Category Archives: March

Mar 19 – Feast of St Joseph: O felicem virum! O happy man!

st joseph

O FELICEM virum, beatum Ioseph, cui datum est Deum, quem multi reges voluerunt videre et non viderunt, audire et non audierunt, non solum videre et audire, sed portare, deosculari, vestire et custodire!

V. Ora pro nobis, beate Ioseph.
R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

DEUS, qui dedisti nobis regale sacerdotium: praesta, quaesumus; ut, sicut beatus Ioseph unigenitum Filium tuum, natum ex Maria Virgine, suis manibus reverenter tractare meruit et portare, ita nos facias cum cordis munditia et operis innocentia tuis sanctis altaribus deservire, ut sacrosanctum Filii tui Corpus et Sanguinem hodie digne sumamus, et in futuro saeculo praemium habere mereamur aeternum. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum.
Amen.

O BLESSED Joseph, happy man, to whom it was given not only to see and to hear that God Whom many kings longed to see, and saw not, to hear, and heard not; but also to carry Him in your arms, to embrace Him, to clothe Him, and guard and defend Him.

V. Pray for us, O Blessed Joseph.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ
O GOD, Who has given us a royal priesthood, we beseech You, that as Blessed Joseph was found worthy to touch with his hands, and to bear in his arms, Your only-begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary, so may we be made fit, by cleanness of heart and blamelessness of life, to minister at Your holy altar; may we, this day, with reverent devotion partake of the Sacred Body and Blood of Your Only-begotten Son, and may we in the world to come be accounted worthy of receiving an ever-lasting reward. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Father’s Prayer

Father in Heaven,
I thank you for the gift of my family
for whom I now pray
and upon whom I now ask you
to shower Your blessings.
With St. Joseph as my guide,
may I always be ready
to spend my life for them.

Bless my wife whom You have given to me as my spouse,
sharing in your wondrous work of creation.  May I see her as my equal and treat her with the love of Christ for his Church.  May Mary be her guide and help her to find Your peace and Your grace.

Bless my children with Your life and presence.  May the example of Your Son be the foundation upon which their lives are built, that the Gospel may always be their hope and support.

I ask you, Father, to protect and bless my family.  Watch over it so that in the strength of Your love its members may enjoy prosperity,
possess the gift of your peace and, as the Church alive in this home,
always bear witness to Your glory in the world.  Amen.

Saint Joseph, guardian of Jesus and chaste husband of Mary, you passed your life in loving fulfillment of duty. You supported the holy family of Nazareth with the work of your hands. Kindly protect those who trustingly come to you. You know their aspirations, their hardships, their hopes. They look to you because they know you will understand and protect them. You too knew trial, labor and weariness. But amid the worries of material life, your soul was full of deep peace and sang out in true joy through intimacy with God’s Son entrusted to you and with Mary, his tender Mother.  Assure those you protect that they do not labor alone. Teach them to find Jesus near them and to watch over Him faithfully as you have done. Amen.
-Bl Pope John XXIII

Glorious St Joseph, Foster Father of our Lord, pray for fathers!

Love,
Matthew

Mar 25 – Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord – what if she had said “no”?

fraangelico_annunciation
-Fra Angelico, Annunciation, 1450

“The question may strike you as irreverent.  How dare I suggest that the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven, Co-Redemptrix of mankind, could have left us in the lurch like that?

But what if she had?

Could she have said no?  You might say that of course she couldn’t, she was far too holy — but you would be guilty of demeaning and dangerous sentimentality.

It is demeaning because it turns Our Lady from a free human being into a sanctified automaton.  The whole glory of the Annunciation is that Mary, the second Eve, could have said “no” to God but she said “yes” instead, as can we all. Love is only love if it is freely given from a free will.  Anything less is just simply not love.  That is what we celebrate, that is what we praise her for; and rightly so.

This sentimental view is dangerous too.  If we believe that the most important decision in the history of the world was in fact inevitable, that it couldn’t have been otherwise, then that means it was effortless. Now we have a marvelous excuse for laziness.  Next time we’re faced with a tough moral decision, we needn’t worry about doing what is right.  Just drift, and God will make sure that whatever choice we make is the right one.  If God really wants us to do something he’ll sweep us off our feet the way he did Mary, and if he chooses not to, it’s hardly our fault, is it?

So Mary could have said “no” to Gabriel.  What if she had?  He couldn’t just go and ask someone else, like some sort of charity collector.  With all the genealogies and prophecies in the Bible, there was only one candidate.  It’s an alarming thought.

Ultimately, of course, God would have done something: the history of salvation is the history of Him never abandoning His people however pig-headed they were.  But God has chosen to work through human history. If the first attempt at redemption took four thousand years to prepare, from the Fall to the Annunciation, how many tens of thousands of years would the next attempt have taken?

Even if the world sometimes makes us feel like cogs in a machine, each of us is unique and each of us is here for a purpose: just because it isn’t as spectacular a purpose as Mary’s, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. When we fail to seek our vocation, or put off fulfilling some part of it, we try to justify ourselves by saying that someone else will do it better, that God will provide, that it doesn’t really matter.  But we are lying. However small a part I have to play, the story of the Annunciation tells me it is my part and no-one else can do it.

Faced with the enormity of her choice, how was Mary able to decide?  If she said “no”, unredeemed generations would toil on under the burden of sin.  If she said “yes”, she herself would suffer, and so would her Son; but both would be glorified.  Millions of people not yet born would have Heaven open to them; but millions of others would suffer oppression and death in her Son’s name.  The stakes were almost infinite.

You might say that Mary didn’t worry about all this, just obeyed God; but I don’t believe it. It was clear from Scripture she was no dummy.  What God wanted was not Mary’s unthinking obedience but her full and informed consent as the representative of the entire human race.  The two greatest miracles of the Annunciation are these: that God gave Mary the wisdom to know the consequences of her decision, and that he gave her the grace not to be overwhelmed by that knowledge.

When we come to an important decision in our lives, we can easily find our minds clouded by the possible consequences, or, even more, by partial knowledge of them.  How can we ever move, when there is so much good and evil whichever way we go?  The Annunciation gives us the answer.  God’s grace will give us the strength to move, even if the fate of the whole world is hanging in the balance. After all, God does not demand that our decisions should be the correct ones (assuming that there even is such a thing), only that they should be rightly made.

There is one more truth that the Annunciation teaches us, and it is so appalling that I can think of nothing uplifting to say about it that will take the sting away: perhaps it is best forgotten, because it tells us more about God than we are able to understand.  The Almighty Father creates heaven and earth, the sun and all the stars; but when He really wants something done, He comes, the Omnipotent and Omniscient, to one of His poor, weak creatures — and He asks.

And, day by day, He keeps on asking us.”

-by Martin Kochanski, Universalis Publishing, www.universalis.com

annunciation_philippe_de_champaigne
-Philippe de Champaigne, The Annunciation, ca.1644, oil on panel, 28 x 28.75 inches (71 x 73 cm.), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Blessed Solemnity of the Annunciation!
Love,
Matthew

Mar 26 – St Margaret Clitherow, (1556-1586), Wife, Mother, Martyr, “Pearl of York”

image

Margaret was born in York and lived there all her life. Her parents were Thomas and Jane Middleton.  She was one of five children.  Her father was a candle maker and had been sheriff of York for two years.  Like other young girls of the time, she was intentionally not taught to read or to write.

At the age of 15 she married a butcher, John Clitherow, July 8, 1571, and three years later became a Catholic. Together, they had three children:  Henry, Anne, and William, William having been born while Margaret was in prison.  She helped run her husband’s butcher shop.  According to her confessor, spiritual director, and biographer, Fr. John Mush, Margaret became a Catholic because she “found no substance, truth nor Christian comfort in the ministers of the new church, nor in their doctrine itself, and hearing also many priests and lay people to suffer for the defense of the ancient Catholic Faith.”

When speaking of her husband Margaret said, “”Know you, I love him next to God in this world. . . . If I have offended my husband in any way, save for my conscience, I ask of God and him forgiveness.” John said that he could wish for no better wife, “except only two faults, and these were, she fasted too much and would not go with me to church.”

Laws were passed which included a 1585 law that made it high treason for a priest to live in England and a felony for anyone to harbor or aid a priest. The penalty for breaking such laws was death. Despite the risk, Margaret helped and concealed priests. Margaret said “by God’s grace all priests shall be more welcome to me than ever they were, and I will do what I can to set forward God’s Catholic service.”  Imprisoned for her non-attendance at Anglican services, she taught herself to read, and on her release ran a small school for her own and her neighbors’ children. It is said that she used to visit the Knavesmire (the Tyburn of the North, a place of execution) to pray for those who had been martyred there.

She saw that her children were all educated in the faith through the services of a young man, Stapleton, who had been imprisoned for his faith in York Castle. She knew this prison well having been detained there several times for non-attendance at Church of England services.

Margaret wanted her son Henry to receive a Catholic education so she endeavored that her son be sent outside the England to Douai, France for schooling. Such an act was considered a crime.  On March 10, 1586, the council summoned the Chamberlain of York, John Clitherow and demanded that he explain the absence of his son abroad. This was a bold move because the chamberlain was a well respected member of the Protestant community. He was outraged and refused to give them any information about the whereabouts or activity of his son Henry who had enrolled in the seminary in France.

Margaret was not upset to find out that her husband was summoned. She was sure that the authorities would use the occasion to search their home but she was certain that they would find nothing that would incriminate her or her husband. Mass had been said that morning and the priest had escaped. The faithful Mr. Stapleton was conducting class for a group of children. When the alarm was sounded, the teacher escaped through a window. When the searchers burst open the schoolroom door, they found nothing but a group of children studying their lessons. Had it been only the Clitherow children and their Catholic neighbors involved, the authorities would not have learned very much. The Yorkshire children were strong in their faith and were not easily intimidated.

There was in the group a weak spot. There was an older student whom the children considered a foreigner. He was older than all the rest-about 14 years of age. He was Flemish and a stranger to the ways of England and its anti-Catholic laws. Fear showed on his face and the authorities recognized it. They stripped him and threatened him with a flogging. He quickly gave in and told them everything he knew.

He showed them everything—where the Mass was said and where the vestments and altar breads were kept. This was more than the searchers had even hoped for. It clearly proved that Mass was being celebrated in the house despite the law. The Flemish boy told them everything he knew and even some things he did not know. He was only too willing to speak and not too accurate in what he said.

Quickly the authorities ransacked the house. They carried off all of the incriminating evidence. The two Clitherow children were taken to loyal Protestant families and Margaret was never allowed to see her children again. The servants were arrested and thrown into prison because they were loyal to their mistress. Once again Margaret found herself in prison.

When she was brought before the council, she astonished everyone. She was not only fearless, she had a smile on her face. She seemed relieved at being arrested. It was as if she had foreseen the danger and it may have been a relief to have the suspense end when the outcome was known to be inevitable. She was confined with her friend Anne Tesh who was being held for hearing Mass. The two were supportive of each other and confounded their captors with their continued good humor in their jail cell.

On the third day of her confinement, the authorities allowed her husband John to visit her briefly. The visit took place in the presence of the jailer. She was never to see her husband again. The meeting had a sobering effect on both.

Early in the evening of Monday, March 14, Margaret Clitherow was brought before the judges at Common Hall in the city of York. A large crowd was in the streets and in the court for she was dearly loved by many of the citizens. Her indictment was read and she was asked how she pleaded. In answer she said, “I know of no offense whereof I should confess myself guilty. Having made no offense, I need no trial.”

Following her refusal to plead guilty the judges tried to convince her to stand trial. For hours they tried to discredit her but she refused to be shaken. Judge Clinch warned her that if she refused to stand trial, the law would sentence her to a far more painful death than a jury could. The other judges on the panel accused her of crimes of every kind including having intercourse with the priests she harbored. Nothing seemed to move her and the presiding judge sent her back to prison for the night hoping that the solitary confinement would alter her thinking and bring her to her senses.On the next day she was taken back to the Common Hall in the early morning. Judge Clinch reminded her that under the law of Queen Elizabeth, when an accused person refused to make a plea and stand trial before a jury, the accused would be sentenced to what was called “peine forte et dure.” The person was laid naked on the stone floor of an underground cell with a door laid over him and on the door heavy stones were piled. Further weights were piled upon him until he was pressed to death.

Margaret refused to make a plea and to stand trial because she did not want her young children called to court. She told her friend Mrs. Tesh that she knew she would be executed in any case and she did not want to have her children forced to give evidence against their mother. Many at the court pleaded with her to change her mind. Even the judge tried to persuade her to no avail.

Finally the judge passed sentence that she should be crushed to death as a punishment for having “harbored and maintained Jesuits and seminary priests, traitors to the Queen’s majesty and her laws.”  “You must return from whence you came, and there, in the lowest part of the prison, be stripped naked, laid down, your back on the ground, and as much weight laid upon you as you are able to bear, and so to continue for three days without meat or drink, and on the third day to be pressed to death, your hands and feet tied to posts, and a sharp stone under your back.”
– words of condemnation spoken by the British magistrate of her majesty Queen Elizabeth, on Tuesday, March 15, 1586, in the Court of York, Judge George Clinch condemned to death St Margaret, pregnant with her fourth child. Her crime was sheltering Roman priests who were “traitors and seducers of the queen’s subjects.”  The stone under the condemned’s back was to be the size of a fist, intended to break the spine as weight was applied.

When John Clitherow heard of his wife’s sentence, ‘he fared like a man out of his wits, and wept so violently that blood gushed out of his nose in great quantity, and said, “Alas, will they kill my wife? Let them take all I have and save her, for she is the best wife in all England, and the best Catholic also.”‘ She had already sent her hat to her husband ‘in sign of her loving duty to him as to her head’; her shoes and stockings she sent to her twelve-year-old daughter Anne, ‘signifying that she should serve God and follow in her steps’.

Ten days were allowed to pass between her sentencing and execution. On Good Friday morning of March 25, 1586, after sewing her own shroud the night before and after praying for the Pope, cardinals, clergy, and the Queen, Margaret was executed.  She lay sandwiched between a rock and a wooden slab while weights, 800 pounds, were dropped upon her, crushing her to death. She did not cry out but prayed “Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, have mercy upon me.” On the day of her execution she was calm and forgiving. When asked to pray for the Queen, she asked God to turn Her Majesty to the Catholic faith. Within a quarter of an hour she was dead. The sheriffs left the body under the door from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon. They then buried her body in some waste ground, where they hoped it would never be found, but was later discovered by friends, who buried her privately elsewhere; though the place of her burial has not yet been found. Her daughter Anne was imprisoned for four years for refusing to attend a Church of England service, and finally became a nun at Louvain. Two of Margaret’s sons became priests.

“God be thanked, I am not worthy of so good a death as this.”
– Saint Margaret, when advised of her sentence

“I die for the love of my Lord Jesu.”
– Saint Margaret, when asked to confess her crimes before execution

“The sheriffs have said that I am going to die this coming Friday; and I feel the weakness of my flesh which is troubled at this news, but my spirit rejoices greatly. For the love of God, pray for me and ask all good people to do likewise.”
– St Margaret Clitherow, to a friend upon learning of her condemnation

“I am fully resolved in all things touching my Faith, which I ground upon Jesu Christ, and by Him I steadfastly believe to be saved . . . and by God’s assistance I mean to live and die in the same Faith; for if an angel come from heaven, and preach any other doctrine than we have received, the Apostle biddeth us not believe him.”  – St Margaret Clitherow, (see Gal 1:8)

clitherow_stained_glass


THE PEARL OF YORK

A girl, a lady,
Wife, a mother,
From church of England
She saw the other.

The other where
Her church came from.
The other where
The fruit was plumb.

The other where
Her church beat down
And looted jewels
For earthly crown.

And watching she
Was irritated
And slowly grew
Sophisticated.

Sitting silent
In her shell
Her home a place
Where priests could dwell

Confect the Mass
Many saved
For this their limbs
And lives were braved.

Because a woman
Kept her shell
A jealous fortress
Barring hell.

And then the weak
Pried open wide
Exposing truth
The shell’s inside

Where mother, wife,
Lady, girl,
Had turned into
York’s royalist pearl.

clitherow_memorial

On Saturday, 26 March 2011, a pilgrimage in honor of St Margaret Clitherow was held in York.  Mass was offered at York Minster, the Anglican cathedral in York, previously a Catholic church dating back to before the time of the English Reformation.  The dean of York Minster, the Anglican prelate, was most gracious and hospitable accommodating and inviting the worshippers in use of the worship space.  Followed by a procession from the minster, via The Shambles @#s 10 & 11, where St Margaret lived, and Ouse Bridge to the Church of the English Martyrs in Dalton Terrace, where Benediction and veneration of the relic of St Margaret Clitherow took place.

Love,
Matthew

Mar 22 – St Nicholas Owen, SJ, (d. 1606) – Martyr, Artist, Builder of Hiding Places for Priests

????????????????

Nicholas, familiarly known as “Little John,” was small in stature but big in the esteem of his fellow Jesuits.  Born at Oxford, this humble artisan saved the lives of many priests and laypersons in England during the penal times (1559-1829), when a series of statutes punished Catholics for the practice of their faith.

Over a period of about 20 years he used his skills to build secret hiding places for priests throughout the country. His work, which he did completely by himself as both architect and builder, was so good that time and time again priests in hiding were undetected by raiding parties. He was a genius at finding, and creating, places of safety: subterranean passages, small spaces between walls, impenetrable recesses. At one point he was even able to mastermind the escape of two Jesuits from the Tower of London. Whenever Nicholas set out to design such hiding places, he began by receiving the Holy Eucharist, and he would turn to God in prayer throughout the long, dangerous construction process.

Nicholas enrolled as an apprentice to the Oxford joiner William Conway on the feast of the Purification of Blessed Mary, February 2nd, 1577. He was bound in indenture and as an apprentice for a period of eight years and the papers of indenture state that he was the son of Walter Owen, citizen of Oxford, carpenter. Oxford at the time was strongly Catholic. The Statute of artificers determined that sons should follow the profession into which they were born. If he completed his apprenticeship it would have been in 1585. We know from Fr. John Gerard, SJ, a biographer of Nicholas’, that he began building hides in 1588 and continued over a period of eighteen years when he could have been earning good money satisfying the contemporary demand for well-made solid furniture.

St Henry Garnet, SJ, Jesuit Superior in England at the time, in a letter dated 1596 writes of a carpenter of singular faithfulness and skill who has traveled through almost the entire kingdom and, without charge, has made for Catholic priests hiding places where they might shelter the fury of heretical searchers. If money is offered him by way of payment he gives it to his two brothers; one of them is a priest, the other a layman in prison for his faith.

Owen was only slightly taller than a dwarf, and suffered from a hernia caused by a horse falling on him some years earlier. Nevertheless, his work often involved breaking through thick stonework; and to minimize the likelihood of betrayal he often worked at night, and always alone. The number of hiding-places he constructed will never be known. Due to the ingenuity of his craftsmanship, some may still be undiscovered.

After many years at his unusual task, he entered the Society of Jesus and served as a lay brother, although—for very good reasons—his connection with the Jesuits was kept secret. After a number of narrow escapes, he himself was finally caught in 1594. Despite protracted torture, he refused to disclose the names of other Catholics. After being released following the payment of a ransom, “Little John” went back to his work. He was arrested again in 1606. This time he was subjected to horrible tortures, suffering an agonizing death. The jailers tried suggesting that he had confessed and committed suicide, but his heroism and sufferings soon were widely known.

Why should priests need hiding places? From 1585 it was considered treason, punishable by a traitor’s death, to be found in England if a priest had been ordained abroad. Of Owen, the modern edition of Butler’s Lives of the Saints says: “Perhaps no single person contributed more to the preservation of Catholic religion in England in penal times”.

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in earlier centuries often called the Gunpowder Treason Plot or the Jesuit Treason, was a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby.  The last hope for the Catholics collapsed when peace was made with Spain. They had hoped that Catholic Spain, as part of the bargain, would have secured freedom for them to practice their religion. Relief of Catholics was discussed, but James said that his Protestant subjects wouldn’t stand for it.  So there was to be no relief. In fact the screw was tightened again.

Anglican bishops were ordered to excommunicate Catholics who would not attend Anglican services – this meant that no sale or purchase by them was valid, no property  could be passed on by deed or by will.  The level of persecution was higher than ever it had been under Elizabeth.

In the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot, 1605, the result of the frustration of a group of young Catholics when, after dropping hints of toleration, James I made it clear that there would be no relaxation of anti – Catholic legislation, the hunt for priests accused of complicity centered on Hindlip House. This had been provided with hiding places by Nicholas Owen which proved undetectable. He himself was there and when he emerged after four days of hiding he was arrested.

At daybreak on Monday, 20th November, 1605, Hindlip House was surrounded by 100 men. They began to rip the house to pieces.  In the dark, early on Thursday morning, two men, Owen and Bl Ralph Ashley, SJ, another lay-brother and cook, were spotted stealing along a gallery.  They said they were no longer able to conceal themselves, having had but one apple between them for four days. They would not give their names.

It was hardly likely that Nicholas Owen, of all people, would not have been better provided.  They had twice been tipped off during the previous week that a search was imminent. Possibly they hoped that in giving themselves up they would distract attention from the two priests still in hiding, Fr Garnet, SJ, and Fr Oldcorne, SJ, still hiding in Hindlip House, even to being mistaken for them.  It was a ruse that had worked before. It didn’t work now.  The search was intensified.  The priests were in a hide which had been supplied with a feeding tube from an adjoining bedroom, but the hiding place had not been designed to be lived in for a week. After 8 days they emerged, were arrested and identified. All four were taken to London.

Nicholas Owen, SJ, had been in prison before; he had been tortured before.  He was now taken to the torture room, for the first time, on the 26th of February 1606. His identity as a hide-builder seemed to have been betrayed. “We will try to get from him by coaxing, if he is willing to contract for his life, an excellent booty of priests”.  Realizing just whom they had caught, and his value, Secretary of State, Robert Cecil exulted: “It is incredible, how great was the joy caused by his arrest… knowing the great skill of Owen in constructing hiding places, and the innumerable quantity of dark holes which he had schemed for hiding priests all through England.”

On March 2nd it was announced that Nicholas Owen had committed suicide.  People were simply incredulous. It would have been impossible for one who had been tortured as he had.  The Venetian Ambassador reported home:  “Public opinion holds that Owen died of the tortures inflicted on him, which were so severe that they deprived him not only of his strength but of the power to move any part of his body”.

It seems certain that the suicide story was a fiction concocted by a Government deeply embarrassed to find itself with a corpse in its custody as a result of torture.

For those few grim days in February, writes a historian, as the Government tried to break him, the fate of almost every English Catholic lay in Owen’s hands.

In life he had saved them, in death he would too: not a single name escaped him.

In opposition to English law, which forbade the torture of a man suffering from a hernia, as he was, he was racked day after day, six hours at a time. He died under torture without betraying any secret – and he knew enough to bring down the entire network of covert Catholics in England.

“Most brutal of all was the treatment given to Nicholas Owen, better known to the recusants as Little John. Since he had a hernia caused by the strain of his work, as well as a crippled leg, he should not have been physically tortured in the first place. But Little John, unlike many of those interrogated, did have valuable information about the hiding places he had constructed; if he had talked, all too many priests would have been snared ‘like partridges in a net’. In this good cause the government was prepared to ignore the dictates of the law and the demands of common humanity. A leading Councillor, on hearing his name, was said to have exclaimed: “Is he taken that knows all the secret places? I am very glad of that. We will have a trick for him.”

The trick was the prolonged use of the manacles, an exquisitely horrible torture for one of Owen’s ruptured state. He was originally held in the milder prison of the Marshalsea, where it was hoped that other priests would try to contact him, but Little John was ‘too wise to give any advantage’ and spent his time safely and silently at prayer. In the Tower he was brought to make two confessions on 26 February and 1 March.

In the first one, he denied more or less everything. By the time of the second confession, long and ghastly sessions in the manacles produced some results (his physical condition may be judged by the fact that his stomach had to be bound together with an iron plate, and even that was not very effective for long). Little John admitted to attending Father Garnet at White Webbs and elsewhere, that he had been at Coughton during All Saints visit, and other details of his service and itinerary.  However, all of this was known already. Little John never gave up one single detail of the hiding places he had spent his adult life constructing for the safety of his co-religionists.

The lay brother died early in the morning of 2 March. He died directly as a result of his ordeal and in horrible, lingering circumstances. By popular standards of his day, this was a stage of cruelty too far. The government acknowledged this in its own way by putting out the story that Owen had ripped himself open with the knife given him to eat his meat – while his keeper was conveniently looking elsewhere – rather than face renewed bouts of torture. Yet Owen’s keeper had told a relative who wanted Owen to make a list of his needs that his prisoner’s hands were so useless that he could not even feed himself, let alone write.

The story of the suicide was so improbable that neither Owen’s enemies nor his friends, so well acquainted with his character over so many years, believed it. Suicide was a mortal sin in the Catholic Church, inviting damnation, and it was unthinkable that a convinced Catholic like Nicholas Owen should have imperiled his immortal soul in this manner.”

Father Gerard wrote of him:  “I verily think no man can be said to have done more good of all those who laboured in the English vineyard. He was the immediate occasion of saving the lives of many hundreds of persons, both ecclesiastical and secular.”  -Autobiography of an Elizabethan

http://www.marysdowryproductions.org/Saint_Nicholas_Owen.html
http://www.medieval-castle.com/architecture_design/medieval_priest_hole.htm

aac484403f87381810dd9ee4cfe81d21 (1)

stnicholasowenstatue

-statue of St Nicholas Owen, SJ

Nicholas_Owen_in_the_manacles

-St Nicholas Owen, SJ, being tortured in the Tower of London, 1606. Engraver Melchior Kusell“Societas Jesu ad sanguinis et vitae profusionem militans”

Edward_Oldcorne;_Nicholas_Owen_by_Gaspar_Bouttats

-engraving, “Torture of Blessed Edward Oldcorne, SJ & St Nicholas Owen, SJ, by Gaspar Bouttats, National Portrait Gallery, London.  The Jesuit hanging from his wrists with weights tied to his feet is suffering the “Topcliffe rack”.  This method of torture was ultimately what killed Nicholas  Owen, as due to his hernia, “his bowels gushed out with his life”.

Catholic stage magicians who practice Gospel Magic, a performance type promoting Christian values and morals, consider St. Nicholas Owen the Patron of Illusionists and Escapologists due to his facility at using “trompe l’oeil”, “to deceive the eye”, when creating his hideouts and the fact that he engineered an escape from the Tower of London.  Many Catholic builders, if they are familiar with him, may say a prayer of intercession to St Nicholas Owen prior to beginning a new project.

“May the blood of these Martyrs be able to heal the great wound inflicted upon God’s Church by reason of the separation of the Anglican Church from the Catholic Church. Is it not one — these Martyrs say to us — the Church founded by Christ? Is not this their witness? Their devotion to their nation gives us the assurance that on the day when — God willing — the unity of the faith and of Christian life is restored, no offence will be inflicted on the honour and sovereignty of a great country such as England.”

–from the Homily of Pope Paul VI at the canonization of Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, including St. Nicholas Owen, SJ, 25 October 1970.

6fee2e247ca1c0824e8a280d547b44cb

-Saint Nicholas Owen, SJ, Felt Softie by SaintlySilver on Etsy, $19.00

Love,
Matthew

Mar 10 – St John Ogilvie, SJ, (1579-1615) – Priest, Martyr of Scotland

John Ogilvie’s noble Scottish family was partly Catholic and partly Presbyterian. His father raised him as a Calvinist, sending him to the continent to be educated. There John became interested in the popular debates going on between Catholic and Calvinist scholars.

Confused by the arguments of Catholic scholars whom he sought out, he turned to Scripture. Two texts particularly struck him: “God wills all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth,” 1 Tim 2:4, and “Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you” Mt 11:28.

Slowly, rejecting Calvinist predestination, John came to see that the Catholic Church could embrace all kinds of people. Among these, he noted, he was particularly impressed with the faith of many Catholic martyrs. He decided to become Catholic and was received into the Church at Louvain, Belgium, in 1596 at the age of 17.

John continued his studies, first with the Benedictines, then as a student at the Jesuit College at Olmutz. He joined the Jesuits and for the next 10 years underwent their rigorous intellectual and spiritual training.

Ordained a priest in France in 1610, he met two Jesuits who had just returned from Scotland after suffering arrest and imprisonment. They saw little hope for any successful work there in view of the tightening of the penal laws. But a fire had been lit within John. For the next two and a half years he pleaded to be missioned there.

It was a time of great persecution of Catholicism in Scotland. “Send only those,” wrote the Earl of Angus to the Jesuit General, “who wish for this mission and are strong enough to bear the heat of the day, for they will be in exceeding danger.”

Wholesale massacres of Catholics had taken place in the past, but by this point the hunters concentrated on priests and those who attended Mass. The Jesuits were determined to minister to the oppressed Catholic laity, but when captured, they were tortured for information, then hanged, drawn, and quartered.

Having grown a beard, learned a little about horse breeding, John was sent by his superiors, and secretly entered Scotland posing as a horse trader or a soldier, named ‘John Watson’, returning from the wars in Europe.

Unable to do significant work among the relatively few Catholics in Scotland, John made his way back to Paris to consult his superiors. Rebuked for having left his assignment in Scotland, he was sent back.

He warmed to the task before him and had some success in making converts and in secretly serving Scottish Catholics. But he was soon betrayed by a false Catholic, arrested and brought before the court.

His trial dragged on until he had been without food for 26 hours. He was imprisoned and deprived of sleep for eight days and nights. For eight days and nights he was dragged around, kept awake being prodded with sharp sticks and having his hair pulled out. His legs were crushed.  His finger nails were pulled out with pliers.  Still, he refused to reveal the names of Catholics or to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the king in spiritual affairs. He underwent a second and third trial but held firm.

At his final trial he assured his judges: “In all that concerns the king, I will be slavishly obedient; if any attack his temporal power, I will shed my last drop of blood for him. But in the things of spiritual jurisdiction which a king unjustly seizes I cannot and must not obey.”  “Your threats cheer me; I mind them no more than the cackling of geese,” he told his captors. Asked if he feared to die Father John replied, “No more than you do to dine.”

After three trials he was convicted of treason for being loyal to the Pope, and denying the king’s supremacy in spiritual matters. Finally taken to the scaffold, Fr. John’s last words were “If there be here any hidden Roman Catholics, let them pray for me but the prayers of heretics I will not have”.  His final prayers were a litany of the saints in Latin and then in English.

Condemned to death as a traitor, he was faithful to the end, even when on the scaffold he was offered his freedom and a fine living if he would deny his faith. After he was pushed from the stairs and began to hang, he threw his concealed rosary beads out into the crowd. The tale is told that one of his enemies caught them and subsequently became a lifelong devout Roman Catholic.  St John Ogilvie, SJ, was hanged and disemboweled 10 March 1615 at the age of 36.

The customary beheading and quartering were omitted owing to undisguised popular sympathy, and his body was hurriedly buried in the churchyard of Glasgow cathedral, in a place reserved for criminals.  No relic of his body has survived.  His courage in prison and in his martyrdom were reported throughout Scotland.

John Ogilvie was canonized in 1976, becoming the first Scottish saint since 1250.

John came of age when neither Catholics nor Protestants were willing to tolerate one another. Turning to Scripture, he found words that enlarged his vision.

Ogilvie (Ref 04)

Prayer to St John Ogilvie, SJ

God our Father, Fountain of all blessing, we thank You for the countless graces that come to us in answer to the prayers of Your saints.  With great confidence we ask You in the name of Your Son and through the prayers of St John Ogilvie, SJ to help us in all our needs.

Lord Jesus, You chose Your servant St John Ogilvie, SJ to be Your faithful witness to the spiritual authority of the chief shepherd of your flock.  Keep Your people always one in mind and heart, in communion with Benedict our Pope, and all the bishops of your Church.  May Your ordained ministers always be exemplars of Your virtue, humility, service, self-sacrifice and love as they tend Your flock.

Holy Spirit, You gave St John Ogilvie light to know Your truth,  wisdom to defend it, and courage to die for it.  Through his prayers and example bring our country into the unity and peace of Christ’s kingdom.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Mar 17 – The Children of Lir

If you ever come to visit Kelly and I, and you look closely…no, not at the dust and general disarray, but look closely and you may see a swan motif.  These are the Children of Lir.  Mara will soon be able to understand stories. We will tell her of the Children of Lir.

Long ago, in Ireland, there lived a king called Lir. He lived with his wife and four children: Fionnuala, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn. They lived in a castle in the middle of a forest. When Lir’s wife died they were all very sad. After a few years Lir got married again. He married a jealous wife called Aoife.  Aoife thought that Lir loved his children more than he loved her.  Aoife hated the children.  Soon she thought of a plan to get rid of the children.

One summer’s day Aoife took the children to swim in a lake near the castle. The children were really happy to be playing in the water.  Suddenly Aoife took out a magic wand.  There was a flash of light and the children were nowhere to be seen.  All there was to be seen was four beautiful swans, with their feathers as white as snow.

Aoife said, “I have put you under a spell. You will be swans for nine hundred years,” she cackled. “You will spend three hundred years in Lough Derravaragh, three hundred years in the Sea of Moyle, and three hundred years in the waters of Inish Glora,” Aoife said. She also said, “You will remain swans for nine hundred years until you hear the ring of a Christian bell.”

She went back to the castle and told Lir that his children had drowned. Lir was so sad he started crying. He rushed down to the lake and saw no children. He saw only four beautiful swans.

One of them spoke to him. It was Fionnuala who spoke to him. She told him what Aoife had done to them. Lir got very angry and turned Aoife into an ugly moth. When Lir died the children were very sad, but the curse of Aoife would not be lifted.  When the time came they moved to the Sea of Moyle.

Soon the time came for their final journey. When they reached Inish Glora they were very tired.  They were nine hundred years old. Early one morning they heard the sound of a Christian bell. They were so happy that they were human again. The monk (some even say it was St. Patrick himself) sprinkled holy water on them and then Fionnuala put her arms around her brothers and then the four of them fell on the ground. The monk buried them in one grave. That night he dreamed he saw four swans flying up through the clouds. He knew the children of Lir were with their mother and father.

 

 

A statue of the Children of Lir resides in the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square in Dublin, Ireland. It symbolizes the rebirth of the Irish nation following 900 years of struggle for independence from Britain, much as the swans were “reborn” following 900 years of being cursed.


 
File:Children of Lir.jpg

The Garden of Remembrance (An Gairdín Cuimhneacháin) is a memorial garden in Dublin dedicated to the memory of “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom”. In 1976, a contest was held to find a poem which could express the appreciation and inspiration of this struggle for freedom.  The winner, “We Saw a Vision” by Liam Mac Uistin, is inscribed in the stone wall surrounding the Garden of Remembrance in Irish, English, and French.

We Saw A Vision
In the darkness of despair we saw a vision,
We lit the light of hope,
And it was not extinguished,
In the desert of discouragement we saw a vision,
We planted the tree of valour,
And it blossomed
In the winter of bondage we saw a vision,
We melted the snow of lethargy,
And the river of resurrection flowed from it.
We sent our vision aswim like a swan on the river,
The vision became a reality,
Winter became summer,
Bondage became freedom,
And this we left to you as your inheritance.
O generation of freedom remember us,
The generation of the vision.


 
File:Thechildrenoflirduncan1914.jpg
 
-The Children of Lir, 1914, by John Duncan
 
“Saoirse” is the Irish word for freedom.Love,
Matthew

 

Beannachtaí na Féile Padraig oraibh!!!Or,

 

Tha mo bhàta-foluaimein loma-làn easgannan = my hovercraft is full of eels (from a Monty Python’s Flying Circus skit).  

Mar 23 – St Turibius of Mongrovejo (1538-1606), Archbishop & Great Catholic Reformer

One of the first saints of the New World, the Spanish bishop St. Turibius of Mongrovejo (1538-1606) was born in Mayorga, Spain, and educated as a lawyer. He was such a brilliant scholar that he became professor of law at the highly reputed University of Salamanca and eventually became chief judge, the Grand Inquisitor, of the Inquisition at Granada under King Phillip II of Spain.

In 1580 the archbishopric of Lima, capital of Spain’s colony in Peru, became vacant. Religious and political leaders agreed that Turibius’ holiness made him the ideal choice for this position, even though he protested that, as a layman, he was ineligible. It was felt he was the one person with the strength of character and holiness of spirit to heal the scandals that had infected that area.  Turibius cited all the canons that forbade giving laymen ecclesiastical dignities.  His protests were overruled; he was ordained a priest and bishop, and then sent to Peru, where he found colonialism at its worst. The Spanish conquerors were guilty of every sort of oppression of the native population. Abuses among the clergy were flagrant, and he devoted his energies (and suffering) to this area first.

The 450K sq km (180K sq mi) diocese of Lima was geographically isolated and morally lax.  He began the long and arduous visitation of an immense archdiocese, studying the language, staying two or three days in each place, often with neither bed nor food. In all he would make three visitations of his diocese, the first lasting seven years.  Turibius made a point of learning Native American languages; this helped him teach and minister to his people, and also made him a very successful missionary.

He confessed every morning to his chaplain, and celebrated Mass with intense fervor. Among those to whom he gave the Sacrament of Confirmation was St. Rose of Lima, and possibly St. Martin de Porres. After 1590 he had the help of another great missionary, St. Francis Solanus.

As bishop, he denounced exploitation of Native Americans by Spanish nobles and even clergy; he imposed many reforms, in spite of considerable opposition. He built roads, founded schools, churches, hospitals, and convents.  Turibius organized a seminary in 1591–the first in the Western hemisphere–and his pastoral example inspired reforms in other dioceses under Spanish administration. He served as Archbishop of Lima for twenty-six years, dying in 1606.

“Time is not our own, and we must give a strict account of it.”
-St Turibius of Mongrovejo

Prayer

Lord, through the apostolic work of Saint Turibius
and his unwavering love of truth,
You helped Your church to grow.
May Your chosen people continue to grow
in faith and holiness.
Grant 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.

 
Love,
Matthew

Mar 6 – St Colette of Corbie, PCC, (1381-1447), Great Catholic Reformer & Healer of the Great Western Schism

image

Colette, baptised Nicolette Boilet, was born in Corbie, France.  A carpenter’s daughter whose parents were near 60 at her birth. Colette was orphaned at age 17, and left in the care of a Benedictine abbot. Her guardian wanted her to marry, but Colette was drawn to religious life. She initially tried to join the Beguines and Benedictines, but failed in her vocation, feeling the life of those communities not strict enough to her liking.

At 21 she began to follow the Third Order Rule of the Franciscans and became an anchoress, a woman walled into a room whose only opening was a window into a church.

She had visions in which Saint Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) ordered her to restore the Rule of Saint Clare to its original severity. When she hesitated, she was struck blind for three days and mute for three more; she saw this as a sign to take action.  After four years of prayer and penance in this cell, she left it.

Colette began her reform during the time of the Great Western Schism (1378-1417) when three men claimed to be pope and thus divided Western Christianity. The 15th century in general was a very difficult one for the Western Church. Abuses long neglected cost the Church dearly in the following century; the prayers of Colette and her followers may have lessened the Church’s troubles in the 16th century. In any case, Colette’s reform indicated the entire Church’s need to follow Christ more closely.

Colette tried to follow her mission by explaining it, but had no success. Realizing she needed more authority behind her words, she walked to Nice, France, barefoot and clothed in a habit of patches, to meet Peter de Luna, acknowledged by the French as the schismatic Pope Benedict XIII. He professed her a Poor Clare, and was so impressed that he made her superioress of all convents of Minoresses that she might reform or found, and a missioner to Franciscan friars and tertiaries.

She travelled from convent to convent, meeting opposition, abuse, slander, and was even accused of sorcery. Eventually she made some progress, especially in Savoy, where her reform gained sympathizers and recruits. This reform passed to Burgundy in France, Flanders in Belgium and Spain.

Colette helped Saint Vincent Ferrer, O.P. heal the papal schism. She founded seventeen convents; one branch of the Poor Clares is still known as the Colettines.  Her sisters were known for their poverty—they rejected any fixed income—and for their perpetual fast. Colette’s reform movement spread to other countries and is still thriving today.

Colette was known for a deep devotion to Christ’s Passion with an appreciation and care for animals. Colette fasted every Friday, meditating on the Passion. After receiving Holy Communion, she would fall into ecstasies for hours. She foretold the date of her own death.  Colette was canonized in 1807.

image

In her spiritual testament, Colette told her sisters: “We must faithfully keep what we have promised. If through human weakness we fail, we must always without delay arise again by means of holy penance, and give our attention to leading a good life and to dying a holy death. May the Father of all mercy, the Son by His Holy Passion, and the Holy Spirit, source of peace, sweetness and love, fill us with their consolation. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Mar 7: Sts Perpetua & Felicity (181-203 AD), Martyrs

It’s long, but it’s Lent.  I LOOOVE strong women; and in my life, have been so impressed with the majority of the opposite sex I have encountered, I, conservative in many other respects, consider myself a moderate feminist.  Women, I believe, are the backbone of civilization, and have been and continue to be its salvation on many occasions, and certainly instrumental to the Lord and His Work, then and now, as scripture and our own experience clearly tells us.

No saints were more universally honored in the early Church than Perpetua & Felicity.  They are honored to this day by Christians, partly due to the fact that the account of their martyrdom is so precise.  We know the details of Perpetua’s and Felicity’s imprisonment because Perpetua kept a diary which is contained in the Vatican archives to this day.

Vivia Perpetua (“life eternal”) was a noblewoman in the North African city of Carthage, in modern Tunisia.  She was the 22 year old wife of a man in a good position in the city and the mother of an infant boy.  She, her mother and two brothers were all Christians, but her father was a pagan.

Felicity (“happiness/bliss”) was a slavewoman who accepted Christianity.  When she was imprisoned she was an expectant mother.  We don’t know as much about her as we do about Perpetua and only what was in Perpetua’s diary.

Perpetua and Felicity were among a group of five Christians rounded up in Carthage on the orders of the Emperor, Septimius Severus.  The others were two free men, Saturnius and Secundulus, and a slave, Revocatus.  They were later joined by another man, Saturus, who was apparently their instructor in the faith, their catechist, and who chose to share their punishment.  At first they were lodged in a private house under heavy guard, but later were moved to a prison.

Perpetua wrote in her diary that her father tried to save her life by urging her to renounce Christianity.  “I said to my father, ‘Do you see this vessel – water pot or whatever it may be?  Can it be called by any other name than what it is?’ ‘No,’ he replied.  ‘So also I cannot call myself by any other name than what I am – a Christian.’  Then my father, provoked by the word ‘Christian,’ threw himself on me as if he would pluck out my eyes, but he only shook me, and in fact was vanquished…Then I thanked God for the relief of being, for a few days, parted from my father.”

During her imprisonment, Perpetua’s greatest concern was for her baby.  She wrote:  “A few days later we were lodged in the prison, and I was much frightened, because I had never known such darkness.  What a day of horror!  Terrible heat, owing to the crowds (imprisoned with us)!  Rough treatment by the soldiers!  To crown all I was tormented with anxiety for my baby.  But Tertius and Pomponius, those blessed deacons, who ministered to us, paid for us (by bribing the guards) to be moved for a few hours to a better part of the prison and we obtained some relief.”

Then Perpetua said her baby was brought to her and she nursed it, “for already he was faint for want of food.”  She wrote that she spoke to her mother about her baby and commended her son to her and to her brother.  “For many days I suffered such anxieties, but I obtained leave for my child to remain in prison with me, and when relieved of my trouble and distress for him, I quickly recovered my health.  My prison suddenly became a palace to me and I would rather have been there than anywhere else.”

By this time Perpetua and her fellow prisoners were determined that they would suffer death before they would renounce their faith.  However, Perpetua’s father did not give up his attempts to save her life.  “Daughter,” he said, “pity my white hairs!  Pity your father, if I deserve you should call me father, if I have loved you more than your brothers!  Make me not a reproach to mankind!  Look on your mother and your mother’s sister, look on your son who cannot live after you are gone.  Forget your pride; do not make us all wretched!  None of us will ever speak freely again if calamity strikes you.”  Perpetua wrote in her diary in response,”He alone of all my kindred would not have joy at my martyrdom.”

The next day, Perpetua’s trial began at the forum in Carthage.  The prisoners were placed on a platform.  The judge was Hilarion, procurator of the province.  The others were questioned first and all confessed their faith.

When it was Perpetua’s turn, her father suddenly appeared with her infant son.  He implored his daughter to “have pity on the child.”  Then Hilarion joined with her father and said, “Spare your father’s white hairs.  Spare the tender years of your child.  Offer sacrifice for the prosperity of the emperor.”

Perpetua replied, “No!”

Hilarion asked, “Are you a Christian?”

Pepetua answered him, “Yes, I am.”

At that her father ran up on the platform and tried to drag her down the steps, but Hilarion gave the order that he should be beaten off.  One of the guards struck him with a rod.

Perpetua said, “I felt as much as if I myself had been struck, so deeply did I grieve to see my father treated thus in his old age.”

Hilarion then passed sentence, condemning them to the wild beasts.  He had Saturus, Saturninus and Revocatus scourged (Secundulus seems to have died in prison before the trial), and Perpetua and Felicity beaten on the face.

Hilarion then ordered that they be kept for the gladitorial shows which were to be given for the soldiers on the birthday festival of Geta, the young prince and son of the Emperor.  The prisoners returned to their cells, rejoicing.

The attitude of the prisoners resulted in many conversions.  One of them was their jailer, Pudens, who did everything he could for them.  The day before the games, they were given the usual last meal, which the prisoners tried to make an “agape/ ἀγάπη”(Greek for love, used by Christians to denote Christian love, in contrast to “eros/ ἔρως”, or “philia/ φιλία”) meal, or Eucharistic meal.  They sang psalms, prayed and spoke to those around them of the judgments of God and of their own joy in their sufferings.  (Acts 5:41-42)

On the day of their martyrdom, they marched from their cells to the amphitheater with cheerful looks and graceful bearing.  The three men walked ahead and Perpetua and Felicity followed them, walking side by side, the noblewoman and the slave.  At the gates of the amphitheater the attendants tried to force the men to put on the robes of the priests of Saturn and the women the dress symbolic of the goddess Ceres, but they all resisted and the officer allowed them to enter the arena clad as they were.

As they entered the arena, Perpetua was singing.  The three men called out warnings of the coming vengeance of God to the bystanders and to Hilarion, as they walked beneath his balcony.

Perpetua was the first to be attacked.  When she looked up, she saw Felicity on the ground and reached out her hand to lift her up.  Both stood up, and were then ordered to the gate called Sanavaria (where those not killed by the beasts were executed by the gladiators).  There Perpetua was welcomed by a catechumen called Rusticus.  Perpetua, rousing herself as if from sleep (she had been deeply in spiritual ecstasy), began to look around.  To everyone’s amazement, she said:  ‘When are we going to be led to the beasts?’  When she heard that it had already happened, she at first did not believe it until she saw the marks of violence on her body and clothing.

Then she beckoned to her brother and the catechumen, and addressed them in these words:  ‘Stand firm in faith, love one another and do not be tempted to do anything wrong because of our suffering.’

Saturus, too, in another gate, encouraged the soldier Pudens, saying:  “Here I am, and just as I thought and foretold I have not yet felt any wild beast.  Now believe with your whole heart…Right at the end of the games, when Saturus was thrown to the leopard, he was in fact covered with so much blood from one bite, that the crowd in the amphitheater cried out to him, “Washed and saved!  Washed and saved!”  Then Saturus said to Pudens, “Farewell, and remember your faith as well as me; do not let these things frighten you; let them rather strengthen you.”  At that moment, Saturus asked Pudens for the ring from Pudens’ finger.  Soaking it in his wound, he returned it Pudens as a remembrance and a keepsake.

The mortally wounded martyrs were led to the middle of the amphitheater to end their suffering and receive the death blow from the gladiators.  They gave each other the kiss of peace.  The gladiator ordered to kill Perpetua was young and inexperienced.  Perpetua steadied his shaking hand and guided his sword to her throat.


Before such a woman, the unclean spirit trembles.

 
 

http://www.csvfblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/perpetua.jpg

Prayer to Sts Perpetua & Felicity
Father,
Your love gave the Saints Perpetua and Felicity
courage to suffer a cruel martyrdom.
By their prayers, help us to grow in love of You.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Love,
Matthew