Celebrating the Feast of Blessed Solanus Casey

Celebrating the Feast of Blessed Solanus Casey

30 July: Blessed Solanus Casey. Born Bernard Francis Casey to Irish immigrants in 1870, he first considered the priesthood after witnessing a brutal murder as a young man. In seminary, he struggled with studies and mastering languages. Because of his poor grades, Blessed Solanus was dismissed. He was sent to a Capuchin Franciscan community. Blessed Solanus was hesitant but heard the Blessed Mother tell him to “go to Detroit” and so he did. He donned the Franciscan habit and chose the name Solanus, after a 17th-century missionary. Franciscan life was a good fit, but academic difficulties caused his superiors to decide he would remain a “simplex priest” (meaning he could not preach or hear confessions). Fr. Solanus was assigned to be the monastery’s porter: the main link from the friars to the outside world. He soon became renowned as “the doorkeeper” who gave gentle counsel and miraculous intercession. He would listen to anyone at any time, day or night. People would line up for blocks just to have a moment with him. He told them to “thank God ahead of time.” One story of his miraculous intercession is told about a friar who came to see Solanus on his way to have emergency dental work done. Fr. Solanus blessed him and told him to trust God. While the friar was at the dentist, a lady who came to visit the monastery brought Fr. Solanus two ice cream cones. Too busy to eat them, Fr. Solanus shoved the cones into his desk drawer, much to the dismay of his secretary. After more than half an hour, the friar returned from the dentist, his tooth found miraculously healthy. He went to thank Father Solanus, who pulled out perfectly frozen ice cream cones from his drawer on the hot summer day, which he offered to the friar to celebrate. Fr. Solanus was also known for quirky habits such as playing his harmonica to the monastery bees; for singing in a loud squeaky voice as he played his violin; and for eating his breakfast all mixed together as a penance– cereal, prune juice, coffee, and milk in the same bowl. Blessed Solanus’ last years were spent suffering severe pain but he never complained. He died on July 31, 1957, and tens of thousands lined up to view his body before burial. Thousands more have sought his miraculous intercession. Blessed Solanus was beatified in 2017. November 3 and July 30 are both dates associated with his feast.

Ideas for celebrating this feast day at home:

    • Enjoy ice cream cones today! For a crazy menu twist, try mixing up all your breakfast foods and drinks in the same bowl, like Blessed Solanus did, as a penance. 
    • Do something for the poor. Fr. Solanus is known for starting the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, which to this day cares for Detroit’s poor. Our own parish ministry, St. Vincent de Paul, is teaming up with the Knights of Columbus to provide turkey dinners and warm coats to those in need this holiday season. See the bulletin for specifics on how you can help them take care of the poor in our community.
    • Watch a fascinating video on the extraordinary life of Blessed Solanus Casey. Click here to watch for free on FORMED.
Celebrating Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Celebrating Our Lady of Mount Carmel

This liturgical feast was likely first celebrated in England in the 14th century to give thanksgiving to Mary, the patroness of the Carmelite Order. The Order was founded at the site thought to have been the location of Elijah’s cave, 1,700 feet above sea level on Mount Carmel. (The mountain overlooking the Mediterranean Sea on which the prophet Elijah famously challenged the priests of Baal and won the people over to the true God.) According to Carmelite tradition, hermits lived at the site from the time of Elijah until the Carmelites. They think that from the time when Elijah and Elisha dwelt on Mount Carmel, priests and prophets, Jewish and Christian, lived holy lives at the adjacent fountain of Elisha. A Carmelite monastery was founded at the site shortly after the Order itself was created, and was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title “Star of the Sea” (“stella maris” in Latin). The Carmelite Order has grown to be one of the major Catholic religious orders worldwide, although the physical monastery at Carmel has had a difficult history. During the Crusades, the monastery often changed hands (it was converted into an Islamic mosque, a hospital, and then in 1821 was destroyed). A new monastery was constructed on Mount Carmel over a cave. The cave, now the crypt of the church, is called “Elijah’s grotto” by the Carmelite friars who have custody of the monastery. One of the oldest scapulars is also associated with Mount Carmel and the Carmelites. The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, according to Carmelite tradition, was presented by Our Lady to St. Simon Stock (the Carmelite Father General) on July 16, 1251. Our Lady gave Saint Simon the following promise, saying: “Receive, My beloved son, this habit of thy order: this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire… It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace.” The Carmelites refer to her by the title “Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” The spread of the Carmelites in Europe is also largely attributed to the work of St. Simon Stock. The Carmelite Order was formally approved in 1274 at the Council of Lyon. The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel entered the Church calendar in the 18th century. However, since the 15th century, devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel has centered on the Brown Scapular, a sacramental associated with promises of Mary’s special aid for the salvation of the devoted wearer. {Note: wearing the Scapular demonstrates a commitment to follow Jesus, like Mary, the perfect model disciple of Christ. It is an expression of the belief that the bearers of the scapular will reach heaven, aided by Mary’s intercession. The Carmelites insist that it is not a magical charm, an automatic guarantee of salvation, or an excuse for not living the Christian life. It is instead a sacramental approved by the Church for centuries which demonstrates a commitment to follow Jesus, like Mary, and to live a life of prayer and faithfulness to God.}

Ideas for celebrating this feast at home:

  • Feast day treats should be “carmel” themed: cookie bars with caramel icing; Oatmeal ‘Carmelite’ Bars; Brown scapular cake; candy scapular sundaes; “brown scapular” brownies; caramel dip with fruit; caramel apples; or really, just about anything drizzled in caramel syrup – like a big scoop of ice cream!
  • Learn more about the Brown Scapular. Today’s feast is a perfect time to start wearing one, if you don’t already. Purchase one, or for a feast day activity, make your own! Ask a priest to enroll you in the brown scapular society (in order to receive all the blessings associated with the Scapular, it is necessary to be formally enrolled. The enrollment is made once by a priest or authorized person).
  • Our Lady of Mount Carmel coloring pages for kids available here.
  • Build a Mary garden on her feast day: ideas here.
Celebrating the Sacred & Immaculate Hearts

Celebrating the Sacred & Immaculate Hearts

7 June: Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. This Solemnity is celebrated on the Friday after the Feast of Corpus Christi. The Sacred Heart is depicted as a flaming heart surrounded by a crown of thorns, with a cross on top and bleeding from a wound. (It is often displayed with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is also on fire, surrounded by a crown of flowers and pierced by a sword.) This feast was celebrated in seventeenth century France at the request of St. John Eudes. But the history of this devotion goes much farther back; it was highlighted by the fathers of the Church, including Origen, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Hippolytus, St. Irenaeus, St. Justin Martyr, and St. Cyprian. This devotion was also given form in the 12th century by St. Bernard of Clairvaux in his famous “O Sacred Head Surrounded.” In 1673, Jesus appeared to a French nun, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. He told her that he wished to be honored in Eucharistic adoration during a holy hour on Thursdays, that he desired a feast day devoted to his Sacred Heart, and that he desired the faithful to receive Holy Communion on first Fridays. It took years, but eventually devotion to the Sacred Heart spread throughout the world. In 1856, Pope Pius IX established the Feast of the Sacred Heart as obligatory for the whole Church.

8 June: Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In the midst of WWII, Pope Pius XII put the whole world under the protection of our Savior’s Mother by consecrating it to her Immaculate Heart. He decreed that the Church should celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary so as to obtain by her intercession “peace among nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity and the practice of virtue” (Decree of May 4, 1944). This is not a new devotion; in the seventeenth century, St. John Eudes preached it together with that of the Sacred Heart; in the nineteenth century, Pius VII and Pius IX allowed a feast of the Pure Heart of Mary. In Scripture, Simeon’s prophecy portrayed Mary with her heart pierced with a sword; and at the foot of the Cross, we are shown the Heart of Mary. Mary was not merely passive at the crucifixion, “she cooperated through charity” as St. Augustine says, “in the work of our redemption.”

Both of these feasts use the heart as a symbol of love. In the Sacred Heart, the emphasis is on God’s love and mercy. Love so intense that the symbol is a human heart encircled with a crown of thorns, crowned with a cross, and radiating flames: this is how much Christ loves us. Devotion to the Immaculate Heart stems from Mary’s privileged status as the Mother of God. She provides a model for what our own hearts should look like. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is one of gratitude for Jesus’ great love for us; devotion to the Immaculate Heart indicates our desire to emulate the way in which Mary loves Jesus.

NOTE: these are moveable feasts

Ideas for celebrating these feast days at home:

(sources: teachingcatholickids.com; The Catholic All Year Compendium; Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913 ed.; catholicculture.org)

Celebrating Saint Philip Neri

Celebrating Saint Philip Neri

26 May: Feast of Saint Philip Neri. Born in 1515, Philip Neri gave up material wealth at the age of 17 and chose to serve God instead of a career in business. He went to Rome and studied philosophy and theology until he thought his studies were interfering with his prayer life. He then threw away his books. After dark he would go to the catacombs to pray. One night, he felt a globe of light enter his mouth and sink into his heart. This gave him so much energy to serve God that he went out to work at the hospital of the incurables and starting speaking about God to everyone from beggars to bankers. Philip found the city of Rome suffering great spiritual deterioration due to ill effects of the Renaissance. Philip committed to re-evangelize Rome. He began with the youth. Philip did pilgrimages for children to keep them out of trouble. He took them to the seven churches of the city, talking all the way and opening their hearts with his joyful spirit. (The practice of pilgrimage to the seven churches is still followed, especially on Holy Thursday.) Philip also reached out to businessmen, giving talks on theology and religion, followed by prayers. These gatherings grew in great numbers. After his ordination into the priesthood, Philip remained a champion of the Faith. He instituted the devotion known as Forty Hours, in which the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for 40 hours while continuous prayer is made. He established a group of priests, the Oratorians. St. Philip was known for his burning love of God. So ardently did this fire of divine love affect him that once during Pentecost the beating of his heart broke two ribs. It was a wound that never healed. For years, Philip worked tirelessly in Rome. He revived the practice of frequent Holy Communion. He promoted frequent confession, himself spending hours a day in the confessional. As a confessor he was in great demand; among his penitents was St. Ignatius. Philip made himself available to everyone at any hour, even at night. He said: “They can chop wood on my back so long as they do not sin.” Humility was the virtue he most tried to teach others and to learn himself. When one man asked if he could wear a hair shirt, Philip said yes – if he wore the hair shirt outside his clothes! The man obeyed and found humility in the jokes he received. There are stories of Philip himself wearing ridiculous clothes or walking around with half his beard shaved off. The greater his reputation for holiness the sillier he would be for the sake of humility. On the Feast of Corpus Christi in 1595, Philip’s doctor told him his health was poor. Philip realized it was his time to go to God. The rest of the day, he listened to confessions as normal. Before heading to bed, Philip stated, “Last of all, we must die.” That night, Philip suffered a heart attack and died. Four years later, his body was exposed and found in good condition. It was moved to the new Oratorian Church, Chiesa Nuova, where it rests today. He was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1615. In 1622, Pope Gregory XV canonized St. Philip Neri with the title “The Apostle of Rome.” He is the patron saint of Rome, United States Army Special Forces, humor and joy. 

“Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life. Therefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits.”   – St. Philip Neri

Ideas for celebrating this feast at home:

  • Click here to read quotes from St. Philip; print one to hang on your wall. 
  • Download a St. Philip Neri activity for kids here.
  • St. Philip Neri was known for his sense of humor. Today, try to laugh at yourself when something annoying happens. Try to make someone else happy with your cheerful disposition or loving act of service. Tell jokes and share smiles around the dinner table. 
  • St. Philip’s favorite feast was Corpus Christi: make a visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

(sources: catholic.org, saintsfeastfamily.com, The Church’s Year of Grace by Pius Parsch)

Celebrating Mary in May

Celebrating Mary in May

As Catholics we are used to celebrating May as the month of Mary, with May crownings and the like. It’s the height of spring and new life, and Mary gave new life to the world when she gave birth to our savior Jesus Christ.

Nearly 60 years ago, Pope Paul the VI wrote about honoring Mary in the month of May.  “For this is the month during which Christians, in their churches and their homes, offer the Virgin Mother more fervent and loving acts of homage and veneration; and it is the month in which a greater abundance of God’s merciful gifts comes down to us from our Mother’s throne.”
There are many Marian feast days that you can celebrate with your family this month. St. Joseph the Worker is on May 1st and Our Lady of Fatima is on May 13th. But May is also a BUSY month. So here are just a few simple ways to honor Our Lady and remember these feasts through this beautiful month.
  • In early May, find a way to attend a May crowning, or bring some flowers and/or pray a rosary together at your own Marian statue or one of our newly renovated Marian areas on campus. (On May 1st after Mass we will pray the Litany of Loreto and have a blessing after school Mass–families are welcome to attend!)
  • Our Lady of Fatima is a feast day for children! Like so many other apparitions, she appeared to little children. Her most fervent request was that we return to prayer, especially through the Rosary often. Pray these Fatima prayers at home this month
  • Make a Rosary with your children. Use any kind of beads. You can buy kits online (see Be a Heart) or use whatever you have to make a decade or the whole thing. Then pray it together!
  • The Sun danced on Our Lady’s final appearance on October 13 of 1917. Brew sun tea as a family to remember this event, and have a dance party imagining what it looked like for the sun to dance!
  • Check out our friends at Catholic Icing for some fun sun crafts and snacks! Our family made an easy snack out of food we had in our fridge. Ta-da, a dancing sun on a plate! Or just pick up some Sunchips at the store!
  • Keep an eye out for other joyful Marian feasts this month, including Mother’s Day (of course), the Monday after Pentecost which is Mary, Mother of the Church, and May 31st, the Visitation!
Celebrating the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena

Celebrating the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena

29 April: Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena. Catherine was born in Siena, Italy in 1347. She was the 25th child in a large family, although half her siblings did not survive childhood. Catherine was intensely religious; she began to experience God mystically and took a vow of virginity before she turned seven. Frequent visions of Christ, Mary, angels and saints inspired her holy, austere lifestyle. At age 16, one of Catherine’s sisters died. Her parents proposed that the widowed husband marry Catherine as a replacement, but Catherine vehemently opposed this. She fasted and cut her hair very short to mar her appearance. Her parents tried to force the marriage but Catherine’s extreme fasting, prayer, and religious conviction finally made them relent. Catherine joined the Third Order of St. Dominic, which allowed her to live at home as a religious. She lived quietly isolated. She received the stigmata, had divine visions, and could levitate while praying.  When she was 21, Catherine experienced a “mystical marriage to Christ” and was given an invisible ring made of Jesus’s skin. In a vision, she was told to re-enter public life to help the poor and sick. She went to work in hospitals and homes. She once visited a condemned prisoner and was credited with saving his soul, which she saw being taken up to heaven as he died. Her reputation attracted a circle of followers. Before long, she had scribes to help her correspondence with many influential Church and secular leaders, including kings, queens, and the pope. The leaders asked for her advice. She traveled Europe seeking reconciliation between warring parties. She urged Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome and lobbied on behalf of the legitimacy of Pope Urban VI during the Great Schism of 1378. Catherine also looked after victims of the Black Plague, caring for the worst patients and burying the dead. She established a monastery for women. Her rich prayer life included frequent visions and ecstasies, recorded as a dialogue between a soul and God, in her Dialogue of Divine Providence. Her 400-some written letters are considered a great work of theology and literature. Her extreme fasting may have contributed to her death at the age of 33. She was canonized by Pope Pius II in 1461. In 1970, she was given the title of Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI (a Doctor of the Church is a saint recognized as having been of particular importance regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine). 

Ideas for celebrating this feast at home:

  • Have a bonfire to illustrate one of her famous quotes “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.”
  • Write an encouraging letter to a priest or your bishop: although St. Catherine was neither wealthy nor well-educated, she wrote influential letters and helped many priests, bishops, including the Pope and became one of the Doctors of the Church because of her writings. 
  • Pray for and write to a nurse or firefighter: St. Catherine is the patron of nurses and firefighters. Maybe also drop off a treat at your local fire department or nurse’s station.
  • Color a picture of St. Catherine like this one here
  • If you have stairs in your home, try walking up them on your knees in prayer as St. Catherine often did as a young child as an example of her piety and devotion. 
  • Bake bread for the poor: St. Catherine baked bread daily for the poor. Follow her lead and make some bread to share with the poor. Or, bake some bread to give to someone who is poor in spirit and might just need a lift. Here is a recipe for St. Catherine “peace bread” in honor of her work for world peace.
  • For a feast day dinner, an Italian meal is perfect since St. Catherine was from Italy, specifically the Tuscan region. Try making Pasta Santa Caterina
  • Make a ring shaped dessert to symbolize the marital ring that Jesus gave her in a vision. Try this Chocolate Chip Italian Ring Cake