At age eight, little Bogdan Mandić knelt miserably in the center of his Catholic parish. After committing what he considered a slight fault, he had been scolded by his sister. To make matters worse, she hauled him over to the pastor, who suggested a humble posture as penance. It was then that the boy decided that when he grew up, he would become a friar—a confessor, specifically—but one who would treat sinners with goodness and mercy. Bogdan did go on to become a Capuchin friar, taking the name Leopold. And he spent a majority of his life inside a tiny room in Padua, Italy, hearing confessions twelve hours a day. It is this dedication to the ministry of Reconciliation that caused Pope Francis to choose the relatively obscure Saint Leopold Mandić, along with household names like Saint John Paul II and Saint Teresa of Calcutta, as representatives of the Year of Mercy. Along with that honor, Pope Francis requested that Leopold’s body—still intact seventy-four years after his death—be displayed in Rome this past February. When I visited Leopold’s cell in Padua, almost by chance, it still had the sparse feel of a confessional. But what dropped my jaw was the room next to it filled with gifts and offerings. They are all tokens of thanksgiving brought by people who have turned to Leopold for help and believe they have been healed through his prayers. It got me wondering, “Who is this man?” A LARGELY UNEVENTFUL LIFE As I looked into Mandić’s life, I realized that there really is not much to say. He did not travel much. He did not found a new religious order or perform dramatic miracles. He never wrote a book. But what did strike me was his profound understanding of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and his creative, but deeply faithful, grasp of God’s mercy. No wonder he got my attention! No wonder too that two of our greatest modern-day popes have felt drawn to him. Leopold Mandić was born in 1866 on the Adriatic coast of what is now Montenegro. He was the youngest of twelve children in a Catholic family of Croatian origin. His parents, Petar and Dragica Mandić, made a living with their fishing fleet. He was baptized Bogdan, a name that means “given by God.” From an early age, Leopold dealt with poor health. It stunted his development so that when he was fully grown, he stood four foot six. A form of arthritis gave him a slow lurching stride, and stuttering made it difficult for him to read aloud. But what he lacked in health, he made up for in studiousness and prayer. By age sixteen, he was ready to enter the seminary, and by twenty-four, he was ordained a priest. Mandić’s superiors quickly assigned to him the task that would define his life: hearing confessions. Pope John Paul II noted the importance of this vocation at Saint Leopold’s canonization in 1983, saying, “His was a largely uneventful life. . . . Then came his assignment to the friary in Padua.” This was where he would spend almost fifty years listening to sinners cast off their burdens. A CALMING CONFESSOR On a regular day, the hall outside Father Leopold’s room was besieged. People of all kinds, from all over Italy, lined up to confess their sins. Every penitent was different to Leopold, and each needed his attention and tact. But Leopold’s main principle as a confessor was his confidence in God’s mercy. There was no sin too big for God to forgive. And it was his job to share that message with sinners. Even after long hours in the confessional, he continued to make himself available. One doctor who often visited Leopold after grueling hours on the late shift recalled, “Not once did he tell me to come the next day; not once did he show signs of tiredness.” Just the opposite, Leopold welcomed anyone coming for confession with smiling kindness. He regularly sought the friendship of his penitents, knowing that one can accept everything from a friend, even an occasional admonishing. Leopold’s welcoming nature disarmed one nervous man who had come far to see him. Heart racing, the man stood a ways off, afraid to enter the confessional. Leopold opened his door and, seeing him, called out, “That man over there! Come on in! Come on in!” The man followed him and introduced himself with these words: “Father, I’m a wicked man.” Leopold replied, “Here you are not anymore. You and I are brothers, and we will become very good friends. Let’s start off with a sign of the cross.” He listened to the long confession, offering a kind word here and there. By the end, tears of joy glistened in place of the man’s tears of shame. “PUT EVERYTHING ON MY SHOULDERS” Leopold’s fellow friars sometimes thought he was too lenient. He replied that if that was the case, the first to give a light pardon was Jesus Himself, dying on the cross to erase sins. He asked them what the point was of further humbling the souls who came for confession. “Aren’t they humiliated enough?” he asked. “Did Jesus humiliate the tax collector, the adulterous woman, and Mary Magdalene?” And he meant it, so Father Leopold would never give harsh penances. If more reparation for sin was necessary, he offered to take on a share of the penance himself. When people were distressed by the weight of their sins, he reassured them. “Don’t worry; put everything on my shoulders. I will take care of it.” Taking care of it meant extra time in prayer at night. Despite his defense of sinners, Leopold took pains to make sure penitents were not abusing the Sacrament. On rare occasions when people refused to reject sinful ways, they left his confessional without absolution. This was mercy too, he believed. HIS OWN PATH TO SAINTHOOD Although Leopold’s gifts as a confessor were renowned across Italy, serving in this capacity could be a struggle as well. He was reclusive by nature, but his work meant hours of conversation every day. He was known to be touchy and irritable around the friary. In the confessional, those who tried to justify their sins risked provoking his short temper. Because of his physical ailments, Leopold was sensitive to embarrassment. If he thought someone was eyeing him with too much pity, he would defend himself proudly. But there were some humiliations he could not protest. Because of his speech impediment, for example, he was passed over in the friary for the reading of the daily liturgy and preaching. Leopold’s solution was to nourish his relationship with God—whom he said was both doctor and medication. Through their close friendship, he learned to accept his lot and forgive trespasses against himself generously. A DREAM REDEFINED Part of accepting his duties involved rethinking a dear wish: to be sent as a missionary to Eastern Europe. The desire had originated from his earliest days growing up in an area of cultural and religious crossroads. The thought of uniting Catholic and Orthodox factions there remained with Leopold long after it became clear that his superiors would keep him in Padua. But rather than giving up the dream, Leopold decided to shorten the distance and adjust his method. Creatively, he offered up his ministry as a confessor in Padua for the reconciliation of the Eastern Church with Rome. Leopold wrote repeatedly in his personal diary, “Every person who will ask for my ministry will be my East.” Although he did not accomplish reconciliation on such a large scale, he devoted his life to individuals’ reconciliation with God, for the sake of unity. Because of this, Leopold is seen as a forerunner of ecumenism and an intercessor for all who work to bring Christians together. HUMBLE CALLING You may find you relate to Saint Leopold in unexpected ways. He was a man who slept only five hours a day and spent an enormous amount of time in one room. He had unrealized dreams of traveling the world and preaching. He found his vocation in listening to other people’s miseries and speaking God’s forgiveness. Some might call this drudgery, but Leopold looked upon it as a high privilege. Leopold Mandić was a tremendous gift to the Church. His ability to practice the mercy of God serves as an inspiration to many confessors today. His determination to be an instrument for God despite his limitations is a lesson in humility. And he is one of us, reminding all Christians that God’s will is in the smallest of jobs. To me he is a personal friend, whom I can turn to for any kind of need. Go talk to him, and find out yourself; his door is always open. © FEDERICA PAPARELLI THISTLE writes for “La Croce” magazine and lives in Maryland with her husband.
Dec 10, 2016 100 0 Tidings Staff
While Nancy waited in the doctor’s office for her appointment time, she noticed an elderly woman across from her. Mid-seventies, Nancy guessed. Maybe five feet tall. She looked well-put together in her nicely tailored pink pant suit—until she stood up and shuffled behind her walker to the receptionist. It was then Nancy noticed the woman’s pant legs were so long that she had rolled up about a foot of material to keep it from dragging on the ground. Nancy wondered if she had no one to hem them for her, or to take her to a seamstress. As she told me this story, lyrics of an old Beatle’s song passed through my thoughts: Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been Lives in a dream Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door Who is it for? All the lonely people Where do they all come from? All the lonely people Where do they all belong? Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear No one comes near Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there What does he care? All the lonely people Where do they all come from? All the lonely people Where do they all belong? When Nancy finished talking I sat in silence for a few moments, pondering the well-put together woman with the rolled up cuffs. What can the Gospel—the Good News of Jesus—what can it mean for all the lonely people? What can it speak to those who do not speak because they have learned no one cares to hear what they have to say? What message can the Good News have for those who will not look others in the eyes because they know by experience their place is always beneath and behind and in a corner? Does God really have Good News for the Father Mckenzies and the Eleanor Rigbys and for those who do not have someone who cares enough to hem their pants? Yes! Of course He does. That is why Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” He was talking to the discouraged ones, the desolate, the rejected, the lonely, and the forgotten. He was talking to the invisible ones in every employee break room, in every church, in every classroom, in every doctor’s office, and in every family. Their God—called “Immanuel, God with us”— aches for their sadness. He listens intently to every word whispered by their heart. He catches their every tear in His bottle. He cups their chin in His hands and invites them to look into His eyes. The Good News of the Gospel is this: Though no one else knows them, God-With-Us knows them. His gaze follows those who are poor in spirit, each Eleanor Rigby, Father McKenzie, and each old woman with rolled-up cuffs. Each is immeasurably important to Him, so important that He says it again and again, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy burdened.” Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. © RICHARD MAFFEO was born into a Jewish home. Twenty-two years later, he discovered Jesus to be his Messiah. During the next thirty-three years, he and his wife, Nancy, worshipped in evangelical Protestant churches where he learned what it means to lean on Jesus and to listen for His voice. Maffeo earned his baccalaureate and seminary degrees from Assemblies of God schools. Then, in 2005, after discerning Catholic teaching in the light of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit led him into the Catholic Church. He continues to mature in his passion for Christ, the Sacraments, prayer, and Scripture. Maffeo is a Fourth Degree Knight, has written three books, authors a blog (www.TheContemplativeCatholicConvert.blogspot.com), and serves Christ in his parish, St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in Duluth, Georgia.
Dec 05, 2016 49 0 Tidings Staff
We are in the season of “thankfulness.” While it would be nice to think that we appreciate everything we have and that we are always grateful, most of us benefit in taking the extra step of stopping and appreciating more formally. But expressing gratitude for the good things in our lives can lead to confusion, sometimes. There are many things in our lives that we refer to as “blessings.” My children are healthy; I see that as a blessing. I have never truly struggled to provide for them, I see that as a blessing. I am married to a good man; I see that as a blessing. This is not to say that those who have sick children, broken marriages, or struggle in their daily lives are not blessed. It is simply my way of recognizing that all good things flow from the goodness that is God. Sadly, our culture often sees blessing—gifts freely given—as rewards. So the assumption naturally follows that if I do not have the same blessings, I am being punished. And worse yet, if I am suffering in this life, I am being punished. This is a natural, human response. But it is not true. I was recently reading a book that touched briefly upon the prosperity gospel, which teaches, very simply, that Christians are entitled to a good life because they are Christians. So they should expect material success in life, because they are faith-filled followers of the Lord. It is a comforting line of thinking that if we are good and follow all the rules, we will live the good life, financially speaking. But, in truth, it is a fairly shallow vision of God. God is not Santa Claus, depositing presents for us because we have been good. God is a Father; He desires good things for us. But He also recognizes that we were not created for this world. Treasures in this world are temporary; He is forming us for eternal life. God sees us as whole creations, body and soul, and His gifts are meant to nurture both. Catholics can be swayed by the good feelings the prosperity gospel invokes, but there is very little of it that reconciles with Catholic doctrine. Very often, Catholics find themselves falling for a different, but equally misleading and erroneous understanding of God’s plan in our lives. The gospel of “if.” If I had prayed one more Rosary, if I had taken my children to daily Mass, if I had said more novenas, then….then my life, my pain, my problems would be resolved. If I was a better Catholic then I would not be sick, would still be employed, and have complacent children. It is that missing prayer, the forgotten devotion, the candle unlit—that is the source of my struggles and my pain. This too is a shallow vision of God. He is not the great score keeper in the sky, deducting blessings for lack of prayers. We do not earn God’s love. We do not pray our way into His good graces. That undermines the concept of love as something freely given. And it undermines the concept of prayer. Prayer is not a currency. It is communication. It is built upon a relationship, not rewards. It is hard. We see ourselves living “by the rules.” Doing the right thing. And yet, we do not always see the benefits. Or at least, what we think the benefits should be. We see someone’s success and wonder why God does not bless us similarly. What are we not doing? How have we displeased the Lord? Why? When things go well in our lives, do we live in fear? Waiting for “the other shoe to drop?” Trying to do everything right so that God does not get mad at us and take away His gifts. But that is not how God sees us. He wants us to be happy with Him in Heaven. So all that He gives, or does not give, is towards that end. How does this help us grow and progress towards the next life? He does not give so that He can take away. He loves us. He cares for us. He does not desire harm to come to us. He does not retaliate against us. Look at the Book of Job. At first glance it seems to be a horrible read, the just man suffering through no fault of his own. And that is heart wrenching. He did everything right and yet he suffered greatly. His wealth was not guaranteed because he was a good man. He did not fail to pray enough and therefore suffered great loss. He suffered due to circumstances beyond his control. He was not responsible for the pain in his life. And that should be extremely comforting to all of us. It seems odd to speak of someone’s suffering as comforting, and yet that is how we should look upon the book of Job. There are many messages contained within, but maybe the most important is that our suffering is so very often the result of the world we live in. It is not the failure to pray one more Rosary or tithe one more percent. It is life. We all suffer and we all struggle. It is not always punishment. Sometimes we have to suffer the consequences of our poor judgment, but often we just have to struggle. That, to me, is the most important take away message of the Book of Job. Life is not fair. We cannot prevent pain in our lives. And through it all, God is there with us. Our burdens, our sufferings, and our heartbreaks are painful. But they are not because God is angry with us. And, more importantly, God does not leave us in these dark times. He does not move closer if we pray more, we just hear His voice more clearly. The more we unite with Him, the more we feel the reality of His presence in our lives—the never abandoning, never changing presence. He is with us all and loves us all. And that is something we all can be thankful for.
Dec 02, 2016 43 0 Tidings Staff
My vocation story begins when I was a child of about four or five years old, growing up in Lancaster, Ohio. My Aunt Mary Ellen purchased a new reel-to-reel tape recorder and she wanted to test out the recording device. So she invited my twin sister, Joan, and I to come over a number of times and record our voices. In order to get us to start talking, she would ask us various questions: Where do you live? What is your name? What is your mother’s name? What is your daddy’s name? Then she asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Joan would always say, “I want to be a sister.” I would say, “I want to grow up and get married and have lots of children like my mother.” In my mind I knew that would be reversed, but I hesitated in saying that because I did not want to disappoint people if I did not become a sister. When I was in second grade, I remember during my second confession the priest also asked me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” This time, I told the truth: “When I grow up, I want to become a sister.” The priest said, “That’s a very good thought. What you need to do is pray and ask God what He is asking of you.” I took that very seriously. When I would go to Holy Mass on Sunday with my family, our missals in the pew had a prayer for vocations. I still did not want to tell anyone what I was thinking, so after communion, when my family members were bowing their heads in prayer, I would open the missal just enough to read that prayer and then close it quickly. This happened throughout my grade school years. Then in sixth grade, during Lent, my teacher Sister Christopher showed a film strip on the passion and death of Jesus. In one scene, Jesus was shown suffering on the cross. The narrator said, “This is what your Savior has done for you. Now what will you do for your Savior?” It pierced my heart. I felt like I was the only one in the room. That was the key moment when I knew I had a desire to give myself completely to the Lord in some way. My vocation was a response to the cross. I knew then that it probably would be religious life. I did not understand it then but that was my thought. During high school, I began to date and I got distracted, thinking perhaps I was supposed to get married. But on a retreat during my senior year, I decided to ask God—once and for all—what He wanted me to do. I remember kneeling down in my room, looking directly at a cross on the wall across from me. I heard the Lord say, “I’m calling you to be My own.” Again, my heart was pierced, and I knew then that I had to take action. The only contact I had with religious sisters was with the Dominican Sisters of Saint Mary of the Springs in Columbus, Ohio, who taught me throughout grade school and high school. Whenever the postulants and novices would visit my school, I was always attentive and would ask questions. So, after my retreat, I told my home room teacher, Sister Sebastian, about my decision to enter religious life. She made an appointment for me to see a sister at the motherhouse in Columbus. No one at my school knew about my vocation—yet. My father was a HAM radio operator, and he would often speak to other radio operators around the world. But sometimes his radio would interfere with our neighbor’s radio. One day during my last semester of high school, he told someone via radio that one of his twin daughters was going to enter the convent. Well, our neighbors found out and the next day at school there was a rumor that one of the Daugherty twins was going to enter the convent. Everyone knew it was me, and not Joan! Of course, I was upset with my father for spilling the beans. I did end up visiting the motherhouse and made a decision to enter that fall, on September 8, 1959, at the age of eighteen. I made first vows July 9, 1962 and professed final vows July 9, 1967. During my first year of teaching, 1962-1963, I taught sixth grade in Steubenville, Ohio, to which I would return more than twenty years later. One of my first students was a nephew of Hollywood star Dean Martin! I taught for a total of eighteen years at elementary and Montessori schools in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan. I also served as principal for a total of six years at three schools in Newark, Coshocton and Columbus, Ohio. It was in Newark that I was first exposed to the charismatic renewal, when families at a local parish there began to pray for me and invited me to go to prayer meetings with them. I eventually went to a Life in the Spirit seminar and received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. One summer, I attended a Bible Institute at the College of Steubenville, because I knew it was charismatic. A master’s program in theology was just beginning there at the time. I had been sensing that I was going to work with young adults, so when I heard about the master’s program, my community allowed me to attend. After my first year in Steubenville, 1985-1986, a position opened on campus for a residence director for Trinity Hall. I felt that I was supposed to stay in Steubenville, so I applied for the position and got it. I would serve as the dorm director for four and a half years. In those years on campus, I was being renewed in my own fervor in living the consecrated life. It was a call to live my religious life in a deeper way—to embrace it in a fuller way. I also was being imbued with Franciscan spirituality, although I did not realize it at first. It was awakening parts of myself that had not been awakened before. At some point, I became aware that God was calling me out of my own community. But I did not know what the next step would be. It was a frightening time in my life, not knowing what was next down the road. But I had all the assurances from the Lord that I would know when it was time. Also during that time, the Franciscan Sisters, T.O.R. was founded. One of the original members of the community was another dorm director with whom I worked, one was a resident assistant and others were students I knew. I was very close to their founding. I watched the community grow and attract young women. I was the only woman religious on campus at the time, so whenever a young woman discerning religious life would go to the T.O.R. friars, they would send them to me. Often, they expressed a desire to join the new community. I remember thinking, “Gosh, it’s so easy for them.” My attraction to the community grew gradually. The primary attraction was a call to a deeper contemplative prayer life. I knew that even before I felt called to join the new community, I also was drawn to their strong fraternal life, their focus on simplicity and poverty and the wearing of the habit. I remained close to the community after it was founded—on August 15, 1988—attending Lord’s Day and dinner with them every Saturday and participating in a share group with the former dorm director, now the Reverend Mother. She and the other sisters invited me to join the community if I felt called. It had not dawned on me that it was possible for a Dominican to become a Franciscan. I spoke to my spiritual director, one of the T.O.R. friars, to help me discern what God was calling me to next. At first, he thought I was being renewed in my Dominican religious life, although I knew that was not the whole truth. There came a point when he invited me to go on a retreat he was directing for the candidates of the new community. On the retreat he asked me, “What do you think God is calling you to as the next step?” I said, “I think it’s to join the T.O.R. sisters,” and he said, “Go for it!” He helped me to take the necessary steps to request entrance into the new community. I moved in with the sisters in January 1991, entering into a time of discernment until I received the habit in July. I made final vows on March 18, 1995. I am deeply grateful for how the Lord has worked in my life in all of its stages. He has led me down paths I never believed I would travel. My life as a Franciscan sister has been very blessed and fulfilling in so many ways. The following scripture passage is truly a reality in my life: “I will instruct you and show you the way you should walk; I will counsel you, keeping my eye on you.” (Psalm 32:8) © SISTER JEAN DAUGHERTY, T.O.R.
Nov 25, 2016 285 0 Tidings Staff