Saturday, August 31, 2019

Before and After: Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Kenosha, Wisconsin

So beautiful! From The Liturgical Arts Journal:
It has been a little while since we have shown a church as part of our ever popular "before and after" series and today we are very pleased to be able to showcase the work of Stephen S. Cascio at his very own parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Kenosha, Wisconsin. (Read more.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

St. Augustine on Envy

Saint Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne
Fr. Mark quotes St. Augustine on envy, the diabolical sin, saying:
Envy is one of the seven capital sins. It is a root sin that produces a number of poisonous offshoots. What is envy? It is sadness at the sight of another’s goods, opportunities, talents, or advantages. Envy itself may lurk below the surface but it comes out in sarcasm, in bitter comments, in nasty criticisms....Saint Augustine saw envy as the diabolical sin. “From envy,” he says, “are born hatred, detraction, calumny, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbour, and displeasure caused by prosperity.” How does one if one is harbouring envy in one’s heart? If when another person is praised or acknowledged you feel a twinge of displeasure, it is rooted in envy. If when another person is given opportunities for personal growth, education, or travel, you feel resentment, it is rooted in envy. If when another person shows the ability to do something well, you can resist the temptation to snipe and criticize, it is rooted in envy. Envy is an insidious sin. In community life it can be deadly, especially when it goes unconfessed and when there is no repentance for it. (Read more.)
Do read the entire article. One wonders how many good works have been hampered by other Christians who were envious, who would not lend a hand, or put obstacles in the way.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

St. Monica

It is a feast for those of us who have been praying for decades for the conversion of certain people. As St. Monica found, prayers that are accompanied by tears are never in vain. From Fr. Mark:
"And when He came night to the gate of the city, behold a dead man was carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow: and a great multitude of the city was with her” (Lk 7:12). In the dead man the Church sees an image of Augustine before his conversion. In the widowed mother the Church sees an image of the holy mother Monica. In the crowd of mourners, the Church sees an image of those who experience sin and desire to be delivered from it: “those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Benedictus). Saint Luke depicts a striking scene: two crowds, arriving from opposite directions, meet. One is the community of death. The other is the community of life: an image of the Church.

“And when the Lord saw her, being moved with mercy towards her, he said to her, ‘Weep not'” (Lk 7:13). Our Lord looked upon Saint Monica just as he looked upon the mother of the man being carried out for burial. Tears were the language of Saint Monica’s prayer. Saint Augustine himself says: “Thou didst listen to her, O Lord, and Thou didst not despise those tears of hers which moistened the earth wherever she prayed” (Benedictus Antiphon). (Read more.)

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Pierced Heart

Today on the Carmelite calendar it is the feast of the Transverberation of the Heart of St. Teresa of Avila. Although the Holy Mother claimed the experience was purely mystical, it was found after her death that her heart had indeed been physically pierced. A priest once told me that such a phenomenon was a stigmata, although not the same stigmata that saints like St. Pio and St Francis of Assisi experienced. Those saints bore the five wounds of Christ; St Teresa bore a single wound in her heart. In this she resembled the Sorrowful Mother, transpierced at the foot of the Cross. St. Teresa, and those who wish to follow her in the Carmelite way, are to model the Blessed Virgin Mary, faithful in the greatest moment of darkness which was the crucifixion. It was also the moment of redemption, in which Mary became the Mother of the Church. Through our own sufferings and heartaches, we can participate in the redemption of the world.

Here is an excerpt of Richard Crashaw's "The Flaming Heart", about the transverberation of the heart of St. Teresa:
O heart, the equal poise of love’s both parts,
Big alike with wounds and darts,
Live in these conquering leaves; live all the same,
And walk through all tongues one triumphant flame;
Live here, great heart, and love and die and kill,
And bleed and wound, and yield and conquer still.
Let this immortal life, where’er it comes,
Walk in a crowd of loves and martyrdoms;
Let mystic deaths wait on ’t, and wise souls be
The love-slain witnesses of this life of thee.
O sweet incendiary! show here thy art,
Upon this carcass of a hard cold heart,
Let all thy scatter’d shafts of light, that play
Among the leaves of thy large books of day,
Combin’d against this breast, at once break in
And take away from me my self and sin;
This gracious robbery shall thy bounty be,
And my best fortunes such fair spoils of me.
O thou undaunted daughter of desires!
By all thy dow’r of lights and fires,
By all the eagle in thee, all the dove,
By all thy lives and deaths of love,
By thy large draughts of intellectual day,
And by thy thirsts of love more large than they,
By all thy brim-fill’d bowls of fierce desire,
By thy last morning’s draught of liquid fire,
By the full kingdom of that final kiss
That seiz’d thy parting soul and seal’d thee his,
By all the heav’ns thou hast in him,
Fair sister of the seraphim!
By all of him we have in thee,
Leave nothing of my self in me:
Let me so read thy life that I
Unto all life of mine may die.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Mary Our Queen

Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the most high God, above all women upon the earth. Blessed be the Lord who made heaven and earth....Because he hath so magnified thy name this day, that thy praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men...for that thou hast not spared thy life, by reason of the distress and tribulation of thy people, but hast prevented our ruin in the presence of our God. And all the people said: So be it, so be it.~ Judith 13:23-26

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Our Lady of Knock

The Irish people suffered a great deal for their faith over the centuries. In 1879, at Knock in County Mayo there was a miraculous occurrence.
County Mayo was in the center of a region of Ireland that had suffered great distress in the 1870's. Various famines and economic dislocations produced by forced evictions had created yet another wave of Irish immigration. It was into this environment that the Lord again sent His Mother to visit with His oppressed children.
The Apparition at Knock took place on 21st August, 1879, eight years after Pontmain in 1871. The two apparitions are broadly similar, in that they both took place in the evening and only lasted for three hours or so, and similarly, in both, no words were spoken.
On the evening of Thursday, 21 August 1879, two women from the small village of Knock, Mary McLoughlin and Mary Beirne, were walking back to their home in the rain when they passed by the back of the town church. There against the wall of the church stood the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, and an altar with a lamb and a cross on it. Flying around the altar were several angels. The women called several other people to the church. They too saw the apparition. What they and thirteen others saw in the still-bright day was a beautiful woman, clothed in white garments, wearing a large brilliant crown. Her hands were raised as if in prayer. This woman was understood by all who saw her to be the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Queen of the Angels. Other villagers, who were not involved with the apparition, nonetheless reported seeing a very bright light illuminating the area around where the church was located. There were subsequent reports of inexplicable healings associated with visits to the church at Knock.
Our Lady was silent during the apparitions perhaps because there was nothing more to say to those who had already suffered so much for the sake of the Gospel and from political oppression.
Here are the words of the Hail Mary in Gaelic:
Sé do bheath' a Mhuire, atá lán de ghrásta, tá an Tiarna leat.
Is beannaithe thú idir mná agus is beannaithe toradh do bhruinne losa.
A Naomh Mhuire, a mháthair Dé, guí orainn na peacaithe, anois is ar uair ar mbás. Amen.
And here is an old Irish litany in honor of the Blessed Virgin:
Great Mary,
Greatest of Marys,
Greatest of Women,
Mother of Eternal Glory,
Mother of the Golden Light,
Honor of the Sky,
Temple of the Divinity,
Fountain of the Gardens,
Serene as the Moon,
Bright as the Sun,
Garden Enclosed,
Temple of the Living God,
Light of Nazareth,
Beauty of the World,
Queen of Life,
Ladder of Heaven,
Mother of God.
Pray for us.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

St. Bernard on Our Lady

To quote from the great Cistercian saint and Doctor:
If squalls of temptations arise, or thou fall upon the rocks of tribulation, look to the star, call upon Mary. If thou art tossed by the waves of pride or ambition, detraction or envy, look to the star, call upon Mary. If anger or avarice or the desires of the flesh dash against the ship of thy soul, turn thine eyes towards Mary. If, trouble by the enormity of thy crimes, ashamed of thy guilty conscience, terrified by dread of the judgment, thou beginnest to sink into sink into the gulf of sadness or the abyss of despair, think of Mary. In dangers, in anguish, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let her be ever on thy lips, ever in thy heart; and the better to obtain the help of her prayers, imitate the example of her life. Following her, thou strayest not; invoking her, thou despairest not; thinking of her, thou wanderest not; upheld by her, thou fallest not; shielded by her, thou fearest not; guided by her, thou growest not weary; favoured by her, thou reachest the goal. And thus dost thou experience in thyself how good is that saying: And the Virgin's name was Mary' [from a homily of St. Bernard of Clairvaux....] (Read more.)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Assumption of Mary

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

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

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

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

54-day Rosary Novena

From August 15 until Oct 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Let us join in prayer for our country, especially for the conversion of America. From Roman Catholic Man:
The novena consists of five decades of the Rosary (one set of mysteries) each day for twenty-seven days in petition; then immediately five decades each day for an additional twenty-seven days in thanksgiving, regardless of whether or not the request has been granted yet. So began six novenas of Rosaries — which became known as the 54-day Rosary Novena. To do the novena properly — one must pray the Rosary for 54 consecutive days, without missing a day, and must pray the particular Mystery indicated for that day following the correct sequence. That is, the first day of the novena always begins with the Joyful Mysteries (regardless of what day of the week the novena is started); the second day, the Sorrowful Mysteries are prayed; and the third day of the novena, the Glorious Mysteries are prayed. The fourth day of the novena begins again with the Joyful Mysteries and continues on in that sequence throughout the 54 days of the novena...(Read more.)

More from Fr. Heilman, HERE.

A Mystery Bigger Than Ourselves

In meditating upon the mystery of the Assumption we remember that nothing is impossible with God.
Gaudeamus!...Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a festival in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at whose Assumption the angels rejoice and all together praise the Son of God. This is no mere earthly joy; it is the joy of heaven spilling over, cascading down through the choirs of angels until, having reached us here below, it again takes flight heavenward, leaving us surprised by joy.

The joy of today's festival descends from heaven and returns to heaven. It leaves us caught up in a mystery bigger than ourselves, obliges us to set our sights "on the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (Col 3:1). It is as if the Virgin Mother herself, borrowing the words of the Apostle, speaks to us out of that glory in which she is "hidden with Christ in God" (Col 3:3), and says, "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Col 3:2). The Assumption of the Mother of God is a jubilant "Sursum corda!"(Read entire article.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Mind of the Immaculate

From Fr. Angelo:
The Immaculate is a living ideal, a pattern of life to be replicated by our external comportment, and more importantly, by our interior lives. She lives enthroned, not merely in paradise, but in the hearts and minds of those who truly love Her. In this way She is alive and active in and through us, influencing directly the choices we make as a Mother who loves and nurtures us. This we must remember every time we think of Her. Here we will find true enlightenment and our feet will be led into the way of peace (Luke 1:79) to “the summits of our desired holiness,” to peaceful rest and blissful union with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But to achieve this our thought of Her must be prayerful and profound. This is only made possible by humble meditation and prayer.

Thinking about the Immaculate

St. Maximilian Kolbe was a man who during his whole life meditated and contemplated in this fashion. He was consumed by a truth in which he believed with all his mind and heart. Often he spoke of his love and zeal for the Mother of God in terms of a “fixed ideal,” and for love of Her he wished to live, work, suffer, be consumed and die.

Now, St. Maximilian was not an idealist, not a man chasing after a dream. Nor was his ideal some abstract principle formulated by philosophers, rather it was a person, the knowledge of whom had been handed on to him through infallible divine revelation. This person, the Church taught him, is the Immaculate Mother of God, given to us as our Mother by Her divine Son. Throughout the Christian era the Church had spoken about Her in the most solemn fashion, indicating the central and unique role She plays in salvation history, and defining precisely the nature of Her dignity and role in the lives of men. For this reason St. Maximilian came to fully appreciate the holiness of this Woman without stain, and the love of the Mother of God who became also our Mother.

For good reason, then, Saint Maximilian links together a disciplined reading or study habit with a filial prayer relationship with Mary. Perfectly harmonized spiritual reading or study and a prayerful dependence on grace constitute the kind of meditation, leading to contemplation that fuels progress in the interior life. This is not merely a philosophical approach to life, which deals with everything in terms of some abstract ideal, nor is it simply a convenient or consoling spiritual experience of a transcendent person. Rather, it is a deep relationship with God who reveals and saves, and who is the only theoretical and practical basis for resolving the demands of life in this world.

Truth and Life

In the person of St. Maximilian, truth and life are perfectly harmonized. A man of great apostolic works and a hero of charity, St. Maximilian is hailed by our production-preoccupied culture as a practical man. Publisher, journalist, founder, reformer, missionary, scientific and organizational genius: he was a man ahead of his times. However, his indomitable energy, productivity and his concern for his fellow man are senseless if not for his life-long contemplation of the truth. In particular, one question preoccupied his thoughts from his youth to the death cell: Who are you, O Immaculate? In his blurring activity St. Maximilian was not a fanatic, nor a superman. He was a poor banished child of Eve, like the rest of us, who had been transformed by his ideal, because this ideal was true, and because this truth was the Woman conceived without sin, who became the Mother of God and the Mediatrix of All Grace. (Read more.)

Mariology in the Franciscan Order

From The Marian Room:
The Franciscan Mariologist, Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner, was not only an expert on the writings and teachings of St. Francis and St. Bonaventure, but those of St. Maximilian Kolbe, as well; thus he was proficient in tracing the golden thread of “Mary’s presence and continuing influence” at the outset of the Franciscan order to the present day, as seen in the following:
In the early 1980s….Fr. Peter Damian undertook a study of the writings of the newly canonized Conventual Franciscan martyr of Auschwitz, Saint Maximilian Kolbe. The impact of this Kolbean study proved incalculable. For Fr. Peter Damian, St. Maximilian’s writings demonstrated the “golden thread” of Mary’s coherent presence and continuing influence in the Franciscan tradition. St. Maximilian asserted that in the earliest days of the Order’s foundation, in the intentions of St. Francis of Assisi himself, God was putting Mary Immaculate to work. Fr. Peter Damian grasped with a new clarity the coherent, consistent, unbroken line of Marian ideal inherent in the Franciscan tradition, beginning with Francis and continuing through Bonaventure, Scotus, the Franciscan School, all the way through Kolbe. The key to this new synthesis of insight for Fr. Peter Damian was the Divine Will and Plan that Mary qua Immaculate – and thereby “spouse” of the Holy Spirit and thereby “Virgin made Church” – would be God’s chosen instrument for gathering the Friars and their flock to implement God’s Plan for the Kingdom, building a Divine civilization of lovesource
St. Francis, and the long line of his spiritual descendants, loved, and do love, the Virgin Mary, who is the “Virgin made Church.” Fr. Fehlner writes:
According to both Thomas of Celano and St. Bonaventure (11), St. Francis could not exalt Mary in praise or serve her too much, because it was she who brought our Lord and Savior into our midst and made possible for us direct access to Him. De Maria numquam satis (12). St. Francis is clearly a Marian maximalist, a position clearly bearing on his way of thinking about Mary. If we understand who Mary is, what she has done and continues to do, then we can never exalt her too much, because we cannot come close to matching, let alone exceeding, what the Blessed Trinity has done for her. Of course St. Bonaventure warns against attempting to maximize our Marian prayer and doctrine with stupidities which in fact do not exalt but demean the Virgin Mother of God. But the more we grasp of the mystery objectively, e.g., the Immaculate Conception, the greater must be our praise, devotion and service objectively. For St. Francis, just as the absolute primacy of Christ appears after the triumph of the Cross as Christ’s Kingship over all creation, so the mystery of the Spouse of the Holy Spirit or Immaculate Conception appears as the Queenship of Mary gloriously crowned as Mistress of heaven and earth. In the practical order this constitutes the doctrinal foundation for her universal mediation of grace in the Church and among the Angels, the indispensable basis for realizing the purpose of the Franciscan Order, the rebuilding of the Church: to be without stain or spot, viz., immaculate (13).
These themes converge on the sacrifice of Calvary, hence the importance of perfect conformity to the Crucified through the maternal mediation of Mary in order to accomplish the glorification of the Church. This consists precisely in the completion of the Body of Christ, formed by Mary, so that in and through Christ the Father sees in us what he sees in his Only-begotten Son. This entails on the part of Mary a dual relation: one to Christ as His Mother and so on Calvary Mother of the Church (Virgo Ecclesia facta) and to the Holy Spirit as his instrument in realizing the Incarnation and animating the Church as Body of Christ. Once we see this, we see why Mary is first born daughter of the Father, and how St. Francis’ Marian thought rests profoundly on Trinitarian insights, which underlie the Franciscan thesis on the absolute predestination of Christ and Mary. This Marianized Christology (in St. Maximilian M. Kolbe) will ultimately yield a key to a pneumatology-ecclesiology in the mystery of Mary’s person as Virgin Mother: in relation to the Holy Spirit and in relation to the Church as Virgin-Mother of the faithful (14).
Careful examination of the St. Francis’ Salute to the Virgin (15), whence comes the title Virgo Ecclesia facta, and whose composition is to be related not only to the Portiuncula, St. Mary of the Angels, effectively celebrating Mary’s Assumption and mediation of all graces in the Church, but also to Francis’ conversion experience under the tutelage of the Immaculate Co-redemptrix, particularly reveals how it stresses the joint centrality of the divine Maternity and Incarnation. Thus it reveals how thoroughly the Marian thought of St. Francis was permeated precisely by those three notes stressed by Paul VI in Marialis cultus: the Trinitarian, Christological-pneumatological, and ecclesial (16).
Similarly, the antiphon for the Office of the Passion (17), whence comes the title Sponsa Spiritus Sancti, or Immaculate Conception, whose composition was profoundly linked to the Poverello’s (St. Francis, added by SCF) conversation with the Crucified in San Damiano, the moment when Francis was stigmatized interiorly, reveals the same. This time, however, it does so in relation to the consummation of Christ’s mission on the Cross. The mystery of what is today called the coredemption, based on the “Franciscan thesis,” stands at the very center of this Office and unique antiphon. The identification and labeling of this mystery will be a contribution of the Franciscan Mariological school.
Two doctrinal themes, anchored in the conversion experience of the Poverello (again, St. Francis, added by SCF) in the Church of San Damiano as well demonstrated by Fr. Schneider (18): themes to become central to the Franciscan Mariological School, emerge from this unlimited devotion to Mary as Mother of God: a sense of her unique mediation, first as an active co-cause of the Incarnation and then as spiritual Mother of the Church and its members; and then, as a consequence, a sense of her person as one capable of being the Mother of God and our Mother. For she is Spouse of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin made Church, who is able to bring into this world the Son of God and Savior by the operation of the Holy Spirit, and by the operation of the same Spirit make of the Church virginal Mother of Christ in the minds and hearts of the faithful. Thus, in chapter 10 of his Regula bullata, St. Francis insists that all the friars are obliged to have in themselves “the Spirit of the Lord and his holy operation,” no where so fully realized as in the Mother of God and our Mother.
This sense of Marian mediation of all grace will be a prominent feature of the Christology and Mariology of St. Bonaventure. This sense of her person in St. Francis will later emerge in Duns Scotus’ formulation of the theology of the Immaculate Conception, metaphysical ground of Mary’s universal mediation, as the Incarnation is the ground of Christ’s.
We are not dealing here with two partial aspects of a single mediation, but with a single mediation entire in Christ, but with a Marian mode, for the same reason the mission of the Son involves the mission of the Spirit and divine Maternity. Or mediation in the supernatural order entails a divine and maternal aspect, prefigured in the formation of man as male and female (Gen 2: 18-25) (19): in Bonaventure a dual dimension to a single mediation consummated on Calvary, but ultimately grounded in the dual complementary missions of Word and Spirit (20); and in Scotus founded respectively in the Incarnation and Immaculate Conception. This noted, it is easy to see how the profound insight of St. Maximilian ascribing the same name to the Spirit and Mary (21) is a kind of synthesis of these two great Marian Doctors.
In the Franciscan school, and first of all in St. Francis himself, Christ and Mary are involved, apart from any consideration of sin, in a work of mediation for the rest of the elect. Although from the gnoseological point of view of our theology here and now, demonstration of the Immaculate Conception rests on the prior recognition of our redemption as perfect, ontologically a parte rei the perfection of that redemption derives in fact from the mediation of Christ and Mary: real, even had Adam not sinned (22).
Evidently, the Marian thought of St. Francis, like his profound theology in general, fountainhead of the famed Franciscan school of theology and philosophy (and some would add science), when described in terms of the three possible modes of “our theology” in a time of pilgrimage (23) , is contemplative. For St. Bonaventure, without this form of theology, it would be impossible to perfect or develop the other two, viz., symbolic and academic (or proper). On the other hand without a sound symbolic and academic presentation it would be impossible for the vast majority to grasp the mind of St. Francis and similar saints on the mysteries of faith. source
That quote was a bit long, but I think it is instructive as it details how St. Francis viewed Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, the Virgin made Church, and how the golden thread of her presence and influence are weaved within (and the thread remains unbroken!) the very foundations of the Franciscan Order. (Read more.)

Prayer, Mortification and Fraternal Charity

On the feast of the Franciscan martyr St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe it is a privilege to read one of his homilies translated from Polish by Fr. Angelo. In the words of the heroic priest-martyr:
Prayer, above all prayer, is the effective weapon to use in the fight for the liberty and happiness of souls. Why?

Because only supernatural means lead to a supernatural end. Heaven—if one may say—is the divinization of the soul, a supernatural reality in the full sense of the term. Consequently, it cannot be attained by merely natural power. It is also indispensable to have a supernatural means, that is, divine grace. And this is obtained by humble and confident prayer. Grace, and only grace, which enlightens the intellect and strengthens the will, is the cause of conversion or the liberation of the soul from the bonds of evil.

But a prayer lifted up to God through the hands of the Immaculate cannot remain without effect, as it is said in the invocation of St. Bernard: "Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection was ever abandoned by You." So before all else there must be humble, confident and unfailing prayer. (Read more.)
More HERE about the saint of Auschwitz. And HERE.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

St Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

Fr. Mark's reflections are worth reading year after year. Father gives us a lesson in the meaning of sacred art as well as of the life of the saint. To quote:
I wish that I could put you all in a bus today and accompany you to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City just to see there the small round glass medallion dating from the fourth century that depicts Saint Laurence. The medallion bears the simple inscription: “Live with Christ and Laurence.” What some would see as a simple cultural artifact is for us a witness to the unchanging faith of the Church. The saints are those who have passed into eternal life with Christ. “Live with Christ and Laurence.” To live with Christ is to live in the society of the saints. Not only do we remember each year the anniversary of their birthday into the life of heaven; we seek their intercession and rely on it. We make our pilgrimage through this life in their company, having “over our head,” as the Letter to the Hebrews says, “so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1).

I also wish that I could transport all of you to the Chapel of Pope Nicholas V in the Vatican to see there the series of frescoes that Blessed Fra Angelico painted to depict the life of Saint Laurence. This in itself is remarkable: a saint painting a saint.

In one scene of the series he shows Saint Laurence coming out of a basilica to meet the poor who are waiting for him. Laurence is youthful; he is dressed as a deacon for the liturgy. His dalmatic is deep rose in colour, suggesting joy, and trimmed in gold, hinting at the glory that is already transforming him. On the ground in front of him is a crippled man holding out his hand and begging for alms. To his right is an old man with a white beard, quite bent over, and leaning on his walking stick; he too is asking for alms. To Laurence’s left stands an impoverished widow in a dark dress and, just behind her, a young mother with a baby in her arms. Again to his left, is a man in need of medicine, pointing to a wound in his knee. On both sides of Laurence are little children; two of them, having already received their alms, are walking away, while a third is still waiting to receive something. (Read more.)

Friday, August 9, 2019

St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 8, 2019

St. Dominic and the Triumph of Grace

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

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

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....

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Assumption Novena

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

For those who like to pray Scripture as part of a novena, here are some favorite passages:
And the temple of God was opened in heaven: and the ark of his testament was seen in his temple, and there were lightnings, and voices, and an earthquake, and great hail. And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars....(Apocalypse 11:19-12:1)
  But as the same Lord liveth, his angel hath been my keeper both going hence, and abiding there, and returning from thence hither: and the Lord hath not suffered me his handmaid to be defiled, but hath brought me back to you without pollution of sin, rejoicing for his victory, for my escape, and for your deliverance. Give all of you glory to him, because he is good, because his mercy endureth for ever. And they all adored the Lord, and said to her: The Lord hath blessed thee by his power, because by thee he hath brought our enemies to nought....Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the most high God, above all women upon the earth. Blessed be the Lord who made heaven and earth, who hath directed thee to the cutting off the head of the prince of our enemies. Because he hath so magnified thy name this day, that thy praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men who shall be mindful of the power of the Lord for ever, for that thou hast not spared thy life, by reason of the distress and tribulation of thy people, but hast prevented our ruin in the presence of our God....Blessed art thou by thy God in every tabernacle of Jacob, for in every nation which shall hear thy name, the God of Israel shall be magnified on occasion of thee....And when she was come out to him, they all blessed her with one voice, saying: Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of Israel, thou art the honour of our people....(Judith 13:20-2, 23-25, 31,15:10 )

The Transfiguration

Let us run with confidence and joy to enter into the cloud like Moses and Elijah, or like James and John. Let us be caught up like Peter to behold the divine vision and to be transfigured by that glorious transfiguration. Let us retire from the world, stand aloof from the earth, rise above the body, detach ourselves from creatures and turn to the Creator, to whom Peter in ecstasy exclaimed: Lord, it is good for us to be here.
~Anastasius of Sinai, from The Liturgy of the Hours according to The Roman Rite, 1975

Monday, August 5, 2019

Our Lady of the Snow

The legend, the feast and the basilica.
The most important church in the city of Rome dedicated to Our Lady is the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, erected around the year 352, during the reign of Pope Liberius. (352-366)  According to legend, a member of an aristocratic family, John and his wife were childless and prayed that the Blessed Mother might designate an heir to bequeath their wealth.  They were favored with a dream in which Our Lady appeared to them on the night of August 4-5. She requested that they build a church in her honor on the Esquiline hill and the sign to accompany this dream is that the exact location would be marked out in snow.

During that hot summer evening, a miraculous snowfall traced the form of the basilica on the hill.  Our Lady also appeared to Pope Liberius in a dream that same night so that he too could arrive at the location to see the miraculous snowfall.  Many people gathered to see the unusual event of snow glistening in the August sun.  Upon awakening, John and his wife rushed to the site and Pope Liberius arrived in solemn procession.

Realizing that the snow marked the exact location of the church, the people staked off the area before the snow melted.  The basilica was completed within two years and consecrated by Pope Liberius; that is why it is sometimes referred to as the Basilica Liberiana, after the Pope who consecrated it.
When the Council of Ephesus defined Mary as Theotokos, the God-bearer, in 431 A.D., Pope Sixtus III (432-440) rebuilt and embellished the basilica.  From the seventh century onward, it was referred to as St. Mary the Great or Major.  The Basilica has also been called Our Lady of the Snows in commemoration of the miraculous snowfall.  The imposing facade was built by Pope Eugene III (1145-1153).

Among its great treasures is a painting of the Madonna and Child known as the Salus Populi Romani, the Protectress of the People of Rome, which is attributed to St. Luke.  This image had been brought back from the Holy Land by St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, who also located the true cross and other relics of the Passion in Jerusalem.  The venerable picture hung in the private chapel of Pope Liberius, and he ordered that it be brought to the Basilica for public veneration by the faithful.

Throughout the centuries, there has been a special devotion to this famous picture of Our Lady.  During the pontificate of Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604) a plague attacked the people of Rome and the Pope carried the image in procession to pray to their Protectress for an end to the plague.  In 1837, Pope Gregory XVI (1830-1846) also carried the image in procession throughout Rome to ask Our Lady for an end to an epidemic of cholera.  When it soon ended, the Pontiff solemnly placed crowns of gold and gems on the heads of Mary and the child Jesus on the miraculous image. 
Today is the anniversary of my grandmother's death. Please pray for the repose of her soul.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

St. John Vianney

He is the patron saint of parish priests. Fr. Mark has a beautiful post about St John Vianney and his incendiary preaching. I will never forget our brief visit to Ars in September 1999, when my husband and I decided to rent a car in Toulouse and drive up the east side of France to Paris. We motored along winding and precipitous roads through the mountains of Auvergne to Le Puy-en-Velay, the site of the shrine of Our Lady of France, popular in the Middle Ages. I could not imagine the rigors of reaching the shrine via horse or mule when it was difficult enough to reach it by car.

The next morning we drove up to Lyon and then made our way on the back roads to Ars. It was noon; most of the pilgrims were at dinner so we had the church pretty much to ourselves. They were repairing the roof but other than that it was a stunningly beautiful church. I wandered around, lighting candles for those with grave needs. I turned a corner and almost jumped, because there he was-- the Curé d'Ars in his glass coffin, incorrupt, looking as if he were asleep. It was like being at a wake rather than visiting the tomb of someone long dead. His expression was so peaceful and serene, communicating both the shortness of life and the joy of final victory. Even in death, the holy Curé preaches to us.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Our Lady of the Angels

Today we mystically kneel at the Portiuncula, to gain the triple indulgence of Rome, Compostela, and Jerusalem. To quote:
According to a legend, the existence of which can be traced back with certainty only to 1645, the little chapel of Portiuncula was erected under Pope Liberius (352-66) by hermits from the Valley of Josaphat, who had brought thither relics from the grave of the Blessed Virgin. The same legend relates that the chapel passed into the possession of St. Benedict in 516. It was known as Our Lady of the Valley of Josaphat or of the Angels — the latter title referring, according to some, to Our Lady's ascent into heaven accompanied by angels (Assumption B.M.V.); a better founded opinion attributes the name to the singing of angels which had been frequently heard there. However this may be, here or in this neighbourhood was the cradle of the Franciscan Order, and on his death-bed St. Francis recommended the chapel to the faithful protection and care of his brethren. Concerning the form and plan of the first monastery built near the chapel we have no information, nor is the exact form of the loggia or platforms built round the chapel itself, or of the choir for the brothers built behind it, known. Shortly after 1290, the chapel, which measured only about twenty-two feet by thirteen and a half, became entirely inadequate to accommodate the throngs of pilgrims. The altar piece, an Annunciation, was painted by the priest, Hilarius of Viterbo, in 1393. The monastery was at most the residence, only for a short time, of the ministers-general of the order after St. Francis. In 1415 it first became associated with the Regular Observance, in the care of which it remains to the present day. The buildings, which had been gradually added to, around the shrine were taken down by order of Pius V (1566-72), except the cell in which St. Francis had died, and were replaced by a large basilica in contemporary style. (Read more.)

Thursday, August 1, 2019

St. Alphonsus Liguori

Today is his feast. Here is an excerpt from his book The Glories of Mary:

And here we say, that although Mary, now in heaven, can no longer command her Son, nevertheless her prayers are always the prayers of a Mother, and consequently most powerful to obtain whatever she asks. "Mary," says Saint Bonaventure, "has this great privilege, that with her Son she above all the Saints is most powerful to obtain whatever she wills." And why? Precisely for the reason on which we have already touched, and which we shall later on again examine at greater length, because they are the prayers of a mother. And therefore, says Saint Peter Damian, the Blessed Virgin can do whatever she pleases both in heaven and on earth. She is able to raise even those who are in despair to confidence; and he addresses her in these words: "All power is given to thee in heaven and on earth, and nothing is impossible to thee, who canst raise those who are in despair to the hope of salvation."
And then he adds that "when the Mother goes to seek a favor for us from Jesus Christ" (whom the Saint calls the golden altar of mercy, at which sinners obtain pardon), "her Son esteems her prayers so greatly, and is so desirous to satisfy her, that when she prays, it seems as if she rather commanded than prayed, and was rather a queen than a handmaid. Jesus is pleased thus to honor His beloved Mother, who honored Him so much during her life, by immediately granting all that she asks or desires. This is beautifully confirmed by Saint Germanus, who addressing our Blessed Lady says: "Thou art the Mother of God, and all powerful to save sinners, and with God thou needest no other recommendation; for thou art the Mother of true life." — From Glories of Mary, Chapter VI.
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