Category Archives: April

Apr 28 – Bl Carino of Balsamo, OP, (d. 1293) – Assassin of St Peter of Verona, OP

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– “Madonna w/Christ Child, Young St John the Baptist & St Peter of Verona, OP”, Lorenzo Lotto, oil on canvas, 1503, 55 cm (21.7 in) x 87 cm (34.3 in), National Museum of Capodimonte, Naples, Italy.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” -Is 1:18

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-by Br Thomas Martin Miller, OP (Br. Thomas Martin Miller was raised as a Lutheran in York County, PA by his parents Charles and Patricia and discovered the Catholic Church while attending Boston College.)

“On April 6, 1252, St. Peter of Verona was assassinated by two men hired by the Cathar heretics in retribution for his preaching of the Catholic faith. He famously began to write the Creed in his own blood while he was dying, and was canonized just eleven months later, becoming the first canonized martyr of the Order of Preachers. He was not a lay brother, and today is not his feast. Today is instead the feast of Bl Carino of Balsamo, OP—locally venerated as a blessed—he being the man who cut off the top of St. Peter’s head with a pruning axe, mortally wounded Peter’s companion Domenico, and then returned to stab Peter with a dagger before he could finish writing his faith in the dust.

While Carino’s accomplice seemingly fled to heretic strongholds in the Alps, beyond the reach of the law, Carino made it only as far as Forli, where he collapsed in exhaustion and was taken to the hospital of St. Sebastian. His crime was unknown there, but overcome with fear of death and hell, Carino made his confession when a priest came to visit the sick—Bl. James Salomini, prior of the Dominicans in Forli. Upon his recovery, Carino decided to make religious life part of his penance, and having won the trust of Bl. James, was clothed at Forli in the habit of the lay brothers of the Order of Preachers. Upon his death in 1293, Carino, aware of the gravity of his crimes, asked to be buried in unconsecrated ground rather than in the conventual cemetery. The friars acceded to his wishes, but the people of Forli, now acquainted with his sanctity, demanded not merely that he be moved to the conventual cemetery but that he be raised to the honors of the altar. (Such is how saints are made, actually, via populi.)

How did an assassin end up under Our Lady’s mantle in heaven with his confessor and his victim? In the thirteenth century, as now, murder was an impediment to priestly ordination, and the Order of Preachers has always had a clerical character due to the close connection between preaching and the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist. Nonetheless, the plea of all candidates to enter the Order is not for admission as a candidate for holy orders but rather for “God’s mercy and yours.”

As our Franciscan brothers have specially signified the corporal works of mercy by the poverty of their own communities, Dominicans have specially signified the spiritual works of mercy by acts of mercy to their own brethren. Even as heinous a crime as murder in the service of those who hated the true faith of Christ was (given contrition) no obstacle to living religious vows, and that life of penance was Carino’s way of thanking God for the mercy of absolution. This focus on God’s grace and mercy is distinctively Dominican, but it has its roots in the Benedictine traditions of labor and hospitality.

As the monastic tradition developed in the medieval period, a distinction arose between monks who had been raised from their youth as oblates of the monastery, immersed in both study and religious observance, and those who came to the monastery as adults, generally without those advantages. These latter were known as conversi because their lives had been visibly transformed (or converted).

But while they shared the religious life of those who had been raised as oblates, their lack of education and sometimes their manifestly immoral histories acted as impediments to ordination. Rather than performing the sacraments, they passed on the mercy which they had received by engaging in the manual labor required to provide hospitality, whether to guests at Benedictine monasteries or Dominican clerics deeply engaged in study.

Carino was transformed by grace from a man who persecuted Christ into one who recognized his Lord in the truth his fellow friars preached and in the needs of the poor. He lived this vocation of the convert with heroic sanctity. He cared for both the clerics in the convent vowed to poverty and the destitute outside its walls.
Found wounded by sin and physical exhaustion in the hospital of St. Sebastian, Carino was blessed to perform penances that bore both spiritual and material fruit in the Church’s field hospital of mercy. His pruning axe had pierced the skull of St. Peter of Verona, but Peter pierced Carino with an arrow of grace: the “Credo” he traced on the ground in his blood is not only the beginning of the Nicene Creed, but also an acrostic of the Latin phrase “Carinus Religiosus Erit Dominicani Ordinis” (Carino will be a religious of the Dominican Order).”

After his death, Carino was venerated by the people of Forlì.

The regulation of Carino’s cult by the papacy began in 1822, but the death of Pius VII delayed the process, and the paperwork was misplaced.[2] Carino is buried at the Cathedral of Forlì, and in 1934, Cinisello Balsamo obtained Carino’s head, a translation at which Blessed Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster participated. Carino’s feast day is celebrated on April 28, the day of this translation.

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Love & His Grace & Mercy,
Matthew

Apr 13 – Bl Margaret of Castello, OP, (1287-1320) – Patroness of the Beauty, Dignity, & Sanctity of Human Life

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“Though father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” -Ps 27:10

In our society, where medical testing can be done to assure that only children without defects are born, those who are born with handicaps are often regarded as “tragic” oversights. In this light, the “unwanted” of the world have a patron saint in a medieval woman who was born a crippled, blind and hunchbacked dwarf.

Bl. Margaret of Castello, a Third Order Dominican, like me, was born in the fourteenth century in Metola, Italy to noble parents who wanted a son. When the news was brought to the new mother that her newborn daughter was a blind, hunchbacked dwarf, both parents were horrified. Little Margaret was kept in a secluded section of the family castle in the hopes that her existence would be kept secret. However, when she was about six years old, she accidentally made her presence known to a guest. Determined to keep her out of the public eye, her father had a room without a door built onto the side of the parish church and walled Margaret inside this room. Here she lived until she was sixteen, never being allowed to come out. Her food and other necessities were passed in to her through a window. Another window into the church allowed her to hear Mass and receive Holy Communion. The parish priest became a good friend, and took upon himself the duty to educate her. He was amazed at her docility and the depth of her spiritual wisdom.

When Margaret was sixteen years old, her parents heard of a shrine in Citta di Castello, Italy, where many sick people were cured. They made a pilgrimage to the shrine so that she could pray for healing. However, Margaret, open to the will of God, was not healed that day, or the next, so her parents callously abandoned her in the streets of the town and left for home, never to see her again. At the mercy of the passersby, Margaret had to beg her food.

Margaret was passed from family to family until she was adopted by a kindly peasant woman named Grigia, who had a large family of her own. Margaret’s natural sweetness and goodness soon made themselves felt, and she more than repaid the family for their kindness to her. She was an influence for good in any group of children. She stopped their quarrels, heard their catechism, told them stories, taught them Psalms and prayers. Busy neighbors were soon borrowing her to soothe a sick child or to establish peace in the house.

Her reputation for holiness was so great that a community of sisters in the town asked for her to become one of them. Margaret went happily to join them, but, unfortunately, there was little fervor in the house. The little girl who was so prayerful and penitential was a reproach to their lax lives, so Margaret returned to Grigia, who gladly welcomed her home.

Later, Margaret was received as a Dominican Tertiary and clothed with the religious habit. Grigia’s home became the rendezvous site of troubled souls seeking Margaret’s prayers. She said the Office of the Blessed Virgin and the entire Psalter by heart, and her prayers had the effect of restoring peace of mind to the troubled.

Denied earthly sight, Margaret was favored with heavenly visions. “Oh, if you only knew what I have in my heart!” she often said. The mysteries of the rosary, particularly the joyful mysteries, were so vivid to her that her whole person would light up when she described the scene. She was often in ecstasy, and, despite great joys and favors in prayer, she was often called upon to suffer desolation and interior trials of frightening sorts. The devil tormented her severely at times, but she triumphed over these sufferings.

A number of miracles were performed by Blessed Margaret. On one occasion, while she was praying in an upper room, Grigia’s house caught fire, and she called to Margaret to come down. The blessed, however, called to her to throw her cloak on the flames. This she did, and the blaze died out. At another time, she cured a sister who was losing her eyesight.

Beloved by her adopted family and by her neighbors and friends, Margaret died at the early age of 33. From the time of her death, her tomb in the Dominican church was a place of pilgrimage. Her body, even to this day, is incorrupt. More than 200 miracles have been credited to her intercession after her death. She was beatified in 1609. Thus the daughter that nobody wanted is one of the glories of the Church.

After her death, the fathers received permission to have her heart opened. In it were three pearls, having holy figures carved upon them. They recalled the saying so often on the lips of Margaret: “If you only knew what I have in my heart!”

W. R. Bonniwell writes, “Her cheerfulness, based on her trust in God’s love and goodness, was extraordinary. She became a Dominican tertiary and devoted herself to tending the sick and the dying” as well as prisoners in the city jail.

How does Margaret’s story apply to our times? Her parents wanted a boy, and if not a boy, at least a perfect girl. In the eyes of the world, she was useless, and what right do useless people have to live? Bl. Margaret helped innumerable others by her life and her good deeds, finding holiness by uniting her sufferings to Christ’s. And now, some 670 years after her death, she teaches us valuable lessons by her very being.

Bl. Margaret lived a life of hope and faith, practicing heroic charity, though little was shown her in return. She came from a home where she was deprived, not because her parents had no wealth, but because they valued their material wealth and status more than their spiritual treasures.

Deprived of all human companionship, Margaret learned to embrace her Lord in solitude. Instead of becoming bitter, she forgave her parents for their ill treatment of her and treated others as well as she could. Her cheerfulness stemmed from her conviction that God loves each person infinitely, for He has made each person in His own image and likeness. This same cheerfulness won the hearts of the poor of Castello, and they took her into their homes for as long as their purses could afford. She passed from house to house in this way, “a homeless beggar being practically adopted by the poor of a city” (Bonniwell, 1955).

Bl. Margaret died on April 13, 1320 at the age of 33. More than 200 miracles have been credited to her intercession since her death. She was beatified in 1609. Thus, the daughter that nobody wanted is now one of the glories of the Church.

First Vespers:
Ant. This is a wise Virgin whom the Lord found watching, who took her lamp and oil, and when the Lord came she entered with Him into the marriage feast. (P.T. Alleluia.)
V. Pray for us Blessed Margaret. (P.T. Alleluia.)
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. (P.T. Alleluia.)

Lauds:
Ant. Come, O my chosen one, and I will place my throne in thee, for the King hath exceedingly desired thy beauty. (P.T. Alleluia.)
V. Virgins shall be led to the King after her. (P.T. Alleluia.)
R. Her companions shall be presented to Thee. (P.T. Alleluia.)

Second Vespers:
Ant. She has girded her loins with courage and hath strengthened her arm; therefore shall her lamp not be put out forever. (P.T. Alleluia.)
V. Pray for us Blessed Margaret. (P.T. Alleluia.)
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. (P.T. Alleluia.)

Prayer:
Let us Pray: O God, Who wast pleased that Blessed Margaret, Virgin, should be born blind, that, the eye of her heart being inwardly enlightened, she might continually contemplate Thee alone, be Thou the light of our eyes, that we may have no part in the darkness of this world, but be enabled to arrive at the land of eternal brightness Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer to Margaret of Castello

Compassionate God, You gave Your divine light to Blessed Margaret who was blind from birth, that with the eye of her heart she might contemplate You alone. Be the light of our eyes that we may turn from what is evil and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

– General Calendar of the Order of Preachers

Novena to the Blessed Margaret of Castello

First Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, in embracing your life just as it was, you gave us an example of resignation To the will of God. In so accepting God’s will, you knew that you would grow in virtue, glorify God, save your own soul, and help the souls of your neighbors. Obtain for me the grace to recognize the will of God in all that may happen to me in my life and so resign myself to it. Obtain for me also the special favor, which I now ask, through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world, and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. This we ask in humble submission To God’s Will, For His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Second Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, in reflecting so deeply upon the sufferings and death of our Crucified Lord, you learned courage and gained the grace to bear your own afflictions. Obtain for me the grace and courage that I so urgently need so as to be able to bear my infirmities and endure my afflictions in union with our suffering Savior. Obtain for me also the special favor which I now ask through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world,
and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. this we ask in humble submission to God’s will, for His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Third Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, your love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was intense and enduring. It was here in intimacy with the Divine Presence that you found spiritual strength to accept suffering, to be cheerful, patient, and kindly towards others. Obtain for me the grace that I may draw from this same source, as from an exhaustible font, the strength whereby I may be kind and understanding of everyone despite whatever pain or discomfort may come my way. Obtain for this through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world,
and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. this we ask in humble submission to God’s will, for His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Fourth Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, you unceasingly turned to God in prayer with confidence and trust in His fatherly love. It was only through continual prayer that you were enabled to accept your misfortunes, to be serene, patient, and at peace. Obtain for me the grace to persevere in my prayer, confident that God will give me the help to carry whatever cross comes into my life. Obtain for me also the special favor which I now ask through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world, and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. this we ask in humble submission to God’s will, for His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Fifth Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, in imitation of the Child Jesus, who was subject to Mary and Joseph, you obeyed your father and mother, overlooking their unnatural harshness. Obtain for me that same attitude of obedience toward all those who have legitimate authority over me, most especially toward the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Obtain for me also the special favor which I now ask through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world, and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. this we ask in humble submission to God’s will, for His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Sixth Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, your miseries taught you better than any teacher the weakness and frailty of human nature. Obtain for me the grace to recognize my human limitations and to acknowledge my utter dependence upon God. Acquire for me that abandonment which leaves me completely at the mercy of God. Obtain for me also the special favor which I now ask through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world, and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. this we ask in humble submission to God’s will, for His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Seventh Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, you could have so easily become discouraged and bitter; but, instead, you fixed your eyes on the suffering Christ and there you learned from Him the redemptive value of suffering . How to offer your pains and aches, in reparation for sin and for the salvation of souls. Obtain for me the grace to learn how to endure my sufferings with patience. Obtain for me also the special favor which I now ask through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world, and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. this we ask in humble submission to God’s will, for His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Eighth Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, how it must have hurt when your parents abandoned you! Yet you learned from this that all earthly love and affection, even for those who are closest, must be sanctified. And so, despite everything, you continued to love your parents – but now you loved them in God. Obtain for me the grace that I might see all my human loves and affections in their proper perspective… in God and for God. Obtain for me also the special favor which I now ask through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world, and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. this we ask in humble submission to God’s will, for His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Ninth Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, through your suffering and misfortune, you became sensitive to the sufferings of others. Your heart reached out to everyone in trouble – the sick, the hungry, the dying prisoners. Obtain for me the grace to recognize Jesus in everyone with whom I come into contact, especially in the poor, the wretched, the unwanted! Obtain for me also the special favor which I now ask through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world, and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. this we ask in humble submission to God’s will, for His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Prayer
O my God, I thank you for having given Blessed Margaret of Castello to the world as an example of the degree of holiness that can be attained by anyone who truly loves you, regardless of physical abnormalities. In today’s perverted culture, Margaret would have, most likely, never been born; death through abortion being preferable to life, especially life in an ugly distorted twisted body. But Your ways are not the world’s ways… And so it was Your Will that Margaret would be born into the world with just such a malformed body. It is Your way that uses our weakness to give testimony to Your power. Margaret was born blind, so as to see You more clearly; a cripple, so as to lean on You completely; dwarfed in physical posture, so as to become a giant in the spiritual order; hunch-backed, so as to more perfectly resemble the twisted, crucified body of Your Son. Margaret’s whole life was an enactment of the words expressed by Paul: “So I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me and that is why I am content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships, persecutions and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10). I beseech you, O God, to grant through the intercession Of Blessed Margaret of Castello, that all the handicapped … and who among us is not?… all rejected, all unwanted of the world may make their weaknesses their own special boast so that your power may stay over them now and forever. Amen.

Blessed Margaret of Castello, pray for us.

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-Dominican Sisters look at the to-scale statue of Blessed Margaret of Castello

Castello Nursing Simulation Learning Center at Saint Thomas West Hospital, the state-of-the-art nursing simulation laboratory, named after Blessed Margaret of Castello, O.P. (1287–1320). The Castello Center consists of 24 simulated patient care settings, including critical care, neonatal care, residential care facilities, hospice, and home health.

Love,
Matthew

Apr 14 – Bl Peter Gonzalez, OP, (1190-1246) – St Elmo’s Fire!!!

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-statue of “Saint” Telmo/Elmo, Frómista, province of Palencia, Spain.

Bl Peter, is sometimes referred to as Pedro González Telmo, Saint Telmo, or Saint Elmo. González was educated by his uncle, the Bishop of Astorga, who gave him a canonry when he was very young. On one occasion, he was riding triumphantly into the city, his horse stumbled, dumping him into the mud to the amusement of onlookers (this happens to A LOT of saints?). Humbled the canon reevaluated his vocation and later resigned his position to enter the Dominican Order. González became a renowned preacher; crowds gathered to hear him and numberless conversions were the result of his efforts.

He spent much as his time as a court preacher. After King Saint Ferdinand III of Castile and Leon captured Córdoba, Peter was successful in restraining the soldiers from pillaging the city.

Fearing that the honors and easy life offered by the king’s court would lead him to return to his previous ways, he left the court and evangelized to shepherds and sailors. Peter devoted the remainder of his life to preaching in northwest Spain, and developed a special mission to unlettered Spanish and Portuguese seamen. He died on April 15, 1246, at Tui and is buried in the local cathedral.

Although his cultus was confirmed in 1741 by Pope Benedict XIV, and despite his common epithet of “saint,” Peter was never formally canonized. Peter González was beatified in 1254 by Pope Innocent IV.

The diminutive “Elmo” (or “Telmo”) belongs properly to the martyr-bishop Saint Erasmus (died c. 303), one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, of whose name “Elmo” is a contraction. However, as Erasmus is the patron saint of sailors generally, and Peter González of Spanish and Portuguese sailors specifically, they have both been popularly invoked as “Saint Elmo.”

St. Elmo’s fire is a pale electrical discharge sometimes seen on stormy nights on the tips of spires, about the decks and rigging of ships, in the shape of a ball or brush, singly or in pairs, particularly at the mastheads and yardarms. It also appears on aircraft in flight especially on the nose of the plane where it can be seen dramatically by the pilots. The mariners believed them to be the souls of the departed, whence they are also called corposant (corpo santo). The ancients called them Helena fire when seen singly, and Castor and Pollux when in pairs.

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Br Norbert Keliher, OP, is a graduate of Harvard University, where he studied Latin and Greek. Before entering the order, he spent a year teaching in New York City and a year studying theology at Notre Dame.

“Imagine that you’re on a seventeenth-century Spanish merchant ship, sailing back with wares from the East Indies. A storm overtakes you, with howling wind and monstrous waves. Who would you call on for help? None other than St. Elmo, of course. In 1662, some sailors reported that the saint himself appeared to them and the sea calmed down.

We all need help on the seas of life, and it is good to know that we have a ready intercessor in St. Elmo (or Telmo)—not the fuzzy red animal thing, but a 13th-century Dominican Blessed. To Dominicans he is known as Bl. Peter Gonzalez, and his feast is celebrated today, April 14th.

Each saint lives out some part of the mystery of Christ, whose full measure is too great for any one person to embody. In Bl. Peter’s case, he has a share in our Lord’s power over the wind and waves. Jesus demonstrated His own power over nature on the Sea of Galilee, and Bl. Peter’s intercession makes it available to sailors of the past and present.

Bl. Peter Gonzalez was one of the Dominicans from St. Dominic’s own time, entering the Order in 1219. He was from Spain and spent most of his active preaching life in his home country. He had a wide-ranging ministry which included serving in the royal court of Ferdinand III, helping to improve the morals of the king’s army, preaching to Muslims, and working among the poor. But Bl. Peter is best known for the last part of his ministry, in which he preached to sailors in Spain and Portugal. His concern for their souls was the source of the sailors’ devotion to him, because he was tireless in his efforts to reach them, whether they were in taverns or on the docks. After his death, the sailors remembered both his love for them and a weather-related miracle that he had performed.

On this occasion, Bl. Peter was preaching outside the city of Bayonne to a large crowd when a storm rolled in. The people were afraid that rain would soon follow the thunder and lightning, and got ready to leave. But Bl. Peter, like any good preacher, did not want to lose his audience. He reassured them that God would protect them, and then prayed for help against the storm. At a distance around the crowd, rain flooded the countryside but did not touch those listening to Bl. Peter. Who could forget an experience like this? News of the miracle spread quickly, and sailors who knew it started to invoke Bl. Peter’s intercession at sea after he died.

Whether we invoke him under the name of St. Elmo or Bl. Peter Gonzalez (the former name was already popular among sailors, and they started using it for Bl. Peter), this holy man will come to our aid in the midst of our personal storms. Not many of us will encounter a storm on the high seas, but we all know what it is like to reach a crisis, when every person and event seems to be working against us. Our Lord wants us to trust not only in Him, but in the intercessors He has given for our benefit. Appealing to a saint when we are desperate increases our faith in God’s Providence, which wisely orders all things. We receive a glimpse of how He intends for us to receive help from just this saint at just this time. Afterward, our gratitude at being helped strengthens our devotion to that particular saint, as well as our awareness of how close the whole communion of saints is to us.

The next time a storm hits, try this short prayer: “Bl. Peter Gonzalez, pray for us!”

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Ah, to pine for one’s youth!! 🙁

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest (c. 1623), Act I, Scene II, St. Elmo’s fire acquires a more negative association, appearing as evidence of the tempest inflicted by Ariel according to the command of Prospero:

PROSPERO:

Hast thou, spirit,
Perform’d to point the tempest that I bade thee?

ARIEL:

To every article.
I boarded the king’s ship; now on the beak,
Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,
I flamed amazement: sometime I’ld divide,
And burn in many places; on the topmast,
The yards and bowsprit, would I flame distinctly,
Then meet and join.
— Act I, Scene II, The Tempest

The fires are also mentioned as “death fires” in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

“About, about, in reel and rout, The death fires danced at night; The water, like a witch’s oils, Burnt green and blue and white.”

Almighty God, you bestowed the singular help of Blessed Peter on those in peril from the sea. By the help of his prayers may the light of your grace shine forth in all the storms of this life and enable us to find the harbor of everlasting salvation. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. – General Calendar of the Order of Preachers

Love,
Matthew

Apr 6 – The Holy Preaching

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-by Br Christopher Wetzel, OP, English Province

“Preaching is in fact a dangerous activity. The life of Peter of Verona, often called Peter Martyr, illustrates one dimension of this danger.

One of the earliest members of the Order of Preacher, St. Peter Martyr preached vigorously against the heresy of the Cathars despite threats against his life. Due to his efforts, many Cathars converted to Catholicism, leading a group of Milanese Cathars to plot against him and to hire an assassin, one Carino of Balsamo. On April 6th, 1252, Carino and an accomplice set upon Peter and his companion as they made their way from Como to Milan. Carino struck Peter’s head with an axe and Peter rose to his knees, recited the beginning of the Apostle’s Creed and, according to legend, dipped his fingers in his own blood and wrote on the ground: “Credo in Unum Deum” before dying. It would seem that preaching is a dangerous business.

However, Jesus concludes the Beatitudes by telling his disciples “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Martyrdom is in fact a blessing. Yet preaching remains dangerous even when the great reward of martyrdom is off the table.

Consider what Blessed Humbert of Romans wrote in his Treatise on Preaching:

There are three evils to be noted which result from a premature and rash acceptance of the office of preaching.

The first is that the good results which the preacher might have produced at the proper time will be imperiled. It is necessary, St. Gregory informs us, to warn those, who, because of their age or their incompetence, are unsuited to exercise this office, and who nevertheless meddle in it prematurely; for their rashness endangers the good results which they would later have achieved. Eager to undertake what they are not prepared for, they lose forever the good they might have accomplished at the right time.

The second evil resulting from too early entrance into the office of preaching is the obstacle which the preacher places in the way of his own formation; for whoever undertakes a task before he has the necessary strength makes himself for the future weak and useless. As one author of the lives of the Fathers admonishes: “Refrain from instructing too early, for you will thus weaken your understanding for the rest of your life.”

The third evil is the danger of the preacher losing his own soul. In regard to this St. Gregory wishes that those who are impatient to assume the office of preacher to consider the fledglings which, before their wings are strong enough, try to fly into the skies, but soon fall back to earth; or to consider a foundation newly-built and insecure, which, instead of becoming a house when the superstructure is added to it, rather collapses and becomes a pile of ruins; or to consider those infants born prematurely before being completely formed in the womb of their mother, and who fill graves rather than homes.

The innumerable evils resulting from haste prompts Ecclesiasticus to say: “A wise man will hold his peace till he see opportunity” (Ecclus. 20:7).

It is also for this reason that Isaias gives the following warnings: “. . . and it shall bud without perfect ripeness and the sprigs thereof shall be cut off with pruning hooks: an what is left shall be cut away and shaken out. And they shall be left together to the birds of the mountains and the beasts of the earth: and the fowls shall be upon them all summer, and the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them” (Isa. 18:5-6).

And finally, it is for the same reason that our Lord Jesus Christ before His Ascension, commanded His preachers, the Apostles, “Wait here in the city until you be clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). St. Gregory, explaining this, says: “We remain in the city when we retire into our innermost soul, not venturing forth with idle words, but waiting the coming of the divine power, before we appear before men to preach the truth which we now possess.”

Let us then carefully prepare ourselves for the Holy Preaching. Holy Father Dominic, pray for us.”

Love,
Matthew

Apr 25 – St Mark, Mighty in Courage!!!

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-by Br John Mark Solitario, OP

“As a child I remember being given a keychain or card meant to make me feel good about my baptismal name. As I recall, the intention of the giver was fully realized. The revelation made me quite proud: the tagline reading something like “Mark: mighty warrior.” Most little boys don’t put up a fuss when they learn their name is derived from Mars, the Roman god of war!

I did not yet know the story of the other Mark.

Christian tradition remembers the more humble origins of St. Mark. First, we look to St. Mark’s Passion, to the betrayal and arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane: “[the disciples] all left him [Jesus] and fled. Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked” (Mk 14:50-52).

Perhaps the young man would prefer that we gloss over this line and move on! However, some have suggested that the fleeing youth was the Gospel writer himself. Whether or not the scared adolescent was the Mark whom early Christians recognized to be the author of the earliest-penned Gospel, one thing is certain: he draws our attention and our empathy.

Indeed, Mark can teach us something about being Christian today, even though what we know about him can only be surmised and pieced together:

Mark, who also was called by the Jewish name John, was the son of the Mary to whose house Peter fled after escaping from Herod’s imprisonment. The author of the Acts of the Apostles describes this house by saying that “many people gathered [there] in prayer” (Acts 12:12). Some have even suggested this to be the same place as the Upper Room where the Last Supper took place and the apostles received the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.

John Mark accompanied his cousin Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey (Acts 13). For some reason, Mark soon left Paul and his relative to return home. Paul later refused to bring Mark on a subsequent mission due to his previous desertion and lack of perseverance (Acts 15:38).

In time, Mark appears to have become a co-worker of Paul in spreading the Gospel (see 2 Tim 4:11 and Col 4:10). This could be the same Mark who was affectionately referred to by Peter as his son (1 Pet 5:13). This same man, according to numerous Church fathers, worked as Peter’s secretary and composed the Gospel which takes his name.

So, not only did Mark grow up in a household of faith, but he may have met Jesus and witnessed the crisis of Holy Thursday. Later on he was invited to accompany his elders in proclaiming the new Christian faith. But for some reason–perhaps timidity, anxiety, or discomfort–he did not feel up to the task. Simply put, he was not yet willing to play that part.

But something more happened to John Mark. Later, as an evangelist, he penned Jesus’ response to the young man who would be His disciple:

“Amen I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.” (-Mk 10:29-30)

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– by Giuseppe Vermiglio, “Saint Mark the Evangelist”, c. 1630, oil on canvas

Mark knew that being a follower of Jesus invited mockery and scorn even as it promised unimaginable blessing. Yet the example he gleaned from his mentor St. Peter–initial weakness, followed by a return to friendship with Jesus, and then great courage in the face of a horrible death–must have profoundly impacted his outlook.

Mark emphasizes the reason we have for hope amidst life’s struggles. First, as modern followers of Jesus we can be surprised by the support we receive from our new “brothers and sisters” in Christ. Next, when we do suffer for our faith–through ostracization, being bound by temptation and anxiety, sacrificing our time–we can take courage because we do not experience these things alone. Rather, we have these words of assurance, as recorded by Mark: “The God of grace Who called you to His eternal glory through Christ will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little” (1 Pet 5:10). By His Cross, Jesus joins our plight and infuses it with new meaning.

St. Mark’s life and Gospel are not gifts to be taken lightly. He points past the physical safety and emotional contentment for which we often settle to something greater: a truly blessed life in this world, but not without sufferings, followed by the prize which exceeds all human hope. Yes, we need courage for this pursuit. But we should never rely on ourselves alone, lest we abandon Jesus upon discovering ourselves to be spiritually naked! May Jesus’ words to that earnest but imperfect youth be words that we trustingly take to heart: “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God” (Mk 10:27). Blessed the one who, with St. Mark, learns to stand by the suffering Christ so as to win every good thing.

St. Mark, mighty in courage, pray for us!”

Love,
Matthew

Apr 29 – “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on (spiritual) fire!”

catherine of siena

Lk 12:49

“Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on (spiritual) fire!” -St Catherine of Siena, OP

jordan zajac
-by Br Jordan Zajac, OP

“…Catherine offered this advice over six hundred years ago, it seems perfectly suited for modern sensibilities. That is to say, our dulled spiritual sensibilities. …

to consider any aspect of ourselves or our actions outside of our connection to God is the first and most fundamental misstep. Only the Incarnate Lord can supply the heat needed to start the kind of fire for which He, and St. Catherine along with Him, yearn.

Like other mystics and saints, St. Catherine returns again and again to the image of the Divine Fire—a symbol for the experience of God’s presence in contemplative prayer. But St. Catherine is unique among the saints for the way she uses this image to build a simple, yet profound kind of pyromaniacal pedagogy—a system for spiritual development rooted in a deeper union with God. It is in the context of this spiritual teaching that we can best appreciate both halves of Catherine’s most famous quote.

Expressed in another way, “be who God meant you to be” means “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). How can we, so weak and limited, possibly strive for a perfection that mirrors God’s? As with all His teachings, Christ would not ask it of us unless He knew we were capable, and that it would contribute to our ultimate happiness. Here the Fire becomes crucial. St. Catherine identifies the Divine Fire as nothing other than charity—God’s “inestimable Fire” of love for us, His creatures. As St. Thomas explains, man’s spiritual life consists principally in charity, and the person that is perfect in charity is said to be perfect in the spiritual life. This is the kind of perfection to which Christ calls us.

The process can only begin, as it did for Catherine, by experiencing that Fire. More often we feel simply burned out, not burning with God’s love. Physical sensations, as well as emotions, however, are unsteady guides. When relying on them, we’ll sputter out like firecrackers, whereas a persevering will and simple faith will keep us going even when we don’t feel like we are getting anywhere. The Fire may be gone in feeling, but not in grace. “Lord, set me on fire with Your love,” we can ask with humble directness. Or we can thoughtfully pray the Magnificat, the prayer of Mary when she literally had the Divine Fire within her, to reignite us. Then there are the sparks provided in the sacraments. Receiving absolution in Confession is like a molotov cocktail for the soul. St. Catherine says that man comes to Mass like an unlit candle, and when Communion is received worthily his candle is lit.

Elsewhere Catherine uses the image of coals. Coals, we could say, are happiest when they’re on fire, because that is what they are meant to be. The more thoroughly they are heated, the more they take on the very fire they’re in. The same goes for the soul enflamed by the Fire. Just as love transforms a person into what he loves, Catherine explains, so our soul’s inflamed love of God (Who is Charity Itself) produces a more intense, sincere love of neighbor. It is by this charity that we begin to truly set the world on fire.

“We are the Easter people,” Pope St. John Paul II declared. But there can be no Easter without fire. The Easter season begins and ends in flames: the Vigil commences with a blazing fire, and Pentecost is signaled by tongues of flame. This year, the feast of the patron saint of holy pyromania falls halfway between, bridging the two solemnities in a meaningful way. Through her incandescent intercession, may we not burn out or burn down, but rather burn within—and without, to the world.

Love & Happy Easter People! Let us blaze with His love!
Matthew

Apr 18 – Bl Marie-Anne Blondin, SSA, (1809-1890), Foundress of Congrégation des soeurs de Sainte-Anne (Sisters of St Anne)

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-by Karel Doruyter

Dan 12:23, Mt 5:10

“No money like public money.  No love like family love.  No politics like Church politics.” -MPM

If you are scandalized, as I am often, by the humanity, the “original sinfulness”, of a Church full of sinners, starting with myself, Rom 3:23, I can offer you little comfort.  However, I do think you will find “a better class of losers (sinners)”, with apologies to Mr. Travis, within than without.  And, our hope is NOT our own righteousness, but His.  Heb 6:19, 1 Cor 15:19.

When you are discouraged, even by your fellow Christians, those whom you KNOW should imitate Him MORE, invoke the aid of Bl Marie-Anne Blondin, SSA.  Pray to her to ask Him to give you (and me!, please) strength & perseverance.

Esther Blondin, in religion “Sister Marie Anne”, was born in Terrebonne (Quebec, Canada) on April 18, 1809, in a family of deeply Christian farmers. From her mother she inherited a piety centered on Divine Providence and the Eucharist and, from her father, a deep faith and a strong patience in suffering. Esther and her family were victims of illiteracy so common in French Canadian milieux of the nineteenth century. Still an illiterate at the age of 22, Esther worked as a domestic in the Convent of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame, that had been recently opened in her own village. A year later, she registered as a boarder in order to learn to read and write. She then became a novice in the Congregation but had to leave, due to ill health.

In 1833, Esther became a teacher in the parochial school of Vaudreuil. Little by little, she found out that one of the causes of this illiteracy was due to a certain Church ruling that forbade that girls be taught by men and that boys be taught by women. Unable to finance two schools, many parish priests chose to have none. In 1848, under an irresistible call of the Spirit, Esther presented to her Bishop, Ignace Bourget, a plan she long cherished: that of founding a religious congregation “for the education of poor country children, both girls and boys in the same schools”. A rather new project for the time! It even seemed quite rash and contrary to the established order. Since the State was in favor of such schools, Bishop Bourget authorized a modest attempt so as to avoid a greater evil.

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-the “nemesis”, Rev. Louis-Adolphe Marechal, most in need of God’s mercy!  Mt 23.

The Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Anne was founded in Vaudreuil on September 8, 1850. Esther, now named “Mother Marie Anne”, became its first superior. The rapid growth of this young Community soon required larger quarters. During the Summer of 1853, Bishop Ignace Bourget transferred the Motherhouse to Saint Jacques de l’Achigan. The new chaplain, Father Louis Adolphe Marechal, interfered in an abusive way in the private life of the Community. During the Foundress’ absence, Father changed the pupils’ boarding fees. Should he be away for a while, he asked that the Sisters await his return to go to confession. After a year of this existing conflict between the chaplain and the Foundress, the latter being anxious to protect the rights of her Community, Bishop Bourget asked Mother Marie Anne, on August 18, 1854, “to resign”. He called for elections and warned Mother Marie Anne “not to accept the superiorship, even if her sisters wanted to reelect her”. Even though she could be reelected, according to the Rule of the Community, Mother Marie Anne obeyed her Bishop whom she considered God’s instrument. And she wrote: “As for me, my Lord, I bless Divine Providence a thousand times for the maternal care she shows me in making me walk the way of tribulations and crosses”.

Mother Marie Anne, having been named Directress at Saint Genevieve Convent, became the target of attacks from the Motherhouse authorities, influenced by the dictatorship of Father Marechal. Under the pretext of poor administration, Mother Marie Anne was recalled to the Motherhouse in 1858, with the Bishop’s warning: “take means so that she will not be a nuisance to anyone.” From this new destitution and until her death on January 2, 1890, Mother Marie Anne was kept away from administrative responsibilities. She was even kept away from the General Council deliberations when the 1872 and 1878 elections reelected her. Assigned to mostly hidden work in the laundry and ironing room, she led a life of total self-denial and thus ensured the growth of the Congregation. Behold the paradox of an influence which some wanted to nullify! In the Motherhouse basement laundry room in Lachine, where she spent her days, many generations of novices received from the Foundress a true example of obedience and humility, imbued with authentic relationships which ensure true fraternal charity. To a novice who asked her one day why she, the Foundress, was kept aside in such lowly work, she simply replied with kindness : “The deeper a tree sinks its roots into the soil, the greater are its chances of growing and producing fruit”.

The attitude of Mother Marie Anne, who was a victim of so many injustices, initially not even being listed in the directory of sisters, allows us to bring out the evangelical sense she gave to events in her life. Just as Jesus Christ, who passionately worked for the Glory of His Father, so too Mother Marie Anne sought only God’s Glory in all she did. “The greater Glory of God” was the aim she herself gave her Community. “To make God known to the young who have not the happiness of knowing Him” was for her a privileged way of working for the Glory of God. Deprived of her most legitimate rights, and robbed of all her personal letters with her bishop, she offered no resistance and she expected, from the infinite goodness of God, the solution to the matter. She was convinced that “He will know well, in his Wisdom, how to discern the false from the true and to reward each one according to his deeds”.

Prevented from being called “Mother” by those in authority, Mother Marie Anne did not jealously hold on to her title of Foundress; rather she chose annihilation, just like Jesus, “her crucified Love”, so that her Community might live. However, she did not renounce her mission of spiritual mother of her Community. She offered herself to God in order “to expiate all the sins which were committed in the Community”; and she daily prayed Saint Anne “to bestow on her spiritual daughters the virtues so necessary for Christian educators”.

Like any prophet invested with a mission of salvation, Mother Marie Anne lived persecution by forgiving without restriction, convinced that “there is more happiness in forgiving than in revenge”. This evangelical forgiveness, guarantee of “the peace of soul which she held most precious”, was ultimately proven on her death bed when she asked her superior to call for Father Marechal “for the edification of the Sisters”.

As she felt the end approaching, Mother Marie Anne left to her daughters her spiritual testament in these words which are a resume of her whole life : “May Holy Eucharist and perfect abandonment to God’s Will be your heaven on earth”. She then peacefully passed away at the Motherhouse of Lachine, on January 2, 1890, “happy to go to the Good God” she had served all her life.

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Prayer to Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin

Lord, you gave to
Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin
a heart impassioned for Your glory
and You called her to serve with tenderness
the young, the poor, and the sick.

You gave her hope
in the most difficult moments in her life
and You led her to deep serenity.

Be praised, Lord,
for your humble servant.
Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin.

Through her intercession
grant us favor
that we ask of You with confidence. Amen.

Prayer of the Elderly

Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin
you, like us, lived
through the stages of a long life,
and so we come to you with confidence.

Through the events
that continue to mark our lives,
help our faith grow even stronger
and our love more unselfish.
In seeing us, may others find peace
and renew their courage.

You, who lived in absolute trust
of the heavenly Father,
free us from fear.
Help us, even now,
experience the joy
promised to people of good will. Amen.

“Model of a humble and hidden life, Marie-Anne Blondin found interior strength by contemplating the cross, showing us that the life of intimacy with Christ is the surest way to give fruits mysteriously and fulfill the mission willed by God.”
-Pope John Paul II at the beatification of Blessed Marie-Anne

Love,
Matthew

Apr 16 – St Benedict-Joseph Labre, TOSF, (1743-1783), Beggar of Perpetual Adoration, Patron of the Homeless

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St Benedict Joseph Labre, TOSF

-tomb of Benedict-Joseph Labre

-from SAINTS FOR SINNERS by Alban Goodier, SJ – Fr. Alban Goodier, SJ, (1869–1939) was a Jesuit author who served for a time as Archbishop of Bombay, India.

“There is no condition of life which the grace of God has not sanctified; this is the first reflection that must rise in the mind of anyone who studies the history of Benedict Joseph Labre. He died a beggar in Rome in 1783. Within a year of his death his reputation for sanctity had spread, it would seem, throughout Europe. The man and his reputed miracles were being discussed in London papers before the end of 1784. During that year the first authentic life of him appeared, from the pen of his confessor; it was written, as the author expressly states in the preface, because so many tales were being told about him. In 1785 an abridged translation was published in London; surely a remarkable witness, when we consider the place and the times—it was only five years after the Gordon riots—to the interest his name had aroused. We wonder in our own day at the rapidity with which the name of St. Therese of Lisieux has spread over the Christian world; though St. Benedict’s actual canonization has taken a longer time, nevertheless his cultus spread more quickly, and that in spite of the revolutionary troubles of those days, and the difficulties of communication. Rousseau and Voltaire had died five years before; ten years later came the execution of Louis XVI, and the massacres of the French Revolution were at their height. In studying the life of Benedict Joseph Labre these dates cannot be without their significance.

Benedict from the beginning of his days was nothing if not original. His originality consisted mainly in this, that he saw more in life than others saw, and what he saw made him long to sit apart from it; it gave him a disgust, even to sickness, for things with which ordinary men seem to be contented. Other men wanted money, and the things that money could buy; Benedict never had any use for either. Other men willingly became the slaves of fashion and convention; Benedict reacted against it all, preferring at any cost to be free. He preferred to live his life untrammeled, to tramp about the world where he would—what was it made for but to trample on?—to go up and down, a pure soul of nature, without any artificial garnish, just being what God made him, and taking every day what God gave him, in the end giving back to God that same being, perfect, unhampered, untainted.

But it was not all at once that Benedict discovered his vocation; on the contrary, before he reached it he had a long way to go, making many attempts and meeting with many failures. He was born not far from Boulogne, the eldest of a family of fifteen children, and hence belonged to a household whose members had perforce to look very much after themselves. From the first, if you had met him, you would have said he was different from others of his class. The portrait drawn of him by his two chief biographers seems to set before us one of those quiet, meditative youths, not easy to fathom, unable to express themselves, easily misunderstood, who seem to stand aside from life, looking on instead of taking their part in it; one of those with whom you would wish to be friends yet cannot become intimate; cheerful always (the biographers are emphatic about this), yet with a touch of melancholy; whom women notice, yet do not venture too near; a puzzle to most who meet them, yet instinctively revered; by some voted “deep” and not trusted, while others, almost without reflecting on it, know that they can trust them with their very inmost souls.

Benedict had good parents, living in a comfortable state of life; their great ambition was that from their many children one at least should become a priest. Benedict, being the quiet boy he was, soon became the one on whom their hopes settled; and they spared no pains to have him educated to that end. He chanced to have an uncle, a parish priest, living some distance from his family home; this uncle gladly received him, and undertook his early education for the priesthood. Here for a time Benedict settled down, learning Latin and studying Scripture. He was happy enough, though his originality of mind dragged against him. His Latin was a bore, and he did not make much of it, but the Scriptures he loved. On the other hand, the poor in the lanes had a strange attraction for him; they were pure nature, without much of the convention that he so disliked; and he was often with them, and regularly emptied his pockets among them. Besides, he had a way of wandering off to the queerest places, mixing with the queerest people, ending up with long meditations in his uncle’s church before the Blessed Sacrament.

But in spite of these long meditations, Benedict’s uncle was by no means sure that with a character such as his, and with his wandering propensity, he would end as a priest. Meanwhile the thought came to Benedict himself that he would be a Trappist; the originality of their life, with its ideals the exact contrary to those of ordinary convention, seemed to him exactly like his own. He applied to his uncle; his uncle put him off by referring him to his parents; his parents would have none of it, and told him he must wait till he grew older. At the time of this first attempt Benedict was about sixteen years of age.

He remained some two years longer with his priest-uncle, who continued to have his doubts about him. While he was still trying to make up his mind, when Benedict was about eighteen, an epidemic fell upon the city, and uncle and nephew busied themselves in the service of the sick.

The division of labor was striking; while the uncle, as became a priest, took care of the souls and bodies of the people, Benedict went to and fro caring for the cattle. He cleaned their stalls and fed them; the chronicler tells the story as if, in spite of the epidemic, which had no fears for him, Benedict were by no means loth to exchange this life of a farm laborer for that of a student under his uncle’s roof.

But a still greater change was pending. Among the last victims of the epidemic was the uncle himself, and his death left Benedict without a home. But this did not seem to trouble him; Benedict was one of those who seldom show trouble about anything. He had already developed that peculiar craving to do without whatever he could, and now that Providence had deprived him of a home he began to think that he might do without that as well. But what was he to do? How was he to live? At first he had thought that his natural aloofness from the ordinary ways of men meant that he should be a monk. His family had put him off, but why should he not try again? He was older now, arrived at an age when young men ordinarily decide their vocations; this time, he said to himself, he would not be so easily prevented.

Benedict returned to his family with his mind made up. He loved his parents—we have later abundant evidence of that; natures like his have usually unfathomed depths of love within them which they cannot show. He would not go without their consent.

He asked, and again they refused; his mother first, and then all the rest of the household with her. But he held on in his resolution, till at length in despair they surrendered, and Benedict set off with a glad heart in the direction of La Trappe.

He arrived there only to be disappointed. The abbey at which he applied had suffered much of late from the admission of candidates whose constitutions were unfitted for the rigor of the life; in consequence the monks had passed a resolution to admit no more unless they were absolutely sound in body. Benedict did not come up to their requirements. He was under age, he was too delicate; he had no special recommendations. They would make no exception, especially so soon after the rule had been made. Benedict was sent away, and returned to his family, and all they said to him was: “We told you so.”

Still he would not surrender. For a time he went to live with another parish priest, a distant relative, that he might continue his studies, and above all perfect himself in Latin. But the craving to go away would not leave him. If the Trappists would not have him, perhaps the Carthusians would. At least he could try. Once more he told his parents of his wish, and again, more than ever, they opposed him. They showed him how his first

failure was a proof that he would fail again; how he was throwing away a certain future for a shadow; how those best able to judge were all against him, how with his exceptional education he might do so much good elsewhere. Still he would have his way, and one day, when he had won a consent from his parents that at least he might try, he went off to ask for admission among the Carthusians of Montreuil. But here again he met with the same response. The monks were very kind, as Carthusians always are; they showed him every mark of affection, but they told him as well that he had no vocation for them. He was still too young to take up such a life; he had not done so much as a year of philosophy; he knew nothing of plain chant; without these he could not be admitted among them.

Benedict went off, but this time he did not return straight home.

If one Carthusian monastery would not have him, perhaps another would. There was one at Longuenesse; he was told that there they were in need of subjects, and postulants were more easily admitted. He tramped off to Longuenesse and applied; to his joy the monks agreed to give him a trial. But the trial did not last long. Benedict did his best to reconcile himself to the life, but it was all in vain. Strange to say, the very confinement, the one thing he had longed for, wore him down. The solitude, instead of giving him the peace he sought, seemed only to fill him with darkness and despair. The monks grew uneasy; they feared for the brain of this odd young man they told him he had no vocation and he was dismissed.

Benedict came home again, but his resolution was in no way shaken. His mother, naturally more than ever convinced that she was right, left no stone unturned to win him from his foolish fancy. Friends and neighbors joined in; they blamed him for his obstinacy, they accused him of refusing to recognize the obvious will of God, they called him unsociable, uncharitable, selfish, unwilling to shoulder the burden of life like other young men of his class. Still, in spite of all they said, Benedict held on.

He could not defend himself; nevertheless he knew that he was right and that he was following a star which would lead him to his goal at last. Since the Carthusians had said that he could not be received among them because he knew no philosophy or plain chant, that a year’s course in these was essential, he found someone willing to teach him, and much as he disliked the study, he persevered for the year as he had been told. Then he applied once more at Montreuil. The conditions had been fulfilled, he was now older and his health had been better; he had proved his constancy by this test imposed upon him; though many of the monks shook their heads, still they could see that this persistent youth would never be content till he had been given another trial, and they received him.

But the result was again the same. He struggled bravely on with the life, but he began to shrink to a shadow. The rule enjoined quiet in his cell, and he could not keep still. After six weeks of trial the monks had to tell him that he was not designed for them, and asked him to go. He went, but this time not home; he made up his mind never to go home any more. He would try the Trappists again or some other confined Order; perhaps he would have to go from monastery to monastery till at last he found peace, but he would persevere. At any rate he would no longer trouble, or be a burden to, his parents or his family. On the road, after he had been dismissed from Montreuil, he wrote a letter to his parents; it is proof enough that with all his strange ways he had a very wide place in his heart for those he dearly loved.

“My dear Father and Mother,

“This is to tell you that the Carthusians have judged me not a proper person for their state of life, and I quitted their house on the second day of October.—I now intend to go to La Trappe, the place which I have so long and so earnestly desired. I beg your pardon for all my acts of disobedience, and for all the uneasiness which I have at any time caused you.—By the grace of God I shall henceforth put you to no further expense, nor shall I give you any more trouble.—I assure you that you are now rid of me. I have indeed cost you much; but be assured that, by the grace of God, I will make the best use of, and reap benefits from, all that you have done for me.—Give me your blessing, and I will never again be a cause of trouble to you.—I very much hope to be received at La Trappe; but if I should fail there, I am told that at the Abbey of Sept Fonts they are less severe, and will receive candidates like me. But I think I shall be received at La Trappe.”

With hopes such as these he came to La Trappe and again was disappointed; the good monks declined even to reconsider his case. But he went on to Sept Fonts, as he had said he would in his letter, and there was accepted; for the third time he settled down to test his vocation as a monk. The trial lasted only eight months. He seems to have been happier here than anywhere before, yet in another sense he was far from happy. This youth with a passion for giving up everything, found that even in a Trappist monastery he could not give up enough. He craved to be yet more poor than a Trappist, he craved to be yet more starving; and what with his longing to give away more, and his efforts to be the poorest of the poor, he began to shrink to a mere skeleton, as he had done before at Montreuil. Added to this he fell ill, and was disabled for two months. Once more the community grew anxious; it was only too clear that he would never do for them. As soon as he was well enough to take the road he was told that he must go, that the strict life of the Trappist was too much for him and with a “God’s will be done” on his lips, and some letters of recommendation in his pocket, Benedict again passed out of the monastery door, into a world that hurt him.

Nevertheless in those few months he had begun at last to discover his true vocation. Though the longing for the monastic life did not entirely leave him, still he was beginning to see that there was now little hope of his being able to embrace it in the ordinary way. He was unlike other men; he must take the consequences and he would. He could not be a monk like others, then he would be one after his own manner. He could not live in the confinement of a monastery; then the whole world should be his cloister. There he would live, a lonely life with God, the loneliest of lonely men, the outcast of outcasts, the most pitied of all pitiful creatures, “a worm and no man, the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people.” He would be a tramp, God’s own poor man, depending on whatever men gave him from day to day, a pilgrim to heaven for the remainder of his life. He was twenty-five years of age.

He set off on his journey, with Rome as his first objective, a long cloak covering him, tied with a rope round the waist, a cross on his breast, a large pair of beads round his neck; his feet were partly covered with substitutes for shoes, carefully prepared, one might have thought, to let in water and stones. In this dress he braved every kind of weather, rain and snow, heat and the bitterest cold; he faced and endured it all without ever wincing or asking for a change. Over his shoulder he carried an old sack in which were all his belongings; chief among these were a bible and prayerbook. He ate whatever men gave him; if they gave him nothing he looked to see what he could find on the roadside. He refused to take thought for the morrow, if at any time he had more than sufficed for the day, he invariably gave it to another.

Moreover, as a result of his poverty, Benedict soon ceased to be clean; the smell of Benedict was not always pleasant; even his confessor, who wrote his life, tells us very frankly that when Benedict came to confession he had to protect himself from vermin. Men of taste, even those who later came to look on him as a saint, could scarcely refrain from drawing aside when he came near them; and when they did, then was Benedict’s heart full of joy. He had found what he wanted, his garden enclosed, his cloister that shut him off in the middle of the world; and the more he was spurned and ignored, the more did he lift up his eyes to God in thanksgiving.

With this light dawning on his soul, soon to grow into full noon, Benedict set out on his travels. He had gone through a long noviceship, living as it were between two worlds, one of which he would not have, while the other had repeatedly closed its doors to him; now at last his life proper had begun. We can discover his final decision in a letter he wrote to his parents from Piedmont, when he had now left France, and was half-way on his journey to Rome. It is a letter full of soul and warmth; it teems with sympathy and interest for others; there is not a word which implies bitterness or disappointment; the man who wrote it was a happy man, in no way disgruntled; evidently his only fear is that he may give pain to those he loved.

“My dear Father and Mother, “You have heard that I have left the Abbey of Sept Fonts, and no doubt you are uneasy and desirous to know what route I have taken, and what kind of life I intend to adopt.—I must therefore acquaint you that I left Sept Fonts in July; I had a fever soon after I left, which lasted four days, and I am now on my way to Rome.—I have not traveled very fast since I left, on account of the excessive hot weather which there always is in the month of August in Piedmont, where I now am, and where, on account of a little complaint, I have been detained for three weeks in a hospital where I was kindly treated. In other respects I have been very well. There are in Italy many monasteries where the religious live very regular and austere lives, I design to enter into one of them, and I hope that God will prosper my design.—Do not make yourselves uneasy on my account. I will not fail to write to you from time to time. And I shall be glad to hear of you, and of my brothers and sisters; but this is not possible at present, because I am not yet settled in any fixed place; I will not fail to pray for you every day. I beg that you will pardon me for all the uneasiness that I have given you; and that you will give me your blessing, that God may favor my design.—I am very happy in having undertaken my present journey. I beg you will give my compliments to my grandmother, my grandfather, my aunts, my brother James and all my brothers and sisters, and my uncle Francis. I am going into a country which is a good one for travelers. I am obliged to pay the postage of this to France. “Again I ask your blessing, and your pardon for all the uneasiness I have given you, and I subscribe myself, “Your most affectionate son, Benedict Joseph Labre. “Roziers in Piedmont, Aug. 31, 1770.”

This was the last letter he appears to have written to his family.

He had promised to write again; if he wrote, the letter has perished. Indeed from this moment they seem to have lost sight of him altogether; the next they heard of him was fourteen years later, when his name was being blazoned all over Europe as that of a saint whose death had stirred all Rome. And he never heard from them. He had told them he could give them no address, because he had no fixed abode; from this time forward he never had one, except during the last years in Rome, and that for the most part was in a place where the post could scarcely have found him, as we shall see.

Except to give an idea of the nature and extent of his wanderings during the next six or seven years, it is needless to recall all the pilgrimages he made. They led him over mountains and through forests, into large cities and country villages, he slept under the open sky, or in whatever sheltered corner he could find, accepting in alms what sufficed for the day and no more, clothed with what men chose to give him, or rather with what they could induce him to accept; alone with God everywhere and wanting no one else. During this first journey he called on his way at Loreto and Assisi. Arrived in Rome, footsore and ill, he was admitted for three days into the French hospital; then for eight or nine months he lingered in the city, visiting all the holy places, known to no one, sleeping no one knows where. In September of the next year we find him again at Loreto; during the remaining months of that year, and through the winter, he seems to have visited all the sacred shrines in the kingdom of Naples. He was still there in February, 1772, after which he returned to Rome. In June he was again at Loreto, thence he set out on his tour to all the famous shrines of Europe. In 1773 he was tramping through Tuscany; in 1774, after another visit to Rome, he was in Burgundy; during the winter of that year he went to Einsiedeln in Switzerland, choosing the coldest season of the year for this visit to the mountain shrine. 1775, being the Jubilee year, he again spent in Rome; in 1776 he was making pilgrimages to the chief places of devotion in Germany. At the end of that year he settled down definitely in Rome, going away henceforth only on special pilgrimages, most of all to his favorite Loreto, which he did not fail to visit every year.

Naturally enough stories are recalled of the behavior of this peculiar man on his journeys. He seems never to have had in his possession more than ten sous, or five pence, at a time; when charitable people offered him more than sufficed for the day he invariably refused it. At Loreto, where he came to be known perhaps more than anywhere else, at first he lodged in a barn at some distance from the town; when compassionate friends found a room for him closer to the shrine, he refused it because he found it contained a bed. In Rome, as we have already hinted, his home for years was a hole he had discovered among the ruins of the Coliseum; from this retreat he made daily excursions to the various churches of the city. Except when he was ill he seldom begged; he was content with whatever the passersby might give him of their own accord. Once a man, seeing him in his poverty, gave him a penny. Benedict thanked him, but finding it more than he needed, passed it on to another poor man close by. The donor, mistaking this for an act of contempt, supposing that Benedict had expected more, took his stick and gave him a beating Benedict took the beating without a word. We have this on the evidence of the man himself, recorded in the inquiry after Benedict’s death; it must be one instance of many of its kind.

But for the rest Benedict’s life was one of continued prayer; he was a Trappist in a monastery of his own making. So far as he was able he kept perpetual silence, those who knew him afterwards related that he seemed to go whole months together without allowing his voice to be heard. He lived in retirement and solitude, he would accept no friend or companion; he would have only God, a few who had come to notice him, and who helped him when he would allow them, were invariably treated as patrons and benefactors, but no more. When a convent of nuns, at which occasionally he applied, had observed him and began to show him more interest and respect, Benedict discovered their esteem and never went near them again. All his possessions were a few books of devotion and a wooden bowl; the latter had split, and he had kept it together with a piece of wire. He fasted and abstained continually, sometimes perforce, sometimes by chance by constantly kneeling on the hard ground, or the stone floors of the churches, he developed sores on both knees. He deliberately tried to be despised and shunned, and when men could not refrain from showing contempt in their manner, then would Benedict’s face light up with real joy. Let his confessor, who wrote his life a year after his death, describe his first meeting with him: “In the month of June, 1782, just after I had celebrated mass in the church of St. Ignatius belonging to the Roman College, I noticed a man close beside me whose appearance at first sight was decidedly unpleasant and forbidding. His legs were only partially covered, his clothes were tied round his waist with an old cord. His hair was uncombed, he was ill-clad, and wrapped about in an old and ragged coat. In his outward appearance he seemed to be the most miserable beggar I had ever seen. Such was the spectacle of Benedict the first time I beheld him.”

For what remains of Benedict’s story we cannot do better than follow the guidance of this director. After the priest had finished his thanksgiving, on the occasion just mentioned, Benedict approached him and asked him to appoint a time when he would hear his general confession. The time and place were arranged.

During the confession the priest was surprised, not only at the care with which it was made, but also at the knowledge his penitent showed of intricate points of theology. He concluded that, beggar though he was then, he had evidently seen better days; indeed he felt sure that he had once been a clerical student. He therefore interrupted the confession to ask whether he had ever studied divinity. “I, Father?” said Benedict. “No, I never studied divinity. I am only a poor ignorant beggar.”

The confessor at once recognized that he was dealing with something unusual. He resolved to do for him all he could, and for the future to keep him carefully in mind.

As it has so often been in God’s dealings with hidden saints whom He has willed that men should come at last to know, that apparently chance meeting was the means by which the memory of Benedict was saved. It took place in June, 1782; in April of the following year Benedict died. During those ten months the priest to whom he addressed himself had ample opportunity to watch him. As the weeks passed by he grew in wonder at the sanctity that lay beneath rags; and yet he tells us that, not a little fastidiously clean as he seems to have been himself, it never so much as occurred to him to bid Benedict mend his ways. To hear his confession cost him an effort, yet he never thought twice about making that effort; only at times, for the sake of others, the appointed place was out of the way.

He saw him last on the Friday before Holy Week, 1783, when Benedict came to make his confession as usual. He remarks that though always before Benedict had fixed the day when he would come again, this time he made no appointment. The next the priest heard of him was that he was dead, exactly a week later.

But he was not surprised. For some months before, when once he had come to know Benedict and his way of life, he had wondered how he lived. Apart from his austerities, and his invariable choice of food that was least palatable, of late his body had begun to develop sores and ulcers. The priest had spoken to him on this last point, and had exhorted him at least to take more care of his sores, but Benedict had taken little notice. On his side, as the confessor could not but notice, and as is common with saints as death draws nearer, the love of God that was in him left him no desire to live any longer.

It came to Wednesday in Holy Week. Among the churches which Benedict frequented none saw him more than S. Maria dei Monti, not very far from the Coliseum. In this church he usually heard mass every morning; in the neighborhood he was well known. On this day he had attended the morning services; as he went out of the door, about one in the afternoon, he was seen to fall on the steps. Neighbors ran towards him. He asked for a glass of water, but he could not lift himself up. A local butcher, who had often been kind to Benedict, offered to have him carried to his house, and Benedict agreed. They laid him on a bed, as they thought, to rest; but it soon became clear that he was dying. A priest was sent for, the Last Sacraments were administered; but Benedict was too weak to receive Viaticum. The prayers for the dying were said; at the words: “Holy Mary, pray for him,” Benedict died, without a sigh or a convulsion. It was the 16th of April, 1783: Benedict was thirty-five years of age.

And now some remarkable things happened. His confessor and first biographer writes: “Scarcely had this poor follower of Christ breathed his last when all at once the little children from the houses hard by filled the whole street with their noise, crying out with one accord: ‘The Saint is dead, the Saint is dead.’—But presently after they were not only young children who published the sanctity of Benedict; all Rome soon joined in their cries, repeating the self-same words: ‘A Saint is dead.’ . . . Great numbers of persons who have been eminent for their holiness, and famous for their miracles, have ended the days of their mortal life in this city; but the death of none of them ever excited so rapid and lively an emotion in the midst of the people as the death of this poor beggar. This stirred a kind of universal commotion; for in the streets scarcely anything could be heard but these few words: ‘There is a saint dead in Rome. Where is the house in which he has died?”‘

Nor does this description seem to have been exaggerated. Not only was it written within a year of the event, so that anyone could bear witness to its truth; but we know that scarcely was Benedict dead before two churches were contending for the privilege of possessing his body. At length it was decided that it should be given to S. Maria dei Monti, which he had most frequented; and thither, on the Wednesday night, it was carried.

So great was the crowd that the guard of police had to be doubled; a line of soldiers accompanied the body to the church; more honor could scarcely have been paid to a royal corpse.

From the moment that it was laid there the church was thronged with mourners; the next day, Maundy Thursday, and again throughout Good Friday, it almost lay in state during all the Holy Week services. The throng all the time went on increasing, so that the Cardinal Vicar was moved to allow the body to remain unburied for four days. People of every rank and condition gathered there; at the feet of Benedict the Beggar all were made one. They buried him in the church, close beside the altar, on Easter Sunday afternoon; when the body was placed in the coffin it was remarked that it was soft and flexible, as of one who had but just been dead.

But the enthusiasm did not end with the funeral. Crowds continued to flock to the church, soldiers were called out to keep order. At length the expedient was tried of closing the church altogether for some days. It was of no avail; as soon as the church was reopened the crowds came again, and continued coming for two months. Nothing like it had been seen before, even in Rome; if ever anyone was declared a saint by popular acclamation it was Benedict Joseph Labre, the beggar. Then the news spread abroad. Within a year the name of Benedict was known all over Europe. Lives of him began to appear, legends began to grow, miracles, true and false, were reported from all sides; it was to secure an authentic story, among many inventions, that his confessor was called upon to write the Life that we know.

Let us add one touching note. All this time the father and mother, brothers and sisters of Benedict were living in their home near Boulogne. For more than twelve years they had heard nothing of him; they had long since presumed that he was dead.

Now, through these rumors, it dawned upon them very gradually that the saint of whom all the world was speaking was their son! “My son was dead, and is come to life again; he was lost, and is found.”

Labre’s confessor, Marconi, wrote his biography and attributed 136 separate cures to his intercession within three months of his death. Those miracles were instrumental in the conversion of the Reverend John Thayer, the first American Protestant clergyman to convert to Catholicism, who was resident in Rome at the time of St. Benedict’s death.

Pope Francis blesses 'Jesus the Homeless' sculpture during general audience in November

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Love,
Matthew

Apr 29 – St Catherine of Siena, OP, (1347-1380), Doctor of the Church, “Lessons of Love”

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athanasius murphy
-by Br Athanasius Murphy, OP

“‘Love does not stay idle.” – St. Catherine of Siena, Letter T82

Can we really imitate a fourteenth century saint whose life had such great austerity, who fasted with such severity? What lesson can we learn from a Church Doctor whose diet was raw vegetables, whose sleep pattern was non-existent, and whose community was called the “Sisters of Penance”?

Admittedly St. Catherine of Siena’s life was one of penance. Bl. Raymund of Capua’s biography of her makes this clear enough. But I think it’s hard to make sense of St. Catherine’s life of penance unless you’ve made sense of her life of love. Here are a few short teachings from St. Catherine on love:

Love impels us to desire. If love is the reason why we desire, then love is the reason why we live. We can’t live without love because we always want to love something. Love moves us and unites us to the thing we love in order to rest in it. When we love something we don’t just want a superficial understanding of it, but we want what it really is, and nothing keeps us away from it.

St. Catherine knew how to fast because she knew how to love. Penance was admittedly part of her life and letters, but her literature is saturated with descriptions of love. It’s perhaps the single most common word in her letters. There are many goods in this life that we desire, but the supreme good – God, who gives us divine life, beatitude, ultimate happiness – this is the ultimate end that we strive to have in love. St. Catherine knew her need for love.  She often ended her letters with the salutation “Love, love, love one another, sweet Jesus, Jesus, Love.”

Love makes room. In love we forget about ourselves and make room for another. When we fast from little goods we make room for perfect love that comes from Love himself. In doing this we can see where we have false loves – when we love ourselves or another in a way that doesn’t reflect reality. Removing a false self-love in us, God makes room within us for Himself. But us loving God more means we become more of ourselves; there is more of us present in each act of love. God makes room in the temple of ourselves until he lead us to the Incorruptible Temple of Himself.

 by Agostino Carracci
-“The Ecstasy of St Catherine”, Agostino Carracci, 1590, Baroque, oil on canvas, Galleria Borghese, Rome, Italy

Only in receiving this Divine Love could St. Catherine care for the sick and the poor and nurse plague victims the way she did. Love, not penance, was the foundation of her life:

“If, then, we made ourselves build on penance as a foundation, it might come to nothing and be so imperfect that we would seem to be deprived of God, and soon [we] would fall into weariness and bitterness…we should strive to give only a finished work to God Who is Infinite Love Who demands from us only infinite desire.” – Letter to Daniella of Orvieto

This divine love was the source of her own love towards those she cared for:

“God has loved us without being loved, but we love Him because we are loved…we cannot profit Him, nor love Him with this first love…In what way can we do this, then, since he demands it and we cannot give it to Him? I tell you…we can be useful, not to Him, which is impossible, but to our neighbor…love is gained in love by raising the eye of our mind to behold how much we are loved by God. Seeing ourselves loved, we cannot otherwise than love.” – Letter to Brother Bartolomeo Dominici

Love transforms. St. Catherine states that “love transforms one into what one loves” (Dialogue 60). In loving God, we become like the One we love. When two things are joined together, there can’t be anything between them, otherwise there wouldn’t be a complete union of them together. This is how God wants us to be with Him in love. Once we are removed from selfish love we can love God with the love with which He has first loved us. St. Catherine takes this transformative love to the highest level:

“The eternal Father said [to me], ‘If you should ask me what this soul is, I would say: she is another me, made so by the union of love.” (Dialogue 96)

By God’s love we become kneaded and knit into our Creator Who redeems us and lets us participate in His divine love.

Ultimately, St. Catherine’s love led her to a life of penance and service to her neighbor. There’s no saying it wasn’t a harsh life – she died at age 33 – but it was certainly a life lived in love. She saw all of her actions and penances tied up in the cross of Christ: a tree not of unnecessary torture and grief but a tree of love. St. Catherine wished to graft herself into that tree and so be joined to the fiery love that comes from Christ.

St. Catherine certainly had her share of penance, but I think the primary lessons she teaches us are in love. If you want a reason for St. Catherine’s penitential life, look to Christ who loved her with an infinite love. Cling to Christ as the One Who lives and Who wants to live in you.”

“Let the eye of understanding rest on the Cross always. Here you’ll discover true virtue and fall in love with it.”
–St. Catherine of Siena

“Start being brave about everything. Drive out darkness and spread light. Don’ look at your weaknesses. Realize instead that in Christ crucified you can do everything.”
-St. Catherine of Siena

“He who knows how to forgive prepares for himself many graces from God. As often as I look upon the Cross, so often will I forgive with all my heart (Diary, 390).”

“No greater joy is to be found than that of loving God. Already here on earth we can taste the happiness of those in heaven by an intimate union with God, a union that is extraordinary and often quite incomprehensible to us. One can attain this very grace through simple faithfulness of soul (Diary, 507).”

“I am not counting on my own strength, but on His omnipotence for, as He gave me the grace of knowing His holy will, He will also grant me the grace of fulfilling it (Diary, 615).”

“An extraordinary peace entered my soul when I reflected on the fact that, despite great difficulties, I had always faithfully followed God’s will as I knew it. O Jesus, grant me the grace to put Your will into practice as I have come to know it, O God (Diary, 666).”

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My Nature Is Fire

In your nature, eternal Godhead,
I shall come to know my nature.
And what is my nature, boundless love?
It is fire,
because you are nothing but a fire of love.
And you have given humankind
a share in this Nature,
for by the fire of love You created us.
And so with all other people
and every created thing;
you made them out of love.
O ungrateful people!
What nature has your God given you?
His very own nature!
Are you not ashamed to cut yourself off from such a noble thing
through the guilt of deadly sin?
O eternal Trinity, my sweet love!
You, Light, give us light.
You, Wisdom, give us wisdom.
You, Supreme Strength, strengthen us.
Today, eternal God,
let our cloud be dissipated
so that we may perfectly know and follow your Truth in truth,
with a free and simple heart.
God, come to our assistance!
Lord, make haste to help us!
Amen.
-St Catherine of Siena

Love,
Matthew

You can’t pay for that!!! aka, Taste & See!!!

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Descent from the Cross, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 1634, oil on canvas, 158 cm (62.2 in) x 117 cm (46.1 in), Hermitage Museum, Russia

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-by Br Joseph Martin Hagan, OP

““Excuse me, sir. You’re not going to be able to pay for that.” His words flew like a dart. I was startled. My thoughts raced: “Is he talking to me?” I stood paralyzed. “It must be me.” My heart sunk. “Sir, I don’t think you make enough money to purchase that.” The second time was harsher. Embarrassed blood flushed my face. I lowered my gaze and mumbled something apologetic as my feet carried me away to anywhere else.

A few moments earlier, I had been enraptured by beauty. My friend and I had just entered the art gallery, and the first painting captivated me: Rembrandt’s Descent from the Cross. I delighted in its mastery and especially its use of light, and I wanted to share this wonder with my friend. But as I began to point out Rembrandt’s technique, my finger went too far. I triggered the security guard sitting behind me, and he intervened swiftly and bluntly.

As we hurried away from the scene of my embarrassment, a part of me became defensive. My finger wasn’t that close. If he only knew me, he would know that I’m not the type of person who goes around touching paintings. What kind of person did he think I was? I’m a respectable art gallery-goer.

But something more disturbed me. I had felt a certain familiarity with the painting—that wasn’t a painting of just anything or anyone; that was my Savior, my brother, that was the moment of my redemption. Yet the guard’s words paid no regard to this. It was as if I were a stranger looking at an antique artifact. Sure, some might see a priceless, untouchable masterpiece, but I saw a family portrait.

Then my thoughts came to a compromise. On one hand, I’ll grant to the guard that I could never pay for that: whether the painting or its subject. In fact, the painting shows just how much He paid for me, for all of us. I can’t explain why Jesus would make such a down payment for us, but I’m glad He did.

But on the other hand, I will not apologize for getting too close to Jesus. Sure, keep your fancy painting in mint condition, but I’ll take my Jesus, who for our sake, took on our brokenness. He handed himself over to us, and we scourged and crucified him. He who knew no sin became sin—and even now he bears the glorious marks of his sorrowful passion.

My Jesus is touchable. Just recall the dinner-party with the Pharisee and the sinful woman. The Pharisee murmured to himself: “does not Jesus know who is touching him? If he were a prophet, he would know that she is a sinner.” Yes, Jesus knows who touches him. He knows my unfaithfulness, my brokenness, my slowness to love, my insecurities, my sins.

But he is more than a prophet—he is a savior. He not only knows my sins, but takes them on himself, nailing them to the cross. And now he lavishes us with forgiveness and healing, pouring out mercy in the confessional.

This is a Savior who comes to us even today in a piece of once-bread and a sip of once-wine, inviting us not just to touch, but to taste, to take and eat, to be united to his very Body and Blood.

So next time I go to the art museum, I will mind the boundaries with refined etiquette. But the next time Jesus comes to me in the Eucharist, may my soul forget all its boundaries. O gates, lift high your heads; grow higher, ancient door. Let him enter, the king of glory!”

Blessed & fruitful Easter!

Love,
Matthew