Category Archives: Order of Preachers

Bonfire of the Vanities – Giralmo Savonarola, OP, (1452-1498), Reformer, Martyr, de facto ruler of Florence (1494-1498)


-Filippo Dolciati (1443 – 1519), “Execution of Girolamo Savonarola”. 1498, Florence, Museo di San Marco, please click on the image for greater detail.

He called the Church of his day a “harlot” and a “monster of abomination”. Protestants see him as a forerunner of the Reformation. St Ignatius of Loyola had his works burned and called him an enemy of the papacy. He is mentioned in Chapter 6 of Machiavelli’s The Prince. He is immortalized in the computer game “Assasin’s Creed II” (2009).


-Savonarola character in “Assassin’s Creed 2”.

His execution is memorialized in the Showtime TV series “The Borgias” (2011-2013). Caution: The show took some HUGE dramatic liberties particularly in regards to the Bonfire of the Vanities, the trial by fire and Savonarola’s execution.  You can see in the below photo Savonarola’s character has not been hanged, is still alive, and Pope Alexander VI was in Rome at the time of the execution.

Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI, and Steven Berkoff as Girolamo Savonarola in “The Borgias” (Season 2, Episode 10-season finale)

Savonarola captured hearts as a preacher. His powerful apocalyptic visions warned that God would soon scour the world and that Florence, God’s chosen city, had better be ready. Contemporaries speak of the spellbinding power of these sermons; Savonarola’s followers were called piagnoni, or weepers, because he so often moved them to tears. As evidence of his powerful charisma, Savonarola managed to convince the highly humanistic Florentines to surrender their mirrors, dice, cards, cosmetics and nude paintings and burn them all in the Piazza di Signoria in a towering bonfire of the vanities. He also demanded repression of homosexuals. He created a temporary republic in Florence.

He was also a friend to the poor. Under Savonarola, the city created a building society that offered loans at rates well below what was demanded by Florence’s private bankers — 5 to 7 percent, as opposed to the 32.5 percent that had been standard practice under the de Medicis. One of the charges that led to Savonarola’s downfall was that he impoverished the city by refusing to ever turn away a beggar.

He also patronized the famous painters of his day. Michelangelo would later say that when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, it was the sermons of Savonarola he heard in his mind.


-a plaque commemorates the site of Savonarola’s execution in the Piazza della Signoria, Florence. Please click on the image for greater detail.


-painting (1650) of Savonarola’s execution in the Piazza della Signoria

Savonarola was hanged and burned in Florence on 23 May 1498 for heresy and schism. Simone Filipepi, the brother of Botticelli, has left a detailed description of the execution of Savonarola. On 12 May 1497, Pope Alexander VI excommunicated Savonarola and threatened the Florentines with an interdict if they persisted in harboring him.

Interdict is still an existing censure under Canon, or Church, law, and a most serious one in the Catholic Church. It means the prohibition of all sacraments and the invalidity of any attempted to be performed by the persons so placed under ecclesiastical interdict. Sacraments to the Catholic are the primary channels of grace. No grace, no heaven. Children cannot be baptized, and are therefore excluded from the Church, and hope of salvation. Mass cannot be celebrated validly and so no real center of communal liturgical life. No Mass, no point to being Catholic; the loss thereof, bringing one so condemned a step closer to Hell. No marriage, only fornication, and bastard/illegitimate children. No holy orders, no priesthood, another defining/central aspect of Catholic life. No last rites, no viaticum, or last Eucharist, before death. You can see, to a Catholic community, even in early 21st century America, this is most serious. It literally dissolves the fabric of the community. It is meant to be corrective. Even today, in Church disputes with hierarchs, interdict is frequently threatened.


-Iain Glenn, of Game of Thrones, Resident Evil, & Downton Abbey fame, as Savonarola, in “Borgia: Faith & Fear”

On 18 March 1498, after much debate and steady pressure from a worried government, he withdrew from public preaching. Under the stress of excommunication, Savonarola composed his spiritual masterpiece, the Triumph of the Cross, a celebration of the victory of the Cross over sin and death and an exploration of what it means to be a Christian. This he summed up in the theological virtue of caritas, or love. In loving their neighbour, Christians return the love which they have received from their Creator and Savior.

Savonarola hinted at performing miracles to prove his divine mission, but when a rival Franciscan preacher proposed to test that mission by walking through fire, he lost control of the public discourse. Without consulting him, his confidant Fra Domenico da Pescia offered himself as his surrogate and Savonarola felt he could not afford to refuse. The first trial by fire in Florence for over four hundred years was set for April 7. A crowd filled the central square, eager to see if God would intervene and if so, on which side. The nervous contestants and their delegations delayed the start of the contest for hours. A sudden rain drenched the spectators and government officials cancelled the proceedings. The crowd disbanded angrily; the burden of proof had been on Savonarola and he was blamed for the fiasco. A mob assaulted the convent of San Marco.

Fra Girolamo, Fra Domenico, and Fra Silvestro Maruffi were arrested and imprisoned. Under torture Savonarola confessed to having invented his prophecies and visions, then recanted, then confessed again. In his prison cell in the tower of the government palace he composed meditations on Psalms 51 and 31. On the morning of 23 May 1498, the three friars were led out into the main square where, before a tribunal of high clerics and government officials, they were condemned as heretics and schismatics, and sentenced to die forthwith. Stripped of their Dominican garments in ritual degradation, they mounted the scaffold in their thin white shirts. Each on a separate gallows, they were hanged, while fires were ignited below them to consume their bodies. To prevent devotees from searching for relics, their ashes were carted away and scattered in the Arno

Savanarola was a fierce critic of ecclesiastical corruption, and this is perhaps the most contested aspect of his legacy for those proposing to canonize him. He referred to Pope Alexander VI as a “broken tool,” accusing the pope of practicing simony and of dubious personal morality. He defied the pope by aligning Florence with the French king, Charles, rather than the “Holy Alliance” of Italian city-states championed by Alexander. Toward the end, Savonarola called for a church council that would depose Alexander.

There was never serious question about Savonarola’s doctrine — his chief theological work, The Triumph of the Cross, is widely viewed as orthodox. In 1558, Pope Paul IV — who had served in the court of Alexander VI — said that Savonarola was not a heretic. The question for examiners today is not doctrinal but disciplinary: whether Savonarola defied the authority of the pope in impermissible fashion. Dominicans and Jesuits still feud within the last twenty years as to the sanctity of the man. Although, the Jesuit view has largely been attributed to contemporary hearsay, and not a critical study of his works.

In English the name of Savonarola may be synonymous with religious fanaticism, but many Italians, and Florentines in particular, have a different image. In an age of corruption, Savonarola represented honest government, making him something of a patron for the current Italian drive to break the grip of cronyism and political patronage that has long dominated their politics.

As an ecclesial dissenter, Savonarola is popular among today’s Catholics who believe the church could stand some reform.

There are even those who argue that had the Renaissance papacy been a bit more open to Savonarola’s critique, the church might have been spared the agony of the Protestant Reformation.
Whatever the case, Savonarola’s most ardent supporters seem unlikely to be discouraged by anything historical research might uncover. He was a “man of faith who loved Jesus Christ,” according to Dominican Fr. Armando Verde in the International Herald Tribune. Savonarola may have made compromises in the rough-and-tumble of Florentine politics, Verde said, “but on the ethical and spiritual level, absolutely never.”

The Piagnoni kept his cause of republican freedom and religious reform alive well into the following century, although the Medici—restored to power in 1512 with the help of the papacy—eventually broke the movement.


-by Br Raymond LaGrange, OP

“Girolamo Savonarola was born in Northern Italy in 1452 to a well-to-do merchant family. Growing up, he was taught a love for the moral life and a hatred for decadence by his fervently religious grandfather. At the age of twenty-three, he abandoned all the vanities of the world to give himself to God alone, leaving home to become a Dominican friar. He was known to be fervently observant in his religious life, and from this personal holiness flowed a preaching that captivated all hearers.

He was soon brought to the great city of Florence at the request of the ruling Medicis. All were amazed by his gift of prophecy. In particular, he prophesied disaster in the republic of Florence. Though Florence was one of the more prominent cities of Europe at the time, when Charles VIII of France was making his way toward the republic, the citizens began to take Savonarola’s prophecy seriously. One might attempt to credit his prophecies (and there were many) to political savvy, but there was always something too vivid and concrete about them; at the very least, his contemporaries learned to trust him.

Savonarola was sent as an ambassador to make an agreement with Charles VIII to prevent the otherwise almost certain sack of Florence. After this success, trust in Savonarola was so great that he was able more or less at his will to write up the new constitution for a democratic republic. He even was able to go so far as to plea, successfully, for peace toward the friends of the old Medici government. The few years of his influence are something of an eloquent testimony to the power of the word of God to create and sustain peace in a troubled world.

Unfortunately, he had powerful enemies. The allegiance of Florence with Charles VIII was disadvantageous for much of Italy, but this was not Savonarola’s greatest obstacle. He preached against moral depravity in an emerging decadent renaissance society. He feared no man in his call for the pursuit of the Christian ideal. This made him enemies, both at home and abroad. Because of his popular appeal, it was difficult to have him removed. At the same time, for every moral reform he successfully enacted in society, his enemies became increasingly infuriated. But the friar feared no man, giving himself entirely to preaching the Truth.

As the threat of invasion subsided, Savonarola’s influence waned and politics became increasingly turbulent. Elections occurred every few months, and power passed rapidly between his friends and enemies. All the while, his Florentine enemies plotted against him in secret, detesting his moral reforms, which made difficult the life to which they once were accustomed. When his authority to preach publicly was finally revoked and he was unable to defend himself, it was only a matter of time.

On Palm Sunday in 1498, Savonarola’s enemies went to work. They stirred up the mob and readied to besiege the convent of San Marco. In his last homily, he proclaimed, “Lord, I thank thee for desiring now to make me in Thy own image.” The convent was attacked and he was captured. There followed weeks of imprisonment, torture, and forged confessions. He was condemned to die on May 23, 1498.

Savonarola’s last act before his death was to bow his head in acceptance of the plenary indulgence granted to him by the pope. His last words were those of the creed. After he and his two closest companions were hanged and burned, his ashes were thrown in the river to prevent anyone from collecting his relics. Since then, history has long attempted to bury his legacy, just as his executioners did; he was long regarded as a backwards hack who scared Florence away from renaissance progress. But recent scholarship has brought him into the light. Two of his foremost biographers, Josef Schnitzer (Savonarola) and Roberto Ridolfi (The Life of Girolamo Savonarola), have even predicted his eventual canonization as a saint, although this has not yet come to be. He died a faithful son of the Church, giving his life for the Bride of Christ, and never giving up on the word of God, even when it cost him his life. Though his ashes were scattered, his legacy lived on.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 8 – Solemnity (OP calendar) of St Dominic, Ebur Castitatis, “Ivory of Chastity”

“O Lumen”, said at Compline each night in Dominican houses…

“O Light of the Church, Doctor of Truth, Rose of Patience, Ivory of Chastity…”

“…Sadly, however, many in the Church have failed spectacularly in this regard. The Church is currently reeling in the aftermath of revelations that a now former cardinal had for years sexually abused a child and many seminarians. It is even sadder that this is just one of many examples of those in Holy Orders who have abandoned their resolve to remain celibate for the sake of the kingdom. And then there’s the question of who knew about these double lives and failed to take any actions. How many Catholics have become disillusioned with their faith because of such betrayals? How many vocations to the priesthood and religious life have been lost? Sexual infidelity is definitely not compatible with Christian fruitfulness.”
– Fr Robert Verrill, OP, English Province

May 24 is the Solemnity of the Translation of St. Dominic. This unusual feast day commemorates the day St. Dominic’s remains were moved, or “translated,” from their original burial spot behind an altar of the church of San Nicolo della Vigne in Bologna, Italy to a more prominent place in the church in 1233…

The move of St. Dominic’s body was carried out at the request of Pope Gregory IX, about one year before the saint’s canonization on July 13, 1234, only 13 years after his death.

As recorded in a letter by Bl. Jordan of Saxony, one of the first leaders of the Dominicans, the brothers were very anxious before the move of the body, because they were worried that when the wooden coffin was uninterred from the stone sepulcher, the body would give off a foul odor, since it had been buried in a poorly constructed tomb, exposed to water and heat.

But they received a great surprise, because when the tomb was opened, a wonderful and sweet perfume emanated from the coffin instead.

“Its sweetness astonished those present, and they were filled with wonder at this strange occurrence. Everyone shed tears of joy, and fear and hope rose in all hearts,” Bl. Jordan wrote.

He reported that the odor remained and if anyone touched a hand or some object to the body, the odor immediately attached itself and lingered for a long time.

“The body was carried to the marble sepulcher where it would rest – it and the perfume that it poured forth. This marvelous aroma which the holy body emitted was evidence to all how much the saint had truly been the good odor of Christ,” he wrote.

By 1240, the church containing St. Dominic’s remains had been expanded into a basilica, and renamed for the saint.”
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/why-the-feast-of-st-dominic-is-not-actually-the-dominicans-biggest-feast-day-93473

“Chaste is waste.”
“Virtue can hurt you.”
-popular sayings

“We live in a culture of entitlement. Movies, TV shows, and magazines exhort us to get the love that we “deserve.”

But love defies the culture’s rules. (Ed. is it REALLY love if sought or obtained immorally, selfishly? If the “other” is not a person, but an object or subject to objectification as a resource to be used, abused, and disposed of, is it REALLY love? I don’t recall selfishness, being part of the definition of love? Selflessness, agape, yes. Willing the good of the other, is the definition of love I understand, and am challenged through my own sinfulness to constantly pursue.) It is not something one can “get” in the sense of taking it for selfish reasons. When love is treated as an object to be consumed, it vanishes. “If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned” (Song of Songs 8:7).”

Becoming chaste requires a conscious decision to change perspective. Relationships can no longer be viewed through the lens of entitlement.” –https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/life-and-family/abstinence-and-chastity/10-12-reasons-to-be-chaste

Are you only your anatomy? Is anyone? Is that all you are? A thing? A piece of something? To be consumed, a resource, at the will and how and whim of another more powerful or deceptive? Perhaps an unwanted vermin to be exterminated? Does “reason” play any role in our decisions? Is it possible our “reason” can steer us more towards happiness? Like in every other aspect of life? Are we held to account by reason? For reason? Are we permitted to only be held to account by reason when it is convenient? What kind of a silly, ephemeral, meaningless thing this “reason” you say would be then?

“Self-mastery is ordered to the gift of self.” (CCC 2346) The “Gift of Self” IS the definition of love. “You cannot give what you do not have.” -common proverb

“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools…” -Rm 1:22

Novena to St. Joseph – The Blessed Virgin Mary’s Most Chaste Spouse

O glorious descendant of the kings of Judah, Inheritor of the virtues of all the patriarchs. Just and happy St. Joseph, listen to my prayer. Thou art my glorious protector, and shall ever be, after Jesus and Mary the object of my most profound veneration and confidence. Thou art the most hidden, though the greatest Saint, and art particularly the patron of those who serve God with the greatest purity and fervor. In union with all those who have ever been most devoted to thee I now dedicate myself to thy service; beseeching thee, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Who vouchsafed to love and obey thee as a son, to become a father to me; and to obtain for me the filial respect, confidence and love of a child towards thee.

O powerful advocate of all Christians, whose intercession has never been found to fail, deign to intercede for me now, and to implore for me the particular intention of this Novena.

Present me O great Saint to the adorable Trinity, with Whom thou hadst so glorious and so intimate a correspondence. Obtain that I may never efface by sin the Sacred Image according to the likeness of which, I was created. Beg for me that my divine Redeemer would enkindle in my heart and in all hearts, the fire of His Love, and infuse therein the virtues of His adorable infancy, His purity, simplicity, obedience, and humility.

Obtain for me likewise a lively devotion to thy virgin spouse, and protect me so powerfully in life and death, that I may have the happiness of dying as thou didst, in the friendship of my Creator, and under the immediate protection of the Mother of God. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Triumph of Grace

-from http://vultuschristi.org/index.php/2017/08/saint-dominic-and-the-triumph/

“…Saint Dominic would spend whole nights weeping and groaning in prayer before the altar. Over and over again he would say, “What will become of sinners? What will become of sinners?” Saint Dominic’s great passion was to reconcile sinners by preaching the mercy of God.

The Power of Preaching

Dominic understood that the power of preaching comes from ceaseless prayer. His prayer had three characteristics:
-humble adoration,
-heartfelt pity for sinners,
-and exultation in the Divine Mercy.

Saint Dominic prayed constantly; he prayed at home and on the road, in church and in his cell. For Saint Dominic there was no place or time foreign to prayer. He loved to pray at night. He engaged his whole body in prayer by standing with outstretched arms, by bowing, prostrating, genuflecting, and kissing the sacred page. If you are not familiar with the extraordinary little booklet entitled The Nine Ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic, today would be a good day to find it and read it.

The Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Saint Dominic had a tenth way of prayer too: the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary that today we call the rosary. The use of beads was widespread and the repetition of the Hail Mary were both widespread before the time of Saint Dominic. The Hail Mary prayed 150 times in reference to the 150 psalms was practiced in Carthusian and Cistercian cloisters before the time of Saint Dominic.

Irrigated by Grace

Saint Dominic understood that preaching alone was not enough. Preaching has to be irrigated by grace, and grace is obtained by prayer. Inspired by the Mother of God, Saint Dominic interspersed his sermons with the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He exhorted his hearers to continue praying the Psalter of 150 Aves as a way of prolonging the benefits of holy preaching. The rosary allows the seed of the Word sown by holy preaching to germinate in the soul and bear fruit.

Simple Means

Divine Wisdom has so ordered things that the simplest material means — humble and adapted to our weakness — produce the greatest spiritual effects. Father Raphael Simon, the saintly Trappist psychiatrist, said that, “five decades of the rosary or even three Hail Marys daily may mean the difference between eternal life and death.” The effect of the rosary is entirely disproportionate to its simplicity. The fruits of the rosary are well known: among them are detachment from sin and from the occasions of sin, peace of heart, humility, chastity, and joy. The rosary, and all authentic prayer, is always realistic — that is to say, honest about human weakness and sin — and, at the same, full of hope — that is to say, open to the glorious plan of God’s mercy.

The Supplication of the Rosary

If Saint Dominic preached the rosary and prayed it, it was because he knew it to be a prayer capable of winning every grace. The rosary is a prayer of repetition. It is a prayer of confidence. It helps one to persevere in supplication, bead by bead, and decade by decade. Our Lord finds the rosary irresistible because His own Mother “subsidizes” it. She stands behind it. The rosary is the voice of the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, and the weak. Persevere in praying the rosary and one day you will hear Our Lord say to you what He said to the woman of the Gospel: “Great is thy faith! Be it done for thee as thou wilt” (Mt 15:28). Saint Dominic shows us that, with the rosary in hand, we will experience the triumph of grace.”

-by Br Dominic Verner, OP

“While he thus labored to make his own soul pleasing to God, the fire of divine love was daily more and more enkindled in his breast, and he was consumed with an ardent zeal for the salvation of infidels and sinners. To move the divine mercy to regard them with pity, he spent often whole nights in the church at prayer, watering the steps of the altar with abundance of tears, in which he was heard to sigh and groan before the Father of mercy, in the earnestness and deep affliction of his heart; never ceasing to beg with the greatest ardor, the grace to gain some of those unhappy souls to Christ.” – From the Chronicle of the Origin of this Order, compiled by Bl. Jordan of Saxony

The tears of our Holy Father Dominic never fail to move and challenge me. There is something haunting and mysterious at the thought of a man weeping in the solitude and silence of a sleepless night on the altar steps. Entering a church at night to find someone in such a state of fervent and distressing prayer is a moving and troubling experience. The state of crisis shatters the thin veil of our quotidian expectations to reveal the startling reality that we are still poor, banished children of Eve, living in the status viatoris, awaiting the glorious coming of Our Lord and the eternal beatitude of Heaven. The encounter with the soul in crisis reminds us of the reality of the cross that we are called to bear with Christ and with one another. Seeing another bearing such a burden awakens our Christian sympathy and draws us out of our private concerns to beseech the Lord of all consolation for his mercy and compassion.

But what is the crisis that confronted Saint Dominic as he wept in fervent petition at the altar steps? Our holy father was not suffering from the betrayal of a spouse, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one. His tears were not shed over a personal crisis, but rather the crisis of the “infidels and sinners” who reject the obedience of faith and do not enjoy the salvation offered by Christ. When we encounter the tears of our father Dominic, we are confronted with the reality that those who are closed to faith are lacking the possibility of true and lasting friendship with God, a friendship which requires filial trust and a loyal heart. Saint Dominic was brought to tears at the thought of a soul rejecting such a gift. In Dominic we see the beauty of a soul transfigured by faith, hope, and love in a state of fervent petition; more, we see a participation in the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ.

These three features of Saint Dominic’s tears in some way characterize the mission of the Friar Preacher. To preach for the salvation of souls, the soul of the preacher must be elevated by grace through the infused virtues of faith, hope, and love. The preacher must be sympathetically aware of the true deprivation suffered by the poor souls who lack saving faith. And the preacher must see his preaching for the salvation of souls as a participation in the saving action of Christ Our Lord. May the same fire of divine love that burned within Saint Dominic be enkindled within us, that we may never cease “to beg with the greatest ardor, the grace to gain some of those unhappy souls to Christ.”

Love, rely on His grace alone, pray for me, please, please, please,
Matthew

German mysticism: Suso, Eckhart, Tauler


-by Br Samuel Burke, OP (English Province)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Matthew

Lent with Bl Henry Suso, OP


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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Matthew

…usque ad mortem.

Ego N. spondeo obtemperat praecipienti Deo et beatae virgini, et beato Dominico et tibi famulam tuam N., et ad posteros, secundum Regulam Sancti Augustini ordo et institutum, usque ad mortem.

I, N., pledge obedience to God, the Blessed Virgin, to Blessed Dominic, and to you, N., and your successors, according to the Rule of Saint Augustine, and the institute of the order, until death.


-by Br. Luke VanBerkum, OP

I will give You glory, O God, my king, / I will bless Your name for ever. / I will bless You day after day / and praise Your name for ever (Ps 145).

…Dominican brothers…profess (solemn) obedience to God, to Blessed Mary, to Blessed Dominic, and to their superiors for the rest of their lives (when professing solemn vows): Lord, God of hosts, / happy the man who trusts in You! (Ps 84) They will vow to live out their days as consecrated religious according to the way of life of the Order of Friars Preachers. The Dominican Order is their path to salvation; life in this Order is the means by which God wishes to transform their lives through Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit.

I am bound by the vows I have made You. / O God, I will offer You praise / for You have rescued my soul from death, / You kept my feet from stumbling / that I may walk in the presence of God / and enjoy the light of the living (Ps 56).

Vows are for the imperfect; they are a realization of the constant need for the mercy of God. As part of the rite of profession, the brothers are asked, “What do you seek?” And they reply, “God’s mercy and yours.” God’s mercy and the mercy of the brethren are the steadying hand that supports those who stumble while striving for holiness in consecrated life. The gesture of profession—putting one’s hands into the hands of the superior—signifies obedience to the superior but also the great mercy with which the professed is embraced.

So I will always praise Your name / and day after day fulfill my vows (Ps 61).

The principle duty of all religious is the contemplation of divine things and union with God in prayer. To praise God on behalf of the entire world is the responsibility of religious: My lips are filled with your praise, / with your glory all the day long (Ps 71). In the Divine Office, religious throughout the day praise God and thank Him with the inspired words of Scripture that Jesus Himself used—the Psalms. The Psalms speak to every human experience, from joy and praise to suffering and betrayal. In Dominican life, the Psalms are the first words on the lips in the morning, and at the death of a brother, the brethren will surround their brother’s body and chant the Psalms, remembering his fidelity to prayer and begging God’s continued mercy.

I will thank You, Lord, among the peoples, / among the nations I will praise You / for Your love reaches to the heavens / and Your truth to the skies (Ps 57).

This common life of prayer prepares the brothers for preaching the truth of the Gospel to all peoples. Each religious order has a particular charism, a gift from God that is for the good of the entire Church. The vow to Dominican life entrusts, to those who profess it, the charism of preaching for the salvation of souls, and the friars draw upon this charism as they go forth as preachers of grace.

I bind myself to do Your will; / Lord, do not disappoint me. / I will run the way of your commands; / You give freedom to my heart (Ps 119).

In a seeming paradox, the vow of obedience sets the religious free. Obedience does not imply a state of subjection; rather, obedience to the will of God is true freedom. For religious, to die to self, to be God’s instrument in the world, is God’s will for them.

My vows to the Lord I will fulfill / before all his people. / O precious in the eyes of the Lord / is the death of his faithful (Ps 116).

Indeed, death is the beginning of life, because Jesus Christ Himself – Who became obedient to death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8) – made this possible.

Into Your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit (Ps 31).”

Love & prayers for all those who work out their salvation (cf Phil 2:12) in service to God Almighty & His Church. May you be found worthy in the Day of Judgment (cf 1 Cor 9:27).  Pray for me.
Matthew

Will the saved rejoice in the sufferings of the damned? – ST., Suppl., Q. 94

SUMMA THEOLOGIAE, SUPPLEMENT

Question 94. The relations of the saints towards the damned

Article 1. Whether the blessed in heaven will see the sufferings of the damned?

Objection 1. It would seem that the blessed in heaven will not see the sufferings of the damned. For the damned are more cut off from the blessed than wayfarers. But the blessed do not see the deeds of wayfarers: wherefore a gloss on Isaiah 63:16, “Abraham hath not known us,” says: “The dead, even the saints, know not what the living, even their own children, are doing” [St. Augustine, De cura pro mortuis xiii, xv]. Much less therefore do they see the sufferings of the damned.

Objection 2. Further, perfection of vision depends on the perfection of the visible object: wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. x, 4) that “the most perfect operation of the sense of sight is when the sense is most disposed with reference to the most beautiful of the objects which fall under the sight.” Therefore, on the other hand, any deformity in the visible object redounds to the imperfection of the sight. But there will be no imperfection in the blessed. Therefore they will not see the sufferings of the damned wherein there is extreme deformity.

On the contrary, It is written (Isaiah 66:24): “They shall go out and see the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against Me”; and a gloss says: “The elect will go out by understanding or seeing manifestly, so that they may be urged the more to praise God.”

I answer that, Nothing should be denied the blessed that belongs to the perfection of their beatitude. Now everything is known the more for being compared with its contrary, because when contraries are placed beside one another they become more conspicuous. Wherefore in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned.

Reply to Objection 1. This gloss speaks of what the departed saints are able to do by nature: for it is not necessary that they should know by natural knowledge all that happens to the living. But the saints in heaven know distinctly all that happens both to wayfarers and to the damned. Hence Gregory says (Moral. xii) that Job’s words (14:21), “‘Whether his children come to honour or dishonour, he shall not understand,’ do not apply to the souls of the saints, because since they possess the glory of God within them, we cannot believe that external things are unknown to them.” [Concerning this Reply, Cf. I:89:8].

Reply to Objection 2. Although the beauty of the thing seen conduces to the perfection of vision, there may be deformity of the thing seen without imperfection of vision: because the images of things whereby the soul knows contraries are not themselves contrary. Wherefore also God Who has most perfect knowledge sees all things, beautiful and deformed.

Article 2. Whether the blessed pity the unhappiness of the damned?
Objection 1. It would seem that the blessed pity the unhappiness of the damned. For pity proceeds from charity [Cf. II-II:30]; and charity will be most perfect in the blessed. Therefore they will most especially pity the sufferings of the damned.

Objection 2. Further, the blessed will never be so far from taking pity as God is. Yet in a sense God compassionates our afflictions, wherefore He is said to be merciful.

On the contrary, Whoever pities another shares somewhat in his unhappiness. But the blessed cannot share in any unhappiness. Therefore they do not pity the afflictions of the damned.

I answer that, Mercy or compassion may be in a person in two ways: first by way of passion, secondly by way of choice. In the blessed there will be no passion in the lower powers except as a result of the reason’s choice. Hence compassion or mercy will not be in them, except by the choice of reason. Now mercy or compassion comes of the reason’s choice when a person wishes another’s evil to be dispelled: wherefore in those things which, in accordance with reason, we do not wish to be dispelled, we have no such compassion. But so long as sinners are in this world they are in such a state that without prejudice to the Divine justice they can be taken away from a state of unhappiness and sin to a state of happiness. Consequently it is possible to have compassion on them both by the choice of the will—in which sense God, the angels and the blessed are said to pity them by desiring their salvation—and by passion, in which way they are pitied by the good men who are in the state of wayfarers. But in the future state it will be impossible for them to be taken away from their unhappiness: and consequently it will not be possible to pity their sufferings according to right reason. Therefore the blessed in glory will have no pity on the damned.

Reply to Objection 1. Charity is the principle of pity when it is possible for us out of charity to wish the cessation of a person’s unhappiness. But the saints cannot desire this for the damned, since it would be contrary to Divine justice. Consequently the argument does not prove.

Reply to Objection 2. God is said to be merciful, in so far as He succors those whom it is befitting to be released from their afflictions in accordance with the order of wisdom and justice: not as though He pitied the damned except perhaps in punishing them less than they deserve.

Article 3. Whether the blessed rejoice in the punishment of the wicked?

Objection 1. It would seem that the blessed do not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. For rejoicing in another’s evil pertains to hatred. But there will be no hatred in the blessed. Therefore they will not rejoice in the unhappiness of the damned.

Objection 2. Further, the blessed in heaven will be in the highest degree conformed to God. Now God does not rejoice in our afflictions. Therefore neither will the blessed rejoice in the afflictions of the damned.

Objection 3. Further, that which is blameworthy in a wayfarer has no place whatever in a comprehensor. Now it is most reprehensible in a wayfarer to take pleasure in the pains of others, and most praiseworthy to grieve for them. Therefore the blessed nowise rejoice in the punishment of the damned.

On the contrary, It is written (Psalm 57:11): “The just shall rejoice when he shall see the revenge.”

Further, it is written (Isaiah 56:24): “They shall satiate [Douay: ‘They shall be a loathsome sight to all flesh.’] the sight of all flesh.” Now satiety denotes refreshment of the mind. Therefore the blessed will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked.

I answer that, A thing may be a matter of rejoicing in two ways. First directly, when one rejoices in a thing as such: and thus the saints will not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. Secondly, indirectly, by reason namely of something annexed to it: and in this way the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy. And thus the Divine justice and their own deliverance will be the direct cause of the joy of the blessed: while the punishment of the damned will cause it indirectly.

Reply to Objection 1. To rejoice in another’s evil as such belongs to hatred, but not to rejoice in another’s evil by reason of something annexed to it. Thus a person sometimes rejoices in his own evil as when we rejoice in our own afflictions, as helping us to merit life: “My brethren, count it all joy when you shall fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2).

Reply to Objection 2. Although God rejoices not in punishments as such, He rejoices in them as being ordered by His justice.

Reply to Objection 3. It is not praiseworthy in a wayfarer to rejoice in another’s afflictions as such: yet it is praiseworthy if he rejoice in them as having something annexed. However it is not the same with a wayfarer as with a comprehensor, because in a wayfarer the passions often forestall the judgment of reason, and yet sometimes such passions are praiseworthy, as indicating the good disposition of the mind, as in the case of shame pity and repentance for evil: whereas in a comprehensor there can be no passion but such as follows the judgment of reason.

Love & His mercy,
Matthew

St John the Baptist – St Vincent Ferrer, O.P., (1350-1419), “Angel of the Last Judgment”, Great Catholic Reformer, Patron of Reconciliation

“”I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,” (Jn 1:23).

The text proposed is of St. John the Baptist replying to the Jerusalem messengers saying, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.” In explaining this text and introducing the material to be preached, I take on two short questions.

First why does Holy Mother the Church in this holy time of Advent, in which the whole interest ought to be about Christ, makes such a great mention of St. John the Baptist in today’s gospel, and also on the past Sunday? Are not the two feasts of St. John which the church observes sufficient, namely his birth and his passion?

For this response I find in St. John four excellences greater than other saints. First is his gracious birth, because he already was holy before his birth. Second is his painful passion, because he was decapitated because of the dance of a young girl. Third is his virtuous life because when he was five years old, he immediately left the world and entered the wilderness. Fourth is the fruitful doctrine of announcing and preaching the coming of the Messiah. From these four excellences God has exalted John above all saints saying, “There has not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist,” (Mt 11:11), For this reason Holy Mother the Church celebrates feasts of St. John four times. First of his birth. Second of his suffering. Third of his virtuous life. And fourth of his fruitful preaching, and about this we read in today’s gospel. For no other saint is there a feast four times a year, only St. John the Baptist. Of the apostle Peter we have three feasts. Of St. Paul, two, but of St. John, four. And of this feast today he himself says, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,” (Jn 1:23), namely from the efficacy of preaching and his teaching. The first question is clear.

The second question is more subtle. Why does St. John, wishing to promote his teaching, call himself “a voice,” saying: “I am the voice of one crying out …etc.?” Wouldn’t it have been better [to say], “I have a voice”? Response: St. John calls himself a voice for two reasons.

First in excellently demonstrating his office, with respect to the first reason. The proper office of the voice is to manifest and show the purpose of the heart, or the concept of the mind. The Philosopher [Aristotle] says: “Spoken words are signs of the passions which are in the soul, ” (Perihermeneias, 1). Properly speaking there is a great difference between a word and a voice, although commonly speaking they are taken for the same thing, because a word is the concept of the mind before it is expressed by the mouth, but voices are what are brought forth. So logic says, a voice is a sound coming out of the mouth of an animal, properly speaking. Christ is the eternal Word, because he had been hidden in the divine mind: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” (Jn 1:1), hidden and secret. But God the Father sent a voice, John the Baptist, to manifest and show forth the divine Word, as he did when he said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” (Jn 1:29). Behold John says that he is the voice, by showing the difference between the Word and the temporary voice.

As for the second reason. The skill of a preacher is that he preaches with all his members and powers. Not only the mouth of the preacher should preach, but also his life, his morals and reputation. Also the intellect by studying, the memory by contemplating, the heart, hand, gestures, all used continually and skillfully. So a good preacher ought to be a voice in every way. The logicians say that a voice is homogeneous, because each part of the voice is a voice. So every aspect of a diligent preacher ought to be a voice. Jerome: “Everything of a priest ought to be vocal.” On this account St. John, in responding to the messengers sent to him said: “I am the voice,” which is to say whatever is in me, is wholly a voice, because all of it preaches. The theme is clear.

About this voice I find a wonderful prophecy of David, who allegorically prophesying about St. John says:

“The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of majesty has thundered, The Lord is upon many waters. The voice of the Lord is in power; the voice of the Lord in magnificence. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars: yea, the Lord shall break the cedars of Lebanon. And shall reduce them to pieces, as a calf of Lebanon, and as the beloved son of unicorns. The voice of the Lord divides the flame of fire: The voice of the Lord shakes the desert: and the Lord shall shake the desert of Cades. The voice of the Lord prepares the stags: and he will discover the thick woods: and in his temple all shall speak his glory,” (Ps 28:3-9).

Here John is called a voice seven times because of seven teachings, which St. John was preaching.

The first was the teaching of baptism. [doctrina baptismalis]
Second was the teaching of penance. [doctrina poenitentialis]
The third was authoritative teaching [doctrina magistralis]
The fourth was rebuking teaching [doctrina increpativa]
The fifth was corrective teaching [doctrina correctiva]
The sixth was blaming teaching [doctrina reprehensiva]
The seventh was instructive teaching [doctrina instructiva]

BAPTISMAL TEACHING

First of all, I say that the first teaching of St. John was baptismal. All the evangelists say that when St. John came out of the desert in which he had lived for twenty-five years, as Hugh says, doing severe penance, when at age thirty he came out of the desert, in his exit he began to preach a baptism of repentance around the region of the Jordan. Lk 3: “And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins,” (v. 3), saying, ” but there has stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not,” (Jn 1:26), but I shall show him to you, therefore you will receive his teaching. The people said to him, “And what ought we to do that we might receive him worthily? He responded to them that they should receive a sign of baptism in water. He baptized them under this form, “I baptize you in the name of the one who is to come.” This baptism of John was a sign of Christ, just as the cross is a sign of the crucified. From this preaching of the baptismal teaching St. John is called the “voice of the Lord upon the waters,” (Ps 28:3) that is, the Jordan. Gloss: He was preaching one baptism, and he was giving another, because he gave the baptism of water, and was preaching the baptism of grace for the remission of sins. About this scripture: “I baptize you in the water unto penance, but he who shall come after me, is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and fire,” (Mt 3:11). Note “fire” [igni] is in the ablative case according to the old grammar. But why does he say “fire” [igni]? Note the error of those who say that some are baptized by fire [igne]. But “of fire” [igni] is said for two reasons. First, in the primitive church in baptism the Holy Spirit descended visibly in the form of fire, and this exposition is more common for showing that the Holy Spirit was given and showed himself exteriorly by the sign of visible fire. A second reason, because just as the world had to be washed and purified through water, namely in the time of Noah, because the peoples were exceedingly heated by lust, and so the water of the flood came, so it shall be purified through fire at the end of the world because of the charity of the multitude had turned cold. This reason is from St. Thomas Aquinas O.P., in IV Sent. So also God ordained two floods for purifying souls, namely the flood of baptismal water to cool the sinful tendencies [fomitem] (Cf. Summa, III, q.27, a.3 ) of original sin. The second flood of the fire of purgatory, because after baptism we cool and become negligent, and are stained by sins, therefore God ordained the fount of purgatory, where the baptized soul is baptized by a good angel, as St. Thomas determines, because the devil has already been conquered by him who is led to purgatory, therefore the conquered ought not to incarcerate the victor. This baptism is hard and terrible. About which the soul can say who ought to be baptized there. “I have a baptism wherewith I am to be baptized: and how am I straitened…,” (Lk 12:50). See why it is said, “The voice of the Lord over the waters.” And because then John baptized Christ, therefore it is added, “the God of majesty has thundered, The Lord is upon many waters,” (Ps 28:3).

PENITENTIAL TEACHING

The second teaching which St. John preached was the teaching of penance, Mt 3: “And in those days John the Baptist came preaching in the desert of Judea. And saying: Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Mt 3:1-2). After he had baptized them he gave them a penance saying, “From the fact that you have received my baptism as a sign, therefore lest sins keep you from knowing and receiving the Messiah King, you should do penance. St. Matthew says, ch. 3, that they were confessing their sins generally saying, “I was proud, vain, pompous, etc.” And St. John gave them a penance of a humble prayer. John was teaching his disciples to pray, (cf. Luke 11: 1). Others were confessing generally saying, “Clearly I was greedy, usurious, etc.,” to whom John gave a penance of restitution, lest the dust of avarice cloud their eyes so they could not recognize Christ. Another came and he said, “Father, I am lustful etc.” to whom he gave a penance of abstinence from food and affections [affectionum]. Mark 2: “And the disciples of John … used to fast,” (v. 18). The same for the other sins. See how John was preaching the teaching of penance. Therefore it is said, “The voice of the Lord is in power,” (Ps 28:4), namely indicating penance. Note “the voice of the Lord in power;” he does not say in the sacrament. Note how the holy doctors of theology distinguish the two-fold penance, namely of the sacramental penance, and of virtual penance. [poenitentia virtuali]. Sacramental penance is when a man confesses his sins, and is absolved. Such a penance is called a sacrament. The sacrament of penance has three parts, which are contrition, confession and satisfaction. Virtual penitence does not have parts, just as none of the other sacraments, as St. Thomas says in Summa, III, q. 91, and IV Sent., dist. 16, q. 1, a. 1, ql. 1 & 4. And when John was preaching, this sacrament had not yet been instituted, nor the power of forgiving sins granted to men, therefore John is not called the voice of God in the sacrament. The other is voluntary virtual penance, and virtuous, which is not a sacrament, like fasting, to make a pilgrimage, to discipline oneself and the like. And of this kind it is said, “the voice of God in power, etc.” because St. John enjoined not sacramental penance but virtual, and David agrees saying elsewhere: “Behold he will give to his voice,” namely to St. John, “the voice of power,” (Ps 67:34) he does not say, of the sacrament. Note as St. Thomas, III, q. 85; IV Dist., 14, q. 1, a. 1, because penance as it is a sorrow of the will, with right choice is a virtue or an act of virtue, it is not just an emotion. And penance is a special virtue because it has general matter under a special aspect for its object, namely all sins as fixable [emendibilia] by an act of man, as St. Thomas states III, q. 85, a. 2. And it is a moral virtue, not a theological, and it is a part of justice.

AUTHORITATIVE TEACHING

The third teaching is authoritative, because just as a good master for diverse children has diverse lessons, so St. John for the diverse conciliations of men gave diverse instructions. St. Luke says in ch. 3 that various kinds of people were coming to him, interrogating him and saying, “Master, what ought we to do? ” He replied: “He that has two coats, let him give to him one who has none; and he that has meat, let him do in like manner,” (Lk 3:11), Two tunics: one is necessary, the other is superfluous, which rots, and the poor die of cold. How many poor women there are who because of the lack of a shawl are not able to go to mass, and you rich cling to your surplus clothing etc. Same for meat etc.

Next the publicans came saying to him, “Master, what shall we do?” (Lk 3:12), The Gloss says at this place that publican is here taken for someone who has public office, because either he is a bailiff or a lawyer or a witness etc. To whom John replied, ” Do nothing more than that which is appointed you,” (v.13) If they were leaders he was saying,” Remember what you are obliged to do by the oath which you took when you received your office, namely that you should do justice and correct the people and notorious sins, and should regard in all things the common good. Therefore so do; beware of anything else.

Third the soldiers and guards [scutiferi] came to him saying, “And what shall we do? And he said to them: Do violence to no man; neither calumniate any man; and be content with your pay,” (v. 14). Behold the rules and teaching for the soldiers. Note, “Do violence to no man.” It is said against those who are quick draw their dagger or sword in their hand to threaten beggars [pauperes] and the wretched who cannot defend themselves. Also “neither calumniate” your subjects demanding from them monies and their goods in many ways, and they deceive the ordinary folks by saying that they are gracious in demanding, since they nevertheless include those in the castle or in the church as long as they shall give, and they too are bound to restitution. Also “and be content with your pay,” as salary, of the return you receive for the defense of the people. Don’t pursue superfluities, or vanities, but reckon what you have and as much as you can spend, and from your goods give for your soul a fourth or at least a fifth part out of love of God. You should never give it all to your belly, to mules and to armed ruffians etc. See why he says, “The voice of the Lord in magnificence,” (v. 4), namely of giving counsel and a manner of living to each, “His work is praise and magnificence,” namely St. John, “and his justice continues for ever and ever.” (Ps 110:3).

REBUKING TEACHING

The fourth teaching is rebuking [increpativa], by denouncing vices and sins, saying, “You brood of vipers, who has showed you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance,” (Mt 3:7-8). Note “brood of vipers;” the Gloss says here that vipers draw venom from the womb of their mother and are naturally poisonous. Such is the condition of the Jews, so John calls them a brood of vipers, saying, “You brood of vipers, who has showed you to flee from the wrath to come?” as if to say, no one. ” Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance,” that is you should do penance measured against the quality and quantity of your sins. Note how the Jews are deceived just as now many Christians are deceived saying,” Has not God promised to Abraham and to his offspring his blessing? (Gen 22). But God was saying this because of the Messiah, the son of Abraham according to the flesh. Therefore Christ said to the Jews: “If you be the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham,” (Jn 8:39). Many Christians of wicked life are victims of this blindness and error, who do no penance for their sins, and when thy are rebuked they reply, “He that believes and is baptized, shall be saved,” (Mk 16:16). Do you want to know how stupid this is? The Lord is preparing a wedding banquet which he has proclaimed through the whole earth. “Whoever has been faithful to me and shall have clean hands, shall dine with me.” There is told the story of the peasant etc. Same for the Lord and our king Jesus Christ, on behalf of whom it has been proclaimed. “He who believes etc.” If then a man at the moment of death, believes, and has clean hands, he goes to the banquet. He is OK. Otherwise, there remains the pitchfork of hell, because these words, “He who believes and is baptized,” does not refer to the past time, but to the conjoined future. You have believed and have been purified in baptism. But since then you have been dirtied etc. It is necessary therefore that when the man goes to the banquet he believe and have clean hands. Therefore Isaiah said: “Wash yourselves, be clean,” (Is 1:16). Put down that vain confidence. From this rebuking teaching St. John is said to be the “The voice of the Lord breaking the cedars,” (Ps 28:5), that is, the proud.

CORRECTIVE TEACHING

The fifth teaching was corrective in correcting and refraining the envy of his disciples. The disciples of John, out of zeal for their master, envied Christ, because when Christ began to preach and baptize he was drawing people to himself and they were leaving John. No wonder. About this the disciples of John said, “Rabbi, he that was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you gave testimony, behold he baptizes, and all men come to him,” (Jn 3:26). Behold the flame of the fire of envy which John quenched by his corrective teaching saying, “This my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above, is above all,” (Jn 3:29-31). From this St. John is said to be, “The voice of the Lord dividing the flame of fire,” (Ps 28:7). O and how this voice would be necessary among us that it might extinguish the flame of the fire of envy which burns too much in the world, not only of envy of temporal goods, but also of a certain envy which is a sin against the Holy Spirit, namely the envy of fraternal grace. For example, if some religious wishes to keep the rules etc., immediately the others, envying, murmur and impugn him calling him a hypocrite and singular etc. And so the flame of the fire of envy burns brighter. Not so if he is a ruffian [ribaldus]. He is even praised saying, “O how welcome is that brother, etc.” Also if he has the grace of devotion or of preaching or such. Same for clergy, laity and women. Note for this, the cry of the prophet: “To thee, O Lord, will I cry: because fire has devoured the beautiful places of the wilderness, and the flame has burnt all the trees of the country,” (Joel 1:19). Note that “wilderness” signifies religious life because of the harshness of life in which religious ought to live, but the fire of envy devours all. Trees of religion are the worldly whom already the flames of envy have ignited.

BLAMING TEACHING

The sixth teaching is blaming, by blaming and convicting King Herod of concubinage. He had a wife, but because she was not as fair [alba], or beautiful, or bejeweled and made up [composita] as he wished, nevertheless she was the daughter of a king, and, despised. So Herod took on a mistress. Seeing this, John the Baptist came to him and reprehending him said: “[Herod,] it is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife,” (Mk 6:18). From this St. John is called: “The voice of the Lord shaking the desert,” (Ps 28:8).

INSTRUCTIVE TEACHING

The seventh teaching is instructive, like a good father when he doesn’t know how or is unable to instruct his sons, he sends them to a master that they be prepared by him. So St. John did for his disciples whom he was not able to instruct so that they might believe in the true Messiah, Jesus Christ. For this reason, when he had been imprisoned and near death he sent them to Christ as to a teacher that they might be instructed by him in the truth. Matthew 11: “Now when John had heard in prison the works of Christ: sending two of his disciples he said to him: Are you he who is to come, or should we look for another?” (vv. 2-3). From this St. John is called, “The voice of the Lord preparing the stags,” (Ps 28:9).

Note that good Christians are called “stags” because of the great leap which they take from earth to heaven, therefore David, in the person of Christ says: “Who has made my feet like the feet of harts: and who sets me upon high places,” (Ps 17:34). The feet by which we leap to Paradise, are true belief and obedience. The right foot is true belief [vera credentia]. The left, obedience. But some err by leaping, who believe they can ascend into heaven and descend into hell, but they have a broken right or left foot or both, because they neither have faith nor a good life. Those who doubt in faith have a broken right foot, therefore they are not able to leap into heaven. Those with a broken left foot, are those who have true belief, but do not have obedience nor good life. However the disciples of John, only limped on their right foot, because they did not believe, but not on their left, because they were living well. Therefore John sent them to Christ that he might cure them. To whom, having been cured, Christ said, “They who were limping, etc.,” now follow. After he said, “The voice of the Lord prepares the stags: and he will discover the thick woods,” namely Jesus Christ by his miracles which he did which John’s disciples saw, “and in his temple all shall speak his glory,” (Ps 28:9). Behold why St. John the Baptist said to the messengers, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,” (Jn 1:23).”

Love,
Matthew

Epiphany – St Vincent Ferrer, O.P., (1350-1419), “Angel of the Last Judgment”, Great Catholic Reformer, Patron of Reconciliation

“Today’s feast is commonly called Epiphany or Appearance, which is the same. Because the Virgin Birth which had been hidden and secret, today was manifest to the nations. So the churchmen say and call this feast Epiphany, from “epi” which is “above” and “phanos” which is “appearance,” because the star appeared over the nations. In order that God should wish to give us sentiments of sweetness of this feast in our souls, let us salute the Virgin Mary, etc.

“And falling down they adored him.” The assigned reading reveals to us in a few words the great and perfect reverence which the three kings of the east offered today to our Lord Jesus Christ, “falling down, etc.” Not only did they uncover their heads, nor were they content to bend their knees, but they folded their hands and arms, and even their whole body. “And falling down they adored him,” (Mt 2:11).

Now to give us a reason for this adoration – for reason begets understanding, and authority confirms belief – I find in sacred scripture that for true, devout and perfect adoration two things are required: a reverent attitude of the interior mind, and a humble gesture of the outward body. As for the first, when man thinks of the infinite and incomprehensible majesty of God and his transcendent power, there comes a reverent trembling interiorly in the soul, and from this there follows exteriorly a humility in the body, joining the hands, genuflecting, or prostrating oneself in prayer to God. Divine adoration consists in these two.

To understand this reason, it must be understood that God created man in his substantial being different than other creatures. Man is a composite, substantially with respect to the soul, and materially with respect to the body. Not so the angels, who are only spiritual substances, nor the animals which are material substances. Because of this man is similar to the angels and animals, because he has both.

So God wishes to be worshipped by both: from the soul thinking of the majesty of God, and from the body through humble gestures. Just like a landowner who leases his field and vineyard for a certain assessment of use. He requires an accounting from both, otherwise he takes back to himself the whole commission. So God is with us. He gives us the vine, the soul which makes the heart drunk with the love of God, and the field of the body that it might bear the fruit of repentance and mercy. So from both he would have a reckoning of devout adoration. Of the angels he asks only spiritual adoration, reverential movements of the mind. Of the animals he asks only a reverential posture of the body, like the ox and ass when they adored Christ in the manger, because they could only bend their knees, but interiorly they had no thoughts. But from us God wishes both, namely the reverent motion of the mind, and bodily actions.

Christ said, “But the hour comes, and is now, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeks such to adore him. God is a spirit; and they who adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth,” (Jn 4:23-24). Note, “the hour comes,” the time of the law of grace, “when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit” with respect to the soul, “and in truth” with respect to the body, because that is truth, when the body conforms and corresponds to the mind. And he gives a reason, saying, “God is a Spirit,” and so it is necessary to “adore him in spirit and in truth.”

Think of the miracle found in John 9, of the man born blind, given sight by Christ, to whom he says: “‘Do you believe in the Son of God?’ He answered, and said: ‘Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him?’ And Jesus said to him: ‘You have both seen him; and it is he who is talking with you.’ And he said: ‘I believe, Lord. And falling down, he adored him,'” (Jn 9:35-38). See the reverential interior movement in the soul and the external bodily gesture, because “falling down he adored him.”

The three kings acted thus when they saw the infant Jesus. Instantly there entered into their souls a movement of reverential fear from the presence of divine majesty. And so, “prostrating themselves they adored him.”

These three holy kings aptly prepared themselves. We need to know what God promised Abraham and the holy patriarchs, that he would send his son, born into this world of a virgin, true God and true man. About this he gave clear prophecies, not only to the Jews in Judea, but also to diverse parts of the world, as a sign that he would come not only to save the Jews, as they falsely believe, but also all those believing in him and obeying him.

Chrysostom repeats the opinion that there was the image of a child in that star, with a cross on his forehead. Some say that the Magi wanted to adore the star. But Augustine says that the angel of the Lord told them that they should not adore the star, but that they should make their way to adore the newly born Creator.

Then the kings took counsel how they should travel, how they should prepare, and what they should bring to offer to him, saying, “He is a great king and powerful. We should offer him gold. And he is God and creator, because the stars serve him, so we shall offer him incense. And in this sign of the cross it is revealed that he is to die on a cross, and so we shall offer him bitter myrrh.” [Ecclesiast.] The Magi seeing the star, consulted each other. “This is the sign of a great king. Let us go and inquire of him and offer him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

I believe, therefore, although it is not written, that the holy kings symbolized in their gifts what they believed about Christ. I believe that also [it was expressed] in their clothing, because the king who brought the gold, was clothed in a gold shirt, and the one who brought the incense, in a purple tunic, and the one with the myrrh, in a red scarf.

St. Thomas says (III Pars, q. 36, a. 7), repeating the opinions of others, that the essence of this star most probably was of a new creation, not in the heaven, but in the atmosphere, which moved according to divine will. Augustine believed namely that it was not of the heavenly stars, because he says in his book Contra Faustum Bk, 2, “Besides, this star was not one of those which from the beginning of the world continue in the course ordained by the Creator. Along with the new birth from the Virgin appeared a new star.” Chrysostom believes this too.

From the example of the kings we ought to offer the gold of our conversion. Such a person can say with David, “I have loved your commandments above gold and topaz,” which is a precious stone, “therefore was I directed to all your commandments: I have hated all wicked ways,” (Ps 118:127-128).

Second, the frankincense of devout prayer, saying, “Let my prayer be directed as incense [in your sight],” (Ps 140:2).

Third we should offer the myrrh of voluntary penance. And such a one can say, “You shall … make me to live. Behold in peace is my bitterness most bitter: but you best delivered my soul that it should not perish,” (Is 38:16-17).”

Love,
Matthew

Trinitarian feasting


-I LOVE SEAFOOD!!!!!

“Eternal God, eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through His sharing in Your divine nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for You. But I can never be satisfied; what I receive will ever leave me desiring more. When You fill my soul I have an even greater hunger, and I grow more famished for your light. I desire above all to see you, the true light, as you really are.

I have tasted and seen the depth of your mystery and the beauty of your creation with the light of my understanding. I have clothed myself with Your likeness and have seen what I shall be. Eternal Father, You have given me a share in Your power and the wisdom that Christ claims as His own, and your Holy Spirit has given me the desire to love You. You are my Creator, eternal Trinity, and I am Your creature. You have made of me a new creation in the blood of Your Son, and I know that You are moved with love at the beauty of Your creation, for You have enlightened me.

Eternal Trinity, Godhead, mystery deep as the sea, You could give me no greater gift than the gift of Yourself. For You are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being. Yes, You are a fire that takes away the coldness, illuminates the mind with its light and causes me to know Your truth. By this light, reflected as it were in a mirror, I recognize that You are the highest good, one we can neither comprehend nor fathom. And I know that You are beauty and wisdom itself. The food of angels, You gave Yourself to man in the fire of Your love.

You are the garment which covers our nakedness, and in our hunger You are a satisfying food, for You are sweetness and in You there is no taste of bitterness, O triune God!”

This excerpt on the mystery of the triune God from the dialogue On Divine Providence by Saint Catherine of Siena (Cap 167, Gratiarum actio ad Trinitatem) is used in the Roman Office of Readings for the liturgical memorial of St. Catherine of Siena on April 29.

Love,
Matthew