Category Archives: June

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

Jun 10 – Bl John Dominic, OP, (1356-1419) & Our Irrelevance

giovanni dominici convent of san marco

Blessed John Dominic

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-by Br John Dominic Bouck, OP

“My guess is that this morning when you woke up, you probably turned off the alarm and thanked God for the feast of Bl. John Dominic. Wait … you didn’t? You mean, you’ve never even heard of him?

John Dominic met St. Catherine of Siena, OP, when he was young, entered the Order of Preachers, and was an integral part of a major reform movement. This reform helped to revitalize the Order after its decimation by the plague and general laxity of observance. Not only was he a major force in the Dominican Order, but he became a cardinal in the Church, and an official legate for the Pope. Most importantly, he worked to resolve the Great Western Schism. He also brought Fra Angelico, the world famous painter, and St. Antoninus, a brilliant theologian and reformer, into the Order.

So if he was such a major player in the world and in the Church, then it seems like we would hear more about him today. On the other hand, I think our collective ignorance of an important figure like Bl. John Dominic is not necessarily a tragedy, but rather is typical to all but a small group of people. We are not remembered for very long after our death. And even for those select few who are remembered, the details that we “know” about their lives are limited.

With the fact of our transience so clearly evident, what then should we make of the common cry these days for being on the right side of history? How can we ensure our historical justification before men and women who have not yet been born and who are likely never to hear our names?

Historical scholarship can be a fickle thing. Winston Churchill was to have said, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it!” Real events happen in history, but our historical recording of those events can be less than fully accurate. The project of historical research is a human endeavor to reach into the past, and as such, it is subject to the contingencies and finitude that humans must confront. We don’t have access to a great deal of evidence. We can know certain historical truths of black and white, but in between there is often a lot of gray. Persons of the past can get lost in the proverbial historical fog. What’s more, even the very choice of what persons and events to research and write about can signify some sort of bias. The historian must always seek to be objective and impartial, removing himself from any motive of propaganda.

The desire to be on the “right side of history” can presume the myth that history just keeps getting better every day. According to this view, creation is on a constant upward trajectory. The reality has been quite different. A simple survey of the horrors of the 20th century overwhelms the soul. Technological mastery in the hands of adolescent spirits has just allowed greater acts of destruction. This was the greatest age of technological progress and simultaneously the age of the most sinister manifestation of “man’s inhumanity to man.”

Why should we worry what future generations think of us? That seems pretty insecure, to worry about what others who don’t even exist yet think. It seems much better to worry about whether or not we are doing the right thing. That’s not easy in our culture, because there is not widespread agreement on precisely what that right thing is.

Most of us will fade into the past without much comment by future generations. That shouldn’t frighten us; it should motivate us. Doing the right thing for people of faith–acting according to the demands of our human nature and according to the commands of God–should be the primary motivation: not some imagined stamp of approval down the road, but the approval of our loving Maker. For people who don’t believe in God or an afterlife, it is even more critical to do what is right, because it doesn’t seem like being on the right side of history matters much if you’re not going to exist.

Historical hindsight can be 20/20, but too often our rearview mirror gives a picture that is not so clear. Bl. John Dominic knew not to worry about the vicissitudes of human chroniclers, agonizing about his place in the historical annals. Instead, he acted according to his well-formed conscience and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. That is why he is a great saint. He was a world-famous celebrity, now mostly forgotten, except by the One Who truly matters.”

Is 49:15

First Vespers:
Ant. Strengthen by holy intercession, O John, Confessor of the Lord, those here present, that we who are burdened with the weight of our offenses may be relieved by the glory of thy blessedness, and may by thy guidance attain eternal rewards.
V. Pray for us, Blessed John.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Lauds:
Ant. Well done, good and faithful servant, because Thou hast been faithful in a few things, I will set thee over many, sayeth the Lord.
V. The just man shall blossom like the lily.
R. And shall flourish forever before the Lord.

Second Vespers:
Ant. I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock..
V. Pray for us. Blessed John.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Prayer:
Let us Pray: O God, the giver of charity, who dist strengthen Blessed John, Confessor and Bishop, in the work of preserving the unity of the Church and establishing regular discipline, grant, through his intercession, that we may be of one mind and perform our actions in Christ Jesus our Lord, who with Thee liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen.

Pascal Time
First Vespers:
Ant. Come, O daughters of Jerusalem, and behold a Martyr with a crown wherewith the Lord crowned him on the day of solemnity and rejoicing, alleluia, alleluia
V. Pray for us, Blessed John with thy companions, alleluia
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ, alleluia.

Lauds:
Ant. Perpetual light will shine upon Thy Saints, O Lord, alleluia, and an eternity of ages, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
V. The just man shall blossom like the lily, alleluia.
R. And shall flourish forever before the Lord, alleluia

Second Vespers:
Ant. In the city of the Lord the music of the Saints incessantly resounds: there the angels and archangels sing a canticle before the throne of God, alleluia.
V. Pray for us, Blessed John with thy companions, alleluia
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. alleluia

Prayer:
Let us Pray: O God, the giver of charity, who dist strengthen Blessed John, Confessor and Bishop, in the work of preserving the unity of the Church and establishing regular discipline, grant, through his intercession, that we may be of one mind and perform our actions in Christ Jesus our Lord, who with Thee liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Jun 2 – The Courage of Martyrs

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-“Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand”, Albrecht Durer, 1508, oil on panel transferred to canvas, 99 cm × 87 cm (39 in × 34 in), Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

“In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (Jn 16:33)

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-by Br Joachim Kenney, OP

“One might wonder just how comforting these words from the Lord in today’s Holy Gospel might be if one were faced with the prospect of impending execution. Apparently, they were enough to sustain Sts. Marcellinus and Peter in their hour of trial, for today we celebrate them as martyrs. If you have ever listened to the Roman Canon at Mass you may recognize these names. They are included in the second of the two lists of saints in that Eucharistic Prayer. The Church knows very little about them other than that St. Marcellinus was a priest, St. Peter an exorcist, and that both were executed in the persecutions under Emperor Diocletian in the fourth century. They were much honored by the early Church, even to the point that Constantine built a basilica in their honor.

Catholic historian Dr. Warren Carroll describes Diocletian as a “clear-headed and reflective man” at the time of his accession to the throne of the Roman Empire. Diocletian was not initially interested in persecuting Christians. He rather set his sights on restoring the then decrepit Roman Empire to its former stability and greatness. To this end, he began by overhauling and remodeling the government and much of the economic system. It was his second-in-command in the eastern half of the empire, Galerius, who is believed to have insisted on the need to get rid of Christianity. Historian Henry Chadwick reports that Diocletian was finally convinced when he attended a pagan sacrifice at which the pagan priests blamed their inability to read the signs on the entrails of the animals on the presence of some Christians there who had made the Sign of the Cross. What came to be called the “Great Persecution” soon followed. It began in the year AD 303 and varied in intensity in different parts of the empire. Throughout its duration in the east, Galerius remained its chief driving force. Diocletian tried to refrain from bloodshed as much as he could, but for various reasons was gradually led to increase the severity of the penalties for those refusing to sacrifice to the gods. Perhaps not coincidentally as Carroll notes, Diocletian had a mental collapse early in 304. He became withdrawn from public affairs, leaving their direction largely in the hands of Galerius. In 305, Galerius forced Diocletian to abdicate and took complete control of the government. It was then that the persecution became acute.

In contrast to Diocletian, who succumbed to the world and consequently died bereft of even the worldly goods he once had and is remembered most for the slaughter associated with his name, Sts. Marcellinus and Peter took courage in Christ and conquered through Him. Though they lost their lives, they saved them for eternal life. It was not mere words that gave them strength and courage, however. As John tells us earlier in the sixteenth chapter of his Gospel, Christ promised to send His disciples the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, who would guide them “into all truth” (Jn 16:13). It was by the power of the Holy Spirit alive within them that the martyrs remained true to Christ. The same Holy Spirit is still present and working in the Church today in each of the baptized. He continues to give the courage to overcome present-day troubles.”

I am always keen for new martyrs, starting w/myself.  “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Apologeticus, Chapter 50, 197 AD), Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullian.  Sometime after his conversion to the Christian faith, Tertullian left the Catholic Church in favor of Montanism.

Love,
Matthew

Jun 27 – St Cyril of Alexandria, (376-444), Patriarch of Alexandria, Father & Doctor of the Church, Pillar & Defender of the Faith, A Man’s Man of Christian Love

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After taking a look at the life of St. Cyril, it’s easy to see him as a man who always came into a situation with both barrels blazing. Seriously, Cyril took no prisoners.

Cyril was born at Alexandria, Egypt. He was nephew of the patriarch of that city, Theophilus. Cyril received a classical and theological education at Alexandria and was ordained by his uncle.  He succeeded his uncle Theophilus as patriarch of Alexandria on Theophilus’ death in 412.  Before Cyril became Patriarch, he had to survive a riot that ensued due to a rivalry for the Patriarchy with his rival, Timotheus.  Thus, Cyril followed his uncle in a position that had become powerful and influential, rivaling that of the Roman prefect.

When he became Patriarch of Alexandria in 412, he “assembled a mob” that plundered and closed the churches of the Novations1. Novations had been persecuting Christians in the area.  Cyril also drove out of Alexandria the Jews, who had formed a flourishing community there since Alexander the Great.  The Jews of Alexandria were also political backers of the Roman Prefect of Alexandria, governor of the Roman Diocese (political, not ecclesiastical) of Egypt. Expulsion from a territory was a secular power that belonged to the pagan Roman Prefect.  But the Jews had caused tumults and had massacred the Christians. Expelling their enemies may have been the only possible defense for the Christians.  The Roman Prefect of Egypt, Orestes, though was very angry at Cyril for usurping power that was his.  Cyril offered Orestes a Bible; a gesture which would mean Orestes’ acquiescence to Cyril’s religious authority and policy, which Orestes rejected.

Yes, you guessed it, a serious brawl ensued as a result of the conflict between Cyril and Orestes. 500 (yes, five hundred) monks came swinging out of the lower deserts of Egypt (Nitria) to defend Cyril. Can you imagine 500 men with big beards and worn-monastic habits storming into a fight against Orestes’ soldiers? One word comes to mind: Fortitude. One of the monks, Ammonius, actually beamed Orestes with a rock during the skirmish. Orestes had Ammonius tortured to death. Cyril actually honored the remains of the rock lobbing monk for a time.

Prefect Orestes enjoyed the political backing of Hypatia, a pagan female astronomer, philosopher and mathematician who had considerable moral authority in the city of Alexandria, and who had extensive influence. Indeed many students from wealthy and influential families came to Alexandria purposely to study privately with Hypatia, and many of these later attained high posts in government and the Church. Several Christians thought that Hypatia’s influence had caused Orestes to reject all reconciliatory offerings by Cyril. Modern historians think that Orestes had cultivated his relationship with Hypatia to strengthen a bond with the pagan community of Alexandria, as he had done with the Jewish one, to handle better the difficult political life of the Egyptian capital.  A Christian mob, however, led by a lector named Peter, took her from her chariot, dragged her to a church and tore her flesh with potsherds till she died, finally burning the pieces outside the city walls.  Cyril did not support this action and it caused him much embarrassment and political difficulty after the fact, but since this Peter was only a lector, and not a member of the clergy, Cyril could distance himself from this event.

Cyril, in league with Pope Celestine I, is most known for intellectually duking it out with Nestorius, who was the Patriarch of Constantinople (present day Istanbul). At one point, the Emperor (Theodosius II) had both Nestorius and Cyril arrested. The emperor, however, cut Cyril loose after Papal Legates showed up on his doorstep saying that Pope Celestine endorsed Cyril’s condemnation of Nestorius.

So what was the big deal with Nestorius? Well, he promoted the heresy of Nestorianism, which says that “Mary was not the Mother of God, Theotokos(Θεοτόκος), since Christ was Divine and not human, and consequently she should not have the word theotokos (God-bearer) applied to her.”  Dyophysitism.  (Caution to the reader:  there are LOTS of “physitisms”. Don’t ask.  It gets very long, shades of grey, & complicated!  Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 🙂  And you thought ecumenism was easy?)

Nestorianism goes, well, “out-of-its-way” to overly emphasize the disunion, or, at best, a very loose union between the human and Divine natures of Jesus, preferring the term Christotokos, in terms of whom Mary gave birth to; arguing that it was only the humanity of Christ which was born at the Incarnation, and not the Deity.  Conversely, the implication, at least, with Theotokos, possibly, Nestorians would argue, was it suggesting the Divine nature was also somehow created at the Incarnation?, which they could not stand.  However, Theotokos, properly understood, contains none of these objected to and objectionable connotations.  Nestorianism is a clear heresy from orthodox Christianity, negating the hypostatic, ὑπόστασις, union.  (How’s that for ten cent words?  Church techno speak! It helps to know a little Greek, Latin, & Hebrew.  It does.    Nicean orthodox Christianity says “True God & True Man”, in which it means:  two unique, full, complete natures, perfectly united in one person.  Dear Reverend Fathers on this distribution, how did I do?  Whew!  Did I pass?    These distinctions are NOT trivial, meaningless, nor unimportant.  Depending on how the Church defines the nature of Christ, it gives a whole new reading, meaning, & coloring to the interpretation of Scripture, tough enough as it is.  Better get it right!  Better!  🙂

Cyril was the bedrock for the third general Council of Ephesus in 431, which declared Nestorianism a heresy. Oddly enough, a group of bishops that sided with Nestorius convened their own council after the one at Ephesus and deposed Cyril (this is the point where Cyril and Nestorius got arrested by the Emperor).

The exegetical works of St. Cyril are very numerous. The seventeen books “On Adoration in Spirit and in Truth” are an exposition of the typical and spiritual nature of the Old Law. The Glaphyra or “brilliant”, Commentaries on Pentateuch are of the same nature. Long explanations of Isaiah and of the minor Prophets give a mystical interpretation, after the Alexandrian manner. Only fragments are extant of other works on the Old Testament, as well as of expositions of Matthew, Luke, and some of the Epistles, but of that of St. Luke much is preserved in a Syriac version. Of St. Cyril’s sermons and letters the most interesting are those which concern the Nestorian controversy. Of a great apologetic work in the twenty books against Julian the Apostate ten books remain. Among his theological treatises we have two large works and one small one on the Holy Trinity, and a number of treatises and tracts belonging to the Nestorian controversy.

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-Cyril, from the 2009 film “Agora”

“By nature, each one of us is enclosed in his own personality, but supernaturally, we are all one. We are made one body in Christ, because we are nourished by One Flesh. As Christ is indivisible, we are all one in Him. Therefore, He asked His Father “that they may all be One as We also are one.” – Saint Cyril of Alexandria

“That anyone could doubt the right of the holy Virgin to be called the Mother of God fills with astonishment. Surely she must be the Mother of God if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, and she gave birth to him! Our Lord’s disciples may not have used those exact words, but they delivered to us the belief those words enshrine, and this has also been taught us by the holy fathers. The divinely inspired Scriptures affirm that the Word of God was made flesh, that is to say, he was united to a human body endowed with a rational soul. He undertook to help the descendants of Abraham, fashioning a body for himself from a woman and sharing our flesh and blood, to enable us to see in him not only God, but also, by reason of this union, a man like ourselves. It is held, therefore, that there is in Emmanuel two entities, divinity and humanity. Yet our Lord Jesus Christ is nonetheless one, the one true Son, both God and man; not a deified man on the same footing as those who share the divine nature by grace, but true God who for our sake appeared in human form. We are assured of this by Saint Paul’s declaration: “When the fullness of time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law and to enable us to be adopted as sons.” – from a letter by Saint Cyril of Alexandria

But the biggest reason why St. Cyril of Alexandria is a ‘Trooper’ is his doctrine, which has been quoted by multiple Church councils—Cyril has the title Doctor of the Church. Here is an excerpt from his book on the Divine Motherhood of Mary:

“In the third book of his work on the holy and consubstantial Trinity, our father Athanasius, of glorious memory, several times refers to the holy Virgin as “Mother of God.” I cannot resist quoting his own words: “As I have often told you, the distinctive mark of holy Scripture is that it was written to make a twofold declaration concerning our Savior; namely, that He is and has always been God, and that for our sake in these latter days He took flesh from the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and became man.”

Prayer in Honor of Mary, Mother of God

“Hail, Mary, Mother of God, venerable treasure of the whole universe, lamp that is never extinguished, crown of virginity, support of the true faith, indestructible temple, dwelling of Him whom no place can contain, O Mother and Virgin! Through you all the holy Gospels call blessed the One whom comes in the name of the Lord.

Hail, Mother of God. You enclosed under your heart the infinite God whom no space can contain. Through you the Most Holy Trinity is adored and glorified, the priceless cross is venerated throughout the universe. Through you the heavens rejoice, and the angels and archangels are filled with gladness. Through you the demons are banished, and the tempter fell from heaven. Through you the fallen human race is admitted to heaven.

Hail, Mother of God. Through you kings rule, and the only-begotten Son of God has become a star of light to those who were sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death.” -Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor

Love,
Matthew

1Novation was born about the year 200. He was a man of considerable learning, apparently educated in literary composition; the first writer to use Latin in the Church. His immediate rival in Rome, Bishop Cornelius, spoke of him sarcastically as ” that maker of dogmas, that champion of ecclesiastical learning”.  During the persecutions of emperor Decius in mid third century, Novatian took the position that those who had stopped practicing Christianity, the “Lapsi”, during the persecutions, to save themselves, could not be accepted back into the Church even if they repented and that the only way to reenter the church would be by re-baptism. Cornelius and Cyprian of Carthage did not believe in the need for re-baptism. Instead they thought that the sinners should only need to show contrition and true repentance to be welcomed back into the church.

During the election of the bishop of Rome in 251, Novatian opposed Cornelius because he was too lax in accepting the return of Christians who had lapsed during the persecutions. His party then consecrated him as a rival bishop (antipope) to Cornelius. He announced throughout the empire his election, as had Cornelius, as both parties appointed bishops and priests in cities where the incumbent favored his rival, thus creating a widespread schism in the Church.

By the end of 251, Bishop Cornelius assembled a council of sixty bishops that condemned and excommunicated Novation apparently over the legitimacy of his claim to the ecclesiastical throne of Rome. It was only later that Novation began to be called a heretic and this appeared to be over the question of the Church having the power to grant absolution in certain cases.  Novatian is known for his writing of which only two have survived, the De Cibis Judaicus and De Trintate (On the Trinity), an interpretation of the early church doctrine on the Trinity which is his most important work.  Novationists called themselves καθαροι (“katharoi”/Cathari) or “Puritans” reflecting their desire not to be identified with what they considered the lax practices of a corrupted Catholic Church. They went so far as to re-baptize their own converts. Because Novatianists (including Novatian) did not submit to the bishop of Rome, they were labeled by Rome as schismatics.

Novations were Montanists, another name for a heretical group, who took their name from a priest and Anti-pope, Montanus.  Montanus preached that those who fell from grace were out of the church forever, as opposed to the orthodox position that by sincere contrition and repentance the fallen might be readmitted. In addition they believed that the value of the sacraments depended on the purity and worthiness of the priest administering the rites. In time they merged with the Donatists who sprang up in Carthage, 4th century in a split with Rome over the failure of a their man to win the bishop’s seat.  The Novations also held second marriages were not valid.

Father’s Day – bringing it all home….

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A man’s wedding vows…

“V:  Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?

R:  We have.

V:  Will you honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?

R:  We will.

V:  Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church?

R:  We will.

V:  Since it is your intention to enter into marriage, join your right hands, and declare your consent before God and His Church.

R:  I, Matthew, take you, Kelly, to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.  I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”

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-by Br. Edmund McCullough, OP

“Long ago, in the days before direct deposit, Mom had to hope that on payday Dad would bring his whole paycheck home and not cash it at the bar on the way back from work. He and Mom would then sit down at the table and budget for the rest of the month. The kids needed new shoes, Catholic school tuition had to be paid, and so forth. It was important that Dad brought all the money home.

Now, I concede that things have changed in the last fifty years. Banks now offer direct deposit so most of us don’t even see our paycheck. Not as many bars or packaged goods stores cash paychecks anymore, and most families have two incomes. However, the principle still holds. Men are truly husbands and fathers when they bring it all home. And the “all” is not merely monetary.

A husband and father’s whole world lies within the four walls of his home. He brings home, not simply money, but all his attention, affection, and energy. He has a narrowness in the best sense of the word, what Chesterton calls a “truly local patriotism.”

The good father that sees this clearly is a realist. He sees facts: “I’m married to this one woman for as long as we live.” And “This is my child. I’m responsible for him for at least the next 18 years—probably more.”

But this narrowness is a beautiful reality, not a tragic one. The vows he made in marriage will focus his energy. Without them, he would risk drifting without any objective. It is because our feelings change—we ride stormy seas on a rolling main—that we make wedding vows. But sometimes daydreams settle in and the realist changes philosophies. He thinks, “If only I could have some independence. Wasn’t it great when I didn’t have to answer to anyone?” He starts to think that life has become cramped. He sympathizes with George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life. He has given up all that for this? He faces pressure at work and mopey teenagers at home. He is not receiving the affirmation and respect he thinks he deserves from his wife. He starts to panic and think about how things could have been different. He ponders all those opportunities he gave up, all those other lives he could have lived.

That’s when a husband and father is tempted not to “bring it all home.” He is tempted to divert a bit more of himself to his co-workers or his old buddies. But if he’s wise, he goes back to basics. His world is here, right in front of him. All those other lives he could have lived aren’t real. His co-workers will change. His buddies have their own marriages. He can think to himself, “I didn’t sign on for this” (whatever “this” might be), but the circumstances of life don’t ask our permission.

If he retains his focus, his kids will come around to the same perspective that Mark Twain describes so accurately: “When I was at 18, my father was the dumbest man I’d ever met. When I was 21, I was amazed at how much he had learned in just three years.” With his wife, there are ups and downs. When two people live together for 50+ years, there are going to be disagreements, occasionally serious ones. But if he brings it all home, he will find that on the other side of such narrowness is a profound breadth and depth of life not accessible to those who divide their love.”

Love,
Matthew

Jun 21 – St John Rigby (1570-1600), Martyr

Did you ever do a favor for a friend and it got you in whole lot of trouble?  John Rigby did.  John Rigby was a layman, rare among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, the most famous of the hundreds of Catholics who suffered for their faith at that time.

Rigby was born in the year 1570 at Harrock Hall, Eccleston, near Chorley, Lancashire, the fifth or sixth son of Nicholas Rigby, by his wife Mary, daughter of Oliver Breres of Preston. In 1600 Rigby was working for Sir Edmund Huddleston, whose daughter, Mrs. Fortescue, was summoned to the Old Bailey for recusancy (refusing to attend Protestant services). Because she was ill, Rigby appeared for her.

But it was his own religion that one of the commissioners who took a dislike to him asked him about. He had no hesitation in proclaiming that he was a practicing Catholic himself. Walking into court a free man, he was sent to prison and was only free again when he entered Heaven after enduring arguably the most brutal execution of any of the martyrs, proceeded by horrendous torture. But Mr Rigby showed signs of sainthood by being bafflingly polite to his aggressors.

Not much is known of John’s life. He seems to have been a simple man and a bachelor.  Although being a Catholic, John flirted with the Protestant religion, sometimes going to church services. Some accounts state that he met Jesuits Fr John Gerard and Nicholas Owen, of previous account.

He worked as a servant in the avid Protestant household of Sir Edmund Huddleston, whose daughter was Mrs Fortescue, a recent widow. She received a summons accusing her of recusancy. Suffering from illness, she asked John to go to court to testify for her against the charges. This simple request ultimately meant martyrdom for John.

One of the commissioners, Sir Richard Martin, didn’t like John and began to question him about his own faith. Sir Richard proved John was a Catholic and the young man would not take the oath of Supremacy. He was sent to Newgate prison in the City of London. The next day, February 14 1600, he was up before the Lord Chief Justice. He initially admitted to conforming to the new religion even though being a Catholic at heart. But John said he had been reconciled to Catholicism by Fr John Jones, a Franciscan, while Fr John was imprisoned in the the Clink (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Clink). Since that day about three years previously, he had not stepped foot into a Protestant Church. He signed a written confession admitting to this.

At some point during his imprisonment, John was lowered on to an open heated oven scorching and burning his flesh. At the same time, a barber cut his hair off. The horrific torture was an attempt to force Rigby into revealing information about Catholics in England. In an amazing act of defiance that, in itself, seems like an indication of sainthood, John paid the barber for his work and they both laughed.

On February 19 he was transferred to the White Lion. This had been an inn prior to 1535 and became the Sheriff’s Prison in 1540. On March 1 1600, Rigby was brought to trial. Interestingly, we have a detailed account from John about the various court proceedings. He wrote a testimony while in prison and sent it to a friend to look after.

At the initial hearing, nothing was said to Rigby. But in the evening, John was called and went willingly to an informal questioning by judges at one of their houses. Craftily trying to get him to conform, Justice Gaudy said he heard John wanted to go to church again. But the 30-year-old said he’d never even hinted that. The judge said the law must proceed to which Rigby replied: “Let me have the law, in the name of Jesus. God’s will be done.”

The next day he appeared in court and answered to charges of being reconciled by a “Romish” priest and treason. He admitted to going to Fr John Jones for confession and said if this was interpreted as treason then “God’s will be done”. When found guilty by the quietly-spoken foreman of the jury, John shouted: “Laus tibi, Domine! Rex aterna Gloria.”

Twice after being found guilty, John was offered the choice of agreeing to go to the Protestant church and the matter would “proceed no further”. But he refused to each time and was sentenced to death. He was taken back to his prison cell and prayed all night.

When his time came on Saturday June 21, John said goodbye to fellow Catholic prisoners and asked them to pray for him. Outside, he knelt beside the waiting hurdle and made the Sign of the Cross. He was seen to be laughing, which John confirmed was because he was happy to give his life for the Catholic cause. As part of the paperwork before his execution, Captain Whitlock asked John if he was married, to which he replied: “I am a bachelor; and more than that, I am a maid.” This referred to his service job in the Huddleston household. The captain said Rigby had “worthily deserved a virgin’s crown” and asked John to pray for him.

St Thomas’ Watering, now the Old Kent Road, was John’s place of execution. It was the location of the gallows for the northern parts of Surrey. Once, it was a place where pilgrims bound for the shrine of St Thomas a Becket watered their thirsty horses. Now it was to become a significant site again for Christian martyrdom.

On reaching the gallows, John knelt down and prayed. He kissed the rope as it was placed around his neck. Eyewitnesses remarked upon his fine physique and outstanding courage.  The sheriff’s deputy ended John’s closing speech before it started and demanded he pray for Queen Elizabeth I, which he did. Asked to name any other traitors in England, John said none. The angry deputy ordered the cart to be drawn away instantly.

Choking, Mr Rigby violently jerked around. The hangman cut him down and John, not being close to death, got to his feet. He was flung to the ground and John was able to commend his soul to God. The executioner then disemboweled the soon-to-be martyr and ripped his organs out. John’s body twisted violently. The end of his ordeal came when his head was chopped off. His body parts were displayed across Southwark.

For a simple, humble, young single man, Saint John Rigby’s torture and execution was brutal. For some reason, the authorities clamped down hard on him, while other lay people at the time were simply imprisoned for their recusancy. Mr Rigby’s act of charity towards a grieving widow was to turn out to be the ultimate sacrifice.

Saint John was not perfect. He flirted with the new religion but knew he could be reconciled back to Christ’s church through the Sacrament of Reconciliation administered by a Catholic priest (who was also to become a saint). What a powerful message this is to the laity in encouraging them to confession, even if they have lapsed.

Also impressive is John’s stubbornness and defiance in the face of persecution. He tells the truth, bravely answering questions like a true disciple – direct and to the point. Too often we young Catholics stutter and water down our answers to challenging questions about the Faith for fear that the recipient, however powerful he or she may be, will not like our answer. Like Saint John, we really need to pray for the strength to answer directly but charitably. This martyr had the ability to point most of his thoughts and words to Christ.

Fittingly, Saint John is the patron saint of bachelors and torture victims – two completely different groups of people but both of whom will receive great strength from this martyr’s intercession. Saint John Jones, Rigby’s confessor and the priest who had reconciled him, had died at the same place Rigby had died, St Thomas’ Waterings, two years earlier, on July 12, 1598.

Prayer in Honor of St John Rigby

Eternal Father, I wish to honor St John Rigby and I give You thanks for all the graces You have bestowed upon this English martyr. I ask You to please increase grace in my soul through his merits, and commit the end of my life to him by this special prayer, so that by virtue of Your goodness and promise, St John Rigby might be my advocate and provide whatever is needed at that hour. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Jun 15 – St Germaine Cousin of Pibrac, France (1579-1601), Patroness of the Disabled & Abused

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Daughter of Laurent Cousin, a farm worker, and Marie Laroche, who died while Germaine was an infant. A sickly child, Germaine suffered from scrofula, which is tuberculosis of the skin.  She was afflicted with unsightly inflammation of the lymph nodes in her neck usually contracted from unpasteurized milk from infected cows, and her right hand was deformed.

Ignored by her father and abused by her step-family, she was often forced to sleep in the stable or in a cupboard under the stairs, was fed on scraps, beaten or scalded with hot water for misdeeds, real or imagined.

At age nine Germaine was put to work as a shepherdess, where she spent much time praying, sometimes using a rosary she made from a knotted string. She refused to miss Mass, and if she heard the bell announcing services, she set her crook and her distaff in the ground, declared her flock to be under the care of her guardian angel , and went to church; her sheep were unharmed during her absences. It is reported that once she crossed the raging Courbet River by walking over the waters so she could get to church.

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Germaine was so poor it is hard to imagine she would be able to help
others, but she was always ready to try, especially children whom she gathered in the fields to teach a simple catechism and share the little food she had. The locals laughed at her religious devotion, and called her ‘the little bigot’.

Once in winter, her stepmother, Hortense, accused her of stealing bread by hiding it in her apron, and threatened to beat her with a stick. Germaine opened her apron, and summer flowers tumbled out. Her parents and neighbors were awed by the obvious miracle, and began to treat her as a holy person. Her parents invited her to rejoin the household, but Germaine chose to live as she had.

La Mort de Sainte-Germaine ( Comte Raoul. de Pibrac ) 1910 (Salon de Paris)
La Mort de Sainte-Germaine ( Comte Raoul. de Pibrac ) 1910 (Salon de Paris)

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-“The Death of Germaine Cousin, 1579-1601, the Virgin of Pibrac”, by Alexandre Grellet

In 1601 she was found dead on her straw pallet under the stairs, and she was buried in the Church of Pibrac opposite the pulpit. When accidentally exhumed in 1644 during a renovation, her body was found incorrupt. In 1793 the casket was desecrated by an anti-Catholic tinsmith named Toulza, who with three accomplices took out the remains and buried them in the sacristy, throwing quick-lime and water on them. After the French Revolution, her body was found to be still intact save where the quick-lime had done its work.

Documents attest to more than 400 miracles or extraordinary graces received through the intervention of Saint Germain. They include cures of every kind (of blindness, both congenital and resulting from disease, of hip and of spinal disease), and the multiplication of food for the distressed community of the Good Shepherd at Bourges, France in 1845.

Eglise Sainte-Germaine Statue par Alexandre Falguière 1877
Eglise Sainte-Germaine Statue par Alexandre Falguière 1877

“Dear God, please don’t let me be too hungry or too thirsty. Help me to please my mother. And help me to please You.” – prayer of Saint Germaine

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-reliquary of St Germaine

O Saint Germaine, look down from Heaven and intercede for the many abused children in our world. Help them to sanctify these sufferings. Strengthen children who suffer the effects of living in broken families. Protect those children who have been abandoned by their parents and live in the streets. Beg God’s mercy on the parents and adults who abuse children.  Intercede for handicapped children and their parents.

Saint Germaine, you who suffered neglect and abuse so patiently, pray for us. Amen.

Love,
Matthew