Today is the Optional Memorial of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, Priest (died 1867) and the Optional Memorial of Saint Mary Faustina Kowalska, Virgin (died 1938).
Our Blessed for today was born in Füssen, Bavaria, Germany in 1819. Francis Xavier Seelos had expressed a desire for the priesthood since childhood and entered the diocesan seminary in 1842 after having completed his studies in philosophy. Soon after meeting the missionaries of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Redemptorists), founded for the evangelization of the most abandoned, he decided to enter the congregation and to minister to German-speaking immigrants in the United States. He was accepted by the Congregation on November 22, 1842, and sailed the following year from Le Havre, France, arriving in New York on April 20, 1843. On December 22, 1844, after having completed his novitiate and theological studies, Seelos was ordained a priest in the Redemptorist Church of St. James in Baltimore, Maryland. After being ordained, he worked for nine years in the parish of St. Philomena’s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, first as assistant pastor to St. John Neumann, who was the superior of the Religious Community, later as Superior himself, and for three years as pastor. During this time, he was also the Redemptorist Novice Master. With Neumann, he also dedicated himself to preaching missions. His availability and innate kindness in understanding and responding to the needs of the faithful quickly made him well known as an expert confessor and spiritual director, so much so that people came to him even from neighboring towns. Faithful to the Redemptorist charism, he practiced a simple lifestyle and a simple manner of expressing himself. The themes of his preaching, rich in Biblical content, were always heard and understood even by the simplest people. A constant endeavor in this pastoral activity was instructing the little children in the faith. He not only favored this ministry, he held it as fundamental for the growth of the Christian community in the Parish. In 1854 he was transferred from Pittsburgh to Baltimore, then to Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Cumberland, Maryland, in 1857, and to Annapolis (1862), all the while engaged in Parish ministry and serving in the formation of future Redemptorists as Prefect of Students. Even in this post, he was true to his character, remaining always the kind and happy pastor, always prudently attentive to the needs of his students and conscientious of their doctrinal formation. Above all, he strove to instill in these future Redemptorist missionaries the enthusiasm, spirit of sacrifice, and apostolic zeal for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the people. In 1860 he was proposed as a candidate for the office of Bishop of Pittsburgh. Having been excused from this responsibility by Blessed Pope Pius IX, from 1863 until 1866, he dedicated himself to the life of an itinerant missionary preaching in English and German in the states of Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. After a brief period of parish ministry in Detroit, Michigan, he was assigned in 1866 to the Redemptorist community in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here also, as pastor of the Church of St. Mary of the Assumption, he was known as a pastor who was joyously available to his faithful and singularly concerned for the poorest and the most abandoned. However, his ministry in New Orleans was destined to be brief. In September of that year, exhausted from visiting and caring for victims of yellow fever, he contracted the disease. After several weeks, he died on October 4, 1867. The National Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos is located in St. Mary’s Assumption Church, the first German Catholic Church in New Orleans and in the state of Louisiana. The Shrine contains the official portrait of Father Seelos, which was used in Rome for his beatification, as well as photographs that depict Father Seelos and his life as a missionary. The centerpiece of the Shrine is a sacred reliquary, which houses the remains of Father Seelos. He was Beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2000; if you know of any miracles that can be attributed to his influence, please contact the Vatican. We also honor Saint Mary Faustina Kowalska, Virgin (died 1938). Born in 1905 in Glogowiec, Poland as Elena (Helena) Kowalska, she was the third of ten children and only attended three years of school. As a teenager she worked as a domestic servant for other families. After being rejected by several religious orders, she became a nun in the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw, Poland in 1925; the Congregation is devoted to the care and education of troubled young women. Upon taking her vows she changed her name to Sister Maria Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament. During her 13 years in various houses of the Congregation, she was a cook, gardener, and porter. She had a special devotion to Mary Immaculate, to the Blessed Sacrament, and to Reconciliation, which led to a deep mystical interior life. She began to have visions, receive revelations, and experience hidden stigmata. She began recording these mystical experiences in a diary; being nearly illiterate, it was written phonetically, without quotation marks or punctuation, and runs to nearly 700 pages. In the 1930’s Sister Faustina received a message of mercy from Jesus that she was told to spread throughout the world, a message of God’s mercy to each person individually, and for humanity as a whole. Jesus asked that a picture be painted of him with the inscription: “Jesus, I Trust in You.” She was asked to be a model of mercy to others, to live her entire life, in imitation of Christ’s, as a sacrifice. She commissioned this painting in 1935, showing a red and a white light shining from Christ’s Sacred Heart. A bad translation of her diary reached Rome in 1958, twenty years after her death, and was labelled heretical. However, when Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) became Archbishop of Krakow, he was besieged by requests for a reconsideration. He ordered a better translation made, and Vatican authorities realized that instead of heresy, the work proclaimed God’s love. It was published as Divine Mercy in my Soul in 1981. Apostles of Divine Mercy is a movement of priests, religious, and lay people inspired by Faustina’s experiences; they spread knowledge of the mystery of Divine Mercy, and invoke God’s mercy on sinners. Approved in 1996 by the Archdiocese of Krakow, it has spread to 29 countries. She was canonized in 2000; that same year, the second Sunday after Easter was designated as Divine Mercy Sunday for the universal Church. In October 2011 some cardinals and bishops sent a petition to Pope Benedict XVI that Faustina be made the fourth female doctor of the Church. She is venerated as the Apostle of Divine Mercy.
On Sunday evening while taking my bath I read the October 2015 issue of Acadiana Catholic (our local diocesan magazine), and finished reading The Mauritius Command by Patrick O’Brian. Richard gathered up the trash, and, to our gratified surprise, our New Orleans Saints beat the Dallas Cowboys in overtime by the score of 26 to 20. Our Saints are now 1 and 3 (0 and 2 in the NFC South), and will play an away game with the Philadelphia Eagles (1-3, 0-2) at 12:00 pm on October 11th, 2015.
I did my Bathroom Devotional Reading, and Richard wheeled the trash bin out to the curb. I did my Internet Devotional Reading on our way to work. Once at work, Richard was on a Blackjack Table. (When they closed the $5.00 Minimum Bet Blackjack table for cleaning, they made his table the $5.00 Minimum Bet Blackjack Table; when they reopened the regular $5.00 Minimum Bet Blackjack table, he went back to being a normal Blackjack table.) I was on Mini Baccarat all day; I had two guests from 3:00 am to 3:15 am, and two guests (one of which was one of the earlier guests) from 10:30 am until 11:00 am. On my breaks I called the Pharmacy and renewed a prescription.
After work we went over to the clinic, and I picked up my prescription; I asked about getting my various psych prescriptions on a 90-day basis, but my pharmacist told me that I would have to call my psych and have them call in new prescriptions to the Pharmacy. When we came into town we stopped by our bank to talk to the loan officer about getting our annual vacation loan; we do not anticipate any problems, even though we have a new car note that we are now paying off. I ate my lunch salad and read the morning paper, then took a nap for the rest of the day. We got a call from the bank that our loan had been approved, and I did not do my Book Review for this weblog or for my Goodreads or Facebook accounts for The Mauritius Command by Patrick O’Brian, and I did not do my Daily Update.
Tomorrow is the Optional Memorial of Saint Bruno, Priest (died 1101), the Optional Memorial of Blessed Marie Rose Durocher, Virgin (died 1849), and the Remembrance of Servant of God Terence Cooke, Bishop (died 1983). We will work our eight hours, and I will do my Book Review for The Mauritius Command by Patrick O’Brian and my Daily Update via WordPress for Android while on my breaks at work. After work we will get our flu shots, then go to the bank to sign the loan papers. At 1:30 pm we will go over to Lele’s for lunch, so that everyone on our side of the family can see Matthew and Callie and the baby. And in the afternoon and evening I will work on Advance Daily Update Drafts.
Our Parting Quote this Monday afternoon comes to us from Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, American civil rights activist. Born in 1922 in Mount Meigs, Alabama as Freddie Robinson (he took the name of his stepfather), he was brought up by his tough-minded mother. During World War II he worked as a truck driver at Brookley Air Force Base in Mobile, and then, after experiencing what he believed to be a ministerial calling, enrolled in the now-defunct Cedar Grove Bible College in Mobile and later in Selma University, both Baptist institutions. He eventually graduated from Alabama State College in 1952 and became the pastor of Selma’s First Baptist Church. Personality clashes with deacons led to his ouster, however, and in early 1953 he took over as pastor of the Bethel Baptist Church in north Birmingham. He was Membership Chairman of the Alabama state chapter of the NAACP in 1956 when the State of Alabama formally outlawed it from operating within the state. In May 1956 Shuttlesworth and Ed Gardner established the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) to take up the work formerly done by the NAACP. The ACMHR raised almost all of its funds from local sources at mass meetings and used both litigation and direct action to pursue its goals. When the authorities ignored the ACMHR’s demand that the City hire black police officers, the organization sued. Similarly, when the United States Supreme Court ruled in December 1956 that bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, was unconstitutional, Shuttlesworth announced that the ACMHR would challenge segregation laws in Birmingham on December 26, 1956. On December 25, 1956, unknown persons tried to kill Shuttlesworth by placing sixteen sticks of dynamite under his bedroom window. Shuttlesworth somehow escaped unhurt even though his house was heavily damaged. Shuttlesworth led a group that integrated Birmingham’s buses the next day, then sued after police arrested twenty-one passengers. His congregation built a new parsonage for him and posted sentries outside his house. In 1957 Shuttlesworth, along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Ralph Abernathy from Montgomery, Rev. Joseph Lowery from Mobile, Alabama, Rev. T. J. Jemison from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Rev. C. K. Steele from Tallahassee, Florida, Rev. A. L. Davis from New Orleans, Louisiana, Bayard Rustin and Ella Baker founded the Southern Leadership Conference on Transportation and Nonviolent Integration, later renamed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The SCLC adopted a motto to underscore its commitment to nonviolence: “Not one hair of one head of one person should be harmed.” Shuttlesworth embraced that philosophy, even though his own personality was combative, headstrong and sometimes blunt-spoken to the point that he frequently antagonized his colleagues in the movement as well as his opponents. He was not shy in asking King to take a more active role in leading the fight against segregation and warning that history would not look kindly on those who gave “flowery speeches” but did not act on them. He alienated some members of his congregation by devoting as much time as he did to the civil rights movement, at the expense of weddings, funerals, and other ordinary church functions. When Shuttlesworth and his wife attempted to enroll their children in a previously all-white public school in Birmingham in 1957, a mob of Klansmen attacked them, with the police nowhere to be seen. The mob beat him with chains and brass knuckles in the street while someone stabbed his wife. Shuttlesworth drove himself and his wife to the hospital where he told his kids to always forgive. Shuttlesworth participated in the sit-ins against segregated lunch counters in 1960. When the Freedom Rides through Alabama were in the planning stages, Shuttlesworth originally warned that the state was extremely volatile and that while he respected the courage of the activists proposing the Rides he felt other actions could be taken to accelerate the Civil Rights Movement that would be less dangerous. However, the planners of the Rides were undeterred and decided to continue preparing. After it became certain that the Freedom Rides were to be carried out, Shuttlesworth worked with the Congress of Racial Equality to organize the Rides and became engaged with ensuring the success of the rides, especially during their stint in Alabama. Shuttlesworth mobilized some of his fellow clergy to assist the rides. After the Riders were badly beaten and nearly killed in Birmingham and Anniston during the Rides, he sent deacons to pick up the Riders from a hospital in Anniston. He himself had been brutalized earlier in the day and had faced down the threat of being thrown out of the hospital by the hospital superintendent. Shuttlesworth took in the Freedom Riders at the Bethel Baptist Church, allowing them to recuperate after the violence that had occurred earlier in the day. The violence in Anniston and Birmingham almost led to a quick end to the Freedom Rides. However, the actions of supporters like Shuttlesworth gave James Farmer, the leader of C.O.R.E., which had originally organized the Freedom Rides, and other activists the courage to press forward. After the violence that occurred in Alabama but before the Freedom Riders could move on, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy gave Shuttlesworth his personal phone number in case the Freedom Riders needed federal support. When Shuttlesworth prepared the Riders to leave Birmingham and they reached the Greyhound Terminal, the Riders found themselves stranded as no bus driver was willing to drive the controversial group into Mississippi. Shuttlesworth stuck with the Riders and called Kennedy. Prompted by Shuttlesworth, Kennedy tried to find a replacement bus driver. Unfortunately, his efforts eventually proved unsuccessful. The Riders then decided to take a plane to New Orleans (where they had planned on finishing the Rides) and were assisted by Shuttlesworth in getting to the airport and onto the plane. In 1961 Shuttlesworth moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to take up the pastorage of the Revelation Baptist Church. He remained intensely involved in the Birmingham struggle after moving to Cincinnati, and frequently returned to help lead actions. Shuttlesworth invited SCLC and Dr. King to come to Birmingham in 1963 to lead the campaign to desegregate it through mass demonstrations–what Shuttlesworth called “Project C”, the “C” standing for “confrontation”. While Shuttlesworth was willing to negotiate with political and business leaders for peaceful abandonment of segregation, he believed, with good reason, that they would not take any steps that they were not forced to take. He suspected their promises could not be trusted on until they acted on them. One of the 1963 demonstrations he led resulted in Shuttlesworth’s being convicted of parading without a permit from the City Commission. On appeals the case reached the United States Supreme Court. In its 1969 decision of Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham, the Supreme Court reversed Shuttlesworth’s conviction. They determined circumstances indicated that the parade permit was denied not to control traffic, as the state contended, but to censor ideas. In 1963 Shuttlesworth was set on provoking a crisis that would force the authorities and business leaders to recalculate the cost of segregation. He was helped immeasurably by Eugene “Bull” Connor, the Commissioner of Public Safety and most powerful public official in Birmingham, who used Klan groups to heighten violence against blacks in the city. Even as the business class was beginning to see the end of segregation, Connor was determined to maintain it. While Connor’s direct police tactics intimidated black citizens of Birmingham, they also created a split between Connor and the business leaders. They resented both the damage Connor was doing to Birmingham’s image around the world and his high-handed attitude toward them. Similarly, while Connor may have benefited politically in the short run from Shuttlesworth’s determined provocations, that also fit Shuttleworth’s long-term plans. The televised images of Connor’s directing handlers of police dogs to attack unarmed demonstrators and firefighters’ using hoses to knock down children had a profound effect on American citizens’ view of the civil rights struggle. Shuttlesworth’s activities were not limited to Birmingham. In 1964 he traveled to St. Augustine, Florida (which he often cited as the place where the civil rights struggle met with the most violent resistance), taking part in marches and widely publicized beach wade-ins that led directly to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Thus he was a key figure in the Birmingham campaign that led to the initiation of the law, and the St. Augustine campaign that finally brought it into being. In 1965 he was also active in Selma, Alabama, and the march from Selma to Montgomery that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, thus playing an important role in the efforts that led to the passage of the two great legislative accomplishments of the civil rights movement. Shuttlesworth organized the Greater New Light Baptist Church in 1966. In 1978 he was portrayed by Roger Robinson in the television miniseries King. He founded the “Shuttlesworth Housing Foundation” in 1988 to assist families who might otherwise be unable to buy their own homes. In 1998 Shuttlesworth became an early signer and supporter of the Birmingham Pledge, a grassroots community commitment to combating racism and prejudice. It has since then been used for programs in all fifty states and in more than twenty countries. On January 8, 2001, he was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bill Clinton. Named President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in August 2004, he resigned later in the year, complaining that “deceit, mistrust and a lack of spiritual discipline and truth have eaten at the core of this once-hallowed organization”. Prompted by the removal of a non-cancerous brain tumor in August of the previous year, he gave his final sermon in front of 300 people at the Greater New Light Baptist Church on the 19th March 2006, the weekend of his 84th birthday. On July 16, 2008, the Birmingham, Alabama, Airport Authority approved changing the name of the Birmingham’s airport in honor of Shuttlesworth. On October 27, 2008, the airport was officially changed to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (died 2011): “The best thing we can do is be a servant of God. It does good to stand up and serve others.”