Category Archives: Saints

Oct 15 – Preachers & Mystics

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


-by Br Juan Macias Marquez, OP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Matthew

“As YOU will…” -Mt 26:39


-by Br Raymond LaGrange, OP

“There are many fascinating stories about St. Catherine of Siena. She once almost got her head cut off. Another time, she caught the head of someone else just after it was cut off. Jesus literally removed her heart and replaced it with is own; she had the scars to prove it. Demons obeyed her. Popes sought her counsel. Jesus taught her to write. She even gave up wine as a child. The list goes on.

Those accustomed to history may see this as another list of fanciful legends which time has attached to a real name. But what is unique about St. Catherine’s hagiography is that her life was written by her spiritual director, Bl. Raymond of Capua, who lived, worked, and suffered alongside her for six years. This makes his autobiography a vivid testimony to a remarkable saint. His work comes alive in unique and gripping ways.

One of the more powerful themes in Bl. Raymond’s writing is that of Catherine’s extreme devotion. Every waking moment of hers, ill or healthy, alone or with others, was devoted to God. Sometimes this took the form of tireless service to neighbor, sometimes of ecstatic prayer, sometimes of preaching. Through it all she was permeated with a positive desire to suffer for the good of God’s kingdom. She was so distressed by the sin in the world that she would suffer anything alongside Jesus so as to join in his redemptive passion.

One of my favorite stories about her is one that, unfortunately, I seldom hear told. Bl. Raymond recounts for us a conversation he had with her about Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane. She explained to him that Jesus from the moment of his conception was perfect, and so always desired, with everything he had, to complete his mission, up to and including his passion and death. This desire, while unfulfilled, led to an immense suffering. When he prayed in Gethsemane, “Let this cup pass from me” (Mt 26:39), he was not asking for a reprieve from death, but rather, that the agony of his incomplete mission might be removed soon, by his final passion. But, in obedience, he accepted whatever timing the Father might choose, adding “But not what I will, but what you will” (Mt 26:39). In St. Catherine’s view, Jesus’ pain stemmed not from a fear of death, but from the very opposite, from his having something more to suffer.

Catherine’s desire to suffer for God was so great that she could see in Jesus a desire only to drain his cup of suffering by completing God’s plan. In her mind, Jesus, as a man, could never have desired to leave the cup undrunk. We can imagine both Jesus and Catherine thinking no thought that was not directed to their final goal, ready to face all obstacles in order to suffer what must be suffered. I hesitate to pass judgment over the validity of the exegesis, but it certainly shows a remarkable woman.

Raymond himself was incredulous when she told this to him. He explained to her how all the doctors interpreted it, that Jesus was, as a man, naturally afraid of death, and that he spoke on behalf of all the elect in order to encourage them. Catherine only answered that Scripture can speak to the weak and the strong in different ways, appropriate to each. The interpretation that made sense to Catherine was one of a Jesus who desired to suffer. But Scripture speaks to everyone. Raymond recounts that he was then silenced by her wisdom. The story had a similar effect on me.

You can learn a lot about someone from what they think of Jesus. For this reason, I think this story holds a high place in understanding St. Catherine. It may not be as exciting as some of her escapades across fourteenth century Europe; it may seem less heroic than her grand acts of mortification. But it deserves a higher place than it has received amidst all the stories of saints that dwell in popular memory, decorating religion classes and homilies and children’s books. St. Catherine, pray for us!”

Love, pray for me that I may accept His will,
Matthew

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

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

-by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Considerations

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

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

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

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

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


-the skull of Daria


-Daria


-before the altar

Love,
Matthew

Beauty, Truth, Goodness, Love: The Dialogue of St Catherine of Siena

Transcendentals

The transcendentals (Latin: transcendentalia) are the properties of being that correspond to three aspects of the human field of interest and are their ideals; science (truth), the arts (beauty) and religion (goodness). Philosophical disciplines that study them are logic, aesthetics and ethics…

…In the Middle Ages, Catholic philosophers elaborated the thought that there exist transcendentals (transcendentalia) and that they transcended each of the ten Aristotelian categories. A doctrine of the transcendentality of the good was formulated by Albert the Great. His pupil, Saint Thomas Aquinas, posited five transcendentals: res, unum, aliquid, bonum, verum; or “thing”, “one”, “something”, “good”, and “true”. Saint Thomas derives the five explicitly as transcendentals, though in some cases he follows the typical list of the transcendentals consisting of the One, the Good, and the True. The transcendentals are ontologically one and thus they are convertible: e.g., where there is truth, there is beauty and goodness, also.

In Christian theology the transcendentals are treated in relation to theology proper, the doctrine of God. The transcendentals, according to Christian doctrine, can be described as the ultimate desires of man. Man ultimately strives for perfection, which takes form through the desire for perfect attainment of the transcendentals. The Catholic Church teaches that God is Himself truth, goodness, and beauty, as indicated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Each transcends the limitations of place and time, and is rooted in being. The transcendentals are not contingent upon cultural diversity, religious doctrine, or personal ideologies, but are the objective properties of all that exists.
-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendentals

“…(Catherine is a) permanent source of refreshment to the human spirit. She intuitively perceived life under the highest possible forms, the forms of Beauty and Love. Truth and Goodness were, she thought, means for the achievement of those two supreme ends. The sheer beauty of the soul “in a state of Grace” is a point on which she constantly dwells, hanging it as a bait before those whom she would induce to turn from evil. Similarly the ugliness of sin, as much as its wickedness, should warn us of its true nature. Love, that love of (hu)man for (hu)man which, in deepest truth, is, in the words of the writer of the First Epistle of St. John, God Himself, is, at once, the highest achievement of man and his supreme and satisfying beatitude. The Symbols of Catholic theology were to her the necessary and fitting means of transit, so to speak. …the fine allegory of the Bridge of the Sacred Humanity, of the soul in viâ on its dusty pilgrimage toward those gleaming heights of vision. “Truth” was to her the handmaid of the spiritualized imagination, not, as too often in these days of the twilight of the soul, its tyrant and its gaoler. Many of those who pass lives of unremitting preoccupation with the problems of truth and goodness are wearied and cumbered with much serving. We honor them, and rightly; but if they have nothing but this to offer us, our hearts do not run to meet them, as they fly to the embrace of those rare souls who inhabit a serener, more pellucid atmosphere. Among these spirits of the air, St. Catherine has taken a permanent and foremost place. She is among the few guides of humanity who have the perfect manner, the irresistible attractiveness, of that positive purity of heart, which not only sees God, but diffuses Him, as by some natural law of refraction, over the hearts of men. The Divine nuptials, about which the mystics tell us so much, have been accomplished in her, Nature and Grace have lain down together, and the mysteries of her religion seem but the natural expression of a perfectly balanced character, an unquenchable love and a deathless will.
-St. Catherine of Siena (2013-07-31T23:58:59). The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena (with Supplemental Reading: Catholic Prayers) [Illustrated] (Kindle Locations 438-454). TAN Books. Kindle Edition.

Love, Beauty, Goodness, Truth,
Matthew

Fire within – St Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church

“Because there is a crucial connection in the divine plan between advanced prayer and generous suffering, we may not omit to mention the extraordinary continuity and number of physical illnesses that beset Teresa from about the age of twenty until her death at sixty-seven. While most writers dealing with the teresian account of contemplation may see no particular significance in the saint’s sicknesses, spiritual direction over the years has taught this observer that there is a close correlation between suffering well and growth in prayer depth. Of itself, of course, suffering improves no one, for a person can become bitter in his woes. But trials borne with love and in union with the crucified Beloved make one grow by leaps and bounds. I have noticed this connection over and over through the years. Students of contemplation must attend to what cannot be coincidental, namely, that this woman who reached the heights of contemplative prayer also descended to the inner abyss of pain. From her early twenties Teresa was in daily discomfort, sometimes in agony.3 She suffered from fevers, tinnitus and a serious heart condition. So grave were some of her afflictions that she “always nearly lost consciousness” and sometimes completely lost it.4 Early in her autobiography she tells us that her heart pains were so severe that she felt she was near death: “For sometimes it seemed that sharp teeth were biting into me . . . because of nausea I wasn’t able to eat anything.” Teresa was so shriveled and wasted away from a daily purge prescribed for her that she considered her nerves to be shrinking, and she said this caused “unbearable pains”. All hope was given up for her life, because in addition to her heart problem she was also tubercular. This last diagnosis did not bother Teresa much because the “bitter torment” of her other problems had already drained and exhausted her. She added that the latter “were like one continuous entity throughout my whole body”.5 A little further on she noted that she was “almost never, in my opinion, without many pains, and sometimes very severe ones, especially in the heart”.6 In a letter to Don Antonio Gaytan she observed that “I was going to say I am well, because, when I have nothing the matter beyond my usual ailments, that is good health for me.”7 From a mere factual point of view one must marvel at what this woman accomplished in her supremely busy life and how it was that she lived as long as she did, for while she lacked the skilled medical treatment of our century, she by no means pampered her body.

Eyewitness accounts agree that throughout her life, from her early teens to mature age, Teresa of Avila had a remarkable impact on people. Though she made no effort to achieve notoriety, as a young woman she became a celebrity. At the Incarnation convent, the important people of Avila who frequented the parlors (apparently as a pastime and for spiritual edification) considered this nun the number-one attraction because of her charm and intelligence and holy conversation. When later during her travels she began to speak at rest stops on the road, the men who cared for the carts and the animals stopped their swearing and quarreling because they preferred hearing about God from her to indulging in their customary pastimes.8 Her persuasive force was such that she transformed an everyday Catholic, none other than her own father,9 into a mystic. One can only be amazed that, in a century hardly known for feminism, a nun could have exercised so strong an influence over men. She was authorized by Rubeo, the master general of the Carmelite Order, to found reformed houses of men, and she gave the discalced habit to St. John of the Cross. She was spiritual director to her married brother Lorenzo, who not surprisingly became a mystic himself, and to at least one bishop. Men had so great a trust in her person and her judgment that they would give her large sums of money to use as she saw fit. About this she confided to Lorenzo that “people have such a blind confidence in me—I don’t know how they can do such things”.10

-Dubay, Fr. Thomas (2009-12-16T22:58:59). Fire Within (Kindle Locations 336-362). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

3 Testimony 58, no. 16, p. 353.
4 Life, chaps. 3 and 4, pp. 38-45.
5 Ibid., chap. 5, nos. 7-8, p. 49.
6 Ibid., chap. 7, no. 11, p. 60. See also Marcelle Auclair, Teresa of Avila (New York: Doubleday, Image edition, 1961), pp. 73-74, for a more detailed description of one of these frightful illnesses.
7 Letter 57, p. 144.
8 E. Allison Peers tells us that Ana reports this “from their own mouths”. See his introduction to the Book of Foundations, vol. 3, p. xii.
9 Auclair, p. 77.
10 Letter 19, p. 75.

Aug 15 – Sermon on the Assumption by St John Damascene (675-749 AD), Doctor of the Church & the Assumption


-Assumption of the Virgin, oil on canvas, Height: 237 cm (93.3 in); Width: 169 cm (66.5 in), by Juan Martín Cabezalero, 1660, Prado National Museum, Spain. Please click on the image for greater detail.

-by St John Damascene

“Thy blessed soul is naturally parted from thy blissful and undefiled body, and the body is delivered to the grave, yet it does not endure in death, nor is it the prey of corruption. The body of her, whose virginity remained unspotted in childbirth, was preserved in its incorruption and was taken to a better, diviner place, where death is not, but eternal life. …Therefore I will not call thy sacred transformation death, but rest or going home, and it is more truly a going home … thou dwellest in a happier state.

Angels with archangels bear thee up. Impure spirits trembled at thy departure. The air raises a hymn of praise at thy passage, and the atmosphere is purified. Heaven rejoices thy soul with joy. The heavenly powers greet thee with sacred canticles and with joyous praise saying:

‘Who is this most pure creature ascending, shining as the dawn, beautiful as the moon, conspicuous as the sun? [cf Revelation 12, Song of Songs 6:10] How sweet and beautiful thou art, the lily of the field, the rose among thorns [cf Song of Songs 1:16, 2:1,2]; therefore the young maidens loved thee [cf Song of Songs 1:3]. We are drawn after the odor of thy ointments [cf Song of Songs 1:3-4]. The King introduced thee into His chamber [cf Song of Songs 2:4]. There Powers protect thee, Principalities praise thee, Thrones proclaim thee, Cherubim are hushed in joy, and Seraphim magnify the true Mother by nature and by grace of their very Lord. Thou wert not taken into heaven as Elias [Elijah] was, nor didst thou penetrate to the third heaven with Paul, but thou didst reach the royal throne itself of thy Son, seeing it with thine own eyes, standing by it in joy and unspeakable familiarity. O gladness of angels and of all heavenly powers, sweetness of patriarchs and of the just, perpetual exultation of prophets, rejoicing the world…refreshment of the weary, comfort of the sorrowful…health of the sick, harbour of the storm-tossed, lasting strength of mourners, and perpetual succour of all who invoke thee…’

We, too, approach thee today, O Queen; and again, I say, O Queen, O Virgin Mother of God, staying our souls with our trust in thee, as with a strong anchor. Lifting up mind, soul, and body, and all ourselves to thee, rejoicing in psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles, we reach through thee One who is beyond our reach on account of His Majesty. If, as the divine Word made flesh taught us, honor shown to servants is honor shown to our…Lord, how can honor shown to thee, His Mother, be slighted? How is it not most desirable?…those who think of Thee should recall the memory of Thy most precious gift as the cause of our lasting joy. How it fills us with gladness! How the mind that dwells on this holy treasury of Thy grace enriches itself.

Watch over us, O Queen, the dwelling-place of our Lord. Lead and govern all our ways as thou wilt…Lead us into the calm harbor of the divine will. Make us worthy of future happiness through the sweet and face-to-face vision of the Word made flesh through thee. With Him, glory, praise, power, and majesty be to the Father and to the holy and life-giving Spirit, now and forever. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 10 – Sermon by St Leo the Great (400-461 AD) on the Feast of St Lawrence


-“Marytrdom of St Lawrence”, Pellegrino Tibaldi, 1592, oil on canvas, Height: 419 cm (13.7 ft); Width: 315 cm (10.3 ft), Basilica of Escorial, Spain


-annual Perseid meteor shower, “Tears of St Lawrence”, always around this time of year

“While the height of all virtues, dearly-beloved, and the fullness of all righteousness is born of that love, wherewith God and one’s neighbor is loved, surely in none is this love found more conspicuous and brighter than in the blessed martyrs; who are as near to our Lord Jesus, Who died for all men, in the imitation of His love, as in the likeness of their suffering. For, although that Love, wherewith the Lord has redeemed us, cannot be equalled by any man’s kindness, because it is one thing that a man who is doomed to die one day should die for a righteous man, and another that One Who is free from the debt of sin should lay down His life for the wicked Romans 5:7-8: yet the martyrs also have done great service to all men, in that the Lord Who gave them boldness, has used it to show that the penalty of death and the pain of the cross need not be terrible to any of His followers, but might be imitated by many of them. If therefore no good man is good for himself alone, and no wise man’s wisdom befriends himself only, and the nature of true virtue is such that it leads many away from the dark error on which its light is shed, no model is more useful in teaching God’s people than that of the martyrs. Eloquence may make intercession easy, reasoning may effectually persuade; but yet examples are stronger than words, and there is more teaching in practice than in precept.

And how gloriously strong in this most excellent manner of doctrine the blessed martyr Laurentius is, by whose sufferings today is marked, even his persecutors were able to feel, when they found that his wondrous courage, born principally of love for Christ, not only did not yield itself, but also strengthened others by the example of his endurance. For when the fury of the gentile potentates was raging against Christ’s most chosen members, and attacked those especially who were of priestly rank, the wicked persecutor’s wrath was vented on Laurentius the deacon, who was pre-eminent not only in the performance of the sacred rites, but also in the management of the church’s property , promising himself double spoil from one man’s capture: for if he forced him to surrender the sacred treasures, he would also drive him out of the pale of true religion. And so this man, so greedy of money and such a foe to the truth, arms himself with double weapon: with avarice to plunder the gold; with impiety to carry off Christ. He demands of the guileless guardian of the sanctuary that the church wealth on which his greedy mind was set should be brought to him. But the holy deacon showed him where he had them stored, by pointing to the many troops of poor saints, in the feeding and clothing of whom he had a store of riches which he could not lose, and which were the more entirely safe that the money had been spent on so holy a cause.

The baffled plunderer, therefore, frets, and blazing out into hatred of a religion, which had put riches to such a use, determines to pillage a still greater treasure by carrying off that sacred deposit , wherewith he was enriched, as he could find no solid hoard of money in his possession. He orders Laurentius to renounce Christ, and prepares to ply the deacon’s stout courage with frightful tortures: and, when the first elicit nothing, fiercer follow. His limbs, torn and mangled by many cutting blows, are commanded to be broiled upon the fire in an iron framework , which was of itself already hot enough to burn him, and on which his limbs were turned from time to time, to make the torment fiercer, and the death more lingering.

You gain nothing, you prevail nothing, O savage cruelty. His mortal frame is released from your devices, and, when Laurentius departs to heaven, you are vanquished. The flame of Christ’s love could not be overcome by your flames, and the fire which burnt outside was less keen than that which blazed within. You but served the martyr in your rage, O persecutor: you but swelled the reward in adding to the pain. For what did your cunning devise, which did not redound to the conqueror’s glory, when even the instruments of torture were counted as part of the triumph? Let us rejoice, then, dearly-beloved, with spiritual joy, and make our boast over the happy end of this illustrious man in the Lord, Who is wonderful in His saints , in whom He has given us a support and an example, and has so spread abroad his glory throughout the world, that, from the rising of the sun to its going down, the brightness of his deacon’s light does shine, and Rome has become as famous in Laurentius as Jerusalem was ennobled by Stephen. By his prayer and intercession we trust at all times to be assisted; that, because all, as the Apostle says, who wish to live holily in Christ, suffer persecution 2 Timothy 3:12, we may be strengthened with the spirit of love, and be fortified to overcome all temptations by the perseverance of steadfast faith. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, etc.

Love & perseverance in & through & for Him,
Matthew

Triumph of Grace

-from http://vultuschristi.org/index.php/2017/08/saint-dominic-and-the-triumph/

“…Saint Dominic would spend whole nights weeping and groaning in prayer before the altar. Over and over again he would say, “What will become of sinners? What will become of sinners?” Saint Dominic’s great passion was to reconcile sinners by preaching the mercy of God.

The Power of Preaching

Dominic understood that the power of preaching comes from ceaseless prayer. His prayer had three characteristics:
-humble adoration,
-heartfelt pity for sinners,
-and exultation in the Divine Mercy.

Saint Dominic prayed constantly; he prayed at home and on the road, in church and in his cell. For Saint Dominic there was no place or time foreign to prayer. He loved to pray at night. He engaged his whole body in prayer by standing with outstretched arms, by bowing, prostrating, genuflecting, and kissing the sacred page. If you are not familiar with the extraordinary little booklet entitled The Nine Ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic, today would be a good day to find it and read it.

The Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Saint Dominic had a tenth way of prayer too: the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary that today we call the rosary. The use of beads was widespread and the repetition of the Hail Mary were both widespread before the time of Saint Dominic. The Hail Mary prayed 150 times in reference to the 150 psalms was practiced in Carthusian and Cistercian cloisters before the time of Saint Dominic.

Irrigated by Grace

Saint Dominic understood that preaching alone was not enough. Preaching has to be irrigated by grace, and grace is obtained by prayer. Inspired by the Mother of God, Saint Dominic interspersed his sermons with the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He exhorted his hearers to continue praying the Psalter of 150 Aves as a way of prolonging the benefits of holy preaching. The rosary allows the seed of the Word sown by holy preaching to germinate in the soul and bear fruit.

Simple Means

Divine Wisdom has so ordered things that the simplest material means — humble and adapted to our weakness — produce the greatest spiritual effects. Father Raphael Simon, the saintly Trappist psychiatrist, said that, “five decades of the rosary or even three Hail Marys daily may mean the difference between eternal life and death.” The effect of the rosary is entirely disproportionate to its simplicity. The fruits of the rosary are well known: among them are detachment from sin and from the occasions of sin, peace of heart, humility, chastity, and joy. The rosary, and all authentic prayer, is always realistic — that is to say, honest about human weakness and sin — and, at the same, full of hope — that is to say, open to the glorious plan of God’s mercy.

The Supplication of the Rosary

If Saint Dominic preached the rosary and prayed it, it was because he knew it to be a prayer capable of winning every grace. The rosary is a prayer of repetition. It is a prayer of confidence. It helps one to persevere in supplication, bead by bead, and decade by decade. Our Lord finds the rosary irresistible because His own Mother “subsidizes” it. She stands behind it. The rosary is the voice of the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, and the weak. Persevere in praying the rosary and one day you will hear Our Lord say to you what He said to the woman of the Gospel: “Great is thy faith! Be it done for thee as thou wilt” (Mt 15:28). Saint Dominic shows us that, with the rosary in hand, we will experience the triumph of grace.”

-by Br Dominic Verner, OP

“While he thus labored to make his own soul pleasing to God, the fire of divine love was daily more and more enkindled in his breast, and he was consumed with an ardent zeal for the salvation of infidels and sinners. To move the divine mercy to regard them with pity, he spent often whole nights in the church at prayer, watering the steps of the altar with abundance of tears, in which he was heard to sigh and groan before the Father of mercy, in the earnestness and deep affliction of his heart; never ceasing to beg with the greatest ardor, the grace to gain some of those unhappy souls to Christ.” – From the Chronicle of the Origin of this Order, compiled by Bl. Jordan of Saxony

The tears of our Holy Father Dominic never fail to move and challenge me. There is something haunting and mysterious at the thought of a man weeping in the solitude and silence of a sleepless night on the altar steps. Entering a church at night to find someone in such a state of fervent and distressing prayer is a moving and troubling experience. The state of crisis shatters the thin veil of our quotidian expectations to reveal the startling reality that we are still poor, banished children of Eve, living in the status viatoris, awaiting the glorious coming of Our Lord and the eternal beatitude of Heaven. The encounter with the soul in crisis reminds us of the reality of the cross that we are called to bear with Christ and with one another. Seeing another bearing such a burden awakens our Christian sympathy and draws us out of our private concerns to beseech the Lord of all consolation for his mercy and compassion.

But what is the crisis that confronted Saint Dominic as he wept in fervent petition at the altar steps? Our holy father was not suffering from the betrayal of a spouse, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one. His tears were not shed over a personal crisis, but rather the crisis of the “infidels and sinners” who reject the obedience of faith and do not enjoy the salvation offered by Christ. When we encounter the tears of our father Dominic, we are confronted with the reality that those who are closed to faith are lacking the possibility of true and lasting friendship with God, a friendship which requires filial trust and a loyal heart. Saint Dominic was brought to tears at the thought of a soul rejecting such a gift. In Dominic we see the beauty of a soul transfigured by faith, hope, and love in a state of fervent petition; more, we see a participation in the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ.

These three features of Saint Dominic’s tears in some way characterize the mission of the Friar Preacher. To preach for the salvation of souls, the soul of the preacher must be elevated by grace through the infused virtues of faith, hope, and love. The preacher must be sympathetically aware of the true deprivation suffered by the poor souls who lack saving faith. And the preacher must see his preaching for the salvation of souls as a participation in the saving action of Christ Our Lord. May the same fire of divine love that burned within Saint Dominic be enkindled within us, that we may never cease “to beg with the greatest ardor, the grace to gain some of those unhappy souls to Christ.”

Love, rely on His grace alone, pray for me, please, please, please,
Matthew

Jun 7 – Suffering & Abandonment, Bl Marie-Therese Soubiran of the Sacred Heart (1834-1889), Religious, Foundress, Sisters of Mary Help of Christians

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

Presence of God – O Lord, teach me to suffer with simplicity, without useless concentration on self, but in total abandonment to Your divine will.

MEDITATION

The secret of learning to suffer in a virtuous way consists chiefly in forgetting oneself and one’s sorrows and in abandoning oneself to God.

The soul that is absorbed in its own sufferings and concentrates its whole attention on them, becomes unable to bear them serenely and courageously. “Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34), said Jesus, thus teaching us to bear calmly, day by day, moment by moment, whatever sorrows and crosses God places in our path, with no thought of what we suffered yesterday, no worry about what we shall have to endure tomorrow. Even when our suffering is intense, let us not exaggerate it, nor attach too much importance to it; let us not foster a morbid tendency to nurture our sorrow, to ponder over it, weighing and analyzing it under every aspect. To act in this way would result in the paralysis of our spirit of sacrifice, of our ability to accept and to act, and would make us useless to ourselves and to others. One who is oversensitive and preoccupied with his own suffering, often becomes insensible and indifferent to the suffering of others.

In order to resist these selfish tendencies which have been rightly defined by Father Faber as “the worm of Christian sorrow,” we must forget ourselves, go out of ourselves and our own sufferings, become interested in the sufferings of others and endeavor to alleviate them. This is a very effective way to regain in times of discouragement the strength to bear our own crosses. We should be mindful of the truth that we are never alone in suffering; that if our sufferings are great, there are always those who suffer incomparably more than we. Our troubles, often enough, are but a drop compared to the sea of sorrows in which mankind is engulfed, and are practically nonentities in comparison with the Passion of Jesus.

Those who are overly concerned with their own troubles eventually become exasperated by them. Drowned in their sorrows, they stifle every impulse to generosity. By contrast, those who know how to forget themselves, maintain their equilibrium, and take greater thought for others than for themselves. They are always open to charity and generosity toward God and their neighbor. These are simple souls who, because they are unmindful of themselves, can bear suffering magnanimously and derive much profit for their own sanctification.


-plaque on the house of Bourges where Marie-Thérèse de Soubiran lived from 1871 to 1874. Please click on the image for greater detail.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, grant that I may never cease to turn to You, and to look only at You. In consolation or desolation I shall run to You, stopping at nothing else; I shall run so quickly that I shall have no time to look at anything, nor to see the things of earth, because my pace will be so rapid. Therefore, out of love for You, I shall spurn pleasure, repose, dependence upon the judgment of men, satisfaction in their approval, dread of physical discomfort, sadness of spirit, and success or failure. In a word, I shall spurn everything that is not God.

I realize that my crosses have been permitted and willed by You, my God, to teach me to trust in You in spite of everything.

O God, be my sole strength in fear, weakness, and distress; be my confidant, or rather my confidence. Divine Guest, dwelling within me, on the throne of my heart, abide with me as my protector; You alone have dominion and power over my whole being; You alone are its love!

Why should I worry or fear? All is Yours, O God, and You will take care of my wants and provide for them. You are infinite Love, and You love the works of Your hands more than they can know and love themselves. Who would dare question Your power, or the loving, providential care You bestow on Your creatures from all eternity, and with the efficacy of Your love?

I believe that all You do and permit is for my good and my salvation, and I abandon myself to Your guidance with love and trust, and without anxiety, fear, or calculation.” (Bl. M. Thérèse Soubiran). Read her story. The order she founded and was calumniously expelled from, Sisters of Marie-Auxiliatrice, Sisters of Mary Help of Christians, endures to this day, under the patronage of their foundress, Bl M. Therese Soubiran of the Sacred Heart.

The Sisters of Mary Help of Christians are dedicated to various projects of assistance, especially for the poor, and young women, and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

They are present in:

Europe: France , Ireland , Italy , United Kingdom
Africa: Cameroon
Asia: South Korea , Japan , Philippines
Oceania: Micronesia

“Now, in the oblivion, inactivity, the most complete nullity, I shall be passionate about Our Lord Himself.” – Bl M. Therese Soubiran

“Be able to emerge life from death!” -Bl M. Therese Soubiran

Love,
Matthew

Jun 28 – St Ireneaus of Lyons, (130-202 AD), Bishop & Martyr, Father of the Church

The writings of St. Irenaeus entitle him to a high place among the fathers of the Church, for they not only laid the foundations of Christian theology but, by exposing and refuting the errors  of the gnostics, they delivered the Catholic Faith from the real danger of the doctrines of those heretics.   It was Irenaeus who first proposed the four Gospels we revere today be accepted as canonical, and the doctrine of apostolic succession.

He was probably born about the year 125, in one of those maritime provinces of Asia Minor where the memory of the apostles was still cherished and where Christians were numerous. He was most influenced by St. Polycarp who had known the apostles or their immediate disciples

Many Asian priests and missionaries brought the gospel to the pagan Gauls and founded a local church. To this church of Lugdunum (Lyon), Irenaeus came to serve as a priest under its first bishop, St. Pothinus, an oriental like himself.

During the persecution of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor from 161–180, the  clergy of that city, many of whom were suffering imprisonment for the faith, sent him in 177 to Rome with a letter to Pope Eleutherius concerning the heresy of Montanism and that occasion bore emphatic testimony to his merits.

This mission explains how it was that he was not called upon to share in the martyrdom of St Pothinus during the terrible persecution in Lyons. When he returned to Lyons it was to occupy the vacant bishopric. By this time, the persecution was over. It was the spread of gnosticism in Gaul, and the ravages it was making among the Christians of his diocese, that inspired him to undertake the task of exposing its errors. He produced a treatise in five books in which he sets forth fully the inner doctrines of the various sects, and afterwards contrasts them with the teaching of the Apostles and the text of the Holy Scripture. His work, written in Greek but quickly translated to Latin, was widely circulated and succeeded in dealing a death-blow to gnosticism. At any rate, from that time onwards, it ceased to offer a serious menace to the Catholic faith.

The date of death of St. Irenaeus is not known, but it is believed to be in the year 202. The bodily remains of St. Irenaeus were buried in a crypt under the altar of what was then called the church of St. John, but was later known by the name of St. Irenaeus himself. This tomb or shrine was destroyed by the Calvinists (Huegenots) in 1562, and all trace of his relics seems to have perished.

St. Irenaeus, was a pupil of Polycarp, and in a letter to Florinus, he recounts learning from his teacher:

“I remember the events of that time more clearly than those of recent years. . . . I am able to describe the very place in which the blessed Polycarp sat as he discoursed, and his goings out and his comings in, and the manner of his life, and his physical appearance, and his discourses to the people, and the accounts which he gave of his intercourse with John and with the others who had seen the Lord. And as he remembered their words, and what he heard from them concerning the Lord, and concerning his miracles and his teaching, having received them from eyewitnesses of the “Word of life” (1 John 1:1), Polycarp related all things in harmony with the Scriptures.”. (-Eusebius, Church History, V.20)

St. Irenaeus had the great gift of sitting at the feet of a theologian and bishop trained by the Theologian—the one Apostle who was with Mary at the Crucifixion of our Lord! And what a great gift we have in the writings of Irenaeus, Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement, and many other early Fathers of the Church.

We learn another important fact from St. Irenaeus: these Fathers were not just Christian intellectuals, leaders, or martyrs; they were successors of the Twelve.

“It is within the power of all . . . who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times. (-Against Heresies, III.3.1)

Already in the second century, St. Irenaeus was encountering a great number of people who were distorting the Scriptures and the Gospel message.

It is not thou that shapest God
it is God that shapest thee.
If thou art the work of God
await the hand of the artist
Who does all things in due season.
Offer Him thy heart,
soft and tractable,
and keep the form
in which the artist has fashioned thee.
Let thy clay be moist,
lest thou grow hard
and lose the imprint of his fingers.
-St Ireneaus

“Irenaeus did not stop at defining the concept of Tradition. His tradition, uninterrupted Tradition, is not traditionalism, because this Tradition is always enlivened from within by the Holy Spirit, Who makes it live anew, causes it to be interpreted and understood in the vitality of the Church.” —Pope Benedict XVI

Prayer

O God, who called the Bishop Saint Irenaeus
to confirm true doctrine and the peace of the Church,
grant, we pray, through his intercession,
that, being renewed in faith and charity,
we may always be intent on fostering unity and concord.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
-from The Roman Missal

Love,
Matthew