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Photo: Kevin Norberg
Materials for the Consoling the Heart of Jesus retreat include DVDs of Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC. The taping for the DVDs (shown above) took place in May at Pacem in Terris Franciscan Center of Spirituality in Isanti, Minn. During the time of the filming, 20 people made the Consoling the Heart of Jesus Ignatian retreat.
This is How Saints Are Made
Saint Joseph’s Church in West St. Paul, Minn., has one of 14 pilot groups in the country for Consoling the Heart of Jesus. "We have such lively discussions — and deep!" says Kathy Neumann, who leads the pilot. "We have been joined by people from five or six other parishes who are starting groups in their own parishes. It’s amazing how it’s spreading. I just feel like Mary is spreading it."
"This is touching the hearts of young people, too, and that's just beautiful," says Romana Grubbe (center), who has brought HAPP to St. Cabrini Parish in Springfield, Fla. Her daughters, Amy (left) and Ashley, consecrated themselves to Mary and have now turned to Consoling the Heart of Jesus.
By Felix Carroll (Jul 23, 2012)
The bottom line of the bold, new evangelization efforts of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception is that sainthood is not restricted to the spiritual giants we read about in history books.
We are all meant to be saints, and an essential aspect of this call is consoling the Heart of Jesus by trusting Him. The "super saints" will show us how.
"With the insights of 'super saints' like Therese of Lisieux, Faustina, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Blessed John Paul II behind us, we have everything we need to be a saint, a great saint, and quickly," says Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, director of the Association of Marian Helpers and creator of the new Hearts Afire Programs for the New Evangelization (HAPP), which brings together small parish groups to renew faith, deepen their love of God, and inspire works of mercy.
The Marians launched the first part of HAPP on Divine Mercy Sunday. The first part is a program of consecration to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Since then, more than 2,000 people in parishes around the country have participated, using Fr. Michael's book, 33 Days to Morning Glory, and its accompanying group-retreat program.
On Oct. 1, the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Marians will launch the next step in HAPP — to pursue what Fr. Michael calls "the most essential principle of the spiritual life: Consoling Jesus." Since the Blessed Virgin Mary leads us to the Sacred Heart of her Son, which overflows with mercy for us, once we're consecrated to Mary, she's not going to allow us to just sit still.
Similar to the Marian consecration, small groups will form and meet weekly — in this case, for 10 weeks. In this retreat, the groups will draw from Fr. Michael's book Consoling the Heart of Jesus and its accompanying materials.
This summer, 14 groups in eight states from California to Georgia launched pilot programs. Many of the participants — including both laity and religious, men and women, young and old — are gearing up to lead future groups. By all accounts, leaders will be in great demand.
"We're seeing so much interest in this," says Jackie Krilich, leader of a pilot at St. John the Evangelist Parish in St. John, Ind. "I think we're at the beginning stages of something big — in individual parishes and the Church at large."
Indeed, Kelly Wahlquist, assistant director of parish evangelization for the Marians, says that HAPP — still in its infancy — is far exceeding anyone's expectations in terms of interest and impact.
"We have group leaders who are stepping forward mainly just through word of mouth," she says. "Many have already read Consoling the Heart of Jesus and have had their lives changed as a result."
People like Kathy Neumann, a pilot group leader at St. Joseph's Church, in West St. Paul, Minn.
"Through Consoling the Heart of Jesus, I realize how much God loves us," she says. "Every time I receive Communion now, I remind myself that He delights that I'm even there. I'm just so excited about this program, and it's so exciting to see how others in our group are responding to it."
"Our parish has needed a spiritual movement," says Romana Grubbe, a pilot leader at St. Frances Cabrini Parish, in Spring Hill, Fla. "I think this is what we've been waiting for to help us draw deeper into our faith. For me, after reading Consoling the Heart of Jesus, I spent hours before the Blessed Sacrament thanking Him."
With so much interest generated, her priest recently assigned her a room to hold the group retreat.
"And now neighboring parishes are also asking about this, and they're planning to begin the 33 Days retreat followed by Consoling the Heart of Jesus," Romana says.
"This has been a deep spiritual awakening for the people in our group," Jackie says. "Together, we're looking for and seeing Jesus in other people. It changes your life. You learn to offer your day to Jesus, and you want each day to be the best day ever."
In Consoling the Heart of Jesus, Fr. Michael speaks of how the "super saints" directed their spiritual energies to delighting the Lord, giving Him joy, and consoling His broken Heart. The essential principle taught by Blessed Teresa, for instance, was to "hear the thirst of Jesus on the Cross — not a thirst for water, but a thirst for love — and to strive with all her might to 'quench His thirst' by giving Him her love," Fr. Michael says. "Now, St. Faustina and St. Therese express the most essential principle in the same way, namely, the thirst of Jesus, but they understood quenching Jesus' thirst, or consoling Him, to be the same as trusting Him."
Trust — radical trust in His mercy — is how saints are made.
The pilot groups share similar conclusions. The reason that 33 Days and Consoling the Heart of Jesus are met with such enthusiasm is their accessibility and their practicality.
"I've done many retreats, and they've been good, but sometimes a little too [intellectual]," Kathy says. "Father Michael writes simply, for everyday people. It's not intimidating."
Participants also appreciate how Consoling seems tailored-made for people with busy schedules. The program's organizing principles help a person enter more fully into Divine Mercy spirituality through an emphasis on what St. Therese called the "Little Way" — meaning that disciples of Jesus can seek holiness in the ordinary and the everyday.
For example," says Jackie, "if you don't have time to work in a soup kitchen, or the finances to help the needy, a lot of us are saying, 'Well, let's be like St. Therese and do the little things.' Treat everyone as if they were Jesus. See Jesus in everyone."
"One of the women in our group says her vision of people has been transformed through reading Consoling the Heart of Jesus," says Kathy. "Rich or poor, a banker, a taxicab driver — it doesn't matter. She sees them as Christ and sees the goodness in them. We all have this perspective now of not seeing people for what they can give us but for what we can give them."
In addition to the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, HAPP will have further stages that will center on general teachings of the faith and works of mercy.
The Marians believe HAPP will serve as a perfect vehicle by which to celebrate the Year of Faith called for by Pope Benedict XVI. The Year of Faith, which will begin on Oct. 11, is an opportunity for every Catholic to turn towards Jesus Christ, encounter Him in the Sacraments — especially the Eucharist — and rediscover the faith and the Church.
For more information on HAPP, visit allheartsafire.org.