Friends: May 2007 Archives

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Cast into the furnace of love, the Heart of Jesus,
all your anxieties,
your trials, your fears,
so that He may burn them away.
— Mother Clelia Merloni


Mother Clelia Merloni founded the Congregation of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Viareggio, Italy on May 30, 1894, 113 years ago today. The photo is not of Mother Clelia but of one of the first Sisters sent from Italy to America. With one little orphan in her arms and another holding her hand, she is the perfect image of the Apostle called to be a spouse of Jesus Christ and a mother to those dearest to His Sacred Heart: the little, the vulnerable, the poor.

The daughters of Mother Clelia make reparation to the Sacred Heart by means of their life of adoration and apostolic service to the Church. For every "No" to the love and mercy of the pierced Heart of Christ, the Sister Apostle offers her own unconditional "Yes."

The Generalate of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is located within the parish confines of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, a mere five minutes from the basilica.

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"And it shall come to pass after this, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy: your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Moreover upon my servants and handmaids in those days I will pour forth my spirit" (Joel 2:28–29).

Brian Geraghty visited Santa Croce in Gerusalemme May 25 and 26, joining us in the choir and refectory. Brian also came to the novitiate Rosary in the chapel of the Madonna di Buon Aiuto on Saturday afternoon, leading a decade in English.

Brian left Rome for Poland on the Vigil of Pentecost after First Vespers. Fra Ryan Maria was kind enough to drive him and his enormous backpack to the train station. Brian's plans were to stop in Vienna for the Pentecost Mass in Saint Stephen's Cathedral and then continue on to Wadowice, Jasna Gora, and Auschwitz.

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View from the roof terrace of the Pontifical Irish College. In the foreground is the Augustinian Monastery of the Santi Quattro Coronati. The dome of Saint Peter's is visible in the distance

The Reverend Mr. Bernard Healy invited me to visit him at the Pontifical Irish College today. Before lunch he guided me through the house, pointing out the various works of art. Bernard knew of my special devotion to Blessed Abbot Columba Marmion (1858–1923), an alumnus of the College, and of my interest in Archbishop Tobias Kirby, its rector from 1850 to 1891.

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The wood sculpture of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Regina Coeli, is the work of a contemporary Irish artist and is in the chapel of the Irish Martyrs.

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In the same chapel is this tabernacle with its fine Celtic tracery. Bernard explained that its design is based on ancient Irish house reliquaries.

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Would you have recognized him? This is none other than Blessed Abbot Columba Marmion, O.S.B. He was obliged to travel in disguise during World War I while searching for a refuge in Ireland for the monks of his abbey of Maredsous in Belgium.

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This is the painting of Blessed Marmion — looking very abbatial — on the College's grand staircase.

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On the opposite side of the same staircase one finds Saint Oliver Plunkett.

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And this is Archbishop Tobias Kirby. Born on January 1, 1804, he was baptized on January 6, 1804. Kirby wrote an important thesis on Papal Infallibility. He was ordained in 1833 and was appointed Vice Rector of the Irish College in Rome in 1837, succeeding Cardinal Cullen as Rector in 1870. He was appointed Titular Bishop of Lita in 1882 and Archbishop of Ephesus in 1885. Old age obliged Archbishop Kirby to retire in 1891. He died on January 20, 1895 and was laid to rest in Rome.

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Last week this distinguished group of clergy bloggers met for discussion and refreshment in the piazza del Pantheon. From right to left: Michael, seminarian at the English College; the Rev. Mr. D. Bernard Healy, Pontifical Irish College; Brother Edward of the Oratory; the Rev. Tim Finegan, PP. of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen; the Rev. Charles Briggs; and Don Marco, O.Cist. The photo was taken, I think, by Father Zuhlsdorf.

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Thirty–Seven Years of Mass

I am dedicating this special entry to my friend Monsignor Arthur Burton Calkins on the 37th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood or, as we say in Italian, “after 37 years of Mass.” Monsignor Calkins is more familiar than anyone else I know with the writings of the Servant of God Louise–Marguerite Claret de la Touche. I ask her to intercede for him today.

A Find at Santa Maria in Ara Coeli

I am becoming increasingly sensitive to the little manifestations of Divine Providence — God’s “gentle leadings with bands of love” — on a daily basis. Last Saturday a dear friend invited me to visit the Church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli with her. After making our devotions and spending a moment before the church’s famous Santo Bambino, we stopped for a moment in the gift shop to look at its impressive display of icon reproductions. All of a sudden I was drawn to this particular image. It look vaguely familiar to me. I found the Face of Christ, the pierced Side, and the inscription, “It is mercy that I desire,” strangely compelling. I also felt that the little image was destined for my friend. She went home with it. Later that day, after some searching, I identified it as the image painted by Louise–Marguerite Claret de la Touche (1868–1915), one of the last century’s most notable mystics of the Sacred Heart and a spiritual advocate for priests.

The Painting

Mother Louise–Marguerite Claret de la Touche was fond of drawing and painting: a popular pastime in Visitation monasteries of the last century. She left a number of pictures of landscapes, animals, flowers, and still–lifes. It is, however, her inspired painting of the Merciful Jesus, that continues to touch hearts and move them to prayer.

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Father Charrier, S.J., Louise–Marguerite’s confessor, ordered her to execute the painting after she related to him a vision in which Our Lord manifested Himself revealing His wounded side. (The similarities with the experience of Saint Faustina Kowalska are striking.)

Meekness and Majesty

Louise–Marguerite painted the image at the end of 1902 and the beginning of 1903. It is unlike other pictures of the Sacred Heart dating from the same epoch. The Face of Christ resembles that of the Holy Shroud of Turin. The eyes of Christ seem to search the soul of the one meeting His gaze. Around the head of Christ the artist painted a double halo: the first represents a crown of thorns; the second, adorned with three stylized lilies, bears the inscription, Misericordiam volo, “It is mercy that I desire” (Mt 9:13).

Contemplating the image, one discovers at the same time the meekness of Jesus and His majesty. Meekness and majesty are inseparable in Him. Gesturing with His hand, Our Lord indicates His pierced Side. The opening in His tunic has, in effect, the shape of a heart.

The Sacred Side

The image represents the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy: “They shall look on Him whom they pierced” (Jn 19:37). The pierced Side of Christ reveals the infinite love of His Heart; it is the wellspring of His mercy.

Call Me Mercy

Mother Louise–Marguerite’s own writings tell of what inspired her in painting the image:
“One day, prostrate at the feet of Jesus, I was calling Him my soul’s one and only Good, the sovereign love of my heart, the infinite treasury of all riches. In the end I said to Him, ‘My Jesus, how do You want me to address you?’ And He answered, ‘Call me Mercy!’ O my sweet Mercy, O Jesus who died of love upon this Cross, grant that, brought back to you by the appeal of Your Mercy, we may live from Your love and for your love’! (Diary, Good Friday, 13 April 1900)

Priest, Temple, and Door

Notice that the image represents the majesty of the “Eternal High Priest,” of the “Divine Sacrificer” Who, from His open Side, continues to pour out “life–giving torrents of Infinite Love” upon humanity and, in particular, upon priests. The lanced pierced His right side: an evident allusion to the vision recounted in Chapter 47 of the prophet Ezekiel. Christ is, at once, the “High Priest” (Heb 4:14) and the Temple (Jn 2:21). Saving water streams out from below the right side of the Temple, and swells to become “a river” producing life in abundance wherever it flows. In this light, the wound in the Side of Christ is revealed also as “the door” (Jn 10:7) through which one enters the Holy of Holies to “obtain mercy and gind grace” (Heb 4:16).

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A Guest from the Irish College

The Reverend Mr. Bernard Healy of the Pontifical Irish College visited me today. He was interested in seeing the Chapel of the Madonna di Bon Aiuto. We strolled in the rain–washed monastery garden, enjoying the white roses that are blossoming in profusion, as you can see in the photo above.

May Devotions in the Chapel of Bon Aiuto

The postulants and novices returned with me for the second day of May to pray the holy rosary in the chapel of the Madonna di Bon Aiuto. The Rosary is a deceptively simple prayer. The power of the Rosary is completely disproportionate to the effort required to pray it well. The secret is to begin saying it and to persevere in saying it whether one feels consolation or not. The Rosary is powerful because, almost imperceptibly, it changes the heart of the one who prays it, liberates from sin, and heals wounds resistant to every other treatment.

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Why the Devil Hates the Rosary

The devil, of course, hates the Rosary, precisely because it changes hearts, detaches from sin, attaches to the all–pure Mother of God, and leads to conversion. One of the ploys he uses to deter people from praying it is to suggest that unless one can pray it well, i.e. perfectly, one shouldn't pray it at all. I would suggest, rather, that the Rosary, even prayed badly, is better than no Rosary at all. The Rosary, exactly like the Jesus Prayer, opens the heart to seeds of contemplation that, in the end, become the fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.


The Rosary in Bits and Pieces

One should use every opportunity to pray the Rosary, even when can do so only in bits and pieces. The Holy Mother of God knows well how to sort out the bits and pIeces offered by her children. Those who persevere in the humble recitation of the Rosary are able to say, quoting the psalmist, that it "revives the soul, gives wisdom to the simple, rejoices the heart, and gives light to the eyes" (Ps 18:7–8).

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Today I had the pleasure of welcoming Brian Geraghty, studying here in Rome with Loyola University, and his parents visiting from San Francisco. Mr. Geraghty is the brother of Sister M. Marcella, O.S.B. of the Monastery of the Glorious Cross in Branford, Connecticut. He is also a gardener and was impressed with our orto. Brian is not a first–time visitor to Santa Croce. He was pleased to have his parents join us for pranzo in the monastic refectory.

I also showed Brian and his parents the Basilica, the Chapel of the Sacred Relics of the Cross and Passion, the tomb of the Servant of God "Nennolina" Antonietta Meo, and the abbatial library. We also viewed the abbey garden from the roof terrace. See the photo below.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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