Quiet Solitude in the Arizona Desert

This past Tuesday, I led a group of 12 parishioners on a one-day pilgrimage to Our Lady of Solitude Monastery located in Tonapah, Arizona.  The monastery was built and is cared for by the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration (PCPA), originally part of Mother Angelica’s Nuns in Hanceville Alabama. Along with this monastery, there are other PCPA monasteries in the USA and around the world.

The pilgrimage was sponsored by the Porta Fidei Adult Faith Formation Program, which I oversee at the parish of Saint Mary Magdalene. Taking one day pilgrimages had been a goal of mine going back to late 2015. I was finally able to fulfill this goal this year and allow some of our parishioners to take time away from the everyday busyness of life. On March 6, we also visited San Xavier del Bac in Tucson, Arizona, but due to a conflict, I was not able to attend personally, so I asked parishioners to lead this particular pilgrimage for me.

Tuesday began with us meeting at the parish at 8:00am and then carpooling to the monastery, which is about an 85-mile trip one way from Gilbert, where the parish is located. We had to traverse our way through the Phoenix morning commute. Thank the Good Lord in Heaven Phoenix has “HOV” lanes for carpooling! Once we exited the freeway, we had to drive over 7 miles of dirt roads to get out to the monastery. Most of the parishioners were in cars, and I my trusty 2006 4Runner was in the shop, so my fiancée and I were in a rental car for the day. Although the road was bumpy, we made it over the roads unscathed.

As we pulled into the 40 acres of land where the monastery sits, we found ourselves transported to a place of distinct silence – it truly is a place of solitude (Think Superman’s Fortress of Solitude but not cold). That’s the one thing we all noticed very quickly…it’s so quiet. It’s so quiet that you find yourself whispering, especially as you approach the chapel, which stands out prominently on the property.

When we arrived, Our Lord was exposed in the Blessed Sacrament, and there were some other people there adoring Our Lord in the chapel as well. The sheer beauty of the chapel in connection with Jesus’ presence in the Blessed Sacrament, just takes your breath away. You are literally transported into the solitude of monastery life. After spending some time in Adoration, our group gathered back outside under the awning where Sister John-Mark Maria, the ex-turn, explained to us some of the history of how the PCPA arrived in Phoenix, how they settled in Tonapah, and the future plans of the monastery.

We then returned to the chapel for Holy Mass. I have been to countless Masses in my lifetime, but I don’t I think ever experienced a Mass like the one on Tuesday. The only way to describe it is to say that it was – intentional gentleness and attentiveness  You would have to experience it for yourself to truly understand. The pace of life at the monastery, along with the pace of the liturgy, is much different than my usual busy day – I would imagine many people, who have busy and full days would find it the same way.

After Mass, we gathered outside under the awning to eat lunch, in the quiet stillness of the monastery. Although we were talking, there was something different – it was the experience of being in quiet solitude in the Arizona desert. As we were having lunch, a group of tourists traveling through the desert in ATV’s and Polaris Off-Road vehicles drove into the grounds. They asked a few questions about the monastery, looked inside and even took a picture of our group for us. We then departed to head home.

From our conversation with Sister John-Mark, she explained that the monastery was only partially finished. Although the main chapel is in place, their living quarters are temporary. They would love to build a permanent structure that would house many more sisters. As of right now, there are only four PCPA at the monastery, with a few women arriving to discern in the upcoming months. For building to start, the goal would be to have 12 sisters at the monastery. The funding for the monastery is strictly from what they receive in donations and gifts from people in the Catholic world.

So, what can you do?

First, Pray, Pray, Pray for Vocations. Ask Our Lord to send young women open to living a contemplative life with the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. We should always be praying for Vocations, but today, and maybe over the next week or so, focus on the PCPA. Take some time to read about their Vocations.

Second, if you have the financial means to do so, pray about donating financially to support the PCPA and their efforts to build. There are variety of ways to give to the PCPA. Visit this page to learn how to do so.

Third, if you live in the Phoenix Metropolitan area or a surrounding region, think about attending and fundraising for the annual Nun Run held on the first weekend of March each year. Furthermore, I would encourage you to take a day trip out to the monastery, you can learn how to do that here.

Saint Clare of Assisi…Pray for Us 

“Mondays with Mary” – Mother Angelica on Mary

Last Sunday, Easter Sunday, Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, entered into eternal life. The outpouring of condolences reached across the globe. For numerous days on social media, Mother Angelica was “trending.” Priests, bishops, religious, and even Pope Francis mentioned her during one his speeches. Yet, the most shocking response came from the mainstream media, who had to take notice and report on her death because it was as if the earth itself shook in response to her death as well as the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In my own little part of the Catholic world, I wrote a blog post that attracted more views in 48 hours than any other post I had written before in the same amount of time. The title of the post is 12 Sayings of Mother Angelica that Made Me Laugh Out Loud. The title was not meant to be clickbait, but literally what each and every one of those sayings did to me – they made me laugh out loud! On my Twitter page during the week, I wrote, “You know ‪#MotherAngelica had a big influence on the Catholic Church when a silent ‪#BenedictXVI reacts to her death. ‪#Catholic ‪#ewtnMA.”

If it wasn’t for Mother Angelica and EWTN, I personally think that many of us who engage the world through the media and social media would be at a complete disadvantage. Thank the Good Lord Jesus Christ for her and EWTN.

Now with this being said, let’s focus on today’s “Mondays with Mary”, which is essentially a 50-minute video I pulled from YouTube of Mother Angelica talking the importance of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this video, you will hear Mother speak about baseball, yes baseball, which is great since today is part 2 of Opening Day 2016.

She will also speak on Our Lady’s Holiness, Mary as the Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception and the words in Luke, “Full of Grace.” She speaks of the importance of the Visitation, when Mary goes to visit her kinswoman who is carrying the forbearer of Jesus Christ, St. John the Baptist. Lastly, she focuses on the Flight into Egypt where Mother says Mary never lost her faith in God nor did she lose sight of him.

If you have been reading my “Mondays with Mary” since the inception of the series or if you are a new follower of my blog, you know or will know soon that I have covered and written about these topics in the past. It’s my hope that not only will you share today’s post on Mary, but that you will go into the series to read and share some of the other blog posts I have done in the past. The 4th anniversary and the 200th blog post in the series are quickly approaching on May 2.

O Blessed Virgin Mary, Theotokos…Pray For Us.

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation…Pray For Us.

12 Sayings of Mother Angelica that Made Me Laugh Out Loud

As many of you probably know by now, Mother Mary Angelica, the founder of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) passed into eternal life yesterday afternoon around 5:00pm. It is fitting that Mother Angelica entered eternal life on the day Our Jesus Christ rose from the dead – Easter Sunday! I found out about her passing as I was sitting on the couch watching the New York Rangers hockey game and looking at Facebook on my iPhone. I knew she had been sick for many years, and although the news is sad, we can also rejoice knowing that she is in the presence of Jesus Christ.

In the book, Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality, which I will draw from more shortly, Mother Angelica, says about “Your Place in Heaven” –

When we get to heaven, there will be many empty seats and many empty mansions, and they’ll stay that way forever because God has destined each of us for our specific degree of glory. My place in heaven is mine. No one else will ever use it or possess it or live in it. If I don’t get there, it will remain empty.”

Last night, after I arrived home from Easter brunch at my Mom’s with family and some new friends that my sister graciously asked to join us, I started thinking if I had any of Mother’s books in my personal library. After searching for only a minute, I came upon the aforementioned book that I referenced above. As I started to thumb through the pages thinking what I could write about, it came to me as I was laughing out loud (you know, LOL) that I could write on some of her funny, yet very truthful sayings.

Why did they make me laugh out loud? Well being in the position I am in as an evangelist (in a parish), sometimes these type of sayings come to mind, but often the filter in my head and mouth does the job a filter is suppose to do. It’s great to see that Mother Angelica not only thought about them, but also said or wrote them “out loud.”

The “little book” was published in 2007 and was edited and has some additional material in it by Raymond Arroyo. The link above will take you to the EWTN catalogue website where you can purchase the book if you so desire.

Mother_Angelica

As I said above, these 12 sayings that I am about to list for you made me laugh out loud. One of them made me laugh so hard, I had to get up and get a drink of water. Although they might make you laugh, as they did me, there is a truth in these sayings that really should make one think. I hope you enjoy them as I did –

1. “The apostles were dodos, dummies. But all the smart people in the world at the time wouldn’t take chances. That is the same problem we have today. The world is looking for intellectuals and the Lord is looking for dummies. That’s why I’m here.”

2. “If you’re not a thorn in somebody’s side, you’re not doing Christianity right.”

3. “If you’re breathing and you’ve got two legs, you’re called to holiness.”

4. “Don’t be afraid to get frustrated. Look at me, I take a lot of Maalox. Somebody said to me not long ago, ‘I’m surprised that a woman of such great faith would have to take Maalox.’ I said, ‘My friend, my stomach doesn’t know about my great faith.’”

5. “I’m not here to win friends and influence people. I’m here to do God’s Will. Now, if the accomplishment of that will bugs a lot of people, well, that’s their problem. I can’t help that.”

6. “The apostles wouldn’t pass the seminary today. Heck, I doubt if they’d make it past the psychological screening.”

7. “The sisters say I have the eighth gift of the Holy Spirit: guts!”

8. “When I was a young novice I used to pray in the early morning, ‘Dear Lord, today I am going to be patient come hell or high water.’ And by nine o’clock came hell and high water! I blew it!”

9. “St. Jerome had a terrible temper. He would hit himself with a rock every time he lost his temper. I’d be dead as a doornail, with no ribs, if I did that.”

10. “I went to Confession one time and I told the priest, ‘I lost my temper.’ He said, ‘Keep it, nobody wants it.’ Well, I never said “lost” again because I was afraid I’d get another smart-aleck comment.”

11. “After Mass one day a woman came to me complaining about a priest’s homily. His preaching ability left something to be desired, but then it’s not the Word you listen to, not the way it’s presented. So this woman was complaining and I asked her, ‘How much did you put in the collection?’ She said, ‘A quarter.’ I said, ‘What do you want for a quarter, Bishop Sheen?’”

Lastly, this is the one that forced me to get a drink of water and made me laugh for 3 minutes straight –

12. “If you’re experiencing stress or tension give it to Jesus. Tell Him, ‘I feel like crawling the wall, but I love You and I want to give this to You.’ Do you think our Lord wasn’t tense living with those twelve screwball apostles?”

Mother Angelica’s wit and humor led many people to look at Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church. I imagine she has her mansion in Heaven and it is suited just for her.

Mother Mary Angelica…Pray For Us.