Category Archives: Doctors of the Church

Modern Thomism

…we will come under the final judgment of God and are subject to the constraints and possibilities of that judgment. We’re invited to avoid hell and find heaven, a view that isn’t typically welcome among our secular contemporaries, but which has implications for them as well as us. The “gentlemen’s agreement” of secular liberalism is that we ought not attempt to find public consensus upon questions of life after death or the dogmatic truth content of revealed religion. In some ways dogma is considered impolite in a secular context because it could be seen as politically or socially divisive. Although the opposite is true in some real sense because dogma tends to outlive many passing cultures and is a force of unity, vitality, and the renewal of intellectual life. Thinking through traditional dogmas invites us as modern people to think about the longstanding vitality of those doctrines—why they’re pertinent to persons throughout time and history and a stimulus for the intellectual life. Knowledge of what was profound wisdom in a forgone era is typically the best source of illumination for anyone who wishes to re-articulate the conditions of meaning for the future. The temptation in our own age is to think the opposite, as if we need to be in some kind of radical rupture with the past in order to articulate the conditions of meaning for the future. This is a pattern you find in Descartes or in the opening pages of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason or in Nietzsche in a more radical way. But you have people who tend to be both novel and preserve the past; I think this is true of Plato. Plato was very radical, but he also wanted to preserve the heritage of the past Greek religious traditions that came before him. Aristotle, too, is typically very careful in the first book of most of his works to show the insights that come before him and then he introduces a new order of learning and thinking. In general the great medievals like Bonaventure and Aquinas show how the past has contributed to the ongoing project of what they’re undertaking. In our own era Alasdair MacIntyre has been exemplary in showing how this kind of recovery and articulation of principles allows renewed engagement with the contemporary world around oneself.

I think Thomism functions best as an identification of principles and an engagement with contemporary intellectual questions.

I may be optimistic, but I think there are many modern questions Thomism addresses and answers. Thomism helps provide a realistic philosophy of nature, what it means that there are changing substances around us that have identifiable properties by which we can provide taxonomies for the natures of things and understand the ways in which they act upon each other. Aquinas is a phenomenal student of human nature, so he takes very seriously man’s physicality and animality, but also shows his emergent rational properties and freedom in their distinctiveness. He shows there are immaterial features to human knowledge and freedom that denote the presence of an immaterial form or spiritual soul. There’s also the whole architecture of virtue ethics Aquinas provides that is increasingly having an influence in the circles of analytical ethics. His study of the cardinal virtues—justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude—provides terrific insight into the nature of a person. We’re longing for that in a culture in which there’s a great deal of intellectual instability and nostalgia for consensus. Often people want to impose consensus artificially through politics, which is a very superficial way to gain unity. That politics pervades the university, which is in crisis because there is deep absence of consensus about reality. Aquinas’s general anthropology and moral theory can give us the basis for a much deeper agreement about what human beings are and the structure of moral life than can any identity politics.

Religion doesn’t go away when you banish it from the university. It comes back in other forms, some of which are perfectly innocuous, but others of which are very dangerous. Aquinas is very realistic about the possibilities of pathological religious behavior; he calls it superstitio, the vice of disordered religion. The human being can become, very easily, irrationally religious, as, for example, in the cases of a banal religious emotivism or religiously motivated terrorism. The great conflicts we have between religionists and secularists, it seems to me, are very helpfully addressed by the harmony of reason and revelation in Aquinas, which allows the soul to flourish because the soul is meant for transcendence. Modern secular culture is asphyxiating. The soul needs to be open to the transcendent mystery of God to really experience the full freedom of its own intellectual life, its own voluntary life, its aspiration to the good, and its deepest desires for transcendence and meaning. A culture without an intellectual religious horizon is a truncated culture, but a culture that’s religious at the expense of the intellectual life is also a very unhealthy culture—so how do you get that right? I think Aquinas really helps us understand our natural religious aspirations in a balanced way.

-George, Robert P.. “Mind, Heart, and Soul: Intellectuals and the Path to Rome” (Kindle Location 1115-1153). TAN Books. Kindle Edition.

Love & Thomism,
Matthew

Nov 15 – St Albert the Great, OP, (1193-1280), Doctor of the Church – Maligned & Misunderstood


-please click on the image for greater detail

The first parish Kelly, Mara, & I attended in Wisconsin is named St Albert the Great. I am still fond.


-by Br Bartholomew Calvano, OP

“On March 7, 1274, Saint Thomas Aquinas died. His teacher Saint Albert the Great was around 80 years old at the time. Tradition tells us that St. Albert was profoundly affected by St. Thomas’ death, as seems natural for men whose intellectual relationship and relationship in the Order was so close. In fact, according to the process of canonization of St. Thomas, Br. Antonius de Brixia reports that St. Albert received supernatural knowledge of St. Thomas’ death the very hour he died. Saint Albert’s words relating this death to the brethren in Cologne were as follows: “I tell to you all grave news, for Br. Thomas Aquinas, my son in Christ, who was the light of the Church has died, and this has been revealed to me by God.” Saint Albert was, in many ways, the intellectual father of St. Thomas, who received his teaching and carried it forward. Saint Albert, therefore, must have been proud of all that St. Thomas had accomplished in the short span of years he had been allotted.

Soon after St. Thomas’ death, the bishops Stephen Tempier of Paris and Robert Kilwardby of Canterbury, himself a Dominican, began to issue condemnations that, while not mentioning St. Thomas by name, censured several positions held by him. Through these condemnations, St. Thomas was associated with the Averroism of Siger of Brabant, the primary target of Tempier’s condemnations. Given that Siger contradicted both St. Thomas and St. Albert and that St. Thomas wrote explicitly against Siger, St. Albert was understandably outraged by this association. To add insult to injury, the condemnation issued by Stephen Tempier was promulgated on March 7, 1277, the anniversary of the death of St. Thomas. Seeing the good name of his student at risk, the old teacher made the long journey from Cologne to Paris. The distance between the two cities is between 250 and 300 miles. Saint Albert made this journey in the middle of winter on foot—the early constitutions forbade travel on horseback—at the age of 84.


-Ernest Board, Albertus Magnus expounding his doctrines of physical science in the streets of Paris ca. 1245. Wellcome Collection (CC BY 4.0).

The great humility and love of St. Albert is clearly displayed in the care he had for the work and memory of St. Thomas. Saint Albert bears the title of “the Great” not only because of his incomparable learning and mastery of every subject but also for this humility. Having already been shown a humble man by retiring from the episcopacy, he crowned that humility in spreading the works of his student. In the normal course of affairs, it is the student who hands on the teachings of his master: only the fullness of the virtue of humility could recognize and accept that the student had surpassed the master. Furthermore, in accepting so fully the achievement of his student that even in his old age he should deny the natural desire to complete unfinished endeavors and instead focus on the elevation of his student’s work, St. Albert demonstrated a supernatural humility. Such humility aided St. Albert in showing forth the love he had for his student and son St. Thomas.”

Love,
Matthew

Palm Sunday, 3/31/1146 – St Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church, Doctor Mellifluous, preaches the Second Crusade


-“St. Bernard Preaching the Second Crusade in Vezelay”, 1840 (oil on canvas), Signol, Emile (1804-1892)

Now is a time for holiness and saints within the Church. Would that we had a Bernard now to preach a Crusade of Holiness. It has often been the case, when the Church has faced its greatest crises, its greatest saints have arisen.

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.” -Joel 2:13

-by Hugh O’Reilly

“Born in 1091, died in 1153, made Abbot of Clairvaux in 1115, St. Bernard exercised strong influence on 12th century Europe. When the Crusader State of Edessa fell in 1144, Pope Eugene III, who himself had been a monk in Clairvaux, called on his spiritual father to preach a Second Crusade to bring succor for the distressed condition of the Holy Land.

Abbot Bernard girded on the sword of the Divine Word and inspired many for the overseas Crusade.

This is one of his most famous speeches, preached at Vezelay, a little city of Burgundy, on Palm Sunday, March 31, 1146. The orator of the Crusade preached on a large tribune on the side of a hill outside the gates of the city. With King Louis VII of France in his royal robes present, St. Bernard first read the letters of the Sovereign Pontiff calling for a Crusade, then made this plea to arms to the large crowd that had gathered there to hear his words:

“How can you not know that we live in a period of chastisement and ruin? The enemy of mankind has caused the breath of corruption to fly over all regions; we behold nothing but unpunished wickedness. Neither the laws of men nor the laws of religion have sufficient power to check the depravity of customs and the triumph of the wicked. The demon of heresy has taken possession of the chair of truth, and God has sent forth His malediction upon His sanctuary.

“Oh, ye who listen to me, hasten then to appease the anger of Heaven. But no longer implore His goodness by vain complaints; clothe not yourselves in sackcloth, but cover yourselves with your impenetrable bucklers. The din of arms, the dangers, the labors, the fatigues of war are the penances that God now imposes upon you. Hasten then to expiate your sins by victories over the infidels, and let the deliverance of holy places be the reward of your repentance.

“If it were announced to you that the enemy had invaded your cities, your castles, your lands; had ravished your wives and your daughters and profaned your temples – who among you would not fly to arms? Well, then, all these calamities, and calamities still greater, have fallen upon your brethren, upon the family of Jesus Christ, which is yours. Why do you hesitate to repair so many evils; to revenge so many outrages? Will you allow the infidels to contemplate in peace the ravages they have committed on Christian people?

“Remember that their triumph will be a subject for grief to all ages and an eternal opprobrium upon the generation that has endured it. Yes, the living God has charged me to announce to you that He will punish them who shall not have defended Him against His enemies.

“Fly then to arms! Let a holy ire animate you in the fight, and let the Christian world resound with these words of the prophet, ‘Cursed be he who does not stain his sword with blood!’ “If the Lord calls you to the defense of His heritage think not that His hand has lost its power. Could He not send twelve Legions of Angels or breathe one word and all His enemies would crumble away into dust? But God has considered the sons of men, to open for them the road to His mercy. His goodness has caused to dawn for you a day of safety by calling on you to avenge His glory and His name.

“Christian warriors, He Who gave His life for you, today demands yours in return. These are combats worthy of you, combats in which it is glorious to conquer and advantageous to die. Illustrious knights, generous defenders of the Cross, remember the example of your fathers, who conquered Jerusalem, and whose names are inscribed in Heaven. Abandon then the things that perish, to gather unfading palms and conquer a Kingdom that has no end.”

All the barons and knights applauded the eloquence of St. Bernard and were persuaded that he uttered the will of God. Louis VII, deeply moved by the words he had heard, cast himself at the feet of St. Bernard and demanded the Cross. Then, clothed with this sign, he exhorted all those present to follow his example.

The hill upon which this vast multitude was assembled resounded for a long period of time with the cries of Deus vult! Deus vult! (God wills it). Then, many counts and a crowd of barons and knights followed the example of the King. Several Bishops threw themselves at the feet of St. Bernard, taking the oath to fight against the infidels.

The crosses that the Abbot of Clairvaux had brought were not sufficient for the great number who asked for them. He tore his vestments to make more.

To preserve the memory of this day, Pons, abbot of Vèzelay, founded upon the hill where the knights and barons had assembled a Church that he dedicated to the Holy Cross. The tribune upon which St. Bernard had preached the Crusade remained there a long time, the object of the veneration of the faithful.”

Today, a cross marks the spot on the hill in Vèzelay where Bernard preached.

“O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him, all ye people.

For His merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.” -Psalm 117

Love,
Matthew

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

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

Jun 13 – St Anthony of Padua, OFM, (1195-1231 AD), Doctor of the Church, Evangelical Doctor, Doctor of Scriptures, Terror of Infidels, Hammer of Heretics, Professor of Miracles, Finder of Lost Items

“St Anthony!!  St Anthony!!  Please come ’round!!  Something’s lost and can’t be found!!” is a popular Catholic ejaculation.

This excerpt is from the book, “Saint Anthony of Padua: The Story of His Life and Popular Devotions”, which was published in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of St. Anthony Messenger by Franciscan Father Norman Perry (1929-1999)

“Legends about Anthony abound. But let’s turn to the known facts about him.

Anthony was born in 1195 (13 years after St. Francis of Assisi) in Lisbon, Portugal and given the name of Fernando at Baptism. His parents, Martin and Mary Bulhom, apparently belonged to one of the prominent families of the city.

At the age of 15 he entered the religious order of St. Augustine. Monastery life was hardly peaceful for young Fernando, nor conducive to prayer and study, as his old friends came to visit frequently and engaged in vehement political discussions.

After two years he was sent to Coimbra. There he began nine years of intense study, learning the Augustinian theology that he would later combine with the Franciscan vision. Fernando was probably ordained a priest during this time.

The life of the young priest took a crucial turn when the bodies of the first five Franciscan martyrs were returned from Morocco. They had preached in the mosque in Seville, almost being martyred at the outset, but the sultan allowed them to pass on to Morocco, where, after continuing to preach Christ despite repeated warnings, they were tortured and beheaded. Now, in the presence of the queen and a huge crowd, their remains were carried in solemn procession to Fernando’s monastery.

He was overjoyed and inspired to a momentous decision. He went to the little friary in Coimbra and said, “Brother, I would gladly put on the habit of your Order if you would promise to send me as soon as possible to the land of the Saracens, that I may gain the crown of the holy martyrs.” After some challenges from the prior of the Augustinians, he was allowed to leave that priory and receive the Franciscan habit, taking the name Anthony.

True to their promise, the Franciscans allowed Anthony to go to Morocco, to be a witness for Christ, and a martyr as well. But, as often happens, the gift he wanted to give was not the gift that was to be asked of him. He became seriously ill, and after several months realized he had to go home.

He never arrived. His ship ran into storms and high winds and was blown east across the Mediterranean. Months later he arrived on the east coast of Sicily. The friars at nearby Messina, though they didn’t know him, welcomed him and began nursing him back to health. Still ailing, he wanted to attend the great Pentecost Chapter of Mats (so called because the 3,000 friars could not be housed and slept on mats). Francis was there, also sick. History does not reveal any meeting between Francis and Anthony.

Since the young man was from “out of town,” he received no assignment at the meeting, so he asked to go with a provincial superior from northern Italy. “Instruct me in the Franciscan life,” he asked, not mentioning his prior theological training. Now, like Francis, he had his first choice—a life of seclusion and contemplation in a hermitage near Montepaolo.

Perhaps we would never have heard of Anthony if he hadn’t gone to an ordination of Dominicans and Franciscans in 1222. As they gathered for a meal afterward, the provincial suggested that one of the friars give a short sermon. Quite typically, everybody ducked. So Anthony was asked to give “just something simple,” since he presumably had no education.

Anthony too demurred, but finally began to speak in a simple, artless way. The fire within him became evident. His knowledge was unmistakable, but his holiness was what really impressed everyone there.

Now he was exposed. His quiet life of prayer and penance at the hermitage was exchanged for that of a public preacher. Francis heard of Anthony’s previously hidden gifts, and Anthony was assigned to preach in northern Italy. The problem with many preachers in Anthony’s day was that their life-style contrasted sharply with that of the poor people to whom they preached. In our experience, it could be compared to an evangelist arriving in a slum driving a Mercedes, delivering a homily from his car and speeding off to a vacation resort. Anthony saw that words were obviously not enough. He had to show gospel poverty. People wanted more than self-disciplined, even penitent priests. They wanted genuineness of gospel living. And in Anthony they found it. They were moved by who he was, more than what he said.

Despite his efforts, not everyone listened. Legend has it that one day, faced with deaf ears; Anthony went to the river and preached to the fishes. That, reads the traditional tale, got everyone’s attention.

Anthony traveled tirelessly in both northern Italy and southern France—perhaps 400 trips—choosing to enter the cities where the heretics were strongest. Yet the sermons he has left behind rarely show him taking direct issue with the heretics. As the historian Clasen interprets it, Anthony preferred to present the grandeur of Christianity in positive ways. It was no good to prove people wrong: Anthony wanted to win them to the right, the healthiness of real sorrow and conversion, the wonder of reconciliation with a loving Father.

Public Preacher, Franciscan Teacher

Anthony’s superior, St. Francis, was cautious about education such as his protégé possessed. He had seen too many theologians taking pride in their sophisticated knowledge. Still, if the friars had to hit the roads and preach to all sorts of people, they needed a firm grounding in Scripture and theology. So, when he heard the glowing report of Anthony’s debut at the ordinations, Francis wrote in 1224, “It pleases me that you should teach the friars sacred theology, provided that in such studies they do not destroy the spirit of holy prayer and devotedness, as contained in the Rule.”

Anthony first taught in a friary in Bologna, which became a famous school. The theology book of the time was the Bible. In one extant sermon by the saint, there are at least 183 passages from Scripture. While none of his theological conferences and discussions were written down, we do have two volumes of his sermons: Sunday Sermons and Feastday Sermons. His method included the use of allegory and symbolic explanation of Scripture.

Anthony continued to preach as he taught the friars and assumed more responsibility within the Order. In 1226 he was appointed provincial superior of northern Italy, but still found time for contemplative prayer in a small hermitage. Around Easter in 1228 (he was only 33 years old), while in Rome, he met Pope Gregory IX, who had been a faithful friend and adviser of St. Francis. Naturally, the famous preacher was invited to speak. He did it humbly, as always. The response was so great that people later said that it seemed the miracle of Pentecost was repeated.

Padua Enters the Picture

Padua, Italy is a short distance west of Venice. At the time of Anthony, it was one of the most important cities in the country, with an important university for the study of civil and canon law. Sometimes Anthony left Padua for greater solitude. He went to a place loved by Francis—LaVerna, where Francis received the wounds of Jesus. He also found a grotto near the friary where he could pray in solitude.

In poor health, and still provincial superior of northern Italy, he went to the General Chapter in Rome and asked to be relieved of his duties. But he was later recalled as part of a special commission to discuss certain matters of the Franciscan Rule with the pope.

Back in Padua, he preached his last and most famous Lenten sermons. The crowds were so great—sometimes 30,000—that the churches could not hold them, so he went into the piazzas or the open fields. People waited all night to hear him. He needed a bodyguard to protect him from the people armed with scissors who wanted to snip off a piece of his habit as a relic. After his morning Mass and sermon, he would hear confessions. This sometimes lasted all day—as did his fasting.

The great energy he had expended during the Lent of 1231 left him exhausted. He went to a little town near Padua, but seeing death coming close, he wanted to return to the city that he loved. The journey in a wagon weakened him so much, however, that he had to stop at Arcella. He had to bless Padua from a distance, as Francis had blessed Assisi.

At Arcella, he received the last sacraments, sang and prayed with the friars there. When one of them asked Anthony what he was staring at so intently, he answered, “I see my Lord!” He died in peace a short time after that. He was only 36 and had been a Franciscan but 10 years.

The following year, his friend, Pope Gregory IX, moved by the many miracles that occurred at Anthony’s tomb, declared him a saint. Anthony was a simple and humble friar who preached the Good News lovingly and with fearless courage. The youth whom his fellow friars thought was uneducated became one of the great preachers and theologians of his day. He was a man of great penance and apostolic zeal. But he was primarily a saint of the people.

Miracles and Traditions of St Anthony

The reason for invoking St. Anthony’s help in finding lost or stolen things is traced back to an incident in his own life. As the story goes, Anthony had a book of psalms that was very important to him. Besides the value of any book before the invention of printing, the psalter had the notes and comments he had made to use in teaching students in his Franciscan Order.

A novice who had already grown tired of living religious life decided to depart the community. Besides going AWOL he also took Anthony’s psalter! Upon realizing his psalter was missing, Anthony prayed it would be found or returned to him. And after his prayer the thieving novice was moved to return the psalter to Anthony and to return to the Order, which accepted him back. Legend has embroidered this story a bit. It has the novice stopped in his flight by a horrible devil, brandishing an ax and threatening to trample him underfoot if he did not immediately return the book. Obviously a devil would hardly command anyone to do something good. But the core of the story would seem to be true. And the stolen book is said to be preserved in the Franciscan friary in Bologna.

In any event, shortly after his death people began praying through Anthony to find or recover lost and stolen articles. And the Responsory of St. Anthony composed by his contemporary, Julian of Spires, O.F.M., proclaims

“The sea obeys and fetters break
And lifeless limbs thou dost restore
While treasures lost are found again
When young or old thine aid implore.”

St. Anthony Bread is a term used for offerings made in thanksgiving to God for blessings received through the prayers of St. Anthony. Sometimes the alms are given for the education of priests. In some places parents also make a gift for the poor after placing a newborn child under the protection of St. Anthony. It is a practice in some churches to bless small loaves of bread on the feast of St. Anthony and give them to those who want them.

Different legends or stories account for the donation of what is called St. Anthony Bread. By at least one account it goes back to 1263, when it is said a child drowned near the Basilica of St. Anthony which was still being built. His mother promised that if the child was restored to her she would give for the poor an amount of corn equal to the child’s weight. Her prayer and promise were rewarded with the boy’s return to life.

Another reason for the practice is traced back to Louise Bouffier, a shopkeeper in Toulon, France. A locksmith was prepared to break open her shop door after no key would open it. Bouffier asked the locksmith to try his keys one more time after she prayed and promised to give bread to the poor in honor of St. Anthony if the door would open without force. The door then opened. After others received favors through the intercession of St. Anthony, they joined Louise Bouffier in founding the charity of St. Anthony Bread.

St Anthony and the Child Jesus

St. Anthony has been pictured by artists and sculptors in all kinds of ways. He is depicted with a book in his hands, with a lily or torch. He has been painted preaching to fish, holding a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament in front of a mule or preaching in the public square or from a nut tree.

But since the 17th century we most often find the saint shown with the child Jesus in his arm or even with the child standing on a book the saint holds. A story about St. Anthony related in the complete edition of Butler’s Lives of the Saints projects back into the past a visit of Anthony to the Lord of Chatenauneuf. Anthony was praying far into the night when suddenly the room was filled with light more brilliant than the sun. Jesus then appeared to St. Anthony under the form of a little child. Chatenauneuf, attracted by the brilliant light that filled his house, was drawn to witness the vision but promised to tell no one of it until after St. Anthony’s death.

Some may see a similarity and connection between this story and the story in the life of St. Francis when he reenacted at Greccio the story of Jesus, and the Christ Child became alive in his arms. There are other accounts of appearances of the child Jesus to Francis and some companions.

These stories link Anthony with Francis in a sense of wonder and awe concerning the mystery of Christ’s incarnation. They speak of a fascination with the humility and vulnerability of Christ who emptied himself to become one like us in all things except sin. For Anthony, like Francis, poverty was a way of imitating Jesus who was born in a stable and would have no place to lay his head.

In Portugal, Italy, France and Spain, St. Anthony is the patron saint of sailors and fishermen. According to some biographers his statue is sometimes placed in a shrine on the ship’s mast. And the sailors sometimes scold him if he doesn’t respond quickly enough to their prayers.

Not only those who travel the seas but also other travelers and vacationers pray that they may be kept safe because of Anthony’s intercession. Several stories and legends may account for associating the saint with travelers and sailors.

First, there is the very real fact of Anthony’s own travels in preaching the gospel, particularly his journey and mission to preach the gospel in Morocco, a mission cut short by severe illness. But after his recovery and return to Europe, he was a man always on the go, heralding the Good News.

There is also a story of two Franciscan sisters who wished to make a pilgrimage to a shrine of our Lady but did not know the way. A young man is supposed to have volunteered to guide them. Upon their return from the pilgrimage one of the sisters announced that it was her patron saint, Anthony, who had guided them.

Still another story says that in 1647 Father Erastius Villani of Padua was returning by ship to Italy from Amsterdam. The ship with its crew and passengers was caught in a violent storm. All seemed doomed. Father Erastius encouraged everyone to pray to St. Anthony. Then he threw some pieces of cloth that had touched a relic of St. Anthony into the heaving seas. At once, the storm ended, the winds stopped and the sea became calm.

Teacher, Preacher, Doctor of the Scriptures

Among the Franciscans themselves and in the liturgy of his feast, St. Anthony is celebrated as a teacher and preacher extraordinaire. He was the first teacher in the Franciscan Order, given the special approval and blessing of St. Francis to instruct his brother Franciscans. His effectiveness as a preacher calling people back to the faith resulted in the title “Hammer of Heretics.” Just as important were his peacemaking and calls for justice.

In canonizing Anthony in 1232, Pope Gregory IX spoke of him as the “Ark of the Testament” and the “Repository of Holy Scripture.” That explains why St. Anthony is frequently pictured with a burning light or a book of the Scriptures in his hands. In 1946 Pope Pius XII officially declared Anthony a Doctor of the Universal Church. It is in Anthony“s love of the word of God and his prayerful efforts to understand and apply it to the situations of everyday life that the Church especially wants us to imitate St. Anthony. While noting in the prayer of his feast Anthony’s effectiveness as an intercessor, the Church wants us to learn from Anthony, the teacher, the meaning of true wisdom and what it means to become like Jesus, Who humbled and emptied Himself for our sakes and went about doing good.”

In St. Anthony we see the complete harmony of faith and reason, but also that “the wisdom of this world is folly with God. (1 Cor 3:19)” The world may tell us to search for our keys ourselves, unaided by useless prayers. But in light of the knowledge we have through faith, the most rational course of action is to beg for the assistance of the all-knowing & all-loving God, Who certainly knows where our keys are, and Who wishes to help us find them, since He ONLY wills our good through His love, and through the intercession of St. Anthony. The world may tell us that if we are going to find happiness, we must grasp it for ourselves. But through the intercession and teaching of St. Anthony, let us grow in the confidence that our salvation comes through faithfully following Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

Love,
Matthew