Sunday, May 24, 2020

Ascension, Time and Eternity

From the Sisters of Carmel Newsletter:
In the midst of this great work of life, the work of our salvation, weariness is bound to plague us: the way seems so very long!  But we have Our Lord's own testimony that it is but "a little while." (John 16)  "Christ's return is both His real presence now in our lives and in the life of the Church and His glorious return at the end of time.  Even the second is not far off, says St. Augustine: 'It seems long because now time is still passing by; but when the wait is over we shall see how short it was.'" (St. Andrew's, Matins Lesson, 3rd Sunday after Easter)

"Time."  What is it?  And what is its worth?  In this perpetually moving and busy world of ours, where we seem to have more and more to do and less time to do it, where we are constantly on the move from one task to the next, always having to think of the next thing, and almost constantly "multi-tasking," how often is it that we think about this great treasure in our lives - and how by it God means to form and mold us?  Time shakes us each/ like a sieve/causing what is true in us/to rise towards the surface (-S. R.)

We cannot pause time, nor slow it down or speed it up, nor replay what has already passed.  We have been given only so much of it by our good God, and it is constantly passing by.  Understanding time, and its value, is perhaps done best by realizing what time is not: time is not eternity.  How often we can read in the writings and counsels of the Saints the importance of knowing the shortness of time and the length of eternity.  By reminding us of this, they mean to instruct us that our hearts, far from being attached to the passing things of earth, should rather be "fixed where true joys are." (Paschaltide liturgy)  The eminent theologian, Fr. Reginald Garrigou- Lagrange, wrote beautifully and succinctly to explain this, and it merits reading, meditation - and further re-reading and consideration.  It is counsel for a lifetime:

 Father Garrigou-Lagrange"As the present minute is passing, let us bear in mind that what exists is not merely our body with its sensibility, its varying emotions of pain and pleasure; but also our spiritual and immortal soul, and the actual grace we receive, and Christ who exerts His influence upon us, and the Blessed Trinity dwelling within us.  We shall then have some idea of the infinite riches contained in the present moment and the connection it has with the unchanging instant of eternity into which we are someday to enter.  We should not be satisfied with viewing the present moment along the horizontal line of time, as the connecting link between a vanished past and an uncertain temporal future; we ought rather to view it along that vertical line of time which links it up with the unique instant of unchanging eternity."
- Fr. Reginald Garrigou- Lagrange
(Read more.)

Friday, May 22, 2020

Saint Rita: A Messy Life

This is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I have ever read. To quote Fr. Mark:
Catholicism is a fleshy affair: it is the religion of thorns in the flesh and roses in the snow. It is the religion of little children making furtive neighborhood pilgrimages, weaving crowns of flowers for the Mother of God, and secretly lighting candles to the saints. It is the religion of men quietly telling their beads, interceding for their families. It is the religion of those who kneel in prayer at at the tombs of the saints and shed tears over holy relics. Catholicism is the religion of little old ladies stopping in church laden with plastic shopping bags and burdened, even more, with concern for their children and their children’s children. It is the religion of the lonely, the confused, the broken, and the wounded who know that, in spite of everything, there is no shame in going to the Crucified Jesus, for He was “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3).
Catholicism is the religion of those tormented by gnawing hungers of the heart and thirsts of the spirit who, with faith and the fear of God, approach the inexhaustible Chalice of the Holy Mysteries for healing and relief. It is the untidy religion of those who trust that God and his saints can sort out whatever mess we have made of our lives and, in the end, by grace alone set all things aright. It all makes one supremely happy, and grateful, to be Catholic.
This was the religion of Saint Rita of Cascia, the wife of a husband who was murdered, the mother of two sons set on vengeance, a widow marked by emotional scars and lacerated by the cruel tongues of the pious. Finally, the doors of the cloister opened to admit her for the last stage of her life, one marked by sickness. Saint Rita’s life was messy.
Saint Rita lifted her eyes to meet the gaze of Christ and lived in His radiance; He blessed her with a thorn from His bloody crown and with a rose to console her in her final hour. By means of these very material signs, “the Counselor, the Spirit of Truth” (Jn 15:26) bore witness in Saint Rita’s life and in the Church to the abiding presence of the Crucified and Risen Lord.
Saint Rita, pray for us today, that we may not live in denial of the messiness of our lives but, rather, find comfort in the bosom of a Church warm with the intercession of the saints, a Church wide open to little children, a Church hospitable to failures and to fools, a Church who knows the value of the “little things” by which all of life can be suffused by paschal grace. (Read entire post.)

More HERE.

Pentecost Novena


The Pentecost novena begins today, even for those who were not able to celebrate the Ascension yesterday. Scott Richert provides the prayers here. The Golden Sequence makes a superb novena prayer as well.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,        Come, Holy Spirit,
et emitte caelitus                send forth the heavenly
lucis tuae radium.               radiance of your light.

Veni, pater pauperum,      Come, father of the poor,
veni, dator munerum         come giver of gifts,
veni, lumen cordium.         come, light of the heart.

Consolator optime,             Greatest comforter,
dulcis hospes animae,         sweet guest of the soul,
dulce refrigerium.               sweet consolation.

In labore requies,                In labor, rest,
in aestu temperies               in heat, temperance,
in fletu solatium.                  in tears, solace.

O lux beatissima,                 O most blessed light,
reple cordis intima               fill the inmost heart
tuorum fidelium.                  of your faithful.

Sine tuo numine,                  Without your divine will,
nihil est in homine,               there is nothing in man,
nihil est innoxium.                nothing is harmless.

Lava quod est sordidum,     Wash that which is unclean,
riga quod est aridum,           water that which is dry,
sana quod est saucium.        heal that which is wounded.

Flecte quod est rigidum,      Bend that which is inflexible,
fove quod est frigidum,        warm that which is chilled,
rege quod est devium.          make right that which is wrong.

Da tuis fidelibus,                    Give to your faithful,
in te confidentibus,                who rely on you,
sacrum septenarium.            the sevenfold gifts.

Da virtutis meritum,             Give reward to virtue,
da salutis exitum,                  give salvation at our passing on,
da perenne gaudium,            give eternal joy.
Amen, Alleluia.                      Amen, Alleluia.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Ascension of the Lord

(Icon of the Ascension by Andrei Rublev)

Let us look towards Heaven.
Our desires, on this Day, should be, that we may follow our Jesus to life everlasting, and overcome all the hindrances that we may have to encounter on the way thither....
A tradition, handed down from the early ages, and confirmed by the revelations of the Saints, tells us that the Ascension of our Lord took place at the hour of Noon. The Carmelites of St. Teresa's Reform honour this pious tradition by assembling in the Choir, at the hour of mid-day on the Ascension; and spend it in the contemplation of this last of Jesus' mysteries, following him, in thought and desire, to the throne of his glory.
Let us, also, follow him; but before looking on the bright Noon which smiles on his triumph, let us go back in thought to his first coming among us. It was at mid-night, in the stable of Bethlehem. That dark and silent hour was an appropriate commencement to the three and thirty years of his life on earth. He had come to accomplish a great mission: year by year, and day by day, he laboured in its fulfillment. It was nigh to its fulfillment, when men laid their sacrilegious hands upon him, and nailed him to a Cross. It was mid-day, when he was thus raised up in the air; but the Eternal Father would not permit the sun to shine on Jesus' humiliation. Darkness covered the face of the earth ; and that Day had no Noon. Three hours after, the sun re-appeared. Three days after, the Crucified rose again from the Tomb, and it was at the early dawn of light.
On this day, yea at this very hour, his work is completed. He has redeemed us, by his Blood, from our sins ; he has conquered death by his "Resurrection to life :—had he not a right to choose, for his Ascension, the hour when the sun is pouring forth his warmest and brightest beams... ~Abbot Gueranger's The Liturgical Year
Here is the Ascension hymn, translated by Fr. Mark:
Jesu, nostra redemptio,
Amor et desiderium,
Deus Creator omnium,
Homo in fine temporum.


O Jesus, our redemption,
our love, and our desire,
God, Creator of all things,
become Man in the fullness of time.

Quae te vicit clementia,
Ut ferres nostra crimina,
Crudelem mortem patiens,,
Ut nos a morte tolleres!


What tender love, what pity
compelled Thee to bear our crimes,
to suffer a cruel death
that we, from death, might be saved?

Inferni claustra penetrans,
Tuos captivos redimens,
Victor triumpho nobili
Ad dextram Patris residens:


Into death’s dark cloister didst Thou descend,
and from it captives free didst bring;
Thy triumph won, Thou didst take Thy place,
Thou, the Victor, at the Father’s right.

Ipse te cogat pietas,
Ut mala nostra superes,
Parcendo, et voti compotes
Nos tuo vultu saties.


'Twas a tender love, a costly compassion
that pressed Thee our sorrows to bear;
granting pardon, Thou didst raise us up
to fill us full with the splendour of Thy face.

Tu esto nostrum gaudium,
Qui es futurus praemium:
Sit nostra in te gloria
Per cuncta semper saecula. 


Thou art already the joy of all our days,
Thou Who in eternity will be our prize;
let all our glory be in Thee,
forever, and always, and in the age to come.

Novena to St. Joan of Arc


Here are some prayers in honor of Saint Joan, whose feast day is May 30.
SAINT JOAN OF ARC, GIVE ME STRENGTH!
In this, my time of need, I beg thee to come to my aid.
I humbly ask thee to help me bear my trials with honor,
As I remember you in your earthly agonies.
BLESSED JOAN, DUTY BOUND TO GOD, GIVE ME COURAGE!
You who left family and friends to enter into God’s service,
Devout and valiant to uphold righteousness to the end,
While being insulted and harmed by your enemies.
HOLY JOAN, DAUGHTER OF GOD, GIVE ME FORTITUDE!
Help me to prevail in life and death over evil,
While bearing my injuries with the dignity you showed
When wounded in the breast, head, thigh, and heel.
PIOUS JOAN, HELP ME TO BE FEARLESS!
Abandoned by the king you yourself had crowned,
Captured and sold to the highest bidder,
You put your trust in the King of Heaven to deliver you.
VENERABLE JOAN, HELP ME TO BE UNWAVERING IN MY FAITH!
Beaten, bruised, questioned and accused,
You were denied that which you loved most:
Communion, confession, mass and public prayer.
HEROIC JOAN, HELP ME TO UPHOLD JUSTICE!
Imprisoned, neglected, threatened and condemned,
Sentenced to die as a heretic the most cruel death,
To die by the fire and be raised up in heaven!
GLORIOUS VIRGIN, PLEASE INTERCEDE FOR ME.
Hear this petition and my heartfelt plea.
Pray for me in this, my time of need,
For I believe God will deny you nothing. Amen.
(Here mention you specific request.)

And this:

1) This is Joan, a most pious and simple maiden, who much feared the Lord, and of whom no one ever said an evil word.
2) The Lord raised her up, and behold the maiden was clad in the armor of God, so that she might withstand the snares of the enemy.
3) Her loins girt with verity and covered with the laurels of justice, she took up the shield and helmet of salvation.
4) And behold she raised her hand to the people and showed the nations the miracle of the Lord, so as to put the adversary to flight. Alleluia!
5) The angel guarded her; and when going and when stopping, and when returning, as well as in the midst of the fire, he never abandoned her. Alleluia!

And here is a litany:
Lord, have mercy on us!
Jesus Christ, have mercy on us!
Lord, have mercy on us!
Jesus Christ, hear us!
Jesus Christ, graciously hear us!
Our Heavenly Father, Who is God, have mercy on us!
Son, Savior of the world, Who is God, have mercy on us!
Holy Spirit, Who is God, have mercy on us!
Holy Trinity, Who is God, have mercy on us!
Holy Mary, virgin mother of God, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Assumption, principal patron of France, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, patron and special protector of France, pray for us.
Saint Catherine of Alexandria, virgin and martyr, pray for us.
Saint Margaret of Antioch, virgin and martyr, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, chosen by God at Domremy, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, informed [of her mission] by Saint Michael, the Archangel and his angels, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, compliant to the call of God, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, confidant [in] and submissive to her voices, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, model of family life and labor, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, faithfully devoted to Our Lady, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, who delighted in the Holy Eucharist, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, model of generosity in the service to God, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, example of faithfulness to the Divine vocation, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, model of union with God in action, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, virgin and soldier, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, model of courage and purity in the field [of battle], pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, compassionate towards all who suffer, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, the pride of Orleans, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, glory of Reims, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, liberator of the Country, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, abandoned and imprisoned at Compiegne, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, pure and patient in your prison, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, heroic and valiant before your judges, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, alone with God at the hour of torment, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, martyr of Rouen, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc and Saint Therese of Lisieux patronesses of France, pray for us.
All the Saints of France, intercede for us.
Lamb of God, Who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, Lord.
Lamb of God, Who take away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, Lord.
Lamb of God, Who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, Lord.
Saint Joan of Arc, pray for us, that we may become worthy of the promises of Our Savior Jesus Christ.
Let us pray.
Oh God, Who has raised up in an admirable manner, the virgin of Domremy, Saint Joan of Arc, for the defense of the faith and [our] country. By her intercession, we ask You that the Church [may] triumph against the assaults of her enemies and rejoice in lasting peace; through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.
 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.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

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

Great talk on the scapular, HERE.

St. Simon Stock (1165-1265)


The son of a noble family, St. Simon Stock was born in England in 1165. At the age of twelve, he became a hermit in one of the vast forests for which England was then famous. He lived in the hollow trunk of an ancient tree, whence he derived the surname "Stock." Herbs, roots, berries, and an occasional crust of bread were his sustenance. He would leave his woodland retreat to visit different shrines of Our Lady, which in those days could be found throughout the kingdom. His devotion to Mary was so great that he would carve her holy name on the trees of the forest.

The Mother of God often appeared to St. Simon. During one apparition, she told him that the holy hermits of Mount Carmel, her special sons, would come to England and he was to join their order. Years passed by, and as prophesied, the "Brothers of Our Lady" came to Aylesford in Kent. They accepted St. Simon into their ranks. After his ordination, he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where he stayed with the hermits on Mount Carmel in silence and contemplation like Elias of old. He returned to Europe to help establish the Order in the West. In 1245, the first General Chapter of the Carmelite Order in the West was held at Aylesford. St. Simon was elected Father General of the Order.

It was a formidable task. Because of the rise of Islam in Palestine, it was of vital importance that the Order become firmly established in Europe. This meant advocating a "mixed life" of prayer and active ministry, similar to the Franciscans, rather than a purely eremetical, contemplative life. St. Simon sent the young hermits to the universities to receive the training necessary to be preachers. His decision was strongly criticized by some of the hermits who thought their charism was being destroyed. Many prelates were trying to have the Carmelites completely suppressed. The very existence of the Order was threatened.

St. Simon composed a prayer to Our Lady which begins: "Flower of Carmel, blossoming vine, splendor of Heaven, Mother Divine, none like to thee." He begged Our Lady to grant his order a privilegium or pledge of protection in exchange for total loyalty and service, such as a king or queen would grant a knight or a vassal in feudal society. On the night of July 15-16, 1251, the Queen of Heaven appeared to St. Simon, the Infant Jesus on her arm, surrounded by a multitude of angels. She gave him a large brown scapular. A scapular was a monastic apron worn by monks during their manual labor to protect their habits. Our Lady said: "Receive, my beloved son, this habit of thy Order: this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this scapular shall never suffer eternal fire." What had been an apron now became a symbol of consecration to the Virgin Mary, a sign of her constant protection.

From that night on, the fortunes of the Carmelite Order improved. They received the protection of the Pope. The brown scapular became the main part of their habit, while small scapulars were distributed among the faithful. The brown scapular has become one of the most highly indulgenced sacramentals of the Church. In the fourteenth century, after a vision of Our Lady, Pope John XXII published the"Sabbatine Bull," promising delivery from purgatory on the Saturday following one's death to all who worthily wear the brown scapular, fulfilling the prescribed conditions.
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