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 

Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament

Most people today will be celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, but the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist will be celebrating their primary feast day – Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration also regard this day as equally important. Before we discuss the role Our Lady has in relation to the Blessed Sacrament, let’s first briefly talk about the Holy Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration.

The Holy Eucharist is one of the most profound teachings within the Catholic Church. As Catholics, we believe that simple bread and wine through the words of consecration said by a priest truly become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The Doctrine of Transubstantiation proclaims that the nature of the bread and wine is transformed into Christ’s body, blood, soul, and divinity.

While the bread and wine remain in appearance, the natures of the two substances have been transformed into Jesus Christ himself. The sacrifice on the Cross-and the Passover meal Christ presided over at the Last Supper are united to form the New Eucharistic Covenant that He gave to his Apostles and the entire Catholic Church.

In his Encyclical Letter, Ecclesia de Euchrasistia (On the Eucharist In Its Relationship to the Church), Pope St. John Paul II says,

“The Church has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as one gift – however precious – among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself…When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and “the work of our redemption is carried out”…The Eucharist thus applies to men and women today the reconciliation won once for all by Christ for mankind in every age. “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice”” (#11-12).

Besides receiving our Lord in the Holy Eucharist during Mass, we have the ability to adore the Holy Eucharist through the Blessed Sacrament at Adoration outside of the Mass. This is where we sit and adore the consecrated host – truly Jesus Christ present in the monstrance). The average Adoration time is to stay with our Lord for one hour (Read Mt 26:40). Many parishes around the world practice Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. This is a practice that many of the saints of the Church practiced on a common basis.

Saint Alphonsus Ligouri said, “Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest of all after the sacraments…”

So how does Mary play a role in relation to the Blessed Sacrament? To answer this questions, we turn our attention to Chapter Six of Ecclesia de Eucharistia – At the School of Mary, “Woman of the Eucharist.”

Mary and Eucharist

In order to understand the importance that the Eucharist has in relation to the Church, we must not forget about the role of Mary within the Church. As Mary guides us in our relationship with Christ; so she can help us with our relationship with the Blessed Sacrament. The Gospels don’t say much about Mary in relation to the Passover Meal (Last Supper), but we do know that she would have participated with the Apostles and the early Church when they broke bread.

Pope St. John Paul II says, “Mary is a “woman of the Eucharist” in her whole life”” (53). From her Fiat at the Annunciation when the Holy Spirit came upon her to the death of Christ on the Cross-, “Mary lived her Eucharistic faith by the very fact that she offered up her virginal womb for the Incarnation of God’s Word. The Eucharist, while commemorating the passion and resurrection, is also in continuity with the incarnation” (55).

Beyond the Incarnation and Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, Mary displays her “Eucharistic faith” by interceding at the Wedding at Cana and going up to the hill country to visit Elizabeth with the Word made flesh in her womb. At Cana, her words of “Do whatever he tells you,” says to us that we must trust Jesus and that he is truly present in the Holy Eucharist (54). In regards to the hill country, Pope St. John Paul II says, “…she became in some way a “tabernacle” – the first “tabernacle” in history – in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and voice of Mary” (55).

While standing at the foot of the Cross-, Mary experienced an “anticipated Eucharist” or a “spiritual communion” that united her with Jesus while he suffered his passion and death. It must have been a great joy for Mary to receive the Eucharist for the first time, because it was the same body that she carried in her womb for nine months, and the same body she watched suffer on Calvary for three hours (56). As she is taken into the home of Saint John, she comes into our homes even more so. After Calvary, Mary is the Mother of the Church and all humanity. Just as she intercedes for our prayers, she also mediates and leads us to Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament. She is truly present at all the Eucharistic celebrations of the Church – both West and East (57) throughout all of time.

It’s through Mary’s Magnificat where we can come to fully understand the relationship between the Eucharist and the Church. “This truth can be understood more deeply by re-reading the Magnificat in a Eucharistic key. The Eucharist, like the Canticle of Mary, is first and foremost praise and thanksgiving”(58). When she praises the Lord and Savior, she is essentially praising Jesus with a “Eucharistic attitude.” As she sings her canticle praising the works of God, Mary teaches us that we need to know the Holy Eucharist in this world and for the world to come (58).

Just as Mary said “yes” at the Annunciation, said “yes” to God’s plan at Calvary, and said “yes” to being the Mother of all humanity, we must take on the Marian disposition and say “yes” to Our Lord in his Most Blessed Sacrament.

As Catholics, we must believe with our hearts and minds, that Christ is truly present  – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. We must also say “yes” to Our Lord by sacrificing one hour a week to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament. Let us pray that Mary in her titled as, Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament, will assist us in our love and commitment to the Eucharist.

Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament…Pray for Us. 

The Legacy of Saint Francis of Assisi

Being that I come from an Italian family, Saint Francis of Assisi was on the lips of my grandparents and I remember hearing his name as a child. As a teenager growing up at my parish here in Scottsdale, one of the saints many people spoke about often was Saint Francis. Many Catholics, including many non-Catholics, know the life and story of St. Francis of Assisi. But what most people don’t know is that Francis is more than just the “animal” saint. Yes, he loved nature and found it to be like his “brother”, but there is more to St. Francis than just this aspect.

legend_of_st._francis_the_dream_by_giotto

Francis was charged by Christ to rebuild his Church. It wasn’t to be just a literal build, but he was to rebuild the inner workings of the Catholic Church.  That’s the St. Francis people must come to know and love, not just the saint “with the birds.” He is one of my most popular saints the Church has in her Mystical Body. His life in the Church is a blessing and after nearly 800 years, the Franciscan Order, which he founded, still continues to grow and flourish. The Legacy of Saint Francis of Assisi lies with the orders listed below.

In his small book, St. Francis of Assisi, G.K. Chesterton says, “…the coming of St. Francis was like the birth of a child in a dark house, lifting its doom; a child that grows up unconscious of the tragedy and triumphs over it by his innocence.”

In the past seven years, I have encountered some of the most amazing men and women in my life, and yes, they wear the Franciscan habit. The blessings I received by attending Franciscan University of Steubenville for two years was enough to last a lifetime. Being in the presence and studying under the friars of the Third Order Regular is something I will cherish till I reach the other side of Heaven.

The Franciscan Orders below are by no means a comprehensive list of the many communities that exist, however, these are some of the ones that have touched my heart and heart of others I know. Please take the time to review each one and pray for the work they do.

1. Franciscan Friars, TOR – Loretto, Pennsylvania

2. Franciscan Sisters (TOR) of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother

3. Franciscan Friars of the Renewal – Bronx, New York

4. Community of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal – Bronx, New York

5. Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration – Birmingham, Alabama

6. Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration – Tonapah, Arizona (outside of Phoenix, AZ)

7. Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration – San Antonio, Texas

8. Sisters of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration – Mishawaka, Indiana

9. The Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis – Peoria, Illinois

10. Franciscans of the Eucharist – Chicago, Illinois

11. Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George – Alton, Illinois

12. Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate – New Bedford, Massachusetts

13. Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word – Birmingham, Alabama

14. Sister Servants of the Eternal World – Birmingham, Alabama (blend between Franciscan and Dominican)

This blog post is dedicated to Rev. Michael Scanlan, Rev. Terence Henry, Rev. Daniel Pattee, members of the Third Order Regular from Loretto, Pennslyvania and to the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Tonapah, Arizona. Your witness to the life of Christ through the habit of St. Francis is a blessing to all who encounter you each day.

St. Francis of Assisi…Pray for Us! 

San Damiano Cross

“Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament

Most people today will be celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, but the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist will be celebrating their primary feast day – Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration also regard this day as equally important. Before we discuss the role our Lady has in relation to the Blessed Sacrament, let’s first briefly talk about the Holy Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration.

The Holy Eucharist is one of the most profound teachings within the Catholic Church. As Catholics, we believe that simple bread and wine through the words of consecration said by a priest truly become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The Doctrine of Transubstantiation proclaims that the nature of the bread and wine is transformed into Christ’s body, blood, soul, and divinity. While the bread and wine remain in appearance, the natures of the two substances have been transformed into Jesus Christ himself. The sacrifice on the Cross-and the Passover meal Christ presided over at the Last Supper are united to form the New Eucharistic Covenant that He gave to his Apostles and the entire Catholic Church.

In his Encyclical Letter, Ecclesia de Euchrasistia (On the Eucharist In Its Relationship to the Church), Pope St. John Paul II states,

“The Church has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as one gift – however precious – among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself…When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and “the work of our redemption is carried out”…The Eucharist thus applies to men and women today the reconciliation won once for all by Christ for mankind in every age. “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice”” (#11-12).

Besides receiving our Lord in the Holy Eucharist during Mass, we have the ability to adore the Holy Eucharist through the Blessed Sacrament at Adoration outside of the Mass. This is where we sit and adore the consecrated host – truly Jesus Christ present in the monstrance. (See picture below). The average Adoration time is to stay with our Lord for one hour (Read Mt 26:40).

Many parishes around the world practice Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. This is a practice that many of the saints of the Church practiced on a common basis. Saint Alphonsus Ligouri said, “Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest of all after the sacraments…”

Holy Eucharist in Monstrance

So how does Mary play a role in relation to the Blessed Sacrament? For this, we turn to Chapter Six of Ecclesia de Eucharistia – At the School of Mary, “Woman of the Eucharist” –

In order to understand the importance that the Eucharist has in relation to the Church, we must not forget about the role of Mary within the Church. As Mary guides us in our relationship with Christ; so she can help us with our relationship with the Blessed Sacrament. The Gospels don’t say much about Mary in relation to the Passover Meal (Last Supper), but we do know that she would have participated with the Apostles and the early Church when they broke bread.

Pope John Paul II says, “Mary is a “woman of the Eucharist” in her whole life”” (53). From her Fiat at the Annunciation when the Holy Spirit came upon her to the death of Christ on the Cross-, “Mary lived her Eucharistic faith by the very fact that she offered up her virginal womb for the Incarnation of God’s Word. The Eucharist, while commemorating the passion and resurrection, is also in continuity with the incarnation” (55).

Beyond the Incarnation and Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, Mary displays her “Eucharistic faith” by interceding at the Wedding at Cana and going up to the hill country to visit Elizabeth with the Word made flesh in her womb. At Cana, her words of “Do whatever he tells you,” says to us that we must trust Jesus and that he is truly present in the Holy Eucharist (54).

In regards to the hill country, John Paul II says, “…she became in some way a “tabernacle” – the first “tabernacle” in history – in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and voice of Mary” (55).

While standing at the foot of the Cross-, Mary experienced an “anticipated Eucharist” or a “spiritual communion” that united her with Jesus while he suffered his passion and death. It must have been a great joy for Mary to receive the Eucharist for the first time, because it was the same body that she carried in her womb for nine months, and the same body she watched suffer on Calvary for three hours (56).

As she is taken into the home of Saint John, she comes into our homes even more so. After Calvary, Mary is the Mother of the Church and all humanity. Just as she intercedes for our prayers, she also mediates and leads us to Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament. She is truly present at all the Eucharistic celebrations of the Church – both West and East (57) throughout all of time.

Mary and Eucharist

It’s through Mary’s Magnificat where we can come to fully understand the relationship between the Eucharist and the Church. “This truth can be understood more deeply by re-reading the Magnificat in a Eucharistic key. The Eucharist, like the Canticle of Mary, is first and foremost praise and thanksgiving”(58). When she praises the Lord and Savior, she is essentially praising Jesus with a “Eucharistic attitude.” As she sings her canticle praising the works of God, Mary teaches us that we need to know the Holy Eucharist in this world and for the world to come (58).

Just as Mary said “yes” at the Annunciation, said “yes” to God’s plan at Calvary, and said “yes” to being the Mother of all humanity, we must take on the Marian disposition and say “yes” to Our Lord in his Most Blessed Sacrament.

As Catholics, we must believe with our hearts and minds, that Christ is truly present  – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. We must also say “yes” to Our Lord by sacrificing one hour a week to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament. Let us pray that Mary – Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament – assists us in our love and commitment to the Eucharist.

Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament…Pray for Us.

The 4th Annual Nun Run

For the first time ever, I attended the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration (aka The Desert Nuns) Nun Run. This was the 4th Annual Nun Run and it was a great morning, a little cold for Tempe (Arizona) in March, but still a great event. Being that I am not much of a runner, I decided to volunteer at the Late Registration table where I checked in people that registered for the parish and school challenges, a new component to this year’s race. The races included a 10k run, 5 k run, and 1 mile run/walk. There were also shadow runners from around the country that participated at the same time the event in Tempe was happening at Kiwanis Park.

Sr. Mary Fidelis and Tom PernaHere are some pics from the day with Sr. Mary Fidelis of the Poor Clares

Fr. John and Tom PernaFr. John Muir and I, the winner of the Chaplain challenge

and Fr. Don Kline, MC and Pastor of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in PhoenixFr. Don Kline and Tom Perna

If you have the financial ability to support the Poor Clares of the Perpetual Adoration from Tonapah, Arizona, I would encourage you to make a donation to their worthy building project. I have known the Poor Clares since their arrival in the Diocese of Phoenix and remember when they first lived in Black Canyon City (just north of Phoenix). The Saint Mary’s Catholic High School Squires Circle use to go up to their property in Black Canyon City to volunteer and help clean up the property before the summer heat fell upon the desert.

I don’t know about you, but I love seeing religious sisters in habits! It says so much to us as Catholic lay faithful and it’s such an amazing witness to the modern world. They have given up their lives for Christ and celebrate by wearing their “wedding dress” each day. They truly see themselves as Brides of Christ because that is what they truly are – Brides for Jesus Christ. Religious Orders that wear habits (see orders at the bottom of that link) are growing rapidly here in the United States. Young women want to embrace this life and not just wear regular street clothes like everyone else. One of the orders that is close to my heart, and I have written about them numerous times on this blog is The Dominican Sisters Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. They are rapidly growing as are many other religious orders that embrace the beauty and tradition of the habit. I would encourage you to support these fine religious orders and teach others about the tradition that these religious orders have in the Catholic Church. They know who they are as women of God and are not seeking glory for their own sake, but are seeking to do the will of God.

Let us pray for the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, the Nashville Dominicans, Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, and many others who are truly living out their lives as Brides of Christ today.