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Regina Coeli

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An ancient hymn, from some say as early as the 6th century AD, or as late as the 12th, the Regina Coeli replaces the Angelus during the Easter season.  It is also said immediately after the last prayer of the day in the Liturgy of the Hours, either Vespers or Compline, for that day:

Regina coeli, laetare, alleluia:
Quia quem meruisti portare. alleluia,
Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia,
Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.

Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia.
Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.

Oremus. Deus, qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi, mundum laetificare dignatus es: praesta, quaesumus; ut per eius Genetricem Virginem Mariam, perpetuae capiamus gaudia vitae. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia:
The Son whom you merited to bear, alleluia,
Has risen, as He said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.

Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.

For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

Regina Caeli (1)

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Let us pray. O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech You, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Happy Easter!

Love,
Matthew

May 12 – Sts Nereus, Achilleus, & Domitilla, (d. 98 AD), Martyrs

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-by Peter Paul Rubens, 1607

Christian devotion to Nereus & Achilleus goes back to the earliest years of the Church, though almost nothing is known of their lives. They were praetorian soldiers of the Roman army, possibly ordered to persecute Christians, they became Christians and were banished to the island of Terracina, where they were martyred by beheading in 98 AD by order of the Emperor Domitian.  Beheading was befitting Roman citizens, similar to St Paul, as opposed to crucifixion – a much longer suffering death reserved for non-Roman citizens. The bodies of Nereus & Achilleus were buried in a family vault, later known as the cemetery of Domitilla. Excavations by De Rossi in 1896 resulted in the discovery of their empty tomb in the underground church built by Pope Siricius in 390 AD.

Everyday, especially twenty-first century, Christians would first be introduced to Nereus by reading St Paul’s Letter to the Romans 16:15, “Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the holy ones who are with them…”.  It is believed Nereus, Achilleus, and Domitilla, along with other early Christians in Rome were all baptized by St Peter before his crucifixion in ~64 AD.

Domitilla was a Roman noble woman. Grand-daughter of Emperor Vespasian; niece of Emperors Titus and Domitian. Married to Titus Flavius Clemens, a Roman consul, nephew of Emperor Vespasian, and first cousin of Emperors Titus and Domitian. Banished to the island of Pandataria in the Tyrrhenian Sea, her husband was martyred in 96 AD.

For Nereus, Achilleus, and Domitilla, they were all martyred together.  Their empty tombs were located and identified in the catacomb of Domitilla, part of her former estate near the Via Ardeatina.

Andrea_di_Bonaiuto._St._Agnes_and_St._Domitilla._1365._Galleria_dell'Accademia,_Florence.
-by Andrea_di_Bonaiuto, “St._Agnes_and_St._Domitilla”,_1365, Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, Italy.

Two hundred years after their death, Pope Gregory the Great delivered his 28th homily on the occasion of their feast. “These saints, before whom we are assembled, despised the world and trampled it under their feet when peace, riches and health gave it charms.”

Pope Damasus wrote an epitaph for Nereus and Achilleus in the fourth century. The text is known from travelers who read it while the slab was still entire, but the broken fragments found by De Rossi are sufficient to identify it: “The martyrs Nereus and Achilleus had enrolled themselves in the army and exercised the cruel office of carrying out the orders of the tyrant, being ever ready, through the constraint of fear, to obey his will. O miracle of faith! Suddenly they cease from their fury, they become converted, they fly from the camp of their wicked leader; they throw away their shields, their armor and their blood-stained javelins. Confessing the faith of Christ, they rejoice to bear testimony to its triumph. Learn now from the words of Damasus what great things the glory of Christ can accomplish.”

Basilica of Saints Nereus and Achilleus, an underground altar where the Catacomb Pact was signed at a Mass on Nov. 16, 1965. Religion News Service photo by Grant Gallicho
Basilica of Saints Nereus and Achilleus, an underground altar 

-(please click on the image for greater detail), Basilica Catacombs of St Domitilla, part of her former estate, on the outskirts of Rome, the Eternal City.

The church marks the spot where tradition says Sts Nereus & Achilleus were executed for converting to Christianity. And beneath the altar, and extending through more than 10 miles of tunnels, were the tombs of more than 100,000 Christians from the earliest centuries of the church.

A view inside the Catacombs of St. Domitilla in Rome. Religion News Service photo by Grant Gallicho
A view inside the Catacombs of St. Domitilla in Rome. Religion News Service photo by Grant Gallicho

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-(please click on the image for greater detail) Santi Nereo e Achilleo is an ancient church dedicated to St Nereus and St Achilleus, 4th century soldier martyrs.

The present church is the result of a restoration by Cesare Cardinal Baronio – historian and titular priest of the church – in 1596-1597/8. The work was done carefully in order to preserve as much as possible of the ancient church and to restore ancient elements that had been lost. Some of the decorations that were added were taken from San Paolo fuori le mura. Sts Nereus and Achilleus are buried beneath the high altar, together with St Flavia Domitilla. Their remains were brought here from the Catacombi di Domitilla, where they had been placed in the underground basilica. The floor in the choir was raised by Baronio in the late 16th century, to create a proper confessio beneath the high altar. The baldachino is from the 16th century, and has columns of African marble.

Cardinal Baronio asked Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605) to entrust the church to his order, the Oratorians. They still serve the church.

Love,
Matthew

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus #1

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The McCormick family has a very special devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Prayer of Trust in the Sacred Heart

In all my temptations, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In all my weaknesses, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In all my difficulties, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In all my trials, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In all my sorrows, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In all my work, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In every failure, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In every discouragement, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In life and in death, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In time and in eternity, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Prayer for Perseverance

O, Sacred Heart of Jesus, living and life-giving fountain of eternal life, infinite treasure of the Divinity, and glowing furnace of love, You are my refuge and my sanctuary.

O adorable and glorious Savior, consume my heart with that burning fire that ever inflames Your Heart. Pour down on my soul those graces which flow from Your love.

Let my heart be so united with Yours that our wills may be one, and mine may in all things be conformed to Yours. May Your Will be the rule both of my desires and my actions.
-St. Alphonsus Liguori

“At the end of this life, only love will matter.”
-St. Sharbel

Love,
Matthew

De Profundis

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Dominicans, after vespers each evening, line the hallways of their priories facing each other and sing the De Profundis (Psalm 130), remembering all the members of their order who have received their eternal reward.  Dominicans traditionally would bury their dead underneath the hallways of their priories.

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine;
Domine, exaudi vocem meam.
Fiant aures tuæ intendentes in vocem deprecationis meæ.
Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine, Domine, quis sustinebit?
Quia apud te propitiatio est; et propter legem tuam sustinui te, Domine.
Sustinuit anima mea in verbo ejus:
Speravit anima mea in Domino.
A custodia matutina usque ad noctem, speret Israël in Domino.
Quia apud Dominum misericordia, et copiosa apud eum redemptio.
Et ipse redimet Israël ex omnibus iniquitatibus ejus.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication:
If you, O Lord, mark our iniquities,
Lord, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.
I trust in the Lord;
my soul trusts in his word.
My soul waits for the Lord,
more than sentinels wait for the dawn.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn,
let Israel wait for the Lord;
For with the Lord is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.

V.         Eternal rest grant unto him/her, O Lord,
R.         And let the perpetual light shine upon him/her,
V.         From the gates of Hell,
R.         Deliver his/her soul, O Lord,
V.         May he/she rest in peace,
R.         Amen.
V.         O Lord, hear my prayer,
R.         And let my cry come unto You.

Oremus:
O God, Creator and Redeemer of all mankind,
Grant unto the souls of the departed
The remission of all their sins:
That through our prayers
They may obtain the pardon
They have always desired.

V.         Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created,
R.         And You shall renew the face of the earth.  Amen.

“For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my dissolution is at hand.
I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the Faith.
From now on a crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, just judge that He is, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for His appearance.”
-2 Timothy 4:6-8

Bonum certamen certavi,
Cursum consumavi,
Fidem servavi!

I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the Faith!

“The world is tired,
The year is old,
The faded leaves are glad to die…”
-Sara Teasdale, “November” 

Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.”  -Isaiah 35:10

Love,
Matthew

Litany for the Healing of the Church

Litany for the Healing of the Church

Sorrowful Mother, pray for us.
Lover of Justice, obedient to the Father’s will, pray for us.
Intercessor of Cana, compassionate toward the unfortunate, pray for us.
Immaculate Heart, pierced by a sword, pray for us.
Patient Mother, doer of God’s will despite atrocity, pray for us.
Faithful Mother, at the foot of the cross, pray for us.
Faithful Mother, unashamed of your Son, pray for us.
Faithful Mother, faithful to the innocent, pray for us.
Healing Mother, guardian and nurse of the Body of Christ, pray for us.
Loving Mother, fierce lover of the Body of Christ, pray for us.
Loving Mother, unvengeful despite disaster, pray for us.
Trusting Mother, helping us to do whatever He tells us, pray for us.
Prayerful Mother, believing despite corruption, pray for us.
Faithful Mother, unwilling to abandon your Son, pray for us.
Faithful Mother, peaceful in the face of calumny heaped upon your Son, pray for us.
Peaceful Mother, faithful in the face of scandal, injustice, and humiliation, pray for us.
Model of Fidelity, caressing your Son’s tortured and bloodied body, pray for us.
Rewarded Mother, witness to the Resurrection, keep us faithful to the end that we too may receive our reward.
Christ, warner of Pharisees and scribes, hear our prayer.
Christ, bringer of the sword, hear our prayer.
Christ, unbelieved though though truthful, hear our prayer.
Christ. betrayed with a kiss, hear our prayer.
Christ, tried though innocent, hear our prayer.
Christ, found guilty though innocent, hear our prayer.
Christ, condemned though innocent, hear our prayer.
Christ Reviled, hear our prayer.
Christ Scourged, hear our prayer.
Christ Wounded, hear our prayer.
Christ Mocked & Humiliated, hear our prayer.
Christ Spat Upon, hear our prayer.
Christ Crowned with Thorns, hear our prayer.
Body of Christ Suffering, hear our prayer.
Christ Carrying Your Cross, hear our prayer.
Christ Fallen Three Times, hear our prayer.
Christ Crucified, hear our prayer.
Christ Abandoned, hear our prayer.
Christ, forgiving from the cross, help us to love and forgive one another as you love and forgive us.
Christ Expired, hear our prayer.
Christ in the tomb, hear our prayer.
Christ Risen, turn our mourning into joy, for all things are possible with You and You make all things new.
Christ Risen, make us one, as You and the Father and the Paraclete are One.
Christ Risen, heal our wounds and call us to new life.
Christ Triumphant, Alpha & Omega, Beginning & End, First & Last, resolve all things according to Your Holy Will.
Christ Final Judge, have mercy on us, and welcome us into the Heavenly Banquet.
Christ True High Priest, keep us faithful to our baptismal promises.
Amen.

© 2009, Matthew P. McCormick.  All rights reserved.

 

Let us pray for the Church.  Let us pray for each other.
Love,
Matthew



Apr 23 – Saint George, (d. 304 AD), Martyr

Saint-George

In Christian hagiography, Saint George – The Saint who killed the Dragon (ca. 275-281?-April 23, 303) was a soldier of the Roman Empire, from Anatolia, now modern day Turkey, who is venerated as a Christian martyr.

George was born to a Christian family during the late 3rd century. His father, Geronzio, was from Cappadocia and served as an officer of the Roman army, but was killed in battle. His mother, Policronia, was from Lydda, Iudaea (now Lod, Israel). She returned to her native city as a widow along with her young son, where she provided him with an education.

The youth followed his father’s example by joining the army soon after coming of age. He proved to be a good soldier and consequently rose through the military ranks of the time.  By his late twenties he had gained the title of Tribunus (Tribune) and then Comes (Count), at which time George was stationed in Nicomedia as a member of the personal guard attached to Roman Emperor Diocletian, who embraced him, having known and regarded his father as one of his finest soldiers.

In 303 Diocletian, influenced by Galerius, issued an edict authorizing the systematic persecution of Christians across the Empire. The emperor Galerius would continue the persecution during his own reign (305-311).

George was ordered to take part in the persecution but instead confessed to being a Christian himself and criticized the imperial decision.  Diocletian was upset, not wanting to lose his best Tribune and the son of his former best official. George loudly denounced the Emperor’s edict, and in front of his fellow soldiers and Tribunes he claimed himself to be a Christian and declared his worship of Jesus Christ. Diocletian attempted to convert George, even offering gifts of land, money and slaves if he made a sacrifice to the pagan gods. The Emperor made many offers, but George never accepted.  An enraged Diocletian ordered the torture of this apparent traitor, and his execution.

Before the execution George gave his wealth to the poor and prepared himself.

After various tortures, beginning with being lacerated on a wheel of swords in which he was revived three times, George was executed by decapitation before Nicomedia’s defensive wall on April 23, 303. The witness of his suffering convinced Empress Alexandra and Athanasius, a pagan priest, to become Christians as well, and so they joined George in martyrdom.  His body was returned to Lydda for burial, where Christians soon came to honor him as a martyr.

Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodox Churches. Immortalized in the tale of George and the dragon, he is the patron saint of Canada, Catalonia, England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, the cities of Beirut, Istanbul, Ljubljana and Moscow, as well as a wide range of professions, organizations and disease sufferers.

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In the legend of St George and the dragon, brought back to Europe by Crusaders, a dragon makes its nest at the spring that provides water for the city of Cyrene in Libya or the city of Lydda, depending on the source you consult. Consequently, the citizens have to dislodge the dragon from its nest for a time, in order to collect water. To do so, each day they offer the dragon a human sacrifice. The victim is chosen by drawing lots.

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One day, this happened to be the princess. The monarch begs for her life with no result. She is offered to the dragon, but there appears the saint on his travels. He faces the dragon, slays it and rescues the princess. The grateful citizens abandon their ancestral paganism and convert to Christianity.

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In Sweden, the princess rescued by Saint George is held to represent the kingdom of Sweden, while the dragon represents an invading army. Several sculptures of Saint George battling the dragon can be found in Stockholm, the earliest inside Storkyrkan (“The Great Church”) in the Old Town.

Prayer in honor of St George

O God, You granted Saint George strength and constancy in the various torments which he sustained for Holy Faith; we beseech You to preserve, through his intercession, our faith from wavering and doubt, so that we may serve You with a sincere heart faithfully unto death. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Invocation of St George

Faithful servant of God and invincible martyr, Saint George; favored by God with the gift of faith, and inflamed with an ardent love of Christ, you fight valiantly against the dragons of pride, falsehood, and deceit. Neither pain nor torture, sword nor death could part you from the love of Christ.

I fervently implore you, for the sake of this love, to help me by your intercession to overcome the temptations that surround me, and to bear bravely the trials that oppress me, so that I may patiently carry the cross which is placed upon me; and let neither distress nor difficulties separate me from the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

O, Valiant Champion of Faith, assist me in the combat against evil, that I may win the crown promised to them that persevere unto the end.
Amen.

“Saint George was a man who abandoned one army for another: he gave up the rank of tribune to enlist as a soldier for Christ. Eager to encounter the enemy, he first stripped away his worldly wealth by giving all he had to he poor. Then, free and unencumbered, bearing the shield of faith, he plunged into the thick of the battle, an ardent soldier for Christ.

Clearly what he did serves to teach us a valuable lesson: if we are afraid to strip ourselves of our worldly possessions, then we are unfit to make a strong defense of the faith.

Dear brothers & sisters, let us not only admire the courage of this fighter in heaven’s army, but follow his example. Let us be inspired to strive for the reward of heavenly glory. We must now cleanse ourselves, as Saint Paul tells us, from all defilement of body and spirit, so that one day we too may deserve to enter that temple of blessedness to which we now aspire. “
– from a sermon by Saint Peter Damian (1007-1072), priest & one of the Great Catholic Reformers

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-tomb of St George, Lod, Israel

Love,
Matthew

Apr 28 – St Peter Chanel, SM, (1803-1841), Apostle to & Protomartyr of Oceania

Peter-Chanel

Anyone who has worked in loneliness, with great adaptation required, and with little apparent success, will find a kindred spirit in Peter Chanel.

Pierre Louis Marie Chanel was born on July 12, 1803 in La Potière near Cuet in the area of Belley, France.

He was ordained priest along with 24 others on 15 July 1827. From an early age Chanel had been thinking about going on the foreign missions and his intention was strengthened by the letters that arrived from a missionary in India.

The following year Chanel applied for permission to go to the missions. His application was not accepted and instead he was appointed for the next three years as parish priest of the run down parish of Crozet.  This parish was in dire straits and situated in a seamy district.  By the simple method of showing great devotion to the sick, Peter revitalized and reinvigorated the faith of the community surrounding the parish.

Seeming to take one step closer to his ambition of becoming a missionary, in 1831, Peter joined the newly forming Society of Mary (Marists).  Instead of being selected as a missionary, however, the Marists used his talents as the spiritual director at the Seminary of Belley, where he patiently and obediently worked for five years.

Finally, he was given permission to be a missionary and traveled to Western Oceania.  The bishop accompanying the missionaries left Peter and another Marist brother on Futuna Island in the New Hebrides, promising to return in six months. The interval lasted five years.

The group was initially well received by the island’s king, Niuliki, who had only recently forbidden cannibalism. Meanwhile Peter struggled with this new language and mastered it, making the difficult adjustment to life with whalers, traders and warring natives. Despite little apparent success and severe want, Peter maintained a serene and gentle spirit and endless patience and courage. A few natives had been baptized, a few more were being instructed.

Once the missionaries learned the local language and began preaching directly to the people, the king grew restive. He believed that Christianity would take away his prerogatives as high priest and king. When the king’s son, Meitala, sought to be baptized, the king sent a favored warrior, his son-in-law, Musumusu to “do whatever was necessary” to resolve the problem.

Musumusu initially went to Meitala and the two fought. Musumusu, injured in the fracas went to Chanel feigning need of medical attention. While Chanel tended him a group of others ransacked his house. Musumusu took an axe and clubbed Chanel on the head.  His body was cut to pieces by the natives.

Over a year later, for it took that long for news to travel of Peter’s murder and arrangements to be made, a chief named Maligi, who had not agreed to Chanel’s murder, agreed to disinter Fr. Chanel’s body, and brought it to the L’Allier, a French naval corvette, sent to retrieve Peter’s body, wrapped in several local mats.  Eventually, with proper and improved care taken of the remains, entrusted from trustworthy hand to trustworthy hand, Peter’s remains were returned to the motherhouse of the Society of Mary in Lyon, France, June 1, 1850.

Within two years after Peter’s death, some sources say five months, the whole island of Futuna became Catholic and has remained so. Musumusu himself converted, and as he lay dying, expressed the desire that he be buried outside the church at Poi so that those who came to revere Peter Chanel in the Church would walk over his grave to get to it.  As a kind of penitence a special action song and dance, known as the “eke”, was created by the people of Futuna shortly after Chanel’s death. The dance is still performed in Tonga.  Peter Chanel’s remains were returned to Futuna in 1977.

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Prayer

St Peter Chanel, you left your homeland to proclaim Jesus, Savior of the world, to the peoples of Oceania. Guided by the spirit of God, who is the strength of the gentle, you bore witness to love, even laying down your life. Grant that like you, we may live our daily life in peace, joy, and in love. May your prayer and example call forth from our midst many workers for the Gospel so that God’s kingdom may reach to the ends of the earth.  Amen.

“He loves us. He does what he teaches. He forgives his enemies. His teaching is good.”
– one of Saint Peter’s catechumens, explaining why he believed Peter’s teachings

Love,
Matthew

Apr 29 – St Catherine of Siena, O.P., (1347-1380), Doctor of the Church, Great Catholic Reformer & Mystic

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-fresco of St. Catherine of Siena – done by a family member who knew her, showing her true likeness

St Catherine of Siena, OP, one of the Great Reformers of the Catholic Church, publicly excoriated priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes.  She called them “wretches”, “idiots”, “blind hirelings”, and “devils incarnate”.  Catherine sought to shame the clergy into reform; her methods and her inspiration for reform were direct and challenging.

Catherine claimed that her reform rhetoric was revealed to her in a series of visions.  The legitimacy of these visions was reinforced by Catherine’s miracles.  From early in her career, she was known for her miraculous ability to subsist solely on the Eucharist, and was given the grace of the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, during her life, among other supernatural phenomena.

Born Catherine Benin in Siena, Italy, to Giacomo di Benincasa, a clothdyer, and Lapa Piagenti, possibly daughter of a local poet, in 1347, she was the last of 25 children.  A year after she was born, the Black Death, or bubonic plague, came to Siena for the first time.  Sometime around 1353, at the age of seven or eight, Catherine experienced a vision of Christ that led her to make a vow of virginity.

In about 1366, Catherine experienced what she described in her letters as a “Mystical Marriage” with Jesus. Her biographer also records that she was told by Christ to leave her withdrawn life and enter the public life of the world. Catherine dedicated much of her life to helping the ill and the poor, where she took care of them in hospitals or homes.

Her early pious activities in Siena attracted a group of followers, both women and men, while they also brought her to the attention of the Dominican Order, who had primary responsibility for the Inquisition in many regions.  Catherine was summoned by the Inquisition to Florence in 1374 to interrogate her for possible heresy.  After this visit, in which she was deemed sufficiently orthodox, she began travelling with her followers throughout northern and central Italy advocating reform of the clergy and the launch of a new crusade and advising people that repentance and renewal could be done through “the total love for God.”

Just as Catherine was not repulsed by the filth of her neighbors’ diseased bodies, she was also not repulsed by the corruption manifested in the body of Christ.  For most of her career, she tended to the sick, the hungry, and the dying, much like Blessed Teresa of Calcutta has done in our own day.  She wrote many letters to religious leaders and secular officials of her day encouraging and demanding, under penalty of perdition, reform, peace, order, atonement, repentance, reconciliation, and adherence to the Gospel.

Her other work, “The Dialogue of Divine Providence”, is one of the most well known works in Catholic mystical writing, referred to simply as St Catherine’s “Dialogue”, or “The Dialogue”.  Its premise is a dialogue between a soul who “rises up” to God and God, and was recorded by her followers between 1377 and 1378.  She opens with a description of sin and the need for penance.  She synthesizes both the apologetics of love and of humility under the rubric of the atonement for sin.

St Catherine died of an apparent stroke in Rome, in the spring of 1380, at the age of thirty-three.  She was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1970, one of only three women and thirty men to hold this title in the history of Christianity.

“Charity is the sweet and holy bond which links the soul with its Creator: it binds God with man and man with God.” – Saint Catherine of Siena

“Lord, take me from myself and give me to Yourself.” -St. Catherine of Siena

“Oh, inestimable Charity, sweet above all sweetness!… It seems, oh, Abyss of Charity, as if thou wert mad with love of Thy creature, as if Thou couldest not live without him, and yet Thou art our God who has no need of us.” – St Catherine of Siena

“Eternal Trinity, Godhead, mystery deep as the sea, You could give me no greater gift than the gift of Yourself. For You are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being. Yes, you are a fire that takes away the coldness, illuminates the mind with its light, and causes me to know Your truth. And I know that You are beauty and wisdom itself. The food of angels, You gave yourself to man in the fire of your love.”  -from “The Dialogue”

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-“The Ecstasy of St Catherine of Siena”, Pompeo Batoni, 1743, Museo di Villa Guinigi, Lucca, Italy

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-the mystical marriage of St Catherine of Siena, O.P., Clemente de Torres, ~1715, oil on canvas, H: 175 cm (68.9 in). W: 332 cm (130.7 in), private collection

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-mummified head of St Catherine of Siena, O.P., Church of San Dominico, Siena

Love,
Matthew

Apr 5 – St Vincent Ferrer, O.P., (1350-1419), “Angel of the Last Judgment”, Great Catholic Reformer, Patron of Reconciliation

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-St Vincent preaching

The polarization in the Church today is a mild breeze compared with the tornado that ripped the Church apart during the lifetime of this saint. If any saint is a patron of reconciliation, St. Vincent Ferrer, OP, is.  Born in Valencia, Spain, January 23, 1350, the fourth child and second son of William Ferrer and Constantia Miguel, and named in honor of St Vincent Martyr, patron of Valencia, whom we considered back in January of this year.

Vincent’s birth was anything but a quiet affair! It is said that his mother, who was accustomed to difficult pregnancies, experienced only an indescribable goodness and joy at the birth of her son. This experience was accompanied by Vincent’s father’s dream in which a Dominican friar announced to him that his son would one day enter the Order of Preachers and his fame would spread throughout the world. A poor blind woman, when giving thanks to the mother of the saint for alms, astounded her by prophesying, “O happy mother, it is an angel that you bear, and one day he will give me my sight!” It is recorded that the woman did receive her sight.

Despite parental opposition, Vincent Ferrer entered the Dominican Order in his native Spain at 19. After brilliant studies, he was ordained a priest by Cardinal Peter de Luna—who would figure tragically in his life.

Contemporary evidence pictures St. Vincent Ferrer to have been a man of medium height, with a lofty forehead and very distinct features that seemed to inspire a sense of reverence and awe in all who knew him. His hair was fair in color and shaven in the form of a monastic tonsure, which is said to have resembled an areola of glory around his head. His eyes were very dark, very expressive, and full of fire, which were tempered, however, by his ever gentle manner. Pale as was his ordinary color, it is said that he became slightly ruddy when preaching. Although his handsomeness faded in later years as a result of his arduous labors and the austerities that he practiced, it became changed rather than vanished. His countenance took on a transparent peacefulness or glow that seemed to be the reflection of the inward beauty of his great spirit that was aflame with the love of God and of his neighbor. His voice was strong and powerful, at times gentle, resonant, and vibrant as it seemed to search deeply the heart and to inspire fear when fear was needed and to soothe with exquisite tenderness when comfort was needed.

Of a very ardent nature, Vincent practiced the austerities of his Order with great energy. He was chosen prior of the Dominican house in Valencia shortly after his ordination.  During a severe fever in 1398, Vincent had a vision of Christ, Saint Dominic de Guzman and Saint Francis of Assisi. It was a life changing experience – Vincent received supernatural gifts and he believed that he was instructed in his vision to be a messenger of penance, an “angel of the apocalypse” sent to prepare humankind for the Judgment of Christ.

St. Vincent Ferrer was a great preacher who converted thousands in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, and Ireland. He was invited to preach in Muslim Granada.  He slept on the floor, had the gift of tongues (he spoke only Spanish, but all listeners understood him), lived in an endless fast, celebrated Mass daily, and was known as a miracle worker – reported to have brought a murdered man back to life to prove the power of Christianity to the onlookers, and he would heal people throughout a hospital just by praying in front of it. He worked so hard to build up the Church that he became the patron of people in building trades.

The Great Western Schism (1378-1417) divided Christianity first between two, then three, popes. Clement VII lived at Avignon in France, Urban VI in Rome. Vincent was convinced the election of Urban was invalid (though St. Catherine of Siena was just as devoted a supporter of the Roman pope). In the service of Cardinal de Luna, he worked to persuade Spaniards to follow Clement. When Clement died, Cardinal de Luna was elected at Avignon and became Benedict XIII.

At the beginning of the 14th century, following a disagreement between Pope Boniface VIII and King Philip the Fair(handsome) of France, who was immorally ambitious, a French pope, Clement V, was elected. Within four years, civil unrest in Rome and riots between rival factions drove Clement V to take shelter with the Dominican order in Avignon.  The move was intended to be temporary, but a number of factors combined to make it a longer sojourn.  Known as the “Babylonian Captivity” of the papacy, the schism was eventually resolved by the Council of Constance (1414-1418).  Cardinals from both sides had previously met at Pisa in 1409, and trying to end the schism, elected a third pope. The rift was not healed until the Council of Constance vacated all three seats and elected Martin V as pope in 1417.

Vincent worked for his friend, Benedict XIII, as apostolic penitentiary and Master of the Sacred Palace in Avignon. But the new pope did not resign as all candidates in the conclave had sworn to do. Benedict XIII remained stubborn despite being deserted by the French king and nearly all of the cardinals.

Vincent became disillusioned with his friend and church politics in general, and also very ill, but finally took up the work of simply “going through the world preaching Christ,” though he felt that any renewal in the Church depended on healing the schism. An eloquent and fiery preacher, he spent the last 20 years of his life spreading the Good News in Spain, France, Switzerland, the Low Countries and Lombardy, stressing the need of repentance and the fear of coming judgment. (He became known as the “Angel of the Judgment.”)

He tried, again, unsuccessfully, in 1408 and 1415, to persuade his former friend to resign. He finally concluded that Benedict was not the true pope. Though very ill, he mounted the pulpit before an assembly over which Benedict himself was presiding and thundered his denunciation of the man who had ordained him a priest. Benedict fled for his life, abandoned by those who had formerly supported him. Strangely, Vincent had no part in the Council of Constance, which ended the schism.

The split in the Church at the time of St Vincent Ferrer, OP, should have been fatal—36 long years of having two “heads.” We cannot imagine what condition the Church today would be in if, for that length of time, half the world had followed a succession of popes in Rome, and half, an equally “official” number of popes in, say, Rio de Janeiro. It is an ongoing miracle that the Church has not long since been shipwrecked on the rocks of pride and ignorance, greed and ambition. Contrary to Lowell’s words, “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne,” we believe that “truth is mighty, and it shall prevail”—but it sometimes takes a long time.

“Precious stone of virginity…
Flaming torch of charity…
Mirror of penance…
Trumpet of eternal salvation…
Flower of heavenly wisdom…
Vanquisher of demons.”

(-from the litanies of St. Vincent Ferrer, O.P.)

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-Polytptych Vicente Ferrer, by Giovanni Bellini, 1465, Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice

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-by Juan de Juanes in 1550-55

“Timete Deum Et Date Illi Honorem” – “Fear God and give Him honor!” – Rev. 14:7

Prayer

O my protector, St. Vincent Ferrer, as the eternal God has deposited in you an inexhaustible treasurer of grace and of supernatural virtues, hear my earnest petition, and help me with your intercession, more powerful now even than when you were on earth. Hence with blind confidence do I cast myself at your feet, there to place my requests for all those in whom I am concerned but more particularly for (special favor). O glorious saint, let not my confidence in you be deceived. Present for me, to the Divine Majesty, your suppliant prayers and watch over my soul. Should sorrow and trials increase, so also will my rejoicing increase, and may my patience grow with each day, that I may thus save my soul. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Apr 9 – St Casilda of Toledo, Virgin, (d. 1050 AD), Convert from Islam

one of Zurbarans Casildas
-another image of St Casilda of Toledo by Zuraban

St. Casilda was the daughter of a Muslim leader called Almacrin or Almamun in Toledo, Spain, in the 10th century. Casilda was herself raised as a Muslim and showed special kindness to Christian prisoners, carrying bread to them hidden in her clothes. Once, she was stopped by Muslim soldiers and asked to reveal what she was carrying in her skirt. When she began to show them, the bread turned into a bouquet of roses.

Casilda became ill as a young woman but was not convinced that any of the local Arab doctors could cure her. So, she made a pilgrimage to the shrine of San Vicenzo (Saint Vincent Martyr, whom we considered in January) in northern Spain. Like so many other people who made their way there—many of them suffering from hemorrhages—Casilda sought the healing waters of the shrine. We’re uncertain what illness brought her to the shrine, but we do know that she left it relieved of illness.

In response, she became a Christian and lived a life of solitude and penance not far from the miraculous spring. It’s said that she lived to be 100 years old. Her death likely occurred around the year 1050.

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-St Casilda of Toledo by Francisco de Zuraban, ~1640

Love,
Matthew