Category Archives: The Professed

Aug 23 – St Rose of Lima, OP, (1586-1617), mystic, virgin & penitent


-Anonymous, Cusco School (1680 – 1700), Saint Rose of Lima with Child Jesus, oil on canvas, Height: 1,880 mm (74.02 in). Width: 1,250 mm (49.21 in), Museo de Arte de Lima, Peru.

Thinker: The Mystic Rose of Lima

Rose was not an academic and had little in the way of formal education, although she did learn to read. Among her favorite books were biographies of Saint Catherine of Siena and the spiritual guidebooks of another notable Dominican, Venerable Louis of Granada. In fact, his Book of Prayer and Meditation became Saint Rose’s favorite book, as prayer and meditation themselves were to become her favorite activities, forming the core and shaping the periphery of every aspect of her short life.

Rose’s life of prayer and contemplation started very early from the time of her early childhood when she would find herself drawn to stare at a picture of Christ crowned in thorns. She also had a special devotion to the Child Jesus and to his Blessed Mother. Saints drawn to prayer and contemplation seek to follow Christ’s instruction to “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret” (Matt. 6:6). They seek communion with the Father and not the eyes and the praise of others. When circumstances allow it, some go out into the desert, up into the mountains, or within some densely wooded glen. Others, like Saints Catherine and Rose, must seek their sanctuary of prayer, exactly as Christ explained it, from within the confines of their room.

Enclosed in her private hermitage, Rose read books on meditative prayer, especially, as mentioned, those of Venerable Louis of Granada. She devoutly prayed the Rosary and used many other vocal and mental forms of prayer. She would meditate for hours simply on the multitude of graces she had received through God’s mercy.
Christ said of those who pray to the Father in secret that “your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:6), and Saint Rose was rewarded with many ecstatic visions, including, like Saint Catherine, a divine espousal with Christ.

Doer: The Rose Takes Up Her Cross

Rose was not a doer in the grand sense of a Saint Dominic, who founded an order, or Saint Catherine, who influenced popes, although she was admired by her saintly archbishop. Most of what Rose did was done on a smaller, although most arduous scale. She knew well that Christ has said that those who would follow Him will need to deny themselves daily and take up their cross (Matt. 16:24; Luke 9:23). These are hard words of holy advice that she heeded like few before her or since.

Saint Thomas wrote that the cardinal virtues of temperance, fortitude, justice, and prudence pertain to the active life, but they also prepare us to rein in our passions and focus our intellect and will so that we might rise undisturbed to the heights of contemplation. Saint Rose displayed those cardinal virtues in the most heroic degree, and she is probably best known for her unusual degree of both temperance and fortitude as displayed in the many extreme and most difficult ways she contrived to take up Christ’s cross through her own daily (and nightly) acts of self-denial and self-mortification.

Temperance reins in our sensual desires for bodily pleasures, and few pulled in their reins tighter than young Rose. As for the senses of the palate, she gave up meat as a child, as well as the succulent fruits of Peru. She would often deprive herself of cold water, and of any water at all, and would live on things such as bread crusts and simple bitter herbs. As for the sensual pleasures of the body, although Rose would at times be tormented by visions of temptations toward vanity and toward bodily pleasures, through God’s grace she never consented to such sins and persevered in her vows of chastity and purity.

Fortitude calls forth our “irascible” powers, whereby we hate evil things and fire up our courage to overcome evil obstacles to obtain difficult goods, even if those obstacles should threaten our life and limb. This, of all virtues, but for the love of charity, was perhaps the strongest of all within the sturdy soul of this ostensibly delicate Rose. She hated the thought of any demon, any sensation, any wicked thought or intention that might stir her will against the will of God, and in her personal war against any possible vice or sin, she devised self-mortifications that may well boggle the modern mind, and prompted some of her own confessors to command her to tone some of them down.

Sacrifices: Saint Rose’s Self-Mortification

To provide but a few examples of Saint Rose’s self-imposed penances and mortifications, she so fought against sleep that would deprive her of time for prayer that she devised a bed for herself that was a little wooden box with a mattress stuffed with hard, gnarled pieces of wood and broken pottery chards that allowed for but a few hours of sleep when she was very tired. At times in her garden, she would literally take up a heavy wooden cross, in imitation of Christ’s Passion.

Saint Rose’s mortifications may seem very strange to us today, but they still may hold valuable lessons. In Saint Dominic’s “third way of prayer,” he employed the discipline of striking himself with an iron chain while repeating (translated) from the Latin Vulgate Bible “Your discipline has set me straight towards my goal” (Psalm 17:36).

Some today might wonder if Rose’s self-mortifications were a sign of scrupulosity or mental instability, and this was also considered in her time. Due to the unusual manner of her penitential life, Rose was once questioned by several theologians and a medical doctor of the Inquisition, but these learned men concluded that hers was a life unusually graced by God.

Although we may not be called to such extreme acts of conquering our wills, can we not still learn something from them? Can they inspire us to pamper our own bodies a little less, to mortify our sensual desires a little more, so that our thoughts can rise to higher things? Even the noble pagan philosophers saw the need for self-discipline in order to acquire virtue. The Stoic Epictetus, for example, encouraged those who would love wisdom to discipline their bodies, not by “hugging statues,” an action some Cynics would perform while bare-chested in the winter’s cold — public statues, of course, so that others might see them. In advice prescient in some ways of one of Saint Rose’s little disciplines some fourteen hundred years later, Epictetus suggested instead to fill one’s mouth with water when thirsty, but then to spit it out — when no one is looking. (The Father, of course, knows what we do in secret.)

Justice means rendering to each person his due, and this Rose always rendered, and then some. In the last years of her life, Rose persuaded her mother to allow her to care for the poor, the homeless, the elderly, and the sick in empty rooms of their house, and her actions are considered, along with those of Saint Martin de Porres, among the foundations of social work in Peru.

Prudence is that practical wisdom that finds the right means to get things done, and in this virtue Rose also shined. We see her prudence in the way she was always able to incorporate deeds of the active life while immersed in a life of solitude, prayer, and contemplation, as she prayed while she cleaned, embroidered, gardened, and made and sold flower arrangements. We saw it toward the end of her life when, failing in health and deep in contemplation, she made those practical arrangements to tend to the bodily and spiritual needs of those who needed them the most.”

Love,
Matthew

Summer Theologiae

If you are not familiar with Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, or not been formally trained how to read/understand it properly, don’t.  It’s one of the denser, less accessible, “academic” tomes, although, in his time, St Thomas considered it a reference for beginners in the study of theology.  It has less to do with your or my abilities dear reader.  It simply was written for a medieval audience in a form of instruction or lecture we no longer use.  

Medieval teachers, traditionally, would pose a statement or question, which you will recognize if you read an authentic copy of the Summa, as the first sentence in any given section, or question, the Summa tackles.  The order of these questions is very logical and methodical.  It makes sense.  So far, so good.  

Once the professor had posed the statement to the class, their homework was to go home and think up “objections” to the statement/question, or why it could not be true.  Students would return to class the next time and pose their objection to the instructor.  

Having been trained/educated himself, the instructor was familiar with the most popular or reoccurring objections, and during class, in his lecture, he would go on to address each objection or concern, and this is how medieval students learned.  

So, the Summa, written in the 13th century, is still in this format, but is and can be a difficult read in the 21st century, to the untrained eye and mind.  I warned you.  Below is a lighthearted and humorous play on words, Summer instead of Summa, and using the joys of the beach to help us better understand the thirty thousand foot view of what St Thomas accomplished.  I can definitely relate! Enjoy!!!


-by Br Ignatius Weiss, OP

Having been practically raised on the beach, I delight in the smell of salt air, the sighing of the waves, and the feel of sand between my toes. The shore remains the site of some of my favorite memories, as well as the world’s most beautiful sights, yet too often people miss the beach for the sand.

While I don’t imagine many people tote their copies of the Summa Theologiæ or the commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics to the shoreline (it isn’t what most would consider “light reading”), I do see some similarities between the thought of St. Thomas and the beach:

  1. Sands on the Seashore. As the vast field of sand is composed of thousands of grains deposited by nature’s currents, so Thomism draws together a number of varied sources in a new way. St. Thomas’ genius drew together the wisdom of Scripture, pagan philosophers, and his own contemporaries into a cohesive expression of reality. Each of these sources brings elements from its origins and adds its particular hue to his theology.
  2. Playing in the Sand. The beach is the world’s greatest sandbox. A few scoops of sand, a bucket of water, and a little handiwork can turn a formless plot into a beautiful sand castle. Thomas’ grand collection of wisdom is always open for continued creativity. The centuries-old wisdom of Thomas continues to inspire people to seek answers to today’s questions.
  3. Thomistic Sunbathing. The beach is home to the sun bather and the oceanologist alike. There are many scientists who comb the coastline examining land, sea, and sky. Most people, however, come to the sea with coolers and beach chairs. Similarly, the main way people encounter Thomism is through Aquinas’ Eucharistic poetry like the “O Salutaris” and “Tantum Ergo,” sung at Adoration. Basking in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, we are also exposed to the penetrating theology and elegant lyricism of St. Thomas Aquinas (no sunscreen required).
  4. The Perfect Perspective. Thomism offers a privileged perspective for beholding God’s glory in this life. The sunset can be seen from anywhere with a glimpse of the horizon, but from the shore we can look out on an unhindered vision of the horizon. Here our sight is limited most by the weakness of our frail, human eyes, but this perspective is undoubtedly better than through the city’s blocky skyline. Thomism shares a similarly open vantage point with its clarity and simplicity. It is easy to get distracted by the broad field of questions, articles, and distinctions presented in Thomism, but the incredible vantage point it provides to behold the glory of God on the shores of this life is unmatched.

The coarse sand and bright sun deter some people from enjoying a summer at the beach. Don’t miss the shore for the sand, don’t dismiss Thomism for its technicality.

Love & thought,
Matthew

Faith is an intellectual virtue…

2/6/14
-by David G Bonagura, Jr., teaches at St. Joseph’s Seminary, New York.

“I don’t feel anything when I pray.” “I am bored at Mass.” “When I talk to God, I do not sense that someone is listening.” These laments, experienced at one time or another by both the pious and the lost, rise from the very heart of Christian praxis. They express the natural human desire for vibrant emotion and feeling in prayer, a reality that many often lack, especially as the faith is lived over the years.

Emotion, as a reality of the human experience, has a role within the life of faith. The Scriptures themselves express the full pantheon of human sentiment: joy and sorrow, gratitude and jealousy, trust and doubt, hope and fear, love and hate are all part of the divine economy of salvation because they, in their different ways, bring us into contact with God. But it is critical for believers to understand their emotions as one aspect within the broader context of their faith and their relationship with God – not as constitutive of their faith.

Because of the prevalence and power of sentiment, there has always existed a temptation, often well intentioned, to reduce faith to emotion and experience. In the nineteenth century, Friedrich Schleiermacher declared, “faith is nothing other than the incipient experience of a satisfaction of that spiritual need by Christ.” Today “youth Masses” attempt to make Schleiermacher’s definition a reality among young people through excited cheering and contemporary music. Other Masses border on sentimentality with overly sappy hymns such as “Here I am Lord” and “You Are Mine.” We are then supposed to feel the presence of Christ and respond to Him in faith.

These personal experiences and feelings can indeed kindle faith, but they cannot be the sole pillars of our spiritual lives, because emotions are not the essence of faith. Rather faith rests upon a loving God Who is not the product of our subjective longings, but a real independent Being Who calls us into union with Him through the revelation of His Son. Faith requires us to acknowledge and accept revelation. The response we make to God may be spurred and accompanied by an array of sentiments, but it is with the intellect that we assent to God and His will.

For this reason St. Thomas Aquinas classified faith as an intellectual virtue: “[T]o believe is an act of the intellect assenting to the truth at the command of the will.” The intellect has priority because it accepts what comes from God, yet it does so at the insistence of the will, which can be moved by the power of religious experiences. These experiences, when properly integrated within the contours of faith, can contribute to the further development of our relationship with God.

But because faith is the province of the intellect, we need not worry or doubt when emotion and religious sentiment ebb or even disappear from our lives, as they inevitably do. Spiritual aridity – the absence of feeling from the life of faith – is a normal occurrence in the spiritual life, and it can be temporary or prolonged. The saints, many of whom endured painful spiritual aridity for decades, teach us that the absence of religious feelings is God’s way of purifying our faith, which rests ultimately not on emotion, but on our trust in the authority of God’s word.

Often faith is stirred within us due to some profound experience that propels us forward joyfully in our relationship with God. But as the power of these experiences wanes over time, we are forced to trust that we remain in communion with God even as His presence seemingly vanishes. Our situation is akin to that of the apostles: for three years they experienced directly the presence of Christ, and the attendant joy and security that came with it. But after His death and resurrection, they learned, courtesy of Thomas, that it is not feeling but raw trust that constitutes faith. “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29)

Because God is real and not the product of our emotions, we know He hears our prayers and is present to us even if we do not “feel” Him. Our restless hearts must continue to reach toward God, knowing that He alone is their end and fulfillment.

Contrasts are often drawn between Catholics’ more stoic worship with the energy of certain Protestant services. The different styles are pathways to faith; religious feeling of itself neither constitutes nor measures the faith present within the community or the individual. Faith’s true vibrancy depends on the degree to which we trust in God and assent to His revelation. When our trust and assent is strong enough that we give ourselves wholly to God, then we have the love of God in our hearts. And love is not merely sentiment: it is action and commitment as well.

Carmelite Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen writes that “the enkindling of love does not consist in the joy the soul may experience, but rather in the firm determination of the will to give itself entirely to God.” Faith puts us in union with the love of God. We need not fret over lack of religious emotion in our lives, and we need not think our preferred religious experience should be shared by everyone else. True love withstands the flux of all emotions because it is anchored in the certain hope of the God who made us for Himself.”

Love,
Matthew

Reason & emotion

-by David Nolan

“The Scottish philosopher David Hume famously claimed, “Reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions.” In recent years, growing public awareness of the centrality of the emotions and desires to the human experience has superseded an earlier emphasis on emotional restraint. From psychoanalytical therapy to the emergence of a therapeutic direction in our justice system, the effects of this revolution in thinking are hard to overestimate. In many ways the changes are positive. Empathy, mutual understanding, and self-reflection now receive a healthy emphasis. Our culture encourages us to tolerate others and see alternative points of view as we try to appreciate each person’s background and emotional experiences. However, there is a major problem in the usual application of this ethos. Desires, we have come to believe, justify themselves. When asked why we do something, we say, “Because it feels good;” when asked what our opinions are on a political matter, we reply, “I feel…” Yet we need only to look at the example of emotionally motivated murder to realize desires are not self-justifying. St Thomas Aquinas, writing nearly 800 years ago, built upon Aristotelian notions of the passions and the appetites to develop a corrective picture of the human psyche. He demonstrates why desires cannot be self-justified and how we can positively proceed, neither denigrating human emotion below its rightful place nor exalting it to heights that can only precede a fall.

Aquinas’s passiones animae, translated as “emotions,” do not only refer to passions in the modern sense of overwhelming and perhaps incapacitating feelings. Instead, they refer to our reaction to the nature of every object or situation. He thinks we react in two ways, either to the object itself or to the difficulty we face in trying to obtain or avoid the object. For example, as a child I desired a dog. Dogs are naturally lovable, so I loved them and desired one for myself. This is the first type of emotion— what Aquinas calls concupiscible emotions—which entails having an emotional response to an object because of that object’s inherent nature. My parents, on the other hand, were not so amenable to my idea, and prevented me from fulfilling my desire for an adorable dog. Frustrated, I courageously fought for a puppy but eventually gave up hope and despaired of ever having one. Because my parents had stopped me from obtaining my goal, I was angry with them. Anger, courage, hope, despair—these are all emotions of the second sort, the irascible emotions; they describe our reaction to our perceived ability to obtain an object of desire. Aquinas thinks that both types of emotions have a close relationship with reason. In fact, he thinks our reason in a way rules our emotions, “not by a ‘despotic supremacy,’ which is that of a master over his slave; but by a “politic and royal supremacy,’ whereby the free are governed who are not wholly subject to command.” Eventually, I realized that a lasting anger at my parents was unreasonable and that I should probably encourage my anger to subside— and it eventually did.

Reason and emotions, then, enforce each other day by day. Aquinas grounds his understanding of emotions in the infinitude of little impulses that arise spontaneously throughout our normal experience. Focusing too heavily on extreme cases has largely skewed popular culture’s conversation on the relationship of emotions to reason. Usually, the impulses of our sensory appetite (emotions and passions) align quite closely with our reasoning abilities and our intellectual apprehensions. For example, in a given day, we desire to eat food, we want to complete tasks, and we try to care for our friends. While there are cases of overwhelming emotions, most of our life is more accurately described in little impulses of joy or sorrow, hope or despair, that we can encourage or check with our intellect and reason. The question remains, however: what impulses ought we to encourage?

Well, passions must be appropriate to their objects. In order for this to be true, apprehension must precede desire: we must know what something is before we want it. For example, I must know about cake before I can want cake. Once I have apprehended that the cake is sweet and delicious, I will then desire it. If I thought it was a pile of mud rather than chocolate cake, I would believe it to be distasteful and undesirable. Clearly, correct apprehension leads us to experience passions appropriate to the object. Only in light of the ‘appropriate’ can we understand the greater value and purpose of passions.

Emotions and desires, as aspects of the everyday, carry moral weight. We can make judgments as to the appropriateness, the goodness or badness, of our emotions. Aquinas writes, “in so far as they are voluntary, [passions can] be called morally good or evil. And they are said to be voluntary either from being commanded by the will, or from not being checked by the will.” Before competing in a race or a game, we can voluntarily work up positive emotions; in response to someone cutting us off while we drive, we can discourage our anger and try to remain levelheaded. Emotions are both reactive and willed, and their origin need not necessarily describe how we then respond to them.

Measures of good or bad can refer only to voluntary impulses. But when, if ever, are emotions voluntary? Our lives are a history of partially voluntary actions and reactions. Humans learn many things through experience, and as an essential part of this experience, the emotions help develop our habits. Even our instinctual drives, like the drive for food, can become more and more voluntary as we get older. Not only do we learn to like a broader range of foods (I learned to like onions only as an older teenager), but we also learn to have “will-power” in to restrain our consumption of some foods. As one of Aquinas’s commentators has said, by deciding which impulses we encourage and discourage, which emotions we try to check, we “tell our life story.” The choices we make now both reveal our current preferences, and encourage specific future preferences and future choices. Thus, it is impossible to be sure that an emotion is voluntary or otherwise in the moment: we have to understand ourselves as beings progressing through time. We do know, however, that emotions can be scrutinized according to moral standards.

If we can judge our emotions, how should we do this? We judge emotions based upon their relation to the person about which they arise and in relation to their object. Our emotional response must be appropriate to the context in order for it to be good. By our will, which we inform with our reason, our desires, and our emotion, we plan our path of action. Reason informs us when our path is contradictory— when our plan will not bring us to the goal that we willed. For example, competitive sports highly prize the quality of being a good loser. An overreaction to a loss comes off as immature. On the other hand, athletes who are apathetic to winning not only are less likely to succeed, but do not have enough emotion invested in the sport. Our reason must balance these many impulses, neither neglecting self-control nor suppressing a healthy passion. Over time, reasoned responses discourage inappropriate emotions and encourage appropriate ones. Eventually, I might not even have to really focus to keep my temper—it may start to come naturally. The joy of competition does not contradict a healthy appreciation for sportsmanship. Reason can balance our particular goals with our particular situation.

But there is a more fundamental way that the will, the reason, and desire all work together. One particular desire underlies all our other impulses: the desire for the good, for happiness. We cannot help to desire to be happy— it is our nature. If we ask ourselves why we wish to be happy, there is no answer other than “because.” Nothing transient, passing, or temporal can actually fulfill this most fundamental of desires. When we plan paths of action with our will, we are trying to fulfill this desire. Our will, as it aims at the universal good, ideally aligns the sensitive appetite (the source of desires and emotions) with the larger goal.

Aquinas recognizes the universal Good in the Incarnation— God is the ultimate object of desire, the source of happiness, and the greatest good. Our nature, to use modern terms, is programmed towards God, and in so far as we either pursue or reject God, we expand or limit our opportunity for real fulfillment in this world and the next. Against the measure of the ultimate good, our desires and emotions begin to fall into place. Slowly, through the building of good habits, we can desire objects and guide emotions appropriately. This is not to deny the many layers of emotional complexity. Emotional complication is part of growing up in the world, but through a growing awareness of self, we can begin to understand our emotional impulses. Through the practice of self control combined with the contemplation of God, our highest desire, we can hope to develop a greater internal unity. Our goal is to desire particular goods as the goods themselves deserve, and through the practice of virtue we begin to experience intense love and joy and desire towards objects that actually deserve that intensity of feeling.

Emotions are incredibly valuable, and the therapeutic insight of self-discovery through the examination of emotions is helpful. But as we understand ourselves and see extreme emotions in the light of many everyday impulses, we need to cultivate emotions that align with our intellect, reason, and that most fundamental desire, the desire that God implemented within us for Himself.”

Love,
Matthew

Aquinas on Work


-by Br Jonah Teller, OP

“The necessity of meat.” Certainly a pithy and memorable way to describe the principal object of manual labor. This is the first of four objects, or reasons, that St. Thomas gives for manual labor (STh., II-II q.187 a.3). The other three objects are as follows: for the sake of staving off idleness, so as to avoid all of the evils that can spring out of the sheer fact of nothing-to-do; for the sake of corralling one’s concupiscence, driving one’s body and training it in penance; and finally, manual labor is directed to almsgiving, working so as to have some way to support materially those who are less fortunate.

Here in this ordering a gradual progression emerges. The four objects of manual labor form four steps of ascent in the spiritual life, as it were. The first object—to obtain food—terminates in the body. We must eat to stay alive. There’s no way to phrase that, it seems, without sounding simple, but there it is. This action stays in the body and on the level of the physical.

The second object—the removal of idleness so as to avoid evil—moves beyond the purely physical realm, taking on a spiritual concern. This second object seems to be a privative or preventative one: stay occupied with work so as to avoid the expanses of time in which temptation creeps in. An image comes to mind: filling a container to its brim so that there’s no room for anything undesired. While this second object progresses from the purely physical nature of the first, it is still mostly negative in character.

The third object—curbing concupiscence by penance—is like the second but with important developments. It is concerned with conquering evil, but here things take on a more direct approach. Whereas the second object of labor focused only on keeping oneself occupied so as to avoid the evils attendant to idleness, this third object of work gives to labor an active quality in which it can be used as an instrument for spiritual purification.

Almsgiving—the fourth object of manual labor—marks an important shift in St. Thomas’ consideration of the question. Up to this point, the objects of labor have been focused on the self of the worker. They are turned inward, though not improperly so, to be sure. Here, however, in viewing manual work as a means by which one can help one’s neighbor, there is a turn outward to facing the other and allowing lives to intersect with each other. The second and third objects of work have a spiritual dimension, but as was noted earlier, they are either privative or combatting some evil. Here, with almsgiving, the spiritual work is positive: a work of charity towards another fellow human.

In all of these objects taken together (and there is no reason that they could not all be combined in the same act of work; indeed it seems that they should be combined), we can see a spectrum of spiritual progress delineated. Work begins as a way to sustain our animal life; it keeps us from many temptations; it addresses evils present within us; and it opens our hearts to our neighbors.”

Ora et Labora,
Matthew

Mystery of Love

“If I meditate on the Cross, and its mystery, I “understand”. I understand how perverse and disappointing this life & world is, my marriage is, the Church can be, everything. In the Cross is the answer to all.” -MPM

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

Presence of God – O Jesus, help me to penetrate the mystery of Your infinite love, which constrained You to become our Food and Drink.

MEDITATION

All God’s activity for man’s benefit is a work of love; it is summed up in the immense mystery of love which causes Him, the sovereign, infinite Good, to raise man to Himself, making him, a creature, share in His divine nature by communicating His own life to him. It was precisely to communicate this life, to unite man to God, that the Word became Incarnate. In His Person the divinity was to be united to our humanity in a most complete and perfect way; it was united directly to the most sacred humanity of Jesus, and through it, to the whole human race. By virtue of the Incarnation of the Word and of the grace He merited for us, every man has the right to call Jesus his Brother, to call God his Father and to aspire to union with Him. The way of union with God is thus opened to man. By becoming incarnate and later dying on the Cross, the Son of God not only removed the obstacles to this union, but He also provided all we need to gain it, or rather, He Himself became the Way. Through union with Jesus, man is united to God.

It is not surprising that the love of Jesus, surpassing all measure, impelled Him to find a means of uniting Himself to each one of us in the most intimate and personal manner; this He found in the Eucharist. Having become our Food, Jesus makes us one with Him, and thus makes us share most directly in His divine life, in His union with the Father and with the Trinity.

By assuming our flesh in the Incarnation, the Son of God united Himself once and for all with the human race. In the Eucharist, He continues to unite Himself to each individual who receives Him. Thus we can understand how the Eucharist, according to the mind of the Fathers of the Church, may really be “considered as a continuation and extension of the Incarnation; by it the substance of the Incarnate Word is united to every man” (cf Mirae Caritatis paragraph 7).

COLLOQUY

“O eternal Trinity! O fire and abyss of charity! How could our redemption benefit You? It could not, for You, our God, have no need of us. To whom then comes this benefit? Only to man. O inestimable charity! Even as You, true God and true Man, gave Yourself entirely to us, so also You left Yourself entirely for us, to be our food, so that during our earthly pilgrimage we would not faint with weariness, but would be strengthened by You, our celestial Bread. O man, what has your God left you? He has left you Himself, wholly God and wholly Man, concealed under this whiteness of bread. O fire of love! Was it not enough for You to have created us to Your image and likeness, and to have re-created us in grace through the Blood of Your Son, without giving Yourself wholly to us as our Food, O God, Divine Essence? What impelled You to do this? Your charity alone. It was not enough for You to send Your Word to us for our redemption; neither were You content to give Him to us as our Food, but in the excess of Your love for Your creature, You gave to man the whole divine essence. And not only, O Lord, do You give Yourself to us, but by nourishing us with this divine Food, You make us strong with Your power against the attacks of the demons, insults from creatures, the rebellion of our flesh, and every sorrow and tribulation, from whatever source it may come.

“O Bread of Angels, sovereign, eternal purity, You ask and want such transparency in a soul who receives You in this sweet Sacrament, that if it were possible, the very angels would have to purify themselves in the presence of such an august mystery. How can my soul become purified? In the fire of Your charity, O eternal God, by bathing itself in the Blood of Your only-begotten Son. O wretched soul of mine, how can you approach such a great mystery without sufficient purification? I will take off, then, the loathsome garments of my will and clothe myself, O Lord, with Your eternal will!” (St. Catherine of Siena).”

Love,
Matthew

Saints are made saints together…

Thanks to the Swiss Dominican sisters at Estavayer-le-Lac, we can now identify the many saints depicted in this Dominican family tree. They graciously contacted the Dominican friars of Rue Saint-Jacques, Paris, who located in their archives a Flemish engraving (by Théodore Gall, d. 1663) of the same painting and containing the names of all but one saint. (From left to right) top row: Benedict XI, Innocent V (Peter of Tarentaise), The Virgin Mary, John of Vercelli, John Dominici, Latino Malabranca; 2nd row: Albert the Great, Christian (Patriarch of Antioch), John of Wildeshausen, James of Venice, James Salomoni, Agnes of Montepulciano, Peter González (St. Elmo), Jerome Cala; 3rd row: Unknown friar, Rose of Lima, Louis Bertrand, James of Ulm, The Head Carriers (Céphalophores) of Toulouse, Vincent of St. Etienne, Francis of Toulouse; 4th row: Vincent Ferrer, Thomas Aquinas, James of Bevagna, Jordan of Saxony, Conrad of Marburg, Ambrose of Siena, Henry Suso; bottom row: Raymond of Penyafort, Antonio (Dominic’s eldest brother, priest in the Order of Santiago), Mannes (Dominic’s second brother), Peter Martyr, Hyacinth of Poland, Catherine of Siena, Antoninus of Florence. (Please click on the image for greater detail.)


-by Br Timothy Danaher, OP

“A new biography of Dominican saints has recently been published, Dr. Kevin Vost’s “Hounds of the Lord” (Sophia Institute Press, 2015)—the title based on an early Latin nickname for the Order, Domini canes, dogs of the Lord. Though educated by Dominicans as a young boy, the idea for his present book came from a bookmark, given him by the Nashville Dominican sisters, announcing the Order’s 800th Jubilee. The fruit of his labor is both fun and intelligent, accessible and informative, full of quaint stories and Thomistic theology woven together.

To begin at the beginning, we can defy cliché warnings and “read the book by its cover.” That’s because it’s a great cover. The image, called “The Genealogical Tree of St. Dominic” (pictured above and, in its entirety, below), is an oil painting on wood, and dates from 1675. It is the work of J. Rolbels and now adorns the Swiss monastery of Dominican sisters at Estavayer-le-Lac.

Here is the first lesson of the book (and painting): saints are made saints together. Not only do their examples inspire us today, but they inspired each other while still living. Many of these Dominicans knew each other personally, all part of one intertwining family tree. Take one branch of the tree, for instance, the early Dominicans:

-Jordan of Saxony, the successor to Dominic, went to confession to him in Paris and asked advice on his vocation.
-Before Jordan died in a shipwreck in Syria, he attracted Albert the Great to the Order by interpreting in his homily the student’s fearful, undisclosed vocation dream of the previous night.
-Sent to teach in Cologne, Albert became the teacher of Thomas Aquinas, who later taught in Paris alongside the young Dominican Peter of Tarentaise, who became Pope Innocent V.

All Dominicans, all on the same tree.

Vost’s biography shows how Dominic’s greatness is not personal achievement. The saint, who died young, was a saint with “faith in the future.” He is like the trunk or rootstock of the family tree, whose own holy desires blossom in the lives of his sons and daughters:

-As Dominic dreamed of preaching missions to the pagan east, Hyacinth, whom he received into the Order in Rome, would return to Poland and travel 25,000 miles on foot as a missionary.
-As Dominic had sent brothers to the universities of Europe, Thomas Aquinas would not only learn the doctrine of the Church, but deepen it for the Church.
-As Dominic remained in Rome, laying the foundation of the Order with papal negotiations, Catherine, a girl in her 20s, would march her way to Avignon and persuade the pope to come back home.

And though we have no records of Dominic’s own preaching, his style and genius (shared by all early Dominicans) is preserved in a long treatise by Humbert of Romans. Vost summarizes this work, listing the many spiritual and practical elements of preaching, and even includes charts of scriptural images that Humbert used to describe preachers as eagles, horses, angels, snow, mountains, and even “a powerful soap”.

After the early years, the charism of Dominic and the theology of Thomas grew into a great tree that has spanned hundreds of years and across many seas to the New World. Rose of Lima and Martin de Porres were contemporaries in Lima, Peru (they were even confirmed by the same bishop). Even there Dominican preaching was well known, and as children, each saint learned the teachings of Catherine of Siena, who herself learned Thomas’s theology and dressed it in her own passionate language. The biography ends with Pier Giorgio Frassati, an athlete and a student, who died with a copy of Catherine’s Dialogues at his bedside table.

Finally, if theology or history aren’t your keenest interest, there are plenty of colorful stories to keep you turning the pages, including but not limited to:
-Which Dominican originally wrote the lyrics for “Day by Day” in the musical Godspell?
-Which Dominican had 24 brothers and sisters, yet still managed to have her own room?
-Which Dominican became pope and saved all of Europe from a Muslim invasion?
-Which friar became famous for a wooden spoon he once gave a convent of nuns?
-How one sister joined the Franciscans—until the Virgin Mary appeared, her arms full of stones, telling her to build a Dominican convent instead?
-How a certain girl chose the Dominicans after being visited by a black-and-white butterfly?
-How one friar escaped pressure to become a bishop so that he could remain an angelic painter?
-How one friar accepted the office of bishop but never took off his hiking boots?
-Which famous American author had a daughter who joined the Order after a failed marriage?
-Which friar started a hospital for dogs and would bi-locate to attend med school in Europe?

So if you’ve heard the name St. Dominic but don’t know much about him or his family, check out Kevin Vost’s biography. There you can begin to learn more of a history 800 years strong and still growing!”

Love,
Matthew

Dominic option

Certainly English is not the only language that has plays on words and sounds. Latin for the Order of Preachers is Dominicanes, which sounds terribly like Domini canes, “Hounds of God!” And so, a dog with a lit torch in its mouth is a very Dominican symbol, running through the world setting it ablaze with the truth of the Gospel. -Lk 12:49.  In addition, Blessed Jane of Aza, Dominic’s mother, had a vision prior to Dominic’s conception of giving birth to a dog, and this dog would run through the world, lighting it on fire, with a torch in its mouth.  Indeed.


-by David Warren

“Hounds of the Lord” they used to call them (from the pun, Domini canes, in Latin), these Blackfriars who began strolling Europe eight centuries ago. They were mendicants of the Order of Preachers founded by Dominic of Caleruega in Spain, pledged to a life of strict poverty, prayer, study, and teaching; to a war with ignorance and heterodoxy. They proposed to resume the task of the Apostles.

They were an urban phenomenon, in the main. Though drawn from many obscure places, their focus was the new towns, growing around the cathedrals, and re-occupying abandoned ancient sites, in the early thirteenth century.

For centuries before, Western Europe had been an Arcadian landscape, utterly decentralized under the local governance of monasteries and castles, their abbots and lords – imperfectly unified by the Christian religion. There were small cities, or proto-cities, in Italy, but beyond the Alps, perhaps Paris was the largest urban agglomeration, with a population of a few thousand. All that was changing.

It was a revolutionary age, in the Church, and around her. Through strata of time, we still recognize Franciscans as well as Dominicans from that period, who broke with the monastic tradition of aloofness [Ed. the classical model of religious life up until then, started by the Desert Fathers in the Middle East, in the very early years of Christianity, was that of eremites, or going out alone into the desert, making your spiritual search your primary motive/pursuit in life. In the West, St Benedict formed communal groups of monks, who tended to build monasteries in remote places, they still do today, even in the US, and “ora et labora”, pray and work, providing for their own subsistence, but their spiritual efforts were and still are personal, not popular. The salvation of one’s own soul was paramount, not so much for the secular. In the post-Christian, modern era, some thinkers have proposed Christians replicate this monastic lifestyle of community, even among the lay persons for mutual support and to avoid the perpetual and unpleasant schizophrenia of having to live as a Christian in a secular culture.]; but many other orders were founded, which leave no trace today.

Monks and nuns had been meditatives, but also workers in their agricultural estates, whose innovations spread beyond monastic walls, and whose goods traveled. But they were no part of an integrated economy.

Great cities existed in the Islamic realms, and far beyond, appearing and also disappearing like mushrooms. Western Europe had been a place of extraordinary and enduring silence. Security of food, and against savage invaders, had molded the classic feudal system for which our environmentalists still pine. A hard life, dictated by the seasons; people for whom change could only be associated with destruction. Their arts, as their technologies, were directly to purpose, and nowhere “sophisticated” – except in monasteries where the heritage of past ages was jealously preserved.

Saint Dominic himself, high-born in a desert region of Old Castile, near the frontiers of the Christian Reconquest (Reconquista), was trained in the Augustinian, eremitical tradition, reaching back to classical North Africa, but itself looking forward to a thirteenth-century transformation.

Two dated books from my own shelves – Saint Dominic and His Work by Pierre Mandonnet (1944); Saint Dominic and His Times by M.-H. Vicaire (1964) – provide enthralling accounts of his age and mission, that penetrate beneath mere data. For these authors present a range, depth, and character missing in the scholarship of today.

In telling the life of the founder of their order, these authors are compelled to sketch this age of transformation, which Dominic came to serve. The famous struggle against the Albigensian heretics now covers our historical vision as a veil. The heroic labors of Dominic himself, and of his first cohort – debating the heretics on their own ground at risk of their lives – is itself an effective prelude to the story. But from the beginning the intention was more fundamental.

As the young migrated to the new universities of the towns – set up beyond the control of the older cathedral seminaries (Chartres was a magnet before Paris) – a new, profane intellectual order was emerging. To read of thirteenth-century student life in Paris, and elsewhere, is to encounter many features that have never changed, from youthful arrogance and rebellion, to the drinking and constant appeal for student loans. How often the hardworking of the towns hated and feared these young scholars, as dangerously smart delinquents.

The Dominicans set a standard for seriousness, and real intellectual zeal. They were commanded to exemplary lives under clear discipline. They were also commanded to the pursuit of truth, and in the legacies of Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas – Margaret of Hungary, Catherine of Sienawe find a fearless patience that embodies the order’s ideal. The light of Faith was everywhere mingled with the light of Reason, against forces potentially very dark.

We see this on our campuses today, except, the forces of darkness now prevail. Faith is despised, and as the early Dominicans often were, shouted down with slogans. The Dominicans persisted. Far from retreating where they met hostility, they listened and confuted. Men can be animals, especially the young, but they may also be called to conversion, and a striking feature of the thirteenth century is the scale and speed of the Dominican expansion. [Ed. “Zeal must be met with zeal!” -St Dominic]

It answered to a spiritual hunger. It confronted doubt in new and potent forms, as Europe began to recover pagan learning through Arabic philosophers and Byzantine refugees. All that was good in Aristotle and the ancients was, by Dominicans and others they inspired, assimilated and Christianized, as they found that the “perennial philosophy” was in its own nature compatible with Catholic teaching, and helped us better understand it.

The Dominican approach was to muck in. It was a positive force of intellectual engagement. Christ sent his Apostles on the open road; did not tell them to hole up and wait. He made teachers, to the death. The world needs to be told the joy of Our Savior. It needs to be saved, from the Devil and from itself. It needs to know Who is its Maker. It needs to test all things. [Ed. Dominicans “smelled like the sheep”, before smelling like sheep was cool. -cf Pope Francis]

Saint Dominic himself was a man of broad learning. His way was not narrow. The scholastic methods Dominicans pioneered took questions whole, found answers methodically.

I hardly reject the Desert Fathers, or all that followed in the Benedictine traditions; all that they have accomplished and preserved. As thanks to Rod Dreher, the “Benedict Option” has become a thing, let me add that I applaud and accept it.

Yet I would juxtapose a “Dominic Option,” in resplendent contrast. We may never, as Christians, turn our backs on our neighbors, in their need. And Truth is something that is needed. There will always be obstacles to delivery; we must analyze them, and get through.”

Love, truth, & zeal to meet zeal,
Matthew

Clericalism – Fr. Richard G. Rento, STL

“We know that clericalism, a caste society, exists in the church when we recall how priests have been regarded as a class apart, a privileged minority, more than merely human, idols of a sort. The current sexual scandals certainly help to restore reality in that regard.

We see clericalism in our memory of the church into the 1960s that allowed its people to say not a single word in the entire Mass until it was over, when the three Hail Marys were recited!

Clericalism rules when intelligent men and women ask their priest, “Father, is it a sin for me to miss Mass because I will be traveling to Asia on the weekend?”

We are a clerical church as long as we have no say in the selection of our leaders.

We are all called to be yeast and salt and light in the real world of human beings; that is how we become the church of Jesus. Each of us—with no exceptions—is gifted in many wonderful, unrepeatable ways. Our task, our joy and fulfillment, is to share as generously as we can.”

We need an examination of our corporate, sorry not sorry for the loaded word, but its the correct word, in too many ways, tragically, of what elements of our corporate culture have led to Judas Iscariot tragedies betraying our brothers and sisters, the most vulnerable, and the Lord, our Master, throughout our history. We seem eager and at ease, confident, even, to identify, notice, categorize, dissect, and analyze, in excruciating detail the faults of “other”, but not ourselves? How very tragic. How very human, and sinful. Lord, have mercy.

Love, always praying for myself and our heroic ordained that we might always more faithfully imitate our Master, 1 Cor 9:27, pray for me, and may we join Him, together, in His Kingdom. His will be done.
Matthew

Feb 17 – Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order, OSM: to pray or to do? And/both, not either or…

The priest who did the marriage preparation for Kelly & I, the Rev. Paul Novak, OSM, a wonderful priest, quipped the OSM stood for “Order of Sexy Men!”  🙂  Actually, and less comical, it stands for Ordo Servorum Beatae Mariae Virginis., sometimes simply referred to as “Servants of Mary”, or the Servite Order.


-by Br Bartholomew Calvano, OP, received a B.A. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry/Mathematics/Computer Science with a minor in Chemistry from Rutgers prior to joining the Order.

“To pray or do good? This seems to be the dilemma of anyone trying to live a Christian life. On the one hand St. Thomas Aquinas says that “the contemplative life is more excellent than the active,” but on the other hand St. James says that “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” This dichotomy is traditionally expressed in terms of Martha and Mary, and Jesus certainly seems to weigh in on Mary’s side. Today the church honors the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order, who illuminate the interaction of the contemplative and the active life.

The Servite Order was founded by a group of seven men, cloth merchants, from Florence. The city was torn with political strife as well as the heresy of the Cathari. They were not the kind of group you would think of to found a religious order: they were well off and highly respected men, and while three of them were celibate, two were widowed and two were married. Thus, the first thing they had to do was provide for their dependents. This being done, they went off to begin a contemplative life. They took up this life in a house just outside Florence called La Carmarzia, but it wasn’t long until they were so distracted by visitors that it was impossible to live the contemplative life. So like good monks they fled from the world into the wilderness and began living on the slopes of Monte Senario. They began under the direction of St. Peter of Verona, OP.

They remained on those slopes for a time, sending visitors quickly on their way—even those who wished to join them—until they were visited by their local bishop and a cardinal. The cardinal was impressed, but commented that “you seem more desirous of dying to time than of living for eternity.” Then the Seven Holy Founders had a vision of Mary, who told them that she wanted them to be her servants (hence their full name, the Order of the Servants of Mary), wear the black habit, and follow the Rule of St. Augustine. This was on April 14, 1240, and from that day on they began to live more like mendicant friars and less like monastics. That is to say, they began to go out from their cloister, travelling extensively to preach the Gospel. To the Servites was entrusted particularly the preaching of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, commemorating the suffering which she endured alongside her son, Jesus Christ. At the same time, they did not abandon their monastic practices but continued to pray the Divine Liturgy in common and to live in community. Their work, however, became that of preaching, and they earned their food by begging. After this transition they began to accept new companions to join them, and they quickly grew and spread throughout Europe.

It’s a pretty amazing story, and it shows how in the mixed life—contemplation paired with action—men can be drawn first to contemplation. After spending time in prayer, they are called out from contemplation into the service of their fellow men. And this should be the model of every Christian life. A man should first seek God and desire to be with Him. By being with God, a man might hear a call from God to go out to other men and draw them to God. Even those living in monasteries should hear this call to draw their brothers in the monastery closer to God by the example of their service. This is the life that St. Thomas Aquinas says surpasses even the contemplative life, although not by abandoning the contemplative life for the active life, but by uniting the two: “And this work is more excellent than simple contemplation. For even as it is better to enlighten than merely to shine, so is it better to give to others the fruits of one’s contemplation than merely to contemplate.” Hence, an active life is well lived when it flows out of a contemplative life, and there cannot be a purely active Christian life absent of any contemplation. Every Christian should be both Martha and Mary.

So if you are finding yourself “worried and distracted by many things” (Lk 10:41) while you are helping others and doing good, it might help to turn back to prayer. And if you find that your prayer life seems to be in a rut, maybe there’s an act of mercy you’ve been putting off that God is calling you to do.”


-cupola (ceiling), of the Chapel of St Joseph, Basilica of the Holy Annunciation, Florence, Italy, the Servite mother church.  Please click on the image for greater detail.


-“Founders of the Order of Servites”, by Rosselli Matteo, ~1616, fresco?, Basilica of the Holy Annunciation, Florence.  Please click on the image for greater detail.

Office of Readings

From an account of the origin of the Servite Order
-(Monumenta Ord. Serv. B. Mariae Virginis, 1, 3. 5. 6. 9. 11: pp. 71 ss)

“There were seven men worthy of all our praise and veneration, whom our Lady brought into one community to form this order of hers and of her servants. They were like seven stars joined together to form a constellation.

When I entered this order I found only one of the seven still alive, Brother Alexis, whom our Lady was pleased to preserve from death down to our own time so that we might listen to his account of the founding of the order. As I saw myself and observed at first hand, Brother Alexis led so good a life that all who met him were moved by the force of his example. Moreover, he was a living testimony to that special kind of religious perfection characteristic of that first community.

But where did these men stand before they formed their own community? Let us consider this in four respects.

First, as regards the Church. Some of them had never married, having vowed themselves to perpetual celibacy; some were married men at the time; some had lost their wives after marriage and now were widowers.

Second, regarding their status in the city of Florence. They belonged to the merchant class and engaged in buying and selling the goods of this world. But once they found the pearl of great price, our order, they not only gave all they had to the poor but cheerfully offered themselves to God and our Lady in true and loyal service.

Third, concerning their devotion and reverence to our Lady. In Florence there was an ancient guild dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. Because of its age and the number and holiness of its members, both men and women, the guild had acquired a title of preeminence and was called the Major Guild of Our Blessed Lady. These seven men were devoted to our Lady and belonged to this guild before they established their own community.

Fourth, as for their spiritual perfection. They loved God above all things and dedicated their whole lives to Him by honoring Him in their every thought, word and deed.

But when by God’s inspiration and the special urging of our Lady they had firmly resolved to form a community together, they set in order everything that concerned their homes and families, left to their families what they needed and gave all the rest to the poor. Then they sought the advice of virtuous men of good judgment, and described their plans to them.

They climbed the heights of Monte Senario and built on its summit a little house that would suit their purpose, and there they lived in common. As time passed, they began to realize that they were called not simply to sanctify themselves but to receive others into their community, and so increase the membership of this new order our Lady had inspired them to found. They recruited new members; some they accepted, and thus established our present order. In the beginning our Lady was the chief architect of this new order which was founded on the humility of its members, built up by their mutual love, and preserved by their poverty.”

O Lord Jesus Christ Who,
in order to renew the memory
of the sorrows of Thy most holy Mother,
hast through the seven blessed fathers
enriched Thy Church with the new Order of Servites;
mercifully grant that we may be so united
in their sorrows as to share in their joys.
Who livest and reignest, world without end.

Amen.

Love & prayers,
Matthew