Today, the Catholic Church in America witnessed the beatification of a woman Sr. Miriam Teresa –the fourth American-born woman to be beatified. This is the first time a beatification ceremony happened in the USA. The Mass and rite was offered by Cardinal Angelo Amato in the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NJ.
Interesting, our new blessed was a member of the Eastern Catholic Church in the United States. She was a member, however, of a religious order of the Latin Church, the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth. Her feast day is May 8. The Blessed’s book, Greater Perfection, published after her death remains germane to those interested in the spiritual life.
The Vatican Radio interview with Bishop Kurt Burnette (eparchial bishop of the Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Eparchy of Passaic) notes very well the importance of Blessed Miriam Teresa for us: her understanding of the sacrament of Baptism, her teaching on prayer, her desire to be of complete service to the Triune God. As the bishop says, Americans are known for their activism; and the other American blesseds and saints are known for their activity in building up the Mystical Body of Christ –the Church, but her God has chosen to raise up for us a model of holiness who is a contemplative.
“Bishop Burnette reflected on the impact of her legacy on Eastern and Western spirituality.
“One of the remarkable things about her writings, I believe, is that she brings an Eastern Christian spirit of unity into the Western analysis. The Western theology tends to be analytical. For example, when she talks about prayer, in the West they had divided prayer up into three stages. What they called the purgative, the illuminative and the unitive. But Sr. Miriam Teresa claims that prayer always includes all three parts.”
Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to Sr. Miriam Therese when a young boy who lost his eyesight due to macular degeneration was cured after prayers through her intercession. For Bishop Burnette, this miracle along with her profound humility, spirituality and insight are clear signs of God’s confirmation of her sanctity. “I don’t believe we really choose who is going to be canonized, God does,” he concluded.
The title of this blog post is a very broad and provocative question. But what do I mean by it? Well, when we think of the universal Church, her catholicity in the widest sense possible, you will experience division, feel a lack of cohesion and yet we profess faith in one Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, even share in fact that we have a valid priesthood and the sacraments (mysteries, as Eastern Christianity calls them) but truly unity lacks –and I am only indicating a local context for the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Andrew Stephen Damick, an Orthodox priest, wrote a superb article for First Things online, titled, “Are you Greek?“ He writes as having not been raised as cradle Orthodox person but as a convert and as a priest struggling with the question of Christian unity from within his own ecclesial context. I highly recommend the article because he raises the identity question in a way that makes sense. We want a less confused, a more united Church where discipleship is not the object of human manipulation.
Here is a photo essay for Persecuted Christians at Quinnipiac University that happened last evening (17 September 2014).
A friend sung Psalm 129 in Gregorian notation as the candles were lit; other liturgical pieces were sung in Greek, Arabic, and Aramaic chants. Likewise, the Gospel (“Blessed are the peacemakers…”) was sung and proclaimed in the various languages. Dominican Father Jordan Lenaghan, Catholic Chaplain, organized Christians in prayer from various Churches with the presence of the University Rabbi and other officials, for our brothers and sisters facing persecution in the Middle East. About 100 people attended. A large turn-out of students and concerned Christians attended.
I awoke today to read that His Holiness, Pope Francis, nominated a friend and former colleague to be an auxiliary bishop for the Syro-Malabarese Eparchy of Saint Thomas the Apostle of Chicago. Father Joy Alappat, 57, the current rector of Mar Thoma Sleeha Cathedral in Bellwood, IL, takes on a new ministry: the first auxiliary bishop for the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in the USA.
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is a fast growing Eastern Catholic Church which follows the East Syrian liturgical tradition; it would be a cousin to the Chaldean (Iraqi) Catholic Church. Often this Church is referred to as the Thomas Christians.
Born in Kerala, in 1956 the bishop-elect was ordained a priest of the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Irinjalakuda in 1981. Following graduate studies and ministry in India, Father Joy came to the US in 1993 and served as a hospital chaplain at Georgetown University Hospital (1999-2002). Father Alappat worked in New Milford, CT, and Newark and Garfield, NJ.
The Church to which the bishop-elect belongs number about 4 million worldwide, largely in India; it is the second largest Eastern Catholic Church. In the USA, the Malabars have one eparchy, St. Thomas the Apostle of Chicago led by Bishop Jacob Angadiath, the first bishop of the eparchy. The official 2010 stats indicated that the eparchy serves 86,000 faithful, with 37 diocesan priests, 10 religious priests, and 18 parishes.
The date of Fr. Alappat’s episocopal consecration has yet to be determined.
May Saint Thomas richly bless my friend, Father Joy, as he takes up the cross of being a bishop in Christ’s vineyard.