Category Archives: Sacraments

Confession – “Despise not the Blood of Christ!”

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

Presence of God – At the foot of Your Cross, O Jesus, I confess my sins. Pour over me Your Precious Blood that it may purify my soul.

MEDITATION

Penance is the sacrament of Christ’s Precious Blood in which God—according to the eloquent words of St. Catherine of Siena“has bathed us in order to cleanse the face of our souls from the leprosy of sin.” If mortal sin only is the necessary matter of this sacrament, venial sin is sufficient matter, since all Catholic tradition insists on frequent confession, even when one has only venial sins to confess. However, those who confess weekly must take great care lest their confessions become a mere routine, instead of the really vital acts which would enable these souls to profit fully from all the graces offered by the sacrament.

“Do not despise the Blood of Christ!” exclaims St. Catherine of Siena.

Certainly anyone who appreciates it will not approach the sacrament of penance lightly. To this end it is useful to recall that absolution is truly the pouring forth of the Precious Blood which, inundating and penetrating the soul, purifies it from sin, and restores sanctifying grace if it has been lost, or increases this gift if it is already present in the soul. The remission of sin and the imparting of grace are the fruits of the action of Jesus, expressed by the formula the priest pronounces in His Name: “I absolve thee.” At that moment it is Jesus who is acting in the soul, either by remitting sin or by producing or increasing grace. It is well to remember that the efficacy of the absolution is not limited merely to sins that have already been committed, but that it even extends into the future. By means of the particular sacramental grace, the soul is strengthened beforehand against relapses and it is offered the fortitude to resist temptations and to carry out its good resolutions. The Blood of Christ is, in this sense, not only a remedy for the past, but also a preservative and a strengthening help for the future. The soul which plunges into it, as into a healthful bath, draws from it new vigor and sees the strength of its passions extinguished little by little. We see then the importance of frequent confession for a soul desirous of union with God, a soul which must necessarily aspire to total purification.

COLLOQUY

“Sweet Jesus, in order to clothe us again with the life of grace, You stripped Yourself of the life of Your body. The body which You stretched on the wood of the holy Cross is like a lamb which has been sacrificed and which is shedding its blood from every part of its body. In Your Blood, You have created us anew to the life of grace.

“Sweet Jesus, my soul ardently desires to be bathed and entirely submerged in Your Blood … since in Your Blood, I find the source of all mercy; in Your Blood are clemency, fire, piety. In Your Blood, mercy abounds for our faults. In Your Blood, justice is satisfied and our hardness is melted; what is bitter becomes sweet and what is heavy becomes light. And since all virtues reach maturity in Your Blood, O Christ, inebriate my soul, engulf it in Your Blood, so that it will be adorned with real and solid virtues” (St. Catherine of Siena).

O Jesus, if just one drop of Your Precious Blood has the power to wipe out all the crimes of the world, what will it not do in me when You pour it so abundantly over my poor soul at the moment of absolution! O Jesus, revive my faith and give me a complete understanding of the immense value of the sacrament of Your Blood. Only Your Blood can wash away my sins, purify the stains on my soul, and heal and vivify it. Oh! grant that this salutary bath may cleanse my whole being and restore it entirely to Your grace and love!

Through the merits of Your passion, grant, O Lord, that I may always bring to the tribunal of penance a truly humble and contrite heart, an increasingly perfect sorrow for my faults, and a deeper and more sincere horror of anything that offends You, my God. Only if it finds no attachment to sin in me, will Your Precious Blood be able to penetrate the depths of my soul, renew it and vivify it wholly. O Jesus, grant that Your Precious Blood may bear its full fruit in me.”

Love,
Matthew

sacrifice & sensuality

It is important to recall, in comparison, in terms of vocabulary, English is like a pint glass, Hebrew is like a shot glass, a more ancient language logically more limited, and Greek is like a pitcher, or so I have been told.

“Sacrifice and sensuality are both expressions of spousal love.

John Paul pointed out that for Plato, eros “represents the inner power that draws man toward all that is good, true, and beautiful.” 128 Therefore, eros is not the problem…In the relationship between men and women, true eros draws one to the value of the other in the fullness of his or her masculinity and femininity as a person, not just to the sexual value of the body. This balanced idea of eros leaves room for ethos (the innermost values of the person). John Paul explained, “In the erotic sphere, ‘eros’ and ‘ethos’ do not diverge, are not opposed to each other, but are called to meet in the human heart and to bear fruit in this meeting.” 129 Not only is it possible to unite what is erotic to what is ethical, it is necessary. Within marriage, ethos and eros meet. 130

Although people tend to view ethics as prohibitions and commandments, it is important to unveil the deeper values that these norms protect and assure. 131 The Pope explained: “It is necessary continually to rediscover the spousal meaning of the body and the true dignity of the gift in what is “erotic.” This is the task of the human spirit, and it is by its nature an ethical task. If one does not assume this task, the very attraction of the senses and the passion of the body can stop at mere concupiscence, deprived of all ethical value, and man, male and female, does not experience that fullness of “eros,” which implies the upward impulse of the human spirit toward what is true, good, and beautiful, so that what is “erotic” also becomes true, good, and beautiful.” 132

Jesus did not come merely to redeem the souls of the lost, but to reclaim our humanity— body and soul— with all that makes us human, including our sexual desires. Therefore, the transformation of eros is an integral part of Christian life. 133 Again, this is not about dampening desire. Rather, John Paul explained that putting these principles into practice makes expressions of affection “spiritually more intense and thus enriches them.” 134

Therefore, not only are eros and agape not rivals, they rely upon each other to reach their perfection. In the words of John Paul, “Agape brings eros to fulfillment while purifying it.” 135 Or, as one Orthodox theologian explained, “Without agape, eros remains stunted, partial— finally it collapses and isn’t even eros; the fire goes out and all that remains is the original concern with the self. Such eros has never risen above self-love.” 136 Because it is rooted in self-love, unchastity is “the total defeat of eros.” 137 It is a weak and incomplete form of desire. On the other hand, “Chastity is eros in its holy form.” 138

The Catechism echoes this, saying that purity “lets us perceive the human body— ours and our neighbor’s— as a . . . manifestation of divine beauty.” 139

-Evert, Jason. Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 712-714,716-750). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.

Love (Only one word in English, but you know what I mean.),
Matthew

128 TOB 47: 2.
129 TOB 47: 5.
130 Cf. TOB 101: 3.
131 Cf. TOB 47: 6.
132 TOB 48: 1.
133 Cf. TOB 47: 5.
134 TOB 128: 3.
135 TOB 113: 5.
136 Patitsas, “Chastity and Empathy,” 10.
137 Ibid., 42.
138 Ibid., 7.
139 Catechism of the Catholic Church 2519.

Marriage is HARD WORK!!!!!!!

For Catholics, marriage is not merely a legal contract regulating property between spouses nor is it only geared towards the responsibilities of raising children, although both of these practical realities are present in Catholic marriage. Rather, marriage, for Catholics, is a sacrament; one of the seven; a visible means of GRACE.

Catholic spouses find in each other not merely lover, co-parent, companion, but are TRULY the means of salvation for and through each other, in and through which the sacrament and the living it out throughout our earthly lives here below, occurs.

The Holy Father has been offered a dubia, or “fillial corrections”, by specious persons in ridiculous standing and profoundly questionable faithfulness with the Church. These silly documents have NO binding value or impetus on the Holy Father AT ALL or his teaching Amoris Laetitia, “The Joy of Love”; which is why, in Christian charity, he quietly ignores and prays for, blesses, I am sure, his enemies, ordained or otherwise. These Pharisees, yet perpetually, “strain the gnat, and swallow the camel”, -cf Mt 23:24. BLIND GUIDES!!!! WOE TO YOU, YOU HYPOCRITES!!!! HOW WILL YOU ESCAPE THE COMING JUDGMENT???? -cf Mt 23:25-33. “You will not enter Heaven, nor do you allow others to!!!”-cf Mt 23:13.

HUSBANDS!!!!, LOVE YOUR WIVES!!!!, JUST AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH AND GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR HER, TO MAKE HER HOLY, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” -Eph 5:25-28

CHRISTIAN HUSBANDS & WIVES, IF YOU FIND YOURSELF WILLINGLY SUFFERING IN YOUR LOVING EACH OTHER, YOU MIGHT BE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT!!!!! SURRENDER YOURSELVES TO CHRIST AND EACH OTHER, AS YOU PROMISED BEFORE GOD AND HIS CHURCH AND THE WORLD!!!!

Love is measured by how much you are willing to give!!!!! Lord, & Kelly, help make me HOLY!!!!

“We are READY!!!, FREELY, and without reservation
to give ourselves to each other
We are READY!!! to love and honor each other,
as man & wife for the REST OF OUR LIVES!!!!
We are READY!!! to accept children lovingly from God
and to bring them up according to the law of Christ & His Church!!!!
WE ARE READY!!!!!!

Love,
Matthew

Why Doesn’t the Pope Answer his critics?
What do you call a Catholic Against the Pope?
Part I of a response to the correctors

Sacred Heart & Eucharist


-Sts Ignatius of Loyola, SJ, & Louis Gonzaga, SJ

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

Presence of God – Sacred Heart of Jesus, teach me how to live with You through the Sacrament of Your love.

MEDITATION

Devotion to the Sacred Heart should bring us to a life of intimate union with Jesus Who, we know, is truly present and living in the Eucharist. The two devotions—to the Sacred Heart and to the Eucharist—are closely connected. They call upon one another and, we may even say, they require each other. The Sacred Heart explains the mystery of the love of Jesus by which He becomes bread in order to nourish us with His substance, while in the Eucharist we have the real presence of this same Heart, living in our midst. It is wonderful to contemplate the Heart of Jesus as the symbol of His infinite love, but it is even more wonderful to find Him always near us in the Sacrament of the altar. The Sacred Heart which we honor is not a dead person’s heart which no longer palpitates, so that we have only the memory of Him, but it is the Heart of a living Person, of One Who lives eternally. He lives not only in heaven where His sacred humanity dwells in glory, but He lives also on earth wherever the Eucharist is reserved. In speaking of the Eucharist, Our Lord says to us, “Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matthew 28:20). In Holy Communion, then, this Heart beats within us, it touches our heart; through the love of this Heart, we are fed with His Flesh and with His Blood, so that we may abide in Him and He in us. “In the Eucharist,” said Benedict XV, “this divine Heart governs us and loves us by living and abiding with us, so that we may live and abide in Him, because in this Sacrament … He offers and gives Himself to us as victim, companion, viaticum, and the pledge of future glory.”

COLLOQUY

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Who, by the will of the Father and the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, hast by Thy death given life to the world, deliver me by this Thy most sacred Body and Blood from all my sins and from every evil. Make me always adhere to Thy commandments and never permit me to be separated from Thee” (old Roman Missal).

“O what a wonderful and intimate union is established between the soul and You, O lovable Lord, when it receives You in the Holy Eucharist! Then the soul becomes one with You, provided it is well-disposed by the practice of the virtues, to imitate what You did in the course of Your life, Passion, and death. No, I cannot be perfectly united to You, O Christ, or You to me in Holy Communion, if I do not first make myself like You by renouncing myself and practicing the virtues most pleasing to You, and of which You have given us such wonderful examples.

My union with You in Holy Communion will be more perfect to the degree that I become more like You by the practice of the virtues.” (cf. St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).

“O Jesus, You alone do I love and desire, for You alone do I hunger and thirst, in You I wish to lose myself and be consumed. Envelop me in the flame of Your charity and make me cling so closely to You that I can never be separated from You!

O Lord Jesus, O immense ocean, why do You wait to absorb this little drop of water in Your immensity? My soul’s one desire is to leave myself and enter into You. Open, O Lord, open Your loving Heart to me, for I desire nothing but You and I wish to cling to You with all my being. O wonderful union! This intimacy with You is, in truth, of more value than life itself! O my Beloved, permit me to embrace You in the depths of my soul so that, united to You, I may remain there, joined to You by an indissoluble bond!” (St. Gertrude).

Love,
Matthew

Jun 6 – Corpus Christi, St Norbert of Xanten, (1080-1134 AD), Apostle of the Eucharist & “Defenders of the Eucharist”


-by Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish, 1577-1640, oil on canvas c1625, Height: 434.3 cm (170.98 in.), Width: 444.5 cm (175 in.), The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art – Sarasota, Florida. Please click on the image for greater detail.

“What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth Himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.”

-St Thomas Aquinas, Adoro Te Devote

“In the sixteenth century, the denial of the Real Presence occurred again, along with a repudiation of the Mass as making present the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus. The Church’s response through the Council of Trent strongly reaffirmed these Eucharistic truths and sponsored the revival of Eucharistic devotions initiated in the Middle Ages.

Perhaps the greatest eucharistic artwork from this period is Peter Paul Rubens’s oil painting entitled The Defenders of the Eucharist, created in 1625. Rubens reached back to the golden age of the Church Fathers as well as to outstanding saints of the Middle Ages and assembled seven of them in one scene, united in the one faith of the Church witnessing their unity through the centuries of faith in the eucharistic presence of Christ. Today that painting is on display in the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida.

Beginning on the right side of the canvass, Rubens pictures St. Jerome, dressed as a cardinal receiving Communion. Next to him stands St. Norbert, clothed in his white habit and carrying the Eucharist beneath his robes. St. Thomas Aquinas stands in the center holding a book and extending his other hand to heaven, a gesture proclaiming his defense of the Eucharist. Beside him is St. Clare of Assisi, holding a monstrance that displays the sacred eucharistic host. To her left is St. Gregory the Great, the pope who wrote so many works contained in the Mass. Then comes St. Ambrose, who wrote about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Rubens finishes his gathering of defenders of the Eucharist with St. Augustine, who included his reflections on this sacrament in his famous treatise on the Holy Trinity.

Rubens produced this painting during the Church’s Counter-Reformation efforts to defend and reclaim the authentic teachings about the Eucharist and the devotions that assisted believers to deepen their commitment to this mystery of faith.

The seven saints represented in this painting summarize our belief in the Eucharist. It is a sacrifice, the sacrifice of Jesus made present in a sacramental way. It is a sacrament of the abiding presence of Christ in the transformed bread and wine become his Body and Blood. It is a sacramental meal begun on Holy Thursday and available to us in Holy Communion.

This sacrament is available to members of the Catholic Church who are in the state of grace. It is a transforming sacrament. The term “transubstantiation” means that the substance of bread and wine is changed into the substance of Christ’s Body and Blood. In receiving Communion, we too undergo a gradual transformation into Christ and are called to spread His love given to us throughout the world.”

(Excerpt of Text from article: The Saints and Eucharistic Devotion
by Rev. Alfred McBride, O. Praem)


-by Br Norbert Keliher, OP

“Seven saints march in procession together, gathered from disparate centuries to honor their Lord in the Eucharist. Each one displayed fervor for the Eucharist in his or her own time and spread that devotion to others. It was Peter Paul Rubens who assembled these saints in this painting called “The Defenders of the Eucharist.” Soon, the silent footsteps shown here will be imitated by the faithful in cities around the world, when we gather for Corpus Christi processions.

Today, June 6, is the feast day of St. Norbert of Xanten, shown in the white habit of a cathedral canon. He is perhaps the least known of the seven saints here, four of whom are the great Fathers of the Latin Church: St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Gregory, and St. Jerome. They are depicted in this order from left to right, with Augustine leading and Jerome bringing up the rear. In the center St. Clare holds the monstrance, and next to her St. Thomas Aquinas points towards Heaven, holding a tome representing his theology.

What did St. Norbert do to earn a place among these others? He did not leave writings like the five doctors of the Church, nor perform a miracle as glorious as St. Clare’s repulsion of invading Saracens with a monstrance. But he did defend the truth of the Eucharist when a heresy arose in Belgium in the early 12th century. The town of Antwerp was persuaded by the would-be reformer Tanchelm that the sacraments were not real, a belief that persisted after his death. By his preaching, St. Norbert converted the whole town back to faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Later, this truth would again be denied in the Protestant Reformation. This is part of the reason that St. Norbert was only canonized in 1582, so long after he died in 1134. He was held up as a model of faith to the wider Church, an “Apostle of the Eucharist.” Peter Paul Rubens included him in this painting in the 1620s, when Isabella Clara Eugenia, sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands, commissioned a whole series of paintings celebrating the Eucharist.

St. Norbert’s connection to the Eucharist goes beyond his preaching against Tanchelm, however. When he was a traveling preacher at the beginning of his career, he carried with him hardly any possessions outside of what was needed to celebrate Mass. Sometimes he would celebrate more than one Mass in a day, and several of his miracles were accomplished in connection with the Mass. He was so devoted to the Precious Blood that when a poisonous spider fell in the chalice, he drank it rather than risk spilling any. The saint thought he would die, but a little later the spider came harmlessly out of his nose. He also healed a blind woman by breathing on her after consuming the Eucharist and drove out a recalcitrant demon from a young girl by having her present as he celebrated Mass.

When we celebrate Corpus Christi this year, then, we can think of the Defenders of the Eucharist and especially St. Norbert. We walk in the footsteps of those whose faith came before us, those whose faith makes it possible for us to believe today. Through this faith we recognize and adore Jesus in the Sacrament of Sacraments, in which His eternal glory is present to us in time. Before the Ascension He promised that He would be with us always (Mt 28:20), but without faith we would not see Him with us. Let us rejoice that we do see Him, and pray that by this sacrament we may join the saints in the glory of Heaven.”

On the occasion of his ordination to the priesthood, Norbert said,

“O Priest! You are not of yourself because you are the servant and minister of Christ. You are not your own because you are the spouse of the Church. You are not yourself because you are the mediator between God and man. You are not from yourself because you are nothing. What then are you? Nothing and everything. O Priest! Take care lest what was said to Christ on the cross be said to you: ‘He saved others, himself he cannot save!'”

St Norbert, ora pro nobis!

Love, Lord! Save us!
Matthew

Eucharist to Trinity

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

Presence of God– O Jesus, lead me to the Trinity; help me to live with the Trinity.

MEDITATION

Jesus came to us from the bosom of the Father to bring us to the Trinity; this was the purpose of the Incarnation and it is also that of the Eucharist, which prolongs the mystery of the Incarnation in time. In the Eucharist Jesus continues to be the Mediator between the three divine Persons and ourselves, holding out His hand to lead us to Them. It is by coming to us in Holy Communion that He continually puts us in more direct contact with the Blessed Trinity; for He then comes in the integrity of His Person as God and Man, humanity and divinity; and as God, as the Word, He is always indissolubly united to the Father and to the Holy Spirit. Jesus can repeat from the From the Eucharist to the Trinity what He once said while He was on earth: “He that sent Me is with Me, and He hath not left Me alone,” and more explicitly: “I am in the Father and the Father [is] in Me” (cf John 8:29 – 14:11). Therefore, when He comes to us in Holy Communion, He does not come alone, but with Him come the Father and the Holy Spirit, because the three divine Persons, although distinct one from another, are inseparable. The presence of the Trinity in our soul is not limited to the moments when Jesus is sacramentally present within us, for the three divine Persons dwell permanently in a soul that is in the state of grace. It is true, however, that the Trinity is present in a very special way in Christ, the Incarnate Word, the one Man personally united to the Trinity and in whom dwells all the fullness of the divinity: “In quo habitat omnis plenitudo divinitatis” (Litany of the Sacred Heart). Hence, it is certain that wherever Christ is—and therefore in our soul at the time of Communion—there the Trinity is also present in a very special way.

COLLOQUY

“O Jesus Christ, true God and true Man! My soul rejoices to find You in the Blessed Sacrament, You, the uncreated God Who became man, a creature! In this Sacrament, O Christ, I find both Your humanity and Your divinity; from Your humanity I rise to Your divinity, and from it I go back to Your humanity. I see Your ineffable divinity which contains all the treasures of wisdom, of knowledge, of incorruptible riches. I see the inexhaustible fountain of delights which alone can satisfy our intelligence. I see Your most precious soul, O Jesus, with all the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit, a holy and unspotted oblation; I see Your sacred Body, the price of our redemption; I see Your Blood, which purifies and vivifies us; in brief, I find treasures which are so precious and so great that I cannot comprehend them.

This Sacrament really contains You, O my God, You whom the Angels adore, in whose presence the Spirits and mighty Powers tremble. Oh! if we could only see You as clearly as they do, with what reverence would we approach this Sacrament, with what humility would we receive You.

O Most Holy Trinity, You instituted this Sacrament in order to obtain the object of Your love, that is, to attract to Yourself the soul of Your creature, and detaching it from all earthly things, to unite it to Yourself, the uncreated God. In doing this, You make it die to sin and give it spiritual life, eternal life. O Blessed Trinity, this Sacrament was instituted by Your infinite goodness that we might be united to You and You to us; that we might receive You into ourselves and be received by You; that at the same time we might hold You within ourselves and be held by You” (St. Angela of Foligno).

Love,
Matthew

“Mysterium fidei” – Mystery of Faith

[Ed. Recall when the Catholic Church uses the word “mystery”, it does not mean something unknowable. Rather, it means something infinitely knowable. Key.]

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

Presence of God – O Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, and I adore You. Increase my faith.

MEDITATION

In the Canon [Eucharistic Prayer] of the Mass, the Eucharist is called “Mysterium fidei,” the Mystery of faith; indeed, only faith can make us see God present under the appearances of bread. Here, as St. Thomas says, the senses do not help at all—sight, touch, and taste are deceived, finding in the consecrated Host only a little bread. But what matters? We have the word of the Son of God; the word of Christ, Who declared: “This is My Body … This is My Blood” and we firmly believe in His word. “Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius, nil hoc verbo Veritatis verius.” I believe everything the Son of God has said; nothing can be truer than this word of Truth (Adoro Te Devote by St Thomas Aquinas, OP)…

I devoutly adore you, O hidden Deity,
Truly hidden beneath these appearances.
My whole heart submits to You,
And in contemplating You, it surrenders itself completely.

Sight, touch, taste are all deceived in their judgment of You,
But hearing suffices firmly to believe.
I believe all that the Son of God has spoken;
There is nothing truer than this word of truth.

On the cross only the divinity was hidden,
But here the humanity is also hidden.
Yet believing and confessing both,
I ask for what the repentant thief asked.

I do not see the wounds as Thomas did,
But I confess that You are my God.
Make me believe more and more in You,
Hope in You, and love You.

O memorial of our Lord’s death!
Living bread that gives life to man,
Grant my soul to live on You,
And always to savor Your sweetness.

Lord Jesus, Good Pelican1,
wash my filthiness and clean me with Your blood,
One drop of which can free
the entire world of all its sins.

Jesus, Whom now I see hidden,
I ask You to fulfill what I so desire:
That the sight of Your face being unveiled
I may have the happiness of seeing Your glory. Amen.

…We firmly believe in the Eucharist, we have no doubts about it; unfortunately, however, we must admit that our faith is often weak and dull. Although we may not live far from a church, although we may perhaps dwell under the same roof with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, it is easy to become rather indifferent, or even cold, in the presence of this great reality. Alas, our coarse nature gradually grows accustomed to even the most sublime and beautiful realities, so that they no longer impress us and have no power to move us, especially when they are near at hand. Thus it happens that while we believe in the ineffable presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we pay little or no attention to the greatness of this reality, and we fail to have the lively, concrete appreciation of it which the saints had. Let us then repeat, very humbly and confidently, the Apostles’ beautiful prayer: “Domine, adauge nobis fidem,” Lord, increase our faith! (Luke 17:5).

COLLOQUY

“Praise and thanks to you, O blessed faith! You tell me with certitude that the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, the heavenly Manna, is no longer bread, but my Lord Jesus Christ Who is wholly present there for love of me.

“One day, O Jesus, full of love and of goodness, You sat beside the well to await the Samaritan woman, that You might convert and save her. Now, You dwell on our altars, hidden in the consecrated Host, where You wait and sweetly invite souls, to win them to Your love. From the tabernacle You seem to say to us all: ‘O men, why do you not come to Me, Who love you so much? I am not come to judge you! I have hidden myself in this Sacrament of love only to do good and to console all who have recourse to Me’; I understand, O Lord; love has made You our prisoner; the passionate love You have for us has so bound You that it does not permit You to leave us.

“O Lord, You find Your delight in being with us, but do we find ours in being with You? Especially do we, who have the privilege of dwelling so near Your altar, perhaps even in Your very own house, find our delight in being with You? Oh! how much coldness, indifference, and even insults You have to endure in this Sacrament, while You remain there to help us by Your presence!

“O God, present in the Eucharist, O Bread of Angels, O heavenly Food, I love You; but You are not, nor am I, satisfied with my love. I love You, but I love You too little! Banish from my heart, O Jesus, all earthly affections and give place, or better, give the whole place to Your divine love. To fill me with Yourself, and to unite Yourself entirely to me, You come down from heaven upon the altar every day; justly then, should I think of nothing else but of loving, adoring, and pleasing You. I love You with my whole soul, with all my strength. If You want to make a return for my love, increase it and make it always more ardent!” (St. Alphonsus).”

Love,
Matthew

1. In medieval Europe, the pelican was thought to be particularly attentive to her young, to the point of providing her own blood by wounding her own breast when no other food was available. As a result, the pelican came to symbolize the Passion of Jesus and the Eucharist.

The Real Presence

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

Presence of God – “Hidden God, devoutly I adore Thee, truly present beneath these veils: all my heart subdues itself before Thee, since all before Thee faints and fails” (cf. Adoro Te Devote).

MEDITATION

“Verbum caro factum est” (John 1:14). The Incarnation of the Word, the ineffable mystery of the merciful love of God, who so loved man that He became “flesh” for his salvation, is, in a way, prolonged and extended through the ages, and will be until the end of time, by the Eucharist, the Sacrament by means of which the Incarnate Word became Himself our “food.” God was not content with giving us His only Son once for all, willing Him to take flesh in the womb of a Virgin–flesh like ours, so that He might suffer and die for us on the Cross–but He wished Him to remain with us forever, perpetuating His real presence and His sacrifice in the Eucharist. Aided by the Gospel narrative we can reconstruct and relive in our heart the sweet mysteries of the life of Jesus. Had we nothing but the Gospel, however, we would have only nostalgic memories; Jesus would no longer be with us, but only in heaven at the right hand of the Father, having definitively left the earth on the day of His Ascension. With what regret we would think of the thirty-three years of our Savior’s earthly life passed centuries ago! Oh, how different the reality! The Eucharist makes the presence, of Jesus with us a permanent one. In the consecrated Host we find the same Jesus whom Mary brought into the world, whom the shepherds found wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger; whom Mary and Joseph nurtured and watched over as He grew before their eyes; the Jesus who called the Apostles to follow Him, who captivated and taught the multitudes, who performed the most startling miracles; who said He was the “light” and “life” of the world, who forgave Magdalen and raised Lazarus from the dead; who for love of us sweat blood, received the kiss of a traitor, was made one enormous wound, and died on the Cross; that same Jesus who rose again and appeared to the Apostles and in whose wounds Thomas put his finger; who ascended into heaven, who now is seated in glory at the right hand of His Father, and who, in union with the Father, sends us the Holy Spirit. O Jesus, You are always with us, “yesterday, and today, and the same forever!” (Hebrews 13:8). Always the same in eternity by the immutability of Your divine Person; always the same in time, by the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, wealth of the poor, how admirably You can sustain souls, revealing Your great riches to them gradually and not permitting them to see them all at once. When I see Your great Majesty hidden in so small a thing as the Host, I cannot but marvel at Your great wisdom.

“O my God, if You did not conceal Your grandeur, who would dare to come to You so often, to unite with Your ineffable Majesty a soul so stained and miserable? Be forever blessed, O Lord! May the angels and all creatures praise You for having deigned to adapt Your mysteries to our weakness so that we might enjoy Your treasures without being frightened by Your infinite power. Otherwise, poor, weak creatures like ourselves would never dare to approach You.

“How would I, a poor sinner, who have so often offended You, dare to approach You, O Lord, if I beheld You in all Your Majesty? Under the appearances of bread, however, it is easy to approach You, for if a king disguises himself, it seems as if we do not have to talk to him with so much circumspection and ceremony. If You were not hidden, O Lord, who would dare to approach You with such coldness, so unworthily, and with so many imperfections?

“Besides, I cannot doubt at all about Your real presence in the Eucharist. You have given me such a lively faith that, when I hear others say they wish they had been living when You were on earth, I laugh to myself, for I know that I possess You as truly in the Blessed Sacrament as people did then, and I wonder what more anyone could possibly want” (Teresa of Jesus, Life, 38 – cf. Way of Perfection, 34).”

Love,
Matthew

food for the spirit…


-by Br John Mark Solitario, OP

St. Thomas Aquinas lists among the principal effects of the Eucharist that “this sacrament does for the spiritual life all that material food does for the bodily life.” If we pay attention to the basic sacramental signs at play here, we can come to a better understanding of the spiritual reality made present by God’s design.

By the Body of Christ, we are fortified with strength for the journey, aptly represented by the appearance of bread. If a bagel from your favorite deli powers you through the first hours of the day, what kind of spiritual vitality and endurance might you expect from the Son of the living God?

By the Blood of Christ, we are spiritually gladdened so that what was formerly harsh along the way becomes sweet under the influence of divine charity. Think of the relaxation and refreshment that come from your favorite summer beverage. How much better will the spiritual drink that comes from God’s banquet table give ease to your tired spirit?

The appearances of bread and wine, although veiling the new essence of Who is there, help us to understand the purpose of Holy Communion: grace comes to nourish and enliven the charity already aflame from Baptism. We find strength for the demands of life in Jesus’s friendship. Our sacramental unity with God’s Son turns sweet what had been bitter and makes ever more fresh what before felt so dull.”

Love, refreshment, nourishment,
Matthew

Glamour of evil

In the Fox television series, of which I am a HUGE fan/geek/nerd, “Sleepy Hollow”, witches use a power known as “glamour” to disguise their true appearance, age, and other things they want to hide. This is a much older understanding and sense of the word glamour, here used in that sense in the Catholic baptismal promises below. Sir Walter Scott (1797-1826) wrote, defining the use of the word glamour, “the magic power of imposing on the eyesight of spectators, so that the appearance of an object shall be totally different from the reality.”

Do you reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God’s Children?
I do.

Do you reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin?
I do.

Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness?
I do.

Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth?
I do.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
Who was Born of the Virgin Mary,
was crucified, died, and was buried,
rose from the dead,
and is now seated at the Right Hand of the Father?
I do.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints,
the Forgiveness of sins, the Resurrection of the body,
and Life everlasting?
I do.

God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
has given us a New Birth by water and the Holy Spirit,
and forgiven our sins.

May God also keep us faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ
forever and ever.

Amen.

-by Stephen Sparrow, who writes from New Zealand. He is semi-retired and reads (and writes) for enjoyment, with a particular interest in the work of Catholic authors Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Sigrid Undset, Dante Alighieri and St Therese of Lisieux. His secondary school education was undertaken by Society of Mary priests at St. Bedes College and after leaving school in 1960 he joined a family wood working business, retiring from it in 2001. He is married with five adult children. His other interests include fishing, hiking, photography and natural history, especially New Zealand botany and ornithology.

“Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) is recognized as one of the most important American writers of this century. In her short life, Flannery O’Connor left a small and precious body of writing in which the voices of displaced persons affirm the grace of God in the grotesqueries of the world.

Born Mary Flannery O’Connor in Savannah in 1925, she spent a serene childhood there, although a series of displacements lay ahead in her growing years. Her family were staunch Roman Catholics, a small religious minority in the South. Even as a child in parochial school, she was aware of being regarded as somehow different, although Savannah was where most Georgia Catholics lived at that time. In her mature years as a writer, many of her artistic contemporaries regarded any kind of orthodoxy as freakish, but she never lost her vital connection to her faith and her Church, and never lost the courage of her convictions, whether as a Catholic or an artist.

Her brief literary career was a race against time. The symptoms of lupus appeared just as she was finishing her first novel, Wise Blood. The disease progressed with occasional remissions. But, in fact it was only restrained by a medication that simultaneously damaged her bone structure. Aware of the fragility of her existence, she wrote and revised with tireless intensity. But two collections of stories, A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Everything That Rises Must Converge, and a second novel, The Violent Bear It Away, were all she was able to finish. The Fitzgeralds posthumously published her occasional prose in a collection entitled Mystery & Manners. Some years later Sally Fitzgerald edited and published a selection of her celebrated letters under the title, The Habit of Being. Unfortunately, Flannery O’Connor’s work did not receive its highest honors until after her death, but her reputation has grown steadily and, today, she is everywhere recognized as one of the most important American writers of this century.

During her most creative years, also the years of her physical decline, she lived on a family farm outside Milledgeville, attended by a great flock of peacocks she loved to raise. She was a warmly receptive person who maintained her sharp sense of humor despite poor health. She died in Milledgeville in 1964 and is buried there near her father. Toward the end of her life she wrote:

“The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make them appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the blind you draw large and startling figures.”

Her shocking message was, and is, Behold, the dwelling of God is with men!

(Excerpted from the short biography of Flannery O’Connor on the Georgia Women of Achievement web site)

——–

During an interview granted to Jubilee Magazine, Flannery O’Connor was reminded of something she had once written to the effect that the creative action of the Christian’s life is to prepare his death in Christ. The interviewer then asked how this related to her work as a writer? O’Connor replied, “I’m a born Catholic and death has always been brother to my imagination. I can’t imagine a story that doesn’t properly end in it or in its foreshadowings.”


Flannery O’Connor
(1925-1964)

“I can’t imagine a story that doesn’t properly end in it or in its foreshadowings.”1 Flannery O’Connor was faithful to her own dictum and out of her two published collections of short stories twelve of the twenty end in death, and, of her two novels one begins with death and the other ends in it, and each also features a murder. Untimely death, or its foreshadowing, is the eschatological theme underlying most of O’Connor’s fiction, which, for the Christian, means that the last four things are: death, judgement, heaven and hell.

In her acclaimed short story “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”, O’Connor makes spectacular use of violent death to highlight this theme. The story is about a vacationing family murdered by a trio of psychopaths, and right from the beginning it is filled with portents of doom. First, we witness the manipulative grandmother lecturing her apathetic son on the dangers of heading in the same direction (Florida) as this “Misfit…aloose from the Federal Pen.” She tries unsuccessfully to gain his attention by saying, “‘Now look here, Bailey, see here, read this,’ and she stood with one hand on her thin hip and the other rattling the newspaper at his bald head.” The grandmother has another destination in mind. She would like them all to visit East Tennessee, which the children have never visited, rather than Florida where they have previously vacationed. For their part, the children bicker openly with their grandmother and disparage her to each other, while their father ignores them all, being absorbed by the daily newspaper’s sport section. Meantime, his homely looking wife just sits on the sofa saying nothing as she spoon feeds the baby. The decision to head for Florida stands, and next morning the family get in the car and commence their journey. As they leave Atlanta and drive into the countryside, O’Connor tells us, “the trees were full of silver-white sunlight and the meanest of them sparkled.” The trees stand impassively but even the meanest the worst of them sparkle, symbolising the wilderness of good and evil the family is about to enter; a very Dantesque2 image. But, it’s not just the trees that sparkle; so too do the people the family encounter. Even in the Misfit leader of the killers an infinitesimal spark of goodness shows fleetingly right at the end of the story, and this comparison with “mean” trees that sparkle illustrates the uniquely sacramental view of life O’Connor portrays through her fiction.

To get quickly to the crux of the story, we’ll only skim through the remaining portents of doom. O’Connor tells us that in the car the grandmother is dressed meticulously so that “anybody seeing her dead on the highway would know that she was a lady.” The family is not long on the journey when they pass a cotton field with five or six graves in it. “The family burying ground…that belonged to the plantation,” the Grandmother announces, and the children ask what happened to the plantation. “Gone with the wind,” the old lady tells them. They stop for a break at Red Sammy Butt’s barbecue stand and learn in passing how several days earlier, Butt’s was ripped off by three men who filled their car with gas and took off without paying. A short time later we find ourselves with the family traveling along a winding dirt road in search of an old mansion remembered by the Grandmother. The children, in an unruly display, have forced Bailey, against his better judgment, to seek out the place. The last thing Bailey wants is a detour on a dirt road and so before agreeing to search for the mansion, he warns his passengers, “this is the one and only time…we’re going to stop.” Prophetic words indeed. A short time later the Grandmother’s cat panics and springs from its basket in the back, distracting the driver, and the car crashes off the road landing right side up in a ditch. The family emerge from the partly wrecked vehicle and count the cost. The only real injury is the mother’s broken arm.

The crash has been witnessed by the Misfit and within a short time he and his two sidekicks arrive on the scene. The Grandmother makes the mistake of admitting that she recognises the Misfit and he in turn orders his sidekicks to take the mother, father and children into the woods and execute them. Left alone with the Misfit the Grandmother attempts to talk him out of killing her. She prattles on about prayer and Jesus and attempts to bribe him with all the money she’s got, causing the Misfit to respond, “there never was a body that give the undertaker a tip.” And on the subject of Jesus he continues, “Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead and He shouldn’t have done it. He thrown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness.” However, the Grandmother can’t stop prattling on until quite suddenly her head clears and she realises that both she and the Misfit are connected. They are both children of God. “Why, you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children,” she says and reaches out and touches him on the shoulder, and the Misfit retaliates by jumping up and shooting her. She had unwittingly told him the one thing he didn’t want to hear and paid for it with her life. She had touched a raw nerve and reminded the Misfit of his kinship and, by inference, his duty to all other human beings. Immediately afterward when one of his sidekicks talks about the fun they just had, the Misfit, realising the pointlessness of their actions, tells him to shut up and says, “It’s no real pleasure in life.” For the Misfit, it is the first stage on the journey of repentance. Writing about this encounter later, O’Connor said that, “The story is a duel of sorts between the Grandmother and her superficial beliefs and the Misfit’s more profoundly felt involvement with Christ’s action, which set the world off balance for him.”3

For the Misfit (or anybody for that matter) the inconvenient thing about Christianity is its all or nothing character. Christianity is either true for everybody or not true for anybody. Both stances are dogmatic. One states that Jesus Christ is God, the other denies that belief. Neither position is provable, but, if there is no such thing as a merciful God, then how can killing or murder be a crime? Isn’t murder just force? Isn’t this world merely a product of blind force? So what is the big deal? If force is supreme then surely the exercise of the greatest force would be the greatest achievement; greater by far than mercy and justice, which sit at the opposite end of the “Force” scale. If Force is supreme, then Justice is mere folly and, in conflict with Force/Natural Selection/Evolution etc, it should never have got off the ground. But first we had better define Justice. My definition is: the dignity and the freedom for each and every individual to be their unique selves. Now if Justice is really folly, there would be no moral absolutes such as the Ten Commandments and we would then have to agree with what the Misfit told the Grandmother: “If He (Christ) didn’t (raise the dead), then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness.”

Flannery O’Connor was familiar with the writings of Charles Pegúy, and with a deft touch she used fiction in “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” to echo what Pegúy’ stated in his essay “Clio I”: “You (Christianity) have eternalised everything. You have grabbed all the values on the market. And turned them all into infinite values. And now one can no longer be sure of quiet for a single moment.” 4 O’Connor often plugged this theme in various ways in her lectures, one remark being, “Redemption is meaningless unless there is a cause for it in the actual life we live,”5 and in 1959 she publicly reiterated her raison d’être saying, “I am no disbeliever in spiritual purpose and no vague believer. I see from the standpoint of Christian orthodoxy. This means that for me the meaning of life is centred in our redemption by Christ and what I see in the world I see in its relation to that.”6 The whole thrust of A Good Man Is Hard To Find is consistent with these avowals.

O’Connor had a high opinion of Dante Alighieri’s writings, especially The Divine Comedy, and she could not have overlooked the aptness of the line, “As many coals produce a single heat.”7 What a superb phrase to illumine the social role of Christianity. If we turn that meaning around and imagine the fire of Christianity cooling, all hell (quite literally) breaks loose, making it plain that Christianity should not be respected merely on account of its civilising role in history, but rather the unshakeable fact exists that the social and civil advantages gained by any State from its Christian roots have accrued as a direct consequence of the Missionary Church’s main aim of saving souls.

So, what is it like to be holy? For the individual it is to increase and enhance goodness and happiness wherever he is. It is to arrive in some situation and leave it better than when he entered it. Authentic holiness is all about wholeness, which in turn is about balance in our lives the balance of sensible things and without that balance, joy and happiness become inaccessible. O’Connor touched on this when writing to Betty Hester, “Always you renounce a lesser good for a greater; the opposite is what sin is.”8 To shy away from holiness is to veer toward sin, but, much as we may want otherwise, we human beings are incapable of leaving the transcendental alone. We’re caught in a supernatural tug-of-war; one end of the rope is good and the other end evil. We seem to be scared that holiness might somehow make us miserable, when in fact the opposite is the case, and inevitably we feel drawn to the evil end of the rope.

Flannery O’Connor’s undoubted sympathy for the Misfit in his situation is well covered by a few lines in another letter she wrote to Hester. “We are not judged by what we are basically. We are judged by how hard we use what we have been given. Success means nothing to the Lord, nor gracefulness,”9 and still later in the introduction to “A Memoir of Mary Ann” she wrote, “Most of us have learned to be dispassionate about evil. To look it in the face and find, as often as not, our own grinning reflections with which we do not argue, but good is another matter. Few have stared at that long enough to accept the fact that its face too is grotesque, that in us the good is something under construction.”10

However, as noted earlier, that infinitesimal sparkle of goodness from the Misfit shows up clearly right near the end of the story. Talking of the Grandmother he says, “She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” Note the Misfit’s use of that word good: like all of us he instinctively knows about good and evil and his comment applies to each and every one of us irrespective of gender. In other words, who would not be well behaved if there were always a loaded gun pointed at them? The threat of imminent death may be the only way some people will ever understand the deep-seated reason for being good, which is a prime aspect of the Natural Law. Such a threat surely begs the question, should people be good because of the fear of punishment or because of their love for fellow human beings? But we’re given a clue to the answer in the final line of the story where the Misfit utters those famous words showing his freely chosen change of heart, “It’s (meanness) no real pleasure in life.”

The Misfit had a rough upbringing and his behaviour had seldom conformed to the norms of middle class society. He told the Grandmother of how he had once had a “run in” with the so called Justice System (Force masquerading as Justice!), which, as everyone knows, is what governments use to tidy the frayed edges of society. The Misfit got enjoyment from hurting others because his experience of life had shown how others found enjoyment and pleasure in hurting and harming him. St Thomas Aquinas defined all evil as mistaking or misusing the means for the end.11 The Misfit did exactly that. He made enjoyment and pleasure in crime an end in itself. He thought this was his right instead of remembering that rights and duties are intertwined. His killing of someone as old and helpless as the Grandmother certainly opened his eyes and changed him and it is equally certain that the encounter changed the Grandmother as well. With one brutal stroke God’s Grace is shown to cut both ways, causing each of the protagonists to come face to face with the Mercy of God. As O’Connor said, “There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored.”12 In “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” both the Misfit and the Grandmother are portrayed (albeit covertly) as being restored to a state of grace.13 Truly, Flannery O’Connor was right when she wrote, “and the meanest of them sparkled,” because somewhere deep inside each and every one of us lies the faculty to be good; that capacity to sparkle.””

Love,
Matthew

ENDNOTES

1. Conversations With Flannery O’Connor. Rosemary Magee, ed. Mississippi: University of Mississippi Press. 107.

2. Dantesque: from Dante Alighieri 1265-1321. Italian Poet and author of The Divine Comedy. Dante frequently used sacramental imagery.

3. “Letter to Mr. .” Flannery O’Connor: Collected Works. New York: Library of America, 1988. 1148.

4. Pegúy Charles 1874-1914. French Poet and Thinker. “Clio I” extract from Temporal and Eternal. English edition. Harvil Press, 1954.

5. “The Fiction Writer And His Country.” Flannery O’Connor: Collected Works. New York: Library of America, 1988. 805.

6. Ibid Pages 804-5

7. Dante Alighieri. The Divine Comedy. “Paradiso.” Canto 19: line 19.

8. “Letter to A.” Flannery O’Connor: Collected Works. New York: Library of America, 1988. 978.

9. Ibid Page 1082

10. “A Memoir of Mary Ann.” Flannery O’Connor: Collected Works. New York: Library of America, 1988. 830.

11. The aspect of good is found chiefly in the end: and therefore the end stands in the relation of object to the act of the will, which is at the root of every sin. (St Thomas Aquinas: cf. Summa Theologica, 2.1.72.1, “reply to objection 1”) Put simply this states, “All evil exists in the mistaking or misusing of the means for the end.” (Hilaire Belloc: “The Cruise of The Nona.”) Flannery O’Connor studied Thomas Aquinas.

12. “The Grotesque in Southern Fiction” Flannery O’Connor: Collected Works. New York: Library of America, 1988. 820.

13. State of Grace: The state of being reconciled with God in His Mercy.