Sketch of Christ Crucified by St. John of the Cross

John of the cross sketchThis is a famous sketch of Christ crucified drawn by St. John of the Cross. It was later used by Salvatore Dali as his inspiration for one of his own paintings of Christ on the cross.

John of the Cross had so many wonderful insights about the spiritual life. The perceived absence of God, the "dark night of the soul" which can suddenly envelope believers, is actually a time when God draws nearest to us. It is precisely in times of feeling abandoned by God that we can experience the presence of God more intimately than ever before. We need to see and listen in the dark. 

In his imagery of the spiritual journey as an ascent to Mount Carmel, we gain the insight that the journey to God can best be made with guidance from expert climbers - experienced spiritual guides who help us along the way. The modern use of spiritual directors has much to do with John's writings and reflections.



Saint Cecilia, Early Christian Martyr

SaintCeciliaAccording to legend, when St. Cecilia's body was exhumed, her fingers were found in positions interpreted as a witness to the Trinity - Three persons in One God.

Her husband and brother-in-law were martyred for piously burying the dead Christian martyrs and Cecilia's burying them both brought her to the attention of Roman authority. After refusing to renounce God and worship pagan deities, she too was martyred. Her name is included in the Roman Canon, an early Eucharistic prayer.


St. Elizabeth of Hungary

ElizabethOfHungary at Holy Cross
St. Elizabeth of Hungary at Holy Cross Church, Rumson NJ

Saint Elizabeth lived a full, but short, life: she was married at 14, mother to three children, one of whom was born shortly after her husband died, widowed at 20, dead herself at 24 years old. 

Despite her privileged upbringing as a princess married to a king, she developed a great concern for the poor after hearing the preaching and seeing the example of the Franciscans. Her generosity to the poor aroused resentment among the courtiers surrounding her husband, who accused her of misappropriating palace goods and treasures for the disadvantaged. 

One day these advisors and the king confronted Elizabeth on one of her missions of mercy, demanding to know what she carried in her cloak. She had stuffed her cloak full of bread for the hungry, but when she revealed what she was carrying to her husband, there were only roses. This is one of many times roses would be used as signals of divine intervention in the lives of the saints. 


St. Pope Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church

LeoToday we honor St. Leo the Great, pope and Doctor of the Church. This mural by Raphael shows the pope riding out to meet Attila the Hun and persuading him to spare Rome. Attila is said to have seen a vision of Sts. Peter and Paul brandishing swords to emphasize Pope Leo's mission.

Early popes acclaimed as "Great" generally acted in ways which strengthened the Petrine ministry as Leo did in advancing the primacy of Bishop of Rome above the Patriarchs of the Eastern church. His writings and teachings, especially on the nature of Jesus Christ and against the many Christological heresies in the early church earned him designation as Doctor of the Church.

Let us pray that the church continued to be blessed with both courageous leaders and disciples.

St. Martin de Porres

St. Martin de Porres faced poverty, a difficult childhood and prejudice, much of it stemming from the fact that he was of bi-racial origin and abandoned by his father. Despite this he was attracted to religious life and was gradually accepted into the Dominican Order and eventually even allowed to profess his vows as a Dominican brother. 

In his youth he learned barbering and first aid and continued to render care to the poor and sick in and around the monastery. He became renowned for powers of miraculous healing and is often shown with animals due to his empathy and way with them. He was canonized by St. Pope John XXIII.










Painting of St. Martin done just before or shortly after his death by an unknown artist and a photograph of a modern facial reconstruction using his skull.

All Souls' Day Memorial Mass

Each year we celebrate a mass at Holy Cross for our loved ones who have died including those for whom we have prayed a Mass of Christian Burial here at Holy Cross. After the homily, a candle is lit from the Easter candle on the prayer tree for each person we remember.

Each family in attendance is given a small votive candle, crafted from the previous year's Easter Candle.



















Our Book of Remembrance is available all during the month of November beginning with All Souls Day. In it we inscribe the names of all the deceased for whom we wish the church to pray. This year, the book is located in front of St. Joseph, Patron of a Happy Death. 

All Saints Solemnity Mass

Saints by ShutterstockToday we pray with all the saints in glory and await in hope our communion with them in the heavenly kingdom.

We celebrate communion with them now by acknowledging our interdependence on each other and our total dependence on God and ask their intercession for our prayers. We thank them for their lives to emulate and their prayers for our sanctification.

All saints, officially canonized, and those known only to God are in our prayers today.


Saint John of Capistrano

JohnOfCapistsranoSt. John of Capistrano, the "soldier saint," whose preaching and personal leadership in battle is credited with helping repel the Turkish invaders of Hungary after the fall of Constantinople is shown here with conquering IHS Banner. Despite his 70 years, he rallied for the battle only to succumb to infection in the weeks following the victory.

Having made a successful career of law and politics, he became a Franciscan friar, lead an austere life-style and preached a message of repentance and piety across Europe.

The Franciscan Mission in San Juan of Capistrano in Southern California was named in his honor by St. Junipero Serra and is the only existing location in the United States still standing where Serra prayed the mass. Besides its historic value as an early missionary settlement, it had become popularized by the annual return of the swallows on St. Joseph's day. Recent years had seen a decline in their numbers until a vigorous program was begun to recruit their return - an interesting cooperation between solid science and serious prayer.



St. Paul of the Cross

St Paul of the Cross-FounderSaint
St. Paul of the Cross founded the Passionist Fathers with the spiritual insight that the best way to know Jesus is through contemplating his suffering and death. This intimacy brings about a loving energy to minister to Christ in the poor and suffering throughout the world. 

St. Paul would carry a large cross around with him whenever he gave parish retreats as a reminder of Christ's suffering and death for us leading to his life-restoring resurrection.


The North American Martyrs

Surely we can admire the courage and dedication of the Jesuits who ministered to the Native Americans in upstate New York and Southern Canada during times of political and tribal tumult. Warring Native American tribes, competing French, Dutch and English fur traders and the epidemic of disease brought by the settlers themselves to the naive immunity of the Native Americans all made for harrowing and dangerous evangelization. It eventually cost the missioners their lives, including Isaac Jogues who returned after an escape to France for yet another mission in North America.

During his escape to France from his first captivity, he stayed for a brief time in the Dutch colony of Manhattan and became the first Catholic priest there, for which he is honored on one of the great bronze doors at St. Patrick's cathedral.

The statue shown here depicts his maimed hand from torture, which prohibited him from saying mass until special permission was obtained from the pope.


Saint Luke, Evangelist

St Luke edited from Shutterstock
Today's feastday is Saint Luke, the Evangelist, by tradition a Greek gentile and physician. In addition to his gospel, Acts of the Apostles is also attributed to him and both are written in an educated and polished form of Greek, indicating he took great care in composing and putting his words into writing. 

His gospel is written for those who do not necessarily understand Jewish customs and emphasizes Jesus' concern for the poor and the "left out," showing Jesus very often at prayer. His gospel narrative contains some of the most beloved stories in the New Testament. His symbol is the ox, in this statue portrayed at his feet.

How fortunate for us that St. Luke loved the Lord and not only spread the gospel message, but took time to write it down.



Sacred Heart


Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque's revelations were instrumental in changing popular piety. Jesus' merciful love for us became more greatly appreciated and more frequent communion encouraged. First Friday Communion was actually more frequent than receiving once per year at Easter! 


Saint Francis Borgia

Yes, those Borgias. If I am reading the family tree correctly, he was the great-grandson of Pope Alexander VI. Francis enjoyed great success in the royal and ecclesiastical politics of the day, marrying a Portuguese noblewoman and becoming a close advisor to the Holy Roman Emperor. Upon the death of his wife after more than a decade of marriage and eight children, he decided to renounce his royal succession and become a Jesuit priest.

His ascent in the Jesuits was no less notable. He was eventually elected the third Father General of the Order after Ignatius. His administrative skills were put to worthy use by the Jesuits though he was still sought for counsel by kings and popes. Francis, however, preferred a quiet life of prayer. He founded a school in Rome which would eventually become the Gregorian University.


Saint John Leonardi

John Leonardi

Saint John Leonardi was a diocesan priest, originally trained as a pharmacist, who ministered in the Church during the Catholic Reformation and The Council of Trent. As he began to pastor a parish, a group of young men gathered around him whom he helped realize their vocations to priesthood. A group of reform-minded clergy also formed around him and despite difficulties he organized them into a community which received recognition from the Church early on, but aroused the suspicion of the local government in the politically charged days of the Counter Reformation, which saw the foundation of too many religious communities in their view.

His community was eventually named the Order of the Mother of God. Here is St. Pope John Paul's description of his life and works at the Church he had been given to pastor in Rome:

Problems abounded. Indeed, the structural condition of the church and annexed buildings was precarious and in such a state of dilapidation that it looked like "a shepherd's cottage or hut". The flooding of the Tiber gave rise to an unhealthy humidity and dangerous infections which, in 1609, caused the death of many religious, including the founder himself. This prompted the Order, at the Congregation that met to elect St John Leonardi's successor, although reasserting the determination to remain in "that church of so great a devotion", to give an account of their difficult situation to Pope Paul V, asking him "for some other retreat, where they could care for the sick and seek shelter in the dangerous weather" (A. Bernardini, Croniche, parte III, p. 6).

A few years later, the Pontiff Alexander VII, recognizing that the site of the church of Santa Maria in Portico was "too remote from trade and equally sordid and vile, in short not at all suitable", built the church of Santa Maria in Campitelli in one of the most beautiful and characteristic places of Rome, where this religious family established its General Curia more than three centuries ago. In 1662, the image of Our Lady Romanae Portus Securitatis was moved to the new Church, which thus acquired the name of Santa Maria in Portico in Campitelli.

Pope Benedict XVI remarked on his life as a pharmacist-turned-priest:

"...he never lost his passion for pharmacology; he felt that his profession as a pharmacist would serve as a bridge that would allow him to fulfill his vocation more fully, dispensing to men through a holy life “God’s medicine,” which is Jesus Christ who was crucified and who rose again, “the measure of all things.”

John Leonardi knew what the true medicine for these spiritual maladies was and summarized it in the expression “Christ first of all” — Christ at the center of the human heart, at the center of history and at the center of the cosmos.

Mankind, he stated firmly, has an extreme need for Christ because he is our “measure.”

There is no area that cannot be touched by his power. There is no ailment that does not have its remedy in him. There is no problem that cannot be resolved through him.

“Christ or nothing!” — this was his prescription for every kind of spiritual and social reform.

He was named patron saint of Pharmacists in 2006, a profession which needs to strength of Christ to resist the modern challenges of prescription abortifacients and becoming integral to the physician assisted suicide movement. In no small measure, they are also challenged to help find workable solutions to the opioid epidemic which engulfs us.

Saint Bruno, Founder of The Carthusians

St Bruno-FounderSaintStatue

Saint Bruno founded a unique form of religious life, a way of being alone - together.

Carthusians live in individual cells with their own workshop, study, oratory and garden but eat some meals and pray sometimes in community. 

Their entire day is arranged around praying, working, reading and studying for God.

Bruno was a successful administrator, scholar and advisor, but longed for a more private life to which he returned even when repeatedly called out of seclusion by a former student who became pope and needed his advice.

Bruno is shown in this statue declining nomination as a bishop and with a skull to remind him of the fleeting nature of earthly honors and pleasures.

It is a peculiar phenomenon that the very busy often find the advice of the very quiet very valuable. 




Redemptorist Father Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos

SeelosA missionary to the German immigrants to the United States, but serving all God's people, Francis Xavier Seelos entered the United States around the time of Civil War, the "Know Nothing" Anti-Catholic movement and the rise of American Nativism in the US Church.

Initially an associate pastor with St. John Neumann in Philadelphia, he soon rose to a prominent leadership position in the Redemptorists and the Church, even declining nomination to become a  bishop.

He served as a tireless missionary in parishes throughout the states, finally succumbing to Yellow Fever at the age of only 48. Many healing miracles were reported both before and after his death. 

He was beatified by St. Pope John Paul II in 2000. 

St. Francis of Assisi

FrancisSt. Francis is famously pictured preaching to the birds and St. Anthony of Padua to the fishes. Undoubtedly both these saints loved God's creation, but both these sermons were meant for people who rejected the preacher and his message. Only the birds and the fish would listen.

Today it is important to remember St. Francis' radical message of discipleship and his love for nearly everything but money, especially his love for Christ crucified and those cast aside by society.

Let us resist the effort to turn Francis into a kind of modern eco-friendly saint who cared for the birds more than the poor.