Category Archives: June

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

st_cyril_alexandria

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.

agora-cyril
-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….

Being-a-father-Bringring.com_

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.”

BrEdmundMcCullough-160x160
-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

saint_john_rigby

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

st-germaine

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.

st__germaine_cousin_icon_by_theophilia-da1e8j9

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)

The-Death-Of-Germaine-Cousin-1579-1601-The-Virgin-Of-Pibrac
-“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

Chasse_de_Sainte-Germaine
-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

Jun 9 – Blessed Anne Marie Taigi (1769-1837), Wife, Mother, Mystic, Patroness of Spouses Who Suffer Abuse

Anna_Maria_Gesualda_Antonia_Taigi_in_2012

Kelly and I having passed our sixth anniversary, I realize, at least intellectually, we are still babies at this marriage thing.  Growth in trust and unity takes time and success in cooperation, deepening.  Faith requires time and trust, growing in unity.  The parallels are profound and significant.  Two becoming one.  We are still children in marriage certainly compared to those, tragically too few, and rarer now all the time, clocking in at fifty or sixty plus!  Talk about your miracles!  Talk about the power of grace!  Kelly makes it very easy for me.  I wish I made it easy for her.  I AM THE LUCKIEST MAN IN THE UNIVERSE!!!!  THANK YOU, JESUS!!!  Thank you, Kelly!!!

I have come to the realization getting married and asking someone to marry you is choosing the person who will see you at your worst and whom you believe will love you still in spite of that.  Over and over again.  Kind of like Jesus, no?  Exactly like Jesus.  This is wisdom gained in hindsight, from mistakes, and upon reflection and contrition on my part.

Love is more than a feeling.  “For love is not merely a feeling; it is an act of will that consists of preferring, in a constant manner, the good of others to the good of oneself.” (JPII, World Youth Day XIX, 2/22/04) Overtones of marriage and the Christian, even mystical life, are many.  Too many to mention here.  Don’t tempt me!  🙂

Born May 29, 1769, daughter of Luigi Giannetti and Maria Masi, Anne Marie’s father was a pharmacist in Siena, Italy, but his business went bankrupt when Anna Marie was five years old. The family moved to Rome, Italy in search of work, but Luigi could only find a job as a household servant. As a child and a teenager, Anne seemed of average piety and spirituality.  Anne was married on 7 January 1789 to Dominico Taigi, a butler to the noble family of Chigi. She was married for 48 years, and mother of seven, two of whom died very young.

Anne Marie was always very concerned about her dress and appearance, far more than would be expected of a working class mother. Life at home was not always peaceful, Dominico could be ill-tempered and caustic.  The contents on the dinner table could wind up on the floor if he was not pleased.  And, Anne was known to have had an adulterous affair with an older man. Walking through St Peter’s Square, a priest gave her a piercing look, which she took to be a sign of impending judgment.

And then one day while at prayer at Saint Peter’s Cathedral, she felt a sudden strong inspiration to ignore the things of this world. She decided to go to confession.  She chose a confessional surrounded by numerous penitents, but on entering it in her turn tears overcame her, and she cried: “Father, you have at your feet a great sinner.” The priest wondered for a moment who the unknown might be, and then said brusquely:  “Go away; you are not one of my penitents.” How­ever, he consented to hear a hasty recital. Yet discovering nothing to justify her passionate out­burst, he gave her absolution and curtly slammed back the slide, leaving the unfortunate woman more troubled than ever.

Embracing this humiliation as a penance, she began to live a more austere life, and to listen to the Spirit. She found holy spiritual directors, gave all she could to the poor, visited the sick, and counselled many of the patients at the hospital of San Giacomo of the Incurables. She worked hard to evangelize her own family, changing her husband’s demeanor, and they all regularly assembled in a small personal chapel to pray together.

As the years went on and Anne Marie devoted herself more and more to prayer, she began to receive mystical gifts, including prophecy and clairvoyance. She sometimes went into ecstacies, and received heavenly and prophetic visions. Her simple presence had a powerful effect on many, and she helped with many conversions. She was a counsellor to cardinals, royalty and three popes.  Ecstasies often came at inconvenient times. Once while doing housework: “O Lord, leave me in peace! Withdraw Thyself and let me get on with my work. Keep the treasures of Thy love for consecrated virgins; I am only a poor wife and mother.”  God chooses whom He wills, when He wills.  Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit.

It is said she knew with certainty the fate of the dead. Her gaze traveled to the ends of the earth and discovered there people on whom she had never set eyes, reading them to the depth of their souls. One glance sufficed; upon whatever she focused her thoughts, it was revealed to her and her understanding. She saw the whole world as we see the front of a building. It was the same with nations as with individuals; she saw the cause of their distresses and the remedies that would heal them.

The Beata also predicted an apocalyptic “three days of darkness”:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEjSZVmoghQ

Because of her charismatic gifts, and her lack of concern about worldly matters, Anne was often the topic of gossip and slander, but she was the recipient of public veneration soon after her death.  There were miracles reported at her tomb.  Domenico gave frank and loving testimony in his depositions in the investigations for her cause of beatification.  Her body remains incorrupt.

Novena to Blessed Anne Marie Taigi

O Blessed Anna Marie Taigi, by that humble submission with which you believed in and adored the august mystery of the One True God in Three Persons, obtain for me from the Most Holy Trinity the favor which I confidently implore…(mention your request here…)
O Blessed Anna Marie Taigi, by the great love and tender pity with which you honored the mysteries in the life of Jesus, obtain for me from Him the favor which I earnestly implore… (mention your request here…)
O Blessed Anna Marie Taigi, through your filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin, obtain for me from Her the favor which I humbly implore… (mention your request here…)

Happy Mother’s Day!
Love,
Matthew

Jun 1 – St Justin Martyr, (100-165 AD)

Justin_Trial1

All the voices around Justin clamored that they had the truth he sought so desperately. He had listened to them all since he first came to Rome to get his education. They each shouted that they held the one and only answer but he felt no closer to the truth than when he had started his studies. He had left the Stoic master behind but the Stoics valued discipline as truth and thought discussion of God unnecessary. He had rejected the Peripatetic who seemed more interested in money than discussion. The Pythagorean had rejected him because he didn’t know enough music and geometry — the things that would lead him to truth. He had found some joy with the Platonists because the contemplation of ideas gave wings to his mind, but they had promised wisdom would let him see God and so, where was God?

There was one place that Justin always escaped to in order to get away from these shouting, confusing voices and search out the quiet inner voice that led him to truth. This place was a lonely spot, a path that seemed made for him alone in a field by the sea. So sure was he of the isolation of his retreat that he was shocked one day to find an old man following him.

The old man was not searching for truth but for some of his family. Nonetheless they began a discussion in which Justin identified himself as a philologian, a lover of reason. The old man challenged him — why was he not a lover of truth, a lover of deeds. Justin told him that reason led to truth, and philosophy led to happiness. This was certainly an interesting thing for Justin to say since he had not found the truth in the study of reason or happiness in his quest among the philosophers! Perhaps the old man sensed this for he asked for Justin’s definition of philosophy and of happiness.

In the long discussion that followed, Justin spoke eloquently to the old man’s searching questions but even Justin had to admit that philosophers may talk about God but had never seen him, may discuss the soul but didn’t really know it. But if the philosophers whom Justin admired and followed couldn’t, then nobody could, right?

The old man told him about the ancient prophets, the Hebrew prophets, who had talked not of ideas but of what they had seen and heard, what they knew and experienced. And this was God. The old man ended the conversation by telling Justin to pray that the gates of light be opened to him.

Inflamed by this conversation, Justin sought out the Scriptures and came to love them. Christ words “possess a terrible power in themselves, and are sufficient to inspire those who turn aside from the path of rectitude with awe; while the sweetest rest is afforded those who make a diligent practice of them.”

Why hadn’t Justin known about Christianity before with as much as he had studied? He had heard about it, the way other pagans of second century Rome had, by the rumors and accusations that surrounded the persecution of Christians. The fearlessness of their actions made him doubt the gossip, but he had nothing else to go by. Christians at that time kept their beliefs secret. They were so afraid that outsiders would trample on their sacred faith and desecrate their mysteries that they wouldn’t tell anyone about their beliefs — even to counteract outright lies. To be honest, there was good reason for their fears — many actors for example performed obscene parodies of Christian ritual for pagan audiences, for example.

But Justin believed differently. He had been one of those outsiders — not someone looking for trouble, but someone earnestly searching for the truth. The truth had been hidden from him by this fear of theirs. And he believed there were many others like him. He exhorted them that Christians had an obligation to speak of their faith, to witness to others about their faith and their mysteries.

Justin never ended his quest for religious truth even when he converted to Christianity at the age of thirty after years of studying various pagan philosophies.

As a young man, he was principally attracted to the school of Plato. However, he found that the Christian religion answered the great questions about life and existence better than the philosophers.

Upon his conversion he continued to wear the philosopher’s mantle, and became the first Christian philosopher. He combined the Christian religion with the best elements in Greek philosophy. In his view, philosophy was a pedagogue of Christ, an educator that was to lead one to Christ.

Justin is known as an apologist, not someone who apologizes, but rather someone who defends in writing the Christian religion against the attacks and misunderstandings of the pagans. Two of his so-called apologies have come down to us; they are addressed to the Roman emperor and to the Senate.  He also opened a school of debate in Rome.  Naturally, he came to the attention of the Roman authorities.

Justin was arrested during the persecution of Emperor Marcus Aurelius along with four other Christians:  Chariton, Charites, Paeon, and Liberianus.

“The saints were seized and brought before the prefect of Rome, whose name was Rusticus. As they stood before the judgment seat, Rusticus the prefect commanded Justin, “Above all, have faith in the gods and obey the emperors.”

Justin replied, “We cannot be accused or condemned for obeying the commands of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Rusticus said, “What system of teaching do you profess?”

Justin said, “I have tried to learn about every system, but I have accepted the true doctrines of the Christians, though these are not approved by those who are held fast by error.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “Are those doctrines approved by you, wretch that you are?”

Justin said, “Yes, for I follow them with their correct teaching.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “What sort of teaching is that?”

Justin said, “Worship the God of the Christians. We hold him to be from the beginning the one creator and maker of the whole creation, of things seen and things unseen. We worship also the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Rusticus said, “You are a Christian, then?”

Justin said, “Yes, I am a Christian.”

The prefect said to Justin, “You are called a learned man and think you know what is true teaching. Listen: if you were scourged and beheaded, are you convinced that you would go up to heaven?”

Justin said, “I hope that I shall enter God’s house if I suffer in that way. For I know that God’s favor is stored up until the end of the whole world for all who have lived good lives.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “Do you have an idea that you will go up to heaven to receive some suitable rewards?”

Justin said, “It is not an idea that I have; it is something I know well and hold to be most certain.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “Now let us come to the point at issue, which is necessary and urgent. Gather round then and with one accord offer sacrifice to the gods.”

Justin said, “No one who is right-thinking stoops from true worship to false worship.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “If you do not do as you are commanded you will be tortured without mercy.”

Justin said, “We hope to suffer torment for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so be saved.” In the same way the other martyrs also said, “Do what you will. We are Christians; we do not offer sacrifice to idols.”

The prefect Rusticus pronounced sentence, saying, “Let those who have refused to sacrifice to the gods and to obey the command of the emperor be scourged and led away to suffer capital punishment according to the ruling of the laws.” Glorifying God, the holy martyrs were beheaded, and so fulfilled their witness of martyrdom in confessing their faith in their Savior.” – from the Acts of the Martyrdom of Saint Justin and his Companions

“We pray for our enemies; we seek to persuade those who hate us without cause to live conformably to the goodly precepts of Christ, that they may become partakers with us of the joyful hope of blessings from God, the Lord of all.”
―St. Justin Martyr

“By examining the tongue of a patient, physicians find out the diseases of the body, and philosophers the diseases of the mind.”
―St. Justin Martyr

“Wherein is it possible for us, wicked and impious creatures, to be justified, except in the only Son of God? O sweet reconciliation! O untraceable ministry! O unlooked-for blessing! that the wickedness of many should be hidden in one godly and righteous man, and the righteousness of one justify a host of sinners!”
―St. Justin Martyr

“No one in his right mind gives up piety for impiety.”
~ Justin Martyr, apologist, Saint; in answer to the Prefect Rusticus who had demanded sacrifice to the Roman gods; from the trial transcript by Tatian (A.D. 165).

Prayer to St Justin Martyr:
Saint Justin Martyr, pray that in our search for the Truth, God will open the gates of light for us the way He did for you and give us the wisdom no human being can give. Amen

Love,
Matthew

Jun 16 – St John Francis Regis, SJ (1597-1640)

st.-john-francis-regis

John Francis Regis was born in Fontcouverte, Aude, Languedoc, France, January 31, 1597.  It is reported that upon hearing instruction from his mother on the punishments of hell and the peril of damnation, the five year old John Francis fainted.

Being the son of a wealthy French merchant, he was educated at the Jesuit college at Beziers, and at Cahors, Le Puy, Auch, and Tournon.  Descartes was a contemporary of John’s, and was similarly being educated by the Jesuits in one of their other fifty or so colleges in France at the same time.  John joined the Jesuits at age 18, after briefly considering a conversion to Buddhism.  He is best known for his ability as a preacher.  He was such a good catechist, the children whom he taught brought their parents back to the Church.

He began his life’s work tending to plague victims.  He labored for the conversion of the Huguenots – French Calvinists.  He visited hospitals, sought material assistance for the poor, he created housing and employment as lace-makers for prostitutes wishing to reform their lives.  He endured many hardships.

As we all know, “no good deed goes unpunished”, and so it was with John Francis.  At one point there was a movement against him by some of his fellow Jesuits, who felt his zealous “signs of simplicity and indiscretion (in his charity)” did not best showcase their order nor follow its teachings. The bishop of the diocese where Regis was giving missions resulting in many conversions, however, recognized there was more jealousy than theology in the complaint, and ignored it. Regis asked for transfer to Canada where he could preach without worries about the politics of the Order, but he was ordered to continue his good works in the French countryside.

Another famous French saint, St John Vianney, Cure’ d’Ars & renowned confessor, Patron Saint of Priests, at the age of twenty, went on pilgrimage to the shrine and remains of St John Francis Regis in 1806.  It was the firm belief of this latter saint all his life that his vocation to the priesthood was due to the intercession of St John Francis Regis.

Knowing the end was near in late December, 1640, John Francis’ last words were, “Into Thy hands, I commend my spirit.”

0106_CathedralPaintings2

The portrait of St. John Francis Regis depicts him preaching to the French peasantry. The painting is full of symbolism, including the wampum belt, a tribal record treasured by the Iroquois. St. Regis wanted to preach and minister to the Indians and bring them to Catholicism.

Despite the fact that he never left France, Canadian Catholic Mohawk Indians, members of one of the original Five Nations of the Iroquois, founded a settlement in New York 1755 and named it St. Regis. The settlement, which straddles the St. Lawrence River, the international border between Canada and the United States, later became the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation.

800px-Le_Puy-en-Velay_autel_et_statue_St.Jean-François_Régis_église_Notre-Dame_du_Collège

Le Puy-en-Velay, altar and statue of St.Jean-François Régis, Notre-Dame du Collège Church. -Altar of St John Francis Regis

Prayer

St John Francis
You felt a burning love
You could not, nor desired to ignore
Rather you left all things
When you heard the words, “Follow Me!”

You led others
To the One you followed,
Help us to follow
The same Master
All our days.

Amen.

When St John Francis was struck in the face by a sinner whom he was reproving, he replied, “If you only knew me, you would give me much more than that.”

Love,
Matthew

Jun 20 – Msgr Georges LeMaitre, (1894-1966), Priest, Physicist, Father of the “Big Bang” Theory

Not a saint, yet, but a personal and professional hero of mine.

Lemaitre

Monsignor Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître (July 17, 1894 – June 20, 1966) was a Belgian Roman Catholic priest, honorary prelate, professor of physics and astronomer at the Catholic University of Leuven.

Lemaître proposed what became known as the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe, which he called his ‘hypothesis of the primeval atom’.

Lemaitre was a pioneer in applying Einstein’s theory of general relativity to cosmology. He introduced the theoretical Hubble’s law in 1927 as a generic phenomena in relativistic cosmology. In 1931, he published his primeval atom theory in Nature. At the time, Einstein had expressed skepticism about Lemaître’s 1927 paper.

But it is Lemaître’s theory that changed the course of science.  Lemaître worked with astronomers and designed his theory to explain the observed redshift of galaxies, have testable implications, the linear relation beween distances and velocities, and to be in accord with observations of the time.

Lemaître proposed his theory at an opportune time, since Edwin Hubble would soon publish his velocity-distance relation that strongly supported an expanding universe and, consequently, the Big Bang theory. In fact, Lemaître’s 1927 paper derived what became known as Hubble’s Law, two years before Hubble did so, and provided an estimate of the numerical value of the constant. However, the data used by Lemaitre do not allow him to prove that there was an actual linear relation, a result achieved by Hubble.

Because Lemaître spent his entire career in Europe, his contributions are not as well known in the United States (USA) as those of Hubble or Einstein, men well known in the USA by virtue of residing there.

Lemaître recognized expanding solutions within relativistic cosmologies. Lemaître is the first one to propose that the expansion is the explanation for the redshift of galaxies. He further concluded that an initial “creation-like” event must have occurred.

Einstein at first dismissed, privately, Lemaître out of hand, saying that not all mathematics leads to correct theories. After Hubble’s discovery was published, Einstein quickly and publicly endorsed Lemaître’s theory, helping both the theory and its proposer get fast recognition.

georges_lemaitre

In 1933, Lemaître found an important inhomogeneous solution of Einstein’s field equations describing a spherical dust cloud, the Lemaitre-Tolman metric.

At the end of his life, he was devoted more and more to numerical calculation. He was in fact a remarkable algebraicist and arithmetical calculator. Since 1930, he used the most powerful calculating machines of the time like the Mercedes. In 1958, he introduced at the University a Burroughs E 101, the University’s first electronic computer. Lemaître kept a strong interest in the development of computers and, even more, in the problems of language and programming. This interest grew with age until it absorbed him almost completely.

In 1951 Pope Pius XII took the position that the scientific theory of the Big Bang confirmed the biblical creation story. This apparently caused great embarrassment, even to horror, for Lemaitre, who met with the Pope very soon after to caution the Holy Father on drawing parallels between a scientific theory and the book of Genesis.  The Pope appointed LeMaitre to the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences.  John XXIII made him its president.

Georges LeMaitre, after having received numerous scientific awards in the latter part of his career for his work, died on June 20, 1966, shortly after having learned of the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation, which provided further evidence for his intuitions about the birth of the Universe.

“We can compare space-time to an open, conic cup…The bottom of the cup is the origin of atomic disintegration; it is the first instant at the bottom of space-time, the now which has no yesterday because, yesterday, there was no space.”
-Msgr Georges LeMaitre, The Primeval Atom

quote-scientific-progress-is-the-discovery-of-a-more-and-more-comprehensive-simplicity-the-georges-lemaitre-58-48-96

Technically yours, 🙂
Matthew

Jun 7, or 19th – Venerable Matt Talbot, OFS, (1856-1925), Intercessor for Addicts

Matt Talbot Icon [1600x1200]

“Non nobis, Domine!!!” -Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to Your Name give the GLORY!!!” -Ps 115:1

It is more rare to find someone who doubts the existence of Hell; Hell being so much easier to believe in. There are so many practical, real, and terrifying examples here on Earth. Matthew Talbot is an intercessor and exemplar for those who struggle with addiction: to drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, pride, power, gossip/scandal, greed, vanity, envy, wrath, narcissism, doubt, willfulness, ego, cynicism, bad habits/sins, lust, gluttony, even god, in a dark way, where actually, god is ourselves, or far worse, but that’s pretty bad enough.

Jesus resurrects from the dead, from the corruption, darkness, and silence of the tomb; Himself and us, into endless light, freshness, and rejoicing. Seek Him, while He may be found. He invites you, passionately. He does.

Matthew Talbot, “the saint in overalls”, was born on May 2, 1856, the second of 12 siblings,  in Dublin, Ireland. He had three sisters and nine brothers, three  of whom died young. His father Charles was a dockworker and his  mother, Elizabeth, was a housewife. From his early teens until age 28 Matt’s only aim in life was to be liquor. But from that point forward, his only aim was God.

Compulsory school attendance was not in force, and Matt never attended any school regularly.  When Matthew was about 12  years old, he got his first job, at E & J Burke Wine Merchants, and started to drink alcohol. His father was a known alcoholic as well as all his brothers.  Charles tried to dissuade Matthew with severe  punishments but without success.

Matthew, a regular guy if ever there was one, then worked as a messenger boy and then transferred to another messenger job at the same place his father worked. After working there for three years, he became a bricklayer’s laborer. He was a hodman, which meant he fetched mortar and bricks for the bricklayers. He was considered “the best hodman in Dublin.”

As he grew into an adult, he continued to drink excessively,  He continued to work but spent all his wages on heavy drinking.  When he got drunk, he became very hot-tempered, got into fights, and swore. He became so desperate for more drinks that he would buy drinks on credit, sell his boots or possessions, or steal people’s possession so he could exchange it for more drinks. He refused to listen to his mother’s plea to stop drinking. He stole the violin from a blind fiddler and pawned it.  He eventually lost his own self-respect. One day when he was broke, he loitered around a street corner waiting for his “friends”, who  were leaving work after they were paid their wages. He had hoped  that they would invite him for a drink but they ignored him. Dejected, humiliated, and devastated,  he went home and publicly resolved to his mother, “I’m going  to take the pledge.” His mother smiled and responded, “Go, in God’s name, but don’t take it unless you are going to keep  it.” As Matthew was leaving, she continued, “May God give you strength to keep it.”

matttalbot

Matthew went straight to confession at Clonliffe College and took a pledge not to drink for three months. The next day he went back to Church and received communion for the first time in years.  From that moment on, in 1884 when he was 28 years old, he became  a new man. After he successfully fulfilled his pledge for three months, he made a life long pledge. He even made a pledge to give up his pipe and tobacco. He used to use about seven ounces of tobacco a week. He said to the late Sean T. O’Ceallaigh, former President of Ireland, that it cost him more to give up tobacco than to give up alcohol.

The newly converted Matthew never swore.  A member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Matt made sure he never carried money with him to help himself avoid temptation.   He was good humored and amicable to everyone. He continued to work as a hodman and then as a laborer for T&C Martins Lumberyard.  He used his wages to pay back all his debts. He lived modestly and his home was very spartan.  He developed into a very pious individual who prayed every chance he got. He attended Mass every morning and made devotions like the Stations of the Cross or devotions to the Blessed Mother in the evenings. He fasted, performed acts of mortification, and financially  supported many religious organizations. He read biographies of St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Catherine of Sienna. He later joined the Third Order of St. Francis on October  18, 1891 even though a young pious girl proposed to marry him.  Physically, he suffered from kidney and heart ailments. During the two times he was hospitalized, he spent much time in Eucharistic adoration in the hospital chapel. Eventually, Matthew died suddenly of heart failure on June 7, 1925 while walking to Mass. He was 69 years old.

prt.matttalbot_grande

On his body, he was found wearing the cilice.  While penitential practice has fallen out of fashion, even in Catholic circles, in our modern age, these practices are ancient.  Though not popular or fun, penance is the cure for sin.  It must always be reasonably moderated and consultation with a healthy spiritual director is always wise.

EHC.matttalbot_grande

Penance changes us, allows us to reflect on our errant ways, and is a temporal preventative against a permanent disposition.  Even as the athlete trains his body and undergoes physical discomfort for the sake of future performance, so the spiritual athlete does the same.  We are creatures of body, mind, and spirit, and so the thinking goes, our engagement in spiritual reform cannot be purely intellectual.  Physical discomforts, such as fasting or abstaining from certain foods, make us mindful.  As humans, we are all too likely, it is our nature, not to pay attention.  It is hard work.

Piety also has fallen out of fashion in our modern age.  Matt knelt outside the doors of his church for hours every morning.  Once inside, he would prostrate himself on the floor in the form of a cross before entering his pew. Every Sunday, he spent seven hours in Church without moving, “his arms crossed, his elbows not resting on anything, his body from the knees up as rigid and straight as the candles on the altar.”  He did this every Sunday for 40 years.  One of his favorite little prayers, which he sometimes kept written on his hand, was “O blessed Mother, obtain for me from Jesus that I may participate in His folly.”

Matt_Talbot
-statue in Dublin honoring Venerable Matt Talbot, near Matt Talbot Bridge

“Three things I cannot escape: the eye of God, the voice  of conscience, the stroke of death. In company, guard your tongue.  In your family, guard your temper. When alone guard your thoughts.”

“Never look down on a man, who cannot give up the drink”, he told his sister, “it is easier to get out of hell!”.

“It is constancy that God seeks.”
-Venerable Matt Talbot

Prayer for the intercession of Matt Talbot:

“May Matt Talbot’s triumph over addiction, bring hope to our community and strength to our hearts, may he intercede for …name… who struggles with his/her addiction, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

PRAYER FOR THE ADDICTED

God of mercy, we bless You in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who ministers to all who come to Him. Give Your strength to N., Your servant, bound by the chains of addiction. Enfold himlher in Your love and restore himlher to the freedom of God’s children. Lord, look with compassion on all those who have lost their health and freedom. Restore to them the assurance of Your unfailing mercy, and strengthen them in the work of recovery. To those who care for them, grant patient understanding and a love that perseveres. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Official Prayer for the Canonization of Blessed Matt Talbot

“Lord, in your servant, Matt Talbot you have given us a wonderful example of triumph over addiction, of devotion to duty, and of lifelong reverence of the Holy Sacrament. May his life of prayer and penance give us courage to take up our crosses and follow in the footsteps of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Father, if it be Your will that Your beloved servant should be glorified by Your Church, make known by Your heavenly favours the power he enjoys in Your sight. We ask this through the same Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

card__224_Matt_Talbot__1383-082510-A-back-web

3.-Tomb-of-the-Venerable-Matt-Talbot
-Matt’s current resting place, the coffin was moved in 1972 and the remains now rest in Our Lady of Lourdes Church,
Sean MacDermott St., Dublin.

exhumed_1
-exhumed

exhumed_2
-formal inspection of the remains as official part of the beatification/canonization process

talbot matt original stone
-Matt’s original marker. He was originally buried in a poorer part of Glasnevin Cemetery.

talbot matt in coffin
-inspection of Matt’s remains upon transfer

On 8 June 1925, the following news item appeared in the Irish Independent:

“Unknown Man’s Death:

An elderly man collapsed in Granby Lane [Dublin] yesterday, and being taken to Jervis Street Hospital he was found to be dead. He was wearing a tweed suit, but there was nothing to indicate who he was.

What was not reported was the unusual discovery when he was taken to hospital. He was wearing heavy chains: some wrapped around his legs, others on his body. Mortuary staff puzzled over not just who he was but, also, the meaning of the chains.

The newspaper report had appeared on a Monday morning. Later that night, police ushered a woman into the mortuary. She identified the body as that of her brother: Matt Talbot. A nursing nun present asked about the chains. The dead man’s sister replied simply that it was something he wore, and with that, they were placed in the coffin and the lid closed.

That was not the whole story though; the chains were part of the mystery of the man who had died. They were as symbolic as they were real. The man’s life having been a ‘crossing over’ from the servitude of vice to the freedom of those in chains for Christ.

Talbot was born in 1856 into a large Catholic family living in semi-poverty in Dublin. His schooling was slight. He was barely literate when he went to work full-time aged just 11 years old. For the rest of his life his occupation was as an unskilled labourer. He was exposed to harsh working conditions, at times harsh bosses and to a social environment that necessitated some form of release from this – this was found by many in the city’s public houses. Matt was no different, so much so that by his teenage years he was hopelessly addicted to alcohol.

Matt had the reputation of being a hard worker. Increasingly, however, that work ethic was simply the means to finance his ‘hard drinking’. As it grips, vice of whatever sort is hard to counter, especially when the will to oppose it diminishes, so it was with Matt Talbot – what had began as an escape soon became a prison of moral and spiritual degradation. And, the more time he spent there the more Matt needed alcohol to shield him from that reality. Those around watched and, shaking their heads, concluded that Talbot was a lost cause. But they were to be proved wrong and in a most unexpected way.

Fittingly, the second phase of Matt’s life began outside a pub. That day he had no money, and, therefore, hoped that some of his drinking fraternity would stand him a drink. As each acquaintance filed past, none offered to buy him anything. On that summer’s day in 1884, something occurred that was to change Matt Talbot forever. Humiliated by the indifference of his erstwhile friends, he turned and walked straight home. His mother was surprised to see him – at that early hour, and sober. He proceeded to clean himself up before announcing he was going to a nearby seminary to ‘take the pledge’ – a promise to abstain from all alcohol. His mother was mystified by this and fearful. She knew that pledges made to God were not something to be taken lightly. She counselled him against doing any such thing unless he was intent on persevering. He listened, and then left.

Matt did take the pledge that day. He also went to Confession. It was as dramatic as it was decisive. It had all the hallmarks of a genuine conversion, one as sincere as it was needed. Nevertheless, a conversion takes but a moment, the work of sanctity a lifetime: after years of drunkenness, still arraigned against Matt was a weakness of character and a world that revolved around alcohol. It looked as if the odds were stacked against him, but this was not solely a human undertaking. Into this ‘land of captivity’, from ‘across the Jordan’, there came invisible armies to fight alongside this now embattled soul, one embarked upon a war of liberation. This was not a new spiritual combat, but rather one that had commenced many years previously when this poor man’s parents brought a child to a parish church and asked for baptism in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

After his conversion, not much changed, outwardly at least: Matt continued with his employment in the docks. He continued to work hard, now respected more than ever by his fellow workers and employers who noticed that he had started to give his wages to his mother rather than straight to a publican. Nevertheless, work alone cannot satisfy the human heart. Previously, when not working his life had been many hours spent in public houses, but, now, he had turned his back on that. He had been ‘born anew’, but like a newborn was vulnerable to the world he inhabited. With no material substance to cling to he turned inward, to the Spirit that dwells within each baptised soul. And, as he did so, he commenced upon an adventure that few could have imagined possible.

From then on, along the Dublin streets, there moved a mystic soul. Each morning at 5AM, dressed in workman’s clothes a man knelt outside a city church waiting for the doors to open and the first Mass to begin. After the Holy Sacrifice, he would pray for a time before going to one of the timber yards near the docks. There, he laboured all day; but there were periods in the day when lulls and breaks would occur. Whilst his fellow workers gossiped or smoked, Matt chose to be alone, knelt in prayer in a hidden part of a workshop until the call came to return to his labors.

***

Each evening, when work was finished, Matt walked home with his fellow workers. They knew their companion’s free time was spent praying in some city church before the Blessed Sacrament. Often he asked them to join him in making a visit to Our Blessed Lord. Some did. After a short while, however, they would leave with Matt still knelt in the gathering twilight. Eventually, when at night he did return home it was to yet more prayer – and mortification. His bed was a plank of wood, a piece of that same material his pillow. Although respected by those he lived amongst and worked alongside, and not unfriendly, he had few visitors. Those who did encounter him felt he was not quite of this world; they were right; he was travelling ever inwards on a mystical journey to a freedom he could never have dreamt of when trapped in an alcoholic stupor.

When his belongings were found after his death, one of the surprises was the number of books he owned. Inquires soon revealed that he had slowly, but determinedly, taught himself to read and, as he did so, effectively began a course of study that included the spiritual classics, the lives of Saints, doctrinal books, and works of mystical and ascetical theology. When asked how he, a poor workman, could read the works of St. Augustine, Newman et al, his reply was as straightforward as it was telling. He said he asked the Holy Spirit to enlighten him. And so, he grew in an intellectual understanding of his faith, which in turn deepened the prayer and penance he undertook. Here was a 20th Century heir to the spiritual traditions of the ancient Irish monks, albeit one now living not on an island monastery but in the slums of Dublin, but, like those earlier contemplatives his life was work, study and prayer with eyes turned ever inward to the Holy Trinity.

Matt never married; held no position of note, was unknown outside his own small circle of family and friends – only one blurred photograph has survived him- and, yet, this was a rare man: one who had taken the Gospel at its word and lived it.

His lifetime ran alongside the then momentous events in Irish history. A time of cultural renaissance and nationalist fervour, of a Great Strike in 1913 and open revolution in 1916, of the Great War and a War for Independence, throughout it all his life remained largely unchanged. Matt knew all too well that kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, but that he had set his face to serve a different Kingdom, one shown him in 1884 when he confessed all and cast himself into the hands of the Living God.

By 1925, Matt was 69. He had been in poor health for some time. Out of necessity he tried to continue working as there was only limited relief for the poor or elderly, but his strength was failing. Nevertheless, he persisted in his prayer and penance. On 7 June 1925, whilst struggling down a Dublin alleyway on his way to Mass, he fell. A small crowd gathered around him. A Dominican priest was called from the nearby church, the one where Matt had been hurrying. The priest came and knelt over the fallen man. Realising what had happened, he lifted his hand in a blessing for the final journey. Little did he realise the dead stranger lying in front of him had already been on that ‘journey’ for over 40 years.

Having lived in the intimacy of the Triune God, it was apt Matt died on Trinity Sunday. Having lived off the Eucharist daily for more than 40 years, it was equally fitting he was buried on the feast of Corpus Christi.

Decades later, a visiting Italian priest went privately to pray at the grave of the Dublin worker he had heard so much about. In 1975, and after the due process had been completed, that same cleric, now Pope Paul VI, bestowed a new title upon that Irish workman: Venerable Matt Talbot.

There is a large trunk in the safe keeping of the Archdiocese of Dublin. It contains the books owned by Venerable Matt Talbot. A veritable treasury of spiritual theology, one of the books contained therein is True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort. In its pages it reflects on being a slave to this world or to the Blessed Virgin. For those that choose the latter path it recommends, after due recourse to a spiritual director and the suitable enrolment, that a chain be worn to symbolise that that soul no longer belongs to the powers of darkness but is now a child of the light. On that June day in 1925, when Matt Talbot fell upon a Dublin street, it was dressed as a slave to Mary and as an ambassador of Christ.”

Love,
Matthew

Jun 23 – St Joseph Cafasso, Priest of the Gallows (1811-1860 AD)

St Joseph Cafasso

Born with a deformed spine, and into a wealthy peasant family; he was short in stature and crippled throughout his life.  St. Joseph Cafasso was born on the 15th of January, 1811, at Castelnuovo d’ Asti, in the Province of Piedmont about twenty miles from Turin in the north of Italy.  Even as a young man, Joseph loved to attend Mass and was known for his humility and fervor in prayer.

He was ordained a priest in 1833, at the age of twenty-two. Upon ordination he entered the college at Turin that had been established for the training of young priests. When he completed his studies after three years, he was appointed professor of moral theology in the college and soon became famous for his learning and sanctity. He was then made rector, the position he held for twenty-four years until the time of his death.  There he worked especially against the heresy of Jansenism, an excessive preoccupation with sin and damnation.

Perhaps the most noted part of his public life were the entire days that he spent in the prisons—–preaching, comforting, instructing the unfortunates detained there, and hearing their confessions.

One day he went to a prison in order to prepare the prisoners for the celebration of a feast in honor of Our Lady, and had spent a whole week instructing them and exhorting them. This he did in a large room in which there were forty-five of the most noted criminals. Almost all had promised to go to Confession on the vigil of the feast. But when the day came, none of them could make up his mind to go to Confession. Joseph renewed his invitation, recapitulated what he had said during the week, and reminded them of the promise that they had made. But, now, none of them would to go to Confession.

With a smile on his face he went over to the man who appeared to be the biggest and strongest and most robust among the prisoners, and without saying a word, he caught hold of his luxurious long beard. The man, thinking that Don Cafasso had acted through jest, said to him as courteously as could be expected, “Take anything else from me you like but leave me my beard!”

“I will not let you go until you go to Confession,” replied Don Cafasso.

“But I don’t want to go to Confession,” said the prisoner.

“You may say what you like, but you will not escape from me; I will not let you go until you have made your Confession,” said Cafasso.

“I am not prepared,” said the prisoner.

“I will prepare you,” said Cafasso.

Certainly, if the prisoner had wished, he could have freed himself from Don Cafasso’s hands with the slightest effort; but whether it was respect for the holy man’s person, or rather the fruit of the grace of God, the fact is that the man surrendered and allowed himself to be led to a corner of the room. Don Cafasso sat down on a bundle of straw and prepared his friend for Confession. But In a short time there was commotion; the strong man was so moved by Don Cafasso’s exhortation that his sighs and tears almost prevented him from telling his sins.

This prisoner then went to his companions after it was finished and told them that he had never been so happy in his life. He became so eloquent in exhorting them that he succeeded in persuading them all to go to Confession.

6_23_Joseph_Caffaso

“A single word from him – a look, a smile, his very presence – sufficed to dispel melancholy, drive away temptation and produce holy resolution in the soul. “
-Saint John Bosco, writing about his friend, Saint Joseph Cafasso

“We are born to love, we live to love, and we will die to love still more.”
-Saint Joseph Cafasso

joseph_cafasso

“Who is this man who in the world is called an ecclesiastic, a priest? Who is this personage whom some bless and others curse? Who is he whom the whole world talks about and criticizes, and who is the subject of discussion by all pens and all tongues? What is the significance of that name which resounds in every corner of the world? What is a priest? In order to define clearly what he is, I shall avail myself of the distinctions that Saint Bernard made concerning ecclesiastics and shall consider him in his nature, in his person, in his habits. Quid in natura, quis in persona, qualis in moribus! In his nature he is a man like others. In his person, his dignity is above that of all other men in the world. In his conduct and habits, he should be a man totally different from all others as he is by his dignity and office. These are the three points which I propose for your consideration.”
-Saint Joseph Cafasso

stjosephcafasso23-6a

Love,
Matthew