24 Sep

Priests of the Civil War

We hear enough about the Civil War generals, so let us hear about some Civil War priests.

  • Fr. Thomas Ouellet marched alongside his men in the 69th New York Infantry, also known as the Fighting Irish Brigade. He marched with them into the Battle of Malvern Hill in July of 1862. He went around to wounded men on the field asking if they were Catholic and needed Last Rites. One man responded, “No, but I would like to die in the Faith of any man who has the courage to come and see me in such a place as this.”
  • Bishop William Elder, the leader of the church in Natchez, Mississippi, was a proud southerner who tended to both Union and Confederate soldiers in hospitals. He was imprisoned when he refused orders from the occupying Union general to pray for President Lincoln during Mass, saying the government could not interfere with the Catholic liturgical prayers. When Lincoln heard of the situation he agreed with Elder and ordered the prelate's release. After the war, Elder would become the archbishop of Cincinnati, a town in the North.
  • Fr. Peter Whelan of the Diocese of Charleston during the war served as chaplain at Ft. Pulaski. When the fort was captured, Whelen was offered freedom by the union officers. He refused, choosing instead to go to a New York prison with his men. He ministered to the troops in the prison camp, saying Mass and obtaining food and medicine. When Whelen was released he returned to the south only to continue his prison chaplaincy at Andersonville (named "hell on earth"), this time serving the 30,000 Union soldiers. Whelan, called "The Angel of Andersonville," died of tuberculosis contracted from his prison work.
17 Sep


The Confederacy was not the only opponent of William Tecumseh Sherman. Throughout his life the General also fought Catholicism. The war was a surprising one, given Sherman's connections to the Catholic Church.

Originally named Tecumseh, after the Native American warrior, a priest renamed him William at his baptism, thinking it would be better for his career. Sherman attended services as a cadet at West Point, married a devout Catholic, Ellen, and raised all their children in the Catholic faith. The Shermans even relocated to Indiana so their children could attend the University of Notre Dame. William later sent his son to Georgetown University, another Catholic institution.

10 Sep

The Odyssey

In Book 12 of the Odyssey we read about the Sirens. The music emanating from these women upon the island is so mesmerizing that ships are lured into the dangerous shallows and wrecked. Odysseus is provided instructions by the goddess Circe on how to avoid the trap, which he, in turn, relates to his crew:

03 Sep

You Are My Sunshine

On Sunday May 28, 2017, which also happened to be the Feast of the Ascension, there appeared on the front page of the Chicago Tribune and New York Times two articles related to death and dying. "7 Days Lost: Fear, spirituality, tears and peace" was the feature story in the Tribune. Madeline Connelly, a River Forest native, survived without any supplies for seven days in the Montana wilderness. Her Catholic Parish back home, St. Luke's, held prayer services for her. Connelly said, “I felt like I was being carried through it. I didn’t know all these people were praying for me and looking for me but, after I got out, it made a lot of sense for why I felt so safe and energized. The power of prayer and positive thinking is real.”