Sow in Tears, Reap in Joy

This was a time of a major crisis in my family. My husband had just abandoned me and my 18 year old son after a 33 year marriage with no notice and no reason —just gone. I was trying to handle all the emotional and spiritual shipwreck this caused myself and my son. It was then that I first met Br. Michael while visiting my close friend, his mother, in Houston TX several years ago. I was a bit shocked at how Br. Michael looked in his cassock that looked like some antique out of my grandparents’ cedar chest! Although I was Baptized and received First Communion and First Confession in the old Latin rite, I was Confirmed and received the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony in the new rite. I was a bit unsettled by Br. Michael’s appearance. Yet, Br. Michael was not “old” but very young and engaging as a person.

Br. Michael gently guided and encouraged me to grab the spiritual anchor of the Church and start with prayer. He introduced me to sacramentals such as St. Michael Chaplet, the Rosary, Holy Water, Blessed salt and oil, and frequent Communion and Confession. I remember in particular Br. Michael was concerned with some of the books on spiritualists and other religions my son was turning to as solace for the sudden loss of his father which totally changed his life and shattered his trust.

Br. Michael offered to talk to him, and did so several times both at our home, via calls and texts and other times at coffee shops during his various trips to his parents in Houston. It certainly had to be quite a sight! A young “old fashioned” religious brother and a young Hookah-smoking young adult with tattoos, big gauges in his ears, rings in his tongue and ears with long hair, talking one-on-one in the front of Barnes & Nobles! I was very thankful Br. Michael took an interest. My parish priest only offered us his prayers, but Br. Michael offered his deeds.

Little by little, by the grace of God and prayer, I saw genuine changes in my son. Since the Lord treats us all uniquely, He initially drew my son to a 24 hour Eucharistic Adoration chapel at a local parish. It was the only place he could go at midnight to silently weep at the foot of the Eucharistic Christ in the early morning hours without prying eyes and judgmental stares you get at going to Mass the way he looked. Initially, going back to Mass was definitely ‘out,’ but silence with Christ and his broken heart was his ‘in.’ This lasted quite awhile, but Br. Michael still kept in touch occasionally. The seed was planted, God was making it grow!

I still think it is very odd, that the “old ways” seem to attract the “young.” Maybe just because the young want nothing to do with the ways of their parents at a crisis point in their lives, or maybe the “old ways” give the young lots of space and solitude and concrete disciplines with a heavy dose of the Sacraments and sacramentals to think on their own in communion with God in the more solemn celebration of the Mass.

Eventually my son stepped into making it to a Sunday Mass but would only stand in the vestibule at my local parish. He was in late and out fast avoiding everyone and everything around him. However, Brother Michael invited us to the Tridentine Mass a couple of times in downtown Houston and my son went inside and “really liked it.” Go figure!! My son now enjoys both rites. I discovered that Saint Padre Pio asked to be excused from celebrating Mass in the new rite and it was granted to him, but he died before it was officially imposed on all. Saint John Paul II embraced the new rite and this too also appealed to youth. This tells me that the Lord calls all in unique ways, no religious order is “superior” to the other because they are all called to be faithful trustworthy shepherds of the sheep in their charge and faithful to their own charisms and rite. In this day of grave crisis in the Church, I trust and I know God will never abandon the Church as He has promised.

To make a long story of conversion short, I am very grateful that Br. Michael has chosen a unique calling exclusively to the old rite that certainly helped my son who has now fully returned to the sacramental life, consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and has even started to explore the religious life himself!

As is written in the Gospel of Saint Matthew: “By their fruits Ye shall know them.” My son is one of those fruits.

~ THERESA H. (Houston, TX)

Saint Thomas Aquinas House is an independent 501(c)3 public charity dedicated to supporting men pursuing traditional priestly and religious vocations.  We welcome your stories about how the vocations we support have impacted your lives.  Contact us to make a featured posting and testimonial.

Sursum Corda

Br. Michael’s counsel has been invaluable to our family. His brothers have visited us for a week-long retreat each year, and every visit is a joy and blessing to our small family of six children. When our two oldest children each reached the age of 14, he taught them how to conduct mental prayer according to the method of St. Teresa of Avila, and guided them in the continued development of that discipline. The brothers have a wonderful ability to interact with young people and teach to their understanding. At their most recent visit, Br. Regulus led the next three oldest children in meditations on Our Lord’s Passion, including our ten-year-old (and very energetic) son, who got himself up at 6:30am everyday to pray! Br. Joseph taught the children more about the mysteries of the rosary, and even led our six-year-old in a remedial version of guided mental prayer.

This deepened prayer life has had an impact. Since their most recent visit, our older children have continued meditation in the early mornings, and praying all the mysteries of the rosary each day. All the children take rosary walks together, praying for our non-Catholic neighbors as they walk up and down our street.

As a convert to Catholicism and coming from an evangelical background, religious vocational discernment was new territory for me. Br. Michael has guided me in leading our eldest two daughters through their vocational discernment process. Br. Michael’s wisdom, book recommendations and prayers for our family have been necessary, encouraging and highly fruitful. Our eldest daughter was recently accepted into the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus with the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. She is due to enter in October 2018.

From my years of observation, this group attracts very intelligent, deeply spiritual and devoted men. As a group they have always stood as epitomes of prudence and temperance to my family. I have observed Br. Michael’s leadership to always exemplify courage and justice most impressively. There is no traditional Catholic leader that I have personally known, who guides traditional parishioners with more outwardly apparent ease and serenity.

We have been and continue to be blessed by their example, ministry and prayers.

~ JOSHUA S. (Auburn, Maine)

Saint Thomas Aquinas House is an independent 501(c)3 public charity dedicated to supporting men pursuing traditional priestly and religious vocations.  We welcome your stories about how the vocations we support have impacted your lives.  Contact us to make a featured posting and testimonial.

Grace of a Happy Death

What possibly could be ‘happy’ about death?  The love of your life is about to leave this world and you’ll be totally alone.  I was soon to find out it was not about me.

In December 2014, my dear Fred came down with strep throat, which turned into impetigo, which like strep throat is a bacterial infection of the skin.  By May, his rash had ulcerated; it was stage four melanoma.  My husband went into home hospice.

In the three weeks leading up to his death, Br. Michael and Br. Joseph came to the house and chanted parts of the Divine Office, the seven penitential psalms and the Gradual psalms, which brought us great comfort.  The death watch itself lasted 16 hours.  A local priest gave Fred the Last Rites and Viaticum in the Tridentine Rite, Fred also finally received Confirmation.  A total of four priests would come and pay their respects.  The brothers returned at that time and chanted the full day’s Office (the octave of Pentecost) in Fred’s room and said many other prayers for the dying.  In between prayers, my husband was very peacefully between two worlds, and several times became lucid and drank water.  He understood everything that was happening and recognized everyone present.  The priest who brought him the Last Rites said, “This is a very holy death.”  There were a lot of tears from myself and Fred, but it was peaceful at the same time.

Fred held on until the light of the morning sun started to enter through the window.  In those last seconds, it was just me and the hospice nurse with him.  Fred rallied briefly, opened his eyes and kissed the relic of the True Cross I offered him before he kissed me goodbye one last time and fell asleep in the Lord.  I could swear I now heard the angels chanting those psalms we had been hearing before.  It was an incredibly holy moment.  And then it was over.  My husband had a white glow about him and a smile on his face even in death.  Everyone noticed this.  The undertaker delayed embalming a couple days because he wasn’t completely sure Fred was dead!  His cancer rash on the neck also seemed to disappear.  Br. Michael commented the next morning, “Fred looks more alive now than when he was dying!”

The two hospice nurses who had taken shifts both agreed they had never seen anything like this before.  They said, “This is the type of death we pray for all our patients but never see —at home surrounded by loved ones, hymns and psalms and so courageous without fear, without struggle and so totally peaceful.”

It didn’t stop there.  Fred died at home and his wake was in our home too.  Thanks to the brothers the Office of the Dead from the Divine Office was chanted the night before and morning of the funeral.  The Mass was a Solemn High Tridentine Requiem with full choir.  They repeated this on the two anniversaries of his burial.

Folks tell me 70% of people pray for a death like this: at home, surrounded by friends without machines and doctors.  It should be a holy time.  I will be forever grateful to Br. Michael and the other brothers that helped me to discover that a truly holy death is indeed a ‘happy’ death.

~ SHARON T. (Bexley, Ohio)

Saint Thomas Aquinas House is an independent 501(c)3 public charity dedicated to supporting men pursuing traditional priestly and religious vocations.  We welcome your stories about how the vocations we support have impacted your lives.  Contact us to make a featured posting and testimonial.

Rebuilding God’s Broken Church

Our family has known Br. Michael, Br. Joseph and many of their brothers for a long time.  These are good men, loyal to Christ’s one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.  The brothers worked and prayed with the Latin Mass community here in Detroit for many years.  Their presence gave a stabilizing security through many turbulent times for us.  One of those times was when St. Josaphat Church nearly closed after November gales ripped a hole in the steeple.

Steeple Damage

Damaged Steeple

The chief feature of St. Josaphat Church was its immense central steeple built in the late 1800s still with its original slate roof.  Like all inner-city Detroit parishes, decades of urban decline had caused timely maintenance projects to be put off indefinitely lest the parish accrue drowning debt without any hope of ever paying it down.  Now the majestic steeple was bowing over the nearby expressway like a sail.  Not knowing when or where the tower might collapse, the entire church campus was placed under condemnation order by the city and the access road in front of it had to be closed off.  Our parish community was displaced from our beloved, historic church.

Our family and many others looked to Br. Michael at this time for his knowledge and natural leadership.  In the end, our Latin Mass community was able to survive this ordeal intact.  In fact, it continued to thrive in spite of it.  Less than two years later, after much prayer and effort, we were back into a newly repaired St. Josaphat Church, which because of this remains open to this day.

During their years in Detroit, the brothers helped four of my children prepare for their First Confession and First Holy Communion.  Listening to their catechism lessons was always a blessing.  Not only did they engage my children in a way that helped them to understand the Faith, but they helped me to come to a deeper understanding of the Church’s teachings too.

They started and led a neighborhood evangelization program for a time, chanted Vespers and other prayers publicly at the church and helped visiting priests and our regular pastor with preparations for Mass and other liturgical celebrations.  They helped get started a Ladies’ Altar Guild and regular Sunday potluck for the large families, which I was a part of.  They were instrumental in making a diffuse Latin Mass community really come together and to have a parish life that we never had before.

All of these men were true witnesses to the Faith whom we looked to for inspiration.  They were models of virtue in all that they said and did.  They were powerful examples to men —young and old— inspiring them to an authentic faith.  My eldest son even asked Br. Michael to sponsor him for his Confirmation, showing the deep regard he held for him.

My two younger sons loved to horse around with the postulants and we welcomed them all into our family.  All of my children looked forward to their visits and them chanting Vespers at our house.  We even had neighbors stop us to ask what the beautiful music emanating from our house was.  They were lapsed Catholics and they told us seeing the men in cassocks and hearing the chanting brought back many good memories for them.

I consider my family blessed beyond measure to know the men of St. Thomas Aquinas House.  I was heartbroken to learn that they were moving out of state —many of us were actually in tears.  Their loss is still keenly felt in our community, and it shows the impact they had on so many lives.  Even while a good number of us were grumbling about them having to move, they displayed an heroic acceptance of God’s will that stopped us in our tracks.

By their fruits you shall know them: and I know of only good fruits from these holy men.

~ ANITA C. (Grosse Pointe Woods, MI)

 

Saint Thomas Aquinas House is an independent 501(c)3 public charity dedicated to supporting men pursuing traditional priestly and religious vocations.  We welcome your stories about how the vocations we support have impacted your lives.  Contact us to make a featured posting and testimonial.

What about the Brothers?

St. Thomas Aquinas House public charity has been the chief financial support of a Catholic men’s community-in-formation called the ‘Canons Regular of St. Thomas Aquinas,’ which began its discernment in 2012 at the invitation of the Most Rev. Francis R. Reiss, and enjoyed the generous authorization and sponsorship of the Most Rev. Allen H. Vigneron from 2013 to 2017. St. Thomas Aquinas House remains committed to its support for this new religious community as they continue with their vowed life of common prayer beyond the Archdiocese of Detroit in search of a new location in which to establish a permanent monastic presence.

The members of Detroit’s former community-in-formation, the Canons Regular of St. Thomas Aquinas, wish to convey their heartfelt thanks to His Grace, the Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit for five years of fruitful discernment and his continuous encouragement and support.  You and your see remain in our grateful prayers!

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Two brothers serve as the Archbishop Vigneron’s ‘familiares’

Here are some facts and statistics about the Canons Regular of St. Thomas Aquinas’ discernment while in the Archdiocese of Detroit:

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Discernment began in 2012 at the invitation of Most Rev. Francis R. Reiss

Start Date: 15 August 2012

End Date: 9 November 2017

Starting Membership: 3

Closing Membership: 4

Total Membership: 10

Average Age of Members: 26.4

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Tenebrae at St. Josaphat Church, Detroit

Primary Activities: Daily community chanting of the Divine Office according to the ancient Latin form of the Roman rite; spiritual and religious formation of members.

Secondary Activities: Liturgical and administrative support for parishes; catechetical instruction (all ages); inner city, neighborhood evangelical outreach; fraternal outreach to diocesan clergy.

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Sweetest Heart of Mary Church, Detroit

Chief Places of Activity: Mother of Divine Mercy Parish (Detroit); St. Joseph Oratory Parish (Detroit); St. Louise de Marillac Parish (Warren, MI); St. Justin-St. Mary Magdalen Parish (Hazel Park, MI).

Locations of Residence: Sweetest Heart of Mary Rectory, Detroit (2012-2013); St. Mary Magdalen Convent, Hazel Park (2013-2017).

Supporting Institutions: Ss. Cyril & Methodius Seminary; Christendom College Graduate School; Vita Consecrata Institute; Institute on Religious Life

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Brothers at Christendom College

The brothers officially relocated to a rural setting outside of Michigan in December 2017, where they continue their common life of prayer and contemplation uninterrupted.  They may still be contacted through either the P. O. Box listed on this website or via the email link.  The brothers appreciate your continued support for them as they search for a new Ordinary with interest in establishing a traditional community of canons regular in his diocese.