Retreating in Alton

I'm in Alton, Illinois giving a retreat to 35 Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George [www.altonfranciscans.org]. My retreat is based on the 33 invocations in the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It's been said that when you give a retreat you also make a retreat and I have to say that being on retreat with these Sisters is a wonderful way to prepare for the Feast of the Sacred Heart on Friday.

This community has a deep devotion to the Heart of Jesus. I'm told that their foundress, Mother M. Anselma Bopp, wanted her congregation to be known as the Sisters of St. Francis of the Sacred Heart, but that name had already been taken when they began in the late 1800's. They had their beginnings at St. George Parish in Thuine, Germany and thus became known by the title of this early Church martyr. Mother M. Anselma died in 1887 and her congregation was officially approved by Pope St. Pius X in 1909.

Their devotion to the Heart of Jesus is seen in their vocation brochure which says that they were "Founded for His Heart," and are "Seeking His Heart," are "Formed after His Heart," are "At One with His Heart," are "Serving His Heart," and are "United in His Heart."

Their Constitutions state:

"The spirituality which is the heritage of our congregation finds expression in the scriptural text: 'They shall look on the one whom they have pierced' (John 19: 37; see Zechariah 12: 10). The vision that we possess, drawn out of the overflowing sources of salvation of our crucified and glorious Lord, is indicated by Christ himself when he says: 'If any man is thirsty, let him come to me! Let the man come and drink who believes in me.' Scripture says, 'From his breast shall flow fountains of living water,' and the evangelist goes on to say: 'He was speaking of the Spirit which those who believe in him were to receive' (John 7: 37-39). His Spirit began to flow as 'living water' when the side of the Crucified One (who will forever be glorified--see John 19: 34) was pierced.

The Sisters shared with me the prayer book of their congregation and there, in the Midday Prayers, I discovered a page entitled "Prayers for the Apostleship of Prayer." Every day, at noon, the Sisters gather to pray an "Our Father," a "Hail Mary," and the "Apostles' Creed" for the Apostleship of Prayer and the intentions of the Holy Father. I've always said that one of the great things about the Apostleship of Prayer is knowing that millions of people around the world are praying for me, for you, and for all Apostles of Prayer, but it's always special to put a face on some of those millions. And to know that a group of women like this--so devoted to the Heart of Jesus--are faithfully praying for us every day at noon.