I can hardly believe that my beautiful mother turns 85 years old today. It seems that just yesterday she was peddling a bicycle down Grafton Street to Clinton Avenue Park to round up her children for supper. I am blessed to have such a wonderful mother: Italian, patient, loving, and longsuffering. Through the ups and downs of raising five children, with my father ever at her side, she has never lost her faith nor her sense of humour. All my love to you, Mom, and my blessing!
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Mamie Kirby Brennan and Children
Today is the 90th anniversary of the death of my great-aunt Mamie Kirby Brennan and of her two children, one year old Edward and four year old Edna. They died during the epidemic of the Spanish Influenza that swept through New Haven, Connecticut in January 1919. Here is the obituary notice that appeared in the local newspaper ninety years ago:
BRENNAN -- Sad indeed was the sudden death of Mrs. Mamie Kirby Brennan, which occurred on Saturday morning, January 4th, and scarcely had her spirit fled ere her little babe, Edward, one year old reach out his tiny hands and joined his mother in death. The little daughter, Edna, aged four years, soon followed and the triple funeral was held on Tuesday morning from their late home on Lamberton Street and later from St. Peter's Church.
As the two hearses passed side by side to their last resting place followed by the grief-stricken husband and relatives it caused many an eye to moisten with tears when the thought that this once happy little family had been parted in so short a space of time. One little baby of two years is all that is left to comfort the sorrowing husband and father.
Mrs. Brennnan was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Kirby, who died some years ago and left her a mere child. Her devoted aunt, Mrs. Mary Kirby Halligan, tenderly cared for her through her girlhood and watched her grow to womanhood endowed with all the graces of a Christian woman. She was married to Mr. Edward Brennan five years ago and three children were born to them. It seems sad to think that life held so much for the young wife and mother, but God doeth things for the best. God was merciful to also call the little babes that were laid in her arms that enfolded them in death even as she had done in life. Universal sympathy is extended to the sad hearts that will ever mourn the loved ones who have gone on before.
In a happy little homestead
Amid love and tender care
Dwelt this loving little family
With future hopes fond and fair,
But one day Death summoned
The gentle mother to her long rest
With one babe laid beside her
And the other clasped to her breast.
The days will be filled with sorrow,
The nights so sad and drear
For the grieving hearts so bereft
Who will shed many a silent tear:
But in God's holy Kingdom
Far above the starry sky
Dwells this saintly mother and her babes
In that beautiful land on high.
The above verses are dedicated to this dear mother and to her babes, also to her sorrowing husband, and to her devouted aunt, Mrs. Mary Halligan.
(Mrs. Louise B. Flanigan)
Saint Thérèse and Her Father
Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, reflecting on Isaiah's prophecy of the Servant, related it to the humiliation of her own father's suffering. When Thérèse was seven years old she had a vision of a man in the garden, dressed like her father, but going about with his head veiled. Only later did she realize that this was a mysterious prophecy of her father's mental illness. Profoundly affected by her father's suffering, Thérèse lived it as an opportunity to deepen her understanding of the humiliation of Christ in His Passion. Thérèse made some profound connections: she related her father in his sufferings to the humiliation of Christ in His Passion, and related the humiliation of Christ in His Passion to the Fatherhood of God.
The Holy Face
The violence against the Face of Christ in His Passion was, at the deepest level, an attempt by the Evil One to disfigure the Fatherhood of God. Our Lord says, "He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?" (Jn 14:9-10). From the beginning, the Evil One has sought to discredit the Fatherhood of God by sowing suspicion and doubt in the hearts of His children. The cruel disfiguration of the Face of Christ with blows, bruises, spittle, and thorns was the Evil One's mad attempt to vilify the Father.
War on the Family
The Evil One pursues the same agenda today. He seeks by every means to humiliate the father and to disfigure the face of fatherhood in society. John Saward, in his splendid book, The Way of the Lamb, The Spirit of Childhood and the End of the Age, writes: "The modern western world seems to have declared war on the family in all its members. It is destructive of the child, disparaging of the mother, and derisive of the father. Feminism, now complacently installed as the worldly wisdom of the West, tends to regard fathers as oppressive monsters . . . . All that is male, even the masculine pronoun, offends the feminist rulers of this age. Sometimes it seems as if the head of every father is veiled in shame, un père humilié."
The Father Under Attack
Every attack on the father is an attempt from below to undermine the headship of Christ, "the image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15) in Whom, "all things hold together" (Col 1:17). Just as Christ holds all things in the universe together, so too does the father hold all things together in the family. Abandoned by the father, the family disintegrates. Nothing so damages the wholeness of the family as the absence of the father.
Forty Years After Humanae Vitae
While pursuing the disgrace of the father, the Evil One continues to pursue the degradation of the mother. The widespread rejection in 1968 of Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Humanae Vitae drove a wedge between conjugal union and openness to the gift of life. As a result, the bride was no longer seen as a woman honouring within herself that most radiant of gifts: potential motherhood. The image of the mother was separated from that of the faithful spouse. By disfiguring the woman -- an image of the Church in her dignity of virgin, bride, spouse, and mother -- Satan seeks to discredit the Church, the Spouse of Christ and ever-fruitful Mother of the faithful.
Dissent from the teaching of Humanae Vitae paved the way for the widespread acceptance of artificial birth control, casual sexual relations, abortion, and the militant homosexual agenda that, seeking to parody marriage between one man and one woman, replaces conjugal fruitfulness with a self-indulgent sterility. The acceptance of abortion leads, inexorably, to the acceptance of parricide (the killing of parents) and infanticide. The society that kills its children becomes patricidal and matricidal. The society that discredits fatherhood and motherhood becomes sterile and dies.
The Consecrated Life
The poisonous trends of the culture of death have not spared the consecrated life itself. The crisis around Humanae Vitae corresponded exactly to the moment when religious began to speak naïvely of "openness to the world." The spirit of the world, the flesh, and the devil seeped through the cracks in the cloister and, in the most pernicious and subtle ways, infected religious and monastic life with the prejudices of the age against the father, the mother, and the child.
The Abdication of the Fathers
Rejection of the father began to manifest itself in the contestation of all paternal authority, focusing on that of the Pope. This was just another manifestation of what Von Balthasar so aptly calls Der Antirömische Affekt, "The Anti-Roman Complex." The very name of Father, in use from the Apostolic Age and honoured in the monastic deserts of Egypt and Palestine, fell into disaffection. Superiors felt the need to be "a brother among brothers," failing to see that by doing so they were abdicating the very grace of state constitutive of their spiritual authority.
The collapse of the religious or monastic family ensued, just as the collapse of the natural family would follow any father's abdication of his paternal authority. The most extreme manifestation of this disaffection for the Father is the kind of cultural patricide we see in society today. The same patricide holds sway in the religious community bent on eradicating every vestige of fatherhood in the name of liberty, fraternity, and equality.
The Mother Under Suspicion
Rejection of the mother was, if anything, even more vicious. The years immediately following the Second Vatican Council saw a widespread critique of the consecrated woman as sponsa Verbi -- bride of Christ -- and a decline in practices of devotion to the Virgin Mother of God. The anti-motherhood propaganda of radical feminism, based on the lie that motherhood limits a woman's freedom to be herself, combined with the rejection of Humanae Vitae to cast suspicion on every expression of maternal authority and spiritual motherhood.
The failure of a few women religious to live the grace of spiritual motherhood wisely and tenderly became an excuse for the extermination of the mother, setting in motion a matricidal revolution. Immature religious women dealing with unresolved emotional conflicts within themselves found in this trend a justification for the expression of an anti-maternal animosity. Superiors were coerced into abdicating their maternal authority or, deceived by the lies of the age, did so willingly, contributing thereby to the disintegration of the spiritual families entrusted to them and to their inexorable descent into sterility.
The anti-maternal lies perpetrated by the culture of death were received uncritically by many religious. The name of Mother, like that of Father, had to be erased at all costs. Meanwhile, Satan laughed in scorn, knowing full well that the extinction of the mother leads to the extinction of life itself and not just to sterility, but ultimately to death.
The Wasteland of the Fatherless and Motherless
A Church without spiritual fathers and mothers will become like a society without fathers and mothers: a barren wasteland populated by an angry people, strewn with the aborted remains of lives that could have been, and defiled by every manner of abuse and by the triple sin of patricide, matricide, and infanticide.
Don't worry about tomorrow because the very same Heavenly Father who takes care of you today will have the same thought tomorrow and always. . . What does a child in the arms of such a Father have to fear? Be as children, who hardly ever think about their future as they have someone to think for them. (Saint Pio of Pietrelcina)
Heartfelt thanks to all of you who were so supportive and kind during Dad's recent hospitalization and surgery. I am happy to say that he is recovering well at home. Thank you for your prayers. Dad is especially grateful to Saint Padre Pio whom he invoked before his surgery.
Dad is recovering from his surgery slowly but surely. Remarkable for an 81 year old man! Yesterday, with help, he took a few steps around his unit. Although fatigued and needing sleep, he remains quick-witted and happy to see his visitors. I thank all of you who are praying for him and for my Mom. The two really are "one flesh" after 60 years of marriage.
On April 5, 2008 the Holy Father addressed the Pontifical Council of the Family on "Grandparents: Their Witness and Presence in the Family." I was blessed to know all four of my grandparents, the Irish set and the Italian set, as well as my maternal great-grandparents from Italy. My own experience taught me that grandparents have an integral role in family life. Many of the things I cherish most in life were transmitted to me by my grandparents.
As a young teenager I volunteered at the local Home for the Aged of the Little Sisters of the Poor. Saint Andrew's Home was a vast old brick building with, at its heart, the chapel. The chaplain, Father Alfred DiMeo, lived in a charming little presbytery next to the Home. I recall his kindness to the "old people" and to the volunteers. My mentor at Saint Andrew's Home was Sister Ignace de la Trinité, L.S.P. By helping at the Home I learned to reverence the elderly and, even if I had few practical skills to offer at the time, acquired a tenderness for them.
The photo is of my Mom and Dad, loving grandparents of eleven grandchildren.
Grandparents in the Life of the Family
In the past, grandparents had an important role in the life and growth of the family. Even with their advancing age they continued to be present with their children, their grandchildren and even their great-grandchildren, giving a living witness of caring, sacrifice and a daily gift of themselves without reserve. They were witnesses of a personal and community history that continued to live on in their memories and in their wisdom. Today, the economic and social evolution has brought profound transformations to the life of families. The elderly, including many grandparents, find themselves in a sort of "parking area": some realize they are a burden to their family and prefer to live alone or in retirement homes with all the consequences that such decisions entail.
Reverence for Old Age
Unfortunately, it seems that the "culture of death" is advancing on many fronts and is also threatening the season of old-age. With growing insistence, people are even proposing euthanasia as a solution for resolving certain difficult situations. Old age, with its problems that are also linked to the new family and social contexts because of modern development, should be evaluated carefully and always in the light of the truth about man, the family and the community. It is always necessary to react strongly to what dehumanizes society. Parish and diocesan communities are forcefully challenged by these problems and are seeking today to meet the needs of the elderly. Ecclesial movements and associations exist which have embraced this important and urgent cause. It is necessary to join forces to defeat together all forms of marginalization, for it is not only they - grandfathers, grandmothers, senior citizens - who are being injured by the individualistic mindset, but everyone. If grandparents, as is said often and on many sides, are a precious resource, it is necessary to put into practice coherent choices that allow them to be better valued.
Spiritual and Moral Reference Points
May grandparents return to being a living presence in the family, in the Church and in society. With regard to the family, may grandparents continue to be witnesses of unity, of values founded on fidelity and of a unique love that gives rise to faith and the joy of living. The so-called new models of the family and a spreading relativism have weakened these fundamental values of the family nucleus. The evils of our society - as you justly observed during your work - are in need of urgent remedies. In the face of the crisis of the family, might it not be possible to set out anew precisely from the presence and witness of these people - grandparents - whose values and projects are more resilient? Indeed, it is impossible to plan the future without referring to a past full of significant experiences and spiritual and moral reference points. Thinking of grandparents, of their testimony of love and fidelity to life, reminds us of the Biblical figures of Abraham and Sarah, of Elizabeth and Zechariah, of Joachim and Anne, as well as of the elderly Simeon and Anna and even Nicodemus: they all remind us that at every age the Lord asks each one for the contribution of his or her own talents.
Jonah's baptism took place on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Hampton, New Hampshire. The gracious pastor of the parish, Father Maurice Larochelle was present. I used, for the first time in my priesthood, the traditional rite of Baptism for Infants, as given in Father Weller's splendid Roman Ritual.
"Jonah Daniel, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
After the Rite of Baptism, we all turned toward the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, to consecrate and entrust Jonah Daniel to her.
Back at the house. The icon of the Mother of God is in the Kirby family's kitchen.
This morning I am heading north to New Hampshire to baptize my nephew Jonah Daniel Kirby. Just look at that smile! The baptism will take place at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Hampton tomorrow, on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
Jonah has a big brother, Michael Colin, 4, and a big sister, Mary Elizabeth, 2. Their baby brother's baptism should prove to be a fascinating event for them. More on the baptism, with photos, will follow.
My niece and nephews, children of my brother Terence and his wife Sandy: from left to right, Mary Elizabeth (2 years old), Michael Colin (4 years old), and Jonah Daniel (9 months old).
Evelyn Berry, our dear friend from Leyland, England, came to visit on Saturday, December 1st, with her son Christopher and daughter-in-law Amanda, bringing flowers for Mom and Dad. Mom prepared a beautiful tea. Isn't this a great photo of them? They will be married 60 years on October 9, 2008. Still Irish, still Italian, and still so in love.
Cousin Carlo de Lellis met me at the station in Caianello on Saturday evening. I celebrated Mass at 8:00 a.m. in our church of San Michele for the repose of the soul of my brother Michael; November 25 is the anniversary of his death. Returned to the church to hear confessions at the request of Don Salvatore, the parish priest.
In the afternoon: a wonderful Sunday pranzo with Carlo, Nora, Ettore, Giovanna (Bambolina), Gabriele, and Denise.
Back to the church for Eucharistic Holy Hour with the parish in the afternoon. After a good night's sleep in a very comfortable bed (see the photos below) I returned to Rome on Monday morning for a very busy day of appointments and visits.
My two year old niece, Mary Elizabeth Kirby, a dog, and a meadow full of flowers. What more could a little girl want on a sunny September day? Thanks to my brother Terence for the photos.
My brother Terence and nephew Michael Colin visited on Sunday from New Hampshire. The Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, Connecticut was one of several destinations. The hall of dinosaurs is, in Michael Colin's own words, "just amazing."
Michael Colin is a four year old expert on dinosaurs. He knew their names and their distinctive traits. He was also very good at identifying other animals in a photo exhibition in the museum.
The Peabody Museum is something of a tradition in our family. With Michael Colin another generation is discovering it.
My "little" brother and godson Terence turns 40 today! Terence is married to Sandy. They have three beautiful children, all of whom have been featured on Vultus Christi: Michael Colin (4 years old), Mary Elizabeth (2 years old), and Jonah Daniel (6 months old). Terence owns and operates My Dogs Mind in Hampton, New Hampshire.
I just had to share these photos of my nephews and niece, the children of my brother Terence and his wife Sandy. They live in New Hampshire where Terence has a business called My Dogs Mind.
Brothers: Jonah Daniel (6 months) and Michael Colin Kirby (4 years)
Mary Elizabeth Kirby (2 years)
Jonah Daniel Kirby (6 months)
This is the constitutional flag of the Kingdom of Naples and of the Two Sicilies. King Ferdinando II delle Due Sicilie was a visitor to the Onoratelli ancestral palace in Sepicciano, Campania. The bed he slept in is still used! I've slept in it!
The first week of August is one of my favourite weeks in the sanctoral cycle: Saint Alphonus Maria Liguori on the 1st, Saint Peter Julian Eymard on the 2nd, and Saint Jean-Marie Vianney on the 4th. Unfortunately, I found myself over my head in all sorts of obligations that kept me from posting this week.
The most pleasant of these was the visit from Italy of my young (20 something) cousins Ettore and Sissi de Lellis, together with their friends Francesca and Gianmarco. They were overnight guests in my parents' home. The four of them were going on to New York City from here, and from there to Florida and Mexico!
Ettore, an engineer specializing in spacecraft (the proverbial rocket scientist) works in Capua. Sissi, a very pretty young attorney practising criminal law, works in Rome. Home, for both of them is the Onoratelli ancestral palace in Sepicciano, beautifully restored by their parents Carlo and Nora. This is the house where my great-grandmother (Donna Emma Onoratelli Barbato) grew up and where my grandfather (Angelo Barbato) stayed as a very little boy. Gianmarco, from Piedimonte Matese, is an attorney specializing in labour law. Francesca, a communications specialist, is from Napoli and Sorrento. Meridional sunshine!
On Wednesday afternoon my mother prepared a stupendous pranzo for them: antipasto followed by ravioli, then delicious cotolette (Mom's specialty), followed by fruit, and later on in the evening by coffee and dolci. The guests had worked up an appetite by touring New Haven's Yale University (two art galleries!) and other local attractions.
The life of the party was 94 year old Zia Edvige (my mother's Aunt Eva) who regaled the young people with her stories in a mixture of Italian, English, and Neapolitan dialect. Great fun!
A Family Evening
At about 7:00 p.m. others began to join us: my sister Donna with husband Wayne and children Sean and Lauren; cousin Ernest Delgiudice; cousins Felicia and Jackie Campagnuolo. The conversation was a very animated mixture of Italian and English all evening.
The next morning I drove our travelers to Union Station in New Haven whence they departed for New York. Now that things have calmed down somewhat, I hope to resume my customary posts. Having Ettore, Sissi, Gianmarco, and Francesca here was wonderful!
Happy Birthday, Donna Marie, from the Isle of Saints and Scholars!
I didn't think I would have the opportunity to wish my sister a happy birthday in this way, but as things worked out, the flight from Dublin to Knock was canceled, and the airport has internet! There will be a flight to Galway and a coach from Galway to Knock.
We should be arriving in Knock at about 9:30 or 10:00 tonight. I am glad that I celebrated Holy Mass this morning before leaving Rome. I hope stroll down to the shrine tonight to see if the gable of the apparition is illuminated.
Yes, Michael Colin and Uncle Mark share the same birthday . . . fifty–one years apart! Michael Colin is following in his Dad's footsteps. My brother Terence is one of the best dog–trainers in the U.S.
Just look at her! Indomitable. Ready to take on the world! While I was in France . . . my beautiful niece Lauren Elizabeth Hope Cable graduated from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. Lauren is the daughter of my sister Donna and of her husband Wayne. She has an older brother Sean who has also appeared on Vultus Christi. Uncle Mark sends Lauren a very special blessing . . . and this magnificent text of Cardinal Newman to light her future path:
God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some
work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission -- I
may never know it in this life but I shall be told it in the next. I am a
link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created
me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of
peace, a preacher of truth in my own place while not intending it if I do
but keep His commandments. Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever I am, I can
never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in
perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may
serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take
away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel
desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me -- still He knows
what He is about.
My radiantly beautiful niece Lauren Elizabeth Hope Cable is holding her tiny newborn cousin, Jonah Daniel Kirby. Lauren went to New Hampshire to help care for her little cousins Michael Colin and Mary Elizabeth the week Jonah Daniel was born.
Lauren is 1/4 Italian, as anyone looking at her can tell! Lauren is extremely active, very much her mother's daughter. She is also an excellent cook. I'm waiting for her to visit me in Italy. (Sorry, gentleman. Lauren has a boyfriend.)
So, Lauren, when are you coming to the Eternal City?
Michael Colin (3 years) and Jonah Daniel (6 days).
My two nephews are discovering one another. I just love the expression on Michael Colin's face. How could I not post such a wonderful photo?
I wanted to write more on dear Saint Joseph today, but yesterday we had our Solemn Stational Mass for Laetare Sunday, and today I had to go to our Curia Generalizia on the Aventine to sing for the ordination to the diaconate of two young Polish Cistercians, D. Conrado and D. Ignazio. We sang the entire Mass in Gregorian, including the Gradual and the Tract.
Our liturgical calendar is full of festivals this week: after Saint Joseph on the 19th we have the Dedication of the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme on the 20th, and the Transitus of Holy Father Saint Benedict on the 21st.
Today is Mary Elizabeth Kirby's 2nd birthday! She had an early birthday present this year: the birth of a new little brother, Jonah Daniel, on March 13th. As befits one born on Saint Patrick's Day, Mary sings and dances. She is very interested in "Baby Jonah"! Vultus Christi will follow this developing story.
"When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world" (Jn 16:21). Jonah Daniel Kirby was born on Tuesday, March 13, 2007.
Mom (Sandy) with Michael Colin, Jonah Daniel, and Mary Elizabeth
My brother Terence with Sandy, and their Children
Daddy helps Mary to hold her new little brother
My brother Terence and his wife Sandy are the happy parents of a new baby boy, Jonah Daniel Kirby, 7 lbs. 6 oz., born early this morning. Jonah Daniel has a brother, Michael Colin, 3 years old, and a sister, Mary Elizabeth, 2 years old, both of whom have appeared before on Vultus Christi. Their Uncle in Rome is thrilled. Sacramentum Caritatis and a new nephew all in the same day!