- Redemptorist Father John Murray walks outside his residence in Ephrata, Pa. (CR/Clare Becker)
Redemptorist Father John Murray is convinced he's a walking miracle.
After suffering a fall that left him paralyzed from the chest down, the former pastor of St. Mary in Annapolis and St. Wenceslaus in Baltimore began praying for Blessed Francis X. Seelos - a former St. Mary's pastor - to intercede on his behalf. As noted in this upcoming story in The Catholic Review, Father Murray is now walking on his own and will soon receive his first priestly assignment since the 2010 accident.
After spending a morning with Father Murray in preparation for the article, I was struck by how the priest was inspired by his fellow Redemptorists. As he underwent rehabilitation at Stella Maris nursing home in Timonium, the priest lived with infirm and elderly members of his religious order and, at 63, was the youngest priest among them at the St. John Neumann Residence - a wing for retired Redemptorists.
"You are surrounded by your confreres," Father Murray told me. "You get to pray together. You get to eat together. You get to just walk the corridors with them and sit down in our community room - and you get to celebrate Mass."
It was quite different from a former facility in which Father Murray lived after the accident - one in which he could sometimes go a day without seeing another person besides the medical staff, he said.
There were 18 Redemptorists living at Stella Maris with Father Murray, 13 of whom spent most of their priesthood in foreign missions.
"They were in the Dominican Republic and Brazil eating rice and beans down there with no electricity large parts of the day," Father Murray said. "To see how they sacrificed and now, at the age of 85 and 90, they are still going strong - it really touched me."
Five Redemptorists died while Father Murray lived at Stella Maris. He watched his brother priests gather in the room of dying clerics, staying with them and praying with them before and after they died.
"It was just so touching," he remembered.
Father Murray noted that the St. John Neumann Residence could not be more perfectly named. St. John Neumann had been a diocesan priest in New York in the 19th century. He became depressed because he was often alone, Father Murray said. The priest joined the Redemptorists because one of its great charisms is community life.
"John Neuman realized he needed the support of a community," Father Murray. "That was one of the things I most learned since my accident - the importance of community living and how community living for Redemptorists brings new life. It certainly brought me life."
November 22, 2011 09:32
By George Matysek
Father Augustus Tolton, the first African-American priest, took a step closer to sainthood this week when Chicago Cardinal Francis George announced that the priest's sainthood cause has been introduced in the Archdiocese of Chicago. According to an archdiocesan press release, the cardinal will appoint a historical commission to assemble the facts about Father Tolton’s heroic virtues.
Some time after 1889, Father Tolton made a speaking appearance in Baltimore at the invitation of Cardinal James Gibbons. In 1899, Father Tolton celebrated a Mass with Cardinal Gibbons during the Black Catholic Lay Congress in Washington, D.C.
ABC7 in Chicago has more on Father Tolton's sainthood cause:
The cause for the beatification and canonization of Fr. Augustus Tolton of Illinois is moving forward.
On Thursday, the Archdiocese of Chicago began a process that could lead to sainthood for Father Tolton. At the St. James Chapel at the Quigley Seminary, a prayer service was held and the decrees were signed to examine the priest's life, virtues and reputation of holiness.
"A man, a priest, a Christian who somehow survived all of that and remained loyal to his people, a devoted priest," said Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry of Chicago and postulator for Fr. Tolton's cause for sainthood.
"It is significant because the Catholic Church in this moment is recognizing the fact that a man, the descendant of slaves, his life is a testament of holiness, is a testament of perseverance," said Vanessa White, Catholic Theological Union.
White says they need to show proof that Fr. Tolton was responsible for miracles and it can take years.
Tolton, born the son of slaves in Missouri, studied for the priesthood in Rome because no American seminary would accept him.
, including a video.
February 25, 2011 07:29
By George Matysek
The people of Egypt could use all the prayers they can get these days. Given the violent clashes between supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and pro-democracy demonstrators, perhaps there's no one better to ask for intercession than St. Apollonia - an Egyptian saint whose feast is celebrated today.
During an uprising against Christians in the third century, St. Apollonia was captured by angry mobs and beaten so severely in Alexandria that all her teeth were knocked out. After the pagan crowds lit a fire and threatened to burn the virgin if she did not renounce her faith, St. Apollonia hurled herself into the flames in an act of martyrdom.
Given her dental torments, St. Apollonia is the patron saint of dentists and those who suffer toothaches. She is often depicted holding a pincer with a tooth in it.
St. Apollonia isn't the only Egyptian saint. The nation's patron saints include St. Mary of Egypt, a former prostitute in Alexandria who lived the life of a hermit in penance for her sins; and St. Anthony of Egypt, the founder of monasticism.
Saints of Egypt, pray for us.
February 09, 2011 06:46
By George Matysek
The Salt Lake Tribune has a nice piece in the Dec. 11 issue looking at scrupulosity, a psychological disorder that drives sufferers to worry obsessively about sin. Sometimes called the 'doubting disease,' the condition plagues many religious-minded people of all denominations.
Though it has been described for centuries in Catholic literature and afflicted saints such as Ignatius of Loyola, Alphonsus Liguori and Catherine of Siena, as well as reformer Martin Luther, scrupulosity has been recognized in the field of psychology only in recent decades.
A series of books, beginning with The Doubting Disease: Help for Scrupulosity and Religious Compulsions in the mid-1990s, helped raise awareness.
Scrupulosity is not in itself a diagnosis, but falls within the OCD family of anxiety disorders, explains Jonathan S. Abramowitz, a clinical psychologist and researcher in the field at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Unlike the normal person who can reject intrusive thoughts — and everyone has them — people with OCD get tied in knots by their mistaken ways of thinking and behaving, Abramowitz says. They cannot handle ambiguity, which makes it hard for one who is scrupulous to remain a person of faith.
According to the International OCD Foundation, up to 3 million U.S. adults and about 500,000 children suffer from OCD. Of those, 5 percent to 30 percent have scrupulosity, according to one estimate.
Its sources are biological and likely environmental, but Abramowitz believes OCD manifests itself as scrupulosity mostly in those who care a lot about their faith, whether that is Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism. Conversely, it makes it difficult for the faithful to remain faithful.
A Catholic woman may confess to her priest constantly about intrusive obscene thoughts while gazing on a crucifix, a “sin” she fears is unforgivable, while an Orthodox Jew might worry obsessively that he didn’t keep his milk separate from his meat in accord with kosher law.
“Folks with scrupulosity have a pretty harsh view of God. They see him as looking down with a magnifying glass, waiting for people to screw up so he can blast them with lightning,” Abramowitz says. “That runs counter to what most religions teach.”
There's much more here
December 11, 2010 08:12
By George Matysek