Category Archives: February

Feb 10 – Bl Aloysius Stepinac, (1898-1960) – Cardinal & Martyr

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Called Alojzije in his native Croatia, he was born in Krasíc, Yugoslavia, on May 8, 1898. Was educated locally and completed military service in World War I. Considered marriage before deciding to study for the priesthood.

In Rome, Aloysius studied at the Pontifical Germanicum-Hungaricum College and earned doctorates at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He was ordained a priest on October 26, 1930.

After service as a parish priest, he was appointed coadjutor archbishop of Zagreb in 1934 at the age of thirty-six. Aloysius was consecrated archbishop of Zagreb when his predecessor died on December 7, 1937.

During World War II, Stepinac was most concerned about the plight of Jews and Orthodox Christians. To save as many as possible, he permitted all priests to accept as a convert any Jew or Orthodox Christian without the requirement of special catechetical knowledge. He hid those pursued by the Nazis in monasteries and other Church property.

Aloysius was arrested in 1945 for speaking out against the murders of priests by Communist militants and pressured by Josip Broz Tito, the new Communist leader of Yugoslavia, to create a nationalized Croatian Catholic Church without allegiance to Rome.

He was put on trial in September 1946 for the ludicrous charge of war crimes and sentenced on October 11, 1946, to sixteen years of hard labor. The Jews of Yugoslavia openly protested this sentence. Aloysius was imprisoned until 1951 when his health deteriorated. He was put under house arrest in Krasíc but he still managed to write more than five thousand letters and to serve as a priest. On June 23, 1953, Pope Pius XII (r. 1939-1958) elevated Aloysius to the rank of cardinal. He died on February 10, 1960, almost certainly as the result of poisoning by his Communist captors. Arsenic was found in his remains as part of the examination of remains in the beatification process.

Pope John Paul II beatified Aloysius Cardinal Stepinac on October 3, 1998, at the Marian shrine near Zagreb before half a million Croatians and other faithful. He has been proposed as a candidate for inclusion in “Righteous Among the Nations” at Yad Vashem.

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-Bl Aloysius statue in Zagreb

“Blessed be your name, Lord! May Your will be done!” – Blessed Alojzije Stepinac’s last words

“We always stressed in public life the principles of God‘s eternal law regardless of whether we spoke about Croats, Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, Catholics, Muslims, Orthodox or whoever else…. The Catholic Church does not recognize races that rule and races that are enslaved.” – Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, 1943

“I know what my duty is. With the grace of God, I will carry it out to the end without hatred towards anyone, and without fear from anyone.” – Blessed Alojzije Stepinac

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Lord, Our God, You bestowed on your servant Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac the grace to believe in Jesus Christ and also to suffer for Him with brave apostolic fervor and love towards the Church. Grant us the same faith and perseverance in suffering for the Church. Raise your servant to the glory and honor of the saints so that he may be an example and intercede for us in life’s battle towards our goal of eternal salvation. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Feb 5 – Bl Elizabeth Canori-Mora, (1774-1825) – Wife & Mother, Prophetess of the Apocalypse

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I LOVE BEING MARRIED!!!!  I love you Kelly Marie!!!!  Very much!!!  Thank you for saying “yes”, or “sure”, or whatever it was!!!  Thank you for continuing to do so!!!  You know how I feel.

Elizabeth Canori-Mora was born in Rome on November 21, 1774, from a well-to-do family and was given a good Christian education. As a teenager, she loved fine clothes and socializing as well as spending time in prayer and making small sacrifices to help the poor. At 19, she attracted the attention of a young lawyer, Christopher Mora, and the two were married on January 10, 1798. She embraced marriage as her God-given vocation and vowed to live it as a sacrament of salvation for herself, her husband and whatever children God would give them.

Marriage, however, proved to be a cause of much suffering for Elizabeth when, a few years later, she discovered that Christopher had a mistress and was squandering the family resources on her. She offered herself to God for the conversion of her husband, who also became a compulsive gambler, a heavy drinker and a shady businessman. Elizabeth’s inner pain was as deep as her conviction that the divine law of wedded fidelity admitted no exceptions. As a good mother, she totally dedicated herself to the Christian upbringing of her two daughters, Marianna and Lucina, whom she urged to pray for their father and guided in the choice of their vocations in life. The irresponsible behavior of Christopher resulted in the financial ruin of the family. Christopher abandoned and refused to support them for a time.  To remedy the situation, Elizabeth undertook to work as a seamstress.

Elizabeth, to pay creditors and to safeguard the good name of her husband, was compelled to sell her jewelry and, even, her wedding garments. She continued to care for her daughters and the daily chores of the home with utmost care. She also dedicated much time to prayer, to the service of the poor and assisting the sick. She dedicated special care to families in need. She was ridiculed by Christopher for her “pious” behavior, but continued to pray for him.

In the midst of her marital and financial difficulties Elizabeth found inner peace and strength in prayer and a deep trust in God. Attracted by the charitable spirit of the Trinitarian Order, she became a Tertiary member in 1807, and found time to help the poor, to visit the sick and to counsel married couples in crisis. She often reminded her husband to straighten up his life. Once she said to him: “It may seem unbelievable, but one day you will celebrate Mass for me!” “It is good for me to have spent two hours in prayer!” she wrote. “God gave me so much strength that I was ready to give my life rather than to offend my Lord.”

Friends and even her confessor advised Elizabeth to separate, but Elizabeth never lost heart. For the sake of Christ, Elizabeth considered the salvation of her husband and of her daughters and used this misfortune for spiritual profit. Elizabeth was convinced that “nobody can be saved all alone, and God has entrusted to everyone the responsibility of the salvation of others in order to carry out his project of love”. This is the story of a woman betrayed, however, Elizabeth understood what it meant to be a Christian. She knew that God entrusted Christopher to her through the Sacrament of Marriage and that she had the responsibility to carry this cross to salvation. She could not leave it, because God had entrusted it.

At age 50, she developed dropsy. The condition incapacitated her. Miraculously, it caused Christopher to return. During her final weeks, he rarely left her. On her last night on earth, however, he was with his mistress. Upon returning, he found her dead. Seeing her cold corpse, he wept furiously for the sins he had committed.  Elizabeth died on February 5, 1825. Christopher rushed to her death bed to utter these words: “Today we have lost a great bride and mother.” Her fame of holiness attracted many priests, religious, noble men and women, and a large crowd of common people to her funeral. Being closely associated with the Trinitarian Third Order, she was buried in the crypt of the Trinitarian Church of San Carlino in Rome.

After a series of miraculous cures were ascribed to her intercession, the Holy See reviewed her life and declared that she had lived all Christian virtues to an heroic degree. Pope John Paul II proclaimed her Blessed on April 24, 1994.

After her death, daughter Lucina joined the Sisters of St. Philip, Marianna married, and Christopher began to be seen praying in churches. Often he spoke remorsefully about the sufferings he had inflicted on his saintly wife. He first became a Trinitarian Tertiary, then he entered the Conventual Franciscans, professed the religious vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, and after completing a course of theological studies, was ordained a priest at the age of 61, fulfilling Elizabeth’s prophecy.

He died eleven years later, at the age of 72.

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Prayer to Obtain Graces through the Intercession of
Blessed Elizabeth Canori-Mora

Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, source of all holiness,
I thank you for the graces you have bestowed upon Blessed Elizabeth Canori-Mora,
and for having made her a model of faith, hope and charity
as a Christian wife and mother.
I humbly beseech you to grant the graces
I ask through her intercession…(name your request here)

Firmly abiding by your Holy Will,
I make this prayer through Christ,
our Lord and Savior.
Amen.

Bl Elizabeth Canori Mora, we entrust to you all struggling marriages, and especially spouses who have been abandoned. May they know that their witness to marital fidelity is a treasure for the world and a sign of God’s never-failing love for His beloved children. Bring faithless spouses back to their families, and heal all of the wounds of sin and betrayal. Amen.

Bl Elizabeth, pray for us!

http://www.tfp.org/tfp-home/catholic-perspective/a-century-before-fatima-providence-announced-a-chastisement.html

Love,
Matthew

 

Feb 4 – St Joseph of Leonessa, OFM Cap, (1556-1612) – Confessor, Catechist, Priest, Preacher, Evangelist, Peacemaker

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-tomb of St Joseph of Leonessa, OFM Cap

“Every Christian must be a living book wherein one can read the teaching of the gospel. This is what St. Paul says to the Corinthians, ‘Clearly you are a letter of Christ which I have delivered, a letter written not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh in the heart’ (2 Corinthians 3:3). Our heart is the parchment; through my ministry the Holy Spirit is the writer because ‘my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe’ (Psalm 45:1).”
-from a sermon by St Joseph of Leonissa (1556-1612)

Joseph avoided the safe compromises by which people sometimes undercut the gospel. Born at Leonissa in the Kingdom of Naples, Joseph joined the Capuchins in his hometown in 1573. Denying himself hearty meals and comfortable quarters, he prepared for ordination and a life of preaching.

Relying solely on grace and with a mission crucifix always tucked in his cincture, Joseph negotiated the most obscure, mountainous regions of Umbria, Lazio and the Abruzzi in an intense and extensive mission of evangelization among those who were poor.

Joseph enjoyed such great success in preaching because of his intimate union with God which was cultivated by incessant prayer. He would pray and meditate on the road, while holding his crucifix.

Assigned to Constantinople, since 1453 when it had fallen to the Muslims known as Istanbul.  He was appointed as chaplain to some 4,000 Christian slaves who worked in the penal colony of Qaasim-pacha. He immediately went to work bringing the gospel and charitable relief to those who were languishing in inhumane conditions. Many times he offered himself as a substitute in order to obtain the release of a slave who was near death. His offer was never accepted.

When the plague broke out in the penal colonies, the Capuchins immediately took up the ministry of assisting those who were sick and dying. Two Capuchins, Peter and Dennis, died doing so. Although Joseph became ill, he and Brother Gregory alone survived to remain at the mission. After converting a Greek bishop who had renounced the faith, Joseph devised a plan which entailed approaching the sultan, Murad III, to seek the recognition of the right of freedom of conscience for anyone who was converted or returned to the Christian faith.

When Joseph attempted to enter the sultan’s chambers, he was arrested and bound in chains. He was condemned to an immediate death by being hung on hooks. He was hung from the gallows with one hook through the tendons of his right hand and another through his right foot.  Near death, on the evening of the third day, the guards cut him down.

Joseph quickly left Turkey and arrived at Rome where he and the converted Greek bishop presented themselves to Pope Sixtus V. Following Joseph’s return to Italy, in the autumn of 1589, he took up residence at the Carcerelle in Assisi.

In the aftermath of the Council of Trent, Joseph spent much time and energy catechizing. He began a ministry of evangelization among shepherds who lacked even rudimentary knowledge of the faith, prayer and the commandments. He would walk through the streets ringing a bell, reminding parents to send their children to catechism class.

Helped establish hospitals, homeless shelters, and food banks. Ministered in prisons, to the sick, and the poor. With his crucifix in hand, he would wade into gang fights and brawls, praying, and preaching peace and good sense.

When he became deathly ill with cancer, and an operation to remove the tumor proposed, Joseph asked to be taken to Leonessa in order to pay his last respects to his relatives and friends. On Saturday evening, February 4, 1612, after beginning the Divine Office, which proved too difficult to continue, Joseph repeated his favorite prayer: “Sancta Maria, succurre miseris.”(trans. “Holy Mary, pray for us, miserable, afflicted sinners.”)   When someone said before the operation (no anesthesia) that he ought to be restrained, he pointed to the crucifix in his hand and said, “This is the strongest band; this will hold me unmoved better than any cords could do.”

 

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Love,

Matthew

Feb 4 – St Catherine de Ricci, OSD(OP), (1522-1590) – Mystic, Stigmatist of Our Lord’s Passion

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(Feast Day:  Dominican calendar, Feb 4.  General Roman Calendar, Feb, 13.)

The Ricci are an ancient family, which still subsists in a flourishing condition in Tuscany. Peter de Ricci, the father of our saint, was married to Catherine Bonza, a lady of suitable birth. The saint was born at Florence in 1522, and called at her baptism Alexandrina, but she took the name of Catherine at her religious profession, in honor of St Catherine of Siena, OP.

Having lost her mother in her infancy, she was formed to virtue by a very pious godmother, and whenever she was missing she was always to be found on her knees in some secret part of the house. When she was between six and seven years old, her father placed her in the Convent of Monticelli, near the gates of Florence, where her aunt, Louisa de Ricci, was a nun.

This place was to her a paradise: at a distance from the noise and tumult of the world, she served God without impediment or distraction. After some years her father took her home. She continued her usual exercises in the world as much as she was able; but the interruptions and dissipation, inseparable from her station, gave her so much uneasiness that, with the consent of her father, which she obtained, though with great difficulty, in the year 1535, the fourteenth of her age, she received the religious veil in the convent of Dominican sisters at Prat, in Tuscany, to which her uncle, Fr Timothy de Ricci, OP, was director.

For two years she suffered inexpressible pains under a complication of violent distempers, which remedies only seemed to increase. These sufferings she sanctified by the interior disposition with which she bore them, and which she nourished by assiduous meditation on the passion of Christ. The victory over herself, and purgation of her affections was completed by a perfect spirit of prayer; for by the union of her soul with God, and the establishment of the absolute reign of His love in her heart, she was dead to and disengaged from all earthly things.

The saint was chosen, when very young, first as mistress of the novices, then sub-prioress, and, in the twenty-fifth year of her age, was appointed as perpetual prioress. The reputation of her extraordinary sanctity and prudence drew her many visits from a great number of bishops, princes, and cardinals-among them, the Cardinals Cervini, Alexander of Medicis, and Aldobrandini, who all three were afterwards raised to St. Peter’s chair, under the names of Marcellus II, Clement VIII, and Leo XI. They were among the thousands who sought her prayers while she lived, and even more after her passing.

Most wonderful were the raptures of St. Catherine in meditating on the passion of Christ. She received visions and had ecstasies, but these caused some problems and doubts among her sisters – outwardly she seemed asleep during community prayer, or dropping plates, or food, or dully stupid when the visions were upon her. Her sisters feared for her competence, even her sanity. Catherine thought everyone received these visions as part of their lives with God. She was stricken with a series of painful ailments that permanently damaged her health. Catherine met Philip Neri in a vision while he was alive in Rome; they had corresponded, so they knew each other. She could bi-locate. Neri confirmed during her beatification he spoke with her in person, when she was known to be in prayer in the convent and could not have physically made the trip to Rome to speak with him, a distance of nearly 200 miles. Said to have received a ring from the Lord as a sign of her espousal to Him; to her it appeared as gold set with a diamond; everyone else saw a red lozenge and a circlet around her finger.

At age 20 she began a 12-year cycle of weekly ecstasies of the Passion from noon Thursday until 4:00pm Friday, often accompanied by serious wounds. Her sisters could follow the course of the Passion, as the wounds appeared in order from the scourging and crowning with thorns. At the end she was covered with wounds and her shoulder was indented from the Cross. The first time, during Lent 1542, she meditated so completely on the crucifixion of Jesus that she became ill, and was healed by a vision of the Risen Lord talking with Mary Magdalene. Crowds came to see her, skeptics and sinners being converted by the sight. The crowds became too numerous and constant that the sisters prayed that the wounds become less visible; He made them so in 1554.

After a long illness she passed from this mortal life to everlasting bliss and possession of the object of all her desires on the feast of the Purification of our Lady, on the 2nd of February, in 1589, the sixty-seventh year of her age.

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-St Catherine de Ricci & her brothers, by Fiammetta da Diacceto

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-Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine de Ricci, by Pierre Subleyras, 1745.

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-St Catherine de Ricci receiving the wounded Christ from the Cross in a mystical vision.

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-tomb of St Catherine de Ricci, OSD

Love,
Matthew

Feb 1 – St Henry Morse, SJ, (1595-1645) – Priest & Martyr

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Henry Morse, born in Brome, Suffolk, England, in 1595, was raised a Protestant. He enrolled as a law student in London’s Inns of Court. While there, however, he became increasingly dissatisfied with the established religion and more convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith.

Crossing the English Channel, he went to Douai, France, which was then an English Catholic center. Once received into the Church, he decided to study for the priesthood, and made his studies first at Douai, then at the English College in Rome, as Douai had too many students. Although ordained in Rome as a secular priest, he secured permission from the Father General of the Jesuits to be admitted to the Society of Jesus once he got back to England.

Father Morse had scarcely landed in Britain and been accepted as a Jesuit candidate when he was arrested and imprisoned in York Castle.   Upon arrival at a port in England, he was asked by the English port authorities to take the oath of allegiance acknowledging the king’s supremacy in religious matters. The recent convert resolutely refused and was arrested and imprisoned for four years and was released in 1618 when the king decided to get rid of hundreds of religious dissenters by banishing them to France.  He was ordained in 1623.

He had not yet had time to make the novitiate required of those who aspired to Jesuit vows. Providentially, however, he found another Jesuit imprisoned in York Castle. This Father Robinson supervised his novitiate in prison! Therefore, when his three-year term was up, he emerged a full-fledged junior member of the Society.

Banished to the Continent on his release, Father Morse spent some time as a chaplain to English soldiers who served the King of Spain in the Low Countries. Then in 1633 he returned to England secretly, using the name “Cuthbert Claxton,” and he spent the next four years ministering in London.

Now, in 1636-1637 the dread “Black Plague” again became epidemic in London. Morse was kept doubly busy taking care of bodies as well as souls. He made up a list of 400 infected families, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, whom he regularly visited. He himself caught the disease three times, but each time he recovered. His zeal and thoughtfulness were deeply appreciated and nearly 100 families on his list eventually asked to be reconciled to the Catholic Church.

Unfortunately, the police also learned about Morse’s activities, and arrested him on February 27, 1636. The charges were that he was a priest and that he had “perverted” several hundred of “His Majesty’s Protestant subjects.” Put on trial, he was acquitted of the second charge but not of the first. However, he was bailed out through the intervention of Charles I’s Catholic wife, Queen Henrietta Maria. Then, in 1641, the king was forced to decree the exile of all Catholic priests. Father Henry, unwilling to embarrass his bail bondsmen, returned to Flanders and resumed his work as chaplain of the English soldiers there.

In 1643 Father Morse’s Jesuit superiors sent him back to the mission, this time in northern England, where he was less known.  He accidentally walked into a group of soldiers late one night who suspected he was a priest.  He was arrested and held overnight in the home of a local official.  He escaped with the aid of the Catholic wife of one of his captors.  He enjoyed freedom for 6 weeks but one day he and his guide lost their way in the countryside and innocently knocked on the door of a house to ask for directions. The man who answered was one of the soldiers who had recently apprehended him and remembered him well and there would be no fifth escape.  Tried once more, he was sentenced to death in accord with the law that forbade exiled priests to return to Britain.  He was visited in prison by the ambassadors of other Catholic countries.

On the day of his execution, February 1, 1645, Father Morse was able to celebrate Mass. Then four horses were harnessed to the wicker hurdle on which he was dragged to the gallows that stood on Tyburn Hill. As usual, there was a crowd of the curious on hand to see the show. But also in attendance, to pay their respects, were the French ambassador and his suite, the Spanish and Portuguese ambassadors, and the Flemish Count of Egmont.

As was customary, the condemned priest was allowed to make some final remarks. “I am come hither to die for my religion……I have a secret which highly concerns His Majesty and Parliament to know. The kingdom of England will never be truly blessed until it returns to the Catholic faith and its subjects are all united in one belief under the Bishop of Rome.” He ended by saying: “I pray that my death may be some kind of atonement for the sins of this kingdom.” Then he said his prayers and asked that the cap be pulled over his eyes; beat his breast 3 times, giving the signal to a priest in the crowd to impart absolution. He then said: “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” After he was dead his body was torn open, his heart removed, his entrails burned and body quartered. In accordance with the custom that followed executions, his head was exposed on London Bridge and his quartered body was mounted on the city’s four gates.

Egmont and the French ambassador had their retainers dip handkerchiefs in the martyr’s blood. Later on, these relics were the occasion of cures.

San Enrique Morse

St. Henry Morse, pray that we may be as resilient and resolute in our duty to serve the King of the Universe as you were while you were here on earth, and beset by the injustices of your day and age. Pray that our priests will serve Our King as you have done. Pray that we too will serve the King, and our brethren, with such charity, tenacity, and fortitude, as labor in spreading the Good News while we wait in joyful hope for the coming of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Feb 21 – St Robert Southwell, SJ, (1561-1595) – Poet, Priest & Martyr

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As February is thought of as a month of love, it is terribly fitting, IMHO, to remember this great lover and poet, and most importantly, as always, The Object of his love.

Robert Southwell was born at Horsham St. Faith’s, Norfolk, England, in 1561, the third of eight children. His grandfather, Sir Richard Southwell, had been a wealthy man and a prominent courtier in the reign of Henry VIII, and the family remained among the elite of the land. He was so beautiful as a young boy that a gypsy stole him. He was soon recovered by his family and became a short, handsome man, with gray eyes and red hair.

It was Richard Southwell who in 1547 had brought the poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, to the block, and Surrey had vainly begged to be allowed to “fight him in his shirt”. Curiously enough their respective grandsons, Robert Southwell and Philip, Earl of Arundel, were to be the most devoted of friends and fellow-prisoners for the Faith. On his mother’s side the Jesuit was descended from the Copley and Shelley families, whence a remote connection may be established between him and the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.  Despite their Catholic sympathies, the Southwells had profited considerably from King Henry VIII’s Suppression of the Monasteries.

Even as a child, Southwell was distinguished by his attraction to the old religion. Protestantism had come to England, and it was actually a crime for any Englishman who had been ordained as a Catholic priest to remain in England more than forty days at a time. In order to keep the faith alive, William Allen had opened a school at Douai, where he made a Catholic translation of the Bible, the well-known Douai version. Southwell attended this school and asked to be admitted into the Jesuits. At first the Jesuits refused his application, but eventually his earnest appeals moved them to accept him. He wrote to the Jesuits “How can I but waste in anguish and agony that I find myself disjoined from that company, severed from that Society, disunited from that body, wherein lyeth all my life, my love, my whole heart and affection.” (Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu, Anglia 14, fol. 80, under date 1578).  He was ordained a priest in 1584. Two years later, at his own request, he was sent as a missionary to England, well knowing the dangers he faced.  A poet and a scholar, his poetry would have a profound influence on the moral climate of the age.

A spy reported to Sir Francis Walsingham the Jesuits’ landing on the east coast in July, but they arrived without molestation at the house at Hackney of William Vaux, 3rd Baron Vaux of Harrowden. For six years they kept him under surveillance. He assumed the last alias “Cotton” and found employment as a chaplain to Ann Howard, Lady Arundel, her husband being accused of treason for being a Catholic and in prison.  Southwell wrote a prose elegy, Triumphs over Death, to the earl to console him for a sister’s premature death. Although Southwell lived mostly in London, he traveled in disguise and preached secretly throughout England, moving from one Catholic family to another. His downfall and capture came about when he became friendly with a Catholic family named Bellamy.

Southwell was in the habit of visiting the house of Richard Bellamy, who lived near Harrow and was under suspicion on account of his connection with Jerome Bellamy, who had been executed for sharing in Anthony Babington’s plot, which intended to assassinate the Queen and place Mary, Queen of Scots, on the English throne.

One of the daughters, Anne Bellamy, was arrested and imprisoned in the gatehouse of Holborn for being linked to the situation. Having been interrogated and raped by Richard Topcliffe, the Queen’s chief priest-hunter and torturer, she revealed Southwell’s movements and Southwell was immediately arrested. When Bellamy became pregnant by Topcliffe in 1592, she was forced to marry his servant to cover up the scandal.

Southwell was first taken to Topcliffe’s own house, adjoining the Gatehouse Prison, where Topcliffe subjected him to the torture of “the manacles”. He remained silent in Topcliffe’s custody for forty hours. The queen then ordered Southwell moved to the Gatehouse, where a team of Privy Council torturers went to work on him. When they proved equally unsuccessful, he was left “hurt, starving, covered with maggots and lice, to lie in his own filth.” After about a month he was moved by order of the Council to solitary confinement in the Tower of London. According to the early narratives, his father had petitioned the queen that his son, if guilty under the law, should so suffer, but if not should be treated as a gentleman, and that as his father he should be allowed to provide him with the necessities of life. No documentary evidence of such a petition survives, but something of the kind must have happened, since his friends were able to provide him with food and clothing, and to send him the works of St. Bernard and a Bible. His superior St Henry Garnet, SJ, later smuggled a breviary to him. He remained in the Tower for three years, under Topcliffe’s supervision.

Tortured thirteen times, he nonetheless refused to reveal the names of fellow Catholics. During his incarceration, he was allowed to write. His works had already circulated widely and seen print, although their authorship was well known and one might have expected the government to suppress them. Now he added to them poems intended to sustain himself and comfort his fellow prisoners. He wrote “Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live; Not where I love, but where I am, I die.” He was so ill treated, his father petitioned the Queen that he be brought to trial.

February 21, 1595, Southwell was brought to Tyburn, where he was to be hung and then quartered for treason, although no treasonous word or act had been shown against him. It was enough that he held a variation of the Christian faith that frightened many Englishmen because of rumors of Catholic plots.  He addressed the crowd gathered, “I am come hither to play out the last act of this poor life.”  He prayed for the salvation of the Queen and country.

Execution of sentence on a notorious highwayman had been appointed for the same time, but at a different place — perhaps to draw the crowds away — and yet many came to witness Southwell’s death. Eyewitness accounts, both Catholic and Protestant, are unanimous in describing Southwell as both gracious and prayerful in his final moments.

When cut loose from the halter that tied him to the cart, he wiped his brow with a handkerchief and tossed the “sudarium” into the crowd, the first of what would become his relics. When asked if he would like to speak, Southwell crossed himself and first spoke in Latin, quoting Romans 14:8:“Sive uiuimus, Domino uiuimus, sive morimur, Domino morimur, ergo uiuimus, sive morimur, Domini sumus.” (If we live, we live in the Lord. If we die, we die in the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or we die, we are in the Lord.)  The sheriff made to interrupt him; but, was allowed to continue for some time.  He then addressed himself to the crowd, saying he died a Catholic and a Jesuit, offenses for which he was not sorry to die. He spoke respectfully of the Queen, and asked her forgiveness, if she had found any offense in him.

Then, after the hangman stripped him down to his shirt and tightened the noose around his neck, Robert Southwell spoke his last words (found in both Psalm 30 and the Gospel of Luke),“In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum. Redemisti me, Domine Deus veritatis,” while repeatedly making the sign of the cross. “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit. You have redeemed me, Lord God of truth.”

At the third utterance of these words, the cart rolled away and Southwell hung from his neck. Those present forbade the hangman cutting him down to further the cruelties of drawing and quartering before Southwell was dead.  He hung in the noose for a brief time, making the sign of the cross as best he could. As the executioner made to cut him down, in preparation for disembowelling him while still alive, Lord Mountjoy and some other onlookers tugged at his legs to hasten his death.  Yet, despite their efforts, according to one account, he was still breathing when cut down. When the hangman lifted Southwell’s head up before the crowd, no one cried “Traitor.” Even a pursuivant present admitted he had never seen a man die better.

Southwell’s writings, both in prose and verse, were extremely popular with his contemporaries, and his religious pieces were sold openly by the booksellers though their authorship was known. Imitations abounded, and Ben Jonson declared of one of Southwell’s pieces, The Burning Babe (below), that to have written it he would readily forfeit many of his own poems. Mary Magdalene’s Tears, the Jesuit’s earliest work, licensed in 1591, probably represents a deliberate attempt to employ in the cause of piety the euphuistic prose style, then so popular. Triumphs over Death, also in prose, exhibits the same characteristics; but this artificiality of structure is not so marked in the Short Rule of Good Life, the Letter to His Father, the Humble Supplication to Her Majesty, the Epistle of Comfort and the Hundred Meditations. Southwell’s longest poem, St. Peter’s Complaint (132 six-line stanzas), is imitated, from the Italian Lagrime di S. Pietro of Luigi Tansillo. This with some other smaller pieces was printed, with license, in 1595, the year of his death. Another volume of short poems appeared later in the same year under the title of Maeoniae. Perhaps no higher testimony can be found of the esteem in which Southwell’s verse was held by his contemporaries than the fact that, while it is probable that Southwell had read Shakespeare, it is practically certain that Shakespeare had read Southwell and imitated him.

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-Line engraving by Matthaus Greuter (Greuther) or Paul Maupin, published 1608, frontispiece to St Peter’s Complaint.

“The Chief Justice asked how old he was, seeming to scorn his youth. He answered that he was near about the age of our Saviour, Who lived upon the earth thirty-three years; and he himself was as he thought near about thirty-four years. Hereat Topcliffe seemed to make great acclamation, saying that he compared himself to Christ. Mr. Southwell answered, ‘No he was a humble worm created by Christ.’ ‘Yes,’ said Topcliffe, ‘you are Christ’s fellow.'”—Father Henry Garnet, “Account of the Trial of Robert Southwell.” Quoted in Caraman’s The Other Face, page 230.

Southwell: I am decayed in memory with long and close imprisonment, and I have been tortured ten times. I had rather have endured ten executions. I speak not this for myself, but for others; that they may not be handled so inhumanely, to drive men to desperation, if it were possible.

Topcliffe: If he were racked, let me die for it.

Southwell: No; but it was as evil a torture, or late device.

Topcliffe: I did but set him against a wall. (The “Topciliffe Rack” was vertical, against a wall, not horizontal, adding the victim’s own weight to his pain, with never a relief.)

Southwell: Thou art a bad man.

Topcliffe: I would blow you all to dust if I could.

Southwell: What, all?

Topcliffe: Ay, all.

Southwell: What, soul and body too?

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The Burning Babe

As I in hoary winter’s night
Stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat,
Which made my heart to glow;

And lifting up a fearful eye,
To view what fire was near,
A pretty Babe all burning bright
Did in the air appear;

Who, scorched with excessive heat,
Such floods of tears did shed,
As though His floods should quench His flames,
With which His tears were fed.

“Alas,” quoth He, “but newly born,
In fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts,
Or feel my fire, but I;

“My faultless breast the furnace is,
The fuel, wounding thorns:
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke,
The ashes, shame and scorn;

“The fuel Justice layeth on,
And Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought
Are men’s defiled souls,

“For which, as now on fire I am
To work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath,
To wash them in My blood.”

With this he vanish’d out of sight,
And swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind,
That it was Christmas day.

-Robert Southwell, SJ

A VALE OF TEARS.
By Robert Southwell, SJ

A vale there is, enwrapt with dreadful shades,
Which thick of mourning pines shrouds from the sun,
Where hanging cliffs yield short and dumpish glades,
And snowy flood with broken streams doth run.

Where eye-room is from rock to cloudy sky,
From thence to dales with stony ruins strew’d,
Then to the crushèd water’s frothy fry,
Which tumbleth from the tops where snow is thaw’d.

Where ears of other sound can have no choice,
But various blust’ring of the stubborn wind
In trees, in caves, in straits with divers noise;
Which now doth hiss, now howl, now roar by kind.

Where waters wrestle with encount’ring stones,
That break their streams, and turn them into foam,
The hollow clouds full fraught with thund’ring groans,
With hideous thumps discharge their pregnant womb.

And in the horror of this fearful quire
Consists the music of this doleful place;
All pleasant birds from thence their tunes retire,
Where none but heavy notes have any grace.

Resort there is of none but pilgrim wights,
That pass with trembling foot and panting heart;
With terror cast in cold and shivering frights,
They judge the place to terror framed by art.

Yet nature’s work it is, of art untouch’d,
So strait indeed, so vast unto the eye,
With such disorder’d order strangely couch’d,
And with such pleasing horror low and high,

That who it views must needs remain aghast,
Much at the work, more at the Maker’s might;
And muse how nature such a plot could cast
Where nothing seemeth wrong, yet nothing right.

A place for mated mindes, an only bower
Where everything do soothe a dumpish mood;
Earth lies forlorn, the cloudy sky doth lower,
The wind here weeps, here sighs, here cries aloud.

The struggling flood between the marble groans,
Then roaring beats upon the craggy sides;
A little off, amidst the pebble stones,
With bubbling streams and purling noise it glides.

The pines thick set, high grown and ever green,
Still clothe the place with sad and mourning veil;
Here gaping cliff, there mossy plain is seen,
Here hope doth spring, and there again doth quail.

Huge massy stones that hang by tickle stays,
Still threaten fall, and seem to hang in fear;
Some wither’d trees, ashamed of their decays,
Bereft of green are forced gray coats to wear.

Here crystal springs crept out of secret vein,
Straight find some envious hole that hides their grace;
Here searèd tufts lament the want of rain,
There thunder-wrack gives terror to the place.

All pangs and heavy passions here may find
A thousand motives suiting to their griefs,
To feed the sorrows of their troubled mind,
And chase away dame Pleasure’s vain reliefs.

To plaining thoughts this vale a rest may be,
To which from worldly joys they may retire;
Where sorrow springs from water, stone and tree;
Where everything with mourners doth conspire.

Sit here, my soul, main streams of tears afloat,
Here all thy sinful foils alone recount;
Of solemn tunes make thou the doleful note,
That, by thy ditties, dolour may amount.

When echo shall repeat thy painful cries,
Think that the very stones thy sins bewray,
And now accuse thee with their sad replies,
As heaven and earth shall in the latter day.

Let former faults be fuel of thy fire,
For grief in limbeck of thy heart to still
Thy pensive thoughts and dumps of thy desire,
And vapour tears up to thy eyes at will.

Let tears to tunes, and pains to plaints be press’d,
And let this be the burden of thy song,—
Come, deep remorse, possess my sinful breast;
Delights, adieu! I harbour’d you too long.

St Robert Southwell, SJ,’s Prayer for the Church:

“We therefore are under an obligation to be the light of the world by the modesty of our behaviour, the fervour of our charity, the innocence of our lives, and the example of our virtues.

Thus shall we be able to raise the lowered prestige of the Catholic Church, and to build up again the ruins that others by their vices have caused. Others by their wickedness have branded the Catholic Faith with a mark of shame, we must strive with all our strength to cleanse it from its ignominy and to restore it to its pristine glory. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Feb 27 – St Anne Line (1567-1601), Martyr, Protector of Priests

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Anne Heigham was born at Dunmow (Essex), England, around 1565, the second daughter.  Her father was a strict and wealthy Calvinist.  In her teens she and her brother, William, became Catholics and were disinherited and disowned by their family.  In 1585 she married another disinherited convert, Roger Line. Her husband  and her brother were both arrested and imprisoned while attending Mass together.  They were fined and eventually banished.  This left Anne destitute.  Roger Line went to Flanders, where he received a small allowance from the King of Spain, part of which he sent regularly to his wife until his death around 1594.  To support herself, Anne taught, embroidered, made vestments and kept house for priests.

Around the same time, Father John Gerard, S.J. opened a house of refuge for hiding priests, and put the newly-widowed Anne Line in charge of it, despite her ill health. By 1597, this house had become insecure, so another was opened, and Anne Line was, again, placed in charge. On 2 February 1601, Fr. Francis Page, SJ, was saying Mass in the house managed by Anne Line, when men arrived to arrest him, having seen a large number of people congregating at the house (for Mass). The priest managed to slip into a special hiding place, prepared by her and afterwards to escape, but she was arrested, along with two other laypeople.

She was tried at the Old Bailey on 26 February 1601. She was so weak that she was carried to the trial in a chair. She told the court that she was so far from regretting having concealed a priest, she only grieved that she “could not receive a thousand more.” Sir John Popham, the judge, sentenced her to hang  the next day at Tyburn.

Anne Line was hanged on 27 February 1601. She was executed immediately before two priests, Fr. Roger Filcock, nSJ , her confessor, and Fr. Mark Barkworth, OSB, , though, as a woman, she was spared the disemboweling  that they endured. At the scaffold she repeated what she had said at her trial, declaring loudly to the bystanders: “I am sentenced to die for harbouring a Catholic priest, and so far I am from repenting for having so done, that I wish, with all my soul, that where I have entertained one, I could have entertained a thousand.”

It has been argued (by John Finnis and others) that Shakespeare’s poem The Phoenix and the Turtle (Dove) was written shortly after her death to commemorate Anne and Roger Line and that it allegorically takes the form of a Catholic requiem for the couple.  The poem is secretly a Catholic eulogy. This argument is linked to claims that Shakespeare was a secret Catholic sympathizer.  Like Shakespeare’s couple the Lines had no children.

The Phoenix and the Turtle (Dove) -by William Shakespeare

Let the bird of loudest lay,
On the sole Arabian tree,
Herald sad and trumpet be,
To whose sound chaste wings obey.

But thou, shriking harbinger,
Foul pre-currer of the fiend,
Augur of the fever’s end,
To this troop come thou not near.

From this session interdict
Every fowl of tyrant wing,
Save the eagle, feather’d king:
Keep the obsequy so strict.

Let the priest in surplice white,
That defunctive music can,
Be the death-divining swan,
Lest the requiem lack his right.

And thou, treble-dated crow,
That thy sable gender mak’st
With the breath thou giv’st and tak’st,
‘Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.

Here the anthem doth commence:
Love and constancy is dead;
Phoenix and the turtle (dove) fled
In a mutual flame from hence.

So they lov’d, as love in twain
Had the essence but in one;
Two distincts, division none:
Number there in love was slain.

Hearts remote, yet not asunder;
Distance, and no space was seen
‘Twixt the turtle (dove) and his queen;
But in them it were a wonder.

So between them love did shine,
That the turtle saw his right
Flaming in the phoenix’ sight:
Either was the other’s mine.

Property was thus appall’d,
That the self was not the same;
Single nature’s double name
Neither two nor one was call’d.

Reason, in itself confounded,
Saw division grow together;
To themselves yet either-neither,
Simple were so well compounded

That it cried how true a twain
Seemeth this concordant one!
Love hath reason, reason none
If what parts can so remain.

Whereupon it made this threne
To the phoenix and the dove,
Co-supreme and stars of love;
As chorus to their tragic scene.

THRENOS.

Beauty, truth, and rarity.
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclos’d in cinders lie.

Death is now the phoenix’ nest;
And the turtle’s loyal breast
To eternity doth rest,

Leaving no posterity:–
‘Twas not their infirmity,
It was married chastity.

Truth may seem, but cannot be:
Beauty brag, but ’tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.

To this urn let those repair
That are either true or fair;
For these dead birds sigh a prayer.

anne_line

St Anne Line Societies are being formed in parishes around the globe for both men and women to assist, support, and pray for our priests.
St Anne Line, pray for married couples.  St Anne Line, pray for c
hildless couples.  St Anne Line, Protector of Priests, pray for us!

When condemned for harboring a priest, St Anne retorted to the judge, “Pity it wasn’t a thousand!”

Love,
Matthew

Feb 21 – St Peter Damian, OSB, (1007-1072), Doctor of the Church, Great Catholic Reformer

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St Peter Damian was one of the forerunners of the Gregorian Revolution/reformation in the Church of the late 11th century, a revolution marked by the effort to centralize Church governance, establish a distinction between lay and clerical states, and proper revulsion against sexual vice, especially within the clergy and the general reform of the clergy.  Dante placed St Peter Damian in one of the highest circles of his Divine Comedy’s Paradiso.

St. Peter Damian must be numbered among the greatest of the Church’s reformers in the Middle Ages, yes, even among the truly extraordinary persons of all times. In Damian the scholar, we admire wealth of wisdom: in Damian the preacher of God’s word, apostolic zeal; in Damian the monk, austerity and self-denial; in Damian the priest, piety and zeal for souls; in Damian the cardinal, loyalty and submission to the Holy See together with generous enthusiasm and devotion for the good of Mother Church. He was a personal friend of Pope St Gregory VII.  In his lifetime, he served seven Popes, there were sixteen during his lifetime.

St Peter Damian was a monk, a lover of solitude, and at the same time a fearless man of the Church, committed personally to the task of reform, initiated by the Popes of the time. He was born in Ravenna in 1007, into a noble family but in impoverished circumstances.  The family was large, Peter was the youngest, and it was reported Peter’s mother was overwhelmed by the care of so many children such that she was not an affectionate or dutiful mother.

Peter had a difficult childhood, he lost both parents at an early age, as well. Put in the care of a brother who mistreated him, Peter’s brother used him more as a slave than loved him as a sibling.  Peter never forgot his poverty and was always kind to the poor he encountered throughout his life thereafter.  Another brother, Damian, the eldest, was a priest in the city of Ravenna and took pity on his younger sibling and took him in.  Damian could see Peter’s intellectual gifts and sent him to be educated at Parma and Faenza.  Peter was so grateful he took his brother Damian’s name.

The Cross was the Christian mystery that was to fascinate Peter Damian more than all the others. “Those who do not love the Cross of Christ do not love Christ”, he said (Sermo XVIII, 11, p. 117); and he described himself as “Petrus crucis Christi servorum famulus Peter, servant of the servants of the Cross of Christ” (Ep, 9, 1). Peter Damian addressed the most beautiful prayers to the Cross in which he reveals a vision of this mystery which has cosmic dimensions for it embraces the entire history of salvation: “O Blessed Cross”, he exclaimed, “You are venerated, preached and honored by the faith of the Patriarchs, the predictions of the Prophets, the senate that judges the Apostles, the victorious army of Martyrs and the throngs of all the Saints” (Sermo XLVII, 14, p. 304). The example of St Peter Damian should always spur us, too, always to look to the Cross as to the supreme act of God’s love for humankind.  St Peter Damian also had a very special devotion to the Blessed Mother.

However, the ideal image of “Holy Church” illustrated by Peter Damian does not correspond as he knew well to the reality of his time. The eleventh century was rife with corruption within the Church, especially among its clergy.  Peter wrote Liber Gomorrhianus (Book of Gomorrah), which described the vices of priests, including sexual sins, offenses against their vows of celibacy including sodomy, and mainly in their concern with worldly matters, with money, and the evil of simony, the buying and selling of church offices.

For this reason he did not fear to denounce the state of corruption that existed in the monasteries and among the clergy.  The practice of the conferral by the lay authorities of ecclesiastical offices was common, such that various Bishops and Abbots were behaving as the rulers of their subjects rather than as pastors of souls. Their moral life frequently left much to be desired. For this reason, in 1057 Peter Damian left his monastery with great reluctance and sorrow and accepted, if unwillingly, his appointment as Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. So it was that he entered fully into collaboration with the Popes in the difficult task of Church reform. He saw that to make his own contribution of helping in the work of the Church’s renewal contemplation did not suffice. He thus relinquished the beauty of the hermitage and courageously undertook numerous journeys and missions.

Because of his love for monastic life, 10 years later, in 1067, he obtained permission to return to Fonte Avellana and resigned from the Diocese of Ostia. However, the tranquility he had longed for did not last long: two years later, he was sent to Frankfurt in an endeavor to prevent the divorce of Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV from his wife Bertha.

Henry IV was eventually excommunicated for other offenses, entanglements, and interferences in Church affairs, including conspiring and executing a plot to the kidnap and imprison the Pope.  He famously stood in the snow at Canossa for three days, 25-27 January 1077, wearing no shoes, taking no food or drink, wearing a hair shirt, The Walk of Canossa as it is called, as penance imploring that his excommunication by Pope St Gregory VII be lifted.  While meant as remedy to make clear the error of ways, excommunication absolves, it gets technical, the Christian community from Gospel obligations towards the excommunicated, including fealty to a sovereign.  Once having known the love of Christ in the bosom of the Church and having rejected it, Christian duty no longer applies towards the excommunicated.  Repent or lose your crown was the message.  The expression “going to Canossa/nach Canossa gehen”, as in doing penance of some type for some wrong, is still contemporary in Europe.

After another mission, on the journey home to his hermitage, an unexpected illness obliged St Peter Damian to stop at the Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria Vecchia Fuori Porta in Faenza, where he died in the night between 22 and 23 February 1072.

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“Do not let your weakness make you impatient.” -St. Peter Damian

Ercole_de'_Roberti_007

-Saint Peter Damian (far right), depicted with Saints Augustine, Anne, and Elizabeth, by Ercole de’ Roberti (ca 1451–1496)

Prayer of St Peter Damian:

“Have mercy, Lord, on all my friends and relatives, on all my benefactors, on all who pray to You for me, and on all who have asked me to pray for them. Give them the spirit of fruitful penance; mortify them in all vices, and make them flower in all your virtues.  Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Feb 6 – St Dorothy of Caesarea, (d. 311 AD), Virgin & Martyr

Francisco_de_Zurbarán_038

-Santa Dorotea, by Francisco de Zurbaran, 1648, oil on canvas, 180.2 x 101.5 cm, $3-4M US, Sotheby’s, 1/28/2010, private collection.

Even though her feast day was removed from the revised Roman calendar and her cultus suppressed in 1969 by the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, nevertheless, I love the story of St. Dorothy:  the triumph of love over hate, the lesson of what has truest and permanent value, and the profound cost embracing the name Christian implies if dared lived fully and faithfully.  I hope you find it worthwhile, too.

Saint Dorothy, virgin and martyr, was a Christian who lived in the 4th century A.D. in Caesarea of Cappadocia, now modern day Turkey. The cult of St Dorothy celebrates her for her angelic virtue. Her parents are believed to have been martyred before her in the Diocletian persecution.

She was ordered summoned before the governor of the region, Sapricius.  She explained that the God she adored was majestic — above all emperors, who were mortal, and their gods, none of whom created either heaven or earth. She was stretched upon the rack, and offered clemency, favors, and honors if she would consent to sacrifice to idols, or death if she refused. And her torturers waited for her reply.

She asked why they delayed to torture her; they were expecting she might give in out of fright. She said to them, “Do what you have to do, that I may see the One for Whose love I fear neither death nor torments, Jesus Christ.”

She was asked, “Where is this Christ?” and she replied: “As Almighty, He is everywhere; but for weak human reason we say that the Son of God has ascended into heaven, to be seated at the right hand of the Almighty Father. It is He who invites us to the garden of His delights, where at all times the trees are covered with fruits, the lilies are perpetually white, the roses ever in their freshness. If you believe me, you too will search for the true liberty, and will labor to earn entry into the garden of God’s delights.” She was then placed in the custody of two women who had fallen away from the faith, in the
hope that they might pervert her; but the fire of her own heart rekindled the flame in theirs, and she led them back to Christ.

When she was set once more on the rack, Sapricius himself was amazed at the heavenly expression on her face, and asked her the cause of her joy. “Because,” she said, “I have brought back two souls to Christ, and because I shall soon be in heaven rejoicing with the Angels.” Her joy grew as she was smacked and buffeted in the face and her sides were burned with plates of red-hot iron. “Blessed art
Thou,” she cried, when she was sentenced to be beheaded, “Blessed art Thou, O Lover of souls, who call me to paradise, and invite me to Thy nuptial chamber!”

Saint Dorothy suffered in mid-winter when very little grows and local fresh produce is absent.  On the road to her execution, a lawyer named Theophilus, who had grown accustomed to cursing and persecuting the Christians, asked her, in mockery, “Bride of Christ, send me some apples or roses from the garden of your Spouse you speak of, this Jesus!”

The Saint promised to grant his request. Just before she died, a little child stood by her side bearing three apples and three roses. She told him to take them to Theophilus, and to tell him it was the present he sought from the garden of her Spouse.  Saint Dorothy was beheaded February 6, 311 A.D.

Theophilus was still making merry over his challenge to her, when the child entered his room. He recognized that the fruit and flowers were of no earthly growth, and that the child was an angel in disguise. He was converted to the faith, and then shared in the martyrdom of Saint Dorothy.

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Prayer to St Dorothy:

Good St Dorothy, by the radiance of your holy life, you blessed your persecutors and forgave your enemies, just as Jesus told us to do.  You eloquently gave witness, by your suffering, to a power greater than that of fear of death and torture; your love for Him.

Holy St Dorothy, we beseech you, ask that same Lord of Life, to give us a fraction of your grace and courage; that we may joyfully endure any minor inconveniences or small embarrassments living a faithful witness in our lives to Him may mean, never denying Him.

Blessed St Dorothy, you did draw the two sisters who were weak in faith back into the Eternal Light of the Faith; and sent roses and apples from Paradise to Theophilus. Always intercede for us, that we may grow more daily fervent in our love for Him.

O, St Dorothy, as a fellow contestant for the faith with Theophilus, you both were counted worthy of the divine glory of martyrdom. Ask your Spouse that we, who praise you for your steadfast witness, may give similar witness in our lives and thereby receive the forgiveness of our sins.

Glorious St Dorothy, even though once mistaken for the gardener of the Tomb by the Magdelene, through your intercession, may the Risen One grant us a share of your joy in His Garden of Eternal Freshness.  May we be counted worthy to spend eternity with Him, Who is the Eternal Gardener of our souls.   Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Feb 5 – St Agatha (d. 251 AD), Martyr, Patroness of Rape Victims & Breast Cancer Sufferers

Lanfranco,_Giovanni_-_St_Peter_Healing_St_Agatha_-_c._1614

Saint Peter Healing Agatha, by the Caravaggio-follower Giovanni Lanfranco, ca 1614

Born in Catania, Sicily, in the early third century, young, beautiful and rich, Agatha wanted to live a life consecrated to God.

When the Roman Emperor announce edicts against the Christians, the magistrate Quinctianus tried to profit from Agatha’s sanctity; he planned to blackmail her into sex in exchange for not charging her.

When she refused his offer, he handed her over to a brothel.  After she had suffered a month of sexual assault and humiliation in the brothel and again rejected Quinctianus’ advances, she was beaten, imprisoned, tortured, her breasts were crushed and cut off.

She told her torturer, “Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare mutilate me this way?”

Imprisoned further, then rolled on live coals, she was near death when an earthquake struck.  In the destruction, the magistrate’s friend was crushed, and the magistrate fled.  Agatha thanked God for an end to her pain, and died in 251 AD.

St Agatha is the patron saint of rape victims and of those who suffer with breast cancer.

Prayer to St Agatha

Saint Agatha, you suffered sexual assault, indignity, and torture because of your faith.  Help heal all those who are survivors of sexual assault and protect those women who are in danger;  give strength also to all women and their families who suffer the scourge of breast cancer.  Amen.

Giovanni_Battista_Tiepolo_-_The_Martyrdom_of_St_Agatha_-_WGA22352

-The martyrdom of Saint Agatha,Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1750, oil on canvas, 184 x 131 cm, Staatliche Museen, Berlin, Germany

Sebastiano_del_Piombo_001

-The Martyrdom of Agatha, by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519, Palazzo Pitti, oil on panel, 127 × 178 cm, commissioned by Ercole Ragone to celebrate his elevation to the cardinalate; his titular church was Sant’Agata dei Goti.

“Jesus Christ, Lord of all things! You see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am – you alone. I am your sheep; make me worthy to overcome the devil.” – Saint Agatha

“Lord, my creator, you have protected me since I was in the cradle. You have taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer. Now receive my spirit.” – Saint Agatha

“My fellow Christians, our annual celebration of a martyr‘s feast has brought us together. Agatha achieved renown in the early Church for her noble victory. For her, Christ’s death was recent, his blood was still moist. Her robe is the mark of her faithful witness to Christ. Agatha, the name of our saint, means “good.” She was truly good, for she lived as a child of God. Agatha, her goodness coincides with her name and her way of life. She won a good name by her noble deeds, and by her name she points to the nobility of those deeds. Agatha, her mere name wins all men over to her company. She teaches them by her example to hasten with her to the true Good, God alone.” – from a homily on Saint Agatha by Saint Methodius of Sicily

Love,
Matthew