neighbor. An expert on the teachings and writings of the two great mystical doctors of prayer and the spiritual life, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, Dubay gives solid practical advice for a deepening moral and spiritual conversion, and a radical growth in holiness.
Mother Josephine Bakhita was born in Sudan in 1869 and died in Schio (Vicenza) in 1947.
This African flower, who knew the anguish of kidnapping and slavery, bloomed marvelously in Italy, in response to God’s grace, with the Daughters of Charity.
In Schio (Vicenza), where she spent many years of her life, everyone still calls her “our Black Mother”. The process for the cause of Canonization began 12 years after her death and on December 1st, 1978 the Church proclaimed the Decree of the heroic practice of all virtues.
Divine Providence which “cares for the flowers of the fields and the birds of the air”, guided the Sudanese slave through innumerable and unspeakable sufferings to human freedom and to the freedom of faith and finally to the consecration of her whole life to God for the coming of his Kingdom.
Bakhita was not the name she received from her parents at birth. The fright and the terrible experiences she went through made her forget the name she was given by her parents. Bakhita, which means “fortunate”, was the name given to her by her kidnappers.
Sold and resold in the markets of El Obeid and of Khartoum, she experienced the humiliations and sufferings of slavery, both physical and moral.
In the Capital of Sudan, Bakhita was bought by an Italian Consul, Callisto Legnani . For the first time since the day she was kidnapped, she realized with pleasant surprise, that no one used the lash when giving her orders; instead, she was treated in a loving and cordial way. In the Consul’s residence, Bakhita experienced peace, warmth and moments of joy, even though veiled by nostalgia for her own family, whom, perhaps, she had lost forever.
Political situations forced the Consul to leave for Italy. Bakhita asked and obtained permission to go with him and with a friend of his, a certain Mr. Augusto Michieli.
On arrival in Genoa, Mr. Legnani, pressured by the request of Mr. Michieli’s wife, consented to leave Bakhita with them. She followed the new “family”, which settled in Zianigo (near Mirano Veneto). When their daughter Mimmina was born, Bakhita became her babysitter and friend.
The acquisition and management of a big hotel in Suakin, on the Red Sea, forced Mrs. Michieli to move to Suakin to help her husband. Meanwhile, on the advice of their administrator, Illuminato Checchini, Mimmina and Bakhita were entrusted to the Canossian Sisters of the Institute of the Catechumens in Venice. It was there that Bakhita came to know about God whom “she had experienced in her heart without knowing who He was” ever since she was a child. “Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself: Who could be the Master of these beautiful things? And I felt a great desire to see him, to know Him and to pay Him homage…”
Daughter of God
After several months in the catechumenate, Bakhita received the sacraments of Christian initiation and was given the new name, Josephine. It was January 9, 1890. She did not know how to express her joy that day. Her big and expressive eyes sparkled, revealing deep emotions. From then on, she was often seen kissing the baptismal font and saying: “Here, I became a daughter of God!”
With each new day, she became more aware of who this God was, whom she now knew and loved, who had led her to Him through mysterious ways, holding her by the hand.When Mrs. Michieli returned from Africa to take back her daughter and Bakhita, the latter, with unusual firmness and courage, expressed her desire to remain with the Canossian Sisters and to serve that God who had shown her so many proofs of His love.
The young African, who by then had come of age, enjoyed the freedom of choice which the Italian law ensured.
Daughter of St. Magdalene
Bakhita remained in the catechumenate where she experienced the call to be a religious, and to give herself to the Lord in the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa.
On December 8, 1896 Josephine Bakhita was consecrated forever to God whom she called with the sweet expression “the Master!”
For another 50 years, this humble Daughter of Charity, a true witness of the love of God, lived in the community in Schio, engaged in various services: cooking, sewing, embroidery and attending to the door.
When she was on duty at the door, she would gently lay her hands on the heads of the children who daily attended the Canossian schools and caress them. Her amiable voice, which had the inflection and rhythm of the music of her country, was pleasing to the little ones, comforting to the poor and suffering and encouraging for those who knocked at the door of the Institute.
Witness of love
Her humility, her simplicity and her constant smile won the hearts of all the citizens. Her sisters in the community esteemed her for her inalterable sweet nature, her exquisite goodness and her deep desire to make the Lord known.
“Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know Him. What a great grace it is to know God!”As she grew older she experienced long, painful years of sickness.
Mother Bakhita continued to witness to faith, goodness and Christian hope. To those who visited her and asked how she was, she would respond with a smile: “As the Master desires.”
During her agony, she re-lived the terrible days of her slavery and more then once she begged the nurse who assisted her: “Please, loosen the chains… they are heavy!”
It was Mary Most Holy who freed her from all pain. Her last words were: “Our Lady! Our Lady!”, and her final smile testified to her encounter with the Mother of the Lord.
Mother Bakhita breathed her last on February 8, 1947 at the Canossian Convent, Schio, surrounded by the Sisters. A crowd quickly gathered at the Convent to have a last look at their «Mother Moretta» and to ask for her protection from heaven. The fame of her sanctity has spread to all the continents and many are those who receive graces through her intercession.
Every line of the Collect for Saint Bakhita merits attention; every phrase needs to be repeated in meditation.
O God, who led Saint Josephine Bakhita
from abject slavery
to the dignity of being your daughter and the bride of Christ,
give us, we beseech you, by her example,
to follow after Jesus the Crucified Lord with unremitting love
and, in charity, to persevere in a ready mercy.
Bruce and I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Fr. Thomas Acklin, a Benedictine priest, who is a professor of theology and psychology at St. Vincent College and Seminary in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He is the author of a tremendous work entitled “The Passion of the Lamb”. In this book, he challenges us to become lambs like Christ, the little children He calls us to be so that we may be able to follow him in Word and Deed. Fr. Acklin is a master spiritual director, who helps us to hear the voice of the Lord in our hearts and encourages us to respond, in trust, to the will of the Father. An important not to be missed gift.
Many today fear that we hover on the brink of global collapse. War, terrorism, and disease provoke a sense of despair. Yet in our midst stands Jesus Christ, undaunted by the brutal realities of a world that rejects him. And as he looks at each of us, he asks directly and personally, Will you have faith in me?
In this powerful book Fr. Acklin reveals the passionate love of God for every person, love that will not be denied or defeated. God is for us in spite of our indifference. God has not been eclipsed by the world s agenda. God willnever abandon us. God will always seek out the wounded and lost. We have his guarantee that this is so because the suffering and death the passion of Jesus clinched the deal confirming God s commitment to his creation.
The Passion of the Lamb helps us answer the only question that ultimately matters: Will we have faith in Jesus?
Join Bruce and I as we discuss with Dr. Philip Freeman, PhD, author of “St. Patrick of Ireland”, the life of this great saint.
A reading from the Confession of St Patrick (Conf 34,36,37,38,39)
“I give thanks to my God tirelessly who kept me faithful in the day of trial, so that today I offer sacrifice to him confidently, the living sacrifice of my life to Christ, my Lord, who preserved me in all my troubles. I can say therefore: Who am I, Lord, and what is my calling that you should cooperate with me with such divine power? Today, among heathen peoples, I praise and proclaim your name in all places, not only when things go well but also in times of stress. Whether I receive good or ill, I return thanks equally to God, who taught me always to trust him unreservedly. His answer to my prayer inspired me in these latter days to undertake this holy and wonderful work in spite of my ignorance, and to imitate in some way those who, as the Lord foretold, would preach his Good News as a witness to all nations before the end of the world.
How did I come by this wisdom which was not my own, I who neither knew what was in store for me, nor what it was to relish God? What was the source of the gift I got later, the great and beneficial gift of knowing and loving God, even if it meant leaving my homeland and my relatives?
I came to the Irish heathens to preach the Good News and to put up with insults from unbelievers. I heard my mission abused, I endured many persecutions even to the extent of chains; I gave up my free-born status for the good of others. Should I be worthy I am ready to give even my life, promptly and gladly, for his name; and it is there that I wish to spend it until I die, if the Lord should graciously allow me.
I am very much in debt to God; who gave me so much grace that through me many people were born again in God and afterwards confirmed, and that clergy were ordained for them everywhere. All this was for a people newly come to belief whom the Lord took from the very ends of the earth as he promised long ago, through his prophets: ‘To you the nations will come from the ends of the earth and will say, “How false are the idols our fathers made for themselves, how useless they are.” ‘And again: ‘I have made you a light for the nations so that you may be a means of salvation to the ends of the earth.’
I wish to wait there for the promise of one who never breaks his word, as he promises in the gospel: ‘They will come from the east and the west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob,’ just as we believe the faithful will come from every part of the world.”
We give you thanks, almighty God, for sending Saint Patrick to preach your glory to the people of Ireland. Grant that we who are proud to call ourselves Christians may never cease to proclaim to the world the good news of salvation.
(We make our prayer) through our Lord.
Through Christ our Lord .
We bring to you what might seem like a surprising conversation from 2007 with Robert Novak, who died of cancer in 2009. In his poignantly honest memoir, “Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington,” he deftly chronicles the political and cultural shifts of the last half of the 20th century. Our discussion, however, focuses on his conversion to the Roman Catholic faith and his devotion to his patron saint, St. Thomas More which he shares in the book. We discuss how his Catholic faith gave him the strength to follow his conscience and the teachings of the Catholic Church in the latter years of his life. The stances he took in regards to immigration and the war in Iraqi, to name a few, put him at surprising odds with many of his “conservative” colleagues; he was even painfully rejected by some he regarded as close friends. A gracious man, this interview is one of our all-time favorites. His witness is a profound and compelling conversion story. We hope you enjoy it. – KM
Bruce and I, thanks to Fr. Damien Cook, had the opportunity to speak to Fr. Titus Kieninger of Opus Sanctorum Angelorum about the role of Holy Angels.
Angel of God,
My Guardian Dear,
to whom His love commits me here,
ever this day be at my side,
to light and to guard,
to rule and guide.
For they are ministering spirits, sent for service, for the sake of those who will inherit salvation” (Heb 1:14)
O holy Guardian Angel, my dear friend and solicitous guide on the dangerous way of life, to thee be heartfelt thanks for the numberless benefits which have been granted me through thy love and goodness and for the powerful help by which thou hast preserved me from so many dangers and temptations. I beg of thee, let me further experience thy love and thy care. Avert from me all danger, increase in me horror for sin and love for all that is good. Be a counselor and consoler to me in all the affairs of my life, and when my life draws to a close, conduct my soul through the valley of death into the kingdom of eternal peace, so that in eternity we may together praise God and rejoice in His glory. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord.
O Angel of God, make me worthy of thy tender love, thy celestial companionship and thy never-failing protection!
For He will give His angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. (Ps 91)
The Holy Angels, and in particular our Guardian Angels, are such a wonderful gift to us from the Father! Let us give thanks to Him for his generosity and to our Guardian Angel for their presence in our lives!
It’s really important to understand the difference in the angels beyond all the New Age silliness. There are the Holy Angels (we love them and they love us) and the fallen angels (bad, bad, bad)…it’s what discernment and spiritual warfare, on many levels, are all about.
Let us affectionately love His angels as counselors and defenders appointed by the Father and placed over us. They are faithful; they are prudent; they are powerful; Let us only follow them, let us remain close to them, and in the protection of the God of heaven let us abide. ~ St. Bernard of Clairvaux
There are endless collections of reflections on the life, teachings, and works of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta…all wonderful and worth exploration. One however stands out for me, and that is the writings of the late Fr. Joseph Langford, co-founder with Mother Teresa of the Missionaries of Charity Fathers. In particular, “Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady”
Join Bruce and I as we talk with Fr. Langford about Mother Teresa and Our Lady
“Stay very close to Our Lady. If you do this, you can do great things for God and the good of people.” –Mother Teresa of Calcutta
As it was for Mother Teresa, so it can be for the rest of us. By standing close to Our Lady we can find the grace and courage to overcome our own personal trials and crosses. Summon the same powerful presence and aid of Our Lady by following the example of Mother Teresa. From dawn to dusk, decade to decade, Mother Teresa’s life had been spent, in every sense of the word, in the shadow of Our Lady. Our Lady helps us, as Mother Teresa found in her vision, to become contemplatives at the foot of the cross–to discover God’s presence and love, even in the midst of our trials and dark nights. Nothing was impossible for Mother Teresa while she clung to Our Lady, and as Mother Teresa tells us, “nothing is impossible for all who call Mary mother.”
“Sitting with Mother Teresa, watching her tend to the sick and the dying, feeling the aura of holiness around her person, seeing her bent in prayer, lost in God–how often I asked myself if I was not seeing something of Our Lady, experiencing a glimpse of the Virgin of Nazareth” –-Author and co-founder of Mother Teresa’s priests’ community, Joseph Langford, MC
Who is she? Men and women throughout the centuries have tried to define her…all we know for sure is that she was freed and healed from 7 demons, stayed with Our Lady at the foot of the Cross, and was chosen by Christ to be the first witness to the Resurrection…she would become the Apostle to the Apostles.
One of the best conversations we’ve had about St. Mary Magdalene was with the wonderful Amy Welborn, author of “Decoding Mary Magdalene”
Artists and musicians have tried to capture Mary Magdalene; here’s a beautiful tribute to their efforts:
One of our all-time favorite conversations, one of our all-time favorite books…Anthony DeStefano’s “A Travel Guide to Heaven”! (Has it really been 10 years since this was published?) Filled with “Of course, that makes sense…” moments, this is a gem for the ages. A timeless read that I revisited recently that brought such encouragement and joy to my heart, that I wanted to share it, along with this classic discussion with Anthony, with all those who come to Discerning Hearts. Anthony is as much fun to talk to as he is to read! Enjoy!
Using the Bible as his guide, the author notes that heaven is not only a spiritual place, but also a physical place, a fabulous “luxury resort” more sumptuous than any on Earth. The residents are real, their bodies transformed into their most perfect selves—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. By making a spiritual subject immensely physical, the book provides a picture of amazing places to visit, things to do, luxuries for pampering—not to mention deep, abiding joy.
Combining the clarity and logic of C. S. Lewis with a terrific sense of fun and adventure, DeStefano creates a brilliant, reassuring portrait of heaven, a place that has intrigued and puzzled humankind throughout history.
St. Agnes of Bohemia is one of my favorite saints and it has a lot to do with Sr. Joan Mueller, the master storyteller. St. Agnes was the great admirer and then great friend of St. Clare. Her tale is as dramatic and compelling as any novel written. The text below is a brief overview of her life, but do yourself a favor and listen to the great tale as told by Sr. Joan.
Agnes of Bohemia (1211-1282) nun of the Order of St. Clare
Agnes, daughter of Premysl Otakar I, king of Bohemia and Queen Constance, the sister of King Andrew II of Hungary, was born in Prague in 1211. Since childhood she was involved in projects of engagement treated independently of his will, for convenience dynastic and political speculations.
Agnes was the youngest daughter of Bohemian king Premysl Otakar I, making her a descendant of Saint Ludmila, another Bohemian patron saint. Agnes’s mother was Constance of Hungary, who was the sister of King Andrew II of Hungary, so Agnes was an elder cousin of St. Elizabeth of Hungary.
When she was three years old, Agnes was entrusted to the Cistercian order at Trzebnica to be educated. The monastery had been founded by Hedwig, the wife of Duke Henry I the Bearded of Silesia. Agnes was engaged to Hedwig and Henry’s son Boleslav. After Boleslav died, Agnes returned to Prague at the age of six.
At the age of eight, she was engaged to Henry, son of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor. Henry was ten years old and had just been crowned Henry VII of Germany, King of the Romans. According to custom, Agnes should have spent her childhood at her future husband’s court, so they could develop a friendship, as well as learn the language and culture of her new country. Emperor Frederick II, King of Sicily, had his court in Palermo, while his son Henry, now the German king, was being brought up in Germany at the archbishop Engelbert’s residence in Cologne.
It was decided to send Agnes to the court of Leopold VI of Babenberg. But Leopold wanted Henry to marry his own daughter Margaret. The wedding of Agnes and Henry was cancelled after six years of engagement. Like other noble women of her time, Agnes was a valuable pawn in the marriage game. In 1226 her father Otakar went to war against the Babenbergs as a result of the broken engagement. Otakar then planned for her to marry Henry III of England, but this was vetoed by the Emperor, who himself was interested in marrying Agnes.
Agnes refused to play any more part in a politically arranged marriage. She decided to devote her life to religious works, with the help of Pope Gregory IX. She became a member of the Franciscan Poor Clares, a religious order founded by Saint Clare of Assisi (with whom she corresponded for over two decades but never met in person). On land donated by her brother, Wenceslaus I, she founded the Hospital of St. Francis (ca. 1232-33) and two convents where the Franciscan friars and Clare nuns who worked at the hospital resided. This religious complex was one of the first Gothic buildings in Prague. Taking the vow of poverty, she cooked for and took care of the lepers and paupers personally, even after becoming the Mother Superior of the Prague Clares in 1234.
The Franciscan brotherhood working at the hospital was promoted as an individual order, the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star by Pope Gregory IX in 1252. The Convent of St. Agnes (Klášter sv. Anežky) fell into decline after the Hussite Wars and was abolished in 1782. Restored in the 1960s, the convent is now a branch of the National Gallery in Prague, featuring 19th-century Czech paintings.
Pope John Paul II formally canonized Blessed Agnes few days before the Velvet Revolution, a non-violent revolution in Czechoslovakia that saw the overthrow of the authoritarian government. . – wikipedia
Here is Sr. Joan Mueller, with her wonderful way, of offering us more on the life of St. Agnes of Bohemia