“No one can become blessed, unless he ascends above his very self, not by an ascent with the body, but with the heart.” ~ St. Bonaventure

Michelangelo’s Pieta at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It has been four months since we have experienced the “stay at home” life to protect ourselves and others from the coronovirus/COVID-19 pandemic. Our Lenten Season was the most penitential we could ever imagine; we did not have Holy Week and Easter celebrations with our Parish communities. Thanks to technology and the internet, we have been able to live-stream Masses and meet with others virtually: family, friends and co-workers. Even though there were many difficult adjustments we made, there also have been many “COVID-19 blessings”, gifts that only God could give us. While I have missed you, I have only been a phone call, text or email away. United in prayers for one another for health and safety, charity reigns.

A “COVID-19 blessing” for me during this strange time has been a profound gratitude for the Eucharist and dignified sacred liturgy that praises God, our Creator, Lord and Savior. Praying Psalm 121:2, “My help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth,” I ask for His grace to love others. The words of Jesus from the Gospel of Saint John, Chapter 15:5 make clear our need for God’s help: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we receive His outpouring love for us, His Mercy and the dignity of our humanity. We become grafted to our Creator who became man: Jesus, Our Savior: he suffered for us, was crucified for us, died and rose for so that we would be freed from sin and be saved. We experience heaven on earth in the Mass. The Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Our Lord, comes to us, and we are fed. Increased hunger and longing for the Eucharist when we were not able to receive it, increased my desire for Holy Communion and the presence of Christ. Gratitude for Priests and Masses that honor our God filled my heart.

Fr. John T. Lankeit, Rector of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral Parish in Phoenix just before the Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life on Saturday, February 1, 2020.
Father John T. Lankeit blessed the candles, and all Religious held a lit candle in procession into the dark Cathedral to bear the light of Christ in this dark world to give faith, hope & love.

One of the most memorable gifts we received was a surprise visit from the Lord Jesus at the front door of our Convent Who gave us His blessing the Saturday morning before Divine Mercy Sunday. How is this possible, you may ask? Our Pastor and Rector of the Cathedral, Fr. John Lankeit, came bearing a beautiful monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament, and he blessed us as he does for Benediction in the Church. He was walking through the streets in the Cathedral boundaries, accompanied by Deacon Tony Smith and others, blessing the neighborhoods, going from home to home blessing people and families. When I opened the door, all three of us immediately knelt down, reverenced Our Lord, blessed ourselves and were totally humbled that He would come to us. Others were profoundly moved as well and showed their honor by prostrating themselves and kneeling in awe before the Lord in the Eucharist. Later, I saw a man that had been visited by Our Lord; he asked me, “Who was that gentleman that came here?”

Fr. John Lankeit bearing the Blessed Sacrament, blessing the neighborhoods of his Parish.

Embracing Ourselves, Embracing the Cross

Cristo Crucificado by Diego Velasquez

This blessed time has been one of purification, reordering and embracing ourselves with our crosses as God desires us to grow in humility and love. St. Anthony of Padua has been teaching me about the mystery of the Cross:

“Christ who is your life is hanging before you, so that you may look at the Cross as in a mirror. There you will be able to know how mortal were your wounds, that no medicine other than the blood of the Son of God could heal. If you look closely, you will be able to realize how great your human dignity and your value are…No where other than looking at himself in the mirror of the Cross can man better understand how much he is worth,” (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi III, Pp. 213-214 by St. Anthony of Padua, (1195-1231)).

St. Bonaventure, who loved St. Anthony of Padua, confirms proper self-love: “If you do not know your own dignity and condition, you cannot value anything at its proper worth.” – Saint Bonaventure, Holiness of Life

When Our Lord came to us as a human being, and when He comes to us in the Eucharist, He shows us the value of our humanity and self-worth, giving us the disposition for having charity, respect and appreciation for others. Spending time in Eucharistic Adoration, praying in the Presence of Our Lord and beloved King, we realize that all good in us comes from Him.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Eucharist bring us to our knees to honor God, to thank Him for all the blessings and to beg Him for Mercy as we face ourselves as we really are, imperfect, sinful, in need of His grace. Gazing upon Christ crucified, we become ever aware of the Father’s love for us that He gave us His only begotten Son, who became incarnate, a man. From the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, He became one of us so that we would be united to Him, saved by Him, configured to be like Him, humble. His obedience, chastity and poverty teach us how we are to give and to love. We cannot do this without Him. We find strength as we gaze upon Him.

Religious Sisters and Brothers of the Diocese of Phoenix at the Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life on February 1, 2020 at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral.

Blessed Feast of Saint Bonaventure, Franciscan – the Seraphic Doctor!

St. Bonaventure points to the Crucifix in response to his friend, St. Thomas Aquinas.

Blessed Feast of St. Bonaventure! I would like to share some significant details of the life of this luminous Saint, teacher and Doctor of the Church! Known as “the Seraphic Doctor” as he was a very wise philosopher, professor, Minister General of the Franciscans, and friend of St. Thomas Aquinas, “the Angelic Doctor.” Born in Bagnorea, Italy in 1221, Bonaventure was baptized John, and was healed of a serious illness by St. Francis of Assisi. As Francis handed John back to his mother, Francis received a flash of prophecy about the enormously holy and wonderful life that this child would live. Francis gazed into John’s eyes and exclaimed: “O buona ventura!” (“Oh, good fortune!”). Bonaventure became his new name. St. Bonaventure entered the Order of Friars at 22 years. Gifted with his intellect and wisdom, he served as a professor, and then 17 years as the Minister General of the Franciscans. Known as the Second Founder of the Franciscans, he wrote the Rule of St. Francis following St. Francis’s teachings of the rule with his notes from Sacred Scripture. Today, I learned St. Thomas Aquinas asked him where he got his wisdom from, and St. Bonaventure replied to him by pointing to the Cross. St. Bonaventure died at 53 years of age on July 14, 1274 at the Council of Lyons in France.

“All ye nations, clap your hands: sing in jubilee to the glorious Virgin. For she is the gate of life, the door of salvation, and the way of our reconciliation. The hope of the penitent: the comfort of those that weep: the blessed peace of hearts, and their salvation. Have mercy on me, O Lady, have mercy on me: for thou art the light and the hope of all who trust in thee. By thy salutary fecundity let it please thee: that pardon of my sins may be granted unto me.” ― St. Bonaventure

Consecration of Virgins Mass: Two Women to be Consecrated Virgins! Saturday, August 22 at 11:00 a.m. at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral

Coronation of Mary by Fra Angelico, OP

On Saturday, August 22 at 11:00 a.m., on the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted will consecrate Kimberly Zeeman and Claire Halbur as Diocesan Consecrated Virgins Living in the World at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix, AZ.   It is a source of joy and hope for us to witness these two women following Our Lord Jesus Christ in this state of Consecrated Life as Diocesan Consecrated Virgins, part of “The Ancient Order of Virgins” which began with the virgins of the first centuries of Church history.  Like Ss. Agnes, Agatha, and Lucy, Kimberly and Claire are choosing to give their lives completely to God as brides of Christ, to cling only to Him with greater freedom of heart, body and spirit as they make a promise of perpetual virginity to be virgins for their entire lives, “for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven”.   Consecrated Virginity is a vocation that is a visible sign to the world of the spotless Bride of Christ, His Church and the reality of Heaven, eternal life.  

Set apart for God, Consecrated Virgins are also dedicated to living a life of penance and prayer for the salvation of souls and the sanctification of the Church.  Their witness as virgins so needed in our culture deeply influenced by desires of the flesh, is countercultural.  It shows others that virginity is not only possible with the grace of God, but desirable and noble.  Purity is a treasure to be preserved, given by God and offered to God in all its integrity and beauty.

In this state of Consecrated Life, they are choosing to dedicate their lives to solely serving Christ and His Church while living in the world, either working for the Church or in a secular job.  St. John Paul II explained in his Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata, “Consecrated by the diocesan bishop, these women acquire a particular link with the Church, which they are committed to serve while remaining in the world.  Either alone or in association with others, they constitute a special eschatological image of the Heavenly Bride and of the life to come, when the Church will at last fully live her love for Christ the Bridegroom,” (VC, 7).  Like Religious vowed life, Consecrated Virginity is “public”, which means that the Consecration of the Diocesan Virgin is recognized by the Church.  By virtue of public Consecration, the Consecrated Virgin makes visible Christ and His Church.   As one can imagine, there is a great responsibility in this vocation with an expectation for holiness.  As the Consecrated Virgin is completely financially independent and not part of a Religious community, she is not accountable to Religious superiors; she is the main agent for her ongoing formation and spiritual growth.  The Candidate for Consecrated Virginity must be mature in the spiritual life and exhibit the motivation needed to be a “self-starter” for her ongoing formation.  The youngest age a virgin can be Consecrated is 30 years of age.  Many are 50 plus years of age.

The Consecration Mass of Kimberly Zeeman and Claire Halbur on Saturday, August 22 will be live-streamed from Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix at 11:00 a.m.  Seating is available only with tickets, organized by the Office of Worship of the Diocese of Phoenix.  Live-streaming will be done my Media Ministry and viewing will be via YouTube and Facebook.

Introducing Kimberly Zeeman

Parishioner and Adoration Chapel Coordinator at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Scottsdale, AZ

My name is Kimberly Zeeman and I am a candidate for Consecrated Virginity Lived in the World here in the Diocese of Phoenix. I was born in Pontiac, MI and moved to Arizona in 1972. I have an older brother who also lives here in Phoenix. I work in the business office of a dermatology practice and have been doing this type of work for 20 + years.

I enjoy reading and learning about the Saints of the Church and especially reading anything by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. I am a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament in Scottsdale where I participate in a variety of ministries. I am one of the Co-Facilitators for our Grief and Bereavement Support Group at my parish. We are richly blessed to have a Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel at our parish, and I have been the Coordinator of that ministry for the past two and half years. Eucharistic Adoration has been such an important part of my life for so many years and being able to intercede for others through prayer is truly a gift that I hold most dear. Adoration has played a significant role in my vocation discernment over the years and has generously strengthened my relationship with Christ at each step along the way. I am both humbled and delighted to be a candidate for Consecrated Virginity Lived in the World and look forward to sharing this unique and beautiful vocation with the Church.

Introducing Claire Halbur

Parishioner and Director of Sacred Music of Saint Mary Magdalene Parish in Gilbert, AZ

I grew up the eldest of four siblings in Joliet, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), was home-schooled for grade school and high school, and was graced with many faith-filled experiences from my early childhood. Increasing involvement in parish life, especially as a catechist and musician while I was yet a teenager, drew me into the mystery of the Family of God and stirred up within me a thirst to love and serve the Lord via the mission field of parish apostolate. As a young adult, I served at three parishes in the Diocese of Joliet and simultaneously pursued a degree in music from the University of Saint Francis in Joliet. 

Now 32 years old, I heard the call to consecrated life at the age of 20 and began discerning the vocation of Consecrated Virginity lived in the world a few years later. The Lord continued to draw me to his heart and affirm my identity as his bride, and called me in Summer 2016 to move to Phoenix to serve as Director of Sacred Music at Saint Mary Magdalene Parish in Gilbert. This is the spiritual family where I am currently called to sacrificially invest my time and energy and to nourish souls through the gift of spiritual motherhood.

When I am not making or teaching liturgical music, I also enjoy healthful cooking (making food both delicious and nutritious is a passion for me!), herbal tea, vivid colors, deep discussions, a little bit of photography, and all things creative. I love being surrounded by mountains in the East Valley and, though a native Midwesterner, find the desert a fascinating and beautiful place. I am truly honored and grateful to be called to serve the Lord and receive the gift of Consecration within this Diocese at the hands of Bishop Olmsted.

When I was being lead to move to Phoenix four years ago, one of the Scriptures that my Beloved gave to me is the same First Reading that Bishop has selected for the Consecration Liturgy, and which is also inscribed on the ring which I will receive. “Thus says the LORD: I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart…I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy; I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the LORD” (Hosea 2). Glory to his Name forever!

BOOK OF THE MONTH

I Believe in Love By Fr Jean C J D'Elbee | Leaflet Missal

I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Thérèse of Lisieux by Fr. Jean C. J. D’Elbeé (1969)

Here are some edifying quotes:

“St. Thérèse defined sanctity as ‘a disposition of the heart which makes us humble and small in the arms of God, conscious of our weakness, and confident to the point of audacity in the goodness of the Father, “(p. 20).

“Love is the uniting of our will to the will of God. It is abandoning ourselves totally into His hands, as a habitual disposition, even if we feel nothing. When Jesus sees this disposition in our hearts, He looks on us as His cherished children,” (p. 21).

“For it is this confidence and nothing but confidence, which will open the arms of Jesus to you so that He will bear you up. Confidence will be for you the golden key to His Heart,” (p. 26).

Let us live confidently in the light of Christ, turned toward the Son.

Champs de tournesol | Aix-en-Provence - France | Charlotte DUMAS ...
Champs de tournesol – field of sunflowers in Aix-en-Provence, France.

God bless you as you continue to glorify Him with your life, trusting in His goodness and providence, ministering to His people in your communities.

With gratitude and prayers for all of you, I am

Your Sister in Christ,

Sister Anthony Mary Diago, RSM

Director of the Office of Consecrated Life

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