Grab a chair and your copy of The Abbey for your own personal mini-retreat
Popular speaker, bestselling author, and editor at large of America magazine, Father James Martin, SJ
, has long delighted us with his commentaries on life and faith through his books, videos, and social media posts.
Last Christmas, I put Father Martin’s newest book (released October 2015), his first work of fiction entitled The Abbey: A Story of Discovery
, on my wish list. Our daughter Tracy and her family had it wrapped up and under the tree for me at our holiday gift exchange.
But sadly, my new hardback copy of The Abbey was placed on my nightstand for a future time, as I had just started reading the Mitford-Father Tim series of Christian fiction by Jan Karon… I would read all 13 of Karon’s books consecutively over the next eight months.
God’s time is always best, isn't it?
After slowly reading and savoring the lovely characters and many faith-based storylines in the Mitford books, I was left feeling empty without another one to read. That’s when I found The Abbey patiently waiting in the stack of books on my nightstand.
Indeed, the timing was perfect:
Just released last Tuesday (September 13) in paperback, The Abbey tells the tale of…
—Mark, a young architect who finds himself working as a handyman and carpenter at a Trappist monastery in a Philadelphia suburb, while trying to figure out where his life is going both personally and professionally;
—Anne, Mark’s landlord and neighbor, a divorced woman who still rawly grieves the loss of her only child, a young teenage son, three years after his sudden death;
—Father Paul, the monastery’s abbot, who offers wisdom and insight to those who seek it, even as he sometimes second-guesses himself and his own ability to offer spiritual insight and direction in this changing world;
—And the delightful elderly priest, Father Edward, a former novice director, who adds to the beauty of the characters, while holding the key to unlocking family information unknown to Anne about her past…
As I read this beautiful story which portrayed the joys and sorrows and mundane events in the lives of these characters, I realized that the spiritual wisdom shared by both Father Paul and Father Edward was akin to taking me on a virtual mini-retreat of sorts.
Through the discernment and efforts made to overcome the struggles that these characters face, we too are also encouraged to find hope in our individual circumstances of life, no matter what we may find ourselves facing.
The wisdom of The Abbey can be applied to all of us:
There is something here for everyone…
—If you have ever wondered why your life has taken a particular course that you never imagined and do not understand;
—If you wish to make sense of where you are on your life journey and why you are not on a different path;
—If you are uncertain of God’s presence in your life and are not sure whether you should seek Him or where you should turn for guidance;
—If you ever experience anger at God and question Him and what He has allowed in your life;
—If you grieve and are trying to make sense of your loss and the changes you are forced to accept;
—If you are the strong one, and are looked upon for insight and assurance, and are not sure you have anything meaningful to impart;
—If you are highly regarded in your community, parish, or ministry, and feel unworthy of the esteem in which others hold you;
—If you are aging and wonder if God’s grace will see you through the challenges;
—If you need assurance that God meets us where we are in life and speaks to us through our individual experiences;
Do you see yourself in any of these descriptions?
I encourage you to treat yourself to a break in your normal reading material and go to The Abbey.
Life lessons waiting for you:
Here are a few examples of spiritual wisdom that you will find at The Abbey:
On spiritual dryness:
“He also knew that the spiritual life had its dry patches—sometimes long dry patches—when God didn't feel close at all….
It was like any relationship: things couldn't be exciting all the time.
Perhaps the human heart couldn't take it if God were always so close."
—Musings by Father Paul the abbot
On the image of God as a gardener:
Quoting Saint Thérèse of Lisieux:
“I understood how all the flowers God has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wildflowers. And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden… He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.”
—Father Paul the abbot, quoting from The Story of a Soul, the autobiography of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
On listening to God:
“God can work through your imagination. How else would God come to you in prayer? After all, he made your imagination.”
—Father Paul the abbot
“All sorts of things happen in prayer. The kinds of images you experienced are just one way that God comes to us. For some people, it’s mainly emotions that come up—like joy or contentment when they're thinking about God. Other people have memories that bubble up, maybe from childhood, and they feel it heals them in some way. Or it reminds them how much God loved them even when they were young. Sometimes it’s just an insight—like figuring something out about a problem that’s been bugging you. All those things can happen. Then sometimes it seems like nothing is coming up. That can be pretty frustrating. But in those times we have to trust that God is doing some work deep within us. Because any time spent in God’s presence is transformative. But really our main work in prayer is simply to be present to God and open ourselves up. ‘Show up and shut up,’ as one of the monks here likes to say.”
—Father Paul the abbot
On grace and the spiritual life:
“Spirituality is like spaghetti. When my mother, may she rest in peace, cooked spaghetti, she used to throw a few strands against the kitchen wall. When it stuck, she said it was done. It’s the same in the spiritual life. Not every homily you preach or insight you offer will stick. A lot depends on where the person is, whether they're open to hearing what you have to say, and whether it’s the right time for them to hear it. One day you say something that you think is profound, and they just shrug. A few months later, you say the same thing, and they start crying. Who knows? In other words, a lot of it depends on grace. Maybe all of it.”
—Father Edward, speaking to his abbot, who was formerly one of his novices in formation years back
More info on The Abbey: A Story of Discovery:
Other books by Father James Martin, SJ:
Follow Father Martin on social media:
Read my review of the Mitford-Father Tim series by Jan Karon:
“The best of summer reading: Christian fiction with Father Tim and Mitford by Jan Karon”
September 20, 2016 01:00
By Patti Murphy Dohn
“Never measure your generosity by what you give, but rather by what you have left.”
~ Archbishop Fulton John Sheen (1895-1979)
One Year Ago Today:
My Facebook memories this morning reminded me of the sad announcement from the Diocese of Peoria
, Illinois last September 3, 2014: The cause for beatification and canonization of their native son, Archbishop Fulton John Sheen, was put on indefinite suspension. The reason was a dispute between his hometown Diocese of Peoria and the Archdiocese of New York over the final resting place of Sheen’s earthly remains.
Archbishop Sheen (1895-1979), who was the face of American Catholicism for decades before his death in 1979, is interred in the crypt under the main altar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He served the Archdiocese of New York as auxiliary bishop from 1951 to 1966.
Bishop Daniel Jenky, CSC, of Sheen’s hometown of Peoria where his cause is headquartered, and who led the way for his possible canonization with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 2002, requested transfer to his diocesan cathedral.
This request came after ten years of inquiry into Sheen’s life, writings, and virtue; the investigation of two alleged miracles, and the 2011 presentation of the positio by Bishop Jenky to Pope Benedict XVI who noted that he had worked with Archbishop Sheen during Vatican II.
According to the timeline of events
, the Holy Father declared Archbishop Sheen to be “Venerable” on June 28, 2012. Bishop Jenky held a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria on September 9. Archbishop Sheen had attended the cathedral school as a youth, and he received his First Holy Communion at the cathedral, where he was ordained in 1919.
“In this Dec. 11, 2011 file photo, Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky, center, gives a sermon next to a painting of Archbishop Fulton Sheen and the sealed box of documentation for the alleged miracle performed by Sheen, during a Mass at Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria, Ill. The documents were sent to the Vatican. A bid for more than a decade to canonize the late archbishop, an Illinois native, has stalled indefinitely because the Archdiocese of New York won't release Sheen's body to the Peoria diocese as part of the process, the Peoria diocese said." (AP Photo/Journal Star, Eve Edelheit)
Prayers that God's will be made manifest:
After the two dioceses were unable to reach an agreement or compromise on the matter, the following statement was issued on September 3, 2015, one year ago today, by the Sheen Foundation, the official promoter for canonization:
“It is with immense sadness that the Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, Bishop of Peoria and President of the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation, announced today that the Cause for Sheen’s beatification and canonization has for the foreseeable future been suspended…
The Holy See expected that the remains of Venerable Sheen would be moved to Peoria where official inspection would be made and first class relics be taken. Subsequently, the Archdiocese of New York denied Bishop Jenky’s request to move the body to Peoria. After further discussion with Rome, it was decided that the Sheen Cause would now have to be relegated to the Congregation’s historic archive…
The Bishop is heartbroken not only for his flock in Peoria but also for the many supporters of the Sheen Cause from throughout the world who have so generously supported Peoria’s efforts. It should be noted, however, that saints are always made by God not by man. Efforts for many causes have sometimes taken decades or even centuries. Bishop Jenky urges that those who support the Sheen Cause continue their prayers that God’s will be made manifest.”
The response of the Archdiocese of New York:
The following statement was issued by the communications office of the New York Archdiocese the next day:
“The Archdiocese of New York joins Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria in his invitation to prayer that “God’s will be made manifest” concerning the cause for sainthood of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen…
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen expressly stated his desire that his remains be buried in New York, a request that was granted by Cardinal Terence Cooke when he was laid to rest beside the Archbishops of New York in the crypt beneath the high altar of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. To date, the only official instruction that the Archdiocese of New York has received from the Holy See regarding this matter was, from a decade ago, that his body not be moved to Peoria. To date, we have not received any further direction or request from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints…
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints did recently ask the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Peoria to enter into a dialogue to see if there was a way to continue progress in moving the cause forward…”
He spoke to my heart:
I have loved Archbishop Sheen and been inspired by his charismatic proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus and unwavering devotion to Our Lady since I first heard him preach during my teen years. His beautiful message of faith and hope spoke to my heart.
During my days teaching Religion to the high school students at John Carroll
, I frequently showed them excerpts from his popular TV series, “Life is Worth Living.” I always hoped that he would inspire them too.
"Everyone, make the Holy Hour, and you will discover as you leave the divine Presence that if you move among people in the world, they will say of you as the maid said of Peter, “You have been with Christ.” And then at the end of a lifetime spent in adoration of the Lord, and in love of the Blessed Mother, of the Blessed Sacrament, when you come before the Lord do you know what He will say to you? He will say, “I heard my Mother speak of you.”
~Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen on Eucharistic Adoration
A call to reopen the process for beatification:
Our nation needs native-born saints and role models to inspire the hearts and minds of all Catholics, especially our youth. It would be a tremendous loss to the American Church if the opportunity to beatify, and maybe one day canonize, this good and holy bishop was lost due to the inability of two dioceses to agree on his final resting place.
The years are quickly passing by, and we are losing immediate members of the Sheen Family, as well as the faithful who loved his TV show and listened to his sermons.
I pray… no, actually, I plead that Church officials in Peoria and in New York can get together after the visit of our Holy Father Pope Francis and work out their concerns and differences so that this effort can move forward for the good of the American Church.
Archbishop Fulton John Sheen, a native-born son, preached the Gospel with a passion to reach all generations across the years. Our young people need religious heroes to emulate in these days of secularism and relativism.
May we see his cause move forward in our lifetimes.
Heavenly Father, source of all holiness,
You raise up within the Church in every age men and women who serve with heroic love and dedication.
You have blessed Your Church through the life and ministry of Your faithful servant, Archbishop Fulton J Sheen.
He has written and spoken well of Your Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and was a true instrument of the Holy Spirit in touching the hearts of countless people.
If it be according to Your Will, for the honor and glory of the Most Holy Trinity and for the salvation of souls,
we ask You to move the Church to proclaim him a saint.
We ask this prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
+Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C., Bishop of Peoria
For more information:
3. The March 15, 2015 Catholic World Report article
on Thomas Reeves’ biography "America's Bishop: The Life and Times of Fulton J. Sheen,” with new final chapter available online at no cost; Calls Sheen’s ‘intense life of holiness worthy of sainthood’
Read more here.
4. The June 18, 2014 Catholic Herald article
about the first proposed miracle, the survival of a child delivered stillborn, to be attributed to the intercession of Archbishop Sheen. A board of physicians “convoked by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in March of 2014 agreed that there was no natural explanation for why the child’s heart started beating over an hour after his birth.”
“You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus. You have been a loyal son of the Church!”
~Pope John Paul II, as he embraced Archbishop Sheen during an October 3, 1979 audience in New York City
September 03, 2015 03:17
By Patti Murphy Dohn