Category Archives: October

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

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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!

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

Oct 17 – The Heresy of Gnosticism

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Even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them.” ~2 Peter 2:1

The Catholic Church makes a distinction between ‘material’ (Ed: “in reality, as a ‘matter’ of real fact”) and ‘formal’ heresy. Material heresy means in effect “holding erroneous doctrines through no fault of one´s own” as occurs with people brought up in non-Catholic communities, i.e. through ignorance, or accident of birth, and “is neither a crime nor a sin”.

The material heretic is ready and willing to be corrected, and assent, were the truth made plain to them.  BIG EXAMPLE:  ignorant, or less than perfectly trained, catechists, i.e. yours truly.  There are many scholarly types on the distribution for this blog for just this reason!  🙂 I rely on them to keep me, a) humble, and b) on the straight and narrow! We ignorants mean well, but we just don’t know better when the Internet is feeding us nonsense.  🙂  Thank goodness for copy/paste, or is it the work of the devil?  🙂  Thank you, auditors!!!!

Formal (Ed: knowing the truth, that it is held to be the truth by the Church, as a formal matter of dogma, and willfully rejecting it) heresy is “the willful and persistent adherence to an error in matters of faith”.   The formal heretic refuses to be corrected.  One must be baptized in order to be a heretic.  Those unbaptized are under the category “other”.

The Church holds that since God created Creation and deemed it “good” (Gen 1:31), it cannot, intrinsically, be evil, as some heresies have held.  For Catholics, the “glass is half-full”.  Heresies go by many names, through many ages.  They persist even into our modern world under guise.  It is said, “there are no new heresies”.  Bad thinking leads to bad action.  Some have suggested  modern forms of Gnosticism are Scientology and Freemasonry.

-by Br Isaac Augustine Morales, OP (Br Isaac received a doctorate in New Testament from Duke University and taught in the Department of Theology at Marquette University for four years before joining the Order.)

“From the earliest days, the Church has faced the perennial temptation to deny the goodness of material creation in general and of the human body in particular. The Platonic notion of the body as a “prison” from which the soul must escape has cropped up repeatedly throughout the Church’s history, only to be condemned every time someone proposed it.

We see one particular form of this error, the denial that Jesus really took on flesh and blood, reflected in the New Testament, and it is condemned in no uncertain terms: “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 Jn 7). What is it that drives this temptation? And what makes the idea derived from it so pernicious that St. John calls those who embrace it “antichrist”?

The answer to the first question stems from two factors: the majesty of God and the messiness of creation. In the early centuries, God was seen as totally other than creation, in the words of 1 Timothy, “immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim 1:17). God transcends the world and, unlike us, is not subject to change, to corruption, to pain and suffering, to anything that belongs to this world. Contrast this picture of an ineffable God with creation, particularly after the fall: we are born, we grow old, we suffer, we die. To many it seemed unfitting for God to experience birth and to have His diapers changed, much less to endure the shame and torture of one of the cruelest forms of execution ever devised by men. This is one aspect of the scandal of the Incarnation: that the God who transcends creation has joined Himself so fully to it that he knows first-hand our challenges and our trials.

St. Ignatius of Antioch, whom the Church commemorates today, meditated on this mystery as he was being led to Rome for his own execution, and he condemns the denial of Christ’s real flesh and blood as forcefully as the Second Letter of John. In one of his letters Ignatius explains the importance of Christ’s actual flesh and blood:

But if, as some that are without God, that is, the unbelieving, say, that He only seemed to suffer (they themselves only seeming to exist), then why am I in bonds? Why do I long to be exposed to the wild beasts? Do I therefore die in vain? Am I not then guilty of falsehood against [the cross of] the Lord?

There are at least two dangers in this denial of Christ’s real humanity and suffering: it empties Christian suffering of its purpose, and it implies deception on God’s part. To take the latter point first, if Jesus only appeared to be human and to suffer – if his looks are deceiving – then the Gospels lie to us. Jesus has nothing in common with us, and His life was a mere show – and a fraudulent One at that.

Closer to home for Ignatius, Jesus’ actual suffering in the flesh was closely bound up with his own impending martyrdom. In some mysterious way, Christ’s suffering takes up and incorporates the suffering of the members of his body:

By [the cross] He calls you through His passion, as being His members. The head, therefore, cannot be born by itself, without its members; God, who is [the Savior] Himself, having promised their union.

In His suffering and death, Christ manifests His solidarity with the human race, showing Himself to be a God who knows our trials not in some distant, indifferent way, but personally and experientially.

If the sole purpose of the Incarnation were Christ’s solidarity with us in our suffering, then Christianity would be little more than divinely sanctioned masochism. But for Ignatius, suffering – both Christ’s and ours – is not an end in itself, but rather a bridge to eternal life. It is by our suffering that we participate in Christ’s own sacrifice and through it come to the glory of His Resurrection. This is why one can rightly call a death at the jaws of lions a happy and peaceful one. The peace comes from the sure hope that death does not have the final victory – Christ has conquered it through the Resurrection.

Most of us are probably not ready to offer our bodies to the lions as Ignatius did, but we must remember that it was not on the basis of his own strength that he faced his death. He drew strength from feeding on Christ’s own Eucharistic flesh and blood, which he called the “medicine of immortality.” By feeding on this medicine we too can be strengthened to face our own trials and, God willing, pass through a happy death to the glory of the Resurrection.”

Love,
Matthew

Oct 17 – St Ignatius of Antioch, (35-107 AD), Bishop, Martyr, Father of the Church

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-painting of the martyrdom of St Ignatius of Antioch from the Menologion of Basil II (c. 1000 AD).  In 637 AD, his relics were transferred to the Basilica di San Clemente in Rome.

My parents had friends who “made”, very Catholic, no democracy here, no popular opinion sought, each of their several children take the Confirmation name “Polycarp”!  Funny!  🙂

I can just imagine going down the line of the Confirmation class of eighth graders, every year or so, to the offspring of this family, and the next “victim” mumbling, as softly as possible, “polycarp”, and then the ensuing snorts and guffaws of their immature peers.  Awesome!  Growing up Catholic!  You can see/hear the character building in the crimson face!  Intentional, loving humiliation toughens us up for life!  We’ll need it!  We are unsure to this day whether my parents’ friends were cruel or had an unusual sense of humor?  St Polycarp was a friend of St Ignatius of Antioch.  Both are understood to have been disciples of The Apostle St John.  The writings of Ignatius of Antioch attest to the sacramental and hierarchical nature of the Church.

In a 2007 general audience on St. Ignatius of Antioch, Pope Benedict XVI observed that “no Church Father has expressed the longing for union with Christ and for life in him with the intensity of Ignatius.” In his letters, the Pope said, “one feels the freshness of the faith of the generation which had still known the Apostles. In these letters, the ardent love of a saint can also be felt.”

Born in Syria in the middle of the first century A.D., Ignatius is said to have been personally instructed – along with another future martyr, Saint Polycarp – by the Apostle Saint John. When Ignatius became the Bishop of Antioch around the year 70, he assumed leadership of a local church that was, according to tradition, first led by Saint Peter before his move to Rome.

Although St. Peter transmitted his Papal primacy to the bishops of Rome rather than Antioch, the city played an important role in the life of the early Church. Located in present-day Turkey, it was a chief city of the Roman Empire, and was also the location where the believers in Jesus’ teachings and his resurrection were first called “Christians.”

Ignatius led the Christians of Antioch during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, the first of the emperors to proclaim his divinity by adopting the title “Lord and God.” Subjects who would not give worship to the emperor under this title could be punished with death. As the leader of a major Catholic diocese during this period, Ignatius showed courage and worked to inspire it in others.

After Domitian’s murder in the year 96, his successor Nerva reigned only briefly, and was soon followed by the Emperor Trajan. Under his rule, Christians were once again liable to death for denying the pagan state religion and refusing to participate in its rites. It was during his reign that Ignatius was convicted for his Christian testimony and sent from Syria to Rome to be put to death.

Escorted by a team of military guards, Ignatius nonetheless managed to compose seven letters: six to various local churches throughout the empire (including the Church of Rome), and one to his fellow bishop Polycarp who would give his own life for Christ several decades later.

Ignatius’ letters passionately stressed the importance of Church unity, the dangers of heresy, and the surpassing importance of the Eucharist as the “medicine of immortality.” These writings contain the first surviving written description of the Church as “Catholic,” from the Greek word indicating both universality and fullness.

One of the most striking features of Ignatius’ letters, is his enthusiastic embrace of martyrdom as a means to union with God and eternal life. “All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing,” he wrote to the Church of Rome. “It is better for me to die in behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth.”

“Now I begin to be a disciple,” the bishop declared. “Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearings, breakings, and dislocations of bones; let cutting off of members; let shatterings of the whole body; and let all the dreadful torments of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ.”

St. Ignatius of Antioch bore witness to Christ publicly for the last time in Rome’s Flavian Amphitheater, where he was mauled to death by lions. “I am the wheat of the Lord,” he had declared, before facing them. “I must be ground by the teeth of these beasts to be made the pure bread of Christ.” His memory was honored, and his bones venerated, soon after his death around the year 107.

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“Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest.” — Letter to the Magnesians 2, 6:1

“There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible, even Jesus Christ our Lord.” —Letter to the Ephesians, ch. 7, shorter version, Roberts-Donaldson translation

He stressed the value of the Eucharist, calling it a “medicine of immortality” (Ignatius to the Ephesians 20:2). The very strong desire for bloody martyrdom in the arena, which Ignatius expresses rather graphically in places, may seem quite odd to the modern reader. An examination of his theology of soteriology shows that he regarded salvation as one being free from the powerful fear of death and thus to bravely face martyrdom.

“Be not seduced by strange doctrines nor by antiquated fables, which are profitless. For if even unto this day we live after the manner of Judaism, we avow that we have not received grace … If then those who had walked in ancient practices attained unto newness of hope, no longer observing Sabbaths but fashioning their lives after the Lord’s day, on which our life also arose through Him and through His death which some men deny … how shall we be able to live apart from Him? … It is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to practise Judaism. For Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism in Christianity.” — Ignatius to the Magnesians 8:1, 9:1-2, 10:3, Lightfoot translation.

He is also responsible for the first known use of the Greek word katholikos (καθολικός), meaning “universal”, “complete” and “whole” to describe the church, writing:

“Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid.” — Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8, J.R. Willis translation.

It is from the word katholikos (“according to the whole”) that the word catholic comes. When Ignatius wrote the Letter to the Smyrnaeans in about the year 107 and used the word catholic, he used it as if it were a word already in use to describe the Church. This has led many scholars to conclude that the appellation Catholic Church with its ecclesial connotation may have been in use as early as the last quarter of the 1st century. On the Eucharist, he wrote in his letter to the Smyrnaeans:

“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God … They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.” — Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1

Saint Ignatius’s most famous quotation, however, comes from his letter to the Romans:

“I am writing to all the Churches and I enjoin all, that I am dying willingly for God’s sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg you, do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God’s wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ.” — Letter to the Romans

“I greet you in the blood of Jesus Christ, which is eternal and abiding joy.” -St. Ignatius of Antioch

“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

Prayer for the Deceased

“Receive in tranquility and peace, O Lord, the souls of your servants who have departed this present life to come to You. Grant them rest and place them in the habitations of light, the abodes of blessed spirits. Give them the life that will not age, good things that will not pass away, delights that have no end, through Jesus.  Amen.                      –St Ignatius of Antioch

Love,
Matthew

Oct 16 – St Margaret Mary Alacoque, VHM, (1647-1690), Visionary of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

sacred-heart

My parents had a very special devotion to the Sacred Heart as I was growing up.  Mara attends Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary School.  We attend the parish in Sun Prairie, WI as well.  My hope is that Mara will attend Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart here in Madison, WI.  Each night, at grace, my parents and I would add to the grace, “O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!”: fifty-six years of marriage and six children.

Roman Catholics celebrate the life of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, VHM, the French nun whose visions of Christ helped to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart throughout the Western Church.

Margaret Mary Alacoque was born in July of 1647. Her parents Claude and Philiberte lived modest but virtuous lives, while Margaret proved to be a serious child with a great focus on God. Claude died when Margaret was eight, and from age 9-13 she suffered a paralyzing illness. In addition to her father’s death as well as her illenss, a struggle over her family’s property made life difficult for Margaret and her mother for several years.

During her illness, Margaret made a vow to enter religious life. During adolescence, however, she changed her mind. For a period of time she lived a relatively ordinary life, enjoying the ordinary social functions of her day and considering the possibility of marriage.

However, her life changed in response to a vision she saw one night while returning from a dance, in which she saw Christ being scourged. Margaret believed she had betrayed Jesus, by pursuing the pleasures of the world rather than her religious vocation, and a the at the age of 22, she decided to enter a convent.

Two days after Christmas of 1673, Margaret experienced Christ’s presence in an extraordinary way while in prayer. She heard Christ explain that he desired to show his love for the human race in a special way, by encouraging devotion to “the Heart that so loved mankind.”

She experienced a subsequent series of private revelations regarding the gratitude due to Jesus on the part of humanity, and the means of responding through public and private devotion, but the superior of the convent dismissed this as a delusion.

This dismissal was a crushing disappointment, affecting the nun’s health so seriously that she nearly died. In 1674, however, the Jesuit priest Father Claude de la Colombiere, SJ, became Margaret’s spiritual director. He believed her testimony, and chronicled it in writing.

Fr. de la Colombiere, SJ, – later canonized as a saint – left the monastery to serve as a missionary in England. By the time he returned and died in 1681, Margaret had made peace with the apparent rejection of her experiences. Through St. Claude’s direction, she had reached a point of inner peace, no longer concerned with the hostility of others in her community.

In time, however, many who doubted her would become convinced as they pondered what St. Claude had written about the Sacred Heart. Eventually, her own writings and the accounts of her would face a rigorous examination by Church officials.

By the time that occurred, however, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque had already gained what she desired: “To lose myself in the heart of Jesus.” She faced her last illness with courage, frequently praying the words of Psalm 73: “What have I in heaven, and what do I desire on earth, but Thee alone, O my God?”

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-tomb of St Margaret Mary Alacoque, VHM.  Her remains were disinterred after burial for 140 years.  What you see above is a waxified skeleton for veneration.

“Our Lord frequently told me that I should keep a secluded place for Him in my heart… where He would teach me to love Him” -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

“It seems to me that the happiness of a soul consists entirely in conforming to the most adorable will of God; for in so doing the heart finds peace and the spirit joy and repose.” -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque 

“My greatest happiness is to be before the Blessed Sacrament, where my heart is, as it were, in its center.” -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque 

“But above all preserve peace of heart. This is more valuable than any treasure.” -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

“Love keeps Him there [in the Blessed Sacrament] as a victim completely and perpetually delivered over to sacrifice for the glory of the Father and for our salvation. Unite yourself with Him, then, in all that you do. Refer everything to His glory. Set up your abode in this loving Heart of Jesus and you will there find lasting peace and the strength both to bring to fruition all the good desires He inspires in you, and to avoid every deliberate fault. Place in this Heart all your sufferings and difficulties. Everything that comes from the Sacred Heart is sweet. He changes everything into love.”
-St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, VHM

Love,
Matthew