“Listen, my child, with the ear of your heart….” is the famous opening line of the original monastic rule and a trustworthy foundation for any person serious about the spiritual life. While an ear is a kind of openness, a receptive space that invites sound, it is not mere passivity. An ear has a form, engineered over millions of years, that is meant to confront the noise of the world, and it is this specific shape that makes hearing and understanding possible. The same is true for our souls: We have the capacity to receive all sorts of energy, sensory data and spiritual phenomena in the course of our daily lives, but what is any of that noise worth if it is not confronted with a well-designed internal apparatus that allows us to hear and understand what it all means? This apparatus is the crucified Christ in whose very image we have been created (cf. Gen 1:27 and Col 1:15), but who has nevertheless been obscured and deformed as the difficult journey of our lives has unfolded. If we want to live authentically, if we want to truly be human, if we want to recover our soul’s ear, we have only to look to the cross, that interior Christic architecture which enables us to listen to the music of life that has been playing all along. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Mountaintops are a common biblical setting for encountering God. Abraham’s great act of trust took place with his son upon an altar atop Mt. Moriah (Ex 22:3-18); Moses (Ex 19:3) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-13) each communed with the Lord in a particularly powerful way in the solitude of their respective rocky peaks; the psalmist speaks of the spiritual delights of high altitudes (e.g. Ps 11:1, Ps 104:8, Ps 125:1-2); sacrificial offerings and official worship were performed in the Temple atop Mt. Zion; while Jesus prayed earnestly on the Mount of Olives and offered the total gift of himself to his heavenly Father on Mt. Calvary. The decision to ascend whatever mountain the Lord has placed on our path is a choice for the same kind of intimacy. Yes, we have to bid farewell to those whose company we enjoy at the base, yes it is hard work, and yes we often ascend blindly without being able to see the summit along the way. Nevertheless, our souls will be purified by the trust demanded in such a risk, and we shall become unthinkably close to the God who leads us to the top. Let’s therefore not be afraid to go to the heights. Let’s find ways to climb the interior mountain. Let’s bring that constant privileged encounter with the living God within to those we meet in the ordinary circumstances of our lives. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Sister M. Lourdes (Anna May) Kelly, CSC (1910-2019)
She Could Stop Traffic!
“It is usually a high compliment when a person is described as someone who had such personality that she could stop traffic. Not in the case of Sister M. Lourdes (Kelly). Her independence and determination caused concern. Well into her nineties, Sister’s daily prayer included a trip from the Saint Mary’s motherhouse over to the Grotto on the University of Notre Dame campus. If her ride did not show up promptly, Sister Lourdes headed out alone. Just as impatiently, she started across the highway with her rosary, not waiting for cars to slow down on the highway at the main entrance to Saint Mary’s. She brushed off those who would protect her by saying, ‘Don’t worry about the traffic, they will stop.’
“Sister Lourdes often engaged visitors in conversation at the Grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. She introduced herself to one visitor when she was ninety-three, explaining that she had hoped to receive the name Brigid, patroness of her native Ireland, at the time of her reception of the Holy Habit in 1936. ‘But my, how I was delighted to be named after the Blessed Virgin!’ Her genuine interaction and humanity touched those she encountered. More than one person remembers Sister’s promise of prayer. ‘It is all in the hands of God and the Blessed Mother. Give your life completely….’
“Sister Lourdes never lost her Irish brogue, having been born in Dublin, Ireland in 1910. Her father, James Kelly, was a railroad engineer. He had already died of pneumonia at 72 by the time of her initial profession as a Sister of the Holy Cross at age 28 in August 1938. Her mother, Frances Phelan Kelly, was 71 when her daughter Anna May Kelly professed her vows. She was the youngest of eleven children, all of whom predeceased her. The music for her Mass of Resurrection was the same as that for her sister Frances Kelly. Her sister Elizabeth, Sister Mary Martha (Kelly), CSC, did not think Anna May had a religious vocation but agreed to take her with her back to the United States to become a Sister of the Holy Cross. Sister Martha died in 1987. Sister Lourdes, after years of bureaucratic mix-ups, finally became a citizen of the United States in 1948 at age thirty-seven.
The young Anna May Kelly had only wanted to be a sister, assuming she would be a housekeeper like the Blessed Mother. As Sister Lourdes, she was shocked to be assigned as an elementary school teacher, beginning at St. Joseph School, South Bend, IN, in 1938, where there was a large Irish population. The children were thrilled to have her as a teacher. She was a successful teacher in parish schools throughout Indiana and Illinois. In 1973, she continued in Catholic education as a tutor for students who needed support, serving at Holy Redeemer School, Flint, Michigan, and at St. Paul’s School, Valparaiso, Indiana, in each for three years. In 1980, Sister Lourdes retired to Saint Mary’s Convent but continued in various ministries of prayer, including visits to the Grotto at Notre Dame, stopping traffic.
Sister Lourdes planned ahead—as did her sister Frances, who had arranged for thirty masses to be celebrated for Sister Lourdes upon her death. Sister wrote in December 1993 that she was ‘looking ahead to that great day.’ She wanted no memento at the vigil service, only a rosary recited for the repose of her soul. Sister Lourdes died at Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, IN, at the age of 109, having entered Holy Cross after leaving Dublin in the same month 84 years earlier. Her citizenship is now in heaven.” (Written by Sister Catherine Osimo, CSC.)
What is the number one rule of boxing? DON’T GET HIT! While it is easy to fixate on the haymakers, straights and hooks that make television ratings soar and fans go wild, we forget that the boxer who goes untouched in a given match by dodging and bobbing cannot lose. How frequently, in the ring of life, however, we become falsely convinced that we need to go on the offensive, yet time and again we come away feeling tired, empty and dry. Perhaps Jesus was the greatest boxer of all time because he never had to resort to such measures. Like another who called himself “the greatest,” Jesus focused first on his footwork – constantly attentive to his mission, he journeyed, with perfect timing, from Galilee to Samaria to Judea and finally to Jerusalem as his opponents kept missing him. Then, when he had reached Golgotha, seemingly trapped but still unwilling to unleash violence on others, a new version of the rule emerged: “Don’t get hit, but when you do, make it eucharistic.” Indeed, the world’s blows are destined, in Christ, to be transformed into moments of grace where weary, angry and fear-ridden souls are nourished by our deep confidence in the Father’s love: by our wounds, which are Christ’s wounds, others will be healed. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
BROTHER DANIEL (MARTIN) SCHOTT, CSC (1875-1943)
FIRST PRINCIPAL OF REITZ MEMORIAL HIGH SCHOOL
“In the fall of 1937, a noted Russian basso died suddenly, and Brother Daniel asked a curious question: ‘I wonder if God will ask Chaliapin to sing in heaven?’ The question was both thoughtful and provocative. On July 18 of this year  Brother Daniel died, and one of his associates wondered sincerely if God would ask Brother ‘Dan’ about that ‘old blue coat.’ Brother Dan was very fond of this coat; in fact, he never felt better dressed than when he wore it. ‘It’s a good one,’ he would say. ‘Brother Marcellinus [Kinsella] only had it a short time when he gave it to me.’ But people who never concern themselves with anniversaries could never appreciate the fact that Brother Marcellinus had been dead now for more than a quarter of a century. Brother Daniel would take the coat off, puff a little, and enumerate the people he had met on his way back from town. But there was never a mention of the street car tokens that he had never had occasion to use even after his rheumatism and he had become friends of long standing. It was other people that Brother Daniel liked to speak about. No one, he thought, was interested in what concerned himself. And this caused his superiors a little inconvenience the day that his obituary was to be written: no one knew for certain the name of the city in Germany where he was born. Then, from the tomb of oblivion, came the guess that the city was Hanover. Well, the year was 1875; the date October 29.
“Poverty, humility, and two hours a day before the Blessed Sacrament are only a partial portrait of Brother ‘Dan.’ Justice and prudence complete the picture. Twenty years ago, when he was getting ready to die of a kidney infection, he summoned the steward of the house to his ‘deathbed’ and bade him bring the unpaid bills and the checkbook. In vain the steward persuaded him to composure as befitted the last moments of a good Christian. But Brother ‘Dan’ was adamant: ‘The butcher and the grocer have their rent to pay,’ he said; ‘besides, if we want the usual discount, we must get these checks into the mail before the 10th of the month.’
“Teachers no longer glory in the honorable title of schoolmaster, but Brother Daniel was, and remained, a schoolmaster until the day of his death. His death marked the passing of another one of those exceptional teachers who possess genuine and rare characteristics, intense knowledge and love of the studies they teach [Latin], deep interest in and understanding of youth, a compelling force which cannot tolerate mediocre accomplishment, and an inspirational drive which induces high school students to make efforts when the subject matter seemingly has no significance.
“He entered the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1889 and his first teaching assignment was at St. Joseph’s College, Cincinnati. Later, he was assigned to Central Catholic H.S. in Fort Wayne, IN first as a teacher and later as principal. He was transferred to Reitz Memorial H.S. in Evansville, IN in 1925, where he served as [the first] principal, vice principal or teacher until the time of his death.” (The Association of St. Joseph, 1943, no author.)
We have all experienced the fight or flight response that anthropologists say is a remnant of our lizard brains. In a moment of fear – faced with a tiger in the jungle, a bully on the playground, or some memory of trauma – we instinctively fall into the destructive cycle of lashing out against the other then hiding ourselves in shame, but that is no way to live! Jesus, who came to bring life and who instructs us to not succumb to fear, offers us an alternative vision for how we might approach such situations. Instead of putting up our fists to fight, he invites us to “take up the cross” in a posture of vulnerability and openness. Instead of running away in flight, he invites us to “follow him” steadily and confidently into a real future filled with hope. Such a pattern of “take up your cross and follow me,” therefore, cannot but be a healing balm for a twisted and bipolar version of our humanity. Indeed, we shall learn to dance gracefully through the most complicated and seemingly dire situations in life. We shall bear witness to the transforming power of God through our own inner conversion. We shall reveal a Christic truth that is more primordial and cuts more deeply than our lizard brains. We shall give glory to God in every encounter. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
BROTHER MARCIAN (STANISLAUS) KARSKY, CSC (1903-1942)
PRELUDE TO GLORY
Brother Marcian was born in Ostretin, Czechoslovakia. His parents came to the States in 1908 and settled in North Dakota. He entered Holy Cross in 1921 and was professed in 1926. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1930 with a Bachelor of Arts in Latin (Magna Cum Laude). His master’s work was done at Columbia University, NY and he graduated with the diploma PRINCIPAL OF HIGH SCHOOL. From 1924-1933, he was assigned to Cathedral High School, Indianapolis, IN where he taught the Classics and served as Prefect of Discipline and Assistant Principal. From 1933-1939, he served as the first principal of Monsignor James Coyle High School in Taunton, MA, and from 1939-1942, he returned to Cathedral H.S. as principal. During the early part of December, 1941, he was stricken with a streptococcic infection of the blood, and in February 1942 was moved to Seton Infirmary, Austin, TX where he died in November.
The following is taken from an obituary printed in the 1942 issue of The Association of St. Joseph: “The Congregation sustained another loss on November 11, 1942. Brother Marcian had nothing to do with retirements, twilights, or memories; rather he stood on the brink of a brilliant career. Characteristic of his optimism was a strange deathbed request: he wanted for his library a recently published book on the history of the Catholic Church in America. And propped up on pillows, he read serenely with pencil poised for the marginal notes that would soon augment his classroom preparations, ‘after I shake-off this fever.’
“That the young teacher possessed qualities of leadership is evident by his appointment to positions of responsibility. Under his direction two student organizations flourished at Cathedral: the Students’ Activity Council and the Students’ Council for Catholic Action.
“To know Brother Marcian was to discover in him an admirable blend of shrewdness of temper with simplicity. Young teachers are often terrified by the slightest rent in that priceless fabric they call their ideals. A thoughtless boy is more than likely to prove catastrophic to the rigid standards of discipline set up by the uninitiated. To these young teachers whose personal displeasure became at once a world crisis, Brother Marcian was wont to ask: ‘Now, remember that you were once a boy yourself, what do you suggest that I do?’ Even though he knew beforehand—with some strange kind of knowing—what ought to be done.’”
Brother Marcian was a man who could temper justice not only with mercy, but also with charity; who could maintain principles without being arbitrary. His hearty laugh and genuine sense of humor made him a favorite among students.
Did you ever think about what was behind the original sin (Gen 3:6)? It was a false attitude that the serpent tricked our first parents into adopting, that they were not good enough, that they had to instead “be like God” (Gen 3:5). This rejection of our natural goodness – a deep insecurity that we all struggle with interiorly – makes us think that we need to accomplish great things, wear fancy clothing, amass wealth, or associate with pretty people in order to be ourselves. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth! Our true dignity is instead revealed when we make the slow journey to Jerusalem with Jesus. Such a risk takes us out of the comfortable patterns of our hiding (cf. Gen 3:8) and, with each step of the way, sheds the various layers of ego that we have accumulated over the years. At the end of this journey, we shall return to the tree in the garden (cf. Gen 2:9) and, stripped down to our original goodness, make with Jesus an offering of ourselves to our heavenly Father who receives us in love exactly as we are. Let’s therefore recognize the unhealthy striving that goes on in our lives. Let’s say no to the serpent once and for all. Let’s have the courage to walk with the Lord each and every day (cf. Gen 3:8). Let’s be good enough for all eternity. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!