Category Archives: Saints

Easter Sermon on the Sacraments – St Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD)

Empty tomb with three crosses on a hill side.

“You are yourselves what you receive.”

“I haven’t forgotten my promise. I had promised those of you who have just been baptized a sermon to explain the sacrament of the Lord’s table, which you can see right now, and which you shared in last night. You ought to know what you have received, what you are about to receive, what you ought to receive every day.

That bread which you can see on the altar, sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. That cup, or rather what the cup contains, sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ. It was by means of these things that the Lord Christ wished to present us with His body and blood, which He shed for our sake for the forgiveness of sins.

If you receive them well, you are yourselves what you receive. You see, the apostle says, We, being many, are one loaf, one body. (1 Cor 10:17) That’s how he explained the sacrament of the Lord’s table; one loaf, one body, is what we all are, many though we be.

In this loaf of bread, you are given clearly to understand how much you should love unity. I mean, was that loaf made from one grain? Weren’t there many grains of wheat? But before they came into the loaf they were all separate; they were joined together by means of water after a certain amount of pounding and crushing. Unless wheat is ground, after all, and moistened with water, it can’t possibly get into this shape, which is called bread.

In the same way, you too were being ground and pounded, as it were, by the humiliation of fasting and the sacrament of exorcism. Then came baptism, and you were, in a manner of speaking, moistened with water in order to be shaped into bread. But it’s not yet bread without fire to bake it. So what does fire represent? That’s the chrism, the anointing. Oil, the fire-feeder, you see, is the sacrament of the Holy Spirit.

Notice it, when the Acts of the Apostles are read; the reading of that book begins now, you see. Today begins the book that is called the Acts of the Apostles. Anybody who wishes to make progress has the means of doing so.

When you assemble in church, put aside silly stories and concentrate on the scriptures. We here are your books. So pay attention, and see how the Holy Spirit is going to come at Pentecost. And this is how He will come; He will show Himself in tongues of fire.

You see, He breathes into us the charity, which should set us on fire for God, and have us think lightly of the world, and burn up our straw, and purge and refine our hearts like gold. So the Holy Spirit comes, fire after water, and you are baked into the bread, which is the body of Christ. And that’s how unity is signified.

Now you have the sacraments in the order they occur. First, after the prayer, you are urged to lift up your hearts; that’s only right for the members of Christ. After all, if you have become members of Christ, where is your head? Members have a head. If the head hadn’t gone ahead before, the members would never follow.

Where has our head gone? What did you give back in the creed? On the third day He rose again from the dead, He ascended into heaven, He is seated at the right hand of the Father. So our head is in heaven. That’s why, after the words Lift up your hearts, you reply, We have lifted them up to the Lord.

And you mustn’t attribute it to your own powers, your own merits, your own efforts, this lifting up of your hearts to the Lord, because it’s God’s gift that you should have your heart up above.

That’s why the bishop, or the presbyter who’s offering, goes on to say, when the people have answered We have lifted them up to the Lord, why he goes on to say, Let us give thanks to the Lord our God, because we have lifted up our hearts. Let us give thanks, because unless He had enabled us to lift them up, we would still have our hearts down here on earth. And you signify your agreement by saying, It is right and just to give thanks to the one who caused us to lift up our hearts to our head.

Then, after the consecration of the sacrifice of God, because He wanted us to be ourselves His sacrifice, which is indicated by where that sacrifice was first put, that is the sign of the thing that we are; why, then after the consecration is accomplished, we say the Lord’s prayer, which you have received and given back.

After that comes the greeting, Peace be with you, and Christians kiss one another with a holy kiss. It’s a sign of peace; what is indicated by the lips should happen in the conscience; that is, just as your lips approach the lips of your brothers or sisters, so your heart should not be withdrawn from theirs.

So they are great sacraments and signs, really serious and important sacraments. Do you want to know how their seriousness is impressed on us? The apostle says, Whoever eats the body of Christ or drinks the blood of the Lord unworthily is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Cor 11:27)

What is receiving unworthily? Receiving with contempt, receiving with derision. Don’t let yourselves think that what you can see is of no account. What you can see passes away, but the invisible reality signified does not pass away, but remains.

Look, it’s received, it’s eaten, it’s consumed. Is the body of Christ consumed, is the Church of Christ consumed, are the members of Christ consumed? Perish the thought! Here they are being purified, there they will be crowned with the victor’s laurels.

So what is signified will remain eternally, although the thing that signifies it seems to pass away.

So receive the sacrament in such a way that you think about yourselves, that you retain unity in your hearts, that you always fix your hearts up above. Don’t let your hope be placed on earth, but in heaven. Let your faith be firm in God, let it be acceptable to God.

Because what you don’t see now, but believe, you are going to see there, where you will have joy, without end.”

Given c.411-415

Love, & Easter Joy, forever and ever,
Matthew

What the saints never said!!!

“God helps those who help themselves.”—The Bible?

During his tenure as the host of The Tonight Show, Jay Leno would approach random people on the street and ask them basic questions about American history or culture—questions they usually bungled. The hapless subjects of these “Jay-walking” segments didn’t fare any better when asked about religion.

Some memorable answers include Jesus being born 250 million years ago, Richard Nixon finding the burning bush, and Joe DiMaggio being swallowed by a whale. A fair number of the respondents also thought that one of the Ten Commandments was “God helps those who help themselves.” According to researcher George Barna, “The most quoted ‘Bible verse’ in America is: ‘God helps those who help themselves’; 82 percent believe that is a direct quote from the Bible.”

The irony, of course, is that America’s most memorable Bible verse is not only not in the Bible, it undermines what the Bible does say.

The Bible on God’s Help

The Bible praises the value of hard work, as can be seen in Proverbs 13:4, which says, “The soul of the sluggard craves, and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” Proverbs also gives this advice: “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (16:3). In one sense, God does help those who do good for others or even themselves. But it is not true that God’s help is reserved for those “who help themselves.” In fact, Scripture teaches that God has a special concern for those who cannot help themselves.

Psalm 68:5 describes God as the “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows.” In the ancient world, those who lacked parents or a spouse risked enslavement or starvation, so they needed someone else to help them out of their dire circumstances. That’s why James 1:17 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.”

A Better Quote: “He who trusts in his own mind is a fool; but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered”—Proverbs 28:26

When the Blessed Virgin Mary praised God as her savior, she didn’t boast about her own accomplishments that spurred God to intervene on her behalf. Instead, she thanked God because he “regarded the low estate of his handmaiden,” and it was for this reason all generations would call her blessed (Luke 1:47-48). Mary said of those who were great at helping themselves, like the proud, the mighty, and the filled, that God would scatter, put down, and send them away empty (Luke 1:51-53). She then said that God “has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy”—not because of anything Israel did itself.

Scripture even warns against trusting one’s efforts apart from God, or as Proverbs 28:25-26 says, “A greedy man stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the Lord will be enriched. He who trusts in his own mind is a fool; but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” This becomes all the more obvious when we examine God’s help in the matter of sin and how he delivers us from eternal damnation.
 Some Other “Bible Quotations”

“God moves in mysterious ways”—The Bible?

VERDICT: Fake

The origin of this phrase may be a nineteenth-century hymn written by William Cowper, which says, in part, “God moves in a mysterious way,/His wonders to perform;/He plants his footsteps in the sea,/And rides upon the storm.” Although this hymn is not in Scripture, the mystery of God’s plans is described in Isaiah 55:8-9, where the prophet says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

“This too shall pass.”—The Bible

VERDICT: Fake

St. Teresa of Avila did say, “All things are passing; God never changes,” but it is not a biblical verse. A similar thought can be found in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, in which he reassures his audience that they are “treasures in earthen vessels” that are being renewed daily by faith in the risen Jesus. Even if they are afflicted, it will be compensated by a future resurrection to glory. He writes:

“For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

 “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”—The Bible?

VERDICT: Close, but not quite

This appears to be a paraphrase of Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” The emphasis of the verse is on loving a child by providing him the discipline he needs. Although the use of corporal punishment was common in the ancient world (and still is in many places today), the truth of this passage is not diminished if a parent chooses to use noncorporal forms of discipline.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Mar 19 – Solemnity of St Joseph, Sermon by St Bernadine of Siena & Litany


-Heiliger “Joseph mit Jesusknabe” (Holy Joseph with the Boy Jesus), Caspar Jele, 1848

Saint Bernardine of Siena, priest (Sermo 2, de S. Joseph: Opera 7, 16, 27-30), Second Reading, Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours, for this March 19.

“There is a general rule concerning all special graces granted to any human being. Whenever the divine favor chooses someone to receive a special grace, or to accept a lofty vocation, God adorns the person chosen with all the gifts of the Spirit needed to fulfill the task at hand.

This general rule is especially verified in the case of Saint Joseph, the foster father of our Lord and the husband of the Queen of our world, enthroned above the angels. He was chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of his greatest treasure, namely, his divine Son and Mary, Joseph’s wife. He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him saying: Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord [cf Matthew 25:23].

What then is Joseph’s position in the whole Church of Christ? Is he not a man chosen and set apart? Through him and, yes, under him, Christ was fittingly and honorably introduced into the world. Holy Church in its entirety is indebted to the Virgin Mother because through her it was judged worthy to receive Christ. But after her we undoubtedly owe special gratitude and reverence to Saint Joseph.

In him the Old Testament finds its fitting close. He brought the noble line of patriarchs and prophets to its promised fulfillment. What the divine goodness had offered as a promise to them, he held in his arms.

Obviously, Christ does not now deny to Joseph that intimacy, reverence and very high honor which he gave him on earth, as a son to his father. Rather we must say that in heaven Christ completes and perfects all that he gave at Nazareth.

Now we can see how the last summoning words of the Lord appropriately apply to Saint Joseph: Enter into the joy of your Lord. In fact, although the joy of eternal happiness enters into the soul of a man, the Lord preferred to say to Joseph: Enter into joy. His intention was that the words should have a hidden spiritual meaning for us. They convey not only that this holy man possesses an inward joy, but also that it surrounds him and engulfs him like an infinite abyss.

Remember us, Saint Joseph, and plead for us to your foster-child. Ask your most holy bride, the Virgin Mary to look kindly upon us, since she is the mother of him who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns eternally. Amen.”

Litany of Saint Joseph

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Illustrious son of David, pray for us.
Light of the patriarchs, pray for us.
Spouse of the Mother of God, pray for us.
Chaste guardian of the Virgin, pray for us.
Foster father of the Son of God, pray for us.
Watchful defender of Christ, pray for us.
Head of the Holy Family, pray for us.
Joseph most just, pray for us.
Joseph most chaste, pray for us.
Joseph most prudent, pray for us.
Joseph most valiant, pray for us.
Joseph most obedient, pray for us.
Joseph most faithful, pray for us.
Mirror of Patience, pray for us.
Lover of poverty, pray for us.
Model of workmen, pray for us.
Glory of domestic life, pray for us.
Guardian of virgins, pray for us.
Solace of the afflicted, pray for us.
Hope of the sick, pray for us.
Patron of the dying, pray for us.
Terror of demons, pray for us.
Protector of Holy Church, pray for us.

Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.

“He made him the lord of His household, And prince of all His possessions.” -Ps 105:21

Let Us Pray

O God, in your ineffable providence you were pleased to choose Blessed Joseph to be the spouse of your most Holy Mother, grant, we beg you, that we may be worthy to have him for our intercessor in heaven whom, on earth, we venerate as our protector: You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

Saint Joseph, Pray for Us!”

St Joseph, my special patron, pray for me!!!

Love,
Matthew

Mar 17 – Patrick, bishop, missionary, evangelist, catechist


-by Dan Burke

“We have no difficulty in realizing the moral grandeur of St. Patrick’s character, because it is revealed to us in all its features not only in his active life and labours, but even still more strikingly in his Confession. In the Confession, we see his character reflected as in a mirror, so that we can have no doubt as to what manner of man he was. It was written, he tells us, for that very purpose, to enable all his brethren and friends to know his ‘quality’—scire qualitatem meam—and clearly see the workings of his heart. Hence it is not, and never was, designed to be in any sense a biographical memoir of the Saint. It does not deal with the external facts of his life (except incidentally), but with ‘the fixed purpose of his soul’—votum animæ meæ. From this point of view, in spite of its rugged language and rude Latinity, it is a most beautiful revelation of Patrick’s lofty character and exalted virtues.

“Hence it is that, apart from other considerations, and judging it by intrinsic evidence alone, all competent critics have recognised its authenticity. The language might be the work of a forger; but the spirit that breathes in every line is the manifest outpouring of a heart filled with the Holy Ghost, and inspired with one great purpose to live, and, if need be, to die, for the conversion of the tribes of Erin. We will not here enlarge on the critical proofs, both intrinsic and extrinsic, in favour of the authenticity of the Confession, because, as we have said, it has not been questioned, so far as we know, by any competent critic.
We said the Confession is a mirror which, consciously or unconsciously, reveals all the characteristic virtues of Patrick’s noble character.

Humility

“First of all, as might be expected in the case of so great a saint, we note his wonderful humility. In his early youth he says he knew not the true God, with thousands of others he was carried into captivity

‘as we deserved, because we did not keep God’s commandments, and were disobedient to our priests, who admonished us about our salvation.’

It was in captivity that God opened the understanding of his unbelief so as to recall his sins to mind, and turn his whole heart to God. He was a stone sunk in the mire when God, in his mercy, raised him up and placed him in the topmost wall. At the end of the Confession, too, after recounting his labours in the cause of God, he emphatically declares that ‘whatever little thing in his ignorance he had accomplished no one should think or believe it to be aught else than the gift of God.’

Prayer

“Then, again, Patrick is revealed to us in the Confession as a man who maintained at all times an intimate union with God by unceasing prayer. We can almost listen to the ‘unspeakable groanings’ of the Spirit of God communing with his soul. That wondrous spirit of prayer he first acquired in the woods on the slopes of Slemish, where a hundred times a day, and as many times at night, he bent his knees to pray in the midst of the frost and snow and rain; yet felt his spirit all aglow with divine fervour. In every crisis and in every danger his heart turned to God in prayer. During his long journeys from church to church he communed with God in silent prayer. It is said he read the whole psaltery every day with his religious family; and we know that he spent one whole Lent on the windy summit of Croaghpatrick, and another in a lonely island in Lough Derg, like our Saviour in the desert, wholly given to fasting and prayer. At Armagh he spent entire nights in prayerful vigils until his wearied body sought repose for a time before the dawn. ‘His conversation was in heaven’; and it is no wonder at all that God’s Angels spoke to him in familiar converse.

Zeal for the Salvation of Souls

“Another characteristic virtue of Patrick, exhibited in his whole life and labours and in the very striking language of his Confession, was his burning zeal for the salvation of souls, and his passionate love for the flock committed to his charge by God. In this respect there is a very striking resemblance between the Irish Apostle and the Doctor of the Gentiles [St. Paul]. Though most anxious to revisit his native country and friends in Britain, and to see once more the faces of his brethren, the saints of God in Gaul, he felt himself constrained by the Holy Spirit to remain in Ireland, lest he should lose any part of the fruit of his labours during his absence. He declares that for the sake of his flock he was ready to shed his blood and let his body be cast out, unburied, to be torn by wild beasts and birds of prey, and to drink to the dregs the chalice of Christ, his Lord, rather than he should lose any of the flock which he had gained for God at the ends of the earth. In the Epistle to Coroticus we find him animated with the same passionate love for his flock—“My brothers and my children, most beautiful and most loving”—he cries out in grief and bitterness of heart, “whom I have begotten for Christ, what can I do for you? am I unworthy in the sight of God and men to be able to help you?”

Detachment

“For their sake, too, lest the infidels should have any grounds for defaming his ministry, or impeding the progress of the Gospel and the salvation of souls, he declares that he gave his ministry to all without fee or reward, except what he hoped to obtain in heaven. “Though I have baptised so many thousands of men did I ever hope to get from them so much as half a scruple? Tell me when, and I will restore it. Though God ordained so many clerics throughout the land through my poor ministry, did I ever ask from any of them the price of my sandals?—tell me and I will restore it.” Disinterestedness like this is quite equal to that of St. Paul, and conveys a no less striking lesson for all Patrick’s successors in the ministry of the Irish Church. Is it any wonder that the people of Ireland, with the knowledge of these facts in their minds from the beginning, should love their great Apostle with a deep and passionate love which is certainly not excelled in the case of any other saint in the Calendar, except the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

*from Healy, J. (1905). The Life and Writings of St. Patrick with Appendices, Etc. (pp. 544–546). Dublin; New York: M. H. Gill & Son; Sealy, Bryers & Walker; Benziger Brothers.

-from https://theconversation-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/theconversation.com/amp/10-things-to-know-about-the-real-st-patrick-92253

Patrick heard voices

While chasing sheep on the hills, Patrick prayed a hundred times a day, in all kinds of weather. It paid off. One night a mysterious voice called to him, saying, “Look, your ship is ready!” Patrick knew he wasn’t hearing sheep. The time was right for his escape.

Patrick refused to ‘suck a man’s breasts’

St. Patrick Catholic Church, Ohio. Nheyob (Own work).
Patrick made his way to Ireland’s east coast and sought passage on a ship bound for Britain. The captain, a pagan, didn’t like the look of him and demanded that Patrick “suck his breasts,” a ritual gesture symbolizing acceptance of the captain’s authority. Patrick refused – instead he tried to convert the crew.

For some reason, the captain still took him aboard.

Patrick had visions

One night Patrick dreamed that Satan tested his faith by dropping an enormous rock on him. He lay crushed by its weight until dawn broke, when he called out, “Helias! Helias!” – the name of the Greek sun god. The rock disappeared. Patrick took it as a kind of epiphany. He later wrote:

“I believe that I was helped by Christ the Lord.”

Patrick had other peculiar visions, too. Back home at Bannavem Taburniae, he was visited by an angel with a message from the Irish: “We beg you, Holy Boy, to come and walk again among us.” He trained as a bishop and went back to Ireland.

Patrick did something unmentionable

Years into his mission, someone, it seems, told a dirty secret about Patrick to his fellow bishops. “They brought up against me after thirty years something I had already confessed … some things I had done one day – rather, in one hour, when I was young,” he wrote.

Patrick did not tell us what he did – worship idols? Engage in a forbidden sexual practice? Take gifts from converts?

Whatever it was, Patrick retrospectively understood his zealous Irish mission to be penance for his youthful sins. While he spread Christianity around Ireland, he was often beaten, put in chains or extorted. “Every day there is the chance that I will be killed, or surrounded, or taken into slavery,” he complained.

Patrick duelled with druids

Two centuries after his death, Irish believers wanted more exciting stories of Patrick’s life than the saint’s own account.

One legend (written 700 A.D.) described Patrick’s contest with native religious leaders, the druids. The druids insulted Patrick, tried to poison him and engaged him in magical duels – much like students of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts – in which they competed to manipulate the weather, destroy each other’s sacred books and survive raging fires.

When one druid dared to blaspheme the Christian God, however, Patrick sent the druid flying into air – the man dropped to the ground and broke his skull.

Patrick made God promise

Another legend from around the same time tells how Patrick fasted for 40 days atop a mountain, weeping, throwing things, and refusing to descend until an angel came on God’s behalf to grant the saint’s outrageous demands. These included the following: Patrick would redeem more souls from hell than any other saint; Patrick, rather than God, would judge Irish sinners at the end of time; and the English would never rule Ireland.

We know how that last one worked out. Perhaps God will keep the other two promises.

Love & begorrah!!!!
Matthew

Joseph & Mary: a love affair, ite ad Joseph


-“San José con el Niño”, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. circa 1660 and circa 1675, oil on canvas, H: 107 cm (1.1 yd); W: 85 cm (2.7 ft), Museum of Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid, Spain


-by Br Maximilian Maria Jaskowak, OP

“A few years ago, my father “was a young man, strong, virile, athletic, handsome, chaste, and disciplined; the kind of man one sees sometimes shepherding sheep, or piloting a plane, or working at a carpenter’s bench.” Even today, he is something of a renaissance man; a bonafide Leonardo da Vinci, precocious as a child and equally adept as an adult. Now he is “in the evening of life,” but I remember a time when he was yet in “its morning, bubbling over with energy, strength, and controlled passion.” I remember a time when—though I did not understand it then—he was “on fire with love.”

In both my mother and father, “there were youth, beauty, and promise.” They were two youths who, “before they knew the beauty of the one and the handsome strength of the other, willed to surrender these things for” the good of their children. Not two years after exchanging vows, they gave birth to a boy, a stubborn but silent fellow. Another child soon followed. He, too, was a boy, with red on the head and a lion in the heart. The next two arrived, accompanied with two pink cribs and four rosy cheeks. Leaning over the cribs, then, were youth and youth, the charming image of a radiant mother and a proud father: hand-in-hand, gazing into the eyes of their created love.

Years passed, almost twelve full, when a crib returned. A blue-eyed, dimpled face smile illuminated the home once again. With that winsome look of a child, the flames of love were renewed, and my mother and father recovered something of their youth, beauty, and promise. In fact, the elation of new life transformed us all.

After the birth of this little one, my father bubbled over with energy, strength, and controlled passion. I witnessed the vigor of youth return. I witnessed the joy of fatherhood.

When I consider the image of St. Joseph, the foster father of Our Lord, I envision this same energy, strength, and controlled passion. In fact, I am particularly fond of paintings and statues portraying St. Joseph as young and on fire with love. The quotations employed above (concerning my father) were originally written by Archbishop Fulton Sheen in honor of the young and promising St. Joseph. Sheen argued for the fittingness (or reasonableness) of such an ascription in his book The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God:

How much more beautiful Mary and Joseph become when we see in their lives what might be called the first Divine Romance! No human heart is moved by the love of the old for the young; but who is not moved by the love of the young for the young, when their bond is the Ancient of Days, Who is God? In both Mary and Joseph, there were youth, beauty, and promise. God loves cascading cataracts and bellowing waterfalls, but He loves them better, not when they overflow and drown His flowers, but when they are harnessed and bridled to light a city and to slake the thirst of a child. In Joseph and Mary, we do not find one controlled waterfall and one dried-up lake but rather two youths who, before they knew the beauty of the one and the handsome strength of the other, willed to surrender these things for Jesus.

If St. Joseph was young at the time of the Nativity, consider the joy he must have brought the Christ Child on account of his spirited embrace, merry disposition, and vitality. Can you imagine the privilege and delight that was his: to play with the Incarnate Word, who cooed and laughed in the manger?

If St. Joseph was young at the time of his romance with the Immaculate Virgin, consider the elevation of his power and promise. Consider the wondrous grace given to him from God in order to renounce paternity of the flesh for the paternity of the spirit. Consider the exceptional love that he would have had for this woman and child, set aflame in the morning of life. Can you imagine yourself wed to the Mother of God, she who was and is the fairest among women—the most stunning, elegant, and attractive woman of time immemorial?

St. Joseph, like my father, was once a young man full of youth, beauty, and promise. Go now and learn from him.”

Love,
Matthew

German mysticism: Suso, Eckhart, Tauler


-by Br Samuel Burke, OP (English Province)

“The Fourteenth Century Dominican, Henry Suso, is one of a trinity of famous Dominican “Founding Fathers” of German Mysticism, a form of spirituality prevalent in German speaking lands 1250-1470. The other two “Founding Fathers” were his teacher, Meister Eckhart, and his contemporary John Tauler. Of the three, Suso is the only one to have been Beatified: Pope Gregory XVI confirmed his veneration in 1831 on account of sustained popular devotion. Who was this German mystic? What makes him different to Meister Eckhart? Is he anything more than the acceptable face of German mystical theology?

Suso was born in Constance, we think, but he might have been born on the other side of the lake at Ueberlingen in Swabia. His father was Count von Berg but he took his Mother’s name instead and seemingly eschewed the more obvious worldly path as a courtier before him. One is tempted to think of him as something of a “mummy’s boy”. Yet what “mummy’s boy” would leave the comfort of his home and enter a fairly austere life with the Dominicans at the young age of 13, some two years earlier than the stipulated age? Suso, it seems, had was made of strong mettle. Indeed, in his early life, he would subject himself to eye-watering practices such as lying of a bed of thirty nails in cruciform shape.

At the age of about 18 he experienced a deeper form of spiritual conversion. From 1324 to 1327, he studied at the studium generale in Cologne. It was at Cologne that Suso fatefully came into contact with Eckhart, shortly before the latter’s death in c.1328. After Cologne, Suso returned to his home Priory at Constance. He became a lector but found himself in hot water over his defence of Eckhart, such as can be found in his “Little Book of Truth”, a short defence of Eckhart’s teching. He defended himself at a General Chapter of the Order at Maastricht in 1330. Luckily for Suso, the General Chapter seemed more concerned about the problems within the Franciscans and the schismatic acts of fr. Michael of Cesena than suspect theology from within their own ranks.

The Dominicans left Constance in 1348 in order to avoid swearing allegiance to the Holy Roman Emperor, Louis of Bavaria, in the midst of a feud between the Empire and Pope John XXII. After nearly being murdered in a Rhineland village in a bizarre affair in which he was accused of poisoning the village well, he finally settled at Ulm, where after serving as Prior, he later died on 25th January 1365.

In his writings, Suso bequeathed us with a rich and intensely personal spirituality in which he stresses a self-emptying of oneself in order to allow the pouring in of God. Acts of self-surrender make us more like Christ, who made the ultimate sacrifice for our redemption. I couldn’t help think in reading Suso that there is much in his thinking that could be considered a precursor to St. John of the Cross; they explore similar themes of spiritual darkness in poetic form. Frank Tobin has described Suso, as having the ultimate aim of putting spiritual truths in literary form. His Vita, which despite its Latin title was written in German and is known in English as “The Life of the Servant”, can be seen as a continuation of an autobiographical tradition in spiritual writing that has strong echoes of St. Augustine’s Confessions. It should be said, however, that the work is said to be a joint-enterprise with Elisabeth Stagel, Dominican Nun and friend to Suso, who was sometime Prioress at Toss. Some doubt whether Suso had any hand in the work at all.

Suso was altogether more qualified and guarded than Eckhart. After an early scare with suspicion, he seems to have taken greater care not to be misconstrued or misunderstood, whilst retaining a focus on the interior life, and themes of detachment, discernment, freedom and mystical union. He was, we might say, less speculative than Eckhart, and more careful. In striving to combine mystical devotion with sound doctrine, Suso is much more than simply the acceptable face of German mysticism; his writings are a treasury for us to mine and his life. And if like me, you find the Swabian dialect of High Medieval German rather taxing, there are some excellent translations.”

Love,
Matthew

Lent with Bl Henry Suso, OP


-by Br Vincent Antony Löning, OP. (English Province)

“I know of few people who have loved Christ so much as to take a blade to their heart and inscribe the Holy Name of Jesus in their blood upon their breast. Blessed Henry Suso is one of them. He used to call his beloved crucified Lord “God’s Eternal Wisdom”, which indeed Christ is. Although in his lifetime Blessed Henry suffered much and was not renowned for being a great theologian or preacher, the manuscripts surviving of his writings suggest he was the most widely read spiritual author in the later Middle Ages until the publication of the Imitatio Christi.

Henry Suso had a very strong devotion to Christ’s passion and crucifixion, and speaks of it in very human terms. This makes him, and especially his Little Book of Eternal Wisdom, ideal reading and material for meditation during Lent. He is ready to admit his weaknesses. As he tells Christ, “Alas! There is just now in my soul a bitter complaint, that Thy Passion does not at all times thoroughly penetrate my heart, and that I do not meditate on it so affectionately as in reason I ought to do, and as is worthy of Thee, my Lord elect; teach me, therefore, how I ought to comport myself!” A valuable lesson for us here is that prayer should be our first recourse, whenever we undertake something new, or struggle to persevere in what we have already begun. It is even the solution when prayer itself becomes difficult!

Jesus’s incarnation means that in order to come to meet His divinity, I must also come to meet his humanity. Christ tells Blessed Henry in one of their encounters, “My humanity is the way one must go, My Passion the gate through which one must penetrate, to arrive at that which thou sleekest.” It is this humanity that Christ gradually unveils in the series of conversations that form the Book of Eternal Wisdom. Blessed Henry ends the book by leaving us one hundred meditations on the Passion. Taken from it, here is a prayer he addresses to Our Lady at the foot of the Cross:

Thy woeful heart was without consolation from all mankind. Oh, pure Lady, on this account forget not to be a constant protectress of my whole life, and my faithful guide. Turn thy eyes, thy mild eyes, at all times, with compassion on me. Watch over me like a mother in every temptation. Protect me faithfully against my enemies, protect me beneath thy tender arms. Let thy faithful kissing of Christ’s wounds be to me as a tender reconciliation with Him; let the wounds of thy heart obtain for me a cordial repentance of my sins; thy fervent sighing procure for me a constant yearning; and let thy bitter tears soften my hard heart; be thy lamentable words even as renunciation to me of all voluptuous speeches, thy weeping form as a casting away of all dissolute conduct; thy disconsolate heart as a despising of all perishable affections, that I may only cherish a perpetual desire of Him, and may persevere in His praise and service to the grave. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Feb 22 – Chair of Peter, Sermon by Pope St Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church, (400-461 AD)


-partial restoration Saint Peter (or Saint Peter in his throne), Grao Vasco (also known as Vasco Fernandes), 1506

The Church of Christ rises on the firm foundation of Peter’s faith.

“Out of the whole world one man, Peter, is chosen to preside at the calling of all nations, and to be set over all the apostles and all the fathers of the Church. Though there are in God’s people many shepherds, Peter is thus appointed to rule in his own person those whom Christ also rules as the original ruler. Beloved, how great and wonderful is this sharing of His power that God in His goodness has given to this man. Whatever Christ has willed to be shared in common by Peter and the other leaders of the Church, it is only through Peter that He has given to others what He has not refused to bestow on them.

The Lord now asks the apostles as a whole what men think of Him. As long as they are recounting the uncertainty born of human ignorance, their reply is always the same.

But when He presses the disciples to say what they think themselves, the first to confess his faith in the Lord is the one who is first in rank among the apostles.

Peter says: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus replies: Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven (cf Matthew 16:16-17). You are blessed, he means, because my Father has taught you. You have not been deceived by earthly opinion, but have been enlightened by inspiration from heaven. It was not flesh and blood that pointed me out to you, but the one whose only-begotten Son I am.

He continues: And I say to you (Matthew 16:18) In other words, as my Father has revealed to you My godhead, so I in My turn make known to you your pre-eminence. You are Peter (Matthew 16:18) though I am the inviolable rock, the cornerstone that makes both one (cf Isaiah 28:16, Ephesians 2:14), the foundation apart from which no one can lay any other, yet you also are a rock, for you are given solidity by My strength, so that which is My very own because of My power is common between us through your participation.

And upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). On this strong foundation, He says, I will build an everlasting temple. The great height of My Church, which is to penetrate the heavens, shall rise on the firm foundation of this faith.

The gates of hell shall not silence this confession of faith; the chains of death shall not bind it. Its words are the words of life. As they lift up to heaven those who profess them, so they send down to hell those who contradict them.

Blessed Peter is therefore told: To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth is also bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven (Matthew 16:19).

The authority vested in this power passed also to the other apostles, and the institution established by this decree has been continued in all the leaders of the Church. But it is not without good reason that what is bestowed on all is entrusted to one. For Peter received it separately in trust because he is the prototype set before all the rulers of the Church.”

*From sermon 4 de natali ipsius, 2-3: PL, 54, 149-151 by Saint Leo the Great, pope.

Love & unity,
Matthew

Feb 22 – Chair of Peter, The Visible Sign of Our Unity


-by Br Hyacinth Grubb, OP

“Today is the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, a celebration of the teaching authority of the Vicar of Christ. We don’t usually think of authority as a blessing, but instead as a cost worth paying for the security we enjoy—upon such philosophy was our democracy founded. Yet today we rightly revel in the great gift we have received: living under the authority of Peter.

The Church is founded upon the rock of Peter, upon his confession of Jesus as Christ and Son of the Living God, revealed to him “not by flesh and blood,” but by the Heavenly Father (Matt 16:17). Through the magisterial teaching of the popes, Peter’s headship and governance has continued through centuries and millennia, and has been brought even to us. The Rock of Peter is stable, unmovable, an anchor and comfort in an age that is unmoored and lost. It is given by Christ through the bishop of Rome, the successors of St. Peter, and against it not even the gates of the netherworld will prevail.

The authority of Peter is a spiritual inheritance, stewarded by the Holy Father and belonging to the whole Christian people as they are governed by that authority. But we have an image of it in a physical reality: Peter’s chair. Just as the throne is the place where a king sits to judge, Peter’s chair symbolizes his authority to definitively pronounce teachings. As a symbol of the original, historical chair of Peter, a 6th-century chair resides in a place of honor in Rome. Enclosed in a gilded bronze casing, it is raised in the air, halfway between heaven and earth, shielding those who shelter beneath it, visible to all who enter St. Peter’s Basilica. It is a tangible sign of the continuity in doctrine and authority that has outlived empires and despots, survived attacks physical and spiritual, and thrived amidst the challenges of erroneous philosophies and false religions. It stands fast, a rock on which we shelter and in which we can revel, thanks be to God!

Marco Zoppo (Paduan, 1433 – 1478 ), Saint Peter, c. 1468, tempera on poplar panel, Samuel H. Kress Collection 1939.1.271
-Saint Peter (c. 1468) by Marco Zoppo depicts Peter as an old man holding the Keys of Heaven and a book representing the gospel.


-“The Crucifixion of Saint Peter”, Caravaggio, 1600 until 1601, medium oil on canvas, width: 51 cm (20.1 in), of detail, Cerasi Chapel, Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome. Peter, feeling himself unworthy to be crucified, since he was not a Roman citizen, in the same orientation as the Lord, requested to be crucified upside down, which was granted.

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that no tempests may disturb us,
for you have set us fast
on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith.
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.”

Love & unity,
Matthew

Do you reject Satan? – how St Therese saved my soul

Satan, the Great Deceiver, the Father of Lies, often uses, abuses, the truth by including a sliver, a speck of truth in his lies. That’s the hook. That’s why we fall for it, if we are not well trained, and strong, and have His grace, to resist. The ultimate thing the devils wants is our ultimate despair. Resist him.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” -1 Peter 5:8-9

“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”

― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 3, lines 96-100

However, the devil can be recognized. Even though appearing in the image, form, and likeness of Christ, quoting Scripture, he will have no wounds. The devil cannot suffer for the beloved.

“The devil is a proude spirit, and cannot stand to be mocked.” – St Thomas More

“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.”

from the book:

“Do you reject Satan?”

“I do,” I answered.
But trembled at the mention of that name.

“And all his works?”

“I do,” I said again,
looking the bishop in the eye
and praying fervently that I would.

“And all his empty promises?  All his pomps?  All his false show? “

“I do!” But my soul cried out,
“No! I don’t! I’ll never be able
to reject them!”

It was the fall of 1974.

I was the only grownup in a pew filled with teenaged
Confirmation candidates reciting their nervous “I do’s.”
As a recent convert, ex-druggie, long-time drunk, and former soldier, I was acquainted with the night.

Memories of past sins danced in my mind. Nonetheless, that night — and with all my strength — I chose goodness.  (Ed. – a decision that will certainly & ultimately cost you, you must know.  Even unto the Cross.)

* * *

I soon found that Confirmation didn’t banish temptation;
it didn’t drive out despair. Weeks later, troubled by my continued sinfulness and seeking distraction, I happened on the Confirmation gift my sponsor had given me: Fr. Jean D’Elbée’s beloved book on the spirituality of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who spent most of her brief life in a cloistered convent.

What could such an innocent teach me?

My eyes fell on this passage:

“I ask that from now on, you never let your past sins be an obstacle between you and Jesus.  It’s a ruse of the devil to keep putting our sins before our eyes in order to make them like a screen between the Savior and us.”

A ruse of the devil?

“Think of your past sins to persuade yourself of your weakness; think of them to confirm your resolution not to fall again — that’s necessary — but think of them mainly to bless Jesus for having pardoned you, for having purified you, for having cast all your sins to the bottom of the sea.

“Do not go looking for them at the bottom of the sea!
He has wiped them out; He has forgotten them.”

But I haven’t forgotten them — and I continue to fall.

“I’m not saying that you believe too much in your own wretchedness.  I’m telling you that  you don’t believe enough in merciful love.”

* * *

And in another place:

“Why are you here?
Why were you baptized?
Why have you learned to know
Jesus and to love Him?”  

The answer?

“Because God has chosen you, and preferred you from all eternity, to heap these graces upon you.”

And:

“God’s greatest pleasure is to pardon us. The good Lord is more eager to pardon a repentant sinner than a mother to rescue her child from the fire.”

* * *

That last point makes sense of Our Lord’s words to a holy soul: “Not a single soul falls into Hell that has not torn itself out of my arms.”

No wonder St. Thérèse was able to say, just before her death:

“Even if I had committed all possible crimes, I would still have the same confidence;I would feel that this multitude of offenses would be like a drop of water thrown into the flaming furnace of God’s love.”

V. Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?
R. I do.
V. 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?
R. I do.
V. 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?
R. I do.
V. God, the all-powerful Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and forgiven all our sins. May he also keep us faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ for ever and ever.
R. Amen.
(This is a family service that is directed by one of the parents. The family members renew their baptismal vows and sprinkle themselves with the Easter water.)

Love,
Matthew