Category Archives: May

May 31 – Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Magnificat anima mea Dominum;
Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo,
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae;
ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, et sanctum nomen ejus,
Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam brachio suo;
Dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis, et divites dimisit inanes.
Sucepit Israel, puerum suum, recordatus misericordiae suae,
Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semeni ejus in saecula.

“Who am I, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” -Lk 1:43

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His Name.

He has mercy on those who fear Him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of His servant Israel
for He remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.

(-Lk 1:46-55)

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

Presence of God – O my Mother, most holy Virgin Mary, be always my model, my support, and my guide.

MEDITATION

“And Mary, rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Judah.”
These words are from today’s Gospel (Luke 1:39-47).

Mary, in the exquisite delicacy of her charity, has such a profound sense of the needs of others, that as soon as she hears of them, she acts spontaneously and decisively to bring help. Having learned from the Angel Gabriel that her cousin was about to become a mother, she goes immediately to offer her humble services.

If we consider the difficulty of traveling in those days, when the poor, such as Mary, had to go on foot over difficult roads, or at best, by means of some rude conveyance, and also the fact that Mary remained three months with Elizabeth, we can readily understand that she had to face many hardships in performing this act of charity. However, she was in no way disturbed: charity urged her, making her wholly forgetful of herself, for as St. Paul says: “Charity seeketh not her own” (1 Corinthians 13:5). How many times, perhaps, have you omitted an act of kindness, not to spare yourself a hard journey, but only to avoid a little trouble. Think how uncharitable you are and how slow to help others. Look at Mary, and see how much you can learn from her!

Charity makes Mary forget not only her hardships but also her own dignity, which was greater than that given to any other creature. Elizabeth is advanced in years, but Mary is the Mother of God; Elizabeth is about to give birth to a man, but Mary will give birth to the Son of God. Nevertheless, before her cousin as before the Angel, Mary continues to look upon herself as the humble handmaid of the Lord, and nothing more. Precisely because she considers herself a handmaid, she comports herself as such, even in respect to her neighbor. In your case, perhaps, although you know how to humble yourself before God and recognize your lack of perfection in the secrecy of your heart, it displeases you to appear imperfect before your neighbor, and you quickly resent being treated as such. Are you not anxious to have your dignity, education, and ability recognized, as well as the more or less honorable offices or charges which have been entrusted to you? Your dignity is a mere nothing, and yet you are so jealous of it. Mary’s dignity approaches the infinite, yet she considers herself and behaves as if she were the least of all creatures.

COLLOQUY

“O Mary, how great is your humility when you hasten to serve others! If it is true that he who humbles himself will be exalted, who will be more exalted than you who have humbled yourself so much?

When Elizabeth caught sight of you she was astonished and exclaimed: ‘Whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?’ But I am still more astonished to see that you, as well as your Son, came not to be served, but to serve…. It was for this purpose that you went to Elizabeth, you the Queen, to the servant, the Mother of God to the mother of the Precursor, you who would give birth to the Son of God, to her who would bring forth a mere man.

But your profound humility in no way lessened your magnanimity; the greatness of your soul was not opposed to your humility. You, so small in your own eyes, were so magnanimous in your faith, in your hope in the Most High, that you never doubted His promises, and firmly believed that you would become the Mother of the Son of God. Humility did not make you fainthearted; magnanimity did not make you proud, but these two virtues were perfectly combined in you!

O Mary, you cannot give me a share in your great privileges as Mother of God; these belong to you alone! But you want me to share in your virtues, giving me examples of them in yourself. If, then, sincere humility, magnanimous faith, and delicate, sympathetic charity are lacking in me, how can I excuse myself? O Mary, O Mother of mercy, you who are full of grace, nourish us, your poor little ones, with your virtues!” (cf. St. Bernard).”

Love,
Matthew

Mary

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

Presence of God – Under your protection I take refuge, O Mary; be the guide and model of my interior life.

MEDITATION

Month of May, month of Mary! The heart of every Christian turns spontaneously toward his heavenly Mother, with a desire to live in closer intimacy with her and to strengthen the sweet ties which bind him to her. It is a great comfort on our spiritual way, which is often fatiguing and bristling with difficulties, to meet the gentle presence of a mother. One is so at ease near one’s mother. With her, everything becomes easier; the weary, discouraged heart, disturbed by storms, finds new hope and strength, and continues the journey with fresh courage.

“If the winds of temptation arise,” sings St. Bernard, “if you run into the reefs of trials, look to the star, call upon Mary. In danger, sorrow, or perplexity, think of Mary, call upon Mary.”

There are times when the hard road of the “nothing” frightens us, miserable as we are; and then, more than ever, we need her help, the help of our Mother. The Blessed Virgin Mary has, before us, trodden the straight and narrow path which leads to sanctity; before us she has carried the cross, before us she has known the ascents of the spirit through suffering. Sometimes, perhaps, we do not dare to look at Jesus the God-Man, Who because of His divinity seems too far above us; but near Him is Mary, His Mother and our Mother, a privileged creature surely, yet a creature like ourselves, and therefore a model more accessible for our weakness.

Mary comes to meet us during this month, to take us by the hand, to initiate us into the secret of her interior life, which must become the model and norm of our own.

COLLOQUY

“O my soul, do you fear to approach God? He has given you Jesus as Mediator. Is there anything that such a Son could not obtain from His Father? The Father who loves Him will answer Him, because of the love He bears Him. But do you yet hesitate to approach Him? He made Himself your brother, your companion, and in everything, sin excepted, He willed to undergo all the humiliations of human nature, just to compassionate your miseries. Mary has given you this brother. But His divine Majesty still awes you, perhaps; for, although He is man, He does not cease to be God. Do you want an advocate with Him? Have recourse to Mary. Mary is a pure creature, pure not only because she is free from sin, but also because of her unique human nature. I am sure, O Mary, that your prayers will be heard because of the respect you deserve; your Son will certainly hear you because you are His Mother, and the Father will hear His Son. This is why my confidence is unshakable; this is the reason for all my hope! O Blessed Virgin, the Angel declared that ‘you have found grace before God.’ You will always find grace, and I need only grace; I ask for nothing else” (cf. St. Bernard).

“Draw me after you, O Virgin Mary, that I may run in the odor of your ointments. Draw me, for I am held back by the weight of my sins and the malice of your enemies. Since no one comes to your Son unless he is drawn by the Father, I dare to say that no one, so to speak, comes to Him if you do not draw him by your prayers. You teach true wisdom, you beg grace for sinners, you are their advocate, you promise glory to those who honor you, because you are the treasury of grace. You have found grace with God, O most sweet Virgin, you who have been preserved from original sin, filled with the Holy Spirit, and have conceived the Son of God. You have been given all these graces, O most humble Mary, not only for yourself, but also for us, so that you may be able to help us in all our necessities” (cf. Ven. Raymond Jourdain).”

Love,
Matthew

May 4 – Bl Charles Mahoney, OFM, (1640-1679), Priest & Martyr

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Blessed Charles Mahoney. This Irish Franciscan was another victim of the evil Titus Oates.

Charles Mahoney (alias Meehan) was born in Ireland around 1639/40. He and his three brothers, James, Terence and Christopher, were educated by their uncle, Fr Bonaventure OSF, who was guardian of St Anthony’s College in Louvain. Three of the boys, Charles, Terrence and James, followed in their uncle’s footsteps and became priests.

In 1674, several years after his ordination, Charles was sent to Germany to study theology. He remained there for two years then spent another two years in Rome, preaching and teaching at the Irish Franciscan College of St Isadore. Then, in 1678, Charles was sent back to Ireland. Charles was aboard a ship heading for home when disaster struck. In a raging storm his ship was wrecked off the coast of Wales. With some of his belongings, he managed to swim ashore near Milford Haven in West Wales.

The plucky Franciscan decided to travel North, on foot, in the hope of finding a ship bound for Ireland. Unfortunately, Charles didn’t get very far. In June 1678 he was arrested not far from Denbigh and imprisoned in Denbigh Gaol. In the spring of 1679, Charles Mahoney was tried, found guilty of being a Catholic priest, which was considered treason, and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, the usual punishment for treason.

On 12th August 1679, Fr Charles Mahoney was taken from his prison, tied to a horse-drawn hurdle and dragged to a spot outside the town. Here the awful sentence was carried out.

The months of July and August 1679 were busy ones for the anti-Catholic authorities. Titus Oates and his fellow perjurers must have been smugly satisfied too. Executions of Catholic priests were being carried out in various parts of England and Wales. In Wales, Fr Philip Evans SJ and a secular priest, Fr John Lloyd, were barbarously executed in Cardiff on 22nd July. Just over the border, in Hereford, eighty year old Fr John Kemble, another secular priest, met his fate on 22nd August. Fr Kemble, a cousin of St David Lewis, had spent fifty-four years ministering to the Catholics of Herefordshire and Monmouth. On that same day Fr John Wall, a Franciscan, was executed at Red Hill, Worcester. Fr Wall, who ministered mainly in the Worcester area, was a classmate and friend of our Last Welsh Martyr, St David Lewis. Fr David Lewis SJ followed his friends and fellow priests to martyrdom on 27th August at Usk. All five were canonised in 1970 when Pope Paul VI canonised the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

The British Museum is in possession of a one page document entitled “The Last Speeches of Three Priests that were executed for Religion, Anno Domini 1679”. The document reads; “An Account of the words spoken by Mr Charles Mahony, an Irish priest of the holy Order of St Francis, who was executed in his Habit at Ruthin in North Wales, August 12, 1679.

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‘Now God Almighty is pleased I should suffer Martyrdom, His Holy Name be praised, since I dye for my religion. But you have no right to put me to death in this country, though I confessed myself to be a priest, for you seized me as I was going to my native country, Ireland, being driven at Sea on this coast, for I never used my Function in England before I was taken, however, God forgive you, as I do and shall always pray for you, especially for those that were so good to me in my distress. I pray God bless our King, and defend him from his enemies, and convert him to the Holy Catholick Faith. Amen.’ His age was under forty. He was tryed and condemned at Denby confessing himself to be a priest.”

Love,
Matthew

May 12 – Bl William Tirry, OSA, (1609-1654) – Priest & Martyr

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In the centuries after Christianity came to Ireland, Roman Catholicism  thrived there. In the Dark Ages it was monks from Ireland, “the island of saints and scholars,” studying in Ireland and then moving out around Europe that helped preserve European civilization. But from the time that Henry VIII broke with the Church in the 1530s until the present day, all that changed and Ireland became a place of conflict.

Some of the first casualties of that conflict were the leaders of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Between 1534 and 1714, 260 Catholic clergy and laity were martyred in Ireland. One of those was Father William Tirry.  William was born in Cork City in 1608 to a very prominent family. Twenty members of his family had been mayors of Cork through the years and his uncle was Bishop of the Diocese of Cork-Cloyne. The Tirrys were what was known as “old English,” those who had come after the Norman-English, but by the time William was born had been in Ireland for hundreds of years. Though they were loyal to the English crown, they were also staunch Catholics. William was a studious lad and, as was often the case in those days in prominent Catholic families, he was steered toward the priesthood. Though he spoke English and also learned Latin, Irish was his first language, another factor that would have enhanced his identification with Irish culture.

At the age of 18 William was accepted to study in the Augustinian order as a postulant at Cork’s “Red Abbey.” He later went to the continent, where he studied philosophy in the famous Augustinian house of study in Valladolid, Spain, where he was also ordained between 1634 and 1636. He then taught theology at the Augustinian College in Paris. He may have been back in Ireland by 1638. It was a fateful time in Irish history, as the Rising of 1641 was to begin shortly. Father Tirry was secretary for his uncle, the bishop, for a time. After the rebellion began, Cork was the headquarters of the Protestants of Munster province and remained relatively calm for a few years. Father Tirry was tutor to the children of two of his cousins during this time, the Sarsfields and Everards. The Everards lived in Fethard, County Tipperary, and would be very important to Father Tirry in the final years of his life.

In 1644, the ongoing conflict in Ireland finally disrupted Father Tirry’s life in Cork City, as the Catholic clergy was forced to flee. Father Tirry took refuge in the Augustinian friary in Fethard. He had several fairly peaceful years there, becoming the assistant to Father Denis O’Driscoll in 1646. They were able to minister to the local Catholics in relative peace for a few years, but the specter of Cromwell was on the horizon.

In June 1649 Father Tirry was appointed the prior of the Augustinian house in Skreen, County Meath. But Cromwell landed August 15th and occupied that area. It’s likely that Father Tirry either never took up that post, or had to flee it shortly afterwards, as he was still in Fethard in 1650. Father Peter Taaffe, who was appointed prior in Drogheda at the same time, died in the massacre by Cromwell’s troops there.

In the spring of 1650, Cromwell’s army arrived in Fethard and all the Augustinians had to scatter to the countryside and go into hiding. Father O’Driscoll and Father Tirry remained on the run in hiding in the area for the next four years, while ministering to the Catholics of the town. Father Tirry was said to have sometimes moved about disguised as a soldier and for much of the time was often hidden in the home or on the property of his former employers, the Everards. Many people in town knew the Everard family was hiding him, but for several years none betrayed him.

On January 6, 1653, the English parliament declared any Roman Catholic priest found to be ministering to a congregation in Ireland to be guilty of treason. Some priests fled to the continent, but many did not, including Father Tirry. Those who stayed had a bounty put on their heads and priest hunters roamed the countryside. It was a time of great suffering in Ireland, when famines were common and many were desperate and starving. Eventually he was betrayed by three local people, who each received 5£s.

On Holy Saturday, March 25, 1654, English soldiers broke into Father Tirry’s hiding place at the Everard property and arrested him. He was in his vestments preparing to celebrate a Mass somewhere and they also found papers in which he defended the Catholic faith. This was irrefutable evidence against him.

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-part of the old city and town walls of Fethard, Ireland

Ordinarily this would have resulted in Mrs. Everard (a widow) being arrested and probably executed for aiding a priest, but the family must have been well connected and she was not harmed. Father Tirry was transported to Clonmel Gaol. Not every clergyman who was caught at the time was executed — some were deported. There were several other held in the gaol with Father Tirry then who were banished rather than being executed, including Fathers Walter Conway and Matthew Fogarty, who would provide much of the extant information of Father Tirry’s imprisonment and execution. Fathers Conway and Fogarty reported that Father Tirry immediately improved the morale of the prisoners with his piety and positive attitude.

His efforts ministering to the local population over the preceding decade must have left a strong impression on them, for Conway and Fogarty reported that when the Catholics in the area heard that Father Tirry was in the gaol, crowds of them came there to see him. Marshal Richard Rouse, who ran the gaol, apparently admired Father Tirry as well, as he went out of his way to see to his comforts and allowed some of his many visitors to see him.

As with nearly all trials of Irishmen at that time and for nearly three more centuries to come, the assigned jurors were those the government trusted to return the “correct” verdict. This jury included a Cromwellian commissioner and an army colonel who would no doubt keep the other jurors in line. And in the case of Father Tirry, it’s likely that his high standing with the local Catholic population worked against him with regard to banishment versus execution, as did the writings that found when he was arrested, which were highly critical of the Protestant church of Ireland. If he knew that, it did not cause him to waver in his faith.

At his trial, when pressed to bend to the government’s authority, he replied that, “in temporal matters I acknowledge no higher power in the kingdom of Ireland than yours, but in spiritual affairs wherein my soul is concerned, I acknowledge the Pope of Rome and my own superiors to have greater power over me than you others.” He must have known such a pronouncement would make them believe that even if exiled he would return again, ensuring his death, but his faith was stronger than his fear of death.

Both Fathers Tirry and Fogarty, who were tried together, were sentenced to death, but in Fogarty’s case the sentence was commuted to banishment. Marshal Rouse allowed Father Tirry to be held in a house he owned after his trial, so people could easily came and visit him while awaiting word of when his sentence would be carried out. In a last act of kindness to his flock, Father Tirry had 46 loaves of bread given to the poor to atone for the sins of his 46 years of life. On May 11th, he was informed he would die the following day, and replied in his native Irish, “God Almighty be thanked Who chose me for this happy end.”

On the morning of the 12th, Marshal Rouse arrived to take Father Tirry to be hung. After having his hands manacled, he knelt in the door and got a final blessing from his fellow priests, whose affection for him must have created a most poignant scene. The procession to the gallows was guarded by English soldiers, as well it needed to be, as the streets thronged with people coming to see their beloved priest for the last time. Many were said to be weeping and some grabbed the hem of his garment and kissed it, receiving his blessing. He walked holding a set of beads, reciting the rosary as he went to the market square of Clonmel.

Reaching the gallows, Father Tirry was allowed by Rouse to address the crowd, much to the displeasure of a Protestant reverend who implored Rouse to “get on with it” in the middle of the father’s gallows speech. But Rouse’s kindness to Father Tirry would continue. The crowd now was turning angry at what was about to happen and pressing in toward the soldiers surrounding the gallows, but Father Tirry implored them to stay calm and allow him to “go in peace.”

“I would have life and favor if I defected to you,” Father Tirry told the reverend, “but, I prefer to die for the true religion.” And, in his final comments, he showed how deep his devotion to that religion was, when he forgave the three residents of Fethard who had betrayed his location to the English, and prayed for their salvation. He also asked any priest who might be in disguise in the crowd, as they would have to be, to offer him absolution. His old friend Father O’Driscoll was, indeed, there and surreptitiously gave it. O’Driscoll was still on the run and would never be captured, but his health would be broken by that exhausting life and he would be dead the following year.

Father Tirry then signaled to Rouse, who had assured him he would not give the command to push him from the ladder on which he was standing until he was ready, that he was prepared for the end. The deed was done and the crowded gasped as the good Father’s neck snapped and his lifeless body hung before them. It was said that none who witnessed it, Catholic or Protestant, failed to be admire the strength and courage with which Father Tirry had faced his final moments on earth.

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-ruins of Fethard Abbey, Ireland

The mayor of Fethard was allowed to bring Father Tirry’s body back there. He was buried in the grounds of the Abbey in Fethard, though its exact location is lost to us. His sacrifice for his faith was not forgotten by the people of Ireland, however. In 1919, Father Tirry was one of 260 Irish martyrs whose names were submitted to Rome for sainthood. On September 27, 1992, 17 Irish martyrs were beatified by Pope John Paul II, and on that list was William Tirry, now one step away from being a saint.

Loving Father, we praise you for the seal of holiness your Church placed on Blessed William Tirry of Fethard, who willingly gave his life for your Gospel truth which he professed and lived. Grant through his intercession an answer to our prayers now in our time of need. We pray especially for………………… May your holy will be done. We trust in your mercy, and pray too that in your blessed providence, the name Blessed William will soon be added to the list of our saints.

We make our prayer through Christ our Lord.

Love,
Matthew

May 10 – St John of Avila, Doctor of the Church: sharing in the sufferings & consolation of Christ

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“Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercy and God of all consolation who consoles us in all our trials and enables us to console others who are being tried, for we urge them on as God urges us on. As we share generously in the sufferings of Christ, so do we share generously in his consolation.” – 2 Cor 1:3-5

The words are those of Saint Paul the Apostle. He was beaten with rods three times, flogged five times, stoned once and left for dead; he suffered every persecution men can inflict, his body was twisted by pain and toil. And all this was his lot not just on one or two occasions, for he writes: We are constantly being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in us.

In all these tribulations he does not murmur or complain about God, as weaker men do. He is not saddened as those who love status and pleasure are. He does not beg God to be relieved of them, as men do who are unaware of their true value and therefore will have no part of them. He does not make light of them, as men do who set little value upon them. On the contrary, fully aware of the value of these tribulations and rising above his own weakness, Paul blesses God amid his sufferings and thanks Him as though He had bestowed a fine reward. He thinks it an honour to be able to suffer for Him who subjected Himself to so very much shame in order to free us from the dreadful effects of sin; who exalted us by giving us His Spirit and making us adopted sons of God; and Who gave us, in His own person and through His own efforts, a proof and pledge of heavenly joy.

Dear brothers and sisters, I pray God may open your eyes and let you see what hidden treasures He bestows on us in the trials from which the world thinks only to flee. Shame turns into honour when we seek God’s glory. Present affliction becomes the source of heavenly glory. To those who suffer wounds in fighting His battles God opens His arms in loving, tender friendship, which is more delightful by far than anything our earthly efforts might produce. If we have any sense, we shall yearn for these open arms of God. Can anyone but a man in whom all desire is dead fail to desire Him who is wholly lovable, wholly desirable?

If you long for these festivals of heavenly joy, if you want to behold them and take part in them, be assured that there is no better way to reach them than the way of suffering. This is the way Christ and His disciples have always travelled. He calls it a narrow way, but it leads straight to life. That is why He tells us that if we want to join Him, we shall travel the way He took. It is surely not right that the Son of God should go His way on the path of shame while the sons of men walk the way of worldly honor: The disciple is not above his teacher, nor the servant greater than his master.

God grant that our hearts may find no rest and seek no other food in this world, save in hardship and suffering beside the Lord’s Cross.”

—Saint John of Avila, priest & Doctor of the Church
Office of Readings, May 18: John I, Pope and Martyr

Love,
Matthew

May 27 – St Augustine of Canterbury, OSB, (~530-604 AD), Archbishop of Canterbury, Apostle to the English

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-Westminster Cathedral

“Non Angli, sed angeli” – “They are not Angles, but angels”, an aphorism, summarizing words reported to have been spoken by Pope Gregory I, the Great, when he first encountered pale-skinned English boys at a slave market, inquiring as to who they were and where such people come from.  This sparking his dispatch of St. Augustine of Canterbury to England to convert the English, according to Bede.

He said: “Well named, for they have angelic faces and ought to be co-heirs with the angels in heaven.” Discovering that their province was Deira, he went on to add that they would be rescued de ira, “from the wrath”, and that their king was named Aella, Alleluia, he said.

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-by Br Joachim Kenney, OP

“Most Catholics have heard of St. Augustine: bishop, Father and Doctor of the Church, philosopher, author of the magnificent Confessions and countless other writings. Few, however, have heard of the other St. Augustine, Apostle of the English and Archbishop of Canterbury, whom the Church celebrates today. In 596 AD, he was sent by Pope Gregory the Great to bring the Gospel to the people of England. The island had been Christianized earlier, when it was under Roman control, but much of it had subsequently been overrun by the pagan Angles, Saxons, and Jutes.

Augustine, as is typical of missionaries, exemplified the virtue of fortitude. Fortitude has two chief characteristics. First and most fundamentally, fortitude consists in enduring obstacles and dangers in the pursuit of some great good. The classic example of fortitude among the pre-Christian philosophers was courage on the battlefield. To withstand the fear of death in fighting for the common good was to endure the greatest threat man can face and to do so in the most noble way. With the rise of Christianity, martyrdom became the epitome of fortitude. Martyrdom involves disregarding the fear of death, even in the face of injustice, for the sake of God and truth.

Augustine had been a monk in Rome when Gregory called upon him to lead an evangelizing mission of monks to England. Early on in the journey someone related the fierceness of the foreign tribes and the strangeness of their customs to Augustine’s small band. In great fear, the other monks induced Augustine to return to Pope Gregory and beg him to relieve them of their mission. Gregory, however, was zealous for the conversion of the English. He sent Augustine back to the group bearing a gentle but firm exhortation to persevere in the work and endowed him with the authority of abbot over them. Augustine, enduring whatever fears and grumbling may have still been coming from his monks as well as the dangers of a long journey, led them to the shores of the Kingdom of Kent in the southeast corner of England. The king there, Ethelbert, was married to Bertha, a Frankish Christian, and they hoped the king would be amenable to their preaching.

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-British isles, ~600 AD

The second chief aspect of fortitude is well-ordered attacking. The brave man, whenever he is able to reasonably do so, will attack whatever obstacles or evils stand between him and the good. St. Augustine was faced with the superstition of the pagan people he encountered and the hostility of their priests. He attacked it by his preaching and example. When King Ethelbert first received the missionaries, he did so in an open field for fear that if they were in a house the monks would be able to cast a spell on him. After praying to God, Augustine calmly approached and, as the Venerable Bede relates, “preached the word of life to the king and his court.” The king was not immediately converted, but gave the monks a house in his capital of Canterbury and permission to preach throughout his kingdom. Bede says that Augustine and his companions lived as the primitive church did, sharing all things in common to the great edification of the people around them. Through much prayer, work, and sacrifice, they gradually won many English from their paganism to Christ, even King Ethelbert. St. Augustine died about 607 AD, but the church he had founded perdured and spread until the whole island was once again Christian.

Like St. Augustine of Canterbury, we’re faced today with the demise of a once Christian society. If you’re tempted on occasion to despair in the face of the obstacles posed by secularism, just call on St. Augustine for the grace to have the fortitude of a missionary in preaching the “word of life.””

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Love,
Matthew

May 20 – St Bernadine of Siena, OFM, (1380-1444), Priest, “IHS: No other name…”

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-Church of the Gesu, Rome, Italy

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-16th century image of St Bernadine of Siena, OFM, Langeais Castle, France

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” -Acts 4:12

“Preach about vice and virtue, punishment and glory!” -St Francis of Assisi

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-by Br John Paul Kern, OP (a convert to the Catholic faith through Penn State’s RCIA program, where he earned a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s in Nuclear Engineering)

“Today is the memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena (d. 1444), a preacher renowned for his love for the Holy Name of Jesus.

As a young boy Bernardine’s love for Jesus overflowed into care for the sick during a time of pestilence in Siena. He later joined the Franciscan Order and was assigned the task of preaching, despite a serious throat affliction. God answered his prayers with the miraculous cure of his throat, and Bernardine became a zealous preacher throughout Italy. Through him the Lord converted many individuals and brought genuine reform to the Church. So great was his preaching that Pope Pius II called him “a second Paul.”

Just like that great missionary apostle, Bernardine endeavored to preach “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). When Bernardine entered a city to preach, he would have a banner carried in front of him with the Holy Name of Jesus (IHS, Ed. the first three letters of the name “Jesus” in Greek) encircled with twelve golden rays and a cross at the top. When he preached he had this symbol placed next to the pulpit, and at his encouragement the Holy Name of Jesus was placed on many altars, churches, and even on the public buildings of large cities. Bernardine had great faith in the power of Jesus’ name.

Do we believe in the power of “the name which is above every name”? Or do we hesitate to speak the name of Jesus Christ, “the power of God and the wisdom of God,” because it is a “stumbling block” and “folly” in the eyes of many of our peers? (1 Cor. 1:23-24)

Indeed, there is no other name that receives as strong and diverse an array of reactions as the name of Jesus. No other name elicits such love, peace, and joy among those who know him. No other name elicits such vitriol, scorn, and anger among those who do not.

Even those who express an initial apathy toward the name of Jesus tend to react quite powerfully when they encounter a person speaking of Jesus with great passion and love. Waning belief is enkindled into hope. “I do desire this Jesus!” “How can I find him?”

Other times, disappointment and hurt bubble to the surface, displayed as shock and skepticism. “You are crazy!” “You cannot know Him like that!” “You are brainwashed! Jesus isn’t a friend and savior!” People react strongly when they hear something they believe is too good to be true. Compared to any lesser truth we have known and experienced in our lives, Jesus, Who is Truth, does seem too good to be true.

Great thinkers and spiritual seekers have questioned, reasoned, and intuited their way to the existence of a First Cause from His effects in the world. The invisible God identified Himself sensibly to Abraham as “I am” (Ex 3:14), and this revelation allowed many people to know of God’s existence. But God became uniquely visible for us in Jesus Christ so that even the most ignorant, distracted, and skeptical of us can come face to face with His goodness, grapple with our doubts, and ask “how can this be?” and “are you for real?” There is only one name that brings everything—our lives, our joys, our sufferings, the good and evil that is in the world, in human history, and in ourselves, the apparent chaos and order of the cosmos—into focus.

We do not see Jesus incarnate with our eyes, as people 2000 years ago did. But He remains incarnate in a lesser way in his body the Church, of which we are his members. We are each united to Christ, and He lives in each of us, creating diverse points of encounter between Himself and the world through us. And yet when people see the toe, the finger, or the hand of God at work in meeting us, they may not realize whose members they are meeting. “Mother Teresa was a good person.” This is true. But to ensure that people correctly identified God as the author and source of this goodness, she always emphasized that she was but a pencil in the hand of God and that it was Jesus who was at work through her, loving the poorest of the poor. She wanted people to know Him by name.

Charity, the love that God invites us into, is not an anonymous or distant love, but a personal love. St. Thomas Aquinas writes that “charity is the friendship of man for God” (ST II-II, q. 23, a. 1).

Friendship requires that love be mutual and that both friends know that they are loved by their friend. You cannot be friends with a nebulous cosmic force or anonymous first cause, no matter how benevolent you regard it to be or how grateful you are to it for your existence. However, Jesus was and is a friend, even of sinners, and he desires that all people share in this love of friendship. But in order to enter into this friendship, as with all friendships, we must know the name of the other.

This is why, in addition to preaching the Gospel through our actions, sharing Him by our joy, praising Him for the goodness and beauty of His creation, and witnessing to Him by our love, we must speak His name so that all people may know Him and love Him. May we, like St. Bernardine, boldly proclaim this name of Jesus, the only name by which we may enter into eternal life.”

“When a fire is lit to clear a field, it burns off all the dry and useless weeds and thorns. When the sun rises and darkness is dispelled, robbers, night-prowlers and burglars hide away. So when Paul’s voice was raised to preach the Gospel to the nations, like a great clap of thunder in the sky, his preaching was a blazing fire carrying all before it. It was the sun rising in full glory. Infidelity was consumed by it, false beliefs fled away, and the truth appeared like a great candle lighting the whole world with its brilliant flame.

By word of mouth, by letters, by miracles, and by the example of his own life, Saint Paul bore the name of Jesus wherever he went. He praised the name of Jesus “at all times,” but never more than when “bearing witness to his faith.”

Moreover, the Apostle did indeed carry this name “before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” as a light to enlighten all nations. And this was his cry wherever he journeyed: “The night is passing away, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves honorably as in the day.” Paul himself showed forth the burning and shining-light set upon a candlestick, everywhere proclaiming “Jesus, and Him crucified.”

And so the Church, the bride of Christ strengthened by his testimony, rejoices with the psalmist, singing: “O God from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.” The psalmist exhorts her to do this, as he says: “Sing to the Lord, and bless His name, proclaim His salvation day after day.” And this salvation is JESUS, her savior.”

– from a sermon by Saint Bernadine of Siena

“Bonfires of the Vanities” were held at his sermon sites, where people threw mirrors, high-heeled shoes, perfumes, locks of false hair, cards, dice, chessmen, and other frivolities to be burned. Bernardino enjoined his listeners to abstain from blasphemy, indecent conversation, and games of hazard, and to observe feast days.

Prayer

Jesus, Name full of glory, grace, love and strength! You are the refuge of those who repent, our banner of warfare in this life, the medicine of souls, the comfort of those who morn, the delight of those who believe, the light of those who preach the true faith, the wages of those who toil, the healing of the sick.

To You our devotion aspires; by You our prayers are received; we delight in contemplating You. O Name of Jesus, You are the glory of all the saints for eternity. Amen.

-St. Bernardine of Siena

Love,
Matthew

May 1 – St Joseph the Worker, Patron of Men, Husbands, Fathers & the Family

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-“The Dream of St Joseph”, by Anton Raphael Mengs, circa 1773/1774, oil on oak, 114 × 86 cm (44.9 × 33.9 in), Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna, Austria

I think a subtitle of this feast should be “The Physical Labor of the Lord”, to celebrate God’s enshrinement, sanctification, participation in holy work:  muscles, mind, sweat, and the dignity and joy of it.  The Talmud states that if someone has a religious question and the rabbi is unavailable, they should consult the carpenter/mason, one who works on walls, windows, doorways and the like.  Joseph and his foster Son’s trade appears to have had some religious authority associated with it.

In thinking of St Joseph, the first characteristic, most precious, and most relevant to today is his obedience.  He was willingly, lovingly obedient to the will of God, all his life.  He never thought of what he should do instead of what God wanted, and when he learned what God wanted, he did it straight away, without question, hesitation, or guarantee.  Mt 1:24.  He had his uncertainties, his doubts, his concerns, his worries, of real practical necessities, but he trusted, in faith, always, and bent to the will of the Father, even when that was most difficult, all of his life.  St Joseph, Obedient Servant of God, pray for us!

Most privileged, even more than all the priests of Jesus Christ to follow, he held, truly, the flesh & bone, body & blood, warm & youthful human body of God in his arms.  He had the extreme privilege to let God, immediately before him, obedient to Joseph as parent, (Oh! The irony!) know He was loved, by word and deed, to wipe His tears, stroke his hair, rub His back, to tickle Him, to remonstrate with Him, and bring forth a smile when anything else was shown, to encourage Him, always.  Blessed Joseph, Most Privileged of Men, pray for us!

I have a growing and burning, maybe you can tell, passion for and devotion to St Joseph.  I think he is a key to renewal of the Church in the modern world.  I do.  Not some fairy tale character, but a masculine man of action, humble enough to realize he was not God nor entitled to anything; risk-taking, intrepid, resourceful, and obedient to the will of God.  I do.  I love St Joseph.  I do.  St Joseph, Head of the Holy Family, pray for us!

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-by Dr. Taylor Marshall

“Where does Joseph sit in heaven? Is he in the front row? Is there anyone ahead of him?…When I was a brand new Catholic; I think I had been Catholic maybe three or four months, I was in confession and I confessed, you know, maybe having a disagreement with my wife or a fight or something like that, or difficulty with the kids and the priest through the screen said, well, you should have a devotion to St. Joseph, which I knew that, and he said, St. Joseph had a wife and he had a child and he can really help you and inspire you.

I ended up leaving that confession and being like, yeah, but Joseph’s wife was sinless and his son was God,  🙂 so I don’t really see how Joseph helps me out there. So, I’m gonna show you how I kind of passed through that way of thinking and I found Joseph to be so helpful. I’m gonna answer all those questions today. But first, before we answer these questions I’m gonna read a passage from Sacred Scripture. It’s my favorite passage about St. Joseph but it never mentions the word Joseph once. You’ve probably read it or heard it in mass dozens of times and you’ve never thought of Joseph, but I’m gonna suggest to you that it is, in fact, about Joseph.

It’s from the Gospel of Matthew 20:20-29:

“Then came to Jesus the mother of the sons of Zebedee with her two sons adorning and asking something of Him. He said to her, “What whilt thou?” She said to Him, “Say that these my two sons may sit, the one at your right hand and the other at thy left in thy kingdom.” And Jesus answering said, “You do not know what you ask. Can you drink the chalice that I drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He said to them, “My chalice indeed you shall drink, but to sit on my right or left hand is not mine to give you, but to them for who it is prepared by my Father.”

And the ten having heard it were moved with indignation against the two brothers. But, Jesus called to them and said, “You know that the princes exercise power upon them. It shall not be so among you, but whosoever is great among you let him be your minister and he who will be first among you shall be your servant. Even as the son of man has not come to be ministered unto but to minister and to give his life as a ransom for many.” When they went out from Jericho a great multitude followed Him.”

Okay, so the two brothers and the mother come and they want to sit at the right hand and the left hand of Jesus and He says, you can’t have that spot because it’s been reserved or prepared by my Father in Heaven. So, that means that from eternity past, all the way in the mind of God, God had reserved in Heaven two places for two people. One to sit at the right hand and one to sit at the left hand and it wasn’t for the Apostles, for a different two people.

Now, who sits at the right hand of Jesus? Mary, right? We know that Psalm 44/45:9, it’s in the liturgy…

“The daughters of kings have delighted thee in thy glory. The queen stood on thy right hand in gilded clothing surrounded with variety,” right.

The tradition is, if you see every single Catholic painting and mural all over Europe and the world, the Blessed Mother is on the right hand of Jesus. She’s enthroned on the right hand. It comes from that Psalm; that’s the tradition. Also, in Catholic churches, traditionally, when you’re facing the altar, right, you’ll see that Our Lady is usually on the left hand, and in traditional churches there will be an altar to Our Lady on the left as you’re facing the alter and on the right there’s an altar or a statue to Joseph.

If you think about Jesus being enshrined in the tabernacle on his right hand would be that shrine to Our Lady and on the left would be Joseph, and you can see where I’m going with this. Joseph, we know in scripture that God, the Father, preserved a place on the right and left hand of Jesus Christ and all of us know who’s on the right hand but we never think about that left hand. So, that means that God, the Father, prepared a place on Christ’s left hand in glory forever. So, who gets that spot? Well, it’s pretty obvious, Joseph. In the Catholic tradition it is Joseph. This raises a question. Where does Joseph fit in the Bible? Is he in the Old Testament, is he in the New Testament? He’s right there on the edge. He dies, tradition says, before Jesus died on the cross but he’s there at the nativity of Our Lord so he’s sort of straddling, so where do we place him?  Is he a Saint of the Old Testament like Abraham, Moses, and King David, or is he more of a Saint of the New Testament. Where does he fit? Well, many theologians, Catholic theologians have weighed in on this and they say that Joseph belongs to what’s called the hypostatic order.

So, we’re gonna get a little theological here but don’t worry, this is pretty simple stuff. Christ has two natures. He’s fully God and he’s fully man, so decided at the Council of Chalcedon AD 451…Okay, so he is fully God and fully man. In order for him to be a man He was born of a virgin, our Blessed Mother, Our Lady, right? However, it is necessary in God’s order, the natural order, that children be born in nuclear homes, right, nuclear families, so God saw it fitting that not only would the Son of God be born of the Virgin Mary, He would have to be born to a family.

You can’t just have Mary and the Baby Jesus sleeping outside on park benches, right? They had to be protected. In the first talk today we talked about the role of being a protector of your realm. So, God had to appoint a father figure, a protector, a guardian for Mary, who is the Immaculate Conception, and Jesus Christ, Who is the Son of God.

And so, what this means is that St. Joseph really stands above even the Old and New Testament in this special class, which we call devotionally the Holy Family. The Holy Family. They’re the Old Testament saints, you know, matriarchs, and patriarchs, and they’re the New Testament saints. We all live in the New Testament. The New Testament continues until the end of time, the new covenant, but Jesus, Mary and Joseph stand in a certain sense above it and they are – a priest told me he councils and gives spiritual direction to seminarians and he always reminds the seminarians, he says, when you go into a church, most Catholic churches have the tabernacle and then Mary and Joseph.

He says, always remember that when you’re a priest, when you’re serving in the Church, because it’s not Peter and Paul, it’s Joseph and Mary, and that shows in the Catholic Church the family represented perfectly by the Holy Family has a certain precedence. The priesthood is there to serve and lift up the family, so don’t ever ever be overly impressed with your collar.  You’re there to serve the family.”

“Saint Joseph is a man of great spirit. He is great in faith, not because he speaks his own words, but above all because he listens to the words of the Living God. He listens in silence. And his heart ceaselessly perseveres in the readiness to accept the Truth contained in the word of the Living God,” -Pope St John Paul II

St Joseph, Most Respectful Lover of Women, pray for us!  St Joseph, Model for all Men, pray for us!  St Joseph, Glorious in Your Gracious Restraint & Self-Control before God and Womanhood, Most Blessed Exemplar of Men, pray for us!

“The Creator of the heavens obeys a carpenter; the God of eternal glory listens to a poor virgin. Has anyone ever witnessed anything comparable to this? Let the philosopher no longer disdain from listening to the common laborer; the wise, to the simple; the educated, to the illiterate; the child of a prince, to a peasant.” -St. Anthony of Padua

Love,
Matthew

May 26 – St Philip Neri, CO, Apostle of Joy & Holy Fools, 1 Cor 1:25

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-“St Philip Neri & the Virgin”, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, between 1739-1740

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-by Br Philip Neri Reese, OP

“The doorbell rang. (anachronism)

Most of the guests had already arrived. Rome’s elite filled a bustling main hall. Very powerful cardinals struggled to hear the very rich men to whom they spoke. The din died down, however, as a very pale butler (anachronism) announced the party’s very newest arrival: A man missing half his beard. “Fr. Philip Neri,” the pallid butler proclaimed.

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According to the people of Rome, the man was a living saint. According to the cultured, cultivated eyes of his onlookers, he was a lunatic. Moreover, there was no mistaking it for an accident. The famed priest had neatly trimmed his beard on one side of his face, and meticulously removed it on the other.

The rest of the night passed awkwardly, especially for the party’s host, to whom the preposterous priest assiduously attached himself until party’s-close. Upon leaving, most of the guests made two resolutions: (1) avoid that priest at all costs, and (2) never attend another party thrown by the host again. At this point you might ask yourself: Why the beard-shaving?

It would be true for me to say that God gave St. Philip Neri the gift to read souls (to see someone’s virtues and vices), and that, when the party’s host had extended him the invitation to come, St. Philip had seen immediately that the man only wanted him there so that the Roman elite would see their host standing beside a reputed saint.

But that would not be the answer.

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St. Philip Neri did not shave off half his beard and attend an A-list party simply to teach a prideful and vain man a lesson (though that it certainly did). He did it to look like a fool.

I imagine for most of us that’s an unsettling answer, but there it is. And St. Philip Neri wasn’t alone. The Church has a rich tradition of “holy fools,” men and women whose intense sanctity comes tied hand-and-foot to their extreme self-abasement. St. Simeon Salos was known to drag a dead dog behind him; St. David the Dendrite lived in a tree for three years; and St. Benedict Joseph Labre spent thirty years in a state of voluntary homelessness, sleeping among the ruins of the Colosseum in Rome.

What do we do with stories like these? What do we do with Saints like these?

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I think we’re supposed to marvel at them. Scripture says that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” and “the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (see 1 Cor 1:18-25). Saints such as these give us shocking and abrasive opportunities to believe it. Purely human reason, purely human prudence, cannot comprehend the actions of holy fools. In fact, even for people with the Holy Spirit’s gift of wisdom (and that includes every Christian in a state of sanctifying grace) it can be tough to make out the divine reason behind the apparent folly. But the holy fools do make clear one thing: God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are his ways our ways (cf. Isaiah 55:8).

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St. Philip Neri did a lot of things we can relate to: he gave young people wholesome alternatives to the lascivious entertainment of the carnivals; he invited musicians and composers to offer their art to God; he praised cheerfulness as a far more religious temperament than solemnity. But he also did a lot of things that, on a purely human level, we cannot relate to. And that’s ok.

In fact, it might well be those things that are the most important. The holy fools thought so little of themselves – lived lives of such awe-inspiring humility – that mere human reason cannot comprehend what that would be like.

And praise God for it. Because if we cannot wrap our minds around these holy fools, how much more will God transcend our wildest dreams?”

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FNeri

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“Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life. Therefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits.” -Saint Philip Neri , CO

O holy St. Philip Neri, patron saint of joy, you who trusted Scripture’s promise that the Lord is always at hand and that we need not have anxiety about anything, in your compassion heal our worries and sorrows and lift the burdens from our hearts. We come to you as one whose heart swells with abundant love for God and all creation. Hear us, we pray, especially in this need (make your request here). Keep us safe through your loving intercession, and may the joy of the Holy Spirit which filled your heart, St. Philip, transform our lives and bring us peace. Amen.


Prayer to Know and Love Jesus

-by St. Philip Neri

My Lord Jesus, I want to love You but You cannot trust me. If You do not help me, I will never do any good. I do not know You; I look for You but I do not find You. Come to me, O Lord. If I knew You, I would also know myself. If I have never loved You before, I want to love You truly now. I want to do Your will alone; putting no trust in myself, I hope in You, O Lord. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

May 22 – St Rita of Cascia, (1381-1457), the bitter valley into a place of springs…

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-by Br Joseph Martin Hagan, OP

The life of St. Rita can read like a Shakespearean tragedy. As a young woman, Rita desired to enter the convent and consecrate herself to God alone, but her parents had other ideas. They arranged for Rita to marry a nobleman, Paolo, and she humbly obeyed their wishes. Sadly, her husband was an abusive, violent man who treated Rita with little dignity. Paolo, however, died a sudden death when he was ambushed and stabbed by members of a rival family. Rita was left a widow with two young sons.

At her husband’s funeral, Rita forgave his murderers and pleaded for peace between the feuding families. So strong was her family’s vendetta that she asked God to take her sons’ lives rather than allow them to commit murder. Her prayers were answered rather brutally: both of her sons died of a fatal illness before they could seek vengeance. Rita was now a widow and childless.

Returning to her childhood desire, Rita again sought to enter the local convent of Augustinian nuns; however, the nuns objected to her entrance. Many of the nuns were related to the murderers of Rita’s husband, and they were wary of inviting dissension if they accepted Rita. Before allowing her into the convent, they required the impossible of Rita: bringing peace to the rival families.

By this point in her story, we get the message: Rita, though innocent, had a tough life. Is this what made her a saint? Was her holiness merely a matter of patiently suffering the tragedies of her life? No. Surely suffering is part of every Christian’s journey with the Cross of Christ, but a saint suffers without the usual pessimism of a tragedy.

The life of St. Rita can also read as a song of hope. She met adversity with an anthem of God’s unfailing mercy. Rita did not merely endure her husband; she met his abuse with her love and kindness. She was a mercy to him, and many accounts record that by the time of his death, he had become a good, peaceful man. His violent death came not by his instigation, but by the betrayal of his trusted allies.

Her sons’ premature deaths too were a sort of mercy. No good parent desires their child’s death. And we do not know if Rita’s sons would have grown up to seek violent revenge. But what is worse: the death of the body or of the soul? Our dead bodies will be resurrected, but a dead soul in hell awaits no return. Rita’s prayers potentially saved her boys from murder and from losing their souls by attempting to fulfill their inherited vendetta.

In response to the convent’s initial rejection, Rita worked one of her greatest miracles: bringing peace to a town torn by family feuds. First, she invoked the intercession of St. Augustine, St. Nicholas, and St. John the Baptist. Then, she successfully exhorted her family to accept peace, and subsequently the rival family. For this, she received the title the Peacemaker of Cascia.

Then, as a nun, she committed herself to a life of prayer and penance. She entered into mystical union with the Crucified Christ and received a thorn in her forehead—a suffering born of love. Offering herself to God, her life was a blessing to all of Cascia, to all of the Church. Even unto today, St. Rita is invoked as the saint of the impossible.

This second reading of St. Rita’s life emphasizes an important point. Saints do not just suffer through life, waiting for it to be over. Rather, they raise a song of hope in the midst of life’s suffering. And even more, this song is not a solo but a chorus. St. Rita’s holiness was contagious, bringing others closer to God.

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To rightly praise St. Rita and her love of God, the words of Psalm 84 seem fitting:

“They are happy, whose strength is in you,
in whose hearts are the roads to Zion.
As they go through the Bitter Valley
they make it a place of springs.
The autumn rain covers it with blessings.
They walk with ever growing strength,
they will see the God of gods in Zion.”

By her intercession, may we go through the Bitter Valley of our life and make it a place of springs. May the roads to Heaven be written in our hearts, and may we travel with ever growing strength.

St. Rita, pray for us.

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Strita

Love,
Matthew