Log in
    
Kay Winchester

Kay Winchester

Kay Winchester lives and works in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York. Website URL:

St. Romuald

Anyone who knew Romuald as a youth might have been surprised at what he would eventually become; like many of us, however, the good impulses of his heart needed time  – and, in the case of Romuald, a significant nudge – to come to full fruition.
 
Romuald was born into Italian nobility in the city of Ravenna around the year 950.  Like many young men who were raised in the faith, Romuald desired holiness, but the allure of the world was too much to overcome. His actions and lifestyle were wild to say the least, but they came to an abrupt and unexpected end when he was about 20 years old.
 
It was then that his father, Sergius, obliged him to be his second in a duel. To make matters worse, the person with whom his father was dueling was a relative, and their dispute was over property. When Romuald witnessed his father kill the other man, he was so horrified that he fled to the monastery of St. Apollinare, which was near his home. Though initially intending to stay there for 40 days to atone for his father’s sin, he ended up remaining three years, becoming a Benedictine monk.
 
Romuald soon developed a reputation for extreme holiness, which made his fellow monks uncomfortable. He was eased out of his place at St. Apollinare and spent the next 30 years wandering around Italy, founding hermitages and monasteries wherever he went. In every place, he sought a life of severe penance and continual prayer.
 
At one point, Romuald also greatly desired to be a martyr for the faith; he asked for and was granted permission by the pope to preach in Hungary, but every time he attempted to do so, he was struck with a severe illness that prevented him from proceeding. It became apparent that God had other plans for him.
 
That did not mean that Romuald’s life became easy. At one monastery, for instance, he was falsely accused of causing grave scandal, which resulted not only in severe penance but a brief period of excommunication. He also suffered a prolonged period of spiritual dryness, which was eventually relieved by the words of Psalm 31: “I will give you understanding and I will instruct you.” The spirit he received that day never left him.
 
But the act for which Romuald is most remembered occurred at Camaldoli, in Tuscany.  Here, around the year 1012, he established the Order of the Camaldolese Benedictines, which united both a monastic, or community, way of life with the eremitical, or solitary, way.
 
According to legend, a man named Maldolus had had a vision of monks dressed in white, ascending into heaven; acting on this vision, he gave Romuald the land on which was built the first motherhouse of the Camaldolese Order. To this day, Camaldolese monks live lives of austerity and prayer in the spirit of their founder.
 
St. Romuald died alone in his cell, as he predicted, in 1027; his feast day is June 19. 
 
Sources for this article include:
americancatholic.org
catholiconline.com
 Shreck, Alan.  “Catholic Church History from A to Z.”  Michigan:  Servant Books, 2002.
 “Saint Romuald.” CatholicSaints.Info. Feb. 6, 2017
 Toke, Leslie. "St. Romuald." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 
 

Book review: 'All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters'

“All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters.” By Pat Gohn. Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 2017. 193 pages. Paperback: $13.06; Kindle: $12.41; Nook: $10.99.
 
In her new book, “All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters,” author Pat Gohn presents many good arguments for remaining in or joining the Catholic Church, but one theme runs through and holds her entire narrative together: “Let me offer one truth that has proved stabilizing for me, an anchor amid storms and scandals,” she writes. “The Catholic Church is the bride of Christ. That means that Jesus, who is God, the second person of the Trinity, is the bridegroom.”  Furthermore, she states, “And what God had joined, we must not divide.”
 
For Gohn, the fact that Jesus has wedded Himself irrevocably and permanently to the Church gives meaning to everything else that comes after. At the beginning of the book, she acknowledges that in recent years the Church has experienced tremendous turmoil, serious enough to discourage and dishearten even the Church’s most loyal children; she illustrates the situation by describing the thoughts and feelings of a friend who was seriously thinking of leaving the Church because of it.  While not dismissing these concerns – “As a cradle Catholic in midlife, I’ve had my fair share of dealing with the flaws, shortcomings and outright poor conduct of Catholics and Church authorities I’ve known” – she acknowledges that what keeps her “all in” is not so much the imperfections of the institution, but the perfection of the bridegroom.
 
Jesus’ relationship with the Church, she points out, is mirrored by the vows couples make at their weddings – to be faithful “for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, in good times and bad” – vows which are meant to last a lifetime. What is remarkable, she continues, is that even when the Church – the bride – is unfaithful, Jesus never is and never will be.  He is, as it were, “all in” with us.
 
With Jesus unshakably in the center of the Church (and her relationship to it), Gohn goes on to discuss other realities that make up what it means to be Catholic. She discusses the incarnation and the resurrection, as well as the role of the sacraments and the importance of Mary.  She explains what it means to say that we are part of the Mystical Body of Christ and how we too must be reflections of the mercy of God.
 
Often she draws on her own experience of having – and surviving – cancer to illustrate the concepts of Divine Mercy and love. For instance, during one particularly grueling medical test, she described how her husband accompanied her to help her cope with the claustrophobia she felt during the procedure; however because the machine she was in enclosed most of her body, he could only hold on to her toes to let her know he was there.
 
 
 
It was only later that this simple gesture found an echo in the all-encompassing presence of Jesus. In the chapel she frequents for adoration, Gohn describes a crucifix, the feet of which are very much in her line of sight as she kneels. While praying there one day, she had a kind of epiphany:  “My knees hit the floor and I bend low, praying: My Lord and my God!” she says. Looking up, she saw the crucified feet of Jesus, and then, something else. “Not insignificantly, my Lord and my God has toes. As I gaze upon Jesus in the Eucharist, I find that this God, undeniably magnificent as the creator of the cosmos, is, in his humanity, very much loved by my down-to-earth sensibilities. We have a God with toes. Isn’t that amazing?”
 
For those who are already practicing Catholics, this is an affirming book. For others who may need a boost for their faith or who are not yet part of the Church but are considering becoming Catholic, Gohn’s book provides plenty of reasons to be “all in.”
 
Pat Gohn is no stranger to Catholic publishing. Besides her award-winning book, “Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious,” her work has appeared in Catholic Digest and Catechist magazines, as well as online at Patheos, Amazing Catechists and CatholicMom.com. She hosts a podcast, Among Women, and is currently the editor of Catechist magazine. She earned a master’s degree in theology and has various certificates in theology and spirituality. She currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Bob.
 
  • Published in Reviews

Book review: 'The Best is Yet to Come'

“The Best is Yet to Come: Living Fully in Each Moment.” By Sister Anne Bryan Smollin. Indiana: Sorin Books, 2016. 192 pages. Paperback: $15.95; Kindle: $10.99; Nook: $10.99.
 
Let’s talk about a number, and that number is 86,400.
 
This is how Sister of St. Joseph Anne Smollin begins her final book, “The Best is Yet to Come: Living Fully in Each Moment,” and it becomes clear very quickly that she has not chosen this number arbitrarily. In the first of many parables – this book is full of them -- Sister Smollin proposes this hypothetical situation: Suppose you win a contest and the prize is a bank account in your name. Each day, the bank deposits $86,400 into that account, and you are free to spend the money any way you want.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?
 
But there are a few rules you must abide by. The first is that you and only you can spend the money. Second, you can’t transfer any of the money to someone else’s account. And third, anything you don’t spend is taken away at the end of the day. At the beginning of the next day, the bank deposits a fresh $86,400 into your account for you to spend on that day and that day only. The final rule is that the bank can close your account at any time without warning, and you will not be issued a new one.
 
We all have such an account, Sister Smollin says; it’s called time, and 86,400 is the number of seconds, or moments, we are gifted with each day.  How we spend this gift is totally up to us; we can use it to live in love and joy or we can squander it on complaining and negativity. What Sister Smollin’s book does is show us, through humor, personal experience and stories just how to do the former.
 
As a counselor and educator, Sister Smollin spent her life helping people learn to use God’s gift of time to the fullest. Many of the anecdotes in this book are drawn from those people and experiences; quite a few of them take place in airports and on planes. (She was an international speaker and spent her share of time traveling.)  All of them are positive and affirming, and several are just plain funny – Sister Smollin obviously took great pleasure in conveying an important lesson by way of a good joke. And she is just as apt to let the joke be on her; she has that rare quality of taking her message seriously and herself lightly.
 
There are 27 chapters in this book, and each one is easily manageable in a sitting.  This does not mean, however, that what is written is trite. On the contrary, these seemingly simple stories tend to creep up on the reader until he or she is suddenly aware that what made them laugh (or cry) has also made them think.
 
Sister Smollin died unexpectedly though peacefully on Sept. 25, 2014, having just celebrated 50 years of religious life.  This book was published posthumously, and the foreword, written by her best friend Sister of St. Joseph Patricia A. St. John, stands as a testament to the authenticity of Sister Smollin’s life and her words. “We never know what another person is carrying in their heart: what sorrow, pain, discouragement, devastation,” Sister Smollin once told her friend. “Let’s always err on the side of kindness.”
 
This is ultimately both a kind and a wise book, one which shows us the way to live in God’s joy, every minute of every day.
 
Sister of St. Joseph Anne Bryan Smollin (1943– 2014) was an international lecturer on wellness and spirituality. An educator and therapist, she earned a doctorate in counseling psychology from Walden University in Florida and was executive director of the Counseling for Laity center in Albany, N.Y. She is also the author of “Tickle Your Soul” (Sorin Books, 1999), “God Knows You’re Stressed” (Sorin Books, 2001), and “Live, Laugh, and Be Blessed” (Sorin Books, 2006).
 
  • Published in Reviews

St. Pius V

It is never easy being the pope, but occupying the chair of Peter when the Church itself is trying to recover from great turmoil demands a person of constant prayer, deep humility and great holiness.  Thankfully, Pope St. Pius V possessed all those qualities, for he had the enormous responsibility of implementing the sweeping changes that accompanied the Council of Trent in the mid-16th Century.
 
Born in Italy in 1504 to poor parents, Antonio Ghislieri, as he was then known, spent his youth working as a shepherd; he later joined the Dominican Order and was ordained a priest in 1528.  For the next 16 years, he taught theology and philosophy in various Dominican houses.
 
During that time, however, the wider Church was in the midst of great upheaval.  Martin Luther had nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg chapel in 1517, thus inaugurating the Protestant Reformation. The Roman Catholic Church, which actually had been in need of reform, now found itself having to confront the issue head-on in the face of both resistance from within and challenges from without.
 
When Pope Paul III opened the Council of Trent in 1545, organized, concrete reform could finally begin.  For 18 years the Church wrestled with questions of renewal; finally, after much discussion and debate, the Council agreed on a plan of action and came to a formal end in 1563.  Now it was up to someone to actually implement these extensive changes.
 
When Antonio Ghislieri, now Pius V, was elected pope in 1566, he brought with him a personal history of piety, personal austerity and zealous opposition to any form of heresy. He had been appointed inquisitor of the faith in Como and Bergamo, Italy, in 1551 and later, Pope Julius III named him commissary general of the Inquisition.  His reputation for zealousness put him at odds for a time with his predecessor, Pope Pius IV, but it turned out that he would need every ounce of that strength of spirit to carry out the will of the Council of Trent.
 
One of the first things he did was to establish seminaries for the proper and thorough training of priests.  Under his direction, a new missal, a revised breviary and a new catechism were promulgated.  He enforced legislation against abuses in the Church.  And despite his responsibilities as pope, he continued to serve the poor and sick, giving the money that had been used for papal banquets to feed the destitute instead.
 
In addition to encountering disagreements within his own Church, Pius V also had to contend with strong opposition from such heads of state as Queen Elizabeth I of England and Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II. The threat of a Turkish invasion was also never far from his thoughts and he was working toward a Christian European alliance to deal with this issue when he died in 1572.
 
Pius V’s feast day is April 30; he is the patron of Bosco Marengo, Italy.
 

Sources for this article include:
 
www.americancatholic.org
 
www.catholiconline.com
 
Lataste, Joseph. "Pope St. Pius V." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911.
 
“Pope Saint Pius V“. CatholicSaints.Info. 7 November 2016.
 
Schreck, Alan.  “The Compact History of the Catholic Church.”  Ohio: Servant Books, 1987.
Subscribe to this RSS feed
Bishop's Fund Annual Appeal