Category Archives: Liturgy

Regina Caeli – Queen of Heaven, Rejoice!!!

I have to tell a tale on Kelly.  Forgive me, my love.  We joke about this all the time!  🙂  She finds it funny, too!  Not just me.

The first time I said the words “Regina Caeli” to Kelly, she thought I meant a person named Regina, a middle-aged Italian woman, she pictured in her mind.  So it has stuck.  🙂  We also think Rosetta Stone is an angry African-American woman!  🙂  “Oh, Hell no!” -Rosetta Stone.  My mother thought Dot Com was a friend of hers named Dorothy!  Yucks galore!  🙂  The “fun” never ends at our house.  Kelly and I, to the extreme chagrin and dismay of those who love us, have very similar senses of humor.

Regina caeli

V. Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia.
R. Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia.
V. Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia.
R. Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.

V. Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia.
R. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.

Oremus. Deus, qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi, mundum laetificare dignatus es: praesta, quaesumus; ut per eius Genetricem Virginem Mariam, perpetuae capiamus gaudia vitae. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Queen of Heaven

V. Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
R. For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia.
V. Has risen, as he said, alleluia.
R. Pray for us to God, alleluia.
V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

Let us pray. O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

In many Christian cultures, the greeting during Eastertide is:  “He is Risen!”  The appropriate response is:  “He is truly Risen!”  In communist bloc countries, during the Cold War, it was amended for safety sake, to become:  “The Comrade is returned!”  Response, “He is truly back!”

BrHumbertKilanowski
-by Br Humbert Kilanowski, OP (Br Humbert received his doctorate in mathematics at Ohio State University prior to entering the order.)

“Throughout this Easter season, one of the most commonly said prayers is the Regina caeli, a plea to Mary, the Mother of God, to rejoice in the Lord’s Resurrection. At our Dominican House of Studies, the prayer replaces both the Angelus, normally prayed at midday to commemorate the Annunciation (the moment at which God the Son took on human flesh), and the Salve Regina (which is our last prayer in the chapel each day). Even now, a month after Easter Sunday, Mary’s role in the mystery of the Resurrection pervades our prayer life. Even the Pope’s midday addresses to the crowds at St. Peter’s Square are called the Regina caeli speeches throughout the fifty days of Easter. Mary’s own assumption, by which she was caught up into Heaven, body and soul, at the end of her life on earth, shows that she has already participated fully in this mystery, having experienced her own resurrection. This raises a curious question, then: if Mary already has a glorified body in Heaven, and constantly looks upon the face of God, leaving nothing to be desired, why are we asking her to be happy?

One can imagine that Easter Sunday morning, how the first disciples to hear of Jesus’ Resurrection from the tomb and see his risen body must have rushed to Mary to tell her the news of great joy: as a hymn version of the prayer says, “Be joyful, Mary, heavenly queen/ Your Son who died was living seen.” Could that be the event that we recall with this frequent prayer?

While not recorded in Scripture, many writers within the tradition, such as St. Ignatius of Loyola, report that the risen Christ appeared to his mother before anyone else. (Fr. Romanus Cessario, O.P., relates this in his book The Seven Joys of Mary, whose title refers to a devotion that has taken many forms, including one, called the Franciscan Crown, that developed alongside the Rosary, and the Resurrection appearance is one of the mysteries.) If Jesus is the first to tell Mary about his Resurrection, by directly appearing to her, then the words of Regina caeli are His. That would cover the initial announcement, at least, but the rest would not seem to fit: it would be awkward for Christ to refer to Himself in the third person, after all.

The context of the prayer, and the joy of the Blessed Virgin, therefore must extend beyond the historical event of Jesus’ Resurrection, as momentous as it was. Truly, hearing that her same Son—whom she raised and whom she watched as he was obedient unto death on the Cross—has been transformed to the new life of the glorified body is a cause for celebration! Yet each Christian believer also participates in Jesus’ death and resurrection, through Baptism. For as St. Paul reminds us, “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4).

In addition to participating in Jesus’ Resurrection, which causes joy for us and for Mary, we also take part in being Mary’s children spiritually. As she who knew no pains in labor when she gave birth to Christ (St. Thomas Aquinas, ST III.35.6) became the mother of the Church through the pain of standing at the foot of the Cross, when Jesus gave her to His beloved disciple (John 19:27), Mary, the mother of all believers, spreads her Paschal joy to all her children. As Cessario says, “Mary’s unspeakable joy at the Resurrection of her Son catches on contagiously, and like the Easter fire spreads rapidly throughout the whole Church.” In asking Mary to rejoice, we ask all of the Church to exult as well.

Thus, every time that we recite or sing the Regina caeli, we share in the joy of the Mother of God and in the joy of the worldwide Church, a joy that flows from not only the Resurrection of Jesus, but also from each soul born of water and the Holy Spirit. And this rejoicing continues, and reaches its perfection, beyond this life. For just as the Dominican chant of the prayer switches from resurrexit (has risen) to jam ascendit (now ascends) at the upcoming feast of the Ascension, so Mary’s happiness, and ours, also stems from Jesus’ entry into the glory of the realm beyond this one, where we hope to follow both him and his mother, body and soul.

In this Easter season, and in Mary’s month of May, let us then ask the Queen of Heaven to “pray for us to God,” as the chant concludes, so that we may rejoice with her and her divine Son for all eternity.”

640px-The_Immaculate_Conception,_by_Giovanni_Battista_Tiepolo,_from_Prado_in_Google_Earth

-Giovanni Battista Tiepolo,The Immaculate Conception, 1767-68, oil on canvas, Prado Museum, 281 × 155 cm (110.6 × 61 in)

Love,
Matthew

Easter

burnand-peter-john-running800x484“The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection”, 1898, Eugène Burnand, please click on the image for greater detail

http://www.crisismagazine.com/2014/the-greatest-easter-painting-ever-made

Elise-Ehrhard_avatar_1422241914-75x75
-by Elise Ehrhard

“Tucked away in a central Parisian museum that was once a railway station, there hangs an Easter painting quite unlike any Gospel masterpiece created before or after it. It is not painted by a Rembrandt or a Rubens or the patron saint of artists, Fra Angelico. The painting is the work of a little-known Swiss painter. For those who make a trip to see it, viewing the canvas is a special spiritual experience in their lives.

The work does not even show the risen Jesus. It merely portrays two witnesses, Jesus’ oldest and youngest apostle. The youngest who was the only man brave enough to stay by Jesus’ cross and the only one who did not die a martyr’s death as a result of it. The oldest apostle who first denied Jesus in fear, yet ultimately chose to be crucified upside down by the Roman authorities rather than deny Christ’s resurrection.

In “The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection” by Eugène Burnand, John clasps his hand in prayer while Peter holds his hand over his heart. The viewer feels the rush as their hair and cloaks fly back with the wind. They are sprinting towards discovery of the moment that forever altered heaven and earth. As you look at it, engage for a moment in what the Catholic blogger Bill Donaghy calls “the visual equivalent of Lectio Divina.” As Donaghy notes, “This Resurrection scene does not put us before still figures near a stagnant stone, or figures standing with stony faces in a contrived, plastic posture, pointing to an empty tomb. This scene is dynamic; WE ARE IN MOTION!!!!!![Editor’s emphasis]”  [Editor:  We all are.  But, to where?  Each/all must answer that question of/in life.  No exceptions.  Not choosing IS a choice.]

During his time, Burnand was fascinated by the possibilities of the emerging art of photography. Ironically, he would later be dismissed in the twentieth century as too “bourgeois” and anti-modernist when in fact he was merging his love of tradition with his interest in new technological ways of capturing the human person. His painting feels cinematic long before cinema existed as a major art form.

Through the movement and immediacy of the scene, the preceding minutes with Mary Magdalene are palpable. In a sense, she is in the painting too. “You can almost hear her voice in the background, can you not, a few minutes earlier, as she burst into their house…” writes the Episcopal Bishop Dorsey McConnell in an Easter sermon meditating on the painting.”

Happy Easter!

Love,
Matthew

Baptism of the Lord & The Heresy of Adoptionism

Baptism-of-Christ-xx-Francesco-Alban
-“Baptism of Christ”, by Francesco Albani, oil on canvas, (1630-1635), State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russian Federation, the heresy of Adoptionism declares this may have been one event where God “adopted” Jesus as His Son.

athanasius murphy

-by Br Athanasius Murphy, OP

“I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” The words of John the Baptist to Christ in Matthew’s Gospel are worth pondering. Why would Jesus need to be baptized? Being the Son of God, why be troubled at all about the ritual of baptism, especially by a man like John the Baptist?

It is easy to fall into error over this question. Some people have concluded that since Jesus underwent baptism, he must have been in need of something, and so Christ’s baptism was the time when God the Father made Jesus divine. This heresy has been called Adoptionism, since it contends that Christ’s baptism was the time when God the Father ‘adopted’ Jesus and he ‘really’ became divine.

But what, then, are the real reasons that Jesus desired to be baptized in the waters of the Jordan? One reason is that Jesus was not baptized to be cleansed himself, but to cleanse others. Though he was not a sinner himself, Christ took on our sinful nature and the likeness of sinful flesh when he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary. Now, during his baptism, the old man of our sinful nature was plunged below the waters so that we might grow into the full stature of adopted sons of God. In Christ’s descent into the Jordan River, the waters are given the virtue of baptism, and our frail nature is restored.

Another reason is so that Christ could lay a path that all his disciples could imitate. In response to John the Baptist’s question, Christ replies that his own baptism is fitting “to fulfill all righteousness.” In commenting on this verse, St. Ambrose states that true righteousness is to “do first yourself what you wish another to do, and so encourage others by your example.” By entering into the waters of the Jordan, Christ gives an example to us in humility and obedience to his Father in heaven. This obedience, which is fulfilled completely in Christ’s passion, is the example which every Christian is called to follow.

The baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of Christ’s ministry in Galilee and Judah, and is the fulfillment of God’s promise to save mankind. But it is fitting that Christ’s ministry should begin immediately after his baptism in the Jordan River. As St. Ambrose noted, where Elijah divided the river of the Jordan with his mantle of old, so now Christ, in these same waters, will make all things new by separating the plague of sin from our human nature. May we thank God for our own baptism, and encourage others to be cleansed from sin in the water that was first cleansed by the pure, spotless, and saving flesh of Christ.”

Love,
Matthew

“The advent of our God with eager prayers we greet…”

AdventWreath

My deceased sister, Connie, handmade me an Advent wreath some years before she passed away.  She had done this for others, and I let my Christmas present wish be known.  It is a little smushed now, having been in the box so long.  It is one of my most treasured possessions.

The advent of our God
with eager prayers we greet,
and singing haste upon His road
His glorious gift to meet.

The everlasting Son
scorns not a Virgin’s womb;
that we from bondage may be won
He bears a bondsman’s doom.

Daughter of Zion, rise
to meet thy lowly King,
let not thy stubborn heart despise
the peace He deigns to bring.

In clouds of awful light,
as Judge He comes again,
His scattered people to unite
with them in heaven to reign.

Let evil flee away
ere that dread hour shall dawn,
let this old Adam day by day
God’s image still put on.

Praise to the Incarnate Son,
Who comes to set us free,
with God the Father, ever One,
to all eternity.

-”The advent of our God” -Charles Coffin, 1736; trans. Harriett Packer, 1906.

Love,
Matthew

What’s Wrong with Catholic Preaching?

“What’s Wrong With Catholic Preaching?”
by Fr. Charles E. Bouchard, O.P., Prior Provincial
Dominican Province of St. Albert the Great
Remarks delivered at the Minneapolis Club, November 17, 2011

The famous Southern Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor says that after a relative converted to Catholicism (which would have been unusual in the American south in the 1950s), many people were aghast. They wondered why on earth anyone would do such a thing. “Well,” the relative said, “the preaching was so bad I figured there must be something else to keep folks coming back.”

Unfortunately, Catholic preaching still falls far short of what it could be. Too often it fails to inspire, uplift and console; it fails to answer the real questions people bring. Sometimes, it fails to interpret – or even to mention – the Scriptures.

There are a number of reasons for this.

Preaching is hard. If you didn’t know better, you might think preaching is a 10 minute ramble about your latest hunting trip, your vacation, your favorite TV show or anything else that happened to cross your mind as you entered the sacristy (Garrison Keillor once mentioned a pastor who “just kept talking till he found something worthwhile to say”). In fact, preaching is an art and a highly disciplined process of interpretation. It starts with the Scriptural text, and through prayer and study brings that text to life in a persuasive message for a particular group.

The first step in this process is to understand what the biblical word meant in its original time and place. This requires knowledge of biblical languages, culture and history. Then the preacher has to figure out what the word means today, for this group of people. Finally, the preacher has to ask the “so what?” question. If this is God’s word and if it is true, then what difference does it make? Who does it compel me to be? What does it compel me to do?

One of the biggest challenges is to bring the word to the actual world in which they find themselves to answer the questions that people really have. I remember being at mass once during the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal. The preacher read the Gospel, and then made a comment about Monica Lewinsky. All of us thought he was going to preach on it, to help us make sense of this mess, to help us see it in light of the Scriptures. Instead, he moved on to a completely different topic. He had missed a “preachable moment” – a chance to let the Scriptures speak to what was on everyone’s mind, to help us see a way through the darkness. There was a palpable feeling of disappointment. We felt cheated.

For Catholics preaching is even more complicated because it usually takes place during the Eucharist. So in addition to understanding and interpreting the Scriptures, the preacher must also put them in the context of this great act of thanksgiving, and relate it to the liturgical season.

Good preaching takes time. I was shocked when a homiletics professor told me that the preacher should spend one hour of preparation for each minute of a homily. I have come to believe this is true. Yet who has the time? It is no secret that our priests are stretched too thin. Our congregant-to-clergy ratio is much higher. A large Catholic parish might have two or possibly three priests. A large Protestant “mega-Church” might have 7 or 9 full time pastors It’s not hard to see why Protestant preaching is better. Yet despite the demands on their time, Catholic preaching could be much better if priests allocated their time as though preaching were their top priority. Study after study shows that’s exactly what parishioners want them to do.

The talent pool is too small. In the Christian tradition, ministry requires at least two things: gift and office. This means that anyone who wants to minister must first give evidence of the gifts of the Spirit that would make this ministry effective (remember St. Paul’s enumeration of various gifts, all of which are necessary for the Body of the Church?). But these gifts also need to be authorized, or ordered, for the sake of the community. In the Catholic Church we call this ordination. Unfortunately, office and gift do not always go together. You can have the office of priesthood without the requisite gifts (think of a validly ordained priest who can’t speak in public). Or you can have the gifts without the office – think of a woman who is a highly skilled preacher but can’t be ordained.

When I was president of our graduate theology school, we provided preaching education for hundreds of seminarians, priests, lay people and sisters. We saw great talent for preaching in each group, but only the priests were allowed to preach on Sunday morning. There is no reason the Church cannot widen the pool of preachers by finding ways to authorize or “ordain” others who have specific gifts to do so. Failure to do so is an offense to the Gifts that have so obviously been given.

Preaching is overwhelmed by our sacramental life. If you ask a hundred people what is most distinctive about Catholicism, most of them will respond “the mass,” or “the sacraments.” Indeed, this is what Flannery O’Connor’s cousin referred to as “something else.” Yet for us, it cannot be one or the other. We need a vital sacramental life AND we need excellent preaching. For without preaching, how would we know what these sacraments are? They would become mere magic. Preaching helps us understand the mysteries we celebrate and prepares us to be fully open to sacramental grace.

Preaching is a two-way street. It’s easy to blame the preacher for a bad homily, but the congregation has a role to play as well. Good preachers don’t preach “in general.” They preach to a specific congregation before them whose needs, hopes and fears they attempt to address. But congregations are not passive receptacles. They have an active role in receiving, nurturing, pondering and even challenging the word they have received.

Congregations must uphold their end of the bargain by preparation – reading and praying with the Scriptures before they are preached and asking, “What does this passage mean? What does it say to me? How does it speak to what I just read in the news?” They must challenge their preachers, ask them questions and above all, let them know that they are paying attention. When priests know that parishioners are listening, they will devote more time to their preparation.

Catholic preaching may not be as good as it could be, but if all of us – preachers and hearers of the Word alike – assume our respective roles, we can together make excellent preaching the lifeblood of the Church.

Love,
Matthew

Jul 17 – Bl Teresa of St Augustine, OCD, & Companions, (d. 1794) – The Sixteen Discalced Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne

Our_Lady_of_Mount_Carmel_Church,_Quidenham,_Norfolk_-_Windows_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1084822

Veni Creator Spiritus


– as sung at the opening of the recent conclave to elect our new Holy Father, Francis.

Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
and in our hearts take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heav’nly aid,
To fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

O Comforter, to Thee we cry,
Thou heav’nly gift of God most high,
Thou Fount of life, and Fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.

O Finger of the hand divine,
the sevenfold gifts of grace are thine;
true promise of the Father thou,
who dost the tongue with power endow.

Thy light to every sense impart,
and shed thy love in every heart;
thine own unfailing might supply
to strengthen our infirmity.

Drive far away our ghostly foe,
and thine abiding peace bestow;
if thou be our preventing Guide,
no evil can our steps betide.

Praise we the Father and the Son
and Holy Spirit with them One;
and may the Son on us bestow
the gifts that from the Spirit flow.

There was something eerie in the air as the tumbrils passed through the streets of Paris that led to Place du Trône Renversé.  It was, in fact, too eerie that the normally noisy and violent crowd was “in a respectful silence such as has never been accorded throughout the Revolution.”  No rotten fruit was pelted and no clamorous insult was raised on the condemned women and men.  That evening one only heard the ethereal chanting of sixteen Discalced Carmelite nuns on their way to death.

These women could hardly be recognized as nuns.  Wrapped in their white mantles, they did not, however,  wear their veils. Their wimples had been cut away, exposing their necks to facilitate the truculent job of the guillotine’s blade.

At around eight in the evening, after a ride of two hours, the tumbrils finally arrived at the place of execution.  A horrid stench of rotting flesh from the common graves in nearby Picpus and of putrifying blood beneath the scaffold greeted them.  The crowd remained reverently silent.  The Carmelites have finally come face to face with the dreaded guillotine.  Led by their courageous prioress, Mo. Thérèse of St. Augustine, they sang the Te Deum: “You are God: we praise You; You are the Lord: we acclaim You; You are the eternal Father: all creation worships You…. The glorious company of apostles praises You.  The noble fellowship of prophets praises You.  The white-robed army of martyrs praises You…

Included were:

Mother Thérèse of St. Augustine (Marie-Madeleine-Claudine Lidoine; b. 22 September 1752 in Paris), a woman “so loved by God,” was serving her second term as prioress when the Revolution struck.  Her correspondences reveal a woman of great human and supernatural qualities.

Mother St. Louis (Marie-Anne-Françoise Brideau; b. 07 December 1751 in Belfort), the sub-prioress, was given to silence and gentleness. She celebrated the divine office with admirable remembrance and exactitude.

Mother Henriette of Jesus (Marie-Françoise de Croissy;b. 18 June 1745 in Paris), the novice mistress, was the predecessor of Mother Thérèse.  She “made herself esteemed for the qualitites of her heart, her tender piety, zeal, the happy combination of every religious virtue.”

Sr. Charlotte of the Resurrection (Anne-Marie-Madeleine Thouret;b. 16 September 1715 in Mouy, Oise), the most senior member of the community, possessed a lively temperament. Fond of frequenting balls in her youth, she entered Carmel “after a tragic event.”She served as infirmarian to the point of developing a spinal column deformation that she endured until death.

Sr. of Jesus Crucified (Marie-Anne Piedcourt; b. 09 December 1715 in Paris) was younger than Sr. Charlotte by a few months but was senior to her by profession. She occupied the office of sacristan for many years.Speaking about their persecutors, she said: “How can we be angry with them when they open the gates of heaven for us?”

Sr. Thérèse of the Heart of Mary (Marie Hanisset;  b. 18 January 1742 in Reims), first sister of the turn and third bursar, was endowed with wisdom, prudence and discernment.

Sr. Thérèse of St. Ignatius (Marie-Gabrielle Trezel; b. 04 April 1743 in Compiègne), the “hidden treasure” of the community, was undoubtedly a mystic.  Asked why she never brought a book for meditation, she replied: “The good God has found me so ignorant that none but He would be able to instruct me.”

Sr. Julie-Louise of Jesus (Rose Cretien de Neuville;  b. 30 December 1741 in Evreux) entered Carmel as a widow. She dreaded the guillotine but she chose to stay with her sisters.

Sr. Marie-Henriette of Providence (Marie-Annette Pelras; b. 16 June 1760 in Cajarc, Lot), the assitant infirmarian, first entered the Sisters of Charity and Christian Instruction of Nevers but left it for the more secluded Carmelite life.  Youngest among the choir nuns, she possessed a most exquisite beauty.

Sr. Euphrasie of the Immaculate Conception (Marie-Claude-Cyprienne Brard; b. 12 May 1736 in Bourth, Eure),the “philosopher” and “joie de vivre of the recreation,”admitted that she was filled for some time with resentment against her prioress. She worked very hard on herself that in the end she was able to overcome her negative disposition.

Along with these ten choir nuns were three lay sisters. Sr. Marie of the Holy Spirit (Angélique Roussel; b. 03 August 1742 at Fresne-Mazancourt, Somme) was afflicted by atrocious pains throughout her body, which she heroically bore up until her death.  Sr. St. Martha (Marie Dufour, b 02 October 1741 at Bannes, Sarthe) edified her companions with her virtues.  Sr. St. Francis Xavier (Elisabeth-Juliette Vérolot; b. 13 January 1764 at Lignières, Aube) was frank, lively, and full of goodness.

The youngest member of the community was Sr. Constance(Marie-Geneviève Meunier; b. 28 May 1765 at Saint Denis, Seine)Circumstances forced her to remain as a novice for seven years. Her parents wanted her to return home and even sent the police for this purpose. Sr. Constance told them: “Gentlemen, I thank my parents if, out of love, they fear the danger that may befall me. Yet nothing except death can separate me from my mothers and sisters.”

The two tourières were blood sisters. Anne-Catherine Soiron (b. 02 February 1742 in Compiègne)tearfully begged the prioress not to let her and her sister be separated from the community during those crucial hours. Thérèse Soiron,(b. 23 January 1748 in Compiègne) possessed such a rare beauty and charming personality that the ill-fated Princess de Lamballe wanted her to be attached to her court.  She responded: “Madame, even if your Highness would offer me the crown of France, I would prefer to remain in this house, where the good God placed me and where I found the means of salvation which I would not find in the house of your Highness.”

On 12 July 1790, the National Assembly implemented the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Among its articles was a provision for the suppression of the monastic orders and the liberation of monks and nuns who would choose to renounce their vows. On 15 August, the members of the Directory of the Compiègne district came to the monastery to interrogate each nun and offer her liberty.

The unanimous reply of the religious was to remain and keep their vows.  Some of the nuns made their declarations more vivid:

“For fifty-six years I have been a Carmelite.  I desire to have the same number of years more to be consecrated to the Lord.” (Sr. of Jesus Crucified)

“I became a religious by my own will.  I have made up my mind to go on wearing this habit, even if I have to purchase this joy with my own blood.” (Sr. Euphrasie)

“A good spouse desires to remain with her husband.  I do not wish to abandon my spouse.” (Sr. Saint Francis Xavier)

“If I will be able to double the bonds of my attachment to God, then, with all my strength and zeal, I will do so.” (Sr. Thérèse of the Heart of Mary)

Another provision of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy required priests and religious to take a loyalty oath that required them “to be faithful to the nation, the law and the king; and to maintain the constitution with all their power.” What the ambiguous statement meant was that they were to give the revolutionary government the right to control and democratize the Church in complete disregard of Papal jurisdiction. Pope Pius VI issued on 10 March 1791 a condemnation of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and forbade the clergy to take it. A schism was inevitable. The clergy was split between the “juring” (those who took the oath) and “non-juring” bishops and priests.

Two weeks after Easter of 1792, the guillotine was installed in Paris.  Everyone was talking about it, even in the Carmel of Compiègne, and everyone feared it. In September, around 1,400  “enemies of the Republic” were killed during the infamous September Massacre; among them were hundreds of non-juring priests.

A belief that they would all be called to martyrdom someday prevailed in the community.   Between June and September of that year, Mo. Thérèse proposed that the community offer their lives to God with an act of oblation “in order that the divine peace which Christ has brought to the world may be restored to the Church and to the State.”  All promised to unite themselves to it, except for Sr. of Jesus Crucified and Sr. Charlotte of the Resurrection, the two most senior nuns.  Trembling and fearful that they would end more than fifty years of peaceful life in Carmel with a bloody death, both withdrew from the community.   Before the day ended, however, they prostrated themselves before the prioress and tearfully asked forgiveness for their momentary weakness.  All the nuns renewed the act until the very day of their death.

The Final Choir

Martyrs-of-Compiègne1

The journey was long… but the air was permeated by their solemn chants of the sixteen, hands tied behind their backs, singing as they did in choir:  “Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.  In your compassion, blot out my offense…. Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy….”

The guillotine had been standing for more than a month already at the Barrière du Trône. Upon arriving there, Sr. Constance suddenly accused herself before Mother Thérèse of not having finished her divine office.  The prioress, told her: “Be strong, daughter.You will finish it in Paradise!”

At the foot of the scaffold, the prioress asked the executioner if she might die last so that she could encourage and support her sisters. She also asked for a few minutes to prepare them. This time her requests were granted. They sang once more, invoking the Holy Spirit: “Creator Spirit, come….” Afterward, they all renewed their religious vows.

One by one, from the youngest to the oldest, the nuns were called.

“Citizeness Marie Geneviève Meunier!”

Summoned by her real name, the youngest, Sr. Constance, knelt before Mother Thérèse and asked for her blessing and the permission to die.

Sr. Constance mounted the scaffold singing the psalm the nuns chanted daily to announce their coming into the house of God:  “O praise the Lord, all you nations…”

Her sisters followed: “…acclaim Him, all you peoples!  Strong is His love for us; He is faithful for ever.”

All the sisters followed the example of the youngest, asking their superior’s blessing and permission to die. They each went to their death joining the song of those waiting for their turn.While the blade of the guillotine snuffed their lives one by one, the chorus progressed into a decrescendo. As she ascended the scaffold, Sr. of Jesus Crucified was assisted by the assistants of the executioner.“My friends,” she told them, “I forgive you with all my heart, as I desire forgiveness from God.”

Finally, only one voice was left.

“Citizeness Marie Madeleine Claudine Lidoine!”

Having seen fifteen of her daughters precede her to the scaffold, Mother Thérèse followed them to the guillotine. At the sixteenth thud, there was nothing left… but silence.  On that day, it was said, more than one religious vocation was born and just as many conversions took place.

terracotta-statuette

-the tiny terra cotta Mother & Child statuette held by Madame Ledoine was kissed by all the nuns before the climbed the ladder up to the executioner.

Ten days later, amidst cacophonous shouts and screams, an infuriated and disillusioned crowd led a man to his death on the guillotine. “Down with the tyrant!” they cried. This time, it was the turn of Maximilien Robespierre. More than a week later, an enervated Antoine Fouquier-Tinville, the implacable Reign of Terror’s public prosecutor, followed his fate on the very instrument where he had sent hundreds to their death. The Terror consumed its own.  And with the inglorious end of these two died, also, the Reign of Terror.

Guillotined on 17 July 1794 at the Place du Trône Renversé (modern Place de la Nation) in Paris, France, the sixteen, the heads and bodies of the martyrs were interred in a deep sand-pit about thirty feet square in a cemetery at Picpus. As this sand-pit was the receptacle of the bodies of 1298 victims of the Revolution, there seems to be no hope of their relics being recovered. Five secondary relics are in the possession of the Benedictines of Stanbrook, Worcestershire.

Plague-at-the-Picpus-cemetery

-plaque at the Picpus cemetery in memory of the 16 Martyrs of Compiègne

Prayer

Lord God, You called Bl. Teresa of St. Augustine, OCD, and her companions to go on in the strength of the Holy Spirit from the heights of Carmel to receive a martyr’s crown. May our love too be so steadfast that it will bring us to the everlasting vision of Your glory. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Lord our God, You called the 16 blessed Carmelites of Compiègne to show You the greatest testimony of love through the offering of their blood that “peace may be returned to the Church and to the State.” Remember the joyful and heroic fidelity with which they glorified You. May Your goodness manifest their favor with You, in granting through their intercession the grace (the miracle) that we ask You in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen!

Love,
Matthew

Alma Redemptoris Mater – Loving Mother of our Savior

In the Liturgy of the Hours, the Divine Office (the daily prayer of the Church), after Compline, the last prayers of the day, a Marian hymn is sung.  I know the Dominican Salve Regina by heart.  After the last note of this hymn is sung, holy silence is imposed, even when emptying dishwashers, as novices are, by holy obedience, required to do.  It’s not all glamour.  Trust me.    Holy silence lasts until Lauds, which begins with “Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Your praise!”

When my parents came to visit, they joined us for Office.  For the Marian hymn, every night we darkened the entire chapel with a single candle burning before a small white statue of the Blessed Mother for us to focus on as we chanted the Salve Regina.  I remember when the lights came back on my parents’ eyes were as big a saucers.  I tell myself it was the coming into the light which caused this.  I tell myself.

The Alma Redemptoris Mater is one of the four primary Marian hymns sung after Compline.   Hermannus Contractus (Herman the Cripple) (1013–1054) is said to have authored the hymn based on the writings of Ss. Fulgentius, Epiphanius, and Irenaeus of Lyon.  It is mentioned in “The Prioress’s Tale “, one of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Formerly, it was recited at compline only from the first Sunday in Advent until the Feast of the Purification (February 2).

Alma Redemptoris Mater, quae pervia caeli Porta manes, et stella maris, succurre cadenti, Surgere qui curat, populo: tu quae genuisti, Natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore Sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.

From the first Sunday of Advent until Christmas Eve:

V. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae R. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

Oremus Gratiam tuam quæsumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut qui, angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui Incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem ejus et crucem, ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
From First Vespers of Christmas until the Presentation:

From First Vespers of Christmas until the Presentation:

V. Post Partum Virgo inviolata permansisti. R. Dei Genitrix, intercede pro nobis.

Oremus Deus, qui salutis aeternae beatae Mariae virginitate foecunda humano generi praemia praestitisti: tribue, quaesumus, ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamus, per quam meruimus, Auctorem vitae suscipere Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum. Amen.

Loving Mother of our Savior, hear thou thy people’s cry Star of the deep and Portal of the sky! Mother of Him Who thee from nothing made. Sinking we strive and call to thee for aid: Oh, by what joy which Gabriel brought to thee, thou Virgin first and last, let us thy mercy see.

From the first Sunday of Advent until Christmas Eve:

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary R. And she conceived by the Holy Ghost.

Let us pray. Pour forth we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may, by His passion and cross, be brought to the glory of His Resurrection; through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.

From First Vespers of Christmas until the Presentation:

V. After childbirth, O Virgin, thou didst remain inviolate. R. O Mother of God, plead for us.

Let us pray. O God, Who by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary, hast given to mankind the rewards of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech You, that we may experience her intercession for us, by whom we deserved to receive the Author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son. Amen.

Listen:

Wyoming Catholic College choir does beautiful renditions of this hymn.

Male & female choir with deep baritone and bass male voices, up-tempo, and the joyful zeal of youth.  VERY worth the five bucks if you are looking to beef up your Christmas music collection.  Trust me.  I have it on my iPhone with all my other weirdo MPM music.

Raphael-Sanzio-Madonna-and-Child-The-Tempi-Madonna (1)
-Madonna Tempi, by Raffaello Sanzio (1483–1520), 1508, Oil on wood, 75 × 51 cm (29.5 × 20.1 in), Alte Pinakothek

Love,
Matthew

Dec 17-23: Great O Antiphons!!!!!

o-antiphons-symbols

Beginning on Dec. 17, the Church prays with greater urgency for the hastening of Christ’s arrival.  A greater sense of insistence and impatience is found in the prayers and liturgy of the Church at this time just immediately before the memorial of the Incarnation and, hence, our salvation.

At Vespers each night, the Church sings the great “O Antiphons” before the Magnificat, beckoning for He Who is Wisdom from on High, Lord of Might, Rod of Jesse’s stem, Key of David, Dayspring from on high, King of the Nations, and Emmanuel, He Who made the Heavens and the Earth to come and pitch His tent among us.  These antiphons have likewise made their way into the culture of Christmas music that you hear at stores and on radio stations, not to mention most Catholic churches, in the form of the hymn “O Come O Come Emmanuel”, which bases its verses on the O Antiphons.

The authors of these antiphons, they can be traced liturgically and historically back to the fourth century, not only had a great theological insight into the arrival of the Christ as expressed in each of the individual antiphons, but they also ordered them so that when they are read backwards chronologically from the 23rd to the 17th, the titles of Christ in Latin form an acronym which spells “ERO CRAS” – I will come tomorrow.

E=Emmanuel; used on December 23

R=Rex Gentium (King of all nations); used on December 22

O=Oriens (Radiant Dawn); used on December 21

C=Clavis David (Key of David); used onDecember 20

R=Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse); used on December 19

A=Adonai (Lord of Israel); used on December 18

S=Sapientia (Wisdom); used on December 17

stained_glass_o_antiphons

Enjoy!

Merry Christmas!

Love,
Matthew

Dec 26 – St Stephen, Deacon & Martyr – The Armament of Love

1476 — The Demidoff Altarpiece: Saint Stephen — Image by © National Gallery Collection; By kind permission of the Trustees of the National Gallery, London/CORBIS

Acts of the Apostles
6:8 – 7, 2a, 44-59

-from a sermon by Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe, bishop, from the Office of Readings for today, 2nd reading

“Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of His soldier. Yesterday our King, clothed in His robe of flesh, left His place in the virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today His soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.

Our King, despite His exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet He did not come empty-handed. He brought His soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of Love, which was to bring men to share in His divinity. He gave of His bounty, yet without any loss to Himself. In a marvelous way He changed into wealth the poverty of His faithful followers while remaining in full possession of His own inexhaustible riches.

And so the Love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the King, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by His name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbor made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of His love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.

Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exalts, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen. This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death, and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.

Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defense, and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey’s end.

My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.”

Merry Christmas,
Matthew

Oct 16 – St Marie-Marguerite d’Youville, SGM, (1701-1777), Mother of Universal Charity, Foundress of the Grey Nuns

Barrette-Flore-1959x
-St Marie-Marguerite d’Youville, SGM

I LOVE MARRIED SAINTS!!!!!  And, Kelly, don’t be nervous, I know you’re not the nervous type.  I used to be desperately in love with a girl from Charlotte, NC, named Marguerite.  One of my many broken hearts.  (Ahhhhhhhhh)  🙂  Thank God things work out God’s way and not ours!  Thank GOD for unanswered prayers I say the older I get.  His will is perfect.  I LOVE YOU SOOOO MUCH Kelly Marie!  🙂  XOXOXO!!!!

Marguerite d’Youville, the first native Canadian to be elevated to sainthood, was born October 15, 1701 at Varennes, Quebec. Marguerite was baptized the next day at St. Anne’s parish church. After her baptism, her father placed her on the knees of her maternal great-grandfather, Pierre Boucher, for the traditional blessing: “May God bless you, my little one, as I bless you!”

Marguerite was the eldest of six children born to Lieutenant Christophe Dufrost de Lajemmerais and Marie-Renée Gaultier. Lieutenant Lajemmerais was promoted to the rank of Captain, in June 1705. This was the highest rank that a soldier of the French colonial troops could attain. He was promoted because of his fidelity to his duty, his spirit of self-sacrifice, his prompt willingness to take any assignment.

On June 1, 1708, Marguerite’s childhood was tragically disrupted by the death of her father. This was a time of insecurity. The salary of Captain de Lajemmerais had been large enough to keep his growing family but not sufficient to provide savings for the future. Marguerite learned very early how to think of others as she helped her mother provide for her destitute family. Marie Renée now had to depend on the charity of others for the needs of her children. And worse still – it would be another six years before she would receive a widow’s pension. This was due to complex formalities and slow communication between France and her colony of Canada.

Because she was extremely intelligent, Marguerite was greatly admired by her great-aunt, Mother St. Pierre, an Ursuline nun, and several other persons. So in 1712, in order to pursue her studies, Marguerite was taken in a little rowboat to the boarding school at the Ursuline Convent, in Quebec City; some hundred and fifty miles away.

There she received a good education from the nuns and also a good spiritual training. At the convent school, Marguerite was a strong young girl with an attractive personality and she was admired for a goodness and a maturity, well beyond her age. She acquired the habit of meditating daily on some page of a little book dealing with the “Holy Ways of the Cross”.

In 1714, at the age of almost 13, after two years at the boarding school, Marguerite received her First Holy Communion. But the girl could not stay in the convent for a lengthy time. Mme. Lajemmerais could not afford to leave Marguerite in Quebec any longer, even with the help of relatives and friends. There were still five other children to be educated. So our friend was obliged to go back to Varennes that same year, to help at home and to teach her brothers and sisters. Marguerite was an invaluable help to her mother. By her handiwork, she contributed skillfully to the support of the family and often, as she was making fine lace, she would tell wonderful stories to her brothers and sisters.

As a young woman, Marguerite became very popular in the social life of Varennes. At 18, she got engaged to a young man whom she deeply loved. But the promise of a happy marriage ended abruptly when her mother remarried beneath her social class one Timothy Sullivan, an Irish doctor who was seen by the townspeople as a disreputable foreigner, an act that was unacceptable to the family of Marguerite’s fiancé.  We can imagine the heartbreak of the frustrated betrothed.  Marguerite’s family fell out of favor with people in their home town and so two years later moved to Montreal.

In Montreal, Marguerite became associated with the aristocracy of old Montreal who in time noticed that she was graceful, well mannered, serious and reserved. Before long, Marguerite met François d’Youville and once again, fell in love.

francois-d-youville
-François d’Youville (1700-1730)

Marguerite married François d’Youville 12 August 1722 and the young couple made their home with Francois’ mother, an avaricious and domineering woman who made life miserable for Marguerite. During the frequent absences of her husband, Marguerite’s mother-in-law was most unsympathetic towards her.

Marguerite soon came to realize that her husband had no interest in making a home life. François was indifferent, selfish and covetous; he was interested only in making money!  His frequent absences, bootlegging, and illegal liquor trading with the Indians for furs caused her great suffering, making her endure the slurs and taunts of her neighbors.  He was even absent at the birth of their first child.

But in spite of all these sorrows, Marguerite remained faithful to the her duties of state, always treating François with respect, and favoring him with all kind of delicate attentions. It was during these sorrowful times, in 1727, that the holy woman received a special grace from God. She came to a deep realization that God is a Father who has every human being in His providential care and that all are brothers and sisters. Through her whole life Marguerite kept this thought in her mind: “I leave all to Divine Providence, my confidence is in it; all will happen which is pleasing to God.”

She was pregnant with her sixth child when François became seriously ill. She faithfully cared for him until his death in 4 July 1730, leaving her with his enormous debts. By age 29, she had experienced desperate poverty and suffered the loss of her father and husband. Four of her six children had died in infancy.  In 1734, she started to suffer from a mysterious ailment in her knees. It would only get worse through the years, and would make her suffer greatly, but would not stop her from doing her charitable work.

In all these sufferings Marguerite grew in her belief of God’s presence in her life and of His tender love for every human person. She, in turn, wanted to make known His compassionate love to all. She undertook many charitable works with complete trust in God, Who she loved as a Father.

She provided for the education of her two sons, who later became priests, by opening a small dry-goods storefront on the first floor of her home where she sold her own handiwork and household goods.  She paid off all her inherited debts.  On November 21, 1737 Marguerite welcomed a blind woman into her home.  She spent much of her profits helping those even poorer than herself.  She begged for money to bury criminals who had been hung in the market place.

One day, Marguerite’s spiritual director, Fr. Dulescoat, told her, “Be comforted my child, God destines for you a great work and you will raise up a house from its ruins!”  God would make His plans fully known to her at a later time.  Providence.  The trust in Providence.

Seeing Marguerite selflessly caring for the poor, inspired three women to join her. On December 31, 1737, Catherine Cusson, Louise Thaumur la Source, and Catherine Demers joined Marguerite. They consecrated themselves to God, promising secretly to serve Jesus in His poor.

Completely dedicated to her mission of charity, Madame d’Youville rented a larger house to receive the poor. She and her three companions entered this house on October 30, 1738. As they stepped into their new place, their first act was to kneel before the statue of Our Lady of Providence. They placed their work of helping the poor under the protection of Our Lady, and consecrated themselves to God, to serve the poor and most destitute members of her Divine Son, till the end of their lives. Marguerite was 37 years old.  They received the help of Father Louis Normant du Faradon.  Marguerite, without even realizing it, had become the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of the General Hospital of Montreal, “Grey Nuns”.

Like other saints, the members of the little society were persecuted and contradicted. People were even more disturbed over the opening of this house. Two days after its opening, on All Saints day, they threw stones at Madame d’Youville and her companions on their way to church! Their maliciousness went even further when they heard rumors that Fr. Louis Normant, the Superior of the Sulpicians – and Marguerite’s new spiritual director, wanted her and her companions to take over Montreal’s General Hospital for the poor, established in 1693 by the Charon Brothers! The people had other plans for the dilapidated hospital.

Even Marguerite’s own relatives and friends were shocked by what she was doing and questioned her motives – her two brothers-in-law even signed a petition addressed to the Secretary of State, opposing such a move. Class-consciousness was strong in her culture, in those days, and Marguerite had started something that was just not done by persons of her standing.

Even the local parish priest believed in the calumnies made against the little community, and refused to give its members Holy Communion! But despite these persecutions, Mother d’Youville and her companions remained peaceful, and continued working devotedly and courageously, finding their best support through prayer. It was when things looked the most desperate that Marguerite was most trusting in God’s help, and felt most His closeness to her.

Marguerite always fought for the rights of the poor and broke with the social conventions of her day. It was a daring move that made her the object of ridicule and taunts by her own relatives and neighbors. Even though her husband had passed away, the society Marguerite lived in still judged her by the illegal actions of her deceased husband.  Some called Marguerite and her companions “Les Soeurs Grises”, which can mean “the grey women/nuns”, but which also means “the drunken women/the tipsy nuns”.  “Grises”, in French, can mean “grey” or “drunk”.  This was in reference to d’Youville’s late husband.  The neighbors suspected the small community of manufacturing alcohol in their home.  Love thy neighbor?  How about the neighbors let the dead bury their dead and let the dead past die?

But, as is so often the case with God, the slur of ridicule, with His grace, is transformed into the adulation of praise, respect, and reverence.  Later, when the work of these women became well respected, Mother Marguerite chose grey as the color of their habit to remind those who slandered them of their verbal abuse.

Marguerite persevered in caring for the poor despite many obstacles. On February 20, 1741, Sr. Catherine Cusson died of tuberculosis at the age of 32. During the three short years of her religious life, she was distinguished by her charity to the poor and by her exact observance of the rule.

To Marguerite, the loss of this spiritual daughter was as painful as that of her natural children had been. And even while the weight of Sr. Catherine’s death weighed in the hearts of the nuns, another threatened loss of far greater weight sent the Sisters to their knees in urgent prayer. Fr. Normant, their Superior, had become so dangerously ill that any hope of his recovery was almost abandoned.

Pounding on the doors of Heaven, Marguerite solemnly promised that if Fr. Normant were restored to health, she would have a votive light burned before the Blessed Sacrament every year on the Feast of the of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – a feast of deep significance to the Sulpicians.  Moreover she promised to have a special painting made of the Eternal Father by an artist in France. This was a promise that would be quite costly for the struggling community, but no sacrifice was too great for the life of their beloved director. Fr. Normant recovered his health – and since then, a beautiful painting of the Eternal Father, painted by Challe in 1741, hangs in the vast community room in the Motherhouse in Montreal. For some time our friend was also praying for the healing of her knees, not because of the suffering, but rather of the impossibility she had to continue to work. Here again, she was miraculously healed one day.

Marguerite and her companions were now sharing their home with three boarders and ten destitute persons. All were living happily in their cramped quarters but suddenly their joy turned to sorrow when during the night of January 31, 1745, a fire completely destroyed their home. It was devastating to the residents, but Marguerite promised them that she would not abandon them. With unwavering trust in Divine Providence, she resolved to start over. While the fire was raging, a group of bystanders were heard to shout: “Look at those purple flames! … Those women are drunk!” By humility, and to show her nuns should be inebriated by the love of God and neighbor, Marguerite kept that nickname for her community.  This tragedy only served to deepen her commitment to the poor.  Marguerite asked herself, “What can we learn from this? … Perhaps we have been too well off. Now we will have to live more poorly!”

Two days later, on February 2, 1745, she and her two early companions pledged themselves to put everything in common in order to help a greater number of persons in need.  At age 44, Marguerite and the other Sisters, signed the “Original Commitment”. Part of this founding document reads: … “for the greater glory of God … for the relief of the poor … we are united in pure charity to live and die together … to consecrate without reserve our time, our days, indeed our entire life, to labor … to receive, feed and support as many poor as we can take care of …” And since that day, every Grey Nun has signed her name to this commitment!

Two years later, this “mother of the poor” as she was called, was asked to become director of the Charon Brothers Hospital in Montreal which was falling into ruin and deeply in debt.  On October 7, 1747, a small procession made its way toward the General Hospital of Montreal. Marguerite had been appointed temporary director of the General Hospital, which was falling into ruins. It was a last resort; as nobody could be found to administer this neglected institution. Marguerite, who was too weak to walk, was seated on an old mattress in a cart. She had to travel this way as she was exhausted after the stress of the recent fire and the frequent moves that followed. Her companions, some aged people and an orphan followed her on foot. And at the same time poor Marguerite had to endure the laughing of the people they passed by.  Arriving at the hospital, Marguerite found that four elderly men and two aged Brothers were living there under deplorable conditions. After attending to their urgent needs, Marguerite’s creative ingenuity and the energetic activity of her sisters made the hospital livable.  After only three years as Director of the General Hospital, Marguerite had completely renovated it.  Marguerite would live in this hospital for the rest of her life.  It became a beacon for outcasts.

A new difficulty for the foundress would soon make its appearance; the work still had enemies, and in 1750 plans were made, without consulting her, to merge it with another of similar nature, staffed by the nursing nuns of Quebec City.  Marguerite was therefore sadly surprised when she was in the market place one day, and heard by a public announcement that the General Hospital was to be merged with the one in Quebec, where its poor people were to be transferred!

The authorities had decided that there was need for only one hospital of this kind. But Marguerite is convinced: The General Hospital belongs to those who need it badly: the poor! She therefore tried all she humanly can to have the decision changed.

06.-Mgr-Henri-Marie-Dubreil-de-Pontbriand
-Bishop Henri de Pontbriand (1708-1760)

But the opposition of Intendant François Bigot, representative of the King of France, and the disapproval of Bishop de Pontbriand of Quebec, was a heavy blow to Marguerite. She tried to soften the impact of this news on her sisters and their charges: “If God calls us to govern this house, His plan will succeed; the impediments and opposition of men should not trouble us.” She will also write: “Divine Providence is truly admirable. God has a way of comforting those who depend on Him, no matter what happens. I place all my trust in Him!”

And Marguerite’s hope was not in vain… prominent citizens joined her in filing objections to the Ordinance. Among them were many who had put their names to the earlier document repudiating “Les Soeurs Grises.” The Sulpicians who had always supported Marguerite’s work, asked their members in France to appeal to the Royal Court and on May 12, 1752, the Ordinance of October 1750 was retracted. And in 1753, King Louis XV of France, signed the “Letters Patent” which sanctioned the appointment of Marguerite d’Youville as Directress of the General Hospital of Montreal. More importantly, the document also established, for the civil part, the new institute of the Sisters of Charity, known as the Grey Nuns. Another great joy was soon to follow these…

Indeed, Bishop de Pontbriand, although for some time an admirer of the nuns, hesitated to approve officially their Constitutions and costume: he thought the sisters were so fervent they would never need such rigid rules. But two years later, in 1755, he went along with their wishes and gave his canonical approval. That same year on August 25th, Fr. Louis Normant, co-founder of the Institute, bestowed on Mother d’Youville, who was now 54, and her companions, the religious habit – a simple grey dress and black head covering, similar to a widow’s bonnet. They also wore a silver cross with a heart in relief, at the centre. A fleur-de-lis at each corner of the cross commemorated their French origin. Because of their grey habit, the Sisters were now affectionately called: the Grey Nuns.

They were now respected by the people and were regarded as Mothers and Sisters to the poor, the elderly, orphans, and prostitutes, the mentally ill, physically handicapped, chronically ill and abandoned infants. Their work was now recognized for what it was: a mission of charity and love. In this same year, Mother d’Youville and her companions began their work as nurses during an epidemic of chicken pox. The disease also spread to the Indian missions around Montreal. Since they were not cloistered nuns, Marguerite and her companions would go into homes and take care of the sick that could not be hospitalized.

The hospital was nearly closed several times due to financial problems and armed conflict between the English and French for the region; Mother Marguerite and her sisters made clothes which were sold to traders in order to raise money, and her care for sick English soldiers caused them to avoid damage to the building.  The hospital became known as the Hotel Dieu (House of God).  In time, a proverb grew among the poor of Montreal and Church officials, “Go to the Grey Nuns, they never refuse to serve.”  Their hospital set a standard for medical care and Christian compassion.

In 1765 a fire destroyed the hospital but nothing could destroy Marguerite’s faith and courage. She asked her sisters and the poor who lived at the hospital, to recognize the hand of God in this disaster and to offer Him praise. Marguerite knelt in the ashes of the hospital and led all there gathered in the Te Deum, a hymn to God’s Providence in all things.

At the age of 64 Marguerite undertook the reconstruction of this shelter for those in need. She fought with government officials seeking to restrain her charity.  Totally exhausted from a lifetime of self-giving, Marguerite died on December 23, 1771, around 8:30pm, aged 70 years, and will always be remembered as a loving mother who served Jesus Christ in the poor.

During the autumn of 1771, Marguerite’s health began to fail, and in early December she suffered a stroke. When later she had another stroke and became paralyzed, she knew that her service to the poor would soon come to an end. She also knew that her last words would make a permanent impression on those whose lives were intertwined with her own. To her spiritual daughters, she bequeathed her great spirit of charity, recommending that they should “remain faithful to the duties of the life they have embraced… and always follow the paths of regularity, obedience, mortification, but most of all, the most perfect union should always reign among them.”

Marguerite was one woman, but this daughter of the Church had a vision of caring for the poor that has spread far and wide. Her sisters have built schools, hospitals, and orphanages and have served on almost every continent. Today, her mission is courageously carried on in a spirit of hope by the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, “Grey Nuns” and their sister communities: the Sisters of Charity of St. Hyacinthe, the Sisters of Charity at Ottawa, the Sisters of Charity of Quebec, the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart (Philadelphia) and the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (Pembroke).  They are especially known for their work among the Eskimos.

Pope John XXIII beatified Marguerite on May 3, 1959 and called her “Mother of Universal Charity” – a well-merited title for one who continues to this day to reach out to all with love and compassion. Marguerite d’Youville can sympathize with the unfortunate and painful situation of so many orphans, with adolescents worried about the future, with disillusioned girls who live without hope, with married woman suffering from unrequited love and with single parents. But most especially, Marguerite is a kindred spirit with all who have given their lives to helping others. The power of Marguerite’s intercession before God was clearly evidenced when a young woman stricken with acute myelobastic leukemia in 1978 was miraculously cured. This great favor opened for Marguerite the door to the official proclamation of sainthood.

St Marguerite d’Youville is patroness against the death of children, for difficult marriages, for in-law problems, for loss of parents, of those opposed by Church authorities, of people ridiculed for their piety, for victims of adultery, for victims of unfaithfulness, and for widows, among other causes.

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-The mortal remains of Saint Marguerite d’Youville were transferred to St. Anne de Varennes Basilica on December 9

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-by Sr. Diane Beaudoin, SGM
Maison Généralice, Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec

“On December 7 – 9, 2010 we lived an extraordinary event; the transfer of the remains of St. Marguerite d’Youville from the Grey Nuns of Montreal motherhouse to St. Anne Basilica in Varennes, her place of birth.

The journey began with a Mass at the Grey Nuns’ motherhouse chapel, where the remains of St. Marguerite were ceremoniously removed from the altar and placed on a portable altar prepared for its reception.  The remains were then brought to the infirmary, so that the elderly and infirmed sisters could say farewell and venerate their beloved mother and foundress. The remains were then returned to the chapel for an official sending off by Sr. Jacqueline St.-Ives, General Superior of the Grey Nuns of Montreal.  With a great sense of loss, but with much gratitude and joy, the journey of transfer began.  The remains were taken to a waiting hearse and with a cortege of about a dozen limousines and with police escort, St. Marguerite’s remains travelled the short distance from the motherhouse to Maison Mère d’Youville.

Here at Maison Mère d’Youville, the original General Hospital of Montréal, where St. Marguerite cared for the poor, her remains were brought to the very room where she lived and died and for the next 24 hours, we could pray, venerate her holy remains, and just be with her.  It was a powerful experience.

The second day of the journey found us in procession again from Maison Mère d’Youville to Notre-Dame Basilica, for a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal.  It was heart warming to see so many people who came to offer their tribute to St. Marguerite.  For the people of Montreal, this was an opportunity to remember Marguerite’s life and mission and give recognition to the Grey Nuns for their continuing mission toward those most in need today.

Upon leaving the Basilica, our cortege, again with police escort, travelled to Boucherville, a city founded by Marguerite’s great-grandfather Pierre Boucher, and where her son Charles was pastor.  Following an inspiring celebration where we listened to the story of Marguerite’s life, we left for our final destination, St. Anne’s Basilica in Varennes.  As we entered the city we noticed a large billboard, with St. Marguerite’s picture and the words “Welcome Home.”  The journey was now complete!

On the third and final day of this journey, we again celebrated a magnificent liturgy in the Basilica of St. Anne, with standing room only, presided over by the Bishop of the Diocese. At the end of the celebration, St. Marguerite’s remains were brought to their final resting place, to a tomb especially made to receive her and where for years to come we will be able to come, venerate, and pray to this Mother of Universal Charity.

Sr. Jacqueline St. Yves beautifully expressed the significance of these 3 days. “We have brought you our most prized possession, that which we hold closest to our hearts, and we trust you will take good care of her!  St. Marguerite now belongs to the people, to the whole Church.  There in Varennes, she awaits all who will come to her!”

http://www.hebdosregionaux.ca/monteregie/2010/12/17/sainte-marguerite-dyouville-revient-au-bercail
“St. Marguerite d’Youville has come a long way before returning to Varennes, the city where she was born there 309 years. The mortal remains of the first person to be canonized in Canada have indeed left the mother house of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, the Grey Nuns, to be transferred to the Basilica of Sainte-Anne de Varennes on December 9, the day even the 20 th anniversary of his canonization. A Eucharistic celebration presided by Jacques Berthelet, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, highlighted the event.

The basilica filled to overflowing with the faithful here and elsewhere, the ceremony was attended by many dignitaries, including the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, Pierre Duchesne, the bishop of the diocese elected Saint-Jean-Longueuil Lionel Gendron, bishops colleagues from Canada and abroad and representatives of the Grey Nuns. “You know Varennes is rich with the legacy of its history and its religious heritage. We owe much of our development to the builders that were clergymen and all the parish staff, “said Mayor of Varennes, Martin Damphousse, at a cocktail reception prior to the celebration.

A choir of forty people, accompanied by a violin and an organ, scored Mass grandiose songs and a procession opened and closed the ceremony. Bouquets of daisies were placed here and there. Like Marguerite d’Youville, the remains were contained in a simple wooden box, placed in the middle of the aisle.

Claude Lafortune, former host of The Gospel of paper , and a member of sacred art committee of the diocese, described the chapel, located in the transept of the basilica, which was to house the tomb of the holy woman.The tomb granite is decorated with a bouquet of daisies in bronze. A processional cross similar to that worn by Marguerite d’Youville, with lily flowers at the ends and the Sacred Heart, was forged. The statue of the saint, already in the basilica, was placed beside the grave.

The mass was of an international character occurring in French and English. A prayer inspired by the life of the one we called Mother of Universal Charity has even been made in several languages, including French, English, Spanish and Portuguese. “The mission of the church is to shine here and elsewhere. The deeper meaning of this passage of the mortal remains of St. Marguerite d’Youville of the parent company Grey Nuns at the Basilica is the return to God’s people. We must go to the people in whom Christ is present, “said Bishop Berthelet.

At the end of the celebration, the Sisters Grey handed the key to the tomb of “this flower a heart of gold,” as it is called Sister Jacqueline St-Yves, superior general of the Grey Nuns of Montreal, Raymond Fish, pastor the Sainte-Anne Basilica in Varennes. Then, the documents authenticating the translation of the remains were signed and deposited in the tomb with the remains of Saint Marguerite d’Youville. This is the first time in North America that a saint is buried in a place of worship.

“The first result of this translation is that the life and work of Marguerite d’Youville does not lapse with the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity.  Her memory will live on in a more vibrant place thanks to the prayers, “says Fish. Visitors will get to Sainte-Anne Basilica in Varennes throughout the year to pray at the tomb of the holy woman.

http://www.hannasheartsofhope.org/media/SaintMargueriteDYouville.pdf

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“All the wealth in the world cannot be compared with the happiness of living together happily united.” -St Margaret d’Youville

Prayer to St Marguerite d’Youville

St. Marguerite d’Youville,
During your lifetime, you opened your heart and home
to every type of human misery.

Listen now to my prayer of petition.
I count on you to plead with the God of Love
to grant the favor I seek with confidence and trust.

Gift us as you were gifted; with ever deepening faith,
with firm hope and trust.
Let my life be for all a service of love.

Mother of Universal Charity,
your love for the poor made the impossible possible.
Please make haste to help me.
Amen.

dyouville

Love,
Matthew