Category Archives: 3OP

Nov 12 – Bl Br Oderic of Normandy, OP, (d. early 13th cent.) – 1st Cooperater Brother

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-by Br Thomas Martin Miller, OP (Br. Thomas Martin Miller was raised as a Lutheran in York County, PA by his parents Charles and Patricia and discovered the Catholic Church while attending Boston College.)

“It is fitting that this week of blog posts dedicated to the cooperator brother saints of the Order of Preachers (those not ordained priests) should begin on the feast of St. Mark, frequently considered the evangelist with the most workmanlike prose.

As St. Mark is oft-reputed the first of the evangelists and closely connected with Peter, it is further fitting that we should begin with the tale of Bl. Oderic of Normandy, the first cooperator brother of the Order and a man chosen by St. Dominic himself.

What we know of his life is brief: He probably met Dominic while on the armed crusade against the Albigensians parallel to St. Dominic’s spiritual mission. Dominic, perhaps inspired by the Cistercians who had been his preaching companions, decided to adopt their custom of sending lay brothers as prudent companions for traveling preachers. Oderic, inspired by the small band of men gathering around Dominic, but lacking the education needed for the priesthood, was chosen to be the first of these cooperators in the mission of the new Order.

In the summer of 1217, when Dominic dispersed the brethren to the great university cities of Europe, Bl. Oderic was sent to Paris with Matthew and Dominic’s own brother Mannes. Together they founded the convent of St. Jacques, where St. Thomas Aquinas would later study and teach, and on account of which the Order of Preachers is today known as “Jacobins” in French (not to be confused with the revolutionary radicals of 1789, who were so named because they met in the shadow of that famous convent).

Oderic’s task was to care for the material needs of the convent so that the clerical brothers could concentrate on study. Oderic performed his task with humble faithfulness. The brothers are called cooperators because they are integral parts of the preaching which is truly the work of the whole community, and they witness to the value of that preaching with their lives of obedience.

Dominic was frustrated in his plan to give all temporal cares of the Order to the lay brothers, but they nonetheless undertook most such necessities: there were many skilled tradesmen among them. Like the priests of the Order, the brothers could be dispensed from communal prayer when it was necessary to carry out these tasks. The primitive constitutions of the Order make clear that while priests and lay brothers were equally bound to prayer and penance after their own capacities and furthermore shared the vow of obedience, their distinctive gifts were to be respected: the priests were not to undertake any task that would unnecessarily remove them from preparation for preaching, while the brothers were not to engage in any activity that would distract them from the temporal tasks that made preaching concretely possible.

The care of the lay brothers was reciprocated by the clerics: St. Dominic found a loaf of bread for a famished brother in an act of miraculous mendicancy (Vitae Fratrum 2.8), and on the vigil of the first feast of St. Dominic after his beatification, a brother was healed by his intercession (VF 2.43).

The cooperator brothers have thus been full beneficiaries from the beginning of Dominic’s promise to be even more useful to the brethren after his death than he was in life. Bl. Oderic himself apparently profited in full by his apprenticeship to the Preacher of Grace and shouldered his burdens virtuously—not only with the ease of a journeyman and the joy befitting a preacher of the Good News, but also with a promptness that would please St. Mark, whose Gospel uses the word “immediately” over forty times.”

Love & cooperation,
Matthew

Apr 13 – Bl Margaret of Castello, OP, (1287-1320) – Patroness of the Beauty, Dignity, & Sanctity of Human Life

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“Though father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” -Ps 27:10

In our society, where medical testing can be done to assure that only children without defects are born, those who are born with handicaps are often regarded as “tragic” oversights. In this light, the “unwanted” of the world have a patron saint in a medieval woman who was born a crippled, blind and hunchbacked dwarf.

Bl. Margaret of Castello, a Third Order Dominican, like me, was born in the fourteenth century in Metola, Italy to noble parents who wanted a son. When the news was brought to the new mother that her newborn daughter was a blind, hunchbacked dwarf, both parents were horrified. Little Margaret was kept in a secluded section of the family castle in the hopes that her existence would be kept secret. However, when she was about six years old, she accidentally made her presence known to a guest. Determined to keep her out of the public eye, her father had a room without a door built onto the side of the parish church and walled Margaret inside this room. Here she lived until she was sixteen, never being allowed to come out. Her food and other necessities were passed in to her through a window. Another window into the church allowed her to hear Mass and receive Holy Communion. The parish priest became a good friend, and took upon himself the duty to educate her. He was amazed at her docility and the depth of her spiritual wisdom.

When Margaret was sixteen years old, her parents heard of a shrine in Citta di Castello, Italy, where many sick people were cured. They made a pilgrimage to the shrine so that she could pray for healing. However, Margaret, open to the will of God, was not healed that day, or the next, so her parents callously abandoned her in the streets of the town and left for home, never to see her again. At the mercy of the passersby, Margaret had to beg her food.

Margaret was passed from family to family until she was adopted by a kindly peasant woman named Grigia, who had a large family of her own. Margaret’s natural sweetness and goodness soon made themselves felt, and she more than repaid the family for their kindness to her. She was an influence for good in any group of children. She stopped their quarrels, heard their catechism, told them stories, taught them Psalms and prayers. Busy neighbors were soon borrowing her to soothe a sick child or to establish peace in the house.

Her reputation for holiness was so great that a community of sisters in the town asked for her to become one of them. Margaret went happily to join them, but, unfortunately, there was little fervor in the house. The little girl who was so prayerful and penitential was a reproach to their lax lives, so Margaret returned to Grigia, who gladly welcomed her home.

Later, Margaret was received as a Dominican Tertiary and clothed with the religious habit. Grigia’s home became the rendezvous site of troubled souls seeking Margaret’s prayers. She said the Office of the Blessed Virgin and the entire Psalter by heart, and her prayers had the effect of restoring peace of mind to the troubled.

Denied earthly sight, Margaret was favored with heavenly visions. “Oh, if you only knew what I have in my heart!” she often said. The mysteries of the rosary, particularly the joyful mysteries, were so vivid to her that her whole person would light up when she described the scene. She was often in ecstasy, and, despite great joys and favors in prayer, she was often called upon to suffer desolation and interior trials of frightening sorts. The devil tormented her severely at times, but she triumphed over these sufferings.

A number of miracles were performed by Blessed Margaret. On one occasion, while she was praying in an upper room, Grigia’s house caught fire, and she called to Margaret to come down. The blessed, however, called to her to throw her cloak on the flames. This she did, and the blaze died out. At another time, she cured a sister who was losing her eyesight.

Beloved by her adopted family and by her neighbors and friends, Margaret died at the early age of 33. From the time of her death, her tomb in the Dominican church was a place of pilgrimage. Her body, even to this day, is incorrupt. More than 200 miracles have been credited to her intercession after her death. She was beatified in 1609. Thus the daughter that nobody wanted is one of the glories of the Church.

After her death, the fathers received permission to have her heart opened. In it were three pearls, having holy figures carved upon them. They recalled the saying so often on the lips of Margaret: “If you only knew what I have in my heart!”

W. R. Bonniwell writes, “Her cheerfulness, based on her trust in God’s love and goodness, was extraordinary. She became a Dominican tertiary and devoted herself to tending the sick and the dying” as well as prisoners in the city jail.

How does Margaret’s story apply to our times? Her parents wanted a boy, and if not a boy, at least a perfect girl. In the eyes of the world, she was useless, and what right do useless people have to live? Bl. Margaret helped innumerable others by her life and her good deeds, finding holiness by uniting her sufferings to Christ’s. And now, some 670 years after her death, she teaches us valuable lessons by her very being.

Bl. Margaret lived a life of hope and faith, practicing heroic charity, though little was shown her in return. She came from a home where she was deprived, not because her parents had no wealth, but because they valued their material wealth and status more than their spiritual treasures.

Deprived of all human companionship, Margaret learned to embrace her Lord in solitude. Instead of becoming bitter, she forgave her parents for their ill treatment of her and treated others as well as she could. Her cheerfulness stemmed from her conviction that God loves each person infinitely, for He has made each person in His own image and likeness. This same cheerfulness won the hearts of the poor of Castello, and they took her into their homes for as long as their purses could afford. She passed from house to house in this way, “a homeless beggar being practically adopted by the poor of a city” (Bonniwell, 1955).

Bl. Margaret died on April 13, 1320 at the age of 33. More than 200 miracles have been credited to her intercession since her death. She was beatified in 1609. Thus, the daughter that nobody wanted is now one of the glories of the Church.

First Vespers:
Ant. This is a wise Virgin whom the Lord found watching, who took her lamp and oil, and when the Lord came she entered with Him into the marriage feast. (P.T. Alleluia.)
V. Pray for us Blessed Margaret. (P.T. Alleluia.)
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. (P.T. Alleluia.)

Lauds:
Ant. Come, O my chosen one, and I will place my throne in thee, for the King hath exceedingly desired thy beauty. (P.T. Alleluia.)
V. Virgins shall be led to the King after her. (P.T. Alleluia.)
R. Her companions shall be presented to Thee. (P.T. Alleluia.)

Second Vespers:
Ant. She has girded her loins with courage and hath strengthened her arm; therefore shall her lamp not be put out forever. (P.T. Alleluia.)
V. Pray for us Blessed Margaret. (P.T. Alleluia.)
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. (P.T. Alleluia.)

Prayer:
Let us Pray: O God, Who wast pleased that Blessed Margaret, Virgin, should be born blind, that, the eye of her heart being inwardly enlightened, she might continually contemplate Thee alone, be Thou the light of our eyes, that we may have no part in the darkness of this world, but be enabled to arrive at the land of eternal brightness Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer to Margaret of Castello

Compassionate God, You gave Your divine light to Blessed Margaret who was blind from birth, that with the eye of her heart she might contemplate You alone. Be the light of our eyes that we may turn from what is evil and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

– General Calendar of the Order of Preachers

Novena to the Blessed Margaret of Castello

First Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, in embracing your life just as it was, you gave us an example of resignation To the will of God. In so accepting God’s will, you knew that you would grow in virtue, glorify God, save your own soul, and help the souls of your neighbors. Obtain for me the grace to recognize the will of God in all that may happen to me in my life and so resign myself to it. Obtain for me also the special favor, which I now ask, through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world, and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. This we ask in humble submission To God’s Will, For His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Second Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, in reflecting so deeply upon the sufferings and death of our Crucified Lord, you learned courage and gained the grace to bear your own afflictions. Obtain for me the grace and courage that I so urgently need so as to be able to bear my infirmities and endure my afflictions in union with our suffering Savior. Obtain for me also the special favor which I now ask through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world,
and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. this we ask in humble submission to God’s will, for His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Third Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, your love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was intense and enduring. It was here in intimacy with the Divine Presence that you found spiritual strength to accept suffering, to be cheerful, patient, and kindly towards others. Obtain for me the grace that I may draw from this same source, as from an exhaustible font, the strength whereby I may be kind and understanding of everyone despite whatever pain or discomfort may come my way. Obtain for this through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world,
and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. this we ask in humble submission to God’s will, for His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Fourth Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, you unceasingly turned to God in prayer with confidence and trust in His fatherly love. It was only through continual prayer that you were enabled to accept your misfortunes, to be serene, patient, and at peace. Obtain for me the grace to persevere in my prayer, confident that God will give me the help to carry whatever cross comes into my life. Obtain for me also the special favor which I now ask through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world, and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. this we ask in humble submission to God’s will, for His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Fifth Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, in imitation of the Child Jesus, who was subject to Mary and Joseph, you obeyed your father and mother, overlooking their unnatural harshness. Obtain for me that same attitude of obedience toward all those who have legitimate authority over me, most especially toward the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Obtain for me also the special favor which I now ask through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world, and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. this we ask in humble submission to God’s will, for His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Sixth Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, your miseries taught you better than any teacher the weakness and frailty of human nature. Obtain for me the grace to recognize my human limitations and to acknowledge my utter dependence upon God. Acquire for me that abandonment which leaves me completely at the mercy of God. Obtain for me also the special favor which I now ask through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world, and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. this we ask in humble submission to God’s will, for His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Seventh Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, you could have so easily become discouraged and bitter; but, instead, you fixed your eyes on the suffering Christ and there you learned from Him the redemptive value of suffering . How to offer your pains and aches, in reparation for sin and for the salvation of souls. Obtain for me the grace to learn how to endure my sufferings with patience. Obtain for me also the special favor which I now ask through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world, and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. this we ask in humble submission to God’s will, for His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Eighth Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, how it must have hurt when your parents abandoned you! Yet you learned from this that all earthly love and affection, even for those who are closest, must be sanctified. And so, despite everything, you continued to love your parents – but now you loved them in God. Obtain for me the grace that I might see all my human loves and affections in their proper perspective… in God and for God. Obtain for me also the special favor which I now ask through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world, and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. this we ask in humble submission to God’s will, for His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Ninth Day:
O Blessed Margaret of Castello, through your suffering and misfortune, you became sensitive to the sufferings of others. Your heart reached out to everyone in trouble – the sick, the hungry, the dying prisoners. Obtain for me the grace to recognize Jesus in everyone with whom I come into contact, especially in the poor, the wretched, the unwanted! Obtain for me also the special favor which I now ask through your intercession with God.

Let us pray…
O God by whose will the blessed virgin, Margaret, was blind from birth, that the eyes of her mind being inwardly enlightened she might think without ceasing on You alone; be the light of our eyes, that we may be able to flee the shadows in this world, and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, glorify your servant Blessed Margaret, by granting the favor we so ardently desire. this we ask in humble submission to God’s will, for His honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

Prayer
O my God, I thank you for having given Blessed Margaret of Castello to the world as an example of the degree of holiness that can be attained by anyone who truly loves you, regardless of physical abnormalities. In today’s perverted culture, Margaret would have, most likely, never been born; death through abortion being preferable to life, especially life in an ugly distorted twisted body. But Your ways are not the world’s ways… And so it was Your Will that Margaret would be born into the world with just such a malformed body. It is Your way that uses our weakness to give testimony to Your power. Margaret was born blind, so as to see You more clearly; a cripple, so as to lean on You completely; dwarfed in physical posture, so as to become a giant in the spiritual order; hunch-backed, so as to more perfectly resemble the twisted, crucified body of Your Son. Margaret’s whole life was an enactment of the words expressed by Paul: “So I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me and that is why I am content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships, persecutions and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10). I beseech you, O God, to grant through the intercession Of Blessed Margaret of Castello, that all the handicapped … and who among us is not?… all rejected, all unwanted of the world may make their weaknesses their own special boast so that your power may stay over them now and forever. Amen.

Blessed Margaret of Castello, pray for us.

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-Dominican Sisters look at the to-scale statue of Blessed Margaret of Castello

Castello Nursing Simulation Learning Center at Saint Thomas West Hospital, the state-of-the-art nursing simulation laboratory, named after Blessed Margaret of Castello, O.P. (1287–1320). The Castello Center consists of 24 simulated patient care settings, including critical care, neonatal care, residential care facilities, hospice, and home health.

Love,
Matthew

Apr 14 – Bl Peter Gonzalez, OP, (1190-1246) – St Elmo’s Fire!!!

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-statue of “Saint” Telmo/Elmo, Frómista, province of Palencia, Spain.

Bl Peter, is sometimes referred to as Pedro González Telmo, Saint Telmo, or Saint Elmo. González was educated by his uncle, the Bishop of Astorga, who gave him a canonry when he was very young. On one occasion, he was riding triumphantly into the city, his horse stumbled, dumping him into the mud to the amusement of onlookers (this happens to A LOT of saints?). Humbled the canon reevaluated his vocation and later resigned his position to enter the Dominican Order. González became a renowned preacher; crowds gathered to hear him and numberless conversions were the result of his efforts.

He spent much as his time as a court preacher. After King Saint Ferdinand III of Castile and Leon captured Córdoba, Peter was successful in restraining the soldiers from pillaging the city.

Fearing that the honors and easy life offered by the king’s court would lead him to return to his previous ways, he left the court and evangelized to shepherds and sailors. Peter devoted the remainder of his life to preaching in northwest Spain, and developed a special mission to unlettered Spanish and Portuguese seamen. He died on April 15, 1246, at Tui and is buried in the local cathedral.

Although his cultus was confirmed in 1741 by Pope Benedict XIV, and despite his common epithet of “saint,” Peter was never formally canonized. Peter González was beatified in 1254 by Pope Innocent IV.

The diminutive “Elmo” (or “Telmo”) belongs properly to the martyr-bishop Saint Erasmus (died c. 303), one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, of whose name “Elmo” is a contraction. However, as Erasmus is the patron saint of sailors generally, and Peter González of Spanish and Portuguese sailors specifically, they have both been popularly invoked as “Saint Elmo.”

St. Elmo’s fire is a pale electrical discharge sometimes seen on stormy nights on the tips of spires, about the decks and rigging of ships, in the shape of a ball or brush, singly or in pairs, particularly at the mastheads and yardarms. It also appears on aircraft in flight especially on the nose of the plane where it can be seen dramatically by the pilots. The mariners believed them to be the souls of the departed, whence they are also called corposant (corpo santo). The ancients called them Helena fire when seen singly, and Castor and Pollux when in pairs.

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Br Norbert Keliher, OP, is a graduate of Harvard University, where he studied Latin and Greek. Before entering the order, he spent a year teaching in New York City and a year studying theology at Notre Dame.

“Imagine that you’re on a seventeenth-century Spanish merchant ship, sailing back with wares from the East Indies. A storm overtakes you, with howling wind and monstrous waves. Who would you call on for help? None other than St. Elmo, of course. In 1662, some sailors reported that the saint himself appeared to them and the sea calmed down.

We all need help on the seas of life, and it is good to know that we have a ready intercessor in St. Elmo (or Telmo)—not the fuzzy red animal thing, but a 13th-century Dominican Blessed. To Dominicans he is known as Bl. Peter Gonzalez, and his feast is celebrated today, April 14th.

Each saint lives out some part of the mystery of Christ, whose full measure is too great for any one person to embody. In Bl. Peter’s case, he has a share in our Lord’s power over the wind and waves. Jesus demonstrated His own power over nature on the Sea of Galilee, and Bl. Peter’s intercession makes it available to sailors of the past and present.

Bl. Peter Gonzalez was one of the Dominicans from St. Dominic’s own time, entering the Order in 1219. He was from Spain and spent most of his active preaching life in his home country. He had a wide-ranging ministry which included serving in the royal court of Ferdinand III, helping to improve the morals of the king’s army, preaching to Muslims, and working among the poor. But Bl. Peter is best known for the last part of his ministry, in which he preached to sailors in Spain and Portugal. His concern for their souls was the source of the sailors’ devotion to him, because he was tireless in his efforts to reach them, whether they were in taverns or on the docks. After his death, the sailors remembered both his love for them and a weather-related miracle that he had performed.

On this occasion, Bl. Peter was preaching outside the city of Bayonne to a large crowd when a storm rolled in. The people were afraid that rain would soon follow the thunder and lightning, and got ready to leave. But Bl. Peter, like any good preacher, did not want to lose his audience. He reassured them that God would protect them, and then prayed for help against the storm. At a distance around the crowd, rain flooded the countryside but did not touch those listening to Bl. Peter. Who could forget an experience like this? News of the miracle spread quickly, and sailors who knew it started to invoke Bl. Peter’s intercession at sea after he died.

Whether we invoke him under the name of St. Elmo or Bl. Peter Gonzalez (the former name was already popular among sailors, and they started using it for Bl. Peter), this holy man will come to our aid in the midst of our personal storms. Not many of us will encounter a storm on the high seas, but we all know what it is like to reach a crisis, when every person and event seems to be working against us. Our Lord wants us to trust not only in Him, but in the intercessors He has given for our benefit. Appealing to a saint when we are desperate increases our faith in God’s Providence, which wisely orders all things. We receive a glimpse of how He intends for us to receive help from just this saint at just this time. Afterward, our gratitude at being helped strengthens our devotion to that particular saint, as well as our awareness of how close the whole communion of saints is to us.

The next time a storm hits, try this short prayer: “Bl. Peter Gonzalez, pray for us!”

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Ah, to pine for one’s youth!! 🙁

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest (c. 1623), Act I, Scene II, St. Elmo’s fire acquires a more negative association, appearing as evidence of the tempest inflicted by Ariel according to the command of Prospero:

PROSPERO:

Hast thou, spirit,
Perform’d to point the tempest that I bade thee?

ARIEL:

To every article.
I boarded the king’s ship; now on the beak,
Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,
I flamed amazement: sometime I’ld divide,
And burn in many places; on the topmast,
The yards and bowsprit, would I flame distinctly,
Then meet and join.
— Act I, Scene II, The Tempest

The fires are also mentioned as “death fires” in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

“About, about, in reel and rout, The death fires danced at night; The water, like a witch’s oils, Burnt green and blue and white.”

Almighty God, you bestowed the singular help of Blessed Peter on those in peril from the sea. By the help of his prayers may the light of your grace shine forth in all the storms of this life and enable us to find the harbor of everlasting salvation. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. – General Calendar of the Order of Preachers

Love,
Matthew

Aug 23 – “Grace follows after tribulation.” – St Rose of Lima, OP

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Let us know the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding.

“Our Lord and Saviour lifted up His voice and said with incomparable majesty: “Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.

When I heard these words, a strong force came upon me and seemed to place me in the middle of a street, so that I might say in a loud voice to people of every age, sex and status: “Hear, O people; hear, O nations. I am warning you about the commandment of Christ by using words that came from His own lips: We cannot obtain grace unless we suffer afflictions. We must heap trouble upon trouble to attain a deep participation in the divine nature, the glory of the sons of God and perfect happiness of soul.”

That same force strongly urged me to proclaim the beauty of divine grace. It pressed me so that my breath came slow and forced me to sweat and pant. I felt as if my soul could no longer be kept in the prison of the body, but that it had burst its chains and was free and alone and was going very swiftly through the whole world saying:

“If only mortals would learn how great it is to possess divine grace, how beautiful, how noble, how precious. How many riches it hides within itself, how many joys and delights! Without doubt they would devote all their care and concern to winning for themselves pains and afflictions. All men throughout the world would seek trouble, infirmities and torments, instead of good fortune, in order to attain the unfathomable treasure of grace. This is the reward and the final gain of patience. No one would complain about his cross or about troubles that may happen to him, if he would come to know the scales on which they are weighed when they are distributed to men.”

—Saint Rose of Lima, virgin
Office of Readings, 23 August

Love,
Matthew

Mercy & Justice

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Why did Jesus, the Son of God, have to atone?  Good question.  Not every offense carries the same gravity or punishment, even if the offense is identical.  Allow me, gentle, kind reader.

I want to use a disturbing example, indulge me kind reader, indulge me, I beg.  Imagine throwing a rotten tomato at a sleeping or unconscious homeless person in an alley, no witnesses.  Terrible, I realize, but it helps to make the point.  What penalty will you suffer?  Very likely none, if that child of God even awakes, or is able.  What if you threw the same rotten tomato at the President of the US?  You might have a problem.  My point, and the Church’s, is reason demands it depends on the dignity of the person so offended.  It does.  “Remember, money doesn’t go to jail”, as the saying goes, tragically.  The penalty will, must, by reason reflect the dignity of the personage so offended.

Now imagine God, and offending His infinite majesty. This is sin.  What is the penalty?  Terrifyingly infinite, but still, proportionate. Who can atone for even the least modicum of offense against God? Only God. See? Makes sense, doesn’t it? That’s the scary part, if you are willing and study, you will see again, and again, the reasonableness and infinite mercy of Christ’s salvation. You will. Do you dare? Will this knowledge, this awareness have consequences, implications to you and your life and how it is lived? Will you do the hard, long work of examination of your own conscience? Will you convict yourself? I hope so. I pray so. It will be accounted. The salvation of our souls is real. Pray for me and mine, I beg you. I truly do. Recall, justice is a mercy to the offended mortal.

“It would not be out of place at this point to recall the relationship between justice and mercy. These are not two contradictory realities, but two dimensions of a single reality that unfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love.” -Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, §20

From the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, OP, (1347-1380), Doctor of the Church, recording God’s words to her:

“This is why I gave the world my only-begotten Son. The clay of humankind was spoiled by the sin of the first man, Adam, and so all of you, as vessels made from clay, were spoiled and unfit to hold eternal life. So to undo the corruption and death of humankind and to bring you back to the grace you had lost through sin, I, exaltedness, united Myself with the baseness of your humanity. For my divine justice demanded suffering in atonement for sin. But I cannot suffer. And you, being only human, cannot make adequate atonement. Even if you did atone for some particular thing, you still could make atonement only for yourself and not for others. But for this sin you could not make full atonement either for yourself or for others since it was committed against Me, and I am Infinite Goodness.

Yet I really wanted to restore you, incapable as you were of making atonement for yourself. And because you were so utterly handicapped, I sent the Word, my Son; I clothed Him with the same nature as yours—the spoiled clay of Adam—so that He could suffer in that same nature which had sinned, and by suffering in His body even to the extent of the shameful death of the cross He would placate My anger.

And so I satisfied both My justice and My divine mercy. For My mercy wanted to atone for your sin and make you fit to receive the good for which I had created you. Humanity, when united with divinity, was able to make atonement for the whole human race—not simply through suffering in its finite nature, that is, in the clay of Adam, but by virtue of the eternal divinity, the infinite divine nature. In the union of these two natures I received and accepted the sacrifice of My only-begotten Son’s blood, steeped and kneaded with his divinity into the one bread, which the heat of My divine love held nailed to the cross. Thus was human nature enabled to atone for its sin only by virtue of the divine nature.”

Love, and constantly needing His mercy,
Matthew

Dominican habit

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The basic element of the Dominican habit is the tunic. The tunic is a white woolen one-piece, shoe-top length gown with long sleeves and cuffs. A Dominican first puts on the tunic while praying:

Clothe me, O Lord, with the garments of salvation.
By Your grace may I keep them pure and spotless,
so that clothed in white,
I may be worthy to walk with You in the Kingdom of God.
Amen.

The next element of the habit is the cincture. The Dominican cincture is a black leather belt with a simple silver buckle. As Saint Thomas Aquinas was girded in chastity his entire life, so to does a Dominican gird himself each day with the cincture of chastity and justice. The cincture became a customary part of the Dominican habit in honor of Saint Thomas, and it is Dominican tradition to ask Saint Thomas for his intercession to protect one’s purity. While fastening the cincture, a Dominican prays:

Gird me, O Lord, with the cincture of justice and the cord of purity
that I may unite the many affections of my heart in the love of You alone.
Amen.

Next, a rosary is hung from the cincture on the left side. Today, the Dominicans wear a 20 decade rosary that corresponds to the full Rosary, including the Luminous Mysteries (in addition to the Joyful, Glorious, and Sorrowful mysteries) added by the great and Venerable Pope John Paul II. Typically, the rosary has black beads and hangs from a clip nearer to the wearer’s hip, with the crucifix and first several beads of the rosary passed behind and over the cincture towards the wearer’s front. While adding the rosary to the cincture, the following prayer is recited:

O God, whose only-begotten Son,
by His life, death, and resurrection,
has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life,
grant, we beseech Thee,
that meditating upon the mysteries of the
Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise,
through the same Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Now with the cincture and rosary in place over the tunic, the Dominican puts on the scapular. The scapular is a long white strip of cloth (about shoulder width), with a hole for the head, that is worn over the shoulders, extending to near the bottom of the tunic in the front and the back. The scapular was given to Blessed Reginald of Orleans by our Blessed Mother for him to pass on to Saint Dominic. The scapular was traditionally the most important article of the habit, signifying one as definitively a member of an order. The Dominican scapular is put on while saying this prayer:

Show yourself a mother,
He will hear your pleading
Whom your womb has sheltered
And whose hand brings healing.

Next, the Dominican habit is composed of the white capuce, a short rounded shoulder cape that has a white hood attached to it. The capuce is the only head covering used by Dominicans liturgically, and fits over the scapular. While donning a capuce, a Dominican prays:

Lord,
You have set Your sign upon my head
that I should admit no lover but You.
Amen.

The two most distinctive parts of the Dominican habit follow next. Over the white capuce is worn the cappa magna, a long black cloak that is equal in length to the tunic and scapular. In England, Dominicans are casually referred to as Blackfriars in reference to the large black cappa magna. Overlaying the purity of life, because we are men, struggling with sin, lays the cappa magna symbolizing necessary penance. The black cappa magna was part of the original Dominican habit given to Blessed Orleans by our Blessed Mother. While putting on the cappa magna, a Dominican prays:

We fly to your patronage, O Holy Mother of God,
do not despise our prayers in our necessity,
but free us from all peril, O Blessed Virgin.
Amen.

Finally, the Dominican puts on the black capuce, with hood, which overlays the cappa magna and serves as an outer black shoulder cape and covering for the hood. The black capuce completes the Dominican habit and, along with the cappa magna, is traditionally always worn by a Dominican while outside the convent, and in the convent too from All Soul’s Day until the Gloria of the Easter Vigil.

Love,
Matthew, OP

Apr 29 – “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on (spiritual) fire!”

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Lk 12:49

“Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on (spiritual) fire!” -St Catherine of Siena, OP

jordan zajac
-by Br Jordan Zajac, OP

“…Catherine offered this advice over six hundred years ago, it seems perfectly suited for modern sensibilities. That is to say, our dulled spiritual sensibilities. …

to consider any aspect of ourselves or our actions outside of our connection to God is the first and most fundamental misstep. Only the Incarnate Lord can supply the heat needed to start the kind of fire for which He, and St. Catherine along with Him, yearn.

Like other mystics and saints, St. Catherine returns again and again to the image of the Divine Fire—a symbol for the experience of God’s presence in contemplative prayer. But St. Catherine is unique among the saints for the way she uses this image to build a simple, yet profound kind of pyromaniacal pedagogy—a system for spiritual development rooted in a deeper union with God. It is in the context of this spiritual teaching that we can best appreciate both halves of Catherine’s most famous quote.

Expressed in another way, “be who God meant you to be” means “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). How can we, so weak and limited, possibly strive for a perfection that mirrors God’s? As with all His teachings, Christ would not ask it of us unless He knew we were capable, and that it would contribute to our ultimate happiness. Here the Fire becomes crucial. St. Catherine identifies the Divine Fire as nothing other than charity—God’s “inestimable Fire” of love for us, His creatures. As St. Thomas explains, man’s spiritual life consists principally in charity, and the person that is perfect in charity is said to be perfect in the spiritual life. This is the kind of perfection to which Christ calls us.

The process can only begin, as it did for Catherine, by experiencing that Fire. More often we feel simply burned out, not burning with God’s love. Physical sensations, as well as emotions, however, are unsteady guides. When relying on them, we’ll sputter out like firecrackers, whereas a persevering will and simple faith will keep us going even when we don’t feel like we are getting anywhere. The Fire may be gone in feeling, but not in grace. “Lord, set me on fire with Your love,” we can ask with humble directness. Or we can thoughtfully pray the Magnificat, the prayer of Mary when she literally had the Divine Fire within her, to reignite us. Then there are the sparks provided in the sacraments. Receiving absolution in Confession is like a molotov cocktail for the soul. St. Catherine says that man comes to Mass like an unlit candle, and when Communion is received worthily his candle is lit.

Elsewhere Catherine uses the image of coals. Coals, we could say, are happiest when they’re on fire, because that is what they are meant to be. The more thoroughly they are heated, the more they take on the very fire they’re in. The same goes for the soul enflamed by the Fire. Just as love transforms a person into what he loves, Catherine explains, so our soul’s inflamed love of God (Who is Charity Itself) produces a more intense, sincere love of neighbor. It is by this charity that we begin to truly set the world on fire.

“We are the Easter people,” Pope St. John Paul II declared. But there can be no Easter without fire. The Easter season begins and ends in flames: the Vigil commences with a blazing fire, and Pentecost is signaled by tongues of flame. This year, the feast of the patron saint of holy pyromania falls halfway between, bridging the two solemnities in a meaningful way. Through her incandescent intercession, may we not burn out or burn down, but rather burn within—and without, to the world.

Love & Happy Easter People! Let us blaze with His love!
Matthew

Apr 29 – St Catherine of Siena, OP, (1347-1380), Seraphic Virgin, Doctor of the Church, “Lessons of Love”

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-by Br Athanasius Murphy, OP

“‘Love does not stay idle.” – St. Catherine of Siena, Letter T82

Can we really imitate a fourteenth century saint whose life had such great austerity, who fasted with such severity? What lesson can we learn from a Church Doctor whose diet was raw vegetables, whose sleep pattern was non-existent, and whose community was called the “Sisters of Penance”?

Admittedly St. Catherine of Siena’s life was one of penance. Bl. Raymund of Capua’s biography of her makes this clear enough. But I think it’s hard to make sense of St. Catherine’s life of penance unless you’ve made sense of her life of love. Here are a few short teachings from St. Catherine on love:

Love impels us to desire. If love is the reason why we desire, then love is the reason why we live. We can’t live without love because we always want to love something. Love moves us and unites us to the thing we love in order to rest in it. When we love something we don’t just want a superficial understanding of it, but we want what it really is, and nothing keeps us away from it.

St. Catherine knew how to fast because she knew how to love. Penance was admittedly part of her life and letters, but her literature is saturated with descriptions of love. It’s perhaps the single most common word in her letters. There are many goods in this life that we desire, but the supreme good – God, who gives us divine life, beatitude, ultimate happiness – this is the ultimate end that we strive to have in love. St. Catherine knew her need for love.  She often ended her letters with the salutation “Love, love, love one another, sweet Jesus, Jesus, Love.”

Love makes room. In love we forget about ourselves and make room for another. When we fast from little goods we make room for perfect love that comes from Love himself. In doing this we can see where we have false loves – when we love ourselves or another in a way that doesn’t reflect reality. Removing a false self-love in us, God makes room within us for Himself. But us loving God more means we become more of ourselves; there is more of us present in each act of love. God makes room in the temple of ourselves until he lead us to the Incorruptible Temple of Himself.

 by Agostino Carracci
-“The Ecstasy of St Catherine”, Agostino Carracci, 1590, Baroque, oil on canvas, Galleria Borghese, Rome, Italy

Only in receiving this Divine Love could St. Catherine care for the sick and the poor and nurse plague victims the way she did. Love, not penance, was the foundation of her life:

“If, then, we made ourselves build on penance as a foundation, it might come to nothing and be so imperfect that we would seem to be deprived of God, and soon [we] would fall into weariness and bitterness…we should strive to give only a finished work to God Who is Infinite Love Who demands from us only infinite desire.” – Letter to Daniella of Orvieto

This divine love was the source of her own love towards those she cared for:

“God has loved us without being loved, but we love Him because we are loved…we cannot profit Him, nor love Him with this first love…In what way can we do this, then, since he demands it and we cannot give it to Him? I tell you…we can be useful, not to Him, which is impossible, but to our neighbor…love is gained in love by raising the eye of our mind to behold how much we are loved by God. Seeing ourselves loved, we cannot otherwise than love.” – Letter to Brother Bartolomeo Dominici

Love transforms. St. Catherine states that “love transforms one into what one loves” (Dialogue 60). In loving God, we become like the One we love. When two things are joined together, there can’t be anything between them, otherwise there wouldn’t be a complete union of them together. This is how God wants us to be with Him in love. Once we are removed from selfish love we can love God with the love with which He has first loved us. St. Catherine takes this transformative love to the highest level:

“The eternal Father said [to me], ‘If you should ask me what this soul is, I would say: she is another me, made so by the union of love.” (Dialogue 96)

By God’s love we become kneaded and knit into our Creator Who redeems us and lets us participate in His divine love.

Ultimately, St. Catherine’s love led her to a life of penance and service to her neighbor. There’s no saying it wasn’t a harsh life – she died at age 33 – but it was certainly a life lived in love. She saw all of her actions and penances tied up in the cross of Christ: a tree not of unnecessary torture and grief but a tree of love. St. Catherine wished to graft herself into that tree and so be joined to the fiery love that comes from Christ.

St. Catherine certainly had her share of penance, but I think the primary lessons she teaches us are in love. If you want a reason for St. Catherine’s penitential life, look to Christ who loved her with an infinite love. Cling to Christ as the One Who lives and Who wants to live in you.”

“Let the eye of understanding rest on the Cross always. Here you’ll discover true virtue and fall in love with it.”
–St. Catherine of Siena

“Start being brave about everything. Drive out darkness and spread light. Don’ look at your weaknesses. Realize instead that in Christ crucified you can do everything.”
-St. Catherine of Siena

“He who knows how to forgive prepares for himself many graces from God. As often as I look upon the Cross, so often will I forgive with all my heart (Diary, 390).”

“No greater joy is to be found than that of loving God. Already here on earth we can taste the happiness of those in heaven by an intimate union with God, a union that is extraordinary and often quite incomprehensible to us. One can attain this very grace through simple faithfulness of soul (Diary, 507).”

“I am not counting on my own strength, but on His omnipotence for, as He gave me the grace of knowing His holy will, He will also grant me the grace of fulfilling it (Diary, 615).”

“An extraordinary peace entered my soul when I reflected on the fact that, despite great difficulties, I had always faithfully followed God’s will as I knew it. O Jesus, grant me the grace to put Your will into practice as I have come to know it, O God (Diary, 666).”

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My Nature Is Fire

In your nature, eternal Godhead,
I shall come to know my nature.
And what is my nature, boundless love?
It is fire,
because you are nothing but a fire of love.
And you have given humankind
a share in this Nature,
for by the fire of love You created us.
And so with all other people
and every created thing;
you made them out of love.
O ungrateful people!
What nature has your God given you?
His very own nature!
Are you not ashamed to cut yourself off from such a noble thing
through the guilt of deadly sin?
O eternal Trinity, my sweet love!
You, Light, give us light.
You, Wisdom, give us wisdom.
You, Supreme Strength, strengthen us.
Today, eternal God,
let our cloud be dissipated
so that we may perfectly know and follow your Truth in truth,
with a free and simple heart.
God, come to our assistance!
Lord, make haste to help us!
Amen.
-St Catherine of Siena

Love,
Matthew

Sep 28 – Sts Lawrence Ruiz & Companions, (1600?-1637), Husband, Father, Catechist, Martyr

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At St Matthias, the church nearest where Kelly and I and Mara currently live, there is a shrine to St Lawrence Ruiz.  I really didn’t know who he was.  There are some Filipino grandmothers at Mass there regularly whom I would never want to “mess with”.  The would take me out.  I am convinced.  They wear their veils and the biggest scapulars I have ever seen.  I don’t mess with Filipino grandmothers who wear over-sized scapulars and are always at Mass.  They scare me to my soul.  I don’t mess.  There is a Filipino grandmother curse with my name on it if I do, I am convinced.  “The fear of the Lord and of Filipino grandmothers who wear big scapulars and are always in church is the beginning of Wisdom.”  I am sure I have seen these exact words in Scripture.  🙂

Lawrence (Lorenzo) was born in Manila of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons and a daughter.

His life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that “he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him.”

At that time three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo, having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan.

They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he reported, “I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards would hang me there.” In Japan they were soon found out, arrested and taken to Nagasaki. The site of wholesale bloodshed when the atomic bomb was dropped had known tragedy before. The 50,000 Catholics who once lived there were dispersed or killed by persecution.

They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently from mouth, nose and ears.

The superior, Antonio, died after some days. Both the Japanese priest and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage by their companions.

In Lorenzo’s moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, “I would like to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life.” The interpreter was noncommittal, but Lorenzo, in the ensuing hours, felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators.

When government officials asked, “If we grant you life, will you renounce your faith?,” Lorenzo responded: “That I will never do, because I am a Catholic, and I shall die for God, and for Him I will give many thousands of lives if I had them. And so, do with me as you please.”

The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards fitted with semicircular holes were fitted around their waists and stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. The three Dominican priests, still alive, were beheaded.

Beatified in 1981, Pope John Paul II canonized these six and 10 others, Asians and Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith in the Philippines, Formosa and Japan in 1987. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr.

O most merciful and almighty God,
You bestowed as gift to Lorenzo Ruiz
The strength to withstand
The overpowering forces of death
For the sake of his faith in You.

Through his prayers,
Help us to follow his example
By overcoming all life’s trials
And eventually, increase
Our hope and love in You.

O St. Lorenzo Ruiz,
You brought honor to your country,
Having been a level-headed
And prudent father of the family,
A witness of Christ in your life
Until your death.

We present all our petitions
To God through your help
So that by our actions,
We may know more and love more
Jesus our Lord and Savior.

We humbly implore
Your intercession O dear St. Lorenzo,
For the infinite glory of God
And in honor of your triumph
As a martyr of Christ
And defender of Christianity.

Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Nov 5 – Servant of God Giorgio La Pira (1904-1977), The Godly Mayor – a job, a house, & music…

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What can one person do?  Certainly little in the modern world?  Right?  Certainly?  This excuse is regularly used to avoid challenging questions one’s conscience may pose.  The cost is one’s mental health and, possibly, one’s soul.

Giorgio La Pira was a charismatic and popular politician – the type of big city civic character who might seem familiar to Americans. What distinguishes La Pira is that this three-time mayor of Florence may well have been a saint. Governing in the 1950’s and 60’s he had an overriding concern for the poor, was a defender of the rights of workers and, later on, became an international apostle of peace.

On April 26, 2004, Italy celebrated the centenary of Giorgio La Pira. On that occasion, in a meeting with representatives from the National Association of Italian Municipalities, Pope John Paul II praised the former mayor of Florence as a man who “set forth with firmness his ideas as a believer and as a man who loved peace, inviting his interlocutors to a common effort to promote this basic good in various spheres: in society, politics, the economy, cultures and among religions.” Eighteen years earlier, in 1986, the formal process for the cause of the beatification of Giorgio La Pira began.

Even before his death, Giorgio La Pira was already considered a living saint by some in Italy.  His clothes were alleged to have miraculous healing powers. Amintore Fanfani, La Pira’s friend and fellow Christian Democrat, was reported to have used an old hat of La Pira’s to cure minor illnesses suffered by his children. Who was this man?

Giorgio La Pira was born on January 09, 1904 in Pozzallo, a town in the province of Ragusa in Sicily. Born the eldest of six children, La Pira’s family was not wealthy. His father, Gaetano, worked in a packing house. However, like many Italian children, La Pira was brought up in a Catholic household that valued education. After moving to Messina to live with an uncle, La Pira received both a traditional education in the Classics as well as a business education, receiving a degree in accounting. Law school was the next step in an academic career that would eventually see the cheerful Sicilian awarded the Chair of Roman Law at the University of Florence in 1933.

While beloved by his students, La Pira eventually ran afoul of Italy’s Fascist regime. Having helped found the anti-fascist magazine Principles in 1939, La Pira became a target of Mussolini’s police, prompting La Pira to seek refuge in the Vatican City where he worked for L’Osservatore Romano, the newspaper of the Holy See. After the end of World War II, La Pira played an important role in shaping the future of the Italian Republic. As part of the Constituent Assembly, La Pira helped craft the new Italian constitution, standing firmly in favor of the legal indissolubility of the family and championing the authority of fathers within the family. In 1948, La Pira went to work for the government of Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi as Undersecretary of Labor in the Ministry of Employment and Social Insurance.

During his period in the national government, La Pira became associated with the left-wing of the Christian Democratic Party, along with Giuseppe Dossetti, Amintore Fanfani, and Giuseppe Lazzati. Known as the “Little Professors” because of their impressive academic credentials and Christian idealism, the friends founded the journal Cronache Sociali, a left-leaning journal of Christian social thinking. La Pira’s writings on economics were heavily influenced by John Maynard Keynes and other British sources including Stafford Cripps and the Labour Party in general. For La Pira and many of his allies on the left-wing of the Christian Democratic Party, Clement Attlee’s Labour government in Great Britain was the model that post-war Italy ought to follow on questions of economics.

When La Pira became Mayor of Florence in 1951, he brought with him many of the economic ideas he developed while writing for the Cronache Sociali and working in the national government on problems of unemployment and other socio-economic issues. These ideas would be put to the test in a concrete fashion when La Pira was faced with a city suffering from high unemployment and a housing shortage. Wasting little time, La Pira’s administration burst into action, developing a number of public works projects designed to alleviate the city’s unemployment problem. Under La Pira’s watch, bridges destroyed during the war were rebuilt, water works and public transportation systems were repaired or built, low-cost public housing was constructed for the homeless residents of the city, and various artistic and cultural programs were developed. La Pira’s vision for Florence was a city of self-sufficient neighbourhoods with a vibrant cultural life.

Of course, La Pira’s administration is probably most famous for its extensive policy of municipalisation that earned him the love of workers and the hatred of many industrialists. In 1955, La Pira’s city government took over a failed foundry and turned over its operation to the workers, allowing them to elect their bosses from among their own ranks. In response to changes in national government policy that allowed evictions from rent-controlled apartments, La Pira requisitioned old Fascist buildings and even the villas of wealthy Florentines for the purpose of rehousing evicted tenants.

In perhaps his most famous action as Mayor of Florence, La Pira saved hundreds of jobs at the Pignone industrial plant, which at that time was making cotton-spinning machines for the textile industry. Due to a slump in demand in the textile business, Pignone was being closed down by its private owners. However, the workers refused to leave, sleeping and taking meals in the factory and continuing to work the machines. La Pira joined the workers in attending Mass and worked with the union leadership to find a resolution to the problem of the plant’s closure. Eventually, La Pira was able to convince Enrico Mattei, the head of ENI, Italy’s powerful state-run energy corporation, to take over the factory and place it under public ownership, thus saving more than one thousand jobs.

La Pira’s generosity with the public treasury was only matched by his own personal attitude toward those in need. It was not unusual to find the Mayor of Florence walking about with no shoes, no coat, and no umbrella, because he had given away his clothing to the poor. La Pira, who was a Dominican tertiary, lived in an unheated monastery cell in the Basilica of San Marco, although he sometimes lodged with a doctor friend when it was especially cold outside.  His behavior caused him to be dubbed “the Saint” by the people of Florence. Indeed, despite the fact that he was hated by many businessmen in Italy, their allies in the Christian Democratic Party could not afford to replace La Pira with another candidate as he was seen as the only person who could defeat the Communists in left-wing Florence.

After La Pira served his final year as Mayor of Florence in 1964, he largely devoted himself to the cause of international peace, working to bring an end to conflicts in Vietnam and the Middle East in particular. His work in favor of disarmament and Third World development also merit mention, and the bespectacled Sicilian even travelled to Chile to try to prevent the coup d’état against President Salvador Allende.

In 1976, Giorgio La Pira returned to active politics at the request of the Christian Democratic Party. Despite ill-health, La Pira stood for election and won a seat in the Chamber of Deputies. La Pira’s last actions as a politician reflect the changing problems of the world he lived in. La Pira was a vehement opponent of abortion and fought against its legalization, with L’Osservatore Romano running his article “Confronting Abortion” on its front page on March 19, 1976. La Pira also spoke out against the increasing violence and materialism of modern society, connecting his opposition to abortion to his support for disarmament and world peace.

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On November 05, 1977, Giorgio La Pira passed away. His funeral was unsurprisingly well attended, and the attendees included the thousands of workers whose jobs he saved at the Pignone factory and elsewhere.

Perhaps more than any other member of the Christian Democratic Left, La Pira actively embodied the ideals of a Christian version of social democracy. La Pira put into action his statement that every person was entitled to “a job, a house, and music,” even if it caused many people within his own Christian Democratic Party to accuse him of statism or “spurious Marxism,” as the venerable Don Luigi Sturzo, one of the founders of Italian Christian Democracy, put it.

La Pira responded to Don Sturzo by describing the dire unemployment situation in Florence, particularly among the young, and asking him what he would do if he were mayor. In our own age, when so many people are left out of work, when so many young people cannot start families because the market cannot provide enough work to form the economic basis of family life, Christians cannot shrink in fear from accusations of statism or Marxism. Giorgio La Pira provides us with a bold example of political action in favor of peace, family life, and social justice (including justice for the unborn) with real meaning, not just words.

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In Cardinal Benelli’s sermon preached in the Duomo at La Pira’s funeral, he asserted that “everything about La Pira can be understood through faith, without faith nothing about him can be understood”. Nor is there any doubt that this is the sole key to understanding “the Professor’s” life.

His fundamental working hypothesis, expressed in every sort of circumstance and in every place, was always based on the certainty of the resurrection of Christ: “if Christ be risen, as He is risen…” he used to say, going on to affirm that the entire history of all peoples is conditioned by this event.

“The holiness of our century will have this characteristic. It will be a holiness of laypeople. We encounter on the streets those who within 50 years may be on the altars–along the streets, in factories, in parliament and in university classrooms.” -Giorgio La Pira

O God, You have given to Your servant Giorgio La Pira
the grace to testify admirably in the cultural, social and political life of our time.

Grant us the grace, we ask, that the Church may recognize his heroic virtues and is revered by the Christian people as inspirer of charity, justice, peace. Amen.

“There is no doubt that the Lord had placed in my soul the desire for priestly grace; only, however, that He wished that I remain in my lay garb to labor with more fecundity in the secular world far from Him. But the goal of my life is clearly marked out: to be the Lord’s missionary in the world; and this apostolate will be carried out!”
-April 1931  Giorgio La Pira (from the letter to his aunt, Settimia Occhipinti)

“One last thing: I am not a priest, as you have supposed: Jesus did not want that of me! I am just a young man to whom Jesus has given a great grace: the desire to love Him without limits and to have Him be loved without limits.”
-Easter 1933 (16 April)  Giorgio La Pira (from the letter to the Mother Prioress of Santa Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi)

“Then the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
-Gen 4:9

Love,
Matthew