Greetings to dearest Sisters in Christ – In the very heart of this month (Sept 14), a most beautiful Feast besieges us – the Exultation of the Cross. The enormous gift of our liturgical cycle is that it calls us surely and steadily to revisit all the glorious aspects of our Faith. At the core is the Cross. A life time is needed to unfold and grasp such magnitude. And in reality, an eternity is given to us to do so!
Vivid in my memory remains an autumn day when our wee daughter toddled out onto our front patio. She spotted a dried oak leaf, clutched it in her chubby cherub-like fingers, then was held rapt in wonder of the mystery of form and texture. And so as not to keep the joyous discovery all to herself, she thrust it out with a shriek of glee, “Look!” Years later, on another autumn day, our son and I were walking in Rome toward a reception following his Diaconate Mass at St Peters. He turned, to be certain of my full attention. “Today I said ‘yes’ to carrying the Cross.” Like synchronized swimmers we both adjusted our gazes forward, allowing the words to travel deeper. The newly ordained Deacon then breathed out another statement, “And when I am ordained to the priesthood, I will say ‘yes’ to mounting the Cross.”
As Catholics, we do not shy from the Cross. It defines us. Baptism seals us with the Sign of the Cross, signifying the fullness of redemption and that we fully belong to Christ. It forms us. We embrace the Cross to unite our sufferings with those of Christ, and hope for reminders from others, when we forget or find it difficult to do so. The Cross of triumph is generally depicted as a globe with the cross atop, symbolic of our Savior’s irrevocable victory over the sin of the world and the conquest of His Gospel. O cross, you are the glorious sign of victory. Through your power may we share in the triumph of Christ Jesus. The exquisite mosaic in Rome’s San Clemente (above) is also expressive of our deep-held belief.The Cross is the very tree of life that nourishes us to spiritual wholeness and holiness. St Paul of the Cross upholds, “Believe me – afflictions, fears, desolations, dryness, abandonment, temptations, and other persecutions make an excellent broom, which sweeps from your soul all the dust of hidden imperfections.”
We unashamedly wear crucifixes around our necks and hang them in our homes and churches. They serve not as morose, but rather, to invite meditation upon the immensity of love and triumph represented. We Sign ourselves before prayer to remind of our Trinitarian life and to assist our minds and hearts to move into sacred conversation. And how often we bestow kisses upon the crucifixes of our rosaries! Truly anyone observing this must experience a measure of conversion of heart!
Those called to sacred priesthood, affirm all of this – and more. They are in persona Christi. They are more than symbol! Holy Mass is opened and closed by them with the Sign of the Cross and countless additional blessings using the Sign are woven throughout the sacred liturgy. In the celebration of Mass, a crucifix must be present before the eyes of the celebrant while at the altar. This is the source of the Mass! He offers in, with and through Christ as both priest and victim. The gestures of the priest echo his connection to the Cross. When he prays, he extends his hands and palms to symbolize that he has mounted the cross with Christ. He marks his forehead, lips and heart with the Sign at the Gospel – and we imitate. The Gospel is our life, sealed with the Cross. Yes, the priest is called to lead us in deeper comprehension of the Cross. All is found in the Cross. He is helping us to encounter this.
Reflection written and offered by Msgr Bernard Powers, at the visitation of Passionist nun, Sr Mary Dolores (14 Sept 2015). Let us learn from this brother and sister in Christ:
The Cross for her was the wisdom of the saints… She was immersed in this wisdom.
The Cross for her was the road to holiness… She walked this road faithfully.
The Cross for her was God’s greatest manifestation of love… She embraced this love graciously.
The Cross was the very gift of God himself… She graciously accepted her God, her Beloved.
The Cross was the school of prayer… She humbly learned the art of prayer.
The Cross was union with God… She knew an espousal union.
The Cross was a mystery to continually be remembered…She lived in constant recollection.
The Cross was the center of her vocational call… She made her life a living response to this call
The Cross was at the heart of her prayer… She knelt daily at the foot of the Cross.
The Cross was a living flame of love within her… She had a burning desire for God.
The Cross was a gift on the day of profession… She took a life time to open and live this gift.
The Cross was power and strength… She found here victory in spiritual combat.
The Cross was a transforming spirit within… She knew surrender, submission, unconditional yes.
The Cross was a fountain of nourishment… She drank deeply of sacrificial love.
The Cross was a pledge of resurrection… She lived in high hope.
The Cross was Jesus loving the Eternal Father… She was caught up in filial love.
The Cross was a precious treasure found… She gave all to possess it.
The Cross was for Sister Mary Dolores a silent act of adoration, a constant hymn of praise, a persistent cry for mercy, an espousal love that captured her heart.
The Cross is the Bridegroom, Jesus, the Crucified Spouse bringing his Beloved Sister Mary Dolores to the wedding banquet of the Resurrection.
My daughter marveled in a leaf that most others would simply step over or at most seek others with more color and life. My son disclosed a truth about the priesthood that might go unnoticed or pondered. Listen with me in the memory of my daughter’s thrill, “Look!” and my son’s wisdom and somberness. There are lessons in both. Oh, what graces abound for Seven Sisters who live the discipline of prayer and meditation to see something fresh in the truth of the Cross. “The passion of Jesus is a sea of sorrows, but it is also an ocean of love. Ask the Lord to teach you to fish in this ocean. Dive into its depths. No matter how deep you go, you will never reach the bottom” (St Paul of the Cross).
United in prayer and mission…that our prayers may find the heart of every bishop and priest…… eternal gratitude continues as you each remember to offer a wee Hail Mary for me every day…. “One Ave Maria makes hell tremble” (St John Vianney). Pray that I will not ‘spoil the beautiful work that God has entrusted…’ (St Teresa of Calcutta) … your kind emails and notes and phone calls and generous support always arrive to my heart door at the right moment! Your financial sacrifices are for 100% furtherance of Apostolate. THANK YOU! The letters of testimony are so beautiful and edifying! What glory is given to God through your writing! Eternal gratitude is mine for YOU! Be assured of my continued daily prayers for you at the altar.
SEVEN SISTERS – in and out and about
Heartfelt welcome: NEW groups registered in AUGUST to cover more priests in daily prayer: Additional groups in (Cameroon) West Africa, (Alberta & Ontario) Canada, Co Derry (No Ireland), Washington, DC and these 27 USA states: California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. We pray daily for priests and bishops on 6 continents, 27 countries, all 50 USA states, and nearly every Province in Canada. We pray for Pope Francis, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Cardinals and numerous Bishops. 8 new groups registered on St JV Feast Day (Aug 4)!
Continued gratitude: Despite news regarding my husband we did not like, your sacrifices of prayers have sustained and buoyed Jeff and our family! We truly carry a peace beyond understanding. We are a witness to so much goodness in and through you as we continue to navigate these waters! Blessings!
ELIJAH’s HELPERS: By prayerful desire and directive of our Apostolate Chaplain, Fr Johnson, a pilot group of Seven Sisters intercessors dedicated to offering Holy Hours for priests in various forms of crisis within the Archdiocese of St Paul-Mpls, began in June 2021. In June 2022, this fruit of the Apostolate opened to form more groups in more Dioceses. All inquiries to Nancy at ElijahsHelpers@gmail.com or cell: 612-756-1107. It is growing! Please consider this!
RECENT … and AHEAD on the calendar:
> Gratitude to Julie H for organizing Sat, 08/06/22: “Do whatever He tells you…” Retreat (Cincinnati, OH) Sponsored by Serra International. Very well attended and new groups already!
> POSTPONED: “Distractions in Prayer” & “Seven Privileges in Praying for Priests” Retreat at St Gabriel’s in Kansas City, MO. Date TBD. Talks by Janette. Contact Lorie: firstname.lastname@example.org
MATTERS of the HEART:
Ø “A high school friend recruited me. She is currently an Anchoress for another priest and shared booklets. I shared the information with six of my Sunday morning after church breakfast group. Everyone agreed to participate and anxious to get started. The Feast of the Assumption seemed the perfect day. (Nancy, Ohio)
Ø “I am so Happy to be a Seven Sister.” (Margaret, Minnesota)
Ø “I heard about the Seven Sisters group at my home parish in VA. My brother is a pastor in (another state) and struggling to lead people to their faith. There was a group already formed for my pastor, so I reached out to parishioners in his parish and formed a group to support my brother.” (Jill, Virginia)
Ø “Our Priest is young and dedicated to serving Our Lord. As his ministry is growing so are the challenges he is facing. In his need he is asking for prayer support, his is the heart of Christ. He is available for the sacraments when any parishioner is in need. Thank you for this apostolate.” (Maryann, Washington)
Ø “We are so excited to share our story! A priest mentioned this Apostolate. I gasped reading that Madonna of the Grapes was a patron. I have had her picture in my living for close to 20 years! Our Bl. Mary wanted this in our parish. The Holy Spirit sent seven women AND the days of their Holy Hours fell into place. A new priest arrived. We had so many women wanting to pray we had enough to pray for our new priest and pray for our former priest, as he no longer had a parish. Our Bishop came to install the new priest. I described the Apostolate and he told me he wished all his parishes knew about this. Then he said, “If you gather seven more women will you pray for me”. Well, the Spirit heard his request and we joyfully had seven more women come forward!! When we met to share with our new pastor about the gift of the Holy Hours he was deeply touched as he had never in his 34 years ever had such a gift. We are a lovely group and truly are sisters in Christ. As the Anchoress, I was merely a witness to how our Lord sent the Holy Spirit to lift up our priests and Bishop in this trying time. Thank you!” (Diane, Pennsylvania)
APPRECIATED and LOVED quilt project: A double cloaking for RETIRED PRIESTS: Seven Sisters prayer and a quilt! The priests love both! To learn more regarding a single quilt for a retired priest or on how to get this started in your Diocese, contact QuiltsBySevenSisters@gmail.com
FASTING BROTHERS is growing: Groups of men offering various forms of fasting to augment the prayer efforts of a Seven Sisters group. Each man prayerfully discerns the type of fasting he will offer and commits to fast a designated day of the week (excepting Sunday/Solemnities). Our Chaplain, strongly urges formation of these groups. Anchoresses: let us know the Seven Sisters group to which the Fasting Brothers are linked, name of lead Brother, his contact info and the start date.
LAMP-BEARERS: In January 2020, Lamp-Bearers, so-named for their action of continually ‘filling of their lamps with the oil of prayer’, was launched to pray for the Apostolate at large. Each intercessor prays a minimum of once per week, but many are offering prayers every day. Intentions are gleaned from topics and calendar points in the monthly Communique and also sent to members on the second or third Sunday of the month. Additional intercessors welcomed. Those desiring to learn more, send an email of interest/inquiry through the Website.
SEVEN SISTERS Guideline BOOKLETS: Available as free download from Web site. Hard copies passed on for printing cost of $2 each + P/H. Order thru Web email with amount desired/address
SEVEN SISTERS Tri-fold BROCHURE: Effectively used in parish pamphlet stands (ask pastor’s approval prior), Adoration Chapels, Retreat Centers, Bags/Packets for Women’s Conferences/Retreats, Women’s clubs, Serra clubs – or simply handing out! Available on Web as free download. Recommend 80# silk for best printing results. May also order through Web site. Indicate address/quantity. 25 for $10 + P/H. Available in ENGLISH and SPANISH.
SEVEN SISTERS Tri-fold LITANY for PRIESTS: Beautifully printed on 100# silk (a bit thicker than brochures). Original artwork (inspired by the Diary of St Faustina) by Seven Sister in Minnesota, Litany by Richard Cardinal Cushing. 25 for $10 + P/H.
REMEMBRANCE of those SEVEN SISTERS who have PASSED: We want to remember those Seven Sisters in name and in prayer, who have gone before us to their eternal rest. Visit the Web site. Click on ABOUT folder and scroll to bottom, choose: IN REMEMBRANCE. Follow prompts… OR you may submit info via the Website email. Please check site monthly for additions and to pray!
PRIEST who has PASSED to ETERNAL REST: If the priest for whom you pray has entered eternal life, the group may be led to continue to pray for a length of time for the soul of that priest. Perhaps a novena of Holy Hours or the offering of holy Mass(es) for the priest. You will know. Some groups have/are offering Holy Hours for an entire year for their beloved deceased priest. Groups may be started following the death of a priest that did not have a group prior. This is commendable and welcomed. Please register these special groups through the Web site.
SPANISH translation of Communique: This is generously done every month by Zahyra B, Anchoress for a Seven Sisters group in Venezuela. They are then posted (and archived) on the Website. If it is easier to receive through an email account, please let me know. Expect a few days for translation. Commitment Prayer/Guidelines Booklet in Spanish (on the Web – free download).