Category Archives: October

Oct 15 – Preachers & Mystics

I have been reading a great deal about Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, recently.


-by Br Juan Macias Marquez, OP

“In recalling today’s feast of the glorious and spirited reformer St. Teresa of Avila, I can’t help but recall, as a Dominican myself, the great gifts that the Order of Preachers and the Carmelites together have given to the Church. This is particularly noted in the interaction between the intellectual contributions of the Dominicans and the mystical legacy of the Carmelites.

One of the most dynamic engagements between the two Orders began in Spain’s famed siglo de oro, the Golden Age. During this period, Spain experienced an incredible flourishing in nearly all of the liberal arts and also a revival in philosophical and theological Scholasticism and Catholic mysticism. Catholic Spain had become arguably the stronghold of the Faith after the onset of the Reformation, especially with the unification of the peninsula by los Reyes Católicos, Fernando II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. As a result, an orthodox and vibrant Catholic renewal was fostered. With regards to the intellectual life, the Dominican Francisco de Vitoria helped establish the historic tradition of academic excellence and made expansive developments in law and philosophy at the school of Salamanca. After him would come many learned friar preachers, like Domingo de Soto and Domingo Bañez, seeking to preach not only to Spaniards but to all those they might meet in the New World.

In mysticism, we find the two chief figures, both Carmelites, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. These two legendary reformers were for the most part not directly involved with the schoolmen but neither were they far removed from them. Their culture still retained a dogged commitment to the medieval understanding of the integral nature of the Catholic life; one did not separate intellectual study and the mystical life with as strong a tendency as is common today. For example, St. Teresa herself was a voracious reader, and she was not afraid to make this known, which was bold for a woman in the sixteenth century. In addition, she insisted that her sisters “go from time to time beyond their ordinary confessors and talk about their souls with persons of learning, especially if the confessors, though good men, have no learning; for learning is a great help in giving light upon everything” (The Way of Perfection, Ch. 5). Especially as the reformer of the Carmelite monasteries, she knew that establishing a firm intellectual foundation grounded in the font of the Church’s wisdom would be necessary if her reform was going to perdure. She would pick, for a large portion of her life, a succession of Dominican confessors and advisors trained in the rigorous intellectual tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas. The most famous of those that St. Teresa sought out was the aforementioned Domingo Bañez. He was her confessor for six years and her advisor off and on for many more.

Jumping ahead a few centuries, we stumble upon a daughter of the holy Mother Teresa, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity. It was not the case for St. Elizabeth that she sought out a Dominican confessor or director, but it happened that Divine Providence allotted her one. The preaching of Fr. Irénée Vallée, a popular Dominican preacher in France at the time, captivated her, becoming one of the catalysts for her deep growth in the spiritual life. Saint Elizabeth spent a meager twenty-six years on this earth, so the development of her interior life happened rather quickly. Many of her writings attest to the great advances she made in the understanding of divine mysteries as a result of the doctrine she learned from Fr. Valleé. The friar also was edified by the future saint. He readily refers to her as his daughter. So, here too we see a similar edifying relationship between a Dominican spiritual director and a Carmelite nun.

The last mention goes to the great spiritual master of the twentieth century, Fr. Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange. Father Lagrange is arguably most well known for his project of fusing the thought of St. John of the Cross and St. Thomas Aquinas in his spiritual theology. He recognized the obvious foundations of St. John’s mystical theology on Thomistic principles and thought that he could reunite these disciplines, which were becoming more and more disparate in modern times. He wanted to prove that the serious Christian could find spiritual nourishment in rigorous Scholasticism and the mystical tradition. In his project, Fr. Lagrange shows the fecundity of the relationship between the charisms of the two Orders.

In this fallen world, harmonious things often become separated over time. The saints and theologians mentioned above are a refreshing witness to the power of collaboration for the building up and unification of God’s kingdom. Let us, then, call upon St. Teresa of Avila to help us to live more fruitful, unified lives in the mystical body of Christ.”

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks with
Compassion on this world.

Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are His body.

Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks with
Compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Love,
Matthew

Oct 25 – Sts Chrysanthus & Daria of Rome, (d. 283 AD), Husband & Wife, Martyrs – reading your way into the Church

I have heard in my “travels” of the evangelistic kind, of adults converting to Catholicism by “reading their way into the Church”. Hence, this blog. All is grace.

-by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

“Saint Chrysanthus is one of the many who have experienced how useful and beneficial is the reading of devout books, especially the Gospel. He was born of heathen parents. Polemius his father, stood so high with the emperor, that he was raised to the dignity of a Senator. Chrysanthus’ greatest pleasure was reading; and one day, by special Providence, the Gospel fell into his hands. He read it through most attentively; but not being able to comprehend it, he secretly requested a Christian to explain it to him. This Christian procured him an opportunity to speak to Carpophorus, a holy and very learned priest, who explained to him all he desired to know, and, with the divine assistance, succeeded so well, that Chrysanthus recognized the falsity of the heathen gods, as well as the truth of the Christian religion, and having been properly instructed, he received holy baptism. After this, he appeared no more at the heathen theatres and sacrifices, but associated with Christians, which awakened in his father the suspicion that his son either desired to adopt the faith of Christ, or perhaps was already enrolled among the number of the faithful.


-statue of Saint Chysanthus, Catholic Parish of Saints Chysanthus and Daria, Welcherath, Germany

He called him to account, and as Chrysanthus fearlessly confessed the truth, the angry father cast him into a damp and dark prison, determined to let him die there of hunger. As, however, after a few days, he found him as strong as ever, and as firm in confessing Christ as he had been before, he resorted to other and more horrible means to compel him to forsake Christ. He confined him in a room most luxuriously fitted up, and sent several wicked young women to tempt him, believing that this would be the easiest manner of bringing him back to idolatry. When the first of these women entered, and the chaste Chrysanthus became aware of her intention, he cried loudly to God for assistance, most solemnly declaring that he would much rather die than offend Him. He endeavored to flee, but the room was locked. Hence he did all that was possible under the circumstances. He turned his face away, shut his eyes and closed his ears with both hands, while he continued to pray to the mighty God for assistance. His prayers went to heaven; for the woman was suddenly seized with so invincible a drowsiness, that she sank to the floor, and was carried out of the room. The same happened to the second and the third; and the Saint, recognizing the hand of the Almighty in it, gave due thanks to heaven.

Polemius, however, ascribed it all to witchcraft, and sought in another manner to compass his design. He persuaded Daria, a virgin consecrated to the service of Minerva, to marry his son, in order to draw him gradually away from the Christian faith and bring him back to the gods. Daria consented, and Polemius bringing her to Chrysanthus, introduced her as his future spouse. Chrysanthus, conversing for some time alone with her, told her that he was a Christian, and making her acquainted with the reasons which had induced him to become converted, he succeeded, by the grace of God, in making her promise to embrace the true faith. Not satisfied with this, he explained to her how priceless a treasure chastity is, adding that he was determined to preserve it unspotted. He also said to her that he was willing to marry her, to give her the opportunity of becoming a Christian, but only if she was willing that they should live in perpetual continence. Daria consented cheerfully, after which Chrysanthus announced to his father that he was ready to make Daria his wife.


-statue of Saint Daria of Rome, Catholic Parish of Saints Chysanthus and Daria, Welcherath, Germany

Polemius, greatly rejoiced, ordered a splendid wedding, after which the newly-married couple lived as they had agreed upon, in virginal chastity. Soon after, Daria was secretly baptized, and endeavored to lead an edifying life with her spouse. Both assisted, to the best of their ability, the oppressed Christians, and also used every opportunity to bring the infidels to the knowledge of the true God. For a time they were not molested; but when, at length, Celerinus, the Governor, was informed of their conduct; he gave Claudius, the Praetor, orders to investigate the matter. Hence, Chrysanthus was brought into the Temple of Jupiter to sacrifice to the idols, after the manner of the pagans. As he refused to do this, he was scourged so dreadfully, that he doubtless would have died, had not God preserved him by a miracle. After this, he was dragged, laden with heavy chains, into a dark hole, into which all the sewers of the prison emptied. Being locked up in this foul place, the holy man called on the Almighty, and suddenly the darkness around him gave away to a heavenly light; a delicious odor filled the air, and he was freed from his heavy chains. Claudius, in consequence of this and other miracles, desired to be baptized, with his wife, Hilaria, his two sons, Maurus and Jason, and seventy soldiers who were under his command. The emperor was greatly enraged when this news was reported to him, and ordered Claudius drowned, Hilaria hanged, and Maurus and Jason beheaded.

Meanwhile, Daria also was imprisoned on account of her belief in the Christian faith. She evinced, however, no less fortitude than her holy spouse. She was taken into a house of ill-repute to be a prey to wicked men. Daria, in this danger, called on the great protector of the innocent, and God caused a lion to break from his place of confinement and come running to her, as if to guard her from all harm. When the first man entered the room where the chaste virgin was, the lion seized him, threw him to the ground, and then looked up to Daria, as if to ask her whether he should kill him or not. The tender martyr helped the trembling youth to rise, and reproaching him for his wickedness, she exhorted him to do penance, and succeeded in persuading him to become a Christian. The same happened to two others, who, like the first, left her converted. The tyrant raged when he heard of it, and commanded fire to be set to the room in which Daria was, that she might be burnt with the lion. When the fire was kindled, Daria made the sign of the holy cross over her protector, the lion, and sent him away through the flames uninjured. She herself also remained unharmed, though the room was burnt to ashes. Many other miracles were wrought by her and by Saint Chrysanthus, in consequence of which a great many heathens were converted. At last, both were sentenced to be thrown into a deep sand pit outside the city, near the Via Salaria Nova where, covered with stones and sand, they were buried alive, in the year 283 AD.


-The Martyrdom of Saints Chrysanthus and Daria of Rome; Menologion of Basil II, Menologion of Basileiou; 11th century illuminated Byzantine manuscript with 430 miniatures; Vatican Library; Italy

Considerations

Saint Chrysanthus shut his eyes and closed his ears with both hands, that he might not see nor hear those who had been sent to tempt him. Oh! how wisely he acted! Numberless persons have fallen into vice and have been precipitated into hell, because they did not guard their eyes from gazing on dangerous persons and objects; or because they listened to flatteries or to impure words and songs. Death came upon them through eyes and ears, like a thief through the window. If they had turned their eyes away and closed their ears, if they had left those who spoke immodestly and sang lascivious songs, they would not have become guilty of sin, and would not have been cast into the depth of hell. The pious king David would not have fallen, if he had not been careless in the use of his eyes. And where would he be, if he had not done penance? The beginning of the misfortunes which assailed the strong Samson, and which ended in his death, was his gazing upon Delilah. Sichem, a noble prince, was tempted to sin, as we are told in Holy Writ, by looking upon the imprudent Dina, and being soon after murdered, was cast into hell. We omit innumerable others whose ruin began in the same manner. Each of these shall cry out, during all eternity: “My eye,” (my ear) “has wasted my soul” (Lament iii.). Imprudent looking about and listening robbed them of their innocence, their piety, the grace and friendship of God, and at last, of salvation. If you do not wish to experience the same, keep your eyes, your ears, and in fact all your senses under control. “Hedge in thy ears with thorns,” admonishes the Wise Man, “hear not a wicked tongue.” (Eccl., xxviii.) “Those who listen voluntarily to sinful speeches, give death permission to enter through the window,” writes Saint Theodore. “The eyes are the leaders of sin,” says Saint Jerome. “To preserve purity of heart, it is necessary to keep a guard over our exterior senses,” says Saint Gregory.

Saint Chrysanthus and Saint Daria were thrown into the greatest danger to sin. They were tempted, but without their fault. They resisted, called on God, and did all in their power not to yield, and God protected them from consenting to do wrong. As these Saints were subjected to exterior temptations, so are many souls tempted interiorly; some through their own fault, others without the reproach of the slightest guilt. To the former belong those who spend their time in idleness; who are intemperate in eating and drinking; who neglect prayer and other good works; who, without reason, seek dangerous company, assist at indecent plays, read unchaste or sensational books; who look at persons immodestly dressed or at unclean pictures; who like to listen to, or indulge in improper jests, or songs; who play indecent games; delight in wanton dances and amusements; make friends and acquaintances of persons of little or no virtue; in short, those who in their manners and actions, dispense with Christian modesty. All these can blame only themselves when they suffer from unclean temptations; they themselves give occasion to them. But there are many who, though they avoid all this, are still violently tempted, as was the case with many Saints in this world. These are not to be blamed for their temptations, as they have not, by their conduct, occasioned them.

The former have every reason to fear that they will commit great sins in consequence of the temptations which they themselves have caused; for it is written: “He that loveth the danger, shall perish in it.” (Eccl., iii.) No one will believe such people when they say that they are sorry to be troubled by such temptations. If this is the truth, why then do they give occasion to them? To imagine that these temptations can easily be overcome, without the divine assistance, is presumption; for, God has nowhere promised His aid to those who throw themselves into danger. They are not worthy of it. What else then, can they expect but that they will frequently fall into sin, and finally into hell? Quite differently must those be judged who are tempted without their own fault. If they do all they can, and pray to God for help, they will not be overcome, but may be assured that the Almighty will assist them, as they manifest their love and fidelity to Him by avoiding everything that may lead them into temptation. And who can believe that God will forsake His faithful servants in their fight?

For the two Saints, whose festival we celebrate today, and for many others, He worked miracles to protect them in their danger. Hence, never give occasion to temptations; and if they nevertheless assail you, trust in God; call on Him, and resist bravely. The whole of hell will be unable to conquer you; for, the Almighty will be your protector. “He is a protector of all who trust in Him.” (Psalm xvii.) “He is a protector in the time of trouble, and the Lord will help and deliver them.” (Psalm xxxvi.)”

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In 2008 the Reggio Emilia Cathedral in Modena in Northern Italy faced renovations. The workers discovered more than 300 bones belonging to two skeletons in one of the sealed crypts. The skulls were packed inside a pair of silver-and-gold busts deep in a cathedral vault. The relics of Daria & Chrysanthus were venerated and displayed. Carbon dating showed they belonged to a young man and a young woman in their late teens with a radiocarbon date between AD 80 and AD 340.


-the skull of Daria


-Daria


-before the altar

Love,
Matthew

Oct 1 – St Therese of Lisieux, OCD, (1873-1897), “The Little Flower”, of the Child Jesus & the Holy Face, Religious & Doctor of the Church

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” – St. Thérèse of Lisieux

St. Thérèse was born in France on January 2, 1873. She was raised in a family of great faith, and when Thérèse was nine years old, her older sister, Pauline, entered the Carmelite monastery of Lisieux. Thérèse idolized her older sister, and became determined, as well, to become a Carmelite nun for Jesus’ sake. While still of a young age, St. Thérèse made her plans formally known but was informed by the authorities that she would need to wait until age 21 to join Carmel. Even so, she was also informed that she could always ask the Bishop for special permission to enter the monastery at an earlier age. Being the determined girl she was, St. Thérèse did just that.

Journeying to Rome, along with her father, Thérèse visited Bishop Hugonin of Bayeux to seek early permission to join the Carmelite order. The Bishop was surprised at St. Therese’s determination and also by her father’s support. But the Bishop said he needed time to think further about her request. Undaunted, St. Thérèse immediately appealed to a higher authority: the Pope himself. St. Thérèse and her father actually secured an audience with the Pope and while the Pope was impressed by her determination, advised her, nonetheless, to listen to her superiors, assuring her that if God, indeed, willed it, she would certainly enter Carmel as a nun. Ultimately, St. Thérèse did just that, taking the Carmelite habit at Lisieux at 16 years of age.

In her autobiography, Story of a Soul, St. Thérèse writes about a book she loved called, The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life by Father Charles Arminjon.

“All the great truths of religion, the mysteries of eternity, plunged my soul into a state of joy not of this earth. I experienced already what God reserved for those who love Him (not with the eyes, but with the heart); and seeing the eternal rewards had no proportion to life’s small sacrifices, I wanted to love, to love Jesus with a passion. … I copied out several passages on perfect love, on the reception God will give His elect at the moment He becomes their reward, great and eternal, and I repeated over and over the words of love burning in my heart.”

St. Thérèse, though gifted with a determined will, also felt led to “craft” for herself a simple, childlike and joyful spirituality which she called her “Little Way.” In this Little Way, she obediently and graciously served others no matter where she was or what she was doing. We can, as many people of faith have already experienced—find much consolation in the Little Way of St. Thérèse—as we seek to model our lives after her extraordinary simple yet deep spirituality, in its love and generosity towards others wherever we (or they) are in life.”

Love,
Matthew

Oct 16 – St Jose Sanchez del Rio, age 14 – Martyr, “!!Viva Cristo Rey!!”

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-please click on the image for greater detail

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-by Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ

“October 16, 2016, the Church will celebrate the canonization of Bl Jose Sanchez del Rio (pictured above), a 14-year old martyr of the Cristero War, when the Church suffered extreme governmental persecution in Mexico in the 1920s. When he refused to renounce Christ, the boy’s captors tortured him and gave him one last chance to blaspheme. He replied, “Viva Cristo Rey, y Santa Maria de Guadalupe!” He was then repeatedly stabbed and finally shot. Eyewitnesses reported that he drew a cross in the dirt, kissed it, and died.

I’ve been haunted by the story of young Jose since I first learned of him via the movie, “For Greater Glory,” which depicted the Cristero War. How did that 14-year old boy acquire at so young an age such heroic fidelity?

“God’s grace” is the obvious and correct answer—but it is only part of the answer. Grace doesn’t ignore or erase what is human and natural. The Church has always taught that “grace builds on nature.” In other words, that young Jose could be both so faithful and so young says a lot about both God and about Jose. What happened to Jose before his martyrdom that enabled him to receive the grace of martyrdom when it was offered to him?

For the last four weeks, I have been writing here about our collective failure to raise our youth to Christian maturity. The many efforts to make the Faith “fun,” “exciting,” “relevant,” etc., over the past 45 year have not resulted in two generations of mature and confident Catholics who live for the Faith, can hand on the Faith, and are ready to die for the Faith. In the United States, the second largest “denomination” of Christians is former Catholics. Clearly, what we have been doing isn’t working. Who would be willing to wager that what we’re doing now will produce the next generation of saints and martyrs?

So we have to ask: How did young Jose become Saint Jose? Through “clown liturgies”? Through dancers at Mass? T-shirts and light sticks at retreats? Homilies celebrating “diversity, tolerance, acceptance and inclusion”? I can’t say for sure—I wasn’t there.

But whatever else he may have received from those responsible for his spiritual formation, I’m willing to bet that more than once he heard, “We proclaim Christ Crucified!” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24) I’m willing to bet that more than once he heard about “The Four Last Things” (Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.) And I’m willing to bet that he knew how and why to be reverent at Mass, pray the Rosary, make a good Confession, and attend Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction.

In sum, I can assert with confidence that much of what made this young boy into a saint are the same things that for centuries have made saints, namely, precisely those things that we rarely if ever offer to our young people today. Of course, I tremble when I consider whether I or anyone will stand fast when true persecution comes. I tremble more when I look at the last 45 years and the immediate present, and see that we will not have to worry about our youth being driven away from Christ by persecution, when we are already letting them drift away from Christ by the culture and our own fecklessness and wishful thinking.

God will ask us whether we gave to the young entrusted to us what they needed from us to become saints. In particular, He will ask us if we gave them our own good example. My friends, let us repent and pursue sanctity, and teach our children to do the same—for time is running short.

Love,
Matthew

Oct 11 – Bl James of Ulm (Jacob Grissinger/ Griesinger), OP, (1407-1491) – The Art of Obedience

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-paper mache’ covering the remains of Bl James, Basilica of San Domenico, Bologna, Italy.

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-by Br James Wallace, OP, born in New York, James became a Catholic after college, where he earned a degree in applied math.

“I will honor those who honor Me.” – 1 Samuel 2:30

“What would you do? You’ve been working on a project for hours. The end is in sight, and you’ve done well. This might be some of your best work. All that’s left to do is to watch carefully over the final process—a slight error in timing might ruin everything. Suddenly, someone enters the room and tells you that you’re needed elsewhere immediately.

A thousand protests come to mind. Does it have to be right now? Is it really so urgent? Couldn’t it wait for just an hour? Am I the only one who could do this? Who is it that needs me?

It was in a situation just like this that Blessed James of Ulm found himself one day. But he didn’t make any of those protests. The order had come from his superior, and somehow James knew there was nothing to be done but to obey. He immediately left his stained glass window—a labor of love that he had spent days preparing—in the furnace to be ruined. And he went out to beg for his community, as his superior had ordered.

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Someone once said that you can know the depth of a man’s love by how much he is willing to suffer for the beloved. Blessed James’ act of obedience wasn’t a bitter and constrained act, but we can imagine how painful it was for him. This gives us some insight into the depth of his love for his brothers and for God. Today, people have mostly forgotten the windows which James made over 500 years ago, but they remember this story of his love and obedience.

James was used to following orders. He had served for years as a soldier, first under King Alfonso V of Aragon and later under one Captain Tartari. One day, when the army was stationed in Bologna, James, who had always been devout, decided to make a visit to one of the local churches – the one that happened to have the relics of St. Dominic. While praying before those relics, he was suddenly inspired to give up military life and consecrate himself to God as a cooperator brother in St. Dominic’s Order.

Throughout history, Dominican cooperator brothers have been assigned a variety of offices: doorkeeper, housekeeper, infirmarian, cook, to name a few. In his youth, Blessed James’ father had trained him in the craft of making stained glass windows, and to this craft James returned as a religious brother. He had been working at it for a number of years when the event described above took place.

There is actually more to that story. When James returned from his begging trip, he found to his astonishment that the window was intact and the colors were set perfectly—an impossible thing, as he knew from long experience. Sometimes God rewards obedience in remarkable ways even in this life.

James spent 50 years in religious life, beautifying various churches in Italy. After his death in 1491, so many attested to his sanctity and to miracles obtained through his intercession that he was eventually beatified and himself entombed in the church of San Domenico, where he had received the call of God. Blessed James had sought to honor God by religious art and religious life; now, in San Domenico, God has honored him.”

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-reliquary altar of Bl James w/glass coffin & wax figure, Basilica of San Domenico, Rome.

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-St Nicolas & Blessed James of Ulm, OP.

First Vespers:
Ant. Strengthen by holy intercession, O James, 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 James
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 James.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

O God, who didst wonderfully adorn Blessed James, Thy Confessor, with the virtues of humility and obedience, make us, through his intercession, to despise earthly things and evermore cleave to Thy commandments. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Love, yet not even closely having mastered the virtue of obedience,
Matthew

Oct 7 – Our Lady of the Rosary & Victory & grace of & prayers for a happy death.

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O my Lord and Savior, support me in my last hour by the strong arms of Thy sacraments and the fragrance of thy consolations. Let Thy absolving words be said over me, and the holy oil sign and seal me; and let Thine own body be my food and Thy blood my sprinkling; and let Thy Mother Mary come to me, and my angel whisper peace to me, and Thy glorious saints and my own dear patrons smile on me, that in and through them all I may die as I desire to live, in Thy Church, in Thy faith, and in Thy love. Amen. Bl John Henry Cardinal Newman

O Dearest Lady, sweet Mother mine, watch the hour when my departing soul shall lose its hold on all earthly things, and stand unveiled in the presence of its Creator. Show thyself my tender Mother then, and offer to the Eternal Father the precious blood of thy Son Jesus for my poor soul, that it may, thus purified, be pleasing in His sight. Plead for thy poor child at the moment of his (or her) departure from this world, and say to the heavenly Father: Receive him (her) this day into Thy kingdom! Amen.

Through your help I hope to die a happy death. O my Mother I beg you, by the love you bear my God, to help me at all times, but especially at the last moment of my life. Do not leave me, I beseech you, until you see me safe in Heaven, blessing you and singing your mercies for all eternity. Amen, so I hope, so may it be.St Alphonsus Ligouri

Grant unto us, Lord Jesus, ever to follow the example of Thy holy Family, that in the hour of our death Thy glorious Virgin Mother together with blessed Joseph may come to meet us and we may be worthily received by Thee into everlasting dwellings: Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

Lord Jesus, pour into us the spirit of Thy love, that in the hour of our death we may be worthy to vanquish the enemy and attain unto the heavenly crown: Who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.

Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that in the hour of our death we may be refreshed by Thy holy Sacraments and delivered from all guilt, and so deserve to be received with joy into the arms of Thy mercy. Through Christ our Lord.

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-by Br Hyacinth Grub, OP

“It was not too long ago that I stood in a hospice center praying at the bedside of a friar in his final hours. At one point the social worker on duty came in to offer some surprising advice: leave him be. She told me that some people prefer to die alone, and that they’ll hold on until the room is empty. She described dying as “a wonderful expression of our autonomy.” Our society celebrates autonomy in all its forms, but this advice seemed particularly audacious. Especially because the limits of autonomy are most transparent at the end, when suffering and death strip away our illusions of ultimate power and self-determination.

It’s not that we don’t have a real power to choose, or that our will isn’t free, or that our choices are unimportant. Though, in a certain sense, the many choices we make throughout our lives on earth are really many acts of just one choice: the choice to pursue God or to pursue ourselves. We are continually deciding whether to worship God or ourselves, to follow His will or our own, and, ultimately, whether to accept His gift of Himself (heaven) or reject it (hell). In this way we are faced with the same choice that the angels had, but we decide it differently. For the angels are more noble beings, and when they were created they chose in a single act of the will. We, as men and women living in time and constrained by our physical natures, have to make this choice throughout our lives, in our daily acts. Our choice, and how each of our acts moved us toward it, will be the subject of our particular judgment.

Every act of ours is therefore a movement giving primacy to God’s will or to our own will. And in this sense it could be said that the most autonomous souls, the most independent, are those deepest in hell. Having chosen to reject every help, they have chosen instead to be utterly alone.

To speak of autonomy at someone’s deathbed is a futile grasp at a failing value. But what is proper to speak of, then? It’s not an academic question — we will all be there sooner or later. When we reach our end, facing a fate that seems to be a final defeat, what do we cling to? (For we should cling to something other than ourselves.) We should cling to our Savior and trust in His mercy.

We cling to Jesus and His Mother Mary, and especially to the lifeline that they have given to us in the rosary. Holding onto the rosary, we are pulled out of darkness and into light. Through the rosary we anchor ourselves in the mysteries of Christ’s life, death, and Resurrection; in those chains of beads we are tangled up within His salvific love, we are bound to His divine life. There is a reason that Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Victory are two names for the same feast day. For in repeating the Hail Mary we repeat the names of Jesus and Mary, and we recall that in the Incarnation God “emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:6) We ask Mary to pray for us, now and until the end. We ask her to be with us, and to not leave us to face the sting of death on our own. So that, remembering Christ’s victory over death, we can echo the bold words of St. Paul: “Death, where is thy victory? Death, where is thy sting?” (1 Cor 15:55)

What better way to live and to die than in the rosary, in the continual repetition of those two holy and sweetest names of Jesus and Mary? What better way than by begging, again and again, for Mary’s intercession? So we stayed by our brother’s side in his final moments, praying the rosary when he could not. And in such a way may “the angels lead [us] into paradise,” may the martyrs receive us into the Holy City of our God, with the names of Jesus and Mary sounding in our ears and written on our heart.”

Love,
Matthew

Oct 15 – Let nothing disturb you….

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-confessional regularly used by St Teresa of Avila at the Dominican priory in Salamanca.

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-by Br Toby Lees, OP, English Province

“St Teresa was born in Avila, in 1515. The 16th century was a time of turmoil in many areas of life, not least in the Church, but also, thanks to women like Teresa, a time of reform and renewal. Her mother died when she was 13, and despite her father’s protestations, she entered the Carmelites, aged 20. However, she soon became very ill and had to be sent home to recover at home for a number of years. Undeterred, when well enough, she returned to the Carmel and through a life of continual striving to love God more and more, she received extraordinary spiritual experiences and wonderful insights into the life of prayer. These insights are still a great gift to the Church thanks to her engaging writings.

She was granted the realization that God alone is changeless and permanent, and that when we seek solace in anything other than God, we are really placing our hopes in the ephemeral where we will never find peace. What helped make Teresa a saint though was that this insight did not remain at the level of mere insight. Instead it became recognition of a reality which she allowed to transform her life. One way in which she aided herself in this task of continual dedication to love God above all things is beautifully reflected in some of her words which she recorded on a bookmark, which she then used to keep her focussed on what truly matters:

Let nothing disturb you,

Let nothing frighten you,

All things are passing away:

God never changes.

Patience obtains all things

Whoever has God lacks nothing;

God alone suffices.

You may enjoy listening to this beautiful setting of these words sung by a virtual choir of 93 Carmelite nuns from 24 countries to celebrate the 500th anniversary of her birth.

Another of Teresa’s great lessons to us – at time when we hear many arguments about power within the Church – is that holiness has its own authority. Always born out of humility, holiness is more powerful that any title, status or position. Who would have believed that this frail lady, who suffered with poor health, would reform her Order; found many new houses of Carmel throughout Spain; and be at the forefront of a great renewal of spirituality within the Church? Despite little formal education, her receptivity to God means that 500 years on she still has much to teach us, and she is rightly recognized as one of the Doctors of the Church. It is one of the beautiful paradoxes often found in the lives of the saints, that one who spent so much of her life in the cloister has so much to teach those who live outside of it. Her reflection on the Church as the body of Christ is as challenging and as relevant to us as the day she wrote it:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,

no hands but yours,

no feet but yours,

yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion

is to look out to the earth,

yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good

and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.”

Love,
Matthew

Oct 29 – 158 Blessed Martyrs of Douai College, (d. 1577-1680) & The New Evangelization

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We’re hearing a lot about martyrdom in the news these days.  Not so much Christian martyrdom, although that is regular, albeit unreported here, in more distant places in the globe; but another religion.

Christians, from the earliest Roman persecutions, were called to witness to Jesus Christ.  That’s what the word martyr means:  witness.

To be close to the beloved, recently deceased martyrs, and in prudence for their own protection, Christians would celebrate the Eucharist in the catacombs.  This is where the Catholic custom of relics of saints, especially martyrs, comes from.  Even when a physical church building is dedicated to a saint, and a relic of the saint is placed beneath the altar stone in the center of the altar, this recalls those early remembrances of the Last Supper celebrated on the tombs of the martyrs.

Montanism was an early Christian heresy.  Modern day Pentecostalism is the closest example we have to relate to today in attempting to understanding what Montanism was then.

As opposed to Catholics, ancient Montanists actively sought out persecution and martyrdom by the Romans.  The Romans were only too happy to oblige.  Christians are NOT to actively seek out martyrdom.  If, in the course of doing the Lord’s will, they are offered the crown of martyrdom, we are to accept with equanimity.  His will be done.  His Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven.  We go to Him:  our hope, our joy, our all.

-from “The First and Second Diaries of the English College, Douay” (Douai), Introduction by founder Cardinal William Allen, Sep 29, 1568, the founder & head of the institution in its earliest years.  The English College in Douai, France was a school for English speaking seminarians to be formed in the spirit and letter of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), part of the Catholic Counter-Reformation.  It was suppressed, finally, in 1793 as part of the French Revolution, and the students there then imprisoned for thirteen months in Doullens, Picardy.  They were released in November 1794, returning to Douai for only a few months before obtaining permission to return to England. They found their first refuge at Old Hall Green, Ware, and dedicated the new work of the college to St Edmund of Canterbury on his feast day, November 16th, 1794.

“In ordinary years we advance to the priesthood twenty, or thereabouts, and send as many every year to England. Since the college began we have given to the Lord’s work above 160 priests, concerning whose instruction, learning and method of training I will say a few words, at your request, if you will allow me to premise what follows…

Our students, being intended for the English harvest, are not required to excel or be great proficients in theological science, though their teachers ought to be as learned and prudent as possible; but they must abound in zeal for God’s house, charity and thirst for souls. True it is that the more knowledge they possess concerning the Scriptures and controversial divinity, and the greater the prudence and discretion which they couple with this knowledge, so much the more abundant will be their success. Still when they have burning zeal, even though deep science be wanting, provided always they know the necessary heads of religious doctrine and the power and nature of the sacraments, such men, among the more skilled labourers whom we have in nearly all the provinces of the kingdom, also do good work in hearing confessions and offering sacrifice, which are the points to which we especially direct our instructions according to the gifts and ability of each one…

Moreover we make it our first and foremost study, both, in the seminary and in England by means of our labourers, to stir up, so far as God permits, in the minds of Catholics, especially of those who are preparing here for the Lord’s work, a zealous and just indignation against the heretics. This we do by setting before the eyes of the students the exceeding majesty of the ceremonial of the Catholic church in the place where we live, the great dignity of the holy sacrifice and sacrament, and the devotion and diligence with which the people come to church, confess their sins and hear sermons: while at the same time we picture to them the mournful contrast visible at home, the utter desolation of all things sacred which there exists, our country once so famed for its religion and holy before God now void of all religion, our friends and kinsfolk, all our dear ones and countless souls besides perishing in schism and godlessness, every jail and dungeon filled to overflowing, not with thieves and villains, but with Christ’s priests and servants, nay, with our parents and kinsmen…

Then turning to ourselves we must needs confess that all these things have come upon our country through our sins. We ought therefore to do penance and confess our sins not in a perfunctory way as we used to do when, for custom’s sake, we confessed once a year; but we should go into our whole past life and perform the spiritual exercises under the fathers of the Society in order to perfect the examination of our consciences, and choose a holier state of life and one more fitted to secure our own salvation and that of others. We should likewise enter into a holy union with these fathers or others, so as to pray unceasingly with many for our church and country and the afflicted Catholics who live there, and we should excite ourselves to pity and tears for them, but above all for those who are perishing so wretchedly at home, and then consider in what way we, even we, may be able to snatch some of them from ruin, remembering that this would cover the multitude of our sins…

Lastly we should resolve to confess more frequently, communicate more devoutly and study more diligently, so as to prepare ourselves for the priesthood, which Christ has given us the opportunity of receiving even in exile, beyond all our hopes and deservings; seeing that we have found so much favor with foreigners that they assist us, nay more, that Christ’s own Vicar does not disdain us, miserable and unworthy though we be, but entertains us at his own expense for that end which God has predetermined.

For His name’s sake,  Therefore we should desire to correspond in some measure with God’s providence which has brought us forth unharmed from Sodom, and we should long to serve Him in the sacred priesthood, not because that order, as was formerly the case and always should be, brings with it profit or honor among men, but because we wish at this present time, when it is an office contemptible in the world’s eyes and perilous, to labour for Christ and the church and the salvation of our people in tears and penance.”

Martyrs of the College of Douai

1577
Cuthbert Mayne
1578
John Nelson, Thomas Sherwood
1581
Everard Hanse, Edmund Campion, Ralph Sherwin, Alexander Briant
1582
John Payne, Thomas Ford, John Shert, Robert Johnson, William Fylby, Luke Kirby, Laurence Richardson, Thomas Cottam, William Lacy, Richard Kirkman, James Hudson Thompson
1583
William Hart, Richard Thirkeld, John Slade, John Bodey
1584
George Haydock, James Fenn, Thomas Hemerford, John Nutter, John Munden
1585
Thomas Alfield, Hugh Taylor
1586
Edward Stranchan, Nicholas Woodfen, Richard Sergeant, William Thomson, Robert Anderton. William Marsden, Francis Ingolby, John Finglow, John Sandys, John Lowe, John Adams, Richard Dibdale
1587
Thomas Pilchard, Edmund Sykes, Robert Sutton, Stephen Rousham, John Hambley, Alexander Crow
1588
Nicholas Garlick, Robert Ludlam, Richard Sympson, William Dean, William Gunter, Robert Morton, Hugh More, Thomas Holford, James Claxton, Thomas Felton, Robert Wilcox, Edward Campion, Christopher Buxton, Ralph Crocket, Edward James, John Robinson, William Hartley, John Hewett, Robert Leigh, William Way, Edward Burden
1589
John Amias, Robert Dalby, George Nichols, Richard Vaxley, Thomas Belson, William Spenser
1590
Christopher Bales, Miles Gerard, Francis Dickinson, Edward Jones, Anthony Middleton, Edmund Duke, Richard Hill, John Hogg, Richard Holiday
1591
Robert Thorpe, Momford Scott, George Beesley, Roger Dickinson, Edmund Genings, Eustace White, Polydore Plasden
1592
William Patenson, Thomas Pormont
1593
Edward Waterson, James Bird, Anthony Page, Joseph Lampton, William Davies
1594
William Harrington, John Cornelius, John Boste, John Ingram, Edward Osbaldeston
1595
Robert Southwell, Alexander Rawlins, Henry Walpole, William Freeman
1597
William Andleby
1598
Peter Snow, Christopher Robinson, Richard Horner
1599
Matthias Harrison
1600
Christopher Wharton, Thomas Sprott, Robert Nutter, Edward Thwing, Thomas Palasor
1601
John Pibush, Mark Barkworth, Roger Filcock, Thurston Hunt
1602
James Harrison, Thomas Tichborne, Robert Watkinson, Francis Page
1603
William Richardson
1604
John Sugar
1607
Robert Drury
1608
Matthew Flathers, George Gervase
1610
Roger Cadwallador, George Napier, Thomas Somers
1612
Richard Newport, John Almond
1616
Thomas Atkinson, John Thulis, Thomas Maxfield, Thomas Tunstal
1618
William Southerne
1628
Edmund Arrowsmith
1641
William Ward, Ambrose Edward Barlow
1642
Thomas Reynolds, Alban Roe, John Lockwood, Edmund Catherick, Edward Morgan, Hugh Green
1643
Henry Heath
1644
John Duckett
1645
Henry Morse, John Goodman
1646
Edward Bamber
1654
John Southworth
1679
Nicholas Postgate, John Wall, John Kemble
1680
Thomas Thwing

Love,
Matthew

Oct 27 – St Bartholomew of Vicenza, OP, (1200-1271)

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Receiving the habit from St. Dominic himself, Bartholomew gave himself over to his formation so that he might grow faithful in religion. Immediately after his ordination, he was sent to Lombardy to preach against the heretics (Albigensians) who were leading others away from the true faith. He was so effective in this, that the Holy Father, Pope Gregory IX called him to Rome and appointed him Master of the Sacred Palace (the Papal Theologian), which is an office traditionally held by Dominicans, even to this day.

Albignesians/Cathars/Manicheans are heretics who believed wrongly in an evil dualism that all matter is evil and all spirit good.  Their ultimate spiritual expression, by their religious “enlightened” leaders, is to starve oneself to death.  They viewed the birth of children as an evil, capturing a pure “spirit” in an incarnate body.  They despised marriage.  Ultimately, they despised the Incarnation, The Real Presence, The Sacraments, in general, since this is God saying Creation is good, not evil.

However, it was their asceticism and dedication to their wrong principles that moved people to accept their heresy.  Their poverty was held in contrast to the extravagant caravans of high Roman Church officials, as they traveled.  Dominic knew in order to combat their wrong thinking in hearts and minds, Catholic preachers of the truth must be as ascetical and dedicated.  Dominic is known by the quote, “Meet zeal with zeal!”

Even modern cases of this delusional, evil, and dangerous thinking can be found in the First World…

4/28/12, GENEVA — Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reports that a woman starved to death after embarking on a spiritual diet that required her to stop eating or drinking and live off sunlight alone.

The Zurich newspaper reported Wednesday that the unnamed Swiss woman in her fifties decided to follow the radical fast in 2010 after viewing an Austrian documentary about an Indian guru who claims to have lived this way for 70 years.

Tages-Anzeiger says there have been similar cases of self-starvation in Germany, Britain and Australia.

The prosecutors’ office in the Swiss canton (state) of Aargau confirmed Wednesday that the woman died in January 2011 in the town of Wolfhalden in eastern Switzerland.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/04/25/woman-starved-to-death-on-light-diet/

Because of the differing needs of the Church, the following Pope, Innocent IV, appointed him to become a bishop on the Island of Cyprus. Already having become a friend of St. Louis the King of France, Bl. Bartholomew renewed this friendship as St. Louis went through Cyprus on his way to Egypt during the Seventh Crusade (1248). This friendship led to St. Louis giving relics of the True Cross and a thorn from the Crown of Thorns to Bl. Bartholomew.

After his transfer to his native Vicenza, Bl. Bartholomew built the Church of the Crown to house these relics. Here he not only continued to preach the truths of the faith and free the local Church from the errors of the Manicheans, but he also established such a sense of peace that the people asked him to become their temporal ruler as well. He rightfully declined, but this shows the great virtue that he not only had but also that he instilled in his people.

May we turn to him for intercession when there is unrest and discord, and may he help us in times of need.  His fratres still preach the truth today, and seek out heresy wherever it may exist.

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O God, who madest Blessed Bartholomew, Thy Confessor and Bishop, wonderful in leading the enemies of the faith from the darkness of error to the light of truth, and in bringing back multitudes to peace and concord, grant, through his intercession, that Thy peace, which passeth all understanding, may keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee for ever and ever.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Oct 23 – The Eleven Ursuline Martyrs of Valenciennes, France d. 1794

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A group of eleven nuns of the Ursuline Order who were arrested by authorities of the French revolutionary government and guillotined between October 17 and 23, 1794, at Valenciennes. Their crime: they reopened a school in contravention to the government decree prohibiting unapproved educational institutions from functioning. The nuns were: Sr Clotilde Paillot, OSU, superior; Sr Marie Louise Ducret, OSU; Sr Marie Magdalen Desjardin, OSU; Sr Marie Louise Vanot, OSU; Sr Françoise Lacroix, OSU; Sr Margaret Leroux, OSU; Sr Anne Marie Erraux, OSU; Sr Anne Joseph Leroux, OSU; Sr Gabrielle Bourla, OSU; Sr Jane Louis Barré, OSU; and Sr Jane Rievie Prin, OSU. The prioress, Sr Clotilde Paillot, OSU, tried to take the entire blame on herself for any illegal actions but the tribunal refused to agree and all were condemned to the guillotine. Sr Marie Erraux, OSU was utterly terrified and Sr Clotilde comforted and supported her, promising to stay close beside her.

Valenciennes is within the boundary of France but very close to the border of the Austrian Netherlands (present day Belgium). The Revolutionary government closed a larger number of religious houses and schools, including that of the Ursulines. Their property seized and confiscated, evicted, the Ursulines moved across the border to Mons in the Netherlands, where another Ursuline monastery gave them shelter.

In 1793 Austria invaded northern France to vindicate its sovereignty over the Austrian Netherlands. In doing so it also seized a strip of French territory that included Valenciennes. The evicted nuns therefore returned to Valenciennes, now Austrian, and reopened their school. But the French retaliated and recaptured Valenciennes. What were the poor nuns to do now? They decided to continue with their school in their old home.

Shortly thereafter, the French government arrested and jailed the Ursulines of Valenciennes. On what charge? That they were emigrees who had returned to France without permission and were illegally conducting a religious school! Five of them were brought to trial on October 17, 1794. They stated frankly that they had returned to teach the Catholic religion. For this crime they were condemned to death by the anti-Christian French authorities.

One of the sisters, Sr Marie Augustine Dejardin, OSU, said to the mother superior (who had not yet been sentenced), “Mother, you taught us to be valiant, and now that we are going to be crowned, you weep!”

Five days later the same superior, Sr Marie Clotilde Paillot, OSU, and the other five nuns were condemned to die in the same manner. Mother Paillot made the public declaration, “We die for the faith of the Catholic, Apostolic Roman Church!” This time the victims were transported to the guillotine in a tumbril or dump-cart.

Now, the commissioners had overlooked a lay sister of the community, Cordule Barre. Cordule would not be separated from her sisters. Hurrying over to the cart, she climbed in of her own accord, and was executed with the rest. As they moved on to the scaffold, all six sang the Litany of Our Lady. What do Catholic martyrs do facing their immanent death? They sing!


-“Les onze Ursulines de Valciennes” the execution of eleven Ursuline nuns on 17.and 23.10.1794, by commissar Jean-Baptiste Lacoste following Robespierre’s Reign of Terror, wood engraving, 1921, from: Almanac du Pelerin de 1921 Maison de la bonne Press, Paris. No. 3997.

Litany of Our Lady

Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.
Christ hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the word, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of virgins, pray for us.
Mother of Christ, pray for us.
Mother of the Church, pray for us.
Mother of Divine Grace, pray for us.
Mother most pure, pray for us.
Mother most chaste, pray for us.
Mother inviolate, pray for us.
Mother undefiled, pray for us.
Mother most amiable, pray for us.
Mother most admirable, pray for us.
Mother of good counsel, pray for us.
Mother of our Creator, pray for us.
Mother of our Savior, pray for us.
Virgin most prudent, pray for us.
Virgin most venerable, pray for us.
Virgin most renowned, pray for us.
Virgin most powerful, pray for us.
Virgin most merciful, pray for us.
Virgin most faithful, pray for us.
Mirror of justice, pray for us.
Seat of wisdom, pray for us.
Cause of our joy, pray for us.
Spiritual vessel, pray for us.
Singular vessel of devotion, pray for us.
Mystical rose, pray for us.
Tower of David, pray for us.
Tower of ivory, pray for us.
House of gold, pray for us.
Ark of the Covenant, pray for us.
Gate of heaven, pray for us.
Morning star, pray for us.
Health of the sick, pray for us.
Refuge of sinners, pray for us.
Comforter of the afflicted, pray for us.
Help of Christians, pray for us.
Queen of angels, pray for us.
Queen of patriarchs, pray for us.
Queen of prophets, pray for us.
Queen of apostles, pray for us.
Queen of martyrs, pray for us.
Queen of confessors, pray for us.
Queen of virgins, pray for us.
Queen of all Saints, pray for us.
Queen conceived without Original Sin, pray for us.
Queen assumed into Heaven, pray for us.
Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us.
Queen of Peace, pray for us.
Queen of the Church, pray for us.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world; spare us O Lord!
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world; graciously hear us, O Lord!
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world; have mercy on us.
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

 Let us pray. Grant, we ask You, Lord, that we, your servants, may enjoy lasting health of mind and body, and by the glorious intercession of the Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, be delivered from present sorrow and enter into the joy of eternal happiness. Through Christ our Lord. R/ Amen

At these killings the crowd was usually out for entertainment jeering and shouting insults and making a great noise. But as the sisters were led to the guillotine the crowd fell utterly silent and still. Sr Clotilde thanked the soldiers, calling it the most beautiful day of their lives. They were not allowed any religious symbols, but she had hidden a crucifix on her person, and when she reached the guillotine, she threw it out into the crowd.

Two hundred years later, at a service commemorating the bicentenary of their death, the family of Sr Clotilde brought this crucifix to the Ursulines and asked them to keep it in the convent chapel at Valenciennes in memory of the martyred sisters.

Love,
Matthew