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Jul 20 – St Apollinaris of Ravenna, (d. 79 AD), Bishop & Martyr

In Galatians 2:11-14, we read “And when Kephas (Peter) came to Antioch…”, where Paul rebuked him for treating Gentile converts as inferior to Jewish Christians.  

The Liber Pontificalis (9th century) mentions Peter as having served as bishop of Antioch (near modern day Antakya, Turkey, bordering northwestern Syria) for seven years and having potentially left his family in the Greek (culturally, due to the conquests of Alexander the Great) city before his journey to Rome. [Claims of direct blood lineage from Simon Peter among the old population of Antioch existed in the 1st century and continue to exist today, notably by certain Semaan families of modern-day Syria and Lebanon.]

Historians have furnished other evidence of Peter’s sojourn in Antioch.  Subsequent tradition held that Peter had been the first Patriarch (bishop) of Antioch, before departing for Rome to become Patriarch of Rome, and the first Pope, where he, like nearly all of the Apostles, except John, would suffer martyrdom.  Electii to the papacy have always had the words spoken to them after their election, “Tu es Petrus…”, as in “…you are Peter…” Mt 16:18.

In the first century AD, Apollinaris, tradition holds, accompanied Peter from Antioch to Rome.  Peter consecrated him a bishop and appointed him to proclaim the Gospel in the city of Ravenna, Italy.  Apollinaris, like the Apostles, dedicated his time to public preaching and soon won many converts to Christ.

The story goes Apollinaris’ first miracle was on behalf of the blind son of a soldier who gave him hospitality when he first arrived in the city of Ravenna. When the apostle told him of the God he had come to preach and invited him to abandon the cult of idols, the soldier replied: “Stranger, if the God you preach is as powerful as you say, beg Him to give sight to my son, and I will believe in Him.” The Saint had the child brought and made the sign of the cross on his eyes as he prayed. The miracle was instantaneous, to the great amazement of all, and news of it spread rapidly. A day or so later, a military tribune sent for him to cure his wife from a long illness, which again he did. The house of the tribune became a center of apostolic action, and several persons sent their children to the Saint to instruct them there. Little by little a flourishing Christian assembly was formed, and priests and deacons were ordained. The Saint lived in community with the two priests and two deacons.

Nobody likes competition.  The pagan priests grew angry.  They attacked Apollinaris, beat him senseless, and left him for dead on the beach. He was cared for by members of the small Christian community he had founded and recovered.

Apparently, Apollinaris was not one to take a hint, or be easily dissuaded.  A young girl whom he cured after having her father promise to allow her full liberty to follow Christ, consecrated her virginity to God.  It was after this he was arrested, interrogated, again flogged, stretched on the rack and plunged into boiling oil. Alive still, he was exiled to Illyria, east of the Adriatic Sea.

He remained three years in that country, having survived a shipwreck with only a few persons whom he converted. Then he evangelized the various districts, with the aid of his converts. When a pagan oracle ceased to speak during his sojourn in one of these regions, the pagans again beat him and threw him and his companions on a ship which took them back to Italy.  Soon imprisoned, he escaped but was seized again and subjected to another flogging.

A third time he returned to Ravenna. Again he was captured, hacked with knives, had scalding water poured over his wounds, was beaten in the mouth with stones because he persisted in preaching, and was flung into a horrible dungeon, loaded with chains, to starve to death.

He and his flock were again exiled from Ravenna during the persecutions of Emperor Vespasian.   A fourth time, he returned to Ravenna.  On his way out of the city he was identified, arrested, and martyred by being run through with a sword.

He died on July 23rd of the year 79. His body lay first at Classis, four miles from Ravenna, and a church was built over his tomb; later the relics were returned to Ravenna. Pope Honorius had a church built to honor the name of Apollinaris in Rome, about the year 630 AD.  Centuries after his death, he appeared in a vision to Saint Romuald.


Saint Apollinaris was Bishop of Ravenna for twenty-six years.

 
File:Saint Apollenaris.jpg
-From the apse of the frescoed basilica of St Apollinaris in Ravenna, Italy
 
-remains of St Apollinaris, Ravenna, Italy
 

Meditation:
Following Jesus involves risks—sometimes the supreme risk of life itself. Martyrs are people who would rather accept the risk of death than deny the cornerstone of their whole life: faith in Jesus Christ. Everyone will die eventually—the persecutors and those persecuted. The question is what kind of a conscience people will bring before the Lord for judgment. Remembering the witness of past and present martyrs can help us make the often-small sacrifices that following Jesus today may require.

Love,
Matthew

Jul 8 – St Gregory Grassi (1833-1900) & Companions, The Martyrs of Taiyuanfu

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While China’s growing economic prowess and assumption of American manufacturing jobs may weigh heavily on our minds today, China at the turn of 19th century into the 20th was writhing under foreign occupation.

Christian missionaries have often gotten caught in the crossfire of wars against their own countries. When the governments of Britain, Germany, Russia and France forced substantial territorial concessions from the Chinese in 1898, anti-foreign sentiment grew very strong among many Chinese people. Throughout China during the Boxer Uprising, five bishops, 50 priests, two brothers, 15 sisters and 40,000 Chinese Christians were killed.

Gregory Grassi was born in Italy in 1833, ordained in 1856 and sent to China five years later. Grassi was later ordained Bishop of North Shanxi. One of the principal promoters of the Boxer movement was the governor Yu Hsien who resided at Taiyuanfu, Shansi. In this city was also the residence of the Franciscan Bishop Gregory Grassi, vicar apostolic of northern Shansi, and his coadjutor, Bishop Francis Fogolla. Here were also a seminary and an orphanage. The latter was conducted by Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary who had arrived only the previous year.

During the night of July 5, Yu Hsien’s soldiers appeared at the Franciscan mission and arrested the two bishops, two fathers and a brother, and seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Five Chinese seminarians, and eight Chinese Christians who were employed at the mission were also apprehended. In prison they were joined by one more Chinese Christian who went there voluntarily.

Four days later, on July 9, 1900, all of them were taken before the tribunal of Yu Hsien, some of them being slashed with swords on the way. Yu Hsien ordered them to be killed on the spot, and an indescribable scene followed. The soldiers closed in on the prisoners, struck them at random with their swords, wounded them right and left, cut off their arms and legs and heads. Thus died the 26 martyrs of Taiyuanfu, of whom all except three belonged to the First Order and Third Order Regular and Secular of St. Francis. They were beatified on January 3, 1943 and elevated to sainthood by JPII on 1 Oct 2000.

A list of the Martyrs of Taiyuanfu follows:

  • Saint Gregory Grassi, bishop, who was 68 years old,
  • Saint Francis Fogolla, bishop,
  • Saint Elias Facchini, a priest from Italy,
  • Saint Theodoric Balat, a priest from France,
  • Saint Andrew Bauer, a lay brother from Alsace.

Seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, the protomartyrs (first martyrs) of their congregation and its first members to be beatified.  All were between the ages of 25 and 35:

  • Saint Mother Mary Hermine Givot from France, the superior,
  • Saint Mother Mary of Peace Giuliani from Italy,
  • Saint Mother Mary Clare Nanetti from Italy,
  • Saint Sister Mary of Ste. Natalie Kerguin from France,
  • Saint Sister Mary of St. Just Moreau from France,
  • Saint Sister Mary Amandine Jeuris from Belgium,
  • Saint Sister Mary Adolphine Dierkx from Holland.
  • Five Chinese seminarians, ages 16 through 22.
  • Nine laymen who had been employed at the episcopal residence and mission, ages 29 to 62.
  • Fourteen of the martyrs were natives of China and 12 were Europeans.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”  – Tertullian (160 – 220 AD)

Despite the evidence of this persecution and continued persecution, the 146,575 Catholics served by the Franciscans in China in 1906 would grow to 303,760 by 1924 and were served by 282 Franciscans and 174 local priests.

LocationJuly9Martyrdom_402w
-site of martyrdom

Gregory Grassi
-St Gregory Grassi

“O God, Who desires that all men be saved and come to the acknowledgement of Truth, grant, we beseech You, through the intercession of Your blessed martyrs Bishops Gregory, Francis, and Antonine (Fantosati, who was stoned to death separately), and their companions, that all nations may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent, our Lord. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Jul 18 – St Camillus de Lellis, M.I. (1550-1614)

It would seem Camillus was going in the wrong direction from the very beginning.  Born to lose?  God writes straight with crooked lines.
At age 65, Camillus’ mother had a dream her unborn son would wear a red cross on his chest and lead others who also wore that same symbol.  Saint Camillus de Lellis was born on May 25, 1550 in Bucchianico, Italy. His mother, Camilla, was almost sixty at the time. She and her husband, Giovanni, who was of noble ancestry, had waited in vain for an heir—their only other son had died in childbirth—so when the midwife delivered a healthy baby boy, Giovanni positively leapt for joy, capering about the room. Camilla, always the sensible one, simply smiled and told her excitable spouse to act his age. A good Italian, he only gamboled the more, asking her how she could be so calm “seeing that we have such a big son we could send him to school this very day!”  Camilla would die while Camillus was still a child, when he was twelve.
Camillus’ father was an officer in both the Neapolitan and French royal armies, and so by necessity was away from home quite a bit.  Passed from extended family member to extended family member, Camillus was allowed to do pretty much as he chose.  He became a rebellious teenager and fell in with the street gangs of his time.   It is reported that, as a young man, Camillus was quite the physical specimen (6’6”) and powerfully built, towering above all others – a trait that served him well in his not so gentile surroundings.   He developed a very quarrelsome disposition.
In what seems to have been a unique departure from family tradition, Camillus was named after his mother, but in every other way he took after his father, the hot-blooded career soldier. Camilla could do nothing to keep him in line, and Giovanni was too often away from home, on campaign, to do so.
The boy repeatedly ran away from school. A tutor was hired, but could not manage him. Card playing and gambling became his passion and, eventually, an addiction. He was intelligent—known for his exceptional ability to recite poems from memory—but undisciplined and reckless. Finally, at seventeen, he went off to fight against the Turks with two of his cousins. His father, even in his old age, could not resist coming along.
As it happened, both father and son got sick on the way. Giovanni became gravely ill, received the last sacraments, and died. Camillus was left destitute, and, possibly as a result of his illness, a sore broke out on his right foot. Festering, it never healed, and became a painful, lifelong affliction.
And so he began his unhappy journey home. On the way, he chanced to meet two Franciscan friars, and, wondering at their apparent serenity and good cheer, he secretly, and perhaps rashly, vowed to become a friar himself. Going to see his uncle, who was superior of a Franciscan house in Aquila, he sought admittance to the community. The wise old man encouraged him, but said he was not yet ready to enter religious life.
After a period of convalescence at the hospital of San Giacomo in Rome, where he was eventually hired as a servant and then fired for constant quarrelling and gambling, Camillus went back to war and fought in the bitter assault on the Turkish fortress of Barbagno (on the coast of modern-day Montenegro). Returning with his pay, he immediately gambled it away, along with his cloak. So he went back to war. On a sea voyage to Naples, a storm almost took his life. This inspired him to renew his vow to become a Franciscan, but, having arrived at Naples, he once again gambled everything away, including the very shirt on his back. Reduced to utter poverty, he wandered about with a fellow soldier, Tiberio, and begged for food.
It was in this sorry state that he caught the attention of a certain Antonio di Nicastro, who offered him a job working for the Capuchins. At first, Camillus declined, perhaps because the prospect of doing manual labor was too much for his pride. Eventually, however, he reconsidered the offer, thinking this might be God’s way of allowing him to make good on his vow. But after several weeks on the job, he was so desperate to get back to his old life that he refused to wear some of the friars’ serge, offered as protection against the cold, because it was too much like donning the habit.
Maybe this was protesting too much, because very soon afterward the decisive moment came.
The Capuchins sent Camillus to fetch wine from a nearby friary. The superior there took him aside and, beneath a grape arbor, spoke to him about God and sin. He exhorted him, when tempted by evil thoughts, to “spit in the face of the devil.” Perhaps this roused the soldier’s combative spirit; certainly, the conversation roused his conscience. The next day, riding back on a mule with his cargo of wine, he could stand it no longer. He flung himself to the road and wept freely for all his sins.  Camillus later joined that same monastery; however, due to the recurring problems with his ulcerated leg, Camillus was forced to take leaves of absence and was finally dismissed.
Camillus returned home. He was never cured.  He moved into San Giacomo Hospital for the incurable, and eventually became its administrator. Repulsed by the slack, uncaring character of the attendants he encountered at San Giacomo, he sought to reform the hospital’s staff by finding people of character wishing to serve in charity. This was met with much resistance, but he also resolved with the help of his confessor, St. Phillip Neri, to receive Holy Orders, in order to more completely help the sick. Lacking education, Camillus began to study for the priesthood with children when he was 32 years old.
At thirty-two, he was as old as some of his teachers, and, at six-and-a-half feet tall, he towered over nearly all his contemporaries, especially the thirteen-year-old boys with whom he attended Latin class. They would laugh at their gigantic, bearded classmate and say, Venisti tarde! “You’ve come late!” Of course, if they had known their friend had once been a battle-hardened soldier with a violent temper, they might have spoken more respectfully. As it was, they just got an affectionate smile. Camillus devoted the rest of his life to helping the sick and was ordained in 1584.
The origin of the Red Cross symbol we are so familiar with today is the symbol in his mother’s dreams. It became the symbol for the Order of Ministers of the Sick (Fathers of a Good Death) which was founded by Saint Camillus in 1586.
The next twenty years would see great expansion of the Congregation, with 15 houses of priests and brothers, and also 8 hospitals being erected. Two major houses were established, and he oversaw the Congregation’s involvement in helping the sick on quarantined galleys in the harbor of Naples, from which several of his religious brothers died, becoming the first martyrs of charity.  Also accomplished was involvement in the wars in Croatia and Hungary, giving rise to the first military field ambulance. In 1591 Gregory XIV at last promoted the Congregation to an Order.
Camillus saw in the sick and the infirm the living image of Christ, and hoped the service he rendered them later in his life would be penance for his youthful waywardness.  During his final years, Camillus suffered from many other painful ailments, including a rupture, renal colic and stomach cramps.
St Camillus de Lellis is the patron of the sick, of hospitals, and of nurses.
“Let me begin with holy charity. It is the root of all the virtues and Camillus’ most characteristic trai
t. I can attest that he was on fire with this holy virtue – not only toward God, but also toward his fellow men, and especially toward the sick. The mere sight of the sick was enough to soften and melt his heart and make him utterly forget all the pleasures, enticements, and interests of this world.
When he was taking care of the sick, he seemed to spend and exhaust himself completely, so great was his devotion and compassion. He would have loved to take upon himself all their illness, their every affliction, could he but ease their pain and relieve their weakness. In the sick he saw the person of Christ. His reverence in their presence was as a great as if he were really and truly in the presence of his Lord.
To enkindle the enthusiasm of his religious brothers for this all-important virtue, he used to impress upon them the consoling words of Jesus Christ: “I was sick and you visited me.” He seemed to have these words truly graven on his heart, so often did he say them over and over again.
Great and all-embracing was Camillus’ charity. Not only the sick and dying, but every other needy or suffering human being found shelter in his deep and kind concern.” – from a biography of Saint Camillus by a contemporary
 

-St. Camillus de Lellis, St. Peter’s Basilica. (The book in St. Camillus’s right hand displays John 15:13: “No man has greater love than this, that he lay down his life of his friends.” It’s a fitting verse since, from the time of their founding, the Camillians have taken a fourth vow: to minister to the sick even at risk to their own lives. Indeed, during St. Camillus’s own lifetime, several of his followers died as a direct result of caring for victims of the Plague. The distinctive red cross on their habit, along with their history of caring for those afflicted by war and natural disasters, has led some to call the Camillians “the original Red Cross.”)
 

-the heart of St Camillus de Lellis
 
Love, 
Matthew

Jul 10 – St Veronica Giuliani (1660-1727)

Veronica’s desire to be like Christ crucified was answered with the stigmata.  Baptized Ursula, she was born in Mercatello in the Duchy of Urbino, Italy, in 1660.  

We would think it sentimental today, but Veronica’s mother, as she lay dying while Veronica was still a child, would have understood it more practically, wanted divine protection for her five children after she was gone.  When dying Benedetta (nee Mancini) Guiliani, Veronica’s mother, she called her five daughters to her bedside and entrusted each of them to one of the five wounds of Jesus. Ursula (Veronica) was entrusted through prayer to the wound below Christ’s heart, created by the Roman soldier testing to see whether the Lord was actually dead yet, from which blood and water flowed.

It is said Ursula showed marvelous signs of sanctity from an early age.  It is recorded when eighteen months old, Ursula chastised a shopkeeper who was serving a false measure of oil, and said, saying distinctly, “Do justice, God sees you!”

Ursula took the religious name Veronica.  (A religious name is a new name those who enter consecrated/religious life often take to signify and symbolize their death, poetically and spiritually, to their former life and now the beginning of their new life dedicated to serving God.)  Ursula took the name Veronica, in honor of the Passion and the woman whom tradition (although not Scripture) holds wiped the face of Jesus as he carried His cross, and an image of the Lord’s face was left on her cloth.  Ursula entered the Poor Clares directed by the Capuchins at Citttidi Castello, Umbria, in 1677. She remained there for the rest of her life and served as novice mistress for thirty-four years.

Her father, Francesco, an official in the local government, had wanted her to marry, but she convinced him to allow her to become a nun. In her first years in the monastery, Veronica worked in the kitchen, infirmary, sacristy and served as portress. At the age of 34, she was made novice mistress, a position she held for 22 years. When she was 37, Veronica received the stigmata, literally, mystically – the wounds of Christ Himself – considered by Catholics a great honor and a sign of personal sanctity given by the Lord Himself to only a very few with whom He has a special relationship. Life was not the same after that.

In our modern times, Padre Pio (1887-1968) and Theresa Neumann (1898-1962) are two examples regularly inspected by modern doctors and theologians.  St Francis of Assisi is another historical example.   Dr. Imbert Gourbeyre, a Paris doctor, researched and compiled a two volume work which says that (up to that date of 1894) there were 321 historically recorded stigmatists. (Stigmata is no fluke or aberration of history.) The Catholic church had at that point only canonized (officially declared as saints) 62 of them.

As a mystic, recipient of a stigmata in 1697, and visions, the accounts of which are quite detailed, Church authorities in Rome wanted to test Veronica’s authenticity and so conducted an investigation.  We get the expression “devil’s advocate” from such investigations of the Church and the proceedings of canonizations.  A skilled and knowledgeable Church official is appointed to be the “prosecutor” in opposition to the claimant or representative (postulator of the cause) of the deceased holy person reputed to have direct Divine experience or heroic Christian virtue. Veronica lost the office of novice mistress temporarily and was not allowed to attend Mass except on Sundays or holy days. She submitted to many medical examinations and treatments of the day and the scorn of her peers.  She never tried to prove the reality of the wounds, merely suffering through their pain.

Through all of this Veronica did not become bitter, and the investigation eventually restored her as novice mistress. She impressed her fellow nuns by remaining remarkably practical despite her numerous ecstatic experiences. Veronica was named abbess of the convent in 1716, remaining in that role until her death.

She is called one of the most extraordinary mystics of her era. Veronica was very devoted to the Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart.   Her ten volume “Diary of the Passion” catalogues her mystical experiences.

St Veronica Giuliani is one of the “Incorruptibles”, those saints who have died but whose bodies have not decayed.

 
 
Love,
Matthew

Jul 13 – St Clelia Barbieri (1847-1870), Patroness of those ridiculed for their piety

Clelia Barbieri was born to Giacinta Nannetti and Giuseppe Barbieri, on February 13th, 1847 in a village called “Budrie” of San Giovanni in Persiceto, in the outskirts of Bologna, Italy.

Her parents were of very different origins: Giuseppe Barbieri came from perhaps the poorest family of “Budrie”, while Giacinta from the most important family in town. Giuseppe worked as servant for Giacinta’s uncle, the district’s medical doctor, while she was the daughter of the well-to-do Pietro Nannetti.

After their much-contested wedding, the wealthy Giacinta accepted the poverty of a laborer’s life and moved from a comfortable home to the humble cottage of her father-in-law. Giacinta taught Clelia to love God early in her life placing in her heart the desire for sanctity. One day Clelia asked her, “Mother, how can I become a saint?”

In 1855, during a cholera epidemic, the then eight-year-old Clelia lost her father and through the generosity of her uncle, the doctor, she, her mother and younger sister Ernestina moved into a more comfortable house near the parish church.

At an early age, Clelia began to spend her time in contemplative prayer.  There existed in the Church at that time a group called “The Christian Catechism Workers” who were mainly men whose aim it was to combat the prevalent religious negligence of the times.

Clelia joined the The Workers of Christian Catechism as an assistant teacher at the age of 14. She became such an inspirational leader in the community that the parish priest, Don Gaetano Guido, entrusted her with teaching and guiding young girls in Christian doctrine. By the time she was 17, she rejected marriage offers, opting instead to lead a pious life.

Clelia eventually founded a separate group, the Suore Minime dell’Addolorata (Congregation of Minims of the Sorrowful Mother) May 1st, 1868 when she was only 21. The Congregation concentrates on ministering in hospitals and elementary schools, to the sick, the aged, the lonely, and a prayer ministry for the poor.

Two years after founding the order, Clelia Barieiri died of tuberculosis on July 13th, 1870.

The religious order of Suore Minime dell’Addolorata continues to operate 35 community houses in Italy, India and Tanzania.

Being only twenty-three at the time of her death, Clelia Barbieri is the youngest founder of a religious community in the history of the Church.

After Clelia’s death, an unusual and unexplained occurrence has often been reported in the various parishes she visited and houses in which her order is located. Her voice is often heard in readings and hymns. The voice never speaks alone but is always heard as part of a group. Throughout the years, people from various backgrounds have reported hearing the voice which is described as “unlike any of this earth”. The first reported occurrence happened one year after her death when sisters of her order were in evening prayer.

Prayer for the intercession of St Clelia Barbieri:

Father, in Clelia Barbieri, You give the world an example of Gospel living, love of You, and the perfection of charity. She celebrated and manifested her love of You in the service of others.  You call us to imitate her and to follow her example.

We ask You for the grace to do so, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns forever and ever.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Jun 1 – St Justin Martyr, (100-165 AD)

Justin_Trial1

All the voices around Justin clamored that they had the truth he sought so desperately. He had listened to them all since he first came to Rome to get his education. They each shouted that they held the one and only answer but he felt no closer to the truth than when he had started his studies. He had left the Stoic master behind but the Stoics valued discipline as truth and thought discussion of God unnecessary. He had rejected the Peripatetic who seemed more interested in money than discussion. The Pythagorean had rejected him because he didn’t know enough music and geometry — the things that would lead him to truth. He had found some joy with the Platonists because the contemplation of ideas gave wings to his mind, but they had promised wisdom would let him see God and so, where was God?

There was one place that Justin always escaped to in order to get away from these shouting, confusing voices and search out the quiet inner voice that led him to truth. This place was a lonely spot, a path that seemed made for him alone in a field by the sea. So sure was he of the isolation of his retreat that he was shocked one day to find an old man following him.

The old man was not searching for truth but for some of his family. Nonetheless they began a discussion in which Justin identified himself as a philologian, a lover of reason. The old man challenged him — why was he not a lover of truth, a lover of deeds. Justin told him that reason led to truth, and philosophy led to happiness. This was certainly an interesting thing for Justin to say since he had not found the truth in the study of reason or happiness in his quest among the philosophers! Perhaps the old man sensed this for he asked for Justin’s definition of philosophy and of happiness.

In the long discussion that followed, Justin spoke eloquently to the old man’s searching questions but even Justin had to admit that philosophers may talk about God but had never seen him, may discuss the soul but didn’t really know it. But if the philosophers whom Justin admired and followed couldn’t, then nobody could, right?

The old man told him about the ancient prophets, the Hebrew prophets, who had talked not of ideas but of what they had seen and heard, what they knew and experienced. And this was God. The old man ended the conversation by telling Justin to pray that the gates of light be opened to him.

Inflamed by this conversation, Justin sought out the Scriptures and came to love them. Christ words “possess a terrible power in themselves, and are sufficient to inspire those who turn aside from the path of rectitude with awe; while the sweetest rest is afforded those who make a diligent practice of them.”

Why hadn’t Justin known about Christianity before with as much as he had studied? He had heard about it, the way other pagans of second century Rome had, by the rumors and accusations that surrounded the persecution of Christians. The fearlessness of their actions made him doubt the gossip, but he had nothing else to go by. Christians at that time kept their beliefs secret. They were so afraid that outsiders would trample on their sacred faith and desecrate their mysteries that they wouldn’t tell anyone about their beliefs — even to counteract outright lies. To be honest, there was good reason for their fears — many actors for example performed obscene parodies of Christian ritual for pagan audiences, for example.

But Justin believed differently. He had been one of those outsiders — not someone looking for trouble, but someone earnestly searching for the truth. The truth had been hidden from him by this fear of theirs. And he believed there were many others like him. He exhorted them that Christians had an obligation to speak of their faith, to witness to others about their faith and their mysteries.

Justin never ended his quest for religious truth even when he converted to Christianity at the age of thirty after years of studying various pagan philosophies.

As a young man, he was principally attracted to the school of Plato. However, he found that the Christian religion answered the great questions about life and existence better than the philosophers.

Upon his conversion he continued to wear the philosopher’s mantle, and became the first Christian philosopher. He combined the Christian religion with the best elements in Greek philosophy. In his view, philosophy was a pedagogue of Christ, an educator that was to lead one to Christ.

Justin is known as an apologist, not someone who apologizes, but rather someone who defends in writing the Christian religion against the attacks and misunderstandings of the pagans. Two of his so-called apologies have come down to us; they are addressed to the Roman emperor and to the Senate.  He also opened a school of debate in Rome.  Naturally, he came to the attention of the Roman authorities.

Justin was arrested during the persecution of Emperor Marcus Aurelius along with four other Christians:  Chariton, Charites, Paeon, and Liberianus.

“The saints were seized and brought before the prefect of Rome, whose name was Rusticus. As they stood before the judgment seat, Rusticus the prefect commanded Justin, “Above all, have faith in the gods and obey the emperors.”

Justin replied, “We cannot be accused or condemned for obeying the commands of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Rusticus said, “What system of teaching do you profess?”

Justin said, “I have tried to learn about every system, but I have accepted the true doctrines of the Christians, though these are not approved by those who are held fast by error.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “Are those doctrines approved by you, wretch that you are?”

Justin said, “Yes, for I follow them with their correct teaching.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “What sort of teaching is that?”

Justin said, “Worship the God of the Christians. We hold him to be from the beginning the one creator and maker of the whole creation, of things seen and things unseen. We worship also the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Rusticus said, “You are a Christian, then?”

Justin said, “Yes, I am a Christian.”

The prefect said to Justin, “You are called a learned man and think you know what is true teaching. Listen: if you were scourged and beheaded, are you convinced that you would go up to heaven?”

Justin said, “I hope that I shall enter God’s house if I suffer in that way. For I know that God’s favor is stored up until the end of the whole world for all who have lived good lives.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “Do you have an idea that you will go up to heaven to receive some suitable rewards?”

Justin said, “It is not an idea that I have; it is something I know well and hold to be most certain.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “Now let us come to the point at issue, which is necessary and urgent. Gather round then and with one accord offer sacrifice to the gods.”

Justin said, “No one who is right-thinking stoops from true worship to false worship.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “If you do not do as you are commanded you will be tortured without mercy.”

Justin said, “We hope to suffer torment for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so be saved.” In the same way the other martyrs also said, “Do what you will. We are Christians; we do not offer sacrifice to idols.”

The prefect Rusticus pronounced sentence, saying, “Let those who have refused to sacrifice to the gods and to obey the command of the emperor be scourged and led away to suffer capital punishment according to the ruling of the laws.” Glorifying God, the holy martyrs were beheaded, and so fulfilled their witness of martyrdom in confessing their faith in their Savior.” – from the Acts of the Martyrdom of Saint Justin and his Companions

“We pray for our enemies; we seek to persuade those who hate us without cause to live conformably to the goodly precepts of Christ, that they may become partakers with us of the joyful hope of blessings from God, the Lord of all.”
―St. Justin Martyr

“By examining the tongue of a patient, physicians find out the diseases of the body, and philosophers the diseases of the mind.”
―St. Justin Martyr

“Wherein is it possible for us, wicked and impious creatures, to be justified, except in the only Son of God? O sweet reconciliation! O untraceable ministry! O unlooked-for blessing! that the wickedness of many should be hidden in one godly and righteous man, and the righteousness of one justify a host of sinners!”
―St. Justin Martyr

“No one in his right mind gives up piety for impiety.”
~ Justin Martyr, apologist, Saint; in answer to the Prefect Rusticus who had demanded sacrifice to the Roman gods; from the trial transcript by Tatian (A.D. 165).

Prayer to St Justin Martyr:
Saint Justin Martyr, pray that in our search for the Truth, God will open the gates of light for us the way He did for you and give us the wisdom no human being can give. Amen

Love,
Matthew

Jun 16 – St John Francis Regis, SJ (1597-1640)

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John Francis Regis was born in Fontcouverte, Aude, Languedoc, France, January 31, 1597.  It is reported that upon hearing instruction from his mother on the punishments of hell and the peril of damnation, the five year old John Francis fainted.

Being the son of a wealthy French merchant, he was educated at the Jesuit college at Beziers, and at Cahors, Le Puy, Auch, and Tournon.  Descartes was a contemporary of John’s, and was similarly being educated by the Jesuits in one of their other fifty or so colleges in France at the same time.  John joined the Jesuits at age 18, after briefly considering a conversion to Buddhism.  He is best known for his ability as a preacher.  He was such a good catechist, the children whom he taught brought their parents back to the Church.

He began his life’s work tending to plague victims.  He labored for the conversion of the Huguenots – French Calvinists.  He visited hospitals, sought material assistance for the poor, he created housing and employment as lace-makers for prostitutes wishing to reform their lives.  He endured many hardships.

As we all know, “no good deed goes unpunished”, and so it was with John Francis.  At one point there was a movement against him by some of his fellow Jesuits, who felt his zealous “signs of simplicity and indiscretion (in his charity)” did not best showcase their order nor follow its teachings. The bishop of the diocese where Regis was giving missions resulting in many conversions, however, recognized there was more jealousy than theology in the complaint, and ignored it. Regis asked for transfer to Canada where he could preach without worries about the politics of the Order, but he was ordered to continue his good works in the French countryside.

Another famous French saint, St John Vianney, Cure’ d’Ars & renowned confessor, Patron Saint of Priests, at the age of twenty, went on pilgrimage to the shrine and remains of St John Francis Regis in 1806.  It was the firm belief of this latter saint all his life that his vocation to the priesthood was due to the intercession of St John Francis Regis.

Knowing the end was near in late December, 1640, John Francis’ last words were, “Into Thy hands, I commend my spirit.”

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The portrait of St. John Francis Regis depicts him preaching to the French peasantry. The painting is full of symbolism, including the wampum belt, a tribal record treasured by the Iroquois. St. Regis wanted to preach and minister to the Indians and bring them to Catholicism.

Despite the fact that he never left France, Canadian Catholic Mohawk Indians, members of one of the original Five Nations of the Iroquois, founded a settlement in New York 1755 and named it St. Regis. The settlement, which straddles the St. Lawrence River, the international border between Canada and the United States, later became the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation.

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Le Puy-en-Velay, altar and statue of St.Jean-François Régis, Notre-Dame du Collège Church. -Altar of St John Francis Regis

Prayer

St John Francis
You felt a burning love
You could not, nor desired to ignore
Rather you left all things
When you heard the words, “Follow Me!”

You led others
To the One you followed,
Help us to follow
The same Master
All our days.

Amen.

When St John Francis was struck in the face by a sinner whom he was reproving, he replied, “If you only knew me, you would give me much more than that.”

Love,
Matthew

Jun 20 – Msgr Georges LeMaitre, (1894-1966), Priest, Physicist, Father of the “Big Bang” Theory

Not a saint, yet, but a personal and professional hero of mine.

Lemaitre

Monsignor Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître (July 17, 1894 – June 20, 1966) was a Belgian Roman Catholic priest, honorary prelate, professor of physics and astronomer at the Catholic University of Leuven.

Lemaître proposed what became known as the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe, which he called his ‘hypothesis of the primeval atom’.

Lemaitre was a pioneer in applying Einstein’s theory of general relativity to cosmology. He introduced the theoretical Hubble’s law in 1927 as a generic phenomena in relativistic cosmology. In 1931, he published his primeval atom theory in Nature. At the time, Einstein had expressed skepticism about Lemaître’s 1927 paper.

But it is Lemaître’s theory that changed the course of science.  Lemaître worked with astronomers and designed his theory to explain the observed redshift of galaxies, have testable implications, the linear relation beween distances and velocities, and to be in accord with observations of the time.

Lemaître proposed his theory at an opportune time, since Edwin Hubble would soon publish his velocity-distance relation that strongly supported an expanding universe and, consequently, the Big Bang theory. In fact, Lemaître’s 1927 paper derived what became known as Hubble’s Law, two years before Hubble did so, and provided an estimate of the numerical value of the constant. However, the data used by Lemaitre do not allow him to prove that there was an actual linear relation, a result achieved by Hubble.

Because Lemaître spent his entire career in Europe, his contributions are not as well known in the United States (USA) as those of Hubble or Einstein, men well known in the USA by virtue of residing there.

Lemaître recognized expanding solutions within relativistic cosmologies. Lemaître is the first one to propose that the expansion is the explanation for the redshift of galaxies. He further concluded that an initial “creation-like” event must have occurred.

Einstein at first dismissed, privately, Lemaître out of hand, saying that not all mathematics leads to correct theories. After Hubble’s discovery was published, Einstein quickly and publicly endorsed Lemaître’s theory, helping both the theory and its proposer get fast recognition.

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In 1933, Lemaître found an important inhomogeneous solution of Einstein’s field equations describing a spherical dust cloud, the Lemaitre-Tolman metric.

At the end of his life, he was devoted more and more to numerical calculation. He was in fact a remarkable algebraicist and arithmetical calculator. Since 1930, he used the most powerful calculating machines of the time like the Mercedes. In 1958, he introduced at the University a Burroughs E 101, the University’s first electronic computer. Lemaître kept a strong interest in the development of computers and, even more, in the problems of language and programming. This interest grew with age until it absorbed him almost completely.

In 1951 Pope Pius XII took the position that the scientific theory of the Big Bang confirmed the biblical creation story. This apparently caused great embarrassment, even to horror, for Lemaitre, who met with the Pope very soon after to caution the Holy Father on drawing parallels between a scientific theory and the book of Genesis.  The Pope appointed LeMaitre to the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences.  John XXIII made him its president.

Georges LeMaitre, after having received numerous scientific awards in the latter part of his career for his work, died on June 20, 1966, shortly after having learned of the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation, which provided further evidence for his intuitions about the birth of the Universe.

“We can compare space-time to an open, conic cup…The bottom of the cup is the origin of atomic disintegration; it is the first instant at the bottom of space-time, the now which has no yesterday because, yesterday, there was no space.”
-Msgr Georges LeMaitre, The Primeval Atom

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Technically yours, 🙂
Matthew

Jun 7, or 19th – Venerable Matt Talbot, OFS, (1856-1925), Intercessor for Addicts

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“Non nobis, Domine!!!” -Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to Your Name give the GLORY!!!” -Ps 115:1

It is more rare to find someone who doubts the existence of Hell; Hell being so much easier to believe in. There are so many practical, real, and terrifying examples here on Earth. Matthew Talbot is an intercessor and exemplar for those who struggle with addiction: to drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, pride, power, gossip/scandal, greed, vanity, envy, wrath, narcissism, doubt, willfulness, ego, cynicism, bad habits/sins, lust, gluttony, even god, in a dark way, where actually, god is ourselves, or far worse, but that’s pretty bad enough.

Jesus resurrects from the dead, from the corruption, darkness, and silence of the tomb; Himself and us, into endless light, freshness, and rejoicing. Seek Him, while He may be found. He invites you, passionately. He does.

Matthew Talbot, “the saint in overalls”, was born on May 2, 1856, the second of 12 siblings,  in Dublin, Ireland. He had three sisters and nine brothers, three  of whom died young. His father Charles was a dockworker and his  mother, Elizabeth, was a housewife. From his early teens until age 28 Matt’s only aim in life was to be liquor. But from that point forward, his only aim was God.

Compulsory school attendance was not in force, and Matt never attended any school regularly.  When Matthew was about 12  years old, he got his first job, at E & J Burke Wine Merchants, and started to drink alcohol. His father was a known alcoholic as well as all his brothers.  Charles tried to dissuade Matthew with severe  punishments but without success.

Matthew, a regular guy if ever there was one, then worked as a messenger boy and then transferred to another messenger job at the same place his father worked. After working there for three years, he became a bricklayer’s laborer. He was a hodman, which meant he fetched mortar and bricks for the bricklayers. He was considered “the best hodman in Dublin.”

As he grew into an adult, he continued to drink excessively,  He continued to work but spent all his wages on heavy drinking.  When he got drunk, he became very hot-tempered, got into fights, and swore. He became so desperate for more drinks that he would buy drinks on credit, sell his boots or possessions, or steal people’s possession so he could exchange it for more drinks. He refused to listen to his mother’s plea to stop drinking. He stole the violin from a blind fiddler and pawned it.  He eventually lost his own self-respect. One day when he was broke, he loitered around a street corner waiting for his “friends”, who  were leaving work after they were paid their wages. He had hoped  that they would invite him for a drink but they ignored him. Dejected, humiliated, and devastated,  he went home and publicly resolved to his mother, “I’m going  to take the pledge.” His mother smiled and responded, “Go, in God’s name, but don’t take it unless you are going to keep  it.” As Matthew was leaving, she continued, “May God give you strength to keep it.”

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Matthew went straight to confession at Clonliffe College and took a pledge not to drink for three months. The next day he went back to Church and received communion for the first time in years.  From that moment on, in 1884 when he was 28 years old, he became  a new man. After he successfully fulfilled his pledge for three months, he made a life long pledge. He even made a pledge to give up his pipe and tobacco. He used to use about seven ounces of tobacco a week. He said to the late Sean T. O’Ceallaigh, former President of Ireland, that it cost him more to give up tobacco than to give up alcohol.

The newly converted Matthew never swore.  A member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Matt made sure he never carried money with him to help himself avoid temptation.   He was good humored and amicable to everyone. He continued to work as a hodman and then as a laborer for T&C Martins Lumberyard.  He used his wages to pay back all his debts. He lived modestly and his home was very spartan.  He developed into a very pious individual who prayed every chance he got. He attended Mass every morning and made devotions like the Stations of the Cross or devotions to the Blessed Mother in the evenings. He fasted, performed acts of mortification, and financially  supported many religious organizations. He read biographies of St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Catherine of Sienna. He later joined the Third Order of St. Francis on October  18, 1891 even though a young pious girl proposed to marry him.  Physically, he suffered from kidney and heart ailments. During the two times he was hospitalized, he spent much time in Eucharistic adoration in the hospital chapel. Eventually, Matthew died suddenly of heart failure on June 7, 1925 while walking to Mass. He was 69 years old.

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On his body, he was found wearing the cilice.  While penitential practice has fallen out of fashion, even in Catholic circles, in our modern age, these practices are ancient.  Though not popular or fun, penance is the cure for sin.  It must always be reasonably moderated and consultation with a healthy spiritual director is always wise.

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Penance changes us, allows us to reflect on our errant ways, and is a temporal preventative against a permanent disposition.  Even as the athlete trains his body and undergoes physical discomfort for the sake of future performance, so the spiritual athlete does the same.  We are creatures of body, mind, and spirit, and so the thinking goes, our engagement in spiritual reform cannot be purely intellectual.  Physical discomforts, such as fasting or abstaining from certain foods, make us mindful.  As humans, we are all too likely, it is our nature, not to pay attention.  It is hard work.

Piety also has fallen out of fashion in our modern age.  Matt knelt outside the doors of his church for hours every morning.  Once inside, he would prostrate himself on the floor in the form of a cross before entering his pew. Every Sunday, he spent seven hours in Church without moving, “his arms crossed, his elbows not resting on anything, his body from the knees up as rigid and straight as the candles on the altar.”  He did this every Sunday for 40 years.  One of his favorite little prayers, which he sometimes kept written on his hand, was “O blessed Mother, obtain for me from Jesus that I may participate in His folly.”

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-statue in Dublin honoring Venerable Matt Talbot, near Matt Talbot Bridge

“Three things I cannot escape: the eye of God, the voice  of conscience, the stroke of death. In company, guard your tongue.  In your family, guard your temper. When alone guard your thoughts.”

“Never look down on a man, who cannot give up the drink”, he told his sister, “it is easier to get out of hell!”.

“It is constancy that God seeks.”
-Venerable Matt Talbot

Prayer for the intercession of Matt Talbot:

“May Matt Talbot’s triumph over addiction, bring hope to our community and strength to our hearts, may he intercede for …name… who struggles with his/her addiction, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

PRAYER FOR THE ADDICTED

God of mercy, we bless You in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who ministers to all who come to Him. Give Your strength to N., Your servant, bound by the chains of addiction. Enfold himlher in Your love and restore himlher to the freedom of God’s children. Lord, look with compassion on all those who have lost their health and freedom. Restore to them the assurance of Your unfailing mercy, and strengthen them in the work of recovery. To those who care for them, grant patient understanding and a love that perseveres. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Official Prayer for the Canonization of Blessed Matt Talbot

“Lord, in your servant, Matt Talbot you have given us a wonderful example of triumph over addiction, of devotion to duty, and of lifelong reverence of the Holy Sacrament. May his life of prayer and penance give us courage to take up our crosses and follow in the footsteps of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Father, if it be Your will that Your beloved servant should be glorified by Your Church, make known by Your heavenly favours the power he enjoys in Your sight. We ask this through the same Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

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-Matt’s current resting place, the coffin was moved in 1972 and the remains now rest in Our Lady of Lourdes Church,
Sean MacDermott St., Dublin.

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-exhumed

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-formal inspection of the remains as official part of the beatification/canonization process

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-Matt’s original marker. He was originally buried in a poorer part of Glasnevin Cemetery.

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-inspection of Matt’s remains upon transfer

On 8 June 1925, the following news item appeared in the Irish Independent:

“Unknown Man’s Death:

An elderly man collapsed in Granby Lane [Dublin] yesterday, and being taken to Jervis Street Hospital he was found to be dead. He was wearing a tweed suit, but there was nothing to indicate who he was.

What was not reported was the unusual discovery when he was taken to hospital. He was wearing heavy chains: some wrapped around his legs, others on his body. Mortuary staff puzzled over not just who he was but, also, the meaning of the chains.

The newspaper report had appeared on a Monday morning. Later that night, police ushered a woman into the mortuary. She identified the body as that of her brother: Matt Talbot. A nursing nun present asked about the chains. The dead man’s sister replied simply that it was something he wore, and with that, they were placed in the coffin and the lid closed.

That was not the whole story though; the chains were part of the mystery of the man who had died. They were as symbolic as they were real. The man’s life having been a ‘crossing over’ from the servitude of vice to the freedom of those in chains for Christ.

Talbot was born in 1856 into a large Catholic family living in semi-poverty in Dublin. His schooling was slight. He was barely literate when he went to work full-time aged just 11 years old. For the rest of his life his occupation was as an unskilled labourer. He was exposed to harsh working conditions, at times harsh bosses and to a social environment that necessitated some form of release from this – this was found by many in the city’s public houses. Matt was no different, so much so that by his teenage years he was hopelessly addicted to alcohol.

Matt had the reputation of being a hard worker. Increasingly, however, that work ethic was simply the means to finance his ‘hard drinking’. As it grips, vice of whatever sort is hard to counter, especially when the will to oppose it diminishes, so it was with Matt Talbot – what had began as an escape soon became a prison of moral and spiritual degradation. And, the more time he spent there the more Matt needed alcohol to shield him from that reality. Those around watched and, shaking their heads, concluded that Talbot was a lost cause. But they were to be proved wrong and in a most unexpected way.

Fittingly, the second phase of Matt’s life began outside a pub. That day he had no money, and, therefore, hoped that some of his drinking fraternity would stand him a drink. As each acquaintance filed past, none offered to buy him anything. On that summer’s day in 1884, something occurred that was to change Matt Talbot forever. Humiliated by the indifference of his erstwhile friends, he turned and walked straight home. His mother was surprised to see him – at that early hour, and sober. He proceeded to clean himself up before announcing he was going to a nearby seminary to ‘take the pledge’ – a promise to abstain from all alcohol. His mother was mystified by this and fearful. She knew that pledges made to God were not something to be taken lightly. She counselled him against doing any such thing unless he was intent on persevering. He listened, and then left.

Matt did take the pledge that day. He also went to Confession. It was as dramatic as it was decisive. It had all the hallmarks of a genuine conversion, one as sincere as it was needed. Nevertheless, a conversion takes but a moment, the work of sanctity a lifetime: after years of drunkenness, still arraigned against Matt was a weakness of character and a world that revolved around alcohol. It looked as if the odds were stacked against him, but this was not solely a human undertaking. Into this ‘land of captivity’, from ‘across the Jordan’, there came invisible armies to fight alongside this now embattled soul, one embarked upon a war of liberation. This was not a new spiritual combat, but rather one that had commenced many years previously when this poor man’s parents brought a child to a parish church and asked for baptism in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

After his conversion, not much changed, outwardly at least: Matt continued with his employment in the docks. He continued to work hard, now respected more than ever by his fellow workers and employers who noticed that he had started to give his wages to his mother rather than straight to a publican. Nevertheless, work alone cannot satisfy the human heart. Previously, when not working his life had been many hours spent in public houses, but, now, he had turned his back on that. He had been ‘born anew’, but like a newborn was vulnerable to the world he inhabited. With no material substance to cling to he turned inward, to the Spirit that dwells within each baptised soul. And, as he did so, he commenced upon an adventure that few could have imagined possible.

From then on, along the Dublin streets, there moved a mystic soul. Each morning at 5AM, dressed in workman’s clothes a man knelt outside a city church waiting for the doors to open and the first Mass to begin. After the Holy Sacrifice, he would pray for a time before going to one of the timber yards near the docks. There, he laboured all day; but there were periods in the day when lulls and breaks would occur. Whilst his fellow workers gossiped or smoked, Matt chose to be alone, knelt in prayer in a hidden part of a workshop until the call came to return to his labors.

***

Each evening, when work was finished, Matt walked home with his fellow workers. They knew their companion’s free time was spent praying in some city church before the Blessed Sacrament. Often he asked them to join him in making a visit to Our Blessed Lord. Some did. After a short while, however, they would leave with Matt still knelt in the gathering twilight. Eventually, when at night he did return home it was to yet more prayer – and mortification. His bed was a plank of wood, a piece of that same material his pillow. Although respected by those he lived amongst and worked alongside, and not unfriendly, he had few visitors. Those who did encounter him felt he was not quite of this world; they were right; he was travelling ever inwards on a mystical journey to a freedom he could never have dreamt of when trapped in an alcoholic stupor.

When his belongings were found after his death, one of the surprises was the number of books he owned. Inquires soon revealed that he had slowly, but determinedly, taught himself to read and, as he did so, effectively began a course of study that included the spiritual classics, the lives of Saints, doctrinal books, and works of mystical and ascetical theology. When asked how he, a poor workman, could read the works of St. Augustine, Newman et al, his reply was as straightforward as it was telling. He said he asked the Holy Spirit to enlighten him. And so, he grew in an intellectual understanding of his faith, which in turn deepened the prayer and penance he undertook. Here was a 20th Century heir to the spiritual traditions of the ancient Irish monks, albeit one now living not on an island monastery but in the slums of Dublin, but, like those earlier contemplatives his life was work, study and prayer with eyes turned ever inward to the Holy Trinity.

Matt never married; held no position of note, was unknown outside his own small circle of family and friends – only one blurred photograph has survived him- and, yet, this was a rare man: one who had taken the Gospel at its word and lived it.

His lifetime ran alongside the then momentous events in Irish history. A time of cultural renaissance and nationalist fervour, of a Great Strike in 1913 and open revolution in 1916, of the Great War and a War for Independence, throughout it all his life remained largely unchanged. Matt knew all too well that kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, but that he had set his face to serve a different Kingdom, one shown him in 1884 when he confessed all and cast himself into the hands of the Living God.

By 1925, Matt was 69. He had been in poor health for some time. Out of necessity he tried to continue working as there was only limited relief for the poor or elderly, but his strength was failing. Nevertheless, he persisted in his prayer and penance. On 7 June 1925, whilst struggling down a Dublin alleyway on his way to Mass, he fell. A small crowd gathered around him. A Dominican priest was called from the nearby church, the one where Matt had been hurrying. The priest came and knelt over the fallen man. Realising what had happened, he lifted his hand in a blessing for the final journey. Little did he realise the dead stranger lying in front of him had already been on that ‘journey’ for over 40 years.

Having lived in the intimacy of the Triune God, it was apt Matt died on Trinity Sunday. Having lived off the Eucharist daily for more than 40 years, it was equally fitting he was buried on the feast of Corpus Christi.

Decades later, a visiting Italian priest went privately to pray at the grave of the Dublin worker he had heard so much about. In 1975, and after the due process had been completed, that same cleric, now Pope Paul VI, bestowed a new title upon that Irish workman: Venerable Matt Talbot.

There is a large trunk in the safe keeping of the Archdiocese of Dublin. It contains the books owned by Venerable Matt Talbot. A veritable treasury of spiritual theology, one of the books contained therein is True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort. In its pages it reflects on being a slave to this world or to the Blessed Virgin. For those that choose the latter path it recommends, after due recourse to a spiritual director and the suitable enrolment, that a chain be worn to symbolise that that soul no longer belongs to the powers of darkness but is now a child of the light. On that June day in 1925, when Matt Talbot fell upon a Dublin street, it was dressed as a slave to Mary and as an ambassador of Christ.”

Love,
Matthew

Jun 23 – St Joseph Cafasso, Priest of the Gallows (1811-1860 AD)

St Joseph Cafasso

Born with a deformed spine, and into a wealthy peasant family; he was short in stature and crippled throughout his life.  St. Joseph Cafasso was born on the 15th of January, 1811, at Castelnuovo d’ Asti, in the Province of Piedmont about twenty miles from Turin in the north of Italy.  Even as a young man, Joseph loved to attend Mass and was known for his humility and fervor in prayer.

He was ordained a priest in 1833, at the age of twenty-two. Upon ordination he entered the college at Turin that had been established for the training of young priests. When he completed his studies after three years, he was appointed professor of moral theology in the college and soon became famous for his learning and sanctity. He was then made rector, the position he held for twenty-four years until the time of his death.  There he worked especially against the heresy of Jansenism, an excessive preoccupation with sin and damnation.

Perhaps the most noted part of his public life were the entire days that he spent in the prisons—–preaching, comforting, instructing the unfortunates detained there, and hearing their confessions.

One day he went to a prison in order to prepare the prisoners for the celebration of a feast in honor of Our Lady, and had spent a whole week instructing them and exhorting them. This he did in a large room in which there were forty-five of the most noted criminals. Almost all had promised to go to Confession on the vigil of the feast. But when the day came, none of them could make up his mind to go to Confession. Joseph renewed his invitation, recapitulated what he had said during the week, and reminded them of the promise that they had made. But, now, none of them would to go to Confession.

With a smile on his face he went over to the man who appeared to be the biggest and strongest and most robust among the prisoners, and without saying a word, he caught hold of his luxurious long beard. The man, thinking that Don Cafasso had acted through jest, said to him as courteously as could be expected, “Take anything else from me you like but leave me my beard!”

“I will not let you go until you go to Confession,” replied Don Cafasso.

“But I don’t want to go to Confession,” said the prisoner.

“You may say what you like, but you will not escape from me; I will not let you go until you have made your Confession,” said Cafasso.

“I am not prepared,” said the prisoner.

“I will prepare you,” said Cafasso.

Certainly, if the prisoner had wished, he could have freed himself from Don Cafasso’s hands with the slightest effort; but whether it was respect for the holy man’s person, or rather the fruit of the grace of God, the fact is that the man surrendered and allowed himself to be led to a corner of the room. Don Cafasso sat down on a bundle of straw and prepared his friend for Confession. But In a short time there was commotion; the strong man was so moved by Don Cafasso’s exhortation that his sighs and tears almost prevented him from telling his sins.

This prisoner then went to his companions after it was finished and told them that he had never been so happy in his life. He became so eloquent in exhorting them that he succeeded in persuading them all to go to Confession.

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“A single word from him – a look, a smile, his very presence – sufficed to dispel melancholy, drive away temptation and produce holy resolution in the soul. “
-Saint John Bosco, writing about his friend, Saint Joseph Cafasso

“We are born to love, we live to love, and we will die to love still more.”
-Saint Joseph Cafasso

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“Who is this man who in the world is called an ecclesiastic, a priest? Who is this personage whom some bless and others curse? Who is he whom the whole world talks about and criticizes, and who is the subject of discussion by all pens and all tongues? What is the significance of that name which resounds in every corner of the world? What is a priest? In order to define clearly what he is, I shall avail myself of the distinctions that Saint Bernard made concerning ecclesiastics and shall consider him in his nature, in his person, in his habits. Quid in natura, quis in persona, qualis in moribus! In his nature he is a man like others. In his person, his dignity is above that of all other men in the world. In his conduct and habits, he should be a man totally different from all others as he is by his dignity and office. These are the three points which I propose for your consideration.”
-Saint Joseph Cafasso

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Love,
Matthew