One should not say that it is impossible to reach a virtuous life; but one should say that it is not easy. Nor do those who have reached it find it easy to maintain

Monday, August 08, 2022 02:56pm

Greetings to dearest Sisters in Christ – Each August, the Church sets our inner orientation on the Blessed Sacrament and Adoration. How enlivening to every Seven Sister’s heart! Two of our great loves!  August happily begins with thoughts and celebration of our dear patron, St John Vianney (Aug 4), who was likewise enlivened by a robust Eucharistic life.  He is a sure and saintly example, tireless intercessor for every priest and loyal comrade to each of us.  St John Vianney, pray for us!

While no priest is called to be another St John Vianney, the Church, in declaring him the patron of all priests, asserts that he is suited to model for every priest something about life as a priest on-the-way of sanctity.  While holiness and virtue are not quite the same, virtue is the surest way to holiness.  Grace builds on and perfects nature.  What then, might we glean from bearing witness to this journey of St John Vianney toward heroic virtue?  Could insights help form and fortify our prayer offerings as Seven Sisters? Stir our own hearts?

Simply put, “the goal of the virtuous life is to become like God” (St Gregory of Nyssa).  Thus, this is the essence of every maturing Christian life.  We are attracted to goodness.  We desire goodness. Virtues are habitual and firm dispositions to do the good (CCC, 1803). Experience, intentionality and cooperation with graces foster these habits.  Virtues are middle points between two extremes, deficiency and excess, and thus present a delicate balancing act.  St Anthony of the Desert affirms that once a virtuous life is reached, it is not easy to maintain.  Herein enters prayer for perseverance! While the cardinal virtues are not the only virtues, they are the cardes (“hinges”) upon which all the other virtues are said to turn and virtues very much apparent in St John Vianney’s life. Prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance serve as the essential foundation for all the others.

Ø  Prudence prompts a person to form sound judgements about what to do or not do. It helps to determine the good among many competing goods and to choose the right means to achieve it. Prudence discerns, but importantly, acts.  St Thomas Aquinas helps us:  it is “right reason in action.” For this virtue, knowledge and experience are important.  St John Vianney’s consistently interrupted studies, shyness and overall social awkwardness appeared serious obstacles to his pursuit of priestly formation and life.  When assigned to Ars the Vicar General said to him: “You have been appointed Cure of Ars.  It is a little parish where there is not much love of God; you must put some into it.”  The disorder of the town was obvious: drinking and dancing to excess, swearing, working on Sunday.  St JV seemed ill-equipped, but swiftly took to lengthy prayer before the Blessed Sacrament for guidance.  His homilies presented as fiery, yet despite criticism of harshness, he prudently persisted.  He added fasting and a stripping away of unnecessary comforts in his rectory.  Little by little, day by day, Ars and its people experienced conversion. The prudence of St JV bore eternal fruit.  Let us pray for Prudence for our priests and bishops!

Ø  Justice disposes a person to give both God and neighbor what is due.  It makes one willing to live according to the Commandments and respect and safeguard the rights of others.  Genuine reform is interior and wrought by fidelity to Christ and the Gospels, not by more programs.  When St JV arrived in Ars the church interior was unkempt and in shambles.  St JV sensed that if the parish environs were improved it would attract people, but also show the esteem one must place for God in and out of His House.  Of money received by St JV, what did not go to the poor was poured out with splendid generosity for beautifying the church, altar accoutrements and priestly vestments – all to the honor of God.  St JV’s heroic time in the confessional was the perfect milieu to counsel and encourage growth in interior justice within each penitent. The justice of St JV bore eternal fruit. Let us pray for Justice for our priests and bishops!

Ø  Fortitude influences a person to pursue and do what is good in spite of struggles.  It strengthens one to conquer fears, even fear of death, avoiding evil regardless of obstacles and afflictions.  It requires endurance and forbearance.  Anyone in love with God must expect reprisals from the dark side.  It is said that St JV experienced spiritual warfare every day of his priestly life.  Retaliations came at times through innumerable outcries and slanders of the unholy lives of the people of Ars.  The evil one manifested in various ways:  verbal bantering, earsplitting noises, appearance of bats and a ferocious black dog, heinous odors, upsetting of the furnishings in his rectory, including burning his bed.  When the devil attacked, St JV armed himself, so he tells us, with the sign of the cross and prayer.  But the louder the din, the happier he seemed to grow, for he noticed that this was the signal that a great sinner was coming to him, under the impulse of God’s grace.  He termed it as that his net would soon hold “a big fish.” The fortitude of St JV bore eternal fruit. Let us pray for Fortitude for our priests and bishops!

Ø  Temperance motivates a person to curb one’s appetites for natural goods – like food, drink, sexual pleasure. It helps bring balance by knowing rightly which appetites are suitable for one’s state of life.  St JV is a quintessential model for temperance.  He quickly linked his adoption of an aesthetic life of intense fasting and limited sleep with interior and eternal benefit to his flock.  All was offered for the good of another, the mark of a virtuous soul.  The temperance of St JV bore eternal fruit. Let us pray for Temperance for our priests and bishops!

May our desires be twofold this month: to delve into the life of St John Vianney and become a closer friend, and (if led) to pray more intently for the Cardinal Virtues for the priests/bishops for whom we commit to pray.  St John Paul II, at the end of his first encyclical letter, maintained that our prayer always must be “great, intense, and growing” (The Redeemer of Man, 22).  May it be so – for you and for me – may it be so!!  St John Vianney, pray for us!

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.

Janette (Howe) +JMJ+ 

 

SEVEN SISTERS – in and out and about

Heartfelt welcome: New groups registered in JULY to cover more priests in daily prayer:  Additional groups in Alberta and Ontario (Canada), Cameroon (Africa), Denmark (NEW country!), Philippines and these 32 USA states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. 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 (8 groups), Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Cardinals and numerous Bishops.  Seamless Holy Hours!

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:

Feast Day, 08/04: Janette will offer a Holy Hour for the intentions of Apostolate members.

Sat, 08/06/22: “Do whatever He tells you…” Retreat at Cathedral Basilica of St Peter in Chains (Cincinnati, OH), 8:30-2:30, incl lunch.  Presenter: Janette. Free will offering.  All heartily welcomed! Contact Juliejulievanhoose57@gmail.com. Sponsored by Serra International.

Sat, 08/27/22: “Distractions in Prayer” and “Seven Privileges in Praying for Priests” Retreat at St Gabriel’s in Kansas City, MO.  Talks by Janette. 8:00- 2:30, incl Mass, confessions, lunch. Contact Loriehailmaryjmj@gmail.com

MATTERS of the HEART:

Ø  “Seven Sisters has led me to a life of prayer and I am so happy for that.  Praying for our priests has enriched my life in every possible way. Thank you.” (Carol, Wisconsin)

Ø  “In addition to praying for the Priest, it has helped me towards deeper meditation and communication with God. I have also come to appreciate more the sacrifices and works of the Priest. My tolerance of their short comings has greatly increased. Thank you again.” (Leonie, Kumba, Cameroon)

Ø  “I have personally felt the presence of God in my life as I pray for our parish priest.” (Eileen, Virginia)

Ø  “My weekly hour in prayer for Fr. P not only benefits him, but my presence before the Blessed Sacrament gives me the most peace and comfort of the entire week!” (Joann, Minnesota)

Ø  “I have worked in a parish for 20 years and witnessed the selflessness and dedication of every pastor. Our current pastor is a young priest, and very courageously working toward moving our parish from maintenance to mission. Prayers specifically and intentionally for him will help him keep his resolve, restore his spirit and help him to know that God loves him.” (Char, Illinois)

Ø  “The priest we pray for was deeply touched when we all gathered to collectively recite our Commitment Prayer before Jesus. He has always felt called to pray for priests, even before he was called to be one! A couple of years ago he coordinated 3 months of prayers, Holy Hours, etc., for every priest brother in our Diocese. After the 3 months (bookended by St Therese Feast – Oct 1st and Mother Mary’s Feast – Jan 1st), he sent every priest the book, In Sinu Jesu! As he shared all of this with us, he was almost moved to tears at what we were now doing for him – “praying for the pray-er” he said! It is an honor for all of us!”  (Jill, Iowa)

Ø  “I just have to say that I am overjoyed in being an Anchoress.  It has inspired me to pray more and become devoted to doing Holy Hours.  My Seven Sisters also speak of their joy in doing this! (Jo, Washington)

Ø  “I am honored to be a part of this endeavor to strengthen our priests and the Church as a whole.  I have only been an anchoress for just over a month, but I have already felt so much peace during my Holy Hours. I have heard similar feedback from several of the women in the group.  The Holy Spirit is at work, and graces are flowing for our pastor and parochial vicar as our sisters prayerfully bring their needs before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I pray for more and more groups throughout our country and world! (Kathy, Ohio)

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 groupsAnchoresses: 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-BEARERSIn 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.  Available in ENGLISH and SPANISH.

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).