Tag Archives: Suffering

Love’s Way of the Cross: Stations IX-XIV

Stations I-IV

Stations V -VIII


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Ninth Station

Jesus Falls the Third Time under the Cross

“And I, once I have been lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”  John 12:32

Three times Love falls to the ground under the blows of men, under the weight of the cross burdened with sins. But It does not remain down. It knows It will finally triumph over sin and ingratitude, that It “will draw all men to Itself” ­– but not before It is “lifted up from the earth.” Therefore It uses every effort to rise, until It has mounted Calvary, until It has sacrificed all, until It has shed the last drop of blood.

We like to complain when our love is not returned; we decry the lack of charity in our neighbor, instead of lamenting the lack of it in ourselves. We must love still more, give and sacrifice still more. We must mount still higher, until we have climbed Mount Calvary, until we too have been “lifted up.” Only when all self-love has died in us, when we have made a total surrender to the crucified Savior, only then will our love have that overpowering force which draws all men to itself.

Let us sacrifice all, then, for love!


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Tenth Station

Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

“He emptied Himself.”  Phil. 2:7

“If a man intends to rob you of your coat, let him have your cloak as well,” the Savior once said (Matt. 5:40). Now on Calvary, He gives not merely coat and cloak; in His love He allows Himself to be stripped naked. Love gives without calculating and measuring, gives what it can and does not ask whether anything remains.

How selfish I am, Lord, when I compare my love with Yours! Without mercy, take from me everything to which my heart is still attached, everything that I would not be prepared to sacrifice at any moment for You and for my neighbor. Take away all, until I am, like You, completely “emptied,” utterly poor, stripped naked in holy, selfless love!


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Eleventh Station

Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross

“Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”  Luke 23:34

The Savior prays for His enemies while they are nailing Him to the cross. Could I do likewise? At the very moment when I am ridiculed, mocked, tormented, despised, crucified, can I pray for those who cause my suffering – really pray from the heart, just as the Savior prayed for His enemies?

The Savior’s prayer in this hour was not merely a pious wish, but a sacrifice of Himself for His executioners. It was not merely a prayer on the lips; it was self-immolation. Until I am able to pray and offer myself in this same spirit, I have not perfect love.

The Savior prays, “They do not know what they are doing.” Love “take no note of injury” (1 Cor. 13:5), judges no one, “is always ready to hope” (1 Cor. 13:7), never despairs of anyone, though he seem hopeless. How uncharitable is our judgment of others!

Lord, give me true love! 


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Twelfth Station

Jesus Dies on the Cross

“It is now completed.”  John 19:30

The Savior has given all; naked and despoiled He hangs on the cross. And still His love looks for something more to give. Then He sees His mother, and He presents her also to us: “This is your mother” (John 19:27). Now he can cry out, “It is completed”; He has given all.

The triumph of Love can now begin. “Lifted up from the earth,” It can begin to “draw all men to Itself.” The centurion under the cross is the first fruit of this love; after that, the awe-stricken crowd, beating their breasts and repenting their sins; then the holy souls in Limbo; and finally the thousands and millions of souls that are saved by the redeeming “Love unto the end.”

Lord, give us this love, “love to the end,” that the world may be saved!


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Thirteenth Station

The Heart of Jesus Is Opened and He Is Taken Down from the Cross

“Love is not provoked.”  1 Cor. 13:5

Things like ingratitude, misunderstanding, suspicion and unkindness cause most men’s hearts to harden and close. But all these bitter things served only to open the Savior’s heart wider, so wide that the last drop of blood could flow from it as an offering of love.

As long as we experience rancor in our hearts at the injustice of men, we have not yet true love, for “love does not let itself be embittered.” Our heart must be like the Savior’s. Men pierced it, only to find revealed the riches of its love. They surrounded it with thorns, but could not extinguish its fire. They imposed a cross upon it, but the flames of its love blazed up above the cross.

O Jesus, make my heart like Yours, like the heart of Your mother, which was pierced with Yours and which, together with Yours, is a source of grace and love for us! 


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Fourteenth Station

Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb

“Having loved His own… He loved them to the end.”  John 13:1

Bright shines the legend over the Savior’s tomb: “He loved to the end.” “To the end” must our love go, to the end of our strength, to the end of our life. It must be like that of the pious Catherine Emmerich, who in a dream took her heart from her bosom and divided it among many people. “And when I had given away the last little piece,” she relates, “I felt empty, exhausted unto death.” Then Jesus appeared to her upon the cross. “Lord,” she said. “I have nothing left.” Thereupon He gave her His heart, saying, “Take My heart and share it.” And the moment He put His heart into her breast, she awoke and felt strong.

O Jesus, I would like to be like that! And thus should we all be, ready to share our heart and give away the last little piece of it, that we may become emptied of all self-seeking and filled with Your love.

Then above our grave too can be placed the inscription: “He loved to the end.” Our reward for this will be Your “love unto the end” in everlasting bliss. Amen, amen! So be it!


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Conclusion

We have meditated on the Way of the Cross which the Savior’s love traveled for us. It is now our task to follow Him on this way. It is a difficult road, demanding many sacrifices, the “narrow path” of which the holy Scripture speaks. But this road leads to final happiness. It leads to love, which is the greatest thing of all (1 Cor. 13:13). It leads to perfect union with God and men, to blessed oneness in Christ (John 17:21ff.)

“Take courage, then, brethren, let us go forward together and Jesus will be with us. For Jesus’ sake we have taken this cross. For Jesus’ sake let us persevere with it. He will be our help as He is also our leader and guide. Behold, our King goes before us and will fight for us. Let us follow like men. Let no man fear any terrors. Let us be prepared to meet death valiantly in battle. Let us not suffer our glory to be blemished by fleeing from the Cross” (Imitation of Christ 3:56).

Why should we fear death? “He who does not love abides in death,” but “we know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers” (1 John 3:14).

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Love’s Way of the Cross: Stations V-VIII

Stations I-IV


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Fifth Station

Simon Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

“Inasmuch as you did this to one of these least brethren of Mine, you did it to Me.”  Matt. 25:40

It is hard to show love for a man who seems like a criminal unworthy of love. But look into the person’s eyes. Then the Savior’s eyes will meet yours as they did those of Simon the Cyrenian, and the Savior’s words will sound in your ears: “Inasmuch as you did this to one of these least brethren of Mine, you did it to Me.”

Lord, give me the living faith to see You in every human being, to serve You in every sufferer, in every cross-bearer!


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Sixth Station

Veronica Offers Jesus a Handkerchief

“By this token all the world will know that you are My disciples

– by cherishing love for one another.”  John 13:35

The reward of love! Every act of love imprints the image of Christ deeper in our soul. With every act of love we shall become more and more “transformed into His very image from one degree of splendor to another” (2 Cor. 3:18), into “another Christ.” And this is as it should be. Every Christian should be an embodiment of the Savior’s love. One should be able to say of every Christian what is written concerning the Savior: “The goodness and kindness of God our Savior toward all mankind appeared” (Tit. 3:4) and “He went about doing good” (Acts 10:38); he goes through all life like the Savior, thinking thoughts of love, speaking words of love, doing works of love. Thus, according to our Savior’s words, we would be surely known as His disciples by our love for our neighbor.

Lord, give me strength for holy works of love, that Your image may shine ever brighter in me!


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Seventh Station

Jesus Falls the Second Time under the Cross

“Lord, I wish to see.”  Luke 18:41

If only the Pharisees and the Roman soldiers who tortured and tormented the Savior so cruelly on His Way of the Cross had known how much He loved them! Might not even their cold hearts have been filled with shame and sorrow?

And if we too could only see through the eyes of God what loving deeds of silent sacrifice, prayer and suffering are offered up for us, perhaps by the very people whom we love least and offend deeply in many ways!

“Lord, let me see!” May I never fail to recognize the love of my brethren. May I never in pride look down upon others. And when my own love is misjudged, even abused, may I follow Your example and never stop loving!


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Eighth Station

Jesus Consoles the Weeping Women

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Acts 20:35

Jesus, Himself unconsoled, has words of consolation for the weeping women. Submerged in a sea of pain and sorrow, He thinks of the misery and needs of others. Such is the way of love. It forgets its own suffering as soon as it becomes aware of another’s pain. It finds no time to consider its own misery when the need of another calls for help. It can help others, itself it cannot help (cf. Matt. 27:42). It thinks only of giving, and thereby becomes unmindful of receiving.

How happy we would be if we would unselfishly forget our own pain in our concern for another’s sorrow, if we would forget about receiving in our concern with giving! For it is more blessed to give than to receive.

O Savior unselfishly loving, give me that all-pure love which forgets itself, which “is not self-seeking” (1 Cor. 13:5), which is always ready to give, and let me be sanctified in this love!


Stations IX-XIV

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Love’s Way of the Cross: Stations I-IV

Here is Part 1 (of 3) of the Way of the Cross given to me by Fr. Fields. After scouring the Internet for a site where copies of these Stations could be purchased, I’ve concluded that the booklet is out-of-print. I reproduce it here in the hope that readers will find it an aid to their prayer this Holy Week. No copyright infringement is intended.


Murillo, The Embrace of St. Francis and the Crucified, 1668

Murillo, The Embrace of St. Francis and the Crucified, 1668

Love’s Way of the Cross:

Love Revealed in the Stations of the Cross

By Emmanuel Maria Heufelder, O.S.B., Abbot of Niederalteich

Translated from the German by a Benedictine Monk

Doyle and Finegan – Collegeville, Minnesota – 1955

Nihil Obstat: Rev. Gregory J. Roettger, O.S.B., Censor Deputatis

February 18, 1955

Imprimatur: + Petrus G. Bartholome, Bishop of St. Cloud

February 19, 1955


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Preparatory Consideration

“This is My commandment; love one another as I love you.”   John 15:12

Everyone who loves must walk the way of the Cross, just as He who taught love and who is Love has walked the way of the Cross. These stations are the testing time of love.

Lord, I will let my soul review in quiet contemplation those hours which tested Your love as gold is tried in the fire. I will make the stations of Your love to test and measure the extent of my own love.


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First Station

Jesus Allows Himself to Be Condemned to Death

“No one can give a greater proof of his love than by laying down his life for his friends.”    John 15:13

With a love unto death Christ has loved us. “We know what love is from the fact that Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.” And with the same great love we must love one another. “We, too, ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16). As long as we are not ready for this, as long as we are not determined to sacrifice ourselves for others as completely as the Savior did, we have not yet “the great love.”

O Lord, how small is my love when I measure it against the vastness of Yours! I should be ready to give my life; how much more ready, then, to give what is less than life. What I have and what I am – my strength and talents, my time, my possessions – all should be bent upon the service of my brethren, belonging more to them than to me.

Lord, help me to love my neighbor “not merely in word or with the tongue, but in action, in reality” (1 John 3:18). Help me to love with that “great love” unto death with which You have loved me.


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Second Station

Jesus Takes the Cross on His Shoulders

“Love is long-suffering; love bears everything.”   1 Cor. 13:4, 7

“Love bears everything,” even the cross which our neighbor imposes; bears it not complainingly, not unwillingly, but patiently and with resignation – yes, with joy, as the Savoir carried His cross. Love rejoices when it can bear another’s burden and so fulfill Christ’s law of love, as the Apostle bids (Gal. 6:2).

What is the burden that we should carry for our neighbor? St. Benedict tells us in his holy Rule (ch. 72), when he exhorts his monks “most patiently to endure one another’s infirmities, whether of body or of character.” Everyone has his weaknesses and miseries, bodily defects and faults of character, and suffers frequently enough because of them. We should help our brother to carry his burden “most patiently,” with that patient, all-sustaining love which made the Savoir carry His cross: mankind’s burden of sin and pain, for the salvation of all.

My Savior and Redeemer, give me Your long-suffering love! Give me the love that bears all, and so let me be with You a savior and redeemer for my suffering neighbor.


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Third Station

Jesus Falls the First Time under the Cross

“Love will never end.”   1 Cor. 13:8

It is terrible and yet wonderful what divine Love is willing to suffer at the hands of men. It lets Itself be mocked, abused, crushed, tormented with inconceivable tortures, and still It does not cease. “Love never fails.”

Only a love that seeks itself more than its neighbor will give way to disaffection and hate if it is not returned.

True love never ceases. On the contrary, it converts the pain inflicted by the loved one into a sacrifice for him, a redemptive offering to free him from his selfishness. As long as we do not act thus, we have not yet true love.

Lord, give me Your selfless love, which never ends!


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Fourth Station

Jesus Meets His Afflicted Mother

“Love endures everything.”   1 Cor. 13:7

Mary is the model of all who have true love. For this is the perfect love, to walk beside the Savior as He carries His cross, to suffer and endure everything with Him and through Him, to sacrifice everything, even what is most precious, even a treasure on which one has set one’s heart. “Most gladly,” says true love, “will I spend myself and be spend to the limit for the sake of your souls” (2 Cor. 12:15), to make reparation and petition, in union with the Savior, like Mary.

O Mary, mother of fair love, mother of sorrows, teach me this true love!


Stations V-VIII
Stations IX-XIV

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Fleeing from the Cross

Bouguereau, Compassion, 1897

Bouguereau, Compassion, 1897

Last year, Fr. Fields gave me a beautiful little prayer booklet called “Love’s Way of the Cross.” These meditations on the Way of the Cross by a German Benedictine abbot are now out-of-print, and I’m hoping to find time someday to type them up and put them somewhere on the blog. In the meantime, I’ll be sharing excerpts here and there as we wrap up this blessed season of Lent.

First, a passage from Thomas à Kempis quoted in the concluding meditation. This was the first thing I thought of after reading Ryan’s latest post: “Little Crosses/Big Crosses.” (Praying for you, brother!)

“Take courage, then, brethren, let us go forward together and Jesus will be with us. For Jesus’ sake we have taken this cross. For Jesus’ sake let us persevere with it. He will be our help as He is also our leader and guide. Behold, our King goes before us and will fight for us… Let no man fear any terrors. Let us be prepared to meet death valiantly in battle. Let us not suffer our glory to be blemished by fleeing from the Cross.”

The Imitation of Christ 3:56

Perhaps this passage strikes you differently, but it helped to remind me of two very important things: (1) We always carry our crosses together, never alone, and (2) Christ goes before us and defends us – and it is because of these two truths that we have no reason whatsoever to fear.

My prayer for all of us this Holy Week: that we would not flee from the Cross, but embrace it!

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Bride of the Crucified

St. Teresa of Avila and the Cross

St. Teresa of Ávila, bride of the Crucified

In a Holy Hour earlier this week, I was reflecting on Mother Teresa’s intimate, personal response to the question posed by Our Lord in Matthew 16:15 – “Who do you say that I am?” – written while she was hospitalized after a fall. The prayer is arrestingly straightforward, and powerful in its simplicity (just like Mother herself, I suppose). I’d read it many times before, but yesterday it was the end of it that really struck me:

Jesus is my God.
Jesus is my Spouse.
Jesus is my Life.
Jesus is my only Love.
Jesus is my All in All.
Jesus is my Everything.

Jesus I love with my whole heart, with my whole being. I have given Him all, even my sins, and He has espoused me to Himself in tenderness and love. Now and for life, I am the spouse of my Crucified Spouse. Amen.

I had to keep reading that phrase over and over again:

“I am the spouse of my Crucified Spouse.”

The bride of the Crucified. Of all the titles I will assume when I am consecrated by my bishop this June, I can admit that this is the one I am most reluctant to own. To be the “bride of Christ” can sound like such a romantic, picture-perfect, sunshine-and-roses thing. What a life, to be married to Jesus!

But being the bride of Christ means marrying all of Him, His whole Person. In this way, it means being the bride of the Crucified One, and not only that! Not only is the bride of Christ asked to accept her Spouse’s suffering – she’s asked to share it. She must allow her uniquely sensitive, feminine heart to be conformed to all of the dispositions of Christ’s Sacred Heart. Which, of course, doesn’t sound intimidating in the least.

I’ll be honest – sometimes when I try to think about what that could mean, I’m frightened. “Bride of the Crucified?” A life full of sufferings yet unknown to me? Doesn’t seem like something to look forward to. Doesn’t seem very natural or very human to desire such a thing. Doesn’t sound consoling in the least. The prayer of my heart this Lent has been: I am not very good at suffering, Lord! How can I learn love the Cross?

That phrase – “spouse of my Crucified Spouse” – kept resounding in my mind throughout the Holy Hour, and I kept trying to get away from it because I didn’t know what it meant, and didn’t really want to know. I was still thinking about it when I walked out of church and ran into some ladies from the parish. We’d just started chatting when we were approached by an elderly priest who I’d been hoping to meet for some time. (He has such a reputation for sanctity that I’d been hoping for a chance to be near him and hopefully “soak up” some of his holiness and wisdom.)

When I introduced myself and briefly explained that I was in formation to become a consecrated virgin, Father’s face lit up, and he took my hand, saying: “Oh, God bless you, dear!” And then, without missing a beat: “You know, there is nothing greater, no power greater than the power of the Cross. When things get hard, when you’re tempted, just remember that: the Cross. Make the Sign of the Cross and the devil will have to flee.” With that, he grinned, gave me his blessing, and left.

I was speechless. Not only had I been praying for weeks for guidance to help me overcome a particular temptation (the Sign of the Cross – I feel pretty foolish for not having thought of that!), but I had also been asking the Lord to use this Lent to teach me how (and why?) I am supposed to love the Cross. Then this little priest came out of nowhere and spoke straight to my heart.

The reading for Evening Prayer that night had been from the Letter of James – Submit to God; resist the devil and he will take flight. Draw close to God, and He will draw close to you (James 4:7-8) – and when I remembered that, I had an epiphany.

Becoming the “bride of the Crucified” shouldn’t frighten me, because that’s really just another way to talk about drawing near to Jesus. Love the Crucified One, love the Cross. So long as I cling to the Cross, none can touch me. So long as remember the Cross, the devil will flee. And when I embrace Christ Crucified, He will be nearer to me than I am to myself – and that is a very consoling thought, indeed.

“Yes, I love the Cross… I love it because I always see it behind Jesus’ shoulders.”

– Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

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Stuck in My Head: Audrey Assad, Matt Maher, JJ Heller

I went to a fantastic concert last night with a really fun group of friends, and this morning I decided I needed to put in a plug for the two artists who gave us such a great show.

Audrey Assad is one of my all-time favorite singer-songwriters, and she’s coming out with a new album in two weeks! She played this song last night and explained how for her, it’s about the joy and sufferings of married life bearing fruit for the world: Let’s build a house with turned-out doors / So we can share what love affords / Pour ourselves out like wine we’ve been saving. Beautiful stuff!


Matt Maher was spectacular, as usual. This song is a few years old, but it’s one of my favorites of his because it’s inspired by St. Augustine’s Confessions – and you guys know how much I love the saints!


I also wanted to share this song by JJ Heller that really has been stuck in my head all week. I was asked to go speak at a couple of the Catholic schools in my diocese on Thursday as part of Catholic Schools Week, to talk to the students about my vocation to consecrated life and my experiences doing foreign mission work. I decided to make a slideshow of my favorite photos from the missions to share with the kids, and this was the song I picked to play in the background during the slideshow.

As I watched it over and over again with the different groups of students that day, I realized that I wouldn’t have believed the words of a song like this had it not been for the time I spent in the missions, as well as the grueling period of transition and re-adjustment that took place after I returned to life in the States. The Lord is truly near to us when we are brokenhearted and weary in spirit (c.f. Psalm 34:18) – and though we often have trouble seeing it as such, every suffering that comes to us is a gift from Him and an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the depths of His tender and merciful Heart.

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Little Flower Novena, Day 5

Therese with cross

Ora pro nobis!

Prayers To Be Said Each Day

Come, Holy Spirit

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful,
and kindle in them the fire of Your love.
V.  Send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created.
R.  And You shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray: O God, who have instructed the hearts of Your faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit; grant that by the gift of that same Spirit, we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolation, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Acts of Faith, Hope, and Love

O my God! I believe in You: strengthen my faith. All my hopes are in You: do You secure them. I love You: teach me to love You daily more and more. Amen.

The Act of Contrition

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend You, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

Prayers for the Fifth Day

Little Flower of Jesus, from the very first moment of your religious life you thought only of denying yourself in all things so as to follow Jesus more perfectly; help me to bear patiently the trials of my daily life. Teach me to make use of the trials, the sufferings, the humiliations, that come my way, to learn to know myself better and to love God more.

[Mention your intentions…] Intercede for us all the days of our life, but especially during this Novena and obtain for us from God the graces and favors we ask through your intercession. Amen.

Thought for the day: Patience in Sufferings

I do not fear trials sent by Jesus, for even in the most bitter suffering we can see His loving hand.

When we are expecting nothing but suffering, we are quite surprised at the least joy; but then suffering itself becomes the greatest of joys when we seek it as a precious treasure.

Far from resembling those beautiful saints who practiced all sorts of austerities from childhood, my penance consisted in breaking my self-will, in keeping back a sharp reply, in doing little kindnesses to those about me, but considering these deeds as nothing.

Concluding Prayer Prayed Each Day

O Lord, You have said: unless you become as little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven; grant us, we beg You, so to follow, in humility and simplicity of heart, the footsteps of the Virgin blessed Thérèse, that we may attain to an everlasting reward. Amen.

Adapted from EWTN.com

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On the Calendar: St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Padre Pio with cross

“Yes, I love the Cross… I love it because I always see it behind Jesus’ shoulders.”

Padre Pio

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On the Calendar: Our Lady of Sorrows

Sorrowful Mother antique holy card

“Let us turn our gaze now to the Virgin Mary, who was given to us on Calvary to be our Mother, and let us ask her to sustain us with her loving protection along the path of life, particularly when we pass through the night of suffering, so that we may be able to remain steadfast, as she did, at the foot of the Cross.”

Pope Benedict XVI, WYD Madrid, August 19, 2011

 

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Continued Prayers for Seminarian Philip Johnson

Some of you may remember my asking you to join me in praying the Immaculate Conception Novena for Philip Johnson, a seminarian with an inoperable brain tumor, back in December. In case you haven’t been keeping up with his blog, I thought I would let you know that Philip is still in need of our prayers. Due to the demands of his chemotherapy treatment, he did not return to seminary this semester and will instead continue his studies with a private tutor.

Philip is truly an extraordinary witness. Take a look at what he wrote about his call to the priesthood back in 2008:

“As I deal with a brain tumor, I am not sad that it may eventually cause me to suffer and die. …  The single worry I face every day is that because of various circumstances – some of which are beyond my control – I may never know what it is like to serve God as the alter Christus I desire with all my heart to be. It brings tears to my eyes to imagine departing this world without pronouncing the words of Christ at the Last Supper, ‘This is My Body; This is My Blood’ … I pray fervently that I may one day have the privilege of absolving sins… I offer my suffering from this illness for the intentions and sanctification of all bishops, priests, and religious, and for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life.”

And when you’ve got a half-hour to spare, check out this video of a talk Philip gave to students at a Catholic school in Raleigh. Powerful stuff!

(HT to Fr. Z and my friends at The Catholic Underground)

Please join me in continuing to pray for Philip, particularly during the upcoming season of Lent. You can follow his blog at: philipgerardjohnson.blogspot.com

Mother Mary, be his comfort and his joy! Teach him how to suffer with Our Lord. Keep him always close to your Immaculate Heart!

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