Jun 27 – Prayer for one’s children to Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Virgin Mother, my Mother, come to the aid of my children!

May your blessing accompany them, guard them, and defend them. May it encourage them, sustain them in every difficulty, and in every place.

When they go off to work or to play, when they move from place to place, at every step they take, Virgin Mother, my Mother, watch over them.

When they face challenges and suffering, when the Evil One tries to seduce them with the attractions of pleasure, of violence, of temptation, of bad example, Virgin Mother, my Mother, watch over them.

Virgin Mother, watch over them and preserve them from every evil.

When they approach the Sacred Banquet to be fed with the Bread of Angels, with the Word that was made flesh in your womb, Virgin Mother, my Mother, bless my children.

When at night they prepare to rest so as to rise again with new energy, watch over their slumber and make each new day a step toward their eternal Homeland.

Virgin Mother, my Mother, bless my children, descend over them, in the day and in the night, in moments of joy and moments of sadness, in health and in sickness, in life and in death.

Bring them to live with you forever in eternity. Amen.

Love & comfort, praying always for your needs and intentions,
Matthew

Sacred Heart & Eucharist


-Sts Ignatius of Loyola, SJ, & Louis Gonzaga, SJ

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

Presence of God – Sacred Heart of Jesus, teach me how to live with You through the Sacrament of Your love.

MEDITATION

Devotion to the Sacred Heart should bring us to a life of intimate union with Jesus Who, we know, is truly present and living in the Eucharist. The two devotions—to the Sacred Heart and to the Eucharist—are closely connected. They call upon one another and, we may even say, they require each other. The Sacred Heart explains the mystery of the love of Jesus by which He becomes bread in order to nourish us with His substance, while in the Eucharist we have the real presence of this same Heart, living in our midst. It is wonderful to contemplate the Heart of Jesus as the symbol of His infinite love, but it is even more wonderful to find Him always near us in the Sacrament of the altar. The Sacred Heart which we honor is not a dead person’s heart which no longer palpitates, so that we have only the memory of Him, but it is the Heart of a living Person, of One Who lives eternally. He lives not only in heaven where His sacred humanity dwells in glory, but He lives also on earth wherever the Eucharist is reserved. In speaking of the Eucharist, Our Lord says to us, “Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matthew 28:20). In Holy Communion, then, this Heart beats within us, it touches our heart; through the love of this Heart, we are fed with His Flesh and with His Blood, so that we may abide in Him and He in us. “In the Eucharist,” said Benedict XV, “this divine Heart governs us and loves us by living and abiding with us, so that we may live and abide in Him, because in this Sacrament … He offers and gives Himself to us as victim, companion, viaticum, and the pledge of future glory.”

COLLOQUY

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Who, by the will of the Father and the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, hast by Thy death given life to the world, deliver me by this Thy most sacred Body and Blood from all my sins and from every evil. Make me always adhere to Thy commandments and never permit me to be separated from Thee” (old Roman Missal).

“O what a wonderful and intimate union is established between the soul and You, O lovable Lord, when it receives You in the Holy Eucharist! Then the soul becomes one with You, provided it is well-disposed by the practice of the virtues, to imitate what You did in the course of Your life, Passion, and death. No, I cannot be perfectly united to You, O Christ, or You to me in Holy Communion, if I do not first make myself like You by renouncing myself and practicing the virtues most pleasing to You, and of which You have given us such wonderful examples.

My union with You in Holy Communion will be more perfect to the degree that I become more like You by the practice of the virtues.” (cf. St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).

“O Jesus, You alone do I love and desire, for You alone do I hunger and thirst, in You I wish to lose myself and be consumed. Envelop me in the flame of Your charity and make me cling so closely to You that I can never be separated from You!

O Lord Jesus, O immense ocean, why do You wait to absorb this little drop of water in Your immensity? My soul’s one desire is to leave myself and enter into You. Open, O Lord, open Your loving Heart to me, for I desire nothing but You and I wish to cling to You with all my being. O wonderful union! This intimacy with You is, in truth, of more value than life itself! O my Beloved, permit me to embrace You in the depths of my soul so that, united to You, I may remain there, joined to You by an indissoluble bond!” (St. Gertrude).

Love,
Matthew

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus


-window detail, All Saints Catholic Church, St. Peters, Missouri

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

Presence of God – O Jesus, You have loved me so much; enable me to repay Your love.

MEDITATION

In the Encyclical Annum Sacrum, Leo XIII declares, “The Sacred Heart is the symbol and image of the infinite charity of Jesus Christ, the charity which urges us to give Him love in return.” Indeed, nothing is more able to arouse love than love itself. “Love is repaid by love alone,” the saints have repeatedly said. St. Teresa of Jesus wrote: “Whenever we think of Christ, we should remember with what love He has bestowed all these favors upon us … for love begets love. And though we may be only beginners … let us strive ever to bear this in mind and awaken our own love” (Book of Her Life, 22).

The Church offers us the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in order to stir up our love. After reminding us, in the Divine Office proper to this feast, of the measureless proofs of Christ’s love, this good Mother asks us anxiously, “Who would not love Him Who has loved us so much? Who among His redeemed would not love Him dearly?” (Roman Breviary). And in order to urge us more and more to repay love with love, she puts on the lips of Jesus the beautiful words of Holy Scripture: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee”; and again, “Fili, praebe mihi cor tuum,” Son, give Me thy heart (Roman Breviary). This, then, is the substance of true devotion to the Sacred Heart: to return love for love, “to repay love with love,” as St. Margaret Mary, the great disciple of the Sacred Heart, expresses it; “to return love unceasingly to Him who has so loved us,” in the words of St. Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus, the hidden but no less ardent disciple of the divine Heart.

COLLOQUY

“Awake, O my soul. How long will you remain asleep? Beyond the sky there is a King Who wishes to possess you; He loves you immeasurably, with all His Heart. He loves you with so much kindness and faithfulness that He left His kingdom and humbled Himself for you, permitting Himself to be bound like a malefactor in order to find you. He loves you so strongly and tenderly, He is so jealous of you and has given you so many proofs of this, that He willingly gave up His Body to death. He bathed you in His Blood and redeemed you by His death. How long will you wait to love Him in return? Make haste, then, to answer Him.

Behold, O loving Jesus, I come to You. I come, drawn by Your meekness, Your mercy, Your charity; I come with my whole heart and soul, and all my strength. Who will give me to be entirely conformed to Your Heart, in order that You may find in me everything You desire?

O Jesus, my King and my God, take me into the sweet shelter of Your divine Heart and there unite me to Yourself in such a way that I shall live totally for You. Permit me to submerge myself henceforth in that vast sea of Your mercy, abandoning myself entirely to Your goodness, plunging into the burning furnace of Your love, and remaining there forever ….

But what am I, O my God, I, so unlike You, the outcast of all creatures? But You are my supreme confidence because in You can be found the supplement or rather, the abundance of all the favors I have lost. Enclose me, O Lord, in the sanctuary of Your Heart opened by the spear, establish me there, guarded by Your gentle glance, so that I may be confided to Your care forever: under the shadow of Your paternal love I shall find rest in the everlasting remembrance of Your most precious love” (St. Gertrude).

Love,
Matthew

Mystery of Hope

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

Presence of God – Let me hunger for You, O Bread of Angels, pledge of future glory.

MEDITATION

Jesus said: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever, and the bread that I will give is My Flesh, for the life of the world.” The Jews disliked this speech; they began to question and dispute the Master’s words. But Jesus answered them still more forcefully: “Amen, amen, I say unto you, except you eat the Flesh of the Son of man and drink His Blood, you shall not have life in you” (John 6:51-54). These are definitive words which leave no room for doubt; if we wish to live, we must eat the Bread of Life. Jesus came to bring to the world the supernatural life of grace; and this life was given to our souls in Baptism, the Sacrament which grafted us into Christ. Thus it is a gift of His plenitude, but we must nourish it by a deeper penetration into Christ. To enable us to do so, He Himself willed to give us His complete substance as the God-Man, making Himself the Bread of our supernatural life, the Bread of our union with Him. St. John Chrysostom says, “Many mothers entrust the children they have borne to others to nurse them, but Jesus does not do that. He feeds us with His own Blood and incorporates us into Himself completely.” Baptism is the Sacrament which engrafts us into Christ; the Eucharist is the Sacrament which nourishes Christ’s life in us and makes our union with Him always more intimate, or rather, it transforms us into Him. “If into melted wax other wax is poured, it naturally follows that they will be completely mixed with each other; similarly, he who receives the Lord’s Flesh and Blood is so united with Him that Christ dwells in him and he in Christ” (St. Cyril of Jerusalem).

COLLOQUY

“O heavenly Father, You gave us Your Son and sent Him into the world by an act of Your own will. And You, O my Jesus, did not want to leave the world by Your own will but wanted to remain with us for the greater joy of Your friends. This is why, O heavenly Father, You gave us this most divine Bread, the manna of the sacred humanity of Jesus, to be our perpetual food. Now we can have it whenever we wish so that if we die of hunger, it will be our own fault.

O my soul, you will always find in the Blessed Sacrament, under whatever aspect you consider it, great consolation and delight, and once you have begun to relish it, there will be no trials, persecutions, and difficulties which you cannot easily endure.

Let him who wills ask for ordinary bread. For my part, O eternal Father, I ask to be permitted to receive the heavenly Bread with such dispositions that, if I have not the happiness of contemplating Jesus with the eyes of my body, I may at least contemplate Him with the eyes of my soul. This is Bread which contains all sweetness and delight and sustains our life” (Teresa of Jesus [Teresa of Avila], Way of Perfection, 34).

“All graces are contained in You, O Jesus in the Eucharist, our celestial Food! What more can a soul wish when it has within itself the One who contains everything? If I wish for charity, then I have within me Him Who is perfect charity, I possess the perfection of charity. The same is true of faith, hope, purity, patience, humility, and meekness, for You form all virtues in our soul, O Christ, when You give us the grace of this Food. What more can I want or desire, if all the virtues, graces, and gifts for which I long, are found in You, O Lord, Who are as truly present under the sacramental species as You are in heaven, at the right hand of the Father? Because I have and possess this great wonder, I do not long for, want, or desire, any other!” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).”

Love, His Joy, & Hope,
Matthew

Christian Love & Kindness

“Love is the heart and soul of religion. God is love, and every kind deed is a step toward God. Life is a school in which you acquire knowledge regarding the means of making your life and the lives of your fellowmen happy. That education is founded on love. You cannot live without love, any more than a flower can bloom without sunshine.

There is no power in the world so great as that of love which never loses its strength, never knows its age, and always renews it­self. Filial love, fraternal love, conjugal love, patriotism: all are the offshoots of the divine love, rooted in the heart of Jesus, which broke in death so that it might bring love to the world.

Love seeks to assert itself by deeds. Love, a very real force, is not content with fair words. The effect of love is an eagerness to be up and doing, to heal, to serve, to give, to shelter, and to console. A love that remains inactive, a force that is asleep, is a dying love. If you do not wish to cease to love, you must never cease to do good.

Because a kind thought inspires a kind deed, it is a real blessing. A kind word spoken or a harsh word withheld has spelled happiness for many a burdened soul. To have acquired the ability not to think and speak uncharitably of others is a great achievement. The habit of interpreting the conduct of others favorably is one of the finer qualities of charity, but the highest charity is evidenced by doing good to others. Greater than a kind thought, more refreshing than a kind word, is the union of thought and word in action. St. Augustine says, “We are what our works are. According as our works are good or bad, we are good or bad; for we are the trees, and our works the fruit. It is by the fruit that one judges of the quality of the tree.”

The highest perfection of charity consists in laying down one’s life for another, just as Christ offered His life as a sacrifice for mankind.

The Savior once said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven.” And the heavenly Father expressed His will in the great commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God. . . . Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Our Lord wants your life to be love in action, even as His was, for He said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” St. Peter summarizes His life in the words: “He went about doing good.”

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus said, “It is not enough that I should give to whosoever may ask of me; I must forestall their desires and show that I feel much gratified, much honored, in rendering service; and if they take a thing that I use, I must seem as though glad to be relieved of it…. To let our thoughts dwell upon self renders the soul sterile; we must quickly turn to labors of love.”

Love is the heart and soul of kind deeds. Just as there is no charity without works, so there may be works of charity without love. St. Paul expressed it this way: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Some people use charity as an effective cloak to hide their human weaknesses. Cowardice, for instance, is being afraid of what people will say. Some people will do a certain amount of good out of sheer cowardice, while in the meantime their avarice covers it­self with the cloak of charity.

Self-interest, greed, and vanity also borrow the cloak of charity. Since charitable works draw popular attention, they are bound to prove an excellent advertisement. If a man’s past hinders his social success, he hastens to put on the cloak of charity which literally “covers a multitude of sins.”

Pride and the love of power sometimes put on the cloak of charity, for it gives a man a noble appearance. The demon of pride once was willing to give all his possessions to Christ if, falling down, He would adore him.

Others take up the practice of charity as a kind of sport. They look for the exhilarating feeling of having done a good deed. Later there will be material for selfish conversation.

God is not content with the cloak of charity, or mere kind deeds. He looks for genuine goodness and love. The day will come when He will take away the borrowed cloak of kindness.

God does not so much desire that we should cooperate with Him in His works of mercy as that we should participate in His sincere and ever-active love. His law of social duty is not “Thou shalt give to thy neighbor,” but “Thou shalt love thy neighbor.””

Love,
Matthew

Holy Spirit: Virtues & Gifts

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

Presence of God – Teach me, O Holy Spirit, to remain in an attitude of continual attention to Your inspirations, and of perpetual dependence upon Your impulses.

MEDITATION

St. Thomas teaches that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to us as a help to the virtues: “dona sunt in adjutorium virtutum.” This is a very meaningful expression: note that we receive the gifts to help the virtues, not to substitute for them. If the soul does its best, seriously applying itself to the practice of the virtues, the Holy Spirit, by means of the gifts, will complete the soul’s work. To make the gifts operative then, personal activity and application are essential. The whole Catholic tradition places them at the starting point, for “if a soul is seeking God, its Beloved is seeking it much more…. He attracts the soul and causes it to run after Him” (John of the Cross, Living Flame of Love 3,28).

Although the assiduous practice of the virtues will not suffice to bring the soul to God, the manifestation of goodwill implied by this practice is very necessary. The sailor who is anxious to reach the port does not lazily wait for a favorable wind, but begins at once to row vigorously; similarly, the soul who seeks God, while waiting for Him to attract it, does not abandon itself to indolence; on the contrary, it searches fervently on its own initiative: making efforts to overcome its faults, to be detached from creatures, to practice the virtues and to apply itself to interior recollection. The Holy Spirit perfects these efforts by activating His gifts. Thus we see how erroneous is the attitude of certain souls who remain too passive in the spiritual life, failing to exert their own initiative to advance in holiness and to meet God. These souls are wasting their time and easily exposing themselves to deception. It is necessary to take up the task vigorously, especially at the beginning of the spiritual life. Only by so doing can one hope to have the aid of the Holy Spirit.

COLLOQUY

“O Holy Spirit, God of love, bond of love of the Blessed Trinity, You remain with the children of men and find Your delight in them, in that holy chastity which, under the influence of Your power and attraction, flourishes on earth like the rose among thorns. Holy Spirit! Love! Show me the way that leads to this delightful goal, that path of life that ends in the field made fertile by the divine dew, where hearts burning with thirst for post on the virtues may find refreshment. O Love, You alone know this road which leads to life and truth. In You is consummated the wonderful union of the three divine Persons of the Holy Trinity. The most precious gifts are diffused in us by You, O Holy Spirit. From You come the fertile seeds which produce the fruits of life. From You flows the sweet honey of the delights which are found only in God. Through You descend upon us the fertilizing waters of the divine blessings, the precious gifts of the Spirit.

O Holy Spirit, You are the Font for which I sigh, the desire of my heart. O overflowing ocean, absorb this stray little drop which wishes to leave itself and enter You. You are the only real substance of my heart, and I cling to You with all my might. Oh! what a wonderful union! Truly, this intimacy with You is more precious than life itself; Your perfume is a balm of propitiation and of peace.

O Holy Spirit of love, You are the most sweet kiss of the Blessed Trinity, uniting the Father and the Son. You are that blessed kiss which royal divinity gave to humanity by means of the Son of God. O sweet embrace, clasp me, a poor little speck of dust; hold me tight in Your embrace, that I may become completely united with God. Let me experience what delights are in You, O living God. O my sweet Love, let me embrace You and unite myself to You! O God of love, You are my dearest possession, and I hope for nothing, want and desire nothing in heaven or on earth but You” (St. Gertrude).

Love,
Matthew

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

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

Presence of God — “I return thanks to You, O God, one and true Trinity, one sovereign divinity, holy and indivisible unity.” (Roman Breviary).

MEDITATION

From Advent until today, the Church has had us consider the magnificent manifestations of God’s mercy toward men: the Incarnation, the Redemption, Pentecost. Now she directs our attention to the source of these gifts, the most Holy Trinity, from whom everything proceeds. Spontaneously, there rises to our lips the hymn of gratitude expressed in the Introit of the Mass: “Blessed be the Holy Trinity and undivided Unity; we will give glory to Him, because He has shown His mercy to us”: the mercy of God the Father, “Who so loved the world that He gave it His only-begotten Son” (cf. John 3:16); the mercy of God the Son, Who to redeem us became incarnate and died on the Cross; the mercy of the Holy Spirit, Who deigned to come down into our hearts to communicate to us the charity of God and to make us participate in the divine life. The Church has very fittingly included in the Office for today the beautiful antiphon inspired by St. Paul: “Caritas Pater est, gratia Filius, communicatio Spiritus Sanctus, O beata Trinitas!”; the Father is charity, the Son is grace and the Holy Spirit is communication: applying this, the charity of the Father and the grace of the Son are communicated to us by the Holy Spirit, Who diffuses them in our heart. The marvelous work of the Trinity in our souls could not be better synthesized. Today’s Office and Mass form a veritable paean of praise and gratitude to the Blessed Trinity; they are a prolonged Gloria Patri and Te Deum. These two hymns–one a succinct epitome, and the other a majestic alternation of praises–are truly the hymns for today, intended to awaken in our hearts a deep echo of praise, thanksgiving, and adoration.

COLLOQUY

“O eternal Trinity, You are a deep sea in which the more I seek the more I find, and the more I find, the more I seek to know You. You fill us insatiably because the soul, before the abyss which You are, is always famished; and hungering for You, O eternal Trinity, it desires to behold truth in Your light. As the thirsty hart (deer) pants after the fount of living water, so does my soul long to leave this gloomy body and see You as You are, in truth.

“O unfathomable depth! O Deity eternal! O deep ocean! What more could You give me than to give me Yourself? You are an ever-burning Fire; You consume and are not consumed. By Your fire, You consume every trace of self-love in the soul. You are a Fire which drives away all coldness and illumines minds with its light, and with this light, You have made me know Your truth. Truly this light is a sea which feeds the soul until it is all immersed in You, O peaceful Sea, eternal Trinity! The water of this sea is never turbid; it never causes fear but gives knowledge of the truth. This water is transparent and discloses hidden things; and, a living faith gives such abundance of light that the soul almost attains to certitude in what it believes.

“You are the supreme and infinite Good, good above all good; good which is joyful, incomprehensible, inestimable; beauty exceeding all other beauty; wisdom surpassing all wisdom because You are Wisdom itself. Food of angels, giving Yourself with fire of love to men! You are the garment which covers our nakedness; You feed us, hungry as we are, with Your sweetness, because You are all sweetness with no bitterness. Clothe me, O eternal Trinity, clothe me with Yourself, so that I may pass this mortal life in true obedience and in the light of the most holy faith with which You have inebriated my soul” (St. Catherine of Siena).

Love,
Matthew

Aquinas on Work


-by Br Jonah Teller, OP

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ora et Labora,
Matthew

Jun 6 – Corpus Christi, St Norbert of Xanten, (1080-1134 AD), Apostle of the Eucharist & “Defenders of the Eucharist”


-by Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish, 1577-1640, oil on canvas c1625, Height: 434.3 cm (170.98 in.), Width: 444.5 cm (175 in.), The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art – Sarasota, Florida. Please click on the image for greater detail.

“What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth Himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.”

-St Thomas Aquinas, Adoro Te Devote

“In the sixteenth century, the denial of the Real Presence occurred again, along with a repudiation of the Mass as making present the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus. The Church’s response through the Council of Trent strongly reaffirmed these Eucharistic truths and sponsored the revival of Eucharistic devotions initiated in the Middle Ages.

Perhaps the greatest eucharistic artwork from this period is Peter Paul Rubens’s oil painting entitled The Defenders of the Eucharist, created in 1625. Rubens reached back to the golden age of the Church Fathers as well as to outstanding saints of the Middle Ages and assembled seven of them in one scene, united in the one faith of the Church witnessing their unity through the centuries of faith in the eucharistic presence of Christ. Today that painting is on display in the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida.

Beginning on the right side of the canvass, Rubens pictures St. Jerome, dressed as a cardinal receiving Communion. Next to him stands St. Norbert, clothed in his white habit and carrying the Eucharist beneath his robes. St. Thomas Aquinas stands in the center holding a book and extending his other hand to heaven, a gesture proclaiming his defense of the Eucharist. Beside him is St. Clare of Assisi, holding a monstrance that displays the sacred eucharistic host. To her left is St. Gregory the Great, the pope who wrote so many works contained in the Mass. Then comes St. Ambrose, who wrote about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Rubens finishes his gathering of defenders of the Eucharist with St. Augustine, who included his reflections on this sacrament in his famous treatise on the Holy Trinity.

Rubens produced this painting during the Church’s Counter-Reformation efforts to defend and reclaim the authentic teachings about the Eucharist and the devotions that assisted believers to deepen their commitment to this mystery of faith.

The seven saints represented in this painting summarize our belief in the Eucharist. It is a sacrifice, the sacrifice of Jesus made present in a sacramental way. It is a sacrament of the abiding presence of Christ in the transformed bread and wine become his Body and Blood. It is a sacramental meal begun on Holy Thursday and available to us in Holy Communion.

This sacrament is available to members of the Catholic Church who are in the state of grace. It is a transforming sacrament. The term “transubstantiation” means that the substance of bread and wine is changed into the substance of Christ’s Body and Blood. In receiving Communion, we too undergo a gradual transformation into Christ and are called to spread His love given to us throughout the world.”

(Excerpt of Text from article: The Saints and Eucharistic Devotion
by Rev. Alfred McBride, O. Praem)


-by Br Norbert Keliher, OP

“Seven saints march in procession together, gathered from disparate centuries to honor their Lord in the Eucharist. Each one displayed fervor for the Eucharist in his or her own time and spread that devotion to others. It was Peter Paul Rubens who assembled these saints in this painting called “The Defenders of the Eucharist.” Soon, the silent footsteps shown here will be imitated by the faithful in cities around the world, when we gather for Corpus Christi processions.

Today, June 6, is the feast day of St. Norbert of Xanten, shown in the white habit of a cathedral canon. He is perhaps the least known of the seven saints here, four of whom are the great Fathers of the Latin Church: St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Gregory, and St. Jerome. They are depicted in this order from left to right, with Augustine leading and Jerome bringing up the rear. In the center St. Clare holds the monstrance, and next to her St. Thomas Aquinas points towards Heaven, holding a tome representing his theology.

What did St. Norbert do to earn a place among these others? He did not leave writings like the five doctors of the Church, nor perform a miracle as glorious as St. Clare’s repulsion of invading Saracens with a monstrance. But he did defend the truth of the Eucharist when a heresy arose in Belgium in the early 12th century. The town of Antwerp was persuaded by the would-be reformer Tanchelm that the sacraments were not real, a belief that persisted after his death. By his preaching, St. Norbert converted the whole town back to faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Later, this truth would again be denied in the Protestant Reformation. This is part of the reason that St. Norbert was only canonized in 1582, so long after he died in 1134. He was held up as a model of faith to the wider Church, an “Apostle of the Eucharist.” Peter Paul Rubens included him in this painting in the 1620s, when Isabella Clara Eugenia, sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands, commissioned a whole series of paintings celebrating the Eucharist.

St. Norbert’s connection to the Eucharist goes beyond his preaching against Tanchelm, however. When he was a traveling preacher at the beginning of his career, he carried with him hardly any possessions outside of what was needed to celebrate Mass. Sometimes he would celebrate more than one Mass in a day, and several of his miracles were accomplished in connection with the Mass. He was so devoted to the Precious Blood that when a poisonous spider fell in the chalice, he drank it rather than risk spilling any. The saint thought he would die, but a little later the spider came harmlessly out of his nose. He also healed a blind woman by breathing on her after consuming the Eucharist and drove out a recalcitrant demon from a young girl by having her present as he celebrated Mass.

When we celebrate Corpus Christi this year, then, we can think of the Defenders of the Eucharist and especially St. Norbert. We walk in the footsteps of those whose faith came before us, those whose faith makes it possible for us to believe today. Through this faith we recognize and adore Jesus in the Sacrament of Sacraments, in which His eternal glory is present to us in time. Before the Ascension He promised that He would be with us always (Mt 28:20), but without faith we would not see Him with us. Let us rejoice that we do see Him, and pray that by this sacrament we may join the saints in the glory of Heaven.”

On the occasion of his ordination to the priesthood, Norbert said,

“O Priest! You are not of yourself because you are the servant and minister of Christ. You are not your own because you are the spouse of the Church. You are not yourself because you are the mediator between God and man. You are not from yourself because you are nothing. What then are you? Nothing and everything. O Priest! Take care lest what was said to Christ on the cross be said to you: ‘He saved others, himself he cannot save!'”

St Norbert, ora pro nobis!

Love, Lord! Save us!
Matthew

Why we’re Catholic

Q. What was your motivation for writing this book?

A. I can’t count the number of time someone has asked me to recommend a book to give to a Catholic family member or friend who has left the Faith or to a non-Catholic who has questions about the Faith. When I discovered that there was no book written to address this group of people, I set out to write one.

Q. Who’s this book designed for? Who’s your “target audience?”

A. The target audience is actually non-Catholics (or non-practicing Catholics), so the book is written in an inviting, simple style that explains what we believe and why we believe it. However, Catholics will benefit from reading this book by seeing different ways to share the Faith and answer objections to it.

Q. What do you recommend as a good way to present this book to someone that will get them to read it?

A. I would buy two copies and give one to a friend. You could tell him you think the book is really interesting and you would enjoy discussing even just a single chapter with him. Don’t pitch this as a book to convert him but rather as something to help him learn more about your faith and why it’s important to you.

Q. Did you learn anything about your own faith while you were writing this book?

A. I really enjoyed researching the stories about the saints I included in the book. While many I knew, I was able to go more deeply into the details, such as the story of St. Damien of Molokai who heroically served lepers in Hawaii. One story I wasn’t familiar with was that of Fr. Thomas Byle, who stayed aboard the sinking the Titanic and gave his life to hear as many confessions as he could.

Q. You touch upon twenty-five different things that Catholics believe in your book. Which of these do you think is the most difficult for a non-Catholic or ex-Catholic to accept?

A. Probably moral issues like contraception or homosexuality. These touch upon the most intimate parts of our identity. and it’s easy for us to reject arguments that run contrary to such strong desires. It reminds me of Jesus’ teaching, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21).

Q. Which Catholic teaching do you think is the easiest for a non-Catholic or ex-Catholic to accept? Would it be a good jumping off point for dialogue?

A. One teaching that can be helpful to start with is the Church’s opposition to moral relativism. In an age where almost everything must be tolerated, the Church’s clear opposition to evils (such as rape, sex trafficking, genocide) and her willingness to call such acts objectively evil, can be attractive to many people who just want the plain truth. From there you can discuss what morality is and how the ultimate standard of morality can be found in God and how the Church helps us come to know this standard of truth.

Q. Why are you Catholic?

A. I am Catholic because God gave me grace to accept the revelation of his Son, Jesus Christ, and his plan to unite his children in the Catholic Church. Through this grace I came to see that the testimony of Scripture and the early Christians supports the claim that the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church of Christ is the Catholic Church.

Q. Everyone loves a good story, especially one that results in a soul being transformed. The thing I like about this book is the way you weave real-life situations together with teaching points. Did you write it this way for a reason, or is that just the way the thoughts came to you?

A. I wanted to make sure stories would be a part of this book. An argument might go over some people’s heads, but a good story can help them see a truth clearly. I included not just aspects of my conversion story but also stories about saints that will help people see that Catholicism isn’t just true, it is good and beautiful as well.

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, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "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