Category Archives: Order of Preachers

Nov 6 – Bl Alphonsus Navarrete, OP, (1571-1617), Priest, Martyr & Companions

Dominicans were the first missionaries to Japan, and 1530 is given as the date of their martyrdom. However, no conclusive proof exists regarding their names or number, and Saint Francis Xavier rightly holds the title of apostle to this island kingdom.

Following in Xavier’s footsteps came other missionaries, and, for about 40 years, they worked with great results among the people. Then, in the closing years of the century, persecution flared, and the blood of martyrs cried out with a louder voice than that of the preachers.

The first Dominican to die in the great persecution was Alphonsus Navarrete. When Alphonsus was very young, he gave up his inheritance to enter the Dominican Order in Valladolid and, after he had completed his studies, was sent to the Philippine missions. The great persecution had just begun in Japan. The year before Alphonsus left Spain, a group of 26 Christians, including many Franciscans and three Japanese Jesuits, were crucified in Nagasaki.

Despite the dangers, the Dominicans, who had been excluded from Japan for several years, yearned to go into the perilous mission field. Alphonsus in particular, after a trip to Europe to recruit missionaries in 1610, begged to be allowed to go to Japan. In the following year his offer was accepted and he was sent as superior of the missionary band. During the short interval of peace, they began their work, and, during six years of growing danger, they instructed the people and prepared them for the dreadful days to come.

The missionary career of Alphonsus was brief, and it was always overshadowed by the threat of death that beset the Christians in that unhappy country. However, in the few years of his apostolate, his accomplishment was immeasurable. Like his Divine Master, he went about teaching and baptizing the people. He is called the “Vincent de Paul of Japan,” because it was he who first began the tremendous task of caring for the abandoned babies there. He anticipated the work of the Holy Childhood Society by gathering up the homeless waifs and providing for their support from money he begged of wealthy Spaniards.

The warning bell of the great persecution was sounded with the martyrdom in Omura of two priests, a Franciscan and a Jesuit. Alphonus Navarrete and his Augustinian companion Ferdinand went to Omura with the intention of rescuing the relics of the martyrs and consoling the Christians. They were captured on the way, and with a young native catechist, were beheaded. Their bodies were thrown into the sea.

Five years later, on the hill of the holy martyrs of Nagasaki, more than 50 Christians sealed their faith with their blood. Some of the martyrs were beheaded, some were burned at the stake. In the group were nine Jesuits, including the famous Father Charles Spinola, SJ, nine Franciscans, and nine Dominicans, among whom were the Blesseds Alphonsus de Mena, Angelo Orsucci, and Hyacinth Orphanel. Louis Bertrand, a nephew of the saint of that same name, perished in the same persecution.

Thousands of Japanese Christians, from tiny children to old grandparents, died amid terrible torments in the profession of their faith. The anger of the persecutors was turned against all priests, brothers, and catechists, tertiaries, and Rosarians, and they made fearful attempts to stamp out all traces of the hated religion in the country. Pope Pius IX, in 1867, solemnly beatified 205 of the martyrs, among whom were 59 Dominicans of the first and third orders and 58 members of the Rosary Confraternity. Although all did not die at the same time nor place, they are listed under the name of Alphonsus Navarrete, who was the first to die.

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Prayer

O God, in the triumph of blessed Alphonsus and his companions You give us joy. We pray You, to grant us through their merits and intercession, a like steadfastness in faith and fruitfulness in work. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns forever!

Love,
Matthew

Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare

Jun 10 – Bl John Dominic, OP, (1356-1419) & Our Irrelevance

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Blessed John Dominic

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-by Br John Dominic Bouck, OP

“My guess is that this morning when you woke up, you probably turned off the alarm and thanked God for the feast of Bl. John Dominic. Wait … you didn’t? You mean, you’ve never even heard of him?

John Dominic met St. Catherine of Siena, OP, when he was young, entered the Order of Preachers, and was an integral part of a major reform movement. This reform helped to revitalize the Order after its decimation by the plague and general laxity of observance. Not only was he a major force in the Dominican Order, but he became a cardinal in the Church, and an official legate for the Pope. Most importantly, he worked to resolve the Great Western Schism. He also brought Fra Angelico, the world famous painter, and St. Antoninus, a brilliant theologian and reformer, into the Order.

So if he was such a major player in the world and in the Church, then it seems like we would hear more about him today. On the other hand, I think our collective ignorance of an important figure like Bl. John Dominic is not necessarily a tragedy, but rather is typical to all but a small group of people. We are not remembered for very long after our death. And even for those select few who are remembered, the details that we “know” about their lives are limited.

With the fact of our transience so clearly evident, what then should we make of the common cry these days for being on the right side of history? How can we ensure our historical justification before men and women who have not yet been born and who are likely never to hear our names?

Historical scholarship can be a fickle thing. Winston Churchill was to have said, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it!” Real events happen in history, but our historical recording of those events can be less than fully accurate. The project of historical research is a human endeavor to reach into the past, and as such, it is subject to the contingencies and finitude that humans must confront. We don’t have access to a great deal of evidence. We can know certain historical truths of black and white, but in between there is often a lot of gray. Persons of the past can get lost in the proverbial historical fog. What’s more, even the very choice of what persons and events to research and write about can signify some sort of bias. The historian must always seek to be objective and impartial, removing himself from any motive of propaganda.

The desire to be on the “right side of history” can presume the myth that history just keeps getting better every day. According to this view, creation is on a constant upward trajectory. The reality has been quite different. A simple survey of the horrors of the 20th century overwhelms the soul. Technological mastery in the hands of adolescent spirits has just allowed greater acts of destruction. This was the greatest age of technological progress and simultaneously the age of the most sinister manifestation of “man’s inhumanity to man.”

Why should we worry what future generations think of us? That seems pretty insecure, to worry about what others who don’t even exist yet think. It seems much better to worry about whether or not we are doing the right thing. That’s not easy in our culture, because there is not widespread agreement on precisely what that right thing is.

Most of us will fade into the past without much comment by future generations. That shouldn’t frighten us; it should motivate us. Doing the right thing for people of faith–acting according to the demands of our human nature and according to the commands of God–should be the primary motivation: not some imagined stamp of approval down the road, but the approval of our loving Maker. For people who don’t believe in God or an afterlife, it is even more critical to do what is right, because it doesn’t seem like being on the right side of history matters much if you’re not going to exist.

Historical hindsight can be 20/20, but too often our rearview mirror gives a picture that is not so clear. Bl. John Dominic knew not to worry about the vicissitudes of human chroniclers, agonizing about his place in the historical annals. Instead, he acted according to his well-formed conscience and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. That is why he is a great saint. He was a world-famous celebrity, now mostly forgotten, except by the One Who truly matters.”

Is 49:15

First Vespers:
Ant. Strengthen by holy intercession, O John, Confessor of the Lord, those here present, that we who are burdened with the weight of our offenses may be relieved by the glory of thy blessedness, and may by thy guidance attain eternal rewards.
V. Pray for us, Blessed John.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Lauds:
Ant. Well done, good and faithful servant, because Thou hast been faithful in a few things, I will set thee over many, sayeth the Lord.
V. The just man shall blossom like the lily.
R. And shall flourish forever before the Lord.

Second Vespers:
Ant. I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock..
V. Pray for us. Blessed John.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Prayer:
Let us Pray: O God, the giver of charity, who dist strengthen Blessed John, Confessor and Bishop, in the work of preserving the unity of the Church and establishing regular discipline, grant, through his intercession, that we may be of one mind and perform our actions in Christ Jesus our Lord, who with Thee liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen.

Pascal Time
First Vespers:
Ant. Come, O daughters of Jerusalem, and behold a Martyr with a crown wherewith the Lord crowned him on the day of solemnity and rejoicing, alleluia, alleluia
V. Pray for us, Blessed John with thy companions, alleluia
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ, alleluia.

Lauds:
Ant. Perpetual light will shine upon Thy Saints, O Lord, alleluia, and an eternity of ages, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
V. The just man shall blossom like the lily, alleluia.
R. And shall flourish forever before the Lord, alleluia

Second Vespers:
Ant. In the city of the Lord the music of the Saints incessantly resounds: there the angels and archangels sing a canticle before the throne of God, alleluia.
V. Pray for us, Blessed John with thy companions, alleluia
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. alleluia

Prayer:
Let us Pray: O God, the giver of charity, who dist strengthen Blessed John, Confessor and Bishop, in the work of preserving the unity of the Church and establishing regular discipline, grant, through his intercession, that we may be of one mind and perform our actions in Christ Jesus our Lord, who with Thee liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen.

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

Apr 1 – Dachau, & Bl Giuseppe Girotti, OP, (1905-1945), Priest & Martyr

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-by Br Patrick Mary Briscoe, OP

“On Good Friday 1940, the Nazi SS Guards of Dachau Concentration Camp found pretext to punish sixty-some priest-prisoners with an hour on “the tree.” One former Dachau prisoner describes the torture saying, “They tie a man’s hands together behind his back, palms facing out and fingers pointing backward. Then they turn his hands inwards, tie a chain around his wrists and hoist him up by it. His own weight twists his joints and pulls them apart.” The barbaric aptitude of the guards of Dachau incarnated the demonic for the some 2500 priests condemned to incarceration in the camp during the years 1933–1945. Priests were crowned with crowns of barbed wire while groups of Jewish prisoners were forced to hail them as kings. Guards mocked, spat upon, and forced priests to carry railroad ties, all in imitation of the crucified Lord.

Every passing day in that camp must have made all-too-real the wickedness and cruelty of Good Friday for those seemingly forsaken prisoners. Good Friday is the only calendar day during which priests do not offer the sacrifice of the Mass. Intermittently denied the ability to celebrate the sacraments, the priest-prisoners found themselves scrounging for scraps of bread to consecrate in clandestine Masses, often going long periods without the sacraments. The few luxuries they were allowed (extra helpings of food, permission to gather for prayer, etc.) evoke the comforts offered Christ during his passion, such as Veronica wiping his face or Simon helping to carry his cross. Even these comforts though were used against the priests, as the rest of the camp’s prisoners envied the liberties occasionally accorded them, making the priests despised even by the other prisoners: not unlike the rejection Christ endured from the angry mob.

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-Bl Giuseppe Girotti, OP

To be sure, not all of the priest-prisoners of Dachau were saintly men—some were actually notorious criminals—but some of Dachau’s resident clergy have been held up as model Christians by the Church, worthy of public veneration. One such priest is the relatively obscure Italian Dominican friar Giuseppe Girotti.

Fr. Giuseppe—a former student of the Servant of God Père Marie-Joseph Lagrange, OP—taught scripture and theology at the Dominican school of theology in Turin (S. Maria della Rose). He was universally beloved by his students. Fr. Giuseppe’s chef d’oeuvre, on the book of Isaiah, includes a detailed study of the beautiful passages on the Suffering Servant, passages applied in the New Testament to Christ in order to interpret his suffering and death on the Cross.  After Italy changed course to collaborate with the Allies in 1943, Fr. Giuseppe dedicated himself to aiding the Jews of Italy. Having studied in Jerusalem, he had a great respect for the Jewish people, whom he fondly called “elder brothers” and “carriers of the word.” When asked once about his work, he candidly said, “Everything I do is for charity.” He would arrange escape and hideouts for Jews.  Nevertheless, his illegal work on behalf of the persecuted Jews was eventually discovered. Fr. Giuseppe’s own via crucis (way of the cross) began on August 29, 1944, when he was betrayed, like his Master, and handed over to the police.

From the prison in Turin, Fr. Giuseppe was transferred to Milan, then to Gries, finally arriving at Dachau. As Isaiah says, “Like a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers, he did not open his mouth. Seized and condemned, he was taken away. Who would have thought any more of his destiny?” (Isa. 53:7-8). In the midst of the horrific conditions of the camp, during the cold of the winter of 1944–1945 Fr. Giuseppe often said, “We have to prepare to die, but peacefully, with lighted lamps and the happiness of the saints.” On Christmas he gave two lectures on the theological virtues, and was known for regularly teaching his fellow inmates about Sacred Scripture. Fr. Giuseppe fell ill from the camp’s inhumane state, and was transferred to the infirmary.  He died there on Easter Sunday, 1945. It is assumed his life was extinguished by a lethal injection of gasoline, as was the common practice of the Nazi prison camps. “Because of his anguish he shall see the light; because of his knowledge he shall be content” (Isa. 53:11). When word spread through the camp that he had died, a fellow prisoner carved into his empty bed the words, “Here slept Saint Giuseppe Girotti.”

Fr. Giuseppe will be formally beatified on April 26, the day before Bl. John XIII and Bl. John Paul II will be canonized saints. Fr. Giuseppe’s remarkable, humble witness of charity stands in stark contrast to the forces of evil which tormented him. This is the self-effacing embrace of the passion we memorialize on Good Friday, the day of the death of Christ, the Suffering Servant. In the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “Yet it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured. We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed” (Isa. 53:4-5). Through his own passion, Fr. Giuseppe participated in Christ’s redemptive suffering for the sake of the Church (see Col 1:24). His entrance into eternal life on the glorious day of the Resurrection sheds a ray of hope in a dark world that one day will be transformed through the saving promise of Christ’s sacred Paschal Mystery.”

Love,
Matthew

Feb 4 – St Catherine de Ricci, OSD(OP), (1522-1590) – Mystic, Stigmatist of Our Lord’s Passion

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(Feast Day:  Dominican calendar, Feb 4.  General Roman Calendar, Feb, 13.)

The Ricci are an ancient family, which still subsists in a flourishing condition in Tuscany. Peter de Ricci, the father of our saint, was married to Catherine Bonza, a lady of suitable birth. The saint was born at Florence in 1522, and called at her baptism Alexandrina, but she took the name of Catherine at her religious profession, in honor of St Catherine of Siena, OP.

Having lost her mother in her infancy, she was formed to virtue by a very pious godmother, and whenever she was missing she was always to be found on her knees in some secret part of the house. When she was between six and seven years old, her father placed her in the Convent of Monticelli, near the gates of Florence, where her aunt, Louisa de Ricci, was a nun.

This place was to her a paradise: at a distance from the noise and tumult of the world, she served God without impediment or distraction. After some years her father took her home. She continued her usual exercises in the world as much as she was able; but the interruptions and dissipation, inseparable from her station, gave her so much uneasiness that, with the consent of her father, which she obtained, though with great difficulty, in the year 1535, the fourteenth of her age, she received the religious veil in the convent of Dominican sisters at Prat, in Tuscany, to which her uncle, Fr Timothy de Ricci, OP, was director.

For two years she suffered inexpressible pains under a complication of violent distempers, which remedies only seemed to increase. These sufferings she sanctified by the interior disposition with which she bore them, and which she nourished by assiduous meditation on the passion of Christ. The victory over herself, and purgation of her affections was completed by a perfect spirit of prayer; for by the union of her soul with God, and the establishment of the absolute reign of His love in her heart, she was dead to and disengaged from all earthly things.

The saint was chosen, when very young, first as mistress of the novices, then sub-prioress, and, in the twenty-fifth year of her age, was appointed as perpetual prioress. The reputation of her extraordinary sanctity and prudence drew her many visits from a great number of bishops, princes, and cardinals-among them, the Cardinals Cervini, Alexander of Medicis, and Aldobrandini, who all three were afterwards raised to St. Peter’s chair, under the names of Marcellus II, Clement VIII, and Leo XI. They were among the thousands who sought her prayers while she lived, and even more after her passing.

Most wonderful were the raptures of St. Catherine in meditating on the passion of Christ. She received visions and had ecstasies, but these caused some problems and doubts among her sisters – outwardly she seemed asleep during community prayer, or dropping plates, or food, or dully stupid when the visions were upon her. Her sisters feared for her competence, even her sanity. Catherine thought everyone received these visions as part of their lives with God. She was stricken with a series of painful ailments that permanently damaged her health. Catherine met Philip Neri in a vision while he was alive in Rome; they had corresponded, so they knew each other. She could bi-locate. Neri confirmed during her beatification he spoke with her in person, when she was known to be in prayer in the convent and could not have physically made the trip to Rome to speak with him, a distance of nearly 200 miles. Said to have received a ring from the Lord as a sign of her espousal to Him; to her it appeared as gold set with a diamond; everyone else saw a red lozenge and a circlet around her finger.

At age 20 she began a 12-year cycle of weekly ecstasies of the Passion from noon Thursday until 4:00pm Friday, often accompanied by serious wounds. Her sisters could follow the course of the Passion, as the wounds appeared in order from the scourging and crowning with thorns. At the end she was covered with wounds and her shoulder was indented from the Cross. The first time, during Lent 1542, she meditated so completely on the crucifixion of Jesus that she became ill, and was healed by a vision of the Risen Lord talking with Mary Magdalene. Crowds came to see her, skeptics and sinners being converted by the sight. The crowds became too numerous and constant that the sisters prayed that the wounds become less visible; He made them so in 1554.

After a long illness she passed from this mortal life to everlasting bliss and possession of the object of all her desires on the feast of the Purification of our Lady, on the 2nd of February, in 1589, the sixty-seventh year of her age.

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-St Catherine de Ricci & her brothers, by Fiammetta da Diacceto

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-Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine de Ricci, by Pierre Subleyras, 1745.

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-St Catherine de Ricci receiving the wounded Christ from the Cross in a mystical vision.

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-tomb of St Catherine de Ricci, OSD

Love,
Matthew

Aug 8 – The Most Difficult Saint to Love

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“How good and how pleasant it is,
when brothers dwell in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.

It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.

For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.”

-Psalm 133

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-by Br Patrick Mary Briscoe, OP

“For non-Catholics, Francis is the easiest saint to understand and love, while Dominic is the most difficult, once remarked Chesterton.  If the abundance of Francis-emblazoned garden decorations and the world’s new-found devotion to Pope Francis—whose namesake is the beggar friar of Assisi—are a reliable indication, the statement is undoubtedly true.  The endearing vagabond stigmatist of Alverna, known for his love of creation and his sympathy for the poor, easily captures the hearts of multitudes, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In contrast, many written or artistic depictions portray Dominic as the black-and-white clad, crusade-preaching, stern-faced Spaniard of the un-holy Inquisition.  Even today it seems this unfortunate caricature of Dominic abides, as many find Saint Dominic difficult to love and to others he is completely unknown.

Perhaps some would feel drawn to Saint Dominic if his great sympathy for the poor was spoken of more frequently.  As the records of his canonization recall, when he was a student of theology he sold his books to feed the poor of Palencia.  But the great saint lived this solidarity with the poor his entire life, even dying in the bed of another friar—since he had no cell of his own.  To witness to the authenticity of his preaching, Dominic crossed the countryside walking barefoot (in great contrast to the official papal preachers of his day, travelling as they did in luxurious caravans).  A further glimpse of his absolute dedication to poverty is offered by contemporaries of Saint Dominic who attest they only ever saw him wearing the same one habit, covered in patches.

Could it not also be hard to admire Saint Dominic because of the hidden nature of his life of prayer and study?  With a reputation for sincerity and dedication to his work of learning, the young saint was known to spend many long nights poring over his books.  Later in life these sleepless vigils became nights given over to the work of prayer for the conversion of souls.  The fruits of these kinds of efforts though are all-so-often veiled from our prying eyes.

Maybe affection for Dominic is foreign to some hearts because of how little is said of the intensity of his labors.  Saint Dominic’s idea to found the Order was original and highly innovative.  To establish the unprecedented group the Order of Preachers required him to be a master of efficiency and organization. Consider the fact that Dominic only worked for five years after papal approval of the Order before his death and in that time managed to bequeath to it a lasting legacy of governance, traditions and ideals.  Accordingly, these earliest days of the Order leave behind a vivid image of the extraordinary abilities and intuition of its founder.

Is it not also possible that some struggle to be devoted to Saint Dominic because they find the idea of the work of “preaching” aloof or disconnected?  We have said Dominic was a man of study, a true intellectual, but Saint Dominic himself ordered these efforts towards his preaching.  He was a man of learning so that he could reach people with the truth, not be distanced from them! We have only to think of the night Dominic, the preacher of grace, spent speaking until dawn with an innkeeper to convert him in order to see the saint’s acquired knowledge at work, a powerful tool put to use for the salvation of souls.

The extraordinary devotion and charity marked by provision and preparation of Dominic laud not only this man, but his master, Our Lord. Orestes Brownson says of Saint Dominic, “The fact, however, is, that there never was a man more emphatically a man of peace, and a herald of the Gospel of peace, than the blessed St. Dominic. His name is never mentioned […] except as a teacher of the ignorant, a consoler of the afflicted, and a model of sanctity for all.” When a person sees the life of Saint Dominic in its grandeur and glory, humility and simplicity, Dominic can be known as he truly is: an icon of Christ. So let us draw back the curtain then and allow the image of Saint Dominic to emerge from behind the shadows of our time, that by his example and intercession multitudes of men and women may be drawn to the Light of Christ!”

Love,
Matthew

Witnesses to Christ in the World – Most Rev Anthony Fisher, OP, Bishop of Parrammatta, Australia, WYD 2011, Madrid

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“There is nothing else in the world that could bring together young people from Africa, from the Americas, from Europe, from Asia and from the greatest continent of all, Australia, nothing else.  The Olympics brings them to the same place but at the Olympics, these Aussies and Americans in the sanctuary at the moment would be fighting each other for medals.  Here, we’re all on the same team.  We’re all on Jesus Christ’s team.  Hold on to that thought in the days ahead.  Nothing else can bring the world together like Jesus Christ can bring the world together.

As you just heard, I was coordinator of the last World Youth Day held in Sydney, Australia in 2008.  Thousands of young people say that they encountered God very personally there.  Faith and idealism was deepened.   That it was the best week of their lives so far.  And amidst the massive crowds that had to be gathered and transported and fed and accommodated and toileted and the rest –  and I had to learn about all those things – amidst the complexity of those huge events, there were so many individual personal stories about God and me.  Let me tell you just a few.

Philip, a young atheist from New Zealand was persuaded by his mother to come to World Youth Day.  He told a young nun, “You have this life, this flame about you.  You’re so full of joy and I want that for myself.”  It was the beginning of a profound conversion for him.  Two other sisters told me how they met some young people in the street from communist China.  They were in Sydney for university not for World Youth Day.  They knew practically nothing about Christianity.  But the sisters talked them into coming to the opening mass with them and they gave them a crash catechism course along the way.  By the time of the consecration at the mass, these Chinese young people were crying.  They had got it.

The visiting bishop from Canada – and we see those wonderful maple flags over there – wrote about the number of ordinary Australians that he met on the street, the railway or in pubs.  I don’t know how many pubs that bishop visited.  Canadians do have a name for it.  And he wrote, “For not people of faith, these people I met were filled with wonder and curiosity and joy at how well the young people behaved and their enthusiasm for Jesus Christ.  A few of them said it really raised deep questions for them for they knew they would have to reflect upon once World Youth Day was over.  This is a great working of the Holy Spirit” he said.  It raised deep questions for them.

From very early, young children ask questions.  What is it?  Is it me or not me?  What does it taste like?  How do I manipulate it?  Why Mommy, why Daddy?  Why universe?

At first, babies think they are the universe or that the whole purpose of the universe is to satisfy their wants.  In due course, they discover rivals for the attention of the universe like their brothers and sisters – if they’re lucky enough to have them – and the complexity of negotiating with these rivals.

As they become increasingly reflective, children discover not only that the universe is not them and not even for them, but that the universe doesn’t need them.  They don’t even have to exist.  They come to understand that there was a time when they didn’t exist, that they were brought into existence and constantly sustained by others.  And that their continued existence is rather tenuous.  Eventually, as I said, they learn that the universe too comes and goes, depends each part on other parts for its beginning and its existence.

This is natural science, the study of the what and how of things which we learn at school or by reading or by our own exploring.  But behind those explorations, there’s a deeper awe before the mystery of existence itself.  And those deep questions that even guys in pubs starting asking themselves when they see World Youth Day happening.

Why is there anything at all rather than nothing at all?  Does the universe have to exist?  How can that be given its comings and goings, its causes and effects, its wholes and its parts?  Is there something necessary that grounds our unnecessary world?  Is there something unchanging that sustains our changing world?  I know I don’t have to be.  I know you don’t have to be.

There was a time when I didn’t exist and a time will come when I’ll be dead.  In the meantime, why this me and this universe?  What am I for?  Is there more for me when this life is over?  Does that something, that someone behind the universe care about me, have a plan for me?  Our deep wonder and awe at the beauty, the complexity, the resilience, the vulnerability of the universe and of ourselves is the beginning of the adventure of science but also of the adventure of religion.

Science helps explain the what and the how of things but not the ultimate why.  Our inner child keeps asking, “But Daddy, why?”  We’re left wondering not just how the world is but that the world is.

As a physicist, Stephen Hawking, once remarked, “What is it that breathes fire into these equations and makes there a world for them to describe?  Wise men and women through the ages have concluded that there are only two possible answers.  Either there is not reason, it just is, the way it is but there’s no ultimate cause, no ultimate sense to make of it all.  Or there is some cause and sustainer of things, of all life and being and meaning.  Some necessary being that gives the world its existence and sustains it without which or whom the world would not exist.

Some things are mysteries.  I don’t mean theological Sudoku puzzles that are hard to solve.  I don’t mean gobblety-gook that no one can understand.  By mysteries I mean things that are so profound yet intelligible that we can explore them and learn about them and come to understand them more and more and more and still never exhaust them.

Take the mystery of evil especially of innocent suffering. Or the sometimes more stunning mystery of good, such as the hard loving that some people do in the face of exhaustion, in gratitude or persecution.  Or the mystery of human life that parents experience when awe struck at the baby that came from them and yet they’re sure can’t just have come from them; or the mystery of a spider’s web or the Milky Way or our own minds or hearts or so much else in the natural world.

It’s not just big or small or intricate or simple but truly wonderful, full of wonders.  All these things we can explore from different perspectives.  Natural science, social science, the arts, the trades but still there is more to know.  God is the first and greatest mystery and before Him we gape uncomprehending, God.

Our minds glimpse but never fully comprehend the mystery of God.  We see and know things God has made and can point to Him as the source of being – creativity, life, knowledge, love.  For this is very partial because for every similarity between the creature and the creator, there are big differences, too.  That’s why the postures of the ancients towards God was to bow or kneel, to cover their eyes.  God is transcendent and He is tremendous.  That is, God is something that makes us tremble with terror and delight.  To have faith in God is not to identify and comprehend yet one more object in the universe.  God is not a thing.  To know God is not to know something like our dad, writ large, or a kryptonite immune Superman or a kind of super computer with Wikipedia on it only more reliable.  No, God is not in or of our universe.

But to believe in God is to believe the whole universe has a source and direction and meaning.  It’s to ask the big questions and to be ready for some unexpected answers.

Now it’s risky saying God is not a creature but the source of creatures.  That God is not a thing, but the reason for things.  That God is the big “B” being behind all beings.  It’s risky saying that because it can make God sound rather remote and hypothetical like a math theorem or an alien got the universe going and then zipped away into hyper-space.

But to believe firmly in God is to believe there is a meaning to the universe, a meaning that includes not only the big bang and the laws of nature but each individual human being and every life, our lives, every day.  It’s to believe that there is a beauty, a wisdom, a guiding hand, a universal law, an ultimate Truth, a Purpose behind the story of everything.  To grasp and hold on to this big idea, to have it planted firmly in our hearts is called faith.

There are three more things about faith that I’d like to say and I’ll say them much more quickly, because it’s hot.  Hot because of the Holy Spirit whose Mass we’ll celebrate later.  Hot because the Holy Spirit is breathing into and out of every one of you, and you’re hot; not just temperature-wise but hot with God.  So, three more quick things about faith.

I’ve said that faith is the ability to grasp and hold on to.  That big idea to have that planted firmly in our hearts; the big idea that there is a Beauty, a Wisdom, a guiding hand, a universal law, an ultimate Truth, a Purpose behind everything including me.  But my three more thoughts are first that the awe at the heart of faith, at the beauty and truth and goodness of things, at the inexhaustible mystery of things, at the impossibility of ever grasping the awesomeness of things is something worth exploring all the way to the grave and beyond.

It’s not just little kids who ask, “Why Mommy, why Daddy?  What’s that?”  We are all at heart explorers.  And at your age, there’s a very special kind of exploring to be done, exploring the big questions of the universe of God and of me, exploring the big question about what I’m for, what I will do with my life.

Secondly, that beauty and truth and goodness that we grasp for all our limitations is something we can come to know something of and know with certainty.  Appreciate with wisdom and live with passion.

And thirdly, that sort of seeking and finding requires commitment.  Be awake to all dangers says Saint Paul.  Stay firm in your faith.  Be brave and strong to everything in love.  That’s brave faith, adult faith.  After saying this, “what can we add” says Paul.  “With God on our side, who can be against us?”  Sadly, some people never grow up spiritually.  They may be very knowledgeable and sophisticated in their particular profession or art or science.  Yet on the level of faith they remain five-year-olds.  They never go on pilgrimage beyond their own little world that they know.  They never read or study or reflect on the big questions as adults.  They leave their faith stunted at the level of Santa Claus, a vague memory or sentiment from their childhood.

And then as young adults, unable to reconcile this new adult knowledge and experience with the childish faith, they either live with a kind of split personality, religious children on Sundays and sophisticated adults every other day or else they throw away their childhood religion and think themselves very sophisticated and grown up because they don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore.  They call themselves, then, agnostic or atheist which sounds more adult.

But that, frankly, is intellectual and spiritual laziness.  “Brothers and sisters,” says Saint Paul, “Don’t be childish in your outlook.  Grow up in Christ.”  If people are going to abandon their Catholic faith as adults they should at least know what or who they are abandoning understood in an adult way.

Tomorrow’s catechesis is going to focus on that question, the Who question.  Faith is all very well but faith in what, in Whom?  Tomorrow we’ll consider what the encounter with Jesus Christ does for our outlook and identity.  To say my Lord and my God is to change everything, deepen everything, find a new joy in everything.

And so on Friday, we’ll consider what it means for who and what we are in the world and for the world.

But let me conclude today’s talk with one last thought.  The world needs you to ask the big questions and not be satisfied with the glib answers.  Secularism with is amnesia about God is pushing faith and mystery to the margins.  Sells you short by saying your questions are meaningless or too hard or to profitable and that you should be satisfied with just accumulating wealth and gadgets or with the physical and emotional roller coaster ride of endless experiences and partners but with no firm faith for commitments, no self sacrifice, no possibility of transcendence.

Secularism sells you short because by God’s grace you really are capable of so much more than this.  You have the power and passion within you to do great things.  That power and passion is faith and humanity in which God and humanity are revealed in all their possibilities.

Secularism sells you short because without reference to God, without relationship with Him, we quickly lose sense with our own dignity and purpose.  But if I can declare that I believe in God who creates and sustains this wonderful world visible and invisible, that I believe in his communication to me through the natural world and my own reason informed by faith and by the scriptures and by the sacraments. That I believe in Jesus Christ is the word for my mind and in the Holy Spirit, who is inspiration for my heart.  If I can say I believe, then my life is built on rock, firm and secure.

If I can say I believe these things, then I must say also we believe.  We, that church that is big enough for all the world.  The only thing big enough for all the world drawn together by Jesus Christ, I believe.  In my diocese, we have a movement called Theology On Tap.  It’s only one of about 80 active youth groups and movements that we have.

A group of us go to a local pub each month to discuss a theological topic, so it’s not just Canadian bishops that can be found in pubs.  We get a good speaker and a good topic and have plenty of discussion.  Five, six, sometimes seven hundred young people join us there at the pub.  They’re ordinary, exuberant, diverse young people.  They come from every cultural background like a mini World Youth Day.

They’re not religious fanatics, just young people with hearts and heads big enough to wonder, believe and commit.  It’s great fun and great support for young people to be surrounded by other young people asking the same big questions as them who believe the things they do, who can encourage and strengthen them.  And with whom they can have a good time.

The church and the world right now needs young people with those sorts of questions and answers.  Firm in faith, firm in the faith not lazy about it or angry about it, not against things so much as for things, not against anyone but for someone in particular, for Jesus Christ.  And because of that, for every other human person from Africa and Asia and the Americas and Europe and Australia.

I believe, we believe, the Church needs you.  Thank you.”

Love,
Matthew

“Man, are you guys Jedis or what?”

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-by Br. Humbert Kilanowski, O.P.

“Man, are you guys Jedis or what?” That’s what a surprised inner-city schoolboy said when he first encountered some of my fellow Dominican friars. And the question is not completely without basis. Our white habits and dark leather belts do give us an appearance similar to the legendary guardians of peace and justice in the Star Wars galaxy. We carry rosaries instead of lightsabers, but we are entrusted, like the Jedi Knights, with the task of safeguarding the Truth. Yet we differ from the Jedi—as does any Christian—on several points.

The story of Star Wars is set “a long time ago,” before the birth of Christ, and the Jedi philosophy—recognized as a real-world religion in some places <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jediism>—draws from several pre-Christian strains of thought, such as Zen Buddhist mysticism and Taoist dualism. The most striking parallel, however, is with the Stoicism of ancient Greece and Rome. The Stoic philosophers were pantheists who believed that God was a “world-soul” existing within all matter, very much like “the Force,” which Obi-Wan Kenobi describes as “an energy field created by all living things.” This idea is very much opposed to the transcendent God of Christian monotheism, who is totally other than the created universe.

But there is another way in which both Stoics and Jedi find themselves at odds with Christianity—in their idea that bodily emotions, or passions, are disturbances of the soul, and thus always evil. While the Stoics typically restricted this term to passions unchecked by reason, the Jedi go further and claim that all emotions are to be avoided.

This view is expressed succinctly, thought not very clearly, by the diminutive Jedi Master, Yoda: “Anger, fear, aggression—the Dark Side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight.” The Jedi’s ideal state of mind is what Zeno and his followers called apatheia, which is not quite the same as what we call “apathy,” but is rather a total avoidance of all emotions, such as love and hate, joy and sorrow.

This last passion, sorrow, is the worst of all human experiences for Yoda: “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.” By placing the feeling of pain at the very bottom of this downward spiral, the Jedi Master not only denigrates all emotions, but asserts that suffering, an inevitable part of human experience (or, as some would say, our “lot in life”), is meaningless, and that no good can come out of it.

The life and work of Jesus Christ, therefore, is a scandal to the Jedi’s moral philosophy. Our Lord committed no sin and did no evil, yet He often experienced emotions: fear in the garden of Gethsemane, anger at the money-changers in the Temple, sorrow at the death of Lazarus, and love for all His people in the world. Moreover, His agony on the Cross accomplished the greatest possible good for the human race, namely, redemption for our sins. It even imbues our own sufferings with salvific meaning. Finally, Heaven is the cause of our greatest delight, and satisfies our most profound desires, which are even greater than our cravings for worldly adventure and excitement.

Thus, for the Christian, the emotions of the body are fundamentally good, even though they are not the highest good. They are not, as the Utilitarians claim (at the opposite extreme), the basic barometer of morality. In the section on morals in the Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas, OP, demonstrates how the passions can be good:

“The passions of the soul, insofar as they are contrary to the order of reason, incline us to sin: but insofar as they are controlled by reason, they pertain to virtue.” (I-II, 24, 2, ad 3)

Since we are more than our physical bodies and have the power to think and reason, we must not let our emotions dominate our actions, but always let our free will and knowledge harness and direct them toward the good. For example, anger can be good when it motivates a charitable act, such as correcting a neighbor’s fault or rectifying a previous act of injustice. Sorrow for sin leads to conversion and avoidance of future wrongdoing. And while irrational fear of creatures may set us on a path to darkness, a reverential “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prv 1:7).

St. Thomas uncovers the errors in Yoda’s causal chain: fear does not lead to anger (both are responses to a present evil or deprivation); anger does not lead to hate (but vice versa); yet hate does lead to suffering when it involves willing evil toward others.

We friars may look like Jedi Knights, but our theology and our moral theory are radically different. We believe that human nature is fulfilled, not by suppressing emotion, but by directing it toward the joys of contemplation and virtuous action. The fear of God, for us children of a loving Father, is the path to eternal life.

Love,
Matthew

Jan 28 – St Thomas Aquinas, O.P., (1225-1274) – Doctor of the Church, Doctor Communis, Doctor Angelicus, “The Dumb Ox!”

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Also known as the “Common Doctor/Doctor Communis”, which is high praise, meaning his opine is universal, something for everyone, relevant in every situation.

Probably, for me, the highlight, liturgically, of the year is Holy Thursday, after communion has been distributed and the priest is enwrapped in cope, incense is lit, the Blessed Sacrament is placed in the monstrance, the procession to the place of reservation begins and Pange Lingua, attributed to St Thomas Aquinas, and not just because I am his wonk, is sung beautifully and reverently, nearly as chant…

“Sing, my tongue, the Saviour’s glory,
of His Flesh, the mystery sing;
of the Blood, all price exceeding,
shed by our Immortal King…

Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail…”

It is very moving for me.  My mother always taught me to genuflect on both knees when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.  The altar is then stripped and ornamentation in the sanctuary is removed in anticipation of the events remembered the following day.  There is such a peace, solemnity, silence, and profound meaning beyond words I look forward to each year.

I tried reading the Summa on my own, once, and only once.  Emphasis on the word “tried” and “once”.  I quickly gave up.  Calculus is easier, more self-evident.

There are a great number of erudite tomes way over my head which are best introduced to the novice, literally, with a well seasoned, compassionate guide to whom the bewildered, overwhelmed student can revert with great frequency, great frequency, receiving tender mercies of experienced instruction and wisdom, presuming these qualities are present in the teacher.  Thank God for merciful instructors.  We would never graduate without their encouragement and support.  I try to imitate that with my own students, who, too, are deeply grateful, usually, but there are some… 🙁  For those students, I have to pray even harder!!! 🙂

Don’t try the Summa on your own, boys and girls.  Fair warning.  Many of the original works of the Church Fathers fall into this category as well.  You have been fairly warned!  I have the intellectual scars from those “knowledge bombs”, a term one of my students recently introduced me to, to prove it!  Wanna see?  🙂

St. Thomas Aquinas was born January 28, 1225, in Aquino, a town in southern Italy from which he takes his surname. In his masterwork, Summa Theologica, he represents the pinnacle of Scholasticism, the philosophical and theological school that reconciles faith with reason and the works of Aristotle with the scriptures.

At the time Thomas lived, the works of Aristotle were being rediscovered in the West and great Christian thinkers of the day spent a good deal of attention and effort trying to unify Divine revelation with human philosophy.  In the East, intellectual life flourished.  The West was still recovering from the inertia of the “Dark Ages”, where little intellectual innovation occurred.  It is said St Thomas was the spark who prepared the the West for the Renaissance.  Aristotle had been preserved in Arabic, and Islam was producing great Aristotelian thinkers.  Western Christians needed to respond in kind.

The family of Thomas Aquinas was a noble one, his parents, the Count of Aquino and Countess of Teano, were related to Emperors Henry VI and Frederick II, as well as to the Kings of Aragon, Castile, and France.  He was the youngest of eight children.

During his early education, Thomas exhibited great acumen in the medieval trivium of grammar, rhetoric, and logic. Described as “a witty child”, who “had received a good soul”, even as a child student, he posed the question to his instructors, “What is God?”

Because of his high birth, Thomas’ entry into the Dominican order in the early 1240s was very surprising, and especially disturbing to his family. They especially opposed entry into “mendicant”, or begging orders, who beg for their sustenance, thinking it far below their family status.

Thomas’ family employed various means to dissuade him from his vocation, including kidnapping him and imprisoning him for two years.  Thomas spent his time tutoring his sisters, and communicating with other Dominicans.  His resolve was strong.  Family members became desperate to dissuade Thomas, who remained determined to join the Dominicans. At one point, two of his brothers resorted to the measure of hiring a prostitute to seduce him. Thomas drove her away wielding a fire iron. That night two angels appeared to him as he slept and strengthened his determination to remain celibate giving him a mystical belt of chastity.  He never faced sexual temptation again. (????!!!! Really? Wow? :< I guess. Mixed feelings on that one…. 🙂 [I DO like my sin, unfortunately. 🙁 Give me strength, Lord! :] Concupiscence.

Upon his escape, which was arranged by his mother, Theodora, as a face saving measure, rather than all out surrender to a religious order, Thomas returned to the Dominicans and his studies.  Since, “still waters run deep”, Thomas was a thoughtful, and hence, quiet student.  His taciturn nature was deceiving.  So much so, his classmates thought him dim-witted.  Possessing hefty stature, his classmates nick-named him “The Dumb Ox!”

After a stint as a student in Paris, Thomas made his way to Cologne to teach, receiving ordination to the priesthood in 1250. Soon after this, he was assigned to teach at Paris, where he also worked toward his degree of Doctor of Theology, which he received in 1257, with his friend St. Bonaventure, after some intramural political difficulty.

The remainder of his life was spent in prayer, study, and writing his great Summa Theologica, a systematic attempt to present the findings of scholasticism. Although Thomas is sometimes perceived simply as an analytical and methodical writer, he was, especially in his later years, given to periods of mystical ecstasy. During one such experience, on December 6, 1273, he resigned from his writing project, indicating that he had perceived such wonders that his previous work seemed worthless.  During the Feast of St. Nicolas in 1273, St. Thomas Aquinas had a mystical vision that made writing seem unimportant to him. At Mass, he heard a voice coming from a crucifix tell him, “Thou hast written well of Me, Thomas; what reward wilt thou have?” to which St. Thomas Aquinas replied, “None other than Thyself, Lord.”

When St. Thomas Aquinas’ confessor, Father Reginald of Piperno, urged him to keep writing, Aquinas replied, “I can do no more. Such secrets have been revealed to me that all I have written now appears to be of little value, as so much straw.” St. Thomas Aquinas never wrote again.

The Summa Theologica was left unfinished, proceeding only as far as the ninetieth question of the third part. St. Thomas Aquinas died a few months later, on March 7, 1274. Today, Thomist theology stands at the center of the Roman Catholic tradition.

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-The Temptation of St Thomas Aquinas, by Diego Velazquez, 1631-2, oil on canvas, Orihuela Cathedral Museum

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– artist anonymous, Cusco School, (1690 – 1695), “Saint Thomas Aquinas, Protector of the University of Cusco”, oil on canvas, H:1,610 mm (63.39 in), W:1,170 mm (46.06 in), Museo de Arte de Lima, Peru.

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“Joy is the noblest human act.” -St Thomas Aquinas

“Charity is the form, mover, mother and root of all the virtues.” – Saint Thomas Aquinas

“To love God is something greater than to know Him.” -St. Thomas Aquinas

“Almighty and ever-living God, I approach the sacrament of your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  I come sick to the doctor of life, unclean to the fountain of mercy, blind to the radiance of eternal light, and poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth.  Lord, in your great generosity, heal my sickness, wash away my defilement, enlighten my blindness, enrich my poverty, and clothe my nakedness.  Amen.”  -St Thomas Aquinas

“May I receive the bread of angels, the King of kings and Lord of lords, with humble reverence, with the purity and faith, the repentance and love, and the determined purpose that will help to bring me to salvation.  May I receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood, and its reality and power.  Amen.”  -St Thomas Aquinas

“The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Love; It signifies Love, It produces love. The Eucharist is the consummation of the whole spiritual life.”— St. Thomas Aquinas

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Wonderful Theologian and Doctor of the Church, you learned more from the Crucifix than from books. Combining both sources, you left us the marvelous “Summa” of theology, broadcasting most glorious enlightenment to all.  You always sought for true light and studied for God’s honor and glory.  Help us all to study our religion as well as all other subjects needed for life, without ambition and pride in imitation of you. Amen.

Prayer

Father of wisdom, You inspired Saint Thomas Aquinas with an ardent desire for holiness and study of sacred doctrine. Help us, we pray, to understand what he taught, and to imitate what he lived.   Amen.

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