Category Archives: August

Aug 28 – Son of Tears

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-“The Conversion of St Augustine”, Bl John of Friesole, OP, aka Fra Angelico, 1430-1435, tempera on wood, 21.8 × 34.2 cm (8.6 × 13.5 in), please click on the image to view more detail.

“If my children lose their faith, I have failed as a mother!”  -Mary D. McCormick, oft repeated to her children.


-by Br Augustine Marogi, OP

“Fra Angelico’s painting, The Conversion of St. Augustine, offers a great insight into the spirituality of the Doctor of Grace. At the forefront of the painting, commanding the immediate attention of the viewer, is the figure of St. Augustine sitting and weeping. The painting portrays the moment of St. Augustine’s conversion as it is described in his Confessions (book VIII, chapter 12).

In the garden of his friend’s house in Milan, after long struggles with “old attachments” that kept him from embracing the life of continence, Augustine gave way to the “storm” of tears that had been welling up inside of him, expressing his great remorse for his sinfulness, which proved to be invincible to his own strength. He wept because he felt he was the “captive” of his “sins,” and while crying, he kept repeating, “How long shall I go on saying ‘tomorrow, tomorrow’? Why not now? Why not make an end of my ugly sins at this moment?”

Augustine’s tears signify a moment of recognition as well as an articulation of “inexpressible groanings,” of sentiments that are too profound to be expressed in human words (Rm 8:26). He recognizes his ineptitude and powerlessness when dealing with the consequences of his wounded nature. This recognition makes him look for a different source of strength through which he can overcome his weaknesses. He lifts his gaze to God and discovers the mystery of grace, which alone has the power to change the hardest of hearts and heal the most festering of wounds. Tears are the beginning of the road to holiness for this hopeless sinner.

These “inexpressible groanings” communicate to God the soul’s deepest yearnings for salvation. On the one hand, these yearnings are mysterious and difficult for us to put into words. They are often tucked away or covered with the meaningless noise and clamour of our transient and worldly cares. On the other hand, the Father hears these yearnings from afar. He catches “sight” of them while they are “still a long way off” and sends the Holy Spirit, Who “comes to the aid of our weakness” by translating them into a prayer consisting of “inexpressible groanings,” which communicate to the Father our deep-seated longing for heaven (Lk 15:20, Rm 8:26). The visible sign of this communication is torrential tears, tears of repentance that wash away our past and urge us on to a new beginning.

St. Augustine’s tears were not without important parallels. To the left of Fra Angelico’s painting stands the figure of a man whose posture also denotes an emotional moment that is related to the one experienced by the main character. This figure is Alypius. At the same time of Augustine’s conversion, Alypius also experiences the voice of God in his life through a scriptural passage that he reads in the Letter to the Romans. When they both disclose to each other their desire to commit their lives to God and take up the life of celibacy, they go to Augustine’s mother, St. Monica, and inform her of their decision. In turn, Monica is overjoyed at this news because she sees her son’s commitment to the celibate life as God’s generous response to her many “prayerful tears and plaintive lamentations.”

St. Monica is very closely connected to her son’s conversion. She spent 17 years shedding tears over his waywardness, begging God for his soul. When her son embraced the Manichean heresy, she asked a Catholic bishop to speak to him and refute his errors. The bishop told her it was unwise to have that conversation with her son because he was “unripe for instructions,” and that, in time, he would discover the truth simply by reading the Manicheans’ books. This answer would not pacify the mother. She was relentless in her visits to the bishop, incessant with her tears for her son’s conversion. Finally, losing his patience, the bishop said to her, “Leave me and go in peace. It cannot be that the son of these tears should be lost.” He was correct; the son of tears discovered the Truth and offered his life to Him.

Love,
Matthew

Aug 8 – Study as Asceticism, or “The Wood of the Desk is the Wood of the Cross!”

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-by Br. Joseph Paul Albin, OP (Central Province)

“As Dominicans we have a number of aphorisms that come up again and again. If you’ve hung out with us you’ve heard, “contemplate and share the fruits of your contemplation,” “if you’ve met one Dominican you’ve met one Dominican,” and “never deny, seldom affirm, and always distinguish.” One that I haven’t heard as often but is of principal importance in my life as a student is, “the wood of the desk is the wood of the Cross.”

In our lives as Dominicans we hear again and again of the four pillars: prayer, study, community, and preaching. Study is one of the most important aspects of our lives. We are called to study. Our study is not self-serving; we don’t chase titles, adding lists of letters to the end of our names. Instead our study is intimately linked to our mission, the salvation of souls. Study enriches our prayer, our community life, and our preaching. Through our study we cultivate a desire for truth, and we bring that desire for truth to others. Our Constitutions state this clearly, “Study enables the brothers to ponder in their hearts the manifold wisdom of God, and equips them for the doctrinal service of the Church and of all people. They ought to be all the more committed to study because in the Order’s tradition they are called to stimulate people’s desire to know the truth.” Our study ends up being one of our great gifts to the Lord in service to His people and His Church.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 28 – St Moses the Black, (330-405 AD), Hermit & Martyr

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Saint Moses Murin the Black lived during the fourth century in Egypt. He was an Ethiopian, and he was black of skin and therefore called “Murin” (meaning “like an Ethiopian”). In his youth he was the slave of an important man, but after he committed a murder, his master banished him, and he joined a band of robbers.

Because of his bad character and great physical strength they chose him as their leader. Moses and his band of brigands did many evil deeds, both murders and robberies. People were afraid at the mere mention of his name.

Moses the brigand spent several years leading a sinful life, but through the great mercy of God he repented, left his band of robbers and went to one of the desert monasteries.  Some stories say he hid near the monastery in the commission of a robbery and was so impressed with the monks he converted.

Here he wept for a long time, begging to be admitted as one of the brethren. The monks were not convinced of the sincerity of his repentance, but the former robber would not be driven away nor silenced. He continued to ask until they accepted him.

St Moses was completely obedient to the igumen and the brethren, and he poured forth many tears of sorrow for his sinful life. After a certain while St Moses withdrew to a solitary cell, where he spent the time in prayer and the strictest fasting in a very austere lifestyle.

Once, four of the robbers of his former band descended upon the cell of St Moses. He had lost none of his great physical strength, so he tied them all up. Throwing them over his shoulder, he brought them to the monastery, where he asked the Elders what to do with them. The Elders ordered that they be set free. The robbers, learning that they had chanced upon their former ringleader, and that he had dealt kindly with them, followed his example: they repented and became monks. Later, when the rest of the band of robbers heard about the repentance of St Moses, then they also gave up their thievery and became fervent monks.

St Moses was not quickly freed from the passions. He went often to the igumen, Abba Isidore, seeking advice on how to be delivered from the passions of profligacy. Being experienced in the spiritual struggle, the Elder taught him never to eat too much food, to remain partly hungry while observing the strictest moderation. But the passions did not cease to trouble St Moses in his dreams.

Then Abba Isidore taught him the all-night vigil. The monk stood the whole night at prayer, so he would not fall asleep. From his prolonged struggles St Moses fell into despondency, and when there arose thoughts about leaving his solitary cell, Abba Isidore instead strengthened the resolve of his disciple.

In a vision he showed him many demons in the west, prepared for battle, and in the east a still greater quantity of holy angels, also ready for fighting. Abba Isidore explained to St Moses that the power of the angels would prevail over the power of the demons, and in the long struggle with the passions it was necessary for him to become completely cleansed of his former sins.   

Early one morning, Saint Isidore, abbot of the monastery, took Moses to the roof and together they watched the first rays of dawn come over the horizon. Isidore told Moses, “Only slowly do the rays of the sun drive away the night and usher in a new day, and thus, only slowly does one become a perfect contemplative.”

When a brother monk committed a fault, and Moses was invited to a meeting to discuss an appropriate penance, Moses refused to attend. When he was again called to the meeting, Moses took a leaking jug filled with water and carried it on his shoulder. Another version of the story has him carrying a basket filled with sand. When he arrived at the meeting place, the others asked why he was carrying the jug. He replied, “My sins run out (Ed:  are as many, are as long as the trail) behind me and I do not see them, but today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” On hearing this, the assembled brothers forgave the erring monk.

St Moses undertook a new effort. Making the rounds by night of the wilderness cells, he carried water from the well to each brother. He did this especially for the Elders, who lived far from the well and who were not easily able to carry their own water. Once, kneeling over the well, St Moses felt a powerful blow upon his back and he fell down at the well like one dead, laying there in that position until dawn. Thus did the devils take revenge upon the monk for his victory over them. In the morning the brethren carried him to his cell, and he lay there a whole year crippled. Having recovered, the monk with firm resolve confessed to the igumen, that he would continue to live in asceticism. But the Lord Himself put limits to this struggle of many years: Abba Isidore blessed his disciple and said to him that the passions had already gone from him. The Elder commanded him to receive the Holy Mysteries, and to go to his own cell in peace. From that time, St Moses received from the Lord power over demons.

Accounts about his exploits spread among the monks and even beyond the bounds of the wilderness. The governor of the land wanted to see the saint. When he heard of this, St Moses decided to hide from any visitors, and he departed his own cell. Along the way he met servants of the governor, who asked him how to get to the cell of the desert-dweller Moses. The monk answered them: “Go no farther to see this false and unworthy monk.” The servants returned to the monastery where the governor was waiting, and they told him the words of the Elder they had chanced to meet. The brethren, hearing a description of the Elder’s appearance, told them that they had encountered St Moses himself.

After many years of monastic exploits, St Moses was ordained deacon. The bishop clothed him in white vestments and said, “Now Abba Moses is entirely white!” The saint replied, “Only outwardly, for God knows that I am still dark within.”

Through humility, the saint believed himself unworthy of the office of deacon. Once, the bishop decided to test him and he bade the clergy to drive him out of the altar, reviling him as an unworthy Ethiopian. In all humility, the monk accepted the abuse. Having put him to the test, the bishop then ordained St Moses to be presbyter. St Moses labored for fifteen years in this rank, and gathered around himself 75 disciples.

When the saint reached age 75, he warned his monks that soon brigands would descend upon the skete and murder all that were there. The saint blessed his monks to leave, in order to avoid violent death. His disciples began to beseech the monk to leave with them, but he replied: “For many years already I have awaited the time when the words which my Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, should be fulfilled: “All who take up the sword, shall perish by the sword” (Mt. 26: 52). After this, seven of the brethren remained with the monk, and one of them hid nearby during the attack of the robbers. The robbers killed St Moses and the six monks who remained with him.

Love,
Matthew

Aug 21 – Our Lady of Knock

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Knock

The Irish are an odd tribe.  I have been to Ireland, twice.  Whence landing at Shannon, white religious life size statuary appears roadside as the coach (bus) pulls away from the airport every count of ten.  1, 2, 3,…10.

If you see a ring of stones around a tree, DO NOT TOUCH!!!!! You would be disturbing the “wee people”, whose stone ring that is, which is ALWAYS very bad luck for you and the farmer whose land that is. The farmer is likely to come at you with his shillelagh.  You will get a lump on the head.  Seriously.  But, you will remember, next time.  Or, you haven’t REALLY seen the color GREEN, until you’ve been to Ireland?

“If my children lose their faith, I have failed as a mother.” -Mary D. McCormick, frequently to her six children.  “Young man, get your ass to Mass!” -Robert L. McCormick, upon learning his youngest son’s Mass attendance his first year in college was not regular.  “Is she one of us?” -Mary D. McCormick, inquiring, after long, pregnant pause, upon learning of a dating interest of her sons. “Are you in the state of grace?”-Mary D. McCormick, a secondary telephone greeting used with her children after “Hello?”  Requiescat in pace.

Sixteen hundred years, and counting, I trust, not withstanding recent convulsions in the Irish Church.  If Ireland goes, God help the Church.  He will have to, again.  Not every kind of barbarity and oppression could separate the Irish from their faith, except…from within?  Lk 22:48.  “Judas Iscariot was a bishop.” -Dr. Peter Kreeft.

Due to a very strong devotion of Irish Catholics to the Blessed Virgin Mary, a special exception is made for her name. In Irish, she is known as Muire and no one else may take that name similar to the way the name Jesus is not used in most languages.  This used to be universal, but now variations of the spelling are used, just not Muire.  So, you get Maire or Moire.

On the evening of August 21, 1879 Mary McLoughlin, the housekeeper to the parish priest of Knock, County Mayo, Ireland, was astonished to see the outside south wall of the church bathed in a mysterious light; there were three figures standing in front of the wall, which she mistook for replacements of the stone figures destroyed in a storm. She rushed through the rain to her friend Margaret Byrne’s house.

After a half hour Mary decided to leave and Margaret’s sister Mary agreed to walk home with her. As they passed the church they saw an amazing vision very clearly: Standing out from the gable and to the west of it appeared the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph and St. John.

The figure of the Blessed Virgin was life-size, while the others seemed to be neither as large nor as tall. They stood a little away from the gable wall about two feet from the ground. The Virgin was erect with her eyes toward Heaven, and she was wearing a large white cloak hanging in full folds; on her head was a large crown.

Mary Byrne ran to tell her family while Mary McLoughlin gazed at the apparition. Soon a crowd gathered and all saw the apparition. The parish priest, Archdeacon Cavanaugh, did not come out, however, and his absence was a disappointment to the devout villagers. Among the witnesses were Patrick Hill and John Curry. As Patrick later described the scene: ‘The figures were fully rounded, as if they had a body and life. They did not speak but, as we drew near, they retreated a little towards the wall.’ Patrick reported that he got close enough to make out the words in the book held by the figure of St. John.

An old woman named Bridget Trench drew closer to embrace the feet of the Virgin, but the figure seemed always beyond reach. Others out in the fields and some distance away saw a strange light around the church. The vision lasted for about three hours and then faded.

The next day a group of villagers went to see the priest, who accepted their report as genuine; he wrote to the diocesan Bishop of Tuam; then the Church set up a commission to interview a number of the people claiming to witness the apparition. The diocesan hierarchy was not convinced, and some members of the commission ridiculed the visionaries, alleging they were victims of a hoax perpetrated by the local Protestant constable! But the ordinary people were not so skeptical, and the first pilgrimages to Knock began in 1880. Two years later Archbishop John Joseph Lynch of Toronto made a visit to the parish and claimed he had been healed by the Virgin of Knock.

In due course many of the witnesses died. But Mary Byrne married, raised six children, living her entire life in Knock. When interviewed again in 1936 at the age of eighty-six, her account did not vary from the first report she gave in 1879.

Love,
Matthew

Aug 14 – The Martyrs of Otranto, “It is fitting we should die for Him!”

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-Otranto Cathedral, bones of the martyrs

“Now it is time for us to fight to save our souls for the Lord. And since He died on the cross for us, it is fitting that we should die for Him.” -Antonio Primaldo, tailor, when offered the chance to convert to Islam and save themselves and their families from death and slavery.

May 12, 2013

“VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis on Sunday gave the Catholic Church new saints, including hundreds of 15th-century martyrs who were beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam, as he led his first canonization ceremony Sunday in a packed St. Peter’s Square.

The “Martyrs of Otranto” were 813 Italians who were slain in the southern Italian city in 1480 for defying demands by Turkish invaders who overran the citadel to renounce Christianity.

Their approval for sainthood was decided upon by Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, in a decree read at the ceremony in February where the former pontiff announced his retirement.

Shortly after his election in March, Francis called for more dialogue with Muslims, and it was unclear how the granting of sainthood to the martyrs would be received. Islam is a sensitive subject for the church, and Benedict stumbled significantly in his relations with the Muslim community.

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ANTONIO PEZZULLA AND 812 FELLOW MARTYRS

In 1480, some 20,000 Turkish troops overran the citadel of Otranto in what is now the southeastern Puglia region of Italy, in the “heel” of the boot-shaped peninsula. The invaders demanded that the locals, including many who took refuge in the city’s cathedral, convert to Islam. The Turks took 813 men from among those refusing to convert.

Pezzulla, also known as Primaldo, was the group’s leader, and the first among the martyrs to be beheaded. They are referred to as “The martyrs of Otranto.”

Francis told the crowd that the martyrs are a source of inspiration, especially for “so many Christians, who, right in these times and in so many parts of the world, still suffer violence.” He prayed that they receive “the courage of loyalty and to respond to evil with good.”

“Today the Church proposes for our worship* a host of martyrs, who were called together to the supreme witness to the Gospel in 1480. About eight hundred people, [who], having survived the siege and invasion of Otranto, were beheaded near that city. They refused to renounce their faith and died confessing the risen Christ. Where did they find the strength to remain faithful? Precisely in faith, which allows us to see beyond the limits of our human eyes, beyond the boundaries of earthly life, to contemplate “the heavens opened” – as St. Stephen said – and the living Christ at the right hand of the Father.

Dear friends, let us conserve the faith [that] we have received and that is our true treasure, let us renew our fidelity to the Lord, even in the midst of obstacles and misunderstandings; God will never allow us to want [for] strength and serenity. As we venerate the martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain those many Christians who, in these times and in many parts of the world, right now, still suffer violence, and give them the courage and fidelity to respond to evil with good.”
-Franciscus
Mass following Canonization – Homily
May 12, 2013

*(The veneration due to the saints is called dulia. It is very different from the adoration due to the Most Holy Trinity alone, which is called latria. Both of these are called “worship”, but they constitute distinct senses of the term.)

“It is fitting that we should die for him”: Remembering the 813 martyred shopkeepers of Otranto

http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/how-the-800-martyrs-of-otranto-saved-rome

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/pulverised-skull-martyr-otranto-was-used-medicinal-bone-drink-1487575

Love,
Matthew

Aug 13 – Bl Jacob Gapp, SM, (1897-1943), Priest & Martyr

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-Bl Jakob Gapp, SM, rosary

Jakob Gapp, the seventh child in the working-class family of Martin Gapp and Antonia Wach, was born July 26, 1897, in Wattens, a small village in the Austrian Tyrol. The following day Jakob was baptized in the Wattens parish church of St. Lawrence.

After completing elementary school in his native village in 1910, he entered the Franciscan-run high school in Hall, a neighboring town in the Tyrol.

Jakob was called to military service during World War I in May 1915, and served on the Italian front, where he was wounded on April 4, 1916. For this he received the Silver Medal of Courage Second Class. November 4, 1918, he was interned as a prisoner of war at Riva del Garda, and released August 18, 1919.

When Jakob returned home, he learned about the Society of Mary (Marianists) from a relative. On August 13, 1930, he entered the Marianist formation program, and on September 26 he began the year of novitiate at Greisinghof, Upper Austria, and pronounced his first vows there on September 27, 1921.

The young religious was assigned to the Marian Institute at Graz, Styria, where he served as a teacher and sacristan for four years. At the same time he was preparing himself through private study for the seminary.

Brother Jakob made perpetual vows at Antony, a suburb of Paris, France, on August 27, 1925.

In September of 1925 he entered the Marianist international seminary at Fribourg, Switzerland, which was then under the direction of the revered Father Emile Neubert, S.M. Bishop Marius Besson of Fribourg-Lausanne-Geneva ordained Jakob to the priesthood in the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Fribourg on April 5, 1930.

Upon returning to Austria, Father Jakob Gapp was involved as teacher, director of religious education, and chaplain in Marianist schools at Freistadt, Lanzenkirchen, and Graz. During a time of severe unemployment during the economic depression, while at Graz, Father Gapp’s deep concern for the poor surfaced in distinct ways. He gathered food and the necessities of life not only from his students, but also refused to heat his own bedroom in the winter, to be able to give aid and fuel to the poor.

At this time, as National Socialism (Nazism) began to grow strong, first in Germany and then in Austria, the young priest Jakob Gapp developed a clear judgment about the incompatibility between National Socialism and Christianity by studying diligently the statements of the German and Austrian bishops and Pope Pius XI’s encyclical letter, Mit brennender Sorge. When teaching and preaching, he continued to emphasize fearlessly this truth.

Consequently, when German troops arrived in Austria in March 1938, he was obliged to leave Graz. After a few months at Freistadt his superiors sent him to this hometown in Tyrol, since they recognized in his anti-Nazi preaching a threat to the very existence of those institutions whose elimination had already been decided by the Nazis. In Tyrol, with his relatives at Wattens, Erl, Terfans, Umlberg, and Vomp, he enjoyed the last period of peace in his earthly life.

He had been an assistant pastor in Breitenwang-Reutte for only two months when the Gestapo, at the end of October 1938, forbade him to teach religion. Father Gapp had taught the uncompromising law of love for all men and women without reference to nationality or religion.

In a sermon on December 11, 1938, at his home parish of St. Lawrence in Wattens, he defended Pope Pius XI against the attacks of the Nazis, and directed the faithful to read Catholic literature rather than Nazi propaganda. After this sermon Father Jakob Gapp was advised to leave his hometown.

With the help of his religious superiors Father Gapp was able to escape in January 1939 to Bordeaux, France, where he served at the Chapel of the Madeleine, the cradle of the Society of Mary, as chaplain and librarian. In May 1939 he fled to Spain, where he labored in the Marianist communities at San Sebastian, Cadiz, and Valencia.

For a time he was tutor for a family at Lequeitio while teaching at the school of the Mercedarian Fathers in that city. In Spain he stood alone and was always misunderstood because of his rejection of Nazism, since Hitler had earlier offered aid to Franco.

Gestapo agents followed his journey from the time he left Austria, and took advantage of his inner isolation. Two individuals pretending to be Jews from Berlin told Father Gapp about their fictitious experience of flight from Nazi persecution. In Valencia they asked him to instruct them in the Catholic faith and prepare them for baptism.

After gaining his confidence, they invited him on a trip, and abducted him across the border into France, then occupied by the Germans. Within a few minutes they stopped in Hendaye, France, where the Gestapo was waiting to arrest him and take him to Berlin as a prisoner.

On July 2, 1943, the feast of the Sacred heart of Jesus, a feast of special significance in Austria and in the life of Jakob Gapp, he was condemned to death by the President of the People’s Court, Dr. Roland Freisler.

Any type of pardon or transfer of his remains to his relatives for a simple burial was denied for the reason that Father Jakob Gapp had “defended his conduct on expressly religious grounds. For an explicitly religious people Father Gapp would be considered a martyr for the faith, and his burial could be used by the Catholic population as an opportunity for a silent demonstration in support of an already judged traitor of his people who was pretending to die for his faith.”

At 1:00 p.m. on August 13, 1943, the anniversary of his entrance to the Marianist novitiate, Father Jakob Gapp was informed that his execution would take place that evening at 7:00 p.m. The two farewell letters he was permitted to write after this announcement are truly moving manifestations of his faith. At the appointed time Jakob Gapp was beheaded by guillotine in the Ploetzensee Prison, Berlin.

His remains were sent to the Anatomical-Biological Institute at the University of Berlin for study and research, and then destroyed.

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“God is your God, not Adolf Hitler.”
“Action is more important than theory!”
-Bl Jacob Gapp, SM

Love,
Matthew

Aug 12 – Bl Karl Leisner, (1915-1945), Priest & Martyr, Dachau Prisoner 22356, Camp 26

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Very near to where Kelly and I live is the Schoenstatt Shrine of Madison.
http://schoenstattwisconsin.org/
http://schoenstattmadison.com/

-by Rev. Mark Steffl, April 2006, while studying for his STL in Rome.  He is a priest of the diocese of New Ulm, MN.

“My time as a student in Rome has afforded me many opportunities to experience the great wealth and tradition of the Universal Catholic Church. This past February was one of the highlights of that experience when I was able to celebrate a Mass at the altar that was in the Dachau Concentration Camp during World War II.

Before and during the Second World War, the Nazis in Germany forced many priests into concentration camps and the majority were sent to the Dachau Concentration Camp near Munich.  The priests were segregated together in a single area, the “Priesterblock” and through the diplomacy of the Holy See at the time, they were permitted to have a chapel and a single altar in which to celebrate Mass. The altar, made of wood by the prisoners was the site where these priests were allowed a single Mass each day.

Many of these priests, who were called to join in a special way to the sufferings and Passion of Our Lord, died because of illness and as a result of harsh punishment. I have a particular devotion to one of them who is especially connected to the Dachau altar, Blessed Karl Leisner.  He has a fascinating story of being arrested as a deacon because of his efforts with Catholic youth contrary to the Nazi regime.

Blessed Karl Leisner’s vocation is a particular one in several details. He was the only man who was ordained a priest in Dachau. On December 17, 1944, under great secrecy and against the orders of the Nazis, he was ordained a priest by a French Bishop after five years of life in concentration camps as a deacon. He was in such poor health at that time, that he was able to celebrate only a single Mass as a priest before he died. He lived to see liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp, and of Germany from the Nazi regime, but died soon after.

Blessed Karl Leisner’s life stands out in an important way for us today on many levels.The first is that Blessed Karl, a German, was ordained by a French bishop during a war in which the two nationalities were in bloody conflict with each other.  It shows in a beautiful way how “Catholic” (which means “universal”)  faith truly lives up to its etymological roots surpassing borders and boundaries. Jesus’ message of hope and love goes beyond national identities and embraces all of humanity.

Secondly, for a world that measures worth by productivity, Karl Leisner’s life would seem “unproductive.” He celebrated only one single Mass as a priest. But his life shows and challenges us to see life as God would, with its dignity and special plan for each of us, rather than to follow the world in judging worth by ability to produce.  His whole life had been planned by God for that single Mass he offered at the altar in the Dachau Concentration Camp, and his suffering was not in vain, but went on to inspire many with him after him to persevere in their own suffering, seeing it in the “plan of God” and knowing that God does great things with the struggles we bear for Him.

Pope John Paul II beatified Karl Leisner, along with a second German priest who died in custody of the Nazis, on a trip to Germany that he made in 1996. The beatification Mass was held in the same Olympic Stadium that Adolf Hitler had constructed for the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games and used often for Nazi parades and spectacles. Here again we see the great paradox of the same stadium, constructed for the worst of reasons, becoming a place of great graces, with the Holy Father celebrating a Mass there for a great crowd and beatifying two priests who stood firmly against the Nazis and gave their lives for their faith in the Lord and His Gospel that comes to us in the Church.

Pope John Paul II, in his homily at this beatification Mass highlighted how Blessed Karl Leisner witnessed to his faith and how he is an example of how we today are to take that witness and apply it to our own lives. John Paul pointed out that often we are called against the “popular world view” illustrating that we are called to bear witness to a culture of life that finds its reward in eternal life. That we are called to “resist the culture of hatred and death, regardless of the guise which it may assume.

The Dachau altar, the altar that was the place of this Blessed Karl Leisner’s ordination Mass and the single Mass after his ordination that he said as a priest, is today in a house for diocesan priests affiliated with the Schoenstatt Movement (of which Karl Leisner was a part as a boy and seminarian) not far from Frankfurt. It was “rescued” after the war and is kept as a witness to great hope and joy in the midst of the worst of conditions, the great dignity to which we are all called in the Mass, where we find a foretaste of the eternal banquet that we hope and strive to attain, eternal life with Jesus in heaven.”

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“But we maintain our Christian, courageous calm. Nobody will take away our will to struggle and fight back as long as He is with us. God is the ruler of the fates of men and peoples. This is our victory, which overcomes the world.” – Bl Karl, remarking after the Nazis closed the Catholic youth center in Dusseldorf, where he ministered.

He wrote a poem that expressed his feelings at this time:

Though the road wind through the blackest night,
Victory will be ours in the dawn’s crimson light.
We are ready to proclaim, in all lands and climes,
That God is the Lord even of these our times.

Karl continued to work with youth, and the Gestapo noted it. They opened a secret file on his activities in 1936. They watched his movements and read his mail.

One day after hearing about an attempt to assassinate Hitler with a bomb, he remarked that it was a pity that Hitler wasn’t there when the attack occurred. This was reported to the authorities, and within hours, then Deacon Karl was arrested.

“Karl Leisner encourages us to remain on the way that is Christ. We must not grow weary, even if sometimes this way seems dark and demands sacrifice. Let us beware of false prophets who want to show us other ways. Christ is the way that leads to life. All other ways are detours or wrong paths.” – Pope John Paul II, during the beatification Mass.

Blessed Karl Leisner, priest & martyr, pray for us when we are called to witness to the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Eternal, Glorious Reign!!!

Love,
Matthew

Aug 11 – St Clare of Assisi, OSC, (1194-1253), Virgin

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“Go forth without fear, Christian soul, for you have a good guide for your journey. Go forth without fear, for He that created you has sanctified you, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother.” – Saint Clare, on her deathbed in 1253

Saint Clare was born in 1193 in Assisi to a noble family. Before her birth, her mother received a sign that her daughter would be a bright light of God in the world. As a child she was already very strongly drawn to the things of God, praying fervently, devoutly visiting the Blessed Sacrament, and manifesting a tender love towards the poor.

When she was 18, she heard St. Francis preaching in the town square during Lent and she knew at once that God wanted her to consecrate herself to Him. The next evening, Clare left her house at night, ran to meet St. Francis and his companions at the church they were staying in, and shared her desire to follow him in his way of life. He received her, gave her his tunic, cut off her golden locks, and sent her to a Benedictine convent, because she could not stay with the brothers. Her younger sister Agnes soon joined her and the two had to resist much pressure from their family to return home.

When Clare was 22, St. Francis placed her in a small house beside the convent and made her superior, a post she should serve for the next 42 years of her life until her death.

The ´Poor Clares’ as they came to be known, lived an unusually austere life for women of the time, walking barefoot around the town begging for alms, wearing sackcloth, and living without any possessions, completely dependent for their food on what was given to them. But the emphasis of their lives was, and still is, contemplation.

Many young noble women left all they had to take on the poor habit of Clare and the order grew rapidly, with houses being founded all over Italy, all of whom took St. Clare as their model and inspiration.

Clare’s reputation for holiness was such that the Pope himself came to her deathbed in 1253 to give her absolution, and wanted to canonize her immediately on her death, but was advised by his cardinals to wait.

Claire died in absolute tranquility, saying to one of the brothers at her side “Dear brother, ever since through His servant Francis I have known the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, I have never in my whole life found any pain or sickness that could trouble me.”

St. Clare

“Rejoice and be glad that so great and good a Lord, on coming into the virgin’s womb, willed to appear despised, needy, and poor in this world, so that men who were in dire poverty and in great need of heavenly nourishment might be made rich in Him.” -St. Clare of Assisi

Prayer of St. Clare

I look up and I behold the Lord,
Clare says to me,

Gaze upon Him, consider Him, contemplate Him,
I put this more simply: behold, hold, enfold.

I behold the Lord
I see His outstretched hands
I see the blood from His wounds.
I see the love in the eyes of Jesus.
I see His gracious acceptance of me.

Jesus has come out of the tomb –
He still has the scars,
but now they are glorious, with the glory of heaven.
Still looking at the Lord, I reach out and touch Him.
I hold the Lord – and I am held in His love.

Love enfolds
It is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me.
I am secure in the Lord.
I can look out, now, through the Lord’s eyes.
I can see the world as He created it, in His mercy,
I can see my sisters and brothers with His love,
and I can worship the Father through the eyes of the Son
in the Love of the Holy Spirit.

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“Totally love Him, Who gave Himself totally for your love.”
— St. Clare of Assisi

Love,
Matthew

Aug 9 – Bl Florentino Asensio Barroso, (1877-1936), Bishop & Martyr, Patron of Torture Victims & Those Under A Promise Celibacy

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Former Apostolic Administrator of Barbastro, Monsignor Florentino Asensio y Barroso was born to a poor but devout Catholic family in Villasexmir, Valladolid, Spain, on October 16, 1877, he had an elder brother who was an Augustinian Monk.

Ordained to the Priesthood on June 1, 1901, in Valladolid, Barroso earned a Licentiate and Doctorate in Theology from the Pontifical University of Valladolid, where he subsequently served as a Lecturer.

Spiritual Director and Confessor to several Religious Congregations, Barroso was a keen Orator. Luckily, many of his homilies have survived. Receiving his Episcopal Consecration following his appointment as Apostolic Administrator of Barbastro at 58 years of age on January 26, 1936, his brief Episcopate, which lasted only five months, was noted for his charity to the poor and sick. However, this was a period of hostility to the Catholic Church.

Bishop Florentino was placed under house arrest, and then imprisoned. Moved to solitary confinement on August 1, 1936, he was tortured and brutally mutilated.

An autopsy on his remains performed on April 16, 1993, proved that he suffered among others the amputation of his genitals, almost certainly in attempted mockery of his vow of celibacy.

Following these horrible tortures, Bishop Florentino was shot three times through the temple in a Cemetery outside Barbastro, Huesca, on August 2, 1936, becoming thus one of the Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War.

Buried in a common grave with other victims, his remains were later exhumed and immediately identified as his body was found incorrupt. Re – interred in the Cathedral Crypt of Barbastro, beneath the Presbytery, his body was later moved to the Capilla de San Carlos Borromeo inside the same Cathedral, were they lie to this day in a specially constructed sarcophagus.

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View Of The Sarcophagus Which Houses The Venerated Incorrupt Remains Of Bishop Florentino At The Chapel Of St. Charles Borromeo, Inside The Cathedral Of Barbastro, Huesca, Spain.

Love,
Matthew

Aug 8 – St Mary Helen MacKillop, RSJ, (1842-1909), Foundress of the Josephites

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/19/saint-mary-mackillop-aust_n_468595.html

Feb 19 2010

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI approved sainthood for Mother Mary MacKillop on Friday, making the woman known for her work among the needy Australia’s first saint.

The pope made the announcement during a ceremony at the Vatican and set the formal canonization for Oct. 17 in Rome. Five others – from Italy, Spain, Poland and Canada – will be canonized at the same time.

MacKillop founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph (of the Sacred Heart!), an order that built dozens of schools for impoverished children across the Australian Outback in the 1800s, as well as orphanages and clinics for the needy.

With vows of abstinence from owning personal belongings and dedication to helping the poor, MacKillop is credited with spreading Roman Catholicism in Australia and New Zealand.

But she was a strong-willed advocate who sometimes got into trouble for challenging orthodox thinking within the male-dominated church. In 1869 she was excommunicated for inciting her followers to disobedience, though the bishop who punished her recanted three years (some accounts say five months) later (nine days before his death – timing is everything) and she was exonerated by a church commission.

“This is a great, great tribute to the Catholic church and a great, great tribute to her hard work in education,” Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Friday. “This is a great honor for Australia. I offer a heartfelt expression of appreciation to the wider Catholic community.”

MacKillop died in 1909 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995.

Australians have been awaiting Friday’s announcement since Benedict in December cleared the way by declaring MacKillop was responsible for the required second miracle, one of the final steps in the complex process before sainthood can be bestowed.

“It’s more than just Catholics, the whole country has a new hero – someone that will give them hope for the future,” said Garry McLean, CEO of the Mary MacKillop Heritage Center in Melbourne.

“Today it has been recognized that a woman can become a saint in the Australian environment with all its complexities and challenges,” Postulator for the Cause of Mary MacKillop, Sister Maria Casey, said in a statement. “Mary MacKillop is to be listed among the saints of the Catholic Church. I look forward to the celebration of her goodness when many pilgrims from all over the world come to Rome for the ceremony.”

“By their fruits you will know them.” (Mt 7:16)

Because of my personality, I realize, when I was considering making a solemn promise of vows similar to Mother MacKillop, the one I struggled with most then and still would now is obedience without reservation or foreknowledge. I wanted a contract with rights and duties, limits of liability, and perfect clairvoyance of the future – or something like that. With the benefit of twenty-two additional years of experience and maturity, I might have some incremental hope of inching closer to such a promise now, not knowing what that would mean or entail for the rest of my life; yet, my experience with authority in human organizations since then  could also be a bulwark and an impediment against the embrace of such a promise.

That may seem odd, and others might find poverty, or celibacy or life in religious community more challenging, but for me, it was obedience. And, I couldn’t just let the clock run out and potentially make a promise in my heart of hearts I really knew I couldn’t fully embrace or potentially fulfill. That would have been dishonest. It’s not that simple, but that’s probably one of the bigger reasons I left.

Marriage has its own implicit promises of obedience, without reservation, regardless of gender or role in family – the obedience of love, to the best of our ability. And this obedience is joyful, as I am sure those who embrace the vow of obedience in religious life, like Mother MacKillop, must find it to have any hope of living it.

What the article fails to mention is Mother MacKillop took that vow of obedience I could not. Obedience to authority has become very unfashionable in the last few centuries. Granted, those in authority are replete with all the human weakness we all suffer. Yet, Christian love, in my understanding and my attempted and faltering and failing practice, requires mission and obedience are inextricable, by the Lord’s own example.

Mother MacKillop’s life and example was replete with rich fruits of her profound faith and practice of it. Her works, as are all good works of Christian charity, are the fruits of profound faith. There is no dichotomy between “faith & works” in my understanding or experience. One blossoms into the other, it has to, in the Catholic understanding, and the Lord should be praised therefore.

When I grow angry with the failings of those in authority, and feel the need to express my displeasure openly, I ask myself “What are the irrefutable fruits of my own faith in my life all could recognize, such that I possess evidence for myself and for others that it is not merely anger which I am celebrating or indulging in, but my anger is a just a continuum of my attempt to live out of Christian love?” As Mother MacKillop did? That is not to let the culpable off the hook, but rather to assure myself of my proper orientation in what I am doing and trying to live my faith.

The Lord commands us to love one another, especially when we are most unhappy with or treated most unjustly by each other, even to the point of evil – even the evil of crucifixion and a tortured death. Could I forgive in the moment of my agony? I doubt it in the extreme. God give me the grace to hope to do so and, please Lord, do not test my faith.

In this Lent, let us give up righteous anger, no matter how good or right it feels in the moment, let us abstain from it, and put on righteous love, as Mother MacKillop did through grace.

Besides, would you mess with an Australian nun who lived in the outback without air conditioning wearing a habit like the one in the picture, accomplished what she accomplished, and who had so big a crucifix stuck in her belt? Not me.

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Love,
Matthew