Category Archives: September

Sep 14 – Triumph of the Cross

People suffer horrific things in this life. And, as Jim Morris sang, “Nobody gets out of here alive.” I have long held, if you can explain the contradiction of the Cross, not easy, but then you do understand Christianity; counter-intuitive. It takes the worst, and represents the worst-also, this life can offer…and DESTROYS it, forever. Praise Him. Praise Him. Praise Him, Church. Praise Him. There is no Resurrection without the Cross. Horrific and horrifying, yes. Absolutely required? Without question or hesitation. Praise Him. Praise Him.


The Triumph of the Cross, ~1380, Agnolo Gaddi (1350–1396), fresco, Santa Croce, Florence (please click on the image for greater detail)


-by Br Ambrose Arralde, OP

“For many Christians, making the sign of the cross can be as mechanical as brushing one’s teeth or clearing one’s throat. On the one hand, it’s beautiful that such a simple sign can contain such profound meaning. It’s very simplicity, however, makes it easy for us to perform without giving its meaning a second thought. A good meditation on this phenomenon can be found in Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter.

“But whenever we make the sign of the cross over ourselves or over anything that we want to protect with the cross, then we must remember how the cross was made sacred and what it means, and remember that with the suffering and death of the Lord, this symbol was given honor and power.”

The cross is not a symbol invented by Christians. At the time of the early Church, the cross was already a well known symbol imbued with meaning. The cross was the symbol of death and humiliation, intended to strike fear into the hearts of would-be malefactors. Every body hanging on a cross carried with it an implicit message for the passerby, “Do not cross the state, or this will be you.” The cross, however, lost its former power when it was used to kill Jesus Christ. His followers were not deterred by the threat of the cross, nor would they deny their Lord as they were being led to die his same death. One can only imagine that this must have been quite frustrating for Roman officials. But the cross no longer meant to the Christians what it still meant to the Romans. The cross had become a symbol of life because it had been defeated and shown to be powerless, similar to how the sign of surrender would later become the handing over of one’s sword.

The impotence of the cross, however, could only be revealed after it had been given free rein to do its worst, and its worst had been found wanting. Christ felt the full weight of suffering and humiliation. But the suffering, instead of breaking his mettle, became an occasion for heroic courage, and the humiliation, instead of causing him shame, became an occasion for him to despise shame itself (cf. Hebrews 12:2). It was only by dying that Christ could rise, and in losing all human glory he was exalted above every mere creature (cf. Philippians 2:8-9). It was only after Christ had emptied the cross of all the power it had once enjoyed that he could fill it with a new and greater power. “We must remember how the cross was made sacred and what it means, and remember that with the suffering and death of the Lord, this symbol was given honor and power.”

The sign of the cross has the power to strengthen us (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2157), and it is good for us to avail ourselves of it often, but it strengthens us precisely to meet the trials of life head on, rather than to keep them at bay. We are called to share in the life and glory of Christ, but only through sharing in his cross. There are still many Christians who suffer death for their faith in Christ, but we who are not so sorely tried can also show our Christian mettle by carrying our daily crosses, strengthened by the knowledge that the cross is the sign that points to the empty tomb.”

Love & glorious, inexpressibly joyful TRIUMPH in Him,
Matthew

Sep 15 – Improperia (The Reproaches), Our Lady of Sorrows

“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His mother: “This Child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.”
-Luke 2:34-35

And with “Woman behold your son.”  And, “Son, behold your Mother.”  cf Jn 19:26-27, Mary became our mother, and the mother of the Church.

Good Friday is a day of mourning, remembering Christ’s death, and so is not typically a day of songs and hymns. During the Veneration of the Cross, the following Antiphon and verses known as “The Reproaches” (Improperia) are sung. Individual parts are indicated by no. 1 (first choir) and no. 2 (second choir); parts sung by both choirs together are indicated by nos. 1 and 2.

The Reproaches (Improperia)

Antiphon 1 and 2:
We worship You, Lord,
we venerate Your cross,
we praise Your resurrection.
1: Through the cross
You brought joy to the world.
1: (Psalm 66:2)
May God be gracious and bless us;
and let His face shed its light upon us.

Repeat Antiphon by 1 and 2:

The Reproaches:

I.

1 and 2: My people, what have I done to you
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I led you out of Egypt,
from slavery to freedom,
but you led your Savior to the cross.

2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!
1: Holy is God!
2: Holy and strong!
1: Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

1 and 2: For forty years I led you
safely through the desert.
I fed you with manna from heaven,
and brought you to a land of plenty; but you led your Savior to the cross.

1: Holy is God!
2: Holy and strong!
1: Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

1 and 2: What more could I have done for you.
I planted you as my fairest vine,
but you yielded only bitterness:
when I was thirsty you gave Me vinegar to drink,
and you pierced your Savior with a lance.

1: Holy is God!
2: Holy and strong!
1: Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

II.

1: For your sake I scourged your captors
and their firstborn sons,
but you brought your scourges down on me.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I led you from slavery to freedom
and drowned your captors in the sea,
but you handed me over to your high priests.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I opened the sea before you,
but you opened my side with a spear.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I led you on your way in a pillar of cloud,
but you led me to Pilate’s court.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I bore you up with manna in the desert,
but you struck me down and scourged me.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I gave you saving water from the rock,
but you gave me gall and vinegar to drink.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: For you I struck down the kings of Canaan.
but you struck my head with a reed.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I gave you a royal scepter,
but you gave me a crown of thorns.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I raised you to the height of majesty,
but you have raised me high on a cross.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

Love,
Matthew

Sep 14 – Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Agnolo_Gaddi_-_Discovery_of_the_True_Cross_-_WGA08367
-by Agnolo Gaddi, ca 1380, “Discovery of the True Cross”, fresco, Santa Croce, Florence, Italy, please click on the image for greater detail

albertthomasdempsey

-by Br Albert Thomas Dempsey, OP

“When the people of Israel complained against God during their wandering in the desert, God sent saraph serpents among them. It was not until Moses, at the Lord’s command, raised a serpent on a pole that all who looked upon it were cured (Num 21:6-9). The Church Fathers saw in this a prefigurement of Christ’s mounting on the cross, a promise that future generations would be saved by considering His passion and contemplating its instrument, the cross.

From this belief arose both the practice of concentrating on a crucifix when praying and today’s feast, the Exaltation of the Cross, which honors the cross’ instrumental role in the salvation of the world. Yet, if Christ’s crucifixion occurred during the Feast of Passover in the springtime, why does the Church celebrate His cross on September 14, roughly five months later? To discover the answer, one must look to the earliest centuries of Christianity.

The hostility of Jewish leaders and the persecution of Roman authorities made it difficult for Christians to frequent places associated with the life of Christ. Moreover, the province of Judea was thrust into turmoil by three revolts against Roman authority in the century following Christ’s ascension (Jerusalem was razed in 70 AD and rebuilt as a Roman city in 135 AD). Nevertheless, the Christians of the Holy Land strove to preserve orally their knowledge of the locations associated with Christ’s life. Their efforts would bear fruit two centuries later.

Born of humble parentage in the middle of the third century in Asia Minor, St. Helena married an ambitious Roman soldier named Constantius and bore him a son, Constantine, in 272 AD. Though Constantius, who eventually became emperor, cast aside his wife for a more advantageous match, his son nevertheless remained faithful to her. When Constantine himself became the first Christian emperor of Rome, he honored his mother with the title of ‘Augusta’ and converted her to Christianity. The saint took to her new religion zealously, impressing her contemporaries with her abundant virtue.

When Constantine conquered the eastern half of the Roman Empire in 323 AD, at long last, Christians in the Holy Land could worship openly. In thanksgiving for his successes, the emperor ordered a number of churches be built with public funds at Christian sites throughout the Levant.

Despite being well into her seventies, St. Helena burned with a desire to walk the ground her Savior’s feet had trodden. Shortly after the Council of Nicaea, she set out on a pilgrimage to pray for her son and grandchildren, visiting numerous churches and bishops along the way and generously aiding the needy. However, she found that some holy places had been forgotten, while others were occupied by pagan temples to discourage worship. In Jerusalem, the site of the Lord’s burial had been itself buried under a mound of earth and surmounted by a temple to Venus; St. Helena ordered the temple razed, the earth removed, and a monumental church erected on the site.

The cross, too, had been hidden by the Jews, cast into a ditch or well and covered over. Moved by the Holy Spirit, St. Helena had sought it during her pilgrimage. Upon reaching Jerusalem, she prayed that the cross might not remain hidden and, lo and behold, three crosses were found among the rubble heaped over Holy Sepulchre.

Identifying the True Cross by its inscription, St. Helena rejoiced and sent the nails to her son, one for his crown and another for his bridle, a reminder, according to St. Ambrose, that rulers must be mindful of Christ and, by His grace, curb their appetites. St. Helena and St. Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem, confirmed the identity of the cross by laying it alongside the body of a dying man, who miraculously recovered.

St. Helena died shortly after returning to Rome at the age of eighty. The church she ordered constructed over the Holy Sepulchre was completed in 335 AD and dedicated on September 14, when the cross was brought outside for the veneration of the faithful. St. Helena’s discovery of the cross and the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre have been celebrated jointly from the fourth century onward.

Medieval and Renaissance depictions of religious events are often, at first glance, puzzling: Christ is shown teaching not on the shore of Galilee but along the coast of Geneva, with its mountains and gothic spires; the martyrs tormented not by Roman centurions but Italian condottierri. Surely the artists knew better! In fact, most of them did. Yet they wished to impress upon their viewers that sacred history is not mythology: the gospels and the lives of the saints describe real events that happened to real people, as real as the windmills of Holland or the towns of the Rhineland.

Similarly, today’s feast and the life of St. Helena remind us of the fullness of Christ’s Incarnation: the Lord is not merely a tale told to children, nor simply a concept bandied about by theologians. Rather, in partaking of our humanity, He shared in our particularity. He lived not once upon a time, but at that time; not somewhere, but there; and He suffered, not in the abstract, but concretely, upon a cross, the fragments of which the faithful can venerate to this day. St. Helena, pray for us that we may never forget the historicity of Christ.”

Love,
Matthew

Sep 3 – GREAT!!!!

gregorythegreat

GREAT
ɡrāt/
adjective
of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average.

nicholasschneiderop

-by Br Nicholas Schneider, OP

“A few other saints have received the title, including St. Albert the Great and St. Gertrude the Great. St. Albert received the title during his lifetime for the extreme breadth of writings, which covered everything from Aristotle, astrology, and biology, to friendship, phrenology, theology, and zoology. St. Gertrude received the title from Pope Benedict XIV because of her spiritual and theological work, especially the devotion to the Sacred Heart, and to differentiate her from another Benedictine saint of the same name.

We recognize civil leaders with the same title for grand accomplishments, often uniting military victories with advancements in culture and the arts. Alexander the Great conquered much of the known world in ten short years. Alfred the Great and Cnut the Great were given the title for their unification of England. Similarly, Frederick the Great of Prussia united the country with stunning military victories and was also a great patron of the arts. In Russia, Ivan the Great (III), Peter the Great, and Catherine the Great all added substantive territory to Muscovy and the Russian Empire, and they also promoted the sciences and arts. Ivan IV could not receive the title because his grandfather already had it. Instead, he received “The Terrible,” a term which has a similar meaning—though with quite different moral overtones—to that of the power and awesomeness of God that we see in Psalm 66.

Heirs of great rulers often fall short of their fathers. Selim “the Sot” (the drunkard) was the heir to Suleiman the Magnificent in the Ottoman Empire. Louis the Pius, the son of Charlemagne, basically lost his father’s empire, but was spared a negative title because he supported the Church and the chroniclers writing the histories were monks.

Most of us are more like the heirs of great rulers than we are the “Great”s. We will not accomplish great things, build monuments, or write great works that will be revisited and remembered here on earth for centuries. Indeed, we may even destroy some of what the great rulers built. As Mother Teresa reminds us, most of us are not called to great things, but we can all do small things with great love. Doing great things may not lead us to fulfillment. Doing the task we are given by God well and with great love, no matter how small, will lead us to that happiness we so desire. In the end, the only title that ultimately matters is the one that we hope will precede our name: Saint.

Pope St. Gregory the Great, ora pro nobis.”

Love,
Matthew

Sep 30 – St Jerome, Not Pulling Any Punches

st-jerome

Christians don’t always have to be nice.  Catholic teaching allows for the defense of self.  And the Lord excoriated the hypocritical and the self-righteous.  It is a false-piety, a deception, and a danger, a heresy, really, to believe only in Jesus-The-Warm-Fuzzy.  In the matter of Scripture, the wider availability of Scripture from the Greek and Hebrew may not have happened until MUCH later, if it were not for St Jerome!  St Jerome was not a warm fuzzy.  To accomplish what he did when he did, he couldn’t afford to be.  It wouldn’t have worked.  He didn’t worship a God Who was either.  Let’s be careful out there where our politics dictates our God, rather than the other way around.  St Jerome was never confused in this way.  He was born Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius, around the year 342 AD.

athanasius murphy
-by Br Athanasius Murphy, OP

“St. Jerome was a fighter.

Popes, soldiers, widows, monks, archdeacons – it didn’t matter – none were safe from the sharp and nimble pen of this 4th-century resident of Bethlehem. He wrote against many who had distanced themselves from the Church by error or faulty preaching, and so he got a name for not pulling punches. His letters link phrases together like opposing storms and unshaken faith, errors and eternal bondage, heretics and doomed to perish. Granted he was fighting to defend the Faith, but did he have to be so combative?

St. Jerome was such a fighter because he believed there was something worth fighting for: brotherhood.

If you read some of his letters, you’ll notice that St. Jerome covers a variety of themes (Scripture, schism, vows of virginity, poetry, bathing habits), but in all of these he always finds a way to mention brotherhood. He is constantly mentioning his brothers, sisters, and spiritual sons and daughters as he critiques this bishop’s preaching or consoles that widow’s mourning; counsels this Roman soldier, or teases that prelate’s hygiene. Whether he spoke in jest, irritation, or anger, all he did was for the sake of fraternity.

Brotherhood for Jerome was a teaching of Christ, Who called His disciples brothers (Mt 23:8). A helpful way to look at how St. Jerome thought of brotherhood is to view it in light of another teaching of Christ: chastity, poverty, and obedience.

St. Jerome thought that brotherhood is chaste, because it’s about an undivided love. Chastity is a virtue that keeps the heart set on a real and authentic love, and real love is undeterred by false forms of friendship that lack depth in the love of God. St. Jerome spoke of brotherhood as a kind of chastity because his authentic love for others was rooted in a love for God. Chastity unites us to God with an undivided heart. So too we undividedly love our brothers by this love we have for God:

The links which bind spirit to spirit are stronger than any physical bond. For you, my reverend friend, cling to me with all your soul, and I am united to you by the love of Christ (Letter 62).

St. Jerome was the first to recognize a real love between himself and another. But if that love was lacking, he was quick to call his brother back into friendship. Even in harsh words Jerome pursued the friendship of his brother by being close to Christ: “Our only gain is that we are thus knit together in the love of Christ” (Letter 60).

Brotherhood for Jerome is also poor because it gives up everything for another. In emptying himself Christ gave everything to become our brother, and we, in our poverty, give up everything for the sake of our brothers in Christ. St. Jerome cared not a thing for his reputation or position in the world, provided that his words and gestures had the chance of calling a brother back from a straying path. Such a friendship that divests itself of all extras is a true friendship, and this is why it is priceless:

Love is not to be purchased, and affection has no price. The friendship which can cease has never been real (Letter 3).

True brotherhood is also obedient. To be obedient is to delight in another’s will, and so have a true and lasting unity with that person. Christ gives us the grace and example to be obedient to our heavenly Father. Brothers who dwell in unity first have an obedience to God that then outpours into a harmony in the Church. It’s in the heart of the Church that we strive to live in Christ with one heart and soul (Acts 4:32).

But such harmony is only possible when there is openness to truth between friends. St. Jerome held to this standard of truth when relating to others. “True friendship ought never to conceal what it thinks, and real brotherhood will leave enough room to hear the truth, even when it is difficult (Letter 81).”

While his words were at times harsh, nothing St. Jerome said was without a further purpose of drawing others close to Christ in real brotherhood. Jerome’s life gives us the example of how to knock at the door of others and offer them friendship – even to those who would consider us enemies. Christ has knocked at the door of our hearts and by grace we have consented to a divine friendship with Him. He now uses us to knock on the hearts of others to offer that same friendship:

“I have now knocked at the door of friendship: if you open it to me you will find me a frequent visitor (Letter 145).”

Love,
Matthew

Sep 29 – St Michael the Archangel, “For whom do you stand?”

Guido_Reni_031

-Guido Reni’s Michael (in Santa Maria della Concezione Church, Rome, 1636). A mosaic of the same painting decorates St. Michael’s Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica.

BrMichaelMaryWeibley-160x160
-by Br Michael Mary Weibley, OP

“St. Michael is an imposing figure. His image throughout history commands strength, power, prestige, and victory. For centuries Christians have turned to his intercession as a direct line – a 9-1-1 call if you will – in their struggles with sin. His angelic person imposes an immediate threat to temptation and all its nastiness. It’s no wonder he’s popular.

But perhaps a more important aspect of St. Michael’s lineage is the question he asks us; it’s enclosed within his very name. Translated from the Hebrew, Michael means “Who is like God?” or “Who can compare with God?” Therefore, every time we utter the name of this Archangel, we ask ourselves, or we ask others, “For whom do you stand?”

In praying to St. Michael we don’t often think in this way. It would be much easier for us in moments of temptation if we could call upon St. Michael and have him immediately fix our issues and problems. It would keep us perfectly safe; we would just rattle off a few prayers to this robust intercessor and sweep the dust under the rug. The angels in heaven would rejoice to see how quickly we become saints! The problem, however, is that this attitude – this false piety – doesn’t actually engage reality. It ignores our real maladies as we hide behind a kind of facade of religiosity. Within this mindset we would actually be dishonest with ourselves and false to what St. Michael wants to do for us.

In the Christian life God gives us many opportunities, which are a sign of His great mercy for us. Our way back to the Father, through our Savior Jesus Christ, is usually a long one, involving many deliberate good decisions along the way. These good decisions begin with the impetus of God’s grace, but they remain truly our free decisions nonetheless.

This is exactly what St. Michael does for us today. At every choice between virtue and vice, between the true good and evil, Michael’s name ought to ring in our spiritual ears. In other words, how does this decision, in this moment, accord with my Christian vocation for holiness?

At every moment St. Michael is there reminding us that no matter what may seem “good” now, it fails in comparison to the love God has in store for His faithful ones.

Think of St. Paul’s use of Isaiah 64:3: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart… God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). We love God not by mere sentimentality, but through our conscious deliberate choices. “Whoever says ‘I know him,’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar,” says St. John (1 Jn. 2:4).

Yes, St. Michael asks us a question, and his special intercession helps to remind us of that question in moments of trial. Remember, it is St. Michael, strengthened by God, who casts out Satan, our “accuser” (Rev. 12: 7-12). Satan seeks to accuse us before God, to accuse us of failing to make good decisions. The grace of St. Michael is not only a reminder of God’s greatness, but also a reminder of Satan’s defeat. In the end, it is always God who wins.  Always.  Not us.  God.  Always.

Rather than use St. Michael as a crutch of piety – hiding behind outward religious practice – we can seek his intercession as the one who challenges us to live for God in every moment. That’s what true piety will get for us, and that’s what engages reality. St. Michael asks a question, which calls upon us to make a choice: Whom do you stand for?

Love,
Matthew

Sep 29 – Sts Michael, Gabriel, & Raphael, The Archangels of God

Saint-Michel-Gabriel-Rapha-l

The three Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are the only angels named in Sacred Scripture and all three have important roles in the history of salvation.

Saint Michael is the “Prince of the Heavenly Host,” the leader of all the angels. His name is Hebrew for “Who is like God?” and was the battle cry of the good angels against Lucifer and his followers when they rebelled against God. He is mentioned four times in the Bible, in Daniel 10 and 12, in the letter of Jude, and in Revelation.

Michael, whose forces cast down Lucifer and the evil spirits into Hell, is invoked for protection against Satan and all evil. Pope Leo XIII, in 1899, having had a prophetic vision of the evil that would be inflicted upon the Church and the world in the 20th century, instituted a prayer asking for Saint Michael’s protection to be said at the end of every Mass.

Christian tradition recognizes four offices of Saint Michael: (i) to fight against Satan (ii) to rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death. (iii) to be the champion of God’s people, (iv) to call away from earth and bring men’s souls to judgment.

“I am Gabriel, who stand before God.” (Luke 1, 19)

Saint Gabriel, whose name means “God’s strength,” is mentioned four times in the Bible. Most significant are Gabriel’s two mentions in the New Testament: to announce the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias, and the at Incarnation of the Word in the womb of Mary.

Christian tradition suggests that it is he who appeared to St. Joseph and to the shepherds, and also that it was he who “strengthened” Jesus during his agony in the garden of Gethsemane.

“I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord” (Tob 12:15)

Saint Raphael, whose name means “God has healed” because of his healing of Tobias’ blindness in the Book of Tobit. Tobit is the only book in which he is mentioned. His office is generally accepted by tradition to be that of healing and acts of mercy.

Raphael is also identified with the angel in John 5:1-4 who descended upon the pond and bestowed healing powers upon it so that the first to enter it after it moved would be healed of whatever infirmity he was suffering.

Biblical scholars point to Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 as indicating the casting of Lucifer from Heaven.  God made the angels and archangels as He made man.  They are created beings, without a physical form, but just as with man, with free will.  They can choose or not to follow the commandments of God, and reap the rewards or punishments thereof their free choice.

Lucifer was cast out from heaven primarily due to his pride, my spiritual director, Rev. Robert Flack, SJ, during my eight day retreat this Summer, reminded me of this,(gulp!), and selfish desire to be like God or even surpass God’s powers and might. Lucifer is known to have been the most intelligent, most cunning, most handsome, most favored angel. But, due to pride Lucifer turned against His God and Creator, His rightful and lawful Master, and chose his own will instead, contrary to the will and commandment of God.

“Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host –
by the Divine Power of God –
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.   Amen.”

“O Glorious Prince of the heavenly host, St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in the battle and in the terrible warfare that we are waging against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the evil spirits. Come to the aid of man, whom Almighty God created immortal, made in His own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of Satan.

“Fight this day the battle of the Lord, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in Heaven. That cruel, ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with his angels. Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of men has taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the name of God and of His Christ, to seize upon, slay and cast into eternal perdition souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity.

“These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where the See of Holy Peter and the Chair of Truth has been set up as the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be.

“Arise then, O invincible Prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and give them the victory. They venerate thee as their protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defense against the malicious power of hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude. Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly find mercy in the sight of the Lord; and vanquishing the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations. Amen.

V. Behold the Cross of the Lord; be scattered ye hostile powers.
R. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered the root of David.
V. Let Thy mercies be upon us, O Lord.
R. As we have hoped in Thee.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.

Let us pray.
O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon Thy holy Name, and as supplicants, we implore Thy clemency, that by the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin Immaculate and our Mother, and of the glorious St. Michael the Archangel, Thou wouldst deign to help us against Satan and all the other unclean spirits who wander about the world for the injury of the human race and the ruin of souls. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Sep 22 – St Maurice & the Martyrs of Theban Legion/Agaunum, (d.286 AD)

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-Saint Gereon of the Theban Legion and soldier companions, by Stefan Lochner, c. 1440

The members of a Roman Legion composed largely of Egyptians and serving in the army of co-Emperor Maximian (r. 286-305 AD), colleague of the famed hater of Christians, Emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305 AD).

While serving in France, the legion marched to Agaunum (now St Maurice, Switzerland), where it encamped for pagan rituals. Maurice, a commander — along with Exuperius, Candidus, Innocent, Vitalis, two Victors, and the men of the legion — refused to worship pagan deities, or possibly refused to massacre the local innocent populace.

They were supposed to be pressured to obey by witnessing the beheading of some of their officers, but they refused to offer sacrifices to the Roman gods.

Reportedly, Maximian brought in another legion to slay the sixty-six hundred Christians. A basilica, St.-Maurice-en-Valais, was built from about 369-391 AD to commemorate this remarkable martyrdom.This cult is now confined to local calendars as of 1969 in the reform of the Roman liturgical calendar.  The whole world is no longer obligated to observe their liturgical celebration.

The Theban Legion (also known as the Martyrs of Agaunum) figures in Christian hagiography as an entire Roman legion — of “six thousand six hundred and sixty-six men” — who had converted en masse to Christianity and were martyred together, in 286 AD, according to the hagiographies of Saint Maurice, the chief among the Legion’s saints. Their feast day is held on September 22.

According to Eucherius of Lyon, ca. 443–450, the garrison of the Legion was the city of Thebes, Egypt. There the Legion were quartered in the East until the emperor Maximian ordered them to march to Gaul, to assist him against the rebels of Burgundy. The Theban Legion was commanded in its march by Saint Maurice (Mauritius), Candidus, Innocent, and Exuperius, all of whom are venerated as saints.

At Saint-Maurice, Switzerland, then called Agaunum, the orders were given to make sacrifice and worship the “genius/deity of the Emperor”.  Being Christian, The Theban Legion refused.  Since the Legion had refused to worship a mere man, a sinful mortal, to sacrifice to the Emperor, their punishment was to be “decimated” putting to death a tenth of its men, each time it refused the order until they complied.  Not a single man in the Theban Legion complied. Decimation was repeated until none were left.

According to a letter written about 450 AD by Eucherius, Bishop of Lyon, bodies identified as the martyrs of Agaunum were discovered by Theodore (Theodulus), the first historically identified Bishop of Octudurum, who was present at the Council of Aquileia, 381 AD and died in 391. The basilica he built in their honor attracted the pilgrim trade; its remains can still be seen, part of the abbey begun in the early sixth century on land donated by King Sigismund of Burgundy.

The earliest surviving document describing “the holy Martyrs who have made Aguanum illustrious with their blood” is the letter of Eucherius, which describes the succession of witnesses from the martyrdom to his time, a span of about 150 years. The bishop had made the journey to Agaunum himself, and his report of his visit multiplied a thousandfold the standard formula of the martyrologies:

We often hear, do we not, a particular locality or city is held in high honour because of one single martyr who died there, and quite rightly, because in each case the saint gave his precious soul to the most high God. How much more should this sacred place, Aguanum, be reverenced, where so many thousands of martyrs have been slain, with the sword, for the sake of Christ.

As with many hagiographies, Eucherius’ letter to Bishop Salvius reinforced an existing pilgrimage site. Many of the faithful were coming from diverse provinces of the empire, according to Eucherius, devoutly to honor these saints, and (important for the abbey of Aguanum) to offer presents of gold, silver and other things. He mentions many miracles, such as casting out of devils and other kinds of healing “which the power of the Lord works there every day through the intercession of his saints.”

In the late sixth century, Gregory of Tours was convinced of the miraculous powers of the Theban Legion, though he transferred the event to Cologne, where there was an early cult devoted to Maurice and the Theban Legion:

At Cologne there is a church in which the fifty men from the holy Theban Legion are said to have consummated their martyrdom for the name of Christ. And because the church, with its wonderful construction and mosaics, shines as if somehow gilded, the inhabitants prefer to call it the “Church of the Golden Saints”. Once Eberigisilus, who was at the time bishop of Cologne, was racked with severe pains in half his head. He was then in a villa near a village. Eberigisilus sent his deacon to the church of the saints. Since there was said to be in the middle of the church a pit into which the saints were thrown together after their martyrdom, the deacon collected some dust there and brought it to the bishop. As soon as the dust touched Eberigisilus’ head, immediately all pain was gone.

Saints associated with the Theban Legion include:

  • St Maurice
  • St Alexander of Bergamo
  • St Bessus
  • St Candidus
  • St Cassius and Florentius
  • St Chiaffredo (Theofredus)
  • St Constantius
  • St Defendens
  • St Exuperius (Exupernis)
  • St Felix and Regula, the patron saints of Zürich
  • St Fidelis of Como
  • St Fortunatus of Casei
  • St Gereon
  • St Magnus of Cuneo
  • St Solutor, Octavius, and Adventor
  • St Tegulus
  • St Ursus of Solothurn
  • St Victor of Xanten
  • St Victor of Solothurn
  • St Verena

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-statue of St. Viktor von Xanten

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-The Martyrdom of Maurice and the Theban Legion [c 1580-1582], by El Greco

“Emperor, we are your soldiers but also the soldiers of the true God. We owe you military service and obedience, but we cannot renounce Him who is our Creator and Master, and also yours even though you reject Him.

In all things which are not against His law, we most willingly obey you, as we have done hitherto. We readily oppose your enemies whoever they are, but we cannot stain our hands with the blood of innocent people (Christians).

We have taken an oath to God before we took one to you, you cannot place any confidence in our second oath if we violate the other (the first). You commanded us to execute Christians, behold we are such.

We confess God the Father the creator of all things and His Son Jesus Christ, God. We have seen our comrades slain with the sword, we do not weep for them but rather rejoice at their honor.

Neither this, nor any other provocation have tempted us to revolt. Behold, we have arms in our hands, but we do not resist, because we would rather die innocent than live by any sin.”

Love,
Matthew

Sep 15 – Our Lady of Sorrows

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“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”   -Lk 2:34-35

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-by Br Justin Mary Bolger, OP

“An old man’s cold prediction of a sword thrust through her heart; a rough journey to Egypt with her newborn; losing her boy on the road from Jerusalem to Nazareth; meeting her bloodied son on the road to Calvary; watching him die; a gratuitous lance in his side; the laying of his lifeless body in a tomb: Mary’s sorrows – at least the seven ones traditionally associated with her which the Church remembers today as the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. There were – no doubt – other sorrows. From the moment Simeon prophesied the sword, it must have lingered in her imagination. Sometimes she felt the blade pierce her, which is why these sorrows are often portrayed as seven daggers in her heart. Other times her eye caught its flash, reminding her that she would not escape unscathed from her son’s destiny. She was playing a part. This sense of looming danger must have been a source of distress for Mary.

In his book called The Lord, Romano Guardini has a chapter called “The Mother” in which he explores another sorrow: that chasm which began to yawn between mother and son upon Jesus responding to his worried parents in the temple: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). We read that Mary does not understand this response, and with good reason. A typical twelve-year-old child would run to his parents’ arms upon being lost for three days. Jesus, even at that age, is already setting out on the path his Father has for him. Despite their closeness, there is a growing gap between Mary and her son. This too must have been a source of sorrow for Mary.

But what does Mary do with these sorrows? How does she respond to pain? She does not lash out at circumstances. Nor does she run away from hardship. The encounter in the Temple is one of the occasions for Mary to ponder in her heart some experience she has. She contemplates the sorrow, just as she ponders joy in other moments in her life (Luke 2:19).

But above all Mary responds to her sorrows as a faithful disciple. She is a disciple of her Son regardless of the circumstances. In fact, Mary is the model disciple. Throughout her life she is with Christ. And she is not merely journeying with Christ because she is his natural mother. Jesus preaches that those who hear and do the word of God are blessed (Luke 8:21). No doubt Jesus had natural affection for his mother and relatives. But to be a true disciple is another order of blessedness. And Mary becomes the exemplar disciple, for, hearing and doing the Word of God, she bears the Word within her. The temporal scope of the seven sorrows reveals this fidelity. The sorrows begin with Jesus as an infant, and end with his burial. And the sorrows are always related to Jesus. They are not disconnected from his mission. They are uniquely caught up with it. And they serve to show a response to sorrow – one of fidelity and discipleship.

We also see that Mary went through human emotions just like anyone. Some pretty heavy emotions too. “Emotional rollercoaster” comes to mind. We can see this by looking at Mary’s sorrows in the context of the Rosary. One of the Joyful Mysteries is the Presentation. This liturgical dedication of Jesus must have been a joy to Mary, and we meditate on it as such. But this joy is tinged with sorrow, for it is here Mary also hears Simeon’s prophecy that she too will suffer. Another joyful mystery is the finding of the Christ child in the temple. But directly before finding Jesus, Mary was in sorrow because she had lost him. And then as Guardini proposes, there was also sorrow in Jesus’ response to Mary. So Mary experienced the full range of emotions. Of course this range exceeds the typical experience: Mary had the joy of bearing Christ and the sorrow of burying him. It’s hard to imagine greater extremes. But still, we have a model in Mary not only for saying yes to God, but in how we respond to sorrow and pain.

No one is exempt from sorrow. By faith and following Christ as a disciple our pain can be redemptive for ourselves and for others. We follow Christ through sorrow just like Mary did because we know ultimately how the story ends. That’s why we can definitively sing at Easter: “Be joyful Mary!” And that’s why we can pray to her in this vale of tears. She has known sorrow like us. And now she knows the joy that comes with Christ’s redemption. She accepted God’s plan for her life, followed Christ on earth, and now lives with him among the Blessed. So then, Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.”

Love,
Matthew

Sep 11 – St Jean-Gabriel Perboyre, CM, (1802-1840), Priest & Martyr

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It is said we mock Christ again by the timidity of our witness.  Mine and me most so.

St. Jean-Gabriel was born in Puech, France, on January 6th, 1802, to a pious family of eight children. Including Jean Gabriel, five of the Perboyer children became consecrated religious – three priests and two nuns.

Accompanying his younger brother Louis while he was entering the seminary, Jean-Gabriel discovered his calling and entered the Congregation of the Mission, founded by St. Vincent de Paul, at the age of 16

He was ordained at age 23 and taught theology at the seminary before being appointed rector, and later master of novices in Paris – on account of the sanctity his superiors saw in him.

His younger brother, Louis, died on his way to preach in China at the age of 24 and Jean-Gabriel asked to carry out the mission that had been entrusted to his brother. He arrived on the island of Macao on August 29, 1835 and set out for the mainland later that year.

He carried out his evangelical labors in Ho-Nan for three years before being transferred to Hou-Pé. His missions bore much fruit in the short time he spent there.

In 1839 the viceroy of the province began a persecution and used the local mandarins to obtain the names of priests and catechists in their areas. In September 1839, the Mandarin of Hubei, where there was a Vincentian mission center, sent soldiers to arrest the missionaries. Perboyre was meeting informally with some other priests of the region when the soldiers arrived to seize them. The priests scattered and hid, but one catechist, under torture, gave away where Peboyre was hiding.

A series of trials began. The first was held at Kou-Ching-Hien. The replies of the martyr were heroic:
“Are you a Christian priest?”
“Yes, I am a priest and I preach this religion.”
“Do you wish to renounce your faith?”
“No, I will never renounce the faith of Christ.”

They asked him to reveal his companions in the faith and the reasons for which he had transgressed the laws of China. They wanted, in short, to make the victim the culprit. But a witness to Christ is not an informer. Therefore, he remained silent.

The prisoner was then transferred to Siang-Yang. The cross examinations were made close together. He was held for a number of hours kneeling on rusty iron chains, was hung by his thumbs and hair from a rafter (the hangtze torture), was beaten several times with bamboo canes. Greater than the physical violence, however, remained the wound of the fact that the values in which he believed were put to ridicule: the hope in eternal life, the sacraments, the faith.

The third trial was held in Wuchang. He was brought before four different tribunals and subjected to 20 interrogations. To the questioning were united tortures and the most cruel mockery. They prosecuted the missionary and abused the man. They obliged Christians to abjure, and one of them even to spit on and strike the missionary who had brought him to the faith. For not trampling on the crucifix, John Gabriel received 110 strokes of pantse.

The saints suffer EVERY kind of calumny for the name of Jesus Christ.  Among the various accusations, the most terrible was the accusation that he had had immoral relations with a Chinese girl, Anna Kao, who had made a vow of virginity. The martyr defended himself. She was neither his lover nor his servant.  Jean-Gabriel  remained upset because they made innocents suffer for him.

During one interrogation he was obliged to put on Mass vestments. They wanted to accuse him of using the privilege of the priesthood for private interests. But the missionary, clothed in the priestly garments, impressed the bystanders, and two Christians drew near to him to ask for absolution.

The cruelest judge was the Viceroy. The missionary was by this time a shadow. The rage of this unscrupulous magistrate was vented on a ghost of a man. Blinded by his omnipotence the Viceroy wanted confessions, admissions, and accusations against others. But if the body was weak, the soul was reinforced. His hope by now rested in his meeting God, which he felt nearer each day.

“Trample on your God, and I will free you!” the local government official demanded.

“Oh!” the holy martyr replied, “how could I so insult my Savior?” And seizing a crucifix, he pressed it to his lips.

When John Gabriel told him for the last time: “I would sooner die than deny my faith!,” the judge pronounced his sentence.

On September 11, 1839 Jean-Gabriel became one of the first victims of the persecutions against Christians, dying in a manner which had a striking resemblance to the passion of our Lord. He was betrayed for a sum of silver, stripped of his garments and dragged from tribunal to tribunal, beaten and tortured continuously until he was sentenced to death with seven criminals. He was crucified, strangled, and died on a cross.

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Before his death St. Jean Gabriel wrote this prayer:

“O my Divine Saviour,
Transform me into Yourself.
May my hands be the hands of Jesus.
Grant that every faculty of my body
May serve only to glorify You.
Above all,
Transform my soul and all its powers
So that my memory, will and affection
May be the memory, will and affections
Of Jesus.
I pray You
To destroy in me
All that is not of You.
Grant that I may live
But in You, by You and for You,
So that I may truly say,
With St. Paul,
“I live – now not I –
But Christ lives in me”.
-St Jean-Gabriel Perboyre, CM

His body was retrieved and buried in the mission cemetery by a catechist. Eventually, his remains were returned from China to France, where they were entombed for veneration in the chapel of the Vincentian Motherhouse in Paris.

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“If we have to suffer martyrdom it would be a great grace given to us by God; it’s something to be desired, not feared.” -Saint Jean-Gabriel Perboyre, in a letter from China to his uncle

“Jean-Gabriel Perboyre, priest of the Congregation of the Mission, he wanted to follow Christ evangelizing the poor, the example of St. Vincent de Paul.

After exercising the ministry of the clergy as a trainer in France, went to China. Here earnestly bore witness of Christ’s love for the Chinese people.

“I do not know what awaits me in the journey that lies ahead of me, without a doubt the cross, which is the daily bread of the missionary. What we can hope for better, going to preach a crucified God?” (Letter No. 70), wrote at the gateway to China.

Along the streets where he had been sent found the Cross of Christ. Daily through imitation of his Lord, with humility and gentleness, fully identified with him.

By following step by step in his Passion, caught forever in his glory. “One thing is needful: Jesus Christ,” he liked to say.

His martyrdom is the culmination of his commitment to following Christ, the missionary. After being tortured and condemned, reproducing the Passion of Jesus with remarkable similarity, as he came to death, even death on a cross.

Jean-Gabriel had one passion: Christ and the proclamation of his Gospel. That’s loyalty to this passion that he has been equated with the lowly and the condemned, and that the Church can now solemnly proclaim his glory in the choir of the saints in heaven.”
-Pope St John Paul II, Homily of Canonization, 2 June 1996, Vatican City, Rome

Love,
Matthew, MSCS, ’05
GO BLUE DEMONS!!!!