Author Archives: vhoagland

St. Theresa of Avila


October 15th is the feast of Theresa of Avila, one of three women “doctors of the church.”. On the 500th anniversary of her birth, Pope Francis described her as “primarily a teacher of prayer.” “The discovery of Christ’s humanity was central to her experience.”

The aim of prayer for Theresa was not to bring inner balance or get your blood pressure down–the only goal some see for meditation today.“ The saint opens new horizons for us, she calls us to a great undertaking, to see the world with the eyes of Christ, to seek what He seeks and to love what He loves.” We should listen to her.

Far from taking us away from the world and retreating into ourselves, prayer calls us to new undertakings, new horizons, seeing the world with the eyes of Christ. It’s something to do every day..

Theresa knew what living day by day means. She lived day by day herself. How did she do it? By daily prayer, by following Jesus Christ daily, by looking for the daily bread God gives us, by doing God’s will.

Saint Theresa, wise woman you are, be with us  these days. Make them days of blessing!

Here’s a prayer found in her prayerbook, which she must have said everyday.

Let nothing disturb you,
nothing frighten you.
All things are passing,
God is unchanging.
Patience wins everything.
Who has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Follow Jesus Christ, Theresa says:

“Unlike our friends in the world,  Jesus will never abandon us when we are troubled or distressed. Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him near. Look at the glorious Saint Paul: it seems that no other name fell from his lips than that of Jesus, because the name of Jesus was fixed and embedded in his heart. 

Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully considered the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found that they took no other path: Francis, Anthony of Padua, Bernard, Catherine of Siena. A person must walk along this path in freedom, placing himself in God’s hands. If God should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares his secrets, we ought to accept this gladly.

Whenever we think of Christ we should recall the love that led him to bestow on us so many graces and favours, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a pledge of his love; for love calls for love in return. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to rouse ourselves to love him. For if at some time the Lord should grant us the grace of impressing his love on our hearts, all will become easy for us and we shall accomplish great things quickly and without effort.”

Writings, Theresa of Avila

Callistus: Slave Becomes Pope

St. Callistus, Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere

Callistus, the saint honored today in our calendar, was a slave who became pope in 217 AD.

In the Roman empire then slaves not only did lowly demeaning work, they could be bank managers and school teachers and fulfill other professional duties as well. Tradition says Callistus was a Christian slave who was a financial manager for one of Rome’s royal families. At one time he was accused of mismanagement but then found innocent.

 When Zephyrinus became bishop of Rome, he called on Callistus to serve as deacon in charge of a large Christian cemetery along the Via Appia, which today bears his name. Not only did Callistus bury the dead, he also cared for and supported the families they left behind.

Zephyrinus died in 217 A.D and Callistus succeeded him as pope by popular choice. Roman Christians saw him, not a slave, but a man of faith who could guide and lead them. The church grew under his leadership.

5.oil fount:st

Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere

Tradition says Callistus built a place of prayer at or near a hospice for old or sick soldiers in Trastevere, where healing oil welled up. Today the beautiful Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere stands on the spot. Inscriptions taken from the cemetery of Callistus are embedded in its structure.The place where the healing oil was found is marked in the church and Callistus’ remains are buried under its main altar. He’s pictured in the great mosaic in the church’s apse. (above)

As pope, Callistus advanced certain causes. He favored free women being able to marry slaves. He favored ordination for men who had been married two or three times. He also maintained that the church could forgive all sins, even the sin of denying one’s faith.

Some opposed the pope, a former slave, because his views clashed with their own rigorous views, but Callistus shared St. Paul’s conviction that status doesn’t determine who you are. All are equal before God. There is “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free person, neither male nor female.” (Galatians 3,28) And mercy is God’s gift to be experienced even now.

Callistus’ remains were found by archeologists in 1960. He is counted as a Christian martyr, but the circumstances of his death remain uncertain. The historian Eamon Duffy sees him murdered by a mob angered by Christian expansion in the already crowded district of Trastevere. (Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, p 14) Christians were growing in numbers and the church was becoming a substantial property owner, caring for 1,500 widows and other in need by 251 AD.

On August 2, 258, Pope Sixtus II and four deacons were martyred while celebrating the Eucharist in the catacombs of Callistus in Rome. Four days later, Lawrence the deacon was executed. Rome’s emperors, like Decius and Valerian, annoyed by the Christian expansion and seeking their assets, began a series of persecutions that led to the church’s further growth.

Following Jesus Christ

Cosmic Christ. Bro. Michael Moran

”The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the works of his hands. Day unto day pours forth speech; night unto night whispers knowledge.There is no speech, no words; their voice is not heard. A report goes forth through all the earth, their messages, to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19: 2-5)

Without words, creation speaks of the glory of God and reveals the One who made it. Day by day, night by night it whispers knowledge. Through things small and great, God’s creation reveals its Creator. 

 “Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.” Still,  human beings turn from the God of creation, creating gods of their own, St. Paul says in his Letter to the Romans,

Yet, God bestows glorious blessings through his Son, Jesus Christ, who comes as God’s Word made flesh and dwells among us. In the fullness of time he comes; in humble flesh he comes and taking the form of a slave, died on a cross. 

He is exalted and all creation is exalted in him. His death brought life to the world. His passion is the sign of God’s love for humanity and all that was made.  

Jesus Christ calls us to follow him. 

Creator of Heaven and Earth

Paul the Apostle begins his Letter to the Romans stating his belief in God, who reveals himself in creation. “Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.” (Romans 1:16-25) 

“The heavens declare the glory of God,” our psalm response for Tuesday declares. Yet Paul sees human beings blind to the God of creation, as they create gods of their own.

As an apostle, Paul has been called to announce the message he has received from God. Jesus has come as Savior and Lord.

In his letter Laudato sí , on caring for the earth our common home, Pope Francis notes that certain times in history provoke a spiritual crisis which leads to a deeper faith in God. The Babylonian captivity when the Jewish people went into exile in the 6th century before Christ and the fierce Roman persecution of Christians at the beginning of the 4th century AD are examples he cites.  

These crises led to  “a growing trust in the all-powerful God: ‘Great and wonderful are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways ‘ (Rev 15:3). The God who created the universe out of nothing can also intervene in this world and overcome every form of evil.” (74) 

Our world now is paralyzed and will not be the same. Are we at one of thos crucial moments? Will God intervene?  God, the Father, Creator of heaven and earth, God who is surprisingly creative? 

Don’t forget God, the Creator, the pope says. If we do ” we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot. The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place, putting an end to their claim to absolute dominion over the earth, is to speak once more of the figure of a Father who creates and who alone owns the world. Otherwise, human beings will always try to impose their own laws and interests on reality.” (75)

Important as it is, science alone is not enough, the pope says. We need to look also to our own tradition for hope and inspiration. Our prayers, our sacraments, currents of our spirituality waiting to be recognized and developed can guide us now to what God has planned from eternity.

If sacred history tells us anything, God the Creator never stops fashioning a beautiful unknown.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans, a basic statement of faith, is timely.

Native Peoples, Colonists and Missionaries

H.Hudson halfmoon

For the injustices against the native peoples and the land God provided here.“Lord, have mercy.”

For the brave missionaries that ministered to them. “Thanks be to God.”

The native peoples are often forgotten in the story of the “discovery” of America. Our heroes tend to be the settlers who came on ships, built towns and cities, explored the land and gave us what we have today. But it came at a price.

If you ever visit New York harbor by way of the Staten Island Ferry look at the  shores now crowded by the buildings and piers of today.  Once  native peoples fished, hunted and traded in large numbers here. The water was fresher then, fish and shellfish plentiful, the air cleaner, the earth less damaged by human activity.

The National Museum of the American Indian is located in the old customs house across from Battery Park near the ferry. It’s a good place to remember the native peoples in the story of America. The Europeans traded with them; they were their guides into an unknown land; they provided many of the foods that fed growing populations in Europe and America. Their respect for the land was greater than those who came after them.

A young Indian woman, Kateri Tekakwitha and a Jesuit priest, Isaac Jogues, are figures to remember here in the customs house. They represent the clash of civilizations that occurred when Europeans and native peoples met. Across the street from the customs house is the statue of Christopher Columbus.

Europeans brought disease.  Smallpox  disfigured and partially blinded Kateri Tekakwitha, a young Mohawk woman who lived along the Mohawk River past Albany, NY. The native peoples had no immunity to small pox and other diseases. Three out of ten died from it. By some estimates 5 million native people lived in North America when the first Europeans arrived. Within a hundred years there were only 500,000. Besides disease, the major cause of their diminishment, the native peoples also suffered from wars and greed.
Museum of American Indian

At the museum, besides Kateri Tekakwitha remember Father Isaac Jogues, the Jesuit missionary who, while attempting to advance peace-keeping efforts with the Mohawks at Ossernonon (Auriesville) was killed by a war party on October 18, 1646. Previously, in 1642  Jogues had been captured by this same tribe. He escaped in 1643, fled here to New Amsterdam (New York City) and then was put on a ship for France by a kindly Dutch minister.


The French missionaries came to the New World out of the turmoils of the Old World expecting a new Pentecost among the native peoples here, but it didn’t turn out that way. Instead, disease and political maneuvering made the native peoples suspicious of  foreigners and the seed of the gospel fell on hard ground.

Letters back to France from the early Jesuits–marvelously preserved in “The Jesuit Relations”–often express the missionaries’ disappointment  over their scarce harvest, but it didn’t stop them. They were well grounded in the mystery of the Cross.

 “My God, it grieves me greatly that you are not known, that in this savage wilderness all have not been converted to you, that sin has not been driven from it. My God, even if all the brutal tortures which prisoners in this region must endure should fall on me, I offer myself most willingly to them and I alone shall suffer them all.” St. John de Brebéuf

The Indian woman and the priest persevered. We forget how difficult it is when civilizations clash– like now. We remember the Christian missionaries: Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests and their compassions on October 19th..

Columbus, Central Park, NYC
Indian behind symbols of European trade and expansion: Customs House, New York City

Here’s a video on the Jesuit Martyrs at Auriesville

OCTOBER 11-17: Readings and Feasts

October 11 Mon Weekday [Saint John XXIII, Pope Rom 1:1-7/Lk 11:29-32 

12 Tue Weekday Rom 1:16-25/Lk 11:37-41 

13 Wed Weekday Rom 2:1-11/Lk 11:42-46 

14 Thu Weekday [Saint Callistus I, Pope and Martyr] Rom 3:21-30/Lk 11:47-54 

15 Fri Saint Teresa of Jesus, Doctor of the Church Memorial Rom 4:1-8/Lk 12:1-7 

16 Sat Weekday

[Saint Hedwig, Religious; Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin;] Rom 4:13, 16-18/Lk 12:8-12 


Is 53:10-11/Heb 4:14-16/Mk 10:35-45 or 10:42-45 

For the next 4 weeks our first weekday reading will be from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, considered the most important statement of his teaching. Appropriately, the responsorial psalm  for Monday proclaims: “The Lord has made known his salvation. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God.”

In Luke’s gospel, also on Monday, Jesus recalls the mission of Jonah and the conversion of Nineveh, a reminder of God’s saving plan for the world, which Paul the Apostle will forcefully proclaim.

Saint John XXIII, whom I was privileged to meet one memorable day in Rome, is remembered this Monday. Callistus, a slave who became an early pope is Thursday’s saint. St. Theresa of Avila, and women saints like Hedwig and Margaret Mary Alacoque are remembered later this week.  

The readings can be found at this site.

Morning and evening prayers here.

The Day of the Lord

Tombs in the Kidron Valley

Prophets, like saints, are sometimes hard to figure out. Scholars can’t tell us much about the Prophet Joel, who speaks in our readings at Mass these days. He’s one of the post-exilic prophets, but when and where was he born? Yet, Joel offers important morsels of insight into the mystery of God.

Joel sees Judea reduced by waves of locusts and no rain until it’s a desolate and impoverished land. In those dire times, the prophet says the Day of the Lord will come. God will hear the cries of his people who complain about their enemies’ taunts: “Where is your God?”

Joel says the Day of the Lord, when God brings justice and peace, will come in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, a name the Jews applied to the Kidron Valley, which lies between the Mount of Olives and the temple of Jerusalem. God will destroy his enemies there and then pour his blessings on Jerusalem and his holy people. (Joel 4, 12-21)

We remember, of course, that Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley and went onto the Mount of Olives to pray the night before he died. On that dark night, he pleaded with his Father in heaven to take away the cup of suffering, as his own disciples abandoned him. He faced the great enemy Death, that cries out: “Where is your God?” He left that place to bring life as he died and rose again.

Did Jesus remember the words of Joel as he prayed on the Mount of Olives, facing the Kidron Valley and the Holy City?

At Pentecost, the Apostle Peter uses a long quotation from Joel to explain the blessings God gives through Jesus’ death and resurrection: “It will come to pass in the last days, God says, that I will pour our a portion of my spirit on all flesh. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams…I will work wonders in the heavens above and signs of the earth below…” (Acts 2, 17-19)

Let’s not give up when nature seems to fail.

Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7)

Pilgrim Relic from the Holy Land, 6th century

The feast today is a reminder of the spiritual power of  the Rosary, a simple prayer we pray with Mary, recalling the mysteries of Jesus Christ, her Son. The rosary is “a school of Mary.” We ask her, who followed her Son and kept memories of him in her heart, to help us obtain his promises. 

St. Bernard recalls Mary’s role in the Incarnation of her Son:

The child to be born of you will be called holy, the Son of God, the fountain of wisdom, the Word of the Father on high. Through you, blessed Virgin, this Word will become flesh, so that even though, as he says: I am in the Father and the Father is in me, it is still true for him to say: “I came forth from God and am here.”

By nature incomprehensible and inaccessible, invisible and unthinkable, God wished to be understood, to be seen and thought of. 

But how, you ask, was this done? He lay in a manger and rested on a virgin’s breast, preached on a mountain, and spent the night in prayer. He hung on a cross, grew pale in death, and roamed free among the dead and ruled over those in hell. He rose again on the third day, and showed the apostles the wounds of the nails, the signs of victory. Finally in their presence he ascended to the sanctuary of heaven.

Wisely meditate on these truths; rightly recall the abundant sweetness, given by the fruits of this priestly root. And Mary, drawing abundantly from heaven, will cause this sweetness to overflow for us.”

An “incomprehensible, inaccessible, invisible, unthinkable” God wished to be understood, seen and thought of, St Bernard says. We usually begin the Rosary with the Creed, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” Mary believed in the Creator of heaven and earth. Only One so mighty could do such great things in her.

Lord, open our hearts to your grace. May we, who learned to believe,  through the angel’s message,  in the incarnation of Christ your Son,  be brought by his passion and cross,  at the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary,  to the glory of his resurrection.Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,  one God, for ever and ever.Amen.

Originally this memorial was celebrated in thanksgiving for Mary’s intercession for the defeat on October 7,1571 of Turkish naval forces that threatened Europe. She was seen as a sign that God can raise up the lowly and “cast down the mighty from their thrones.”

Blessed Isidore de Loor


Since their founding in the mid 1800s, the Passionists have given the church a variety of saints and blessed. St. Paul of the Cross, a preacher and mystic, St. Vincent Strambi, a holy bishop during the Napoleanic Wars, Blessed Dominic Barberi, a fervent missionary to England, St. Gabriel Possenti a young Italian saint who died in his early 20s, Blessed Eugene Bossilkov, a martyr bishop under the Communists in Bulgaria in the 1950s.

October 6th we honor Blessed Isidore de Loor 1881-1916, from the Flemish part of Belgium, who entered the Passionists as a lay brother at 26.

The opening prayer for a feast usually indicates why a saint or blessed is honored.

Lord God,
in Blessed Isidore’s spirit of humility and work
you have given us a life hidden in the shadow of the Cross.
Grant that our daily work be a praise to you
and a loving service to our brothers and sisters.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Isidore was a humble, hard worker. He spent the first 26 years of his life working the family farm in Vrasene, Belgium, with his parents, brother and sister. Farming was tough at the time, demanding long hours and offering little to show for it. The agricultural sector in Belgium was near collapse. Yet, Isidore praised God and served his brothers and sisters through hard continuing work.

Prayer was the hidden power motivating his life. Isidore taught catechism in his parish; prayed at local shrines and made the Stations of the Cross daily. He wanted to enter religious life, but delayed till his brother Franz was free from a call-up for military service and could keep up the family farm.

Entering the Passionists as a brother, he took on whatever responsibilities they gave him to do. At first, they told him to be the community cook. “Before I dug the earth, planted seed and harvested crops, now I cut vegetables, put them in pots on the stove and cook them till they’re ready,” he told his family. Whatever his work, he saw it as God’s will and a way to serve.

In 1911, cancer developed in Isidore’s eye and it had to be removed. He was not cancer free, the doctors said, cancer eventually would take his life. God’s will be done, he said.

As his strength declined, he became porter at the monastery door. World War 1 was beginning and German troops invaded Belgium. The frightened people who came to the monastery found support in the quiet faith of “Good Brother Isidore”.

In late summer 1916 Isidore’s health worsened. He died of cancer October 6, 1916, as German troops occupied the area and some were billeted in the monastery itself. He was buried quietly; his family and religious community were not allowed to attend. Yet, he would not be forgotten.

When the war ended, people came to the “Good Brother’s” grave. Cures from cancer and other illnesses occurred. They recognized a holy man who worked and prayed each day and served his brothers and sisters. A friend of God.