I learned this morning that Ms. Sharon Speaks passed away around 2am this morning.
Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and all of the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, Rest In Peace. Amen.
May Mary, our Mother of Mercy wrap the Speaks family under her mantle of love during this time. Amen.
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Prayer request: A few months ago I was blessed to be able to participate in the Gennessaret Retreat (for the chronically ill)at the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph after the invitation of Tom and Amy Payne. It was an incredible weekend experience and a beautiful chance for me to witness the powerful love of God and his healing touch and care for his people.
While on the weekend, I met Ms. Speaks there as well as her husband and was overjoyed at seeing the love and care they had for each other. Listening to her speak of how moved she was by the retreat and how she had never had the experience of love like she did on the retreat brought tears to my eyes.
Here in front of me was a woman who much like the woman with a hemorrhage in the Scriptures, had faith. She wanted to be healed. She longed to be healed. Yet, until the Retreat she hadn't trusted like she wanted to in Gods love and healing mercy for her. Through the graces of the discussion, prayer, and communal time on the retreat, she was able to reach out and touch the Lord's garment. Now, she wasn't healed bodily of her illness, but she was healed through her will. She shared with us, that through the retreat, she was able to give her "yes" to God in accepting where she was in life and uniting her suffering with his in the cross.
Ms. Speaks spoke volumes to me through her love and trust in the Lord who loves her so very much. Part of the weekend included a time of Anointing and Washing of the Feet of our "guests." I being the photographer I am, snapped this picture of her and her husband as her feet were being washed. It was an incredibly moving and vulnerable moment. And I feel so blessed to have been able to capture some aspect of "love in action."
I found out this evening that she is currently in the process of dying. As I reach out my hand in faith asking the Lord like the woman with a hemorrhage and like Ms. Speaks did, to heal me of my own infirmities, I invite you to join me in praying for her peace. Praying for her family. And praying for her soul, that she too might share in the abundant life of Heaven with Jesus Christ for ever.
May Mary, our Mother help her to continue to give her "Yes" to the Lord that his will might be done and that he the Master who asks: "Who touched me?" Will know and welcome her with great joy into his Heavenly Homeland forever. Amen.
Today, I drove my Grandma and my Mom up to Aurora, Illinois so that my Grandmother could visit her sister one last time. Aunt Carol has been struggling with several different illnesses lately, but as her breathing has gotten harder and harder, the doctors and she, think that her remaining time here is short.
We had a beautiful visit, full of lots of laughs, some tears, and a lot of story telling. I can’t tell you what I felt watching my Grandma reminisce with her sister about their time growing up. It was hard to not cry. When we arrived, Aunt Carol was incredibly surprised as no one had told her that we were coming. Grams and Aunt Carol embraced in a hug with tears in their eyes. I knew that this trip to visit Aunt Carol one last time was important for my Grandma, and watching them embrace, meant the world to me, and probably to them as well.
I wanted to share a little bit from our visit with Aunt Carol, reflect on death and the relationship Mary has with it, and also tell a story about Aunt Carol and myself that I don’t think anyone knows, or at least remembers.
Aunt Carol is ready to go. Watching and listening to her talk of how this is God’s way of keeping her from having a prolonged illness brought tears to my eyes. I have only three memories of Aunt Carol. The first is one time I went to pick up my Great Grandmother with Grams from Aunt Carol and we met at a truck stop. (I had met her before, I was just too young to remember.) The second was at my Great-Grandmothers funeral (we’ll get there in a moment.) and the third was today, after our visit.
Mary, help us to embrace our death!
Most of you know that we produced a Marian Hymn CD at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary this year. Mary has a major role in the lives of seminarians and priests, and as Aaron stated in his little message inside the CD, “It was only fitting…that our cd should focus on Mary, our Mother…”
While we were visiting with Aunt Carol and laughing about stories of her and my Grandma sleeping on comforters and “soaking up the dew” at the state fair, or when they and Grandpa Meyer would go black-walnut hunting, my Grandma gave Aunt Carol a copy of our Mary CD.
The front of the CD has a beautiful image of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on the front. When Aunt Carol’s eyes hit the front she started crying. I don’t know what was going on inside of her, but she said a line that has stuck with me all day:
Without her, I don’t know what I would do. Without Mary helping me and giving me strength, I don’t know how I could do this and be able to embrace it.
To watch a woman, just a few days shy of her young 84th birthday, have this much devotion, trust, and love of our Blessed Mother as she prepares for her end, made me start crying. Turning to the back and reading some of the songs, Aunt Carol looked at me and mentioned about how Gentle Woman was one of her favorite songs, then with her short breath, and with tears in our eyes, Aunt Carol started singing the first verse and refrain of Immaculate Mary.
Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing! You reign now in Heaven, with Jesus our King! Ave! Ave! Ave Maria! Ave! Ave! Maria!
Mary means a lot to my family, and to watch, listen, and sing with Aunt Carol, to our Blessed Mother meant so much.
Death comes for each of us, when we least expect it. I remarked to my Grandma and Mom over dinner tonight after our visit, how humbling old age and death must be. Like when we are born, we go out of this world with nothing, reliant on those around us for our needs. What a beautiful thing death is! St. Francis in his Canticle of the Sun, mentions:
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death, From whose embrace no mortal can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your will! The second death can do them no harm. Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks. And serve him with great humility.
For Francis, death was simply a transition, a passing into the next part of our lives with God. It was a necessary action which gave birth to life eternal. It was a humbling, and even humiliating action which bestowed so much on us, if we properly embraced it.
For my Great Aunt Carol, I think that she too, like St. Francis is preparing to embrace Sister Death. She praises and blesses God for giving the gift of death to her. Yes, she will miss those in her life, but I bet she cannot wait to be counted among the saints in Heaven.
Mary, always…ALWAYS leads us to Christ. She always points us to her Son. Normally in the Church, we pray that St. Joseph will help us to have a well-prepared for death, a happy death. Watching my Aunt though, I think that Mary surely has to be there with St. Joseph, calling us home to be with her Son. I love my earthly Mom, Sue Bruns. I love my Heavenly Mother Mary, I want her to be there to prepare me, and walk with me on the road to death. I want her there to be able to comfort me. I want to ask, she, who “reigns in Heaven with Jesus our King” to bring me to be with him.
Watching, listening, and visiting with Aunt Carol today, made me see Mary at the foot of the Cross, Mary who walked the road to Calvary, and watched her Son be brutally killed upon the Cross. Mary was with Aunt Carol and will continue to be as she continues to progress as we all do, toward Sister Death, from whom no living mortal can escape.
Those who know me and have heard my Vocation story before, know that I first really started considering the priesthood when I was in the 5th grade. My Great-Grandmother had died shortly after I had started thinking about it and the whole family was gathered in Quincy for her funeral. I remember sitting on the fireplace hearth downstairs in my grandparents old house with Aunt Carol. Aunt Carol, and I were having a conversation about what I wanted to do when I grew up. She was the first person that I told besides a priest that I could actually see myself as a priest. We had a wonderful conversation and at the end of it, Aunt Carol gave me a hug, told me to be strong, that I would make a great priest, and that she would pray for me. Being the first person I mentioned that I was sincerely thinking of the priesthood to and had an honest heart to heart conversation with, made her a very special person to me, especially because of her words of support and encouragement after I told her.
Today, as we prepared to leave I bent down and gave Aunt Carol a hug and a kiss. She whispered in my ear that she was proud of me, that she loved me, and that I would make a great priest. I told her that I would have some priests at our Seminary offer Mass for her, when I got back to school and said let’s keep praying for each other. She kissed my hand, we spoke for a few more moments and we said goodbye.
I never thought that I would have had such a deep theological encounter with the Lord today. I am so happy and so blessed to have been able to go and visit Aunt Carol one last time. She was one of the first to support me in my vocational discernment of the priesthood and she will be missed by many. In her last few, days, weeks, or however long the Lord grants her here on Earth, I will pray for her each day, that Mary will be with her. That Mary will give her strength and will lead her to her Son. I pray that one day I am as at peace with death and with God as Aunt Carol seemed. May we all have that grace to have a well-prepared for death! I’m thankful for Aunt Carol in my life and for her support of me. I can only imagine what others in the family are thankful for her for!
My grandmother’s name is Mary. I know that Momma Mary had something to do with making sure that Grams (Mary) and Aunt Carol got to see each other one last time. Thank-you Momma for making it possible for that to happen and allowing us to be here! Death is something that I know I will struggle with as a priest. It’s hard seeing someone you love die, but at the same time with a firm hope in the Ressurection, I think, preparing souls for death will be one of the most fruitful parts of priesthood for me. Getting to be with Aunt Carol for a few moments today touched me immensely.
As I come to the end of my time in college seminary and move on toward major, Aunt Carol’s comment: “Without her, I don’t know what I would do. Without Mary helping me and giving me strength, I don’t know how I could do this and be able to embrace it.” rings true in my own life. It’s amazing what our Mother does for us, isn’t it? Aunt Carol is walking the Way of Beauty!
I love you Aunt Carol! Pray for me when you get to see Jesus first! I will be praying for you!
Now that I have tears as running down my face again, I’m gonna wrap up. Will you join me in praying a Memorare for my great Aunt and her family?
Remember O Most Gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided, inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of Virgins, my mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful, O Mother of the Word incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.
We prayed a rosary on the way home tonight and offered it for several intentions, but firstly for Aunt Carol. The first luminous mystery is The Baptism in the Jordan. May she who died to a life of sin, and rose with Christ in her Baptism, one day rise too with him to Life eternal. Amen.
“Hey Cemeterian Corey!” is a phrase that I will never forget one of the kindergartners in Mrs. Stringer’s class at St. Joseph in Bowling Green shouting at me as they came back inside from the playground when I was visiting them a couple of years ago. Calling a seminary or a seminarian a “cemetery” is more common than you would think. Heck, even I slip up some times and say that I go to the cemetery, when I mean seminary
For all the times that I and other brother seminarians have heard that, I wonder if it has ever really sunken in?
You go to seminary to die, in a multitude of ways. Your life is not really about you anymore, and that can really be a hard pill to swallow.
The cross that we encoutner in seminary is often carried and met in very simple ways: breaking out of your old routines, moving and pushing back your comfort zones, and pruning those areas of your life out that are detrimental to grace. The word “seminary” literally in Latin means “seed bed,” for this is where men go to become the fertile ground out of which one’s spiritual life can grow. Thanks be to God you’re not walking alone through this period of purification.
I had friends growing up and ones that I really enjoyed the company of in high school, but in seminary I finally encountered other guys wanting to be men after the heart of Christ, men who had a love of and devotion to Mary. This love of Christ saturated our conversations and guided our activities.
If you will permit me to use another analogy; seminary in a way is like a river. (And now the voice in my head is singing Peace is flowing like a river but replacing it with: “Seminary’s like a riiiivvver.” Such is my life!) The seminarians are the stones and the moving water is community life. Living in close quarters with 40 men is a plethera of purification. In seminary you get to learn a lot about your brothers. You learn their sleep schedule, the times of day (morning) when you don’t say anything to them lest you die. You quickly learn the patterns, peeves, and quirks (smells) of these men who you call your brothers. Like the stones in the river, community life tests and purifies you, hopefully smoothing out your rough spots, though not always. The grace is abundant though and the amazing ways in which the Lord works through your life in community can be incomprehensible.
So yes, you go to seminary to die. Seminaries are full of death. In fact every one of the men there is in the process of dying. But it is a beautiful death. A death which gives birth through Christ to a new life full of love.
Seminary life in many ways is like a cemetery. It is like a river. It’s a place where we are in a sense forced to die to ourself and our narcissitc desires and focus on others. It is in seminary that we learn the way we can love as Christ did and be able to give completely of ourself to the church. Priests marry the church. They marry the people of God whom they will serve (everyone else in the world.) As seminarians we start to be betrothed if you will to the people (the church) through our ministry experiences. We “date” the Church and decide if we are called to give of ourselves totally to her. Likewise, the people of God choose us and “date” us. At Ordination, God-willing as in a marriage when a man and woman marry one another and give their consent to marry each other. “I do.” So too, a man at his ordination standing before the Bishop and the people of God, is asked: “Do you know him to be worthy?” After which the Vocation Director responds and the people join in an affirmation of their consent by applause.
Seminary, a seed bed is a place of death. It is a cemetery of sorts, a place where we die to ourselves and our sinful desires so that we may love Christ more. Seminary is a river. It is a place where our rough edgs are made smooth and the good that the Lord has begun in us is finally brought to completion. Please pray for your seminarians. You want to have good priests? Pray for good and holy seminarians! Pray that we might be faithful to our Lord, that we may have the grace to completely surrender our will and ourselves to the process of formation. Pray for all of the new seminarians who are starting this Way of Beauty, that is seminary. Pray for us as we die to ourselves so that through Christ we might rise to give ourselves to you.
Tonight was our senior night festivities at the Seminary. We had the meal planned out, the chefs ready to cook, and the night went off basically without a hitch. It was an absolutely beautiful celebration of our seniors, their impact on us and the seminary community and just the real fraternal and brotherly spirit at Bishop Bruté.
I am constantly amazed and so full of hope for the future of the church in American, when I am with my brothers at Bruté. As someone remarked tonight: “The Quality of our men at Bishop Bruté is some of the best.” Being in seminary, has given me the opportunity to live, pray, study, and labor in the vineyard of the Lord beside 42 men who share the same love for the Lord, for service, and who will the good of everyone. The fraternal spirit and utter love and devotion of each man to the other is something extraordinary and not explainable. I don’t even think anyone can understand it, except for those men who have spent time in seminary.
The quality of friendships, the vulnerability we place ourselves in before our brothers, the trust we place in them, and the desire for them to be holy is utterly amazing. I’ve had great friends throughout the years in high school and such, but no one has ever been a better, or closer friend then the men I am in seminary with. I thank God for letting me be a part of their lives every day.
We say goodbye to a superb group of men in our senior class this year. I have grown close to them all and hold them in such high esteem. From challenging me to continue to stretch myself, listening to me when I’m frustrated, sharing wisdom with me and being just good solid men and brothers in Christ I couldn’t ask for anything better. I will deeply miss them but know that we will keep in touch and one day we will hopefully serve at the Altar of God together.
Tonight we received some sad news about the passing of one of our men’s close family members. News and details are still forthcoming, so I don’t want to say much, especially before the family and such have a time to grieve and get the news out. But after finding out about it from Fr. Bob after we finished our senior dinner and speeches tonight, I was shocked by the drastic change in the feeling of the room and the temperament of all of the men. We instantly felt compassion and such sadness for our brother, all of us feeling as though it was one of our own family members.
Before we cleaned up from the dinner we all headed to the chapel to pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet for our brother, his family, and the deceased. The amount of love which was poured into that chaplet was so powerful and inspiring. It is times like this when I thank God I’m in seminary with such great brothers.
Please join us on this now somewhat somber night to pray for our brother, his family, and the repose of the soul of his family member. May we continue to pray for one another, build each other up, and keep fighting the good fight until we all meet together in that beautiful place of Heaven.
In somewhat modified words of our brother: “Let us give ourselves completely to the will of God. Life is to short to do anything else.”
Eternal Rest grant unto our brother’s family member O Lord…
The following is a video of our Year in Review at Bishop Bruté. Check it out and see some of the glimpses of fraternity and brotherly love that exist within the walls of our seminary: