Thursday, May 16, 2024

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.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Fatima

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

During her final apparition at Fatima in October 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary was dressed as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, holding the brown scapular; she was obviously encouraging everyone to wear the garment of grace, just as she urged everyone to pray the rosary on a daily basis. 750 years before, Our Lady had given the scapular to St Simon Stock, telling him: "Whosoever shall die wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire."

On July 13, 1917, Our Lady at Fatima showed the three little children the Vision of Hell; it was the first part of the controversial "Secret of Fatima," and in some ways, the most terrible aspect of it, for hell is a place where anyone can go if they break God's law and do not repent. The children were so frightened by the vision that afterwards all earthly sufferings seemed like nothing. I think someone once said that Our Lord in the Gospels warns His disciples about hell "where the worm dieth not, and the flame is not extinguished" (Mark 9 :44) more often than He promises them Heaven, "for straight is the way and narrow is the gate that leads to life, and few there are that find it." (Matthew 7:14)

Along with the scapular and rosary, Our Lady asked that we perform the duties of our state in life; she knew that in future times how difficult it would become to fulfill one's most basic obligations to God and to other people, and yet the fulfillment of those duties often is the difference between heaven and hell. Yet, as the saints testify, many have been saved because they clung to some small token of devotion to Our Lady in spite of everything, and the Mother of Mercy interceded for them. As the angel at Fatima instructed the three children to pray:

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are in most need of thy mercy!

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension

 From Dom Gueranger:

In the Middle Ages, the Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension, was called “The Sunday of Roses,” because it was the custom to strew the pavement of the Churches with roses, as an homage to Christ who ascended to heaven when earth was in the season of flowers. How well the Christians of those times appreciated the harmony that God has set between the world of grace and nature! The Feast of the Ascension, when considered in its chief characteristic, is one of gladness and jubilation, and Spring’s loveliest days are made for its celebration. Our forefathers had the spirit of the Church; they forgot, for a moment, the sadness of poor earth at losing her Emmanuel, and they remembered how he said to his Apostles: If ye loved me, ye would be glad, because I go to my Father! Let us do in like manner; let us offer to Jesus the Roses wherewith he has beautified our earth: their beauty and fragrance should make us think of him who made them, of Him who calls himself The Flower of the field and the Lily of the valleys. He loved to be called “Jesus of Nazareth;” for Nazareth means a Flower: and the symbol would tell us what a charm and sweetness there is in Him we serve and love as our God. (Read more.)

Friday, May 10, 2024

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.

Madame Elisabeth's Prayer


Here is a prayer of Madame Elisabeth, the sister of Louis XVI, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:
Adorable heart of Jesus, sanctuary of the love that led God to make himself man, to sacrifice his life for our salvation, and to make of his body the food of our souls: in gratitude for that infinite charity I give you my heart, and with it all that I possess in this world, all that I am, all that I shall do, all that I shall suffer. But, my God, may this heart, I implore you, be no longer unworthy of you; make it like unto yourself; surround it with your thorns and close its entrance to all ill-regulated affections; set there your cross, make it feel its worth, make it willing to love it. Kindle it with your divine flame. May it burn for your glory; may it be all yours, when you have done what you will with it. You are its consolation in its troubles, the remedy of its ills, its strength and refuge in temptation, its hope during life, its haven in death. I ask you, O heart so loving, the same favour for my companions. So be it.
O divine heart of Jesus! I love you, I adore you, I invoke you, with my companions, for all the days of my life, but especially for the hour of my death.
O vere adorator et unice amator Dei, miserere nobis. Amen.

Madame Elisabeth was guillotined on May 10, 1794 and her Cause for Beatification has been introduced. More HERE.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

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.)

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:
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.
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