Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

As Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus said, "As this year has gone, so our life will go, and soon we shall say 'it is gone.' Let us not waste our time; soon eternity will shine for us."

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Feast of the Holy Family

St. Joseph most obedient. To quote:
Look closely at the obedience of Saint Joseph, his obedience in the dark night of faith. Joseph’s obedience allows the whole mystery of Israel — the going down into Egypt and the back up — to be revealed and completed in Christ. In some way the “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19) of the Last Supper is made possible by Joseph’s obedience to the commandments delivered to him in the night.
Twice Saint Joseph obeys the word of the angel who visits him by night. Twice Saint Matthew uses the very same formula to evoke the obedience of Saint Joseph: “And Joseph rose and too the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt” (Mt 2:14); and again, “And he rose and took the child and his mother and went into the land of Israel” (Mt 2:21).
 Where is the source of Saint Joseph’s obedience? Is it in the word of the Angel? The Angel appears in a dream. Is anything more fleeting than a dream? If we remember our dreams at all in the morning, we do so in a vague and hazy way. Rarely do we find in our dreams the strength to make great changes in our lives. Dreams may sow suggestions in the imagination; rarely do we translate them into action, especially when they ask of us what Saint Benedict calls “things that are hard and repugnant to nature in the way to God” (RB 58:8). (Read more.)

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Mystical Doctor

A few years ago our Pope Emeritus offered a beautiful meditation on Our Holy Father Saint John of the Cross.
John is considered one of the most important lyric poets of Spanish literature. His most important works are four: "Ascent of Mount Carmel," "Dark Night of the Soul," "Spiritual Canticle," "Living Flame of Love."

In the "Spiritual Canticle," St. John presents the path of purification of the soul, that is, the progressive joyful possession of God until the soul feels that it loves God with the same love that it is loved by him.

The "Living Flame of Love" continues in this perspective, describing in greater detail the transforming union with God. The example used by John is always that of fire: as the fire burns and consumes the wood, it becomes incandescent flame, so also the Holy Spirit, who during the dark night purifies and "cleanses" the soul, then in time illumines and warms it as if it were a flame. The life of the soul is a continuous celebration of the Holy Spirit, that enables one to perceive the glory of the union with God in eternity.

The "Ascent of Mount Carmel" presents the spiritual itinerary from the point of view of the progressive purification of the soul, necessary to ascend to the summit of Christian perfection, symbolized by the summit of Mount Carmel. This purification is proposed as a journey that man undertakes, collaborating with divine action to free the soul from all attachment or affection contrary to the will of God. The purification, which to arrive at union of love with God must be total, begins with the way of the senses and continues with the one obtained through the three theological virtues -- faith, hope and charity -- the purification of intention, memory and will.

The "Dark Night" describes the "passive" aspect, that is, God's intervention in the process of "purification" of the soul. On its own, in fact, human effort is incapable of getting to the profound roots of the person's bad inclinations and habits: It can restrain them, but not uproot them totally. To do so, the special action of God is necessary, which purifies the spirit radically and disposes it to the union of love with him. St. John describes this purification as "passive" precisely because, though accepted by the soul, it is realized by the mysterious action of the Holy Spirit who, as a flame of fire, consumes every impurity. In this state, the soul is subjected to all types of trials, as if it were in a dark night.

These indications on the saint's principal works help us to approach the outstanding points of his vast and profound mystical doctrine, whose objective is to describe a sure way to arrive at sanctity, the state of perfection to which God calls us all. According to John of the Cross, everything that exists, created by God, is good. Through creatures, we can come to the discovery of the One who has left his imprint on them. Faith, however, is the only source given to man to know God exactly as he is in himself, as God One and Triune. All that God willed to communicate to man he said in Jesus Christ, his Word made flesh. He, Jesus Christ, is the only and definitive way to the Father (cf. John 14:6). Anything created is nothing compared with God, and nothing is true outside of him. Consequently, to come to perfect love of God, every other love must be conformed in Christ to divine love.

This is where John of the Cross derives his insistence on the need for purification and interior emptying in order to be transformed in God, which is the sole end of perfection. This "purification" does not consist in the simple physical lack of things or of their use. What the pure and free soul does, instead, is to eliminate every disordered dependence on things. Everything must be placed in God as center and end of life. The long and difficult process of purification exacts personal effort, but the true protagonist is God: all that man can do is to "dispose" himself, to be open to the divine action and not place obstacles in its way.

Living the theological virtues, man is elevated and gives value to his own effort. The rhythm of growth of faith, hope and charity goes in step with the work of purification and with progressive union with God until one is transformed in him. When one arrives at this end, the soul is submerged in the very Trinitarian life, such that St. John affirms that the soul is able to love God with the same love with which he loves it, because he loves it in the Holy Spirit. This is why the Mystical Doctor holds that there is no true union of love with God if it does not culminate in the Trinitarian union. In this supreme state the holy soul knows everything in God and no longer has to go through creatures to come to him. The soul now feels inundated by divine love and is completely joyful in it. (Read more.)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Virgin of Guadalupe

Women's Guild explores the symbols hidden in the miraculous image, saying:
Clothing is often so much more than a few pretty things to wear, as the iconography of Our Lady of Guadalupe shows. It is important to bear in mind her status as the most important Mexican religious and cultural symbol, from her apparition to an indigenous Mexican, Juan Diego, during a period of conversion to Christianity from the Aztec religion, to her role as a symbol of national unity during the War of Independence.

Sun and moon: as in Revelation 12:1, "arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars". However in this case the stars are on the cloak and there are far more than twelve. Another interpretation is of an image of triumph over the Aztec sun and moon deities -in fact the little squashed figure underneath may be a winged moon god.

Cloak: Blue and green were Aztec colours of divinity. I have seen detailed argument that the arrangement of stars is that which appeared in the night sky on the date of the apparition, although to my untrained eye they do seem quite regularly spaced.

Dress: Rose coloured, as one might expect given that the apparition story involves the production of Castilian roses from a Mexican hill. Interpretations of the pattern range from more roses, to a contour map of Mexico.

Belt: A black belt was an Aztec symbol of pregnancy.

Brooch: On the original icon, and some detailed reproductions, it is possible to see a cross shaped brooch at her neck. Despite the indigenous influences, she is definitely a Christian figure.

So, the clothing of one relatively simple and well known image of Our Lady can lead to many interesting discoveries -more of her political and social implications as a Mexican national symbol are discussed in this essay.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Jubilee of Mercy

"The Immaculate Conception" by Bartolomeo Altomonte
The Jubilee of Mercy begins today, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and will end on the Solemnity of Christ the King on November 20, 2016. Any Jubilee Year is a time when the Church opens the coffers of her graces to the faithful and penitent. Our Holy Father Pope Francis has placed a special emphasis on the Mercy of Our Savior, which brings to mind the devotions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Divine Mercy. There is also special relation of today's feast with the Mercy of God. To quote from Our Holy Father's Bull of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy:
This liturgical feast day recalls God’s action from the very beginning of the history of mankind. After the sin of Adam and Eve, God did not wish to leave humanity alone in the throes of evil. And so he turned his gaze to Mary, holy and immaculate in love (cf. Eph 1:4), choosing her to be the Mother of man’s Redeemer. When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive. I will have the joy of opening the Holy Door on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. On that day, the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope. 
On the following Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, the Holy Door of the Cathedral of Rome – that is, the Basilica of Saint John Lateran – will be opened. In the following weeks, the Holy Doors of the other Papal Basilicas will be opened. On the same Sunday, I will announce that in every local church, at the cathedral – the mother church of the faithful in any particular area – or, alternatively, at the co-cathedral or another church of special significance, a Door of Mercy will be opened for the duration of the Holy Year. At the discretion of the local ordinary, a similar door may be opened at any shrine frequented by large groups of pilgrims, since visits to these holy sites are so often grace-filled moments, as people discover a path to conversion. Every Particular Church, therefore, will be directly involved in living out this Holy Year as an extraordinary moment of grace and spiritual renewal. Thus the Jubilee will be celebrated both in Rome and in the Particular Churches as a visible sign of the Church’s universal communion. (Read more.)
Here is a Litany of Trust in the Mercy of Christ from Vultus Christi:
Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
as we have placed our trust in Thee.
For myself, a poor sinner,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all whom I have offended,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all who have offended me,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all whom Thou hast brought into my life,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all whom Thou hast entrusted to my prayer,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all Thy priests,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For my family
I trust in Thy mercy.
For the sick,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For the dying,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For prisoners,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who are farthest from Thee,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who persecute Thee in the members of Thy Mystical Body,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who kill Thee in the unborn,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who perpetrate violence,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who harbour resentment in their hearts,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those enslaved to money, pleasure, and power,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who treat with irreverence, mockery, and scorn
the adorable Mysteries of Thy Body and Blood,

I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who blaspheme Thy Most Holy Name,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who dishonour Sunday, the Day of Thy Resurrection,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who revile Thy Bride, the Church,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who have fallen away from the Holy Catholic Faith,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who are consumed by hatred,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who will face death in despair,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who remain impenitent in their last hour,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who have taken their own lives,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all the Holy Souls in Purgatory,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who will die this day,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who no longer believe in mercy,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who refuse to show mercy,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all poor sinners,
I trust in Thy mercy.
Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
as we have placed our trust in Thee.

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Fr. Angelo has a magnificent post about our Queen. To quote:
This interpretation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is confirmed and strengthened with the support of the Church’s understanding of Apocalypse 12, another militant passage in which the Woman is pitted against the serpent (this time in the form of a red dragon). In this passage Our Lady is clothed with sun, stands on the moon and is crowned with twelve stars. In some images of the Immaculate Conception of the Imagery of Genesis 3 and Apocalypse 12 are combined, both strengthening the symbolism and using the one passage to interpret the other (as Ruben’s renders it above). This imagery of Apocalypse 12 indicates both a state of militancy and triumph. Our Lady is both suffering here on earth and glorified in heaven. This is because She is the personification of the Church, which is both militant and triumphant. Those of us who still suffer already share in the victory of those who have passed through the veil. This is particularly true in the way in which we participate in the victory of the Woman. (Read more.)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ad te levavi

It is the First Sunday of Advent. Here is the Entrance Antiphon (Introit):
Unto you have I lifted up my soul. O my God, I trust in you, let me not be put to shame; do not allow my enemies to laugh at me; for none of those who are awaiting you will be disappointed.
V. Make your ways known unto me, O Lord, and teach me your paths (Ps 24:1-4).
From Vultus Christi:
 There is movement in today’s liturgy: a great sweep upward and away from all that holds us bound and confined “in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Lk 1:79). This is the ecstatic movement of prayer, of all right worship: out of self, upward, and into “the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19). The Introit sets the tone, not only for this the first Mass of Advent, but also for the rest of the Advent season and, indeed, for the whole new liturgical year. “To Thee, my God, I lift up my soul” (Ps 24:1) or, as Ronald Knox translated it, “All my heart goes out to Thee, my God.”

The heart, in going out to God, leaves much behind and cannot look back. This is the law of prayer, this is what it makes it costly, sacrificial and, at the same time, unspeakably sweet. The things we leave behind are mere trifles but, oh, the hold they can have on us! The old self, fearful and anxious about many things, grasps at every illusory promise of security, clings to things, arranges them in great useless piles, looks on them caressingly and takes inventory of them. The loss of any thing, even the most insignificant, represents for the old self, the loss of control, the loss of power, and of comforting familiar pleasures. All of this in incompatible with the prayer that the liturgy places on our lips today: “All my heart goes out to Thee, my God” (Ps 24:1). The upward flight of today’s Introit has nothing to do with cheap pious sentiment. It is an uncompromising call to detachment, to poverty of spirit, and to an obedience that is off and running with all speed, ready for the leap of hope. (Read more.)
More First Sunday of Advent meditations from Silverstream Priory, here:
 There is a second way of hearing today’s Introit. The stational church in Rome for the First Sunday of Advent is the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, the oldest temple in Christendom dedicated to the Mother of God. By singing this particular psalm in this particular place the Church is suggesting that we are to hear the voice of the Virgin Mary in it. Everything in Our Blessed Lady is in readiness for the advent of God. The Mother of God, Our Lady of Advent, prays and teaches us to pray, “All my heart goes out to thee, O God” (Ps 24:1). The second part of the verse is equally important. “Of those who wait for thee, not one is disappointed” (Ps 24:3). The Virgin Mary teaches us to pray Psalm 24 as she prayed it; by teaching us to pray with her, she becomes the Mother of our Hope. (Read more.) 

 Many people struggle with loneliness during this season of the year. Here are some words from the great Benedictine Dom Hubert van Zeller: 
After sin, the three evils most to be dreaded are doubt, fear and loneliness. Of these, loneliness is the worst. Loneliness can give rise to doubt and fear, while if a man knows he is not alone he can fight his doubt, and disguise- which is half the battle- his fear. We can force ourselves to laugh at our doubts and fears, but loneliness forbids laughter. Loneliness is an echoing ache in the soul, it hollows out the heart and scoops away at our reserves. It even communicates itself to the senses, and all the outer world seems indifferent and hostile. We must have something with which to meet this evil. We must find something which will turn it into good....

This is where we need to have faith. This is where we pull ourselves up and cry "It's a mood. It will pass. It is only a mood." That désespoir des lendemains de fête will melt away in time, giving place to color and light and normality and, finally, joy.
~ Dom Hubert van Zeller's We Die Standing, pp.62-63

Novena to the Immaculate Conception

Drawing close to Our Lady in the mystery of her Immaculate Conception is one of the best ways I can think of to spiritually ready the soul for the great feasts that are to come. The novena in honor of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States of America, begins today. And here is an excerpt from the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, much of which is based on Sacred Scripture:
Holy Mary, Mother of God, I firmly believe in thy Immaculate Conception. I bless God for having granted thee this glorious privilege. I thank Him a thousand times for having taught it to me by the infallible voice of the Church. Receive my heart, O Immaculate Virgin; I give it to thee without reserve; purify it; guard it; never give it back to me, preserve it in thy love and in the love of Jesus during time and eternity. AMEN.

V. Thy name, O Mary, is as oil poured out.
R. Thy servants have loved thee exceedingly.

Let us pray.
O God, Who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, did prepare a worthy habitation for Thy Son: we beseech Thee, that as in view of the death of that Son, Thou didst preserve her from all stain of sin, so Thou wouldst enable us, being made pure by her intercession, to come unto Thee. Through the same Christ Our Lord. AMEN.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Solemnity of Christ the King

It would be a grave error, on the other hand, to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since, by virtue of the absolute empire over all creatures committed to him by the Father, all things are in his power. Nevertheless, during his life on earth he refrained from the exercise of such authority, and although he himself disdained to possess or to care for earthly goods, he did not, nor does he today, interfere with those who possess them. Non eripit mortalia qui regna dat caelestia.[27]
Thus the empire of our Redeemer embraces all men. To use the words of Our immortal predecessor, Pope Leo XIII: "His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons who, though of right belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ."[28] Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ. In him is the salvation of the individual, in him is the salvation of society. "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved."[29] He is the author of happiness and true prosperity for every man and for every nation. "For a nation is happy when its citizens are happy. What else is a nation but a number of men living in concord?"[30] If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ. What We said at the beginning of Our Pontificate concerning the decline of public authority, and the lack of respect for the same, is equally true at the present day. "With God and Jesus Christ," we said, "excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man, the very basis of that authority has been taken away, because the chief reason of the distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated. The result is that human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation."[31]
~Pope Pius XI "Quas Primas"

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Presentation of Mary

Father Mark offers some history and thoughts to ponder on the feast commemorating Our Lady being taken to the Temple at the age of three by her parents.
In the hidden recesses of the old Temple, the Holy Ghost prepares the new Temple, the all-holy Virgin, to become the Mother of God . Destined to be the living Temple of the Word, Mary dwells in the Temple of the Old Dispensation. She hears the chanting of the psalms, the prophets, and the Law. Was it there that the Most Holy Virgin learned Psalm 118, the long litany of loving surrender to the Word? And was it from Psalm 118, held in her heart from so tender an age, that she drew her response to the message of the Angel, “Be it done unto me according to Thy Word” (Luke 1:38)?
There planted in the Lord, the dew of His Spirit made her flourish in the courts of her God, and like a green olive she became a tree, so that all the doves of grace came and lodged in her branches. (Saint John Damascene, Upon the Orthodox Faith, Book IV, ch. 15)
Virgin Mother of the Lamb
There Mary smells the fragrance of incense and burnt offerings. There she observes the faithful of Israel streaming towards Zion, filling the Temple, seeking the Face of the Lord. Priest, altar, and oblation are not unfamiliar to the Virgin who, gazing upon her Son, will recognize in Him the Eternal priest, the Altar of the New Covenant, the pure Victim, the holy Victim, the spotless Victim offered in unending sacrifice.
To Belong to God
In the seventeenth century — the age of France’s “mystical invasion” — the mystery of the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple captivated the hearts of Monsieur Olier and of others on fire with zeal for the holiness of the priesthood, for the beauty of the consecrated life, and for the worthy praise of God. The so-called French School of spirituality, marked above all by the imperative of adoration and the virtue of religion, gravitated to the feast of November 21st as to the purest liturgical expression of the desire to be offered to God, to belong to God, and to abide in God’s house.
Virgo Sacerdos
When, in 1641, Jean-Jacques Olier (1608 – 1657) established the seminary of Saint-Sulpice, he placed it under the patronage of the Virgin Mary in the mystery of her Presentation in the Temple. The Child Mary, hidden in the Temple, learns the meaning of sacrifice and oblation; she is the sacerdotal Virgin, prepared by the Holy Spirit to stand at the altar of the Cross united to her Son, High Priest and immolated Lamb. Under the influence of the French Sulpicians, many religious congregations, established after the horrors of the French revolution, chose the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary as their foundation day, the day of religious profession, and of the renewal of vows.
This feast is a wonderful prelude to Advent. According to Dom Gueranger:
Mary, led to the Temple in order to prepare in retirement, humility, and love for her incomparable destiny, had also the mission of perfecting at the foot of the figurative altar the prayer of the human race, of itself ineffectual to draw down the savior from heaven. (From Abbot Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, Vol XV )

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

St. Elizabeth of Hungary

On November 17 the Church gives us the feast of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) who in her twenty-four years on earth embodied virtues which in today's world have almost ceased to exist: honesty, modesty, courage, chastity, self-denial and fidelity. She was not queen of Hungary, as many people think, but a princess. Her parents were the king and queen. Being royal in those days meant that your life was not your own. Marriages between two ruling families would form an alliance between countries and keep two countries from going to war. So from her infancy, Elizabeth was a living pledge of peace, since she was promised in marriage to the heir of Thuringia.

Elizabeth was sent to Germany at the age of four to be raised in the household of her betrothed, Louis of Thuringia, as was the practice of the time. It was heartbreaking for her parents to separate from their lively, dark-haired little girl, but they commended her to God and Our Lady. Louis' family disliked her, as was often the case with foreign royal brides, but he always cherished and protected his little fiancée. Elizabeth, although far from home, was a Magyar princess, and there was an intensity in her commitment to God and her husband which was repugnant to the placid Thuringians. They were married when Elisabeth was fourteen and Louis was about seventeen; he had inherited the dukedom of Thuringia from his father by then. Thuringia is roughly where Hesse-Darmstadt is now. In the thirteenth century it was a prosperous and powerful territory, although Louis was a duke, not a king.

Elizabeth had always shown a strong inclination toward piety as well as a great love of helping the needy and downtrodden. She opened a hospital for the poor in one of her castles and ran a soup kitchen. She was passionately in love with her husband, which is one of her most appealing aspects - she was a saint but she was also very much a woman. Louis truly loved his wife and sought for a fervent priest to guide her spiritual life. Unfortunately, her later confessor, the overzealous Conrad of Marburg, was excessively harsh with Elizabeth.

As Duchess, she established the Franciscan order in Thuringia and became herself a tertiary (with St. Louis of France, she is the patroness of tertiaries.) . Louis and Elizabeth had three children.

When Elizabeth was twenty, her husband died while on crusade. She ran shrieking through the castle, as if she had lost her mind. Her brother-in-law coveted the inheritance; he evicted Elizabeth and her three small children from their home. He forbade everyone in Thuringia to give them shelter. The little family had to hide in a pig pen from the rain. Poverty, loss and persecution did not embitter Elizabeth, as it would have embittered others, especially when it involved the suffering of her small children. She accepted everything from the hand of God.

Finally, someone got word to Elizabeth's father the King of Hungary, and he prevailed upon the Holy Roman Emperor to intervene. Elizabeth's lands were restored to her but she voluntarily chose holy poverty. After securing her children's welfare, she lived in a small room in the hospital she had founded and cared for the sick and the lepers. That would be like someone going to live with AIDS patients today.

Emperor Frederick begged for Elizabeth's hand in marriage but she refused. She died at the age of twenty-four and as she passed from this world a great light filled the room. Many miraculous cures were reported at her grave site. She was buried wearing the imperial crown which she had refused in life.

Thinking of St Elizabeth can help us when ever we feel afraid of poverty, or of being alone. Her spirit of humility and the renunciation of worldly honors can be imitated by all.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Litany for France

From Vultus Christi:
O God the Father of mercies: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ O God the Son, who wept over Lazarus: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ O God the Holy Ghost, the Comforter: — Have mercy upon us. ✢ Holy Mary, assumed into heaven: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Mother of Christ, Lady of Sorrows: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Mary, our Advocate in this vale of tears: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Michael, heavenly defender of Christians: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Denis, faithful martyr of the Lamb: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Martin, merciful Confessor of Christ: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Genevieve, protector of Paris: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Remigius, Enlightener of the Franks: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Francis, Apostle to the Muslims: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Louis, champion of justice: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Joan, valiant in battle: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Vincent de Paul, captive of the Turks: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Therese, little martyr of love: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Blessed Charles, brother of Christ and of all men: — Have mercy on us.
✢ All ye Saints of France: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ All ye holy Martyrs and Confessors: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ All ye Saints of God, men and women: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ O Lord, be merciful: — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From all evil, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From all sin, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From thy wrath, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From a sudden and unprovided death, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From anger, hatred, and all ill-will, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From plague, famine, and war, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From everlasting death, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest.
✢ O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest.
✢ O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest eternal.
V. Give peace in our time, O Lord.
R. For it is thou, Lord, only, that makest us dwell in safety.
Let us pray.
Do well, O Lord, unto those that are good and true of heart; grant the rule of thy salvation, watch over thy people’s safety with constant care, and restrain with thy right hand the rage of the enemy. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord: Who livest and reignest with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
✢ Most Sacred Heart of Jesus: — Have mercy upon us, and upon France.
✢ Most Sacred Heart of Jesus: — Have mercy upon us, and upon France.
✢ Most Sacred Heart of Jesus: — Have mercy upon us, and upon France.

Dom Benedict wrote this litany upon hearing of the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, 13 November 2015.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

"How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven."
~Gen. xxviii. 17

Today the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Dedication of St John Lateran, also called the Basilica of the Savior. As the Pope's official church, it is known as the "Mother Church of the World." Every Christian is called to be a Temple of the Lord, a tabernacle for the Divine Indwelling. This feast celebrates the holiness of the house of God, of every church building consecrated to His glory, of every Christian who through baptism becomes a sanctuary of the Most High. We look beyond the scandals of this world to the Bride of Christ, coming down out of Heaven from God, to the nuptial banquet at the end of time, of which we have already partaken. For every church is a miniature heaven, and every Mass is the marriage supper of the Lamb.

The purpose of the feast is here described:
By making the dedication of the papal church a feast throughout the world, the Church intends to stress Catholic unity without detracting from the glories of lesser churches. Other churches also have feasts, and each diocese celebrates the anniversary of its cathedral's dedication. Every church consecrated with chrism and marked on its stone-work with twelve crosses has its anniversary. But today, all churches everywhere, even bare rooms in poor towns, or huts in tropical missionary lands, align themselves in prayer with the Church's church: "Grant that whosoever enters this temple to ask good things from thee may rejoice in the obtaining of all his petitions" (Collect).
While we have one great High Priest, Jesus Christ, one Sacrifice in the holy Mass, one Faith, one Baptism, still it is for our convenience that in thousands of places we have God's temple, with thousands of human priests through whom Christ acts. The underlying unity of the Catholic Church compares with Christ's seamless robe: it is a mark of true Christianity.
For more than a thousand years successive popes ruled the true Church from their home near the Lateran basilica. Now, basilica means "house of a king," and you will recall that Pilate styled Jesus "King of the Jews" in mockery. Today the Lateran basilica is home of the King of Kings, and occasions a feast of praise. But the feast's special significance is that the Vicar of Christ the King maintains this church as his cathedral. The Pope lives now on the Vatican hill, near St. Peter's church, but he keeps the tradition of St. Sylvester: "This is that holy place in which the priest prays for the offenses and sins of the people" (Breviary).
Here is a beautiful quotation from Butler's Lives for November 9:
Hence churches have been usually consecrated by solemn rites and prayers, and it is a grievous sacrilege to profane them, or do in them anything but what has an immediate relation to the divine service: the church being the house of God. Though he be everywhere, he is said to reside particularly in heaven, because he there displays his presence by his glory and gifts. In like manner he honours the church with his special presence, being there in a particular manner ready to receive our public homages, listen to our petitions, and bestow on us his choicest graces.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Blessed Francisco Marto

From Fr. Mark:
The words of the Angel of Fatima,  “Console your God”,  engraved themselves in young Francisco’s heart. They became the compelling inspiration of his short life of eleven years (1908–1919). Francisco wanted, more than anything else, to be the Consoler of the Hidden Jesus. He did this by praying rosary after rosary, and by spending hours close to the tabernacle of the parish church.

Readers familiar with the story of Fatima will recall that on 13 May 1917, after hearing the Lady say, “I come from heaven”, Lucia asked if she and her little companions would go to heaven. The Lady replied that both Lucia and Jacinta would go to heaven , but that Francisco would need to say many rosaries first.

This enigmatic utterance concerning Francisco has, over the years, given rise to a certain amount of speculation as to its meaning. Various interpretations have been ascribed to it, but I found none of them satisfying. Some commentators even suggested that Francisco was somehow held back in his spiritual development and, therefore, needed more prayer than his sister Jacinta and his cousin Lucia. (Read more.)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Praying the Rosary

From Fr. Mark:
In a not so distant past, when the Rosary was prayed aloud, the individual leading the prayers would, invariably, do so while kneeling at a prie–dieu facing the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. All were united in turning to the representation of Our Lady’s presence. The shift from the prie–dieu to the ambo, and the change in direction, has brought about and continues to foster an altogether unsettling development in the public recitation of the Rosary, analogous to what happens when the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated at a forward–facing altar. Inevitably, the Rosary takes on a didactic character, in contrast to the contemplative, supplicatory, and doxological movement that has always been its very soul.

During my pilgrimage I could not help but notice the inflation of a verbose didactic approach to the Rosary. Each decade of the Rosary became an opportunity for someone to hold forth about something. These were not mere meditations on the mysteries but, rather, moralising and exhortatory fervorini stitched together with all the fashionable pastoral buzz words. My sense was that people would have preferred to get on with their prayers, and found all this holding forth wearisome. (Read more.)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Paray-le-Monial, 1689


In 1689, St. Margaret Mary confided in a letter to her superior Mother de Saumaise about a vision of Our Lord she had recently experienced. Here are the words of Our Lord concerning France and the consecration to the Sacred Heart as she recorded them:
He desires, then, it seems to me, to enter with pomp and magnificence into the palaces of kings and princes, therein to be honored as much as He has been despised, humiliated, and outraged in His Passion. May He receive as much pleasure therein at seeing the great ones of the world abasing and humbling themselves before Him as He once felt bitterness at beholding Himself annihilated at their feet!
Here are the words that I heart on this point: 'MAKE KNOWN TO THE ELDEST SON OF MY HEART,' SPEAKING OF OUR KING, 'THAT AS HIS TEMPORAL BIRTH WAS OBTAINED THROUGH DEVOTION TO THE MERITS OF MY HOLY CHILDHOOD, IN THE SAME MANNER HE WILL OBTAIN HIS BIRTH OF GRACE AND ETERNAL GLORY BY THE CONSECRATION THAT HE WILL MAKE OF HIMSELF TO MY ADORABLE HEART, which wishes to triumph over those of the great ones of the world. IT WISHES TO REIGN IN HIS PALACE, TO BE PAINTED ON HIS STANDARDS AND ENGRAVEN ON HIS ARMS, IN ORDER TO RENDER HIM VICTORIOUS OVER ALL HIS ENEMIES.'

In The Life of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque the Right Reverend Emile Bougaud comments thus:
To comprehend Almighty God's request with regard to the standard, we must recall that, from the earliest ages, France had always had a sacred standard, one that was not borne to vulgar combats; one that rested in the sanctuary of St. Denis under the shadow of the country's holy protectors. It was removed from its sacred shrine only when the monarch headed the army, when it was solemnly sought in the hour of the greatest danger, or when it was to be carried afar to the holy wars. It symbolized the religious soul of France, and floated like a sacred prayer amid the nation's banners. It was a standard of this kind that God had given to Joan of Arc. He had prescribed its form and emblems, and communicated to it the secret virtue that roused exhausted France to unhoped-for triumphs. Today, through the lips of the virgin of Paray, God asked of the king of France something of the same kind, a sacred standard which was to symbolize an act of faith. It was to be borne side by side with the nation's flag, and, in a voice that could be distinctly heard above the proverbial bravado of her enemies, proclaim that France places her trust in the blessing of God.
When St. Margaret Mary did not hear from her superior, she wrote again:
Live + Jesus!
August, 1689,
The Eternal Father, wishing to repair the bitterness and agony that the Adorable Heart of His Divine Son endured in the palaces of earthly princes, amidst the humiliations and outrages of His Passion, wishes to establish His empire in the heart of our great monarch, of whom He desires to make use in the execution of His designs, which is to have an edifice erected in which shall be a picture of His divine Heart, to receive the consecration and homage of the king and all the court.
Moreover, this divine Heart wishes to make itself the defender of the sacred person of the king, his protector against all his enemies. Therefore has it chosen him as its faithful friend, to have the Mass authorized by the Holy Apostolic See, and to obtain all the other privileges that ought to accompany devotion to this divine Heart.
It is by this divine Heart that God wishes to dispense the treasures of His graces of sanctification and salvation, by bestowing His benediction on the king's undertakings, according a happy success to his arms, and making him triumph over the malice of his enemies
.
Fr. Bougaud makes the following assessment:
We have not Mother de Saumaise's answer to his letter of August, 1689. She who had known how to reach Rome and arouse the thoughts of the Sovereign Pontiffs would neglect nothing to to reach even Louis XIV. We know that she had recourse to the Superioress of the Visitation of Chaillot, the refuge of Mlle. de la Fayette, where dwelt the queen of England, and which held, so to say, its door open to the court of Louis XIV. Might it happen that Pere de la Chaise would not dare to speak of it to the king? Might it happen that Louis XIV's soul would not be sufficiently humble to comprehend the Christian grandeur of such a thought? Be that as it may, those tender and magnanimous advances to the Heart of Jesus were not understood, and Margaret Mary's last admonitions were without avail, were lost in oblivion. They were, indeed, her last words, we are at the close of 1689, and she was nearing her death.
1689! Involuntarily we pause at this date, for it evokes another, 1789! A century has just rolled by between the epoch in which the humble virgin, hidden in the depths of a cloister, pointed out to Louis XIV the ark of salvation prepared for him by the goodness of God, and that other epoch in which arose the storm that was to sweep away the monarchy, and with it all other monarchies. If told in the days of his splendor of the perils in store in France, of the necessity of seeking a remedy, a shelter far above man, yea, even in the Adorable Heart of Jesus, Louis XIV would have smiled incredulously. And yet this was true. From Louis XIV France descended to Louis XV, from Louis XV to Voltaire, from Voltaire to Robespierre and Marat; that is to say, from pride to corruption, from corruption to impiety, and from both the one and the other to a hatred of God and man which was to bring about her universal punishment. (Right Reverend Emile Bougaud, The Life of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. Published in 1890 by Benziger Brothers. Re-printed by TAN Books and Publishers, 1990, pp. 267-273.)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Feast of Our Holy Mother St. Teresa


The following is an account of the death of the Great Teresa on October 4, 1582 at Alba de Tormes, by her secretary Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew.
Two days before she died, she asked to be given the Most Holy Sacrament, for she knew now that she was dying. On seeing that they were bringing it to her, see sat up in bed in such a spirited way that it looked as if she were going to get up, so they had to restrain her. Then she said, with great joy: "My Lord, it is time to set out...." She gave hearty thanks to God that she was a daughter of the Church and was dying as such, saying that through the merits of Christ she hoped to be saved, and she asked us all to beseech God to pardon her sins and to look, not at them, but only at His own mercy. With great humility she asked pardon of all, telling them not to take into account the things she had done and the bad example she had set them.
When the sisters saw that she was dying, they begged her to say something to them that would be to their profit, and she entreated them, for the love of God, to keep strictly to their Rule and Constitutions. There was nothing that she wished to add to this. Afterwards, she said little more save for repeating again and again that verse of David which says: Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus; cor contritum et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies ("A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit, a humble and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." Psalm 50:19, The Vulgate) Especially the phrase cor contritum-- this she kept repeating till she could say no more. Before this she had asked for Extreme Unction which she received with great devotion.

On St. Francis' Day, at nine o'clock in the evening, Our Lord took her to be with Him and left us all in such sorrow and grief that, if I had to describe it here, there would be a great deal to say. I heard a few things which the Holy Mother said before she expired, but so wonderful are they that I shall not set them down here. My superiors can relate them if they think it well to do so.


(from Msgr. Doheny's Selected Writings of St. Teresa)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Dance of the Sun

October 13 marks the anniversary of the final apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, when the sun swirled in the sky, a phenomenon witnessed by thousands of people. The three children-- Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta-- saw Our Lady appear as the joyful Virgin Mother, the Sorrowful Mother, and finally as Our Glorious Lady of Mount Carmel. They also saw St. Joseph in the sky, holding the Child Jesus. In his book entitled St. Joseph, Fatima, and Fatherhood, Monsignor Joseph A. Cirrincione offers some thought-provoking reflections.
The role of the priest in relation to Christ is strikingly analogous to the role of St. Joseph in relation to God the Father. Just as the Eternal Father willed to share His Fatherhood with St. Joseph...so Jesus willed to share His Fatherhood with the priest.... (p.28)
Likewise, "the sun stands out in a special way as a symbol and figure of God, and also of His Church...." Monsignor goes on to say that at Fatima "the 'miracle of the sun' represents not so much a threat of evils to come as it does a foreshadowing of the dethronement of God the Father, and an intimation of the appalling consequences inevitably to follow." One month after the "dance" of the sun in Fatima, the Communists took control of Russia.
The combination of atheism and secularism-- which practically speaking amounts to the universal and official rejection of the Fatherhood of God by mankind across the entire face of the earth....And I believe it was foreshadowed by the 'miracle of the sun' at Fatima in 1917.

[....]
Rejection of the Fatherhood of God by the vast majority of mankind inevitably has set in motion a chain reaction of consequences affecting fatherhood under every aspect that we have considered here. The notion of fatherhood in many families, for example, has been reduced to a biological fact. And the role of the father as the head of the family has completely gone out of style...the disintegration of the family inexorably and inevitably is leading to the disintegration of society itself....But the spirit of anti-fatherhood has entered even the Catholic Church. Recognition of the fatherhood of the Vicar of Christ...has eroded to an alarming degree...the role of priestly fatherhood is now coveted by women, seeking to escape the noble destiny which God has prepared for their sex, but which nevertheless they are taught to regard as drudgery. (pp.40-41)
Our Lady of Fatima's remedy for societal and moral ills is the prayer of the rosary, consecration to her Immaculate Heart (symbolized by wearing the brown scapular), and the loving performance of our daily duties. It is becoming increasingly more difficult for Christians to perform the most basic duties of their individual states of life. Yet it is the fulfillment of our ordinary duties upon which our salvation depends. Let us have an ever increasing confidence in the prayers and protection of the Mother of Mercy.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Our Lady of Victory

 It is the anniversary of the battle of Lepanto, now known as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Victory.

Here is a history of the rosary.

Don Marco discusses the comfort of the beads.
Sacramentals should be things of beauty. The soul thrives in an environment of chaste loveliness, harmony, and order. Finely crafted beads invite to prayer. There is no shame in going to God by means of the senses He has given us. The Word became flesh so that we, in our flesh and not in spite of it, might be able to go to God.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Feast of the Guardian Angels

Here is a brief history of the liturgical feast of the Holy Guardian Angels:
This feast, like many others, was local before it was placed in the Roman calendar.... Paul V placed it (27 September, 1608) among the feasts of the general calendar as a double "ad libitum" (Bäumer, op. cit., II, 277)....At the request of Ferdinand of Austria, afterwards emperor, he made them obligatory in all regions subject to the Imperial power; to all other places he conceded them ad libitum, to be celebrated on the first available day after the Feast of the Dedication of St. Michael the Archangel. It is believed that the new feast was intended to be a kind of supplement to the Feast of St. Michael, since the Church honoured on that day (29 September) the memory of all the angels as well as the memory of St. Michael.... Among the numerous changes made in the calendar by Clement X was the elevation of the Feast of Guardian Angels to the rank of an obligatory double for the whole Church to be kept on 2 October, this being the first unoccupied day after the feast of St. Michael....Finally Leo XIII (5 April, 1883) favoured this feast to the extent of raising it to the rank of a double major.
The following is an old English bed-time prayer for children, of which there are many variations:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
Bless this bed that I lay on.
Before I lay me down to sleep,
I give my soul to Christ to keep.
Four corners to my bed,
Four angels 'round my head,
One to watch, one to pray,
And two to bear my soul away.
I go by sea, I go by land,
The Lord made me with his right hand,
If any danger come to me,
Sweet Jesus Christ, deliver me.
For he's the branch and I'm the flower,
Pray God send me a happy hour,
And if I die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Needless to say, the belief in angel guardians is of ancient origin and has a strong Biblical foundation, as the Book of Exodus bears witness:
20 Behold I will send my angel, who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared. 21 Take notice of him, and hear his voice, and do not think him one to be contemned: for he will not forgive when thou hast sinned, and my name is in him. 22 But if thou wilt hear his voice, and do all that I speak, I will be an enemy to thy enemies, and will afflict them that afflict thee. 23 And my angel shall go before thee.... (Exodus 23:20-23)
Recta Ratio has some pictures and some thoughts as well. More HERE.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Passion of Saint Thérèse


In June of 1895, two years before her death, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face made an "Act of Oblation to Merciful Love." She expressed her gratitude to God for the grace of suffering: "Since you deigned to give me a share in this very precious Cross, I hope in heaven to resemble You and to see shining in my glorified body the sacred stigmata of Your Passion." (The Story of a Soul, trans. by Fr. John Clarke, OCD, p.277)

In the mental and physical sufferings that St. Thérèse experienced in the weeks preceding her early demise, she came to resemble her Crucified Spouse very much. As the tuberculosis consumed her body, a trial of faith and hope, in which heaven and eternity seemed closed to her, tortured her soul. The coughing of blood and persistent sore throat led to a treatment of painful cauterization with silver nitrate. Eventually, "gangrene ate away her intestines and she lost blood two or three times a day. Drinking only intensified her burning thirst. She had a terrible feeling of suffocation which could not be eliminated by the administration of ether. Finally, her bones protruded through her flesh to such an extent that, when she was made to sit upright to get some relief, it seemed to her that she was seated on iron spikes." (Complete Spiritual Doctrine of St. Therese of Lisieux by Rev. Francois Jamart, pp. 187-188) She confided to her sister, Mother Agnes of Jesus, that her pain was so intense that at times she was tempted to commit suicide: "What a grace it is to have faith! If I had no faith I would have inflicted death on myself without hesitating a moment!" (The Story of a Soul, p. 264)

On the afternoon of September 30, 1897, she entered into her agony. "Everything I have written about my desires for suffering," she gasped. "Oh, it is true just the same. I am not sorry for having surrendered myself to love. Oh, I am not sorry, on the contrary!" (The Story of a Life by Bishop Guy Gaucher, p. 204)

Nevertheless, Mother Agnes was so distressed by her sister's ordeal that she knelt before a statue of the Sacred Heart and begged for the grace of final perseverance for her little Thérèse. When the other nuns of the Carmel were summoned to the infirmary to support their sister with prayers in her dying moments, they saw her purplish hands holding her profession crucifix. Shortly after seven o'clock in the evening, the saint looked at the crucifix and breathed forth her last words: "My God, I love You!" After gazing a few moments with an expression of ecstatic joy at the statue of Our Lady, the beloved "Virgin of the Smile," brought from her childhood home, she died peacefully, her own face transfigured and smiling. On October 4, she was buried in the cemetery of the town of Lisieux. Only a few relatives and friends were present at the burial of the twenty-four year old nun. No one guessed that a storm of glory, a shower of miracles, was about to break forth.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Angels Everywhere

From Fr. Mark on the feast of St. Michael:
Are we in danger of forgetting the angels? While the liturgy mentions them repeatedly, all too often we assist at the Sacred Mysteries as if the angels were not there, joining in our praises, observing our attitudes, grieving over lack of zeal, and rejoicing to see us recollected and reverent. Saint Benedict speaks explicitly of the presence of the angels in Chapter 19 of the Rule: “We must therefore consider how we should behave in the sight of the Divine Majesty and his Angels, and as we sing our Psalms let us see to it that our mind is in harmony with our voice” (RB 19:6-7).
One thing is certain. We need the angels. God created the angels for the praise of his glory and for our salvation, that is, to participate in his work of bringing us to wholeness, to peace, and to life everlasting in his presence. The angels are sent to us to comfort us in the hour of trial and affliction. Saint Luke, the evangelist most sensitive to angelic interventions, relates that an angel was sent to console Jesus during His agony in the garden (cf. Lk 22:43).
The angels are sent to bring us the healing of heavenly medicine, and the brightness of God’s deifying light. The angels are sent before every advent of the Word, to dispose our hearts and unstop our ears. The angels are sent before Christ, our Priest and our Victim, present in the offering of His Body and of His Blood. The angels are sent to bear our prayers up to heaven, and to descend to us, laden with heavenly blessings. The angels protect us in all our ways. They do all of these things gladly, joyfully, and unhesitatingly in obedience to the command of God. (Read more.)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Novena to St. Michael

We need to pray for the Holy Father's visit and the synod on the family. Let us unite in praying together the Novena to St. Michael the Archangel:
Saint Michael the Archangel, loyal champion of God and His people, I turn to you with confidence and seek your powerful intercession. For the love of God, Who made you so glorious in grace and power, and for the love of the Mother of Jesus, the Queen of the Angels, be pleased to hear my prayer. You know the value of my soul in the eyes of God. May no stain of evil ever disfigure its beauty. Help me to conquer the evil spirit who tempts me. I desire to imitate your loyalty to God and Holy Mother Church and your great love for God and people. And since you are God's messenger for the care of His people, I entrust to you this special request: (Mention your request).
Saint Michael, since you are, by the Will of the Creator, the powerful intercessor of Christians, I have great confidence in your prayers. I earnestly trust that if it is God's holy will my petition will be granted.
Pray for me, Saint Michael, and also for those I love. Protect us in all dangers of body and soul. Help us in our daily needs. Through your powerful intercession, may we live a holy life, die a happy death, and reach heaven where we may praise and love God with you forever.
Amen.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Mary, Tabernacle of God

From Catholic Scot:
Which brings me to Mary and the Tabernacle of the Lord. The Tabernacle was that structure sitting at the heart of the nation of Israel where God dwelt among His people in a special manner. It first took shape as the Tent of Meeting at the time of Moses and later became the Temple of Solomon. There is no doubt that God dwelt in a special way too in Mary, the mother of the Son of God. I would suggest that the principles which underlay the construction of the first Tabernacle, made by human hands, also underlay the creation of Mary in the womb of her mother St Ann by the hand of God.

What were these principles? The details for the Tent of Meeting were laid out at some length in two passages of the Book of Exodus. Chapters 25-31 contain the plans outlined by the Lord to Moses on Mount Sinai and Chapters 35-40 describe its actual construction. Significantly the final verses of the final chapter of Exodus (40) concern themselves with God inhabiting the Tabernacle. It would take up to much space to go through every point here but there are some key aspects to highlight
  • Moses was not just told how to build the Tent but was shown its divine blueprint "Look well, and make everything in due accord with the pattern which has been shewn to thee on the mountain." (Exodus 25:40) Which means that before it existed on earth it was fully formed in God's mind i.e. it existed from eternity.
  • It was to be constructed of the best of all possible materials available, gold, silver, jewels, linen, wools and so on. " Provide thyself with spices, a stone of the best and choicest myrrh, and half a stone of cinnamon, and half a stone of scented cane, a stone, too, of cassia" (Exodus 30:23-24)
  • The most skilled craftsmen (and women) were to be employed on this work and the Lord would fill them with wisdom to complete their tasks. "And now the Lord said to Moses, Here is the name of the man I have singled out to help thee, Beseleel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Juda. I have filled him with my divine spirit, making him wise, adroit, and skilful in every kind of craftsmanship...and I have inspired the hearts of all the craftsmen with skill to carry out the commands which I have given thee." (Exodus 30:1-6)
(Read more.)
The Visitation

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Habit of a Cloistered Heart

From The Cloistered Heart: "The habit of a cloistered heart is a habit of seeking God's will. It is a habit of prayer, of virtue, of choosing Our Lord above all. It is a habit of holy actions acquired over time, through repetition." (Read more.)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Learning from Elijah's Despair

From Catholic Exchange:
In his despair, Elijah takes refuge from the sun in the shade of a broom tree. (Some have suggested that this was the beautiful Retama raetam with white flowers.) Noticeably, in his depressed state, Elijah hides from the light. In fact, another biblical prophet prayed for death in the shade of a plant too (see Jonah 4:8). Shade, of course, is an essential survival tool in a hot desert, but Elijah’s shrinking away from the light might symbolize his shrinking away from God’s calling on his life.
After letting the prophet mope for a bit, the angel of the Lord taps him on the shoulder and commands him to eat. Note how “pro-life” God appears here. He is not willing to let his prophet die through voluntary self-starvation, but actually commands him to eat (1 Kgs 19:5) and provides him with a special meal (19:6). The meal consists of water and a round flat loaf of bread baked on hot coals. This is not an elaborate feast, but a simple affair. Yet this meal miraculously sustains Elijah for a forty-day and forty-night journey.
This meal is truly “bread for the journey,” one of the names for the Eucharist. Indeed, this is why we read this passage in conjunction with John 6, where Jesus describes the new “bread for the journey” which he will provide. Like Elijah’s bread, which took him from black despair to seek out the Lord at Mt. Horeb, the Eucharist can take us from the darkness of sin and empower us for the voyage ahead. If we lose sight of our purpose, get down in the dumps, or find ourselves wallowing in the shade of a broom tree, the Eucharist can bring us back to God’s plan for us. It can sustain us when we feel like giving up. (Read more.)


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Our Holy Mother St. Teresa and Fr. Domingo Bañez

On St. Dominic's day we cannot forget how much his spiritual sons helped Our Holy Mother St. Teresa in her spiritual struggles, in her writings and in her foundations of monasteries. The friar who perhaps helped St. Teresa the most was Fr. Domingo Bañez. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
In another way, Bañez in his prime was rendering memorable service to the Church as director and confessor of St. Teresa (1515-82). Her own words mark him as the spiritual adviser who was most relied upon as a guide and helper, both in her interior life and in her heroic work of the Carmelite reform. "To the Father Master Fra Dominie Bañez, who is now in Valladolid as Rector of the College of St. Gregory, I confessed for six years, and, whenever I had occasion to do so, communicated with him by letter. . . . All that is written and told, she communicated to him, who is the person with whom she has had, and still has, the most frequent communications." (See "Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, by herself", tr. by David Lewis, 3d ed., London, 1904, Relation VII, 448, 450.) Of the first foundation of the reform, St. Joseph's Monastery at Avila, she wrote that Bañez alone saved it from the destruction resolved upon in an assembly of civil and religious authorities (op. cit., ch. xxxvi, 336 sqq.). He did not then know the saint, but "from that time forth he was one of her most faithful friends, strict and even severe, as became a wise director who had a great saint for his penitent." He testifies, in the process of her beatification that he was firm and sharp with her, while she herself was the more desirous of his counsel the more he humbled her, and the less he seemed to esteem her (op. cit., p., xxxvi). He looked for the proof of her love of God in her truthfulness, obedience, mortification, patience, and charity towards her persecutors, while he avowed that no one was more incredulous than himself as to her visions and revelations. In this his mastery of the spiritual life was shown to be as scientific as it was wholesome and practical. "It was easy enough to praise the writings of St. Teresa and to admit her sanctity after her death. Fra Bañez had no external help in the applause of the many, and he had to judge her book as a theologian and the saint as one of his ordinary penitents. When he wrote, he wrote like a man whose whole life was spent, as he himself tells us, in lecturing and disputing" (ibid.).
The Holy Mother had earlier gone through a great deal of persecution and calumnies from certain religious who did not understand her gifts and accused her of being either crazy or possessed by the devil. The sound judgment and discernment of directors such as Fr. Bañez helped her not only to grow in sanctity but probably saved her as a person.

Of the Saint's Autobiography, Fr. Bañez penned the following words:
Of one of her books, namely, the one in which she recorded her life and the manner of prayer whereby God had led her, I can say that she composed it to the end that her confessors might know her the better and instruct her, and also that it might encourage and animate those who learn from it the great mercy God had shown her, a great sinner as she humbly acknowledged herself to be.
Then as now, there is no replacement for a learned and holy priest. Let us pray for those priests who persevere in their vocation to shepherd and guide us.

Friday, August 7, 2015

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....

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sacred Fire: Practicing Devotion to the Heart of Jesus

Sacred Fire by Philip Michael Bulman is a gem of a book about the development of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus among the Catholic faithful. From the words of Jesus Himself and the piercing of his Heart to the mystic writings of St. Gertrude and St. Margaret Mary, to the Carmelite saints and ending with St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy revelations, the author shows how the Sacred Heart devotion is firmly rooted in Scripture and Tradition. Not only has the devotion long been a part of the piety of the faithful but in times of crisis the symbol of the Heart of Our Savior has emerged with special power. The back of the book has many prayers, litanies and other devotions. Sacred Fire is a book for every Catholic household.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Elias as a Type of Our Savior

From St. Augustine:
Brethren dearly beloved, in the Lessons which are now being read to us day by day, I have warned you that we must not follow the letter which kills, and thereby abandon the quickening spirit.  For it is thus that the Apostle says: “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”  If we desire to understand only what is in the letter, we shall get little or no edification from our readings in the sacred Scriptures.  All those things whereof we hear were types and images of things to come; and those things which were foreshadowed in the history of the Jews are, by the gift of God, fulfilled in us.
The blessed Elias, for instance, was a type of the Saviour.  Just as Elias was rejected by Jewry, so was the true Elias, even our Lord, rejected and despised by Jewry.  Elias went away out of his own country, and Christ must needs leave the synagogue.  Elias went into the desert, and Christ has come into the world.  Elias, when he was in the desert, was fed by ravens, and Christ in the desert of this world is comforted by the faith of the Gentiles.

For the ravens which, at the command of the Lord, ministered to Elias, may be understood as a type of the flock of the Gentiles.  Wherefore also it is said for the Gentile Church: “I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem.”  Why is the Church black but comely?  She is black in the natural order but comely by grace.  Because she must own this truth: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”  Why is she comely by grace?  Because she can go on and say: “Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Read more.)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Gertrud von le Fort and the Martyrs of Compiègne

I have long been an admirer of Gertrud von le Fort and her novel Song at the Scaffold, about the Blessed Martyrs of Compiègne. Baroness von le Fort's short but powerful depiction of the sixteen Carmelite nuns guillotined in 1795 during the Reign of Terror was the inspiration for the play by Bernanos and the opera by Poulenc, Dialogues des Carmelites. To Quell the Terror by William Bush is an excellent historical treatise on the martyrdom of the Carmelites. It is not widely known that Queen Marie-Antoinette provided a dowry for a poor, pious girl named Mademoiselle Lidoine, so that she could enter the Carmel of Compiègne. Mademoiselle Lidoine became the Mother Prioress of the heroic Martyrs of Compiègne, who like Marie-Antoinette, died on the guillotine during the French Revolution.

There is more HERE from The Inn At The End of the World.

HERE is the final scene from Poulenc's opera.

Here is a short account of Gertrud von le Fort's life: 
Baroness Gertrude von Lefort (1876–1971) is the author of over 20 books (poems, novels and short stories), honorary Doctor of Theology and «the greatest contemporary transcendent poet». Her works are appreciated for their breath-taking profoundness and virtuosity, beauty and actuality of her ideas, and for the sophisticateGertrud von le Fortd refinement of the form. Hermann Hesse, who evaluated her talent, proposed her as a candidate for the Nobel Prize. 
Von le Fort was born in Westphalia, Germany, and studied at the Universities of Heidelberg and Berlin. A Protestant of Huguenot descent, von le Fort converted early to Catholicism.Her novel Die Letze am Schafott (The Last or Song at the Scaffold), by far her most famous work, was the basis for Dialogues of the Carmelites. Set during the time........... of the French Revolution, the von le Fort novel tells the story of a troubled, frightened, and strange girl, Blanche de la Force, who has lived in fear from the moment of her birth. To overcome her affliction, she decides to become a nun of Carmel. Little does she know that she is no safer from fear at this convent than in the secular world.
The character of Blanche was von le Fort’s creation, but the other nuns in the story historical figures. Notice the similarity of "von le Fort" to "de la Force." This was no coincidence: much of Gertrud von le Fort’s inspiration for her novel came from her own experiences during World War II and her hatred of Nazism.
She recorded the origin of her 1931 novel: "The point of departure for my creation was not primarily the destiny of the sixteen Carmelites of Compiègne but the figure of the young Blanche. In a historic sense she never lived, but she received the breath of life from my internal spirit, and she cannot be detached from the origin, which is hers. Born in the profound horror of a time darkened by the signs of destiny, this figure arose before me in some way as the embodiment of the mortal agony of an era going totally to its ruin."
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