“O Holy Spirit, You formed our Redeemer in the pure womb of the Virgin Mary; You gave life to Jesus, and directed Him in all He thought, said, did, and suffered during His earthly life, and in the sacrifice He Himself offered to the Father for us on the Cross. When Jesus ascended into heaven, You came upon earth to establish the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, and to apply to this Body the fruits of the life, Blood, Passion, and death of Christ. Otherwise, Jesus would have suffered and died in vain. Furthermore, O Holy Spirit, You descended to us at holy baptism to form Jesus Christ in our souls, to incorporate us into Him, to give us birth and life in Him, to apply to us the effects and merits of His Blood and of His death, to animate and inspire us, and to guide and direct us in all that we should think, say, do, and suffer for God. What, then, should our life be? Oh! it should be completely holy, divine, and spiritual, according to the words of Jesus: ‘that which is born of the Spirit is spirit!’
O Divine Spirit, I give myself entirely to You. Take possession of my soul, direct me in everything, and grant that I may live as a true child of God, as a true member of Jesus Christ; grant that, born of You, I may totally belong to You, be totally possessed, animated, and directed by You.” (St. John Eudes).
“O Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul, I adore You. Enlighten me, guide me, fortify me, console me. Tell me what I should do, give me Your orders. I promise to be submissive to all that You ask of me and to accept everything that You permit to happen to me.” (Cardinal Mercier).
“O Love of the eternal God, sacred communication between the omnipotent Father and His blessed Son, all-powerful Paraclete, most merciful Consoler of the afflicted, penetrate the innermost depths of my heart with Your powerful virtue; brighten with Your shining light any dark corners of that neglected dwelling of my soul. Visit it, fructifying with the abundance of Your dew, all that a long period of drought has dried up and choked. Pierce with the dart of Your love, the depths of my soul; penetrate the very center of my enervated heart and inflame it with Your salutary fire; strengthen Your creature by illumining, with the light of Your holy fervor, the inmost depths of my mind and heart.
I believe that each time You come into a soul, You prepare there a dwelling for the Father and the Son. Blessed is he who is worthy to have You as Guest! Through You, the Father and the Son establish their dwelling in him. Come then, most benign Consoler of suffering souls, Protector in all circumstances and Support in tribulations. Come, Purifier of faults, Healer of the wounded. Come, Strength of the weak, Restorer of those who fall! Come, Master of the humble, rejecter of the proud! Come, O charitable Father of orphans, merciful Judge of widows! Come, hope of the poor, strength of the weak! Come, guiding star of sailors, harbor of the shipwrecked! Come, O unique beauty of all the living, and only salvation of the dying!
Come, O Holy Spirit, come and take pity on me! Clothe me with Yourself, and graciously hear my prayers, that, according to the multitude of Your mercies, my littleness may be pleasing to Your greatness, and my weakness to Your strength, through Jesus Christ, my Savior, who, with the Father, lives and reigns in unity with You, forever and ever. Amen.” (St. Augustine).
“O Holy Spirit, only Your clemency and ineffable love could have held the Son of God nailed to the wood of the Cross, for neither nails nor cords would have been able to hold Him there without the bonds of love. And then, when Christ returned to His Father at His Ascension, You, O Holy Spirit, were sent into the world with the power of the Father, the wisdom of the Son, and Your own mercy, to strengthen the way of the doctrine which Christ left in the world…. O Holy Spirit, come into my heart; by Your power, draw it to You, true God; grant me charity with fear, guard me from every evil thought, warm me, inflame me with Your most sweet love, so that every pain will seem slight to me. O Holy Father and my sweet Lord, help me now in all my actions” (St. Catherine of Siena).
“O Jesus, I offer You my poor love, placing it in the arms of Your ardent Spirit, in the furnace enkindled by Your love. O my Beloved, by Your divine power prepare me for spiritual warfare with the weapons of Your Spirit, since I do not rely upon myself, but on Your goodness alone. By Your unfathomable charity, root out of me anything that is not wholly Yours, so that, by the grace of Your love, invited and restored by Your loving sweetness, I may love You alone. The sweet outpourings of Your Spirit make the burden of life seem brief and light. Deign to cooperate with my works, so that my soul may magnify You eternally. May my life be consecrated to You, and may my spirit rejoice in You, my Savior; then every thought and act will be praise and thanksgiving to You” (St. Gertrude).
“O Holy Spirit, You are the dispenser of the treasures contained in the Father’s bosom; You are the treasurer of the counsels of the Father and the Word. You show us what we should do in order to please the Trinity: You teach us in the intimacy of our hearts by Your inspirations, and exteriorly in our lives by the preaching and advice of Your ministers. The gates of heaven are always open so that grace may come down to us, but we do not open our hearts to receive it. Oh! send down this grace, O eternal Father, send it down, O most pure Word, since You deign to send Your loving Spirit, the Spirit of goodness. O Holy Spirit, how generous You are to us and blessed are they who welcome You! You bring us the Father’s power, the ardent love of the Word!” (cf. St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).
-Virgin of Carmel Saving Souls from Purgatory, artist unknown, Circle of Diego Quispe Tito, Peruvian (Cuzco), 1611-1681, Potosi, Bolivia, 41 x 29 in. (104.1 x 73.7 cm), late 17th century, oil on canvas, Brooklyn Museum, please click on the image for greater detail.
-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964
Presence of God – Purify my soul, O Lord, so that it may be filled completely with Your light and Your love.
St. John of the Cross compares the soul to a glass window with a ray of sunlight shining on it. If the glass is dirty, “the ray cannot illuminate it, nor transform it completely into its light; its illumination will be in proportion to its clearness. If, on the other hand, it is absolutely clean and spotless, it will be illuminated and transformed in such a way as to appear to be the luminous ray itself, and to give the same light” (Ascent of Mount Carmel II, 5,6). God is the divine Sun shining upon our souls, desiring to invade them and penetrate them, completely transforming them into His light and love. Before He does this, however, He waits until the soul resolves to free itself from every “creature stain,” that is, the stains of sin and inordinate attachments. As soon as God finds that a soul is free from mortal sin, He immediately fills it with His grace. This precious gift is the first step in the great transformation which the Lord desires to bring about in us. The more we become purified of all sin and imperfection, and of even the slightest attachment; that is, in proportion as we conform our will to the will of God, not only in serious matters of obligation but even in the least details of perfection, the more capable we become of being entirely penetrated and transformed by divine Grace.
Grace, the gift of God which makes the soul a participant in the divine nature, is poured forth into the soul in proportion to its degree of interior purity, which always corresponds to its degree of conformity with God’s will. Therefore, the soul that wishes to be totally possessed and transformed by divine Grace, must in practice strive to conform fully to the will of God, according to the teaching of St. John of the Cross, “so that there may be nothing in the soul that is contrary to the will of God, but that in all and through all its movement may be that of the will of God alone” (Ascent of Mount Carmel I, 11,2).
“O my Jesus, how great is the love that Thou hast for the children of men! The greatest service that we can render Thee is to leave Thee for love of them and for their advantage. By doing this, we possess Thee the more completely; for, although the will has less satisfaction in the enjoyment of Thee, the soul is glad that Thou art pleased, and sees that, while we live in this mortal life, earthly joys are unsure, even though they seem to be bestowed by Thee, unless they are accompanied by the love of our neighbor. He who loves not his neighbor, loves not Thee, my Lord; for in all the Blood Thou didst shed, we see the exceeding great love which Thou bearest for the children of Adam.” (Teresa of Jesus, Exclamations of the Soul to God, 2).
“O Lord, I beseech You, keep my faith pure and grant that, until my last sigh, I may feel the testimony of a good conscience. Grant that I, who have been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, may always believe what I professed in the Sacrament of my regeneration. Let me adore You, my Father, and Your Son with You; let me be worthy of the Holy Spirit Who proceeds from You and Your only-begotten Son. Truly I have a worthy pledge of faith to guarantee what I believe, and it is He Who said, ‘Father, all that is Mine is Yours, and all that is Yours is Mine,’ Jesus Christ, my Lord, Who lives in You and Who, remaining God, proceeds from You, is always near You, and is blessed forever and ever.” (St. Hilary).
“I renounce Satan! O my God, this was my baptismal promise, a solemn promise made in the presence of the Church, a promise so explicit that no one can dispense me from it, a promise recorded by angelic hands, a promise on which I shall be judged at the hour of my death.
O my God, I desire to renew very fervently that promise today. Therefore, with all my heart and all my strength, I renounce you, O Satan; I renounce you, abominable sin; I renounce you, detestable world!
O Lord Jesus Christ, I give myself entirely to You forever. I desire to adhere to Your holy doctrine by faith, to Your sacred promises by hope, to Your divine commandments and counsels by love and charity. I desire to follow You by the practice of all the virtues. I desire to follow You as my Head, as a living member of Your Body.” (St. John Eudes).
I AM – In the Greek language, “I am” is a very intense way of referring to oneself. It would be comparable to saying, “I myself, and only I, am.”
“O Christ, eternal Truth, what is Your doctrine? And by what path do You direct us to the Father? I can find no other way but the one which You have marked out in virtue of the fire of Your charity. The path, O eternal Word, which You have marked with Your Blood is the way.
O loving, tender Word of God, You tell me: ‘I have marked the path and opened the gate with My Blood; do not be negligent in following it, but take the same road which I, eternal Truth, have traced out with My Blood.’ Arise, my soul, and follow your Redeemer, for no one can go to the Father but by Him. O sweet Christ, Christ-Love, You are the way, and the door through which we must enter in order to reach the Father” (St. Catherine of Siena).
I AM – In the Greek language, “I am” is a very intense way of referring to oneself. It would be comparable to saying, “I myself, and only I, am.”
“O divine Father, You have opened the Book of Life, Jesus Christ, before us, Your children. In Him, the God-Man, we find all that we could wish to know. Reading in Him, we shall be filled with holy knowledge; we shall find all the doctrine we need for ourselves and for others. But, O my soul, if you want to be enlightened and instructed, you must not read this Book of Life hastily or superficially, but slowly and attentively; then you will be inflamed with divine love and you will know the truth.
Above all, O my soul, try to have a true knowledge of God and yourself; you can obtain this only by reading, meditating, and studying the Book of Life, Christ, Our Lord” (St. Angela of Foligno).
I AM – In the Greek language, “I am” is a very intense way of referring to oneself. It would be comparable to saying, “I myself, and only I, am.” Several other times in the Gospels we find Jesus using these words. In Matthew 22:32 Jesus quotes Exodus 3:6, where God uses the same intensive form to say, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” In John 8:58, Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say unto you, before Abraham was, I AM.” The Jews clearly understood Jesus to be calling Himself God because they took up stones to stone Him for committing blasphemy in equating Himself with God. In Matthew 28:20, as Jesus gave the Great Commission, He gave it emphasis by saying, “I AM with you always, to the end of the age.” When the soldiers came seeking Jesus in the garden the night before His crucifixion, He told them, “I AM He,” and His words were so powerful that the soldiers fell to the ground (John 18:4–6). These words reflect the very name of God in Hebrew, Yahweh, which means “to be” or “the self-existing one.” It is the name of power and authority, and Jesus claimed it as His own.
“May my mind, my heart, my body, my life, be wholly animated by You, my sweet Life! I will love You Lord, my strength; I will love You, and will live, no longer through my own efforts, but through You.” (St. Augustine).
Often in our 21st century, North American millieu, I think we understand “faith” as an assent but ruled by a requirement of “feel good” rewards for that act of faith, our requirement for “good feels”. No “good feels”, no “faith”, right? This couldn’t be farther from the truth as the Catholic Church defines. Feelings are highly mutable. Up one day, down the next. Happy one hour, angry the next. One of the qualities of God is “impassibility”, notice the “a”. This means God does not feel. Not that He is not compassionate or not merciful or does not love, but that whether we believe or not, we bless or curse Him, He is completely unaffected by His creatures. God dwells in beyond eternal bliss and unapproachable light from which we would instantly perish seeing it as unpurified mortals. Think “Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark”, when the Nazis finally open the Ark of the Covenant of God. Yeah, that one.
Faith, as defined by St Thomas Aquinas, OP, is an act of the intellect. We decide, by human reason, inspired by divine grace, and we choose to embrace all the implications of that assent, acting through our will to put into motion that faith, that grace inspired decision. Faith is not, by the above, I believe now because I have “good feels”. But, when that’s over, so is my faith. When the party resumes, I’m in. No. 2 Tim 4:7 -“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 1 Cor 9:24. Kept, fought, finished, run, win being decisions to act, acts of intellect directed by the will. I believe, credo, whether I’m feelin’ it or not. I believe, credo.
-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964
Presence of God – I recollect myself in the presence of God living in my soul, to learn how to seek Him by the light of faith.
“He that cometh to God, must believe.” (Hebrews 11:6), says St. Paul, and he gives us this definition of faith: “Faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). In heaven, we shall see God by the light of glory, but on earth, we know Him by the light of faith.
We must not base our interior life, our search for God, on sentiment or spiritual consolations, but on an intensive practice of the theological virtues. St. John of the Cross gives this advice to a soul seeking God, “Hear a word full of substance and unapproachable truth: it is that thou seek Him in faith and in love, without desiring to find satisfaction in aught.” (Spiritual Canticle, 1,11). Therefore, we must learn to seek God without any desire for pleasure, consolation, satisfaction, even though it be purely spiritual; we must learn to walk in the path of “naked faith.” Faith, more than any kind of knowledge or of reasoning, puts the soul into direct contact with God. Faith is “the proximate and proportionate means whereby the soul is united with God; for such is the likeness between itself and God, that there is no other difference save that which exists between seeing God and believing in Him” (John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel II, 9,1). Faith places us before God as He is; it does not make us see Him, but it makes us believe in Him, and thus puts our intellect in contact with Him. By means of faith, “God manifests Himself to the soul in divine light which passes all understanding. And therefore, the greater the faith of the soul, the more closely is it united with God” (ibid.). Faith unites the soul with God, even though it experiences no spiritual consolation; on the contrary, God often deprives the soul of all spiritual consolation that it may exercise itself more in faith and grow in it.
“O Lord, give me a pure, ardent, strong faith to sustain and guide me in my continual search for You, and to make me adhere to You with perfect confidence although You remain hidden from my sight.
Only by faith can my soul adhere to You, as You really are—infinite, omnipotent, and merciful, unity in Trinity: thus faith presents You to my soul. Faith comprehends You as You are, in Your divinity, Your mysteries, and Your works—all of which it proposes to my belief, so that in faith I find You completely, and in the act of faith, even though I do not see You, I possess You truly. If faith holds You hidden and veiled, if it permits me to see You only “through a glass in a dark manner” (1 Corinthians 13:12), I am certain, however, that it does not deceive me; it proposes You to me as You have revealed Yourself. How shall I not believe, Lord, in Your word, since You have spoken to us not only by the mouths of the prophets, but by the mouth of Jesus, Your Incarnate Word? Even if faith presents mysteries and wonders to believe which my poor mind cannot understand, I shall not be bewildered. What mystery is greater than that of Your infinite charity which has loved me from all eternity, created me by an act of love, redeemed me by the Blood of Your Son, and made my poor soul the temple of the Most Holy Trinity? “On Your word alone, I believe with full certitude. I believe everything the Son of God has said; there is nothing more true than the Word of Truth.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, OP).
“O God, far from being astonished by Your works, they are for me but one more reason for praising You. The more difficult they are to understand, the more they arouse devotion in me; and the greater they are, the greater is the devotion…. So the less of a natural foundation these truths of the faith have, the more firmly I hold them and the greater is the devotion they inspire in me. Since You are almighty, I accept all the wondrous works which You have done as most certain, and in this respect I have never harbored a doubt.” (Teresa of Jesus, Life, 28 – 19).
I want to seek You, O God, in this ardent faith, and cling to You always, even if such faith is “naked” and stripped of every consolation. “Nothing shall affright me, neither wind nor rain; and should impenetrable clouds come, O Jesus, to conceal You from my eyes, I shall not change my place, knowing that beyond the dark clouds the sun of Your love is still shining and that its splendor cannot be eclipsed for a single instant.” (Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul, 13).”
I have found this virtue to be supremely necessary in adult life. A dear and pious friend of mine joked with me, “DO NOT ask God for patience!!! He will make you practice!!” I think acts of patience make excellent penances.
-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964
Presence of God – O Lord, give me greater patience that I may be able to endure more for Your love.
Patience is a virtue of primary importance and daily necessity. As we need bread to live, so every day, even every moment, we need patience, because every day and every moment brings with it its own trial. We become patient by making acts of patience, that is, by accustoming ourselves to accept peacefully all that contradicts us and makes us suffer. If, however, instead of accepting the practice of patience in annoyances, we use every means possible to avoid them, we shall never acquire patience. For example, we may at our work come in contact with someone who clashes with us, or we may be given a difficult or disagreeable task; if under these or similar circumstances we do our utmost to free ourselves as soon as possible, asking for a change, we are depriving ourselves of a precious opportunity prepared for us by God Himself to make us practice the virtue of patience. In certain cases it is lawful and even a duty to represent our problems to our superiors and to ask humbly for a solution, but we should never insist on obtaining one at all costs. On the contrary, we should think that divine Providence has arranged these circumstances to help us acquire the patience we do not yet possess. St. Philip Neri once complained to Our Lord because he had to deal with an extremely insulting, disagreeable person. Our Lord replied to him interiorly, “Philip, you have asked for patience. Here is the means of acquiring it.”
God will surely give us the virtue we ask of Him, but only on condition that we make use of the means He gives us, and apply ourselves to practice that virtue with the help of His grace. Whoever wishes to become a saint will not be anxious to avoid opportunities for practicing patience, but will welcome them, recognizing in them the means offered by God for his sanctification. And how can a mere creature dare wish to make any change in what has been ordered “in measure, and number, and weight” (Wisdom 11:20) by God’s infinite wisdom?
“O Lord, we want to serve and please You, yes, but we do not want to suffer anything. Yet we must be much more pleasing to You when after Your example and out of love for You, we endure suffering in Your service. Suffering is so noble and precious, O eternal Word, that when You were in the bosom of the Father, superabounding in all the riches and delights of Paradise but unadorned with the robe of suffering, You came to earth in order to clothe Yourself with it. You are God and cannot be deceived; since You have chosen stark suffering, I too desire it for love of You. I beseech You, therefore, Lord, to permit me to experience this suffering which is unmixed with any consolation, and by the confidence I have in Your goodness, I trust that You will grant me this grace before I die.
But in order to obtain profit from tribulations, teach me to accept them in total conformity to Your will; otherwise, they will be a great and unbearable burden. When, however, a soul abandons itself entirely in the arms of Your will, then it finds strength in the midst of its sorrows, and even if You leave it in darkness for a time, very quickly will its sadness be changed into joy, so that, for no delight in the world would it exchange this suffering.
O blessed, happy, and glorious is he who suffers for love of You, O eternal Word, for—shall I dare to say it?—as long as we are here below, it is a greater thing to suffer for You than to possess You, because possessing You, we can still lose You, but if we suffer for love of You, it will admit us to eternal life where we can never lose You.” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).
Love, may God grant each of us His infinite patience,
-Filippo Dolciati (1443 – 1519), “Execution of Girolamo Savonarola”. 1498, Florence, Museo di San Marco, please click on the image for greater detail.
He called the Church of his day a “harlot” and a “monster of abomination”. Protestants see him as a forerunner of the Reformation. St Ignatius of Loyola had his works burned and called him an enemy of the papacy. He is mentioned in Chapter 6 of Machiavelli’s The Prince. He is immortalized in the computer game “Assasin’s Creed II” (2009).
-Savonarola character in “Assassin’s Creed 2”.
His execution is memorialized in the Showtime TV series “The Borgias” (2011-2013). Caution: The show took some HUGE dramatic liberties particularly in regards to the Bonfire of the Vanities, the trial by fire and Savonarola’s execution. You can see in the below photo Savonarola’s character has not been hanged, is still alive, and Pope Alexander VI was in Rome at the time of the execution.
Savonarola captured hearts as a preacher. His powerful apocalyptic visions warned that God would soon scour the world and that Florence, God’s chosen city, had better be ready. Contemporaries speak of the spellbinding power of these sermons; Savonarola’s followers were called piagnoni, or weepers, because he so often moved them to tears. As evidence of his powerful charisma, Savonarola managed to convince the highly humanistic Florentines to surrender their mirrors, dice, cards, cosmetics and nude paintings and burn them all in the Piazza di Signoria in a towering bonfire of the vanities. He also demanded repression of homosexuals. He created a temporary republic in Florence.
He was also a friend to the poor. Under Savonarola, the city created a building society that offered loans at rates well below what was demanded by Florence’s private bankers — 5 to 7 percent, as opposed to the 32.5 percent that had been standard practice under the de Medicis. One of the charges that led to Savonarola’s downfall was that he impoverished the city by refusing to ever turn away a beggar.
He also patronized the famous painters of his day. Michelangelo would later say that when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, it was the sermons of Savonarola he heard in his mind.
-a plaque commemorates the site of Savonarola’s execution in the Piazza della Signoria, Florence. Please click on the image for greater detail.
-painting (1650) of Savonarola’s execution in the Piazza della Signoria
Savonarola was hanged and burned in Florence on 23 May 1498 for heresy and schism. Simone Filipepi, the brother of Botticelli, has left a detailed description of the execution of Savonarola. On 12 May 1497, Pope Alexander VI excommunicated Savonarola and threatened the Florentines with an interdict if they persisted in harboring him.
Interdict is still an existing censure under Canon, or Church, law, and a most serious one in the Catholic Church. It means the prohibition of all sacraments and the invalidity of any attempted to be performed by the persons so placed under ecclesiastical interdict. Sacraments to the Catholic are the primary channels of grace. No grace, no heaven. Children cannot be baptized, and are therefore excluded from the Church, and hope of salvation. Mass cannot be celebrated validly and so no real center of communal liturgical life. No Mass, no point to being Catholic; the loss thereof, bringing one so condemned a step closer to Hell. No marriage, only fornication, and bastard/illegitimate children. No holy orders, no priesthood, another defining/central aspect of Catholic life. No last rites, no viaticum, or last Eucharist, before death. You can see, to a Catholic community, even in early 21st century America, this is most serious. It literally dissolves the fabric of the community. It is meant to be corrective. Even today, in Church disputes with hierarchs, interdict is frequently threatened.
-Iain Glenn, of Game of Thrones, Resident Evil, & Downton Abbey fame, as Savonarola, in “Borgia: Faith & Fear”
On 18 March 1498, after much debate and steady pressure from a worried government, he withdrew from public preaching. Under the stress of excommunication, Savonarola composed his spiritual masterpiece, the Triumph of the Cross, a celebration of the victory of the Cross over sin and death and an exploration of what it means to be a Christian. This he summed up in the theological virtue of caritas, or love. In loving their neighbour, Christians return the love which they have received from their Creator and Savior.
Savonarola hinted at performing miracles to prove his divine mission, but when a rival Franciscan preacher proposed to test that mission by walking through fire, he lost control of the public discourse. Without consulting him, his confidant Fra Domenico da Pescia offered himself as his surrogate and Savonarola felt he could not afford to refuse. The first trial by fire in Florence for over four hundred years was set for April 7. A crowd filled the central square, eager to see if God would intervene and if so, on which side. The nervous contestants and their delegations delayed the start of the contest for hours. A sudden rain drenched the spectators and government officials cancelled the proceedings. The crowd disbanded angrily; the burden of proof had been on Savonarola and he was blamed for the fiasco. A mob assaulted the convent of San Marco.
Fra Girolamo, Fra Domenico, and Fra Silvestro Maruffi were arrested and imprisoned. Under torture Savonarola confessed to having invented his prophecies and visions, then recanted, then confessed again. In his prison cell in the tower of the government palace he composed meditations on Psalms 51 and 31. On the morning of 23 May 1498, the three friars were led out into the main square where, before a tribunal of high clerics and government officials, they were condemned as heretics and schismatics, and sentenced to die forthwith. Stripped of their Dominican garments in ritual degradation, they mounted the scaffold in their thin white shirts. Each on a separate gallows, they were hanged, while fires were ignited below them to consume their bodies. To prevent devotees from searching for relics, their ashes were carted away and scattered in the Arno
Savanarola was a fierce critic of ecclesiastical corruption, and this is perhaps the most contested aspect of his legacy for those proposing to canonize him. He referred to Pope Alexander VI as a “broken tool,” accusing the pope of practicing simony and of dubious personal morality. He defied the pope by aligning Florence with the French king, Charles, rather than the “Holy Alliance” of Italian city-states championed by Alexander. Toward the end, Savonarola called for a church council that would depose Alexander.
There was never serious question about Savonarola’s doctrine — his chief theological work, The Triumph of the Cross, is widely viewed as orthodox. In 1558, Pope Paul IV — who had served in the court of Alexander VI — said that Savonarola was not a heretic. The question for examiners today is not doctrinal but disciplinary: whether Savonarola defied the authority of the pope in impermissible fashion. Dominicans and Jesuits still feud within the last twenty years as to the sanctity of the man. Although, the Jesuit view has largely been attributed to contemporary hearsay, and not a critical study of his works.
In English the name of Savonarola may be synonymous with religious fanaticism, but many Italians, and Florentines in particular, have a different image. In an age of corruption, Savonarola represented honest government, making him something of a patron for the current Italian drive to break the grip of cronyism and political patronage that has long dominated their politics.
As an ecclesial dissenter, Savonarola is popular among today’s Catholics who believe the church could stand some reform.
There are even those who argue that had the Renaissance papacy been a bit more open to Savonarola’s critique, the church might have been spared the agony of the Protestant Reformation.
Whatever the case, Savonarola’s most ardent supporters seem unlikely to be discouraged by anything historical research might uncover. He was a “man of faith who loved Jesus Christ,” according to Dominican Fr. Armando Verde in the International Herald Tribune. Savonarola may have made compromises in the rough-and-tumble of Florentine politics, Verde said, “but on the ethical and spiritual level, absolutely never.”
The Piagnoni kept his cause of republican freedom and religious reform alive well into the following century, although the Medici—restored to power in 1512 with the help of the papacy—eventually broke the movement.
“Girolamo Savonarola was born in Northern Italy in 1452 to a well-to-do merchant family. Growing up, he was taught a love for the moral life and a hatred for decadence by his fervently religious grandfather. At the age of twenty-three, he abandoned all the vanities of the world to give himself to God alone, leaving home to become a Dominican friar. He was known to be fervently observant in his religious life, and from this personal holiness flowed a preaching that captivated all hearers.
He was soon brought to the great city of Florence at the request of the ruling Medicis. All were amazed by his gift of prophecy. In particular, he prophesied disaster in the republic of Florence. Though Florence was one of the more prominent cities of Europe at the time, when Charles VIII of France was making his way toward the republic, the citizens began to take Savonarola’s prophecy seriously. One might attempt to credit his prophecies (and there were many) to political savvy, but there was always something too vivid and concrete about them; at the very least, his contemporaries learned to trust him.
Savonarola was sent as an ambassador to make an agreement with Charles VIII to prevent the otherwise almost certain sack of Florence. After this success, trust in Savonarola was so great that he was able more or less at his will to write up the new constitution for a democratic republic. He even was able to go so far as to plea, successfully, for peace toward the friends of the old Medici government. The few years of his influence are something of an eloquent testimony to the power of the word of God to create and sustain peace in a troubled world.
Unfortunately, he had powerful enemies. The allegiance of Florence with Charles VIII was disadvantageous for much of Italy, but this was not Savonarola’s greatest obstacle. He preached against moral depravity in an emerging decadent renaissance society. He feared no man in his call for the pursuit of the Christian ideal. This made him enemies, both at home and abroad. Because of his popular appeal, it was difficult to have him removed. At the same time, for every moral reform he successfully enacted in society, his enemies became increasingly infuriated. But the friar feared no man, giving himself entirely to preaching the Truth.
As the threat of invasion subsided, Savonarola’s influence waned and politics became increasingly turbulent. Elections occurred every few months, and power passed rapidly between his friends and enemies. All the while, his Florentine enemies plotted against him in secret, detesting his moral reforms, which made difficult the life to which they once were accustomed. When his authority to preach publicly was finally revoked and he was unable to defend himself, it was only a matter of time.
On Palm Sunday in 1498, Savonarola’s enemies went to work. They stirred up the mob and readied to besiege the convent of San Marco. In his last homily, he proclaimed, “Lord, I thank thee for desiring now to make me in Thy own image.” The convent was attacked and he was captured. There followed weeks of imprisonment, torture, and forged confessions. He was condemned to die on May 23, 1498.
Savonarola’s last act before his death was to bow his head in acceptance of the plenary indulgence granted to him by the pope. His last words were those of the creed. After he and his two closest companions were hanged and burned, his ashes were thrown in the river to prevent anyone from collecting his relics. Since then, history has long attempted to bury his legacy, just as his executioners did; he was long regarded as a backwards hack who scared Florence away from renaissance progress. But recent scholarship has brought him into the light. Two of his foremost biographers, Josef Schnitzer (Savonarola) and Roberto Ridolfi (The Life of Girolamo Savonarola), have even predicted his eventual canonization as a saint, although this has not yet come to be. He died a faithful son of the Church, giving his life for the Bride of Christ, and never giving up on the word of God, even when it cost him his life. Though his ashes were scattered, his legacy lived on.”
Why say prayers for priests? Because, as St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, once said “After God, the priest is everything.” He also once referred to the priest “the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth”, and the priesthood as “the love of the heart of Jesus.”
As Father John Hardon, S.J., once said, “praying and offering God sacrifices for the priesthood are indispensably important,” because “there is no Catholic Church without the priesthood.”
“Mary is in a special manner Queen and Mother of priests.
Because of their resemblance to her divine Son,
Our Lady sees Jesus in each one of them.
She loves them not only as members of the mystical body,
but on account of the priestly character imprinted on their souls,
and for the sacred mysteries which they celebrate in persona Christi.” -Bl Columba Marmion, OSB
“Inasmuch as priests can be called, by a very special title, sons of the Virgin Mary, they will never cease to love her with an ardent piety, invoke her with perfect confidence, and frequently implore her strong protection.” -Pope Pius XII
Mother of Jesus Christ and Mother of Priests, [Mater Iesu Christi et Mater sacerdotum]
accept this title which we bestow
to celebrate your motherhood
and to contemplate with you the priesthood
of your Son and of your sons,
O holy Mother of God.
O Mother of Christ,
to the Messiah-Priest you gave a body of flesh
through the anointing of the Holy Spirit
for the salvation of the poor and
the contrite of heart;
guard priests in your heart and in the Church,
O Mother of the Saviour.
O Mother of Faith,
you accompanied to the Temple the Son of Man,
the fulfilment of the promises given to the fathers;
give to the Father for His glory
the priests of Your Son,
O Ark of the Covenant.
O Mother of the Church,
in the midst of the disciples in the upper room
you prayed to the Spirit
for the new people and their shepherds;
obtain for the Order of Presbyters
a full measure of gifts,
O Queen of the Apostles.
O Mother of Jesus Christ,
you were with Him at the beginning
of His life and mission,
you sought the Master among the crowd,
you stood beside Him when He was lifted up from the earth
consumed as the one eternal sacrifice,
and you had John, your son, near at hand;
accept from the beginning those who have been called,
protect their growth,
in their life ministry accompany your sons,
O Mother of Priests.
Amen. -Pope St John Paul II
Marian Prayer of Priests
O Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen,
Mother of the Church, a priestly people (1 Pet 2,9),
Mother of priests, ministers of your Son:
accept the humble offering of myself,
so that in my pastoral mission
the infinite mercy of Eternal High Priest may be proclaimed:
O “Mother of Mercy”.
You who shared the “priestly obedience” (Heb 10, 5-7; Lk 1, 38), of your Son,
and who prepared for him a worthy receptacle
by the anointing of the Holy Spirit,
keep my priestly life in the ineffable mystery
of your divine maternity,
“Holy Mother of God”.
Grant me strength in the dark hours of this life,
support me in the exertions of my ministry,
entrust me to Jesus,
so that, in communion with you,
I may fulfil the ministry with fidelity and love,
O Mother of the Eternal Priest
“Queen of Apostles and Help of Priests”.
Make me faithful to the flock
entrusted to me by the Good Shepherd,
You silently accompanied Jesus
on his mission to proclaim
the Gospel to the poor.
May I always guide it
with patience, sweetness
firmness and love,
caring for the sick,
the weak, the poor and sinners,
O “Mother, Help of the Christian People”.
I consecrate and entrust myself to you, Mary,
who shared in the work of redemption
at the Cross of your Son,
you who “are inseparably linked to the work of salvation”.
Grant that in the exercise of my ministry
I may always be aware of the “stupendous and penetrating dimension of your maternal presence”
in every moment of my life,
in prayer, and action,
in joy and sorrow, in weariness and in rest,
O “Mother of Trust”.
Grant, Holy Mother, than in the celebration of the Mass,
source and center of the priestly ministry,
that I may live my closeness to Jesus
in your maternal closeness to Him,
so that as “we celebrate the Holy Mass you will be present with us”
and introduce us to the redemptive mystery of your divine Son’s offering
“O Mediatrix of all grace flowing from this sacrifice to the Church and to all the faithful”
O “Mother of Our Savior”.
O Mary: I earnestly desire to place my person
and my desire for holiness
under your maternal protection and inspiration
so that you may bring me to that “conformation with Christ, Head and Shepherd”
which is necessary for the ministry of every parish priest.
Make me aware
that “you are always close to priests”
in your mission of servant
of the One Mediator, Jesus Christ:
O “Mother of Priests”
“Benefactress and Mediatrix”
of all graces.
I praise you, I love you, I adore you.
Send your Holy Spirit to enlighten my mind
to the truth of your Son, Jesus, Priest and
Through the same Spirit guide my heart to his
to renew in me a priestly passion
that I, too, might lay down my life upon the
May your Spirit wash away my impurities
and free me from all my transgressions in the
Cup of Salvation,
Let only your will be done in me.
May the Blessed Mother of your dearly beloved
wrap her mantle around me and protect me
from all evil.
May she guide me to do whatever He tells me.
May she teach me to have the heart of St.
Joseph, her spouse,
to protect and care for my bride.
And may her pierced heart inspire me to
embrace as my own your children
who suffer at the foot of the cross.
I humbly cry to her: please be my consoling
and help me to be a better son.
Lord, make me a holy priest,
inflamed with the fire of your love, seeking
but your greater glory and the salvation of
I humbly bless and thank you, my Father,
through the Spirit, in Christ Jesus, your Son and
O Mary, Queen of priests, pray for us.
Saint John Vianney, pray for us.
We pray that the Blessed Mother wrap
her mantle around your priests
and through her intercession
strengthen them for their ministry.
We pray that Mary will guide your
priests to follow her own words,
“Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5).
May your priests have the heart of St.
Mary’s most chaste spouse.
May the Blessed Mother’s own pierced
heart inspire them to embrace
all who suffer at the foot of the cross.
May your priests be holy, filled with
the fire of your love
seeking nothing but your greater
glory and the salvation of souls.
Saint John Vianney, pray for us.
Love for our ordained, even the cranky, less than perfect ones, 🙂
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila