February 25 (Benedictine) February 26 leap year, May 1 (Roman Martyrology)
Today is the feast day of Saint Walburga. Ora pro nobis.
by Michael Durnan
When the mists covering that faraway time blow aside for an instant, we get a tantalizing glimpse of life in the ‘dark ages,’ when Walburga was born into a royal family of saints.
Daughter of St. Richard, King of Wessex, and his wife, Queen Winna (sister of St. Boniface), Princess Walburga, along with her uncle and two brothers, Willibald and Winnebald, made enormous contributions to the conversion of the Germanic peoples to Christianity in the eighth century AD.
On departing Wessex for Rome on a pilgrimage, King Richard entrusted his 11-year-old daughter to the care of the abbess of Wimborne, whilst he journeyed to Rome with Walburga’s two brothers. After her first year in the abbey, Walburga received the devastating news of her father’s death in Lucca, Italy.
The abbey nuns educated Walburga, and she later joined the community as a sister. During the twenty-six years Walburga lived in the abbey, her uncle, Boniface, was engaged in his great mission to convert the pagan Germanic tribes. (For more about St Boniface, see here.)
Such was the magnitude of this undertaking that St. Boniface realised the long-term success of his mission would require as much help and support as he could muster. Boniface was one of the first missionaries to call women to missionary work, and Walburga, along with a large group of nuns, was sent from Wessex to assist him.
Boniface was one of the first missionaries to call women to missionary work, and Walburga, along with a large group of nuns, was sent from Wessex to assist him.
On the sea voyage to the continent the weather the ship was caught in a fierce storm. Walburga knelt down on the deck and prayed for the storm to end, and for the safe passage of the ship. At once the storm abated and the sea became calm. On disembarking, the sailors proclaimed they had witnessed a miracle. As a result, Walburga was received with joy and veneration.
Upon arriving in Mainz, she was welcomed by her uncle, Boniface, and her brother, Willibald. She then departed to Wurttemburg and Franconia to assist in the conversion of the Germans.
In 776 AD, Walburga fell ill and Willibald assisted her in her last moments. She was buried next to her deceased brother, St. Winibald, and many wonders and miracles were wrought at both tombs. St. Willibald lived another ten years. After his death, devotion to Walburga declined and her tomb was neglected.
In 870 AD, Oktar, Bishop of Eichstadt, set out to restore her tomb and the monastery where she was buried. Whilst the restoration work was being undertaken, workmen desecrated her tomb. She appeared one night to the bishop, reproaching him. This episode led to the translation of her remains to Eichstadt, where they were placed in the Church of the Holy Cross, now renamed after her.
Whilst the restoration work was being undertaken, workmen desecrated her tomb. She then appeared one night to the bishop, reproaching him.
In 893 her tomb was opened to extract relics and it was found that her remains were immersed in precious oil that since then has continued to flow. Portions of her relics have been taken to Cologne and Antwerp, as well as to other places.
In the Roman Martyrology her feast is listed as 1 May, and in Germany the previous evening is known as Walpurgis Night. Because Walburga was canonized on 1 May (ca. 870), she became associated with May Day festivities, especially in the Finnish and Swedish calendars. In the Benedictine Breviary her feast is assigned to 25 (in leap year 26) Feb. She is represented in the Benedictine habit with a little phial or bottle; as an abbess with a crozier, a crown at her feet, denoting her royal birth; sometimes she is represented in a group with St. Philip and St. James the Less, and St. Sigismund, King of Burgundy, because she is said to have been canonized by Pope Adrian II on 1 May, the festival of these saints.
Patroness of Eichstadt, Oudenarde, Furnes, Antwerp, Groningen, Weilburg, and Zutphen, sailors also invoke St Walburga’s intercession against storms.
In the Roman Martyrology, Walburga’s feast is listed as 1 May, and in Germany the previous evening is known as Walpurgis Night.
(Editor’s Note: The author’s home, Preston, Lancashire, in northwest England, boasts a beautiful Catholic Church dating from the 19th century, dedicated to the Saint as patroness.)
[i] A double monastery is a single institution that joins a separate community of monks and one of nuns.
[ii] Quoted in The Catholic Encyclopaedia, New Advent: 1917 (on-line version)
It’s called a “tarte flambée” just across the French border, and like all delicious Catholic food, it originated in the kitchens of the ordinary people — farmers from Alsace, Baden or the Palatinate. (Tarte flambée is French and Flammkuchen is German for “cake baked in the flames.”)
Housewives used to bake bread once a week and use a tarte flambée to test the heat of their wood-fired ovens. At peak temperature, the oven would be ideal to bake a tarte flambée, which would bake in the embers in minutes.
Impress your friends with real European home cooking at its best – and this recipe makes two trays of flammkuchen, which you can devour hot or lukewarm.
Serve with a crisp dry Riesling or a Grauburgunder (Pinot Grigio) and a green salad.
What You Will Need 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour plus more for handling 1/2 tsp salt 1 package of yeast 1 tbsp olive oil 1 cup crème fraiche* 2 oz heavy cream fine sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg to taste 3 ounces finely chopped pancetta (or bacon or ham) 3 red onions, finely sliced Chives, chopped
For the Dough Add flour and salt to a large bowl, mix briefly and make a well in the center. Dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water, pour into the well and add the olive oil.
Knead well, either by hand or with a machine for 5 minutes (medium speed). The dough should come together nicely. (Too sticky? Add more flour until it cleans the sides of the bowl all by itself.)
Shape into a ball, cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for about 45 minutes at a warm and sheltered place. After the dough has risen, punch it down, divide it into 2 equally sized portions, shape them into neat balls and let them rise again under a kitchen towel for 20 to 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 480°F or as hot as your oven permits and place an oiled baking tray on the bottom level, so it gets preheated, too.
For the Topping Mix crème fraîche and heavy cream with spices (salt, pepper and nutmeg) to taste. Cut red onions into thin semi-rings. Chop the chives finely.
Roll out the dough thinly, using extra flour to prevent sticking. Transfer to hot baking sheet.Spread crème fraîche mix on top, cover with pancetta/bacon/ham and sliced onions.
Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes. It should be golden-brown color.
* No creme fraiche around? No worries. It’s really easy to make: Mix one cup heavy cream with two tablespoons buttermilk. Combine well in glass container and cover. Let stand at room temperature for 8-24 hours, or until thickened. Stir well and refrigerate. Use within 10 days.
Today is the feast day of Saint Boniface. Ora pro nobis.
by Michael Durnan
If you are German-speaking or descend from German emigrants and you call yourself a ‘Christian,’ you owe this fact to Boniface, an English monk who lived in the 8th century. The first archbishop of Mainz, Boniface is known as the “Apostle to the Germans.” He also is the patron saint of Germany, and is credited with conceiving the idea of the Christmas tree.
St. Boniface was born in the year 675 AD in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Wessex, and given the baptismal name Wynfrid. Wessex occupied the far west and south of modern-day England. By the seventh century, St. Augustine of Canterbury and Lindisfarne monks St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert had converted the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. Wynfrid was to be one of the beneficiaries of this flowering of early Christian culture and learning.
The Anglo-Saxons were a Germanic warrior people who arrived from Northern Europe after the Romans left Britannia in 410 AD. Christianity transformed them by calming and pacifying the wilder aspects of their pagan culture, and by appealing to their noble and virtuous qualities. Culture and learning flourished in Christian Anglo-Saxon England under the guidance and patronage of the newly converted Christian kings and the monks of Lindisfarne and Jarrow.
The Life of a Brilliant Scholar
Wynfrid entered the monastic life when he was around seven years of age, attracted by the monastic ideal and the opportunity for a first-class education. The monks discerned his academic and intellectual ability, and he seemed destined for the life of a brilliant scholar.
He became a teacher of Latin grammar, wrote several treatises, and also composed Latin poetry. Eventually, Wynfrid’s talent was rewarded when he was made head of the abbey school. Wynfrid’s reputation as an outstanding teacher and scholar, coupled with his personal popularity amongst his students, meant that many travelled great distances for the chance to study under his tutelage.
At about the age of thirty, Wynfrid was ordained priest. Although he loved teaching his young students, he also felt called to travel as a missionary amongst the pagan Germanic tribes of mainland Europe and to bring them the light of Christ, mindful that only 100 years earlier his forebears had lived in pagan darkness.
In 716 AD Abbot Winbert granted him permission to travel, and he set forth to Frisia in the Netherlands. Upon his arrival he met with great opposition from the local chieftain, so his mission to bring the Gospel of Christ failed. He returned to Wessex, but did not lose heart.
What the Pope Told Boniface
Two years later he made a pilgrimage to Rome, where he had an audience with Pope Gregory II (715 – 731).
In a letter to his disciples, Wynfrid wrote that Pope Gregory had received him with “a smile and look of full of kindliness,” and had held long, important conversations with him during the following days, conferring upon him his new name, Boniface, and assigning him, in official letters the mission of preaching the Gospel to the German peoples.
Encouraged, inspired, and comforted by the Pope’s support and wise counsel, Boniface journeyed to the Germanic lands, preaching and campaigning against pagan worship and practices, such as human sacrifice to the Norse gods, Odin and Thor, as well as teaching and reinforcing the foundations of Christian morality and ethics.
When Archbishop Boniface returned to Germany from Rome, for Christmas 723, he discovered the Germans had turned back to their pagan ways and were getting ready to celebrate the winter solstice by sacrificing a young person under Odin’s sacred oak. Archbishop Boniface felled the oak, thus demonstrating the victory of Christianity over the pagan gods. This historically documented story eventually gave rise to the legend of the first Christmas tree. According to the legend, St. Boniface replaced the felled oak with a spruce he found growing amidst the tangle of oak branches.
‘We Are Not Mute Dogs’
With a profound sense of duty and commitment, Boniface wrote in one of his letters,
“We are united in the fight on The Lord’s day because days of affliction and wretchedness have come….We are not mute dogs or taciturn observers or mercenaries fleeing from wolves! On the contrary, we are diligent pastors who watch over Christ’s flock, who proclaim God’s will to the leaders and ordinary folk, to the rich and the poor, in season and out of season.”
With his tireless efforts, persistence, and gift for organisation, Boniface achieved remarkable results converting the pagans he encountered. The pope rewarded Boniface by consecrating him a regional bishop of the entire Germanic lands.
He continued his apostolic efforts with the same dedication and commitment, and extended his mission to the land of the Gauls. Pope Gregory II’s successor, Gregory III, appointed him Archbishop of all the Germanic Tribes. Archbishop Boniface also founded abbeys for monks and nuns to be beacons of learning and culture throughout the Germanic lands, as they had in his native Anglo-Saxon England. The Monastery of Fulda, founded in 743 AD, was the heart and epicentre of outreach for religious spirituality and culture.
The Death of Boniface
At the age of about 80, with 52 monks, Boniface wrote to Bishop Lull of Mainz, as he set forth to renew his failed mission to Frisia:
“I wish to bring to a conclusion the purpose of this journey; in no way can I renounce my desire to set out. The day of my end is near and the time of my death is approaching; having shed my mortal body, I shall rise to the eternal reward. May you, my dear son, ceaselessly call the people from the maze of error, complete the building of the Basilica of Fulda that has already been begun, and in it lay my body, worn out by the long years of life.”
On 5 June 754 AD, Boniface started the celebration of Mass in a place called Dokkum in the present-day Netherlands, when a gang of pagans attacked him. Forbidding his fellow monks to retaliate, he exclaimed:
“Cease, my sons, from fighting, give up warfare, for the witness of Scripture recommends that we do not give an eye for an eye but rather good for evil. Here is the long awaited day, the time of our end has now come; courage in the Lord!”
These were his last words before his assailants struck him down.
His remains were taken to the Monastery of Fulda, where he was given a burial fitting for a martyr and saint. Since then, St. Boniface has been known as “The Apostle to The Germans.”
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877
St. Boniface, the great Apostle of Germany, was a native of England. He was baptized under the name of Winfrid but received the name Boniface from the Pope, on account of the great good which he did. Boniface means one who does good. When scarcely 5 years old, he requested of his parents to be sent to a monastery, in order to be instructed by the monks as well in religion as in other sciences. His father opposed this wish, but falling sick and believing it a punishment sent by God, he gave his consent and recovered immediately. Winfrid received the instruction he desired in two monasteries, and took the habit of the religious of St. Benedict. How greatly his virtues and learning were esteemed by the brethren of this order, may be seen from the fact that in the course of a few years, they unanimously elected him successor of their late Abbot. Boniface, however refused to accept the dignity, and on making known his desire to preach the Gospel to the heathens, he succeeded so well in representing everything connected with his plan, that the monks not only abstained from further efforts to persuade him to yield, but gave him permission, with several others whose hearts were filled with the same desire, to go to Rome and offer himself to the Pope for so holy a work. Hence, Boniface bade farewell to his brethren and left England with his companions. Gregory II., at that time Pope, was greatly rejoiced when Boniface informed him of his intention, and after having had several conversations with him on the subject, he gave him the powers of an Apostolic missionary, with full permission to preach the Gospel everywhere, especially in Germany. He presented him at the same time some relics and dismissed him with his pontifical blessing. Boniface, leaving Rome, went first to Bavaria, then to Thuringia, where the Christian faith was, almost extinguished, and where idolatry and wickedness prevailed. In the space of 6 months he led the Christians to a better life, and cleansed almost the whole of Thuringia from idolatry.
During this time, Boniface received news of the death of Radbod, Duke of Friesland, an arch-enemy of the Christian faith, during whose reign the Saint had preached a short time in Friesland, but finding that he could do but little good, had quickly returned to England. Inspired, however, by God, he determined, now that circumstances had thus changed, to go once more to Friesland and endeavor to convert the inhabitants. On arriving at Utrecht, he went to St. Willibrord, first bishop off the church there, and spent in the city and neighboring places three years in preaching and instructing the people. His success was so great, that all the inhabitants became Christians, all the idolatrous temples were overthrown or changed into Christian churches. After this, the indefatigable apostolic preacher went to Hesse, where in a very short time he converted many thousands to the Christian faith, built many churches and supplied them with pious priests. He also built several monasteries and convents for those who desired to serve God more perfectly. As however the Saint could not supervise so much work unaided, he called from England several zealous priests, who lent a willing hand to the work he had begun. He also invited some pious virgins, to govern the convents which he had erected. Several of his fellow-laborers were sent to Rome to inform the Pope of the progress of Christendom. The Pope was highly rejoiced and desired to see Boniface himself. The Saint therefore went a second time to Rome, was most kindly received by the holy Father, and consecrated bishop. It was at this time that his name Winfrid was changed into Boniface.
Soon after this, the bishop returned to Germany. Hesse abounded yet with people still in the darkness of paganism. An immense tree which stood there was called the power or might of Jupiter, and it was worshipped as a god. The holy bishop could not endure this sacrilege, and although the pagans threatened to kill him if he touched the tree, he went to the place where it stood, and seized an ax to fell it. At the first stroke, the power of Jupiter, the immense tree, fell to the ground and was split into four parts. This visible miracle opened the eyes of the heathens and moved them to abandon idolatry. The bishop erected, in the place where the tree had stood, a chapel in honor of St. Peter. In Thuringia, whither he went next, he built a church in honor of the Archangel Michael on the place where the latter had appeared to him and exhorted him to continue bravely in the work that he had begun. Divers affairs of the Church made a third journey to Rome necessary; and Gregory III., who then occupied the chair of St. Peter, showed great honors to St. Boniface, and sent him back to Germany, after having bestowed on him, among many other graces, the title of apostolic legate. When, on his return, the Duke of Bavaria invited him to remain some time in his Dukedom, the holy man acquiesced, as this gave him an opportunity to convert the remaining heathens and lead those Christians, who had been seduced from the true faith by godless impostors, back upon the right path.
By his holy conduct and incessant preaching he arrived at the desired end, and divided the whole country into four bishoprics, in order to give the newly converted better opportunities to be instructed and preserved In the faith. Salzburg, Friesingen, Regensburg and Passau were the four cities where he established bishoprics, providing them with able men. The same he did soon after at Eichstadt and Wurzburg in Franconia, where he for some time labored to the great benefit of the heathens. The sea of Eichstadt he gave into the charge of St. Willibald, that of Wurzburg to St. Burchard. He founded many convents and churches, as well in the above-named States as also in Thuringia and Hesse, especially at Fritzlar, Ehrfurt, Amoeneburg and Fulda. He erected monasteries especially with the intention to educate such men, in them as would be able to defend the true faith, to instruct the faithful in leading a Christian life, and to bring to the true Church those who were still heathens. He himself was created by the Pope archbishop of Mentz, where he remained for seven years in continued apostolic labor for the salvation of those in his charge.
Meanwhile, the greater part of the inhabitants of Friesland had again, for some unknown reason, forsaken Christianity, and returned to their former idolatry. No sooner had St. Boniface heard this, than he determined to proceed thither. Hence, with the permission of the Pope, he resigned the see of Mentz to his disciple Lullus, and set out for Friesland, accompanied by some zealous men, foremost among whom were Eobanus and Adelar. On arriving there, he began forthwith to preach, and converted a great number of the inhabitants to Christ. He baptized those whom he had sufficiently instructed, and others, who had been seduced to forsake the true faith, he reconciled with God and the Church. Happy in the consciousness of such great success, the Saint appointed a day on which he would publicly administer the holy Sacrament of confirmation to strengthen the newly converted in the faith. No church was large enough to contain the number of those who desired to be confirmed; in consequence of which tents were erected in an open field not far from the river Borne. The appointed day had come, and a large crowd of Christians had assembled, eager to receive the sacrament. Suddenly, however, came a band of heathens, who, incited by their idolatrous priests, had vowed to kill Boniface, as the greatest enemy of their idols. Armed with weapons they approached the holy man and his companions. When Boniface perceived them, he thanked God with a loud voice for having vouchsafed to him the long desired opportunity to die for Christ’s sake; then having encouraged his companions bravely to suffer pain and death, he went to meet the barbarians, with the gospel, which he carried almost constantly with him, in his hands. He spoke fearlessly to them; but, not willing to lend ear to him, one of them stabbed him with his sword with such force, that he sank dead to the ground. The companions of the Saint suffered the same death.
Thus gloriously did this truly, apostolic man finish his laborious career, in the year 754, or according to other historians, 755, in the fortieth year after his arrival in Germany. How much he endured during these forty years, in wandering through so many lands and converting so great a number of people; how unweariedly he labored; what persecutions he suffered from heathens, from heretics, and even from wicked Catholics, is more easily imagined than described. But nothing could daunt his great heart, which, filled with love of God and man, untiringly executed what his apostolic zeal dictated. He seemed never satisfied with the work he had already performed, or with the suffering he had borne for the honor of God and the salvation of man. His insatiable desire to save souls incited him constantly to more work and more suffering. He feared no danger, but fervently desired to conclude his labors by receiving the crown of martyrdom. God granted his wish; after having lived for the Almighty alone, he was permitted to shed his blood for Christ. He was first buried at Utrecht, then removed to Mentz, and at last brought to Fulda by the Archbishop St. Lullus. (2)
Image: Saint Boniface by Cornelis Bloemaert, c. 1630 (11)
At the age of seventeen, I stumbled upon the idea of moral relativity. At that age, the concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ seemed to be self-evidently pure abstractions. This almost immediately– probably inevitably — led me to atheism.
It was 1989 and I was the only atheist I knew. I was ridiculously enamored of my own philosophizing and fancied myself bold and daring in my Godlessness.
It was 1989 and I was the only atheist I knew. I was ridiculously enamored of my own philosophizing and fancied myself bold and daring in my Godlessness.
Ten years later, I was the wife of an Army Aviation Officer, assigned to Germany. I fell in love with German culture from the beginning, fascinated by their rich artisanal history displayed in every archway and cobblestone, a history so lacking in our own American landscape.
We wound up living in Germany almost fifteen years. Two of our three children were born there. I became ever more fluent in German over the years, immersing myself by stages in community life, primarily through my eldest son, who spoke German from his earliest Kindergarten days and entered the Grundschule at the age of six. My life centered around his school and play schedule, the mothers of his playmates becoming my dear friends.
Most of those years were spent in or near Wuerzburg, “The City of Churches” in the Franconian wine region. My daily errands were run in the midst of the most impressive architecture. I loved to stop in the gaudy Hofkirche chapel of the Residenz, letting my eye follow the gilded swirls of Baroque exuberance, ever upward to the domed ceiling. I regularly passed the 900 year old Dom (cathedral), hastening my steps past the looming skeletons above the side entrance.
Though my everyday horizons were dominated by church domes and steeples, and my days were measured by church bells, I remained an atheist. I regarded it all with the academic curiosity of a museum-stroller, absorbing the beauty of the Christian world around me for its aesthetic value alone, never considering there might be more.
Though my everyday horizons were dominated by church domes and steeples, and my days were measured by church bells, I remained an atheist.
Almost all my German friends at this time were ‘Catholic.’ I found myself swept along in their customs, helping my son keep his candle lit against the wind in the children’s Laternezug honoring Saint Martin, allowing my house to be marked with a chalk blessing by neighbors dressed in Magi costumes on Three Kings Day.
Through it all, I maintained a stubborn intellectual detachment. I observed and participated with pleasure, but made a point to find it all very fascinating in a strictly anthropological sense. I was still an atheist, still proud to stand in opposition to religion in all its backward manifestations.
Then a strange thing happened. As the years went by and my appreciation for German culture deepened, I somehow found it harder to hold it at an academic arm’s length.
Gaze long enough at a statue of Saint Denis, and you find yourself asking why he happens to be holding his head in his hands. Surrounded by so much Christian art, I began to focus on recurrent themes and symbols. What were they all about?
Of course, like art enthusiasts before and after me, I initially explained such symbols in terms of mythology. I did this for many years, but those explanations ultimately could not satisfy because of the one overwhelming theme in Christian art, found nowhere else.
I refer here to the theme of suffering. Indeed, why does that stone saint hold his head in his hands? Why will Saint Lucy persist in offering up her gouged eyes on a golden plate? And what about Christ on the cross?
Why doesthat stone saint hold his head in his hands? Why willSaint Lucy persist in offering up her gouged eyes on a golden plate? And what aboutChrist on the cross?
I slowly started getting a sense of voices from the medieval past; it was as if they were trying to communicate with me through the paintings and statues they’d left behind. I began to wonder if the structures they’d erected stood as a testimony to something, perhaps something other than the patriarchal Church-state I’d always disdained. I developed a nagging sense that evil could not be the creator of such beauty.
At this point, God injected Himself pointedly into my life, revealing His truth through conversations with devout Catholics and the writings of long-dead Saints. Sadly, I could only find reasoned arguments for Catholicism and encouragement to convert amongst my American acquaintances. My German friends seemed clueless.
God injected Himself pointedly into my life, revealing His truth through conversations with devout Catholics and the writings of long-dead Saints.
I’ll never forget that first shy inquiry I made to a German about going to Mass — and my shock when she told me they weren’t going to Mass that Sunday or pretty much any Sunday after that. Most of my German friends who’d appeared so very Catholic to me in their customs only attended Mass on holidays, or for baptisms and other sacramental rites.
I had to go to my American Catholic friends to find unabashed, joyful evangelization. Still, the seeds of my conversion were planted amidst the remnants of truth radiating through the beauty of German Catholic culture. I will be forever grateful to that country and its people for striking the spark that ultimately illuminated my life though Christ.
Most of my German friends who’d appeared so very Catholic to me in their customs only attended Mass on holidays, or for baptisms and other sacramental rites. I had to go to my American Catholic friends to find unabashed, joyful evangelization.
Q: How old are you ? What do you do for a living ? A: I am a 43 year old professional firefighter/paramedic in Texas.
Q: How old were you when you left the Church ? A: Having been poorly catechized and brought up nominally Catholic, “the drift” began in my late teens. My sister was sent to an all-girls Catholic high school, but my Dad felt I was beyond the local Jesuits’ abilities and sent me to a military academy based on the United States Marine Corps. As a result, I was never confirmed, but I did perfect the “About Face” with which I would eventually perform upon my Catholic Faith.
Q: Why did you leave the Church? A: I was drawn away from the Church by all the worldly pleasures: wine, women, song (not my own… I have a horrible singing voice). I entered the military and declared myself “Catholic”, but it was nothing more than a stamp on my dog-tags. I did not practice my faith in any way, shape, or form.
Q. Did you try other churches? A. As I meandered through life in my 20’s and 30’s, I wandered from church to church in the Protestant world. The large city I live in here in Texas is chock-full of big box evangelical Churches, so I did what all the other young people did. I church-hopped, seeking the most entertaining preacher, and the best looking female attendees.
Q: Why did you return to the Church? A: As I neared the end of my 30’s, I met a young lady and got married. We had our first child, a son. I had to do some soul-searching, some self-determination as to what sort of HUSBAND I want to be…what sort of FATHER I want to be. What sort of example shall I set, and what sort of legacy shall I leave behind ? Looking down at the little guy changed EVERYTHING. IT is said that having a child changes your world (I nominate that for “understatement of the year” !), and it most surely did mine.
Q. How did this happen? A. One day at the fire station, having walked in that day without the slightest inkling of “becoming Catholic” again, I had a MAJOR reversion. Out of nowhere, as I was sitting in my room, I felt an inner call to action. It was profound and authentic. Over the next 3 hours, I had:
Enrolled in my local RCIA
Begun the annulment process for my previous marriage
Ordered my sacramental records from the Archdiocese of the Military Services
Ordered a stack of Catholic books from Amazon
Q: How did your family react to your reversion? A: Boy, did I boggle some minds ! My wife was not thrilled about it, as her family is staunchly Methodist, with a light sprinkling of “but they worship statues” seasoning. My Mom was excited about it, as I was finally allaying her regret about not getting me confirmed. She is still a practicing Catholic. My Dad, however, is fallen-away and was a little more hostile to the idea. He grew up in Catholic schools in Philadelphia in the 50’s and then Villanova University but had completely lost his Catholic Faith along the way.
Q. How do they feel now? A: Though my Dad was a little more apathetic towards my reversion, he has certainly warmed up to the idea of it now. He’s even expressed occasional interest in my current activities with RCIA sponsorship, Knights of Columbus, and my spiritual director who is in Opus Dei and a fellow Villanova man. I am trying to subtly but confidently witness my Catholic Faith to my Dad. Now THAT would be a reversion!!
Q: Where do you attend Mass? A: Actually, I go to a Maronite Catholic Church. I love the Maronite Liturgy, so reverent and ancient — in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
Q. You’ve taken a new interest in liturgy? A. Yes, when time permits, I go to the local FSSP Parish, Mater Dei. The Latin Mass is simply AWESOME. The Novus Ordo parish I was attending had 30,000 parishioners and I just didn’t like the guitars, holding hands, and hugging across the pews. It was usually very irreverent, in my humble opinion. I find the Maronite Mass and the Extraordinary Form (Tridentine Mass) to be AWE-INSPIRING. You feel connected to the Early Church Fathers in the “Mass of All Ages”. People say, “But I don’t understand Latin. The Novus Ordo in the local vernacular helps people understand the Mass”. Well, my response to that is this: First I would hardly say people “understand the Mass” these days, as statistics show 75%+ of Catholics don’t even believe in the Real Presence. If people “understood the Mass”, they would not be dressing in beachwear for the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. And second, if you don’t understand Latin, do what Catholics USED to do: BUY A MISSAL.
Q. Do you have a Christmas message you would like to shout out to Regina readers? A. Yes. I attribute my journey into Traditional Catholicism to surrounding myself by authentic Catholics who LIVE and LOVE their faith. I humbly thank them for guiding me Home.
What brings people back to church, after many years – in some cases an entire lifetime – of estrangement? This story of a California woman’s ‘reversion’ may shed some light on the mystery that so many priests encounter.
In 2006, Joan Raphael was a thoroughly modern woman. A nurse who had led a widely-traveled, adventurous life, Joan had been away from the Catholic Church for over 40 years. While she’d grown up with the Latin Mass, there hadn’t been any traumatic break; she’d simply been raised by relatives who didn’t practice their faith.
One Sunday back in 1969, however, Joan decided she wanted to go to Mass. She didn’t even make it through the church door, however; the radical changes that greeted her were so appalling.
“It was gutted!” she recalls. The sound of guitar music and singing shocked her. “They’d brought the 60s into the church!”
Repelled, she’d turned on her heel and never returned. Many years later, however, she’d had a spiritual experience walking along the boardwalk in California.
Repelled, she’d turned on her heel and never returned. Many years later, however, she’d had a spiritual experience walking along the boardwalk in California.
“It was a spectacular day…..sky and sea azure — perfect like an artist’s idealized rendition of the seaside.” She realized in all of her being that day that she was surrounded by God’s love. She was filled with “a great gratitude to God for all He has given me, with no way to express it.”
That feeling of gratitude ‘with no satisfactory way to express it’ stayed with Joan for many years, until she learned that the Mass that she once known and loved was back.
In 2006, Joan’s interest was piqued by news of a Traditional Latin Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace in Santa Clara, CA. But when she arrived, she was told that the Bishop had just moved the Mass to the Oratory of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, also in Santa Clara.
“What’s the address?” she’d asked, all the while wondering what an Oratory actually was. (Editor’s Note: An oratory is a place of prayer other than a parish that is set aside by ecclesiastical authority for prayer and celebration of the Mass.)
In anticipation of the Motu Proprio of 2007, Bishop Patrick McGrath of the Diocese of San Jose had accepted the offer of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, which is dedicated to the traditional Latin Liturgy of 1962 for the Mass and the other sacraments, to provide a priest canon to serve as rector to the oratory. Because the Oratory would be permitted to offer traditional Latin Masses on Sundays, weekdays, feast days, and holydays, with all the sacraments available in the traditional rite, this new arrangement was to be a big improvement. (Previously, Masses were only allowed by the bishop once a month on First Saturday evenings.)
Joan attended her first Mass in decades on January 1, 2007. By chance, it was the first day that the Diocese recognized the chapel as an oratory.
“I sat in the last pew and was in tears during most of the Mass,” she remembers. “My soul recognized that the Mass is the highest form of worship on earth, full of beauty, reverence and full attention on God.”
“I sat in the last pew and was in tears during most of the Mass,” she remembers.
She remembered that as a child, she’d been awed by the beautiful statues in Catholic churches, the incense, and the solemnity. The choir music uplifted her, and the powerful sound of the organ resonated in her body and her soul. The grandeur of the surroundings made her feel diminutive, and she knew that was the right way for her to feel in God’s house. No one spoke above a whisper. “It was clear that God was worshiped in that beautiful place.”
Soon after her experience of the TLM, Joan went to Confession for the first time in decades.
“The priest was overjoyed,” she recalls. He told her the saints in heaven were rejoicing too. “I cried like a child. It was a wonderful experience–to unburden my soul of my sins and to feel accepted back into the real Church. I attended all the Masses offered during the next week and the next. It was a glorious time.”
Soon after her experience of the TLM, Joan went to Confession for the first time in decades.“The priest was overjoyed,” she recalls. He told her the saints in heaven were rejoicing too.
More than six years later, Joan hasn’t left yet. Some friends at the parish joke that she is at the Oratory so often for Masses, devotions, social activities, rehearsing and singing with the choir, buying and arranging the altar flowers, and helping out in many other ways, that she practically lives there.
But that is okay with Joan. At the Tridentine Mass she feels God’s presence, just as she did on that glorious day on the beach. But at this Mass she could feel Him even more intensely present, while He was “accepting the sacrifice of His Son.”
Here at last Joan could worship God as He deserved.
Friends joke that Joan is at the Oratory so often for Masses, devotions, social activities, rehearsing and singing with the choir, buying and arranging the altar flowers, and helping out in many other ways, that she practically lives there.
By Tracy O’Dwyer Imagine nearly two weeks when all but the most necessary chores are set aside. When family is reunited. When the hospitality of the house is open to all. When friends and neighbours gather around your fireside for long evenings of storytelling, music and reminiscing. That’s what you can expect during Christmastime in … Read more
by Camille Loccisano There’s no getting around it. As an Italian-American, my holidays have always included great food, especially at Christmas. Christmas Schkatalata was a favorite. I grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn — a middle-class neighborhood which nestles like a small jewel under the Verrazano Bridge. In the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, it was … Read more
‘When I first saw the rendering of Ave Maria town and the Oratory I thought that this is a place we would like to live,” writes Sue Maturo on one of the town’s blogs, avemarialiving.com.
‘There’s something very special about Ave Maria and the people who live here,” says resident Joseph Pierce. “It’s a community centered on Christ.’
These American Catholics have chosen to make Ave Maria the place they want to live and to raise their families. Located thirty miles from the city of Naples, Collier County, in Florida, Ave Maria is the brainchild of Tom Monaghan, the founder of the Domino’s Pizza chain and a Catholic philanthropist. (See below: The Tom Monaghan Story)
Ave Maria is the brainchild of Tom Monaghan, the founder of the Domino’s Pizza chain and a Catholic philanthropist.
How the Ave Maria College and Ave Maria School of Law Began
In 2000, the Ave Maria School of Law opened which was inspired by several former professors from the Catholic University of Detroit Mercy. These had left that University after it had invited several pro-abortion members of the Michigan Supreme Court to attend the annual ‘Red Mass’. These professors then approached Tom Monaghan for support to establish a Catholic law school faithful to the teachings of the Church. Ave Maria School of Law was established in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and then relocated to Naples in 2009.
In early 2000, Tom Monaghan sought to establish Ave Maria University — the fledgling school was operating out of an old elementary school building at the time — in Ann Arbor on land which he still owned that he had leased to Domino Pizza. The plan included a 250 ft. crucifix, taller than the Statue of Liberty, but officials refused to grant permission for this. Hence, Monaghan was forced to seek another location. Eventually, community leaders in Collier County, Florida offered him a large undeveloped area of land, thirty miles east of Naples, on which to establish the new university.
Ave Maria Beginnings
In February 2006, the foundations of the new Ave Maria University and town were established. Ave Maria is built around a Catholic Oratory and Ave Maria University, a liberal arts college, which was relocated from Ypsilanti, Michigan. Ypsilanti is also home to the first-ever Domino Pizza restaurant. Tom Monaghan sold his control of Domino Pizza, and later his remaining shares, and has since devoted himself to philanthropic works and the support of Catholic causes.
Ave Maria town is a joint venture with a real estate developer; Monaghan owns 50% of the non-university real estate. The plan is to build 11,000 homes and several business districts. At the announcement, Monaghan stated that any businesses in Ave Maria would be prohibited from selling contraceptives and pornography which drew legal criticism and comment from the American Civil Liberties Union. Residents will tell you that they welcome anyone who is open to what the town offers, and realtors readily point out that anyone can buy a home or open a business in town.
A former student of architecture, Tom Monaghan has retained a passion for and interest in the subject, especially the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. It was Monaghan himself who sketched the first design for the Oratory on a tablecloth. The Oratory design was inspired by several works of Wright’s protégé, E. Fay Jones, especially the 1988 Mildred Cooper chapel. One of the distinctive features of the Oratory is the visible steel structure which can be seen inside and out. In 2008, The Oratory won an award for its distinctive architecture from the American Institute of Steel Construction. The facade features a monumental Annunciation relief by sculptor Marton Varo, who also created the Good Shepherd that is inside the Oratory.
Ave Maria Today
Since the town of Ave Maria was established in 2007, 500 homes have been built with the eventual goal of 11,000. The goal is to attract college students and families by providing attractive housing, amenities, good schools and a safe and secure environment underpinned by a distinctive Catholic ethos.
The town has a variety of facilities and amenities, including a pub named The Queen Mary after the eldest daughter of Henry VIII and Catholic Queen of England. The pub’s signature drink is called “The Bloody Bess,” named after Queen Elizabeth I. (This is a fact which pleases the English author of this article and makes a refreshing change from the preoccupation with her notorious Tudor father and half sister, Elizabeth.) The Queen Mary even has its own dedicated Facebook page.
The town’s newspaper of record is www.AveHerald.com There is community weblog avemarialiving.com, run by residents of the town, which provides over 100 links to pages with information about Ave Maria town.
The goal is to attract college students and families by providing attractive housing, amenities, good schools and a safe and secure environment underpinned by a distinctive Catholic ethos.
Good Manners, Generosity and Charity
Catholic writer and Templeton Prize laureate Michael Novak taught a mini-course at Ave Maria University on Religion and the Founding Fathers; he writes in the National Review about his impressions of Ave Maria and its citizens. Ambassador Novak says how he has never lived in a more Catholic culture than he experienced at Ave Maria and observed how on Sundays, 95% of the whole town attends Mass and 65% of students on weekdays.
Interestingly, what impressed Novak most were the good manners, generosity and charity of the townspeople and their willingness to help and to receive help. He was also impressed by the dedication and sacrifice of the university students and staff. Novak especially rejoiced in the large families of the faculty members and the goodness and holiness of the people he encountered in Ave Maria.
Ave Maria is still a relatively new enterprise and it remains to be seen if it will grow as large Tom Monaghan has envisaged. It appears to have made a promising start, however, supported by people who are committed to its ethos and values.
Interestingly, what impressed Novak most were the good manners, generosity and charity of the townspeople and their willingness to help and to receive help.
The Tom Monaghan Story
Tom Monaghan was born in 1937 and grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When Tom was four years old, his father died, leaving his mother to raise him and his younger brother. But after two years of experiencing considerable difficulties, Tom’s mother made the difficult decision to give her sons to the care of an orphanage — the St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Jackson, Michigan, run by the Felician Sisters of Livonia.
Tom and his brother remained at the orphanage until 1949 when they were re-united with their mother. The care, love and faith displayed by the nuns inspired Tom’s devotion to the Catholic Faith and he later pursued a vocation as a priest. However, he left the seminary and enrolled in the US Marines in 1956 and he was honorably discharged in 1959.
When Tom was four years old, his father died, leaving his mother to raise him and his younger brother. But after two years of experiencing considerable difficulties, Tom’s mother made the difficult decision to give her sons to the care of an orphanage — the St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Jackson, Michigan, run by the Felician Sisters of Livonia. Tom and his brother remained at the orphanage until 1949 when they were re-united with their mother. The care, love and faith displayed by the nuns inspired Tom’s devotion to the Faith.
Monaghan then returned to Ann Arbor and enrolled in the University of Michigan to study architecture and later, with his brother, purchased a small pizza store, named DomiNick’s, with a loan of $500. His aim was to finance himself through college but the pizza business took up more and more of his time until he devoted himself to developing the business into what would become one of the largest franchise fast food companies in the US.
In 1998, Monaghan eventually sold his control of Domino’s Pizza to Bain capital for an estimated $1 billion. This accumulated wealth enabled Tom to indulge in lavish lifestyle, but after reading a passage about pride in C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, he disposed of some of his most flamboyant and conspicuous possessions, including the ownership of the Detroit Tigers baseball team, as well as his lavish office suite at Domino Pizza and calling a halt to the construction of a mansion inspired by his interest in the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, which remains unfinished to this day.
In 1983, Tom Monaghan established the Ave Maria Foundation to support Catholic education, media and community projects, as well as other Catholic charities. After visiting the Vatican in 1987, an experience that had a profound and moving impact on him, Monaghan resolved to promote the Faith with greater determination and resolve. Some of his foundations include Ave Maria Radio, the Ave Maria List, a pro-life political action committee and the Thomas More Law Center, a public interest law firm dedicated to promoting and defending issues in line with Catholic moral teaching, such as pro-life and traditional marriage. Monaghan also built several schools for the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist and also gave them land to build their Mother House in Ann Arbor.
Thomas Aquinas College was founded in response to the decline of Catholic higher education evident in the late 1960s, and in accordance with the Second Vatican Council’s encouraging of Catholic laity to take a more active part in “the explanation and defense of Christian principles.” The College founders proposed to establish a new Catholic institution that was determined to pass on the great intellectual patrimony of our civilization and the wisdom of the Church’s greatest thinkers, and to do so in complete fidelity to the Church and her Magisterium.
Thus, amid this great turmoil and disintegration, and in spite of the dominant relativism and skepticism in higher education, Thomas Aquinas College came to life. This new college would be dedicated to renewing what is best in the Western intellectual heritage and to conducting liberal education under the guiding light of the Catholic faith. The College welcomed its first freshman class to its Santa Paula, California campus in 1971.
The years since have been exciting ones of great growth and increasing recognition. In this exclusive Regina Magazine interview, Anne Forsyth, Director of College Relations, gives her perspective on the school and its success.
Q. What kind of young person is attracted to your school?
All kinds, really. People sometimes think that because we offer only one and the same fully-integrated, 4-year program of studies, that our students must walk in lock step. Not at all.
Some have tremendous musical talent; others are gifted artists; some are practically-oriented, intent on pursuing careers in law, medicine, engineering after graduation; some come to us already hearing a call to the priesthood or religious life but desiring an education as a basis for the consecrated life. And there are those you might expect to find at a “liberal arts” school, those who desire to teach, and at all levels.
Many (between 40-50%) of our entering freshmen are home-schooled. A steady 5% already have college credits, and some come with BA’s and even MA’s from prestigious institutions in certain practical fields, e.g., engineering) but find that though well-trained, they do not yet have an education.
Our students come from across the U.S. (only 1/3 come from California, and over 40% come from east of the Mississippi). We also have foreign students each year. Predominant among them are Canadians, but we draw form others, mostly English-speaking countries. This year we have students from Nigeria, Argentina, and Spain, among others.
What these students do have in common is a thirst for what is true, good, and beautiful, and a sense of wonder about creation and the God who made and sustains it. They are a very intelligent group, and this is necessary to be able to accomplish our rigorous program which includes four years of mathematics and natural science (not your typical liberal arts program!).
But even more than having “the brains” to do our program, students need to have a deep desire to understand the causes and principles of things, especially for the junior and senior years when the studies become intense – Newton, Descartes, Einstein, the modern philosophers such as Kant and Hegel. The works by these authors are difficult to read and require real perseverance. And I didn’t even mention St. Thomas! The junior and senior theology courses are devoted exclusively to studies of the Summa – law, proofs for the existence of God, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the sacraments. All wonderful and edifying, but quite difficult. And then there’s Aristotle’s physics and metaphysics which make up the senior year philosophy curriculum – studies of such abstract notions as place and time, and natural theology, as well.
But even more than having “the brains” to do our program, students need to have a deep desire to understand the causes and principles of things.
All of this is to say that our students are serious students. There is a great deal of study they must do. But there is also a great deal of joy among them, and a tremendous sense of fun, outlets for which come in the form of intramural sports, quarterly dances (and more), trips to the beach only 20 minutes away, and hikes in the national forest, literally at our back door.
All of this makes for a community life animated by charity and ordered to the best things. While not perfect (witness confessions being heard 8 times a day, before and after each Mass), it is a community striving to follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Our students are a very intelligent group, and this is necessary to be able to accomplish our rigorous program which includes four years of mathematics and natural science — not your typical liberal arts program!
Q. Given the scarcity of vocations in America, how is your school doing in this regard?
Since our founding a steady 10% of our alumni have entered the priesthood and religious life. As of now, we have 59 alumni priests: 1 is the superior general of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, 7 are pastors of parishes from Alaska to New York, 4 teach in seminaries, and 1 was recently sent to Rome by Cardinal Dolan to study canon law. Many are serving in parishes; others are monks, e.g., 10 at Clear Creek Monastery and 4 in Norcia. And we have 4 at the Norbertines in Orange Coutny, and 5 are Dominicans. In addition, there are at least 30 in seminary.
As for religious – most of our 40 professed alumni are women, though we have a few brothers, as well. They gravitate to the new, solidly orthodox orders, or those that are being renewed. We have 8, I believe, with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, one of whom served as president of their Aquinas College for some years. There are 3 or 4 with Mother Assumpta and the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Others are in Europe with teaching and contemplative orders. Still more are stateside, e.g., two who were recently sent from the Carmelite Monastery in Lincoln, Nebraska, to found a new house in the Bay Area, in Northern California.
All in all, we are truly blessed with alumni vocations. Our goal is to provide the good soil for God to cultivate, and He seems to be hard at work here.
A number of years ago, our late president Tom Dillon was asked by the Congregation for Education to give an account of how it is that we could have so many vocations. They had been astounded to learn of the relatively high number, knowing that we were lay-founded, lay-administered, and co-educational, and wanted to share with their readers “the secret” as it were. You can find that article on our website.
A number of years ago, our late president Tom Dillon was asked by the Congregation for Education to give an account of how it is that we could have so many vocations. They had been astounded to learn of the relatively high number, knowing that we were lay-founded, lay-administered, and co-educational, and wanted to share with their readers “the secret…”
Q. Cost is a huge factor these days as students balk at assuming large debts for undergrad degrees. How is your school addressing this?
Our admissions policy is needs-blind. Students are accepted without any regard to their financial wherewithal. At that point, they and their families are asked to make a maximum effort toward covering the cost of tuition. In nearly 80% of cases that effort falls far short of the actual need. The College, however, has been committed since its beginning that no qualified student ever be turned away for lack of resources. Because we accept no direct government funding, lest our Catholic identity and academic integrity be compromised, we must, therefore, raise over $4 million annually to cover the financial aid needs of our students.
Our alumni, though young and raising large families, typically on one income, are very generous (we’re #2 in the country on the U.S. News “Most Loved” by alumni list, based on alumni giving percentages). But their giving is not sufficient for the need. It is, therefore, private individuals and foundations who fill the gap. We think of these benefactors as our “spiritual alumni,” who without having benefit to themselves, yet give generously to our students, seeing them as a kind of leaven for the Church and our culture.
The result is that 100% of our students’ demonstrated need is met each year, a fact for which the College is lauded by college reviews, e.g., the Princeton Review’s “Financial Aid Honor Roll” (it’s worth noting, I think, that TAC is the only Catholic college in the country to be so ranked) and the U.S. News “Great Schools, Great Price” rankings (again, the only Catholic college on this list).
Our benefactors are our “spiritual alumni,” who without having benefit to themselves, yet give generously to our students because they see them as a kind of leaven for the Church and our culture. The result is that 100% of our students’ demonstrated need is met each year.
For the first $4,000 or so of financial aid, students perform 13 hours/week of work on campus, in the kitchen, on landscaping, working in offices or the library, assisting in the labs, etc. If more funding is needed, grants are then made accordingly.
Students receiving financial aid must also take out loans, approximately $4000 each year. But we do cap that at $16,000 or so at the end of 4 years. Again, it is our benefactors who make it possible for our students not to be strapped by crushing debt after graduation. And again, we are ranked in the top 25 schools in the country by U.S. News “Least Debt” ranking.
Thomas Aquinas College is ranked in the top 25 schools in the country by U.S. News “Least Debt” ranking.
Q. How would you characterize the formation of young Catholics these days – as opposed to 20 years ago? Any reason for hope?
These are definitely reasons for hope.
On the other hand, with what one reads of the culture and the terrible state of education, especially in the public schools, it is hard to be hopeful. The prevalence of pornography alone, at ever younger ages, is heartbreaking and frightening. One wonders how we can pull ourselves out of these depths.
For this reason, I am especially grateful to our contemplative alumni who spend their days, months, and years, in prayer, making reparation for the sins of the world and begging for the graces we must have to overcome it.
I am especially grateful to our contemplative alumni who spend their days, months, and years, in prayer, making reparation for the sins of the world and begging for the graces we must have to overcome it.
Considermaking a gift today. The need is great, and the reward for your investment will be far greater still.