Category Archives: June

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus


-window detail, All Saints Catholic Church, St. Peters, Missouri

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, You have loved me so much; enable me to repay Your love.

MEDITATION

In the Encyclical Annum Sacrum, Leo XIII declares, “The Sacred Heart is the symbol and image of the infinite charity of Jesus Christ, the charity which urges us to give Him love in return.” Indeed, nothing is more able to arouse love than love itself. “Love is repaid by love alone,” the saints have repeatedly said. St. Teresa of Jesus wrote: “Whenever we think of Christ, we should remember with what love He has bestowed all these favors upon us … for love begets love. And though we may be only beginners … let us strive ever to bear this in mind and awaken our own love” (Book of Her Life, 22).

The Church offers us the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in order to stir up our love. After reminding us, in the Divine Office proper to this feast, of the measureless proofs of Christ’s love, this good Mother asks us anxiously, “Who would not love Him Who has loved us so much? Who among His redeemed would not love Him dearly?” (Roman Breviary). And in order to urge us more and more to repay love with love, she puts on the lips of Jesus the beautiful words of Holy Scripture: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee”; and again, “Fili, praebe mihi cor tuum,” Son, give Me thy heart (Roman Breviary). This, then, is the substance of true devotion to the Sacred Heart: to return love for love, “to repay love with love,” as St. Margaret Mary, the great disciple of the Sacred Heart, expresses it; “to return love unceasingly to Him who has so loved us,” in the words of St. Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus, the hidden but no less ardent disciple of the divine Heart.

COLLOQUY

“Awake, O my soul. How long will you remain asleep? Beyond the sky there is a King who wishes to possess you; He loves you immeasurably, with all His Heart. He loves you with so much kindness and faithfulness that He left His kingdom and humbled Himself for you, permitting Himself to be bound like a malefactor in order to find you. He loves you so strongly and tenderly, He is so jealous of you and has given you so many proofs of this, that He willingly gave up His Body to death. He bathed you in His Blood and redeemed you by His death. How long will you wait to love Him in return? Make haste, then, to answer Him.

Behold, O loving Jesus, I come to You. I come, drawn by Your meekness, Your mercy, Your charity; I come with my whole heart and soul, and all my strength. Who will give me to be entirely conformed to Your Heart, in order that You may find in me everything You desire?

O Jesus, my King and my God, take me into the sweet shelter of Your divine Heart and there unite me to Yourself in such a way that I shall live totally for You. Permit me to submerge myself henceforth in that vast sea of Your mercy, abandoning myself entirely to Your goodness, plunging into the burning furnace of Your love, and remaining there forever ….

But what am I, O my God, I, so unlike You, the outcast of all creatures? But You are my supreme confidence because in You can be found the supplement or rather, the abundance of all the favors I have lost. Enclose me, O Lord, in the sanctuary of Your Heart opened by the spear, establish me there, guarded by Your gentle glance, so that I may be confided to Your care forever: under the shadow of Your paternal love I shall find rest in the everlasting remembrance of Your most precious love” (St. Gertrude).

Love,
Matthew

Jun 5 – St Boniface, (675-754 AD), Archbishop & Martyr, Apostle to the Germans, Obedience & Fidelity


-martyrdom of St Boniface. Please click on the image for greater detail.

Paganism in Europe often took the form of Animism. Animism is a form of idolatry which sees spirits in nature inhabiting the form of trees, rocks, and other natural phenomenon. It is a classic and well-worn, even today, human error to crave or worship the creature and to foolishly disavow and neglect the Creator. We get our German traditions of the Christmas tree and even Christmas wreaths, indirectly, from this Animism. Nordic and Germanic pagan tribes would often bring greens into their lodge houses as Winter began, and bedeck wagon wheels, unnecessary in Winter, with greens and garland, and place candles on the now horizontal wheels for light during the long, cold Winter nights ahead.

As this year marks the quincentennial of the Luther’s revolution, it is fitting to reflect on where Christianity first or came again to Germany before 1517. Boniface, known as the apostle of the Germans, was an English Benedictine monk who gave up being elected abbot to devote his life to the conversion of the Germanic tribes. Two characteristics stand out: his Christian orthodoxy and his fidelity to the pope of Rome.

How absolutely necessary this orthodoxy and fidelity were is borne out by the conditions Boniface found on his first missionary journey in 719 AD at the request of Pope Gregory II. Paganism was a way of life. What Christianity he did find had either lapsed into paganism or was mixed with error. The clergy were mainly responsible for these latter conditions since they were in many instances uneducated, lax and questionably obedient to their bishops. In particular instances their very ordinations were questionable.

These are the conditions that Boniface was to report in 722 on his first return visit to Rome. The Holy Father instructed him to reform the German Church. The pope sent letters of recommendation to religious and civil leaders. Boniface later admitted that his work would have been unsuccessful, from a human viewpoint, without a letter of safe-conduct from Charles Martel, the powerful Frankish ruler, grandfather of Charlemagne. Boniface was finally made a regional bishop and authorized to organize the whole German Church. He was eminently successful.

In the Frankish kingdom, he met great problems because of lay interference in bishops’ elections, the worldliness of the clergy and lack of papal control.

During a final mission to the Frisians, Boniface and 53 companions were massacred while he was preparing converts for confirmation.

In order to restore the Germanic Church to its fidelity to Rome and to convert the pagans, Boniface had been guided by two principles. The first was to restore the obedience of the clergy to their bishops in union with the pope of Rome. The second was the establishment of many houses of prayer which took the form of Benedictine monasteries. A great number of Anglo-Saxon monks and nuns followed him to the continent, where he introduced the Benedictine nuns to the active apostolate of education.


-by Br Ambrose Arralde, OP

“Sometimes you have to call out nonsense for what it is. In an age of trigger warnings and safe spaces, where “I feel” exercises a sacred and undisputed hegemony over public discourse, people take it for granted that even the silliest ideas are valuable and need to be respected. In reality, however, that is totally untrue. While it is true that we should never use the truth as a bludgeon with which to beat people over the head, it is nevertheless the case that some ideas have to be treated with the disdain they rightfully deserve.

St. Boniface is a great model for us to look to in this regard. He lived in a time when pagan superstition was rampant (even among the recently Christianized peoples of northern Europe) and people were afraid of all sorts of silly things. A famous instance of this was the Oak of Geismar, which locals venerated as sacred to Thor. Instead of making a well-reasoned case for why the villagers might possibly consider rethinking their fear of a tree, Boniface simply chopped it down before their very eyes. His unsmitten person made a more eloquent case than words ever could. It is true that this was only one moment in the life of a bishop who did much learned teaching and preaching, and we should not take away from this episode that rational discourse has no place when confronting even the most ridiculous opinions. Still, there are times when reason is of no avail. At that point, all that remains is personal witness.

As absurd as certain ideas may be, their absurdity does not make them any less dangerous. Boniface was eventually murdered by hostile pagans, who were still clinging to beliefs Boniface had forcefully shown to be complete nonsense. Similarly, an increasing number of people in our culture suffer various forms of persecution for witnessing to basic truths about human nature and flourishing. Whereas the most outlandish opinions are widely acclaimed, those who appeal to common sense are vilified as narrow-minded bigots. Despite overwhelming opposition, Boniface was convinced that the light of truth would pierce the darkness of error, and time proved him wise.

May we, like St. Boniface, never weary of witnessing to the truth in a world that loves falsehood, confident that, in all our apostolic endeavors, it is God who makes them prosper cf. 1 Corinthians 3:6-8. St. Boniface, pray for us.”

“Let us be steadfast in what is right and prepare our souls for judgment. Let us await God’s powerful aid and say to Him, “O Lord, You have been our refuge in all generations.”
Let us trust Him Who places this call upon us.”
– St Boniface

Prayer:
Glorious St Boniface, like you, may I have the courage to speak the Gospel to those who do not yet believe.
Amen.


-crypt of St Boniface, Fulda Cathedral

May the Martyr Saint Boniface be our advocate, O Lord,
that we may firmly hold the faith
he taught with his lips and sealed in his blood
and confidently profess it by our deeds.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Jan 30 – Bls Margaret Bermingham Ball (1515-1584), Wife & Mother, & Francis Taylor of Swords (1550-1621), Husband & Father, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Martyrs

-statuary of the “Murdered Mayors”, or more formally, the “Martyrs of Dublin”, Bls Margaret Ball & her grandson-in-law, Francis Taylor, which stands in front of St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.” -Mt 10:21

Margaret came from a prominent family. When she was 16 years old, Margaret Bermingham married Bartholomew Ball, an alderman of the City of Dublin, and a prosperous Dublin merchant, whose wealthy family operated the bridge over the River Dodder, which is still known as Ballsbridge. She then moved to the city, where the couple lived at Ballygall House in north county Dublin and had a town house on Merchant’s Quay. They had ten children, though only five survived to adulthood. Bartholomew Ball was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1553, making Margaret the Lady Mayoress of the city. She had a comfortable life with a large household and many servants, and she was recognised for organising classes for the children of local families in her home.

In 1558 Queen Elizabeth I reversed the policy of her sister Queen Mary and imposed her Religious Settlement upon her realms. In 1570 the papacy responded with the papal bull Regnans in Excelsis, which declared Elizabeth to be an illegitimate usurper. During a coronation, the most illustrious, high ranking cleric available, at least the local bishop, but ultimately the Pope, himself, would place the crown on the head of the monarch, Emperor Napoleon, notwithstanding. Coronations were religious services, originally. The separation of Church and State was unthinkable. So when the Pope declares a monarch illegitimate, this means legitimate Catholic monarchs have a duty to attack this usurper and restore rightful authority. During this time of religious persecution, it was well known that Ball provided “safe houses” for any bishops or priests who might be passing through Dublin.

Her eldest son, Walter, yielding to the pressure of the times, became a Protestant and an opponent of the Catholic faith. Margaret continued to provide ‘safe houses’ for bishops and priests passing through Dublin and would invite Walter to dine with them, hoping for his reconversion to Catholicism.

Margaret Ball’s eldest son, Walter, who wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and advance his political, embraced the “new religion” and was appointed Commissioner for Ecclesiastical Causes in 1577. Margaret was disappointed with her son’s change of faith (“If my children lose their faith, I have failed as a mother!!!” -Mary D. McCormick), and tried to change his mind. On one occasion, she told him that she had a “special friend” for him to meet. Walter arrived early with a company of soldiers, and found that the “special friend” was Dermot O’Hurley, Archbishop of Cashel. He was celebrating Mass with the family.

But Walter was not for turning. Immediately after his installation as Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1580, Walter had his mother and her personal chaplain arrested and taken to the dungeons of Dublin Castle. Due to her advanced age and severe arthritis, she had to be transported there by a wooden pallet through the streets of Dublin.

When the family protested, Walter declared that his mother should have been executed, but he had spared her. She would be allowed to go free if she “took the Oath”, which probably referred to the Oath of Supremacy. Her second son, Nicholas, who supported her, was elected Mayor of Dublin in 1582. However, Walter was still Commissioner for Ecclesiastical Causes, which was a royal appointment. He outranked Nicholas and kept him from securing their mother’s release from prison. Nicholas visited her daily, bringing her food, clothing and candles.

Ball died in 1584 at the age of sixty-nine, which was an advanced age at the time. She was crippled with arthritis and had lived for three years in the cold, wet dungeon of Dublin Castle with no natural light. She could have returned to her comfortable home at any time had she apostasized. Although she could have altered her will, she still bequeathed her property to Walter upon her death.

Two generations later this pattern was repeated when Francis Taylor, who was Mayor of Dublin (1595–1596) and was married to Gennet Shelton, a granddaughter of Ball, was condemned to the dungeons after exposing fraud in the parliamentary elections to the Irish House of Commons. He likewise refused to “take the oath” and died in Dublin Castle in 1621. A convinced Catholic, he refused to accept the Acts of Supremacy (Monarch is the head of the Church) and Uniformity (The Book of Common Prayer is the only legal form of worship and all citizens must attend Church services according to that form).

Ball and Taylor could not have known each other, but they were beatified together, along with Dermot O’Hurley and 14 other Catholic martyrs, on 27 September 1992 by Pope John Paul II.

All you holy men & women, pray for us, for the grace of final perseverance.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Jun 20 – Mercy & the Dark Night of the Soul

SONY DSC
-Maria Medingen Monastery, southern Germany, please click on the image for greater detail.

“Everything in [Jesus Christ] speaks of mercy. Nothing in Him is devoid of compassion.”
-Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, §8

From the Revelations of Bl. Margaret Ebner, OP: Blessed Margaret Ebner, OP (1291-✝ 1351) was a Dominican nun at Kloster Maria Medingen (Mary, the Mother of Jesus Monastery), Germany, and a prominent figure among the Rhineland mystics. Her aunt, Christina Ebner, was also a Dominican nun and mystic. In addition to an account of her spiritual experiences, Bl. Margaret wrote a treatise on the Lord’s Prayer.

“[During the night], before matins, my Lord Jesus Christ placed me into such indescribable misery and a feeling of abandonment that it seemed as if I had never experienced the grace of our Lord in my whole life. I had lost complete trust in His mercy. Whatever I had received was taken from me totally. The true Christian faith—which is in me at all times—became darkened. And what was more painful to me than any previous suffering—worse too than any martyr’s death—was doubt. I began to doubt against my will and wondered whether He and His works were acting in me or not. Indeed, it remained for me only to want to suffer willingly, patiently for His sake. And that seemed right to me because of my sense of guilt. And then I felt an inner, deeper humility and out of these depths I cried out to the Lord and desired that He show me His mercy, which He had shown me so lovingly before, and to show me truly by some authentic sign whether it was He and His work acting in me.

Since His Spirit gives witness to our spirits that we are children of God, so my Lord is good and merciful and cannot ignore the desire of the poor and humble. He came like a friend after matins… and gave me His true help. This is the natural virtue of the Lord: to whomever He gives sorrow and pain, He then comforts. Whomever He afflicts, He then makes glad. And in His holy suffering He gave me the sweetest delight and the greatest pain and the most incomparably severe sorrow…. When that finally left me I was granted sweet grace and with this I recognized in truth without any doubt that it was He alone who worked His merciful deeds in me. What I had wished to know earlier in my suffering He now revealed.”

Born in Donauwörth, Swabia, in 1291, Margareta was a member of the aristocratic Ebner family and she received a thorough education in her home. In about 1305, she entered the Monastery of Mary the Mother of Jesus (German) of the Dominican Second Order nuns at Maria Medingen, near Dillingen.

From 1312 onward she was dangerously ill for three years. In her later Revelations she describes how she had “no control over herself”, laughing or crying continuously for days at a time. This illness was the stimulus for her conversion to a deeper mystical life of devotion. Subsequently, for a period of nearly seven years, she was mostly at the point of death. Even when she partially recovered, for the next thirteen years Margaret had to remain in bed for six months each year, and was subject to further bouts of illness for the rest of her life.  She could exercise her desire for penance and mortification only by abstinence from wine, fruit and bathing, which were considered some of the greatest pleasures of life in that era.

During this period of the Great Schism in the Catholic Church, when there were three different claimants to the papal throne, the nuns of the monastery were loyal adherents of the Pope in Rome. As a result, the community was forced to disperse during the military campaign of the Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV against papal forces. Margareta took refuge at her family home. Upon return, her nurse died, and Margaretha grieved inconsolably until the secular priest Henry of Nördlingen assumed her spiritual direction in 1332.

Eventually Master Henry had to flee Germany due to his personal allegiance to the Avignon Papacy. The correspondence that passed between them is the first collection of this kind in the German language. At his command, beginning during the Advent of 1344, she began to write with her own hand a full account of all her Revelations (German: Offenbarungeng) and her conversation with the Infant Jesus, as well as all answers she had received from Him, even in her sleep. From the intimate nature of her interaction with the Divine Child, she has become a leading example of what is termed “mother-mysticism”. She wrote her visions in the Swabian dialect.

This journal is preserved in a manuscript of the year 1353 at Medingen. She also had extensive correspondence with the noted Dominican theologian and preacher, Friar Johannes Tauler, OP. He was considered the leader of a lay spiritual movement known as the Friends of God. Through her connection with him, she has become identified as part of this movement. From her letters and diary we learn that she never abandoned her compassion for the Emperor Louis, whose soul she learned in a vision had been saved.

Blessed Margaret Ebner, OP was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 24 February 1979.

Love, and always praying for & receiving His Mercy!!!
Matthew

Jun 27 – Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (Help)

ourladyofsuccour
mother_of_perpetual_help_by_theophilia-d559ghb

Mother of Perpetual Help, Woman of Eternal Hope, your wordless gaze tells us so much about you. Knowing eyes look upon us with tender love. The slight bend of your head reveals such maternal concern. While your left hand supports the Child, your right hand is ready to receive us, too. Just as He feels the beating of your heart, so you encourage us to lead a life of hope and holiness. Just as His sandal will fall on your lap, through your intercession may God pick us up as we stumble and fall. Never let us be parted from you and your Son, Jesus. Lady of love, you invite us to place our hand where His fingers touch yours — near a heart of endless hope — so that we may be united often in prayer here on earth and joined forever with you in heaven. Amen.

Mother of Perpetual Help, your very name inspires confidence. We come before your holy picture in praise and thanksgiving to God seeking your intercession with Jesus, your Son, for all the needs of our lives today. We celebrate your holy motherhood as we proclaim Jesus Christ our Lord and Redeemer.

You answered when called to be mother of our Lord. Obtain for us the grace to be alive to our baptismal call and especially to embrace the gospel of life and to respect all life on earth.

You wondered as your Son grew in wisdom, knowledge and grace. Intercede for us so that we may welcome the Word of God in our lives and be bearers of the good news to everyone.

You delighted as your Son healed the sick. Intercede for our sick that they may receive good health and that they in their turn may be healers to others.

You enjoyed peace as your Son comforted the afflicted. Intercede for all who suffer so that they may know that we carry their burdens with them and in this way we keep the law of Christ.

You rejoiced as your Son forgave sins. Obtain for us the forgiveness of our sins and lead us to unbind others and set them free.

You suffered at the wounds your Son endured for our salvation. Help us to bind up the broken hearted and to give hope to the down trodden.

You exulted in your Son’s resurrection. Obtain for us the grace to persevere in His way all the days of our life and be granted a place in heaven.

You are the first of all the disciples and saints. We trust in your motherly love and care. Obtain for us all the graces we need to fulfill God’s plan each day in our lives. Amen.

Courage of Single Parents,
Determination of Widows,
Woman of Confidence,
Help of the Worried,
Model for Parents of Teenagers,
Mother of Prisoners,
Lady of Grace,
Hope for the World,
pray for us!!!

Mother of Perpetual Help,
with the greatest confidence
we come before your holy picture
to be inspired by the example of your life.

We think of you at that moment when,
full of faith and trust,
you accepted God’s call
to be the mother of His Son.
Help us, your children,
to accept with joy our own calling in life.

When you learned that your cousin Elizabeth was in need
you immediately went to serve her
and offer your help.
Help us, like you,
to be concerned for others.

We think of you, Mother,
at the foot of the cross.
Your heart must have bled
to see your Son in agony.

But your joy was great
when he rose from the dead,
victorious over the powers of evil.

Mother of Sorrows,
help us through the trials and
disappointments of life.
Help us not to lose heart.

May we share with you and your Son
the joy of having courageously
faced up to all the challenges of life.

Amen.

Thanksgiving Prayer

O Mother of Perpetual Help,
with grateful hearts we join you
in thanking God
for all the wonderful things
he has done for us,
especially for giving us
Jesus, your Son, as our Redeemer.

O God, our Creator,
we thank you for the gift of life
and all the gifts of nature:
our senses and faculties,
our talents and abilities.

We thank you for creating us
in your image and likeness
and for giving us this earth
to use and develop,
to respect and cherish.

Despite our failures,
you continue to show your love for us today
by increasing the life of your Spirit in us
at the Eucharistic table.

Finally, we thank you, loving Father,
for giving us Mary,
the Mother of your Son,
to be our Mother of Perpetual Help.

We are grateful for all the favours
we have received through her intercession.
We pray that those past favours may inspire us
to greater confidence in your loving mercy
and to seek the aid of our Mother of Perpetual Help.

Amen.

Mother of Perpetual Help, today we face so many difficulties. Your picture tells us so much about you. It reminds us to reach out and help those in need. Help us understand that our lives belong to others as much as they belong to us.

Mary, Model of Christian love, we know we cannot heal every ill or solve every problem. But with God’s grace, we intend to do what we can. May we be true witnesses to the world that love for one another really matters. May our daily actions proclaim how fully our lives are modeled after yours, Mother of Perpetual Help.

Mother of Perpetual Help, you have been blessed and favored by God. you became not only the Mother of the Redeemer, but Mother of the redeemed as well. We come to you today as your loving children. Watch over us and take care of us. As you held the child Jesus in your loving arms, so take us in your arms. Be a mother ready at every moment to help us. For God who is mighty has done great things for you, and God’s mercy is from age to age on those who love God. Intercede for us, dear Mother, in obtaining pardon for our sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace always to call upon you, Mother of Perpetual Help.

Oh Mother of Perpetual Help, grant that I may ever invoke your powerful name, the protection of the living and the salvation of the dying. Purest Mary, let your name henceforth be ever on my lips. Delay not, Blessed Lady, to rescue me whenever I call on you. In my temptations, in my needs, I will never cease to call on you, ever repeating your sacred name, Mary, Mary. What a consolation, what sweetness, what confidence fills my soul when I utter your sacred name or even only think of yours! I thank the Lord for having given you so sweet, so powerful, so lovely a name. But I will not be content with merely uttering your name. Let my love for your name prompt me ever to hail you Mother of Perpetual Help.

Prayer for Financial Aid

Realizing, dear Mother Mary,
that thou art our Perpetual Help not only in spiritual but likewise in temporal necessities,
we approach thee with submissive and humble hearts,
because we have a child-like confidence in thy power and goodness,
beseeching thee to assist us in our present financial worry.
Owing to untoward circumstances which have arisen in our lives,
we are in dire want, being unable to meet our honest debts.
We are not asking, dearest Mother for wealth,
if possession of it is not in accordance with the holy will of God;
we merely beg for that assistance which will enable us
to satisfy our pressing obligations.

We believe, dear Mother,
that thou art the Queen of heaven and earth,
and, as such,
the instrument and special dispensation of thy Son Jesus Christ;
that thou hast acquired by virtue of thy wonderful dignity,
a sweet jurisdiction over all creation.

We believe that thou art not only rich and bountiful,
but extremely kind and generous to all thy loving children.
We plead with thee then, dear Mother,
to obtain for us the help we so urgently need in our present financial difficulty.
We thank thee, dear Lady and promise to publish far and wide,
the marvels of thy glorious Picture.
Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Jun 22 – Omnia Horarum Fides/Faith for All Seasons

faithforallseasons
-please click on the image for greater detail.

JPKern

-by Br John Paul Kern, OP (Br John Paul converted to the Catholic faith while studying mechanical & nuclear engineering at Penn State)

“It was the year 1535. For almost a millennium England had been a Christian nation, its culture, traditions, and morality informed by the faith. Marriage, like most things, was understood according to the teachings of Jesus Christ, as preserved and taught by His Church down through the generations.

About fifteen years earlier, rumors began to circulate of a renegade monk in Germany who railed against abuses in the Church and used these faults to challenge the authority of the Church herself. This made waves among political leaders looking to increase their power, among Church leaders concerned for their flocks and the welfare of the Church herself, and among the common folk who, much like people today, were simply trying to make sense of the issues amidst a sea of catchy slogans, songs, and the print propaganda circulated by those advocating for change.

Reports of such rumblings on the Continent slowly made their way across the Channel. The well-educated may have encountered the writings of these Reformers, as they called themselves, and of well-known literary figures such as Erasmus and England’s own Sir Thomas More, who sought to defend the Catholic faith. But for the average person, English life remained much the same as it had. After all, King Henry VIII himself had written a book defending the sacraments of the Church and had been honored by the Pope as a Defender of the Faith. England was soundly her Catholic self.

However, things changed rapidly–and most English Catholics probably didn’t see it coming. Soon there was a new Queen, Anne, and a new Archbishop of Canterbury, Cranmer, both of whom were sympathetic to new ideas. The government issued an Act of Succession, supporting the legitimacy of the King’s divorce and his marriage to the new Queen, and an Act of Supremacy, declaring the King head of the Church in England. The King forced his subjects to support these acts even while he, himself a rebellious son of the Church, was excommunicated by the Pope. A number of monks were executed for dissenting.

Now, in the summer of 1535, two well-respected figures, Bishop John Fisher and the former Lord Chancellor of England, Sir Thomas More, were publicly executed in London. Their only crime had been to hold fast to the traditional faith and understanding of marriage that had so abruptly fallen from grace in English society. There was no room for debate in the public square. The law of the land had claimed supremacy over the law of God, and faithful adherents to the latter were branded treasonous.

Certainly, to be a faithful Catholic in such times demanded heroic faith, the faith of the martyrs. But it can be hard for us to relate to such heroic virtue. That’s because such virtue is overtly public, and exercised against clearly recognizable external threats. Our faith, however, tends to be more private. The kind of virtue we most commonly practice is in our personal struggles against the usual temptations to seek lesser goods than God: to sleep in instead of going to Mass on Sunday or to neglect nourishing our relationship with God through prayer, spiritual reading, and charitable acts instead of slothfully succumbing to another Netflix series or binging on Facebook.

But there is another, more public level of spiritual warfare we must be attuned to. We Christians on earth are the Church Militant and, just like any other army, we must be prepared to recognize and respond to threats from the enemy, Satan. The challenge is to recognize that we live in trying times–times as volatile as those that Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More saw. But we often view martyrdom, and the social and political challenges that inspired the witness of the martyrs, as something set in the distant past. We are largely ignorant of the fact that around two-thirds of all Christian martyrs died only recently, in the 20th century.

Are there threats on the horizon in the United States that will require heroic virtue from Christians here? No. They aren’t on the horizon; the threats are already here. Fifteen years ago hostility toward the faith was present on certain politically-correct college campuses, for example. Coming to college in 2001, I saw for the first time posters declaring “zero tolerance for intolerance,” which I discovered was Orwellian for “zero tolerance for dissent.” I realized that one day there might be zero tolerance for traditional American values and Christian beliefs, for myself and other dissenters. This day came quickly.

While no one here is currently facing martyrdom as in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, jobs are being threatened and people face legal, media, and social harassment for following the teachings of Jesus Christ–teachings that are, with increasing frequency, labelled as bigoted, hateful, and intolerant. To live one’s Christian faith is considered treasonous to society. Not only do public figures and religious leaders face such treatment, but average Christians do as well.  Heroic virtue is required here and now.

Let us pray that God may give us the grace to heroically live and preach the faith “in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2), following the witness of the martyrs throughout the ages (including those from our own age) and the two great saints we honor today.”

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, Who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my dissolution is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”
-2 Tim 4:1-8

My mother was a catechist.  See where I get it from?  🙂  She charged her students, when they saw her, not to greet her with “Hello, Mrs McCormick!”, but rather, “Keep the Faith!”

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

Love,
Matthew

Jun 30 – First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

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-“Nero’s torches” or “Chandeliers of Christianity”, 1876, oil on canvas, Henryk Siemiradzki (Polish 1843-1902) 94 x 174.5 cm. (37 x 68 3/4 in.), please click on the image for greater detail;  a favorite painting of mine.

The historical record recounts Christians were present in Rome a mere twelve years after the Resurrection.  The painting of “Nero’’s Torches” by Siemiradzki depicts an event following the Great Fire of Rome in the summer of A.D. 64. In nine days, the fire destroyed a third of the city’’s busiest and most residential quarters and Nero’’s involvement with the initial spark was widely rumored. Indeed, the time coincided with the construction of Nero’’s famed Domus Aurea, – the Golden House –, for which urban space was required to satisfy the Emperor’’s architectural desires. According to the Roman historian Tacitus, Nero now sought to divert the public from the general suspicion of his involvement in the deed: “To suppress this rumor, Nero fabricated scapegoats – and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called).  …

First, Nero had self-acknowledged Christians arrested. Then, on their information, large numbers of others were condemned – not so much for incendiarism as for their anti-social tendencies. The official crime, according to Roman Imperial law, was “crimes against humanity”, since they would not sacrifice to the gods, nor indulge in Roman vices, nor worship openly nor publicly.  They wouldn’t “go along, to get along”.  😉

Their deaths were made farcical. Dressed in wild animals’ skins, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or made into torches to be ignited after dark as substitutes for daylight. Nero provided his Gardens for the spectacle…. Despite their guilt as Christians, and the ruthless punishment it deserved, the victims were pitied. For it was felt that they were being sacrificed to one man’’s brutality rather than to the national interest. “ [Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome, London: Penguin Classics, 1996 edition, Book XV, chapter 14, pp.365-366]

The Great Empires:  Rome, Communism, Ottomans, Byzantines, Mongols, kingdoms galore, great earthly powers; where are they now?  Praise Him.  Praise Him.

Love,
Matthew

Sacred Heart of Jesus

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Sacred Heart -08

Many of you know, the McCormick family has a very special devotion to the Sacred Heart. Our family custom is to add, after grace before meals, the following, in unison:  “O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!”

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-by Br Luke Hoyt, OP (Br Luke, prior to joining the Order, earned a degree in piano performance from the University of Michigan and studied philosophy as a seminarian at the Pontifical College Josephinum.)

“When St. Gertrude and St. Margaret Mary, several centuries apart from each other, encountered Jesus in visions, they both did something curious. Ears pressed close to Jesus’ breast, they listened.

And they heard a heartbeat. With rapt attention, they listened to the Heartbeat of Jesus.

This is the act of a lover. When you are in love with someone, you want to know them entirely, to be one with them. In an exchange of spiritual goods, you want to live within the beloved, and you want that person to live within you. If you could locate one spot which somehow centered that other person, you would want to figuratively both step inside that spot, and also reach for it and hold it–tenderly and reverently–to place it deep inside yourself where it would be forever treasured.

For the human person, this spot is the heart. The heart is the locus of the “I.” And therefore to listen to the heartbeat of a beloved is to try to reach out and touch that “I,” to put your finger on another’s self, to cherish the sound, so to speak, of their existence.

This is what St. Gertrude and St. Margaret Mary sought in listening to Jesus’ heart. They were in love with their God, and were therefore spellbound by the sound of His Heart.

But when you listen to a human heart, you notice something within it. You notice a wound.  This is the case with every human heart. As soon as you locate it, you discover that it is broken and crying out in some way.

And Jesus’ heart is no exception. It is beating; it is alive. But it is also pierced. It bleeds. We ourselves pierced it, and now it flows and flows and flows.

But mysteriously, because it flows, the desire of the lover is answered.  The lover, finding the “I” of the beloved, can do more than listen to the heartbeat.  He or she can actually touch the very lifeblood which that heart beats and take it into his or her own self.

And when this happens, our hearts become like Jesus’ heart: filled with his blood. Because our hearts are also wounded, pierced like His, they too will flow – and flow and flow. But as they flow, they will spread the blood of the beloved wherever they go. And other hearts will in turn be transformed, and these also will flow.

And when the whole world is filled with our God’s blood, we will no longer need to strain our ears, listening for His heartbeat  For we will be within Him, within His Most Sacred Heart.”

Love,
Matthew

Jun 20 – Bl Dermot O’Hurley, (1530-1584) & Companions, (d. 1579-1654), “What of Ireland & her martyrs?”

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-please click on the images for greater detail.

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-by Fr. Robert F. McNamara

“During the English Reformation and the anti-Catholic centuries that followed. Many British who died for their Catholic faith in these years have been declared Venerable; others, Blessed; and 42, beginning with St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, have been canonized saints. Since some 600 Catholics in all suffered martyrdom in England and Wales during those times, it is safe to say that in the future, other names will be added to the church calendar by the popes.

But, what of Ireland and her martyrs?  The campaign against Catholicism in Ireland differed somewhat from that in England, over 250 Irish women and men have been singled out as possible candidates for beatification and canonization. A few of them have already received the honors of the altar. Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh, has been declared a saint; and three natives of Ireland have been beatified along with the English martyrs because they met death on English soil: Bl. Charles Meehan, a Franciscan priest; and two Irish laymen, BB. John Carey and Patrick Salmon, who were servants of an Anglo-Irish Jesuit.

The reason why the cause for beatification of the Irish martyrs is so slow is an interesting one. To qualify as a martyr, a candidate’s death for the faith must be clearly documented. That was rather easy to do with most of the English martyrs, because British law required the careful preservation of court records. It was different in Ireland. As often as not, those executed for Catholicism were not even put on trial, so the circumstances of their death were not preserved. Church investigators would therefore have to search elsewhere for information – a long, and perhaps fruitless task.

When Pope John Paul II, on September 27, 1992, declared blessed seventeen Irish martyrs, he did the next best thing. He made a start on the process of selecting, from among those whose martyrdom had been verified, a group who represented a cross section of Irish Catholics: men and women, bishops, priests and lay brothers, laity from both higher and lower walks of life.

While there is still not much known about many of these, let me list them with their years of death and with brief comments:

Bl. Patrick O’Healy, bishop of Mayo, and Bl. Conn O’Rourke, both Franciscans (1579). Bl. Matthew Lambert, a baker, and three sailors: BB. Robert Mayler, Edward Cheevers, and Patrick Cavanaugh (1581). Mrs. Margaret Bermingham Ball, a widowed housewife who died in prison (1584). (She had been jailed at the insistence of her own son, who abandoned the Catholic faith and handed her over to the British officials. Bl. Margaret lived out her remaining life in patient suffering rather than disown the pope.)

Bl. Dermot O’Hurley, (Diarmaid Ó hUrthuile) Archbishop of Cashel, was suspected of knowing of a plot by the pope and the Spanish. His feet were therefore put into metal boots, filled with oil, and roasted over a fire.

Since he had nothing to confess, this brilliant man was finally given a choice between denying the pope or hanging. He was hanged in 1584.

A secular priest, Bl. Maurice McKenraghty was executed in 1585. Bl. Dominic Collins, a Jesuit lay brother, died in 1602. Bl. Conor O’Devany, a Franciscan, bishop of Down and Connor in Ulster, and Bl. Patrick O’Loughran, a priest, both died in 1612.

Bl. Francis Taylor was a prominent merchant and alderman of Dublin, where he was martyred in 1642. Bl. Terence O’Brien, the Dominican bishop of Emly, was executed in 1651. The last two of the group were Bl. John Kearney, a Franciscan priest (1654), and Bl. William Tirry, an Augustinian priest (1654).

Today, Ireland is torn apart by strife, largely religious in background. In declaring these seventeen “blessed”, the Holy Father pointed out how they had died for love, forgiving their persecutors. And he prayed God to “sustain those who work for reconciliation and peace in Ireland today.””

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-marker at the tomb of Bl Dermot, Archbishop of Cashel, St. Kevin’s Church, Camden Row, Dublin, Ireland

“Be it therefore known unto you…that I am a priest anointed and also a Bishop, although unworthy of soe sacred dignitites, and noe cause could they find against me that might in the least deserve the paines of death, but merely for my funcon of priesthood wherein they have proceeded against me in all pointes cruelly contrarie to their own lawes …and I doe injoin you (Deere Christian Brethren) to manifest the same to the world and also to beare witness on the Day of Judgment of my Innocent death, which I indure for my function and profession of the most holy Catholick Faith.” -last words of Bl Dermot at his execution.  In the process of his beatification, one of the most valuable resources was found to be the documents and letters written by the men who tortured and executed him, attesting to his constancy, fortitude, and sanctity of his death.

Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
-Luke 6:22-23

Love,
Matthew

Jun 15 – Bls Peter Snow, Priest, & Ralph Grimston, Husband, (d. 1598), Martyrs

In 1845, two skulls (Peter Snow and Ralph Grimston) were discovered under the stone floor of the ancient chapel of Hazlewood Castle, near Tadcaster, UK.

Father Snow and Ralph Grimston were captured while journeying together to York. Father Snow was condemned to death by hanging, drawing, and quartering for being a priest. Ralph Grimston had previously been imprisoned for opening his home to priests.  Ralph Grimston was condemned to death by hanging for having assisted Father Snow and for having attempted to prevent the priest’s arrest when they were caught.

The Catholic Cathedral at Leeds, dedicated to St. Anne, has their skulls as relics, installed there when the new altar was consecrated. And, the University of Dundee reconstructed their faces based on their skulls.

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Nov 22, 2009, -Rev. Robert Barron, Cardinal Francis George Professor of Faith & Culture, University of St Mary of the Lake, Mundelein Seminary, IL & Founder, Word on Fire.

“…Bishop Roach took me to the far more modest cathedral of Leeds, led me to the main altar and then invited me to examine a treasure.

We crouched down and the bishop pulled out two heavy stones from the front of the altar, revealing a pair of well-preserved human skulls. These, he explained, were the remains of Blessed Peter Snow and Blessed Ralph Grimston.

Peter Snow was a Yorkshireman who had left Elizabethean England in order to study for the Catholic priesthood in France. At the time, of course, it was an offense to be a Catholic and a capital crime to be a priest. Snow had been ordained in Reims and subsequently smuggled into England, where he successfully ministered for two or three years, clandestinely celebrating the Mass, encouraging Catholics in their faith and instructing children in their catechism.

Like many other priests in England at that time, he was protected by Catholic families who hid him away in cellars, attics and hiding-holes concealed behind walls. In May of 1598, he was making his way to York in the company of Ralph Grimston, a layman who was travelling with him for protection. The two Catholics were waylaid by authorities. Grimston drew his sword and shouted at the young priest to ride off, but they were captured.

A trial was held in York, and Snow was convicted of being a priest and Grimston of harboring an enemy of the state. On June 15, they were executed. Grimston was hanged and then beheaded; Snow suffered the far worse fate of being hanged, slowly eviscerated and then cut into four pieces. Afterward, their heads were placed on pikes over the gate of the city in order to dissuade any who might be tempted to imitate them.

The heads were taken down and for many centuries were hidden away, eventually coming to rest at a Carmelite monastery. When that monastery was sold, Bishop Roach, who knew of the existence of the skulls, asked that they be transferred to the Leeds cathedral and placed in the new altar.

Before they were ensconced in the altar, the bishop allowed them to be examined by a forensic scientist in London who was able to reconstruct facsimiles of the faces, letting us see, after all of these centuries, what these men looked like. When I saw the photographs, I was deeply moved, especially by the face of the young priest (only 32 when he was killed). He looked for all the world like one of the students that I teach at the seminary.

It just broke my heart to think that this courageous kid could have been treated with such brutality and inhumanity, simply for saying Mass and administering the sacraments. I mused on the depths of human cruelty, on a wickedness that beggars the imagination and is, nevertheless, on full display up and down the centuries to the present day.

But above all, I found myself edified by his witness. During his years of study in France, he knew that he was preparing for a desperately dangerous mission. He was fully aware that many of his colleagues had already been arrested or killed, and yet he persevered.

His ministry in his home country was grim, haunted, and fearsome. How many terrible days and nights he must have endured, and yet he pressed on. Looking at his placid face, I thought about the transforming quality of God’s amazing grace, what God’s love can do with our frail and deeply compromised humanity.

Part of the genius of Catholic theology is that it clearly articulates both sides of the human condition. There is nothing naïve or blandly “optimistic” in Catholic anthropology. It takes original sin and its consequences with utter seriousness, arguing that human beings are weakened, twisted even, in both body and soul.

No moral outrage — Auschwitz, Hiroshima, the Cambodian killing fields or Elizabethan totalitarianism — really surprises the Catholic mind, for as Chesterton said, “we’re all in the same boat and we’re all seasick.” At the same time, Catholic teaching holds that we are made in the image and likeness of God and destined, ultimately, to share in the very dynamics of the divine life, loving as effortlessly and radically as God himself. This Catholic hope outstrips even the fondest dreams of any humanist philosophy.

Those two skulls in the altar at Leeds silently speak of the best and the worst in us human beings. Peter Snow and Ralph Grimston, pray for us.”

Father Snow, Holy Priest!  Ralph Grimston, Defender of Priests!  Ora pro nobis!

Love,
Matthew

 http://www.wordonfire.org/WoF-Blog/WoF-Blog/September-2010/Spirituality-Two-English-Martyrs.aspx