Category Archives: November

Nov 30 – St Andrew, (d. 60-70 AD), 1st disciple, Apostle & Martyr, “Be a Man!!!”

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-by Artus Wolffort, first half of the 17th century

Andrew the Apostle (Greek: Ἀνδρέας, Andreas; from the early 1st century – mid to late 1st century AD), also known as Saint Andrew and called in the Orthodox tradition Prōtoklētos (Πρωτόκλητος) or the First-called, was a Christian Apostle and the brother of Saint Peter.

The name “Andrew” (Greek: manly, brave, from ἀνδρεία, Andreia, “manhood, valour”), like other Greek names, appears to have been common among the Jews, Christians, and other Hellenized people of Judea. No Hebrew or Aramaic name is recorded for him. According to Orthodox tradition, the apostolic successor to Saint Andrew is the Patriarch of Constantinople.

The New Testament states that Andrew was the younger brother of Simon Peter, and likewise a son of John, or Jonah. He was born in the village of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. Both he and his brother Peter were fishermen by trade, hence the tradition that Jesus called them to be His disciples by saying that he will make them “fishers of men” (Greek: ἁλιεῖς ἀνθρώπων, halieis anthrōpōn). At the beginning of Jesus’ public life, they were said to have occupied the same house at Capernaum.

Acts/gospel of Andrew

The apocryphal Acts of Andrew, mentioned by Eusebius, Epiphanius and others, is among a disparate group of Acts of the Apostles that were traditionally attributed to Leucius Charinus. “These Acts (…) belong to the third century: ca. A.D. 260,”, and are therefore apocryphal, in the opinion of M. R. James, who edited them in 1924. The Acts, as well as a Gospel of St Andrew, appear among rejected books in the Decretum Gelasianum connected with the name of Pope Gelasius I (d. 496 AD).

After the Resurrection

After Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, St. Andrew the Apostle preached the gospel in Asia Minor and in Scythia as far as Kiev, all around the Black Sea, including Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus, where my paternal grandmother was born.

Saint Andrew was martyred by crucifixion at Patras in Achaea in Greece. Because St. Andrew deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross on which Christ had been crucified, he was tied, instead of nailed, to a Crux decussata, as saltire, or X shaped cross, ostensibly so that he would suffer longer. The Apostle Andrew did not die right away but instead he was left to suffer for two days while he continued to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ until he finally expired.

Relics

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-St Andrew’s Cathedral in Patras

Originally, the saint’s remains were preserved in Patras. Through the centuries of Christianity, and many wars and conquests, what remains of the saint’s relics are a small finger, the top of his cranium and pieces of the cross on which he was crucified. These are kept in a shrine at the Church of St. Andrew in Patras. Shortly after St Andrew’s death, most of his relics were translated from Patras to Constantinople by order of the Roman Emperor Constantius II around 357 AD and deposited in the Church of the Holy Apostles.

There are legends about how other relics of St Andrew reached the British isles, including a kneecap, an upper arm bone, three fingers and a tooth. Most likely, the relics were probably brought to Britain in 597 AD as part of the Augustine Mission, and then in 732 to Fife, Scotland by Bishop Acca of Hexham, a well-known collector of religious relics.

The skull of St. Andrew, which had been taken to Constantinople, was returned to Patras by Emperor Basil I, who ruled from 867 to 886.

In 1208, following the sack of Constantinople, those relics of St. Andrew and St. Peter which remained in the imperial city were taken to Amalfi, Italy, by Cardinal Peter of Capua, a native of Amalfi. A cathedral (Duomo), was built, dedicated to St. Andrew (as is the town itself), to house a tomb in its crypt where it is maintained that most of the relics of the apostle, including an occipital bone, remain.

Thomas Palaeologus was the youngest surviving son of Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos. Thomas ruled the province of Morea, the medieval name for the Peloponnese. In 1461, when the Ottomans crossed the Strait of Corinth, Palaeologus fled Patras for exile in Italy, bringing with him what was purported to be the skull of St. Andrew. He gave the head to Pope Pius II, who had it enshrined in one of the four central piers of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

In September 1964, Pope Paul VI, as a gesture of goodwill toward the Greek Orthodox Church, ordered that all of the relics of St. Andrew that were in Vatican City be sent back to Patras. Cardinal Augustin Bea along with many other cardinals presented the skull to Bishop Constantine of Patras on 24 September 1964.

The cross of St. Andrew was taken from Greece during the Crusades by the Duke of Burgundy. It was kept in the church of St. Victor in Marseilles until it returned to Patras on 19 January 1980. The cross of the apostle was presented to the Bishop of Patras Nicodemus by a Catholic delegation led by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray. All the relics, which consist of the small finger, the skull (part of the top of the cranium of Saint Andrew), and the cross on which he was martyred, have been kept in the Church of St. Andrew at Patras in a special shrine and are revered in a special ceremony every 30 November, his feast day.

In 2006, the Catholic Church, again through Cardinal Etchegaray, gave the Greek Orthodox Church another relic of St. Andrew.

Scotland?

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-Crucifixion of St. Andrew, by Juan Correa de Vivar (1540 – 1545), University of St Andrew’s Special Collection

In Scottish Gaelic, St Andrew’s name is rendered ‘Là Naomh Anndrais’. St Andrew’s links with Scotland come from the Pictish King Oengus I, who built a monastery in what is now the town of St Andrews – where the Scottish university now stands – after the relics of the saint were brought to the town in the eighth century.

But he was made the patron saint of Scotland after the king’s descendant, Oengus II, prayed to St. Andrew on the eve of a crucial battle against English warriors from Northumberland, around 20 miles east of Edinburgh.

Legend has it that, heavily outnumbered, Oengus II told St. Andrew that he would become the patron saint of Scotland if he were granted victory. On the day of the battle, clouds are said to have formed a saltire in the sky, and Oengus’s army of Picts and Scots were victorious.

St Andrew’s was a popular medieval pilgrimage site up until the 16th century – where the supposed remains of the saint including a tooth, kneecap, arm and finger bone were kept.

In 1870, the Archbishop of Amalfi sent an apparent piece of the saint’s shoulder blade to Scotland, where it has since been stored in St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh. The other relics were destroyed in the Scottish Reformation.

The Saltire flag – a white cross on a blue background – is said to have come from this divine intervention and has been used to represent Scotland since 1385.

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-Scotland’s saltire flag

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-statue of Andrew in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, Rome, by Camillo Rusconi.

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-by Br Irenaeus Dunleavy, OP

“In the face of gender theory and feminist ideologies which challenge the notion of manhood, the Church needs real men. We need to respond to the Biblical command viriliter agite found frequently in the Vulgate. The phrase translates as “act like a man” in one form or another in Scripture (1 Cor 16:13, Dt 31:6, Ps 30(31):25, 2 Chr 32:7, 1 Mac 2:64). One man who obeyed was St. Andrew, and his very name suggests it. St. Thomas Aquinas explains, “Andrew is interpreted ‘manly’; for as in Latin, ‘virilis‘ [“manly”] is derived from ‘vir’ [man], so in Greek, Andrew is derived from ανηρ [anēr: man]. Rightly is he called manly, who left all and followed Christ, and manfully persevered in His commands.”

Commenting on St. Andrew, St. Thomas gives us 5 tips on how to viriliter agite.

Obey Promptly: “Aristotle states, ‘Those who are moved by God do not need to be counselled; for they have a principle surpassing counsel and understanding.’ St. Chrysostom pronounces the following eulogium of them: ‘They were in the midst of their business; but, at His bidding, they made no delay, they did not return home saying: let us consult our friends, but, leaving all things, they followed, Him, as Elisha followed Elijah.’ Christ requires of us a similar unhesitating and instant obedience.”

Build Up: “And so Andrew, being now perfectly converted, does not keep the treasure he found to himself, but hurries and quickly runs to his brother to share with him the good things he has received. And so, the first thing Andrew did was to look for his brother Simon, so that they might be related in both blood and faith: “A brother that is helped by his brother is like a strong city” (Prv 18:19); ‘Let him who hears say, ‘Come’ (Rv 22:17).”

Hunt Souls: “This gives us the situation of the disciples he called: for they were from Bethsaida. And this is appropriate to this mystery. For ‘Bethsaida’ means ‘house of hunters,’ to show the attitude of Philip, Peter and Andrew at that time, and because it was fitting to call, from the house of hunters, hunters who were to capture souls for life: ‘I will send my hunters’ (Jer 16:16).”

Preach with Courage: “Every preacher should have those names, ‘Peter’ and ‘Andrew.’ For ‘Simon’ means obedient, ‘Peter’ means comprehending, and ‘Andrew’ means courage. For a preacher should be obedient, that he might invite others to it: ‘The obedient man shall speak of victories’ (Pr 21:28). He should comprehend, that he may know how to instruct others: ‘I had rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others’ (1 Cor 14:19). He should be courageous in order to face threats: ‘I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall’ (Jer 1:18); ‘I have made your face hard against their faces, and your forehead hard against their foreheads. Like adamant harder than flint I have made your face’ (Ez 3:8).”

Commit: “Our Lord declared that it belongs to the perfection of life that a man follow Him, not anyhow, but in such a way as not to turn back. Wherefore He says again (Lk. 9:62): ‘No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’ And though some of His disciples went back, yet when our Lord asked (Jn. 6:68, 69), ‘Will you also go away?’ Peter answered for the others: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?’ Hence Augustine says (De Consensu Ev. ii, 17) that ‘as Matthew and Mark relate, Peter and Andrew followed Him after drawing their boats on to the beach, not as though they purposed to return, but as following Him at His command.’ Now this unwavering following of Christ is made fast by a vow: wherefore a vow is requisite for religious perfection.”

Love & courage,
Matthew

Nov 3 – St Martin de Porres, OP, (1579-1639) – Wood of Salvation

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-statuary of St Martin de Porres, OP, Mexico City Cathedral

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-by Br Martin Davis, OP, Br Martin was born in Georgia, attended college in Michigan, and there converted to the Catholic faith.

“Saint Martin de Porres is often seen in statues, stained glass, and pictures holding a broom and a crucifix, with a Rosary around his neck and animals at his feet. His fellow friars knew of the deep devotion he had to the Rosary, similar to his fellow cooperator brother, friend, and contemporary Saint Juan Macias. The animals depicted next to Saint Martin relate to the many stories of his communication with and compassion toward animals. The broom and crucifix represent, respectively, his practical work around the priory and his devotion to Jesus Christ crucified. By the wood of both the broom and the cross, Saint Martin sought to conform himself to Christ and achieve union with God.

Saint Martin de Porres was born in 1579 as the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a freed slave. He grew up in poverty, but when his father officially recognized him as his son, he was trained as a barber-surgeon. He faced a great deal of ridicule for being of mixed race, but Saint Martin was known for his patience in the face of insults. Because the law of Peru at the time banned Saint Martin from becoming a full member of a religious order on account of his race, he humbly accepted a lay position helping out at a Dominican priory.

Later he was offered the habit as a cooperator brother despite the law against doing so and despite his initial refusal due to humility. As a Dominican friar he attended to the sick within the infirmary of the priory. His superiors also placed him in charge of distributing alms to the poor. Despite his many responsibilities, he found a great deal of time to spend in prayer, sometimes with some divine assistance in the form of bilocation. After many years of service, Saint Martin died at the age of 59 on November 3, 1639.

While the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden looked very appealing to the eyes of Adam and Eve, the cross of Jesus Christ, revealed as the true tree of life, does not appeal to us in the same immediate way. But Saint Martin knew that in a world with great poverty, illness, racial prejudice, and many other hardships, mankind could find something appealing, on a deeper level than the tree of knowledge, in the cross of Jesus Christ.

Cooperator brothers, like their priestly counterparts, make vows that consecrate them to God. Through God’s grace, Saint Martin perfected that consecration over his lifetime by embracing the wood of the broom and the wood of the cross.

Although early in life he wanted to go to a mission territory and die a glorious martyr’s death, he instead poured himself into prayer and penance to bring himself closer into the love of God. That divine love then poured over into his help of the poor and the sick. In light of this, the depictions of Saint Martin clutching the crucifix to his heart represents his conformity to Jesus Christ through prayer and penance, while the broom represents the service he offered that flowed from his union with God. Saint Martin’s hands were no strangers to the rough grain of the wood present in both these instruments. Saint Martin’s crucifix and broom were types of the tree of life, that is, the cross of Jesus Christ.

Saint Martin de Porres and Saint Catherine of Siena (whose feast is today – Apr 29) can also be taken together to form a bridge of solidarity between cooperator brothers and the apostolic sisters of the Dominican Order.

Both Saint Martin and Saint Catherine worked to help the poor and the sick. Both were also consulted by bishops. Saints Martin and Catherine, like the cooperator brothers and apostolic sisters of today, found their identity in religious consecration. They turned themselves over to prayer and penance to find union with God, and then shared that love with others in various ways.

Caring for the sick was a part of the life of Saint Martin and Saint Catherine, and that tradition continues to this day. For instance, Brother Ignatius Perkins and Brother Joe Trout, from, respectively, the Eastern and Central Provinces of Dominicans, are registered nurses that bring the love and mercy of Jesus Christ to the suffering. Through Saint Martin’s powerful intercession, we can pray that the love of God can continually spill over into all of our service to others for years to come.”

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Prayer to St Martin de Porres, OP

To you St Martin de Porres we prayerfully lift up our hearts filled with serene confidence and devotion. Mindful of your unbounded and helpful charity to all levels of society and also of your meekness and humility of heart, we offer our petitions to you. Pour out upon our families the precious gifts of your solicitous and generous intercession; show to the people of every race and every color the paths of unity and of justice; implore from our Father in heaven the coming of His kingdom, so that through mutual benevolence in God, men may increase the fruits of grace and merit the rewards of eternal life. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Nov 3 – Bl Simon Ballachi, OP, (1250-1319) – Swords? Plowshares? WTF?

Bl Simon Ballachi

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares,

   and their spears into pruning hooks.” (Isaiah 2:4)

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-by Br Martin Davis, OP, Br Martin was born in Georgia, attended college in Michigan, and there converted to the Catholic faith.

“The prophet Isaiah predicts that the coming of Jesus Christ will usher in a time when the tools of war will be turned into tools for fruitful harvests. But when exactly will the coming of Christ that leads to this disarmament take place?

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux spoke of three comings of Christ: the incarnation, the coming of Christ at the end of the world, and the coming of Christ into the hearts of believers in the time in between. During the first coming of Christ, Jesus told us that to live by the sword would mean to die by the sword, and he told Peter to put away his sword in the garden of Gethsemane. At the end of the world, there indeed will be an end to warfare altogether. In the meantime, the coming of Christ into our hearts can help us to put away the sword of sin, guile, and malice.

An example of this that is both literal and spiritual is found in Blessed Simon Ballachi. Blessed Simon was born into nobility in 1250 in Rimini, a city on the Adriatic Sea in what is now Italy. His homeland was filled with fruitful farmland and orchards, benefited from a strategic trade position, and often experienced warfare involving mercenary armies. His family expected him to assume, upon an appropriate age and maturity, administrative responsibility for his family’s estates. From an early age, Blessed Simon was trained to serve in the military, and he would become a mercenary as a young man. But at the age of 27, he put away the sword and joined the Order of Preachers as a cooperator brother.

After joining the Order, Simon’s superiors gave him the task of tending to the garden. Simon spent long hours working in the garden, doing penance, and praying. After many years of humble service to his fellow friars, he had to retire from his physical work after losing his sight at the age of 57.

Although his physical eyesight failed, he received many spiritual visions late in life. Jesus, Mary, Dominic, Peter of Verona, and Catherine of Alexandria all came to speak with him directly. Blessed Simon peacefully passed on to his heavenly reward on November 3, 1319.

Blessed Simon literally put away the sword and took up the tools of the garden, but he also hammered the sword in his heart into a plowshare of charity. The tools of war, malice, and anger were turned into tools of peace and spiritual fruitfulness. Blessed Simon was known for praying fervently in the garden while working. He also wore the chains with which he used to bind prisoners as a penance for the sins he had committed as a mercenary. (I recently visited Sinsinawa, WI where I saw the penitential chain worn by Ven Samuel Mazuchelli, OP, the cause of a modern miracle in the cure of lung cancer in Robert Uselmann of Monona, WI in 2001, when he traveled the 75 miles to Sinsinawa to pray with Ven Fr Mazuchelli’s penitential chain, found on his body immediately after death.) From all of this he grew deeply in charity. Blessed Simon invited Jesus Christ to reshape the sword in his heart after he had given up the sword in his hand.

While most of us do not need to put the physical sword away to avoid the sins of pillaging and unjust war, we do have a need for Jesus to come into our hearts to replace the evils and malice there with charity. Blessed Simon is an eschatological sign in that he was transformed by the spiritual coming of Jesus into his heart ahead of the coming of Jesus at the end of the world.

Consecrated religious, such as the cooperator brothers of the Dominican Order, embrace God’s call to become an eschatological sign on earth in order to fulfill now, in a limited and spiritual way, what will be brought to complete perfection at the end of the world.”

First Vespers:

Ant. Strengthen by holy intercession, O Simon , confessor of the Lord, those here present, have we who are burdened with the weight of our offenses may be relieved by the glory of thy blessedness, and may by thy guidance attain eternal rewards.

V. Pray for us, Blessed Simon

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Lauds:

Ant. Well done, good and faithful servant, because Thou hast been faithful in a few things, I will set thee over many, sayeth the Lord.

V. The just man shall blossom like the lily.

R. And shall flourish forever before the Lord.

Second Vespers:

Ant. I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock..

V. Pray for us. Blessed Simon

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Prayer:

Let us Pray: O God, Who, among his other virtues, didst adorn Blessed Simon Thy Confessor, with constant diligence in prayer and a singular prerogative of humility, grant us so to imitate him that, despising all the things of the world, we may here seek Thee alone, and hereafter attain the rewards in heaven promised to the humble. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Love,and His peace, which surpasses all human understanding and expression,
Matthew

Nov 12 – Bl Br Oderic of Normandy, OP, (d. early 13th cent.) – 1st Cooperater Brother

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-by Br Thomas Martin Miller, OP (Br. Thomas Martin Miller was raised as a Lutheran in York County, PA by his parents Charles and Patricia and discovered the Catholic Church while attending Boston College.)

“It is fitting that this week of blog posts dedicated to the cooperator brother saints of the Order of Preachers (those not ordained priests) should begin on the feast of St. Mark, frequently considered the evangelist with the most workmanlike prose.

As St. Mark is oft-reputed the first of the evangelists and closely connected with Peter, it is further fitting that we should begin with the tale of Bl. Oderic of Normandy, the first cooperator brother of the Order and a man chosen by St. Dominic himself.

What we know of his life is brief: He probably met Dominic while on the armed crusade against the Albigensians parallel to St. Dominic’s spiritual mission. Dominic, perhaps inspired by the Cistercians who had been his preaching companions, decided to adopt their custom of sending lay brothers as prudent companions for traveling preachers. Oderic, inspired by the small band of men gathering around Dominic, but lacking the education needed for the priesthood, was chosen to be the first of these cooperators in the mission of the new Order.

In the summer of 1217, when Dominic dispersed the brethren to the great university cities of Europe, Bl. Oderic was sent to Paris with Matthew and Dominic’s own brother Mannes. Together they founded the convent of St. Jacques, where St. Thomas Aquinas would later study and teach, and on account of which the Order of Preachers is today known as “Jacobins” in French (not to be confused with the revolutionary radicals of 1789, who were so named because they met in the shadow of that famous convent).

Oderic’s task was to care for the material needs of the convent so that the clerical brothers could concentrate on study. Oderic performed his task with humble faithfulness. The brothers are called cooperators because they are integral parts of the preaching which is truly the work of the whole community, and they witness to the value of that preaching with their lives of obedience.

Dominic was frustrated in his plan to give all temporal cares of the Order to the lay brothers, but they nonetheless undertook most such necessities: there were many skilled tradesmen among them. Like the priests of the Order, the brothers could be dispensed from communal prayer when it was necessary to carry out these tasks. The primitive constitutions of the Order make clear that while priests and lay brothers were equally bound to prayer and penance after their own capacities and furthermore shared the vow of obedience, their distinctive gifts were to be respected: the priests were not to undertake any task that would unnecessarily remove them from preparation for preaching, while the brothers were not to engage in any activity that would distract them from the temporal tasks that made preaching concretely possible.

The care of the lay brothers was reciprocated by the clerics: St. Dominic found a loaf of bread for a famished brother in an act of miraculous mendicancy (Vitae Fratrum 2.8), and on the vigil of the first feast of St. Dominic after his beatification, a brother was healed by his intercession (VF 2.43).

The cooperator brothers have thus been full beneficiaries from the beginning of Dominic’s promise to be even more useful to the brethren after his death than he was in life. Bl. Oderic himself apparently profited in full by his apprenticeship to the Preacher of Grace and shouldered his burdens virtuously—not only with the ease of a journeyman and the joy befitting a preacher of the Good News, but also with a promptness that would please St. Mark, whose Gospel uses the word “immediately” over forty times.”

Love & cooperation,
Matthew

Nov 15 – Albertus Magnus

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-by Br Oliver James Keenan O.P., English Province

“St Albert is said to have been one of the last people to have known everything that was known in his day. That might be an exaggeration, but it’s certain that his interests and publications spanned every discipline of his time: from a best-selling work on rocks (de mineralibus), through to geometry, astronomy, friendship, law, love, language, not to mention extensive commentaries on the scriptures, it’s certainly fair to say Albert was universally learned.

Albert was one of the first to comment on virtually all of Aristotle’s works — then ’new learning’, freshly mediated in Latin translation — an endeavour that drew him into intellectual dialogue with Muslim scholars such as Avicenna and Averroes, as well as the Christian tradition in which he was firmly rooted. And whilst it was Albert’s student Thomas Aquinas that most successfully integrated Aristotle — navigating the challenges that Aristotelian thought posed to the Christian — with the traditional theology of Augustine, Albert’s efforts are by no means feeble, and Aquinas holds his teacher in evident esteem. Aquinas pre-deceased Albert in 1274. Albert, who was first to recognise Aquinas’s great gift to the Church, was moved to tears. Although we can’t be certain, he may well have travelled to Paris to defend his student’s teachings against charges of heresy (thankfully those allegations have long since been refuted).

Albert, however, was no mere commentator. He was a speculative thinker who predicted the contents of several of Aristotle’s lost (and now re-discovered) works with some accuracy. He corrected some of Aristotle’s thought and strengthened his arguments where he thought appropriated. Nor was he simply an ‘Aristotelian’: he rejected Aristotle’s thought when it seemed ludicrous, because Albert was, first and foremost, a Christian, a believer in the gospel. And it was not in-spite of his faith that Albert was a philosopher-scientist, but because of it: Albert somebody who sought to make sense of the world in faith, and as such he stands as an example of how scientific enquiry can be sanctified by the life of grace and virtue.

But as impressive as the breadth and depth of Albert’s voluminous intellectual works are, the most remarkable thing as far as I’m concerned is that he found time to write them at all. His life was neither dull nor quiet; he certainly cannot be accused of being an ivory tower academic. German born, he had already begun his university education in the so-called liberal arts at an Italian school, where he met the Blessed Jordan of Saxony, successor to St Dominic as Master of the Order. Although some (relatively late) sources recount a meeting between the Blessed Virgin Mary and Albert, it’s clear that Jordan’s example and preaching played a key role in attracting Albert the Order. And once he had joined, Albert’s life was notably busy: years of formation and study were followed by heavy burdens of pastoral care and teaching (he was 43 when appointed to a Professorship at Paris), as well as administrative duties and, eventually, appointment as a Bishop in his native land. As Bishop, a role he seems never to have particularly relished, he was nicknamed the “tied-shoe” because he maintained the Friars’ practice of travelling everywhere on foot, refusing the use of a horse. He was, by all accounts, assiduous in his duties as bishop, particularly noted for his austere lifestyle and attentiveness to the needs of the poor, he radically curbed spending in the diocese and committed himself, as any good Dominican, to preaching the gospel. Though he retained some episcopal priveliges for life (he was particularly keen to keep his personal library, something I have no trouble identifying with), it was with some relief that Albert put aside the duties of his Bishopric and returned to the life of a brother.

But it was on the long journeys of his apostolic life as an itinerant friar and bishop that Albert’s research interests as a natural scientist seem to have flourished. He trudged around with an enquiring mind. He thought that the earth must be spherical, since he observed that the first thing of a ship to emerge over the horizon of the ocean is the tip of its mast. Safely on dry land, he collected specimens of wildlife that he encountered, becoming one of the first in the West to categorise the natural order according to a taxonomy of species and genus. Having heard (and disbelieved) the rumour, from Aristotle’s work on animals, that ostriches ate metals and were particularly fond of the precious varieties, he carried a lump of iron with him to test out the theory. Eventually his suspicion was proved correct: the ostriches he encountered refused the metal and seemed confused by the bishop’s actions. One may have tried to bite him. But this was no reductive experimental science. For Albert the whole world could be seen as one unity under the creator God, and the quest to penetrate its mysteries more deeply was not an indulgence of curiositas, but a loving communion with the God who bestows on us the faculty of intellect and the desire for truth. All things, then, were, for Albert, subordinate to God’s knowledge, revealed in Christ, as is evident from his great works of mystical theology, in which he ascends beyond the knowledge of all created things to be encountered by the creator, to know God and love him, who has first known and loved us into existence.

The centuries may not have been kind to Albert’s intellectual legacy: although widely respected, he is undeservedly neglected by many undergraduate philosophical curricula today. But unlike many of his medieval contemporaries, we retain a good sense of his personality and the brothers still smile fondly at the memory of his holy eccentricities. We only once read of a Prior having to curtail Albert’s experimental practices. In Cologne he was exploring the effects of alcohol on cold-blooded creatures and fed some of the brothers’ beer to a snake. Unfortunately, although amusingly, the snake escaped as was found disorientated and fractious in the cloister, much to the consternation of the graver fathers. Albert having already observed man’s apparently natural aversion to serpents — and I think I can sense a wry smile at this point — notes that the snake went floppy when under the influence. Perhaps wisely, the Prior of the day intervened to the keep the peace, and it seems Albert was advised not to allow anything else to escape from his growing menagerie.

With God’s help and some prayers, I hope I can imitate Albert’s cheerful fidelity to the Lord and his faithful unrelenting obedience to his superiors, though I feel no need to repeat this particular experiment, nor do I feel my vocation lies in experimental science. (Albert wouldn’t mind this — in his more abstract philosophy he argued it was reasonable to believe such things on testimony). But it is a joy to be one of Albert’s brothers, to belong an Order that, in 800 years of grace, has seen so many characters, not to mention drunken snakes and more. Somehow, in the mystery of providence, we are each of us called to write our own line, to make our own unique contribution, but when in God’s good time the story of the Order of Preachers comes to be concluded, few lines will be as sparkling and fondly remembered as Albert’s.”

Love,
Matthew

Nov 4 – “Conversion, community, & solidarity…”

Intercession of Charles Borromeo supported by the Virgin Mary - Detail Rottmayr Fresco 1714 - Karlskirche - Vienna
Intercession of Charles Borromeo supported by the Virgin Mary – Detail Rottmayr Fresco 1714 – Karlskirche – Vienna

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-Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap.
Archbishop of Denver (1997-2011); Archbishop of Philadelphia (2011- )
Intervention at the Synod of Bishops for America
Vatican City
November 1997

“If we truly seek conversion, community and solidarity, we need to be completely frank with one another. But in doing so, we should also take heart from the fact that people will continue to have a deep hunger for God. With good teaching and good pastors, they will continue to hear the voice of Jesus Christ, and they will respond.

The nature of being a “good pastor” is what I want to focus on today. We preach best, and teach best, by our personal example. Anything which enables us to do that is good. Anything which prevents us from doing that, is not. Each one of us wants to minister to God’s people more fruitfully in the new millennium. But I believe this requires us to change — as individuals and as bishops.

We need, first of all, to become simple again. By that I mean, Gospel simple. Jesus loved simplicity because it allowed Him to immerse Himself in the essential things of His Father’s business. I believe we are in danger of losing that Christ-like focus as bishops.

Our hemisphere has become a culture of noise, confusion and complication. We are a distracted people, both North and South, and we are now also a distracted Church. We have plans and committees and projects and staffs. All these things are important in their proper place. But at the end of the day, are we apostles. . . or are we executives? And what do our people really need: managers. . . or pastors?

My concern is that the structures of today’s diocesan life too frequently prevent the very thing they were meant to help: a bishop’s direct contact with his people. Obviously, good stewardship requires skilled management of our resources. But it is too easy today for a bishop to abdicate his missionary zeal to others, and become a captive of his own administrative machinery. This runs exactly counter to the example of Jesus and the first apostles.

We bishops need to be much more radical in our own Christian vocation. By “radical,” I mean oriented toward the root. Charles Borromeo once said to his priests, “Be sure you first preach by the way you live.” The synod’s instrumentum laboris is, in some ways, too gentle toward all of us. Many of the problems we face as shepherds are not programmatic or resource-driven. They are problems of faith. Too often, those of us in the Church—and even we bishops—simply do not believe deeply and zealously enough.

Today, throughout our hemisphere, many of our people have found consumer capitalism to be much more appealing than the Gospel. Capitalism is a machine that works. It gets results. This is important, because as our economies and cultures interlock, consumerism and the practical atheism it breeds are now common problems throughout our hemisphere.

Yet the hunger for God persists in every human heart, even when it’s buried under consumer goods. And too often, we are not feeding that hunger as effectively as the fundamentalists and other evangelical Christians. I understand the frustration of my Latin American brothers very well when they talk about the invasion of aggressive religious sects into their countries. I face many of the same pastoral problems in northern Colorado. Hundreds of my own people leave the Catholic faith every year to join these fundamentalist groups.

The Church throughout our hemisphere needs to recover her original spiritual fire, which these groups now so successfully copy. We need to lead people back to the fullness of Jesus Christ, which can only be found in sacramental community and especially in the Eucharist. But how can we accomplish that? If we really want conversion, community and solidarity for the Church, we need to seek those things first within and among ourselves as brothers.

I have a great devotion to Charles Borromeo because he is very much a saint for our time. Like St. Toribio of Lima, he was a force for authentic reform in an era of tremendous change. We need to be the same.

You will recall that the printing press changed the nature of our discourse about God 500 years ago and became the engine of the Protestant Reformation. That was the terrain of Charles Borromeo’s life. In exactly the same way, the new information revolution will fundamentally affect our language of faith and truth.

These new media tools are the building blocks of a new global mentality and culture. They are a new way of knowing and expressing things, which we misunderstand at our peril. They are also creating new issues of justice — the information “haves” and “have nots” — which the Church urgently needs to speak to.

This is the terrain of our lives. Today, we have an opportunity to serve as witnesses of Jesus Christ in the midst of this “new reformation.”

That is the test of this millennial moment for all of us here. That is the fabric of the New Evangelization.”

Love,
Matthew

Nov 4 – New eagerness…

Charles of Borromeo1

“If we wish to make any progress in the service of God we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness. We must keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible and have no other view or end in all our actions but the divine honor.”
– Saint Charles Borromeo

“We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: “I will pray, and then I will understand.” This is the way we can easily overcome the countless difficulties we have to face day after day, which, after all, are part of our work. In meditation we find the strength to bring Christ to birth in ourselves and in others.”
– Saint Charles Borromeo

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-by Br Reginald Hoeffer, OP

“St. Charles Borromeo is an eminent example of the blessed man spoken of in the readings for today’s Mass who, at the Lord’s command, renounced his own life and possessions to carry the cross of Christ. St. Charles strove to imitate Christ and so brought others to him. He accomplished this in particular through his tireless concern for the doctrinal, liturgical, and spiritual formation of both priests and laity, as well as by his constant care for the spiritual and material needs of all people. It is these qualities which make him the very portrait of a saintly pastor, a model after whom every bishop would want to follow.

St. Charles was born near Milan, Italy, in 1538 to the Count Gilberto Borromeo and the Countess Margherita de’ Medici. At age twenty-two, Charles (who was not yet even in holy orders) was made a cardinal by his uncle, Pope Pius IV. Charles was entrusted with the administration of the Archdiocese of Milan, which had been without a bishop for 80 years and was thus in a state of corruption and spiritual decay. Because of his role in organizing the final session of the Council of Trent, however, he did not assume control of his diocese for another six years.

When he at last arrived in Milan, he began to put into practice a plan of reform that, above all else, would teach his clergy and people how to be true disciples of Christ, renouncing all possessions and picking up their crosses daily (Mt. 14:25-33). He knew, though, that to get everyone on board he himself had to be the first to exhibit a life radically oriented to Christ. To show his uncompromising opposition to all ostentation and luxury, he sold what today would be equivalent to $3 million of his personal treasures and gave the entire sum to relieve families in distress. In private, he wore a simple cassock all year round to identify with the poor, and he put on his cardinal’s robes only when the situation demanded it. Whenever famine struck, he would personally feed upwards of 3,000 people daily for months on end.

But the greatest proof of his Christ-like simplicity comes from his actions in 1575 when a great plague broke out in Milan. The hospitals were “overflowing with dead, dying, [and] sick … having nobody to care for them” (Butler’s Lives of the Saints [1956 edition], 4:261). This sight moved St. Charles to tears and he “literally exhausted all his resources in relief and incurred large debts on behalf of the sufferers.” In a style that today would be hailed as classic Pope Francis, he even took the colored fabrics that were used to decorate processional routes and had them “made into clothes for the needy. But the archbishop was not content with prayer and penance, organization and distribution; he personally ministered to the dying, waited on the sick and helped those in want.” This is exactly the love which St. Paul reminds us today that we owe to our neighbors (Rom. 13:8-10).

But St. Charles realized that preaching the Gospel to the poor and suffering didn’t just mean material help; he knew that the highest form of charity would be to remedy the spiritual ills that afflicted his people. When he first arrived in Milan, Charles quickly found that “the Sacraments were neglected, for many of the clergy scarcely knew how to administer them and were lazy, ignorant, and debauched” (258). Clearly, the first thing to be done was to reform the clergy, providing both spiritual and doctrinal formation so that they could be effective pastors. So “he preached and catechized everywhere, displacing the unworthy clergy, and put in their stead others who were capable of restoring the faith and morals of the people” (259). He also demonstrated the importance for priests of caring for their own souls first so that the flock could benefit from their holy preaching. Charles set this example by going on retreat twice a year and making confession every morning before celebrating Mass.

Perhaps most importantly, St. Charles taught his priests the value of praying in the context of the Sacred Liturgy, knowing that if they did not fully enter into it, the people would never learn how to make use of the primary means of encountering Christ. He had a “great regard for the Church’s Liturgy, and never said any prayer or carried out any religious rite with haste, however much he was pressed for time or however long the rite continued” (258). This was to prove to his people the ancient adage that “the way you pray becomes the way you believe, which in turn becomes the way you live.”

St. Charles Borromeo is a model bishop for our own day particularly insofar as he is a bishop similar to the hearts of both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict. He seems to have united in his own character the major themes for which each papacy is known: simple living and service to the poor, on the one hand, and the promotion of doctrinal soundness and liturgical dignity from a charitable heart, on the other. The example of today’s saint allows us to see the harmony in the styles of these two popes, demonstrating to all that the service we owe to God in the Liturgy and the service we owe to our neighbor always go hand in hand.”

Love,
Matthew

“May the souls of the faithful departed…”

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The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and the torment of death shall not touch them.
In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die;
but they are in peace.

braquinasbealeop

-by Br Aquinas Beale, OP, is a fellow WAHOO!!!!  LIKE ME!!!  GO HOOS!!!!!

Justorum animae in manu Dei sunt. In 1605, English composer William Byrd published his motet based on this text from the Book of Wisdom. The souls of the just are in the hand of God, the sacred author asserts, and the torment of death does not touch them. Pointing to the privileged position the saints enjoy, in the hand of God, this antiphon would have been sung at the Offertory of the Mass celebrating the Solemnity of All the Saints.

Et non tanget illos tormentum mortis. God protects the souls of His saints, and the torment of death shall not touch them. Yet, the ethereal harmonies of Byrd’s setting are interrupted at this point by some jarring dissonance; the text tormentum mortis is repeated three times, each iteration bringing more dissonance into the piece and reminding the hearers of the reality of their earthly existence in which the torment of death still looms large.

Though we are told that the souls of the saints enjoy peace and security in the hand of God, how can we be certain? Ordinary experience seems to point only to the fleetingness of life and the certainty of death. Where is the hand of God in all of this?

At the time Byrd composed his setting of Justorum animae, his country was still reeling from the upheaval of the English Reformation. Henry VIII had broken with Rome and executed many dissonants; his daughter tried to restore union with Rome, acquiring the moniker “Bloody Mary” along the way; her sister sought a compromise, albeit with the sword. Even after the nearly half-century reign of Elizabeth, the religious and social unrest remained.

Two years after her death (and the same year Byrd published Justorum animae) anti-Catholic sentiment was once again aroused by the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Considering this environment of perpetual religious warfare, there is little cause for wonder at the ominous turn of Byrd’s motet. Indeed, the confident hope in avoiding the pains of warfare and the torments of death must have appeared more like folly than wisdom to at least some of Byrd’s more enlightened contemporaries. The hand of God seemed to have slipped away from the affairs of men, allowing them to sink into the mire of war and strife.

Visi sunt oculis insipientium mori. The souls of the just are in the hand of God. Yet, to the eyes of the foolish, they appear to be dead. Dead is dead, and it would seem that there are no two ways about it.

In the decades following the Crucifixion, the early Christians were no strangers to the scoffing and ridicule of the faithless. To the eyes of many, Christ appeared to be dead, and faith in Him seemed to be foolishness (1 Cor 1:22). The author of the Book of Wisdom, however, asserts that it is the eyes of the foolish that see death as the final end.Through Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, the final enemy—death—had been defeated, once and for all. And so, those who now place their trust in God shall shine like stars in the night for all eternity (Dan 12:3).

Illi autem sunt in pace. Those who persevered in their faith in Christ no longer walk the face of this earth, but—we firmly hope—they are in peace. And if they do not yet enjoy the peace of Christ, we trust and pray that they will one day see Him in glory.

In the new form of the Mass, this same passage of Wisdom is read as the First Reading during today’s liturgical celebration, the Commemoration of All Souls. It provides a fitting reflection for the living, prompting them to recall the snares of death in this earthly life and to pray that the departed may experience the peace and rest of being in the hand of God.

We have a confident hope that is full of immortality (Wis 3:4), but the suffering we experience in our lives is a daily reminder of our human frailty. The death of the body remains, despite the triumph of the Cross. Therefore, if our hope is founded on our own strength and merit, we are bound to fall into the snares of death. Rather, we throw ourselves and our loved ones upon the mercy and love of God, in Whom we place all our trust. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”

Holding you and all your departed loved ones in prayer on this day of remembrance. Kindly remember me and mine. May God bless you for your faithfulness.

Love,
Matthew

1 Cor 1:25

foolishness

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

joe simmons sj

-by Joe Simmmons, SJ

“‘Smee’ would not appreciate being called a fool, holy or otherwise.

Sister Marie Estelle (special ops codename: “Smee”) was the principal of our Catholic grade school in Milwaukee for many years. Like so many great religious women, Sr. Marie Estelle ran an incredible school on a shoestring budget. Each morning she would greet us at the door with a smile, a pat on the back, and a word of encouragement.

I remember one Mardi Gras celebration in particular. Sister was running the piñata-hitting station. After spinning a blind-folded seventh grader into dizziness, Sister didn’t manage to retreat to a safe distance in time. Whack! She took a whiffle bat to the head that would’ve stunned Jose Canseco, let alone a thin, kindly religious sister. And yet, like the near-invincible T-1000 from Terminator, she lifted her head, smiled to assure us she was all right, and handed the bat to the next batter. No harm, no foul.

* * *

I never was in a class taught by Sr. Marie Estelle. But some twenty years later, I am still inspired by this holy woman who left such an impression on my young soul. No doubt each of us has similar stories of those who’ve taught us about life, inside the classroom or out.

We can call to mind those people from life who are quiet and strong; deferential and courteous; joyful and easy-going; people who don’t take themselves too seriously; people who are unaffected by slights and inconveniences. It seems like these holy ones walk through life untouched by the slings and arrows that so easily discourage the rest of us. I wonder, how did these people get like this? When did the pixie dust rain down on them? Have they always been blissfully unaware of others’ eye-splinters, ‘holy fools’ untroubled by the reality around them?

And more importantly, What must they think of the rest of us, who fall far short of unconditional love?

Maybe Sr. Marie Estelle was so unflappable because she had no idea what was going on around her. (Maybe she thought getting hit with a whiffle bat was a sign of adolescent affection?) Maybe life was just simpler for the respectable, kindly figures who inhabit these stories. Maybe everybody was just less cynical, less unloving, ‘back in the day’.

“Not so fast, there, Simmons” you might say. And you’d be right.

Though Sr. Marie Estelle was old as the hills in the eyes of an eight year old, we knew from the look on her face that she didn’t miss anything. AN.Y.THING. To my young mind, Sister was everywhere at once – leading morning announcements, prefecting the cafeteria during lunch time, picking up trash as she strolled the hallways. When I was in third grade, she once caught wind of one of my smart-alecky remarks about a teacher. Her face appeared in Ms. Schwab’s door-window that afternoon, staring right at me. Sister called me into the hallway with a slender, beckoning finger. It was time for Joey to have a come-to-Jesus chat about kindness. How did she KNOW??

* * *

When I’ve actually sat and talked with the “holy fools” in my life, I find something in them other than blissful aloofness. They too have had unkind thoughts fill their heads, and strong feelings slink through their hearts. They too know pettiness, jealousy, competitiveness, pride, and sloth. They too have walked with, talked with, and wrestled with the types demons that the rest of us have. They too have failed in the past to live up to their own aspirations, yes; but they get back up and keep trying, one day at a time.

A few years ago, our resident Thinker of Luminous Thoughts Tim O’Brien, SJ turned me on to a quotation which stopped me cold. Author Marilynne Robinson writes,

“The tragic mystery of human nature has by no means played itself out. Wisdom, which is almost always another name for humility, lies in accepting one’s own inevitable share of human fallibility.”

Maybe that’s what holiness looks like for us in a somewhat cynical age: Accepting one’s one fallibility. The wisdom of our “holy fools” lies not in their ability to ignore reality, but to be fully attuned to it. Yet wisdom is more than an ability to sniff out and name shortcomings. Holy wisdom comes from a learnéd, cultivated love of others, a love which would sooner pardon than pin down. Why? Because these “holy fools” know that they have their own demons, and they turn to God for help to keep them tamed. They have experienced – and in turn embody – the forgiving love that God has for each of us, in spite of ourselves. The God who knows all of our resistances and limitations, and like a parent — or a kindly grade school principal — wants only the best for us.

These are the wise teachers, the saintly heroes of the stories we tell. Often enough, they see the limitations we work so hard to cover, and yet they refrain from rendering judgment. Perhaps it is their loving restraint — rather than aloofness — that give them an aura of saintliness. Thank God for these living saints, who remain so resolutely uninterested in others’ imperfections.

The Smiling Pope

If Marilynne Robinson is right, then wisdom and humility are not magic. They do not hit us all at once like a whiffle bat — at least they haven’t for me. Whatever patience and love I’ve summoned for others has come only from recognizing the slow, patient love I’ve already received. Love and support from the the unheralded saints — the holy fools — that God has seen fit to place in our lives.

Saint John XXIII wrote, “See everything. Overlook a lot. Make a little progress.” If this is how saints are forged, then sign me up.

+May all God’s holy fools pray for us today, and every day.+”

Love,
Matthew

Nov 2 – All Souls, Dies Irae

THAT day of wrath, that dreadful day,
shall heaven and earth in ashes lay,
as David and the Sybil say.

What horror must invade the mind
when the approaching Judge shall find
and sift the deeds of all mankind!

The mighty trumpet’s wondrous tone
shall rend each tomb’s sepulchral stone
and summon all before the Throne.

Now death and nature with surprise
behold the trembling sinners rise
to meet the Judge’s searching eyes.

Then shall with universal dread
the Book of Consciences be read
to judge the lives of all the dead.

For now before the Judge severe
all hidden things must plain appear;
no crime can pass unpunished here.

O what shall I, so guilty plead?
and who for me will intercede?
when even Saints shall comfort need?

O King of dreadful majesty!
grace and mercy You grant free;
as Fount of Kindness, save me!

Recall, dear Jesus, for my sake
you did our suffering nature take
then do not now my soul forsake!

In weariness You sought for me,
and suffering upon the tree!
let not in vain such labor be.

O Judge of justice, hear, I pray,
for pity take my sins away
before the dreadful reckoning day.

Your gracious face, O Lord, I seek;
deep shame and grief are on my cheek;
in sighs and tears my sorrows speak.

You Who did Mary’s guilt unbind,
and mercy for the robber find,
have filled with hope my anxious mind.

How worthless are my prayers I know,
yet, Lord forbid that I should go
into the fires of endless woe.

Divorced from the accursed band,
o make me with Your sheep to stand,
as child of grace, at Your right Hand.

When the doomed can no more flee
from the fires of misery
with the chosen call me.

Before You, humbled, Lord, I lie,
my heart like ashes, crushed and dry,
assist me when I die.

Full of tears and full of dread
is that day that wakes the dead,
calling all, with solemn blast
to be judged for all their past.

Lord, have mercy, Jesus blest,
grant them all Your Light and Rest. Amen.

Love,
Matthew