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The Child King’s Lesson

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          As the morning sun rose to its throne on the First Saturday of May, sending lances of gold through the slumbering firs, I read words that would set the tone for the week.

PRAY …. SO THAT EACH ONE OF YOU BE THE INTERCESSOR OF YOUR BROTHER AND OF ALL HUMANITY.

          Intercessor. It made sense. Someone’s name had just come to mind, a political leader seeking to make amends with God for past wrongs. I was going to travel to the city that day, and fully intended to spend some time before the Divine Mercy at church, praying for this man.

          Then, I went to the Daily Readings.

          And mistakenly read the Gospel reading for the 4th of May which I had missed.

Jesus said to his disciples:
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.   ~   John 15:12

          I squirmed uncomfortably.

          Something was beginning to form in my mind. Love one another. Intercede. An unfortunate memory came to mind. Someone at work had infuriated me the previous day, saying something cruel about children, and I knew from experience that no amount of words could help her think otherwise.  I had turned away from her immediately and she wisely said no more. But my hidden seething soon morphed into something darker.

          Yet nothing is concealed from the eyes of God.

          Hours later, I did go before the Divine Mercy at church, and prayed for that repenting leader as well as for my country for we face a crucial test in the week to come. But I forgot to pray for myself. I  rambled excuses for my hidden anger against my colleague.

          God didn’t forget, though. Returning home, I remembered I hadn’t been to my prayer nook for my daily prayer. When I stopped by, this was what was waiting for me.

Holy Infant of Prague Prayer

O Infant Jesus, I run to You,
begging You through Your Holy Mother
to save me in this need (you may name it here),
for I truly and firmly believe
that Your Divinity can defend me.
Full of trust I hope in You
to obtain Your holy grace.
I love You with all my heart,
I am painfully sorry for my sins
and on my knees I beg You,
O Little Jesus, to free me from them.
My resolution is to improve
and never more to offend You.
Therefore, I offer myself to You,
ready to suffer everything for You
and to serve You faithfully.
I will love my neighbour as myself
from my heart for the love of You.
O Little Jesus, I adore You,
O Mighty Child, I implore You,
save me in this need (you can mention it here),
that I may enjoy You eternally,
with Mary and Joseph see You
and with all the angels adore You.

Amen.

 

          I will love my neighbour as myself. The words bit deep. I stopped making excuses for myself. I stopped shielding my conscience from my sin.

          The next day, travelling to Sunday Mass, I was determined to make amends – even though I still felt my colleague had provoked my anger. The call to intercede still hovered before me, my country was facing an Everest like never before, and I wanted to pray for us all. But I knew a prayer had power only when it came from a clean heart.

          And mine was far from it.

          So, I prayed for the grace of repentance. During Lent this year, facing a similar struggle with a lack of repentance, I had prayed this same prayer, and God had granted it. I was sure He would grant it again. I waited expectantly.

          Instead, I was assailed by darts of intense dislike against my colleague. The drive to Mass was long, and mile after long mile, the struggle showed no signs of diminishing.

          Suddenly, out of nowhere, I thought of St. Anne, the grandmother of the Holy Infant. It was then that a tiny bud bloomed in my memory.

          A memory of previous struggle against my weakness. A struggle on Easter Vigil. That night, I had been hit repeatedly with dark thoughts about others. Initially, I had keeled over and fallen down. But then I realized I was fighting it wrong; With every onslaught of negative thoughts, I was trying to be calm and charitable – and I failed.

          Until I began to fight differently. I took satan’s darts, each one as it came, and buried them into the Wounds of Christ. Over and over. And then, the battle was won.

          This memory returned now, on the drive to Mass, long days since Easter Vigil. In fighting the negative thoughts about my friend, I was trying to be the saint I was not. Because of this, I was losing the battle. I was not fighting it right.

          In order to win, I had to change tactics. And so I did. Remembering how St. Anne had misted out of nowhere, every time my thoughts turned dark, I placed them in St. Anne’s lap. I didn’t bother trying to be heroic. I didn’t get upset that I couldn’t love as others could. I stopped trying to be who I was not.

          Although a measure of peace did come swiftly, I fought this hidden battle even past church doors as I entered for Mass. But I didn’t give up. I went before the Divine Mercy for my Sunday anointing.

          Then, Mass began. In our parish, different groups  – named after a saint – animate the Mass each week. The animating group for that Mass would have a stand-banner up of its saint at the left of the altar, towards the back.

          I hadn’t noticed the banners from the previous weeks, but as we sang the Entrance Hymn, my eyes were led to that quiet corner off the altar. There was a banner up.

          It was of Saint Anne!

          The Holy Infant of Prague had answered my prayer – in a way I never expected. In doing it, I knew He was trying to teach me that each one of us battles differently. Our lines of warfare are drawn uniquely. To take the sting flung at me and to press it into the care of Someone else – was the way I am being called to fight myself.

          But that wasn’t all The Holy Infant of Prague was trying to tell me. Even after this fight was over, I sensed the Child King’s presence nearby.

          I knew there was more to come.

 

 

 

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Lent 33 ~ Build An Oratory

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Build an oratory within yourself, and there have Jesus on the altar of your heart. Speak to Him often while you are doing your work. Speak to Him of His holy love, of His holy sufferings and of the sorrows of most holy Mary.   ~   St Paul of the Cross, writing a reply on Jan 9, 1760 to a busy married woman who felt that she couldn’t seem to find enough time to pray.

 

          So this is where the journey of close to two decades, likely more, has led to.

Begging God for death

Pre-dawn vision of Jesus

Wipe My Blood

St. Philip Neri

Rosary

Grief

Padre Pio

Abuse

The Invisible Scar

St. John of the Cross

Seek Counsel

Blow the Breath of My Mother into the realms

St. Francis of Assisi

Quieten Down, Listen Up

St. Germaine Cousin

Holy Eucharist

A Coming Flood

Prepare

Mercy

Confession

Rosary of Atonement

The Miraculous Image

In Sinu Jesu

Adoration

Into Your Hands I commend my spirit

          This odd inner excitement from last week. Just like in the old, old days of childhood. An excitement that is vaguely familiar. I press and probe, What excitement is this? What joy is this?

          The little pod un~buds itself.

It is the excitement of waking up in a new home.

          Not the going to a new home. But having arrived, the excitement of waking up in it.

What new home is this?

An oratory within myself.

 

 

Lent 31 ~ Entreaty to St. Joseph

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O glorious St. Joseph, to you God committed the care of His only begotten Son amid the many dangers of this world. We come to you and ask you to take under your special protection the children God has given us. Through holy baptism they became children of God and members of His holy Church. We consecrate them to you today, that through this consecration they may become your foster children. Guard them, guide their steps in life, and form their hearts after the hearts of Jesus and Mary.

St. Joseph, who felt the tribulation and worry of a parent when the child Jesus was lost, protect our dear children for time and eternity. May you be their father and counselor. Let them, like Jesus, grow in age as well as in wisdom and grace before God and men. Preserve them from the corruption of his world, and give us the grace one day to be united with them in Heaven forever.

Amen.

 

 

 

Lent 30 ~ Very Few

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Why should I not hold conversation with you who are the friend of My Heart?  I speak in this way to many souls but not all recognize My voice, and very few welcome My conversation and receive My friendship as the freely given gift it is.   ~   Anonymous Benedictine Monk, In Sinu Jesu

 

This is for all the times I’ve doubted that I had heard His voice.

For all the times I’ve let my life’s noise drown out His voice.

For all the times I allowed others to assume His voice and to take control of my life.

 

 

 

Lent 25 ~ Make Ready

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I believe that He wants us to acknowledge that part of our life that could use some housecleaning to make room for Him to fill our spirits completely.  A Lenten sacrifice is an individual decision.  Each of us knows what we need to do to make ready for His Resurrection.   ~   Ellen Fassbender, Peaceful Heart, Open Mind 

 

          I think many of us would have had the acidic experience of having our unique  Lenten observances put under pious scrutiny, only to be proclaimed un-Lenten – just because they do not fit within common interpretations. Ellen Fassbender is one of two bloggers I know who cleans out cupboards and hold-alls as part of a personal Lent practice – all in the name of paring away, pruning and making space for the Risen Christ. Her different and gentle take on Lent is something I wish I’d known earlier because it would have helped my younger kids to prepare better and more meaningfully for Lent.

          But there’s still some long days left and I’m much grateful for Ellen’s wisdom.

 

 

Lent 24 ~ An Angel Among Men

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Hours after St. Conrad of Parzham’s quote was laid before my eyes, my thoughts often strayed back to him. I kept thinking of the person behind that simple warning and reminder to stay away from the cliff’s edge of sin. So, I sought to get to know the saint and I’m sure glad I did, for that voice from beyond that held me back from sin came from the most gentle, humble, simple and quiet of souls. More importantly, St. Conrad’s life seems to be the one Jesus, through the In Sinu Jesu writings, seems to be calling me to – to be lost in Him in order that Christ’s Light shine unhindered through me.

 

Saint Konrad of Parzham

Based on the original German of Rector Georg Albrechtskirchinger

http://www.salvemariaregina.info/Martyrologies/Konrad.html


A New Gift from God

In the little known village of Parzham, Germany, around the year 1800, there lived and worked a farmer – Bartholomew Birndorfer. The tiny village lay in the valley of the Rott (Rottal), a stream that flows into the torrential river Inn, whose waters flow, in turn, into the river Danube. “Bartl” was a wealthy farmer. The old saying fit him well: “In Rottal dwells the pride of the farmer – his beautiful horses – his field – his timber.” Bartl had twenty-two cows, ten horses and one hundred twenty-five acres of fertile soil all around his comfortable log cabin with its flat shingle roof. But hard times came when a devastating and unruly Freemasonic revolution swept over the land. The government siezed the monasteries and confiscated their goods. The so-called “Freethinking Enlightenment” spread doubts against the Faith, mocked piety and, in many families, lessened the bond of good morals and holy virtues. The wars of the tyrant Napoleon raged in Europe; in 1809 Rottal, too, was laid waste. Continual torrential rains in 1816 and 1817 caused a painful famine. Not until 1818 was there a turn for the better – a real year of plenty. As often as a full cartload of crops arrived at the barn, the farmer with his wife and children would kneel down, pray three Our Father’s and thank God for His gifts with tears of joy.

The graces of this year were not to come to an end until another child was born to the Birndorfer family. It was the 22nd of December, shortly after midnight. Later that same day the baby boy was taken by horse-drawn sleigh through deep snow to the parish church and was baptized with the name Johannes Evangelist. Arriving again at home, his mother clasped her “Hansel” in her arms and thanked the Lord of life and death affectionately for this child of God, which the Lord had given her. She was happy about the beautiful name. Would it have some mysterious significance? At any rate, year after year and day after day, through vivid stories of the Boy Jesus, she would make that Holy Life come alive for her little boy, so that he would imitate the example held out to him and taste the delights of divine love.

Pious Childhood

The blonde-haired, blue-eyed Hansel was thriving visibly. After his cradling, he began making expeditions across the floor. He soon found his way everywhere. In the kitchen he would play with fir-cones and sticks. He waddled through every room. He got acquainted with the chickens, the dog and cat, the cattle and horses. The household brought up Hansel as it had brought up the other children. He enjoyed the best visual instructions. Farm life and Christian example were both placed before his senses. When poor people or hired hands came, tired and worn, to ask a night’s lodging, Hansel would fetch milk and bread for them. He took his place with the house occupants for daily prayers and the Rosary. Often he was found praying in a quiet nook. No one disturbed him there, neither the farm-hands nor the maids. He had no patience for any indecency in the children at the village square. All the adults were amazed how recollected Hansel was at prayer and that his intense devotion was so obvious on his countenance. No wonder everyone was so fond of him and called him a little angel!

At age six Hansel became a student. He learned reading, writing and arithmetic, Bible History and the “Canisi” – as this little catechism was called – in which St. Peter Canisius had condensed the truths of the Catholic Religion into short and clear lessons. Attentive and diligent, Hansel took in every subject with a laudable persistence. Once he brought home an award for receiving a high grade on a test. During this school year, Hansel also distinguished himself as quite a special person. On the half-hour’s journey to the school in Weng, he would sometimes go apart from his noisy comrades and would silently and secretly pray several Our Father’s. Sometimes he would induce a fellow-student to offer Our Heavenly Mother a Rosary. When a quarrel and fight broke out, Hansel would intervene and make peace. When he did not succeed, he regarded it as better to just be on his way. Children acting rowdy with each other or speaking in a shameful manner would call out when they saw little Johannes, “Quiet! Quiet! Hansel Birndorfer is coming!” Their bad words would stick in their throats. Cursing gave pain to his soul. Should he hear any blasphemy, he would fall to his knees, weep and beg the Lord God for mercy on the blasphemer. Whoever saw this was deeply moved. Gradually such blasphemies were held back in his presence. Throughout the parish and school, people would ask, “What kind of boy is this?” And they would receive the answer, “He is an angel among men.”

After finishing school, Hans advanced step-by-step in the hard work of farming. He worked in the stable; he mowed the meadows; he drew the plow. Although still young in years, he already viewed his life and his world as a bridge over the river of time to God, the Eternal. So he never forgot throughout all his occupations, to maintain his union with the Lord of Heaven and Earth. Good intention and the worship of God ennobled his work. Under the hottest sunshine, Hans wore nothing on his head. One day, his father feared he would suffer a heat-stroke. So, a few days later, he admonished him to wear a hat. The boy answered, “Father, shouldn’t someone take his hat off when he is going to pray?” His father replied, after a short consideration, “Yes, of course. But tell me, do you pray the whole time you are working?” As Hansel answered this question in the affirmative, his father was astonished, but said nothing to dissuade him from this. He saw that work in union with God made his son happy.

Grief and pain soon associate themselves with happiness. Hans was fourteen years old when death took away from him his exemplary, quiet mother. Only two years later, his good father also was carried away from the farm to the cemetery in Weng. His mother dead! His father dead! What great, bitter sorrow! Hans wept pitiably.

The Young Man

An orphaned farm, an estate being inherited, in Bavarian villages puts the whole community in turmoil. Everyone asks, “What will happen to the farm now?”

The brothers and sisters took over the inheritance together. For the time being, Hans, the youngest of them, eagerly and willingly looked after the work of the two hired hands. No one was more punctual, conscientious and dutiful. He worked from early morning until late evening. He also brightened every workday through the thought that all work must be a divine service and tend to God’s greater glory. He strove continually to give more time to interior recollection, contemplation and prayer. Sometimes one might have seen him in a cart, the reins in his right hand and an open prayer book in his left. Once, while he was absorbed in spiritual reading, the reins lay limp. The horses went off the road and the wagon tipped over, spilling the whole load. In complete tranquility he loaded it up again. At home he spoke of his accident. His brothers and sisters were of the opinion that “…prayer is certainly good; but it is not necessary to pray all the time!” Hans only answered, “But it’s not forbidden either.” They were astonished at his intense conviction and were silent; they knew that, in fact, many a cart had tipped over when no one was praying.

When there was a break in the farm work, Hans liked to withdraw back into the hay barn. On its door he had hung pictures of the Savior and his patron Saints. Before them he used to thank the Creator who provided the grass for fodder and cattle, and he would say a little prayer of petition.

On the eve of Holydays he would sit, now and then, on the bench in front of the house and just meditate there. He would think about the numberless creatures of the earth and gigantic forms in the heavens, about the sun, moon and stars, about the great Almighty God. One evening an old maid-servant sat down nearby. She tried to coax him to come and have a talk with her. Hans, distracted from his contemplation, nodded his head, mumbled a little and let her talk. But as soon as she began to gossip about people and slander them, he cut her off: “It’s not good to gossip about people. It is wiser to pray the Rosary. May God preserve you.” He got up and went to his room.

There stood his home altar. It was simply arranged. On the table was a small case with a picture of the Mother of God; above it was a crucifix; in front a flickering oil lamp; on either side candlesticks with white candles, besides several paper flowers and little fir boughs. Here he lay the offering of his bodily fatigue and his self-discipline. Here he examined his conscience every evening. Here he gazed at the picture of the Throne of God before him and held conversation with the Lord God. Here he read, in the still of the night, the Holy Scriptures. Sometimes a rooster would crow, the sun would rise up and break through the clouds of night with its beams of light, and the man of prayer would go to his day’s work as fresh and strong as if he had slept the entire night. And his sister Therese would find his bed still made.

Almost every morning, Hans went to church. Whether it snowed or rained, whether a gale blew or the stream through which he had to wade swelled and overflowed its banks – nothing could hinder him from attending Mass in Weng or St. Wolfgang. Sometimes he stood from 3:30 a.m. in the church courtyard, or, in really bad weather, in the little vestibule in the front of the church and waited until the sacristan came and unlocked it.

The first day of the Christian week was for Hans fully and completely the day of the Lord and of the victory of Christ. Just at the crack of dawn, he would make a holy hour at the church in Griesbach. There he would go to confession and, at the quiet early morning Mass, would receive the Body of the Lord. Then he would go to Weng for the Parish High Mass, and then back home. In the afternoon he liked to go to the Devotions at Birnbach, although it was an hour’s journey from Parzham. He was always the first to arrive at the church. He took his place in the front pew of the Gospel side, next to the wall, and prayed with intense attention. After the Devotions, when all the people were gone, he conversed with the Savior. He knelt before the altar and remained up to two hours before the Blessed Sacrament. And thus on Sundays, streams of divine grace would flow into his heart and assist his work throughout the week.

Other young men sought their Sunday relaxation in the public houses. Only once did Hans attend a theater performance by the Birnbach Youth Union, of which he was a member. It so happened that right in the middle of the play, he let out a hearty laugh. The sound grated on the ears of the audience and seemed to echo, as the embarassing event stuck in his memory.

The most beautiful leisure time Hans experienced was when he went on pilgrimage, alone or with like-minded persons, to the Mother of God at the beloved Shrine of Altötting or to the Church of Maria Hilf, situated in the countryside high above the city of Passau and the river Inn. Such pilgrimages were physically very fatiguing. Between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. they would get up and walk six hours, fasting and praying all the way until the journey’s end. When they were not actually praying, they would speak of life’s struggles on the side of God. Hans, usually so quiet, found words to edify his companions with the Mysteries of Redemption. After visiting the miraculous image, they would go to confession and receive Holy Communion, and give thanks to God for temporal blessings and spiritual graces. For a mid-day rest, they would sit on the bank of a stream near the church and eat whatever they had brought with them. Afterwards, they would visit the church again, pray until the departure time and then again walk six hours back, with joyful hearts, until they had their home soil under their feet.

On St. Leonhard’s day, Hans went every year to the Solemn Blessing of Horses at Aigen am Inn. At this pilgrimage church there labored a Father Dullinger. Hans chose this priest to be his spiritual director. Through him, he got to know better about the various Religious Orders. One by one, he examined their particular obligations: perpetual adoration, celebration of daily Mass, sacrifice for the conversion of sinners, prayer to assist and console the faithful departed, assistance for those struggling to preserve purity and virginity, intimate devotion to Mary, as well as worship of the Most Holy Trinity. As a member of the Third Order which St. Francis had founded for lay people, the Franciscan spirit grew in him. For nine years Hans went every fourteen days over the hills to his confessor, and back again. Each time it was a march of ten hours, and on the whole it required a determined step to advance on the mysterious path to this destination, which God had determined, but which Hans did not yet clearly see.

At the Crossroads

All at once the news broke into his quiet, hardworking, interior life. Two sisters and a brother had left and married. The others still cultivated the farm together. Nothing had changed much. But a sadness set in, invisible yet palpable. The farm was still a bachelor home. A bachelor home is unnatural for a farmer. An unmarried farmer lives only for himself. A real farm is anchored in the family. Only through marriage does the family live on, the farm prosper and farm life remain worth enduring and happy.

One evening, this sadness burst out around the farm house. His brothers and sisters demanded that Hans get married and take over the farm. Hans laid his elbows on the table, closed his eyes, clasped his hands in front of his face and thought over the situation. He looked back on days gone by, when his father and mother were keeping house at the farm and the children, quiet and happy, were unconcerned about the future. When his parents were alive, they had often said, “Son, we are leaving the farm to you. The future heir is soon liable to be unsettled. You can change that by marriage. The Birndorder Family must continue to live on this farm.” The demand had surprised Hans. He knew that, having grown up with animals, crops and soil, he had become a good farmer, that he had received a great talent for farming and that he truly had enjoyed it. On the other hand, he found in himself another talent: the beautiful life of union with God, with Christ and with Mary. In worth and rank it was higher than the stars. And thus Hans stood at the crossroads: the cloister or the farm. He made the most important decision of his life. Slowly he let his arms sink to the table, opened his eyes, raised his head high and spoke in a firm voice, “The family can live on in another line. The house and farm will still stand. My life should be to listen to God and Him alone. I am going into a cloister. Now you know. The good God has not forgotten me. He has already prepared a place for me.” The die was cast. His brothers and sisters quietly surrendered to their fate.

Shortly thereafter a letter arrived. It announced that the Capuchins in Altötting were willing to accept Hans Birndorfer into the Order. Hans was overjoyed. He recalled the words of Christ: “If thou wouldst be perfect, go, sell all thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven. And come, follow Me.” According to this request, his family paid him for his portion of the property. Thereafter he gave one portion of the money to the poor of the neighborhood and the other he donated for the expansion of the cemetery in Weng. Now he was stripped of all possessions, like St. Francis of Assisi. The way to his new goal was free. He bid farewell to his home and his parents’ graves and began his journey to Altötting.

Time of Probation

With his entrance into the Capuchin family, Hans Birndorfer received a new name – Konrad. The coming months would show whether he had really turned his back on the world and whether he could endure being totally dependent on the charity and mercy of other men.

For a good year and a half, he was given to the Porter of St. Anne’s Cloister as an assistant. He overcame the difficulties that arose with patience and humility. In the meantime, he wrote to his family: “When I first came it was somewhat difficult to be among so many Brothers. It was a long time before I could call them all by name. Now, thanks be to God, I can not only remember their names but also where their cells are, in case I have to fetch them.” Suddenly, to his regret, he was transferred to Burghausen on the Salzach. Here he had to care for a sick priest. Here also he encountered the elderly Tirolian, Gabriel Engel. This Father had, in fifteen tireless years, re-established the Capuchin Order in Bavaria, where it had withered up after the decade-long troubles of the “Cloister Storm” of the “Enlightenment”. This genuine reformer became for Konrad at that time a tremendous example of manly virtue and Religious observance.

The two year pre-school was soon at an end. Konrad had been observed long enough for it to be known that he was fit for the Religious Life. Now he would be sent to the little Cloister at Laufen on the Salzach. At that time the Novitiate for lay brothers was there. Konrad was solemnly clothed with the brown cowl and the long hood. It was September 17, 1851. With the clothing began the decisive year of probation for the new Religious – the Novitiate. There he would learn to know exactly the obligations of the Order and how to fulfill them. And the community would examine him – whether he was really suited for the Religious life in general, and for the Capuchin Order in particular. Konrad wrote his former home: “Pray very hard for me, that I may get through this year successfully; that I may not just wear the habit, but rather obtain the spirit of a true Capuchin brother.”

He himself prayed and worked untiringly for this goal. This meant: to learn to embrace the Holy Rule with the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience; to make diligent progress in Christian doctrine and in contemplative prayer; to root out weaknesses and faults and to cultivate virtues, and in particular to obey without any interior resistance. There was manual labor in addition. Konrad worked as an assistant to the gardener. Much of his new way of life came easy to him. It was harder to always deny his own will, even to the point of abandoning well-cultivated good habits, if the Novice-Master demanded it. Often it cost him a struggle, which brought humiliations and penances with it.

At the end of the year of probation, Konrad wrote down together his experiences and reflections. He set up a plan of life for himself with eleven headings:

  1. I will really accustom myself to live always in the presence of God and ask myself often, would I do this or that if my confessor or superior saw me? How much more so in the presence of God and my guardian angel.

  2. I will often ask myself when crosses and sorrows come: Konrad, why are you here?

  3. I will avoid leaving the cloister as much as I can, except when charity towards neighbor demands it, or on account of obedience or health, or on pilgrimage or some good purpose.

  4. I will truly strive to preserve fraternal charity in myself and others. I will thus watch over myself, that I may utter no word that would be contrary to charity. Their faults, failings and weaknesses I will patiently endure; and I will, as far as is possible, cover them with the mantle of charity, when it is not otherwise a duty to disclose them to my superior, in order to put an end to them.

  5. I will observe silence exactly and perpetually as far as is possible. I well be very sparse in speech, and this in order to avoid many faults and that I may be able to converse with God so much the better.

  6. At meals I will always, as much as possible, remain in the presence of God, always keep myself in check and deny myself those foods which I desire the most; rather I will take that especially which I like the least in order to practice mortification. And I will always avoid eating anything outside meal times.

  7. I will always go promptly to choir, as soon as I hear the bell, when I am not otherwise hindered.

  8. I will avoid the opposite sex as much as possible, unless obedience imposes a duty in which I must deal with women. I will be rather serious and keep custody of my eyes.

  9. I will always fulfill obediences exactly and promptly and especially I will make every possible effort to seek to deny my own will in all things.

  10. I will truly strive both to observe minor points of the Rule as well as to overcome as much as possible every deliberate imperfection. I will never deviate from the Holy Rule even so much as an inch, come what may!

  11. I will always strive to have a truly intense devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and will truly strive to imitate her virtues.

These resolutions, composed with deliberation and full trust in the assistance of Jesus and Mary, contained nothing too ponderous to fulfill. No heroism was promised. With caution, in view of human weakness and external circumstances, sensible limits were established – such as with the words: “I will make every possible effort…”; “…as much as I can.” Good intentions! Is not the road to Hell paved with them? Resolutions must be firm. Let us see what Konrad really accomplished and what virtues he developed – as much as he could!

The 4th of October, 1852, the Feast of St. Francis, was Konrad’s Profession Day. He knelt on the step of the altar, placed his hands in those of his superior and spoke the solemn oath of his irrevocable dedication to God: “I vow and promise Almighty God, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis, all the Saints and you, Father, for the rest of my life to observe the Rule of the Friars Minor, living in obedience, without possessions, and in chastity.” The Novitiate was completed.

The New Occupation

A few days later, the Father Guardian from Laufen spoke after the morning Mass, “Konrad, God calls you! You are to go at once to Altötting to the Cloister of St. Anne. There you will take over the office of Porter.” Konrad knelt down, begged a blessing for the journey and set off across the countryside through Shusters Rappen. When he arrived at the pilgrimage town, he was assailed by a great fear. He had hoped to be permitted to live in silent solitude behind cloister walls. So many people, of different rank and station, of different character and intention, asked here for information and help. Would he not from one fault, slip and fall into many others? In his distress, Konrad went first to the church and begged Christ for His grace. Then he rang the bell and thus announced the commencement of his service.

The beginning was hard. The office of Porter at Altötting proved to be the most difficult and troublesome in all Bavaria. And so it was the greatest responsibility that an Order could give to a Brother. That a man with only one year’s membership in the Order was chosen for the office, was taken by some of the older Brothers as a personal insult. Envy worked through their hearts. As soon as Konrad arrived, they were really nasty towards him. They weren’t going to tolerate him in the cloister. For several days they would not even give him a cell. Truly he had become the least and poorest of all. At first they considered his piety and eagerness to serve as acts of hypocrisy. Their malevolent speech reached the ears of the Father Guardian. He tested him before everyone, when he said sharply, “Brother Konrad is about to find out that he is just a charity-case for us.” These words must have been a slap in the face to a man of honor, who had left a beautiful farm to serve God alone. But, contrary to expectations, Konrad did not stomp out. He accepted the humiliation with a bow of the head. He didn’t even bat an eye. A more cheerful glimmer shone on his countenance. This noble self-control convinced his superiors and reconciled him with his brethren. He had left on all a lasting good impression.

A great deal of work was packed into the course of a day for the Porter, which for him consisted of twelve to sixteen working hours. Konrad received the mail and carried it to Father Guardian. He administered the donations for the House and recorded the Mass stipends with the requested intention.

Merchants brought to him their wares and bills. Pilgrims left with him their religious items – such as candles, Rosaries and Happy Death Crucifixes – to be blessed, and beseeched him to fetch a priest for confession. Visitors would ask him to bring one of the Capuchins – a relative or friend – to the parlor to speak with them. He would offer hospitality to benefactors and clerics.

The poor of the village, children and vagrants who came begging were given bread and soup or beer. And all these tasks Konrad performed without resentment or complaint, without agitation or anger. He worked ever with an unalterable patience, with a joyful countenance, with a friendly tone of voice. There were days when the bell summoned the porter to the cloister door two hundred times! And how Konrad obeyed it! When it rang, he would break off from praying or speaking, or even set the mouthful of food back on to his plate, just as he was bringing it to his mouth. Yes, it was the same when he had to go and fetch one of the Fathers – he would hasten instantly back to the porter’s station, even two or three times, as often as the bell was rung. The sound of the bell was for him the voice of God.

It was astonishing, with what love Konrad cared for the poor. To the Brothers who baked the bread, he often made the request, “I beseech you, put something together wherewith the poor can really have something good.” As soon as the cloister family had finished a meal, Konrad would go to the kitchen and take whatever he could find that was still edible to the porter’s station, to give to the hungry. If someone would reproach him on this account, he would answer with an intimate and full trust in God, “What a man gives to the poor is all returned to him.” Sometimes the cook had nothing more to give, or he kept back some available sausage, fearing that some of the Brothers would not have enough at the next meal. When this happened, Konrad would say, “Then I’ll eat nothing,” take his portion and give it away. No one knows how many baskets of bread, pitchers of beer and bowls of soup Konrad carried away and distributed in the course of his religious life. But the people gave him forever the characteristic name – Father of the Poor.

All the poor children of Altötting knew Brother Konrad very well. Day after day they would run to the monastery portal, and impetuously ring the bell. As soon as they saw Brother Konrad standing in the cloister entrance, they would hush their chatter, fold their hands and pray with him the Hail Mary devoutly. He became stern if any of them rushed through it. He would warn them with the saying, “Above all else, we Capuchins must pray!” After the prayer the little ones would call out cheerfully, “Please, Brother Konrad!” Then he would give each child a loaf of bread. One or the other would receive some good counsel along with it. Then they would run off with a happy, “God bless you!” Everyone in the pilgrimage town acknowledged him to be the Children’s Friend. And the little boys and girls continued to love him long after their childhood years.

Immersed in God

As porter, Konrad demonstrated a heroic devotion and loyalty. At all times and until his last days, he was at the service of everyone who claimed his attention, with a constantly steady willingness and love. This virtue sprang from his religious spirit, from his intense union with God.

Where did his heart dwell? Nearby the porter station, under a stairway, is the tiny, dark Alexius Cell, barely large enough for a kneeler. A narrow crack in the wall afforded a view of the tabernacle in the monastery chapel. In this stairway cell, Konrad knelt before his Beloved and adored the Son of God, hidden and ignored in the Blessed Sacrament. There one would find him in the free minutes between the business of the day. There he would make his first holy hour, every day at 3:30 in the morning. And when everyone else had gone to their evening’s rest, he would speak yet longer with God by the dim light of a candle. Nevertheless he would go punctually at midnight to the communal chanting of Matins in Choir, the daily morning offering of the Capuchins.

The same love he had toward the Blessed Sacrament, we find in Konrad also toward our Crucified Redeemer. Out of his deep devotion to the Passion and Death of Christ, Brother Konrad drew strength and salvation. Compelled by this love for the Cross, he daily made at midday the holy Way of the Cross. In his cell hung a crucifix with a painful countenance. Before this image he was accustomed, especially in the evening, to contemplate and meditate in silence. He often took it down from the wall and held it in his hands, whispering fervent prayers to his beloved Savior, and perceiving what He would answer. In a letter to his sister, Resl, Konrad wrote, “The Cross is my book. One glance at the Cross teaches me how I ought to act in every circumstance. There I learn patience and humility and meekness and to carry every cross; yes, to me the cross is sweet and light.”

The disciple of Christ and friend of the Cross at the cloister door in Altötting was also a Marian Knight – a tender devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary. How often and with what recollection he recited daily the beautiful Ave Maria! The Little Rosary of the Immaculate Conception was always hanging from the middle finger of his left hand. As a rule he prayed daily the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What a grace-filled experience it was for him to daily serve Mass at 4:30 a.m. in the Chapel of Grace (Gnadenkapelle). And at midday he would go regularly to the Gnadenkapelle, kneel motionless and pray before the miraculous image (Gnadenbild) of Our Lady of Altötting in deep recollection of soul. What a beautiful scene before God and man! Many people saw Konrad’s prayers to the Mother of God like fiery spheres issuing out of his mouth.

A sense of piety and of continual worship of God shown forth on Konrad’s countenance. It indicated a constant, steady expression of cheerfulness; it gave continuous testimony of the peace and joy of his soul, which he found in God.

To His Dying Breath

Certainly, the course of years takes its toll on the body. The innumerable privations and overburdenings that he had demanded from his body had left scars. Furrows had burrowed across his face; his hair had turned white; he was tormented by aches and pains; his back was hunched over. Konrad was becoming weak. Everything he did was painful. He was always cold. His limbs grew stiff. His knees shook. 75 winters lay behind him.

On April 18, 1894, Brother Konrad tapped along, supported by a strong cane, on his way to the Gnadenkapelle. It was the last time he would ever serve Mass beneath the statue of Our Lady of Altötting. On returning to the monastery, he managed to drag himself around for a few more hours. But in the afternoon he had to tell his superior, “Father Guardian, it’s the end!” The doctor came and said to Konrad, “That’s just too hard a job for you at your age, down there in that cold hallway. You’re completely worn out.” Without a complaint the dying man endured his pain and weakness. On the third day, Saturday, April 21, he received Extreme Unction. In the evening the infirmarian gave him another spoonful of medicine and said, “Now I have to go and check on our sick Brother Benjamin.” Konrad replied, “Of course, you may go. I won’t be needing you any more.” At 7:00 p.m. the cloister family assembled together for Night Prayers. Someone knocked at the main door. Shortly thereafter the porter’s bell rang. Konrad thought the assistant porter had not been able to hear the metallic voice. In obedience to the bell, the dutiful old man lifted himself with his last ounce of strength. He took the candlestick with the burning candle in his trembling hand, staggered and tottered to the door of his cell and altogether collapsed. A novice coming that way and finding him, called immediately for help. Capuchins came hurrying to the spot. They carried the dying man to his cot. A Father recited the prayers for the dying. The Ave bell rang peacefully from the bell-tower of Altötting. Konrad smiled, looked heavenward with joyful eyes and departed this life. It was between 7:00 and 8:00 in the evening, the time when he had always prayed to Our Lady as the “Help and Consolation of the Dying”.

“Take thy rest now, thou tireless hero of charity, of fortitude and of faith! True, thou hast never crossed the Alps, nor sailed across the sea. Rather, thou wert for more than forty years a continuous watchman out of obedience; but with this obedience, thou didst elevate the lowest of offices to serve as a knight of Christ, and it was on this account the equal of the noblest of undertakings!” (Pope Pius XII)

The Dead Lives!

In the Imitation of Christ, we read: “He is truly great, who has great love.” He is great, who always fulfills his duties perfectly out of love for God. This was fully and completely valid in the case of the Capuchin Brother Konrad of Parzham. The Church therefore, on Pentecost Sunday, 1934, after due deliberation and much prayer, proclaimed and declared that he is a Saint.

“Brother Konrad’s tomb, truly a tomb of the living! It teaches and admonishes, consoles and heals, and leaves a life that had withered in full bloom again! This tomb is adorned with an altar full of glory; hymns of praise and thanksgiving are sung before it; all around it shine burning lights, and a jubilant festive joy fills the Christian people who find in Brother Konrad a new, powerful patron Saint – Konrad is the shining ornament of Bavaria and all the German people, as well as for the universal Church of Christ!” (Pope Pius XII)

Holiness consists in forming our day out of the love for Christ. Holiness is our life’s work, our contribution to society, the necessary step we take towards achieving eternal salvation. The saintly life is for us an example and a mirror, light and help.

Saint Konrad of Parzham, pray for us!

 

 

 

 

Lent 3 ~ While the Candles Are Lit

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          A long time ago, I saw these words on a sticker, Did you hug your child today? Although I didn’t heed them that very moment, I did later that night, but it was no longer the same. About two years ago, a fellow blogger saw something over the horizon. For a very brief moment, the veil was lifted for him, and his impassioned plea to me was, Hug and kiss your children.

          Sad days ago, in Parkland, Florida, a grieving Fred Guttenberg  reminds the world yet again, Hold your children tight, because in the school shooting, his daughter numbers among those who will never again hear their parents tell them how much they are loved.

          I hug and kiss my children a lot now. I tell them how much I love them. Some of the older ones squirm in understandable embarrassment, but that only gets a giggle out of me; it doesn’t stop me. Even if they don’t realize it or value it, every child, young or adult, needs to know they are loved. And they need to hear it now because the shadows of tomorrow will not always be made known to us.

          And the candles bequeathed to the world will not always remain lit.

 

 

 

Choosing Jesus for Those Who Won’t

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          This year, Advent will open for us in a way I’d rather not have. A niece will be getting engaged to a young man who we fear sees her as a cash cow and is merely using her. He’s not Catholic, not even a Christian and shows no interest in the faith. But the worse sorrow is that my niece is, of her own will, moving away from the faith of her birth.

          In her choice of life partner, she is not choosing Jesus.

          In recent weeks, I’ve given my all in prayer. In addition to the prayer need above, I’ve also increasingly heard about distressing mental issues and sufferings and oppressions. Suicides – not just of individuals but of entire families – father, mother, children. It seemed like everywhere we looked, we saw the family and marriage under severe attack – just as Sr Lucia Dos Santos of Fatima had warned.

          With each troubling, I’ve loaded everyone and everything into my prayer cart and gone before the Miraculous Image. I have struggled and struggled to marshal every fibre of my being into prayer lines, for the weeks have been tough and I didn’t always feel like praying.

          Yesterday, I became aware of a word that has been coming up everywhere I turn:

HOPE

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a thing before. Every few hours, in the least likely circumstance, HOPE came before my eyes.

          I believe it is an exhortation to persevere and not give up. HOPE – because wishes may be long in coming true. HOPE – because spent and tired as I am, maybe there’s a lot more of the difficult road that needs to be journeyed down. HOPE – because

You will hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for these things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place. All these are the beginning of the labor pains.   ~  Matthew 24: 6 – 8

          All these are the beginnings of the labour pains. I feel the sting of tears behind my eyes. There is much, much more to be endured. The journey is far from ended. And I have nothing left to give. Nothing at all.

          I think of the hymn the angels sang into my ear at daybreak – This is My Body, Broken for You ~

This is My body, broken for you,
bringing you wholeness, making you free,
take it and eat it, and when you do,
do it in love for Me.

Do it in love for Me. I am running on empty. I do not know how to feel hopeful because the bite of disappointment in a world unravelling even faster is deepening. Yet, Jesus says, Eat My body. Eat it in Love.

          To persevere, to hope, is to get up from the ground and continue my journey for the love of Jesus. If my niece chooses a self-absorbed, materialistic man over Jesus, if despairing parents choose suicide over perseverance and endurance, if bullies and tyrants and narcissists seem stronger and more powerful than ever, then, no matter how tired I am, no matter how broken I feel inside, I must love by choosing Jesus on their behalf.

          That is the meaning of receiving the Eucharist. To eat the Body of Christ is to say to my Jesus, I choose You. To become one with my Jesus. To feel His pain. To suffer with Him.

          And to say, I love You, I choose You – for those who do not.

 

 

 

 

 

Be Ever My Friend

 

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For the victims of the Manchester bombing and their families, May 22 2017;

for victims of terrorism everywhere, the world over.

 

Swift through the world

You went a-flying,

Dearest Jacinta,

In deepest suffering

Jesus loving.

Forget not my plea

And prayer to you:

Be ever my friend

Before the throne

Of the Virgin Mary,

Lily of candour,

Shining pearl,

Up there in heaven

You live in glory,

Seraphim of love,

With your little brother

At the Master’s feet

Pray for me.            ~ The late Sr. Lucia Dos Santos, Fatima Seer.

 

 

Lent 36 ~ Water from the Wounds

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          Since Sunday, I have been trying to get the family to reduce the hours we spend on ourselves, and instead, carve out minutes for the Lord through an additional Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Throughout the course of each day, when school and work ends and we come home, we slip away to our nooks for a bit, and offer a decade as often as we can.

          It’s not much, I know. Not when you compare it with the greatness of what many others offer the suffering Lord in this most holy of weeks. Not when churches are being bombed and lives being snatched away. Not when even those short minutes we give Him are pock-marked with distractedness and hurry and so many other mottles.

          But small it may be, it is willed by heaven for us. And I know it because I am not capable of pulling this out of my own head. It wasn’t until some days into it, that I realized that we were, in fact, consoling the Wounded Heart of Jesus. It has given me much joy to be able to at least offer this; greater joy that the family is part of it too for the first time. All we offered were our minutes. We didn’t ask for anything in return. 

          And yet, the short days we have lived since Sunday are different. There’s a depth and gentle peace overshadowing the tired hours. Despite the hectic work-calls. Despite the little pricks of hurt and humiliations that form the fabric of every life.

          I put out my hands and receive this grace of Holy Week peace and strength with deep joy. And with sadness too because what we have received is so very much more than what we have given. Jesus had no one with Him in those terrible hours of Agony. Today, so many lifetimes later, my family and I timidly approach Gethsemane; sometimes we reach out and touch Him, often we stay among the shadows of busyness and self.   

          And yet, He holds it not against us, but sears us with His Love, far beyond the worth of our blighted offerings.

          This love which I suddenly feel with a new keenness enflames my heart with a yearning to go beyond our Gethsemane offerings, to do more for the Suffering Jesus. This too is new for me. I do not belong to the company of those who willingly suffer for Christ. Spiritual timidity renders me a shabby candidate for this esteemed group who love their Lord with all their soul to the point of death. The prayer to escape suffering must be, by far, the prayer I most often pray.

          Hence, the wanting to suffer for Him now takes me a bit by surprise. Do what? I wonder. Almost instantaneously, I see a situation unfold itself before me. It is a work situation with several very unpleasant people. People bent on making other lives a misery. People who thrive on the pain of others. And I sense Jesus wanting me to go forwards and face this lot for Him. Not to run away, to avoid them – even if it is to keep the peace. But to bravely face them if need be and to be genuinely sweet about it. To do it for Jesus.

          I wanted to run and hide instead.

          I didn’t want to see these arrogant and rude people, much less be sweet about it, because I know who they are and what they were capable of. I didn’t want to be punched in my face, so it didn’t make sense to go looking for a punch.

          An hour later, striding into work, hoping not to be asked to be sweet, I saw a familiar form on a nearby seat. There she is, I thought caustically, my sour little owl, praying rain on everyone.

          Then I heard my own voice in my head, Do it for the Wounded Jesus.

          For my Wounded Jesus, I whispered obediently. Before I could even process that, I realized I was smiling at the woman.

          I got a sullen stare for my efforts, and I’d be lying to say it didn’t hurt because I’ve never done such a thing to anyone. But I whispered again, For my Wounded Jesus, although I felt no love in my heart for that woman.

          That was the only test I faced today, and in the later hours, I did wonder why there weren’t more. After all, I didn’t fare that well; my heart wasn’t flooded with love. Not for that person. Not for the Cross either. It felt more like failure than anything else.

          It wasn’t until I stumbled home from work, bone-weary, very late in the day, that I realized something had happened as a result of the single For my Wounded Jesus. From that moment of suffering, tiny though it was, a gentle and cheery patience had begun gurgling and bubbling thorough my spirit like a happy brook, silvering its way through quiet fields. Despite the tough work day, on and on that little stream went forth, spilling its diamonds into one weary riverbed pocket after another.

          Again, for one paltry offering, an overflowing of grace in return.

          The eyes of my heart go to the Divine Mercy. The stream of comprehension slowly reaches me. Rays of Blood and Water emanating from the Holy Wounds.

          I realise what I have received today. Water from the Wounds.