Category Archives: Lent

Sinning boldly without fear of God

“There is good reason to be astonished that men should sin so boldly in the sight of Heaven and earth and show so little fear of the most high God. Yet it is a much greater cause of astonishment that while we multiply our iniquities beyond the sands of the sea and have so great a need for God to be kind and indulgent, we are nevertheless so demanding ourselves. Such indignity and such injustice! We want God to suffer everything from us, and we are not able to suffer anything from anyone. We exaggerate beyond measure the faults committed against us; worms that we are, we take the slightest pressure exerted on us to be an enormous attack. Meanwhile, we count as nothing what we undertake proudly against the sovereign majesty of God and the rights of his empire! Blind and wretched mortals: will we always be so sensitive and delicate? Will we never open our eyes to the truth? Will we never understand that the one who does injury to us is always much more to be pitied than are we who receive the injury? . . . Since those who do evil to us are unhealthy in mind, why do we embitter them by our cruel vengeance? Why do we not rather seek to bring them back to reason by our patience and mildness? Yet we are far removed from these charitable dispositions. Far from making the effort at self-command that would enable us to endure an injury, we think that we are lowering ourselves if we do not take pride in being delicate in points of honor. We even think well of ourselves for our extreme sensitivity. And we carry our resentment beyond all measure . . . All of this must stop . . . We must take care of what we say and bridle our malicious anger and unruly tongues. For there is a God in Heaven who has told us that he will demand a reckoning of our ‘careless words’ (Matt. 12:36): what recompense shall he exact for those which are harmful and malicious? We ought, therefore, to revere his eyes and his presence. Let us ponder the fact that he will judge us as we have judged our neighbor.”  — Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, p. 49-51

Love & repentance,
Matthew

Suffering


-adapted from Br. Luke VanBerkum, OP

“The onslaught of television shows, movies, advertisements, and pop culture can skew the perception of a normal human life. We unconsciously form an idea of what there is to expect in life: peak physical fitness and attractiveness, perfect love, and material happiness. Young people especially can become enamored with this picture, making it the standard of a fulfilling life. But this ignores a very real aspect of our existence: suffering…

By Jesus, we are transformed from dying on the cross. As St. Peter says, “He Himself bore our sins in His body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2:24). By Christ’s death and resurrection, we are freed from original sin, and life with God in heaven is made possible.

While we wait in hope for heavenly glory, we suffer during this life on earth because of the effects of sin. Our suffering, though, is not in vain. It is a participation in Jesus’s own suffering: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His footsteps” (1 Pet 2:21). Following in Christ’s footsteps by offering up our suffering to God prepares us to continue following in His footsteps unto eternal life. (Ed. Treasury of Merit!!)

Must we suffer with Christ?… Our physical deterioration is inevitable as we age. Wheelchairs and the return of diapers are in our future. Bed baths, walking with a walker, Alzheimer’s, and dementia are all real possibilities. The helplessness and reliance on others that mark this later stage of life can be frightening, and so it is easy to ignore it until we are in the clutches of old age. (…whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. Ps 121:1-2)

How can we prepare spiritually for this bodily suffering? With constant practice over a lifetime, we can form a habit of prayer, an awareness of the presence of God, and firmly rooted virtue. Moreover, the Church has given us this season of Lent to consider suffering, particularly the greatest mystery of suffering: GOD suffering on the cross. Contemplating the cross now…prepares us for when our body becomes our cross. Staying close to Christ and His cross transforms this suffering into an eternal reward. Embracing the cross, we are ready to follow Christ into eternal life, where one day our bodies will be glorified supernaturally as we share in God’s life.”

Love, joy, hope,
Matthew

Laetare! Gaudete!

Laetáre, Jerúsalem, et conventum fácite, omnes qui dilígitis eam: gaudéte cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis, ut exsultétis, et satiémini ab ubéribus consolatiónis vestrae. (Ps. 122:1-2) Laetátus sum in his, quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Dómini íbimus. Gloria Patri. Laetáre… (The Introit of the Fourth Sunday of Lent)

Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and come together, all you who love her: rejoice with joy, you who have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.

Ps. 122:1-2 “I rejoiced at the things that were said to me, We will go up to the house of the Lord. Glory be… Rejoice, O Jerusalem…”

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Tempus adest gratiae, hoc quod optabamus
Carmina laetitiae devote redamus

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Deus homo factus est natura mirante
Mundus renovatus est a Christo regnante

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Ezechielis porta clausa per transitur
Unde lux est orta salus invenitur

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Ergo nostra cantio psallat iam in lustro
Benedicat domino salus regi nostro

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Rejoice, rejoice!
Christ is born
Of the Virgin Mary –
Rejoice!

The time of grace has come—
What we have wished for;
Songs of joy
Let us give back faithfully.

Rejoice, rejoice!
Christ is born
Of the Virgin Mary –
Rejoice!

God has become man,
With nature marvelling,
The world has been renewed
By the reigning Christ.

Rejoice, rejoice!
Christ is born
Of the Virgin Mary –
Rejoice!

The closed gate of Ezekiel
Is passed through,
Whence the light is risen;
Salvation has been found.

Rejoice, rejoice!
Christ is born
Of the Virgin Mary –
Rejoice!

Therefore, let our preaching
Now sing in brightness
Let it bless the Lord:
Greeting to our King.

Rejoice, rejoice!
Christ is born
Of the Virgin Mary –
Rejoice!


-by Br Elijah Dubek, OP

“An old tradition still permits priests to wear rose-colored (not pink) vestments on two Sundays each year: Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent) and Laetare Sunday (yesterday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent). Both are named for the first word of the entrance chant at Mass. Those of you who love your Latin may immediately link the two by their common titles—both are the command “rejoice.” The history of how rose-colored vestments arrived on the scene takes much more untangling than noting this similarity in language. This is the very short version:

Part I: Stational Churches

In the early centuries of the Church, a practice developed in Rome wherein the pope (or his legate) would celebrate a solemn Mass in one after another of the four major and the three minor basilicas. More churches were added to this list as the number of liturgical occasions increased, bringing the count of “stations” to over forty. On the day of a station, the faithful of Rome would gather and process to the church where Mass would be celebrated by the pope. In the pre-Vatican II Missal, a station was indicated for each Sunday, major feast days, and every weekday during Lent—a total of 89 stations! There has been a revival of these customs in recent decades, and the Church still attaches indulgences to those who participate in them.

Part II: Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem

The stational church for the Fourth Sunday of Lent is the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, whose story is fascinating. This church was built by St. Helena (mother of Constantine) after she brought relics of our Lord’s Passion and dirt from Golgotha back from her expedition to Jerusalem. The soil was spread over the site and the basilica built on top of it—the “in Jerusalem” of the basilica’s name refers to this soil on which it was built, a part of Jerusalem. Because of this soil and the relics inside the basilica, this church became a substitute pilgrimage site when Christians could not travel to the Holy Land itself.

Part III: The Golden Rose

With its own history far too long to adequately examine here, another custom developed in Rome: the papal blessing of the golden rose. Related to a popular festival in which flowers were worn to mark the “victory” of spring over winter, this rose found Christological symbolism: the thorns and the red tint given to the golden petals signified the passion of Christ; the fragrance of the rose symbolized his burial. The pope would bless this sacramental and bestow it on some deserving person or place. Before you think we’re off track: this blessing was given on the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Why? As a sacramental related to our Lord’s Passion, where better to bless it than where relics of the Passion were kept—and where the Pope celebrated Mass every year on the Fourth Sunday of Lent?

Part IV: Rose Vestments

Italians, especially Roman Italians, loved (and still love) festivals and parades. This celebration of the golden rose with the Fourth Sunday of Lent was extremely popular, so much so, in fact, that they called the day the “Sunday of the Rose.” Add the lack of fixed or standardized vestment colors, even for Lent, and the festive Roman mind of the sixteenth century needed little excuse to adopt rose vestments for the Sunday of the Rose. When the Church extended Roman liturgical customs to the whole Latin Church, Catholics everywhere could see these rose vestments two Sundays a year.

While it is fair to say that “rejoicing” is an official meaning of the custom of rose-colored vestments nowadays, the traditional roots of the rose tried to turn our focus more deeply on Jerusalem and Christ’s Passion there. Let us not forget to make pilgrimage with Jesus to Jerusalem.

I rejoiced when they said to me,

“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

And now our feet are standing

Within your gates, O Jerusalem. (Ps. 122:1-2)”

Love,
Matthew

Vere Languores Nostros – Truly He bore our griefs, Service of Tenebrae, Holy Thursday, (III Responsory of I Nocturn)


-please click on the image for more detail

Vere languores nostros ipse tulit,
et dolore nostros ipse portavit;
Cujus livore sanati sumus.
Dulce lignum, dulces clavos,
dulcia ferens pondera,
quae sola fuisti digna
sustinere Regem coelorum et Dominum.

Truly He bore our griefs,
and carried our sorrows;
by His wounds we are healed.
Sweet cross, sweet nails,
sweetly bearing the weight,
you alone were worthy
to bear the King of heaven and the Lord.

Love,
Matthew

The God Who does not feel


-by Br Isaiah Beiter, OP

“In this season of penance, we ask God to have mercy. Human mercy involves compassion, looking upon someone’s misery and feeling it as your own. But God, in His eternity, can’t feel misery—he can’t feel anything. I don’t mean that the Holy Trinity does not comprehend what misery is, nor that He does not love. He made our heart in His image (Ps 94:7-11):

They say, “The Lord does not see;
the God of Jacob takes no notice.”
Understand, you stupid people!
You fools, when will you be wise?
Does the One Who shaped the ear not hear?
The One Who formed the eye not see?
Does the One Who guides nations not rebuke?
The One Who teaches man not have knowledge?
The Lord knows the plans of man;
they are like a fleeting breath.

, and He knows most intimately all of our experiences, but not by enduring them Himself. This is because God doesn’t change: He perfectly enjoys an unchanging and infinite happiness beyond happiness. Feelings imply changeability and dependence on another. God is above this.

But don’t we hear about the depth of God’s feeling heart through His prophets? Don’t we hear God cry out, “I writhe in pain!” (Jer 4:10) or that “the Lord takes pleasure in His people” (Ps 149:4)? Does this contradict the unchangeability of God?

No. God speaks this way not to say that we are pulling on His heart, but that His heart is freely given to us: “I have graven you on the palms of My hands” (Is 49:16). The eternal Godhead doesn’t feel sorrow for our misery in the way that we do, but He establishes a covenant with us: “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God” (Ex 6:6–7). His mercy is no weaker for the fact that the Divinity has no heartstrings to pull. In fact, it is all the stronger because it flows from a choice that is infinitely free.

That should have been enough for us, but it wasn’t. God’s people continued to complain that He didn’t care for them, that He had tricked or abandoned them: “Why is the Lord bringing us into this land only to have us fall by the sword?” (Num 14:3). So all the passages from the prophets above, and many others, express God’s repeated pleas to his wayward people, trying to convey to them the depth of His love.

Consider what it means that God didn’t stop there. If it wasn’t enough for us to know His peace, now He takes upon Himself the ability to feel our misery and death. literally. If it wasn’t enough that He had made a covenant with us, He becomes a covenant Himself. For the Son of God became flesh, the Son to Whom it is said, “I have given you as a covenant to the people” (Is 49:8). God is still unchangeable in His divinity, but in the assumed humanity of Jesus Christ, He truly feels our misery and pain—even unto death. And the blood of this covenant stands forever.

What misery, what mystery, what mercy! He took upon Himself the Lent that belonged to us, and now we follow Him through it, yearning to see His Easter—and call it our own.”

Love,
Matthew

Lent with Bl Henry Suso, OP


-by Br Vincent Antony Löning, OP. (English Province)

“I know of few people who have loved Christ so much as to take a blade to their heart and inscribe the Holy Name of Jesus in their blood upon their breast. Blessed Henry Suso is one of them. He used to call his beloved crucified Lord “God’s Eternal Wisdom”, which indeed Christ is. Although in his lifetime Blessed Henry suffered much and was not renowned for being a great theologian or preacher, the manuscripts surviving of his writings suggest he was the most widely read spiritual author in the later Middle Ages until the publication of the Imitatio Christi.

Henry Suso had a very strong devotion to Christ’s passion and crucifixion, and speaks of it in very human terms. This makes him, and especially his Little Book of Eternal Wisdom, ideal reading and material for meditation during Lent. He is ready to admit his weaknesses. As he tells Christ, “Alas! There is just now in my soul a bitter complaint, that Thy Passion does not at all times thoroughly penetrate my heart, and that I do not meditate on it so affectionately as in reason I ought to do, and as is worthy of Thee, my Lord elect; teach me, therefore, how I ought to comport myself!” A valuable lesson for us here is that prayer should be our first recourse, whenever we undertake something new, or struggle to persevere in what we have already begun. It is even the solution when prayer itself becomes difficult!

Jesus’s incarnation means that in order to come to meet His divinity, I must also come to meet his humanity. Christ tells Blessed Henry in one of their encounters, “My humanity is the way one must go, My Passion the gate through which one must penetrate, to arrive at that which thou sleekest.” It is this humanity that Christ gradually unveils in the series of conversations that form the Book of Eternal Wisdom. Blessed Henry ends the book by leaving us one hundred meditations on the Passion. Taken from it, here is a prayer he addresses to Our Lady at the foot of the Cross:

Thy woeful heart was without consolation from all mankind. Oh, pure Lady, on this account forget not to be a constant protectress of my whole life, and my faithful guide. Turn thy eyes, thy mild eyes, at all times, with compassion on me. Watch over me like a mother in every temptation. Protect me faithfully against my enemies, protect me beneath thy tender arms. Let thy faithful kissing of Christ’s wounds be to me as a tender reconciliation with Him; let the wounds of thy heart obtain for me a cordial repentance of my sins; thy fervent sighing procure for me a constant yearning; and let thy bitter tears soften my hard heart; be thy lamentable words even as renunciation to me of all voluptuous speeches, thy weeping form as a casting away of all dissolute conduct; thy disconsolate heart as a despising of all perishable affections, that I may only cherish a perpetual desire of Him, and may persevere in His praise and service to the grave. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

St Jerome on the Book of Joel

-from a commentary on the book of Joel by Saint Jerome, priest, Doctor of the Church (PL 25, 967-968) as found in the Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings, Second Reading, 21st Week in Ordinary Time.

“”Return to me with all your heart [Joel 2:12] and show a spirit of repentance with fasting, weeping and mourning [Joel 2:12]; so that while you fast now, later you may be satisfied, while you weep now, later you may laugh, while you mourn now, you may some day enjoy consolation [cf Luke 6:21; Matthew 5:4]. It is customary for those in sorrow or adversity to tear their garments. The gospel records that the high priest did this to exaggerate the charge against our Lord and Savior; and we read that Paul and Barnabas did so when they heard words of blasphemy. I bid you not to tear your garments but rather to rend your hearts [Joel 2:13] which are laden with sin. Like wine skins, unless they have been cut open, they will burst of their own accord. After you have done this, return to the Lord your God, from whom you had been alienated by your sins. Do not despair of his mercy, no matter how great your sins, for great mercy will take away great sins [cf Luke 7:41-47].

For the Lord is gracious and merciful [Joel 2:13] and prefers the conversion of a sinner rather than his death. Patient and generous in his mercy, he does not give in to human impatience but is willing to wait a long time for our repentance. So extraordinary is the Lord’s mercy in the face of evil, that if we do penance for our sins, he regrets his own threat and does not carry out against us the sanctions he had threatened. So by the changing of our attitude, he himself is changed. But in this passage we should interpret “evil” to mean, not the opposite of virtue, but affliction, as we read in another place: Sufficient for the day are its own evils [cf Matthew 6:34]. And, again: If there is evil in the city, God did not create it.

In like manner, given all that we have said above – that God is kind and merciful, patient, generous with his forgiveness, and extraordinary in his mercy toward evil – lest the magnitude of his clemency make us lax and negligent, he adds this word through his prophet: Who knows whether he will not turn and repent and leave behind him a blessing? [Joel 2:14]. In other words, he says: “I exhort you to repentance, because it is my duty, and I know that God is inexhaustibly merciful, as David says: Have mercy on me, God, according to your great mercy, and in the depths of your compassion, blot out all my iniquities [cf Psalm 51:1]. But since we cannot know the depth of the riches and of the wisdom and knowledge of God, I will temper my statement, expressing a wish rather than taking anything for granted, and I will say: Who knows whether he will not turn and repent? [cf Joel 2:14]. Since he says, Who, it must be understood that it is impossible or difficult to know for sure.

To these words the prophet adds: Offerings and libations for the Lord our God [cf Joel 2:14]. What he is saying to us in other words is that, God having blessed us and forgiven us our sins, we will then be able to offer sacrifice to God.”

Love,
Matthew

Memento Mori – Remember Death


-above is a picture of my “memento mori” rosary. I had it especially made. There are few like it. It is one of my favorite rosaries, and, yes, I have a few. 🙂 The Hail Marys are skulls. Please click on the image for greater detail. I apologize, WordPress does not allow me to rotate the image to the preferred vertical orientation, at first. However, if you do click on the image, it will display in the preferred vertical orientation, and if you zoom in you will see the skull beads ever more clearly.

The Roman triumph (triumphus) was a civil ceremony and religious rite of ancient Rome, held to publicly celebrate and sanctify the success of a military commander who had led Roman forces to victory in the service of the state or, originally and traditionally, one who had successfully completed a foreign war.

On the day of his triumph, the general wore a crown of laurel and the all-purple, gold-embroidered triumphal toga picta (“painted” toga), regalia that identified him as near-divine or near-kingly, and even was known to paint his face red. He rode in a four-horse chariot through the streets of Rome in unarmed procession with his army, captives, and the spoils of his war. At Jupiter’s temple on the Capitoline Hill, he offered sacrifice and the tokens of his victory to the god. Republican morality required that, despite these extraordinary honours, the general conduct himself with dignified humility, as a mortal citizen who triumphed on behalf of Rome’s Senate, people, and gods. Inevitably, the triumph offered extraordinary opportunities for self-publicity, besides its religious and military dimensions.

In Republican Rome, truly exceptional military achievement merited the highest possible honors, which connected the vir triumphalis (“man of triumph”, later known as a triumphator) to Rome’s mythical and semi-mythical past. In effect, the general was close to being “king for a day”, and possibly close to divinity. He wore the regalia traditionally associated both with the ancient Roman monarchy and with the statue of Jupiter Capitolinus: the purple and gold “toga picta”, laurel crown, red boots and, again possibly, the red-painted face of Rome’s supreme deity. He was drawn in procession through the city in a four-horse chariot, under the gaze of his peers and an applauding crowd, to the temple of Capitoline Jupiter. The spoils and captives of his victory led the way; his armies followed behind. Once at the Capitoline temple, he sacrificed two white oxen to Jupiter and laid tokens of his victory at Jupiter’s feet, dedicating his victory to the Roman Senate, people, and gods.

Behind the general, in the same chariot, was placed a slave whose sole responsibility was to remind the general of his mortality as a hedge against excessive pride, the kind that comes before the fall. “Memento mori”, the slave would whisper, “Someday you will die.” We are equal coming in and going out of this world.

Love,
Matthew

inordinate attachments & One necessary thing…

“…but few things are needed–or indeed only One. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” -Lk 10:42

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

Presence of God – O Lord, I place myself in Your presence, begging You to enlighten my soul so that I may see what are the obstacles to my union with You.

MEDITATION

“To be perfectly united to God by love and will, the soul must first be cleansed of all appetites of the will, even the smallest” (John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel I, 11,3). In the language of St. John of the Cross, appetites are disordered inclinations or affections for St John of the Cross for oneself or creatures, tendencies which are, according to their seriousness, more or less contrary to the divine will. God wishes us to love ourselves, as well as all created things, in the measure assigned by Him, with a view to His pleasure and not to our own selfish satisfaction. These inclinations or appetites always give rise to venial sins, or at least to deliberate imperfections, when one willingly yields to them, even though it be only in matters of slight importance. The will of the soul which freely assents to these failings, slight though they be, is stained by this opposition to the will of God; for this reason a perfect union cannot exist between its will and God’s. Moreover, if these imperfections become habitual and the soul does not try to correct them, they form a great obstacle to divine union; and according to St. John of the Cross, “they prevent not only divine union but also advancement in perfection” (ibid.). He gives a few examples of these unmortified “habitual imperfections”: the habit of talking too much, unrestrained curiosity, attachment to little things—whether persons or objects—such as food and so forth, which the soul refuses to give up. There is also the attachment to one’s comfort, to certain sensible satisfactions, little vanities, foolish self-complacency, attachment to one’s own opinion or reputation. There is a real mushroom-bed of “appetites” and disordered inclinations from which the soul will not free itself, precisely because it is attached to the meager selfish satisfaction which it finds in these wretched things. It is “attached” to them; that is why it cannot make the decision to give them up completely. These are precisely the “habitual voluntary appetites” of which St. John of the Cross says, “One single unmortified appetite is sufficient to fetter the soul” (ibid.).

On the other hand, when it is a question of imperfect inclinations arising solely from human weakness, of those which do not get beyond the stage of “first movements” in which the will has no part, “either before or after,” but rather tries to repress as soon as it notices them, “these do not prevent one from attaining divine union” (ibid., 11,2). It is the will that counts and it must be completely free from the slightest attachment.

COLLOQUY

“Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved Thee. Thou wert within me, and I looked outside; I sought Thee, and miserable as I was I longed for creatures, I was detained by the wonderful works of Thy hands. Thou wert with me, but I was not with Thee, though that which kept me far from Thee could exist only in Thee. Thou hast called and cried to me in my deafness. Thou hast shone as lightning, brilliant enough to drive away my blindness. Thou hast scattered Thy perfume; I breathed it, and now I sigh for Thee. I have tasted Thee, and now I hunger and thirst for Thee. Thou hast touched me, and I burn with desire for Thy peace” (St. Augustine, Confessions).

My God, give me the light necessary to recognize in myself all that keeps me from union with You. Grant me the light to recognize all the attachments which still bind me to creatures, and especially those which are most displeasing to You because they proceed directly from pride and self-love. In the secrecy of my heart You teach me sweetly and gently, You show me clearly that I am still far from conforming my will to Yours, in all things and for all things. I love and desire so many trifles, so many imperfections which You neither love nor desire because they are contrary to Your infinite perfection. Give me strength to wage a constant and courageous battle against them. You know, O Lord, that I have great need of Your help, for I am too attached to myself to be capable of struggling against my disordered affections, of giving up so many little pleasures which feed my egotism. I love myself too much to sacrifice what separates me from You. Then, let me present myself to You, O Lord, as a sick person to a surgeon; plunge the knife into my soul, cut away and destroy all that displeases You and that is not in accord with Your will.”

Love,
Matthew