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UPDATED: “My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds With the Help of the Saints” by Dawn Eden (Goldstein), Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN, © 2012

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I am reading the above book – surprise.  Powerful.  Profound.  Truthful. Wrenching.  Joyful.  Hopeful.  Haunting.

Dawn Eden, raised Jewish, describes how in her own journey the lives of the saints have given her hope and aided her spiritual healing after childhood sexual abuse. According to the CDC, one in four American women and one in six American men report having been sexually abused during childhood.  “My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints” is a wonderful resource.  Dawn is studying for her doctorate in theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC.  The world is a small place.  This book provides a much-needed resource for spiritual healing from the isolating effects of these wounds. Dawn gives an excellent account of the understanding of Christian suffering.

In my too rare and too few privileged moments with survivors of clergy sexual abuse, I have struggled to come to terms with their personal tragedy and the continuing communal tragedy within the Church.  I realize I will never understand their suffering in the way they do.  They lived and live it.

Pope Benedict XVI in his “Letter to the Catholics of Ireland”, 3/19/10, stated “…(we) have obscured the light of Gospel to a degree not even centuries of persecution have succeeded in doing.”  How true.  We continue to do so.  Kyrie Eleison.

“This failure to protect a child’s innocence reverberates throughout a victim’s entire life. In my knowledge, a victim of sexual abuse often struggles, even as an adult, to conquer the relentless temptations of self-condemnation.”
-Mother Mary Agnes Donovan, S.V., Sisters of Life, Psychololgist & Author of the Forward for the book. Christe Eleison.

Dawn writes, truly, “I share the anger and grief (ed: and outrage and shame and humiliation and disorientation and profound, painful doubts & fresh disillusionment, cynicism budding anew, the deceptive whispers of the Enemy) of my fellow Catholics over those who have betrayed their sacred office.”  Just like Judas, with a “kiss”, betraying the Body of Christ.

I found Dawn’s reflections on St Ignatius of Loyola particularly poignant. Anyone familiar with Jesuit spirituality will have encountered the Suscipe.

“Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem. Accipe memoriam, intellectum, atque voluntatem omnem. Quidquid habeo vel possideo mihi largitus es; id tibi totum restituo, ac tuae prorsus voluntati trado gubernandum. Amorem tui solum cum gratia tua mihi dones, et dives sum satis, nec aliud Quidquam ultra posco.  Amen.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will. All I have and call my own, You have given to me; to you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only Your love and your grace. That is enough for me.”

In her book, Dawn poses the “taking of one’s memory” not as a surrender of something good and valuable as a sacrifice or oblation, but, rather, the taking of memory by God as a balm, a salve, a healing compassion for those who have suffered trauma.

And of St Sebastian, Dawn writes, “Artists typically depict him shot through with arrows. The image is deceptive, for the assault on him by the Emperor Diocletian’s archers is not the most interesting part of his story. The most interesting part is that he survived.”

Dawn does an excellent job of comparing the stigmata, even “invisible stigmata”, experienced by some of the saints to the ongoing trauma suffered by survivors of childhood sexual abuse at their most vulnerable and innocent stage of life.  Heart of Jesus, be the comfort of those afflicted and suffering.  Kyrie Eleison.

I highly recommend this book.  Please pray for those who have suffered, do suffer, and will suffer.  Be there for them.  Believe them.

As “eloquent icons of innocence”, as so described by the Fathers of the Early Church, and recall Heaven can see all our actions through eyes of an icon, “maxima debetur puero reverentia”. (Mt 19:14/Mk 10:14)

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
-Frederick Douglas

“God cannot suffer, but he can suffer with.”
-Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 39, quoting the ancient maxim.

Love,
Matthew
Awardee, John Paul the Great Scholarship, (not normally given to 1st yr graduate students!) Ave Maria University.

UPDATE: 5/8/17

Very Rev. Douglas L. Mosey, C.S.B., Ph.D., President and Rector of Holy Apostles College & Seminary, and the entire Holy Apostles community are pleased to welcome Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein to the On Campus faculty in the Fall of 2017 as an Assistant Professor of Dogmatic Theology. She joins Holy Apostles from St. Mary’s College, Oscott, the seminary of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England, where she currently serves as a resident lecturer in Dogmatic Theology. Dr. Goldstein’s teaching credentials include having taught at Allen Hall in London, which is the seminary of the Archdiocese of Westminster, and at Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England. Last year, she served as a featured lecturer for the John Paul II Forum Summer Workshop.

Dr. Goldstein received her Doctorate in Sacred Theology, Summa Cum Laude, from the University of St. Mary of the Lake. She holds the distinction of being the first woman ever to be awarded that degree from St. Mary’s. She holds her STL, Magna Cum Laude, from the Pontifical Institute of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies.

Additionally, Dr. Goldstein is a noted author under the name Dawn Eden. Her works include Remembering God’s Mercy: Redeem the Past and Free Yourself from Painful Memories, My Peace I Give You, and The Thrill of the Chaste. She has also written articles for the New York Times, L’Osservatore Romano, and many other publications.

The Holy Apostles College & Seminary community is proud to have Dr. Goldstein join our Mission to Cultivate Catholic Leaders for Evangelization.

Jul 4 – Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, OP, (1901-1925) – The Joy & Gift of Christian Youth

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati is a saint for the modern world, and especially for the young people of our time. Born in 1901 in Turin, Italy, to a rich and politically influential family; his mother was the painter Adelaide Ametis; his father was an agnostic, the founder and editor of the liberal newspaper La Stampa, which opposed many Catholic positions, and became the Italian ambassador to Germany.

Pier Giorgio’s time on earth was short-only 24 years-but he filled it passionately with holy living. He was a model of virtue, a “man of the beatitudes,” as Pope John Paul II called him at the saint’s beatification ceremony in Rome on May 20, 1990.  A pious youth, average student, outstanding athlete and mountain climber, he was extremely popular with his peers.  He was described by friends as “an explosion of joy.” His nickname was “Terror”, due to his incessant practical jokes!  As Pier Giorgio’s sister, Luciana, says of her brother in her biography of him, “He represented the finest in Christian youth: pure, happy, enthusiastic about everything that is good and beautiful.”

To our modern world which is often burdened by cynicism and angst, Pier Giorgio’s life offers a brilliant contrast, a life rich in meaning, purpose, and peace derived from faith in God. From the earliest age, and despite two unreligious parents who misunderstood and disapproved of his piety and intense interest in Catholicism, Pier Giorgio placed Christ first in all that he did. These parental misunderstandings, which were very painful to him, persisted until the day of his sudden death of polio. However, he bore this treatment patiently, silently, and with great love.  He was especially devoted to St Catherine of Siena and St Thomas Aquinas.

Pier Giorgio prayed daily, offering, among other prayers, a daily rosary on his knees by his bedside. Often his agnostic father would find him asleep in this position. “He gave his whole self, both in prayer and in action, in service to Christ,” Luciana Frassati writes. After Pier Giorgio began to attend Jesuit school as a boy, he received a rare permission in those days to take communion daily. “Sometimes he passed whole nights in Eucharistic adoration.” For Pier Giorgio, Christ was the answer. Therefore, all of his action was oriented toward Christ and began first in contemplation of Him. With this interest in the balance of contemplation and action, it is no wonder why Pier Giorgio was drawn in 1922 at the age of 21 to the Fraternities of St. Dominic. In becoming a tertiary, Pier Giorgio chose the name “Girolamo” (Jerome) after his personal hero, Girolamo Savonarola, the fiery Dominican preacher and reformer during the Renaissance in Florence. Pier Giorgio once wrote to a friend, “I am a fervent admirer of this friar (Savonarola), who died as a saint at the stake.”

Pier Giorgio was handsome, vibrant, and natural. These attractive characteristics drew people to him. He had many good friends and he shared his faith with them with ease and openness. He engaged himself in many different apostolates. Pier Giorgio also loved sports. He was an avid outdoorsman and loved hiking, riding horses, skiing, and mountain climbing. He was never one to pass on playing a practical joke, either. He relished laughter and good humor.

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As Luciana points out, “Catholic social teaching could never remain simply a theory with [Pier Giorgio].” He set his faith concretely into action through spirited political activism during the Fascist period in World War I Italy. He lived his faith, too, through discipline with his school work, which was a tremendous cross for him as he was a poor student.  He studied mineralogy in an engineering program.  Most notably, however, Pier Giorgio (like the Dominican St. Martin de Porres) lived his faith through his constant, humble, mostly hidden service to the poorest of Turin. Although Pier Giorgio grew up in a privileged environment, he never lorded over anyone the wealth and prestige of his family. Instead, he lived simply and gave away food, money, or anything that anyone asked of him. It is suspected that he contracted from the very people to whom he was ministering in the slums the polio that would kill him.

Even as Pier Giorgio lay dying, his final week of rapid physical deterioration was an exercise in heroic virtue. His attention was turned outward toward the needs of others and he never drew attention to his anguish, especially since his own grandmother was dying at the same time he was. Pier Giorgio’s heart was surrendered completely to God’s will for him. His last concern was for the poor. On the eve of his death, with a paralyzed hand, he scribbled a message to a friend, reminding the friend not to forget the injections for Converso, a poor man Pier Giorgio had been assisting.

When news of Pier Giorgio’s death on July 4, 1925 reached the neighborhood and city, the Frassati parents, who had no idea about the generous self-donation of their young son, were astonished by the sight of thousands of people crowded outside their mansion on the day of their son’s funeral Mass and burial. The poor, the lonely, and those who had been touched by Pier Giorgio’s love and faithful example had come to pay homage to this luminous model of Christian living.

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Pier Giorgio’s mortal remains were found incorrupt in 1981 and were transferred from the family tomb in the cemetery of Pollone to the Cathedral of Turin.

Frassati Societies exist throughout the world for young people interested in the Catholic faith, often centered around high schools and colleges.  The mission of the societies is to help young people live out the Beatitudes through prayer, service, and fun.

Pier-Giorgio-Portrait

“I would like for us to pledge a pact which knows no earthly boundaries nor temporal limits:  union in prayer.” – in a letter to his friend, Isidoro Bonini, Jan 15, 1925.

“To live without a Faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for the Truth, is not living but existing.” – Bl Pier Giorgio Frassati

“Sadness ought to be banished from Catholic souls.” -Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati 

“In God’s marvelous plan, Divine Providence often uses the tiniest twigs to do good works.” -Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati

“The faith given to me in baptism suggests to me surely: by yourself you will do nothing, but if you have God as the center of all your action, then you will reach the goal.” -Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati

“We were quietly eating when we heard Marischa’s screams. At first I thought it was thieves, but on reaching the hall and seeing one of them about to cut the telephone wires, I immediately realized that they were the Fascists. My blood raced in my veins. I threw myself at that scoundrel shouting “rascals, cowards, assassins,” and delivered a punch.” — Excerpt from PGF’s letter to his friend Antonio Villani on June 23, 1924, describing his defense of the family home a day earlier. The incident was recounted in papers as far away as the United States.

“We went to the mountains together… There were more than twenty of us, and every time we stopped, Pier Giorgio gave us his little speeches very enthusiastically, comparing our climb in the mountains to our spiritual ascent in our faith in Christ. Even Father Bonino was amazed. He said that he, a priest, hadn’t thought of saying such sublime things to us. Pier Giorgio said, ‘Let’s climb higher and we’ll hear the voice of Christ even better!’” – Testimony of Antonio Valetto

“Pier Giorgio didn’t flee from intimacy; on the contrary, he loved, and thus he overcame the typical Biellese resistance to speaking about love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, something that is central to the Christian life. He left me with an unforgettable impression, so much so that I consider Pier Giorgio to be one of the strongest and most solid souls ever to live in Christ Jesus.” – Testimony of Lorenzo Berra, engineer

“We teased him a bit. He had trouble organizing mountain hikes that didn’t involve missing Sunday Mass, which for him was more important than anything else. This seemed a bother to those who were not so faithful to the Sunday Mass precept, but Pier Giorgio could not give in. He wasn’t a fanatic, but he would not compromise on this.” – Testimony of Carlo Enrico Galimberti, engineer

“I must say that when he prayed, it was something extraordinary. I saw him quite a few times during night-time adoration at San Secondo Church. He was enchanted with the liturgy, and it seemed that the ritual lifted him up to another world. In fact, I never saw anyone else like that boy, who was humility personified.” – Testimony of Emilio Zanzi, journalist

“I watched him in the house of God. Frassati seemed like someone else, someone unrecognizable. I would never have suspected that that young rabble-rouser who was quick to crack a joke was capable of such a radical change. He prayed with exemplary composure. He was never distracted, he remained motionless, with his arms folded, with a posture that was devout and manly at the same time. He was prayer personified, in soul and body.” – Testimony of Maria Tasca, Ph.D.

Happy Fourth of July!
Love,
Matthew

Jun 21 – St John Rigby (1570-1600), Martyr

Did you ever do a favor for a friend and it got you in whole lot of trouble?  John Rigby did.  John Rigby was a layman, rare among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, the most famous of the hundreds of Catholics who suffered for their faith at that time.

Rigby was born in the year 1570 at Harrock Hall, Eccleston, near Chorley, Lancashire, the fifth or sixth son of Nicholas Rigby, by his wife Mary, daughter of Oliver Breres of Preston. In 1600 Rigby was working for Sir Edmund Huddleston, whose daughter, Mrs. Fortescue, was summoned to the Old Bailey for recusancy (refusing to attend Protestant services). Because she was ill, Rigby appeared for her.

But it was his own religion that one of the commissioners who took a dislike to him asked him about. He had no hesitation in proclaiming that he was a practicing Catholic himself. Walking into court a free man, he was sent to prison and was only free again when he entered Heaven after enduring arguably the most brutal execution of any of the martyrs, proceeded by horrendous torture. But Mr Rigby showed signs of sainthood by being bafflingly polite to his aggressors.

Not much is known of John’s life. He seems to have been a simple man and a bachelor.  Although being a Catholic, John flirted with the Protestant religion, sometimes going to church services. Some accounts state that he met Jesuits Fr John Gerard and Nicholas Owen, of previous account.

He worked as a servant in the avid Protestant household of Sir Edmund Huddleston, whose daughter was Mrs Fortescue, a recent widow. She received a summons accusing her of recusancy. Suffering from illness, she asked John to go to court to testify for her against the charges. This simple request ultimately meant martyrdom for John.

One of the commissioners, Sir Richard Martin, didn’t like John and began to question him about his own faith. Sir Richard proved John was a Catholic and the young man would not take the oath of Supremacy. He was sent to Newgate prison in the City of London. The next day, February 14 1600, he was up before the Lord Chief Justice. He initially admitted to conforming to the new religion even though being a Catholic at heart. But John said he had been reconciled to Catholicism by Fr John Jones, a Franciscan, while Fr John was imprisoned in the the Clink (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Clink). Since that day about three years previously, he had not stepped foot into a Protestant Church. He signed a written confession admitting to this.

At some point during his imprisonment, John was lowered on to an open heated oven scorching and burning his flesh. At the same time, a barber cut his hair off. The horrific torture was an attempt to force Rigby into revealing information about Catholics in England. In an amazing act of defiance that, in itself, seems like an indication of sainthood, John paid the barber for his work and they both laughed.

On February 19 he was transferred to the White Lion. This had been an inn prior to 1535 and became the Sheriff’s Prison in 1540. On March 1 1600, Rigby was brought to trial. Interestingly, we have a detailed account from John about the various court proceedings. He wrote a testimony while in prison and sent it to a friend to look after.

At the initial hearing, nothing was said to Rigby. But in the evening, John was called and went willingly to an informal questioning by judges at one of their houses. Craftily trying to get him to conform, Justice Gaudy said he heard John wanted to go to church again. But the 30-year-old said he’d never even hinted that. The judge said the law must proceed to which Rigby replied: “Let me have the law, in the name of Jesus. God’s will be done.”

The next day he appeared in court and answered to charges of being reconciled by a “Romish” priest and treason. He admitted to going to Fr John Jones for confession and said if this was interpreted as treason then “God’s will be done”. When found guilty by the quietly-spoken foreman of the jury, John shouted: “Laus tibi, Domine! Rex aterna Gloria.”

Twice after being found guilty, John was offered the choice of agreeing to go to the Protestant church and the matter would “proceed no further”. But he refused to each time and was sentenced to death. He was taken back to his prison cell and prayed all night.

When his time came on Saturday June 21, John said goodbye to fellow Catholic prisoners and asked them to pray for him. Outside, he knelt beside the waiting hurdle and made the Sign of the Cross. He was seen to be laughing, which John confirmed was because he was happy to give his life for the Catholic cause. As part of the paperwork before his execution, Captain Whitlock asked John if he was married, to which he replied: “I am a bachelor; and more than that, I am a maid.” This referred to his service job in the Huddleston household. The captain said Rigby had “worthily deserved a virgin’s crown” and asked John to pray for him.

St Thomas’ Watering, now the Old Kent Road, was John’s place of execution. It was the location of the gallows for the northern parts of Surrey. Once, it was a place where pilgrims bound for the shrine of St Thomas a Becket watered their thirsty horses. Now it was to become a significant site again for Christian martyrdom.

On reaching the gallows, John knelt down and prayed. He kissed the rope as it was placed around his neck. Eyewitnesses remarked upon his fine physique and outstanding courage.  The sheriff’s deputy ended John’s closing speech before it started and demanded he pray for Queen Elizabeth I, which he did. Asked to name any other traitors in England, John said none. The angry deputy ordered the cart to be drawn away instantly.

Choking, Mr Rigby violently jerked around. The hangman cut him down and John, not being close to death, got to his feet. He was flung to the ground and John was able to commend his soul to God. The executioner then disemboweled the soon-to-be martyr and ripped his organs out. John’s body twisted violently. The end of his ordeal came when his head was chopped off. His body parts were displayed across Southwark.

For a simple, humble, young single man, Saint John Rigby’s torture and execution was brutal. For some reason, the authorities clamped down hard on him, while other lay people at the time were simply imprisoned for their recusancy. Mr Rigby’s act of charity towards a grieving widow was to turn out to be the ultimate sacrifice.

Saint John was not perfect. He flirted with the new religion but knew he could be reconciled back to Christ’s church through the Sacrament of Reconciliation administered by a Catholic priest (who was also to become a saint). What a powerful message this is to the laity in encouraging them to confession, even if they have lapsed.

Also impressive is John’s stubbornness and defiance in the face of persecution. He tells the truth, bravely answering questions like a true disciple – direct and to the point. Too often we young Catholics stutter and water down our answers to challenging questions about the Faith for fear that the recipient, however powerful he or she may be, will not like our answer. Like Saint John, we really need to pray for the strength to answer directly but charitably. This martyr had the ability to point most of his thoughts and words to Christ.

Fittingly, Saint John is the patron saint of bachelors and torture victims – two completely different groups of people but both of whom will receive great strength from this martyr’s intercession. Saint John Jones, Rigby’s confessor and the priest who had reconciled him, had died at the same place Rigby had died, St Thomas’ Waterings, two years earlier, on July 12, 1598.

Prayer in Honor of St John Rigby

Eternal Father, I wish to honor St John Rigby and I give You thanks for all the graces You have bestowed upon this English martyr. I ask You to please increase grace in my soul through his merits, and commit the end of my life to him by this special prayer, so that by virtue of Your goodness and promise, St John Rigby might be my advocate and provide whatever is needed at that hour. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Father’s Day – acts of love & grace…

Germany, Bavaria, Munich, Son (2-3 Years) kissing his father, smiling

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-by Br. Joseph-Anthony Kress, O.P.

“The summer before I entered religious life my cousin gave birth to her first child, Owen. Later that summer the proud mother hosted a party at which the main pastime was holding baby Owen. As everyone took his or her turn with the newborn, I noticed something astonishing: all of the men held him in precisely the same way, and all of the women in another.

As my sisters, my aunt, and my cousin held Owen, I noticed that each held him in both of her arms, allowing him to lie horizontally on his back. When it came time for the men to hold him, we took a different approach: we each held Owen in a vertical posture, with his body parallel to our own and having him rest on our chest. Without exception, each of the men instinctively held Owen in this position.

As I reflected on this event, I realized that the manner in which a man holds a child manifests something about his role as a father. A man holds an infant in a way that raises the child up to his own perspective. A father does this as if to say, “Son, you are now a part of this world. I will teach you how to navigate its paths.”

A father is responsible for much more than providing food and shelter, for he also has a vital role in educating children in the faith and how to live uprightly in the world.  The Second Vatican council states explicitly that “the active presence of the father is highly beneficial to their formation” (Gaudium et Spes 52:1).  This “active presence” of the father begins with his leading of the family. If the father is a leader in the home, then the Catechism’s statement, “the home is the first school of Christian life and a school for human enrichment,” has particular import for men (CCC 1657).

In order to navigate the paths of human life one has to address the
totality of the human person. Human flourishing is accomplished only when the body and soul are integrated, and not separated. A man is not more authentically masculine when he focuses only on the physical things of the world. Rather, he denies part of his masculinity because he ignores part of his humanity. A man neglects one of his primary roles as a father if he fails to teach his children the importance of the spiritual life. This does not mean that he must be a spiritual master and write brilliant theological treatises. But what he is called to do is to witness to the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ, and love as Christ loves (cf. Ephesians 5:25).

Even if a man tries to distract himself from this task it still remains as an intrinsic part of who he is. It is so innate in him that the very
manner in which he holds a child testifies to it. The task of leading the family, or the domestic church as the Catechism calls it (CCC 1655), has been entrusted to men. Again, the home is the “first school of Christian life and a school for human enrichment.” In other words, it is the foundation on which society is built. If a father desires to have an effect on the world and make it a better place for his family, he must be a man devoted to the spiritual and human development of each member of his “domestic church.” He cannot give what he does not have, and he cannot teach what he does not know. Thus, he must be a man who is firm in his own faith in Jesus Christ.

We learn from the Divine Teacher how to teach those around us. The greatest act of teaching was the crucifixion on Mount Calvary, when He taught us what an act of love looks like. Christ gave His life for us so that we may have life eternal, and our efforts to imitate His act of love can be manifest in the most menial of our daily tasks. The constant changing of diapers, driving the kids to soccer practice, cooking dinner, working long hours at the office, setting time aside for prayer, or even simply laying an infant tenderly in his bed, can be transformed by grace into acts of love.

Acts of love are not reserved to things that are difficult; they may also be the joyous things in our life: playing catch, attending Mass, family vacations, or a well-executed surprise anniversary party. The love that animates these acts is the same that was poured forth from the cross. Our faith is not empty and it surely is not the mere uttering of creedal statements. When the spiritual is joined with the physical, the fullness of the human person is engaged, and faith is shown to be authentic. As the Letter to James says, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (James 2:17).”

Love,
Matthew

Jun 15 – St Germaine Cousin of Pibrac, France (1579-1601), Patroness of the Disabled & Abused

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Daughter of Laurent Cousin, a farm worker, and Marie Laroche, who died while Germaine was an infant. A sickly child, Germaine suffered from scrofula, which is tuberculosis of the skin.  She was afflicted with unsightly inflammation of the lymph nodes in her neck usually contracted from unpasteurized milk from infected cows, and her right hand was deformed.

Ignored by her father and abused by her step-family, she was often forced to sleep in the stable or in a cupboard under the stairs, was fed on scraps, beaten or scalded with hot water for misdeeds, real or imagined.

At age nine Germaine was put to work as a shepherdess, where she spent much time praying, sometimes using a rosary she made from a knotted string. She refused to miss Mass, and if she heard the bell announcing services, she set her crook and her distaff in the ground, declared her flock to be under the care of her guardian angel , and went to church; her sheep were unharmed during her absences. It is reported that once she crossed the raging Courbet River by walking over the waters so she could get to church.

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Germaine was so poor it is hard to imagine she would be able to help
others, but she was always ready to try, especially children whom she gathered in the fields to teach a simple catechism and share the little food she had. The locals laughed at her religious devotion, and called her ‘the little bigot’.

Once in winter, her stepmother, Hortense, accused her of stealing bread by hiding it in her apron, and threatened to beat her with a stick. Germaine opened her apron, and summer flowers tumbled out. Her parents and neighbors were awed by the obvious miracle, and began to treat her as a holy person. Her parents invited her to rejoin the household, but Germaine chose to live as she had.

La Mort de Sainte-Germaine ( Comte Raoul. de Pibrac ) 1910 (Salon de Paris)
La Mort de Sainte-Germaine ( Comte Raoul. de Pibrac ) 1910 (Salon de Paris)

The-Death-Of-Germaine-Cousin-1579-1601-The-Virgin-Of-Pibrac
-“The Death of Germaine Cousin, 1579-1601, the Virgin of Pibrac”, by Alexandre Grellet

In 1601 she was found dead on her straw pallet under the stairs, and she was buried in the Church of Pibrac opposite the pulpit. When accidentally exhumed in 1644 during a renovation, her body was found incorrupt. In 1793 the casket was desecrated by an anti-Catholic tinsmith named Toulza, who with three accomplices took out the remains and buried them in the sacristy, throwing quick-lime and water on them. After the French Revolution, her body was found to be still intact save where the quick-lime had done its work.

Documents attest to more than 400 miracles or extraordinary graces received through the intervention of Saint Germain. They include cures of every kind (of blindness, both congenital and resulting from disease, of hip and of spinal disease), and the multiplication of food for the distressed community of the Good Shepherd at Bourges, France in 1845.

Eglise Sainte-Germaine Statue par Alexandre Falguière 1877
Eglise Sainte-Germaine Statue par Alexandre Falguière 1877

“Dear God, please don’t let me be too hungry or too thirsty. Help me to please my mother. And help me to please You.” – prayer of Saint Germaine

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-reliquary of St Germaine

O Saint Germaine, look down from Heaven and intercede for the many abused children in our world. Help them to sanctify these sufferings. Strengthen children who suffer the effects of living in broken families. Protect those children who have been abandoned by their parents and live in the streets. Beg God’s mercy on the parents and adults who abuse children.  Intercede for handicapped children and their parents.

Saint Germaine, you who suffered neglect and abuse so patiently, pray for us. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Jun 9 – Blessed Anne Marie Taigi (1769-1837), Wife, Mother, Mystic, Patroness of Spouses Who Suffer Abuse

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Kelly and I having passed our sixth anniversary, I realize, at least intellectually, we are still babies at this marriage thing.  Growth in trust and unity takes time and success in cooperation, deepening.  Faith requires time and trust, growing in unity.  The parallels are profound and significant.  Two becoming one.  We are still children in marriage certainly compared to those, tragically too few, and rarer now all the time, clocking in at fifty or sixty plus!  Talk about your miracles!  Talk about the power of grace!  Kelly makes it very easy for me.  I wish I made it easy for her.  I AM THE LUCKIEST MAN IN THE UNIVERSE!!!!  THANK YOU, JESUS!!!  Thank you, Kelly!!!

I have come to the realization getting married and asking someone to marry you is choosing the person who will see you at your worst and whom you believe will love you still in spite of that.  Over and over again.  Kind of like Jesus, no?  Exactly like Jesus.  This is wisdom gained in hindsight, from mistakes, and upon reflection and contrition on my part.

Love is more than a feeling.  “For love is not merely a feeling; it is an act of will that consists of preferring, in a constant manner, the good of others to the good of oneself.” (JPII, World Youth Day XIX, 2/22/04) Overtones of marriage and the Christian, even mystical life, are many.  Too many to mention here.  Don’t tempt me!  🙂

Born May 29, 1769, daughter of Luigi Giannetti and Maria Masi, Anne Marie’s father was a pharmacist in Siena, Italy, but his business went bankrupt when Anna Marie was five years old. The family moved to Rome, Italy in search of work, but Luigi could only find a job as a household servant. As a child and a teenager, Anne seemed of average piety and spirituality.  Anne was married on 7 January 1789 to Dominico Taigi, a butler to the noble family of Chigi. She was married for 48 years, and mother of seven, two of whom died very young.

Anne Marie was always very concerned about her dress and appearance, far more than would be expected of a working class mother. Life at home was not always peaceful, Dominico could be ill-tempered and caustic.  The contents on the dinner table could wind up on the floor if he was not pleased.  And, Anne was known to have had an adulterous affair with an older man. Walking through St Peter’s Square, a priest gave her a piercing look, which she took to be a sign of impending judgment.

And then one day while at prayer at Saint Peter’s Cathedral, she felt a sudden strong inspiration to ignore the things of this world. She decided to go to confession.  She chose a confessional surrounded by numerous penitents, but on entering it in her turn tears overcame her, and she cried: “Father, you have at your feet a great sinner.” The priest wondered for a moment who the unknown might be, and then said brusquely:  “Go away; you are not one of my penitents.” How­ever, he consented to hear a hasty recital. Yet discovering nothing to justify her passionate out­burst, he gave her absolution and curtly slammed back the slide, leaving the unfortunate woman more troubled than ever.

Embracing this humiliation as a penance, she began to live a more austere life, and to listen to the Spirit. She found holy spiritual directors, gave all she could to the poor, visited the sick, and counselled many of the patients at the hospital of San Giacomo of the Incurables. She worked hard to evangelize her own family, changing her husband’s demeanor, and they all regularly assembled in a small personal chapel to pray together.

As the years went on and Anne Marie devoted herself more and more to prayer, she began to receive mystical gifts, including prophecy and clairvoyance. She sometimes went into ecstacies, and received heavenly and prophetic visions. Her simple presence had a powerful effect on many, and she helped with many conversions. She was a counsellor to cardinals, royalty and three popes.  Ecstasies often came at inconvenient times. Once while doing housework: “O Lord, leave me in peace! Withdraw Thyself and let me get on with my work. Keep the treasures of Thy love for consecrated virgins; I am only a poor wife and mother.”  God chooses whom He wills, when He wills.  Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit.

It is said she knew with certainty the fate of the dead. Her gaze traveled to the ends of the earth and discovered there people on whom she had never set eyes, reading them to the depth of their souls. One glance sufficed; upon whatever she focused her thoughts, it was revealed to her and her understanding. She saw the whole world as we see the front of a building. It was the same with nations as with individuals; she saw the cause of their distresses and the remedies that would heal them.

The Beata also predicted an apocalyptic “three days of darkness”:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEjSZVmoghQ

Because of her charismatic gifts, and her lack of concern about worldly matters, Anne was often the topic of gossip and slander, but she was the recipient of public veneration soon after her death.  There were miracles reported at her tomb.  Domenico gave frank and loving testimony in his depositions in the investigations for her cause of beatification.  Her body remains incorrupt.

Novena to Blessed Anne Marie Taigi

O Blessed Anna Marie Taigi, by that humble submission with which you believed in and adored the august mystery of the One True God in Three Persons, obtain for me from the Most Holy Trinity the favor which I confidently implore…(mention your request here…)
O Blessed Anna Marie Taigi, by the great love and tender pity with which you honored the mysteries in the life of Jesus, obtain for me from Him the favor which I earnestly implore… (mention your request here…)
O Blessed Anna Marie Taigi, through your filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin, obtain for me from Her the favor which I humbly implore… (mention your request here…)

Happy Mother’s Day!
Love,
Matthew

May 28 – Blessed Margaret Pole (1473-1541), Countess of Salisbury, Martyr

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Margaret Pole was born in England in 1473 and was the niece of two English kings. Another king arranged for Margaret to marry Sir Reginald Pole, a friend of the royal family. They had a happy marriage, giving birth to five children: Henry, Reginald, Geoffrey, Arthur, and Ursula.

When Reginald died, the new king, Henry VIII, made Margaret a countess. He appointed her governess of his daughter. Henry VIII called Margaret the “holiest woman in England.”

Untimely and homicidal death was a reality of royal English politics and intrigues before, during, and after the time Margaret lived.  Brutal, harsh, but real.  She was from the Plantagenet royal line, kings who had ruled over England from the 12th to the 15th century.  Her grandfather Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, warrior in the English War of the Roses, which ultimately produced the Tudor line, died on the field of battle.  Her father, George, Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV, died in the Tower of London in January, 1478.  Many other tragedies happened in Margaret’s family due to the central place her family relations held in English royal lines.

When Henry VIII, once called by Pope Leo X, “Fidei defensor” – Defender of the Faith, due to his authorship of “Defense of the Seven Sacraments”, which was critical of Martin Luther, broke with Rome and appointed himself head of the Anglican Church in England, so he might divorce Queen Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, Margaret told Henry that he was wrong. Margaret had served as Governess of the Princess, eventually Queen, Mary.

The king expelled Margaret from the royal court. He became even angrier when one of Margaret’s sons, Reginald, a cardinal of the Catholic Church and the Archbishop of Canterbury, but who resided outside of England on the European continent, wrote an article denying Henry’s claim to be head of the Church in England. Henry blamed Margaret. He had her arrested.  Margaret was seventy years old by this point.

Margaret was questioned harshly to prove that she was a traitor, but there was no evidence. She had always been faithful to Jesus and the Church. None of this mattered to Henry. Margaret was sentenced to death. She was imprisoned in the Tower of London for two years, suffering cold and neglect, before being executed by beheading on the morning of May 28, 1541.

The following poem was found carved on the wall of her cell:

“For traitors on the block should die;
I am no traitor, no, not I!
My faithfulness stands fast and so,
Towards the block I shall not go!
Nor make one step, as you shall see;
Christ in Thy Mercy, save Thou me!”

Her last words were: “Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

The character of Lady Salisbury, played by Kate O’Toole in the Showtime series “The Tudors” is loosely inspired by her.

Lord, in Whom there is no change or shadow of alteration, You gave courage to Your servant Blessed Margaret Pole. Grant unto us, we beseech You, through her intercession, the grace to always be steadfast in faith. May we be strengthened to serve You in imitation of the courage of Blessed Margaret. We ask this through Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever. Amen.

Our Lady, Queen of Martyrs, pray for us!

Blessed Margaret Pole, pray for us!

Love,
Matthew

Words of Love and Creation

My friends Joe & Victoria got hitched on Friday!  Congrats you two!  Joe,
DO NOT try the below @home!    I have complete confidence!    Rather,
“Yes, ma’am!” seems to keep the peace for me!  
-By Br. Raymond Snyder, O.P.
“If you are like me and grew up attending religious education classes of
some sort (CCD = Confraternity of Christian Doctrine), you may have come
across the line, “If God stopped thinking about you at any instant, you
would immediately disappear; you would cease to exist.” What a terrifying
thought to offer the inquisitive mind of a child! The suggestion seems to
be that, on occasion, either through forgetfulness or malice, God
annihilates some unfortunate person or persons. But this is not true; God
doesn’t even annihilate demons or the damned – although some may wish,
much less unsuspecting third graders.
Of course, the remark is well meant, and, properly understood, it is a
vivid reminder of a profound metaphysical truth, namely, that we all
depend on God for both our coming to be and our preservation in being.  
Indeed, meditating on this truth can help us to grow in wisdom and
humility, whether we are third graders or thirty-somethings.  For some
reason, it seems easy for people to accept the notion that they have their
origin in God, but the fact that they are preserved in existence by God at
every moment never crosses their minds. The key idea here is that God’s
act of creation is not a one-time event, but rather extends through time.  
Since God is universal cause of all things, anything that exists not only
has its origin in God, but also its conservation in being. God alone
exists necessarily; God alone cannot not exist. All other beings exist
contingently; they might not have existed, and they depend upon God, the
Necessary Being, for their continuance in existence.
The popular notion, which runs completely contrary to this, is that, once
we come into being, we exist independently of God; we are on our own and
autonomous. Worse yet, some seem to believe—and perhaps we all sometimes
act as if we believed—that we are the cause of our own existence. As if we
could ever pat ourselves on the back and say, “Good job, self, I am glad
you decided to exist! What a great idea it was to come into being!” No,
however much we may fool ourselves, our existence is a gift, and it is a
gift that continues as long as we continue. “What have you that you have
not received?” asks St. Paul. And, of course, the appropriate response is,
“Nothing. Not even myself.”
There is something utterly foundational about this truth. Prior to the
fact that we are able to act as genuine causes, or the fact that we can be
perfected by the grace of God, there is the fact that we depend on God for
our very being. The most intimate words that Our Lord spoke to St.
Catherine of Siena, O.P. express this same truth:  “You are she who is
not; I am He Who is.” This is not the type of romantic language that we
usually associate with a mystic. In fact, it might seem like quite an insult. The
Bridegroom does not tell his mystical bride, “I love you,” but rather,
“You are nothing.” In reality, however, these words are right and just.  
Humility consists in knowing what one truly is in relation to God, and St.
Catherine was blessed to receive this knowledge directly from our Lord. Far 
from being an insult, these were the intimate words of the divine Spouse.”
Love,
Matthew

Begging, Gratitude, Prayer, & Silence…or, The Economics of Gratitude

(I remember, vividly, praying, especially at Office, for “our benefactors”.)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1627662.stm
-by Br. Thomas Davenport, O.P.
“A couple weeks ago I had to face one of the more difficult aspects of our
Dominican life: begging—or, to use the traditional term, “mendicancy.” I
was sent to our parishes in Somerset, Ohio to give the annual financial
appeal at all the masses, asking the good people of St. Joseph’s and Holy
Trinity to support the student brothers here in Washington, DC. While I
have found much joy in our life of poverty and am profoundly grateful to
all those who support us, the prospect of asking people for money in these
difficult times was a bit daunting. It’s hard to beg, I found, and one of
the reasons for this was brought home to me by St. Thomas’ treatment of
gratitude in the Summa Theologiae.
St. Thomas says that gratitude, as a virtue, is part of the cardinal
virtue of justice, by which we give to others what is due to them. In
exercising gratitude a beneficiary not only recognizes the favor bestowed
by a benefactor as a favor, but also seeks to repay the benefactor in some
way.  In fact gratitude pushes him to seek to be gracious in return, not
simply just, so he seeks, as far as possible, to repay more than what he
has received, going beyond strict justice.
This is a troubling thought. For, although I am extremely grateful to our
generous benefactors, particularly those in Somerset, what do I have to
offer in return, besides a smile and a thank you? Sure, some day I or one
of my brothers might end up serving as a priest there, but right now that
seems like such a distant and tentative return.
Reflecting on this problem, I was reminded of one of the much beloved
stories of the early days of the Order. At that time—the early thirteenth
century—the brethren would beg for their food on a day-to-day basis.
Whether at home or on the road, they were completely dependent on the
generosity of their neighbors. Accordingly, the story goes that Blessed
Jordan of Saxony, the second Master of the Order, was traveling with a
group of the brethren, and he sent them out to beg for their breakfast.
After reconvening at a nearby fountain, they found they barely had half as
much bread as they needed. At this point, contrary to all expectation,
Jordan began singing for joy—he was so full of gratitude for what they had
received. The others joined in, making such a racket that a nearby woman
rebuked them, saying, “Are you not all religious men? Whence comes it that
you are merry-making at this early hour?” Upon realizing their elation was
over such a paltry amount of food, she was so edified that she went home
and brought them an abundance of bread, wine, and cheese. In return, she
only asked that they remember her in their prayers.
Using this story in my appeal in Somerset, I focused on the thankful and
joyous disposition of the friars themselves; but the pastor there made a
comment that caused me to think more fully about the woman in the story,
and especially her request for prayers. Although I had already
underestimated the value of a thank you and the promise of future pastoral
service, I had completely forgotten one part of the equation. Right then
and there, I had the opportunity to pray for those benefactors and to
promise that my prayers would continue. Of course, it’s silly to try to
calculate the value of prayer—as if a Hail Mary had a going market
price—but suddenly I felt much more confident about my ability to give
back more than I had received.
In retrospect, it seems I should have recognized this basic truth about
Dominican life much earlier. After all, we pray communally for our
benefactors, living and deceased, quite often, even going beyond the
regimen of Masses and prayers that is mandated by the Constitutions of our
Order and the Statutes of our Province. In addition, there are the private
prayers of individual friars. Thus, even though my prayers are not as
efficacious as those of someone as holy as Blessed Jordan of Saxony, I do
not have to worry; I do not have to repay my debt of gratitude alone.
Rather, my debt is linked to that of the whole Order, which takes on the
responsibility corporately and wholeheartedly.
A few days after I had returned from Somerset, one my brothers made a
comment that brought home to me just how inadequately I had understood the
Order’s relationship to its benefactors. He pointed out, indirectly, that
the woman in the story was not just a helpful reminder of the importance
of prayer, but also someone I had in fact been praying for daily since
entering the Novitiate! For nearly eight hundred years, Dominicans have
been unleashing a continuous stream of prayers for her and all our other
generous benefactors. Thus, to the people of St. Joseph’s, I was promising
not just my prayers and the prayers of all my brothers, but also the
prayers of every future Dominican for as long as God deigns to preserve
our Order. Ultimately, then, it seems that kind woman got much more than
she could have expected from some bread, wine, and cheese.”
Love,
Matthew

Sep 9 – St Peter Claver, SJ (1581-1654), Slave of Slaves

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I am convinced, in our modern convenience, we forget, willfully, albeit unconsciously, how awful, terrible, and hard reality was at times in the past, or even more recently, mentally distancing ourselves as a means of emotional defense and comfort: Iraq, WWII, pioneers, the Civil War, slavery.

We relegate these visceral memories to colorful pages in a history book or, now, online. But, these, currently, and at one time, were reality. The story of St Peter Claver begins to show me so.

A native of Spain, young Jesuit Peter Claver left his homeland forever in 1610 to be a missionary in the colonies of the New World. He sailed into Cartagena (now in Colombia), a rich port city washed by the Caribbean. He was ordained there in 1615.

By this time the slave trade had been established in the Americas for nearly 100 years, and Cartagena was a chief center for it.  Criminals, war captives, the mentally unstable, the sick and various social misfits were bartered to the white traders by the African chiefs. Others were captured at random, especially able-bodied males and females deemed suitable for labor.

Ten thousand slaves poured into the port each year after crossing the Atlantic from West Africa under conditions so foul and inhuman that an estimated one-third of the passengers died in transit. Although the practice of slave-trading was condemned by Pope Paul III and later labeled “supreme villainy” by Pius IX, it continued to flourish.

Peter Claver’s predecessor, Jesuit Father Alfonso de Sandoval, had devoted himself to the service of the slaves for 40 years before Claver arrived to continue his work, declaring himself “the slave of the Negroes forever.”

As soon as a slave ship entered the port, Peter Claver moved into its infested hold to minister to the ill-treated and miserable passengers. After the slaves were herded out of the ship like chained animals and shut up in nearby yards to be gazed at by the crowds, Claver plunged in among them with medicines, food, bread, brandy, lemons and tobacco. With the help of interpreters he gave basic instructions and assured his brothers and sisters of their human dignity and God’s saving love. During the 40 years of his ministry, Claver instructed and baptized an estimated 300,000 slaves.

His apostolate extended beyond his care for slaves. He became a moral force, indeed, the apostle of Cartagena. He preached in the city square, gave missions to sailors and traders as well as country missions, during which he avoided, when possible, the hospitality of the planters and owners and lodged in the slave quarters instead.

Claver had conflicts with some of his Jesuit brothers, who accepted slavery. Claver saw the slaves as fellow Christians, encouraging others to do so as well.

After four years of sickness which forced the saint to remain inactive and largely neglected, he died on September 8, 1654. The city magistrates, who had previously frowned at his solicitude for the black outcasts, ordered that he should be buried at public expense and with great pomp.

He was canonized in 1888, and Pope Leo XIII declared him the worldwide patron of missionary work among black slaves.

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-Cathedral of San Pedro Claver, Cartegena, Colombia

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-remains of St Peter Claver, SJ, Cathedral of San Pedro Claver

“Yesterday, May 30, 1627, on the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, numerous blacks, brought from the rivers of Africa, disembarked from a large ship. Carrying two baskets of oranges, lemons, sweet biscuits, and I know not what else, we hurried toward them. We had to force our way through the crowd until we reached the sick. Large numbers of the sick were lying on the wet ground or rather in puddles of mud. To prevent excessive dampness, someone had thought of building up a mound with a mixture of tiles and broken pieces of bricks. This, then, was their couch, a very uncomfortable one not only for that reason, but especially because they were naked, without any clothing to protect them.

We laid aside our cloaks, therefore, and brought from a warehouse whatever was handy to build a platform. In that way we covered a space to which we at last transferred the sick, by forcing a passage through bands of slaves. Then we divided the sick into two groups: one group my companion approached with an interpreter, and I addressed the other group.

There were two blacks, nearer death than life, already cold, whose pulse could scarcely be detected. With the help of a tile we pulled some live coals together and placed them in the middle near the dying men. Into this fire we tossed aromatics. Then, using our own cloaks, for they had nothing of the sort, and to ask the owners for others would have been a waste of words, we provided for them a smoke treatment, by which they seemed to recover their warmth, and the breath of life. The joy in their eyes as they looked at us was something to see.

This was how we spoke to them, not with words but with our hands and our actions. And in fact, convinced as they were that they had been brought here to be eaten, any other language would have proved utterly useless. Then we sat, or rather knelt, beside them and bathed their faces and bodies with wine. We made every effort to encourage them with friendly gestures and displayed in their presence the emotions which somehow naturally tend to hearten the sick.

After this we began an elementary instruction about baptism, that is, the wonderful effects of the sacrament on body and soul. When by their answers to our questions they showed they had sufficiently understood this, we went on to a more extensive instruction, namely, about the one God, who rewards and punishes each one according to his merit, and the rest. Finally, when they appeared sufficiently prepared, we told them the mysteries of the Trinity, the Incarnation and the Passion. Showing them Christ fastened to the cross, as he is depicted on the baptismal font on which streams of blood flow down from his wounds, we led them in reciting an act of contrition in their own language.”-from a letter by St Peter Claver, SJ

“To love God as He ought to be loved, we must be detached from all temporal love. We must love nothing but Him, or if we love anything else, we must love it only for His sake.”-St Peter Claver, SJ

God of mercy and love, you offer all peoples the dignity of sharing in Your life. By the example and prayers of Saint Peter Claver, strengthen us to overcome all racial hatreds and to love each other as brothers and sisters. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Love,
Matthew