Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Trial of St. Joan

Here is link to the first interrogation of St. Joan's trial, with the other sessions following. She was tormented and betrayed by those who should have been her spiritual fathers. She answered firmly and boldly, even as had her beloved St. Catherine of Alexandria before her. As another excellent article says:
The story of her prison life is a record of shame to her goalers. Chained, mocked at, threatened, and insulted, her serenity never failed. She was in God's hand, and she bowed to His will.
Months of suffering and anxiety passed over her before her captors made up their minds as to the course they would take to bring about her death under the semblance of legal execution. If she could be convicted by an ecclesiastical court of crimes against the faith, her condemnation would redound to the fair fame of England and of the pious House of Lancaster, while covering the French and their sovereign with confusion as the allies and associates of a minister of hell. (3).... ( The House of Lancaster was fervently orthodox. Persecution of heretics begins with Henry IV. The "Cardinal of England" (Beaufort Bishop of Winchester) was the malicious attacker of heretics at home and abroad. He spoke against the Hussites at the Council of Basle, and he planned Crusades against both heretics and "Saracens.")
Pliant churchmen were at hand to give countenance and help in this undertaking bishops full of zeal and loyalty for our sovereign lord Henry VI, by the grace of God King of France and England.
The worst of these servile churchmen was the wretched Bishop of Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon. Many other prelates were Caesar's friends, but he sits exalted in solitary infamy. He came to the Burgundian camp and claimed his victim in the name of Bedford, Regent of France for the English King. Had Jeanne been detained by the Burgundians, it is impossible to believe that Charles VII would not have procured her release. Had she been held as a prisoner of war by the English, it is very likely that the shame of holding a woman captive in their hands would have made it possible to arrange for her ransom. But once charged with heresy and taken out of the hands of the Burgundians such hopes and chances were closed. Still, as an ecclesiastical prisoner she would have been entitled to counsel and guidance by religious persons, the Church offering admonition before preferring grave charges of rebellion against any of her children. But this would render her punishment uncertain. Grave doctors of the law and eminent churchmen had at Poitiers, after long inquiry, declared her worthy of trust and they might do so again.
Therefore it was determined that she should be held in a lay prison though charged with an ecclesiastical offense. Cut off in this way from all spiritual help and instruction, she was to be brought, when the process was ripe, before a well-chosen court bent on her destruction, and ready to entangle her in questions which might entrap her into erroneous or heretical statements.
And once more we are confronted, if we try to rationalize her life and put away all belief in inspiration, with the amazing problem as to where and how this untutored girl drew her stores of logic, law, and theology.
Hallowed Ground has some rare images of St. Joan and her beatification.

Novena prayer in honor of St. Joan. Let us pray for all priests and bishops.

Troy Hill

Miracles at St. Anthony's shrine in Pittsburgh.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Ocean Star

There is an old song to Our Lady that we have been singing at home for the month of May, "Hail Queen of Heaven the Ocean Star." It occurred to me today that it is an appropriate prayer in light of the disastrous oil spill. There can never be too many ways to say Ave gratia plena.

Hail, Queen of heaven, the ocean star,
Guide of the wanderer here below,
Thrown on life's surge, we claim thy care,
Save us from peril and from woe.

Mother of Christ, O Star of the sea
Pray for the wanderer, pray for me.

O gentle, chaste, and spotless Maid,
We sinners make our prayers through thee;
Remind thy Son that He has paid
The price of our iniquity.

Virgin most pure, O star of the sea,
Pray for the sinner, pray for me.

And while to Him Who reigns above
In Godhead one, in Persons three,
The Source of life, of grace, of love,
Homage we pay on bended knee:

Do thou, bright Queen, O star of the sea,
Pray for thy children, pray for me.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Joan of Arc (1948)

Joan of Arc (1948) starring Ingrid Bergman is in my opinion the best and most historically accurate of all the films about the Maid of Lorraine. Ingrid Bergman was not a believer but as an accomplished actress she was able to project the radiant faith of Joan. In fact, Ingrid had great devotion to the saint and herself helped to finance the film. Directed by Victor Fleming and based upon the play by Maxwell Anderson, the movie captures the season of miracles which was Joan's life. Unfortunately, many key scenes were edited from the version usually shown on television. The complete, unedited version has been restored and was released on DVD in 2004. I am dying to see it. Here is an article with several stills from the film, including those from scenes which did not make the final cut.



Novena prayer to St. Joan

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

St. Philip Neri


Today is the feast of the most cheerful of saints.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

St. Joan and the Royal House of France

Most Catholics, I have concluded, do not have trouble accepting the fact that St. Joan of Arc donned male apparel and led armies to victory. What seems to disturb many people, however, is that she gave her help to a king, and worse yet, to a King of France. Many Americans seem to be convinced that monarchy is an intrinsically evil institution. They are not able to see beyond their own time and their own political process. I recently read a comment in which someone said that St. Louis of France was a saint "in spite of being a king." May I be so bold to say that St. Louis saw his kingship as a vocation in which he served God and man. What is more, he saw it as a calling to share in the Kingship of Christ, from Whom he held his authority and to Whom he had to render an account. St. Joan, in her simple piety, viewed kingship in a similar manner. She honored her King Charles VII, although he was far from being a saint, because in doing so she gave honor to Christ the King. The office was deserving of respect, even if the man was not. On her banner she bore an image of Christ the King surrounded by the fleur de lys, the lilies of royal France.

In a small volume entitled Joan of Arc In Her Own Words there are many quotations of St. Joan which make explicit reference to the fact that she was called to serve God by assisting the French monarch. She said: "[St. Michael] told me the pitiful state of the Kingdom of France. And he told me that I must succour the King of France." To Robert de Baudricourt she insisted: "The Kingdom of France is not the Dauphin's but my Lord's. But my Lord wills that the Dauphin shall be made King and have the Kingdom in custody. The Dauphin shall be King in spite of his enemies, and I shall lead him to his anointing." She welcomed the Duc d'Alencon by saying: "The more there are gathered together of the blood of the King of France, the better it will be." In her letter to the English lords, Joan dictated: "Do justice to the King of Heaven; surrender to the Maid, who is sent here from God to uphold the blood royal."

Joan placed great store upon the mystical aspects of the coronation ceremony, telling the royal council: "When once the King is crowned and anointed, his enemies' strength will steadily grow less, and finally they will have no power to harm him or the Kingdom." At her trial she announced: "As for the good work I have done...I must needs leave that with the King of Heaven, who sent me to Charles, son of Charles King of France, who shall be King. And you shall see that the French will very soon achieve a great task which God will send to the French, and such that almost the whole Kingdom of France will tremble. And I say it, so that when it comes to pass it will be remembered that I said it." The Maid believed her country had a mission from God, a task to fulfill.

There are also some odd connections between St. Joan and Queen Marie-Antoinette. At first glance no two people appear to be as different from each other as the Habsburg archduchess and the peasant girl from Domremy, other than a shared love for children and needlework. Joan has often been referred to as the "Maid of Lorraine" or even as "Joan of Lorraine." Father Jean-Marie Charles-Roux, in building a case for the martyrdom of Marie-Antoinette in his book Louis XVII: La Mère et l'Enfant martyrs, points out that the queen's full name was Marie-Antoinette-Josephe-Jeanne de Lorraine, even as the Maid was Jeanne de Lorraine. Both women were called to their "mission" at age thirteen. At thirteen, Joan began to hear her voices; at thirteen, Marie-Antoinette was told she was to marry the heir to the French throne. Both were known for their staunch purity, and yet both were branded by enemies with the epithet of "whore." Both the queen and the peasant have had their reputations shredded beyond recognition. Both suffered the ordeal of a long imprisonment in which they suffered outrages against modesty. Both were forced to defend themselves against calumnies and half-truths amid the scrutiny of a public trial. Both persisted in their loyalty to the Holy See. Both were condemned to an ignominious death and each were taken to the scaffold in a cart. Unlike St. Joan, Marie-Antoinette never had a posthumous retrial. She was never officially vindicated and her name continues to be slandered in books and movies to this day. May the prayers of St. Joan bring the truth to light.

Novena Prayer in honor of the Maid of Lorraine

Monday, May 24, 2010

Our Lady Help of Christians



Today is the day.

Was St. Joan a feminist?

Some people try to brand Jeanne d'Arc as a proto-feminist, but nothing could be farther from the truth. First, let me clarify that her last name was not really "d'Arc" but "Darc." The apostrophe between the "d" and the "a" was later added to give Joan a "noble" name, especially since she had been ennobled by Charles VII of France. It remains a fact, however, that her father was Jacques Darc, a peasant from Domremy in Lorraine. She learned spinning and needlework and all the domestic tasks girls in her state of life had to learn. Joan was a very feminine woman and only wore male attire when with the soldiers, for the sake of her chastity. Otherwise, in private and at home, she wore a dress. When in prison, she insisted upon keeping on her masculine clothing so that the English would not rape her, because that is what the guards tried to do when she did put on a dress. Also, although she carried a sword, she never actually fought in any of the battles, as she made clear at her trial.

Novena Prayer to St. Joan

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Call of St. Joan


Here is a fascinating article about Bastien-Lepage's painting of St. Joan's mystical call, with her saints peering through the fruit trees. I read somewhere once that St. Joan often heard her voices while the church bells were ringing. She loved for the bells to ring and asked that they be pealed during Compline.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Heroism of St. Jeanne d'Arc

 In the following days, I will be posting some articles in honor of the Maid of Orleans, in preparation for her feast on May 30. So often her feast happens around Pentecost, which is very appropriate. Few persons have so completely incarnated in themselves what it means to be a soldier of Christ. Jeanne left everything behind to follow God's call, although she was very feminine and excelled at household tasks, such as spinning. For Jeanne to leave her orbit required superhuman fortitude and courage. She was called as a consecrated virgin to symbolize the Church and the direct intervention of God. The saint inspired heroism in those around her, and had many brave companions, including some Scottish knights. Here is an article about the Scots who fought for St. Joan.

Here is the novena prayer in honor of the peasant girl whose appearance on the stage of history confounded the wise and the great, and still does.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Novena to St. Joan of Arc

Here is a prayer to Saint Joan, whose feast day is May 30. Let us pray for our all of our soldiers who are in harm's way. Let us pray for peace.
O Joan, holy liberator of France, the powerful holy force in the days of old, as you yourself said, "Peace would be found only at the point of a lance," who used the weapons of war when no other means were able to obtain a just Peace, take care and help today those who do not want to do violence and patiently try to employ all possible peaceful means of resolution, but now allow the violence of war.
Heroine of Orleans, transmit to our leaders, your talent to inspire your soldiers to accomplish great deeds of valor, in order that our soldiers’ efforts will come to a rapid and successful end.
Triumphant One of Reims, prepare for us the just peace under the shield of a force that will be henceforth vigilant!
Martyr of Rouen, be near to all the soldiers who fall in battle, in order to support, console, and help them and those dear ones that they leave behind.
Saint of the Country, excite in all souls, in every home of the world, the zeal to contribute to the salvation of the world and the return of peace, works which you crave, the rediscovery of a more Christian life, through holy thoughts and actions, forgiveness and persistent prayer, that as you yourself once said, "God must be served first." Amen.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Egypt's Persecuted Christians

Let us pray for the brethren.
Although the Copts have long been the target of sporadic attacks, the violence of the last few years is more like a purge, as waves of mob assaults have forced hundreds, sometimes thousands of Christian citizens to flee their homes. In each incident the police, despite frantic appeals, invariably arrive after the violence is over. Later the injured are coerced by the special security police forces into accepting "reconciliation" with their attackers, in order to avoid the prosecution of the guilty. No Muslim to date has been convicted for any of these crimes.
The state's lack of regard for the Copts has encouraged anti-Christian feelings among many Muslims in all walks of life. Even Al-Azhar, the world's preeminent Sunni Islamic institution, has contributed its share to this widespread hostility by publishing a pamphlet declaring the Bible a corrupted document and Christianity a pagan religion.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pope John Paul II on Art

None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands. A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when—like the artists of every age—captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colours and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you....

God therefore called man into existence, committing to him the craftsman's task. Through his “artistic creativity” man appears more than ever “in the image of God”, and he accomplishes this task above all in shaping the wondrous “material” of his own humanity and then exercising creative dominion over the universe which surrounds him. With loving regard, the divine Artist passes on to the human artist a spark of his own surpassing wisdom, calling him to share in his creative power. Obviously, this is a sharing which leaves intact the infinite distance between the Creator and the creature, as Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa made clear: “Creative art, which it is the soul's good fortune to entertain, is not to be identified with that essential art which is God himself, but is only a communication of it and a share in it”.(1)

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Village (2004)

Oh, if we could but fully understand how a soul cannot reach...the wisdom of the riches of God...without entering the thicket of many kinds of suffering, finding in this her delight and consolation; and how a soul with an authentic desire for divine wisdom wants suffering first in order to enter this wisdom by the thicket of the cross. ~ St. John of the Crosss, The Spiritual Canticle
 The M. Night Shyamalan film The Village (2004) is like a mystical parable. St John of the Cross, in his poems and commentaries The Dark Night and The Ascent of Mt Carmel and even in the Living Flame of Love speaks of darkness and blindness as states in which one proves the love for the Beloved. In the film, the blind young girl is the only one able to save her beloved, wounded for love of her. The Spiritual Canticle emphasizes the "wound of love." "Why, since you wounded this heart, don't you heal it?" The soul must not fear the "wild beasts" while going through the "woods and thickets" to find healing for the Beloved, just like the girl trying to avoid the "monsters" in the woods.

In the film, the lovers pledged themselves "in the serene night," "the tranquil night." In The Village the maidens must "stay away" from the "outskirts." The emphasis on solitude in the poems of St John, especially in The Dark Night where it says "in a place where no one else appeared" was similar to the scene in the film where the young maiden realizes she must make the journey alone. Only pure love and self-sacrifice in the blindness of faith can save the one she loves.

On another level, I find The Village interesting for the portrayal of flight from the world. It has long been a Christian practice to withdraw into the desert to find God and peace. However, as the Desert Fathers discovered, we can never escape the our own human nature and the wounds of original sin. In the pristine refuge of Covington Wood, people fall in love with the wrong people, there is jealousy, and even hatred. The elders must keep the youngsters in line through the terrifying story of monsters in the woods, so that even in the safety of the wilderness the children are afraid. While we are in the flesh, there is no escape and the only true refuge is the Lord.

Our Predominant Faults

An inspiring article from Flos Carmeli about attending to our predominant faults. If we are not always struggling ahead then it means we are slipping back, because the spiritual life is never static, as an old nun I once knew always told me.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

St. Simon Stock and the Scapular

From Louange de sa Gloire:
The Brown Scapular is a Marian devotion which originated at about the same time as the Rosary, and like the Marian shrine at Walsingham, had its origin in England. In the thirteenth century, during the time of the Crusades, Simon Stock went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where he met a group of hermits on Mount Carmel. These claimed to be the successors of Elijah and his followers, and, attracted by their way of life, Simon returned with them to England when the situation became too dangerous in Palestine because of the Saracens.
They settled at Aylesford in Kent and in 1254 Simon was elected Superior-general of the now mendicant Carmelites, who were regarded somewhat like the other mendicant orders such as the Franciscans and Dominicans.
Simon founded other houses as the order began to grow but he faced many problems as the original 'solitary' ideal of the hermits changed towards the more communal approach of the mendicants. These weren't just internal problems, as older orders also resented the arrival of these newcomers with their own particular devotion to Mary. 
Simon withdrew to his monastic room or 'cell' - probably at Cambridge by this time - to try and gain some relief from the problems faced both by himself and his Carmelite order, and in order to pray to Mary; it was then that he had his famous vision of her bringing the Brown Scapular to him with the following words, which are preserved in a fourteenth century narrative: "This will be for you and for all Carmelites the privilege, that he who dies in this will not suffer eternal fire.  
The Scapular promise is based on the two elements of Mary's spiritual maternity and her mediation of grace, that is that she is the 'spiritual' mother of all mankind, as well as the 'channel' by which all grace comes to us, understood in the sense that she too is dependent on the sole mediation of Christ, her son. 
This promise implies that Mary will intercede to ensure that the wearer of the Scapular obtains the grace of final perseverance, that is of dying in a state of grace. The modern Scapular consists of two pieces of brown rectangular cloth, roughly an inch by an inch and a half, which are usually decorated with appropriate Marian pictures, and are connected by two narrow brown cords, are worn around the neck and shoulders, hanging down to the front and back. 
The Scapular promise has come in for criticism, on somewhat similar grounds to those argued against Walsingham, that is, a lack of early supporting documentation. However it seems that the above account was found in the earliest record of St Simon Stock's life, and it is unreasonable to expect written evidence from the thirteenth century, since the Carmelite order didn't produce much literature until it had grown somewhat larger in the mid-fourteenth century.
It was about this time that the wearing of the Scapular spread to the laity, and gradually over the centuries it has gained in popularity, particularly following promotion of the 'Sabbatine Privilege' by popes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This is an idea which probably grew out of a deepened understanding of the promise originally made to St Simon, and essentially involves the idea that Mary will intervene to help those who have worn the Scapular before death and now find themselves in purgatory, particularly on a Saturday, the day traditionally dedicated to Mary. 
In order to be eligible for the Scapular promise, which is really a sign of consecration to Mary and hence to God, it is necessary for the wearer to have observed the virtue of chastity according to their state in life, whether married or single, and to have complied with the spirit of inner devotion which the wearing of the Scapular implies. 
This is a devotion which has also been continually encouraged by more recent popes, and so it is not something which has lost its power, even if it may have become unfashionable in some circles. If, as in the case of the Rosary, a whole series of popes, have, by virtue of their unique position of authority, approved the Scapular devotion, then clearly it just cannot be dismissed out of hand, at least not by Catholics who take the teaching and pastoral authority of the Church seriously.
There is also an emphasis on the Scapular in the apparitions at Fatima which means it retains its relevance for today.

Sources: Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints; Carol, Mariology, Vol. 3

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fatima and Priestly Chivalry

Fr. Angelo Mary laments how we have put the rope in our enemies' hands.
The Holy Father has been taking a beating lately on behalf of his sinful sons in the priesthood.  ”The pope will have much to suffer,” Our Lady told the children at Fatima.  This has been realized in every pope since the time of the apparitions, but we wonder if Our Lady had these days and this pope particularly in mind.
None of us should be particularly surprised or even disturbed by the assaults of the enemies of the Church.  This is nothing new or unexpected.  For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry? Our Lord said on the day he died (Lk23:31).  History has played itself out, just as he predicted.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fatima

The prophetic mission is not complete. In the words of Our Holy Father Pope Benedict:
Dearly beloved brothers and sisters, I too have come as a pilgrim to Fatima, to this “home” from which Mary chose to speak to us in modern times. I have come to Fatima to rejoice in Mary’s presence and maternal protection. I have come to Fatima, because today the pilgrim Church, willed by her Son as the instrument of evangelization and the sacrament of salvation, converges upon this place. I have come to Fatima to pray, in union with Mary and so many pilgrims, for our human family, afflicted as it is by various ills and sufferings. Finally, I have come to Fatima with the same sentiments as those of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta, and the Servant of God Lúcia, in order to entrust to Our Lady the intimate confession that “I love” Jesus, that the Church and priests “love” him and desire to keep their gaze fixed upon him as this Year for Priests comes to its end, and in order to entrust to Mary’s maternal protection priests, consecrated men and women, missionaries and all those who by their good works make the House of God a place of welcome and charitable outreach.

These are the “people whom the Lord has blessed”. The people whom the Lord has blessed are you, the beloved Diocese of Leiria-Fatima, with your pastor, Bishop Antonio Marto. I thank him for his words of greeting at the beginning of Mass, and for the gracious hospitality shown particularly by his collaborators at this Shrine. I greet the President of the Republic and the other authorities who serve this glorious Nation. I spiritually embrace all the Dioceses of Portugal, represented here by their Bishops, and I entrust to Heaven all the nations and peoples of the earth. In God I embrace all their sons and daughters, particularly the afflicted or outcast, with the desire of bringing them that great hope which burns in my own heart, and which here, in Fatima, can be palpably felt. May our great hope sink roots in the lives of each of you, dear pilgrims, and of all those who join us through the communications media.

Yes! The Lord, our great hope, is with us. In his merciful love, he offers a future to his people: a future of communion with himself. After experiencing the mercy and consolation of God who did not forsake them along their wearisome return from the Babylonian Exile, the people of God cried out: “I greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being exults in my God” (Is 61:10). The resplendent daughter of this people is the Virgin Mary of Nazareth who, clothed with grace and sweetly marvelling at God’s presence in her womb, made this joy and hope her own in the canticle of the Magnificat: “My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”. She did not view herself as a fortunate individual in the midst of a barren people, but prophecied for them the sweet joys of a wondrous maternity of God, for “his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Lk 1:47, 50).

This holy place is the proof of it. In seven years you will return here to celebrate the centenary of the first visit made by the Lady “come from heaven”, the Teacher who introduced the little seers to a deep knowledge of the Love of the Blessed Trinity and led them to savour God himself as the most beautiful reality of human existence. This experience of grace made them fall in love with God in Jesus, so much so that Jacinta could cry out: “How much I delight in telling Jesus that I love him! When I tell him this often, I feel as if I have a fire in my breast, yet it does not burn me”. And Francisco could say: “What I liked most of all was seeing Our Lord in that light which Our Mother put into our hearts. I love God so much!” (Memoirs of Sister Lúcia, I, 42 and 126).

Brothers and sisters, in listening to these innocent and profound mystical confidences of the shepherd children, one might look at them with a touch of envy for what they were able to see, or with the disappointed resignation of someone who was not so fortunate, yet still demands to see. To such persons, the Pope says, as does Jesus: “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” (Mk 12:24). The Scriptures invite us to believe: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (Jn 20:29), but God, who is more deeply present to me than I am to myself (cf. Saint Augustine, Confessions, III, 6, 11) – has the power to come to us, particularly through our inner senses, so that the soul can receive the gentle touch of a reality which is beyond the senses and which enables us to reach what is not accessible or visible to the senses. For this to happen, we must cultivate an interior watchfulness of the heart which, for most of the time, we do not possess on account of the powerful pressure exerted by outside realities and the images and concerns which fill our soul (cf. Theological Commentary on The Message of Fatima, 2000). Yes! God can come to us, and show himself to the eyes of our heart.

Moreover, that Light deep within the shepherd children, which comes from the future of God, is the same Light which was manifested in the fullness of time and came for us all: the Son of God made man. He has the power to inflame the coldest and saddest of hearts, as we see in the case of the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:32). Henceforth our hope has a real foundation, it is based on an event which belongs to history and at the same time transcends history: Jesus of Nazareth. The enthusiasm roused by his wisdom and his saving power among the people of that time was such that a woman in the midst of the crowd – as we heard in the Gospel – cried out: “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that nursed you!”. And Jesus said: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” (Lk 11:27-28). But who finds time to hear God’s word and to let themselves be attracted by his love? Who keeps watch, in the night of doubt and uncertainty, with a heart vigilant in prayer? Who awaits the dawn of the new day, fanning the flame of faith? Faith in God opens before us the horizon of a sure hope, one which does not disappoint; it indicates a solid foundation on which to base one’s life without fear; it demands a faith-filled surrender into the hands of the Love which sustains the world.
“Their descendants shall be known among the nations, […] they are a people whom the Lord has blessed” (Is 61:9) with an unshakable hope which bears fruit in a love which sacrifices for others, yet does not sacrifice others. Rather, as we heard in the second reading, this love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7). An example and encouragement is to be found in the shepherd children, who offered their whole lives to God and shared them fully with others for love of God. Our Lady helped them to open their hearts to universal love. Blessed Jacinta, in particular, proved tireless in sharing with the needy and in making sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. Only with this fraternal and generous love will we succeed in building the civilization of love and peace.


We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete. Here there takes on new life the plan of God which asks humanity from the beginning: “Where is your brother Abel […] Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!” (Gen 4:9). Mankind has succeeded in unleashing a cycle of death and terror, but failed in bringing it to an end… In sacred Scripture we often find that God seeks righteous men and women in order to save the city of man and he does the same here, in Fatima, when Our Lady asks: “Do you want to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the sufferings which he will send you, in an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?” (Memoirs of Sister Lúcia, I, 162).

At a time when the human family was ready to sacrifice all that was most sacred on the altar of the petty and selfish interests of nations, races, ideologies, groups and individuals, our Blessed Mother came from heaven, offering to implant in the hearts of all those who trust in her the Love of God burning in her own heart. At that time it was only to three children, yet the example of their lives spread and multiplied, especially as a result of the travels of the Pilgrim Virgin, in countless groups throughout the world dedicated to the cause of fraternal solidarity. May the seven years which separate us from the centenary of the apparitions hasten the fulfillment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity. 
Benedict XVI
Homily
Fatima, May 13, 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vigil of the Ascension

Let us live as if we were already There.

Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with Him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to Him? While in Heaven He is also with us; and we while on earth are with Him. He is here with us by His divinity, His power and His love. We cannot be be in heaven, as He is on earth, by divinity, but in Him, we can be there by love.
~ St. Augustine, Sermon for the Ascension

Our Lady of Akita

The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres ... churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord. - Our Lady of Akita

Via Terry Nelson

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Church and the Arts

Some powerful thoughts from Pope John Paul II's 1999 "Letter to Artists":
Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore translate into meaningful terms that which is in itself ineffable. Art has a unique capacity to take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colours, shapes and sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen. It does so without emptying the message itself of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery.

The Church has need especially of those who can do this on the literary and figurative level, using the endless possibilities of images and their symbolic force. Christ himself made extensive use of images in his preaching, fully in keeping with his willingness to become, in the Incarnation, the icon of the unseen God.

The Church also needs musicians. How many sacred works have been composed through the centuries by people deeply imbued with the sense of the mystery! The faith of countless believers has been nourished by melodies flowing from the hearts of other believers, either introduced into the liturgy or used as an aid to dignified worship. In song, faith is experienced as vibrant joy, love, and confident expectation of the saving intervention of God.

The Church needs architects, because she needs spaces to bring the Christian people together and celebrate the mysteries of salvation. After the terrible destruction of the last World War and the growth of great cities, a new generation of architects showed themselves adept at responding to the exigencies of Christian worship, confirming that the religious theme can still inspire architectural design in our own day. Not infrequently these architects have constructed churches which are both places of prayer and true works of art.

Our Holy Pope Benedict XVI calls artists the "custodians of beauty":
Unfortunately, the present time is marked, not only by negative elements in the social and economic sphere, but also by a weakening of hope, by a certain lack of confidence in human relationships, which gives rise to increasing signs of resignation, aggression and despair. The world in which we live runs the risk of being altered beyond recognition because of unwise human actions which, instead of cultivating its beauty, unscrupulously exploit its resources for the advantage of a few and not infrequently disfigure the marvels of nature. What is capable of restoring enthusiasm and confidence, what can encourage the human spirit to rediscover its path, to raise its eyes to the horizon, to dream of a life worthy of its vocation -- if not beauty? Dear friends, as artists you know well that the experience of beauty, beauty that is authentic, not merely transient or artificial, is by no means a supplementary or secondary factor in our search for meaning and happiness; the experience of beauty does not remove us from reality, on the contrary, it leads to a direct encounter with the daily reality of our lives, liberating it from darkness, transfiguring it, making it radiant and beautiful.

Indeed, an essential function of genuine beauty, as emphasized by Plato, is that it gives man a healthy "shock", it draws him out of himself, wrenches him away from resignation and from being content with the humdrum -- it even makes him suffer, piercing him like a dart, but in so doing it "reawakens" him, opening afresh the eyes of his heart and mind, giving him wings, carrying him aloft. Dostoevsky's words that I am about to quote are bold and paradoxical, but they invite reflection. He says this: "Man can live without science, he can live without bread, but without beauty he could no longer live, because there would no longer be anything to do to the world. The whole secret is here, the whole of history is here." The painter Georges Braque echoes this sentiment: "Art is meant to disturb, science reassures." Beauty pulls us up short, but in so doing it reminds us of our final destiny, it sets us back on our path, fills us with new hope, gives us the courage to live to the full the unique gift of life. The quest for beauty that I am describing here is clearly not about escaping into the irrational or into mere aestheticism.

Too often, though, the beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful, superficial and blinding, leaving the onlooker dazed; instead of bringing him out of himself and opening him up to horizons of true freedom as it draws him aloft, it imprisons him within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy. It is a seductive but hypocritical beauty that rekindles desire, the will to power, to possess, and to dominate others, it is a beauty which soon turns into its opposite, taking on the guise of indecency, transgression or gratuitous provocation. Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence, the Mystery of which we are part; from this Mystery we can draw fullness, happiness, the passion to engage with it every day. In this regard, Pope John Paul II, in his Letter to Artists, quotes the following verse from a Polish poet, Cyprian Norwid: "Beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up" (no. 3). And later he adds: "In so far as it seeks the beautiful, fruit of an imagination which rises above the everyday, art is by its nature a kind of appeal to the mystery. Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, the artist gives voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption" (no. 10). And in conclusion he states: "Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence" (no. 16).

These ideas impel us to take a further step in our reflection. Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God. Art, in all its forms, at the point where it encounters the great questions of our existence, the fundamental themes that give life its meaning, can take on a religious quality, thereby turning into a path of profound inner reflection and spirituality. This close proximity, this harmony between the journey of faith and the artist's path is attested by countless artworks that are based upon the personalities, the stories, the symbols of that immense deposit of "figures" -- in the broad sense -- namely the Bible, the Sacred Scriptures. The great biblical narratives, themes, images and parables have inspired innumerable masterpieces in every sector of the arts, just as they have spoken to the hearts of believers in every generation through the works of craftsmanship and folk art, that are no less eloquent and evocative.

In this regard, one may speak of a via pulchritudinis, a path of beauty which is at the same time an artistic and aesthetic journey, a journey of faith, of theological enquiry. The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar begins his great work entitled The Glory of the Lord -- a Theological Aesthetics with these telling observations: "Beauty is the word with which we shall begin. Beauty is the last word that the thinking intellect dares to speak, because it simply forms a halo, an untouchable crown around the double constellation of the true and the good and their inseparable relation to one another." He then adds: "Beauty is the disinterested one, without which the ancient world refused to understand itself, a word which both imperceptibly and yet unmistakably has bid farewell to our new world, a world of interests, leaving it to its own avarice and sadness. It is no longer loved or fostered even by religion." And he concludes: "We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past -- whether he admits it or not -- can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love." The way of beauty leads us, then, to grasp the Whole in the fragment, the Infinite in the finite, God in the history of humanity. Simone Weil wrote in this regard: "In all that awakens within us the pure and authentic sentiment of beauty, there, truly, is the presence of God. There is a kind of incarnation of God in the world, of which beauty is the sign. Beauty is the experimental proof that incarnation is possible. For this reason all art of the first order is, by its nature, religious." Hermann Hesse makes the point even more graphically: "Art means: revealing God in everything that exists." Echoing the words of Pope Paul VI, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II restated the Church's desire to renew dialogue and cooperation with artists: "In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art" (no. 12); but he immediately went on to ask: "Does art need the Church?" -- thereby inviting artists to rediscover a source of fresh and well-founded inspiration in religious experience, in Christian revelation and in the "great codex" that is the Bible.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Saint Damien

A priest-icon of the suffering Christ.
The saints, all of them, are living illustrations of the power of the Holy Spirit. The saints are the masterpieces of the Divine Iconographer who, in every age, writes in souls the whole mystery of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the Finger of God’s Right Hand tracing on hearts of flesh the likeness of the Heart of Jesus. In Blessed Damian of Molokai the Church sets before us a priest fashioned by the Holy Spirit in a special way into the image of the suffering Christ, “despised and rejected by man, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3).

A Contradiction to the World

Why Christianity was, is and will always be counter-cultural. In our time, family life has been attacked by the secular world. We have had to defend the most basic elements of life, such as marriage, birth and motherhood. This does mean that marriage and family life should be considered equal with the embracing of the three evangelical councils in the consecrated, celibate life. As Our Lord says in Matthew 10:34-39:
34 Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword. 35 For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man's enemies shall be they of his own household. 37 He that loves  father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; he that  loves son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. 38 And he that takes not up his cross, and follows me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that finds his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me, shall find it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Prayer of the Cenacle

 Awaiting the Holy Ghost with Our Lady.
Mary, the Mother of Jesus, prayed in the Cenacle with the apostles, the disciples, and the holy women. She was there as the uniting centre of that collective prayer that mounted from the hearts of all, and especially from her maternal heart to the Heart of her Divine Son. She was there, an all-powerful suppliant; omnipotentia supplex, giving to that universal, unanimous, and persevering prayer the force to draw upon the Cenacle and upon all those abiding therein, with the coming of the Holy Ghost, Divine Grace in essence.

And the Holy Ghost, called down by that victorious prayer, came with the resplendent signs which the Scripture relates; He came bringing the very substance of the supernatural and the plenitude of the gifts it contains.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Saint John Haile

One of the valiant English martyrs.
Blessed John Haile, martyred under Henry VIII on May 4, 1535, was solemnly beatified by Pope Leo XIII on December 29, 1886. He had long been a priest having, it is stated, been nominated parish priest of Chelmsford as far back as 1492. Thirty-one years later he was presented to the parish of Isleworth, then called Thistleworth, in Middlesex, on August 13, 1521. When Henry VIII openly took his mistress Anne Boleyn as his legal wife, and had her crowned queen, John Haile -- he is sometimes called Hale or Hall -- spoke his mind on the matter in no measured terms to his companions. But in those days of tyranny few confidants could be trusted. Even professed friends were often private enemies and paid spies. In some way the knowledge of the old parish priest's indignation reached government circles, and he was marked down to form one of the first band of priests and religious with whom Henry determined to make a bloody example to the whole realm.

He was accordingly arrested early in 1535 and at the end of April condemned to die a traitor's death in company with four others, namely, three Carthusian priors, Blessed John Houghton of London, Blessed Augustine Webster of Axholme in Lincolnshire, and Blessed Robert Lawrence of Beauvale in Nottinghamshire, and the Bridgettine monk of Sion, Blessed Richard Reynolds. These glorious protomartyrs of the English persecutions, were dragged on hurdles to Tyburn Tree and put to death with all the abominable atrocities which attended the English legal punishment of treason.

It was thus that the parish clergy supplied the most venerable of these five martyrs in the person of Blessed John Haile who must have been in his seventieth year or more.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Repetition

The beauty of ritual.
Repetition is integral to the liturgical pedagogy of the Church. Anthropologists tell us that ritual is all about doing the same things, in the same way, at the same time, over and over again. Culture flourishes where the same stories are repeated over and over again in the same way. From the point of view of the human sciences, repetition, not variety, is the ground of culture. From the Catholic point of view, it is outward repetition that makes inward change -- conversion -- possible. It is sameness that makes the difference. It is by hearing the same Word repeated in the same way that our hardened hearts are touched and, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, pierced and opened to holiness.

Support Our Priests

In difficult moments. Our Holy Father says:
Through their ministry the Lord continues to save mankind, to make Himself present, to sanctify. Give thanks to God and above all remain close to your priests with prayer and support, especially in moments of difficulty, that they may increasingly become pastors in keeping with God's heart.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Catholic Motherhood

Some reflections.

Our Sisters in Bangkok

They are in danger. Please pray for them.
“During evening prayer we felt the strong blast of various explosions. Although we were frightened we continued praying”, recounts Sr Therese of the Child Jesus, Prioress of the monastery of Discalced Carmelite nuns, situated barely 200 metres from the place where five bombs exploded on 22nd April, shaking the financial district of Bangkok.

According to information from the Union of Asian Catholics (UCANews), this statement from the Prioress of the monastery was made a few hours after the explosion of five grenades near the Sala Daeng intersection, where there exists a tense clash between the “Red Shirts” and the government security forces.

In the middle of last month, the Red Shirts, supporters of the overthrown former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, took possession of the centre of Thailand’s capital, seeking the immediate dissolution of Parliament, accusing the government of having illegally seized power.

Sr Therese pointed out that people regularly come to the monastery seeking prayers for the education of their children, for good health, to find work. Since the explosions, the number of people visiting the monastery has decreased while the requests for prayer by telephone has increased. Sr Therese explained that, “the majority of people call to request prayers for peace in the country.”

“Some seek prayers in support of the Red Shirt and others for the government. However we cannot take sides. We pray for peace and unity in the country,” and she added, “Our work is to pray for the world and its needs, particularly in times of chaos, such as is now happening across the country”.

This Carmelite monastery in Bangkok has 16 nuns and is one of the four monasteries of Discalced Carmelite nuns in the country.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

An Icon Written in Blood

Our Holy Father's reflections after viewing the shroud.
This is the mystery of Holy Saturday! It is from there, from the darkness of the death of the Son of God, that the light of a new hope has shone: the light of the Resurrection. And it seems to me that looking upon this cloth with the eyes of faith one perceives something of this light. In effect, the Shroud was immersed in that profound darkness, but it is luminous at the same time; and I think that if thousands and thousands of people come to see it -- without counting those who contemplate copies of it -- it is because in it they do not see only darkness, but also light; not so much the defeat of life and love but rather victory, victory of life over death, of love over hatred; they indeed see the death of Jesus, but glimpse his resurrection [too]; in the heart of death there now beats life, inasmuch as love lives there. This is the power of the Shroud: from the countenance of this "Man of sorrows," who takes upon himself man's passion of every time and every place, even our passion, our suffering, our difficulties, our sins -- "Passio Christi. Passio hominis" -- from this moment there emanates a solemn majesty, a paradoxical lordship. This face, these hands and these feet, this side, this whole body speaks, it is itself a word that we can hear in silence. How does the Shroud speak? It speaks with blood, and blood is life! The Shroud is an icon written in blood; the blood of a man who has been scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified and wounded in his right side. Every trace of blood speaks of love and of life. Especially that large mark near the side, made by blood and water that poured copiously from a great wound caused by a Roman spear, that blood and that water speak of life. It is like a spring that speaks in silence, and we can hear it, we can listen to it, in the silence of Holy Saturday.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Education and Culture in the Service of the Apostolate

Those who are called to exercise the apostolate in professional life have, more than others, the duty of training themselves and of developing the technical skill required for their profession. A teacher who does not carefully prepare his courses...will never deeply influence his pupils; any apostolic endeavor among them is doomed to failure. Only good professional competence can obtain for the Catholic that authority which, going beyond the limits of his profession, often embraces the moral and religious field, permitting him to exercise an efficacious influence over those who approach him; in this way he can do immense good, and his word is sometimes more readily heeded than that of the priest. It is noteworthy that Pope Pius XII counseled Catholic laymen 'not to be inferior to others in scientific and professional competence, but to do what they could to become better professionals, better jurists, scholars, physicians, engineers' (to the Catholic laureates, March 20, 1941); and this, not in view of financial profit, but in order to acquire for apostolic ends a wider and more authoritative influence.

~from Divine Intimacy by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD.

Carmelites in England

The movie.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spiritual Warfare

In family life.
Then, on the other hand, not actively living for God also makes us vulnerable to behaviors that build up evil in the world.  When we live as abject Catholics, embracing the truths of the world over the Truths of the Church, we are ripe for spiritual warfare.  To remedy this, when our eyes first open each morning, we ought to be making a conscious affirmation of our lives belonging to Christ and covered in His blood.  When we live consciously, we are able to see God’s graces more clearly and find the protection and strength we need, in them.  We aren’t fodder for evil.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

New English Translation of the Missal

It has been approved at last.

See the translation, HERE.
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