Category Archives: April

Apr 1 – Dachau, & Bl Giuseppe Girotti, OP, (1905-1945), Priest & Martyr

giuseppe girotti

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-by Br Patrick Mary Briscoe, OP

“On Good Friday 1940, the Nazi SS Guards of Dachau Concentration Camp found pretext to punish sixty-some priest-prisoners with an hour on “the tree.” One former Dachau prisoner describes the torture saying, “They tie a man’s hands together behind his back, palms facing out and fingers pointing backward. Then they turn his hands inwards, tie a chain around his wrists and hoist him up by it. His own weight twists his joints and pulls them apart.” The barbaric aptitude of the guards of Dachau incarnated the demonic for the some 2500 priests condemned to incarceration in the camp during the years 1933–1945. Priests were crowned with crowns of barbed wire while groups of Jewish prisoners were forced to hail them as kings. Guards mocked, spat upon, and forced priests to carry railroad ties, all in imitation of the crucified Lord.

Every passing day in that camp must have made all-too-real the wickedness and cruelty of Good Friday for those seemingly forsaken prisoners. Good Friday is the only calendar day during which priests do not offer the sacrifice of the Mass. Intermittently denied the ability to celebrate the sacraments, the priest-prisoners found themselves scrounging for scraps of bread to consecrate in clandestine Masses, often going long periods without the sacraments. The few luxuries they were allowed (extra helpings of food, permission to gather for prayer, etc.) evoke the comforts offered Christ during his passion, such as Veronica wiping his face or Simon helping to carry his cross. Even these comforts though were used against the priests, as the rest of the camp’s prisoners envied the liberties occasionally accorded them, making the priests despised even by the other prisoners: not unlike the rejection Christ endured from the angry mob.

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-Bl Giuseppe Girotti, OP

To be sure, not all of the priest-prisoners of Dachau were saintly men—some were actually notorious criminals—but some of Dachau’s resident clergy have been held up as model Christians by the Church, worthy of public veneration. One such priest is the relatively obscure Italian Dominican friar Giuseppe Girotti.

Fr. Giuseppe—a former student of the Servant of God Père Marie-Joseph Lagrange, OP—taught scripture and theology at the Dominican school of theology in Turin (S. Maria della Rose). He was universally beloved by his students. Fr. Giuseppe’s chef d’oeuvre, on the book of Isaiah, includes a detailed study of the beautiful passages on the Suffering Servant, passages applied in the New Testament to Christ in order to interpret his suffering and death on the Cross.  After Italy changed course to collaborate with the Allies in 1943, Fr. Giuseppe dedicated himself to aiding the Jews of Italy. Having studied in Jerusalem, he had a great respect for the Jewish people, whom he fondly called “elder brothers” and “carriers of the word.” When asked once about his work, he candidly said, “Everything I do is for charity.” He would arrange escape and hideouts for Jews.  Nevertheless, his illegal work on behalf of the persecuted Jews was eventually discovered. Fr. Giuseppe’s own via crucis (way of the cross) began on August 29, 1944, when he was betrayed, like his Master, and handed over to the police.

From the prison in Turin, Fr. Giuseppe was transferred to Milan, then to Gries, finally arriving at Dachau. As Isaiah says, “Like a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers, he did not open his mouth. Seized and condemned, he was taken away. Who would have thought any more of his destiny?” (Isa. 53:7-8). In the midst of the horrific conditions of the camp, during the cold of the winter of 1944–1945 Fr. Giuseppe often said, “We have to prepare to die, but peacefully, with lighted lamps and the happiness of the saints.” On Christmas he gave two lectures on the theological virtues, and was known for regularly teaching his fellow inmates about Sacred Scripture. Fr. Giuseppe fell ill from the camp’s inhumane state, and was transferred to the infirmary.  He died there on Easter Sunday, 1945. It is assumed his life was extinguished by a lethal injection of gasoline, as was the common practice of the Nazi prison camps. “Because of his anguish he shall see the light; because of his knowledge he shall be content” (Isa. 53:11). When word spread through the camp that he had died, a fellow prisoner carved into his empty bed the words, “Here slept Saint Giuseppe Girotti.”

Fr. Giuseppe will be formally beatified on April 26, the day before Bl. John XIII and Bl. John Paul II will be canonized saints. Fr. Giuseppe’s remarkable, humble witness of charity stands in stark contrast to the forces of evil which tormented him. This is the self-effacing embrace of the passion we memorialize on Good Friday, the day of the death of Christ, the Suffering Servant. In the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “Yet it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured. We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed” (Isa. 53:4-5). Through his own passion, Fr. Giuseppe participated in Christ’s redemptive suffering for the sake of the Church (see Col 1:24). His entrance into eternal life on the glorious day of the Resurrection sheds a ray of hope in a dark world that one day will be transformed through the saving promise of Christ’s sacred Paschal Mystery.”

Love,
Matthew

Apr 15 – Bl Caesar de Bus, (1544-1607), Founder, Fathers & Daughters of Christian Doctrine & Patron of Modern Catechists

Cesar de Bus best

Like so many of us, Caesar de Bus struggled with the decision about what to do with his life.  After completing his Jesuit education he had difficulty settling between a military and a literary career. He wrote some plays but ultimately settled for life in the army and at court.

One of the glories of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, who proved to be one of the greatest catechists in the history of the Church.  The seventh of thirteen children, he experienced a conversion from a worldly and frivolous life to embrace a life of prayer, penance, and austerity reminiscent of a St. Ignatius Loyola or a Pere de Foucald. He had been known as a dandy prone to cajolery and being “the life of the party” among his fellows.

For a time life was going rather smoothly for the engaging, well-to-do young Frenchman. He was confident he had made the right choice. That was until he saw firsthand the realities of battle, including the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacres of French Protestants in 1572.

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-Le massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy, François Dubois (1529–1584), oil on panel, 94 × 154 cm (37 × 60.6 in), Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, France

(The massacre took place five days after the wedding of the king’s sister Margaret to the Protestant Henry III of Navarre (the future Henry IV of France). This marriage was an occasion for which many of the most wealthy and prominent Huguenots had gathered in largely Catholic Paris.

The massacre began in the night of 23-24 August 1572 (the eve of the feast of Bartholomew the Apostle), two days after the attempted assassination of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, the military and political leader of the Huguenots. The king ordered the killing of a group of Huguenot leaders, including Coligny, and the slaughter spread throughout Paris. Lasting several weeks, the massacre expanded outward to other urban centres and the countryside. Modern estimates for the number of dead across France vary widely, from 5,000 to 30,000.

The massacre also marked a turning point in the French Wars of Religion. The Huguenot political movement was crippled by the loss of many of its prominent aristocratic leaders, as well as many re-conversions by the rank and file, and those who remained were increasingly radicalized. Though by no means unique, it “was the worst of the century’s religious massacres.” Throughout Europe, it “printed on Protestant minds the indelible conviction that Catholicism was a bloody and treacherous religion”.)

de Bus’s conversion took place on the way to a masked ball while passing by a place where a small light was burning before an image of the Blessed Virgin. Suddenly, the prayer of a remarkable unlettered friend, the mystic Antoinette Reveillade, came to mind. She had begged God with tears for the salvation of his soul that death would not find him in mortal sin.

He thought, “How can I recommend myself to God while I am on the way to offend Him?” An extraordinary grace was victorious. In the words of one of his biographers, “One tempestuous night, the All-powerful God, the King of Glory, encountered the worldly chevalier Cesar de Bus, obstinate in sin, and conquered him.”

He fell seriously ill and found himself reviewing his priorities, including his spiritual life. By the time he had recovered, Caesar had resolved to become a priest. Following his ordination in 1582, he undertook special pastoral work: teaching the catechism to ordinary people living in neglected, rural, out-of-the-way places. His efforts were badly needed and well received.

Ordained a priest in 1582, de Bus was profoundly affected by his reading a life of St. Charles Borromeo shortly after the saint’s death. He was to take him as a model in everything that seemed to suit his own temperament and formation best, that is, the penitential life of the holy cardinal, his devotion to the Passion of Christ, his preaching, and especially his catechetical apostolate imbued with a deep love of the Church undergoing the terrible after-shocks of the Protestant Revolution.

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It should be recalled that the Blessed’s future catechetical apostolate was part of a vast movement of religious revival which implemented the decrees of the Council of Trent (1545-1563). One has only to think of the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), who died during the Council; St. Philip Neri, founder of the Oratory (1515-1575); St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582); St. John of the Cross (1542-1591); St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621); St. Peter Canisius (1521-1591); and particularly St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584), the indefatigable Archbishop of Milan whose work with the famous Roman Catechism, provincial councils initiating needed reforms, and holiness of life, were to greatly influence the Blessed Cesar de Bus.

The French priest was to expend his energies catechizing the people of Aix-in-Provence who manifested massive religious ignorance as a result of the social and cultural turmoil stemming from the Religious Wars begun by Luther’s and Calvin’s rebellion. Largely forgotten today, de Bus was an impressive figure among his contemporaries. St. Francis de Sales considered him to be a holy rival to St. Philip Neri and declared him “a star of the first magnitude in the firmament of Catechesis.” De Bus was venerated by no less than Cardinal Richelieu who could not fail to be impressed by his austere and holy life.

Working with his cousin, Caesar developed a program of family catechesis. The goal—to ward off heresy among the people—met the approval of local bishops. Out of these efforts grew a new religious congregation: the Fathers of Christian Doctrine/”Prêtres séculiers de la doctrine chrétienne”.

One of Caesar’s works, Instructions for the Family on the Four Parts of the Roman Catechism/”Instructions familières”, was published 60 years after his death.

“I was so beside myself and fired with such a longing to do something in imitation of him, that I would not give my eyes sleep or my days rest until I had given some beginning to this resolution of mine.” -Blessed Cesar de Bus, writing about Saint Charles Borromeo

“In the year of his birth at Cavaillon, the Christian world is in a crisis, one of the most serious crises in its history. A crisis that is not only a religious and doctrinal one, but also a crisis of civilization, with the afflux of new movements of thought, not all negative, but which confuse the mass of the faithful. Cesar de Bus came into the world in this troubled period when men are gradually opening up to culture, to the arts and to the reign of pleasure. He let himself be swept along, during adolescence and early manhood, to the life of ease for which his social status and his fortune marked him out, the superficial, careless life of a gifted being, brilliant in society, a poet when he liked, more sensitive to the appeal of pleasure in every form than to the demands of the Gospel.

…After his conversion, the spiritual progress of the Blessed was not without its upsets, moments of discouragement, darkness and uncertainty. We have been struck, however, by what was to be, almost from the beginning, a characteristic of his whole life. Perhaps that is the secret of his constancy, or in any case, what always enabled him to overcome his difficulties and start off again with increased energy; we are referring to his “spirit of repentance.” Repentance is not an empty word for him. He carries it to its extreme consequences, for he has come back from afar! He must master the passion of which he was the slave in the past, a violent and perpetual battle against carnal temptations. He learns in this way to seek and love sacrifice, for sacrifice configures one with Christ Suffering and Victorious. To offer himself as a libation, to leave everything in God’s hand at the cost of the greatest renunciations, this seems to have been the leitmotif, the perpetual aim of his efforts. And when, at the end of his life, suffering and afflicted with blindness for 14 years, he is at last able to prepare for the supreme gift, he will realize how useful asceticism has been to master the old Adam. He will be ready to meet the Lord. His joy will be perfect.

The aim of Father de Bus is to communicate Christian doctrine to the people. The idea is far from being new. From the beginning the first Christians were anxious to transmit, and transmit exactly, the essential part of what they had received. Collections gathering the most outstanding events and sayings in the midst of a pagan world and in view of the dangers of doctrinal deviation, to inculcate in catechumens and recall to disciples a “kerygma,” that is, a central core, a “summary of the faith” containing the essential elements, which can serve as a basis for developments adapted to circumstances and to the psychology of listeners. It is necessary to give a solid foundation to their faith, to support their affective and charitable attachment to the living God with a knowledge of the truths of faith that will correspond to this love.

This is a period in which the world is in crisis, as formerly, and in which most values, even the most sacred ones, are rashly questioned in the name of freedom, so that many people have no longer any point of reference, in a period in which danger comes certainly not from an excess of dogmatism but rather from the dissolution of doctrine and the nebulousness of thought. It seems to Us that an additional effort should be courageously undertaken to give the Christian people, who are waiting for it more than is thought, a solid, exact catechetical base, easy to remember. We well understand that it is difficult today to adhere to the Faith, particularly for the young, a prey to so many uncertainites. They have the right at least to know precisely the message of Revelation, which is not the fruit of research, and to be the witnesses of a Church that lives by it.” -Pope Paul VI during the beatification of Blessed Cesar, April 27, 1975, “Christ to the World”, #4

“Blessed César de Bus, you who left us the admirable example of a life completely dedicated to God, you who were on fire with the desire to communicate the life of God to your brothers, intercede for us with the Lord now, so that the same fire may consume us and the same charity urge us.” -Pope Paul VI during the beatification of Blessed Cesar

Love,
Matthew

Apr 12 – St Joseph Moscati, (1880-1927), Layman, Physician, Scientist, Professor

MOSCATI prof. GIUSEPPE (santo)

His canonization miracle involved curing a young ironworker who was dying of leukemia; the patient‘s mother dreamed of a doctor wearing a white coat; she later identified his as Moscati when shown a photograph of him; soon after her son was cured.  He is the first modern physician to be canonized.

Joseph Mario Charles Alphonse Moscati, seventh of nine children born to a prominent family, the son of Francsco Moscati, a lawyer and magistrate who served as an altar server whenever possible, and Rosa de Luca dei Marchesi di Roseto, whose family was Italian nobility. Giuseppe’s family moved to Naples, Italy when the boy was four years old; he made his First Communion at age eight, Confirmation at ten.

Friend of Blessed Bartolo Longo and Blessed Caterina Volpicelli, he received his doctorate from the University of Naples in 1903. He worked at and served as administrator of a hospital for the incurable while continuing to study and do medical research. He assisted in the preparation for and recovery from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 8 April 1906, but refused any recognition for the work. He also led the work to stop cholera in Naples, and was a Member of the Royal Academy of Surgical Medicine in 1911, and received a doctorate in physiological chemistry.

He directed several hospitals and medical societies, and was one of the first to experiment with the use of insulin for diabetes. Tried to enlist in the army in World War I, but was refused and instead ran a hospital for the wounded; personally treated almost 3,000 soldiers. He healed (sometimes miraculously), taught at numerous universities and hospitals, and supported the poor and outcast; could sometimes diagnose a patient‘s illness and prescribe for it without having seen the patient. And, knew when and how to use a patient‘s faith and the sacraments to effect a cure.

Besides being an excellent doctor, Joseph Moscati was holy too. How did he do it? Each morning he went to Mass and spent time in prayer. Then the doctor would visit the sick poor in the slums of Naples. From there he would go to the hospital and begin his rounds. For twenty-five years, Joseph worked and prayed for his patients. He knew that the well-being of the soul often affected the health of the body. Along with prescriptions for medication, Dr. Moscati would prescribe prayer and a return to the sacraments, often with dramatic results! He saw Confession and Communion as the “first medicines”. He poured all his strength into his life’s calling.

On the afternoon of April 12, 1927, Dr. Moscati did not feel well, so he went to his office and relaxed in an armchair. There he had a stroke and died. He was forty-seven years old.

Moscati

“Remember that, following Medicine, you undertook upon yourself the responsibility of teachings always in your memory, with love and pity for the abandoned, with faith and enthusiasm, deaf to praises and criticisms, to envy, inclined only to God.” -from a letter to Dr.Giuseppe Biondi, Sept. 4th, 1921

“Life doesn’t end with death, it continues in a better way.  It has been promised to everyone, after the world’s redemption, the day that will join us again to our beloved dead and that will bring us again to Supreme Love!”
–St Joseph Moscati

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“Let us daily practice charity. God is love. He who loves is in God and God in him. Let us never forget to offer every day, nay, every moment, our actions to God, doing all things for love…Love the truth, show yourself as you are, without pretenses and fears…and if the truth causes you persecution, accept it, and if it causes you some torment, bear it.  And if for the sake of truth you should sacrifice yourself and your life, be strong in your sacrifice.”
-St Joseph Moscati

“Charity changed the world, not science…very few men are remembered because of science; but anyone can be an everlasting symbol of life eternal, where death is nothing but a step, a metamorphosis towards a higher place, if they will dedicate themselves to good”
-St Joseph Moscati

“Remember, that you must treat not only bodies, but also souls, with counsel that appeals to their minds and hearts rather than with cold prescriptions to be sent in to the pharmacist.”
-St Joseph Moscati

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“Who is the one we today propose to the imitation and veneration of everyone? He is a layman, who made his life a mission completed with evangelical genuineness. He is a doctor, who made his profession a training ground for the apostolate and a mission of charity. He is a University Teacher remembered by his students with a deep sense of gratitude and admiration. He is an haute école scientist, famous for his scientific contributions on an international scale. That is his life…”
-Pope Paul VI, beatification of Joseph Moscati

“The man who from today on we will invoke as a Saint of the Universal Church, is facing us as a concrete realization of the lay Christian ideal.   Joseph Moscati, head physician, a great researcher, University teacher of human physiology and physiological chemistry, fulfilled all his many tasks with all the will and seriousness that these lay delicate professions require.  From this point of view, Moscati is not only an example to be admired, but also to be imitated by the physicians… He is an example even to those people who don’t share his faith”.
-Blessed John Paul II, canonization of Joseph Moscati

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-St Joseph Moscati’s tomb

“Dear St Joseph Moscati, true model of Christian doctors, in the exercise of your medical profession, you always took care of both the body and soul of every patient.

Look on us, who have recourse to your heavenly intercession, and obtain for us both physical and spiritual health, and a share in the dispensation of heavenly favors.

Soothe the pains of our suffering people; give comfort to the sick, consolation to the afflicted and hope to the despondent.

May our young people find in you an ideal, our workers an example, the aging a comfort, the dying the hope of eternal salvation.

To all of us be a pattern of industriousness, honesty and charity; so we may comply with our Christian duties and glorify God our Father.”

Amen.

St Joseph Moscati, Model for Laity, pray for us!

Love,
Matthew

Jan 27 (Apr 7) – Blessed Edward Oldcorne, SJ, (1561-1606), Priest & Martyr

after Unknown artist, line engraving, 1608
after Unknown artist, line engraving, 1608

Edward Oldcorne was born in York, England of a non-Catholic father and a Catholic mother. He gave up medical studies and enrolled at the English College in Rheims, France in 1581 before going on to Rome to complete his studies and was ordained. Soon after, he joined the Society of Jesus and was allowed to complete his novitiate in a very short time because of the difficult conditions he would face upon his return to England.

Fr Oldcorne stayed with Fr Garnet, the superior of the English Jesuits upon arrival but after a few months he was assigned to Hinlip Hall outside Worcester where he was to spend sixteen years. The master of Hinlip Hall was an ardent Catholic who was in prison and had left the property in the care of his sister, Dorothy, a Protestant who had been at the court of Elizabeth. While priests still found hospitality in Hinlip Hall, she merely tolerated their presence. Many priests had tried to reconcile her to the Church without success. It was left to Fr Oldcorne to find the way. She listened to his instructions and sermons, unconvinced; but when she learned that he had been fasting for days to bring about her conversion, she finally yielded to God’s grace and her conversion led many others in Worcester to return to the faith of their ancestors. The Hall became the Jesuit’s base of operations where many came to seek the sacraments and hear Fr Oldcorne’s preaching. His health was poor ever since he returned to England and he had throat cancer that left him with a hoarse and painful voice, but did not keep him from preaching. His cancer was healed following a pilgrimage to St Winifred’s shrine in 1591.

Catholics in England were looking forward to the end of persecution when Queen Elizabeth died and James I ascended the throne in 1603 as he had promised to be more tolerant, but in fact, the persecution increased. This angered some Catholics who plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament during the king’s visit on Nov 5, 1605. The plot was discovered and with that the hatred for Catholics intensified. The government was determined to implicate the Jesuits in the so-called “Gunpowder Plot” despite the capture of the men behind it. The Jesuit superior Fr Garnet decided to leave London and seek shelter at the Hall, which had more hiding places than any other mansion in England. Bro Nicholas Owen, the person who constructed all the priest-hiding places was with him and they joined Frs Oldcorne and Ashley.

The sheriff of Worcestershire and 100 of his men arrived at the Hall and spent several days searching for priests together with a certain Humphrey Littleton who betrayed Fr Oldcorne. The sheriff stationed a man in each room of the house and ordered others to tap on the walls in the hope of locating concealed priest-holes. By the end of the third day they found eleven such hiding places, but no priests, On the fourth day, starvation and thirst forced Br Ashley and Br Owen to emerge from their hole. Some say the religiously professed brothers real motive was to surrender themselves, focus attention on themselves and their capture, and distract the persecutors long enough for Frs Oldcorne and Garnet to escape.  They had hoped the sheriff would think that he had finally caught his prey and end the search, leaving the two priests in safety. But the sheriff was determined and his men continued their close examination of the house. Finally on the eighth day, Jan 27, 1606 Frs Oldcorne and Garnet were discovered when they emerged white, ill and weak. All four were taken to the Tower of London.

When the prison officials failed in their efforts to eavesdrop and record any conversation which could link the two priests to the Gunpowder plot, Fr Oldcorne was tortured on the rack five hours a day for five consecutive days. Yet he refused to say anything. When they were put on trial, Fr Oldcorne denied the charge of being involved so well that the charge against him was changed to simply being a Jesuit priest. On this new charge, Fr Oldcorne was found guilty and ordered to be executed. Just before he was hanged, his betrayer asked for pardon, which Fr Oldcorne readily granted, and he also prayed for the king, his accusers and the judge and jury who condemned him. He was pushed from the ladder and was cut down before he was dead and then beheaded and quartered.

Edward_Oldcorne;_Nicholas_Owen_by_Gaspar_Bouttats
-Edward Oldcorne; Nicholas Owen, by Gaspar Bouttats, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013 12:48 am
http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=22875

Eye relic of the Blessed Edward Oldcorne
Martyr’s eye returns to Worcester for school anniversary celebrations

“Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College in Worcestershire, UK will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this month with Mass celebrated by the Archbishop of Birmingham and the veneration of a relic of the Jesuit martyr after whom the college is named – his right eye! The college is also planning to erect a memorial plaque on the site of his execution and to publish a history of the school… It is said that the force of the executioner’s blow was so extreme when he was decapitated that one of his eyes flew out of its socket. It has since been preserved in a silver casket and kept at Stonyhurst College.”

Typically, a beati’s feast day is the day of their death, the most joyous day for the reward of the faithful. But, as Apr 7 usually falls in Lent, and the memorial suppressed therefrom, Bl Edward’s feast is celebrated on the day of his capture, Jan 27.

Love,
Matthew

Apr 4 – St Isidore of Seville, (560-636 AD), Patron of the Internet, Father & Doctor of the Church

Isidor_von_Sevilla

Even saints run away, at first.  Peter, all of them, ran away, at first.  Isidore ran away, too.  Isidore served as Archbishop of Seville for more than three decades as the classical world was fading away and the Dark Ages loomed on every side.  He is considered, “The last scholar of the ancient world”.

Once, when Isidore was a boy, he ran away from home and from school. His brother Leander, some twenty years older than he, was his teacher, and a very strict and demanding one. Isidore despaired of ever pleasing his brother in his studies.  While Isidore sat by himself out in the woods, loafing and feeling sorry for himself, he watched some drops of water falling on a rock. Then he noticed that the dripping water had worn a hole in the hard rock! The thought came to him that he could do what the little drops of water did. Little by little, by sticking to it, he could learn all his brother demanded, and maybe even more.

Isidore realized that if he kept working at his studies, his seemingly small efforts would eventually pay off in great learning. He also may have hoped that his efforts would also wear down the rock of his brother’s heart.  When he returned home, however, his brother in exasperation confined him to a cell (probably in a monastery) to complete his studies, not believing that he wouldn’t run away again.  Either there must have been a loving side to this relationship or Isidore was remarkably forgiving, even for a saint, because later he would work side by side with his brother and after Leander’s death, Isidore would complete many of the projects he began including a missal and breviary.

In a time where it’s fashionable to blame the past for our present and future problems, Isidore was able to separate the abusive way he was taught from the joy of learning. He didn’t run from learning after he left his brother but embraced education and made it his life’s work. Isidore rose above his past to become known as the greatest teacher in Spain.  His love of learning made him promote the establishment of a seminary in every diocese of Spain. He didn’t limit his own studies and didn’t want others to as well. In a unique move, he made sure that all branches of knowledge including the arts and medicine were taught in the seminaries.

His encyclopedia of knowledge, the Etymologies, was a popular textbook for nine centuries. He also wrote books on grammar, astronomy, geography, history, and biography as well as theology. When the Arabs brought study of Aristotle back to Europe, this was nothing new to Spain because Isidore’s open mind had already reintroduced the philosopher to students there.

Still trying to wear away rock with water, he helped convert the barbarian Visigoths from Arianism, which denies the divinity of Christ, to Catholicism.  By the time of his death, the light of his learning caught fire in Spanish minds and held back the Dark Ages of barbarism from Spain. But even greater than his outstanding mind must have been the genius of his heart that allowed him to see beyond rejection and discouragement to joy and possibility.  Many of his remains are interred in the cathedral of Murcia, Spain.

Estatua de SAN ISIDORO DE SEVILLA (c. 560-636) en la escalinata de acceso a la Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid). Esculpida en piedra por José Alcoverro y Amorós (1835–1910) en 1892.

-by José Alcoverro, 1892, outside the Biblioteca Nacional de España, in Madrid.

“Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading. If a man wants to be always in God’s company, he must pray regularly and read regularly. When we pray, we talk to God; when we read, God talks to us. All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection. By reading we learn what we did not know; by reflection we retain what we have learned. Reading the holy Scriptures confers two benefits. It trains the mind to understand them; it turns man’s attention from the follies of the world and leads him to the love of God. The conscientious reader will be more concerned to carry out what he has read than merely to acquire knowledge of it. In reading we aim at knowing, but we must put into practice what we have learned in our course of study. The more you devote yourself to study of the sacred utterances, the richer will be your understanding of them, just as the more the soil is tilled, the richer the harvest. The man who is slow to grasp things but who really tries hard is rewarded, equally he who does not cultivate his God-given intellectual ability is condemned for despising his gifts and sinning by sloth. Learning unsupported by grace may get into our ears; it never reaches the heart. But when God’s grace touches our innermost minds to bring understanding, His word which has been received by the ear sinks deep into the heart.” – from Book of Maxims by Saint Isidore

“Heresy is from the Greek word meaning ‘choice’…. But we are not permitted to believe whatever we choose, nor to choose whatever someone else has believed. We have the Apostles of God as authorities, who did not…choose what they would believe but faithfully transmitted the teachings of Christ. So, even if an angel from heaven should preach otherwise, he shall be called anathema.” – Saint Isidore

“Indeed, just as we must love God in contemplation, so we must love our neighbor with action,” he declared. “It is therefore impossible to live without the presence of both the one and the other form of life, nor can we live without experiencing both the one and the other.” – Saint Isidore

“In confession there is mercy. Believe it firmly, do not doubt, do not hesitate, never despair of the mercy of God.” -St. Isidore of Seville

Almighty and eternal God, who created us in Thy image and bade us to seek after all that is good, true and beautiful, especially in the divine person of Thy only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee, that, through the intercession of Saint Isidore, bishop and doctor, during our journeys through the internet we will direct our hands and eyes only to that which is pleasing to Thee and treat with charity and patience all those souls whom we encounter. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

Blessed Lent!

Love,
Matthew

Apr 16 – St Bernadette (Soubirous) of Lourdes, (1844-1879), Visionary of Our Lady of Lourdes

Bernadette_Soubirous

Bring flow’rs of the fairest,
Bring flow’rs of the rarest,
From garden and woodland
And hillside and vale;
Our full hearts are swelling,
Our glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest
Rose of the vale.

The words that introduce the film The Song of Bernadette, 1943, are: “For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.”

Bernadette Soubirous was born in Lourdes on 7th. January 1844 to François Soubirous and Louise Castérot. Francois, a miller, was handicapped by an eye injury ten years later and was then accussed of stealing bread from a local baker, causing him to be jailed for eight days in “the Cachot”. A drought left the surrounding areas with no wheat harvest and a cholera epidemic took many lives. Bernadette was infected and it left its mark on her. In 1857 extreme poverty left the family depending on a relative for accommodation, a small room of just 16 square metres. She experienced the deep love her parents had for each other and all the children but was isolated by the locals because of their circumstances and her simplicity. Her sickness affected her schooling and despite being 14 years of age she was not allowed to receive her First Holy Communion and was unable to read or write.

In November of 1857 she was sent to Bartrès, the little village close to Lourdes to work on the farm. However, her desire to receive First Holy Communion brought her back to the village in January of 1858. While out walking with her sister and a friend near Massabielle, Bernadette was unable to keep up with them and had removed her socks and shoes to cross the stream and follow when she heard a gust of wind and looking up saw the ‘lady dressed in white with a blue belt and a yellow rose on each foot’. This was the first of the apparitions, she was to receive 18 apparitions until the last one on July 16th. During the apparitions she prayed the Rosary with ‘the lady’ and conversed with her. On Feb 19th Bernadette lit a candle at the grotto, a tradition that continues to this days with many millions of candles lit each year.

By Sunday Feb 21st, crowds were beginning to follow her and Bernadette’s first of many official questionings started by Police Commissioner, Jacomet. Her eighth visit with the lady on Wednesday 24th, February saw the first of the messages being given: The message of the Lady was: “Penance! Penance! Penance! Pray to God for sinners. Kiss the ground as an act of penance for sinners!” The following day the lady told her to drink from the spring, pointing out a spot, which to Bernadette was only a muddy area. Bernadette did as she was told and the crowd was appalled to see her digging up the mud and placing it at her mouth. Her repsonse to the questioning crowd was ‘It is for sinners’. The small spring begins to flow from the spot and a local girl, a friend of Bernadette’s, plunges her dislocated arm into the spring. It is miraculously healed, the first of many to take place in those early days and so many since.

On Tuesday 2nd, March the lady gives Bernadette a message for the Parish Priest, Abbé Peyramale, to build a chapel at the grotto. The Priest, still not believing, only wanted to know the name of the lady. On Thursday 25th, March, the Feast of the Annunciation, the lady tells Bernadette “QUE SOY ERA IMMACULADA CONCEPCIOU.” – “I am the Immaculate Conception”. This theological expression had been  assigned to the Blessed Virgin just four years earlier, in 1854, as Pope Pius IX declared this a truth of the Catholic Faith (a dogma). Bernadette could not have known this and her words left the Parish Priest puzzled.

Bishop of Tarbes, the local Bishop, started a Church enquiry almost immediately and four years later declared the Apparitions as authentic in the name of the Church. The investigations showed many who were sick being cured by means not able to be explained by traditional medical methods. The Bishop, in his declaration concluded: “There is thus a direct link between the cures and the Apparitions, the Apparitions are of divine origin, since the cures carry a divine stamp. But what comes from God is the truth! As a result, the Apparition, calling herself the Immaculate Conception, that Bernadette saw and heard, is the Most Holy Virgin Mary! Thus we write: the finger of God is here.”

In 1866 Bernadette joined Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Nevers and received the name Sister Marie-Bernard. She died in the convent at 35 years of age on April 16th 1879.  Her body remains visible and incorrupt.

“Nothing is anything more to me; everything is nothing to me, but Jesus: neither things nor persons, neither ideas nor emotions, neither honor nor sufferings. Jesus is for me honor, delight, heart and soul.” – Saint Bernadette

“You must receive God well; give Him a loving welcome, for then He has to pay us rent.” – Saint Bernadette

“The more I am crucified, the more I rejoice.” – Saint Bernadette Soubirous

“I had gone down one day with two other girls to the bank of the river Gave when suddenly I heard a kind of rustling sound. I turned my head toward the field by the side of the river, but the trees seemed quite still and the noise was evidently not from them. Then I looked up and caught sight of the cave where I saw a lady wearing a lovely white dress with a bright belt. On top of each of her feet was a pale yellow rose, the same color as her rosary beads. At this I rubbed my eyes, thinking I was seeing things, and I put my hands into the fold of my dress where my rosary was. I wanted to make the sign of the cross, but for the life of me I couldn’t manage it, and my hand just fell down. Then the lady made the sign of the cross herself, and at the second attempt I managed to do the same, though my hands were trembling. Then I began to say the rosary while the lady let her beads clip through her fingers, without moving her lips. When I stopped saying the Hail Mary, she immediately vanished. I asked my two companions if they had noticed anything, but they said no. Of course, they wanted to know what I was doing, and I told them that I had seen a lady wearing a nice white dress, though I didn’t know who she was. I told them not to say anything about it, and they said I was silly to have anything to do with it. I said they were wrong, and I came back next Sunday, feeling myself drawn to the place…. The third time I went, the lady spoke to me and asked me to come every day for fifteen days. I said I would and then she said that she wanted me to tell the priests to build a chapel there. She also told me to drink from the stream. I went to the Gave, the only stream I could see. Then she made me realize she was not speaking of the Gave, and she indicated a little trickle of water close by. When I got to it I could only find a few drops, mostly mud. I cupped my hands to catch some liquid without success, and then I started to scrape the ground. I managed to find a few drops of water, but only at the fourth attempt was there sufficient for any kind of a drink. The lady then vanished and I went back home. I went back each day for fifteen days, and each time, except one Monday and one Friday, the lady appeared and told me to look for a stream and wash in it and to see that the priests build a chapel there. I must also pray, she said, for the conversion of sinners. I asked her many times what she meant by that, but she only smiled. Finally, with outstretched arms and eyes looking up to heaven, she told me she was the Immaculate Conception. During the fifteen days she told me three secrets, but I was not to speak about them to anyone, and so far I have not.” – from a letter by Saint Bernadette

“After all, if I am tired, even if I am exhausted, I can rest in the heart of Jesus.” -St. Bernadette

O God, protector and lover of the humble, You bestowed on Your servant, Bernadette, the favor of the vision of Our Lady, the Immaculate Virgin Mary, and of speech with her. Grant that we, through Your mercy, may behold You in Heaven. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Apr 29 – St Peter of Verona, OP, (1206-1252), Martyr – Credo in unum Deum

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– St Peter Martyr, OP, reminding/encouraging living Dominican religious to maintain holy silence, by Fra Angelico, OP, 1441-1442, fresco, Convento di San Marco, Florence, Italy

I am always, at least a little, scandalized when during Mass, very casually, very nonchalantly, an alternative, “hip”, creed or profession of faith is substituted, is injected as if it were no big deal, even with the best intentions.  I am regularly interrogated by my more orthodox friends where this happens, they are so scandalized, but I don’t name names.

This truly, really shows the ignorance, at best, of those planning and leading the liturgy. Besides being against Church law, and they know better, people have died in wars over one tittle, one, literally, iota, in a word of the Apostles’ Creed.  Every iota, too, is literally packed with meaning, reason, and history.  Take away the iota and, at least in Greek, you change the entire meaning, dramatically – and east cleaves from west, literally, creating schism.  One word becomes another in Greek, with an entirely different meaning.  With all our “diversity and relativism”, it is hard to imagine riots in the streets of Alexandria in Egypt over such things, but common they were.

Growing up Catholic, repetition causes “conditioned response” – occupational hazard.  It’s one of the ways you can tell if someone is Catholic without directly asking them…”The angel of the Lord…and she conceived…”, I suppose even self-proclaimed Catholics might miss that one today, too, tragically.  (As my Latin teacher ALWAYS proclaims, “It’s ALWAYS better in Latin!”)  So much conditioned response, we neglect to really unpack each of those words, each iota, and ask, “Why is that there?  Where did it come from?  Why is it sooooooo important?”  And, there ARE reasons!  REALLY good ones!  So, to chuck the whole thing with, “we’re bored”, or self-anointing – SOMEHOW in 2012, we finally just had the Holy Spirit impart to US what to do?, or just plain ignorance, does take my breath away.

When they make these too, too casual substitutions, I pray to St Watermelon. Let me explain. My dear friend, Julia, who went through RCIA at Old St Pat’s taught me about St Watermelon. Let me explain. Not being able to remember all the prayers, Julia knew that the word “watermelon” forms all the lip movements and mouth movements and gestures, according to Julia, one would be expected to show if actually speaking intelligible words in front of others. Since Julia could not remember all the prayers, she moved her mouth saying, quietly, “watermelon” over and over, try it sometime when you need to look like you’re participating but don’t know how or don’t want to.

So, when random, strange sequences, no matter how beautiful or well intentioned to some beholders, are offered, I either say the word “watermelon”, or remain silent, the “silent Irish” is my most favorite new expression, to expressly demonstrate, in my heart and to God, my disunity with what is being offered at that time, in what is supposed to be a prayer of unity. You’ll see what I mean below. “St Watermelon”, were you real, pray for us!

P.S. And the new translation of the Mass?  Pee-yoo!  I am not a fan.  The Four Liturgists of the Apocalypse.  It’s just bad English.  Exactly what we don’t need now, or ever.  Silly.  Stupid.  I haven’t responded at Mass since November.  So much for “full & active participation”.  The words won’t come out.  Not those words.  I will be the “silent Irish” for the rest of my life at Mass, assuming continued attendance.  Forty-six years and you really start to think, maybe I need a break.  Maybe I need something new?  A religion with a hierarchy primarily necessitates faith, hope, and love as a requirement.  I’m tired.  Jesus, and the ghosts of my parents, prod me.  I keep going.

Such a magnificent Church with such a magnificent patrimony; truly the People of God, and leadership which makes my eyes cross.  They’re just as human as atheists, I realize.  Just like the Keystone Apostles who are one minute in Scripture swearing to die to defend Jesus, and the next…crickets chirping.  All have taken a powder.  Peter going as far as “Oh, Hell no!”  There are too many saint stories where they had to put up with the all too human nature and shortcomings of their leaders/superiors.  “I came to serve, not to be served.”  The washing of the feet – humility is the most important virtue of the Christian cleric.  How true.

I just need something a little more inspiring if I am going to believe.  The hierarchy make me wonder often if they’ve ever actually read the Gospels.  They give me a headache.  Only the Keystone Apostles give me hope, in this regard…and my saint friends.  They sustain me.  To have faith is to have doubts.  Otherwise, it wouldn’t be faith, would it?  To have faith is to struggle.  How does the old joke go?  If you want to lose your faith, go to work for the Church?

1280px-Attributed_to_Bernardino_da_Asola_-_The_Death_of_Saint_Peter_Martyr_-_Google_Art_Project
-The Death of Saint Peter Martyr, OP, attributed to Bernardino da Asola (1490-1535), oil on canvas, height: 101.5 cm (40 in). width: 144.8 cm (57 in), National Gallery, Central Hall – Northern Italy 1500-1580, Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster, in Central London.

-The following article was written by Fr. Darren Pierre, O.P., Promoter for the Lay and Priestly Fraternities of St. Dominic, Province of St. Joseph.

“I heard a story about a young boy named Peter whose parents were fallen away Catholics. Peter’s parents had traded their Catholic faith for fad beliefs that were more convenient and fit in better with their family and friends. Catharism, or Cathars, Albigensians, Manicheaism, etc., held all material reality was created by an evil god, and all spiritual reality, which was the work of a good god – Dualism.  Heresy, untruth in light of the orthodox, universal Christian faith handed on by the Apostles.  However, like many fallen away Catholics, they didn’t take their new beliefs very seriously either.

In fact, they reasoned that all these little details really didn’t matter—one religion was just as good as another. Because they felt this way, they decided to send Peter to a Catholic school as it was regarded as the best school in the area, even though they didn’t follow the Catholic faith anymore.

However, Peter’s uncle, who had also left the Catholic faith, took his rejection of the Faith much more seriously. One day he asked Peter what he was learning in school, and Peter responding by reciting the Apostle’s Creed. Peter’s uncle was outraged and didn’t want his nephew learning any of this Catholic nonsense. He tried to convince Peter’s parents to take him out of that school. Yet, despite his protests, Peter’s parents didn’t see it as a big deal. To them it was an unimportant argument about words—prayers that children memorized. In the end they figured it was all the same and didn’t really matter, so they let Peter stay in that school.

Every means was used to persuade Peter, and even to oblige him to say, that all material things are the work of the devil, or the evil principle. “No,” replied the youthful disciple of Christ; “there is but one first principle, the supreme God, omnipotent, and the sole Creator of heaven and earth – Credo in unum Deum. Whoever does not believe this truth can not be saved.” The heretical uncle, confused by his defeat, and foreseeing what might come to pass, spoke sharply to his brother, and told him that the best thing he could do would be to take the boy out of the hands of Catholics as soon as possible. “For,” he added, “I fear lest, when he becomes older and better instructed, he may destroy our religion, should he pass over to the prostitute” -– the name by which he designated the Catholic Church.

Peter’s Uncle was correct about one important thing: words do matter. The words of the Creed have always been precious to us Christians. The early Christians called them the Symbol of Faith. It was a symbol or mark that outwardly showed what was invisibly believed. Of course, the ultimate object of our faith is God Himself. Our faith is in the Word, not in mere words no matter how true or precious that might be. Yet, the words do matter. The words of the Creed are called secondary objects of faith because they connect us with God, the primary object of faith, Whom we cannot see. If the details of the secondary objects are wrong, we are not able to be as connected to God. Ultimately, if our secondary objects are wrong enough they will connect us not with God, Who created us and loves us, but with an imaginary god that is not real and loves us no more than an ancient pagan idol.

The Creed tells us who God is. When you love someone, you want to know about them. You can’t have a relationship without this kind of knowledge, for in relationships all these little details matter. Imagine forgetting a spouse’s birthday or anniversary and saying, “Oh, we’ll celebrate it next week. It’s all the same, we shouldn’t fight about details.” Knowing these details is crucial for maintaining a relationship with someone. Little children want to know your favorite color or favorite food. As we get older, hopefully we want to know more important and deeper things about each other. In a relationship with God just as in a relationship with another human being, we would never conclude that the details don’t matter and it’s all the same…

The precise details of the creeds have led countless Christians to God, including the young boy named Peter whom I mentioned in the beginning. Although Peter’s story sounds very modern, it actually took place back in the 1200’s in the city of Verona in what is modern day Italy. The truths of the Faith that Peter learned in the Apostles’ Creed became so important to him that he became a Dominican in order to preach that truth.

He was received into the Order of Friars Preachers by St. Dominic himself in those very first days of the Order. He spent the rest of his life preaching about the truth of God to people who had fallen away from Faith like his own family and guiding many of them back to the Church.

He was so successful that the leaders of those who opposed him conspired to assassinate him. On April 6th, 1252, they ambushed Peter and a traveling companion on a lonely road outside of Milan. The assassins grievously wounded Peter’s traveling companion and struck Peter on the head with an axe-like implement. As he was being attacked, Peter began to recite the Creed, the Symbol of Faith for which he would give his life.

When he collapsed under the blows and lay dying in the road, Peter dipped his finger in his own blood and wrote on the ground the beginning of the Creed: Credo in unum Deum. The words of a Creed brought him the Faith when he was a child. They guided his preaching as he sought to serve God throughout his life, and they expressed his love of God as he lay dying. The young boy from Verona became St. Peter of Verona, often called simply St. Peter Martyr.”

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-The Death of St. Peter Martyr, 1530/35, Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo, Italian, active 1506–48, oil on canvas, 45 5/16 x 55 1/2 in. (115.3 x 141 cm), Art Institute of Chicago

————————————–

Born in the city of Verona into a family perhaps sympathetic to the Cathar heresy. Peter went to a Catholic school, and later to the University of Bologna, where he is said to have maintained his orthodoxy and at the age of fifteen, met Saint Dominic. Peter joined the Order of the Friars Preachers (Dominicans) and became a celebrated preacher throughout northern and central Italy.

From the 1230s on, Peter preached against heresy, and especially Catharism, which had many adherents in thirteenth-century Northern Italy. Catharism was a form of dualism, also called Manichaeism, and rejected the authority of the Pope and many Christian teachings. Pope Gregory IX appointed him General Inquisitor for northern Italy in 1234. and Peter evangelized nearly the whole of Italy, preaching in Rome, Florence, Bologna, Genoa, and Como.

In 1251, Pope Innocent IV recognized Peter’s virtues, and appointed him Inquisitor in Lombardy. He spent about six months in that office and it is unclear whether he was ever involved in any trials. His one recorded act was a declaration of clemency for those confessing heresy or sympathy to heresy.

In his sermons he denounced heresy and also those Catholics who professed the Faith by words, but acted contrary to it in deeds. Crowds came to meet him and followed him; conversions were numerous, including many Cathars who returned to orthodoxy.

Because of this, a group of Milanese Cathars conspired to kill him. They hired an assassin, one Carino of Balsamo. Carino’s accomplice was Manfredo Clitoro of Giussano. On April 6, 1252, when Peter was returning from Como to Milan, the two assassins followed Peter to a lonely spot near Barlassina, and there killed him and mortally wounded his companion, a fellow friar named Dominic.

Carino struck Peter’s head with an axe and then attacked Domenico. Peter rose to his knees, and recited the first article of the Symbol of the Apostles (the Apostle’s Creed). Offering his blood as a sacrifice to God, he dipped his fingers in it and wrote on the ground: “Credo in Unum Deum”. The blow that killed him cut off the top of his head, but the testimony given at the inquest into his death confirms that he began reciting the Creed when he was attacked.

Carino, the assassin, later repented and confessed his crime. He converted to orthodoxy and eventually became a lay brother in the Dominican convent of Forlì. He is the subject of a local cult as Blessed Carino of Balsamo.

Bellini, Murder of St Peter Martyr 1509.jpg
-Assassination of St Peter Martyr, O.P., Bellini, 1509, oil on panel, 67.3 x 100.4 cm, Courtald Institute, London, on the left St Peter the Martyr is represented as being murdered by Pietro da Balsamo, a heretic. On the right another monk, Fra Domenico, tries in vain to escape.

Here silent is Christ’s Herald;
Here quenched, the People’s Light;
Here lies the martyred Champion
Who fought Faith’s holy fight.

The Voice the sheep heard gladly,
The light they loved to see
He fell beneath the weapons
Of graceless Cathari.

The Saviour crowns His Soldier;
His praise the people psalm.
The Faith he kept adorns him
With martyr’s fadeless palm.

His praise new marvels utter,
New light he spreads abroad
And now the whole wide city
Knows well the path to God.

– Saint Thomas Aquinas, OP, in eulogy of Saint Peter of Verona, OP

Love,
Matthew

Apr 7 – St Henry Walpole, SJ, (1558-1595), Martyr, Poet, Priest

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Son of Christopher & Margery, from a large family of boys, witty & bon vivant, in his early twenties, Henry Walpole was indifferent to sufferings of his fellow Englishmen for their beliefs until he attended the execution of the well known Edmund Campion, SJ, and blood from the martyr fell upon him.  A baptism?  Surely.  Of the most profound kind.  Henry Walpole was inspired by the courage of the Jesuit martyr to become a priest for his native England.  A conversion had begun…deep and profound.  Falling in love.

He was arrested, however, almost as soon as he set foot on English soil and spent more time being tortured in prison than some Jesuits spent ministering the sacraments. Walpole had been born Catholic but was not sure which direction to follow in the religious controversy that roiled England. He attended the discussions that Campion held with Anglican divines and been impressed with the Jesuit’s zeal and preaching.   He was also present at the Jesuit poet’s execution. A drop of Campion’s blood fell on his clothes from the martyr’s quartered body, confirming his sense that God was calling him to follow in Campion’s footsteps. He even wrote a poem honoring the dead Jesuit.

“Why do I use my paper, ink and pen?
Or call my wits counsel what to say?
Such memories were made for mortal man,
I speak of saints, whose names cannot decay.
Angel’s trump were meter far to sound
Their glorious deaths, if such on earth were found.
His native flowers were mixed with herb of grace.
His mild behavior tempered well with skill.
A lowly mind possessed a learned place.
A sugared speech, rare and virtuous will.
A saint like man set in earth below.
The Tower says the truth he did defend,
The Bar bears witness of his guiltless mind.
Tyburn doth tell, he made a patient end.
In every gate his martyrdom we find
In vain you wrought, that would obscure his name,
For heaven and earth will still record the same.
You thought perhaps when learned Campion dies,
His pen must cease, his sugared tongue be still.
But you forget how loud his death it cries,
How far beyond the sound of tongue and guile.
You did not know how rare and great and good,
It was to write his precious gifts in blood.”

Walpole studied at Cambridge and then moved to London to study law, but then changed direction and decided to become a priest. Described a year later after witnessing Campion’s execution as “discreet, grave, and pious”, he entered the English College in Rheims, France in July 1582 and then moved to Rome nine months later. On Feb. 4, 1584 he joined the Society of Jesus and completed his studies at the Scots College at Pont-à-Mousson, France. After he was ordained in Paris, he was assigned to be chaplain to English Catholic refugees serving in the Spanish army in the Low Countries.

He spent a year in prison after he was captured by the Calvinists in 1589, and then worked at the English seminary in Valladolid, Spain until he was finally asked to return to England in 1593. The Jesuit, his brother and an English soldier sailed together on a French ship headed for Scotland because the southern ports of England were closed because of the plague.

On Dec. 4, 1593, the three passengers were put ashore at Flamborough Head, Yorkshire, after 10 days of stormy sailing, but separated on land. Father Walpole was resting at an inn 10 miles inland when he was arrested for being a priest; he had been betrayed by a fellow passenger who was earning money to buy his way out of prison.

One night of freedom in England was followed by 16 months of imprisonment.  Walpole admitted during his first interrogation that he was a Jesuit and had come to England to convert people. He was transferred to York Castle for three months, and was permitted to leave the prison to discuss theology with Protestant visitors. Then he was transferred to the Tower of London at the end of February, 1594, so that the notorious priest-torturer Richard Topcliffe could wrest information from him. Walpole was tortured brutally on the rack and was suspended by his wrists for hours, but Topcliffe stretched the tortures out over the course of a year to prevent an accidental death.  While still able to write, Henry wrote to a fellow Jesuit at a monastery in Yorkshire about his ordeal, he wrote: “…I hope, through the merits of my most sweet Saviour and Lord, that I shall be always ready, whether living or dying, to glorify Him, which will be for my eternal happiness.”

Walpole endured torture 14 different times before being returned in 1595 to York to stand trial under the law that made it high treason for an Englishman simply to return home after receiving Holy Orders abroad. The man who had once aspired to be a lawyer defended himself ably, pointing out that the law only applied to priests who had not given themselves up to officials within three days of arrival. He himself had been arrested less than a day after landing in England, so he had not violated that law.  The judges responded by demanding that he take the Oath of Supremacy, acknowledging the queen’s complete authority in religion. He refused to do so and was convicted of high treason.

On April 7, Walpole was dragged out of York to be executed along with another priest, Bl. Alexander Rawlins of the Diocese of Gloucester, who was killed first. Then the Jesuit climbed the ladder to the gallows and asked the onlookers to pray with him. After he finished the Our Father but before he could say the Hail Mary, the executioner pushed him away from the ladder; then he was taken down and dismembered.  In St Henry Walpole, SJ, Catholics received yet another example of fidelity and courage.

When asked to join in prayer with Protestants for his own peaceful death he said “that by the grace of God he was in peace with all the world, and prayed God for all, particularly those who were the cause of his death; but as they were with them; yet he heartily prayed for them, that God would enlighten them with His truth, bring them back to His Church, and dispose them for His mercy” …he also prayed: “…may His Divine Majesty never suffer me to consent to the least thing by which He may be dishonored, nor you to desire it of me, and God is my witness, that to all here present, and particularly to my accusers, I wish as to myself the salvation of their souls, and to this end they may live in the true Catholic Faith, the only way to eternal happiness.”

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-inscription left by St Henry Walpole, SJ, in his prison cell in the Salt/Beauchamp Tower, Tower of London.  Below his name, more lightly inscribed, he imprinted the Latin names of Sts Paul & Peter, along with those of Sts Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, & Gregory, four Doctors of the  early Church.

Almighty and everlasting God,
Who kindled the flame of Your love in the heart of Your holy martyr
St Henry Walpole, SJ,
Grant to us, Your humble servants,
a like faith and power of love
that we who rejoice in their triumph may profit by their example;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Apr 3 – Servant of God Jerome Lejeune, (1926-1994), Doctor of Down’s Syndrome

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Letter to Cardinal George of Chicago:

6/12/2011

Dear Cardinal George,

Hello, my name is Amy Goggin and I am a parishioner at St. John Fisher in Chicago. I’m writing this letter to you to ask for your support and guidance in a cause that has been on my heart recently. I have an on-line store. I make rosaries and religious jewelry. I have wanted to make a chaplet/bracelet for people afflicted with Down’s syndrome. While researching the patron Saint for these individuals, I realized that there is no patron Saint for them. I am wondering how to go about declaring one? How does the Church declare a patron saint?

I understand that there are patron saints for people with mental illnesses and people that are handicapped in one form or another but, there needs to be a specific advocate in heaven for the growing number of people afflicted with Down’s syndrome. Prenatal screening and diagnostic testing is most often used to identify unborn babies with Down’s syndrome and then that information is used to encourage an abortion. This testing does not provide information that could be used to treat the baby before birth. One out of every 800 pregnancies is diagnosed with having a Down’s baby.

That is about 400,000 in the US alone. Out of those, 84% to 91% are aborted in the US. If a mother decides to have her Down’s syndrome child there are many medical complications that are awaiting the child throughout his/her life. There seems to be a cultural war against these innocent human beings right from the start. Due to the large number of people with this condition and the life-threatening situation they find themselves, we as Catholics need an advocate in Heaven to offer up our prayers of both petition and thanksgiving.

While researching a saint that would be appropriate for this cause, I found Servant of God (whose cause for canonization was opened in 2007): Dr. Jerome Lejeune. He was a French Doctor that spent his life trying to find a cure for Down’s syndrome and fighting for an awareness of the sanctity of their lives. He discovered the cause of Down’s syndrome in 1958.

Dr. Lejeune worked closely with Pope John Paul II and was appointed the first president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. He treated around 5,000 patients. He would explain to new mothers that their child’s name was (child’s name) and he/she is not a disease, but a person that happens to have a disease. His mission was to have others understand the dignity that these individuals possessed, by looking beyond their condition to see a human being. His own daughter, Clara Lejeune Gaymard wrote a memoir titled Life is a Blessing about her father .

I believe that due to the nature of Dr. Lejeune’s life’s work, he is the perfect patron saint for people afflicted with this genetic condition. I’m wondering if you can help us with three things by your guidance and blessing. My friends and I are willing to do whatever we have to do, we just need some direction and support. We want to know how to officially request that the Church declare Lejeune the patron saint for people afflicted with Down’s syndrome.

We want to know how to create a chaplet of prayers for his intercession. Finally, there is a strong local support to have a national shrine on the South Side of Chicago for Catholics to come and pray for Lejeune’s intercession for their loved ones with Down’s syndrome. We believe that because of the large population of individuals with this condition on the South Side of Chicago, this would be the most appropriate place for such a shrine. We are willing to take on any logistical legwork necessary to further this cause. I would appreciate any help you can offer my friends and I with this endeavor and look forward to hearing back from you soon.”

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Jerome Lejeune was born in Montrouge, France, in 1926. A reading of The Country Doctor by the French novelist Balzac convinced him of his vocation when he was 13 years old. He too wanted to be a simple country doctor dedicating his life to helping the poor.

After attending medical school, he was persuaded by Professor Raymond Turpin to collaborate with him on a study of Down syndrome. He accepted this challenge and his dreams of being a simple country doctor were laid to rest.

He and his wife Birthe had five children and his family life and his faith were always his priority. When his beloved father was dying of lung cancer, he recognised more deeply the mystery of human suffering and the presence of Christ in all those who suffer.

In 1954, he was appointed a committee member of the French Genetics society and in 1957 was named an expert on the effects of atomic radiation on human genetics by the United Nations.

In 1959 he discovered the cause of Down syndrome and was also to diagnose the first case of Cri du Chat Syndrome. In 1962, he was awarded the prestigious Kennedy prize and, in 1965, he was appointed to the first Chair in Fundamental Genetics at the University of Paris. During this time, he helped thousands of parents to accept and love their children with Down syndrome.

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-quote of Dr. Jerome Lejeune, MD, in a letter to his wife after his acceptance speech in 1969 when he was given the William Allen Memorial Award, the highest distinction that could be granted to a Geneticist, in which he strenuously condemned abortion.

In 1991, he wrote a summary of his reflections on medical ethics for his fellow Catholics in seven brief points:

1. Christians, be not afraid. It is you who possess the truth. Not that you invented it but because you are the vehicle for it. To all doctors, you must repeat: “you must conquer the illness, not attack the patient.”
2. We are made in the image of God. For this reason alone all human beings must be respected.
3. Abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.
4. Objective morality exists. It is clear and it is universal – because it is Catholic.
5. The child is not disposable and marriage is indissoluble.
6. “You shall honour your father and mother.” Therefore, uniparental reproduction by any means is always wrong.
7. In so-called pluralistic societies, they shout it down our throats: “You Christians do not have the right to impose your morality on others.” Well, I tell you, not only do you have the right to try to incorporate your morality in the law but it is your democratic duty.

There is a famous story of an American physician who told Lejeune the following:

“My father was a Jewish physician in Braunau, Austria. One day only two babies were born at the local hospital. The parents of the healthy boy were proud and happy. The other was a girl (with Down syndrome) and her parents were sad.”

The physician ended the story by saying that the girl grew up to look after her mother despite her own disability. Her name is not known. The boy’s name was Adolph Hitler. Quite likely the story is apocryphal. However, it does express the truth that was central to Lejeune’s vocation: people with disabilities are certainly no less human than those without.

In 1993, Pope Saint John Paul II, his close friend, appointed Lejeune to be the first president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. That same year he was diagnosed with lung cancer and, by Good Friday of 1994, he was critically ill. “I have never betrayed my faith” he said. While reflecting on his patients, he was moved to tears and said: “I was supposed to have cured them…What will happen to them?”

A little later he was filled with joy. He said: “My children, if I can leave you with one message, this is the most important of all: We are in the hands of God. I have experienced this numbers of times.” He died the next day. Pope Saint John Paul II wrote of him: “We find ourselves today faced with the death of a great Christian of the twentieth century, a man for whom the defense of life had become an apostolate.” His cause for canonization has been postulated. Our bishops have recently agreed on three priorities for the Church, one of which is to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom by supporting integrity in public life, cohesion and mutual respect in society and serving the marginalized and the vulnerable. May this great servant of God, an apostle of the vulnerable, be an example to us all.

Prayer to Obtain Graces by God’s Servant’s Intercession

God, who created man in your image and intended him to share your glory, we thank you for having granted to your Church the gift of professor & doctor, Jerome Lejeune, MD, a distinguished Servant of Life. He knew how to place his immense intelligence and deep faith at the service of the defense of human life, especially unborn life, always seeking to treat and to cure.

A passionate witness to truth and charity, he knew how to reconcile faith and reason in the sight of today’s world. By his intercession, and according to Your will, we ask You to grant us the graces we implore, hoping that he will soon become one of your saints.

Amen.

Servant of God, Servant of Life!!!! Dr. Jerome Lejeune, MD, pray for us!!!!

Love,
Matthew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer in honor of St George

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

Invocation of St George

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

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

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

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

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

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

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-tomb of St George, Lod, Israel

Love,
Matthew