Category Archives: Te Deum

Jan 1 – Te Deum

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-click on the image for more detail, please.

-The Te Deum window by Christopher Whall, St Mary the Virgin, Ware, Hertfordshire, UK.

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-by Br John Sica, OP

“The Church places the ancient Latin hymn, the Te Deum, at the end of the year as a way of giving solemn thanks to God. The Manual of Indulgences grants an indulgence to the faithful who pray it in a church on the final day of the year as a way of thanking God for all the benefits He has bestowed on them throughout the year (#26, §1, 2°). Yet, this traditional hymn of thanksgiving does not have any explicit mention of giving thanks.

A Catholic who is unfamiliar with the content of the hymn might recognize instead the great 19th-century hymn Holy God, we praise Thy name, which is a paraphrase of the Te Deum. In order to get the sense of the place of the Te Deum in the liturgy, it would be useful to compare it to the Gloria in the Mass. Both are very ancient Latin hymns which praise God for the greatness of His divinity and move on to the praise of His saving works in Jesus Christ. Both are prescribed to be sung on days of an especially festive nature. On Sundays, solemnities, and feast days, the Gloria is sung at Mass, while the Te Deum is sung at the Liturgy of the Hours. We also sing the Te Deum outside the liturgy. The friars often sign it as a song of thanksgiving at a particularly joyous event, like the election of a pope or superior.  So why isn’t there a mention of thanksgiving in the hymn?

When we speak of gratitude, we are usually referring to a specific form of justice. Justice is the virtue that makes us give others what we owe them. Gratitude is what we owe those who are our benefactors, in return for benefits received. By explicitly acknowledging what is good in our lives, we are at the same time constrained to acknowledge these goods as benefits from God. “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above,” St. James says, “coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). The Church’s pedagogy in gratitude is meant to train us to go more and more quickly from acknowledging the gift to thanking the giver.

God’s greatness, His glory, His very divinity, however, are not really “benefits” given to us, so it is difficult to see how they would form the basis for thanksgiving. Yet, adoration of God, confession of His glory, and thanks for it seem to merge into one in the Gloria: we give you thanks for your great glory! In harmony with this line from the Gloria, the triumphant joy in confession of the truth of God’s greatness, which the Te Deum displays, might be called instead a sort of proto-thanksgiving. For God’s divinity is the basis of the liberality and mercy of God which lavishes His gifts on us, undeserving as we may be.

As our year ends, the Church encourages us to reflect on the blessings He has bestowed on us over the past year, and to pray and praise Him for it. Beneath the many gifts, the Church is always solicitous that we not forget the Giver, and so encourages us to break forth in praise of Him—thanksgiving for Him being God. “O God, we praise Thee: we acknowledge Thee to be Lord!”

Love, and great thanks to You, Lord Jesus Christ!!!
Matthew

Jul 9 – St John of Cologne, OP, (d.1572), Priest, Martyr of Gorkum, “Great Athlete of Christ”

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In his Decree of Canonization, St. John of Cologne was praised as a “great athlete of Christ.” As his title suggests, this Dominican priest is best known for the victory of his martyrdom, but it was his lifelong training in fidelity, lived through the Dominican charism, which prepared him for this final conquest.

St. John attended the University of Cologne in the middle of the sixteenth century. Although we don’t know much about his early life, we can learn something about it from John’s cultural setting. At this time, western Germany, Belgium, and Holland were dominated by Calvinist teaching, which viewed human nature as completely corrupt and denied the healing action of grace. As a result, even many Catholics had lost a sense of the reality of the sacramental life. Not unlike today, many in John’s age found moral absolutes hard to identify, and faith had become relegated to the private sphere.

Amid these uncertain cultural currents, John discovered the solid foundation of truth when he began his studies at the University of Cologne, then recognized as one of the best educational institutions in Europe. Not only did John acknowledge intellectual truth, but he also came to know the Person of Truth, Jesus Christ, and followed His call to the Dominican Order. He entered the Order at Cologne and received his formation there.

After completing his education, John was assigned to a parish in the Netherlands village of Horner, where he served for twenty years. Although we do not have records of the sermons of John of Cologne, his final actions give the most eloquent testimony about what he considered the purpose of his priestly vocation. In the spring of 1571, a group of militant Calvinists along with a band of pirates began raiding Dutch villages, particularly focusing on the arrest and capture of the Catholic clergy. In June of that year, the neighboring town of Gorkum was attacked, and the clergy were captured. Fifteen priests, the majority of them Franciscans, had been imprisoned.

Upon hearing of their arrest, John immediately disguised himself and sought to bring these priests the consolation of the sacraments. For several days he was successful, but was eventually captured along with three other priests. These nineteen were imprisoned in Gorkum from June 26 until July 6, undergoing much abuse as they were asked to deny the tenets of the Catholic faith.

On July 6, the nineteen martyrs were transferred to the prison at Dortrecht. Along the way, villagers were charged admission for viewing the torture of the priests. Once in Dortecht, each of them was asked to deny belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and in the primacy of the Pope. Each one remained steadfast in his profession of faith. Despite an order from the Dutch ruler William of Orange that the priests not be harmed, they were cruelly mutilated and hanged on the night of July 9, 1572. The Dominican John of Cologne, great athlete of Christ, had won his final victory of martyrdom. Along with his companions, he was beatified on November 14, 1675 and canonized on June 29, 1865.

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richard-steenvoorde

-by Br Richard Steenvoorde, OP, English Province

“The story of saint John of Cologne O.P. (+1572) proves that you can become a saint by doing the right thing at the right time.

John of Cologne was a 17th century Dominican in what is now the Netherlands, near the city of Gorinchem. He was a parish priest. In 1572 John is caught up in the Dutch Wars of Independence from Spain, which, confusingly, at the same time were also civil wars over religion. A band of Calvinist rebels had captured one city near Rotterdam, and introduced the strictest form of Calvinism possible. From there they undertook their raids in aid of the rebellion led by the protestant prince William of Orange (not to be confused by the later English King).

The rebels captured the town of Gorkum (present day: Gorinchem) and imprisoned all of the Franciscans, and some secular priests. They would be released if they would swear allegiance to the new Calvinist faith. Now John heard of this, and -in disguise- went out to visit the prisoners in order to give them Holy Communion. However, he was betrayed, and was added to the prisoners.

Soon after that, the group was shipped off to the centre of a Calvinist stronghold: Den Briel (Brielle). Upon arriving, they were forced to process around the gallows near the harbor.

“Sing”; the people shouted mockingly: “Sing something about Mary”. And one young friar finds the courage to sing. And the others join in. And suddenly the people are moved by the dignity of these men. Tears well up, and a deep silence comes over the crowd when the men stop. Quickly the pirates move the men to another pair of gallows in the town’s centre and force them to sing again, and they sing the Te Deum.

A mock trial follows, a late intervention by the Prince of Orange to save the men goes horribly wrong. The men are hanged in an old stable, part of a ruined monastic complex.

How must our brother John have felt in all this? We don’t know. No words of his were preserved. But I think his life is a sermon for us. He went out to bring Christ to others in need. He joined them in their suffering. Staying dignified, impressing their executioners, praying to God, finding courage through their deepest fears.

By this testimony, I think, the Martyrs of Gorkum, including friar John, have given us a testimony of what it means to be blessed in times of great adversity. Between how people treat us, and how we respond, there is a choice. John chose to respond as he had probably preached many times before. To witness that evil has not the last word. That through Christ’s redemptive work, we are truly blessed.”

Love,
Matthew

Te Deum

The Te Deum (also known as Ambrosian Hymn or A Song of the Church) is an early Christian hymn of praise. The title is taken from its opening Latin words, Te Deum laudamus, rendered as “Thee, O God, we praise”.

The hymn remains in regular use in the Catholic Church in the Office of Readings found in the Lilturgy of the Hours, and in thanksgiving to God for a special blessing such as the election of a pope, the consecration of a bishop, the canonization of a saint, a religious profession, the publication of a treaty of peace, a royal coronation, etc. It is sung either after Mass or the Divine Office or as a separate religious ceremony. The hymn also remains in use in the Anglican Communion and some Lutheran Churches in similar settings.

In the traditional Office, the Te Deum is sung at the end of Matins on all days when the Gloria is said at Mass; those days are all Sundays outside Advent, Septuagesima, Lent, and Passiontide; on all feasts (except the Triduum) and on all ferias during Eastertide. Before the 1962 reforms, neither the Gloria nor the Te Deum were said on the feast of the Holy Innocents, unless it fell on Sunday, as they were martyred before the death of Christ and therefore could not immediately attain the beatific vision.  A plenary indulgence is granted, under the usual conditions, to those who recite it in public on New Year’s Eve.

In the Liturgy of the Hours of Pope Paul VI, the Te Deum is sung at the end of the Office of Readings on all Sundays except those of Lent, on all solemnities, on the octaves of Easter and Christmas, and on all feasts. It is also used together with the standard canticles in Morning Prayer as prescribed in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, in Matins for Lutherans, and is retained by many other churches of the Reformed tradition.

It is traditional for Catholic martyrs to sing the Te Deum before execution, or saints-to-be to sing it after some great tragedy, misfortune, or great joy.  

  • St Marguerite d’Youville instructed her sisters to kneel in the snow and ashes after the hospital they built in Quebec burned to ashes, to begin again.    
  • Franciscan Missionaries of Mary intoned it before being hacked to death in the Boxer Rebellion.
  • St Marie-Victoire Therese Couderc reported in one her visions the poor souls of Purgatory came to her in her vision and sang the Te Deum.
  • St Edmund Campion, SJ & his companions sang the Te Deum in court upon hearing the verdict of their condemnation.
  • As part of their punishment, St Paul Miki, SJ, & companions were forced to march 600 miles to their execution while singing the Te Deum.

That is what Catholic martyrs do prior to imminent death, they SING!!!!  THEY SING AS THEY WILL FOR ALL ETERNITY!!!!

BrHumbertKilanowski
-by Br Humbert Kilanowski, OP (prior to joining the Order, Br Humbert earned a doctorate in mathematics from Ohio State University.)

“For centuries, the Church has had the custom of singing a hymn of thanks and praise, the Te Deum, at major events. In addition to being part of the Liturgy of the Hours for Sundays and feast days, including every day this week during the Octave of Christmas, this hymn is sung at papal installations and episcopal consecrations; we sang it here at the House of Studies this year upon the election of our new prior. According to legend, the great hymnographer St. Ambrose composed it when he baptized his most famous convert, St. Augustine. But while some liturgical books call it the Hymnus Sanctorum Ambrosii et Augustini (the Hymn of Saints Ambrose and Augustine), it was most likely written by another fourth-century bishop, Nicetas of Remisiana.

In this hymn, we on earth join in the praise of God by all the ranks of heaven: “To you all angels, all the powers of heaven, Cherubim and Seraphim sing in endless praise;” and we recall the life and events of Jesus Christ, the divine Son, who “overcame the sting of death and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.” Even those unfamiliar with the original Latin hymn or its literal English translation may recognize a poetic translation, such as “God, We Praise You” or “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.”

Moreover, the Church grants a plenary indulgence for praying the Te Deum in public, and some places have taken up this custom. My home parish, for example, features the hymn after an hour of Eucharistic adoration and before a Mass at midnight. What better way could there be to make the transition from one year to the next than to spend time in prayer, thanking God for the gifts and blessings of the past year and starting a new one free from the punishment of sin, with the hope that the newborn Savior provides?

Truly, it is fitting therefore that the year turns over during Christmas time, as the Te Deum proclaims: “When you became man to set us free, you did not spurn the Virgin’s womb.” This “marvelous exchange” (admirabile commercium)—as the Church’s liturgy prays this evening, in which God the Son took on our human nature to the fullest, even having a human birth from His virgin mother Mary, in order that we may share in His divinity—is definitely a cause for celebration and praise. As we review and reflect on the many gifts that God has given each of us this past year, let us also ponder the greatest gift—the birth of the Son that makes friendship with God possible—and give God thanks and praise, asking Him, as the hymn concludes, to “bring us with Your saints to glory everlasting.”

Te Deum laudamus:
te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem
omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes Angeli;
tibi caeli et universae Potestates;
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim
incessabili voce proclamant:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra
maiestatis gloriae tuae.
Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,
Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus,
Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.
Te per orbem terrarum
sancta confitetur Ecclesia,
Patrem immensae maiestatis:
Venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium;
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.
Tu Rex gloriae, Christe.
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem,
non horruisti Virginis uterum.
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo,
aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris.
Iudex crederis esse venturus.
Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni:
quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.
Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.

[added later, mainly from Psalm verses:]
Salvum fac populum tuum,
Domine, et benedic hereditati tuae.
Et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum.
Per singulos dies benedicimus te,
Et laudamus Nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi.
Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire.
Miserere nostri Domine, miserere nostri.
Fiat misericordia tua,
Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in te.
In te, Domine, speravi:
non confundar in aeternum.

We praise Thee, O God ,
we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship Thee,
the Father everlasting.
To Thee all Angels cry aloud,
the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To Thee Cherubim and Seraphim,
continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy,
Lord God of Hosts;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty,
of Thy glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles, praise Thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets, praise Thee.
The noble army of Martyrs, praise Thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world,
doth acknowledge Thee;
The Father, of an infinite Majesty;
Thine honourable, true, and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son, of the Father.
When Thou tookest upon Thee to deliver man,
Thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.
When Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death,
Thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou shalt come, to be our Judge.
We therefore pray Thee, help Thy servants,
whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with Thy Saints, in glory everlasting.

[added later, mainly from Psalm verses:]
O Lord, save Thy people,
and bless Thine heritage.
Govern them, and lift them up for ever.
Day by day, we magnify Thee;
And we worship Thy Name, ever world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let Thy mercy lighten upon us,
as our trust is in Thee.
O Lord, in Thee have I trusted,
let me never be confounded.”

So, I don’t know about vous, but I am not totally convinced we have made great progress with the more contemporary Glory & Praise hymnals since Messrs Haydn, Bach, Pergolesi, Charpentier, & Mozart, no?  🙂

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But, you know, Catholic Sunday Mass, whatevs cheapest/easiest.  Which parishioner is willing to belt anything/something/”all are welcome/kumbaya, Tammy Wynette cover band, and I personally LOVE Tammy Wynette, just maybe NOT for Mass?” for free?    It’ll do, as if anything wouldn’t.  Sometimes silence is just more solemn/reverent.  🙂

Love & worthy songs of Praise!,
Matthew

Jul 9 – Franciscan Martyrs of China & Companions: The Boxer Rebellion

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-the Empress Dowager Cixi

The uprising by the “Society for Justice and Harmony” (commonly known as the “Boxers”; don’t you just LOVE these euphemisms?  Not well disguised, except from the truly moronic?  “The Committee on Public Safety” in the French Revolution?  Pick a lobby in Washington?  Ok, I’ll cede one, “The Holy Office”, aka, The Inquisition :), occurred at the beginning of the twentieth century and caused the shedding of the blood of many Christians, Catholic & Protestant.

After a long drought, a slight drizzle began to moisten the dry fields of Shanxi province. But it was too late.  Local peasants had already spread rumors – the Christians were to blame for the long-term lack of rain. Banners had begun to appear throughout the region: “The skies won’t rain, the earth is scorched, all because the churches have blocked the heavens” (Taiyuan jiaochu jianhua, 311).

Two Franciscan bishops, two priests, a brother, and seven nuns had prayed for rain, but when it had finally arrived they knew it could not stop the tide of violence. Chinese Christians all around them were already being captured, ordered to renounce their faith in God, and executed if they refused. By the summer of 1900 a group of anti-foreign and anti-Christian men and women had organized themselves into roaming bands of martial artists groups carrying long swords, spears, and halberds; they called themselves the Yihetuan, or the “Society of Righteous Harmony.” Their duty, they asserted, was to support the ruling court and “annihilate all foreigners.”

At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the Franciscan bishops, priests, and nuns were reciting the Divine Office together with Chinese faithful in Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi, when they heard the clamor of weapons approaching their small room. Instinctively knowing that they would soon be executed, those present all knelt before Bishop Gregorius Grassi, the ordinary of their remote Chinese diocese. Grassi trembled with emotion as he said to his fellow Christians, “The hour of death has come, my children: kneel down and I will give you holy absolution” (Franciscan Martyrs of the Boxer Rising, 14).

Bishops Grassi and Francis Fogolla, Fathers Theodiric Balat and Elias Fachini, Brother Andreus Bauer, seven nuns, fourteen Chinese Catholics, and a group of Protestants who had also been arrested, were each stripped to the waist, men and women, and tied together. On their way to the governor’s mansion, where their execution ground was being prepared, the Franciscans were derided and beaten both by their guards and the mob that lined the street.

Once they had arrived at Governor Yuxian’s official residence, the missionaries and native Catholics were ordered to kneel in the large courtyard. There was no trial. In Cardinal Louis Nazaire Bégin’s account of what happened next, we hear of how they were martyred:
‘Kill them, kill them!’ roared the crowd. Yu-Hsien striking with his own sword cried: ‘Kill them!’ At this sight the soldiers began the slaughter, dealing blows right and left, cruelly injuring their victims before giving the final stroke. Father Elie, aged sixty-one years, received more than one hundred sword cuts and at each lifted his eyes to heaven saying: ‘I go to heaven.’

During the scene the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary were spectators, for their executioners hoped the sight of the martyred priests would make their own death more horrible. They knelt in prayer with eyes lifted to heaven, praying for the martyrs, for the conversion of their persecutors and for the perseverance of the Christians. . . . The nuns embraced each other, intoned St Ambrose & St Augustine’s Te Deum Laudamus (Christian martyrs, when presented with immanent death, SING! see also Carmelites of the French Revolution), and presented their heads to the executioners…(Life of Mother Marie Hermine, 62-63).

Father Andrew Wang tried to evade the Boxers by wearing secular garb and taking flight into Shanxi’s remote areas. Father Wang spent several days without food or shelter, and finally in a state of exhaustion, coughing blood, was discovered by his pursuers, who took him to the local magistrate for trial.

During his investigation, he was told by the local official: “. . . if you renounce your religion you will receive clothes and money, and your life will be spared.” Father Wang calmly informed his judge that he was a priest, reasserted his faith in God, and asked to be executed on the grounds of his church, which had just been destroyed by the Boxers.

The Boxer Rebellion, Boxer Uprising or Yihetuan Movement was a violent anti-foreign and anti-Christian movement which took place in China towards the end of the Qing dynasty between 1898 and 1900. It was initiated by the Militia United in Righteousness (Yihetuan), known in English as the “Boxers”, and was motivated by proto-nationalist sentiments and opposition to foreign imperialism and Christianity. The Great Powers intervened and defeated Chinese forces.

The uprising took place against a background of severe drought, and the disruption caused by the growth of foreign spheres of influence. After several months of growing violence against foreign and Christian presence in Shandong and the North China plain, in June 1900 Boxer fighters, convinced they were invulnerable to foreign weapons, converged on Beijing with the slogan “Support the Qing, exterminate the foreigners.”

Foreigners and Chinese Christians sought refuge in the Legation Quarter. In response to reports of an armed invasion to lift the siege, the initially hesitant Empress Dowager Cixi supported the Boxers and on June 21 authorized war on foreign powers. Diplomats, foreign civilians and soldiers, and Chinese Christians in the Legation Quarter were under siege by the Imperial Army of China and the Boxers for 55 days. Chinese officialdom was split between those supporting the Boxers and those favoring conciliation, led by Prince Qing.

The supreme commander of the Chinese forces, Ronglu, later claimed that he acted to protect the besieged foreigners. The Eight-Nation Alliance, after being initially turned back, brought 20,000 armed troops to China, defeated the Imperial Army, and captured Beijing (Peking) on August 14, lifting the siege of the Legations. Uncontrolled plunder of the capital and the surrounding countryside ensued, along with the summary execution of those suspected of being Boxers.

The Boxer Protocol of September 7, 1901 provided for the execution of government officials who had supported the Boxers, provisions for foreign troops to be stationed in Beijing, and an indemnity of 450 million taels of silver – more than the government’s annual tax revenue, to be paid as indemnity over a course of thirty-nine years to the eight nations involved.

As a result of the Boxer Rebellion, the martyrdom of Catholic & Protestant missionaries and many Chinese took place who can be grouped together as follows. Twenty-seven Franciscans and Franciscan tertiaries and their confreres in faith who became victims of the Boxer Rebellion; they represent more than 100,000 Christians of China who were martyred in the reign of Empress Dowager Tz’u Hsi (Cixi).

a) Martyrs of Shanxi, killed on July 9, 1900 (known as the Taiyuan Massacre), who were Franciscan Friars Minor:

1. Saint Gregory Grassi, Bishop,
2. Saint Francis Fogolla, Bishop,
3. Saint Elias Facchini, Priest,
4. Saint Theodoric Balat, Priest,
5. Saint Andrew Bauer, Religious Brother;

b) Martyrs of Southern Hunan, who were also Franciscan Friars Minor:

6. Saint Anthony Fantosati, Bishop (martyred on July 7, 1900), vicar apostolic of Hengchow,
7. Saint Joseph Mary Gambaro, Priest (martyred on July 7, 1900), who was tortured to death,
8. Saint Cesidio Giacomantonio, Priest (martyred on July 4, 1900), burned alive.

To the martyred Franciscans of the First Order were added seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, of whom three were French, two Italian, one Belgian, and one Dutch:

9. Saint Mary Hermina of Jesus (in saec: Irma Grivot),
10. Saint Mary of Peace (in saec: Mary Ann Giuliani),
11. Saint Mary Clare (in saec: Clelia Nanetti),
12. Saint Mary of the Holy Birth (in saec: Joan Mary Kerguin),
13. Saint Mary of Saint Justus (in saec: Ann Moreau),
14. Saint Mary Adolfine (in saec: Ann Dierk),
15. Saint Mary Amandina (in saec: Paula Jeuris).

Of the martyrs belonging to the Franciscan family, there were also eleven Secular Franciscans, all Chinese:

15. Saint John Zhang Huan, seminarian,
16. Saint Patrick Dong Bodi, seminarian,
17. Saint John Wang Rui, seminarian,
18. Saint Philip Zhang Zhihe, seminarian,
19. Saint John Zhang Jingguang, seminarian,
20. Saint Thomas Shen Jihe, layman and a manservant,
21. Saint Simon Qin Chunfu, lay catechist,
22. Saint Peter Wu Anbang, layman,
23. Saint Francis Zhang Rong, layman and a farmer,
24. Saint Matthew Feng De, layman and neophyte,
25. Saint Peter Zhang Banniu, layman and labourer.

To these are joined a number of Chinese lay faithful:

26. Saint James Yan Guodong, farmer,
27. Saint James Zhao Quanxin, manservant,
28. Saint Peter Wang Erman, cook.

When the uprising of the “Boxers”, which had begun in Shandong and then spread through Shanxi and Hunan, also reached South-Eastern Tcheli (currently named Hebei), which was then the Apostolic Vicariate of Xianxian, in the care of the Jesuits, the Christians killed could be counted in thousands. Among these were four French Jesuit missionaries and at least 52 Chinese lay Christians: men, women and children – the oldest of them being 79 years old, while the youngest were aged only nine years. All suffered martyrdom in the month of July 1900. Many of them were killed in the church in the village of Tchou-Kia-ho (or Zhujiahe), in which they were taking refuge and where they were in prayer together with the first two of the missionaries listed below:

29. Saint Leo Mangin, S.J., Priest,
30. Saint Paul Denn, S.J., Priest,
31. Saint Rémy Isoré, S.J., Priest,
32. Saint Modeste Andlauer, S.J., Priest.

The names and ages of the Chinese lay Christians were as follows:

33. Saint Mary Zhu born Wu, aged about 50 years,
34. Saint Petrus Zhu Rixin, aged 19,
35. Saint Ioannes Baptista Zhu Wurui, aged 17,
36. Saint Mary Fu Guilin, aged 37,
37. Saint Barbara Cui born Lian, aged 51,
38. Saint Joseph Ma Taishun, aged 60,
39. Saint Lucia Wang Cheng, aged 18,
40. Saint Maria Fan Kun, aged 16,
41. Saint Mary Qi Yu, aged 15,
42. Saint Maria Zheng Xu, aged 11 years,
43. Saint Mary Du born Zhao, aged 51,
44. Saint Magdalene Du Fengju, aged 19,
45. Saint Mary Du born Tian, aged 42,
46. Saint Paul Wu Anju, aged 62,
47. Saint Ioannes Baptista Wu Mantang, aged 17,
48. Saint Paulus Wu Wanshu, aged 16,
49. Saint Raymond Li Quanzhen, aged 59,
50. Saint Peter Li Quanhui, aged 63,
51. Saint Peter Zhao Mingzhen, aged 61,
52. Saint John Baptist Zhao Mingxi, aged 56,
53. Saint Teresa Chen Jinjie, aged 25,
54. Saint Rose Chen Aijie, aged 22,
55. Saint Peter Wang Zuolong, aged 58,
56. Saint Mary Guo born Li, aged 65,
57. Saint Joan Wu Wenyin, aged 50,
58. Saint Zhang Huailu, aged 57,
59. Saint Mark Ji Tianxiang, aged 66,
60. Saint Ann An born Xin, aged 72,
61. Saint Mary An born Guo, aged 64,
62. Saint Ann An born Jiao, aged 26,
63. Saint Mary An Linghua, aged 29,
64. Saint Paul Liu Jinde, aged 79,
65. Saint Joseph Wang Kuiju, aged 37,
66. Saint John Wang Kuixin, aged 25,
67. Saint Teresa Zhang born He, aged 36,
68. Saint Lang born Yang, aged 29,
69. Saint Paulus Lang Fu, aged 9,
70. Saint Elizabeth Qin born Bian, aged 54,
71. Saint Simon Qin Chunfu, aged 14,
72. Saint Peter Liu Ziyu, aged 57,
73. Saint Anna Wang, aged 14,
74. Saint Joseph Wang Yumei, aged 68,
75. Saint Lucy Wang born Wang, aged 31,
76. Saint Andreas Wang Tianqing, aged 9,
77. Saint Mary Wang born Li, aged 49,
78. Saint Chi Zhuzi, aged 18,
79. Saint Mary Zhao born Guo, aged 60,
80. Saint Rose Zhao, aged 22,
81. Saint Maria Zhao, aged 17,
82. Saint Joseph Yuan Gengyin, aged 47,
83. Saint Paul Ge Tingzhu, aged 61,
84. Saint Rose Fan Hui, aged 45.

Besides all those already mentioned who were killed by the Boxers, it is necessary also to remember:

85. Saint Alberic Crescitelli, a priest of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions of Milan, who carried out his ministry in Southern Shaanxi and was martyred on July 21, 1900.

Some years later, members of the Salesian Society of St John Bosco were added to the considerable number of martyrs recorded above:

86. Saint Louis Versiglia, Bishop,
87. Saint Callistus Caravario, Priest.

They were killed together on February 25, 1930 at Li-Thau-Tseul.

A 14-year-old Chinese girl named Ann Wang, who was killed during the Boxer Rebellion when she refused to apostatize. She bravely withstood the threats of her torturers, and just as she was about to be beheaded, she radiantly declared, “The door of heaven is open to all” and repeated the name of Jesus three times.

Another of the martyrs was 18-year-old Chi Zhuzi, who had been preparing to receive the sacrament of Baptism when he was caught on the road one night and ordered to worship idols. He refused to do so, revealing his belief in Christ. His right arm was cut off and he was tortured, but he would not deny his faith. Rather, he fearlessly pronounced to his captors, before being flayed alive, “Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian.”

Following the failure of the Boxer rebellion, the government recognized it had no choice but to modernize, which in turn led to a booming conversion period in the following decades. The Chinese developed respect for the moral level that Christians maintained in their hospital and schools. The continuing association between western imperialism in China and missionary efforts nevertheless continued to fuel hostilities against missions and Christianity in China. All missions were banned in China by the new communist regime after the outbreak of the Korean war in 1950, and officially continue to be legally outlawed to the present.

“The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.” – Soren Kierkegaard

Love,
Matthew

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

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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.

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-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

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

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-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.

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-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

tomb_dyouville

-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

Sep 26 – St Marie-Victoire Therese Couderc, r.c., (1805-1885), Foundress of the Congregation of Our Lady of the Retreat of the Cenacle

marie_therese_couderc_001

“God always gives more than we ask.”  -Saint Marie-Victoire Therese Couderc

I have been on retreat more than once at The Cenacle in Lincoln Park in Chicago, www.cenaclesisters.org/chicago/.  Of course my first question, as would almost anyone’s would be, “What’s a cenacle?”

The Cenacle, from Latin “cenaculum”, also known as the “Upper Room”, is the site of The Last Supper. The word is a derivative of the Latin word “cena”, which means “dinner”.  In Christian tradition, based on Acts 1:13(& 14), “When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”

The “Upper Room” was not only the site of the Last Supper (i.e. the
Cenacle), but also the usual place where the Apostles stayed in Jerusalem, sometimes thought of as the first Christian church.  Thus the Cenacle is considered the site where many other events described in the New Testament took place, such as:

  • the Washing of the Feet by the Lord of the Apostles
  • some Resurrection appearances of Jesus
  • the gathering of the disciples after the Ascension of Jesus
  • the election of Saint Matthias as apostle
  • the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost

Not a bad place for a retreat? Huh?  🙂

Marie-Victoire Couderc was born in 1805 in Le Mas (Ardèche),
France. She made her novitiate with the Sisters of St. Regis in Lalouvesc (Ardèche) in 1825, taking the religious name Therese.

Concerned with welfare of female pilgrims visiting the shrine of St. John Francis Regis, SJ, in town, she co-founded the Sisters of the Cenacle with Father Jean-Pierre Etienne Terme in 1826.  It was a response to the disruption and reawakening of the practice of the Faith in France due to the Revolution

St Therese became the Congregation’s founder Superior in 1828, and when the Mother House was established, its Superior General until 1838.  The retreats increased rapidly and plans were made to build a new chapel and a new convent. But, after completion, the promised funding evaporated.  The bishop of Viviers too quickly lost his trust in Therese, reinforcing Mother Therese’s own humble but mistaken conviction that she was to blame for the debacle.  At last, she resigned her office of superior. She was thirty-three years old, having guided her sisters for the first ten years of the congregation’s existence.

Her successor, chosen by the Jesuit provincial, was Mademoiselle Gallet, a wealthy widow only 20 years old, who had been a novice for only 15 days, having entered on September 24, 1838, who hardly knew the first thing about being a nun, put the convent through a terrible trial.  She made the rules more lax, Mother Therese had always insisted on silence and evangelical poverty, and borrowed money to buy beautiful things for the convent.  Many nuns and outsiders were shocked at this new turn of events, but Our Lady was watching out for the little community.

When mademoiselle died later that year, she left her fortune to the
congregation.  However, her relatives contested her will, and the
Cenacle’s financial situation was once more thrown into disarray.  The Bishop of Viviers named Countess de la Villeurnoy the new Superior general.  Soon, she even began to call herself “mother founder.”

The community of nuns as well as outside friends blamed Mother Thérèse for the whole affair. Rumors began to circulate. “They say that Therese is incompetent and has no business ability whatsoever. How can we count on her to raise funds for the congregation if she is going to fail like this?  And her health is reported to be failing badly; perhaps she is no longer capable of governing. It is possible that she has mental problems.”

“It seems that no one can govern this congregation,” he began. “You
yourself resigned your office in disgrace, and this Countess has led you all to the brink of disaster. Now it falls to me to pick up the pieces.
Tell me: should I assign a new superior? Would it help this congregation function better?”

Mother Therese remained silent for a moment. “Fr Renault,” she said
carefully, “You know that I am a professed religious, and that I have taken a vow of obedience to my superiors for life. To me, that obedience means that I must respect every action of my superiors, whether it appeals to me or not. God has placed Mother de la Villeurnoy in a position of authority over me; you seek testimony which I cannot give nor do I wish to give.”

The provincial was dumbfounded. “But this woman calls herself the founder!  She has stolen the respect that is rightfully yours!” he burst out.

“Perhaps,” Mother Therese said quietly. “But more important than any title is the vow which I have made to my Creator and Redeemer.”

Nevertheless, the provincial did not need her testimony; there was more than enough evidence against the Countess. After causing eleven months of havoc, the Countess was removed from office.

Mother Contenet, her replacement, eager to attract members of the higher social classes for the congregation, expelled ten of the original twelve members of the congregation. Convinced of the ineptitude of the true founder, she did everything in her power to keep Mother Therese away from the other sisters. Therese was exiled from her chosen work of giving retreats to spend thirteen years at the most difficult manual labor in the congregation, working in the gardens and the cellar. Conditions were so poor that her eyesight was permanently impaired. Her food was only the worst of the vegetables and the unwanted remnants of black bread which the gardener threw alongside the convent wall.

Mother Therese dropped into increasing obscurity. “After all,” she
reflected, “the religious life is a sufficiently great grace even though one purchase it at the price of the most difficult of sacrifices.” Despite the great mortification of her state, she told the young religious that “We should never allow even one thought of sadness to enter the soul. Have we not within us Him who is the joy of Heaven!”

Mother Therese’s exile ended with the death of Mother Contenet in 1852, but dissension and instability once more returned to the Cenacle. Mother Anaïs was elected the new superior general, but left the congregation three years later. Not until 1856 did Therese return to an active role in the congregation.

During a time of crisis, Mother Therese was sent briefly to serve as temporary superior of the convent in Paris and then at Tournon, where her governance was remembered for its firmness but genuine goodness. Again, however, she disappeared into the background.

One day, while visiting one of the convents of the Religious of the
Cenacle, Cardinal Lavigerie noticed Mother Therese praying in the chapel.  He turned to the superior of the house and asked, “Anyone can see how holy the face of this sister is. What is her name?”

“Sister Therese Couderc,” was the reply.

“She seems such a saint,” he mused. “What is her place in the history of the congregation?”

The superior was embarrassed. “Well, she was in charge of the gardens for many years, and she was sent to be a temporary superior at two houses in the 1850’s. Now she just mostly prays in the chapel, and we let her alone.”

Cardinal Lavigerie looked at her sharply. “She has been left out, hasn’t she?” The superior said nothing.

Her reputation had been by now so thoroughly maligned by her superiors that even her status as founder had been completely forgotten. Her work as founder had been, above all, her prayers, penances, and humiliation. It was only towards the end of her life, when the bishop of Viviers launched an inquiry into the circumstances of the foundation, that Mother Therese Couderc was finally recognized as the founder of the Sisters of the Cenacle.  Fra Angelico’s “The Mocking of Christ” comes to mind.

Mother Thérèse spent many years at the convent in Fourvière, being in charge of the manual labour.  She describes some of these trying times…..“We gathered up pieces of black bread which a man used to throw beside the convent wall.  At night and early morning we had only one lamp in the hall to give us light to dress by and we had very poor light to work by at recreation.”

Therese told the younger nuns, “Great trials make great souls
and fit them for the great things which God wishes to do through them…Let us say bravely and confidently: God is sufficient for me!…We should never allow even one thought of sadness to enter the soul, because we have within us, Jesus, the Joy of Heaven!”

In 1864, God made Therese understand that souls would not do enough prayer and penance.  She wanted to save souls and she firmly believed in self-surrender.  Mother Thérèse said, “There is sweetness and peace when one gives himself totally to God, and by doing this, the soul finds Heaven on earth!”

Mother Thérèse spent the last ten years of her life in much suffering of body and soul.  In 1875, she offered herself to Our Lord as a victim soul.  Day after day, but especially on Thursdays and Fridays, she shared Our Lord’s Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.  She would stay in the chapel near the altar and weep for hours on end, saying over and over, “Have pity on me Dear Lord, have pity on me!”

Her sufferings increased and by 1885, Mother Thérèse had to stay in her.  In her pains she suffered patiently and suffered with great peace of. It is reported by a contemporary biographer, Mother Therese stated that the Poor Souls in Purgatory would often come to visit her and they would sing with great love and humility, the “Te Deum.”  On September 26, 1885, Mother Thérèse died, closing her eyes to this world.  Like a number of founders and foundresses, she later was honored for her sanctity. She died in Lyon at age 80 and is buried in Lalouvesc.

———————-

The modern day sisters of the the Cenacle, 1500 members in sixteen countries, possess a compelling love for Jesus Christ and try to find the best means of making Him better known and loved through their ministry of spiritual direction, personal, private, Ignatian, and directed retreats, particularly in the retreat centers they administer.  By membership in their Congregation they give their word to God and each other to continue their search to live the Gospel in the society of today.  Not a bad promise to make, IMHO.

During your retreat, you may request a Cenacle sister as a spiritual companion.  The Irish have the expression Kelly and I have inscribed on the inside of our wedding rings, “Anam Cara”=”soul friend”.  A Cenacle sister, if requested, may, as a trained and experienced spiritual companion, support you in:

  • Exploring the “desires of your heart” by talking about your life and your relationship with God.
  • Encouraging you in your prayer.
    Becoming aware of God’s action in the events of your life and your inner journey.
  • Reverencing and savoring your experience of God.
  • Listening to the deepest desires of your heart.
  • Trusting in the Holy Spirit to help you find within yourself the answers to your deep questions.
  • Discerning a direction for your life that is in harmony with God’s dream for you.

For me, prayer is like breathing.  I absolutely need it.  I depend on upon it.  Nothing works without it.  It must be first.  It has become more intense with time and graces received.  To rest, completely.  To be refreshed, wonderfully.  Relationships are very important, we all realize, especially that One.  Why should its deepening be any different than our deepening with others, in time spent together, speaking tenderly, lovingly with one another?  With Him?

———————-

“I have just one desire, that God be glorified.”
-Saint Marie Victoire Therese Couderc

“My heart embraces the whole world.”
-Saint Marie Victoire Therese Couderc

“Let me live by love, let me die of love, and let my last heartbeat be an act of the most perfect love.”
-Saint Marie Victoire Therese Couderc

“All places are alike to me, because everywhere I expect to find God, who is the only object of all my desires.”
-Saint Marie Victoire Therese Couderc

“What does it matter if my feet, bare and torn, fill my wooden shoes with blood? I would willingly begin the journey all over again, for I have indeed found the good God!”
-Saint Marie Victoire Therese Couderc

“I abandon myself with my whole heart to God’s will, and to God’s good pleasure — and when I have in all sincerity made this act of
self-surrender, I experience great tranquility and perfect peace.”  –Saint Marie Victoire Therese Couderc

“I could say, with you, that my heart doesn’t age in this matter of loving others…. We know well we have the same heart we had earlier; it always knows how to love God first and then others in [God]….”  –Saint Marie Victoire Therese Couderc

“I saw written as in letters of gold this word Goodness, which I repeated for a long while with an indescribable sweetness. I saw it, I say, written on all creatures, animate and inanimate, rational or not, all bore this name of goodness. I saw it even on the chair I was using as a kneeler. I understood then that all that these creatures have of good and all the services and helps that we receive from each of them is a blessing that we owe to the goodness of our God, who has communicated to them something of his infinite goodness, so that we may meet it in every thing and everywhere.”  -Saint Marie Victoire Therese Couderc

“I was preparing to begin my meditation, when I heard the pealing of the church bells calling the faithful to attend the divine Mysteries. At that moment the desire came over me to unite myself with all the Masses which were being said, and to that end I directed my intention so that I might participate in them.

Then I had an overall view of the whole Catholic world and a multitude of altars upon which at one and the same time the adorable Victim was being immolated. The blood of the Lamb without stain was flowing abundantly over every one of these altars, which seemed to be surrounded by a light cloud of smoke ascending toward heaven.  My soul was seized and penetrated with a feeling of love and gratitude on beholding this most abundant satisfaction that Our Lord was offering for us.

But I was also greatly astonished that the whole world was not sanctified by it. I asked how it could be that the sacrifice of the Cross having been offered only once was sufficient to redeem all souls, while now being renewed so often it was not sufficient to sanctify them all.

This is the answer I thought I heard: The sacrifice is without any doubt sufficient by itself, and the Blood of Jesus Christ more than sufficient for the sanctification of a million worlds, but souls fail to correspond, they are not generous enough. Now the great means by which one may enter into the path of perfection and of holiness is to SURRENDER ONESELF to our good God.

But what does it mean to SURRENDER ONESELF?

I understand the full extent of the expression TO SURRENDER ONESELF, but I cannot explain it. I only know that it is very vast, that it embraces both the present and the future.

TO SURRENDER ONESELF is more than to devote oneself, more than to give oneself, it is even something more than to abandon oneself to God. In a word, to SURRENDER ONESELF is to die to everything and to self, to be no longer concerned with self except to keep it continually turned toward God.

TO SURRENDER ONESELF is, moreover, no longer to seek oneself in anything, either for the spiritual or the physical, that is to say, no longer to seek one’s own satisfaction, but solely the divine good pleasure.

It should be added that to SURRENDER ONESELF is also to follow that spirit of detachment which clings to nothing, neither to persons nor to things, neither to time nor to place. It means to adhere to everything, to accept everything, to submit to everything.

But perhaps you will think that this is very difficult to do. Do not let yourself be deceived. There is nothing so easy to do, nothing so sweet to put into practice. The whole thing consists in making a generous act once and for all, saying with all the sincerity of your soul: “My God, I wish to be entirely thine; deign to accept my offering.” And all is said. But from then on, you must take care to keep yourself in this disposition of soul and not to shrink from any of the little sacrifices which can help you advance in virtue. You must always remember that you have SURRENDERED yourself.

I pray to our Lord to give an understanding of this word to all souls desirous of pleasing him and to inspire them to take advantage of so easy a means of sanctification. Oh! If people could just understand ahead of time the sweetness and peace that are savored when nothing is held back from the good God! How he communicates himself to the one who seeks him sincerely and has known how to SURRENDER herself. Let them experience it and they will see that here is found the true happiness they are vainly seeking elsewhere.

The SURRENDERED soul has found paradise on earth, since she enjoys that sweet peace which is part of the happiness of the elect.”  –To Surrender Oneself, by Saint Marie Victoire Therese Couderc, 26 June 1864

“Not my will be done, but God’s.  That is my favorite prayer which I mean to pray every day as long as there is breath left in me, because it is the one which gives me and leaves me with the greatest peace of soul.”
-letter to Mother Marie Aimee Lautier, 16 Oct 1881

“Surrender myself, that is all I did during this retreat – the good God did all rest.”
-letter to Mother de Larochenegly, 13 Feb 1864

“I abandon myself sincerely to God’s will and good pleasure, and when I have sincerely made this act of abandonment, I am calm and I experience a great peace.”
-letter to Mother de Larochnegly, 25 Nov 1875

I learned the necessary interchangeability of the words “Christian faith” and “surrender to Him” many years ago, in prayer.  Not easy, just necessary, required.  There is no other way to peace.

Prayer for the intercession of St Therese Couderc

O Good God
We rejoice with St Therese Couderc
To find your goodness all around us
And to know that you desire only good for us.
In your great love,
Grant us the favor we ask
And the grace to receive
With your servant Therese
The gift of Christ-like surrender to God.
Amen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTRFUFpV6J4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-V-rqnyZxI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieluPY8H6oY

cenacle

-the Cenacle in Jerusalem

Love,
Matthew

Dec 1 – St Edmund Campion, SJ (1540-1581) – Come Rack! Come Rope!

campion (1)

The name Edmund is a very special Christian name for the McCormicks.  McCormick/Diamond men often have the name Edmund as either a first or middle name.

Shortly after dawn on July 18, 1581, the cry went out: “I have found the traitors!” With a crowbar the false wall at the head of the stairs was torn away, revealing the huddled figures of Edmund Campion and two companions, three priests lately returned to their native England to minister to those resisting the oppression from the new Anglican Church. Their discovery set them upon the path to martyrdom.

Edmund Campion gave up a promising career at Oxford and the favor, praise, and adulation of the Queen of England and her court to become a Catholic priest and to minister to Catholics in desperate need of spiritual nourishment and of the sacraments but stranded in a hostile, deadly, and Protestant England.

Edmund Campion was born on January 25, 1540 into an England of religious and social upheaval. His Catholic parents later became Protestant.  Protestantism had usurped the Catholic Church as the spiritual authority; the dissolution of monasteries and the suppression of Catholic beliefs and believers intensified as land-hungry nobles and men of power continued, in the name of the young, sickly Edward VI, the transformation begun by Henry VIII.

Campion was 13 and the most promising scholar at Christ’s Hospital school in London when he was chosen to read an address to the Catholic Mary Tudor, in Latin, upon her arrival in London as queen in 1553. Campion received a scholarship to Oxford at age 15, and, by the time Elizabeth rose to power (“restoring” Protestantism as the national religion) upon Mary’s death in 1558, he was already a junior fellow.

At Oxford, Campion’s erudition, charisma, and charm gained him notoriety; his students even imitated his mannerisms and style of dress.  They called themselves “Campionites”.  Queen Elizabeth visited in 1566 and for her entertainment was treated to academic displays. Campion, the star of the show, single-handedly debated four other scholars and so impressed the queen that she promised the patronage of her advisor (and one of the principal architects of the Reformation in England) William Cecil, who referred to Campion as the “diamond of England.”  So taken was the queen with the young Campion, and Edmund’s vanity fed by the adulation of the Queen and her court, he took the Oath of Supremacy and became an Anglican deacon.  There were even whispers possibly of the Archbishopric of Canterbury in his future.

It was the hope of the crown that Campion would become a defender of the new faith which, though favored by the temporal power, lacked learned apologists. Yet even as he was ordained to the Anglican diaconate, he was being swayed toward Rome, influenced in great part by older friends with Catholic sympathies.

At the persuasion of Richard Cheyney, Bishop of Gloucester, although holding Catholic doctrines, he received deacon’s orders in the Anglican Church. Inwardly “he took a remorse of conscience and detestation of mind.” Rumors of his opinions began to spread and he left Oxford in 1569 and went to Ireland to take part in a proposed establishment of the University of Dublin.

Campion was appointed tutor to Richard Stanihurst, son of the Speaker of the Irish parliament, and attended the first session of the House of Commons, which included the prorogation. Campion was transferred by Stanihurst’s arrangement to the house of Christopher Barnewall at Turvey in the Pale, which he acknowledged saved him from arrest and torture by the Protestant party in Dublin.

For some three months he eluded his pursuers, going by the name “Mr Patrick” and occupying himself by writing a history of Ireland.  At this point Campion was at the summit of his powers. He could have risen to the highest levels of fame had he stayed his course. But this was not to be. By the time Campion left Ireland, he knew he could not remain a Protestant.

Campion’s Catholic leanings were well-publicized, and he found the atmosphere hostile upon his return to England in 1571. He went abroad to Douay in France, where he was reconciled with the Church and decided to enter the Society of Jesus. He made a pilgrimage to Rome with the intention of becoming a Jesuit.  He was assigned to the Austrian Province and to Prague, where he lived and taught for six years and in 1578 was ordained a Jesuit priest.  He might well have expected to remain there the rest of his life.

In 1580 he was called by superiors to join fellow Jesuits Fr. Robert Parsons & Br. Ralph Emerson in leading a mission to England. He accepted the assignment joyfully, but everyone was aware of the dangers. The night before his departure from Prague, one of the Jesuit fathers wrote over Campion’s door, “P. Edmundus Campianus, Martyr.”  That sounds so much like the living Jesuits I know and love today.  Jesuit sense of humor.  Always a bit dark, sardonic, if you’ve never experienced it.  🙂

English spies in Flanders learned of their impending departure and informed the English ports of entry, who awaited their arrival. Campion crossed the English Channel as “Mr. Edmunds,” a jewel dealer. His mission was nearly a short one: At Dover a search was underway for Gabriel Allen, another English Catholic expatriate who was rumored to be returning to England to visit family. Apparently Allen’s description fit Campion also, and he was detained by the mayor of Dover, who planned to send Campion to London. Inexplicably, while waiting for horses for the journey, the mayor changed his mind, and sent “Mr. Edmunds” on his way.

Upon reaching London, Campion composed his “Challenge to the Privy Council,” a statement of his mission and an invitation to engage in theological debate. Copies spread quickly, and several replies to the “Challenge” were published by Protestant writers, who attached to it a derogatory title, “Campion’s Brag,” by which it is best known today.

Read here:  http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/CAMBRAG.HTM

The power and sincerity of the “Brag” is accompanied by a degree of naivete: Campion’s statement of purpose was of no value during his later trial for treason, and the challenge to debate, repeated later in his apologetic work “Decem Rationes/Ten Reasons”, was as much an invitation to capture. And his capture seemed almost inevitable: Elizabeth had spies everywhere searching for priests, the most sought after of whom being her former “diamond of England.”  Decem Rationes gave arguments to prove the truth of Catholicism and the falsity of Protestantism. It was printed by the end of June 1581. Many of the 400 copies printed were left on the benches of Oxford’s University Church of St. Mary. Campion was still well-enough known that the book was eagerly read.

Campion and his companions traveled stealthily through the English countryside in the early summer of 1581, relying on old, landed Catholic families as hosts. They said Mass, heard confession, performed baptisms and marriages, and preached words of encouragement to a people who represented the last generation to confess the faith of a Catholic England.

There were close calls. Many homes had hiding places for priests—some even had secret chapels and confessionals—and the Jesuits had to rely on these more than once. Campion took extraordinary risks, never able to turn down a request to preach or administer the sacraments, and more than once he escaped detection while in a public setting.

His fortune changed while visiting the home of Francis Yate in Lyford Grange, which was west of London. Yate was a Catholic imprisoned for his faith who had repeatedly asked for one of the Jesuit fathers to tend to the spiritual needs of his household. Though it was out of the way and the queen’s searchers were reportedly in hot pursuit, Campion was unable to resist the request.

He traveled to Lyford, heard confessions, preached well into the night, and departed without difficulty after saying Mass at dawn. Some nuns visiting the home shortly thereafter were upset to hear they had just missed Campion, and so riders were dispatched to persuade him to return, which he did.

Word of his return reached George Eliot, born and regarded as Catholic but in fact a turncoat in the pay of the queen; he had a general commission to hunt down and arrest priests. Eliot arrived at Lyford with David Jenkins, another searcher, and attended a Mass. He was greatly outnumbered by the Catholics, and, fearing resistance, made no move to arrest Campion. He departed abruptly to fetch the local magistrate and a small militia and returned to the Yate property during dinner. News of the approaching party reached the house, and Campion and his two priestly companions were safely squirreled away in a narrow cell prepared especially for that purpose, with food and drink for three days.

Later Eliot and Jenkins both claimed to have discovered the priests, offering the same story: A strip of light breaking through a gap in the wall leading to the hiding place was the giveaway—both men took credit for noticing it, and each reported being the one to break through the wall. No doubt each sought the credit for capturing the infamous Campion, for no priest was more beloved by the Catholics nor more despised by the crown.

Campion was taken to the Tower and tortured. Placed in a cell so small he could neither stand upright nor lie down.  After three days there he was brought to Leicester house, where he met Queen Elizabeth for a second time.  She offered him the opportunity to renounce his Catholic faith and become a Protestant minister, with the offer of great advancement. Edmund refused and was returned to his cell; five days later he was tortured on the rack. Several times he was forced to engage in debates, without benefit of notes or references and still weak and disoriented from his rackings and beatings. He acquitted himself admirably, all things considered: a testament to his unparalleled rhetorical skills.

The Crown intended to execute him.  But, they needed a stronger charge than the fact that he was a Catholic priest.  His trial was a farce. Witnesses were bribed, false evidence produced; in truth, the outcome had been determined since his arrival. Campion was eloquent and persuasive to the last, dominating the entire procedure with the force of his logic and his knowledge of the Scripture and law, but in vain.

On Nov. 14, the priests were led to Westminster Hall where charges were raised against them that they had formed a conspiracy against the life of the queen, had exhorted foreigners to invade the country and had entered England with the intent of fomenting rebellion to support the invaders.

At his trial six days later, Campion was asked to raise his right hand and take an oath; he was unable to do so because of recent torture, so another one of the priests had to lift his arm for him.  “I protest before God and His holy Angels,before Heaven and earth, before the world and I this bar whereat I stand, which is but a small resemblance of the terrible judgment of the next life, that I am not guilty of any part of the treason contained in the indictment, or of any other treason whatever.” Speaking later to the jury, Campion said “Is it possible,to find twelve men so wicked and void of all conscience in this city or land that will find us guilty together of this one crime, divers of us never meeting or knowing one the other before our bringing to this bar?” But, they were found guilty of high treason and condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The priests joined in singing the Te Deum when they heard the verdict.

His address to the court upon sentencing invoked the Catholic England for which he had fought, the Catholic England which was about to die: “In condemning us, you condemn all your own ancestors—all the ancient priests, bishops and kings—all that was once the glory of England — the island of saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter.”

Campion remained in chains for another 11 days, and then was dragged through the muddy streets of London to Tyburn.  As Campion forgave those who had condemned him, the cart he was standing on was driven from under him and he was left hanging.  The executioner then cut him down and tore out his heart and intestines before cutting his body into pieces.

On December 1,1581 the prophecy hanging over his door in Prague was fulfilled: Campion was hanged, drawn, and quartered. The poet Henry Walpole, later St Henry Walpole, SJ, was there, and during the quartering some blood from Campion’s entrails splashed on his coat. Walpole was profoundly changed. He went overseas, took orders, and 13 years later met his own martyrdom on English soil.

A letter of St Edmund Campion, SJ, in which, after torture, he assured Catholics that he had revealed “no things of secret, nor would he, come rack, come rope.”

The actual ropes used in his execution are now kept in glass display tubes at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire; each year they are placed on the altar of St Peter’s Church for Mass to celebrate Campion’s feast day—which is always a holiday for the school.

File:Campion.jpg
-a 1631 print

CampionPainting

“I have made a free oblation of myself
to your Divine Majesty,
both of life and of death,
and I hope that
You will give me
grace and force to perform.
This is all I desire. Amen.”
-St. Edmund Campion, SJ

Love,
Matthew

Feb 6 – St Paul Miki, SJ, (1562-1597) & Companions, Martyrs of Nagasaki

saint_paul_miki_by_tesm-d4pbn9o

The cross bears the Kanji of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

The left spear bears the ancient Greek abbreviations for
“Iesus Christos Nika!” which means “Jesus Christ Conquers” or “Jesus Christ, victor!”

The right spear bears the line from the cross of St. Benedict, which reads “Crux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux” which means “May the holy cross be my light!”

During 1593, Franciscan missionaries came to Japan from the Philippines by order of Spain’s King Philip II. These new arrivals gave themselves zealously to the work of charity and evangelism, but their presence disturbed a delicate situation between the Church and Japanese authorities.

Suspicion against Catholic missionaries grew when a Spanish ship was seized off the Japanese coast and found to be carrying artillery. Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a powerful imperial minister, responded by sentencing 26 Catholics to death.

Nagasaki, Japan, is familiar to Americans as the city on which the second atomic bomb was dropped, killing hundreds of thousands. Three and a half centuries before, 26 martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki.

Today the Church commemorates twenty-six martyrs, three Jesuits
and six Franciscans, crucified in Nagasaki, Japan, on February 5, 1597. Most were Japanese and most were laypersons and they were among the first martyrs of a young Church. The names of the martyrs are:

The Franciscans

Fathers Peter Baptist, Martin of the Ascension, Francis Blanco; Seminarian Philip of Jesus; Brothers Gonsalvo Garzia, Francis of St Michael with seventeen native Franciscan Tertiaries

The Jesuits

Seminarians Paul Miki, John Goto, and Brother James Kisai

Among them were priests, brothers and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and His Church.

Paul Miki was born into a rich family. His father was an important military leader.  He was educated by Jesuits in Azuchi and Takatsuki. He joined the Society of Jesus and preached the gospel for his fellow citizens. The Japanese government feared Jesuit influences and persecuted them. Miki was jailed among others on the order of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the national ruler, for preaching Christianity. They were imprisoned, then later marched through the snow to Nagasaki, so that their execution might serve as a deterrent to Nagasaki’s large Christian population. Paul Miki, SJ, and his fellow Christians were forced to walk 600 miles (≈966 kilometers) from Kyoto while singing “Te Deum” as a punishment for the community. Hung up on 26 crosses with chains and ropes, the Christians were lanced to death in front of a large crowd on Nishizaka Hill.

Brother Paul Miki, a Jesuit and a native of Japan, has become the best known among the martyrs of Japan. While hanging upon a cross Paul Miki preached to the people gathered for the execution: “The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you to become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ’s example I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.”

When missionaries returned to Japan in the 1860s, at first they found no trace of Christianity. But after establishing themselves they found that thousands of Christians lived around Nagasaki and that they had secretly preserved the faith. Beatified in 1627, the martyrs of Japan were finally canonized in 1862.

Exhibits at the Twenty-six Martyrs Museum and Monument (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty-Six_Martyrs_Museum_and_Monument) include “fumie” or treading images. Every year from 1629 to 1857, Nagasaki residents were forced to go through a ritual of stepping on bronze images of Christ or Mary to prove they were not Christians.

“Since Jesus, the Son of God, showed his love by laying down his life for us, no one has greater love than they who lay down their lives for Him and for their sisters and brothers (see 1 John 3:16; John 15:13).

Some Christians have been called from the beginning, and will always be called, to give this greatest testimony of love to everyone, especially to persecutors.

Martyrdom makes disciples like their Master, who willingly accepted death for the salvation of the world, and through it they are made like Him by the shedding of blood.

Therefore, the Church considers it the highest gift and as the supreme test of love. And while it is given to few, all, however, must be prepared to confess Christ before humanity and to follow Him along the way of the cross amid the persecutions which the Church never lacks” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 42, Austin Flannery translation).

Love,
Matthew