Category Archives: November

Nov 1 – Bl Rupert Mayer, SJ, (1876-1945), Priest, The Apostle of Munich

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Blessed Rupert Mayer was a German Jesuit priest. He is best known for the apostolic endeavours he undertook in Munich between the First and Second World Wars. He is known as the Apostle of Munich. He was a powerful preacher and spoke out against the evils of Hitler and Nazism and touched many people through his work with the Men’s Congregation of Mary. Five to six thousand people come to pray at his tomb in St Michael’s Church, Munich each day. He was beatified on 3 May 1987 by Pope John Paul II.

Father Mayer was born on 23 January 1876. His family was involved in business. He had a brother and four sisters. He grew up in Stuttgart. He was a very talented violinist and horse rider in his youth. Rupert finished his secondary education in 1894. He wished to become a Jesuit but his father wanted him to be ordained first. His father suggested that if he still had the desire to become a Jesuit after he was ordained he could then enter the Society. Fr Mayer studied Philosophy at Fribourg, Switzerland and in Munich. He then undertook his theological studies at Tubingen. He was ordained a priest on 2 May 1899. Rupert Mayer entered the Jesuit novitiate at Feldkirch, Austria on 1 October 1900. From 1906 to1911 he preached missions throughout Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. In 1912 Fr Mayer was transferred to Munich to work with the poor.

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 Fr Mayer volunteered to be a military chaplain. He was initially assigned to a military hospital; however, he wished to be closer to the soldiers and was sent to the fronts in France, Poland and Romania as chaplain to a division of soldiers. He was held in great esteem by both Catholic and non-Catholic soldiers because his courageous work manifested his love for them. When there was fighting at the front Fr Mayer would be found crawling along the ground from one soldier to the next talking to them, listening to them and administering the Sacraments to them. When he was warned that he was putting his own life in danger through such activities, he replied simply, “My life is in God’s hands”. In December 1915, Fr Mayer was awarded the Iron Cross for bravery in recognition of his work with the soldiers at the front.

As he was rushing to minister to some of the soldiers, Fr Mayer was seriously wounded by a grenade during heavy fighting in December 1916. As a result of the injuries, his leg had to be amputated. He returned to Munich to convalesce and was referred to as the “Limping Priest”.  Fr Mayer’s own physical suffering transformed him into to an even more understanding, kind and gentle priest.

After the First World War Fr Mayer continued to work with the poor of Munich through the charitable organization, Caritas. He was known for his generosity to anyone who approached him as he adopted the following philosophy : “If out of the ten who ask for alms there are nine who are not in need of them, and if through fear of that happening, I refuse my help to one really needy person, this would cause me immense suffering. I would rather give to all ten and thus avoid the danger of being lacking in charity.”

Fr Mayer’s generosity in material things led people to approach him for help in spiritual matters. Fr Mayer helped people through the many hours he spent in the confessional and his courageous preaching. He encouraged men to join the Men’s Congregation of Mary (a sodality for men). Fr Mayer became the president of the Congregation in 1921 and more than doubled its membership to over 7000 men during this term of leadership. He was a popular priest because he totally gave of himself to the people, was generous and available but more importantly was able to relate to them in their surroundings and mix with people from all walks of life. An example of his generosity and his common touch was that he would celebrate Mass in the waiting room of Munich Railway Station at 3.10am and 3.45am on Sunday mornings so that people who wished to spend the day in the mountains could still meet their Sunday obligation.

After the First World War Fr Mayer also took a stand against Communism, National Socialism, and any writings that sowed hatred. He was prepared to denounce Adolf Hitler and Nazi propaganda pointing out the falsehoods being spread and stressing Catholic values. Fr Mayer particularly spoke out against the move to close church-affiliated schools. This lead to him being persecuted by the Nazis.

In May 1937 Fr Mayer was banned by civil authorities from preaching but he refused to obey the order as he considered himself obliged to defend the Church and its values. Consequently he was arrested in June 1937. He was tried and sentenced to six months imprisonment and was forbidden to preach. The sentence was suspended.

At this time, the Church authorities also forbade him to preach which was a great sacrifice for him. Soon the Prefect of Munich made the following remark, “The priests are all the same. Threaten them enough with arrest, rattle the keys of the concentration camp; they subside without further ado and shut up”. Fr Mayer could not let such a defamatory remark go unchallenged. He sought and was granted permission from his superiors to preach once again.

Upon preaching, Fr Mayer was arrested and immediately put into Landsberg prison. He served five months imprisonment until he was released as a result of a general amnesty. Upon being released, he continued to work with small discussion groups in Munich which were conducted privately.

Despite this, he was arrested by the Gestapo in November 1939. Fr Mayer was deported to the Orianienburg-Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He lost much weight because of the deprivations and hardships. He wrote to his mother and said, “I am cut off from everything and everyone and I hear nothing any more about the world…I try to pray and offer everything in sacrifice. God does not ask anything else of me at the moment or he would have disposed things differently.”

In August 1940 Fr Mayer was moved to Ettal Abbey in Southern Bavaria and was placed under house arrest. His greatest suffering was his inability to minister to his people. He was also concerned that his silence may be construed by others as capitulation.

However, he sought consolation during this time from the fact that Christ, too, had been persecuted.  Even the Nazis would not dare kill a national war hero and high profile figure such as Fr Mayer.

Though he could not help his people in any material way, he continued to help them through his prayer. In May 1945 he was released and returned to Munich. Once again he returned to his former apostolic work. On 1 November 1945 , he died while preaching at Mass of a stroke.  His last words were, “The Lord, the Lord, the Lord…”

Fr Mayer was an extraordinarily generous priest who through his limitless work and love for people was able to find Christ in each person. Rupert Mayer’s warmth, understanding and unconditional self-giving led each person he met to experience the love of Christ directly.

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-tomb of Bl Ruper Mayer, SJ

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-Bl Rupert Mayer, SJ’s Iron Cross medal

Lord, what You will let it be so
Where You will there we will go
What is Your will help us to know

Lord, when You will the time is right
In You there’s joy in strife
For Your will I’ll give my life

To ease Your burden brings no pain
To forego all for You is gain
As long as I in You remain

REFRAIN:
Because You will it, it is best
Because You will it, we are blest
Till in Your hands our hearts find rest
Till in Your hands our hearts find rest

-Prayer of Bl Rupert Mayer, SJ

Love,
Matthew

Nov 15 – St Albert the Great, OP – Doctor of the Church, Doctor Universalis, “The Teacher of Everything”

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– by Br Humbert Kilanowski, OP, (Br. Humbert Kilanowski entered the Order of Preachers in 2010. He earned a doctorate in mathematics from The Ohio State University and did his undergraduate studies at Case Western Reserve University.)

“Before I entered the Dominican Order, I taught an introductory statistics class at a small college founded by Dominican Sisters in my hometown. Since the school was too small to have distinct departments for each scientific field, all of them, including mathematics, were housed in St. Albert Hall, a building named for today’s patron saint. A fitting attribution—for the thirteenth-century German Dominican friar was an expert not only in philosophy and theology, but also in several natural sciences: constructing an early greenhouse, discovering the chemical element arsenic, and developing experimental methods that would later become standard in modern science. For his integration of scientific domains and the newly-rediscovered philosophy of Aristotle with the study of divine revelation in theology, Saint Albert the Great is fittingly honored as the Doctor Universalis, the “teacher of everything.”

In today’s academic climate, however, a “teacher of everything” is hard to find. Departments and disciplines have become so specialized that lectures given on one topic are often barely understood by others in the same department, and whole conferences and journals are devoted to the narrowest of subfields. In learning to be an expert in one area, other fields are ignored, to the point that scholars in the sciences can deem theological claims to be either over their heads or not worth their attention. Without a unifying vision of all knowledge, one may even reach the conclusion that science and theology contradict each other, as seen in the debates between random evolution and intelligent design, for example. How can a seeker of truth resolve this dilemma?

One scholar, the evolutionary biologist and agnostic Stephen Jay Gould (d. 2002), proposed a solution: that of “non-overlapping magisteria.” In this model, which he described in a 1997 article, both science and religion have separate domains over which each has competency, and neither one impinges on the other. As he writes:

The net of science covers the empirical universe: what is it made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory). The net of religion extends over questions of moral meaning and value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for starters, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty). To cite the arch clichés, we get the age of rocks, and religion retains the rock of ages; we study how the heavens go, and they determine how to go to heaven.

The separation of domains of teaching authority, or “magisteria” as Gould appropriates the word, seems attractive; Christians believe that God created the human race directly in His image and likeness on theological grounds, for example, and biologists hold that humanity came to be through a long evolutionary process of many random mutations on scientific grounds. The dignity of the human race as being in the image of God is primarily a moral statement, while the origin of the species is a theory based on empirical data, and the two explanations seem to fall into disparate domains.

Yet, the various magisteria do, in fact, inevitably overlap. Another evolutionary biologist, the outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins, replies:

It is completely unrealistic to claim, as Gould and many others do, that religion keeps itself away from science’s turf, restricting itself to morals and values. A universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without. The difference is, inescapably, a scientific difference. Religions make existence claims, and this means scientific claims.

In other words, if God is held to be the Creator of the universe, then He has a direct effect on all that exists (namely, He bestows existence on it), and everything studied in science, or art, or history, can be considered in relation to God. While Dawkins’ analysis limps in asserting that claims of existence are scientific, for many things exist that are not subject to natural science, he properly identifies that theology does exert an influence on science.

To investigate how these bodies of knowledge overlap and interact with each other, it helps to examine the work of St. Albert’s most prominent student, St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. He explains that theology “has no concern to prove the principles of other sciences, but only to judge of them” (ST, I, 1, 6, ad 1), and that it “can in a sense depend upon the philosophical sciences, not as though it stood in need of them, but only in order to make its teaching clearer” (ST, I, 1, 5, ad 2). To continue with the example, theology tells biology that it cannot exclude divine activity in forming the human race (especially with regard to the immaterial soul by which we reason and choose freely), while biology provides the details of how the human body was formed from the earth. Both fields, taken together, give a fuller and more robust understanding of what is to be known. By considering the relationship of theology to the other sciences, we can see how each field of study aims at the same truth according to its own method.

In this, we should follow the example of St. Albert the Great, who saw in everything that he studied the God who made it and to whom it is ultimately ordered. Surely, as Pope Leo XIII remarked, “Truth cannot contradict truth”; hence, let us join the “teacher of everything” by allowing everything we study to lead us to the contemplation of God, the Supreme Truth.”

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“I adore You, O Precious Blood of Jesus, flower of creation, fruit of virginity, ineffable instrument of the Holy Spirit, and I rejoice at the thought that You came from the drop of virginal blood on which eternal Love impressed its movement; You were assumed by the Word and deified in His person.

I am overcome with emotion when I think of Your passing from the Blessed Virgin’s heart into the heart of the Word, and, being vivified by the breath of the Divinity, becoming adorable because You became the Blood of God.

I adore You enclosed in the veins of Jesus, preserved in His humanity like the manna in the golden urn, the memorial of the eternal Redemption which He accomplished during the days of His earthly life.

I adore You, Blood of the new, eternal Testament, flowing from the veins of Jesus in Gethsemane, from the flesh torn by scourges in the Praetorium, from His pierced hands and feet and from His opened side on Golgotha. I adore You in the Sacraments, in the Eucharist, where I know You are substantially present….

I place my trust in You, O adorable Blood, our Redemption, our regeneration. Fall, drop by drop, into the hearts that have wandered from You and soften their hardness.

O adorable Blood of Jesus, wash our stains, save us from the anger of the avenging angel. Irrigate the Church; make her fruitful with Apostles and miracle-workers, enrich her with souls that are holy, pure and radiant with divine beauty.  Amen.”
-St Albert the Great, OP

Love,
Matthew

Nov 2 – All Souls, Prayer for the Attainment of Heaven

“Through sin, death entered the world.” (cf Rm 5:12)

“Sin directs the heart of the wicked man;
his eyes are closed to the fear of God.
For he lives with the delusion:
his guilt will not be known and hated.
Empty and false are the words of his mouth;
he has ceased to be wise and do good.
On his bed he hatches plots;
he sets out on a wicked way;
he does not reject evil.”

-Psalm 36: 1-5

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-by Br Raphael Forbing, OP

“Sin directs the heart of a wicked man,” reads Psalm 36. We spend our lives struggling to master our passions and avoid temptations, yet we fall time and time again. Though every sin is an offense against God’s perfect goodness, some of our failures are more serious than others. The Catholic tradition generally divides actual sins (those committed by our own free will) into two categories: mortal (grave sin) and venial (less serious sin).

Mortal sins are offenses that concern grave matter, and are made with full knowledge and deliberate consent. Baptism removes both the guilt and the punishment due to original sin, as well as all personal sin in baptism received after infancy. The grave personal sins we commit after baptism, however, incur both guilt (responsibility for sin) and punishment (the exercise of Divine justice). These sins entirely remove God’s grace in the soul, and “mortally wound” the supernatural love that grace creates in our souls. Venial sins, though they do not kill the life of grace as mortal sin does, yet damage the life of grace and charity in our souls as though inflicting a flesh wound. God offers to forgive even the darkest of sins, and seeks not only to restore the life of grace in our souls, but also to make it richer than before. It is Christ alone who restores this life in us, though He does it through the ministry of the priesthood.”

Prayer for the Attainment of Heaven

O God of all consolation, You who see in us nothing but your own gifts, I entreat You to give me, at the close of this life, knowledge of the First Truth and enjoyment of Your divine majesty.

Most generous Rewarder, give to my body also the beauty of lightsomeness, responsiveness of flesh to spirit, a quick readiness and delicacy, and the gift of unconquerable strength.

And add to these an overflow of riches, a spate of delights, a confluence of all good things, so that I may rejoice in Your consolation above me, in a place of lowliness below me, in glorification of body and soul within me, in delight of friends and angels all around me.

Most merciful Father, being with You may my mind attain the enlightenment of wisdom, my desire, the fulfillment of its longing, my courage the praise of triumph.

For where you are is avoidance of all danger, plentitude of dwelling places, harmony of wills.

Where You are is the pleasantness of spring, the radiance of summer, the fecundity of autumn, and the repast of winter.

Give, Lord God, life without death, joy without sorrow, that place where reigns sovereign freedom, free security, secure tranquility, delightful happiness, happy eternity, eternal blessedness, the vision of truth and praise, O God.

Amen.

-St Thomas Aquinas, OP (1225-1274 AD)

Love,
Matthew

Blessed Feast of All Souls!!!  
Happy Celtic New Year!!!! 

Nov 15 – St Albert the Great, O.P., (1206-1280), Doctor of the Church, Patron of Scientists & Engineers

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Kelly, Mara, and I have found our new parish home in St Albert the Great, O.P. of Sun Prairie, WI, stalberts.org; sister parish of Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary Parish also in Sun Prairie.  We have hopes Mara may attend Sacred Hearts School.  The fact I am a professional applied scientist and a former Dominican novice is not lost on me in this serendipitous coincidence.  The Midwestern Province of the Order of Preachers is dedicated to St Albert the Great, O.P.  We are happy and St Albert’s is a happy place of fellow pilgrims.

He was known as the “teacher of everything there is to know,” was a scientist long before the age of science, became the teacher and mentor of that other remarkable mind of his time, St. Thomas Aquinas.  St. Albert the Great was born in Lauingen on the Danube, near Ulm, Germany; his father was a military lord in the army of Emperor Frederick II. As a young man Albert studied at the University of Padua and there fell under the spell of Blessed Jordan of Saxony, the Dominican who made the rounds of the universities of Europe drawing the best young men of the universities into the Dominicans.

After several teaching assignments in his order, he came in 1241 to the University of Paris, where he lectured in theology. While teaching in Paris, he was assigned by his order in 1248 to set up a house of studies for the order in Cologne. In Paris, he had gathered around him a small band of budding theologians, the chief of whom was Thomas Aquinas, who accompanied him to Cologne and became his greatest pupil.

In 1260, he was appointed bishop of Regensberg; when he resigned after three years, he was called to be an adviser to the pope and was sent on several diplomatic missions. In his latter years, he resided in Cologne, took part in the Council of Lyons in 1274, and in his old age traveled to Paris to defend the teaching of his student Thomas Aquinas.

It was in Cologne that his reputation as a scientist grew. He carried on experiments in chemistry and physics in his makeshift laboratory and built up a collection of plants, insects, and chemical compounds that gave substance to his reputation. When Cologne decided to build a new cathedral, he was consulted about the design. He was friend and adviser to popes, bishops, kings, and statesmen and made his own unique contribution to the learning of his age.

He died a very old man in Cologne on November 15,1280, and is buried in St. Andrea’s Church in that city. He was canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1931 by Pope Pius XI. His writings are remarkable for their exact scientific knowledge, and for that reason he has been made the patron saint of scientists.

St. Albert the Great, O.P., was convinced that all creation spoke of God and that the tiniest piece of scientific knowledge told us something about Him. Besides the Bible, God has given us the book of creation revealing His wisdom and power. In creation, Albert saw directly and undeniably the hand of God and His love of mankind.

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-Roman sarcophagus containing the relics of Albertus Magnus in the crypt of St. Andreas church in Cologne, Germany

“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for “God is Charity” (1 John 4:8)
-Saint Albert the Great

“Do this in remembrance of me.” Two things should be noted here. The first is the command that we should use this sacrament, which is indicated when Jesus says, “Do this.” The second is that this sacrament commemorates the Lord’s going to death for our sake.

This sacrament is profitable because it grants remission of sins; it is most useful because it bestows the fullness of grace on us in this life. “The Father of spirits instructs us in what is useful for our sanctification.” And his sanctification is in Christ’s sacrifice, that is, when He offers Himself in this sacrament to the Father for our redemption to us for our use.

Christ could not have commanded anything more beneficial, for this sacrament is the Fruit of the Tree of Life. Anyone who receives this sacrament with the devotion of sincere faith will never taste death. “It is a Tree of Life for those who grasp it, and blessed is he who holds it fast. The man who feeds on Me shall live on account of Me.”

Nor could He have commanded anything more lovable, for this sacrament produces love and union. It is characteristic of the greatest love to give itself as food. “Had not the men of my text exclaimed: Who will feed us with his flesh to satisfy our hunger? as if to say: I have loved them and they have loved Me so much that I desire to be within them, and they wish to receive Me so that they may become My members. There is no more intimate or more natural means for them to be united to Me, and I to them.Nor could He have commanded anything which is more like eternal life. Eternal life flows from this sacrament because God with all sweetness pours Himself out upon the blessed.” – from a commentary by Saint Albert the Great on the Gospel of Luke

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Prayer to St Albert the Great, O.P.

Dear scientist and Doctor of the Church, natural science and sacred science were for you the same Truth.  For you, and for all Catholic scientists, these are never in opposition, but always in harmony – one beckoning deeper understanding of the other, drawing humankind more deeply into the infinitely knowable mystery of the Creator and His Word.

Though you had an encyclopedic knowledge, it never made you proud, for you regarded it as a gift of God. Inspire scientists, theoretical and applied, to use their gifts well in studying the wonders of creation, thus bettering the lot of the human race and rendering greater glory to God. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Nov 13 – St Francis Xavier Cabrini, MSC, (1850-1917), Universal Patron of Immigrants

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As the national debate wrangles/rages on with regards to undocumented persons in this country, I took a pilgrimage recently.  Probably the shortest pilgrimage anyone could take.  Just a few blocks up Lake Shore Drive.  You know I couldn’t pass this up, don’t you?

St Frances Cabrini was small in stature, and poor in health most of her life.  Yet, this petite immigrant nun founded sixty-seven institutions of care and support for immigrants in the US, Europe, and Central and South America, in her sixty-seven years of life.  A CEO and entrepreneur if God ever needed one, and those hospitals, schools, and orphanages she established which benefited countless people in need certainly did.  An able leader in time of need who responded in faith.  “I can do all things through Him, Who strengthens me!” (Phil 4:13)  Omnia possum in eo qui me confortat! was her constant motto.

Francesca was born on July 15, 1850, in Sant’Angelo Lodigiano, Lombardy, Italy, one of eleven children from Agostino Cabrini and Stella Oldini who were rich cherry tree farmers. Sadly only four of the eleven survived beyond adolescence. Small and weak as a child, born two months premature, she remained in delicate health throughout her life.  As a child growing up in Italy, she dreamed about being a missionary to China. She sailed paper boats down a stream, pretending they were ships bringing missionaries to China. She also gave up eating candy because, she reasoned, if she lived in China, she probably wouldn’t be able to have any.

When she grew up, Frances tried to join two different convents. Because of her poor health, she was not accepted. She taught school for a while. Then a priest asked her to help out in a small home for orphans. Things were very hard for Frances because of the lady who ran the house. Eventually, the bishop had to close the orphanage because of this difficult woman.  Ah, people.  God gives us each other to help us all grow in holiness.  How sad if we misunderstand this or miss the chance.  One bite at the apple, as lawyers say, but we always, with the exception of saints, do.  I do.  Constantly.

At the same time, this same priest who asked Frances to help at the orphanage asked her to begin a community of sisters dedicated to teaching. Without hesitating, Frances started at once. Before long, the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart began to grow, first in Italy and then in many other countries. Frances, whom everyone called Mother Cabrini, had always had her heart set on going to China, but it seemed that God wanted her to go to America instead. When Pope Leo XIII told her, “Go West, not East,” the matter was settled. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini sailed for the United States and became an American citizen. She especially helped large numbers of Italian immigrants. She was a real mother and friend to them.

Mother Cabrini and her sisters had a very hard time in the beginning. The archbishop of New York even suggested that they go back to Italy, since the house they anticipated would be available to them wasn’t when they arrived.

But Mother Cabrini answered, “Your Excellency, the pope sent me here and here I must stay.” The archbishop admired her pioneer spirit, and so she and her sisters were permitted to begin their great work for God. Schools, hospitals, and homes for children were opened up in different states. As the years passed, Mother Cabrini made many trips to spread her congregation and its works. There were always difficulties, but she put all her trust in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. “It is He who is doing everything, not us,” she would say.  This small, sickly woman was terrified of water but made more than two dozen crossings of the Atlantic.  What God CAN DO!  I have a rule.  I don’t mess with nuns.  Has seemed to work for me all my life.  🙂

When Mother Cabrini arrived on the North Side of Chicago more than a century ago, she set out to transform an old hotel into an orphanage.  Instead, Archbishop James Edward Quigley asked her to open a hospital. Before leaving the city to travel the world, she had opened three.

On Thursday, Nov 18, 2011, architects, developers and nuns in hard hats broke ground and unveiled plans to restore the national shrine to the first American citizen to be declared a saint at the site of the Columbus Hospital she founded and where she died of complications from dysentery while preparing Christmas candy for local children.  In response to Mother Cabrini’s canonization in 1946, there was an overwhelming response of pilgrims to the room where she died in Chicago.  The shrine was built to accommodate them, and restored to us, today, an architectural gem of gold mosaics, Carrera marble, murals, and Florentine stained glass.

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http://cabrinishrinechicago.com/

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Boarded up and shrouded in scaffolding for nearly 10 years, the renovated National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini features a garden grotto as well as the original iron bed, dresser, kneeler and desk from the hospital room where the patron saint of immigrants died in 1917. The shrine, at 2520 N. Lakeview Ave., reopened to the public this Fall.

“We need the shrine in order to remember her,” said the Rev. Ted Ploplis, coordinator of spiritual services at St. Joseph Hospital. Ploplis expects to become rector of the shrine.

“She was the Mother Teresa of the century before this. She knew what God wanted her to do, and she did it. It’s important to have a place where we can really celebrate her life, tell her story and live her mission. She has wonderful things to teach us,” he said.

Sister Joan McGlinchey, of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the order founded by Mother Cabrini more than 130 years ago, said the shrine is intended to continue Mother Cabrini’s mission of helping the poor become productive members of society.

“Our passion is to make God’s love visible now in our city and continue the mission that Mother Cabrini started,” said McGlinchey, one of six sisters between the ages of 65 and 86 now serving in Chicago. “We are pleased to introduce a new generation to this holy woman who lived, worked and died in Chicago and made a tremendous difference in the lives of so many through her life and mission.”

Sealed after Mother Cabrini’s death to preserve the holy presence nuns believed filled the space, the room in which she died was reconstructed as an annex to the new Columbus Hospital’s chapel after the original building’s demolition in the late 1940s.

For years after her canonization in 1946, pilgrims made their way to the shrine. Mothers would place their infants on the iron bed as they prayed. It was restored to its original austerity in 1988.

The annex and chapel were boarded up again when the property off Lakeview Avenue was purchased nearly 10 years ago. Construction on condominiums began in 2006.

Originally a chapel for the Cabrini-founded Columbus Hospital, the shrine, at 2520 N. Lakeview Ave., had been closed since 2002 as construction crews built condominiums in place of the old medical buildings when the hospital property was sold to developers.  The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus negotiated with the new owners of the property to preserve the shrine and chapel in the new development as a condition of sale.  The Columbus Hospital had been built around the shrine and its church obscuring the building within the building from outside viewers.  Now it is beautifully revealed.

The worship space is now a sanctuary below a residential high-rise.  In his homily at the rededication, Cardinal George said he once questioned whether the shrine should reopen on the same site. But he was convinced that it should stay by leaders of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, who led the preservation effort and, the cardinal said, “proved to be correct.”

Dozens of nuns were on hand for the event, having flown in for the dedication from around the world. They said having the national shrine back in Chicago was important, as it kept a tangible reminder of Cabrini close to an area where she served.

“Together, we prayed and we discerned, and St. Frances Cabrini died in Chicago and is really a Chicago saint,” said Sister Bridget Zanin, a hospital chaplain in Des Plaines. “Therefore, I think it was important for the people of Chicago and the people of the United States to have a place where they can come and pray and find inner peace.”

A two-hour rededication Mass night filled every pew with nuns, former hospital employees and local Catholics. Those in attendance said restoration crews did a nice job of preserving the character of the sanctuary while adding office space, exhibits about Cabrini and a spacious lobby.

Michele Houser said she married her husband in the chapel. She picked the site because she worked as a physical therapist at Columbus Hospital. Seeing it reopened with its frescoes touched up and a grander entrance was special, she said.

“It’s an exciting experience to be back here and have it restored so beautifully,” said Houser, who lives in Libertyville.

Cardinal George did say he was glad to be back at the Cabrini Chapel, a place George said he first visited as a young boy when his cousin was hospitalized at Columbus and later frequented as a priest.

Zanin agreed with George that the chapel was special, and she’s hopeful that it will inspire more people.

You GO GIRL!!!  With your GOOD-self!!! 🙂  YES, JESUS!!!

Prayer to St. Frances Cabrini for Calmness and Kindness

Great St Frances Xavier Cabrini, through your missionary work you radiated great light to those in need. Yours was a simple way, a kindly way, yet you accomplished many great and small tasks. I ask that you help me to stay calm and unwavering in the pursuit of my own projects of compassion, love, and forgiveness of others, especially those whom may be difficult to love in my own family and community.

Ask Him Who strengthened you to strengthen me.  Mother Cabrini, bolster my faith in my many moments of doubt. Help me find the simple and sure way to Jesus, and serve Him as you did.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Nov 18 – St Rose Phillipine Duchesne, RSCJ, (1769-1852), Foundress of the American branch of the Society of the Sacred Heart

(c) Digby Stuart College, University of Roehampton; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Digby Stuart College, University of Roehampton; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Patroness of, and included among those opposed by Church authorities, including: St Elizabeth Ann Seton, St Joan of Arc, and St Teresa of Avila.  Known as “The Lady of Mercy”.  Named  “Quah-kah-ka-num-ad” = “Woman-who-prays-always” by the Potawatomi, St Rose Phillipine Duchesne is a model of Christian love, faith, and perseverance.

Born in Grenoble, France, of a family that was among the newly rich, Philippine learned political skills from her father and a love of the poor from her mother. The dominant feature of her temperament was a strong and dauntless will, which became the material—and the battlefield—of her holiness.

She entered the convent at 19 without telling her parents and remained despite their opposition. As the French Revolution broke, the convent was closed, and she began taking care of the poor and sick, opened a school for street urchins and risked her life helping priests in the underground.

When the situation cooled, she personally rented her old convent, now a shambles, and tried to revive its religious life. The spirit was gone, and soon there were only four nuns left. They joined the infant Society of the Sacred Heart, whose young superior, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, would be her lifelong friend.

In a short time Philippine was a superior and supervisor of the novitiate and a school. But her ambition, since hearing tales of missionary work in Louisiana as a little girl, from a Jesuit missionary, was to go to America and work among the Indians. At 49, she thought this would be her work. With four nuns, she spent 11 weeks at sea en route to New Orleans during which time disease nearly killed her, and seven weeks more on the Mississippi to St. Louis, which also nearly killed her.

She then met another of the many disappointments of her life. The bishop had no place for them to live and work among Native Americans. Instead, he sent her to what she sadly called “the remotest village in the U.S.,” St. Charles, Missouri. With characteristic drive and courage, she founded the first free school for girls west of the Mississippi.  St Rose Phillipine Duchesne went on to found six other Sacred Heart houses including schools and orphanages.  She struggled since her teaching methods were based on French models and her English was terrible, but everyone could see the purity of her intentions.

Though she was as hardy as any of the pioneer women in the wagons rolling west, cold and hunger drove her and her fellow sisters out of St Charles to Florissant, Missouri, where she founded the first Catholic Indian school, adding others in the territory. “In her first decade in America Mother Duchesne suffered practically every hardship the frontier had to offer, except the threat of Indian massacre—poor lodging, shortages of food, drinking water, fuel and money, forest fires and blazing chimneys, the vagaries of the Missouri climate, cramped living quarters and the privation of all privacy, and the crude manners of children reared in rough surroundings and with only the slightest training in courtesy” (Louise Callan, R.S.C.J., Philippine Duchesne).  “Poverty and Christian heroism are here”, Rose Phillipine wrote, “and trials are the riches of priests in this land.”

Finally, at 72, in poor health and retired, she got her lifelong wish. A mission was founded at Sugar Creek, Kansas, among the Potawatomi. She was taken along. Though she could not learn their language, they soon named her “Woman-Who-Prays-Always.” While others taught, she prayed. Legend has it that Native American children sneaked behind her as she knelt and sprinkled bits of paper on her habit, and came back hours later to find them undisturbed. She died in 1852 at the age of 83.  She spent her last ten years in retirement in a tiny shack at the convent in Saint Charles, Missouri where she lived austerely and in constant prayer.

Divine grace channeled her iron will and determination into humility and selflessness, and to a desire not to be made superior. Still, even saints can get involved in silly situations. In an argument with her over a minor change in the sanctuary, a priest threatened to remove her tabernacle. She patiently let herself be criticized by younger nuns for not being progressive enough. Through it all, 31 years, she hewed to the line of a dauntless love and an unshakable observance of her religious vows.

Setback after setback after setback, even into old age! This woman of bronze—St. Rose Philippine Duchesne—let nothing stop her, nothing discourage her, nothing slow her down. We can do almost anything for God if we refuse to be discouraged and are willing to pay the price: the price is something called holiness.

“We cultivate a very small field for Christ, but we love it, knowing that God does not require great achievements but a heart that holds back nothing for self.”
-Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne

“I live now in solitude and am able to use my time reflecting on the past and preparing for death. I cannot put away the thought of the Indians and in my ambition I fly to the Rockies. “
-Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne

DCF 1.0
DCF 1.0

Prayer
Gracious God, you filled the heart of Philippine Duchesne with charity and missionary zeal, and gave her the desire to make you known among all peoples. Fill us who honor her memory today, with that same love and zeal to extend your kingdom to the ends of the earth. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.

Love,
Matthew

Nov 3 – Venerable Solanus Casey (1870-1957)

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Barney Casey became one of Detroit’s best-known priests even though he was not allowed to preach formally or to hear confessions!  Barney came from a large family in Oak Grove, Wisconsin. At the age of 21, and after he had worked as a logger, a hospital orderly, a streetcar operator and a prison guard, he entered St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee—where he found the studies difficult. He left there and, in 1896, joined the Capuchins in Detroit, taking the name Solanus. His studies for the priesthood were again arduous.

On July 24, 1904, he was ordained, but because his knowledge of theology was judged to be weak, Father Solanus was not given permission to hear confessions or to preach. A Franciscan Capuchin who knew him well said this annoying restriction “brought forth in him a greatness and a holiness that might never have been realized in any other way.” During his 14 years as porter and sacristan in Yonkers, New York, the people there recognized him as a fine speaker. “For, though he was forbidden to deliver doctrinal sermons,” writes his biographer, James Derum, “he could give inspirational talks, or feverinos, as the Capuchins termed them”. His spiritual fire deeply impressed his listeners.

Father Solanus served at parishes in Manhattan and Harlem before returning to Detroit, where he was porter and sacristan for 20 years at St. Bonaventure Monastery. Every Wednesday afternoon he conducted well-attended services for the sick. A co-worker estimates that on the average day 150 to 200 people came to see Father Solanus in the front office. Most of them came to receive his blessing; 40 to 50 came for consultation. Many people considered him instrumental in cures and other blessings they received.

Father Solanus’ sense of God’s providence inspired many of his visitors. “Blessed be God in all His designs” was one of his favorite expressions.

The many friends of Father Solanus helped the Capuchins begin a soup kitchen during the Depression. Capuchins are still feeding the hungry there today.

In 1946 in failing health, he was transferred to the Capuchin novitiate in Huntington, Indiana, where he lived until 1956 when he was hospitalized in Detroit. He died on July 31, 1957. An estimated 20,000 people passed by his coffin before his burial in St. Bonaventure Church in Detroit.

At the funeral Mass, Father Gerald, the provincial, said: “His was a life of service and love for people like me and you. When he was not himself sick, he nevertheless suffered with and for you that were sick. When he was not physically hungry, he hungered with people like you. He had a divine love for people. He loved people for what he could do for them —and for God, through them.”

In 1960 a Father Solanus Guild was formed in Detroit to aid Capuchin seminarians. By 1967 the guild had 5,000 members—many of them grateful recipients of his practical advice and his comforting assurance that God would not abandon them in their trials. He was declared Venerable in 1995.

James Patrick Derum, Father Solanus’ biographer, writes that eventually Father Solanus was weary from bearing the burdens of the people who visited him. “Long since, he had come to know the Christ-taught truth that pure love of God and one’s fellowmen as children of God, are in the final event all that matter. Living this truth ardently and continuously had made him, spiritually, a free man—free from slavery to passions, from self-seeking, from self-indulgence, from self-pity—free to serve wholly both God and man”.

Father Maurice Casey, the blood brother of Father Solanus, was once in a sanitarium near Baltimore and was annoyed at the priest-chaplain there. Father Solanus wrote his brother: “God could have established his Church under supervision of angels that have no faults or weaknesses. But who can doubt that as it stands today, consisting of and under the supervision of poor sinners—successors to the ‘poor sinner fishermen of Galilee’; the Church is a more outstanding miracle than any other way?”

Truly, it is not through our efforts or talents or skill or virtue or lack thereof that the Church has persisted these two millenia or will persist or will be changed for the better, in this world, in this life; quite frankly, it is in spite of such or its lack.  Only inasmuch as those things cooperate with, in and through His Grace, does the Church persist and will persist and grow in holiness.  He is its One Foundation.

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-Ryan Blute, who credits his cure from cancer to the intercession of Ven Solanus “Barney” Casey. The high school junior keeps a relic of Solanus in his wallet when he goes for scans at the hospital and when he took the SAT. “When I need help, he’s always with me,” Ryan said.

“Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger people.  Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks.”  -Ven. Solanus “Barney” Casey

Love,
Matthew

Nov 9 – Solemnity of the Dedication of the Basilica of St John Lateran, 325 AD

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-baptistry of St John Lateran

The Basilica of Saint John Lateran is the cathedral of Rome. It was built during Constantine’s reign and was consecrated by Pope Saint Sylvester I in 324 AD. That church and the adjoining palace were destroyed during the “Babylonian Captivity”, or Avignon Papacy.  The current structure Pope Innocent X commissioned in 1646.

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One of Rome¹s most imposing churches, the Lateran¹s towering facade is crowned with 15 colossal statues of Christ, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist and 12 doctors of the Church. Beneath its high altar rest the remains of the small wooden table on which tradition holds St. Peter himself celebrated Mass.  As the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, containing the papal throne (Cathedra Romana), it ranks above all other churches in the Roman Catholic Church, even above St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

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The basilica itself stands over the remains of the Castra Nova equitum singularium, the ‘new fort’ of the imperial cavalry bodyguard. The fort had been established by Septimius Severus in AD 193, but following the victory over Maxentius (whom the Equites singulares augusti had fought for) at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge by Constantine I the guard were abolished and the fort demolished. Substantial remains of the fort lie directly beneath the basilica nave. The rest of the Basilica site was occupied during the early Roman Empire by the palace of the gens Laterani. The Laterani served as administrators for several emperors; Sextius Lateranus was the first plebeian to attain the rank of consul. One of the Laterani, Consul-designate Plautius Lateranus, became famous for being accused by Nero of conspiracy against the emperor. The accusation resulted in the confiscation and redistribution of his properties.

The Lateran Palace fell into the hands of the emperor when Constantine I married his second wife Fausta, sister of Maxentius. Known by that time as the “Domus Faustae” or “House of Fausta,” the Lateran Palace was eventually given to the Bishop of Rome by Constantine. The actual date of the gift is unknown but scholars believe it had to have been during the pontificate of Pope Miltiades, in time to host a synod of bishops in 313 that was convened to challenge the Donatist schism, declaring Donatism as heresy. The palace basilica was converted and extended, eventually becoming the cathedral of Rome, the seat of the popes as bishops of Rome.

Every pope from Miltiades occupied the Lateran Palace until the reign of the French Pope Clement V, who in 1309 decided to transfer the official seat of the Catholic Church to Avignon, a papal fief that was an enclave within France.  How and why that happened is a, some say very, long story I will spare you at the moment.

During the Avignon papacy, the Lateran Palace and the basilica began to decline. Two destructive fires ravaged the Lateran Palace and the basilica, in 1307 and again in 1361. In both cases, the Avignon papacy sent money to their bishops in Rome to cover the costs of reconstruction and maintenance. Despite the action, the Lateran Palace and the basilica lost their former splendor.

When the Avignon papacy formally ended and the Bishop of Rome again resided in Rome, the Lateran Palace and the basilica were deemed inadequate considering the accumulated damage. The popes took up residency at the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere and later at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Eventually, the Palace of the Vatican was built (adjacent to the Basilica of St. Peter, that already existed at the Vatican since the time of Constantine), and the papacy moved in; the papacy remains there today.

This feast was later made a universal celebration in honor of the basilica in reflection of the basilica’s primacy in the world as mother church.  The words: “Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput” are incised in the main door, meaning “Most Holy Lateran Church, of all the churches in the city and the world, the mother and head.”. This feast was established as a sign of love for and union with the See of Saint Peter for the entire Universal Church.

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The square in front of the Lateran Palace has a red-granite obelisk, the largest in the world, commissioned by Pharaoh Thuthmose III and completed by his grandson Thutmose IV in Karnak, and placed in the Circus Maximus before being re-erected in its current place.  Truly, suggestive of, to me, King of Kings.

Love,
Matthew

Nov 1 – Solemnity of All Saints

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I realize, as a Catholic, not all Christians, perhaps not all Catholics, and certainly not most non-Christians subscribe with enthusiasm to “I believe in…the communion of saints,…”( –Apostle’s Creed, the ancient baptismal creed of the Church).  Yet, a wise priest I know once said to me, “Get over it!  It’s a Christian Hall of Fame!”

Football has a hall of fame; baseball has a hall of fame; nations have halls of fame, why not Christianity?  Critics of the saints contend they have the potential to deflect worship from God directly; with respect, I firmly believe they amplify our worship of God directly.  By showing us how the Gospel might actually be lived in this life they, in fact, not only amplify our worship of God directly, they echo it so loudly and so clearly that the Glory of God resonates back into our “real world”; applied Christianity.

It is most encouraging to a weak and back-sliding sinner like me to read of the Apostles stumbling and fumbling around.  (I sometimes picture Jesus like Moe Howard of the Three Stooges wanting to knock their heads together like Larry and Curly because they just don’t get it, saying “OK, you numbskulls!” with that perfect, unique, hollow coconut sound effect in the background.  I know, I know, not very Jesus-like.  Love my enemies?  Pray for my persecutors?  Bless those who curse me?  Forgive and forgive and forgive? C’mon what are you smokin’?)

Eventually, no pun intended, they did get it.  Tradition holds only John died a natural death.

These men and women, whom we call saints, many deeply and profoundly flawed often for the majority of their lives, finally got it and often in glorious and earth shaking ways.  It gives me hope for myself that there is hope I might “get it” even just a little more before I meet the Lord face-to-face, God willing.

I also take great solace when reading the Lives of the Saints when I come across a challenge or a crisis of faith similar to what I have experienced or what I know others have experienced and how the saints, real men and women, suffered under similar circumstances or even much more dramatic ones, and what their non-intuitive, non-instinctual, but rather Christ-like response ultimately was.

I am an engineer I know because I can never be satisfied with pure theory, knowledge for the sake of knowledge; but, rather, I have an internal need to solve practical, “real world” problems, applied knowledge for the sake of a practical benefit.  Scientists = pure science, knowledge simply for the sake of having new or more knowledge; engineers = applied science, knowledge for the sake of obtaining a practical benefit.  And so, I have a deep affection, resonance, and amazement at the lives of the saints and their applied Christianity.  Who needs Hollywood or soap operas, these stories are great!

If, at times, you could use a little encouragement in your struggles and on your faith journey, as I regularly do, I highly recommend familiarizing yourself more fully with lives of some of the Christian saints.  I would be amazed if you could not take great courage and solace from them as I have often been able to do.

“No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.”
-St Ignatius of Antioch, 107 AD, third bishop of Antioch, Syria (St Peter, tradition holds, was the first bishop of Antioch, before becoming bishop of Rome), in his last letter to the Roman Christian community, on his way to execution by exposure to wild beasts in the Flavian amphitheater in Rome.  He was also the first Christian writer to use the term “catholic” = universal and apply it to the Church.

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-“The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs”, by Fra Angelico, (about 1423-24) Tempera on wood, 31,9 x 63,5 cm cm National Gallery, London, please click on the image for greater detail.

“O holy souls that now rejoice without fear of losing your joy and are forever absorbed in the praises of my God! Happy indeed, your lot! How right that you should employ yourselves ceaselessly in these praises! and how my soul envies you, free as you now are from the affliction caused by the grievous offenses which in these unhappy days are committed against my God! No longer do you behold all the ingratitude of men and their blindness nor the multitude of souls being carried away by Satan.

O blessed, heavenly souls! Help us in our misery and intercede for us with the divine Mercy, so that we may be granted some part of your joy and you may share with us some of that clear knowledge which is now yours.

And You, O my God, make us understand what it is that You give to those who fight manfully through the dream of this miserable life. Help us, O loving souls, to understand what joy it gives you to behold the eternity of your bliss and what delight to possess the certain knowledge that it will never end.

O blessed souls, who knew so well how to profit by the gifts of God, and to purchase with this precious ransom so delectable and enduring a heritage, tell us how you won through Him such an eternal blessing! Assist us, since you are so near the Fountainhead. Draw water for those of us on earth who are perishing with thirst” (Teresa of Jesus, Exclamations of the Soul to God, 13).

O saints of heaven, I am the least of all creatures. I know my worthlessness, but I also know how noble and generous hearts love to do good. Therefore, O blessed inhabitants of the heavenly City, I entreat you to adopt me as your child. All the glory you may help me to acquire will be yours; deign, then, to hear my prayer and obtain for me … your love …” (Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul, 13).

Prayer to All the Saints

Lord, Your Beloved now live in eternal happiness and in the fullness of Your glory.  Because of their love of You, they also care about me and my family, my friends, my church, and my neighbors, everyone.  Thank you for the gift of their holy lives and their witness of their love for You.  I ask them to intercede for me and my intentions and for those whom I love.  I ask them to help us journey safely to You.  Lord, give us their protection, so we too may come to enjoy the joy You have promised those who remain faithful to You.

Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Nov 7 – Blessed John Duns Scotus, OFM, (1265-1308), Defender of the Immaculate Conception

You may have heard of the Knights Templar in scandal-invecting modern fiction such as The DaVinci Code, et al.  Blessed John was a contemporary and was affected by the intrigues of King Phillip the Fair of France.  We fear, through superstition, whenever the 13th of a month falls on a Friday thanks and due to Phillip’s persecution, unjustified, of the Knights Templar on Friday, October 13, 1307.

His most famous victim, Templar Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, cried out from the flames as he was burning March 18, 1314 about Pope Clement, who had acquiesced to Philip’s avaricious and power-seeking threats and demands, and Philip, who owed the Templars A LOT of money!  Why pay them if you can just kill them and seize their property? The Templar Grand Master cried out from the flames that Pope Clement and King Philip would soon meet him before God:  “Dieu sait qui a tort et a pëché. Il va bientot arriver malheur à ceux qui nous ont condamnés à mort” = “God knows who is wrong and has sinned. Soon a calamity will occur to those who have condemned us to death.”  Pope Clement died only a month later, and King Philip died in a hunting accident before the end of the year.

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-King Phillip IV (the Fair = pretty, not just), 1268-1314

Blessed John Duns Scotus, a Franciscan priest and theologian of the 13th century, next to St. Bonaventure, is perhaps the most important and influential theologian in the history of the Franciscan Order. He was the founder of the Scotistic School in Theology, and until the time of the French Revolution his thought dominated the Roman Catholic faculties of theology in nearly all the major universities of Europe. He is chiefly known for his theology on the Absolute Kingship of Jesus Christ, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his philosophic refutation of the evolution of morality.  The doctrines for which he is best known are the “univocity of being,” that existence is the most abstract concept we have, applicable to everything that exists; the formal distinction, a way of distinguishing between different aspects of the same thing; and the idea of haecceity, the property supposed to be in each individual thing that makes it an individual. Scotus also developed a complex argument for the existence of God.

Bl. John Duns Scotus was born in Duns, Berwickshire, Scotland, around 1265. He was immediately baptized after birth and was named after St. John the Evangelist. He received a solid Christian formation from home and from the parish priest. He frequented the Cistercian Abbey of Melrose for his catechism lessons. There, he absorbed the ardent love for the Mother of God which St. Bernard had left as a patrimony to the Cistercians.

As a little boy, Bl. John suffered very much from the obtuseness of his intellect. He wanted to read, to write and to study the profundity of the truths of the Faith, but his mind just could not manage to learn or understand anything. By means of with prayers and sighs, he had recourse to Mary, the Seat of Wisdom, asking her to heal his dullness so that he could advance in his studies. Mary appeared to him and granted his request. Going back to school, the “pea-brained” could only astonish his classmates and teachers. Bl. John resolved to make use of the heavenly gift of sublime intelligence, above all, to glorify the sweet and glorious Virgin Mary, treasurer of every good.

In Roman Catholicism, the epithet (in its positive sense, as in a title) “the Seat of Wisdom” or “Throne of Wisdom” (Sedes Sapientiae) is identified with one of many devotional titles for the Mother of God. In ancient times, authority “sat” and everyone else stood.  That is why thrones were important.  The only one(s) who sat were the most important ones in the room.  We still carry this concept in our language as in “chairman”.  In church or in Roman court, the judge sat, i.e. “all rise!”, and celebrants in church sat, parishioners stood.  Universal pews in church are a recent Protestant invention.  Thank you!  You can still see evidence of this in the great cathedrals of Europe where impermanent wooden benches occupy the space previously for the standing congregation.

The phrase, “Seat of Wisdom”, which was characterized in the 11th and 12th centuries, by St Peter Damian and Guibert de Nogent as likening Mary to the Throne of Solomon, refers to her status as a vessel of the Incarnation, carrying the Holy Child. As the phrase associates the Blessed Virgin with glory and with teaching, Madonna-images in this tradition are especially popular in Catholic imagery.

Mary, Seat of Wisdom

In Christian iconography, Sedes Sapientiae (“The Throne of Wisdom”) is an icon of the Mother of God in majesty. When the Virgin is depicted in sedes sapientiae icons and sculptural representations, she is seated on a throne, with the Christ Child on her lap.  This type of madonna-image, appeared in a wide range of sculptural and, later, painted images in Western Europe, especially about 1200.

In these representations, some structural elements of the throne invariably appear, even if only handholds and front legs. For hieratic purposes, the Virgin’s feet often rest on a low stool. Later, Gothic sculptures of the type are more explicitly identifiable with the Throne of Solomon, where:  “…two lions stood, one at each hand. And twelve little lions stood upon the six steps on the one side and on the other.” (I Kings 10: 18–20, repeated at II Chronicles 9: 17–19)  The Sedes Sapientiae icon also appeared in illuminated manuscripts, and Romanesque frescoes and mosaics, and was represented on seals.

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-Madonna as Seat of Wisdom, January, 1199, poplar wood, from the Camaldolese abbey in Borgo San Sepolcro near Arezzo, Italy.  The inscription reads, in part, “On the mother’s bosom shines the wisdom of the Father.”

At the age of 15, Bl. John entered the novititate of the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans) at Dumfries, in the Kingdom of Scotland. There he made praiseworthy progress day by day in piety and in seraphic virtue. After a year he consecrated himself to God by the religious profession of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He was then sent for his studies in various theological schools of the Order. He was ordained a priest by Msgr. Oliver Sutton, Bishop of Lincoln, England, on March 17, 1291, at the church of St. Andrew of the Monks of Cluny. After his ordination, he began a series of travels between England and France to pursue advanced philosophical and theological studies.

The Blessed Virgin Appears to Bl. John

During the night of Christmas, 1299 at the Oxford Convent, Bl. John, immersed in his contemplation of the adorable mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, was rapt in ecstasy. The Blessed Mother appeared to him and placed on his arms the Child Jesus who kissed and embraced him fondly. This was perhaps the occasion which inspired Bl. John to write so profoundly and fluently on the absolute primacy of Christ and the reason for the Incarnation. Christ’s Incarnation, which is decreed from all eternity even apart from the Redemption, is the supreme created manifestation of God’s love.

Bl. John at the University of Oxford, England

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-plaque, University Church, Oxford University, honoring Bl John Duns Scotus, OFM

After about four years of teaching at Oxford and Cambridge, at the end of 1301, Bl. John returned to Paris. He was granted his bachelor’s degree in theology. Later, on the vigil of receiving his doctorate, he had to leave France suddenly, to return to England. Philip, the Fair, in a disgraceful quarrel with Pope Boniface VIII demanded all clerics, nobles religious, bishops and the University of Paris to appeal to the Council against the Pope. Bl. John Duns Scotus, among the few members of the faculty, refused to accede to the wishes of the King, who wanted to tax the Church to finance his war with England, and chose the way of exile, sometime between the 25th and 28th of June 1308.

After a year, the situation abated and Bl. John was back again at the University of Paris where he received the doctorate in theology and thus inaugurated his official professorship which was to lead him to singular glory among the great medieval scholastics. Soon the fame of his genius and learning spread abroad and students came in great numbers to attend the lectures of the new master. On account of his habit of making refined distinctions during theologic argumentation, the title “Subtle Doctor”(Doctor Subtilis) was conferred on him by his contemporaries.

Rodulphus wrote of him: “There was nothing so recondite, nothing so abstruse that his keen mind could not fathom and clarify; nothing so knotty, that he like another Oedupus, could not unravel, nothing so fraught with difficulty or enveloped in darkness that his genius could not expound.” Another author wrote: “He described the Divine Nature as if he had seen God; the celestial spirits as if he had been an angel; the happiness of the future state as if he had enjoyed them; and the ways of Providence as if he had penetrated into its secrets.”

Bl. John’s Defense of the Immaculate Conception

It was also in Paris that Bl. John came to be called as the “Marian Doctor” after he championed the privilege of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. In England, Bl. John taught the truth of this Marian privilege without any opposition. But at Paris the situation was reversed. The academic body of the University admitted only the purification of Mary in the womb of Her mother St. Anne, like St. John the Baptist.

Alexander of Hales, St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas, the great Parisian Masters, were not able to solve the problem of the universality of original sin and of the efficacy of Christ’s Redemption. They thought that even the Blessed Virgin Mary was included in this universality, and therefore subject to contract the original stain even if only for an instant, so that she may also be redeemed.

Scotus in his attempt to introduce and teach a theological position different from that upheld by the university, had to appear in a public dispute before the whole academic body, at the risk of expulsion from the university if he failed to defend his doctrine. Bl. John Scotus prepared himself for the event in prayer and recollection and in total confidence to the Immaculate Virgin, the Seat of Wisdom.

When the fixed day of the dispute arrived, on leaving the convent, he passed before a statue of Our Lady as we might pass before the photo of a loved one and recall them to mind, and with suppliant voice entreated her: “Allow me to praise You, O Most Holy Virgin; give me strength against your enemies.” Our Lady responded with a prodigious visible sign: the head of the statue moved and bowed slightly before him. It was as if to say: “Yes I will give you all the strength you need.”

Two Papal legates presided over the dispute. Then with powerful dialectic and with deep and subtle reasoning, Bl. Scotus refuted all the objections of the learned men in attendance, undermining the foundation of every argument contrary to Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Bl. John Scotus pointed out: “The Perfect Redeemer, must in some case, have done the work of redemption most perfectly, which would not be, unless there is some person, at least, in whose regard, the wrath of God was anticipated and not merely appeased.” Bl. John triumphed. From that day the University of Paris took up the same cause to defend this privilege of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The following hymn is a Christian hymn from the 4th century AD.  It is one of the five antiphons for the psalms of Second Vespers for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec 8, nine months before the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, or the day Mary’s birthday is celebrated in the Church, Sep 8.  It takes some text from the deutero-canonical book of Judith, and other text from Song of Songs (Solomon), specifically 4:7.

Tota pulchra es, Maria,
et macula originalis non est in te.
Vestimentum tuum candidum quasi nix, et facies tua sicut sol.
Tota pulchra es, Maria,
et macula originalis non est in te.
Tu gloria Jerusalem, tu laetitia Israel, tu honorificentia populi nostri.
Tota pulchra es, Maria.

You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain [of sin] is not in you.
Your clothing is white as snow, and your face is like the sun.
You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain [of sin] is not in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you give honor to our people.
You are all beautiful, Mary.

Bl. John’s Death and Beatification

Bl. John Duns Scotus had to leave the university at Paris one more time, partly for some political reasons and partly because some doubts had been cast on his theology by opponents. The Franciscan Minister General sent Scotus to Cologne, Germany, where he lectured for some time in the Franciscan house of studies until his untimely death on 8th November, 1308, barely 43 years of age. He was called “blessed” almost immediately after his death.

Bl John Duns Scotus is buried in the Church of the Franciscans in Cologne, Germany. His sarcophagus bears the Latin inscription: “Scotia me genuit. Anglia me suscepit. Gallia me docuit. Colonia me tenet. = “Scotland brought me forth. England sustained me. France taught me. Cologne holds me.”  According to an old tradition, Scotus was believed eventually to have been buried alive following his lapse into a coma, a common hazard until modern times, i.e. Edgar Allen Poe.

Through the centuries his tomb has been visited by large numbers of the faithful and public veneration has been offered to him in the dioceses of Edinburgh, Scotland, Nola, Italy, and Cologne, Germany, as well as throughout the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans).

The Dunce Cap

dunce_cap

The word “dunce” comes from the name of John Duns Scotus, a Scholastic, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scholasticism ,whose followers were called “duns” or “dunsmen”. Duns Scotus wrote treatises on grammar, logic, and metaphysics which were widely used as textbooks in the medieval British universities. As the English Renaissance began and the new learning superseded Duns Scotus’ theories, his adherents remained loyal. The word “dunce” then began to be used by humanists to ridicule the Scholastics, gradually acquiring its modern meaning.

Frequently the ‘dunce’ was made to stand in the corner (I remember having to do this, sans the cap), facing the wall as the result of some bad behavior, usually rudeness or mean threatening actions. Depending on the teacher, they might have to stand for as long as half an hour and throwers of spitballs or pulling on a girl’s hair (Heaven!:)  could prompt the measure.   Class clowns were frequently admonished with the dunce cap.  Who?  Me?  C’est moi.

Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception & Beatification of John Duns Scotus

In 1854, Pope Pius IX solemnly declared that the Marian doctrine of Bl. John , was a correct expression of the faith of the Apostles: “at the first moment of Her conception, Mary was preserved free from the stain of original sin, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ.”  The seal of the Church’s approval was also placed on Bl. John’s doctrine on the universal primacy of Christ when the feast of Christ the King was instituted in 1925. On March 20, 1992 Bl. John Duns Scotus was beatified by Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Bl. John Duns Scotus, “The minstrel of the Word Incarnate” and “Defender of Mary’s Immaculate Conception” is presented by Pope John Paul II to our age “wealthy of human, scientific and technological resources, but in which many have lost the sense of faith and lead lives distant from Christ and His Gospel,” as “a Teacher of thought and life.” For the Church, Bl John is “an example of fidelity to the revealed truth, of effective, priestly, and serious dialogue in search for unity.” It was also the Holy Father’s hope that “Bl John’s spirit and memory enlighten with the very light of Christ the trials and hope of our society.”

Blessed-John-Duns-Scotus

-Bl John Duns Scotus

Intercession of Mary, Seat of Wisdom, is often wisely sought out by students.  You know of my particular sympathy/affection for students, especially the ones who have to work a little, or a lot, harder for satisfactory results.  God does work miracles!  Deo gratias!  It’s a miracle! (With a little help from humane professors!)

Prayer of Students to Mary, Seat of Wisdom

Under your patronage, dear Mother, and calling on the mystery of your Immaculate Conception, I desire to pursue my studies and my literary works: I hereby solemnly declare that I am giving myself to these studies chiefly with the following goal: that I may the better contribute to the glory of God and to the promotion of your veneration among men. I ask you, therefore, most loving Mother, who are the Seat of Wisdom, to bless my work in your loving-kindness. I also promise with true affection and a willing spirit, as it is right that I should do, to ascribe all the good that shall come to me from my studies, wholly to your intercession for me in God’s holy presence.

Amen.

Consecration of Students to Mary, Seat of Wisdom

O Mary, Seat of Wisdom, so many persons of common intellect have made, through your intercession, admirable progress in their studies.
I hereby choose you as guardian and patron of my studies. I humbly ask you to obtain for me the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that from now on I could understand more quickly, retain more readily, and express myself more fluently.  May the example of my life serve to honor you and your Son, Jesus. Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving for the wisdom Blessed John Duns Scotus

Heavenly Father, you filled Bl. John Duns Scotus with wisdom, and through his life and teaching gave us a witness of Your Incarnate love. May we come to understand more deeply what he taught so that we may live in ever growing charity.  Amen.

Prayer for the Canonization of Blessed John Duns Scotus

O Most High, Almightily and gracious Lord, Who exalts the humble and confounds the proud of heart, grant us the great joy of seeing Blessed John Duns Scotus canonized. He honored Your Son with the most sublime praises; he was the first to successfully defend the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary; he lived in heroic obedience to the Holy Father, to the Church and to the Seraphic Order. O most holy Father, God of Infinite Love, hear, we beseech You, our humble prayer, thorough the merits of Your Only-Begotten Son and His Mother, the Gate of Heaven, Seat of Wisdom, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“The learned will shine like the brilliance of the firmament,
and those who train many in the way of justice
will sparkle like the stars for all eternity.”
-Daniel 12:3

Love,
Matthew