Category Archives: Spiritual Life

Christians thinking about death

It is a regrettable sophism to say (as it was sometimes said in sermons) that the death of a father or mother, husband or wife, or of a child, is no reason for sadness as long as they have died well, after receiving the last sacraments, as long as we can hope that they are with God. Of course the eternal happiness of one whom we truly love is the most important thing, but separation from the beloved, even if only for a time, remains a terrible cross. Whoever does not feel this cross, whoever just happily goes his way with the consolation that the beloved has found eternal happiness, is not directed to eternity in a special way—he is simply insensitive and does not want to be disturbed in the normal rhythm of his daily life. He is simply making a comfortable excuse when he emphasizes that the eternal salvation of the other is the most important thing. He has forgotten that even Jesus Christ, the God-man, prayed in Gethsemane: ‘Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.’ He does not understand that a cross which has been imposed on us should be suffered under as a cross. Only then can we attain to the true consolation which lies in the perspective of eternity, to the true hope of eternal blessedness.

Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Devastated Vineyard (1973) p130

Theresa Neumann the mystic and stigmatist

Theresa NeumannThe mystical life of the Catholic Church is rich with a variety of experiences. Let’s think of many men and women through the ages: Francis and Dominic, Catherine of Siena, Padre Pio, Catherine of Genoa, Hildegard of Bingen, and Sister Nazarena, to name a few. There are those who, because of God’s will, bore the wounds of the Lord’s holy Passion, not for their own designs but to bring others closer to the Savior. This is key. Yet this is a remarkable claim to make. I am sure there frauds but the people I am mentioning here do not fall into this category. I can think of Francis of Assisi, Catherine de Ricci, Anne Catherine Emmerich, Gemma Galgani, Rita of Cascia. In the history of salvation the Church can name more than 300 persons, most of them women, who bore in their body the wounds of Jesus.

The Servant of God Theresa Neumann (1898-1962) is one such person who is known to be a mystic and stigmatist. She is a person who trusted deeply in the Lord. The teaching of the Church says mysticism is that “intimate union with the Divinity, or a system growing out of such a tendency and desire.” Mystics are intimately connected with what we believe about the Holy Spirit and discernment. And by “mystic” I do not mean Theresa Caputo the Long Island Mystic who is a fraud.

This afternoon, at the request of my friend Glenn, I watched a 50 minute film on the life of Theresa Neumann, a German mystic and stigmatist who faced controversy and yet was resolute in doing what God asked of her. Glenn studies the mystical phenomenon found in the Church. Without Glenn’s encouragement I wouldn’t be drawn to this form of discernment.

For looking for the remarkable, many are intrigued that Theresa Neumann subsisted for 36 years only the Eucharist; it wasn’t that Neumann lived on nothing –she lived on the Savior. She said, “The Savior can do all things. Did He not say that “my Flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink?”

Her visions were spontaneous and biblical; she was convinced that her life was guided The Little Flower (many of Neumann’s own healings coincided with Theresa’s beatification and canonization). Neumann experienced the Lord’s Passion 780 times except during the liturgical season of Christmas and Easter. For what it’s worth, Churchmen and scholars, laity and professionals say that they felt her visions and stigmata were a genuine supernatural manifestation.

Some who met her attested to Neumann’s visions being authentically biblical, even her speaking in the Lord’s tongue, Aramaic, and bestowing certitude in the Lord’s holy Passion and resurrection. But only in knowing Theresa Neumann could one say with certitude that she was doing the Lord’s work and not her own: knowing Theresa you came to know a woman who had a deep trust in God; skeptics left converted.

What I became interested in as a result of this film was Neumann’s humanity. Who was she as a person? Several things were revealed: she was not easily influenced, she was vivacious, warm, loved to joke and tease, a god mother, cared for the dying, loved nature and working, tended a garden and prefer the outdoors, not overly pious, loved horses, and like to travel. Sounds like a good woman to me!

What Theresa Neumann verified in her life with the wounds of the Passion was what Saint Theresa had said, “more souls are savers through suffering than by brilliant sermons.” She felt a deep responsibility to lead others to Jesus Christ, the Savior. And this central for us: do we feel the responsibility to show the face of Jesus Christ to others? Does our life lead others to a deeper communion with the Trinity?

All Souls Day and Purgatory

November is the month dedicated to praying for the Souls in Purgatory. A venerable and fitting custom of prayer and sacrifice for those of our families and friends who died, and those unknown to us personally. Don’t let these days go by without offering a prayer for the Souls in Purgatory, and visiting the cemetery.

The All Souls Indulgence is noted here.

Today is a fitting day to recall what the Catholic teaching of purgatory is: here, here and here. Plus, “Is Purgatory necessary?” may be helpful.

Pope Francis moves 2014 Spiritual Exercises away from Vatican

Pope Francis has entrusted the 2014 Lenten Spiritual Exercises to a Roman parish priest and popular spiritual director, Monsignor Angelo De Donatis, 59. Since 2003, he’s been the pastor of the Basilica Parish of Saint Mark the Evangelist Church near to the Piazza Venezia.

The Lenten Exercises will be held 9-14 March closing the Curial offices and Papal meetings not taken. What theme Monsignor De Donatis will preach on is unknown.

The Casa Divin Maestro (Divine Master House) is operated by the Society of St Paul, located in Arricia, in the Alban hills, 30 miles from the Vatican. The Society of St Paul is a religious community of men founded by Blessed Giacomo Alberione, who also founded several other religious communities including the Daughters of St Paul; the work of Alberione’s Pauline family has something to do with social media and evangelization.

The change in location  seems to be the first since the Exercises were first conceived in 1964 by Pope Paul VI. The now retired Secretary of State, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone SDB,  sent a letter to curial officials saying the Pope wanted the Exercises made “in a recollected, silent fashion, away from the office.” By the looks of it, a smaller crowd is expected due to the size of the retreat facility.

Yet another example that Pope Francis is asking that the Curia and therefore, us, to take seriously the spiritual life.

Labor Day 2013

truck-thumb-250x162-13063The Christian finds in human work a small part of the cross of Christ and accepts it in the same spirit of redemption in which Christ accepted the cross for us. In work, thanks to the light that penetrates us from the resurrection of Christ, we always find a glimmer of new life, of the new good, as if it were an announcement of “the new heavens and the new earth” in which man and the world participate precisely through the toil that goes with work.

Blessed John Paul II
Laborem exercens, 27

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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