Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The meaning of the Nativity Scene


Pope Francis has written an apostolic letter “on the meaning and importance of the nativity scene,” in which he encourages Christians worldwide to continue “the beautiful family tradition of preparing the nativity scene in the days before Christmas” by setting up the Christmas crèche not only in their homes but also “in the workplace, in schools, hospitals, prisons and town squares.”

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Christmas joy

"Christmas is joy, religious joy, an inner joy of light and peace.” 
                                                                            —Pope Francis.

Bethlehem and Golgotha keeps our lives centered

"We can drift through life dodging and repressing these critical existential questions of life. We can live blindly and superficially. 

Our Catholic belief in the unity of the Nativity and the Crucifixion, the Creche and the Cross, Bethlehem and Golgotha keeps our lives centered and focused on the things that really count in our short time on earth – the Last Things (Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell) and a belief in the Eternal Joy of Heaven, our true home. 

                                                             -Bishop John O. Barres

Monday, December 27, 2021

He comes to ennoble the excluded

Jesus is born close to the forgotten ones on the peripheries. He comes to ennoble the excluded and He is first revealed to them: not to educated and important people, but to the shepherds, to poor working people.
-Pope Francis

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Intentional paradox


“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.”

                                                                                                                    - G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, December 25, 2021

For unto us a child is born

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; 
and the government shall be upon his shoulder: 
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, 
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
                                                          - Isaiah 9:6

Friday, December 24, 2021

Two births of Christ

"There are two births of Christ, one unto the world in Bethlehem; the other in the soul, when it is spiritually reborn. Men think of the former much more than the later, and celebrate it every year; but the spiritual Bethlehem is equally momentous…. It was the second birth that Saint Paul insisted on when he wrote from prison to his beloved people, the Ephesians, asking that Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith and that they be rooted and grounded in love. This is the second Bethlehem, or the personal relationship of the individual heart to the Lord Christ."
                                                                                                                    -Bishop Fulton Sheen

Thursday, December 23, 2021

A time of Promise

“Advent is the time of promise; it is not yet the time of fulfillment. We are still in the midst of everything and in the logical inexorability and relentlessness of destiny.…Space is still filled with the noise of destruction and annihilation, the shouts of self-assurance and arrogance, the weeping of despair and helplessness. But round about the horizon the eternal realities stand silent in their age-old longing. There shines on them already the first mild light of the radiant fulfillment to come. From afar sound the first notes as of pipes and voices, not yet discernable as a song or melody. It is all far off still, and only just announced and foretold. But it is happening, today.”

― Alfred Delp, Advent of the Heart: Seasonal Sermons And Prison Writings 1941-1944

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Breath of Christ

"By his own will Christ was dependent on Mary during Advent: he was absolutely helpless; he could go nowhere but where she chose to take him; he could not speak; her breathing was his breath; his heart beat in the beating of her heart.... In the seasons of our Advent - waking, working, eating, sleeping, being - each breath is a breathing of Christ into the world."

Caryll Houselander


Friday, December 17, 2021

December 2021

My Dear Graduates of Chaminade, Kellenberg Memorial, and St. Martin de Porres Marianist School,

What I am about to tell you is crazy. I mean it. On a scale of one to ten, this is about a seven or eight in craziness. The only reason it ranks at seven or eight and not ten is because it is not philosophically or theologically crazy. But, on a practical level, it is really crazy. Read on to see why.

When I was growing up, there were no Christmas decorations in our house until after all of us children had gone to bed on Christmas Eve. You read that correctly. No Christmas decorations. We had strung the trees with lights, hung up a wreath, and even illuminated the wreath with a flood light --but that was all on the outside. But, inside, nothing. Oh, for Christmas Eve dinner, my Mom set the table with a Christmas tablecloth, red candles, and a yuletide centerpiece. Other than that, however, there was nothing.

The next morning, when my three siblings and I awoke, Christmas had arrived: the Christmas tree, decorated with heirloom glass ornaments and draped with hundreds of strands of tinsel; the evergreen roping on the banister; the stockings over the fireplace; the eclectic train set circling the base of the tree; scores of presents wrapped with holly wrapping paper and bright red bows; and, of course, the Fontanini Nativity creche passed down from my paternal grandparents. It was enchanting, and Santa Claus had done it all. Somehow, through the miracle of Christmas, Santa had been able to work his overnight Christmas magic in our home and in millions of households around the globe.

Or so we thought. Later, as we grew older, we realized that my parents transformed our house
overnight. They also hosted the traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner of the seven fishes, attended
Christmas Midnight Mass, and returned home for juice and breakfast pastries before turning into bed
for little more than four hours of sleep. (By the way, the secret for getting this seemingly unimaginable
amount of work done was to impress all the Christmas Eve guests into service once we had all gone to

My parents were devoted, that’s for sure, and maybe even a little bit crazy. But they were determined to make Christmas morning special for us, and that they did. Crazy. Crazy in love. (My younger proofreaders and editors alerted me that “Crazy in Love” is the title of a popular 2003 release by the pop star Beyoncé. Who knew? Well, obviously, I didn’t, but I am guessing that some of you do.)

Crazy in love. That’s a phrase that aptly describes our Heavenly Parent -- our Heavenly Father -- as well. So crazy in love that He sent His only begotten Son to become one of us, to walk among us, to
die for the remission of our sins, and to heal the breach between God and man. On a scale of one to
ten, that’s a crazy eleven.

My parents’ crazy Christmas Eve tradition not only taught us something about Christmas; it also
taught us something about Advent. You see, Advent is about waiting, about waiting for something
stupendous that is on its way but not yet here. This waiting, this expectancy, is precisely what the
liturgical season of Advent draws us into. We await the fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel. We
await the coming of the Savior. We watch for the long-awaited Messiah.

Advent, of course, is more than a liturgical season reminding us about the long period of waiting so
poetically described by Isaiah and the prophets and fulfilled in history by the birth of the Messiah in
Bethlehem. Advent is also about the very real waiting that we experience in our own lives. Advent
draws us into the mystery of not-yet-fulfilled longings. It corresponds with our lived experience that
God is indeed among us, but oftentimes, to be candid, we experience His absence more than His

Advent is about expectancy. In some regards, it resembles the expectancy of little children as they
wait for Christmas morning and all the splendid, exciting, telltale signs of Santa’s visitation the night
before. But Advent expectancy is more complicated than that, just as adulthood is way more
complicated that childhood.

Expectancy. That word summarizes a good part of our adult lives. Even when we have achieved
much -- a fulfilling career, a happy marriage, a meaningful family life -- we are always looking for
more. And for some, setbacks in our careers; strains in our relationships; and problems in our families
-- problems big and small -- haunt us for many years, rendering the dream of personal happiness more
elusive than we would like. 

Perhaps we want a connection with the Lord, but we find ourselves distant
from the Church, or unable to sustain a meaningful prayer life, or perhaps disappointed with both
ourselves and God. In so many areas of our lives, we have tasted some success but experience as well
disappointment, struggle, stress, and emptiness. The promises of God. They have been fulfilled
already -- partially. But completely? Not yet. It was this duality -- this dynamic tension between
fulfillment and disappointment -- that led St. Augustine of Hippo to observe, “You have made us for
Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

Advent is a time to embrace that restlessness, that expectancy. It is in this expectancy that we find
God. It is in this waiting that we slowly come to realize our true happiness and look to heaven as our
true home. We know that today’s joys are a foretaste of the joys of heaven. And we know that today’s
disappointments are an intimation that there is something more. “You have made us for Yourself, O
Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

At the end of the day, I’m not advising that you wait until Christmas Eve to put up the Christmas
tree and hang the Christmas stockings. (As an interesting sidebar, I learned just the other day from one
of my students that it’s part of the Filipino culture to put up the Christmas tree shortly after Halloween.)
Here’s what I am suggesting: Embrace expectancy. Embrace Advent, because it provides us with a
poignant parallel to our own experience of already/not yet. We already know the enormous love that
our God has for us. But we live in a fallen world; not infrequently, our human experience falls short of
the divine reality. Advent gives us the hope, however, that the best is yet to come. Advent is the faith
that eye has not seen, and ear has not heard what our crazy-in-love God has in store for us. Advent is
the necessary precursor to Christmas. If we embrace our expectancy in faith and trust, we will surely
find the Christ Child, God’s only son, who seeks us with all of His heart.

On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,

Bro. Stephen

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Proclamation

[New York, 3 October 1789]

By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

Monday, November 15, 2021

Marianist Monday


November 2021

My dear graduates of Chaminade, Kellenberg Memorial, and St. Martin de Porres Marianist School,

I was flipping through the pages of my prayer journal just the other day, reviewing some notes that I had jotted down for an upcoming presentation on Marianist religious life. And, flipping through my journal, I found tucked away among its pages a card that I had written, probably on Thanksgiving Day of 2020. It listed the fifteen things for which I was most grateful. I listed the Marianist Community to which I belong, as well as the names of specific Brothers with whom I am particularly close. I jotted down my gratitude for all the students that I have taught. For the most part, they have been motivated, friendly, funny, and a real source of delight for me. Even the few students who have proven more “difficult” are beloved sons of God and, consequently, a genuine cause for thanks.

Our novices and temporary-professed Brothers made the list, of course, as did all the young men with whom I have spoken about a Marianist vocation. My own Marianist vocation was (and is!) as a reason for gratitude on my part, and so is the opportunity to partake of the sacramental life of the Church. Indeed, what a blessing it is to attend daily Mass, and to do that every day in communion with Christ, His Blessed Mother, and my Marianist Brothers!

I had tucked that Thanksgiving card away in my journal, and I had neglected it for close to a year, discovering it only by chance a few days ago.

There’s a lesson to be learned in that, I think. The lesson is this: It’s easy to forget all the things for which we should be thankful. So many factors cause us to forget to say, “Thank you.” Most of us lead busy lives, and in the frenetic pace of a typical day, I find that I can quite easily forget how lucky I am. Further, it has been a tough year. COVID, the curtailment of our lifestyles by the pandemic, and perhaps even COVID-related deaths among family and friends have weighed heavily upon us. And when we’re weighed down, it’s hard to lift our eyes up to the heavens and say, “Thank you.”

As I am writing this letter, my mom, Maria Josephine Sottosanti Balletta, is slowly dying. She’s 92 years old, and, for the last couple of years, she’s been suffering from congestive heart failure. For a week-and-a-half now, my siblings and I have been keeping vigil at her bedside. Thankfully, we are all there for her. She will die in her own home, surrounded by her loved ones.

There’s a sadness in my mom’s slipping away -- no doubt about that. But the feeling I most experience is gratitude. My mom and my dad lived a wonderful life. They loved one another deeply and often behaved like two starry-eyed newlyweds, even when we were grown children. They even sang to one another. At the time it struck my siblings and me as embarrassingly corny, especially when my dad came home from work; swung open the back door; and crooned, “Maria, I’ve just met a girl named Maria.” They were truly in love, and they taught us what true love is.

Every Christmas, my mom made the best lasagna ever, bar none. Throughout the year, we ate together as a family, even when my dad was running for public office and he and my mom had a series of evening events to attend. My mom loved to cook for us. She kept an impeccably clean home, and the kitchen literally sparkled. In fact, a repairman came to the house once to fix the oven and concluded that my mom must have never used it. To that mistaken conjecture, we all replied, “No, she’s been using that oven every single night for the past fifteen years. She just keeps it immaculately clean.”

A former schoolteacher, my mom was a lifetime learner. Our family excursions and vacations were almost always educational in nature. Sites like Mystic Seaport, the Corning Glass Factory, Detroit’s Henry Ford Museum, and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry were the staples of our family vacations. And again, much to our embarrassment at the time, on seemingly every tour we took, Mom would be the first to ask the tour guide a question or volunteer to be part of some museum demonstration. It was all a bit much for us then, but, in retrospect, Mom’s intellectual curiosity helped define the people her four children would become.

I could go on and on. Mom’s sense of humor; her encouragement of my Marianist vocation; her devotion to her grandchildren; and her civic involvement, even after my dad’s passing 25 years ago, are all blessings for which I am extremely grateful. Further, she was a woman of deep and abiding faith. Her love of God and of His Church made an indelible impression on me.

These are the memories that make me grateful for my mom’s life, even as her life slips away from us.

Look, I know that all of us go through periods of good fortune and bad fortune in our lives. Further, I know that some have had to bear more than their fair share of misfortune. I admit that life’s burdens can make it difficult -- in some cases, well nigh impossible -- to be grateful.

Still, I know that all of us have something for which to be grateful. Counting those blessings, and making them count in our lives, makes all the difference in the world. The greatest saints were people of great gratitude. Indeed, their gratitude inspired them to the acts of heroic virtue for which we remember them today.

Many years ago, Fr. Tom Cardone preached on the phrase “the attitude of gratitude” during his schoolwide Thanksgiving Mass homily. That phrase has remained with me ever since.

Created in God’s image, beloved by the Father, and redeemed by Christ’s blood, we all have many blessings for which to be grateful. As Thanksgiving approaches, let us recall those blessings, give thanks to God, and adopt an “attitude of gratitude” for the rest of our lives.

On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,

Bro. Stephen

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Veterans Day

“Through the sign of the cross it is not the servant or the slave who is speaking, but the Lord of all creation.” —Pope St. John Paul II

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Our Lady of the Pillar

Our Lady of the Pillar

The story goes like this, the apostle James was in Spain preaching the Gospel and things weren't going well. Mary appeared to him (on top of a pillar) to encourage him in his endeavors. Of course, Spain was eventually converted and the Spaniards continue to honor St. James. In a weird twist, according to most chronologies, Mary was still alive when she appeared to James - meaning that she could bilocate. Mary, as Our Lady of the Pillar, is venerated in Spain and many parts of Latin America.

For us Marianists, this is a big day, too. On October 11, 1797 (the day before the feast), Marianist Founder Blessed William Joseph Chaminade arrived in Zaragoza. He had just been exiled from his native France because of the ongoing persecutions of the French Revolution. He would spend the next three years in Zaragoza, spending a great deal of time praying before the Shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar. And during those three years, something happened. Yes, something, because we don't really know what happened. Fr. Chaminade wrote practically nothing about his time in Spain, and only mentioned it in passing. However, he received some sort of inspiration or mission before Our Lady of the Pillar to return to France and "re-Christianize" the country devastated by the Revolution.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Foundation Day - 204 years!

October 2021

My dear graduates of Chaminade, Kellenberg Memorial, and St. Martin de Porres Marianist School,

Life affords us many opportunities to look back and to look ahead, to take stock of where we have come from and plan ahead for where we are going. The month of October provides the Marianists with just such an occasion – an opportunity to look back in gratitude and to look forward in hope. Two-hundred-and-four years ago, on October 2, 1817, the Society of Mary was born in Bordeaux, France. In May of that same year, several members of Blessed Father William Joseph’s sodality expressed an interest in deepening their commitment to the mission of re-Christianizing France after the French Revolution. 
In October, five of them became the first Marianists, giving birth to a religious congregation that today numbers just under a thousand members serving in thirty-four countries across the globe. Perhaps by coincidence, perhaps by Divine Providence, these five Marianists made their act of commitment on the Feast of the Guardian Angels. Like the Guardian Angels, the members of this new congregation would have one eye on God in prayer and the other on the people of the world in need.

In our own little corner of the globe, the Marianists of Long Island – that is, the Province of 
Meribah – celebrated a much more recent anniversary. On August 22 of this year, Fr. Albert F. Bertoni,
S.M. celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of his first profession of the vows of poverty, chastity, and
obedience in the Society of Mary. The quotation on Fr. Albert’s sixtieth-anniversary prayer card speaks
volumes about who we are: “The Society has but one object in view: the most faithful imitation of Jesus
Christ, Son of God, become Son of Mary, for the salvation of mankind.” (Constitutions of 1891, article

That quotation from our Constitutions echoes a favorite sentiment of Blessed Chaminade: “It is for
us an infinite honor to be like Him by becoming a living example of the life He lived when He was
among us. Now it is by Mary that this life is communicated to us.” Just as we Marianists pause from time to time to commemorate the anniversaries of religiousprofession, so too we gather to witness our newest members take their vows. On September 12, 2021, two of our men – Bro. Patrick J. Cahill, S.M. and Bro. Andrew J. Santoriello, S.M. – made their perpetual profession of the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability. Stability is a fourth vow we Marianists take at the time of perpetual profession, as we promise to devote ourselves to the service of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for life, within the Society of Mary.

For their profession quotation, Bro. Pat and Bro. Andrew chose these words of Blessed Chaminade:
“We embrace religious life in Mary’s name and for her glory. We devote ourselves to her, in all that we
are and have, to make her known, loved, and served.”

Why are these celebrations – of our Society’s foundation and of individual Brothers’ vows – important for the future? I’d like to suggest three reasons: mission, witness, and sanctity.

First, mission: We Marianists are committed to the mission of Catholic education. In a day and
age becoming increasingly secular – much like Blessed Chaminade’s own times in post-Revolutionary
France – young Catholics need a solid, value-based, faith-centered education now more than ever. We
dare to dream of generations and generations of Marianist-educated Catholics who will change the world for the good; who will bring the values of the Gospel to the public square; and who will convince their fellow men and women of Christ’s truth, doing so as all true defenders of the faith, with clarity and
charity. And we dare to hope for generations and generations of future Marianists who will carry out this mission of Christ and His Blessed Mother.

Secondly, witness: The world needs not only education by instruction, but by example as well. As
St. Francis of Assisi is purported to have said: “Preach the Gospel always. Use words when necessary.”
That’s why we try to live community life, not just talk about it. Our aim is to imitate the communities of
the fledgling Church, being “of one heart and one mind, and holding everything in common.” In contrast to the all-too-frequent self-seeking and self-promotion of our contemporary culture, we strive to live simply, humbly, prayerfully, and peacefully. As our Rule of Life puts it, “We form a new family, based on the Gospel of the Lord, in which we share in common prayer, friendship, possessions, work,
successes, and difficulties. We aim to make family spirit the distinctive mark of our communities,
growing in the characteristics of Mary, particularly her faith, humility, simplicity, and hospitality.” (Rule of Life, article 35)

Finally, sanctity: This does not mean that we are saints – far from it – but that we are striving to
become saints. Blessed Chaminade envisioned his Society as a “spectacle of saints.” And how do we
become saints? By living with others in community and, in so doing, learning how to love as Jesus loves.That means learning to love those we do not particularly like, or loving even when we have been treated poorly. It means learning to love when we don’t particularly want to. Community life is a school of love, not because its members have reached the perfection of love, but because the joys and frictions of community life gradually teach us how to truly love – generously, selflessly, and unstintingly. Again,
our Rule of Life speaks eloquently on this topic: “We know that, despite our imperfections, the God who loves us and calls us to holiness can make our personal and community lives into a witness of a people of saints.” (Rule of Life, article 33)

We have deep roots in the Society of Mary – roots that we remember in a special way in the month
of October. We also have the new buds of future growth. We have nurtured that new growth, and we
will continue to do so, because the world needs vowed religious committed to their mission, willing to
witness to Christ, and striving for sanctity. It is, after all, “an infinite honor to be like Him,” and we will
cherish this honor all our days.

On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,

Bro. Stephen

Saturday, September 11, 2021

The Triumph of the Cross

September 2021

My dear graduates of Chaminade, Kellenberg Memorial, and St. Martin de Porres Marianist School,

We are never far from tragedy. Nor are we ever far from triumph.

The convergence of two occasions brings this dichotomy of tragedy and triumph to mind. The first of these occasions, as you might have suspected, is the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. The images of a smoldering wing of the Pentagon and the hellish explosions that engulfed the Twin Towers in flames are seared indelibly in my memory, as they are I many of yours. 

The second occasion this month is an ancient feast in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, known alternately as the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the Triumph of the Cross. This year, we will celebrate the Triumph of the Cross on September 14.

What do the Triumph of the Cross and the anniversary of 9/11have in common? The short answer is tragedy and triumph. Let me try to explain by means of a personal story.

Exactly one year after the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers, the Soldiers of Christ of Lafayette, Louisiana contacted Chaminade, because they wanted to do something for the folks up North who had lost a loved one in the attack on the World Trade Center. The Soldiers of Christ were total strangers. We had never met them before. But we were not strangers for long; we soon became brothers and sisters in Christ, united by the power of the Cross, a bond stronger than blood.

And so, in November of 2002, a group of us traveled to Lafayette, Louisiana. I was privileged to accompany four young men – Greg, John, Kevin, and Charlie – on the trip.

Shortly after our plane touched down in Lafayette, at about 10:30 at night, we were greeted at the gate by about two dozen Soldiers of Christ – young men and young women in high school and college, their parents, and their adult leaders – with balloons and posters and banners and hugs and the repeated recitation of the sound “chau,” apparently a Louisiana expression of compassion and solidarity.

And for the next four days, we were showered with good old Southern hospitality – all because these Soldiers of Christ wanted to reach out halfway across the country with the healing power of the Cross. We toured the Louisiana Bayou on one of those flatbed speedboats powered by an enormous fan. We attended prayer services and high-school rallies and Masses. The boys were interviewed on Lafayette’s own television morning news show. And every meal was a banquet of savory Cajun cooking: scrambled eggs, bacon, and grits; corn dogs and soda pop; jambalaya, rice, and red beans; shrimp étouffée and buttery biscuits; pralines and pecan pie.

You see, John and Kevin had lost their uncles in 9/11; Greg and Charlie their dads. But thanks to the good people of Lafayette, Louisiana, they gained a family of brothers and sisters in Christ.

I remember our return to New York so vividly, as if it were yesterday. Again – somehow, I don’t know quite how – all the Soldiers of Christ had gained access to our departure gate to see us off. We formed a large circle and held hands, and those newfound brothers and sisters of ours prayed over us, sang songs, embraced us – yes, in a big group hug – and uttered their final “chaus.”

And, all of a sudden, Charlie, a sophomore at the time, burst into tears, a torrent of tears – not tears of bitterness or anger; not quite tears of joy; but tears of release, of liberation, of knowing that his life had indeed been forever changed by the loss of his father on 9/11; but that it was ok, that he was going to be alright, that he was loved, loved very deeply, not only by the Soldiers of Christ, but by Christ Himself and by his two fathers in heaven – by his earthly father . . . and his heavenly Father.

That, my friends, is the power of the Cross. The healing power of the Cross. The saving power of the Cross. It is but one example of the Triumph of the Cross.

My dear friends, consider the Cross. Behold its horizontal beam – and, nailed to that beam, Christ’s arms – stretched open wide, as if to say, “I love you, I embrace you, I stand beside you in every difficulty – every cross – you bear.” And this is what I want to leave you with today – this guarantee, this promise: Whatever cross you bear – if a family member or friend is very sick; if your parents are fighting – a lot; if you are battling depression, or struggling with what is beginning to look like an addiction to alcohol or drugs or pornography; if the loss of a loved one, perhaps a parent, grieves your heart – know that Christ stands beside you, that the healing power of the Cross will bear you up. Know that Mary, Our Blessed Mother, who stood at the foot of the Cross – her heart broken – stands beside you, taking your cares and concerns into her immaculate, maternal heart.

This is the power of the Cross. This is the promise of the Christ. Turn to Jesus in prayer when your cross seems too heavy to bear. Turn to Jesus’ adopted brothers and sisters – to all of us, to the Church. It is the power of the Cross that empowers us to help one another in our time of need, just as those Soldiers of Christ in Lafayette, Louisiana consoled Greg and John, Kevin and Charlie.

I promise you this; I guarantee you this: If you turn to Jesus and His Blessed Mother in your time of need, if you turn to one of us for advice and counsel, help and hope, you will experience the power of the Cross. I know I speak for every one of my Marianist Brothers and every one of my lay colleagues – in fact, for the entire Marianist Family – when I make this bold guarantee.

My friends, consider your lives. Consider the stories of heroism and healing that have emerged from September 11th, 2001. And consider the two wooden crossbeams we find in our homes, in our classrooms, atop every one of our Churches, and at every one of our altars. Then you will experience the power of the Cross. Then – then – you will truly know the Triumph of the Cross.

On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,

Bro. Stephen

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Schools open 2

“It is best to choose leniency in discipline, rather than harsh methods.”

Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Birthday of Mary

“It is impossible to make mental prayer withoutMary … Let us unite ourselves to Mary in mental prayer and beg her to make her Son known to us. Mary is present. She is watching over us with maternal solicitude, making herself all to all and apportioning her help according to our needs … She enriches the poor, protects the timid, disarms the one who is angry, touches the hearts of the ungrateful, and never abandons anyone.”


Tuesday, September 7, 2021


 Our Marianist schools of the Province of Meribah have begun the 2021 school year.

“Ours is a work, a magnificent work. If it is universal, it is because we are missionaries of Mary, who has said to us, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Each one of us has received from the Blessed Virgin a commission to work at the salvation of our brothers and sisters in the world.”

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Happy Annversary!


Happy Annversary!

The Province of Meribah has conducted a series of summer retreats for the Brothers at our home in Accord, NY named Founder's Hollow. These annual retreats are called our summer renewal programs. All the members of the Province attend the week-long renewal program at Founder's Hollow for their annual retreat. This time, in which we meditate on the Word of God and pray more intensely, is a period of refreshment and revitalization of our Marianist religious vocations.

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity put together in words what we have tried to do on our summer renewals. She reminds us that we are all called to a greater relationship with Christ and His Mother. In order to attain this, however, one must become detached from the things of this world, and even oneself, and order them all to the love of God, as Elizabeth writes:

"To walk in Jesus Christ seems to me to want to leave self, lose sight of self, give up self in order to enter into Him with every passing moment, so deeply that one is rooted there, and to every event, to every circumstance we can fling this beautiful challenge: "Who will separate me from the love of Jesus Christ?'"

Our summer renewal is always an opportunity to reorder our lives toward the ultimate goal of the human race: eternal happiness in the presence of God.

The Province of Meribah also celebrated its 45th anniversary today. With joy we have been graced with many blessings from Almighty God. May God continue to bless us with his grace.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Assumption of Mary

Today we celebrate the great Marian Solemnity of the Assumption.

Bro. John M. Samaha tells us that Mary "... is a woman and a mother, and her grace is adapted to her own nature and to her own special function. Christ exists for God. Mary exists for Christ. God made Christ our unique Redeemer. Mary exercises her role as Cordemptrix only through union with Christ, and she herself had to be redeemed by him. Christ is our necessary advocate with the Father. Mary is our advocate with Christ and through Christ. So it is with all the privileges of the Blessed Virgin Mary."

In the eighth century St. John of Damascus explained in regard to the Assumption: “It was necessary that the Mother should have entered into the possession of all the goods of her Son, and that she should have been venerated by all creation as the Mother and Handmaid of God. It is a customary practice that the wealth of the parents pass to their children. But here . . . the springs of the sacred waters flow toward the height. The Son has submitted the entire creation to the dominion of his mother.” 

And finally enturies later St. Louis de Montfort wrote: “All that is proper to God Incarnate by nature is proper to Mary by grace.” Around 1930 the renowned Marianist Mariologist and author, Father Emile Neubert, S.M., expressed this principle of analogy with theological exactness: “To the various privileges of the humanity of Jesus there correspond analogous privileges in Mary, in the manner and in the degree required by the difference between her condition and that of her Son.” 

Monday, August 9, 2021

Marianist Monday

August 2021

My dear graduates of Chaminade, Kellenberg Memorial, and St. Martin de Porres Marianist School,

August 14, 1941 - At the age of 47, Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, OFM, Conv. dies two weeks after offering his life in place of another prisoner at the German death camp of Auschwitz.

August 13, 1943 - At the age of 46, Fr. Jakob Gapp, SM is beheaded by the Nazi regime. They wanted him dead because he had been preaching against the National Socialist movement in Germany.

On October 10, 1982, Pope John Paul II canonized Fr. Kolbe, declaring him a martyr for charity.

On November 24, 1996, Pope John Paul II beatified Fr. Gapp, a Marianist martyr.

Each August, we celebrate the feast days of these two martyrs on the days their souls entered into their heavenly reward.

As I write this letter, I have just returned from a week of retreat with about 12 fellow Brothers from the Province of Meribah. We read together a book about the Saints entitled, A Living Gospel. I was struck by this question asked by St. Ignatius of Loyola:

“What if I should live like that?”

He asked this question as he read the lives of the Saints, bedridden for many weeks after a serious battle-injury to his leg.

“What if I should live like that?” Or, we might ask: “How were Blessed Jakob and St. Maximilian ready to die like that?” What brought them to the point of being able to give their lives freely, for the sake of their faith, when each of them surely could have made different choices and avoided their early demise?

How were they able to die like that? Because they lived like that!

That is, everything about their lives was directed toward their ultimate end: union with Christ in Heaven.

These were men whose lives started out normally enough, much like any of ours, but they gradually entered more and more deeply into their faith, saying “Yes” to the offer of grace from Jesus our Savior, and to His Mother Mary’s invitation to collaborate with her in the work of bringing others closer to her Son.

Both men were deeply involved in this world, proclaiming the Gospel with unflagging energy, even when it became lethally dangerous to do so. Yet, both men oriented their entire lives toward eternal life in the world to come.

Thus, Blessed Jakob was able to write in a letter to his family on the day of his execution:
“At seven o’clock this evening, I will go to our dear Saviour, whom I have always ardently loved. Do not mourn for me. I am completely happy. Naturally, I have experienced many a difficult hour, but I have been able to prepare myself for death very well. Live well and suffer everything out of love for God. During this difficult time since my arrest, I have prayed for you continually, and now I will intercede for you in heaven. … Everything passes; only heaven remains.”
Both St. Maximilian and Blessed Jakob had a deep love for our Blessed Mother. On August 15, we celebrate her Assumption into Heaven. St. Maximilian and Blessed Jakob were able to “die like that” because they lived their entire lives focused on being in Heaven with our Lord and His Blessed Mother. In fact, our belief in Mary’s Assumption into Heaven is a key to our own hope of joining her there one day. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes Pope Pius XII:
“... the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.” The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians. (#966)
In other words, Mary is the first to experience that union with Christ in Heaven that should be the ultimate end of every Christian. She paves the way and makes it possible for us as well. Mary’s Assumption anticipates our own resurrection to eternal life.

Thinking about death—especially our own—is neither pleasant, nor easy. But it can be a powerful spiritual exercise to ask ourselves:

Will I be ready when I die, as Gapp and Kolbe were?

If I knew I were going to die soon, is there anything I would change in my life?

Is there anything or anyone I’d be willing to give my life for, as Gapp and Kolbe did?

The powerful stories of Blessed Jakob and St. Maximilian provoke us to reflect on our life, by showing us that our earthly death is only one more step on the journey toward our ultimate end: union with Christ in Heaven.

How do we die like they did? By living like that!

By shining the light of eternal life on every decision we make and every action we take: “Is this leading me closer to union with Christ and His Blessed Mother in Heaven . . . or not?”

What if I should live like that?

On behalf of all of my Marianist Brothers, prayers for a good summer’s end and many blessings in the year ahead.

Fr. Peter Heiskell, S.M.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Bl. Solanus Casey

“The Solanus Event”. That’s what one priest called it. “The Solanus Event, it began in the 1920’s and has never stopped… where God is still pouring out His healing love on His people.”⠀

“We worry and fret about the morrow as though Our Dear Lord had never spoken a word about His Divine Providence, or proved His loving solicitude for each of us a thousand times a day.”

- Bl. Solanus Casey

Pray for us!

Thursday, August 5, 2021

The summit of our life


"From this moment on, live the Eucharist fully; be persons for whom the Holy Mass, Communion, and Eucharistic adoration are the center and summit of their whole life."

-Pope Saint John Paul II

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

St. John Mary Vianney


There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us.

St. John Mary Vianney

Tuesday, August 3, 2021


“Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus."In our reading today, learn that when Jesus commands you, obey Him.

Jesus told Peter to “come” to Him on the water. Even though it made no sense, Peter did what Jesus said.

This is what obedience looks like - doing what Jesus says.
Is there any area in your life that you are not obeying the Lord?

The Canaanite Woman

048The Faith of the Canaanite Woman - The Ministry of Jesus
Did you notice that this Canaanite woman acknowledged that Jesus is the Messiah and came to him with her problem. She did not give up pleading with Jesus even though he said some things that were hard to accept. She did not doubt his love and become bitter or fatalistic and complain. She was not demanding but asked mercy. In contrast with the religious leaders, she was humble and trusting. She makes a great contrast with the religious leaders of the times.

"Then Jesus answered her, 'Woman, you have great faith. Let your desire be granted.' And from that moment her daughter was well again."

Monday, August 2, 2021

Saint Peter Julian Eymard

“It was Mary who first adored the Incarnate Word. He was in her womb, and no one on earth knew of it. Oh! how well was our Lord served in Mary's virginal womb! 

Never has He found a ciborium, a golden vase more precious or purer than was Mary's womb! Mary's adoration was more pleasing to Him than that of all the Angels. 

The Lord 'hath set His tabernacle in the sun,' says the Psalmist. The sun is Mary's heart," and "Mary is the aurora of the beautiful Sun of Justice.”

-- Peter Julian Eymard

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Blessed Carlos Eraña Guruceta - Marianist

Marianist Blessed Carlos had written in applying for vows: "The service of God, the practice of love toward the Divine Model and Mary his most holy Mother, I want that these be the aims of my entire life. That is the way he offered his life at the end."

When the civil war broke out in Spain, on July 24, 1936, the Colegio del Pilar was seized and the Marianist Community dispersed. Brother Carlos took refuge in Ciudad Real. There he was arrested on September 6 by the militiamen and taken to the seminary, where he remained for twelve days in complete isolation. The following September 18, he was taken from his cell and shot in Alarcos , near Ciudad Real.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Blessed Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon, Marianist

"Let us then courageously put ourselves to work, not letting ourselves be frightened by the greatness of the task. Let us think only of what we are doing at the moment, of doing it well, for it is only in the fidelity and perfection with which we do our ordinary actions that our progress in virtue consists."

– Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon, Letters, August 3, 1814.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Pope St. John Paul II

"Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."

                      - Pope St. John Paul II

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

St. Augustine

"You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

- St. Augustine

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

St. Francis of Assisi

 "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words."

-St. Francis of Assisi

Monday, July 26, 2021

Sts. Joachim and Anne


“It is important for grandparents to meet their grandchildren and for grandchildren to meet their grandparents because — as the prophet Joel says — grandparents, before their grandchildren, will dream and have great desires, and young people — taking strength from their grandparents — will go forward and prophesy.” 

                                                  -Pope Francis

Sunday, July 25, 2021

New Feast - World Day of Grandparents


Pope Francis has called for the first World Day of Grandparents to have grandparents and grandchildren renew that covenant and mutually strengthen each other through that bond. 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

St. Catherine of Siena

"Be who God meant you to be and you will set the whole world on fire."

St. Catherine of Siena

Friday, July 23, 2021

Thomas Merton

"Just remaining quietly in the presence of God, listening to Him, being attentive to Him, requires a lot of courage and know-how."

                                                        -Thomas Merton

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Saint Christopher

Saint Christopher, (feast day July 25),  martyr of the early church. Venerated as one of the 14 Auxiliary Saints (Holy Helpers), he is the patron saint of travelers and, beginning in the 20th century, of motorists.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Caryll Houselander

“In this great fiat of the little girl Mary, the strength and foundation of our life of contemplation is grounded, for it means absolute trust in God, trust which will not set us free from suffering but will set us free from anxiety, hesitation, and above all from the fear of suffering. Trust which makes us willing to be what God wants us to be, however great or however little that may prove. Trust which accepts God as illimitable Love.”
― Caryll Houselander

Monday, July 19, 2021

Pope Francis

"Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God."

-Pope Francis

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Dorothy Day

“You will know your vocation by the joy that it brings you. 
You will know. You will know when it's right.”

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Each sumer the Brothers from the Province gather together with 3 ideas: Renew, Reflect and Fellowship.

Our focus this summer has been on great heroes of our faith. St. Therese is just one of many that we have focused on during our time of retreat. She is the patron saint of the mission and yet never left her convent.

She was named a doctor of the church by Pope John Paul II in 1997. She is a patron saint of missions and of florists. ... Her burial site at Lisieux became a place of pilgrimage, and a basilica bearing her name was built there (1929–54).

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Marianist Monday

“What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end.” -Pope Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei 15

In 2015, when I had just graduated from college and was starting a vocation discernment year at Chaminade, Bro. Dan introduced me to a Blessed whom I had never heard of before. He had been sharing the story of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati with his classes, and a lot of the guys were really inspired by the life of this regular Catholic guy. There was even a kind of black-market to get Bl. Frassati bracelets with his catchphrase “Verso l’Alto — To the Heights!”

To the Heights — I really don’t like hiking that much. Bro. Rysz convinces me every once in a while to go along with him up some mountain, but I am much more of a sea-level kind of guy. I much prefer the view of ocean waves to a view of the Catskills. Still, there is something compelling about the mountains. It can seem that life is a lot like a long hike. We start out on the path, but pretty quickly on, we realize that the road to the summit can be an arduous one. Things get steep very quickly, and the trees can block out our view of the goal. During the climb, exhaustion and boredom set in more quickly than we would like. After a snack, we feel a rush of energy, but pretty soon we find ourselves tired out again. The heights can often seem so far away that we start to think, “Is this even worth it?”

Blessed Pier Giorgio was just 24 years old when he died, but in his young life, he kept on climbing verso l’alto. He knows that none of us climb the mountain of life alone, so he also invited his friends to climb with him towards Christ and with Christ. His Catholic faith guided everything he did because he really believed that Catholicism is true. That Jesus is God and out of love He came to save us. That He set up the Church to help us climb to the heights of Heaven and that He gave us the Eucharist and the Sacraments to strengthen us to say, “Yes, life is worth it because eternal life with God is worth it.” He was a true credible witness.

I hope you guys have a great summer. I know I feel like we were robbed of a good one last year, so have some fun! Take Blessed Pier Giorgio’s lead and hang out with your family and friends. Catch up on some reading at the beach. Climb a mountain. But don’t lose sight of the true Heights! The summer is a great time to get to Confession and to go to Mass. Use this Magnificat to pray in the morning. Invite Christ the Lord to be the Lord of your life, and you will be a credible witness too.

I have included here a short biography of Blessed Pier Giorgio so that you too might be inspired by his life. If you’re bored one day, type his name into YouTube and check out a purported miracle through his intercession of a local college guy from Lynbrook. His feast day is July 4, so say a prayer to him that he would help you become a man on fire in love with Christ. Keep climbing!

Verso l’alto,

Bro. Patrick Cahill

“The Man of the Eight Beatitudes”

Pier Giorgio Michelangelo Frassati was born in Turin, Italy on April 6, 1901. His mother, Adelaide Ametis, was a painter. His father, Alfredo, was the founder and director of the newspaper, “La Stampa," and was influential in Italian politics, holding positions as a Senator and Ambassador to Germany.

At an early age, Pier Giorgio joined the Marian Sodality and the Apostleship of Prayer, and obtained permission to receive daily Communion (which was rare at that time). He developed a deep spiritual life, which he never hesitated to share with his friends. The Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin were the two poles of his world of prayer. At the age of 17, he joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a Catholic volunteer group, and dedicated much of his spare time to serving the sick and the needy, caring for orphans, and assisting the demobilized servicemen returning from World War I.

Throughout his life, Pier Giorgio and his sister were close friends. Outside of the home, he developed a wide network of friends, where he found great consolation to balance the tensions of family life. He summed it up best in a letter to his best friend Marco Beltramo: "In this earthly life after the affection for parents and sisters, one of the most beautiful affections is that of friendship; and every day I ought to thank God because he has given me men and lady friends of such goodness who form for me a precious guide for my whole life."

What little he did have, Pier Giorgio gave to help the poor, even using his bus fare for charity and then running home to be on time for meals. He considered the poor and the suffering as his masters, and he himself their privileged servant. His charity did not simply involve giving something to others but giving completely of himself.

Mountain climbing was one of his favorite sports. Outings in the mountains, which he organized with his friends, also served as opportunities for his apostolic work. He never lost the chance to lead his friends to Mass, to the reading of Scripture, and to praying the rosary. He inspired his friends to climb the mountain of holiness, something each and every one of us are capable of doing. His motto was “Verso l’alto! To the heights!"

Pier Giorgio contracted polio, which doctors later speculated he caught from the sick people whom he cared for. Neglecting his own health because his grandmother was dying, after six days of terrible suffering Pier Giorgio died at the age of 24 on July 4, 1925. His last preoccupation was for the poor. On the eve of his death, with a paralyzed hand he scribbled a message to a friend, asking him to take medicine to a needy person.

Pier Giorgio’s funeral was a triumph. The streets of the city were lined with a multitude of mourners who were unknown to his family -- the poor and the needy whom he had served so unselfishly for seven years. Many of these people, in turn, were surprised to learn that the saintly young man they knew had actually been the heir of the influential Frassati family.
Pope John Paul II, after visiting his original tomb in the family plot in Pollone, said in 1989: “I wanted to pay homage to a young man who was able to witness to Christ with singular effectiveness in this century of ours. When I was a young man, I, too, felt the beneficial influence of his example and, as a student; I was impressed by the force of his testimony." On May 20, 1990, in St. Peter’s Square in the presence of thousands of people, the pope beatified him, calling him the “Man of the Eight Beatitudes.”

His mortal remains, found completely intact and incorrupt upon their exhumation on March 31, 1981, were transferred from the family tomb to the cathedral in Turin. Many pilgrims, especially students and the young, come to the tomb of Blessed Frassati to seek favors and the courage to follow his example. His feast day is July 4.

“I urge you with all the strength of my soul to approach the Eucharist Table as often as possible. Feed on this Bread of the Angels from which you will draw the strength to fight inner struggles.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

“Yes, Lord, I want to spend time with you.”

The Province of Meribah will take some time at Founder's Hollow this summer for its annual retreat. Rest, prayer, rejuvenation and time for Community will fill Founders's Hollow.

When there is no time to do it, that’s when you most need to unclutter the calendar and go apart to pray. When the gridlock in your schedule relentlessly forbids it is the time you most need retreat. That is when your heart beats against the prison walls of your enslavement and says, “Yes, Lord, I want to spend time with you.” –Emily Griffin