Friday, August 18, 2017

St. Helena the Empress


My patron saint. She discovered the True Cross. Don Marco says:
Saint Helena was not merely collecting relics for posterity. Her discovery of the True Cross saved the Orthodox Catholic faith from being submerged in a sea of speculative philosophies that denied the true Flesh and Blood of Christ. Saint Helena’s discovery points to the God who became man and suffered death on a real cross in a particular place at a precise moment in history. Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles was the herald of Christ’s resurrection; Saint Helena became the herald of the mystery of the Cross.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Assumption of Mary

"And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars...." (Apocalypse 12:1)

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII in the bull Munificentissimus Deus defined the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The teaching that the Immaculate Mother of God was taken body and soul into heaven at the close of her earthly existence has been the constant belief of the universal Church, as ancient liturgical manuscripts bear witness. "Everything tends to indicate that the privilege of the Assumption was explicitly revealed to the Apostles...and that it was transmitted subsequently by the oral tradition of the Liturgy," wrote Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange in The Mother of the Saviour and Interior Life.

It was not until the middle of the twentieth century, a century so traumatized by genocide, mass murders, world wars, the breakdown of modesty, morality, and family life; the spread of false ideologies such as communism, socialism, and feminism, which promise to liberate but in reality only enslave and destroy, that the pope was moved to declare the dogma. "The political, social, and religious atmosphere in the middle of the twentieth century influenced greatly the decision of the Pope" so that "mindful of the human misery caused by war, of the ever present threat of materialism and the decline of moral life, and of the internal problems that disturbed the Church, [he] turned to Mary, confident of her intercession." Pope Pius XII "believed...that calling attention to the bodily Assumption of Mary would remind all men and women that the human body is sacred, that the whole person is holy and destined to live forever." (Fr. Kilian Healy, O.Carm. The Assumption of Mary)

For those who struggle to offer to God hearts free from all stain of actual sin, who strive to experience even in this life the joys of union with God through contemplation, the mystery of the Assumption is one which characterizes a way of life. According to Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. in his classic work Divine Intimacy:
Mary's Assumption shows us the route we must follow in our spiritual ascent: detachment from earth, flight towards God and union with God....It is not enough to purify our heart from sin and attachment to creatures, we must at the same time to direct it towards God, tending toward Him with all our strength...Mary's Assumption thus confirms in us this great and beautiful truth: we are created for and called to union with God. Mary herself stretches out her maternal hand to guide us to the attainment of this high ideal.
On our journey to Heaven, we confidently grasp the hand of our merciful Mother, the Mediatrix of all Grace. As St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus wrote a few months before her death: "It is true that no human life is exempt from faults; only the Immaculate Virgin presents herself pure before the Divine Majesty. Since she loves us and knows our weakness, what have we to fear?" (Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Vol II, trans. by Fr John Clarke, O.C.D.) How fitting that the acclamation from the Book of Judith is so often applied to Our Lady: "Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of Israel, thou art the honor of our people." (Judith 15:10)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein)

On October 11, 1998, Pope John Paul II canonized St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a Discalced Carmelite nun known in the world as Dr. Edith Stein. Edith Stein was born to a German Jewish family on October 12, 1891, the Day of Atonement on the Hebrew calendar. She grew up to become a brilliant philosopher and university professor, as well as a feminist. Her purely secular lifestyle eventually brought her to a state of melancholy. She began to search for a deeper meaning of life.

One evening, while at the home of some Catholic friends, Edith read the Life of St. Teresa of Avila, and when she finished it she said: "This is truth." Edith was baptized in 1922, and for the next decade was a dedicated teacher in Catholic schools, as well as a lecturer on women's issues. The confusion of today concerning the role of women in the home, in the Church, and in public life was also rampant in the Europe of the 1920's and 30's. Dr. Stein gave a series of lectures on such topics as "Ethos of Women's Professions" and "Vocations of Man and Woman," in which she discussed the controversy in the light of Sacred Scripture and Tradition.

At a convention of Catholic Academics in 1930, Dr. Stein said:
Many of the best women are almost overwhelmed by the double burden of family duties and professional life-- or often simply of gainful employment. Always on the go, they are harassed, nervous, and irritable. Where are they to get the needed inner peace and cheerfulness in order to offer stability, support, and guidance to others?...To have divine love as its inner form, a woman's life must be a Eucharistic life. Only in daily confidential relationship with the Lord in the tabernacle can one forget self, become free of all one's wishes and pretensions, and have a heart open to all the needs of others. ( The Collected works of Edith Stein, Vol 2, ICS Publications, 1987)
Edith presented the Blessed Virgin Mary as being the role model for all women.
Whether she is a mother in the home, or occupies a place in the limelight of public life, or lives behind quiet cloister walls, she must be the handmaid of the Lord everywhere. So had the Mother of God been in all the circumstances of her life....Were each woman an image of the Mother of God, a Spouse of Christ, an apostle of the Divine Heart, then would each fulfill her feminine vocation no matter what conditions she lived in and what worldly activity absorbed her life. (Collected Works, Vol 2)
At the age of forty-two, Edith Stein entered the Carmel of Cologne, where she made her first profession on Easter Sunday, 1935 and her final vows in April of 1938. Due to the Nazi persecution of the Jews in Germany, Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, as she was known in the cloister, was transferred to the Dutch Carmel of Echt on December 31, 1938. On Passion Sunday, 1939, she asked her superior for permission to "offer herself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement for the peace of the world" and the conversion of the Jewish people. (J. Fabrerues, "The Science of the Cross," Carmelite Digest, 1994)

Soon afterwards, Holland ceased to be a refuge; it was invaded by the Germans. In July of 1942, the Dutch bishops protested the Nazi mistreatment and deportation of the Jews. The Nazis retaliated. On August 2, all Catholics of Jewish descent were arrested, including Sr. Teresa Benedicta and her sister Rosa Stein. Beaten and half-starved, the sisters were deported first to Westerbork prison prison camp in Northern Holland. Sr. Teresa was able to send a message to her superior that she was still wearing her Carmelite habit, and planned to keep wearing it as long as she could. (Fabrerues)

At the camp, St. Teresa Benedicta comforted and cared for frightened mothers and their little children. Before her arrival in Auschwitz on August 9, 1942, she managed to smuggle one last message to her mother prioress: "I am content now. One can only learn the Scientia Crucis if one truly suffers under the weight of the Cross. I was entirely convinced of this from the very first and I have said with all my heart: Hail, Cross, our only hope." (Fabrerues)

After disappearing into the hell of the death camp, it is assumed that the brave Carmelites were gassed almost immediately, but the exact date and hour of the death of St. Teresa Benedicta has never been known for certain. She was beatified as a martyr of the Catholic faith on May 1, 1987 by Pope John Paul II.

Women and Silence


Let women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted them to speak, but to be subject, as also the law saith. But if they would learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church. ~I Corinthians 14: 34
This elusive verse, when not totally ignored, is a matter of controversy, as scholars and theologians try to explain it away. St. Paul, not caring a fig for political correctness, past or present, wanted it to be clear that women were not to usurp the functions of priests at the altar. On another level, the spiritual director at our Secular Carmelite meeting said that the verse is not to be seen as a negation of women but as a call, a call to silence, both interior and exterior. It is in the deep silence of the soul that spiritual warfare on behalf of the Church, her ministers and her people, is best waged. Many women have sought a life of prayer and have become prayer warriors, from the earliest days of the Church, when Our Lady prayed in the cenacle for the Holy Spirit to descend. Women have sought the contemplative life in great numbers, building monasteries that became centers of learning and culture, where kings and bishops went for advice. Sometimes it harder to fight a long hidden battle, a battle with no glory or outward appreciation, yet it is such battles that win graces for the multitudes. As Dr. Alice von Hildebrand writes:
Because a woman by her very nature is maternal -- for every woman, whether married or unmarried, is called upon to be a biological, psychological or spiritual mother -- she knows intuitively that to give, to nurture, to care for others, to suffer with and for them -- for maternity implies suffering -- is infinitely more valuable in God's sight than to conquer nations and fly to the moon.
When one reads the life of St. Teresa of Avila or St. Thérèse of Lisieux, one is struck by the fact that they constantly refer to their "weakness." The lives of these heroic women -- and there are many -- teach us that an awareness and acceptance of one's weakness, coupled with a boundless confidence in God's love and power, grant these privileged souls a strength that is so great because it is supernatural.
Natural strength cannot compete with supernatural strength. This is why Mary, the blessed one, is "strong as an army ready for battle." And yet, she is called "clemens, pia, dulcis Virgo Maria." This supernatural strength explains -- as mentioned by Dom Prosper Gueranger in "The Liturgical Year" -- that the devil fears this humble virgin more than God because her supernatural strength that crushes his head is more humiliating for him than God's strength.
This is why the Evil One is today launching the worst attack on femininity that has ever taken place in the history of the world. For coming closer to the end of time, and knowing that his final defeat is coming, he redoubles his efforts to attack his one great enemy: the woman. It says in Genesis 3:15: "I will put enmity between you and the woman." The final victory is hers, as seen in the woman crowned with the sun.
Women like St. Teresa of Avila and St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who embraced a lifestyle of silence, are both regarded as Doctors of the Church, with St. Thérèse hailed as Patroness of the Missions. Thus the Church acknowledges that the struggle to seek and find God in silence is a struggle with far-reaching consequences for the entire world. St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein) describes the redemptive suffering of spiritual motherhood:
The difficult struggle for existence is allocated primarily to man and the hardship of childbirth to woman. But a promise of redemption is present inasmuch as the woman is charged with the battle against evil;; the male sex is to be exalted by the coming of the Son of God. The redemption will restore the original order. The pre-eminence of man is disclosed by the Savior's coming to earth in the form of man. The feminine sex is ennobled by virtue of the Savior's being born of a human mother; a woman was the gateway through which God found entrance to mankind....A woman should honor the image of Christ in her husband by free and loving subordination; she herself is to be the image of God's mother; but that also means she is to be in Christ's image. (Essays on Woman, ICS Publications, 1985, p.69)
I hope that someday silence will again be seen as grace-filled and life-giving rather than as oppressive. Strength and power can be found in acknowledging one's weakness and helplessness before God. Women can have great influence, not in sharing the ministerial duties traditionally given to men but in the battlefield of the spirit, where all real battles are fought.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

St. Dominic and the Triumph of Grace

From Vultus Christi:
If Saint Dominic preached the rosary and prayed it, it was because he knew it to be a prayer capable of winning every grace. The rosary is a prayer of repetition. It is a prayer of confidence. It helps one to persevere in supplication, bead by bead, and decade by decade. Our Lord finds the rosary irresistible because His own Mother “subsidizes” it. She stands behind it. The rosary is the voice of the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, and the weak. Persevere in praying the rosary and one day you will hear Our Lord say to you what He said to the woman of the Gospel: “Great is thy faith! Be it done for thee as thou wilt” (Mt 15:28). Saint Dominic shows us that, with the rosary in hand, we will experience the triumph of grace. (Read more.)

Monday, August 7, 2017

St. Albert of Trapani


Also known as St. Albert of Sicily. Today in the Carmelite Order water is blessed known as "St Albert's Water." Sr. Mary, the late departed extern sister at the Carmel of Loretto, PA., kept a generous supply of jars filled with St Albert's water in the pantry near the Turn. Sometimes the water would be there for so long that the jars began to look like small aquariums of interesting life forms. But people would take them home anyway, because of the connection to the Carmelite priest who was a man of prayer and a worker of miracles. And the miracles never cease....

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Assumption Novena

Mary, Queen Assumed into Heaven, I rejoice that after years of heroic martyrdom on earth, you have at last been taken to the throne prepared for you in heaven by the Holy Trinity.
Lift my heart with you in the glory of your Assumption above the dreadful touch of sin and impurity. Teach me how small earth becomes when viewed from heaven. Make me realize that death is the triumphant gate through which I shall pass to your Son, and that someday my body shall rejoin my soul in the unending bliss of heaven.
From this earth, over which I tread as a pilgrim, I look to you for help. I ask for this favor: (Mention your request).
When my hour of death has come, lead me safely to the presence of Jesus to enjoy the vision of my God for all eternity together with you.


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