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Why Penance and Sacrifice?
Letters to Parents About Vocation
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  Sisters in the choir of St. Michael's Convent The Sisters in the choir of St. Michael’s Convent. Smiling faces hide the fact that it is cold outside. (Cheerfulness should mark all our penances and mortifications.)

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Winter 2013

Dear Friends,

Praised be Jesus and Mary! The weather here in the Northwest has been  icy cold of late, giving us the opportunity to respond to our Lady of Fatima’s request for penance, in reparation for sin and for the conversion of poor sinners. During her apparition at Lourdes, which we commemorate in February, our Blessed Mother also emphasized the need for penance.

The words penance, mortification and sacrifice are words familiar to Catholics, and it will be profitable for us to study their meaning a little more fully. We often read of saints who performed amazing penances: fasting, scourging, exposure to the weather, sleep deprivation, discomforts of all kinds. What is the meaning of all this self-punishment? Pain for the sake of pain? Of course not! We look at Christ on the cross in His Redemptive suffering, and we can but imperfectly understand the desire to give love for love. This is one aspect of the penance practiced by the saints.

Because of original sin, we have lost many of the special gifts that God gave to our first parents in the garden of paradise. One of these was the control of the passions by reason. “Bet you can’t eat just one,” applies to many other things besides potato chips. What would it be like if the second helpings came around and we felt not the tiniest struggle to say, “No, thank you. That was great, but I’ve had enough.” What if we could easily give up some item we are fond of for someone who needs it more? What if our children never threw a fit over being told to go to bed, or being refused a request? (or demand?) Then we would know that we had control over our passions by reason!

How do we learn self-control? By penance. Self-discipline helps us to curb the tendencies of our human nature toward the path of least resistance. It is a means, not an end in itself. The saints did not mortify themselves for the sake of pain. Penance and mortification help us to gain control over our unruly passions. Why did Our Lady repeatedly ask for penance? It is a way of achieving one of her other exhortations: “I have come to ask men to amend their lives; they must cease offending God Who is already too much offended.” Voluntary penance strengthens our will to turn away from sin and all that displeases God.

Penance is also an important part of the Advent season. In the prophet Isaias we read the exhortation which the Church brings before us during Advent, to make the crooked paths straight and the rough ways smooth for the coming of the King. As we prepare for the coming of Christ, we must strive to eliminate all that draws our heart away from Him. He came to earth not only to redeem our souls, but to show us the way to heaven. As St. Paul exhorts on the first Sunday of Advent, we must put on the Lord Jesus Christ. If we wish to be transformed to His likeness, we must cast out all evil and sin from our lives, through a holy and salutary spirit of penance. May each day of the New Year find in us a greater resemblance to the Son of Mary.  

Letter to Married Couples on Vocations

 
The Sisters praying during the 40 Hours Devotion

Our Apostolate of Prayer

Are you worried about a loved one? Is there a problem that is weighing heavily upon your heart? Send in your intentions, and the Sisters will commend them in their prayers and Masses, especially during our upcoming Novenas:

Our Lady of Prompt Succor
   (Feast: January 15)
Our Lady of Lourdes
   (Feast: February 11)

By Pope Pius XII

Dear married couples,

I want to speak to you today about the greatest honor your marriage and family can possibly have. I mean when God takes for Himself “His part” of the family, as a friend and almost, as it were, as if He were begging for your help.

God has blessed your marriage and given you children. Someday, you do not know when, He may knock on the door of your home in the same way as once He walked along the shore of Lake Tiberias and called Zebedee’s two sons to follow Him. Just think, it is from faithful Catholic families such as yours that Christ and the Church will choose the ministers and apostles of His Gospel, the priests who take care of the Church, and the missionaries who cross the oceans to teach and save souls. If the Divine Master comes and asks for “His part” — one of your children, whom He has called to be a priest, a religious, or a nun — what will you do? What will become of the holy inspirations that have spoken to their hearts, and His voice whispering to them: “Do you love Me? Will you follow Me?” In God’s Name, I beg you not to stifle in their souls their openness to the divine call.

If some day God grants you the great honor of calling one of your children for this service, recognize the value and privilege entailed in so many graces that this call involves: graces for your child who receives the call, for yourselves, and for your entire family. This is a great gift from heaven coming into your home. You place the flower and fruit of your marriage on the altar, to live consecrated to the Lord and to souls. Just think of the number of sacrificial offerings and prayers He will offer for you and the rest of the family. Each day these prayers will accompany your steps, your actions and needs; they will be more intense and frequent in your saddest and most difficult times; they will follow and comfort you your whole life long, until your last breath and even beyond. Never think that in giving their hearts totally to our Lord, they will love you with a love that is less tender or less strong. Love for God does not negate or destroy nature — rather it perfects and elevates it to a higher level where the charity of Christ touches the human heart. If the dignity and the austerity of the priestly or consecrated life require giving up certain expressions of affection, have no doubt — the affection itself will never weaken or grow tepid. This sacrifice will cause their affection to burn more deeply and still more intensely, free from all self-seeking. God will share these hearts with you alone.

Pope Pius XII and families

Do not be afraid of the gift of the holy vocation that has come down from heaven to rest upon your children. If you believe, and if love has raised you to a new level, is it not a comfort and joy to see your own son at the altar clothed with the priestly vestments, offering the sacrifice of the Mass and praying for his mother and father? Is it not a great consolation, that makes a mother’s heart beat with love for her daughter, to see her consecrated to Christ, serving Him and loving Him with all her being? Think of a priest who has been close to your family or visited you, giving attention and guidance to you and your children, and bringing you happiness. What family did he come from? Where did he come from to be with you? Who sent him? Who formed in his heart such a fatherly love for you, such words of counsel and friendship? The Church sent him. Christ sent him.

How deep will your Christian spirit really be if you back away from the honor of cooperating and helping in the work of spreading the Faith and the Catholic Church not merely with material help but also with the very precious gift of your children that God is asking of you?

Dear married couples, help the Church, the Spouse of Christ; help Christ, the Savior of men, with the fruit of your marriage. Give God the portion of your blessing He is asking you for out of your home. — March 25, 1942

Calendar

December 23
25
  Sr. Mary Cabrini’s feastday
Christmas Day
Sr. Marie Emmanuel’s feastday
January 1
3
15

21

31
  Feast of the Circumcision
Sr. Mary Genevieve’s feastday
Feast of Our Lady of Prompt Succor (Novena: Jan. 6-14)
Rev. Mother’s Feastday
Sr. Maria Ines’s feastday
Sr. Giovanna Marie’s feastday
February 1
2
5
11

13
18
20
  Sr. Mary Bridget’s feastday
Purification BVM (Candlemas)
Sr. Mary Agatha’s feastday
Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes (Novena: Feb. 2-10)
Ash Wednesday
Sr. Mary Bernadette’s feastday
Sr. Marie Jacinta’s feastday
March 4
7-9
9
19
  Sr. Maria Kazimiera’s feastday
Vocations Weekend
Mother Mary Dominica’s feastday
Feast of St. Joseph
Sr. Mary Josephine’s feastday

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Anima Mariae is the free quarterly newsletter of the CMRI Sisters.
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