Category Archives: Saints

Jul 5 – Wexford Martyrs: Bls Matthew Lambert, Robert Myler, Edward Cheevers, Patrick Cavanagh (Irish: Pádraigh Caomhánach), John O’Lahy, & 1 unknown


-Ireland, 1450

In the Pale (in red), (An Pháil in Irish) or the English Pale (An Pháil Shasanach or An Ghalltacht) the predominant religion was Catholic, and the Catholics saw a growing threat from the Protestant-dominated government, a perception supported by their marked decline in participation within the kingdom’s government. English-born Protestants increasingly occupied positions of authority. The people of the Pale resented taxes on their property for the government’s military policy against the Gaelic lords and rebellious Anglo-Irish. Troops were also billeted upon their lands. James Eustace’s father, Viscount Roland, had been imprisoned by the Elizabethan administration for his opposition, including for his refusal to pay taxes to the Protestant Church.

During the summer of 1580, James Eustace, Viscount Baltinglass, apparently prompted almost entirely by religious motives, raised forces in County Wicklow, in support of the Earl of Desmond’s separate uprising in Munster. The Viscount’s allies included clansmen led by Fiach McHugh O’Byrne. At first the revolt was successful, but Baltinglass did not coordinate his efforts with those of Desmond and could not sustain the conflict. He and his followers were outlawed. Forty-five were hanged in Dublin. James Eustace escaped to Munster, where Desmond was still in revolt. After Desmond was killed, Eustace left for Spain.

James Eustace, whose family had links with Clongowes Wood Castle, now a Jesuit boarding school near Dublin, joined the Earl of Desmond in the hope of putting Mary, Queen of Scots on the English throne. The attempt failed and Baltinglass had to escape to Spain, where he died. One of his brothers was executed in Dublin, two others fled the country and the Kilcullen family lost its lands and titles.

Pursued by English troops after the collapse of the Second Desmond Rebellion, James Eustace, 3rd Viscount of Baltinglass, and his chaplain, Father Robert Rochford, eventually found refuge with Matthew Lambert, a Wexford baker. Lambert fed them and arranged with five sailor acquaintances for safe passage by ship for them. Lambert was betrayed, along with sailors Patrick Cavanagh, Edward Cheevers, Robert Myler, John O’Lahy, and one other.

Lambert was betrayed, and he, Myler, Cheevers, Cavanagh, O’Lahy, and one other were captured, imprisoned, and tortured.  They refused to take the Oath of Supremacy and declare Elizabeth I of England to be the head of the Church. Thrown into prison, they were questioned about politics and religion. Lambert’s reply was: “I am not a learned man. I am unable to debate with you, but I can tell you this, I am a Catholic and I believe whatever our Holy Mother the Catholic Church believes.” They were hanged, drawn and quartered in Wexford on July 5, 1581.

Prayer:

Father in Heaven, You stir up men and women in every age to witness to Your truth. Our Faith is built on You as a rock. The Wexford Martyrs sealed their faith with their life’s blood. Give us courage and strength to follow their example and to witness to Your truth in everything we think, do or say. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Risen Lord for ever and ever. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Jan 30 – Bls Margaret Bermingham Ball (1515-1584), Wife & Mother, & Francis Taylor of Swords (1550-1621), Husband & Father, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Martyrs

-statuary of the “Murdered Mayors”, or more formally, the “Martyrs of Dublin”, Bls Margaret Ball & her grandson-in-law, Francis Taylor, which stands in front of St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.” -Mt 10:21

Margaret came from a prominent family. When she was 16 years old, Margaret Bermingham married Bartholomew Ball, an alderman of the City of Dublin, and a prosperous Dublin merchant, whose wealthy family operated the bridge over the River Dodder, which is still known as Ballsbridge. She then moved to the city, where the couple lived at Ballygall House in north county Dublin and had a town house on Merchant’s Quay. They had ten children, though only five survived to adulthood. Bartholomew Ball was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1553, making Margaret the Lady Mayoress of the city. She had a comfortable life with a large household and many servants, and she was recognised for organising classes for the children of local families in her home.

In 1558 Queen Elizabeth I reversed the policy of her sister Queen Mary and imposed her Religious Settlement upon her realms. In 1570 the papacy responded with the papal bull Regnans in Excelsis, which declared Elizabeth to be an illegitimate usurper. During a coronation, the most illustrious, high ranking cleric available, at least the local bishop, but ultimately the Pope, himself, would place the crown on the head of the monarch, Emperor Napoleon, notwithstanding. Coronations were religious services, originally. The separation of Church and State was unthinkable. So when the Pope declares a monarch illegitimate, this means legitimate Catholic monarchs have a duty to attack this usurper and restore rightful authority. During this time of religious persecution, it was well known that Ball provided “safe houses” for any bishops or priests who might be passing through Dublin.

Her eldest son, Walter, yielding to the pressure of the times, became a Protestant and an opponent of the Catholic faith. Margaret continued to provide ‘safe houses’ for bishops and priests passing through Dublin and would invite Walter to dine with them, hoping for his reconversion to Catholicism.

Margaret Ball’s eldest son, Walter, who wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and advance his political, embraced the “new religion” and was appointed Commissioner for Ecclesiastical Causes in 1577. Margaret was disappointed with her son’s change of faith (“If my children lose their faith, I have failed as a mother!!!” -Mary D. McCormick), and tried to change his mind. On one occasion, she told him that she had a “special friend” for him to meet. Walter arrived early with a company of soldiers, and found that the “special friend” was Dermot O’Hurley, Archbishop of Cashel. He was celebrating Mass with the family.

But Walter was not for turning. Immediately after his installation as Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1580, Walter had his mother and her personal chaplain arrested and taken to the dungeons of Dublin Castle. Due to her advanced age and severe arthritis, she had to be transported there by a wooden pallet through the streets of Dublin.

When the family protested, Walter declared that his mother should have been executed, but he had spared her. She would be allowed to go free if she “took the Oath”, which probably referred to the Oath of Supremacy. Her second son, Nicholas, who supported her, was elected Mayor of Dublin in 1582. However, Walter was still Commissioner for Ecclesiastical Causes, which was a royal appointment. He outranked Nicholas and kept him from securing their mother’s release from prison. Nicholas visited her daily, bringing her food, clothing and candles.

Ball died in 1584 at the age of sixty-nine, which was an advanced age at the time. She was crippled with arthritis and had lived for three years in the cold, wet dungeon of Dublin Castle with no natural light. She could have returned to her comfortable home at any time had she apostasized. Although she could have altered her will, she still bequeathed her property to Walter upon her death.

Two generations later this pattern was repeated when Francis Taylor, who was Mayor of Dublin (1595–1596) and was married to Gennet Shelton, a granddaughter of Ball, was condemned to the dungeons after exposing fraud in the parliamentary elections to the Irish House of Commons. He likewise refused to “take the oath” and died in Dublin Castle in 1621. A convinced Catholic, he refused to accept the Acts of Supremacy (Monarch is the head of the Church) and Uniformity (The Book of Common Prayer is the only legal form of worship and all citizens must attend Church services according to that form).

Ball and Taylor could not have known each other, but they were beatified together, along with Dermot O’Hurley and 14 other Catholic martyrs, on 27 September 1992 by Pope John Paul II.

All you holy men & women, pray for us, for the grace of final perseverance.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Dec 26 – St Stephen, (d. 34 AD), Deacon & Martyr, Radiant (Acts 6:15) “so that we might become like God!!!”(CCC 460)


-site of the stoning of St Stephen, Greek Orthodox Church of St Stephen, Kidron Valley, Jerusalem


Br Philip Nolan, OP

“Yesterday we celebrated the birth of the Son of God. Today we remember the death of a man. Through Advent we watched for the coming of God, before being surprised to see angelic hosts and to hear the cry of a baby. Now, the day after Christmas, we see a man whose “face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15), and the first sound we hear is his death cry.

Why did Stephen’s face look like an angel’s? Did he regress decades of aging and take on the visage of a putto: “And all were amazed at how adorable he was”? No. When the Scriptures speak of angels, they describe beings of great might, frightening to behold. In the book of Judges, when the mother of Samson is informed by a messenger from God that she will conceive and bear a son, she “went and told her husband, ‘A man of God came to me; he had the appearance of an angel of God, terrible indeed” (Jg 13:6). Zechariah was “troubled” by the angel announcing the birth of his son, John; the shepherds “were struck with great fear”; and even the Virgin Mary needed to be assured by Gabriel, “do not be afraid” (Lk 1–2).

In all these examples, the presence of angels communicates something momentous. Their appearance and words cause fear and unease. Angels correct, instruct, reveal; they make us change our plans and offer us a life more closely united with God. Stephen preached forcefully in the Sanhedrin, calling the people to repent of their hard-heartedness. His words, like the words of angels, caused unrest. His face, like the face of an angel, overwhelmed those gathered. But those listening to Stephen did not (at that moment) repent and acquiesce to the divine words. Instead, when they saw Stephen’s face and heard his words, “they were infuriated” and proceeded to make him the first martyr.

The Church gives us the feast of St. Stephen immediately after Christmas to make something clear. Yesterday, we learned “the son of God became man,” and today we see the purpose—“so that we might become God” (CCC 460). The account of Stephen’s preaching and martyrdom shows us what it looks like to become like God. At the beginning of Christ’s life, his mother laid him on the wood of the manger; at the end of his life, she watched as he suffered on the wood of the cross. On the cross, Jesus prays for his persecutors, “Father, forgive them.” Stephen, too, prays for his killers, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Jesus cried to his Father, “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.” Stephen cried to Christ: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

The Psalmist exhorts, “Look towards Him and be radiant / let your faces not be abashed” (Ps 34). As Stephen preached, he did not hide his face in shame, and the Lord made his face radiant. Stephen did not produce this radiance; rather it was given to him. But men preferred darkness to light, so they killed him. And in that death he was born to eternal life.”

Merry Christmas,
Matthew

Dec 14 – St John of the Cross, OCD, “En Una Noche Oscura…”

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-St. John of the Cross by Francisco de Zurbarán, 1656 [Archdiocesan Museum of Katowice, Poland]

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-by Michael Pakaluk

“En una noche oscura”, “On a dark night.” So begins his most famous poem. What is described, and what the great mystic wants to evoke, does not take place during the day, but at night. And not during any night we might know, but a night from the 16th century.

Yes, people have stopped working and are at rest, sleeping. No one is about. And there is no light from the sun, of course. But there are no human lights either. What few candles and lamps people might own have been extinguished. Since the night is dark, we can presume that not even the moon is shining.

But note this difference between our “dark” and the Spanish oscura, literally “obscured.” Darkness is superficial, a kind of color, but being obscured is a deep condition: the Spanish word makes clear that the darkness of the night comes from the covering-over or obscurity of the sun.

Understood spiritually, this could be someone manically surfing on his phone, plopped in front of the TV, or fervently preoccupied with Christmas shopping. Human light, as Pope Benedict said, is often darkened reality. Mary is out of sight; God is obscured; and his soul is in a state of extreme privation.

Con ansias, en amores inflamada – “With disquietude, though inflamed with love.” Some translators give “yearning” for ansias. But that is too positive. It makes things easy. After all, the word is cognate with our “anxiety.” So consider instead the common core of anxiety and yearning: namely, unsettledness, dread, or restlessness. “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” The genius of the line, and the genius of him who wrote it, St. Augustine, is to see that, metaphysically, restlessness must be linked with love.

If you are paying attention you see that inflamada is feminine, and thus the author is asking us to consider a woman, alone on this dark night, troubled and yet deeply and romantically stirred by love. And, as she is a woman, she loves for having first been loved. Thus, although all is dark, we still can “see” something, namely, we can see her lover “in” the response of this woman, the beloved.

Spiritually, the woman is the human soul, perhaps the soul of that smart-phone addicted man, who sleeps lightly and wakes at 3 AM with that all too-familiar dread. Yet St. John of the Cross wishes to give him a key to interpreting his soul’s condition then. He can see the action of God in his own restlessness.¡Oh dichosa ventura! – “Oh blessed chance!” This may seem a strange line, an unusual interjection, but, as if to assure us that the meaning is well considered, the author repeats it again, in the very same place of the second stanza (as you can see if you read the whole poem).

To get the flavor, consider our expressions, “What a great stroke of luck!” “To my good fortune!” “By a happy fate!” If you frown upon the Saint for invoking luck, consider: the main English word for what all of us desire most of all is “happiness,” which means, literally, the state of enjoying “hap” or luck. (What “happens” is what accidentally turns out so.)

You can call it grace, if you look at the big picture, of God above looking down at the restless man below, and bestowing gifts according to His Eternal Will. Then there is nothing “lucky” about it, no aspect of “hap.” But from the point of view of the restless man, what comes next seems like the sheerest good luck. It is entirely incidental to his own powers, ideas, and limits. He would not in a million years have blundered upon it himself. Spiritually, the soul is always “surprised by joy,” as another great spiritual guide once put it.

Salí sin ser notada – “I went forth without being noticed.” The sheerest luck is that the soul goes forth. In the dark night, when all is dead, it rises and leaves. But then notice that immediately a task is presented to the soul: it is unnoticed and must want to remain unnoticed. Vanity, preening, recognition, human praise – consolation – it must give all of this up. “The Father who sees in secret will reward in secret.”

Spiritually, it is a miracle, on par with the resurrection, if the media-addicted man turns to God in prayer. Yet not if, for a Christian, but when. And when he does pray, he immediately has his work cut out for him, as in prayer he lives life in a different way, which implies no recognition. No one will click on you or “like” you for your prayer.

But yes, the Saint wants us to consider the boldness and adventure of a woman setting out secretly at night to meet her lover, because the mystery on which the soul embarks in prayer is even greater.

Estando ya mi casa sosegada – “while my house most assuredly was at rest.” This line too gets repeated. It therefore goes with the other line, and if the other line refers to God’s grace, seen from a human point of view, this line must refer to the human contribution, from the point of view of God’s grace.

Spanish casa can mean either the dwelling or the household. Spiritually, to say the dwelling is at rest is to say that the human body plays no part. To say that the household is at rest is to say that the human soul itself is not the origin. Christians and their prayers are born “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Jn 1:13, KJV)

At the end of the poem the soul is “lost in oblivion,” and leaves its cares “forgotten among the lilies.” St. John of the Cross, lead us there.”

Love,
Matthew

Dec 31 – St Catherine Laboure’, DC, (1806-1876), Marian visionary, “Catechism in your pocket”

Catherine Laboure icon
Catherine Laboure icon

I remember, as a teenager, our local parish in Stone Harbor, NJ, St Paul’s, would always host a Miraculous Medal Mission in the Summer months. The town was packed with vacationers seeking the pleasures of the beach and sun and sea, and a quaint little, quiet town on the Jersey shore. The crowd was never standing room only but certainly more than would have been there in the Winter!! Just right. Just right. For quiet, for reflection, in the languid months of Summer, to reflect on the Blessed Mother, and her “fiat/yes”. “Ecce Ancilla Domini, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum…I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to thy word.”

Zoe’ Laboure’ was born in the Burgundy region of France to Pierre Labouré, a farmer, and Louise Madeleine Gontard, the ninth of 11 living children. Catherine’s mother died on October 9, 1815, when Zoe’ was just nine years old. It is said that after her mother’s funeral, Catherine picked up a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and kissed it saying, “Now you will be my mother.”

She was extremely devout, of a somewhat romantic nature, given to visions and intuitive insights. As a young woman, she became a member of the nursing order founded by Saint Vincent de Paul. She chose the Daughters of Charity after a dream about St. Vincent De Paul. She took the religious name Catherine.

In April 1830, the remains of St. Vincent de Paul were translated to the Vincentian church in Paris. The solemnities included a novena. On three successive evenings, upon returning from the church to the Rue du Bac, Catherine reportedly experienced in the convent chapel, a vision of what she took to be the heart of St. Vincent above a shrine containing a relic of bone from his right arm. Each time the heart appeared a different color, white, red, and crimson. She interpreted this to mean that the Vincentian communities would prosper, and that there would be a change of government. The convent chaplain advised her to forget the matter.

Catherine stated that on July 19, 1830, the eve of the feast of St. Vincent, she woke up after hearing the voice of a child calling her to the chapel, where she heard the Virgin Mary say to her, “God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear; you will have the grace to do what is necessary. Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in France and in the world.”

On November 27, 1830, Catherine reported that the Blessed Mother returned to her during evening meditations. She displayed herself inside an oval frame, standing upon a globe, rays of light came out of her hands in the direction of a globe. Around the margin of the frame appeared the words “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” As Catherine watched, the frame seemed to rotate, showing a circle of twelve stars, a large letter M surmounted by a cross, and the stylized Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary underneath. Asked why some of the rays of light did not reach the Earth, Mary reportedly replied “Those are the graces for which people forget to ask.” Catherine then heard Mary ask her to take these images to her father confessor, telling him that they should be put on medallions. “All who wear them will receive great graces.”

Catherine did so, and after two years’ worth of investigation and observation of Catherine’s normal daily behavior, the priest took the information to his archbishop without revealing Catherine’s identity. The request was approved and the design of the medallions was commissioned through French goldsmith Adrien Vachette. They proved to be exceedingly popular. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception had not yet been officially promulgated, but the medal with its “conceived without sin” slogan was influential in popular approval of the idea. Pope John Paul II used a slight variation of the reverse image as his coat of arms, a plain cross with an M in the lower right quadrant of the shield.

Sister Catherine spent the next forty years caring for the aged and infirm. For this she is called the patroness of seniors. She died on December 31, 1876 at the age of seventy. Her body is encased in glass beneath the side altar at 140 Rue du Bac, Paris.

laboure_tomb

Catherine Labouré’s cause for sainthood was declared upon discovering her body was incorrupt, which currently lies in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. She was beatified on May 28, 1933 by Pope Pius XI and canonized on July 27, 1947 by Pope Pius XII.

Her feast day is observed on November 28 according to the liturgical calendar of the Congregation of the Mission, the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Paris. She is listed in the Martyrologium Romanum for December 31.

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-by Br Ignatius Weiss, OP

““The Blessed Virgin is waiting for you,” the child whispered.

St. Catherine Labouré, a novice in the Daughters of Charity, was gently woken from her sleep by a small, luminous child beckoning her to follow him to the chapel. It was nearly midnight.

“The Blessed Virgin is coming; here she is,” the child said as Catherine heard the swishing of silk. There she was, the Mother of God.

This nocturnal journey to the chapel in mid-July would be the first of three apparitions where Our Lady would appear to the young Catherine over the course of 6 months. During the second appearance, the Blessed Virgin asked her to have a medal struck of the image she displayed before her, and she began explaining the meaning of the figures to be portrayed.

“These rays are a symbol of the graces that I pour out on those who ask them of me.”

This medal was originally known as the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, but it earned its current name for the many miracles and conversions that came to be associated with this sacramental. This token is not Catholic jewelry; it is an occasion for grace and truth.

“All who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it suspended around the neck. Graces will be showered on all who wear it with confidence.”

The Miraculous Medal is a sacramental that uses words and images to increase our devotion to the Immaculate Queen of Heaven, and its symbols can explain the Church’s teachings on the Blessed Virgin. In a way, the Miraculous Medal is an “infographic” designed by heavenly artists.

Here’s an infographic about this Marian devotion.

miraculous-medal-infographic

Love,
Matthew

Nov 30 – St Andrew, (d. 60-70 AD), 1st disciple, Apostle & Martyr, “Be a Man!!!”

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-by Artus Wolffort, first half of the 17th century

Andrew the Apostle (Greek: Ἀνδρέας, Andreas; from the early 1st century – mid to late 1st century AD), also known as Saint Andrew and called in the Orthodox tradition Prōtoklētos (Πρωτόκλητος) or the First-called, was a Christian Apostle and the brother of Saint Peter.

The name “Andrew” (Greek: manly, brave, from ἀνδρεία, Andreia, “manhood, valour”), like other Greek names, appears to have been common among the Jews, Christians, and other Hellenized people of Judea. No Hebrew or Aramaic name is recorded for him. According to Orthodox tradition, the apostolic successor to Saint Andrew is the Patriarch of Constantinople.

The New Testament states that Andrew was the younger brother of Simon Peter, and likewise a son of John, or Jonah. He was born in the village of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. Both he and his brother Peter were fishermen by trade, hence the tradition that Jesus called them to be His disciples by saying that he will make them “fishers of men” (Greek: ἁλιεῖς ἀνθρώπων, halieis anthrōpōn). At the beginning of Jesus’ public life, they were said to have occupied the same house at Capernaum.

Acts/gospel of Andrew

The apocryphal Acts of Andrew, mentioned by Eusebius, Epiphanius and others, is among a disparate group of Acts of the Apostles that were traditionally attributed to Leucius Charinus. “These Acts (…) belong to the third century: ca. A.D. 260,”, and are therefore apocryphal, in the opinion of M. R. James, who edited them in 1924. The Acts, as well as a Gospel of St Andrew, appear among rejected books in the Decretum Gelasianum connected with the name of Pope Gelasius I (d. 496 AD).

After the Resurrection

After Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, St. Andrew the Apostle preached the gospel in Asia Minor and in Scythia as far as Kiev, all around the Black Sea, including Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus, where my paternal grandmother was born.

Saint Andrew was martyred by crucifixion at Patras in Achaea in Greece. Because St. Andrew deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross on which Christ had been crucified, he was tied, instead of nailed, to a Crux decussata, as saltire, or X shaped cross, ostensibly so that he would suffer longer. The Apostle Andrew did not die right away but instead he was left to suffer for two days while he continued to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ until he finally expired.

Relics

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-St Andrew’s Cathedral in Patras

Originally, the saint’s remains were preserved in Patras. Through the centuries of Christianity, and many wars and conquests, what remains of the saint’s relics are a small finger, the top of his cranium and pieces of the cross on which he was crucified. These are kept in a shrine at the Church of St. Andrew in Patras. Shortly after St Andrew’s death, most of his relics were translated from Patras to Constantinople by order of the Roman Emperor Constantius II around 357 AD and deposited in the Church of the Holy Apostles.

There are legends about how other relics of St Andrew reached the British isles, including a kneecap, an upper arm bone, three fingers and a tooth. Most likely, the relics were probably brought to Britain in 597 AD as part of the Augustine Mission, and then in 732 to Fife, Scotland by Bishop Acca of Hexham, a well-known collector of religious relics.

The skull of St. Andrew, which had been taken to Constantinople, was returned to Patras by Emperor Basil I, who ruled from 867 to 886.

In 1208, following the sack of Constantinople, those relics of St. Andrew and St. Peter which remained in the imperial city were taken to Amalfi, Italy, by Cardinal Peter of Capua, a native of Amalfi. A cathedral (Duomo), was built, dedicated to St. Andrew (as is the town itself), to house a tomb in its crypt where it is maintained that most of the relics of the apostle, including an occipital bone, remain.

Thomas Palaeologus was the youngest surviving son of Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos. Thomas ruled the province of Morea, the medieval name for the Peloponnese. In 1461, when the Ottomans crossed the Strait of Corinth, Palaeologus fled Patras for exile in Italy, bringing with him what was purported to be the skull of St. Andrew. He gave the head to Pope Pius II, who had it enshrined in one of the four central piers of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

In September 1964, Pope Paul VI, as a gesture of goodwill toward the Greek Orthodox Church, ordered that all of the relics of St. Andrew that were in Vatican City be sent back to Patras. Cardinal Augustin Bea along with many other cardinals presented the skull to Bishop Constantine of Patras on 24 September 1964.

The cross of St. Andrew was taken from Greece during the Crusades by the Duke of Burgundy. It was kept in the church of St. Victor in Marseilles until it returned to Patras on 19 January 1980. The cross of the apostle was presented to the Bishop of Patras Nicodemus by a Catholic delegation led by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray. All the relics, which consist of the small finger, the skull (part of the top of the cranium of Saint Andrew), and the cross on which he was martyred, have been kept in the Church of St. Andrew at Patras in a special shrine and are revered in a special ceremony every 30 November, his feast day.

In 2006, the Catholic Church, again through Cardinal Etchegaray, gave the Greek Orthodox Church another relic of St. Andrew.

Scotland?

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-Crucifixion of St. Andrew, by Juan Correa de Vivar (1540 – 1545), University of St Andrew’s Special Collection

In Scottish Gaelic, St Andrew’s name is rendered ‘Là Naomh Anndrais’. St Andrew’s links with Scotland come from the Pictish King Oengus I, who built a monastery in what is now the town of St Andrews – where the Scottish university now stands – after the relics of the saint were brought to the town in the eighth century.

But he was made the patron saint of Scotland after the king’s descendant, Oengus II, prayed to St. Andrew on the eve of a crucial battle against English warriors from Northumberland, around 20 miles east of Edinburgh.

Legend has it that, heavily outnumbered, Oengus II told St. Andrew that he would become the patron saint of Scotland if he were granted victory. On the day of the battle, clouds are said to have formed a saltire in the sky, and Oengus’s army of Picts and Scots were victorious.

St Andrew’s was a popular medieval pilgrimage site up until the 16th century – where the supposed remains of the saint including a tooth, kneecap, arm and finger bone were kept.

In 1870, the Archbishop of Amalfi sent an apparent piece of the saint’s shoulder blade to Scotland, where it has since been stored in St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh. The other relics were destroyed in the Scottish Reformation.

The Saltire flag – a white cross on a blue background – is said to have come from this divine intervention and has been used to represent Scotland since 1385.

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-Scotland’s saltire flag

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-statue of Andrew in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, Rome, by Camillo Rusconi.

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-by Br Irenaeus Dunleavy, OP

“In the face of gender theory and feminist ideologies which challenge the notion of manhood, the Church needs real men. We need to respond to the Biblical command viriliter agite found frequently in the Vulgate. The phrase translates as “act like a man” in one form or another in Scripture (1 Cor 16:13, Dt 31:6, Ps 30(31):25, 2 Chr 32:7, 1 Mac 2:64). One man who obeyed was St. Andrew, and his very name suggests it. St. Thomas Aquinas explains, “Andrew is interpreted ‘manly’; for as in Latin, ‘virilis‘ [“manly”] is derived from ‘vir’ [man], so in Greek, Andrew is derived from ανηρ [anēr: man]. Rightly is he called manly, who left all and followed Christ, and manfully persevered in His commands.”

Commenting on St. Andrew, St. Thomas gives us 5 tips on how to viriliter agite.

Obey Promptly: “Aristotle states, ‘Those who are moved by God do not need to be counselled; for they have a principle surpassing counsel and understanding.’ St. Chrysostom pronounces the following eulogium of them: ‘They were in the midst of their business; but, at His bidding, they made no delay, they did not return home saying: let us consult our friends, but, leaving all things, they followed, Him, as Elisha followed Elijah.’ Christ requires of us a similar unhesitating and instant obedience.”

Build Up: “And so Andrew, being now perfectly converted, does not keep the treasure he found to himself, but hurries and quickly runs to his brother to share with him the good things he has received. And so, the first thing Andrew did was to look for his brother Simon, so that they might be related in both blood and faith: “A brother that is helped by his brother is like a strong city” (Prv 18:19); ‘Let him who hears say, ‘Come’ (Rv 22:17).”

Hunt Souls: “This gives us the situation of the disciples he called: for they were from Bethsaida. And this is appropriate to this mystery. For ‘Bethsaida’ means ‘house of hunters,’ to show the attitude of Philip, Peter and Andrew at that time, and because it was fitting to call, from the house of hunters, hunters who were to capture souls for life: ‘I will send my hunters’ (Jer 16:16).”

Preach with Courage: “Every preacher should have those names, ‘Peter’ and ‘Andrew.’ For ‘Simon’ means obedient, ‘Peter’ means comprehending, and ‘Andrew’ means courage. For a preacher should be obedient, that he might invite others to it: ‘The obedient man shall speak of victories’ (Pr 21:28). He should comprehend, that he may know how to instruct others: ‘I had rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others’ (1 Cor 14:19). He should be courageous in order to face threats: ‘I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall’ (Jer 1:18); ‘I have made your face hard against their faces, and your forehead hard against their foreheads. Like adamant harder than flint I have made your face’ (Ez 3:8).”

Commit: “Our Lord declared that it belongs to the perfection of life that a man follow Him, not anyhow, but in such a way as not to turn back. Wherefore He says again (Lk. 9:62): ‘No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’ And though some of His disciples went back, yet when our Lord asked (Jn. 6:68, 69), ‘Will you also go away?’ Peter answered for the others: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?’ Hence Augustine says (De Consensu Ev. ii, 17) that ‘as Matthew and Mark relate, Peter and Andrew followed Him after drawing their boats on to the beach, not as though they purposed to return, but as following Him at His command.’ Now this unwavering following of Christ is made fast by a vow: wherefore a vow is requisite for religious perfection.”

Love & courage,
Matthew

2nd miracle: Bl Pier Giorgio Frassati, OP, (1901-1925), Lay Dominican

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-by Will Duquette, Aleteia

“In 2011, Kevin Becker fell from the second floor of a house he shared with a couple of college roommates, fracturing his skull in five places and damaging every lobe of his brain. After an emergency operation he lay stable but unresponsive for nine days. The doctors thought he wouldn’t live; and if he did he would suffer from gross cognitive deficits.

Less than three weeks after his injury he was wheeled to the door of the hospital, where he stood up, slung his bag over his shoulder, and walked to the car … tossing a football with his brother.

This is not the usual way.

A week after his injury, the doctors were talking of putting him into a medically induced coma, a last-ditch effort. Days later he opened his eyes, and was soon speaking, standing, and walking normally.

After Kevin left the hospital he went to physical rehab, and found that he was five steps ahead of the others there, including those who had been in recovery for six months to a year. On October 11th he took a battery of cognitive tests, and completed them in just two hours rather than the usual six. A month later, his doctor asked him how he thought he’d done. He answered, as he says he would have answered about any test he took, “I think I did OK.” The doctor told him he’d done “not just OK,” but as though he’d never been injured. He was cleared to return to college where he finished his degree; he now works making loans to small businesses.

Again, this is not the usual way.

I had the pleasure of hearing Kevin Becker speak about his experiences on October 29th of this year, at a celebration of the 800-Year Jubilee of the Dominican Order. During his coma, he remembers waking up in the house he shared with his friends, and hearing someone downstairs. That was odd; he says he’s always the first one up. He investigated, and in the living room he found a young man he didn’t know.

“Who are you?”

“I’m George, your new roommate.”

“That can’t be. I already have two roommates.”

“They aren’t around anymore.”

“Oh.”

He then spent a long timeless day with George. An ardent soccer player who hates staying indoors, Kevin kept trying to leave the house but George wouldn’t let him go. They fought about it, as if they were brothers, but George was adamant. He encouraged him to be patient. Kevin remembers passing the time by doing schoolwork—which he says would surprise anyone who knew him before his accident—and sitting on the couch with George playing a soccer video game called “FIFA.”

Eventually he awoke in the hospital.

Later, Kevin mentioned his new roommate to his mother, calling him a “good spirit.” After he described him his mother showed him a picture of a man he immediately recognized as George. It was a picture of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that had been sent to his mother by a cousin, who suggested she ask for Frassati’s intercession. (Frassati, a Lay Dominican, died of polio in 1925 at the age of 24, after a life in which his family knew him mostly for his love of mountain climbing, and the poor of Turin knew him as their beloved friend and benefactor.) Becker’s mother did so, and placed the picture at his side. He woke the next day.

Pier Giorgio Frassati, was a model of charity, who annoyed his father by constantly “losing” pieces of his fine wardrobe, including shoes and coats. Kevin had never heard Pier Giorgio Frassati’s name before his accident.

They say that an encounter with a saint can change your life; it changed Kevin’s. Not only was he completely healed, he says that he’s better than he was before his injury. In school he’d always been the clown sitting in the back row making smart-aleck remarks and not paying attention to his schoolwork. From the moment he woke, his studies became important to him, and his grades improved remarkably.

The records of Kevin’s case have been sent to the Vatican; and his recovery may well be the miracle that leads to Frassati’s canonization. Kevin says he doesn’t care about that. He doesn’t know why God healed him as he did, but he’s determined that God’s work won’t be wasted. And he remains confident of George’s presence nearby, and sometimes hears his whispered voice in his ear.”

Love,
Matthew

Jul 4 – Martyrs of Dorchester, (d. 1594), Bls John Cornelius, SJ, Thomas Bosgrave, John Carey, Patrick Salmon – “Oh, Precious Collar!!”

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-Dorset Martyrs Memorial, Gallows Hill, Dorchester, England

There is a very special communion between the laity and the ordained. Not merely too many calories delivered to rectories at holidays, or generous gifts for Father from time to time; one priest who received a new car famously quipped, “All THIS!!!! AND eternal life, too!!!”

It is recorded, often, in history, when oppressed, persecutors believed by destroying the priesthood, they would succeed in in destroying the faith. Untrue, time and time, again. When Asian missionaries returned, it is recorded, to Far Eastern missions where once they evangelized after several hundred years of absence, the clandestine faith still survived, albeit adapted to life without clergy, but it persisted. It is stronger than that. It always has been. So, “though the mountains fall into the sea”, yet shall we trust in His promises. The gates of Hell shall not prevail against us.

Persecution in England in the late 17th century was part of a crackdown by the Elizabethan government after the Decree of 1585, which made it an offense punishable by death to seek ordination to the priesthood oversees and return to England. This story, like others just like it, is of Catholic laity and that special communion with the ordained.

John, Thomas, John and Patrick were executed together at Dorchester on July 4, 1594: John Cornelius, who trained for the priesthood at Douai and Rome, was arrested in April; his companions were arrested for assisting him. John became a Jesuit while imprisoned in London. All of them were from Ireland:

Father John Cornelius, their leader, was born in 1557 to Irish parents who had moved to Great Britain. A Dorsetshire Catholic knight, Sir John Arundel, sent him to Oxford University to study. But John was too Catholic in his convictions to be pleased with the “new religion” that dominated the University. Feeling called rather to the Catholic priesthood, he crossed the Channel and enrolled at the English college in Rheims for holy orders. From Rheims he went on to the English College in Rome to complete his theology, and it was at Rome that he was ordained a priest.

Return to England as a Catholic priest was at that time forbidden under pain of death. But Father John, a man of prayer and zeal, saw in that law a challenge rather than a deterrent, as did the rest of the contemporary English priests who set service to persecuted Catholics as their top priority. His assignment was to the Catholics of Dorset. These priests’ ministry was a “cloak-and-dagger” operation, since they were always in danger of discovery and arrest. Their capture could mean also the arrest and punishment of anybody who assisted them.

Naturally, the missionaries’ terms of service were usually short, for the police were alert and aggressive. Cornelius (he also went by the alias of Mohun, although his real surname seems to have been O’Mahony) was finally seized by the sheriff of Dorset on April 24, 1594, at the Chideock Castle of Lady Arundel.

Having seized the priest by surprise, the Sheriff was about to hurry him off hatless. Now, in that hat-conscious age, to be hatless was to appear uncivilized. Thomas Bosgrave, a gallant young Cornish nephew of Sir John Arundel and a witness to the arrest, stepped forward and offered Father John his own hat. “The honor I owe to your function,” he declared, “may not suffer me to see you go bareheaded!” It was a simple gesture of charity to a priest, but he was to pay for his piety. The Sheriff promptly arrested Bosgrave, too, for “aiding” a Catholic clergyman. He likewise arrested two serving-men of this Catholic household, Dubliners John Carey and Patrick Salmon. Content, no doubt, with the day’s work, the county official then led his catch off to jail.

Cornelius, the most important of them, was taken to London to be examined by Queen Elizabeth’s Privy Council. The Council had him stretched on the rack to force him to name all those who had given him shelter or assistance. Torture would not open his lips, however, so he was sent back to Dorchester for trial, along with the three lay captives. On July 2, the court declared the priest guilty of high treason under the law that forbade Catholic priests to enter England and remain there. Bosgrave, Carey and Salmon were pronounced guilty of felony for aiding and abetting Father John. The sentence was the same for all: hanging, drawing, and quartering.

After the court had published its judgment, it offered all four men a reprieve if they would give up their Catholic faith. All four refused.

The execution took place at Dorchester two days later. The three laymen were hanged first. John Carey is reported to have said as the noose hung before his face, kissing the rope, “Oh! Precious collar!” Each made a Catholic profession of faith before the trap was sprung. Father John then kissed the feet of his hanging companions. He then kissed the gallows with the words of Saint Andrew, “O Cross, long desired.” He was not allowed to make any formal statement; but he did manage to state that he had been lately admitted into the Jesuits, and would have been en route to the Jesuit novitiate in Flanders had he not been arrested.

Dorset Martyrs Memorial, Gallows Hill, Dorchester

The Dorset Martyrs Memorial at Gallows Hill on South Walks, Dorchester was created by Dame Elisabeth Frink and was erected in 1986. It was funded by institutions and individuals of all denominations and the Arts Council of Great Britain through South West Arts.

The memorial represents two martyrs facing Death and commemorates all Dorset men and women who suffered for their faith and, in particular, seven known Catholics who were executed where the Memorial now stands, including —

John Cornelius SJ, Priest, executed 4 July 1594

John Cornelius was born in Bodmin of Irish descent and was sent to Exeter College, Oxford by Sir John Arundell. He was ordained in 1584 at the English College in Rome.

John Cornelius was a Chaplain to the Arundell family at Chideock Castle where he was arrested after a search of the castle and sent to Dorchester to be tried for high treason along with

Thomas Bosgrave, John Carey and Patrick Salmon. Executed on 4 July 1594, along with Fr Cornelius, SJ.

Thomas Bosgrave was the son of Leonard Bosgrave and the grandson of Sir John Arundell, making him the great-great-grandson of Thomas Gray, 1st Marquis of Dorset and half-brother to Elizabeth of York, Queen Consort of King Henry VII.

Thomas Bosgrave, together with John Carey and Patrick Salmon, servants at Chideock Castle, was arrested and taken with John Cornelius to Dorchester where they were charged with harbouring a priest contrary to the statute of 1585.

Gallows Hill

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-please click on the image for a more detailed view

John Speed’s map of Dorchester was published in 1610. It shows the position of the gallows on Gallows Hill on the bottom of the map towards the right,close to the modern junction of Icen Way and South Walks. The gallows was made of two uprights and a crossbeam connecting them with enough space for a two-wheeled cart to pass through and enough space for multiple hangings. At that time the County Gaol wa son High East Street near Icen Way, which used to be called Gaol Lane.

In the 16th and 17th centuries the penalty for high treason was to be hung, drawn and quartered. The victim was tortured, imprisoned, then taken to the gallows. He or she would be cut down after a short hanging, sometimes still alive, and cruelly butchered, with the limbs being torn from the body. The dismembered corpse was often placed on gateways. This is how John Cornelius, SJ and many more died.

The gallows was removed to Maumbury Rings around 1703, which means that many of the 74 prisoners condemned to death during the ‘Bloody Assize’ following the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685 will also have been executed there.

Love,
Matthew

May 12 – Bl William Tirry, OSA, (1609-1654) – Priest & Martyr

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In the centuries after Christianity came to Ireland, Roman Catholicism  thrived there. In the Dark Ages it was monks from Ireland, “the island of saints and scholars,” studying in Ireland and then moving out around Europe that helped preserve European civilization. But from the time that Henry VIII broke with the Church in the 1530s until the present day, all that changed and Ireland became a place of conflict.

Some of the first casualties of that conflict were the leaders of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Between 1534 and 1714, 260 Catholic clergy and laity were martyred in Ireland. One of those was Father William Tirry.  William was born in Cork City in 1608 to a very prominent family. Twenty members of his family had been mayors of Cork through the years and his uncle was Bishop of the Diocese of Cork-Cloyne. The Tirrys were what was known as “old English,” those who had come after the Norman-English, but by the time William was born had been in Ireland for hundreds of years. Though they were loyal to the English crown, they were also staunch Catholics. William was a studious lad and, as was often the case in those days in prominent Catholic families, he was steered toward the priesthood. Though he spoke English and also learned Latin, Irish was his first language, another factor that would have enhanced his identification with Irish culture.

At the age of 18 William was accepted to study in the Augustinian order as a postulant at Cork’s “Red Abbey.” He later went to the continent, where he studied philosophy in the famous Augustinian house of study in Valladolid, Spain, where he was also ordained between 1634 and 1636. He then taught theology at the Augustinian College in Paris. He may have been back in Ireland by 1638. It was a fateful time in Irish history, as the Rising of 1641 was to begin shortly. Father Tirry was secretary for his uncle, the bishop, for a time. After the rebellion began, Cork was the headquarters of the Protestants of Munster province and remained relatively calm for a few years. Father Tirry was tutor to the children of two of his cousins during this time, the Sarsfields and Everards. The Everards lived in Fethard, County Tipperary, and would be very important to Father Tirry in the final years of his life.

In 1644, the ongoing conflict in Ireland finally disrupted Father Tirry’s life in Cork City, as the Catholic clergy was forced to flee. Father Tirry took refuge in the Augustinian friary in Fethard. He had several fairly peaceful years there, becoming the assistant to Father Denis O’Driscoll in 1646. They were able to minister to the local Catholics in relative peace for a few years, but the specter of Cromwell was on the horizon.

In June 1649 Father Tirry was appointed the prior of the Augustinian house in Skreen, County Meath. But Cromwell landed August 15th and occupied that area. It’s likely that Father Tirry either never took up that post, or had to flee it shortly afterwards, as he was still in Fethard in 1650. Father Peter Taaffe, who was appointed prior in Drogheda at the same time, died in the massacre by Cromwell’s troops there.

In the spring of 1650, Cromwell’s army arrived in Fethard and all the Augustinians had to scatter to the countryside and go into hiding. Father O’Driscoll and Father Tirry remained on the run in hiding in the area for the next four years, while ministering to the Catholics of the town. Father Tirry was said to have sometimes moved about disguised as a soldier and for much of the time was often hidden in the home or on the property of his former employers, the Everards. Many people in town knew the Everard family was hiding him, but for several years none betrayed him.

On January 6, 1653, the English parliament declared any Roman Catholic priest found to be ministering to a congregation in Ireland to be guilty of treason. Some priests fled to the continent, but many did not, including Father Tirry. Those who stayed had a bounty put on their heads and priest hunters roamed the countryside. It was a time of great suffering in Ireland, when famines were common and many were desperate and starving. Eventually he was betrayed by three local people, who each received 5£s.

On Holy Saturday, March 25, 1654, English soldiers broke into Father Tirry’s hiding place at the Everard property and arrested him. He was in his vestments preparing to celebrate a Mass somewhere and they also found papers in which he defended the Catholic faith. This was irrefutable evidence against him.

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-part of the old city and town walls of Fethard, Ireland

Ordinarily this would have resulted in Mrs. Everard (a widow) being arrested and probably executed for aiding a priest, but the family must have been well connected and she was not harmed. Father Tirry was transported to Clonmel Gaol. Not every clergyman who was caught at the time was executed — some were deported. There were several other held in the gaol with Father Tirry then who were banished rather than being executed, including Fathers Walter Conway and Matthew Fogarty, who would provide much of the extant information of Father Tirry’s imprisonment and execution. Fathers Conway and Fogarty reported that Father Tirry immediately improved the morale of the prisoners with his piety and positive attitude.

His efforts ministering to the local population over the preceding decade must have left a strong impression on them, for Conway and Fogarty reported that when the Catholics in the area heard that Father Tirry was in the gaol, crowds of them came there to see him. Marshal Richard Rouse, who ran the gaol, apparently admired Father Tirry as well, as he went out of his way to see to his comforts and allowed some of his many visitors to see him.

As with nearly all trials of Irishmen at that time and for nearly three more centuries to come, the assigned jurors were those the government trusted to return the “correct” verdict. This jury included a Cromwellian commissioner and an army colonel who would no doubt keep the other jurors in line. And in the case of Father Tirry, it’s likely that his high standing with the local Catholic population worked against him with regard to banishment versus execution, as did the writings that found when he was arrested, which were highly critical of the Protestant church of Ireland. If he knew that, it did not cause him to waver in his faith.

At his trial, when pressed to bend to the government’s authority, he replied that, “in temporal matters I acknowledge no higher power in the kingdom of Ireland than yours, but in spiritual affairs wherein my soul is concerned, I acknowledge the Pope of Rome and my own superiors to have greater power over me than you others.” He must have known such a pronouncement would make them believe that even if exiled he would return again, ensuring his death, but his faith was stronger than his fear of death.

Both Fathers Tirry and Fogarty, who were tried together, were sentenced to death, but in Fogarty’s case the sentence was commuted to banishment. Marshal Rouse allowed Father Tirry to be held in a house he owned after his trial, so people could easily came and visit him while awaiting word of when his sentence would be carried out. In a last act of kindness to his flock, Father Tirry had 46 loaves of bread given to the poor to atone for the sins of his 46 years of life. On May 11th, he was informed he would die the following day, and replied in his native Irish, “God Almighty be thanked Who chose me for this happy end.”

On the morning of the 12th, Marshal Rouse arrived to take Father Tirry to be hung. After having his hands manacled, he knelt in the door and got a final blessing from his fellow priests, whose affection for him must have created a most poignant scene. The procession to the gallows was guarded by English soldiers, as well it needed to be, as the streets thronged with people coming to see their beloved priest for the last time. Many were said to be weeping and some grabbed the hem of his garment and kissed it, receiving his blessing. He walked holding a set of beads, reciting the rosary as he went to the market square of Clonmel.

Reaching the gallows, Father Tirry was allowed by Rouse to address the crowd, much to the displeasure of a Protestant reverend who implored Rouse to “get on with it” in the middle of the father’s gallows speech. But Rouse’s kindness to Father Tirry would continue. The crowd now was turning angry at what was about to happen and pressing in toward the soldiers surrounding the gallows, but Father Tirry implored them to stay calm and allow him to “go in peace.”

“I would have life and favor if I defected to you,” Father Tirry told the reverend, “but, I prefer to die for the true religion.” And, in his final comments, he showed how deep his devotion to that religion was, when he forgave the three residents of Fethard who had betrayed his location to the English, and prayed for their salvation. He also asked any priest who might be in disguise in the crowd, as they would have to be, to offer him absolution. His old friend Father O’Driscoll was, indeed, there and surreptitiously gave it. O’Driscoll was still on the run and would never be captured, but his health would be broken by that exhausting life and he would be dead the following year.

Father Tirry then signaled to Rouse, who had assured him he would not give the command to push him from the ladder on which he was standing until he was ready, that he was prepared for the end. The deed was done and the crowded gasped as the good Father’s neck snapped and his lifeless body hung before them. It was said that none who witnessed it, Catholic or Protestant, failed to be admire the strength and courage with which Father Tirry had faced his final moments on earth.

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-ruins of Fethard Abbey, Ireland

The mayor of Fethard was allowed to bring Father Tirry’s body back there. He was buried in the grounds of the Abbey in Fethard, though its exact location is lost to us. His sacrifice for his faith was not forgotten by the people of Ireland, however. In 1919, Father Tirry was one of 260 Irish martyrs whose names were submitted to Rome for sainthood. On September 27, 1992, 17 Irish martyrs were beatified by Pope John Paul II, and on that list was William Tirry, now one step away from being a saint.

Loving Father, we praise you for the seal of holiness your Church placed on Blessed William Tirry of Fethard, who willingly gave his life for your Gospel truth which he professed and lived. Grant through his intercession an answer to our prayers now in our time of need. We pray especially for………………… May your holy will be done. We trust in your mercy, and pray too that in your blessed providence, the name Blessed William will soon be added to the list of our saints.

We make our prayer through Christ our Lord.

Love,
Matthew

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

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-by Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ

“October 16, 2016, the Church will celebrate the canonization of Bl Jose Sanchez del Rio (pictured above), a 14-year old martyr of the Cristero War, when the Church suffered extreme governmental persecution in Mexico in the 1920s. When he refused to renounce Christ, the boy’s captors tortured him and gave him one last chance to blaspheme. He replied, “Viva Cristo Rey, y Santa Maria de Guadalupe!” He was then repeatedly stabbed and finally shot. Eyewitnesses reported that he drew a cross in the dirt, kissed it, and died.

I’ve been haunted by the story of young Jose since I first learned of him via the movie, “For Greater Glory,” which depicted the Cristero War. How did that 14-year old boy acquire at so young an age such heroic fidelity?

“God’s grace” is the obvious and correct answer—but it is only part of the answer. Grace doesn’t ignore or erase what is human and natural. The Church has always taught that “grace builds on nature.” In other words, that young Jose could be both so faithful and so young says a lot about both God and about Jose. What happened to Jose before his martyrdom that enabled him to receive the grace of martyrdom when it was offered to him?

For the last four weeks, I have been writing here about our collective failure to raise our youth to Christian maturity. The many efforts to make the Faith “fun,” “exciting,” “relevant,” etc., over the past 45 year have not resulted in two generations of mature and confident Catholics who live for the Faith, can hand on the Faith, and are ready to die for the Faith. In the United States, the second largest “denomination” of Christians is former Catholics. Clearly, what we have been doing isn’t working. Who would be willing to wager that what we’re doing now will produce the next generation of saints and martyrs?

So we have to ask: How did young Jose become Saint Jose? Through “clown liturgies”? Through dancers at Mass? T-shirts and light sticks at retreats? Homilies celebrating “diversity, tolerance, acceptance and inclusion”? I can’t say for sure—I wasn’t there.

But whatever else he may have received from those responsible for his spiritual formation, I’m willing to bet that more than once he heard, “We proclaim Christ Crucified!” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24) I’m willing to bet that more than once he heard about “The Four Last Things” (Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.) And I’m willing to bet that he knew how and why to be reverent at Mass, pray the Rosary, make a good Confession, and attend Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction.

In sum, I can assert with confidence that much of what made this young boy into a saint are the same things that for centuries have made saints, namely, precisely those things that we rarely if ever offer to our young people today. Of course, I tremble when I consider whether I or anyone will stand fast when true persecution comes. I tremble more when I look at the last 45 years and the immediate present, and see that we will not have to worry about our youth being driven away from Christ by persecution, when we are already letting them drift away from Christ by the culture and our own fecklessness and wishful thinking.

God will ask us whether we gave to the young entrusted to us what they needed from us to become saints. In particular, He will ask us if we gave them our own good example. My friends, let us repent and pursue sanctity, and teach our children to do the same—for time is running short.

Love,
Matthew