Rorate Caeli

Silence and Signs

April 24 is a special day for Catholic converts from Protestantism: it is the feast of a great martyr, Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen, the missionary killed by Protestants in Seewis, Switzerland.

It is also the feastday of a famous 20th-Century convert from Lutheranism, Blessed Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad. Mother Elizabeth only knew one kind of Ecumenism - that of conversion to the one true Faith:

Arriving in New York on July 9, 1888, [Elizabeth] entered a school for nurses at Roosevelt Hospital. She often took care of workers injured on the building site of the future Saint Patrick's Cathedral. One day, she heard an injured Irishman repeat in his sufferings: «Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!» This invocation seemed improper to her. She wrote, «He shouldn't speak like that; it's not Christian… Catholics have strange expressions.» One night, she ventured out alone in a terrible storm to call a priest to see a dying Catholic who wished to be reconciled with God. «May God bless you, dear little sister, for your attention and zeal,» said the priest to Elizabeth. «Unfortunately, you cannot yet understand what a marvelous service you render to so many people… One day, you will understand; you will find the way.» In her search for the Church of Christ, Elizabeth visited many sanctuaries of all creeds. She loved the silence of the Catholic churches — but why do the faithful there genuflect so often, why do they make so many signs of the cross? Is it really necessary to express one's faith exteriorly? In keeping with her convictions at that time, she thought that faith, in order to be pure, must be kept secret.
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In Brussels, Elizabeth accompanied her friends, fervent Catholics, to the Corpus Christi procession of the Blessed Sacrament, which was held at Saint Gudule Cathedral. In her personal notes, she wrote, «I didn't know that the bishop was carrying something… Seeing my two friends and many other people kneel, I moved back behind the large portal so as not to offend those around me by staying standing. I thought, 'Before You alone, Lord, I kneel; not here!' At this moment, the bishop who was carrying the monstrance reached the portal. My anxious soul was suddenly filled with gentleness and I heard a voice, which seemed to come at the same time from outside and from the bottom of my heart, tell me, 'I am the One you seek.' I fell to my knees… There, behind the church door, I made my first adoration before our Divine Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament.»

After the ceremony, Elizabeth hastened to tell her friends about the grace received. From this day on, although suffering sometimes serious doubts and marked by interior struggles, she became ever closer to the Catholic Church. [Source: Spiritual Newsletter - Abbaye Saint-Joseph de Clairval]

7 comments:

Patrick said...

Great, inspiring post! It put me in mind of something Malachi Martin said about the hallmark of Catholicism - a sense of intimacy with the divine. Protestants can be devout, upright, even saintly in their own way, but without that sense of intimacy with the divine with even the most ordinary Catholic can have: visits to the Blessed Sacrament, genuflections, litanies, stations of the Cross, etc.

Jordan Potter said...

St. Fidelis and Blessed Mary Elizabeth, pray for us.

I've always found the story of St. Fidelis particularly inspiring, especially his renunciation of the wealth and status of his high noble blood to serve the Church by seeking out her lost sheep. And I've often said that my commitment to ecumenism is sealed in the Pascal Sacraments I received eight years and one day ago -- for a non-Catholic cannot better show commitment to true ecumenism than by converting to Catholicism and submitting himself to Holy Mother Church.

Anonymous said...

Where are saints like this today!!!!!!

Vox said...

Labouring quietly...you're grandchildren will know of them!

Duh!

LeonG said...

"Mother Elizabeth only knew one kind of Ecumenism - that of conversion to the one true Faith"

She was absolutely correct in this - there is ONLY one true Faith and it IS the Roman Catholic Faith. All others are false at best and false at worst.

Is this a message which is too clear and unambiguous for our leaders to recall?

This is why post-conciliar postmodernist "sainthood" has been denuded of its sensus catholicus. Bending the knee to idols is an inclusive activity which wins admiration. Catholic today signifies pluralist and syncretic.

Anonymous said...

Hello, how this piece for information. A brazilian priest is feared dead after trying to raise money by staying in the air in party ballons. I wonder why Catholic priest have to turn to these sort of craziness to raise money, if the living of a holy and humble life is the best way to raise money. But the Conciliar Church does not shine for its humility and holiness:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article3802071.ece

Viator Catholicus said...

I wonder if we are as devout as our ancestors. How many Eucharistic processions do we have - by bishops, nonetheless? How many Catholics know to fall on their knees even if there is no padded kneeler?