Wednesday, August 31, 2022

St. Raymond Nonnatus


Slavery is still very much with us. Don't think it isn't. We need St. Raymond, who is the saint who ransomed slaves. And he was silenced by his enemies, like so many truth speakers now. To quote:
Raymond, universally known as Nonnatus or not born due to his atypical birth, is the Mercedarian saint who achieved the greatest popularity among Christians in the places, kingdoms and nations where Mercedarians became established.

According to the most reliable Mercedarian tradition, Saint Raymond was born in the town of Portello, situated in the Segarra region of the Province of Lérida at the dawn of the thirteenth century. He was given the surname of Nonnatus or not born because he came into the world through an inspired and urgent incision which the Viscount of Cardona made with a dagger in the abdomen of the dead mother. In his adolescence and early youth, Raymond devoted himself to pasturing a flock of sheep in the vicinity of a Romanesque hermitage dedicated to Saint Nicholas where an image of the Virgin Mary was venerated. His devotion to the Holy Mother of Jesus started there.

He joined the Order of Mercy at a very early age. Father Francisco Zumel relates that young Raymond was a “student of the watchful first brother and Master of the Order, Peter Nolasco.” Therefore, Raymond was a redeemer of captives in Moorish lands. In a redemption which took place in Algiers, they had to stay behind as hostages. It was then that he endured the torment of having his lips sealed with an iron padlock to prevent him from addressing consoling words to Christian captives and from preaching the liberating good news of the Gospel. After he had been rescued by his Mercedarian brothers, Pope Gregory IX appointed him Cardinal of the Church of San Eustaquio. Summoned by the Supreme Pontiff, Raymond was on his way to Rome when he met death in the strong and rocky castle of Cardona in 1240. The Order of Mercy, the viscount and the city of Cardona were all arguing over his dead body, and where it should be buried, it was entrusted to Divine Providence on the harness of a blind mule. Without anyone leading it, the mule accompanied by a crowd trotted to Saint Nicholas hermitage where the venerable body was buried. (Read entire post.)

Monday, August 29, 2022

The Passion of St. John the Baptist

From Nobility:
John, in his fetters, was attended by some of his disciples, who kept him in touch with the events of the day. He thus learned of the wonders wrought by Jesus. At this point it cannot be supposed that John’s faith wavered in the least. Some of his disciples, however, would not be convinced by his words that Jesus was the Messias. Accordingly, he sent them to Jesus, bidding them say: “John the Baptist hath sent us to thee, saying: Art thou he that art to come; or look we for another? (And in that same hour, he cured many of their [the people’s] diseases, and hurts, and evil spirits; and to many that were blind he gave sight.) And answering, he said to them: Go and relate to John what you have hard and seen: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, to the poor the gospel is preached: and blessed is he whosoever shall not be scandalized in me” (Luke, vii, 20-23; Matt., xi, 3-6). (Read more.)

Sunday, August 28, 2022

St. Augustine on Envy


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.
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.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

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).

 

More HERE.

Friday, August 26, 2022

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, trans-pierced 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 25, 2022

The Little Arab


Today on the Carmelite calendar it is the feast of Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified, Miriam Baouardy, known as the "Little Arab." Miraculous phenomena surrounded her. Let us pray to her for Christians who are suffering persecution in Moslem countries. She said: “Everything passes here on earth. What are we? Nothing but dust, nothingness, and God is so great, so beautiful, so lovable and He is not loved.”

From Mystics of the Church:

 We see in the lives of many mystic saints that an ecstatic, while in ecstasy, can be drawn a little above the ground through a supernatural and mysterious grace. However, Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified was one of the only ones, along with Saint Joseph of Cupertino, to make real flights. The phenomena was verified for the first time on June 22, 1873 in the garden of the Carmel of Pau. Noticing her absence at supper, the mistress of novices looked for her in vain in the cloister and the orchard, then another nun heard a song: "Love! Love!" She looked up and discovered Mariam balancing herself without support at the top of an enormous lime tree.

Advised of this, the prioress arrived and confronted with this phenomena she initially did not know what to do. After a prayer she addressed the little one: "Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified, if Jesus wishes it, come down through obedience without falling or hurting yourself." At the simple word obedience, the ecstatic descended in fact "with the radiant face" and perfect modesty, stopping on some of the branches to sing Love."Hardly was she on the ground," noted a witness, "and as if to make amends to our mother and sisters for our anxiety in looking for her and in seeing her perched up so high, she embraced us with a sort of enthusiasm and affection impossible to express."

Eight ecstatic levitations were documented: Beginning in 1873 on June 22, July 9, 19,25, 27, 31, August 3, 1873 and finally on July 5, 1874. "How did you manage to climb like that?" the mother prioress asked her. And she replied: "The Lamb held out His hands to me:" Some of the nuns wanted to make sure of this so they spied on her. One day a lay sister who was working in the garden was witness to the flight: "She had taken hold of the tip of a little branch that a bird would have bent; and from there, in an instant, she had been lifted on high." On July 5, perched on the lime tree, she addressed the mother prioress: "I was on that one there and I came up here. Look, see, my alpargates (a kind of soft slipper) are still there."

On July 19, 1873, when the order was given for her to descend, she hesitated a moment. She begged to be allowed more time with the Lamb. "No," insisted the prioress, "through obedience, come down." She obeyed, but the shadow of hesitation had been fatal: the vision had disappeared. "The Lamb went away." Sighed the sister, "He left me alone to come down." In fact, because of her hesitance in obedience it was with effort that she got down to the ground and for four days of grief she expiated that unhappy moment. On July 25, the levitation lasted from four to seven o'clock in the evening; on July 31, it lasted from the end of recreation, which follows supper in the evening, until nine o'clock. This phenomenon occurred only at the Carmel of Pau.

In a letter dated February 14, 1927, Father Buzy, the Carmelite´s biographer, wrote the following statement to bishop Oliver Leroy: "Sister Mary used to raise herself to the top of the trees by the tips of the branches: she would take her scapular in one hand, and with the other the end of a small branch next to the leaves, and after a few moments she would glide along the outside edge of the tree to its top. Once up there, she would remain holding on to branches normally too weak to bear a person of her weight. "

The following are some depositions given by witnesses at process: "Sister E., now deceased, told me that one day when she happened to be in the garden with the servant of God, the latter said to her: "Turn around." She had hardly turn her head when looking back again, she saw the little one already seated on the top of the lime tree, on a little branch, balancing herself like a bird and singing divine love. Another person declared: "Once I saw her in ecstasy at the top of the lime tree, seated at the tip of the highest branch, which, normally would never have been able to support her. Her face was resplendent! I saw her come down from the tree like a bird, from branch to branch, with great nimbleness and modesty." (Read more.)


God, France, and Marguerite

Saint Louis IX, King of France, whose feast we celebrate today, is the epitome of the Christian knight, king and crusader. He is the patron saint of Franciscan tertiaries. In addition to his administrative duties as king, he prayed the daily Mass and Divine Office. His strong interior life aided him in being a competent ruler and a father to his people.

While still a teenager, St. Louis married a beautiful princess from the south of France, Marguerite de Provence. She was also pious, although not as devout as Louis. Inside his wedding ring, he had three words inscribed: "God, France, and Marguerite." They had eleven children. King Louis had a secret staircase built from his study to his wife's parlor above so that he could visit her during the day without his mother knowing it. Louis' mother, Queen Blanche, thought that Louis should concentrate solely upon his work. She also may have feared that Marguerite might gain too much political influence over Louis, and so tried to keep the young lovers/spouses apart as much as possible.

Blanche went to extremes by making young Louis leave Marguerite when she was suffering after a particularly difficult childbirth and wanted her husband to hold her hand. Blanche told Louis that it was not his place to be in the birthing room and Louis obeyed his mother. Marguerite was quite distressed although she forgave Louis.

Louis and Marguerite lost children to sickness and had their share of domestic misunderstandings. At one point, Louis thought Marguerite focused too much on her clothes, and later on Marguerite complained that Louis would not look at her. To his friend Jean de Joinville, Louis confided, "A man should not behold that which he can never fully possess." I assume it was soon before he left on his second crusade on which he would die; perhaps he was trying to detach himself from everything he loved in this world, especially his beloved wife.

Marguerite shared her husband's sorrows and joys. When his mother died, she wept copiously. Joinville asked her in amazement how she could weep over someone who had caused her so much suffering. Marguerite replied that it was because her husband was so deeply grieved and she shared his grief.

Greatly devoted to Our Lady, St. Louis was responsible for bringing the Carmelite Order to France. While on a crusade in the Holy Land, King Louis’ ship ran into a violent storm within view of Mt. Carmel. The sound of the bells from the chapel of Our Lady on Mt. Carmel pierced the roar of the wind and the waves. The king, kneeling in prayer, begged Our Lady to save his ship, promising in return a pilgrimage to Carmel. The ship was saved. King Louis climbed the slopes of Carmel to visit the holy hermits who lived near the chapel. Greatly edified by their life of prayer and solitude, he asked several of them to come to France, where he established a monastery for them. This was a great help to the Carmelites, who were finding life in Palestine very difficult due to the hostility of the Moslems.

St. Louis of France had a busy schedule and a multitude of duties. Through the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and devotion to Our Lady, he attained a life of union with God. Power and riches had no hold on his heart. Let us seek his intercession in this often disorienting time we live in.

Monday, August 22, 2022

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....
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 Joachim the high priest came from Jerusalem to Bethulia with all his ancients to see Judith. 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. For thou hast done manfully, and thy heart has been strengthened, because thou hast loved chastity...therefore also the hand of the Lord hath strengthened thee, and therefore thou shalt be blessed for ever. And all the people said: So be it, so be it. ~ Judith 13:23-25, 31; 15: 9-12.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

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.

St. Pius X


The Pope of the Eucharist.
Quotes:

"Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven."

"I was born poor, I have lived poor, I wish to die poor."

"My hope is in Christ, who strengthens the weakest by His Divine help. I can do all in Him who strengthens me. His Power is infinite, and if I lean on him, it will be mine. His Wisdom is infinite, and if I look to Him counsel, I shall not be deceived. His Goodness is infinite, and if my trust is stayed in Him, I shall not be abandoned.”

"Let the storm rage and the sky darken - not for that shall we be dismayed. If we trust as we should in Mary, we shall recognize in her, the Virgin Most Powerful 'who with virginal foot did crush the head of the serpent.'"

"Truly we are passing through disastrous times, when we may well make our own the lamentation of the Prophet: 'There is no truth, and there is no mercy, and there is no knowledge of God in the land' (Hosea 4:1). Yet in the midst of this tide of evil, the Virgin Most Merciful rises before our eyes like a rainbow, as the arbiter of peace between God and man."

Saturday, August 20, 2022

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, troubled 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.)

 

More HERE.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

St. Helena the Empress


My patron saint. She discovered the True Cross. Father Mark Kirby said:
Saint Helena was not merely collecting relics for posterity. Her discovery of the True Cross saved the Orthodox Catholic faith from being submerged in a sea of speculative philosophies that denied the true Flesh and Blood of Christ. Saint Helena’s discovery points to the God who became man and suffered death on a real cross in a particular place at a precise moment in history. Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles was the herald of Christ’s resurrection; Saint Helena became the herald of the mystery of the Cross.


Monday, August 15, 2022

The Assumption and Gender

The Church Life Journal:

It is important to realize that this dogma was not invented in the 1950’s. As Pope Pius XII’s encyclical points out, this tradition is found in the ancient liturgical books of both East and West. It is also attested to by St. Sergius I, Pope in the late 17th century, who even prescribed a litany to be prayed on the feast. But this feast−although solidly grounded in the tradition−is also more than that. It reveals the wisdom of God and the importance of masculinity and femininity in the plan of creation. Every celebration of the Church does not just celebrate a random act of God, but a thoroughly intentional act, an action that means something. All of God’s actions in history reveal something about his design, and about us, his creatures. The Assumption reveals something to us about the central role played by relationality in creation.

God’s plan of assuming the Mother of God into heaven becomes intelligible when we reflect on Jesus Christ as the New Adam, and the Blessed Virgin Mary as the New Eve. St. Paul wrote, “For since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man” (1 Cor 15.21). This is true, but death did not come exclusively from Adam’s decision, but involved the cooperation of Eve, and indirectly came through her; both are responsible, of course, even as each played a different part.

Likewise, the resurrection of the dead came through Jesus Christ, but not directly, rather it was by way of Mary’s cooperation in God’s plan to become the Mother of God that led to the resurrection. God wanted the free cooperation of a woman, whom he preordained to be his Mother, to give him his human body and human personality in order to redeem the world. He did not force himself on the world, but ever so subtly entered into our history through the “yes” of one woman.

What this reveals is that humanity is essentially male and female, creation is essentially marital.  What it means to be human cannot adequately be expressed without both sexes, and just as at the beginning God’s relationship with our first parents was a relationship between him and a couple (both a male and a female) so now God redeems the world through the relationship between one man and one woman (not a married couple, but nevertheless one man and one woman working together). Christ saves as male only in union with a female, and what Adam and Eve were supposed to do together (but failed together), now Jesus and his Mother redeem together.

To clarify: Christ, the God-Man redeems us by his blood. It is his sacrifice that merits our salvation. He is the one mediator between God and man, but his human nature (his human body, soul, heart, and mind) came through Mary and were even dependent upon Mary. God chose to depend upon a woman to provide the body (the matter, the nature) through which he would redeem the world. It is good to remember that Jesus Christ not only is a reflection of the Eternal Father through the fact that he is the Son of God, but also reflects the image of his Mother as the son of Mary. He would have looked like his mother, the only one from whom he was born since he had no earthly father.

Mary is that important. The Son of God chose to be biologically, genetically, related to her. If the marital covenant is at the center of reality, then we are restored to being in the image of God through a male and a female in their union. Mary is the one with Jesus who fashions this new covenant between God and man.

This is a clear indication that gender is significant and not arbitrary in God’s design. Just as we use words to express things, so God uses things (things that he creates with an intention) to express a deeper meaning: things mean something for God, just like our words mean something for us. Audible words are not the only things that communicate meaning. Being a woman means something significant and reveals something about God, just as being a man does. Discovering what they mean can only be understood in relation, not in isolation.

You cannot understand masculinity isolated from femininity, and you cannot understand femininity isolated from masculinity. (Read more.)


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)

Sunday, August 14, 2022

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.)

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. I once had the privilege of meeting the Catholic Polish officer Franciszek Gajowniczek for whom St. Maximilian gave up his life. Mr. Gajowniczek told us that before the saint was led away he turned and gave him a beautiful smile. 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.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Saint Clare, Virgin

 From EWTN:

The Lady Clare, "shining in name, more shining in life," was born in the town of Assisi about the year 1193. Her mother was to become Blessed Ortolana di Fiumi. Her father is said to have been Favorino Scifi, Count of Sasso-Rosso, though whether he came of that noble branch of the Scifi family is not certain. Concerning Clare's childhood we have no reliable information. She was eighteen years old when St. Francis, preaching the Lenten sermons at the church of St. George in Assisi, influenced her to change the whole course of her life. It is likely that a marriage not to her liking had been proposed; at any rate, she went secretly to see Friar Francis and asked him to help her to live "after the manner of the Holy Gospel." Talking with him strengthened her desire to leave all worldly things behind and live for Christ. On Palm Sunday of that year, 1212, she came to the cathedral of Assisi for the blessing of palms, but when the others went up to the altar-rails to receive their branch of green, a sudden shyness kept Clare back. The bishop saw it and came down from the altar and gave her a branch.

The following evening she slipped away from her home and hurried through the woods to the chapel of the Portiuncula, where Francis was then living with his small community. He and his brethren had been at prayers before the altar and met her at the door with lighted tapers in their hands. Before the Blessed Virgin's altar Clare laid off her fine cloak, Francis sheared her hair, and gave her his own penitential habit, a tunic of coarse cloth tied with a cord. Then, since as yet he had no nunnery, he took her at once for safety to the Benedictine convent of St. Paul, where she was affectionately welcomed.

When it was known at home what Clare had done, relatives and friends came to rescue her. She resisted valiantly when they tried to drag her away, clinging to the convent altar so firmly as to pull the cloths half off. Baring her shorn head, she declared that Christ had called her to His service, she would have no other spouse, and the more they continued their persecutions the more steadfast she would become. Francis had her removed to the nunnery of Sant' Angelo di Panzo, where her sister Agnes, a child of fourteen, joined her. This meant more difficulty for them both, but Agnes' constancy too was victorious, and in spite of her youth Francis gave her the habit. Later he placed them in a small and humble house, adjacent to his beloved church of St. Damian, on the outskirts of Assisi, and in 1215, when Clare was about twenty-two, he appointed her superior and gave her his rule to live by. She was soon joined by her mother and several other women, to the number of sixteen. They had all felt the strong appeal of poverty and sackcloth, and without regret gave up their titles and estates to become Clare's humble disciples. Within a few years similar convents were founded in the Italian cities of Perugia, Padua, Rome, Venice, Mantua, Bologna, Milan, Siena, and Pisa, and also in various parts of France and Germany. Agnes, daughter of the King of Bohemia, established a nunnery of this order in Prague, and took the habit herself.

The "Poor Clares," as they came to be known, practiced austerities which until then were unusual among women. They went barefoot, slept on the ground, observed a perpetual abstinence from meat, and spoke only when obliged to do so by necessity or charity. Clare herself considered this silence desirable as a means of avoiding the innumerable sins of the tongue, and for keeping the mind steadily fixed on God. Not content with the fasts and other mortifications required by the rule, she wore next her skin a rough shirt of hair, fasted on vigils and every day in Lent on bread and water, and on some days ate nothing. Francis or the bishop of Assisi sometimes had to command her to lie on a mattress and to take a little nourishment every day.

Discretion, came with years, and much later Clare wrote this sound advice to Agnes of Bohemia: "Since our bodies are not of brass and our strength is not the strength of stone, but instead we are weak and subject to corporal infirmities, I implore you vehemently in the Lord to refrain from the exceeding rigor of abstinence which I know you practice, so that living and hoping in the Lord you may offer Him a reasonable service and a sacrifice seasoned with the salt of prudence."

Francis, as we know, had forbidden his order ever to possess revenues or lands or other property, even when held in common. The brothers were to subsist on daily contributions from the people about them. Clare also followed this way of life. When she left home she had given what she had to the poor, retaining nothing for her own needs or those of the convent. Pope Gregory IX proposed to mitigate the requirement of absolute poverty and offered to settle a yearly income on the Poor Ladies of St. Damien. Clare, eloquent in her determination never to break her vows to Christ and Francis, got permission to continue as they had begun. "I need," she said, "to be absolved from my sins, but I do not wish to be absolved from my obligation to follow Jesus Christ." In 1228, therefore, two years after Francis' death, the Pope granted the Assisi sisterhood a Privilegium paupertatis, or Privilege of Poverty, that they might not be constrained by anyone to accept possessions. "He who feeds the birds of the air and gives raiment and nourishment to the lilies of the field will not leave you in want of clothing or of food until He come Himself to minister to you for eternity." The convents in Perugia and Florence asked for and received this privilege; other convents thought it more prudent to moderate their poverty. Thus began the two observances which have ever since been perpetuated among the Poor Clares, as they later came to be called. The houses of the mitigated rule are called Urbanist, from the concession granted them in 1263 by Pope Urban IV. But as early as 1247 Pope Innocent IV had published a revised form of the rule, providing for the holding of community property. Clare, the very embodiment of the spirit and tradition of Francis, drew up another rule stating that the sisters should possess no property, whether as individuals or as a community. Two days before she died this was approved by Pope Innocent for the convent of St. Damian.

Clare governed the convent continuously from the day when Francis appointed her abbess until her death, a period of nearly forty years. Yet it was her desire always to be beneath all the rest, serving at table, tending the sick, washing and kissing the feet of the lay sisters when they returned footsore from begging. Her modesty and humility were such that after caring for the sick and praying for them, she often had other sisters give them further care, that their recovery might not be imputed to any prayers or merits of hers. Clare's hands were forever willing to do whatever there was of woman's work that could help Francis and his friars. "Dispose of me as you please," she would say. "I am yours, since I have given my will to God. It is no longer my own." She would be the first to rise, ring the bell in the choir, and light the candles; she would come away from prayer with radiant face.

The power and efficacy of her prayers are illustrated by a story told by Thomas of Celano, a contemporary. In 1244, Emperor Frederick II, then at war with the Pope, was ravaging the valley of Spoleto, which was part of the patrimony of the Holy See. He employed many Saracens in his army, and a troop of these infidels came in a body to plunder Assisi. St. Damien's church, standing outside the city walls, was one of the first objectives. While the marauders were scaling the convent walls, Clare, ill as she was, had herself carried out to the gate and there the Sacrament was set up in sight of the enemy. Prostrating herself before it, she prayed aloud: "Does it please Thee, O God, to deliver into the hands of these beasts the defenseless children whom I have nourished with Thy love? I beseech Thee, good Lord, protect these whom now I am not able to protect." Whereupon she heard a voice like the voice of a little child saying, "I will have them always in My care." She prayed again, for the city, and again the voice came, reassuring her. She then turned to the trembling nuns and said, "Have no fear, little daughters; trust in Jesus." At this, a sudden terror seized their assailants and they fled in haste. Shortly afterward one of Frederick's generals laid siege to Assisi itself for many days. Clare told her nuns that they, who had received their bodily necessities from the city, now owed it all the assistance in their power. She bade them cover their heads with ashes and beseech Christ as suppliants for its deliverance. For a whole day and night they prayed with all their might- and with many tears, and then "God in his mercy so made issue with temptation that the besiegers melted away and their proud leader with them, for all he had sworn an oath to take the city." (Read more.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr



From My Catholic Life:
The Church’s liturgy, like all public rituals whether sacred or secular, is inherently conservative. Its form is not easily altered. Its content shapes, more than is shaped by, the Church and the wider culture. The liturgy moves through time like a great river moves through the land. It plows its own path, carving the terrain, gradually and incontrovertibly forming a new landscape. One generation is too few to notice, but a few generations pass and, suddenly, a river separates two families, a valley turns into a lake, a dam submerges a city, water destroys what once had been, and the world is different. Feast days and solemnities, most notably Christmas and Easter, shape entire cultures too: their calendars, music, food, festivals, dress, dance, language, art, architecture, and on and on. There is almost nothing that the liturgy and its calendar do not touch. Liturgy creates worlds.

Besides being culture creators, liturgical Feast Days also preserve the past for the present and the future. A Feast Day freezes time and preserves the memory of the world’s oldest mind—that of the Catholic Church. The Church does not suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. She is rejuvenated with every baptism and so is perpetually young, impervious to the dementia typical of great age. Today’s saint, the Deacon Lawrence, is celebrated with a Feast on the Church’s calendar, not just a memorial or an optional memorial. This liturgical fact is revelatory and beautiful. He was martyred so long, long ago. He is not Christ, Mary, or a pope. Yet he has a Feast Day! What is the past telling us by this? What is the Church’s perennial calendar communicating to the faithful by this interesting fact?

This Feast draws open the curtains on the events of August 258 as if they were as fresh as buns right out of the oven. Look and see the cast of characters. Emperor Valerian is to the side, sitting on his marble throne. An official reads the Emperor’s decree aloud: “All bishops, priests, and deacons are to be summarily executed.” Pope Sixtus II is roughly taken away by Valerian’s soldiers during Mass in the candle light of a catacomb on August 6. Six of Rome’s seven deacons are killed with Sixtus. In accord with the Church’s theology, they were closer to their bishop than to any priest, so they die with him. The Church has been almost decapitated. There is only one deacon left. The hunt is on for Lawrence, the ranking head of the Church. He is found. He is martyred. It is August 10. The curtain closes.

In a tradition already ancient by the third century, Rome had seven deacons to minister to the material needs of the impoverished, widows, and orphans of Rome. Lawrence excelled at this task, which he operated out of a house-church in central Rome. When the popular and well-loved Lawrence died, he was venerated with a fervor unlike almost any other early martyr. His cult spread like the fire that tradition says roasted him alive. Devotion to him spread as far north as Scandinavia, England, and Germany. Traditions large and small abounded. (Read more.)

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

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.

Monday, August 8, 2022

St. Dominic: A Bright Light in the Church


 From The National Catholic Register:

Recognizing his gifts, in 1203, the bishop of Osma invited Dominic to accompany him on a journey to negotiate a marriage between a French prince and a Spanish princess. Although the meeting never transpired due to the unexpected death of the princess, the journey provided both men with their first exposure to a dangerous new movement ravaging the Church. 

The heresy, known as Catharism, had taken root in the region of southern France and was destroying the souls of Catholics. The sect’s clerical leaders had devised a doctrine of two Gods — one good, the other evil — and declared that all matter was evil, including the body of Jesus Christ “made flesh.” Those unwilling to follow the extreme dictates of fasting, lifelong virginity and marital abstinence were required to deny the Roman faith and the sacraments of baptism, confession, Eucharist and marriage. As Father Jarrett summarized the toxic ideal, “The only real act of goodness was getting rid of life.”

To restore God’s life within souls, “in the strength of the Spirit,” one by one, Dominic began to win lapsed Catholics back to the faith by engaging them in private and public debates. At the same time, he felt a call to establish a new apostolic order dedicated to preaching God’s word, but hesitated, realizing the monumental challenge. Even the Cistercians, he knew, had tried but failed to break up through the well-organized stronghold of the Catharists.

In need of encouragement, on the evening of the feast of St. Mary Magdalen in 1206, while sitting on a hillside above Prouille, France, and gazing out over the valley, he turned to Mary in prayer and asked for a mark of her guidance. Then, as he continued to watch, her luminous response emerged from above. Father Jarrett described the event in his book: “Out of the heavens descended a globe of flame, with a trail of glory following, coming down over the forlorn church of Prouille.” As if a confirmation of the visions seen by others in his infancy, Dominic realized he had seen the full import. Strengthened, he moved forward and established the first community of the Order of Preachers in Prouille and received the blessing of Pope Honorius III in 1216. The Dominicans are now credited with extinguishing the heresy of Catharism.

For me, the Dominican victory inspires hope. Hope as we daily battle against the culture of death and the forces of moral relativism and hope in the Light of Christ that “shines on in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). From now on, as I look upon St. Dominic’s star, I will remember his heroic example and pray, asking his intercession: Good servant of the Word, please help me to bear my torch and to radiate the charity of Christ as you did. (Read more.)

 

From Dominicana:

For non-Catholics, Francis is the easiest saint to understand and love, while Dominic is the most difficult, once remarked Chesterton. If the abundance of Francis-emblazoned garden decorations and the world’s new-found devotion to Pope Francis—whose namesake is the beggar friar of Assisi—are a reliable indication, the statement is undoubtedly true. The endearing vagabond stigmatist of Alverna, known for his love of creation and his sympathy for the poor, easily captures the hearts of multitudes, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In contrast, many written or artistic depictions portray Dominic as the black-and-white clad, crusade-preaching, stern-faced Spaniard of the un-holy Inquisition.  Even today it seems this unfortunate caricature of Dominic abides, as many find Saint Dominic difficult to love and to others he is completely unknown.

Perhaps some would feel drawn to Saint Dominic if his great sympathy for the poor was spoken of more frequently.  As the records of his canonization recall, when he was a student of theology, he sold his books to feed the poor of Palencia.  But the great saint lived this solidarity with the poor his entire life, even dying in the bed of another friar—since he had no cell of his own.  To witness to the authenticity of his preaching, Dominic crossed the countryside walking barefoot (in great contrast to the official papal preachers of his day, travelling as they did in luxurious caravans).  A further glimpse of his absolute dedication to poverty is offered by contemporaries of Saint Dominic who attest they only ever saw him wearing the same one habit, covered in patches.

Could it not also be hard to admire Saint Dominic because of the hidden nature of his life of prayer and study?  With a reputation for sincerity and dedication to his work of learning, the young saint was known to spend many long nights poring over his books.  Later in life these sleepless vigils became nights given over to the work of prayer for the conversion of souls.  The fruits of these kinds of efforts, though, are all-so-often veiled from our prying eyes.

Maybe affection for Dominic is foreign to some hearts because of how little is said of the intensity of his labors.  Saint Dominic’s idea to found the Order was original and highly innovative.  To establish the unprecedented group, the Order of Preachers, required him to be a master of efficiency and organization. Consider the fact that Dominic only worked for five years after papal approval of the Order before his death and in that time managed to bequeath to it a lasting legacy of governance, traditions, and ideals.  Accordingly, these earliest days of the Order leave behind a vivid image of the extraordinary abilities and intuition of its founder.

Is it not also possible that some struggle to be devoted to Saint Dominic because they find the idea of the work of “preaching” aloof or disconnected?  We have said Dominic was a man of study, a true intellectual, but Saint Dominic himself ordered these efforts towards his preaching.  He was a man of learning so that he could reach people with the truth, not be distanced from them! We have only to think of the night Dominic, the preacher of grace, spent speaking until dawn with an innkeeper to convert him in order to see the saint’s acquired knowledge at work, a powerful tool put to use for the salvation of souls. (Read more.)

 Read my novel on the Cathars.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

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

Friday, August 5, 2022

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.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

St. John Vianney

He is the patron saint of parish priests. 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.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

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.)

 

 Marian devotion according to the Franciscan tradition. 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 love
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. 
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.)
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