Nov 13 – St Francis Xavier Cabrini, MSC, (1850-1917), Universal Patron of Immigrants

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As the national debate wrangles/rages on with regards to undocumented persons in this country, I took a pilgrimage recently.  Probably the shortest pilgrimage anyone could take.  Just a few blocks up Lake Shore Drive.  You know I couldn’t pass this up, don’t you?

St Frances Cabrini was small in stature, and poor in health most of her life.  Yet, this petite immigrant nun founded sixty-seven institutions of care and support for immigrants in the US, Europe, and Central and South America, in her sixty-seven years of life.  A CEO and entrepreneur if God ever needed one, and those hospitals, schools, and orphanages she established which benefited countless people in need certainly did.  An able leader in time of need who responded in faith.  “I can do all things through Him, Who strengthens me!” (Phil 4:13)  Omnia possum in eo qui me confortat! was her constant motto.

Francesca was born on July 15, 1850, in Sant’Angelo Lodigiano, Lombardy, Italy, one of eleven children from Agostino Cabrini and Stella Oldini who were rich cherry tree farmers. Sadly only four of the eleven survived beyond adolescence. Small and weak as a child, born two months premature, she remained in delicate health throughout her life.  As a child growing up in Italy, she dreamed about being a missionary to China. She sailed paper boats down a stream, pretending they were ships bringing missionaries to China. She also gave up eating candy because, she reasoned, if she lived in China, she probably wouldn’t be able to have any.

When she grew up, Frances tried to join two different convents. Because of her poor health, she was not accepted. She taught school for a while. Then a priest asked her to help out in a small home for orphans. Things were very hard for Frances because of the lady who ran the house. Eventually, the bishop had to close the orphanage because of this difficult woman.  Ah, people.  God gives us each other to help us all grow in holiness.  How sad if we misunderstand this or miss the chance.  One bite at the apple, as lawyers say, but we always, with the exception of saints, do.  I do.  Constantly.

At the same time, this same priest who asked Frances to help at the orphanage asked her to begin a community of sisters dedicated to teaching. Without hesitating, Frances started at once. Before long, the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart began to grow, first in Italy and then in many other countries. Frances, whom everyone called Mother Cabrini, had always had her heart set on going to China, but it seemed that God wanted her to go to America instead. When Pope Leo XIII told her, “Go West, not East,” the matter was settled. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini sailed for the United States and became an American citizen. She especially helped large numbers of Italian immigrants. She was a real mother and friend to them.

Mother Cabrini and her sisters had a very hard time in the beginning. The archbishop of New York even suggested that they go back to Italy, since the house they anticipated would be available to them wasn’t when they arrived.

But Mother Cabrini answered, “Your Excellency, the pope sent me here and here I must stay.” The archbishop admired her pioneer spirit, and so she and her sisters were permitted to begin their great work for God. Schools, hospitals, and homes for children were opened up in different states. As the years passed, Mother Cabrini made many trips to spread her congregation and its works. There were always difficulties, but she put all her trust in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. “It is He who is doing everything, not us,” she would say.  This small, sickly woman was terrified of water but made more than two dozen crossings of the Atlantic.  What God CAN DO!  I have a rule.  I don’t mess with nuns.  Has seemed to work for me all my life.  🙂

When Mother Cabrini arrived on the North Side of Chicago more than a century ago, she set out to transform an old hotel into an orphanage.  Instead, Archbishop James Edward Quigley asked her to open a hospital. Before leaving the city to travel the world, she had opened three.

On Thursday, Nov 18, 2011, architects, developers and nuns in hard hats broke ground and unveiled plans to restore the national shrine to the first American citizen to be declared a saint at the site of the Columbus Hospital she founded and where she died of complications from dysentery while preparing Christmas candy for local children.  In response to Mother Cabrini’s canonization in 1946, there was an overwhelming response of pilgrims to the room where she died in Chicago.  The shrine was built to accommodate them, and restored to us, today, an architectural gem of gold mosaics, Carrera marble, murals, and Florentine stained glass.

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http://cabrinishrinechicago.com/

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Boarded up and shrouded in scaffolding for nearly 10 years, the renovated National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini features a garden grotto as well as the original iron bed, dresser, kneeler and desk from the hospital room where the patron saint of immigrants died in 1917. The shrine, at 2520 N. Lakeview Ave., reopened to the public this Fall.

“We need the shrine in order to remember her,” said the Rev. Ted Ploplis, coordinator of spiritual services at St. Joseph Hospital. Ploplis expects to become rector of the shrine.

“She was the Mother Teresa of the century before this. She knew what God wanted her to do, and she did it. It’s important to have a place where we can really celebrate her life, tell her story and live her mission. She has wonderful things to teach us,” he said.

Sister Joan McGlinchey, of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the order founded by Mother Cabrini more than 130 years ago, said the shrine is intended to continue Mother Cabrini’s mission of helping the poor become productive members of society.

“Our passion is to make God’s love visible now in our city and continue the mission that Mother Cabrini started,” said McGlinchey, one of six sisters between the ages of 65 and 86 now serving in Chicago. “We are pleased to introduce a new generation to this holy woman who lived, worked and died in Chicago and made a tremendous difference in the lives of so many through her life and mission.”

Sealed after Mother Cabrini’s death to preserve the holy presence nuns believed filled the space, the room in which she died was reconstructed as an annex to the new Columbus Hospital’s chapel after the original building’s demolition in the late 1940s.

For years after her canonization in 1946, pilgrims made their way to the shrine. Mothers would place their infants on the iron bed as they prayed. It was restored to its original austerity in 1988.

The annex and chapel were boarded up again when the property off Lakeview Avenue was purchased nearly 10 years ago. Construction on condominiums began in 2006.

Originally a chapel for the Cabrini-founded Columbus Hospital, the shrine, at 2520 N. Lakeview Ave., had been closed since 2002 as construction crews built condominiums in place of the old medical buildings when the hospital property was sold to developers.  The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus negotiated with the new owners of the property to preserve the shrine and chapel in the new development as a condition of sale.  The Columbus Hospital had been built around the shrine and its church obscuring the building within the building from outside viewers.  Now it is beautifully revealed.

The worship space is now a sanctuary below a residential high-rise.  In his homily at the rededication, Cardinal George said he once questioned whether the shrine should reopen on the same site. But he was convinced that it should stay by leaders of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, who led the preservation effort and, the cardinal said, “proved to be correct.”

Dozens of nuns were on hand for the event, having flown in for the dedication from around the world. They said having the national shrine back in Chicago was important, as it kept a tangible reminder of Cabrini close to an area where she served.

“Together, we prayed and we discerned, and St. Frances Cabrini died in Chicago and is really a Chicago saint,” said Sister Bridget Zanin, a hospital chaplain in Des Plaines. “Therefore, I think it was important for the people of Chicago and the people of the United States to have a place where they can come and pray and find inner peace.”

A two-hour rededication Mass night filled every pew with nuns, former hospital employees and local Catholics. Those in attendance said restoration crews did a nice job of preserving the character of the sanctuary while adding office space, exhibits about Cabrini and a spacious lobby.

Michele Houser said she married her husband in the chapel. She picked the site because she worked as a physical therapist at Columbus Hospital. Seeing it reopened with its frescoes touched up and a grander entrance was special, she said.

“It’s an exciting experience to be back here and have it restored so beautifully,” said Houser, who lives in Libertyville.

Cardinal George did say he was glad to be back at the Cabrini Chapel, a place George said he first visited as a young boy when his cousin was hospitalized at Columbus and later frequented as a priest.

Zanin agreed with George that the chapel was special, and she’s hopeful that it will inspire more people.

You GO GIRL!!!  With your GOOD-self!!! 🙂  YES, JESUS!!!

Prayer to St. Frances Cabrini for Calmness and Kindness

Great St Frances Xavier Cabrini, through your missionary work you radiated great light to those in need. Yours was a simple way, a kindly way, yet you accomplished many great and small tasks. I ask that you help me to stay calm and unwavering in the pursuit of my own projects of compassion, love, and forgiveness of others, especially those whom may be difficult to love in my own family and community.

Ask Him Who strengthened you to strengthen me.  Mother Cabrini, bolster my faith in my many moments of doubt. Help me find the simple and sure way to Jesus, and serve Him as you did.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Feast of the Holy Family

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-“Christ Discovered in the Temple”, 1342, Simone Martini, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK, this is my most FAV pic of the Holy Family!!!!  Ain’t NOBODY happy here!!!!  🙂

With all the debate and pronouncements regarding the modern “definitions” of marriage & family, moral theology issues, etc., in my bewilderment and dismay, the only comfort I have found, the only thing that brings peace and makes sense, is to deepen my devotion to the Holy Family.  Join me, please.

(The morning offering prayer is a traditional Catholic prayer, this one adapted for fathers.)

Morning Offering Prayer of a Father:

“O My Jesus, I offer this day to You…
All my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings…
And, through You, I make this offering to our Father in heaven.

Be with me through this whole day in all its particulars,
And assist me that it may become a worthy offering in every way.

Be close to me in all I think and say and do.
Direct Your Spirit to speak to me…
And help me listen attentively when He does speak…

So that, in my response,
Your thoughts may become more surely my thoughts,
And Your ways may become my ways;
So that my judgments may accord with Your judgments,
And that the sentiments of my heart may be most like Your own Most Sacred Heart;

So that my conversation with others
May be the conversation I may ask You to share with us,
And that my works may be works I ask You to approve.

Help me to have the practical wisdom to look to Your Mother
From time to time throughout the day
And invite her to pray with me –
Realizing her concern that I be in all things faithful to You
And that Your graces be fruitful in me
To form me after the perfect fatherhood of God.

May I know the continued grace to work with You in all I do,
And not merely for You…
So that my day may become a perfect offering…

Lived with You and in You and through You,
To be presented to our Father in joy and love.

Amen.”

Good St Joseph, Head of the Holy Family, Patron of Husbands and of Fathers, Faithful Servant, Entrusted Guardian & Protector of our Lord: I, too, have been highly favored and blessed, entrusted with the care of soul and body of this Daughter of God as my life’s vocation.  With you as my exemplar, ask your foster Son to grant me the graces always to faithfully fulfill my Christian duty as a husband and father until my own death.

O, Good St Joseph, in thanksgiving and rejoicing for this great joy and honor God has bestowed upon me – to participate with Him as co-Creator of Life, I beg you to come to my assistance and pray for me!  Be my constant advocate before the Throne of God in all my necessities and trials!  Amen.

Collect: O God, Who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of Your house, delight one day in eternal rewards. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Pray for us!

Love,
Matthew, Kelly & Mara

Dec 14 – St John of the Cross, OCD (1541-1591) – Doctor of the Church, Doctor of Mystical Theology

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-El Greco’s landscape of Toledo, Spain (ca 1596) depicts the priory in which John was held captive, just below the old Muslim alcázar and perched on the banks of the Tajo on high cliffs

One of the Great Catholic Reformers, Saint John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz) (b: 24 June 1542 — d: 14 December 1591), born Juan de Yepes Alvarez of a Jewish converso family, was a major figure of the Catholic Reformation, a Spanish mystic, and Carmelite friar and priest, born at Hontoveros, Old Castile.

John learned the importance of self-sacrificing love from his parents. His father gave up wealth, status, and comfort when he married a weaver’s daughter and was disowned by his noble family. After his father died, his mother kept the destitute family together as they wandered homeless in search of work. These were the examples of sacrifice that John followed with his own great love of God.

John was a reformer and re-vitalizer of the Carmelite Order and is considered, along with Saint Teresa of Ávila, as a founder of the Discalced Carmelites. He is also known for his writings. Both his poetry and his studies on the growth of the soul are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature and one of the peaks of all Spanish literature.

Ordained a Carmelite priest at 25 (1567), John met Teresa of Jesus (Avila–October 15) and like her vowed himself to the primitive Rule of the Carmelites. As partner with Teresa and in his own right, John engaged in the work of reform, and came to experience the price of reform: increasing opposition, misunderstanding, persecution, imprisonment.

Yet, the paradox! In this dying of imprisonment, John came to life, uttering poetry. In the darkness of the dungeon, John’s spirit came into The Light, paper he used to write on passed to him by one of his guards.

There are many mystics, many poets; John is unique as mystic-poet, expressing in his prison-cross the ecstasy of mystical union with God in the “Spiritual Canticle”.

But as agony leads to ecstasy, so John had his “Ascent to Mt. Carmel”, as he named it in his prose masterpiece.  Thomas Merton said of John: “Just as we can never separate asceticism from mysticism, so in St. John of the Cross we find darkness and light, suffering and joy, sacrifice and love united together so closely that they seem at times to be identified together and inseparable.”

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-“The Ascent of Mount Carmel”, as depicted in the first edition of 1618 by Diego de Astor

The Church of England commemorates him, too, as a “Teacher of the Faith” on this same day.

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-In the iconography of St John of the Cross, you can see the words written in the book, which was St John of the Cross’ motto:  “Domine, pati et contemni pro te!”  “Lord, to suffer and be despised for You!”

“Live in the world as if only God and your soul were in it; then your heart will never be made captive by any earthly thing.” -St. John of the Cross

“The Lord measures out perfection neither by the multitude of our deeds, but by the manner in which we perform them.” -St. John of the Cross

“To saints, their very slumber is a prayer.” -St. John of the Cross

“In the first place it should be known that if a person is seeking God, his Beloved is seeking him much more.” -St. John of the Cross

Prayer of Peace

“O Blessed Jesus, grant me stillness of soul in Thee. Let Thy mighty calmness reign in me. Rule me, O thou King of gentleness, King of peace. Give me control, control over my words, thoughts and actions. From all irritability, want of meekness, want of gentleness, O dear Lord, deliver me. By thine own deep patience give me patience, stillness of soul in Thee. Make me in this, and in all, more and more like Thee. Amen.”-St John of the Cross

“Let Your divinity shine on my intellect by giving it divine knowledge, and on my will by imparting to it the divine love and on my memory with the divine possession of glory.

Let us so act that by means of this loving activity we may attain to the vision of ourselves in Your beauty in eternal life. That is: That I be so transformed in Your beauty that we may be alike in beauty, and both behold ourselves in Your beauty, possessing now Your very beauty; this, in such a way that each looking at the other may see in the other his own beauty, since both are Your beauty alone, I being absorbed in Your beauty; hence, I shall see You in Your beauty, and You shall see me in Your beauty, and I shall see myself in You in Your beauty, and You will see Yourself in me in Your beauty; that I may resemble You in Your beauty, and You resemble me in Your beauty, and my beauty will be Your beauty and Your beauty my beauty; wherefore I shall be You in Your beauty, and You will be me in Your beauty, because Your very beauty will be my beauty; and therefore we shall behold each other in Your beauty.

O abyss of delights! You are so much the more abundant the more Your riches are concentrated in the infinite unity and simplicity of Your unique being, where one attribute is so known and enjoyed as not to hinder the perfect knowledge and enjoyment of the other; rather, each grace and virtue within You is a light for each of Your other grandeurs. By Your purity, O divine Wisdom, many things are behold in You through one. For You are the deposit of the Father’s treasures, the splendor of the eternal light, the unspotted mirror and image of His goodness.

Awaken and enlighten us, my Lord, that we might know and love the blessings which You ever propose to us, and that we might understand that You have moved to bestow favors on us and have remembered us.

O Lord, my God, who will seek You with simple and pure love and not find You are all he desires, for You show Yourself first and go out to meet those who desire You?

My spirit has become dry because it forgets to feed on You.”

Prayer of a Soul Taken with Love

“Lord God, my Beloved, if You remember still my sins in suchwise that You do not do what I beg of You, do Your will concerning them, my God, which is what I most desire, and exercise Your goodness and mercy, and You will be known through them. And if it is that You are waiting for my good works so as to hear my prayer through their means, grant them to me, and work them for me, and the sufferings You desire to accept, and let it be done. But if You are not waiting for my works, what is it that makes You wait, my most clement Lord? Why do You delay? For if, after all, I am to receive the grace and mercy which I entreat of You in Your Son, take my mite, since You desire it, and grant me this blessing, since You also desire that. Who can free himself from the lowly manners and limitations if You do not lift him to Yourself, my God, in purity of love? How will a man begotten and nurtured in lowliness rise up to You, Lord, if You do not raise him with Your hand which made him? You will not take from me, my God, what You once gave me in Your only Son, Jesus Christ in Whom You gave me all I desire. Hence I rejoice that if I wait for You, You will not delay. With what procrastinations do You wait, since from this very moment you can love God in your heart? Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God Himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me.What do you ask, then, and seek, my soul? Yours is all of this, and all is for you. Do not engage yourself in something less, nor pay heed to the crumbs which fall from your Father’s table. Go forth and exult in your Glory! Hide yourself in It and rejoice, and you will obtain the supplications of your heart.

Oh, how sweet Your presence will be to me, You Who are the supreme good! I must draw near You in silence pleased to unite me to You in … I rejoice in Your arms. Now I ask You, Lord, do not abandon me at any time in my recollection, for I know not the value of my soul.”

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-reliquary of St John of the Cross, Convent of Carmelite Friars, Segovia, Spain

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-reliquary of St John of the Cross, Ubeda, Spain

“Never give up prayer, and should you find dryness and difficulty, persevere in it for this very reason. God often desires to see what love your soul has, and love is not tried by ease and satisfaction.” – St. John of the Cross, “Special Counsels: Degrees of Perfection #9

“The Dark Night of the Soul”
-by St John Of the Cross

1. One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
— ah, the sheer grace! —
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

2. In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
— ah, the sheer grace! —
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.

3. On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.

4. This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
— him I knew so well —
there in a place where no one appeared.

5. O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.

6. Upon my flowering breast
which I kept wholly for him alone,
there he lay sleeping,
and I caressing him
there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

7. When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.

8. I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

“The soul, however, cannot be perfectly purified from these imperfections, any more than from the others, until God shall have led it into the passive purgation of the dark night, of which I shall speak immediately. But it is expedient that the soul, so far as it can, should labor, on its own part, to purify and perfect itself, that it may merit from God to be taken under His divine care, and be healed from those imperfections which of itself it cannot remedy. For, after all the efforts of the soul, it cannot by any exertions of its own actively purify itself so as to be in the slightest degree fit for the divine union of perfection in the love of God, if God Himself does not take it into His own hands and purify it in the fire, dark to the soul.” — St. John of the Cross, p.14, Dark Night of the Soul, St Benedict Press Classics

From the Proper for the Feast of St John of the Cross

Lord,
you endowed our Father Saint John of the Cross
with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross.
By following his example
may we come to the eternal vision of Your glory.

Love,
Matthew

Theodicy – The Problem of Evil

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-by Scipione Tadolini, “St Michael the Archangel”, 1865, Marble sculpture, Rotunda, Gasson Hall, Boston College.

“Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.  Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.  The God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little.  To Him be dominion forever. Amen.”  1 Peter 5:8-11

The last thing the Enemy wishes is our despair.

Satan’s Tools

There is a story about Satan selling some of his tools at a garage sale he was giving. There on tables grouped by importance were his bright, shiny but deadly trinkets.

One could find tools that made it easy to tear others down.  And for those who had big egos, there were lenses for magnifying one’s own importance, but if you looked through them the other way, you could also use the lens to belittle others.

An unusual assortment of gardening implements stood together with a guarantee to help your pride grow by leaps and bounds.  Also in prominence was the rake of scorn, the shovel of jealousy for digging a pit for your neighbor, tools of gossip and backbiting, of selfishness and apathy.

All of these were pleasing to the eye and came complete with great promises and guarantees of prosperity.  The prices, of course, were steep but a sign declared “Free Credit Extended” to all.  “Take at least one home, use it.  You don’t have to pay until later!” old Satan cried rubbing his hands in glee.

One prospective buyer was looking at all the things offered when he noticed two well-worn, non-descript tools standing in one corner.    Not being nearly as tempting as the other items, he found it curious that these two tools had price tags higher than any other.

When he asked why, Satan just laughed and said, “Well, that’s because these two are more useful to me than the others.  I can pry open and get inside a person’s heart with these when I cannot get near them with my other tools. Once I get inside, I can make people do what I choose. They are badly worn because I use them on almost everyone, since very few people know that they belong to me.”

Satan pointed to the two tools, saying, “You see, I call that one Doubt and the other Discouragement. Those will work when nothing else will.”

Resist him, solid in your faith.  We used to call this Spiritual Warfare.  The Lord’s love is infinitely stronger than any evil.  He is God.  He cannot be defeated.  The Prince of Lies wishes us to believe he can defeat Him.  It is a lie.  Do not listen to him.  With the power of prayer and trust in the Lord, banish the Liar to the void of suffering from whence he came for his rebellion against God, to which he wishes to drag us all.  Resist him, solid in your faith.

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Seraphim, may the Lord make us worthy to burn with the fire of perfect charity. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Cherubim, may the Lord grant us the grace to leave the ways of sin and run in the paths of Christian perfection. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Thrones, may the Lord infuse into our hearts a true and sincere spirit of humility. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Dominions, may the Lord give us grace to govern our senses and overcome any unruly passions. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Powers, may the Lord protect our souls against the snares and temptations of the devil. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Virtues, may the Lord preserve us from evil and falling into temptation. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Principalities, may God fill our souls with a true spirit of obedience. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Archangels, may the Lord give us perseverance in faith and in all good works in order that we may attain the glory of Heaven. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Angels, may the Lord grant us to be protected by them in this mortal life and conducted in the life to come to Heaven. Amen.

O glorious prince St. Michael, chief and commander of the heavenly hosts, guardian of souls, vanquisher of rebel spirits, servant in the house of the Divine King and our admirable conductor, thou who dost shine with excellence and superhuman virtue deliver us from all evil, who turn to thee with confidence and enable us by your gracious protection to serve God more and more faithfully every day.

Pray for us, O glorious St. Michael, Prince of the Church of Jesus Christ, that we may be made worthy of His promises.

Almighty and Everlasting God, Who, by a prodigy of goodness and a merciful desire for the salvation of all men, has appointed the most glorious Archangel St. Michael, Prince of Thy Church, make us worthy, we beseech Thee, to be delivered from all our enemies, that none of them may harass us at the hour of death, but that we may be conducted by him into the August Presence of Thy Divine Majesty. This we beg through the merits of Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Amen.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodicy

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-by Rev. Andrew Hofer, OP, teaches at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. This article comes from the September 2011 issue of The Irish Rover, a newspaper produced by students at the University of Notre Dame.

“How do we reconcile God’s omnipresence with the existence and agency of the Devil and with the presence of sin and evil in general?”

A perennial problem in human thinking is the question of good and evil. How can we reconcile the presence of God and the presence of evil forces that we experience in the world? In Christianity, Gottfried Leibniz (d. 1716) was especially famous for framing the question of theodicy, that is, how to justify God when we face the problem of evil.

If God is infinitely good, all-powerful, omnipresent, and all-loving, how could there be evil forces at work in creation? Various approaches are taken to answer this today. One approach is to be silent in the face of the mystery of suffering.

For some of those who articulate an answer, it seems that God has too exalted a job description! They want to lessen God’s descriptions. God isn’t REALLY almighty, they say. He’s working out His salvation, and ours, in a complex cosmos.

An even more serious objection arising from the question of evil is that God simply doesn’t exist. This modern-sounding objection is, in fact, one that St. Thomas Aquinas considers when asking “Does God exist?” in SUMMA THEOLOGIAE Ia, q. 2, a. 3. The objection runs like this. It seems that God does not exist. If one of two contraries is infinite, the other would be totally destroyed. But this word “God” is understood to mean infinite goodness. If therefore God exists, evil couldn’t be found. But evil is found in the world. Therefore God does not exist.

Few people may go through this reasoning in a logical syllogism, but many people wonder along those lines when bad things happen. How could God let my friend suffer and die? Where was God in the September 11 attacks against America ten years ago? Individual painful experiences such as these can drive people to agnosticism or atheism.

For his part, St. Thomas answers the objection from evil concerning God’s existence with a quotation from St. Augustine: “Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.” St. Thomas continues to say that this is actually a part of God’s infinite goodness: He allows evil—and out of that evil produces good. In other words, God does not directly will evil, and when He declines to prevent it (see Job), He who made creation from nothing has a plan to make something very good out of the disorder of evil.

In responding to the question of evil, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “No quick answer will suffice…. THERE IS NOT A SINGLE ASPECT OF THE CHRISTIAN MESSAGE THAT IS NOT IN PART AN ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM OF EVIL” (309). In the world that we have, with its freedom and the misuse of freedom in sin, there are devils and sinners. God doesn’t obliterate devils after their fall, which was their irrevocable everlasting choice against God’s goodness. God created devils originally as good angels, and their own choice to turn away from Him does not cause God to destroy them. He also doesn’t obliterate us human sinners. Even when God’s own Son became man and was crucified by evil forces, by our sins, God did not obliterate His creation. He showed that the horror imposed upon Jesus could be used for our salvation. In fact, it is by “his wounds we are healed” (Isa 53:5). When we experience evil personally, when we suffer, it is an invitation to be united with Jesus, “to fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Col 1:24).

For nearly 2,000 years, Christians have proclaimed to the world that “Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.” His Resurrection beckons us to live by the Holy Spirit and see how no evil, however horrible it is, can be a match for God’s almighty goodness. It doesn’t make everything easy in this world. But our faith in the Resurrection, where God triumphs over ALL evil forces, sustains us. The mystery of God’s triumph calls us both to silent prayer at the foot of the Cross, and to joyful preaching of the Good News.”

Love,
Matthew

Alma Redemptoris Mater – Loving Mother of our Savior

In the Liturgy of the Hours, the Divine Office (the daily prayer of the Church), after Compline, the last prayers of the day, a Marian hymn is sung.  I know the Dominican Salve Regina by heart.  After the last note of this hymn is sung, holy silence is imposed, even when emptying dishwashers, as novices are, by holy obedience, required to do.  It’s not all glamour.  Trust me.    Holy silence lasts until Lauds, which begins with “Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Your praise!”

When my parents came to visit, they joined us for Office.  For the Marian hymn, every night we darkened the entire chapel with a single candle burning before a small white statue of the Blessed Mother for us to focus on as we chanted the Salve Regina.  I remember when the lights came back on my parents’ eyes were as big a saucers.  I tell myself it was the coming into the light which caused this.  I tell myself.

The Alma Redemptoris Mater is one of the four primary Marian hymns sung after Compline.   Hermannus Contractus (Herman the Cripple) (1013–1054) is said to have authored the hymn based on the writings of Ss. Fulgentius, Epiphanius, and Irenaeus of Lyon.  It is mentioned in “The Prioress’s Tale “, one of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Formerly, it was recited at compline only from the first Sunday in Advent until the Feast of the Purification (February 2).

Alma Redemptoris Mater, quae pervia caeli Porta manes, et stella maris, succurre cadenti, Surgere qui curat, populo: tu quae genuisti, Natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore Sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.

From the first Sunday of Advent until Christmas Eve:

V. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae R. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

Oremus Gratiam tuam quæsumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut qui, angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui Incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem ejus et crucem, ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
From First Vespers of Christmas until the Presentation:

From First Vespers of Christmas until the Presentation:

V. Post Partum Virgo inviolata permansisti. R. Dei Genitrix, intercede pro nobis.

Oremus Deus, qui salutis aeternae beatae Mariae virginitate foecunda humano generi praemia praestitisti: tribue, quaesumus, ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamus, per quam meruimus, Auctorem vitae suscipere Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum. Amen.

Loving Mother of our Savior, hear thou thy people’s cry Star of the deep and Portal of the sky! Mother of Him Who thee from nothing made. Sinking we strive and call to thee for aid: Oh, by what joy which Gabriel brought to thee, thou Virgin first and last, let us thy mercy see.

From the first Sunday of Advent until Christmas Eve:

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary R. And she conceived by the Holy Ghost.

Let us pray. Pour forth we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may, by His passion and cross, be brought to the glory of His Resurrection; through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.

From First Vespers of Christmas until the Presentation:

V. After childbirth, O Virgin, thou didst remain inviolate. R. O Mother of God, plead for us.

Let us pray. O God, Who by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary, hast given to mankind the rewards of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech You, that we may experience her intercession for us, by whom we deserved to receive the Author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son. Amen.

Listen:

Wyoming Catholic College choir does beautiful renditions of this hymn.

Male & female choir with deep baritone and bass male voices, up-tempo, and the joyful zeal of youth.  VERY worth the five bucks if you are looking to beef up your Christmas music collection.  Trust me.  I have it on my iPhone with all my other weirdo MPM music.

Raphael-Sanzio-Madonna-and-Child-The-Tempi-Madonna (1)
-Madonna Tempi, by Raffaello Sanzio (1483–1520), 1508, Oil on wood, 75 × 51 cm (29.5 × 20.1 in), Alte Pinakothek

Love,
Matthew

Dec 21 – St Peter Canisius, SJ, (1521-1597), Doctor of the Church & the Catechism

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St Peter Canisius, SJ, is my patron saint and my hero of catechesis. When I am frustrated, I paraphrase him in a one line prayer: “Why don’t you try explaining it to them?” It REALLY helps ME understand it, too, first of all. 🙂

The Roman Catholic Church sees the divisions among Christians as scandalous.  It believes the Lord views these divisions similarly.  The Church seeks to heal these divisions.  Jn 17:21-23.  Divisions in Christianity are a disincentive to non-Christians to consider Jesus Christ and an impediment to Christian agape among Christians.

It is reported Gandhi read the New Testament every day.  Upon seeing this, a British reporter asked if The Mahatma, Great Soul, intended to become Christian.  Gandhi responded he would if he ever met one.  “You’re Christ I like” he said.

The energetic life of Peter Canisius should demolish any stereotypes we may have of the life of a saint as dull or routine. Peter lived his 76 years at a pace which must be considered heroic, even in our time of rapid change. A man blessed with many talents, Peter is an excellent example of the scriptural man who develops his talents for the sake of the Lord’s work. The restoration of the Catholic Church in Germany after the Reformation is attributed to his work.  He was one of the most important figures in the Catholic Reformation in Germany. His was such a key role that he has often been called the “second apostle of Germany” in that his life parallels the earlier work of St Boniface (June 5).

Both Holland and Germany claim him as their son, for Nijmegen, then in the Duchy of Guelders (until 1549 part of the Spanish Netherlands within the Holy Roman Empire) where he was born, Peter Kanis, May 8th, 1521, though a Dutch town today, was at that time in the ecclesiastical province of Cologne and had the rights of a German city.

“In an account known as his Confessions (c. 1570) and his Testament (c.1596), St. Peter Canisius accuses himself as a boy of contentiousness, fits of anger, jealousies, secret hatreds, arrogance, inconsiderate expressing of opinions on weighty matters, “like a blind man discoursing of colors,” and carelessness in resisting temptations against purity arising from thought, desire and the conversation of the boys he associated with. His intense humility can be expected to underscore his faults, but his words tells us that he did have a nature that needed to be tamed and controlled. In early youth he also had the inclination occasionally to be deeply stirred spiritually and to give signs of his future vocation by playing priest, acting out the Mass, preaching, singing and praying, all this sometimes before a group of playmates. He also liked to serve Mass. (Confessions, p. 12 of Braunsberger, Vol.1)”
-St Peter Canisius, SJ, as edited by Fr. Christopher Rengers, O.F.M. Cap., The 33 Doctors of the Church, (Tan Books: 2000)

Peter’s mother, Ægidia van Houweningen, died shortly after Peter’s birth.  His father, Jacob Kanis, a Catholic and nine times burgomaster of Nijmegen, sent him at the age of fifteen to the University of Cologne, where he met the saintly young priest, Nicolaus van Esch. It was he who drew Canisius into the orbit of the loyal Catholic party of Cologne, which had been formed in opposition to the archbishop, Hermann von Wied, who had secretly gone over to the Lutherans.  Canisius was chosen by the group to approach the emperor, and the deposition of the archbishop which followed averted a calamity from the Catholic Rhineland.

St Peter Canisius exerted a strong influence on Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I; he ceaselessly reminded Ferdinand of the imminent danger to his soul should he concede more rights to Protestants in return for their military support. When Peter Canisius sensed a very real danger of Ferdinand’s son and heir, King Maximilian, openly declaring himself a Protestant, he convinced Emperor Ferdinand to threaten disinheritance should Maximilian desert the Catholic Faith.

Although Peter once accused himself of idleness in his youth, he could not have been idle too long, for at the age of 19 he received a master’s degree from the university at Cologne. Soon afterwards he met Blessed Peter Faber, SJ, the first disciple of Ignatius Loyola, and underwent the Spiritual Exercises under his direction.  Faber influenced Peter so much that he joined the recently formed Society of Jesus.

At this early age Peter had already taken up a practice he continued throughout his life—a process of study, reflection, prayer and writing. After his ordination in 1546, he became widely known for his editions of the writings of St. Cyril of Alexandria and St. Leo the Great. Besides this reflective literary bent, Peter had a zeal for the apostolate. He could often be found visiting the sick or prisoners, even when his assigned duties in other areas were more than enough to keep most people fully occupied.

His obedience was tested when he was sent by St Ignatius to teach rhetoric in the comparative obscurity of the new Jesuit college at Messina, but this interlude in his public work for the church was but a brief one. In 1547 Peter attended several sessions of the Council of Trent, whose decrees he was later assigned to implement, as procurator for the bishop of Augsburg.  (I was the novice “procurator”.  I LIKED that job.  Tell you about it sometime.)

Recalled to Rome in 1549 to make his final profession in the presence of St Ignatius of Loyola himself who was his spiritual director and traveling companion and the founder of the Society of Jesus, he was entrusted with what was to become his life’s work: the mission to Germany.

At the request of the duke of Bavaria, Canisius was chosen with two other Jesuits to profess theology in the University of Ingolstadt. Soon he was appointed rector of the University, and then, through the intervention of King Ferdinand of the Romans, he was sent to do the same kind of work in the University of Vienna.

Called to Vienna to reform their university, he couldn’t win the people with preaching or fancy words spoken in his German accent. He won their hearts by ministering to the sick and dying during a plague. His success was such that the king tried to have him appointed to the archbishopric. Though he refused this dignity, he was compelled to administer the diocese for the space of a year.  During Mass one day he received a vision of the Sacred Heart of Jesus , and ever after offered his work to the Sacred Heart.  Winning! (in the good, healthy sense) 🙂

It was at this period, 1555, that he issued his famous Catechism, one of his greatest services to the Church. With its clear and popular exposition of Catholic doctrine it met the need of the day, and was to counter the devastating effect of Luther’s Catechism. In its enlarged form it went into more than four hundred editions by the end of the seventeenth century and was translated into fifteen languages.

For many years during the Protestant Reformation, Peter saw the students in his universities swayed by the flashy speeches and the well-written arguments of the Protestants. Peter was not alone in wishing for a Catholic catechism that would present true Catholic beliefs undistorted by fanatics. Finally King Ferdinand himself ordered Peter and his companions to write a catechism. This hot potato got tossed from person to person until Peter and his friend Fr. Lejay were assigned to write it. Lejay was obviously the logical choice, being a better writer than Peter. So Peter relaxed and sat back to offer any help he could. When Father Lejay died, King Ferdinand would wait no longer. Peter said of writing: “I have never learned to be elegant as a writer, but I cannot remain dumb on that account.” The first issue of the Catechism appeared in 1555 and was an immediate success. Peter approached Christian doctrine in two parts: wisdom — including faith, hope, and charity — and justice — avoiding evil and doing good, linked by a section on sacraments.

Because of the success and the need, Peter quickly produced two more versions: a Shorter Catechism for middle school students which concentrated on helping this age group choose good over evil by concentrating on a different virtue each day of the week; and a Shortest Catechism for young children which included prayers for morning and evening, for mealtimes, and so forth to get them used to praying.

As intent as Peter was on keeping people true to the Catholic faith, he followed the Jesuit policy that harsh words should not be used, that those listening would see an example of charity in the way Catholics acted and preached. However, his companions were not always as willing. He showed great patience and insight with one man, Father Couvillon. Couvillon was so sharp and hostile that he was alienating his companions and students. Anyone who confronted him became the subject of abuse. It became obvious that Couvillon suffered from emotional illness. But Peter did not let that knowledge blind him to the fact that Couvillon was still a brilliant and talented man. Instead of asking Couvillon to resign he begged him to stay on as a teacher and then appointed him as his secretary. Peter thought that Couvillon needed to worry less about himself and pray more and work harder. He didn’t coddle him but gave Couvillon blunt advice about his pride. Coming from Peter this seemed to help Couvillon. Peter consulted Couvillon often on the business of the Province and asked him to translate Jesuit letters from India. Thanks to Peter , even though Couvillon continued to suffer depression for years, he also accomplished much good.

In his fight with German Protestantism, Canisius requested much more flexibility from Rome. “If you treat them right, the Germans will give you everything. Many err in matters of faith, but without arrogance. They err the German way, mostly honest, a bit simple-minded, but very open for everything Lutheran. An honest explanation of the faith would be much more effective than a polemical attack against reformers.” He rejected Catholic attacks against Calvin and Melanchton by saying, “With words like these, we don’t cure patients, we make them incurable.”

From Vienna, Canisius passed on to Bohemia, where the condition of the church was desperate. In the face of determined opposition he established a college at Prague which was to develop into a university. Named Provincial of southern Germany in 1556, he established colleges for boys in six cities, and set himself to the task of providing Germany with a supply of well-trained priests. This he did by his work for the establishment of seminaries, and by sending regular reinforcements of young men to be trained in Rome.

On his many journeys in Germany St Peter Canisius, SJ never ceased from preaching the word of God. He often encountered apathy or hostility at first, but as his zeal and learning were so manifest great crowds soon thronged the churches to listen. For seven years he was official preacher in the cathedral of Augsburg, and is regarded in a special way as the apostle of that city. Whenever he came across a country church deprived of its pastor, he would halt there to preach and to administer the sacraments. It seemed impossible to exhaust him: ‘If you have too much to do, with God’s help you will find time to do it all,’ he said, when someone accused him of overworking himself.

Another form of his apostolate was letter writing, and the printed volumes of his correspondence cover more than eight thousand pages. Like St Bernard of Clairvaux he used this means of comforting, rebuking and counseling all ranks of society. As the needs of the church or the individual required, he wrote to pope and emperor, to bishops and princes, to ordinary priest and laymen. Where letters would not suffice he brought to bear his great powers of personal influence. Thus at the conference between Catholics and Protestants held at Worms in 1556, it was due to his influence that the Catholics were able to present a united front and resist Protestant invitations to compromise on points of principle. In Poland in 1558 he checked an incipient threat to the traditional faith of the country; and in the same year, he earned the thanks of Pope Pius IV for his diplomatic skill in healing a breach between the pope and the emperor. This gift of dealing with men led to his being entrusted in 1561 with the promulgation in Germany of the decrees of the council of Trent.

Shortly afterwards he was called on to answer the Centuries of Magdeburg. This work, ‘the first and worst of all Protestant church histories,’ was a large-scale attack on the Catholic church, and its enormous distortions of history would have required more than one mar to produce an adequate answer. Yet Peter Canisius showed the way by his two works,  The History of John the Baptist, and, also theologically defended Catholic Mariology in, The Incomparable Virgin Mary/Opus Marianum, or “De Maria Virgine Incomparabili et Dei Genitrice Sacrosancta Libri Quinque”, receiving high praise from St John Eudes as a Marian teacher.

Canisius taught that while there are many roads leading to Jesus Christ, Marian veneration is the best way to him.  His sermons and letters document a clear preoccupation with Marian veneration.  Under the heading “prayer” he explains the Ave Maria, Hail Mary, as the basis for Catholic Marian piety.  Less known are his Marian books, in which he published prayers and contemplative texts. He is credited with adding to the Hail Mary the sentence “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners.”  Eleven years later it was included in the Catechism of the Council of Trent of 1566.

In 1565, the Vatican was looking for a nuncio to deliver the decrees of the Council of Trent to the loyal bishops of Germany. What would be a simple errand in our day, was a dangerous assignment in the sixteenth century. The first envoy who tried to carry the decrees through territory of hostile Protestants and vicious thieves was robbed of the precious documents. Rome needed someone courageous but also someone above suspicion. They chose Peter Canisius, who had reformed German universities from heresy. At 43 he was a well-known Jesuit who had founded colleges that even Protestants respected. They gave him a cover as official “visitor” of Jesuit foundations. But Peter couldn’t hide the decrees like our modern fictional spies with their microfilmed messages in collar buttons or cans of shaving cream. Peter traveled from Rome and crisscrossed Germany successfully loaded down with the Tridentine tomes — 250 pages each — not to mention the three sacks of books he took along for his own university!

Renowned as a popular preacher, Peter packed churches with those eager to hear his eloquent proclamation of the gospel. He had great diplomatic ability, often serving as a reconciler between disputing factions. In his letters (filling eight volumes) one finds words of wisdom and counsel to people in all walks of life. At times he wrote unprecedented letters of criticism to leaders of the Church—yet always in the context of a loving, sympathetic concern.

At 70 Peter suffered a paralytic seizure, but he continued to preach and write with the aid of a secretary until his death in his hometown (Nijmegen, Netherlands) on December 21, 1597.  His body was interred before the high altar of the Church of Saint Nicholas in Fribourg.  His relics were translated to the Church of Saint Michael at the Jesuit College in Fribourg in 1625.

From 1580 until his death in 1597 he labored and suffered much in Switzerland. His last six years were spent in patient endurance and long hours of prayer in the college of Fribourg, now that broken health had made further active work impossible. Soon after his death, December 21st, 1597, his tomb began to be venerated, and numerous miracles were attributed to his intercession. He had the unique honor of being canonized and declared a doctor of the church on the same day, June 21st, 1925.

Peter’s untiring efforts are an apt example for those involved in the renewal of the Church or the growth of moral consciousness in business or government. He is regarded as one of the creators of the Catholic press, and can easily be a model for the Christian author or journalist. Teachers can see in his life a passion for the transmission of truth. Whether we have much to give, as Peter Canisius did, or whether we have only a little to give, as did the poor widow in the Gospel (see Luke 21:1–4), the important thing is to give our all. It is in this way that Peter is so exemplary for Christians in an age of rapid change when we are called to be in the world but not of the world.

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-by Franz Xavier Zettler, 1911, in Munich

“It was as if You opened to me the Heart in Your most Sacred Body; I seemed to see it directly before my eyes. You told me to drink from this fountain, inviting me, that is, to draw the waters of my salvation from Your wellsprings, my Savior. I was most eager that streams of faith, hope and love should flow into me from that Source. I was thirsting for poverty, chastity, obedience. I asked to be made wholly clean by You, to be clothed by You, to be made resplendent by You…So, after daring to approach Your most loving Heart, and to plunge my thirst into it, I received a promise from You of a garment made of three parts: these were to cover my soul in its nakedness, and to belong especially to my religious profession. They were peace, love, and perseverance. Protected by this garment of salvation, I was confident that I would lack nothing but all would succeed and give You glory.””
–St. Peter Canisius, SJ, before he set out for Germany, having received the apostolic blessing, describing the profound spiritual experience he underwent

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With sincere Marian devotion, St. Peter wrote the following words to his step-Mother:
“Dear Mother,
I am sending you a picture of Our Lady as a pledge of affectionate remembrance. May it serve you as a mirror and bring you comfort when sorrow floods into your soul. All her life long holy Mother Mary endured a thousand sorrows and anxieties on account of her dear Son, because even while He was still a child she saw clearly in the light of her heavenly meditations all the sufferings that awaited His tender limbs. Her tears used to fall on the little hands and feet that one day great nails would violently pierce, and she used to kiss the holy brow destined for its crown of thorns. So, dearest Mother, offer up all your affliction in union with the sorrows of the holy Mother of God. Place all your troubles and anxieties in the stricken heart of the Queen of Heaven, for she can protect you better than could all mankind put together. Do not take so much to heart what cannot now be changed.”
-St Peter Canisius, SJ, as edited by Fr. James Brodrick, SJ,  (Jesuit Way  — an imprint of Loyola Press) 62.

Petrus Canisius / Gemaelde - Petrus Canisius / Painting -

Resolution:
St. Peter sent his mother an image of Our Lady and counseled her to turn all her troubles and anxieties over to the stricken heart of the Queen of Heaven. Today, when I see my image of Our Lady, I will follow the advice of St. Peter Canisius, Doctor of the Church, and turn my troubles over to Our Lady.

Marian Vow:
Consecration to the Immaculate is a daily process. St. Peter Canisius reminds us in his commentary on the Hail Mary that our Lady already watches over us in a daily way:

“To be sure, walking in the footsteps of the Holy Fathers, we not only salute the praiseworthy and admirable Virgin, who is as a lily among thorns, but we also believe and profess her to be endowed with such great power that she can listen to, assist and favor poor mortals as long as they especially commend themselves and their desires to her and suppliantly expect daily grace through her motherly intercession.”

-St Peter Canisius, SJ, as edited by Fr. Christopher Rengers, O.F.M. Cap., The 33 Doctors of the Church, (Tan Books: 2000), p. 473.

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Prayer

Saint Peter Canisius, you saw the good in even the most troublesome of people. You found their talents and used them. Help me to see beyond the behavior of others that may bother me to the gifts God has given them. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Dec 17-23: Great O Antiphons!!!!!

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Beginning on Dec. 17, the Church prays with greater urgency for the hastening of Christ’s arrival.  A greater sense of insistence and impatience is found in the prayers and liturgy of the Church at this time just immediately before the memorial of the Incarnation and, hence, our salvation.

At Vespers each night, the Church sings the great “O Antiphons” before the Magnificat, beckoning for He Who is Wisdom from on High, Lord of Might, Rod of Jesse’s stem, Key of David, Dayspring from on high, King of the Nations, and Emmanuel, He Who made the Heavens and the Earth to come and pitch His tent among us.  These antiphons have likewise made their way into the culture of Christmas music that you hear at stores and on radio stations, not to mention most Catholic churches, in the form of the hymn “O Come O Come Emmanuel”, which bases its verses on the O Antiphons.

The authors of these antiphons, they can be traced liturgically and historically back to the fourth century, not only had a great theological insight into the arrival of the Christ as expressed in each of the individual antiphons, but they also ordered them so that when they are read backwards chronologically from the 23rd to the 17th, the titles of Christ in Latin form an acronym which spells “ERO CRAS” – I will come tomorrow.

E=Emmanuel; used on December 23

R=Rex Gentium (King of all nations); used on December 22

O=Oriens (Radiant Dawn); used on December 21

C=Clavis David (Key of David); used onDecember 20

R=Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse); used on December 19

A=Adonai (Lord of Israel); used on December 18

S=Sapientia (Wisdom); used on December 17

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Enjoy!

Merry Christmas!

Love,
Matthew

Dec 26 – St Stephen, Deacon & Martyr – The Armament of Love

1476 — The Demidoff Altarpiece: Saint Stephen — Image by © National Gallery Collection; By kind permission of the Trustees of the National Gallery, London/CORBIS

Acts of the Apostles
6:8 – 7, 2a, 44-59

-from a sermon by Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe, bishop, from the Office of Readings for today, 2nd reading

“Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of His soldier. Yesterday our King, clothed in His robe of flesh, left His place in the virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today His soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.

Our King, despite His exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet He did not come empty-handed. He brought His soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of Love, which was to bring men to share in His divinity. He gave of His bounty, yet without any loss to Himself. In a marvelous way He changed into wealth the poverty of His faithful followers while remaining in full possession of His own inexhaustible riches.

And so the Love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the King, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by His name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbor made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of His love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.

Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exalts, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen. This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death, and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.

Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defense, and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey’s end.

My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.”

Merry Christmas,
Matthew

Dec 27 – St John Stone, OSA, (? – 1539)

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John Stone was a Doctor of Theology, living in the Augustinian friary at Canterbury, England. The place where the Augustinian friary once stood on St George’s Street is still called Whitefriars.

During the time of the Reformation, Stone publicly denounced the behavior of King Henry VIII from the pulpit of the Austin Friars and stated his approval of the status of monarch’s first marriage — clearly opposing the monarch’s wish to gain a divorce. The Act of Supremacy of 1534 declared the king to be the only supreme head of the Church in England. This was followed by the Treasons Act which enjoined the penalty of high treason on anyone who might maliciously desire to deprive the king of his title of supreme head of the Church.

All bishops, priests and religious were required to acknowledge his title. On 14 December 1538, the Anglican bishop of Dover, Richard Ingworth, a former Dominican, visited Canterbury and called on the Augustinian friary with an order to close it down as part of the dissolution of monasteries in England. Every friar was forced to sign a formal document agreeing to the Act of Supremacy; Stone refused to sign.

After being held in the Tower of London for some time he was sent back to Canterbury to be tried under the Treasons Act. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. He is probably the Austin Friar of whom Ingworth complained on 14 December, 1538, that “at all times he still held and still desired to die for it, that the king may not be head of the Church of England”.

When in prison before his martyrdom “after an uninterrupted fast of three days, he heard a voice, but without seeing the presence of anyone, calling him by name and exhorting him to be of good courage and not to hesitate to suffer with constancy for the truth of the opinion which he had professed”. Before his execution at the Dane John (Dungeon Hill), Canterbury, Friar John Stone said: “I close my apostolate in my blood. In my death I shall find life, for I die for a holy cause, the defense of the Church of God, infallible and immaculate”.

Stone was hanged, drawn and quartered.  From the scaffold John could look down on his former friary. He was hung, but not to death. While still conscious his heart was removed; his head and limbs were severed and parboiled. His head and body were placed on display to dishonor his corpse as a traitor.  In the account books of Canterbury, there appears an expense of two shillings and six pence “Paid for a half-ton of wood to build the gallows on which Friar Stone was brought to justice.”

The picture of St John Stone in his prison cell awaiting execution is from an engraving which was printed in 1612 at Liege in a volume by Georges Maigret Buillonoy (1573 – 1633), O.S.A.

Cor unum et anima una in Deum! = One heart and one soul to God!

Love,
Matthew

Dec 28 – Holy Innocents

My novice master, Fr. Ambrose Eckinger, O.P., previously a barber in secular life, who insisted as part of our poverty we learn to cut each other’s hair!, silliest thing I ever was ordered to do, IMHO, and a cliché rotund friar, think jovial cookie jar, an excellent organist, and whose Christian name was previously Joseph, had just returned from Rome prior to accepting the office of novice master for the province of St Joseph.  There he collected “goodies”.  One of the “goodies” he collected were religious medals only to be found in Rome – the good stuff, literally.  Cannot be had/found here, for any price.

Novices and postulants to Catholic religious orders are held in special affection as the youngest, as children would be in a family, and as the future and the potential glory of the Order in the service of God Himself, alone. In some monasteries, the normal order of seniority, aka, order of religion, as in whom entered the order the earliest, not necessarily strictly age, is reversed on the feast, as a kind of humor and lesson in humility for all.

On the Feast of the Holy Innocents 1988, Fr. Ambrose presented to each novice a medal of the Holy Innocents containing a third class relic (LONG, technical explanation, if you are not familiar).  It being very fine, I placed mine on the beautiful, fine, nicest I EVER received, saw, was given, made in France rosary given me by the very young, blonde, most attractive Dominican Sister of Nashville, for whose grade school class I was mascot.

You’re not really Catholic until you’ve got many, high quality, jingly-jangly, coveted religious medals, four to a Pater Noster, as you WORK the beads!, hanging from the rosary you will be buried with, or hope to.  The rosary is held in special esteem by the Order of Preachers.  By legend, given to St Dominic himself by the Blessed Mother, it is the Dominican sword, always worn to the left by the right-handed and vice-versa for easy and immediate withdrawal from the scabbard as a spiritual weapon.  And, oh, what a weapon.  Just ask the Saracens at Lepanto!

We keep that rosary in the safe deposit box along with the wills, jewels, emeralds, diamonds, rubies, krugerrands, (just kidding on the rubies), and other items I require I be buried with including most touching letters of thanks I have received from survivors of clergy sexual abuse.  Proof for Jesus, upon my Resurrection, as if He needed any.  Kelly has express instructions.  God have mercy on our souls.

I believe God and a mother’s love are the two most powerful forces in the Universe.  I witnessed this as a son.  I witness this even more profoundly and have ever more irrefutable proof of said every day.  I stagger back and fall down.  My breath is withdrawn from me.  I tremble, literally, in fear, so powerful is this force.  The very incarnation (small “I”) of God’s love for His people.  I am not being facetious.  Fatherhood has NOTHING analogous.

Mt 2:18

Hymn: Salvete Flores

All Hail! ye infant Martyr flowers,
Cut off in life’s first dawning hours:
As rosebuds snapt in temptest strife,
When Herod sought your Savior’s life.

You, tender flock of lambs, we sing,
First victims slain for Christ your King:
Beside the very altar, gay
With palms and crowns, ye seem to play.

All honor, laud, and glory be,
O Jesu, Virgin-born, to Thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To Father and to Paraclete.

Merry Christmas,
Matthew

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3