Category Archives: March

Mar 25 – Solemnity of the Annunciation

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“You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a Son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the Desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If He should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek Him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

-St Bernard of Clairveaux

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Love,
Matthew

Mar 20 – St Jozef Bilczewski, (1860-1923), Archbishop of Leopoli, Lviv/Ukraine, “Good & Faithful Servant of the Lord”

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-Latin Cathedral, Lvov, Ukraine

Archbishop St JOSEPH BILCZEWSKI was born April 26, 1860 in Wilamowice near Kęty, in the present day Diocese of Bielsko Żywiec, then part of the Diocese of Krakow. Having finished elementary school at Wilamowic and Kęty, he attended high school at Wadowice receiving his diploma in 1880. On July 6, 1884 he was ordained a priest in Krakow by Cardinal Albino Dunajewski. In 1886 he received a Doctorate in Theology from the University of Vienna. Following advanced studies in Rome and Paris he passed the qualifying exam at the Jaghellonic University of Krakow.

The following year he became professor of Dogmatic Theology at the John Casimir University of Leopoli. He also served as Dean of Theology for a period of time prior to becoming Rector of the University. During his tenure at the University, he was appreciated as a professor by his students and also enjoyed the friendship and respect of his colleagues. He arduously dedicated himself to scientific work and, despite his young age, acquired notoriety as a learned man. His extraordinary intellectual and relational abilities were recognized by Francis Joseph, the Emperor of Austria, who presented Monsignor Joseph to the Holy Father as a candidate for the vacant Metropolitan See of Leopoli. The Holy Father, Leo XIII responded positively to the Emperor’s proposal and on December 17, 1900 he named the forty year old Monsignor Joseph Bilczewski, Archbishop of Leopoli of the Latin Rite.

Given the complex social, economic, ethnic and religious situation, care for the large diocese required of the Bishop a deep commitment and called for great moral effort, strong confidence in God, and a faith enlivened by a continual contact with God.

Archbishop Joseph Bilczewski became known for his abundant goodness of heart, understanding, humility, piety, commitment to hard work and pastoral zeal which sprung from his immense love for God and neighbor.

Upon taking possession of the Archdiocese of Leopoli he spelled out very clearly his pastoral plan which can be summed up in the words “totally sacrifice oneself for the Holy Church”. Among other things he pointed out the need for the development of devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament and frequent reception of Holy Communion.

A particular form of pastoral action of Archbishop Bilczewski were the pastoral letters and appeals addressed to the priests and the faithful of the Archdiocese. In them he spoke of the problems of faith and morals of the time as well as of the most pressing issues of the social sphere. He also explained devotion to the Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart in them and the importance of religious and moral formation of children and youth in the family and in school. He taught for the Church and for the Holy Father. Above all, he took great care to cultivate many holy priestly vocations. He saw the priest as first and foremost a teacher of faith and an instrument of Christ, a father for the rich as well as for the poor. Taking the place of Christ on Earth, the priest was to be the minister of the Sacraments and for this reason his whole heart had to be dedicated to the celebration of the Eucharist, in order to be able to nourish the people of God with the body of Christ.

He often exhorted the priests to adoration of the most Blessed Sacrament. In his pastoral letter devoted to the Eucharist he invited the priests to participate in the priestly associations: The Association for Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament and the Association of Aid to Poor Catholic Churches whose goal was to rejuvenate the zeal of the priests themselves. He also dedicated a great deal of care to the preparation of children and to full participation in the Mass, desiring that every Catechesis would lead children and youth to the Eucharist.

Archbishop Joseph Bilczewski promoted the construction of churches and chapels, schools and day-care centers. He developed teaching to help enable the growth in the instruction of the faithful. He materially and spiritually helped the more important works which were springing up in his Archdiocese. His holy life, filled with prayer, work and works of mercy led to his meriting great appreciation and respect on the part of those of various faiths, rites and nationalities present in the Archdiocese. No religious or nationalistic conflicts arose during the tenure of his pastoral work. He was a proponent of unity, harmony and peace.

On social issues he always stood on the side of the people and of the poor. He taught that the base of social life had to be justice made perfect by Christian love. During the First World War, when souls were overtaken with hate and a lack of appreciation of the other, he pointed out to the people the infinite love of God, capable of forgiving every type of sin and offense. He reminded them of the need to observe the commandments of God and particularly that of brotherly love. Sensitive to the social questions regarding the family and youth, he courageously proposed solutions to problems based on the love of God and of neighbor. During his 23 years of pastoral service he changed the face of the Archdiocese of Leopoli. Only his death on the 20th of March 1923 could end his vast and far-sighted pastoral action.

He was prepared for death and accepted it with peace and submission as a sign of God’s will, which he always considered sacred.

He left this world having enjoyed a universal recognition of holiness. Wanting to rest among those for whom he was always father and protector, in accord with his desires, he was buried in Leopoli in the cemetery of Janów, known as the cemetery of the poor. Thanks to the efforts of the Archdiocese of Leopoli the process for his beatification and canonization was initiated. The first step was concluded on December 17, 1997 with the declaration of the life of heroic virtue of Archbishop Joseph Bilczewski by The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. In June 2001, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints recognized as miraculous the fact of the rapid lasting and unexplainable “quo ad modum” healing through the intercession of Archbishop Bilczewski of the third degree burns of Marcin Gawlik, a nine year old boy, thus opening the way for his beatification. The beatification took place in the Diocese of Leopoli on the 26th of June 2001 during Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Visit to the Ukraine.  Canonized Oct 23, 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI.

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-statue of St Jozef Bilczewski displayed in Archcathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Lviv, Ukraine

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– Archcathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Lviv, Ukraine, founded 1360 AD by Casimir III the Great

St Jozef Bilczewski!  Pray for your people!  Pray for us!

Blessed Lent.

Love,
Matthew

Mar 17 – St Jan Sarkander, (1576-1620) – Priest, Widower, Martyr for the Seal of the Confessional

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-chapel of St John Sarkander

‘Tis the Season, as they say, for one’s Easter Duty.  Including everyone’s least favorite sacrament.

The Neo-baroque chapel of St. John Sarkander is a two-storeyed building crowned with a dome with a lantern opening. In the middle of the chapel, there is a circular opening into the basement, where a torture rack from Sarkander’s time has been situated. The interior of the chapel is impressively illuminated. Daylight from the lantern opening penetrates through the circular hole in the floor down to the basement.

The immediate surroundings of the chapel are one of the most picturesque corners of Olomouc, Moravia, Czech Republic. The adjoining double staircase is graced by a statue of St. John of Nepomuk, in a corner niche there is a statue of St. Jan Sarkander.

In the past, the city prison where John Sarkander was interrogated and tortured to death in 1620 was located on the site of the Chapel. John Sarkander was accused by Protestants of having helped to arrange the invasion of the army of the Polish Catholic King into Moravia. However, he did not violate the Seal of Confession during the torture.

Son of Georg Mathias Sarkander and Helene Kornicz Sarkander. Born in a time and place in the midst of the turmoil of the Protestant Reformation. His father died when Jan was still young, and the family moved to Pribor. He married, but his wife died when they were young, and they had no children.

Educated by Jesuits at Prague, receiving a master of philosophy degree in 1603.  In Olmutz, he became the center of a struggle for the hearts and souls of the local people; he was supported by Baron von Labkowitz of Moravia, but bitterly opposed by the wealthy anti-Catholic landowner Bitowsky von Bystritz.

The year 1618 saw the start of the Thirty Years War between Catholic and Protestant armies. When Protestant forces occupied Hollenschau, Jan was briefly exiled to Poland, but returned to minister to his oppressed parish flock. Polish forces moved into the area in 1620, and battle seemed imminent. Jan visited the field commander, carrying the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance as a shield and chastisement. No battles were fought in the area of Hollenshau.

Seizing the opportunity to brand him a spy, and thus explain the lack of attack by the Polish troops, his enemy von Bystritz denounced Father Jan as a traitor. Jan was arrested, taken to Olmütz, and tortured for a confession, for revenge, and to get him to break the seal of the confessional and supply damaging information about his patron and parishioner Baron von Labkowitz. Sarkander was racked, beaten and murdered, but he clung to his faith and gave his tormentors nothing. He was racked on February 13, 17, and 18th.  His tendons burst.  His bones dislocated.  On each of the days mentioned, the torture lasted for two and three hours, lighted candles and feathers soaked in oil, pitch, and sulphur were strewn over his body and ignited.

The sacramental seal is inviolable. Quoting Canon 983.1 of the Code of Canon Law, the Catechism states, “…It is a crime for a confessor in any way to betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason” (No. 2490). A priest, therefore, cannot break the seal to save his own life, to protect his good name, to refute a false accusation, to save the life of another, to aid the course of justice (like reporting a crime), or to avert a public calamity. He cannot be compelled by law to disclose a person’s confession or be bound by any oath he takes, e.g. as a witness in a court trial. A priest cannot reveal the contents of a confession either directly, by repeating the substance of what has been said, or indirectly, by some sign, suggestion, or action. A Decree from the Holy Office (Nov. 18, 1682) mandated that confessors are forbidden, even where there would be no revelation direct or indirect, to make any use of the knowledge obtained in the confession that would “displease” the penitent or reveal his identity.

What happens if a priest violates the seal of confession? The Catechism (No. 1467) cites the Code of Canon Law (No. 1388.1) in addressing this issue, which states, “A confessor who directly violates the seal of confession incurs an automatic excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; if he does so only indirectly, he is to be punished in accord with the seriousness of the offense.” From the severity of the punishment, we can clearly see how sacred the sacramental seal of confession is in the eyes of the Church.

In my own personal experience, rarely, but it has occurred, I have initiated, it has NEVER been initiated to me, a comment with my confessor outside the sacramental seal, referring to some innocuous anecdote, reflecting upon a recent confession; the confessor suddenly develops memory loss, not recalling anything about the sacrament.  I suspect/firmly believe this is intentional.  Triggered as a reflex, as a protective measure confessors have developed from wisdom and practice.  I know to drop it, quickly.  I get the message.  Gratefully.  Thankfully, for the mercy and compassion of these ordained.  This has happened more than once, with more than one confessor.  Consistently.  Such is the seriousness of the matter.

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-relief of torturing of John Sarkander on torturing rack at Sarkander’s gravestone


-reliquary of St Jan Sarkander, Olomouc Cathedral, Czech Republic.

O Mother Mary,
through the memory of your martyred Son
and His servant Jan Sarkander,
we ask you for support for those
whose unfortunate fate is to live
under the rule of violence and hatred.
We ask you to pray for the strength
for them to endure in their faith despite tortures,
plagues and prison. Amen.

Blessed Lent.

Love,
Matthew

Mar 10 – 40 Martyrs of Armenia, (d. 320 AD) – Soldiers of Christ

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-Forty Martyrs, ivory relief, 10th century, Constantinople

The phrase “Soldier of Christ (2 Tim 2:3)”, Ecclesia Militans, Church Militant, “The Fighting Church”, are all a bit dated, some may say.  Others, not so.  But here is a story of real ones.  We know their names. At Confirmation, Catholics become adults in the Church, and, traditionally, “Soldiers of Christ”.  At Confirmation, when the confirmandi are anointed with sacred chrism, they, by allowing this act say, “I am willing to die for the faith.  Never to deny my Lord and Savior.  No matter what.”  No exceptions.  “…more strictly obliged to spread and defend the Faith, by word and deed.”

Heralded in the sermons of St Basil, only fifty or sixty years after their deaths, we know they belonged to the Twelfth Legion, Legio XII, the Fulminata Legion, or “Armed with Lightning” Legion, or “Thunderbolt” Legion.  The Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, Licinius, who was eventually defeated and executed by Emperor Constantine the Great, was persecuting Christians.  The Emperor ordered all in his armies to sacrifice, to perform their pagan religio.  These forty legionnaires refused.

The military judge in charge of their case first tried persuasion.  He instructed them on the dishonor they would incur for refusing to worship the pagan gods.  Then, he made them large promises of preferment and high favor with the Emperor.  These were refused.  He recoursed to threats, most terrifying.  All in vain.  They were torn with whips.  Their sides rent with iron hooks.  Thrown in jail and chained.

Lysias, their general, returned.  They spoke freely and bravely of their love of the Lord.  A slow and severe death was devised especially for them.  They were stripped naked, marched onto a frozen pond and made to lie exposed to the cold.  On the shore were made warm baths and hot soup, within their sight.

Finally, one of their number fell, and ran to the warm baths.  As in battle, when one falls, another takes his place, a guard attending the baths on the shore was so moved by the courage of the remaining thirty-nine, embraced Christ, stripped, and took the place of the apostate, in formation, on the ice.

In the morning, the judge ordered the dead with cold and those nearly so, all of them, to be thrown into the fire, to be cremated.  As the bodies were being thrown into a wagon to be transported to the pyre, Melito, the youngest among them, was found to still be alive.  His tormentors hoped still to turn him.  So, they left him on the ice.

Melito’s mother, also a Christian, found her son in this condition.  Quite frozen, not able to move, and scarcely breathing.  He looked at her, and she encouraged him to persevere.  Reproaching his executioners, she picked him up and placed him in the wagon herself.  Their bodies were burned, but the ashes and remains collected by other Christians as relics, spread throughout many cities, around which many churches were built.

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-relics of the 40 Martyrs, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

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-Church of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, Bitola, Macedonia

“We beseech you, O most holy martyrs, who cheerfully suffered torments and death for His love, and are now more familiarly united to Him, that you intercede with God for us slothful and wretched sinners, that He bestow on us the grace of Christ, by which we may be enlightened and enabled to love Him.” – St Ephrim

“If we die with Him,
we will also live with Him.
If we endure hardship,
we will reign with Him.
If we deny Him,
He will deny us.
If we are unfaithful,
He remains faithful,
for he cannot deny Who He is.”

-2 Tim 2:11-14

Blessed Lent.

Love,
Matthew

St Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us!

Cuzco School St Joseph

-Cuzco School, Peru, “Saint Joseph and the Christ Child”, late 17th-18th century. Oil on canvas, 43 x 32 1/8in. (109.2 x 81.6cm), Brooklyn Museum

In the Litany of St Joseph, one the titles of honor given to him is Terror of Demons.  Due to his unshakeable faith, his assiduous perseverance, his admirable purity and his exceptional humility, and given the nobility and grandeur of his vocation – the protection, sustenance and care of the Blessed Mother and Our Lord Jesus Christ, as head of the Holy Family – we can expect that God also endowed him with an equally proportional grace to carry out such a lofty mission in life. And certainly we can picture him as a sublime icon of manliness and a pillar of strength that would sow terrible fear among the powers of darkness given his noble task.  Would God allow/accept anything less for the earthly foster-father of His Son?

In Catholic iconography, St Joseph is pictured holding a staff from which a white lily grows.  This is due to Catholic hagiography which states from reliable, albeit non-scriptural, sources near to the period, when the holy priest Simeon gathered all the young men of Jerusalem from the house of David at the temple to choose who would be the rightful spouse of Our Lady, he was inspired by God to give each man a dry rod. After a period of prayer asking for the manifestation of the Divine Will, pure white lilies – the symbol of purity – blossomed from St. Joseph’s staff and a white dove, most pure and brilliant, hovered over his head giving Simeon the sign that he was the chosen one.

Hence, St. Joseph is the epitome of a pure man: pure in thought, pure in heart; pure in body and soul – destined to be the most chaste spouse of Mary Most Holy conceived without sin. In face of such sublime purity and holiness, it would not be farfetched to believe that the ugly, filthy infernal spirits would cower in petrified fear in his presence.

I have a special intention I am entrusting to St Joseph, in addition to so much I have already entrusted to him.  Pray for me!  St Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us!

Love,
Matthew

Mar 25 – Solemnity of the Annunciation

V. Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.

R. Ecce Ancilla Domini. Fiat mihi secundum Verbum tuum.

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– “The Annunciation”, by Henry Ossawa Tanner

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-by Br. Raymund Snyder, O.P.

“Pope John Paul II chose to conclude his 1998 encyclical, Fides et Ratio, by comparing the discipline of philosophy to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He says that “between the vocation of the Blessed Virgin and the vocation of true philosophy there is a deep harmony.” At first glance this seems like a stretch. Why, in a document addressing the relationship between faith and reason, would he conclude with the Blessed Virgin Mary? Is this just a pious invocation?

In fact, John Paul’s comparison is not only well founded, but deeply fitting. He grounds it on two fundamental similarities, the first of which has to do with the notion of offering:

Just as the Virgin was called to offer herself entirely as human being and as woman that God’s Word might take flesh and come among us, so too philosophy is called to offer its rational and critical resources that theology, as the understanding of faith, may be fruitful and creative.

Mary offered herself up completely by embracing her divine maternity. In a similar way, philosophy is called to make a complete offering of all that it is. As the systematic investigation of truth by the use of human reason, it surrenders itself to theology, a discipline greater than itself. Using the language of the Annunciation, John Paul draws out the traditional analogy between Mary as the “handmaid of the Lord” and philosophy as the “handmaid of theology.” To reach its true goal, philosophy must make its own “fiat.”

Secondly, just as Mary is exalted as the result of her surrender, so too philosophy is elevated:

Just as in giving her assent to Gabriel’s word, Mary lost nothing of her true humanity and freedom, so too when philosophy heeds the summons of the Gospel’s truth its autonomy is in no way impaired. Indeed, it is then that philosophy sees all its enquiries rise to their highest expression.

Mary’s surrender to God did not diminish her in any way; rather, it allowed God to ennoble her. In an analogous way, the truth of the faith does not constrain or inhibit rational inquiry, but elevates it. This is an important point since there are many who think that faith threatens the project of philosophy, or of scientific inquiry in general. In reality, however, faith does not hinder the pursuit of philosophy any more than God hindered the life of Mary. Far from “tainting” human knowledge, “faith delivers reason from errors and protects it and furnishes it with knowledge of many kinds,” as the First Vatican Council affirmed.

To speak about the discipline of philosophy as such is to speak about individual persons engaged in a search for answers to the perennial questions of life. This search extends to all human beings insofar as they ask questions such as “Why do I exist?” and “What makes me happy?” As a model in our philosophical search, John Paul presents us with Mary, someone we may not have expected. To imitate her is to surrender our minds to God—and to do so with the confidence that they will be raised up.”

Blessed Annunciation!
Love,
Matthew

Resurrection

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Every Christian must, by necessity, struggle with the belief in Resurrection:  His, our own.  St Gregory replies to the objections of his time…which sound a lot like the ones we imagine, too.

“Because human reason is so weak, there are some who – judging divine power by the limits of our own – insist that what is beyond our capacity is impossible even for God.  They point to the fact that the dead of past ages have disappeared, and to the ashes of those who have been cremated.  They bring up the idea of carnivorous animals, and the fish that consumes the body of the shipwrecked sailor – the fish then becoming food for people, and passing by digestion into the mass of the one who eats it.  They bring up many similarly trivial things to overthrow the doctrine of the Resurrection – as though God could not restore man the way he made him in the first place.

But we make quick work of their convoluted logical foolishness by acknowledging that the body does indeed dissolve into the parts it was made of.  Not only does the earth return to the earth, as God’s word says, but air and water also revert to the like element.  Each of our parts returns to the elements it was made from.

But although the human body may be scattered among vultures, or the most savage beasts, by becoming their food; and although it may pass through the teeth of fish; and although it may be changed by fire into smoke and dust – wherever you may suppose, for the sake of argument, the man has been removed, he certainly remains in the world.  And the world, as the voice of inspiration tells us, is held by the hand of God.

If you, then, know what is in your hand, do you suppose that God’s knowledge is weaker than your own power?  Do you suppose that it would fail to discover the smallest things that are in the palm of God’s hand?”

-On the Making of Man, 26; St Gregory of Nyssa, (335-394 AD), Bishop, Confessor, Doctor & Father of the Church

Love,
Matthew

Good Friday

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“…Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian and all Your Saints: we ask that through their merits and prayers, in all things we may be defended by Your protecting help.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”
-Eucharistic Prayer I, Communicantes

Early Christian persecution had recently spared northern Africa.  But, in 250 AD, the Emperor Decius, began a furious persecution of Christians.  St  Cyprian tells a group of Christian prisoners that their sufferings are earning them greater honors than the proud officials who confine them there will ever have.  They have missed a whole year of changing seasons in the outside world, but their suffering brings them far better rewards in Heaven.

“Forget the judges and governors.  Let them puff themselves up with the symbols of their dignity, which lasts for only a year.  The heavenly dignity in you is already sealed by the brightness of a year’s honor, and its victorious glory continues into another year.

The changing months have passed, and Winter is gone; but you, shut up in prison, suffered the winter of persecution instead of the inclement weather outside.  After Winter came the mildness of Spring, rejoicing with roses and crowned with flowers; but you had roses and flowers from the gardens of paradise, and heavenly garlands wreathed your brows.

Now the Summer bears its fruitful harvest, and the threshing-floor is full of grain; but you sowed glory, and are reaping the fruit of glory.  On the Lord’s threshing-floor, you are seeing the chaff burned with unquenchable fire.  Like grains of wheat, winnowed and precious, purged of chaff and gathered in, you see prison as your granary.

Nor  does Autumn lack spiritual graces for the tasks of the season.  The vintage is pressed outside, and the grape that will soon flow into the cups is pressed.  You, rich bunches from the Lord’s vineyard,  branches with fruit already ripe, pressed by worldly troubles, fill your wine vat in the torments of prison, and shed your blood instead of wine.  Standing up bravely to your suffering, you willingly drink the cup of martyrdom.

So the year rolls on for the Lord’s servants.  Thus we celebrate the changing seasons with spiritual honors and heavenly rewards.”

-Letter 15, St Cyrprian of Carthage, (200-258 AD), Bishop, Martyr, Father & Doctor of the Church

Blessed Good Friday!

Love,
Matthew

Mar 17 – An Innis Aigh, The Happy Isle…

One of my favorites…some say a land of poets and saints?  I have been twice.  Very different.  Very old.  Can’t wait to take Mara.

I studied Irish (Gaelic) for a very short time at irish-american.org. Hard.  There is no “yes” or “no” in Irish.  Which explains SO MUCH!!!!!

And just remember, lads and lassies, if there is ever a topic which is uncomfortable to speak about in a family, the Irish way is to just ignore it!!!!  Maybe it will go away?  Right?  (It never does, but at least we can pretend?)  Remember, too, whenever someone does something uncouth, like burp or fart loudly, or does something truly stupid, just say, as within Irish families it is known to do, “You’re SO Irish!”  

I will cherish forever my Mother’s question, very discreetly, after I informed her of a date I went on.  There would be a very pregnant pause. (There is no small case of pause pregnancy, no?)  And then it would always come. “Is she one of us?”  Either way, my Mother would always give or feign approval.  Saying, regarding any deviation from the preferred answer, “Well, that’s very nice, too.”

Seinn an duan seo dhan Innis Àigh
An innis uaine as gile tràigh
Bidh sian air uairean a’ bagairt cruaidh ris
Ach se mo luaidh-sa bhith ann a’ tàmh

Càit’ as tràith an tig samhradh caomh
Càit’ as tràith an tig blàth air craobh
Càit’ as bòidhche ‘s an seinn an smeòrach
Air bhàrr nan ògan ‘s an Innis Àigh

An t-iasg as fiachaile dlùth don tràigh
Is ann ma chrìochan is miann leis tàmh
Bidh gillean easgaidh le dorgh is lìontan
Moch, moch ga iarriadh mun Innis Àigh

‘S ged thèid mi cuairt chun an taoibh ud thall
‘S mi ‘n dùil air uairibh gu fan mi ann
Tha tàladh uaigneach le teas nach fuairich
Gam tharraing buan don Innis Àigh

O ‘s geàrr an ùine gu’n teirig latha
Thig an oidhche ‘s gun iarr mi tàmh
Mo chadal buan-sa bidh e cho suaimhneach
Mo bhios mo chluasag ‘s an Innis Àigh

Sing this song to the Happy Isle
The green isle of whitest sands
Though storms at times threaten severely
It is where I love to be

Where does Summer come earlier?
Where do trees come into bloom sooner?
Where does the thrush sing more sweetly
On the tips of branches, than in the Happy Isle?

The most prized fish closest to land
Wishes to live about its shores
Lively youths hunt it early in the morning
With line and net, around the Happy Isle

And although I sometimes go to the mainland
And at times even think that I could stay there
A sad longing whose heat never cools
Always draws me back to the Happy Isle

It is only a short time until the close of day
Night will come and I will want for rest
My eternal sleep will be so peaceful
If I lay my head in the Happy Isle

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

Love,
Matthew

Mar 9 – St Catherine (de Vigri) of Bologna, OSC, (1413-1463) – Patroness of Art & Artists, Mystic, Prophetess

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“I really wish I could believe, because you (Catholics) have the coolest s***!”, so blogged a respondent in reply to a page displaying the mummified head of St Catherine of Siena.  (She was so popular different pieces of her relics are scattered throughout Italy.)

I must say, the relics of St Catherine of Bolgna, OSC, lead the category, at least what I can tell from the web.

Catherine Vigri was born and died in Bologna but spent most of her life in Ferrara. She was raised at the court of Nicholas III d’Este, Marquis of Ferrara, whom her father served as a diplomatic agent. Ferrara had spent much of the preceding century defending itself from Milan and Venice, so a period of relative peace allowed the Este family to do what the other northern courts were doing: trying to compete with Florence as a cultural center.

In this environment Catherine apparently received a humanist education; we know that she learned Latin, music, and the art of manuscript illumination. She was educated with Margaret d’Este, Nicholas’ daughter, and was one of her attendants until 1427, when Margaret was married to Roberto Malatesta. After Margaret’s marriage and the death of her own father, Catherine joined a community of about 15 lay women in Ferrara. The women wished to join one of the established religious orders but disagreed as to which.

Twenty years earlier a Frenchwoman, St Colette of Corbie, of prior note, had established a reformed branch of the Poor Clares, the order that had been founded by Clare of Assisi 200 years earlier but that had, over the years, grown far away from Clare’s vision. Word of Colette’s reform had spread to Italy, and Catherine and some (but only some) of the other women in her group wished to join the Reformed Poor Clares.

The disagreement among the women was severe: first, in 1431, the bishop briefly disbanded the entire group; a year later, Catherine and some of the others were professed as Poor Clares, although not according to the reformed Rule; then in 1434, 14 nuns, including Catherine, were absolved by the pope of unspecified crimes involving “apostasy.” It wasn’t until the following year that the new monastery was officially allowed to follow Colette’s reformed Rule.

During her years in Ferrara, Catherine acted as mistress of novices, and it was in this capacity that she began to write “Le sette armi spiritual” (The seven spiritual weapons). By 1450 the Ferrara monastery had grown to include 85 women, and in 1456 Catherine was sent to found a new house in Bologna, Corpus Domini. There she became abbess and stayed until her death. Before she died, she gave her nuns her manuscript to be read by them and to be shared with the nuns at Ferrara. Le sette armi spirituali was printed by the Bolognese nuns in 1475 (one of the earliest printed works in that city) and was frequently reprinted during the 1500s.

Some of Catherine’s other works, as well as her hymns (laudi) and letters, have been published but not yet translated. Among these are I dodici giardini (The twelve gardens), on the stages of growth in love of God; Rosarium metricum (a Latin poem); and I Sermoni (a collection of sermons that Catherine gave to her nuns at Corpus Domini in Bologna). Six years after Catherine’s death, her secretary, Illuminata Bembo, wrote Catherine’s biography, Specchio di illuminazione (Mirror of illumination), which includes the words of as well as anecdotes about the abbess.

Catherine also produced frescoes, free-standing paintings, and illuminated manuscripts; the frescoes are gone, but some of her other art has survived. When art scholars write of her work, they usually use her family name, Caterina Vigri.

Le sette armi spirituali seems to be almost two separate documents. The first six chapters and the start of the seventh are very practical and down-to-earth, intended for newcomers to the religious life. This part is brief, the organization is clear and easy to follow, and the dominant image is that of the almost constant warfare familiar to the courtier families from which her novices had come.

The rest of the long Chapter 7 and Chapters 8-10 describe Catherine’s visionary experiences and her attempts to make sense of them. Like Chapters 1-6 they are addressed to the novices, but content and structure are quite different. For the modern reader, the last chapters are perhaps the most interesting because of what they reveal of Catherine’s internal conflict.

Graced with many heavenly visions and mystical experiences, on Christmas Eve in 1445, the Blessed Mother gave Catherine the Infant Jesus to hold.  Catherine wrote of this experience, “The perfume that emanated from His Pure Flesh was so sweet that there is neither tongue that can express, nor such a keen mind imagine, the very beautiful and delicate Face of the Son of God, when one could say all that was to be said, it would be nothing.” Catherine was not alone in experiencing this most wondrous event as her fellow Sisters smelled the holy Presence of the baby Jesus and our Lady as a heavenly fragrance filled the room. Another time Jesus spoke to her from the crucifix in her room.

In Lent of 1463, Catherine became seriously ill, and died on March 9th.  Buried without a coffin, her body was exhumed eighteen days later because of cures attributed to her and also because of the sweet scent coming from her grave.  Her body was later enshrined in the chapel.  The flesh is grown dark, but that may well have been because of the heat and soot of candles that were burned for years around her exposed remains.  She is seated in response to a request of hers to a sister she appeared to in a vision in 1500.

image

“Whoever wishes to carry the cross for His sake, must take up the proper weapons for the contest, especially those mentioned here. First, diligence; second, distrust of self; third, confidence in God; fourth, remembrance of Passion; fifth, mindfulness of one’s own death; sixth, remembrance of God’s glory; seventh, the injunctions of Sacred Scripture following the example of Jesus Christ in the desert.” – Saint Catherine of Bologna, from On the Seven Spiritual Weapons.

Prayer

Dear saintly Poor Clare, so rich in love for Jesus and Mary, you were endowed with great talents by God and you left us most inspiring writings and paintings of wondrous beauty. You were chosen as Abbess in the monastery of Poor Clares at Bologna. You did all for God’s greater glory and in this you are a model for all. Make artists learn lessons from you and use their talents to the full.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew