Aug 25 – St Joseph Calasanz (1556-1648), Patron of Catechists

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I first encountered St Joseph Calasanz in my hagiography in 2007.  I discovered him at a time I most needed him.  Truly, it was (like) an answered prayer, a healing balm to faith.  I understood and could accept.

I wanted to see if I could find a St Joseph Calasanz medal.  I googled the order he founded, the Piarists, and they do exist in this country, mostly in the east, in about a half dozen places.  I contacted one of their main houses in this country in Pennsylvania, and the kind Father their informed me they did not keep a stock of such things here in this country and that no Catholic religious goods store was likely to carry them.  He suggested I contact the mother house in Rome, which I did.

I don’t speak Italian, but I haggled, it felt like, with one of the Scolopi at the mother house in Rome for about ten minutes.  We didn’t get far, I feel.  He only spoke Italian.  I did send an email via the website, but it went unanswered for a long time, granted it was Summer in Europe where not much gets done, particularly in August.  I even asked a friend who had recently returned from Rome and had some fresh contacts if they could help.  Eventually, lo and behold, a package arrived from Rome containing many St Joseph Calasanz holy cards and two medals.

One medal I put on the rosary I never use, but was given me by the young, attractive, blonde Dominican sister whose classroom I was the “mascot” of when I was a novice.  It is the most beautiful, yet masculine, rosary I have ever received.  It was made in France.  I have left instructions with Kelly I wish to be buried, if possible, holding that rosary.  The other I added to my Beloved cross I possess as a member of the Old St Patrick’s Beloved Community.  I wear these medals concealed when I most need external strength and confidence in the challenge or uncomfortable moment I am about to face.

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From Aragon, in Spain, where he was born in 1556, to Rome, where he died 92 years later, fortune alternately smiled and frowned on the work of Joseph Calasanz.

A priest with university training in canon law and theology, respected for his wisdom and administrative expertise, he put aside his career because he was deeply concerned with the need for education of poor children.

When he was unable to get other institutes to undertake this apostolate at Rome, he and several companions personally provided a free school for deprived children. So overwhelming was the response that there was a constant need for larger facilities to house their effort. Soon Pope Clement VIII gave support to the school, and this aid continued under Pope Paul V. Other schools were opened; other men were attracted to the work and in 1621 the community (for so the teachers lived) was recognized as a religious community, the Clerks Regular of Religious Schools (Piarists or Scolopi). Not long after, Joseph was appointed superior for life.

A combination of various prejudices and political ambition and maneuvering caused the institute much turmoil. Some did not favor educating the poor, for education would leave the poor dissatisfied with their lowly tasks for society! Others were shocked that some of the Piarists were sent for instruction to Galileo (a friend of Joseph) as superior, thus dividing the members into opposite camps. Repeatedly investigated by papal commissions, Joseph was demoted; when the struggle within the institute persisted, the Piarists were suppressed. Only after Joseph’s death were they formally recognized as a religious community.

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Meditation:

No one knew better than Joseph the need for the work he was doing; no one knew better than he how baseless were the charges brought against him. Yet if he were to work within the Church, he realized that he must submit to its authority, that he must accept a setback if he was unable to convince authorized investigators.

While the prejudice, the scheming, and the ignorance of human beings often keep the truth from emerging for a long period of time, Joseph was convinced, even under suppression, that his institute would again be recognized and authorized. With this trust he joined exceptional patience and a genuine spirit of forgiveness.

Even in the days after his own demotion, Joseph protected his persecutors against his enraged partisans; and when the community was suppressed, he stated with Job, to whom he was often compared: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21b).

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“Everyone knows the great merit and dignity attached to that holy ministry in which young people, especially the poor, receive instruction for the purpose of attaining eternal life. This ministry is directed to the well-being of body and soul; at the same time, that it shapes behavior it also fosters devotion and Christian doctrine.

Moreover the strongest support is provided not only to protect the young from evil, but also to rouse them and attract them more easily and gently to the performance of good works. Like the twigs of plants, the young are easily influenced, as long as someone works to change their souls. But if they are allowed to grow hard, we know well that the possibility of one day bending them diminishes a great deal and is sometimes utterly lost.

All who undertake to teach must be endowed with deep love, the greatest of patience, and, most of all, profound humility. They must perform their work with earnest zeal. Then, through their humble prayers, the Lord will find them worthy to become fellow workers with Him in the cause of Truth. He will console them in the fulfillment of this most noble duty, and finally, will enrich them with the gift of heaven.

As Scripture says, ‘But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, And those who lead the many to justice shall shine like the stars forever.’ (Dan 12:3) They will attain this more easily if they make a covenant of perpetual obedience and strive to cling to Christ and please Him alone, because, in His words, ‘What you did to one of the least of my brethren, you did to me.’(Mt 25:40)”
– from the writings of Saint Joseph Calasanz

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“Lord, You blessed Saint Joseph Calasanz with such charity and patience that he dedicated himself to the formation of Christian youth. As we honor this teacher of wisdom may we follow his example in working for the Truth.   Amen.”
– opening prayer for the Mass for Saint Joseph Calasanz

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-last Holy Communion of St Joseph Calasanz,, 1819, by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828), oil on canvas, 43 x 33 cm, Gallery: Musee Bonn at, Bayonne, France

Love,
Matthew

Jan 6 – Rev. Gregor Mendel, OSA, (1822-1884), “Father of Modern Genetics”, Man of Science, Man of God

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As a professional applied scientist and a man of faith, I often hear, even from fellow Catholics, “How can that be?”  I respond, “How can what be?”  “Faith & Science together…in the same person?…in the same mind?…How can that be?”  If they are a little educated, I will also get, “What about Galileo?”

There is no contradiction.  In all my professional training, almost all in public schools except for one master’s degree, and even then you could hardly tell that school was Catholic, as is the schizophrenia of “Catholic identity” in our (Catholic) higher ed, I have never encountered any scientific topic which contradicted my Catholic faith.  None.  In conjunction, in all my amateur study of the Catholic faith, I have never encountered any article of faith or doctrine which contradicted my scientific training.  None. Never. Ever.  Amen.

In fact, modern physics takes even the scientist’s breath away with awe.  Romans 11:33.

Dr. Stephen Hawking who recently appeared in the documentary Curiosity on the Discover Channel concluding, “God does not exist!”  It is embarrassing for all scientists, irregardless of specialty, with even the slightest training in the scientific method, when such a famous one of us reach’s a very public conclusion not based on science, but on bias and prejudice.  Not very scientific, doctor.  No, not very scientific, indeed.  I have since offered my services to the Discover Channel as an expert, especially if that is the level of science they care to offer.

Dr. Hawking’s conclusion was that God did not exist since nothing, including God, existed before the Big Bang, as first proposed by Msgr Georges LeMaitre.  The basis of Dr. Hawking’s conclusion is that nothing existed.  No matter or energy existed.  That fallaciously assumes God is matter or energy.  ?  Dr. Hawking, even a budding high school science student would not presume to assume the Almighty was relegated to the domain of matter or energy.  Convenient for a desired conclusion, but intellectually and scientifically bankrupt.

The Church has an expression for it:  Fides et Ratio = Faith and Reason.  There is no contradiction.  If one carefully studies the Galileo affair, one will quickly find both sides were answering a different question, how so many misunderstandings commence, and no one will defend Messr. Galileo’s tact.  Not even his daughter, Virginia, or by her religious name, Suor Maria Celeste, a cloistered nun of the San Mateo Convent, Arcetri, and some say his closest confidant and advisor, even scientifically.  She had his brains, no?  Messr. Galileo is especially untactful when he mocks in word and illustration as a simpleton and a fool the then pope, who up until the publishing of Galileo’s book had been his friend, benefactor, and supporter.  Not very politic, Messr. Galileo.  Not very politic.

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“Pea hybrids form germinal and pollen cells that in their composition correspond in equal numbers to all the constant forms resulting from the combination of traits united through fertilization.”

Gregor Johann Mendel was born on July 22, 1822 to peasant parents in a small agrarian town in Czechoslovakia. During his childhood he worked as a gardener, and as a young man attended the Olmutz Philosophical Institute.  From 1840 to 1843, he studied practical and theoretical philosophy as well as physics at the University of Olomouc Faculty of Philosophy.  In 1843 he entered an Augustinian monastery in Brunn, Czechoslovakia. Soon afterward, his natural interest in science and specifically hereditary science led him to start experiments with the pea plant.  Mendel’s attraction for scientific research was based on his love of nature in general. He was not only interested in plants, but also in meteorology and theories of evolution. However, it is his work with the pea plant that changed the world of science forever.

His beautifully designed experiments with pea plants were the first to focus on the numerical relationships among traits appearing in the progeny of hybrids.  His interpretation for this phenomenon was that material and unchanging hereditary “elements” undergo segregation and independent assortment.  These elements are then passed on unchanged (except in arrangement) to offspring thus yielding a very large, but finite number of possible variations.

Mendel often wondered how plants obtained atypical characteristics. On one of his frequent walks around the monastery, he found an atypical variety of an ornamental plant. He took it and planted it next to the typical variety. He grew their progeny side by side to see if there would be any approximation of the traits passed on to the next generation. This experiment was “designed to support or to illustrate Lamarck’s views concerning the influence of environment upon plants.”  He found that the plants’ respective offspring retained the essential traits of the parents, and therefore were not influenced by the environment. This simple test gave birth to the idea of heredity.

Overshadowing the creative brilliance of Mendel’s work is the fact that it was virtually ignored for 34 years. Only after the dramatic rediscovery of Mendel’s work in 1900 (16 years after Mendel’s death) was he rightfully recognized as the founder of genetics.

Why Peas?

Pisum sativum

Mendel was well aware that there were certain preconditions that had to be carefully established before commencing investigations into the inheritance of characteristics. The parental plants must be known to possess constant and differentiating characteristics.  To establish this condition, Mendel took an entire year to test “true breeding” (non-hybrid) family lines, each having constant characteristics.   The experimental plants also needed to produce flowers that would be easy to protect against foreign pollen.  The special shape of the flower of the Leguminosae family, with their enclosed styles, drew his attention.  On trying several from this family, he finally selected the garden pea plant (Pisum sativum) as being most ideal for his needs.  Mendel also picked the common garden pea plant because it can be grown in large numbers and its reproduction can be manipulated.  As with many other flowering plants, pea plants have both male and female reproductive organs.  As a result, they can either self-pollinate themselves or cross-pollinate with other plants. In his experiments, Mendel was able to selectively cross-pollinate purebred plants with particular traits and observe the outcome over many generations.  This was the basis for his conclusions about the nature of genetic inheritance.

Mendel observed seven pea plant traits that are easily recognized in one of two forms:

1.        Flower color: purple or white

2.        Flower position: axial or terminal

3.        Stem length: long or short

4.        Seed shape: round or wrinkled

5.        Seen color: yellow or green

6.        Pod shape: inflated or constricted

7.        Pod color: yellow or green


Mendel’s Law of Segregation

Mendel’s hypothesis essentially has four parts. The first part or “law” states that, “Alternative versions of genes account for variations in inherited characters.” In a nutshell, this is the concept of alleles. Alleles are different versions of genes that impart the same characteristic.  For example, each pea plant has two genes that control pea texture.  There are also two possible textures (smooth and wrinkled) and thus two different genes for texture.

The second law states that, “For each character trait (ie: height, color, texture etc.) an organism inherits two genes, one from each parent.”  This statement alludes to the fact that when somatic cells are produced from two gametes, one allele comes from the mother, one from the father. These alleles may be the same (true-breeding organisms), or different (hybrids).

The third law, in relation to the second, declares that, “If the two alleles differ, then one, the dominant allele, is fully expressed in the organism’s appearance; the other, the recessive allele, has no noticeable effect on the organism’s appearance.”

The fourth law states that, “The two genes for each character segregate during gamete production.”   This is the last part of Mendel’s generalization. This references meiosis when the chromosome count is changed from the diploid number to the haploid number. The genes are sorted into separate gametes, ensuring variation.  This sorting process depends on genetic “recombination.”  During this time, genes mix and match in a random and yet very specific way.  Genes for each trait only trade with genes of the same trait on the opposing strand of DNA so that all the traits are covered in the resulting offspring.  For example, color genes do not trade off with genes for texture.  Color genes only trade off with color genes from the opposing allelic sight as do texture genes and all other genes.  The result is that each gamete that is produced by the parent is uniquely different as far as the traits that it codes for from every other gamete that is produced.  For many creatures, this available statistical variation is so huge that in all probability, no two identical offspring will ever be produced even given trillions of years of time.

So, since a pea plant carries two genes, it can have both of its genes be the same.  Both genes could be “smooth” genes or they could both be “wrinkled” genes.  If both genes are the same, the resulting pea will of course be consistent.  However, what if the genes are different or “hybrid”?  One gene will then have “dominance” over the other “recessive” gene.  The dominant trait will then be expressed.  For example, if the smooth gene (A) is the dominant gene and the wrinkle gene (a) is the recessive gene, a plant with the “Aa” genotype will produce smooth peas.  Only an “aa” plant will produce wrinkled peas.  For instance, the pea flowers are either purple or white.  Intermediate colors do not appear in the offspring of these cross-pollinated plants.

The observation that there are inheritable traits that do not show up in intermediate forms was critically important because the leading theory in biology at the time was that inherited traits blend from generation to generation (Charles Darwin and most other cutting-edge scientists in the 19th century accepted this “blending theory.”).  Of course there are exceptions to this general rule.  Some genes are now known to be “incompletely dominant.”  In this situation, the “dominant gene has incomplete expression in the resulting phenotype causing a “mixed” phenotype.  For example, some plants have “incomplete dominant” color genes such as white and red flower genes.  A hybrid of this type of plant will produce pink flowers.  Other genes are known to be “co-dominant” where both alleles are equally expressed in the phenotype.  An example of co-dominant alleles is human blood typing.  If a person has both “A” and “B” genes, they will have an “AB” blood type.  Some traits are inherited through the combination of many genes acting together to produce a certain effect.  This type of inheritance is called “polygenetic.”  Examples of polygenetic inheritance are human height, skin color, and body form.  In all of these cases however, the genes (alleles) themselves remain unchanged.  They are transmitted from parent to offspring through a process of random genetic recombination that can be calculated statistically.  For example, the odds of a dominant trait being expressed over a recessive trait in a two-gene allelic system where both parents are hybrids are 3:1.  If only one parent is a hybrid and the other parent has both dominant alleles, then 100% of the offspring will express the dominant trait.  If one parent has both recessive alleles and the other parent is a hybrid, then the offspring will have a phenotypic ratio of 1:1.

Mendel’s Law of Independent Assortment

The most important principle of Mendel’s Law of Independent Assortment is that the emergence of one trait will not affect the emergence of another. For example, a pea plant’s inheritance of the ability to produce purple flowers instead of white ones does not make it more likely that it would also inherit the ability to produce yellow peas in contrast to green ones.  Mendel’s findings allowed other scientists to simplify the emergence of traits to mathematical probability (While mixing one trait always resulted in a 3:1 ratio between dominant and recessive phenotypes, his experiments with two traits showed 9:3:3:1 ratios).

Mendel was so successful largely thanks to his careful and nonpassionate use of the scientific method. Also, his choice of peas as a subject for his experiments was quite fortunate.  Peas have a relatively simple genetic structure and Mendel could always be in control of the plants’ breeding. When Mendel wanted to cross-pollinate a pea plant he needed only to remove the immature stamens of the plant. In this way he was always sure of each plants’ parents. Mendel made certain to start his experiments only with true breeding plants. He also only measured absolute characteristics such as color, shape, and texture of the offspring. His data was expressed numerically and subjected to statistical analysis. This method of data reporting and the large sampling size he used gave credibility to his data. He also had the foresight to look through several successive generations of his pea plants and record their variations. Without his careful attention to procedure and detail, Mendel’s work could not have had the same impact that it has made on the world of genetics.

Some of the “greatest minds”? of our generation comment on the importance of science education for our youth.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYuOKb3gO7E&feature=mr_meh&list=FLA5FfORE3_g_3bVcKeb4qVw&lf=plpp_video&playnext=0
Hey, how ‘bout that Internet thing?  Not bad, huh?  🙂

Scientifically yours,  Happy New Year!
Matthew

Aug 11 – Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, Cong. Orat., (1801-1890), Patron of the RCIA – Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

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Cardinal John Henry Newman, CO, DD, by Sir John Everett Millais, 1881.

Catholic education.  Those words in many minds and places are synonymous.  Deo gratias.  The Church created the university system in medieval Europe, emerging from the training of monks and clerics, at the turn of the first millenia of Christianity to the second.  Fides et ratio, faith and reason; there is no conflict in the Catholic mind, or at least there should not be.  The intellect is a gift from God.  Catholics believe its use is proper, expected by God, a form of praise of its Creator, and the proper formation of conscience is essential to the assent to Faith.  The fundamental purpose of a university education is to seek and discover truth. Through this discovery, man comes to an understanding of God, himself, and the created order.  Gaudium et veritate – the joy of truth.

Credo ut intelligam – I believe that I may understand.  Intellego ut credam – I understand that I may believe.  Fides quaerens intellectum – faith seeking understanding.  (St Anselm, ora pro nobis.)  I often say to people, “I am a man of faith, not superstition.”  I am also a professional and professionally trained applied scientist.  Nothing I have ever studied as an engineer or computer scientist has ever contradicted my Catholic beliefs, quite the contrary.  How marvelous is the creation of the Almighty.  How inscrutable His designs. (cf Romans 11:33)

A much bandied about term these days in Catholic higher education is “Catholic identity”.  Very, very, over simply put it “means” if you attended a Catholic institution of learning, could you tell?  Really?  How different is it attending Catholic U vs State U?  Really.  How and to what degree is debatable.  And, IT IS!  Trust me.

I keep trying to remind others who want more uniformity in the Church, Catholic means “universal”, not “uniform”.  At the same time, overly shielding others who have chosen to voluntarily attend a Catholic university is, at least, intellectually dishonest, IMHO, and possibly an immoral omission.  This in some not quite understandable, on my part, assent to “diversity”, mea culpa, as if “diversity” were a greater good than the Gospel?  (cf Rom 1:16)  I don’t understand.  I just think of all the Catholic martyrs who embraced their passion rather than equivocate, and I understand even less.  Would the Lord understand?  Would the canonized founder understand, if modern members of the family he/she founded tried to explain “how the world works now” and convince them?  I am incredulous.  Love is unreasonable, literally.  Love is terrifying in what it may and does ask. (cf Mt 10:34-36)

The dean of Catholic studies of a major Catholic institution, a dear friend, said to me, as I recall the conversation, mea culpa if I misquote, the President of the university had given this person the assignment to conduct a dialogue with the faculty, “Who owns the Catholic identity of the university?”  This question was posed to me as we walked together.  I thought for a moment, and said,”Jesus.”  “You’re right,” I was told.  “Now, just convince the faculty of that!”

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John Henry Newman was born on 21st February, 1801, in London, the eldest son of a London banker. His family were ordinary church-going members of the established Anglican Church, without any strong religious tendencies, though the young John Henry did learn at an early age to take a great delight in the Bible. He was sent to Ealing School in 1808, and it was there, eight years later, that he underwent a profound religious conversion, which was to determine the rest of his life as a quest for spiritual perfection. In 1817 he entered Trinity College, Oxford, where he was a very successful student. Five years later he was elected to a coveted Fellowship of leading Oriel College. He was ordained and worked, first as a curate in the poor Oxford Parish of Saint Clement’s, and then, from 1828, as Vicar of the University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. There, his spiritual influence on parishioners and members of the University was truly enormous, particularly through his preaching, embodied in the Parochial and Plain Sermons. He worked as a College Tutor, and a little later began to research the first of his many theological works, “The Arians of the Fourth Century”. Newman was to be one of the foremost religious writers of his century.

In 1833 he went on a tour of the Mediterranean with a friend who was in very poor health. While in Sicily Newman himself fell desperately ill with fever. On his recovery it struck him that God had spared him to perform a special task in England. On his return home he eagerly set about organizing what was to become known as the Oxford Movement. The Movement, which spread rapidly, was intended to combat three evils threatening the Church of England – spiritual stagnation, interference from the state, and doctrinal unorthodoxy.

When studying the history of the early Christian Fathers in 1839, Newman received an unexpected shock, for it appeared that the position of his own Church bore a close resemblance to that of the early heretics. He was also worried when many of the Anglican Bishops denounced one of his works a few years later – some not just denouncing him, but also espousing erroneous positions themselves. He decided to retire partly from Oxford, and, joined by a few others a little later, he moved to quarters at the nearby hamlet of Littlemore. For three years he lived a strict religious life, praying for light and guidance. By 1845, as he was writing his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, he saw his way clear, and on 9th October he was received into the Roman Catholic Church by Father, now Blessed, Dominic Barberi. He had at last found ‘the One True Fold of the Redeemer’.

Conversion meant ostracism by friends and relatives. Undaunted, Newman set out for Rome to study for the priesthood. While there he became attracted by the idea of the Oratory – a Congregation of priests founded by Saint Philip Neri in the sixteenth century. He founded the first English Oratory at Maryvale, near Birmingham, in 1848, moving soon afterwards to Alcester Street, close to the town centre, where he converted a disused gin distillery into a chapel. They moved to a new and more permanent base in nearby Edgbaston three years later, and were engulfed by work among the poor Catholics of Birmingham, which was soon to become one of the new cities of the English Industrial Revolution.

In 1851 the Bishops of Ireland decided that a separate University should be established for Catholics, and invited Newman to become its founder and first Rector. It was a demanding task for an older man, but despite the strain of fifty six crossings to and from Ireland in seven years, he succeeded in establishing what is known today as University College, Dublin. From this period dates the important work “The Idea of a University” on the nature and scope of education, and the role of the Church in the context of a university.

When he returned to England, Newman faced a life of trials, as he was suspected and even resented by some in authority. Several projects which he took up, including a magazine for educated Catholics, a mission at Oxford, and a new translation of the Bible, met with rejection or failure. On the other hand, many of his publications in this period were well-received: the “Apologia pro Vita Sua” (1864), a biographical account of Newman’s conversion; the “Letter to the Duke of Norfolk” (1875), which considered the relationship between conscience and the authority of the Church; and the “Grammar of Assent” (1870), on human reasoning and the act of faith, which although not always well understood by his contemporaries, would become generally acknowledged as a major contribution to both philosophy and theology.

During old age, Newman continued in Birmingham, quietly writing, preaching and counseling (from the age of twenty three he had been above all a pastor – ‘a father of souls’) until, when seventy eight, a big surprise came. As a tribute to his extraordinary work and devotion, Pope Leo XIII made the unprecedented gesture of naming Newman, an ordinary priest, a Cardinal. After a life of trials the news came as a joyful relief and Newman declared ‘the cloud is lifted for ever’. Cardinal Newman died on 11th August 1890 and received a universal tribute of praise. The Times wrote: ‘whether Rome canonizes him or not he will be canonized in the thoughts of pious people of many creeds in England.’ The Cork Examiner affirmed that, ‘Cardinal Newman goes to his grave with the singular honor of being by all creeds and classes acknowledged as the just man made perfect.’

I have a place in God’s counsels, in God’s world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man,
God knows me and calls me by my name.
God has created me to do Him some definite service.
He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.
I have my mission–I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.
Somehow I am necessary for His purposes,
as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his
–if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham.
Yet I have a part in this great work;
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.
He has not created me for naught.
I shall do good, I shall do His work;
I shall be an angel of peace,
a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it,
if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust Him.
Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him;
in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him;
if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end,
which is quite beyond us.
He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it;
He knows what He is about.
He may take away my friends,
He may throw me among strangers,
He may make me feel desolate,
make my spirits sink, hide the future from me
–still He knows what He is about.
– Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, Meditations on Christian Doctrine

http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=7459867

“Learn to do thy part and leave the rest to heaven.” -Bl. John Henry Newman

“With Christians, a poetical view of things is a duty. We are bid to color all things with hues of faith, to see a divine meaning in every event.” -Bl. John Henry Newman

Love,
Matthew

Aug 9 – St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, (Edith Stein), OCD, (1891-1942), Martyr

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I love reading about people like Edith Stein.  I find I need a little inspiration every day and the example of a life well-lived to encourage me.  I hope you find the story of the life of Edith Stein inspiring, too.

Edith Stein (October 12, 1891 – August 9, 1942) was a German philosopher, a Carmelite nun, martyr, and saint of the Catholic Church, who died at Auschwitz. In 1922, she converted to Christianity, was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church and was received into the Discalced Carmelite Order in 1934. She was canonized as Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (her Carmelite monastic name) by Pope John Paul II in 1998; however, she is still often referred to, and churches named for her as, “Saint Edith Stein”.

Stein was born in Breslau, in the German Empire’s Prussian Province of Silesia, into an Orthodox Jewish family.  She stopped believing in God at 14.

At the University of Göttingen, she became a student of Edmund Husserl, whom she followed to the University of Freiburg as his assistant. She became fascinated with Phenomenology, an approach to Philosophy.  In 1916, she received her doctorate of philosophy there with a dissertation under Husserl, “On The Problem of Empathy.” She then became a member of the faculty in Freiburg.

As a graduate student of the philosopher Edmund Husserl, Edith Stein decided to write her dissertation on empathy, the ability to become aware of what others are experiencing. At the outbreak of World War I, however, Edith Stein deferred her philosophical studies and volunteered as a nurse’s aide at a military hospital in Moravia.

Far from distracting her from her philosophical pursuits, this time of service was a providential opportunity to learn more deeply the meaning of empathy. Each day, she assisted patients who were difficult to communicate with because of barriers of language and debilitation, trying to understand how and why they were suffering so as to be able to assist them or to communicate their symptoms to a doctor. According to Alasdair MacIntyre, this constant exposure to suffering and death helped Stein to later articulate in philosophical terms “what it is to be with and to be there for others, when they are confronting the possibility of imminent death.”

Several years later, while visiting the recently widowed Anna Reinach, Stein was astounded to find that though she had come to comfort her friend, it was in fact Reinach who comforted Stein. Years later, Stein was able to understand that this visit with Reinach, who had been baptized with her husband shortly before his death, was her “first encounter with the cross and the divine power that it bestows on those who carry it. For the first time I was seeing with my very eyes the church, born from its Redeemer’s sufferings, triumphant over the sting of death.”

While Stein had earlier contacts with Catholicism, it was her reading the autobiography of the mystic St. Teresa of Ávila on a holiday in Göttingen in 1921 that caused her conversion. Baptized on January 1, 1922, she gave up her assistantship with Husserl to teach at a Dominican girls’ school in Speyer from 1922 to 1932. While there she translated Thomas Aquinas’ De Veritate (On Truth) into German and familiarized herself with Catholic philosophy in general. In 1932 she became a lecturer at the Institute for Pedagogy at Münster, but anti-Semitic legislation passed by the Nazi government forced her to resign the post in 1933. In a letter to Pope Pius XI, she denounced the Nazi regime and asked the Pope to openly denounce the regime “to put a stop to this abuse of Christ’s name.”

She entered the Discalced Carmelite monastery at Cologne in 1934 and took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. There she wrote her metaphysical book “Endliches und Ewiges Sein,” which tries to combine the philosophies of Aquinas and Husserl.

To avoid the growing Nazi threat, her order transferred Stein to the Carmelite monastery at Echt in the Netherlands. There she wrote Studie über Joannes a Cruce: Kreuzeswissenschaft (“The Science of the Cross: Studies on John of the Cross”).

However, Stein was not safe in the Netherlands—the Dutch Bishops’ Conference had a public statement read in all the churches of the country on July 20, 1942, condemning Nazi racism. In a retaliatory response on July 26, 1942, the Reichskommissar of the Netherlands, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, ordered the arrest of all Jewish converts, who had previously been spared. Stein and her sister Rosa, also a convert, were captured and shipped to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they died in the gas chambers on August 9, 1942.

The writings of Edith Stein fill 17 volumes, many of which have been translated into English.  Sister Josephine Koeppel, O.C.D., translator of several of Edith’s books, sums up this saint with the phrase, “Learn to live at God’s hands.”

In his homily at the canonization Mass, Pope John Paul II said: “…A few days before her deportation, the woman religious had dismissed the question about a possible rescue: ‘Do not do it! Why should I be spared? Is it not right that I should gain no advantage from my Baptism? If I cannot share the lot of my brothers and sisters, my life, in a certain sense, is destroyed.’”

Addressing himself to the young people gathered for the canonization, the Pope said: “Your life is not an endless series of open doors! Listen to your heart! Do not stay on the surface but go to the heart of things! And when the time is right, have the courage to decide! The Lord is waiting for you to put your freedom in his good hands.”

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“God is there in these moments of rest and can give us in a single instant exactly what we need. Then the rest of the day can take its course, under the same effort and strain, perhaps, but in peace. And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it with Him. Then you will be able to rest in Him — really rest — and start the next day as a new life.” – St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

“O my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage and strength to serve You. Enkindle Your love in me and then walk with me along the next stretch of road before me. I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived where the horizon now closes down, a new prospect will open before me, and I shall meet it with peace.” – St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

“Learn from St. Thérèse to depend on God alone and serve Him with a wholly pure and detached heart. Then, like her, you will be able to say ‘I do not regret that I have given myself up to Love’.” – St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

“One cannot desire freedom from the Cross when one is especially chosen for the Cross.” -St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross 

“The nation doesn’t simply need what we have. It needs who we are.” -St. Teresa Benedicta

“Whoever is near us and needing us must be our ‘neighbor’; it does not matter whether he is related to us or not, whether he is morally worthy of our help or not. The love of Christ knows no limits. It never ends; it does not shrink from ugliness and filth.” -St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

“O Prince of Peace, to all who receive You, You bright light and peace. Help me to live in daily contact with You, listening to the words You have spoken and obeying them. O Divine Child, I place my hands in Yours; I shall follow You. Oh, let Your divine life flow into me.

I will go unto the altar of God. It is not myself and my tiny little affairs that matter here, but the great sacrifice of atonement. I surrender myself entirely to Your divine will, O Lord. Make my heart grow greater and wider, out of itself into the Divine Life.

O my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage and strength to serve You. Enkindle Your love in me and then walk with me along the next stretch of road before me. I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived where the horizon now closes down, a new prospect will open before me and I shall met with peace.

How wondrous are the marvels of your love, We are amazed, we stammer and grow dumb, for word and spirit fail us.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 14 – St Maximilian Kolbe, (1894-1941)

St. Maximilian Kolbe

I find I need REAL sinners in my relating towards my own sinfulness and redemption.  I love Jesus, and He is my constant inspiration, dare I say companion, but it can be a little hard to relate to an infinitely transcendant God, at least for me, on a constant basis.  Maybe you get it, but I struggle.

My fellow mortals, on the other hand, I seem to relate to readily.  And, I am inspired by how they responded, in faith, to a very real world, each of their own time.  I hope and trust you may sense method to my madness.

Maximilian Kolbe’s proximity to our own time certainly makes him more tangible, and some of our beloved elders still hold that terrible time in living memory.

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“The most deadly poison of our times is indifference. And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers…For Jesus Christ I am prepared to suffer still more.”
– Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Auschwitz prisoner #16670, Franciscan priest, missionary, martyr of charity.

He took the place of Francis Gajowniczek who was married with young children who had been condemned to die along with nine others by order of SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Karl Fritzsch, the Lagerfuhrer (i.e., the camp commander), as punishment for the escape of a prisoner from the camp in late July, 1941.  (The man who had disappeared was later found drowned in the camp latrine.)

When selecting the prisoners to die, the Nazi guards selected one man from each line at random, including Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek, when the sergeant cried out, “My wife and children.  I shall never see them again!”.  A man stepped out from the rows and offered to take his place.  It was prisoner #16670, Maximilian Kolbe.

A Nazi officer asked Kolbe who he was.  Kolbe responded, “I am a Catholic priest.  I wish to die for that man.  I am old.  He has a wife and children.”  Remember, Auschwitz was a work camp first and an extermination camp later and had the horrific deception cast in iron above the main entrance, “Arbeit Macht Frei!” – Work Makes You Free!  So, a younger prisoner was more valuable to the Nazis than someone passing middle-age.

So it was that Maximilian Kolbe and the nine others were taken to the death chamber of Block 11, notorious for torture.  Kolbe was placed in cell 18.   In the “block of death” they were ordered to strip naked, and their slow starvation began in darkness. But there was no screaming. During the time in the cell, Fr. Kolbe led the other condemned men in songs and prayer.

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Francis Gajowniczek was set eventually set free from Auschwitz when it was liberated by the Allies. Pope John Paul II canonized Maximillian Kolbe on 10 October 1982, in the presence of Gajowniczek.

During the first two weeks of August, 1941 the condemned prisoners were deprived of any food or water.  One after the other died, until only four were left including Maximilian.

The Nazis felt that death by starvation was taking too long for the remaining four and the cells were needed for newly condemned.  So, each prisoner in turn was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid (phenol) in the vein of his left arm.  Maximilian, with a prayer on his lips gave his arm to his executioner.  Maximilian Kolbe was 47 years old when he was executed.  His remains were cremated in the ovens at Auschwitz and his ashes dumped, like so much trash, along with the rest, near the camp, as had and would so many others.

As a child, he was known to be mischievous and sometimes considered wild, and a trial to his parents. However, in 1906 at Pabianice, Poland, at age twelve and around the time of his first Communion, Raymond, his baptismal name, Maximilian was his religious name, reports he received a vision of the Virgin Mary that changed his life:

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“I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.”

“Courage, my sons. Don’t you see that we are leaving on a mission? They pay our fare in the bargain. What a piece of good luck! The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible. Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes.” -Maximilian Mary Kolbe, when first arrested.

“Love without penance, without sacrifice, is not love. There are souls who would like to possess the love of God, but they avoid and fear to do penance. Without the spirit of penance and self-abnegation, there can be no love.” St. Maximilian Kolbe

“The most deadly poison of our times is indifference. And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers.” -St. Maximilian Kolbe 

St Maximilian Kolbe is the patron of addicts.

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Prayer – St Maximillian Kolbe:

O Lord Jesus Christ, You who said, “greater love than this no man has, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13), through the intercession of St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose life illustrated such love, we beseech you to grant us our petitions . . .

(here mention the requests you have).

Through the Militia Immaculata movement, which Maximilian founded, he spread a fervent devotion to Our Lady throughout the world. He gave up his life for a total stranger and loved his persecutors, giving us an example of unselfish love for all men – a love that was inspired by true devotion to You, in imitation of Mary.

Grant, O Lord Jesus, that we too may give ourselves entirely, without reserve, to the love and service of You in our lives, in imitation of our Heavenly Queen, and in so doing, better love and serve our neighbor, in imitation of Your humble servant, Maximilian. Amen.

“Be a man, be a Catholic, don’t blush for your convictions. Be a man.” – Saint Maximilian Kolbe

“Let us remember that love lives through the sacrifice & is nourished by giving.” – St M. Kolbe

Love,
Matthew

Nov 25 – St Catherine of Alexandria, (282-305 AD), Virgin & Martyr, Co-patroness of the Order of Preachers & “The Sopranos”

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-Gaudenzio Ferrari, “The Martyrdom of St Catherine of Alexandria”, c. 1500~1550, oil on panel, 334 cm (131.5 in) x 210 cm (82.7 in).

Christians have always venerated the saints and martyrs since the inception of the Church.  We have evidence of this from 1st century scratchings on the walls of the catacombs.  “Vincent, you are in Christ, pray for Phoebe.  Paul and Peter, pray for Victor.  Sentianus, in your prayers, pray for us, for we know you are in Christ.”

This Summer (2007), Kelly and I, in honor, or mourning, if you prefer, of the ending of the HBO series “The Sopranos”, watched the entire series from beginning to end in the vacuum of Summer television programming.

In addition to being entertaining, I felt there might be therapeutic, for my wife, and practical, to me, benefits in helping my Midwestern born and raised wife understand that not all of her new husband’s volatile (relative to the Midwest) personality traits were his fault alone, but that some were certainly environmental and cultural and “from the water”, as they say, of his youth as a waif growing up in “Joisey”.

The plot of the series and the actions of its characters made perfect practical sense to me.  Tony Soprano is my hero, along with Jesus Christ; a study in contrasts, I realize.  I mean, really, how else or otherwise are you efficiently supposed get your point across? Negotiate?  🙂

While Kelly did gain an appreciation of her husband’s native State and its people, culture, and ways, as we watched the series, she still confessed there are many things she does not understand about me.  Join the club.  The mystery is the joy.  To know is to love.  You gotta’ problem with ‘dat?

We now regularly greet each other at home with “how you doin’?”  Or, “fuggettaboutit”.

I must confess, seasons 1-3 are my favorites.  I think success altered the tone of the plot after that.

In season three, episode twelve, Carmela and Meadow are touring the Met in NY, and stand before the painting “The Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria” by Giuseppe (alt, Jose’ de) Ribera, 1648.  Carmela begins to weep and the plot moves on.

I love the story of St Catherine of Alexandria. See…and you wondered how I was going to tie in “The Sopranos” to St Catherine of Alexandria, didn’t you?  Oh, ye of little faith. 🙂

Alexandria, the historically great Egyptian city (a rival to Rome itself in nearly all aspects in the ancient world, and exceeding it in some) at the mouth of the Nile was founded by Alexander the Great.  In the ancient world, Alexandria was traditionally a center of great learning, both pagan and Christian. The “Library of Alexandria”, before it burned, was sibling to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Lighthouse of Alexandria.  Its Christian activities centered around the great church founded, according to tradition, by the Apostle Mark, with its catechetical school, the first of its kind in Christendom.

Saint Catherine lived at the end of the third century A.D. and the beginning of the fourth.  Catherine was born of a patrician family of Alexandria. She was the daughter of Constus, Governor of Alexandria, Egypt.  From childhood Catherine had devoted herself to study and through her reading she had learned much intellectually of Christianity.  She declared to her parents that she would only enter into marriage with someone who surpassed her in reputation, wealth, beauty and wisdom.

Catherine’s mother, a secret Christian, sent her for advice to her own spiritual advisor – a monk who lived in solitude in a cave not far from the city. Having listened to Catherine, the monk said that he knew of a Youth who surpassed her in everything, such that “His beauty is more radiant than the shining of the sun, His wisdom governed all creation, His riches were spread throughout all the world—this however did not diminish but rather added to the inexpressible loftiness of his lineage.”

At this point, Catherine had not yet been baptized, but prayed all night and was granted a vision the Blessed Mother holding the infant Jesus. But the Child turned His face away from her saying that He was not able to look at her because she was ugly, of shabby lineage, beggarly and mindless like every person—not washed with the waters of holy Baptism and not sealed with the seal of the Holy Spirit.

Catherine returned again to the monk deeply saddened. The monk lovingly instructed her in the faith of Christ, admonished her to preserve her purity and integrity and to pray unceasingly; he then performed over her the mystery and sacrament of holy baptism.  Again, Catherine had a vision of the Mother of God with her Child. Now the Lord looked tenderly at her and gave her a ring—a wondrous gift of the heavenly Bridegroom – a mystical marriage.

The account of Catherine’s life continues that shortly afterwards, at the age of eighteen, Catherine presented herself to the Roman Emperor Maximinus Daia who was in Alexandria celebrating a pagan feast day, but who also was carrying out a persecution of the Christians. She admonished him for his cruelty and demanded that he cease the persecutions.

Astounded and insulted at the young woman’s audacity, but lacking the training and intellectual skills necessary to debate with her, Maximinus detained her in his palace and called for fifty of his best scholars to try to trip her up in her beliefs, either to make her apostatize against Christianity or commit a heresy against the Roman pagan religion so that she could be put to death. Contrary to what Maximinus expected, she managed to convert his scholars with her eloquence and knowledge of both religion and science.  Maximinus was so outraged he had all fifty of them burned alive and Catherine scourged and put in prison.

The empress, Faustina, however, heard of the extraordinary young woman and stole secretly into the prison in the company of the Roman general Porphyry.  They listened to Catherine, were converted and baptized, but were both executed by Maximinus when he discovered what had happened.

The beauty of the maiden captivated the emperor.  Maximinus, no longer hoping to convince the saint, tried to entice her with the promise of riches and fame by becoming his wife. Catherine gave him an angry refusal.  Infuriated, Maximinus ordered Catherine to be broken on a spiked wheel. Yet at her touch, the instrument of torture was miraculously destroyed.

Seeing no alternative, Maximinus ordered her beheaded. She died in the year 305 A.D.

Her final words are recorded as:  “O Jesus, good King, I await the sword for Thy sake; do Thou deign to receive my spirit, and to show mercy to those who honor my memory.  Come, My chosen one, come; enter into the bridal chamber of thy Spouse.  Thou hast obtained the grant of thy petition, and it shall be well with them that praise Thee.”

Her body was carried to Mount Sinai where a monastery and church were later built by the order of the Emperor Justinian. Interestingly enough, the site where Catherine’s body was found is also believed to be the site of the burning bush seen by Moses.

Eleven centuries later, when Jeanne d’Arc, a twelve year old illiterate French farm girl claimed to hear three voices telling her to drive out the English from France and bring the Dauphin to Reims for his coronation and did, Joan, at her trial for heresy after being captured by the English, claimed Catherine’s voice was one of those she heard.

In the Eastern Church, the following hymns (troparion) are used as part of the Liturgy of the Feast of St Catherine of Alexandria:

Greek usage (Tone 5)

Let us praise the all-lauded and noble bride of Christ,
the godly Catherine, the guardian of Sinai and its defense,
who is also our support and succour and our help;
for with the Holy Spirit’s sword
she hath silenced brilliantly the clever among the godless;
and being crowned as a martyr, she now doth ask great mercy for us all.

Slavic usage (Tone 4)

Thy lamb Catherine, O Jesus,
Calls out to Thee in a loud voice:
I love Thee, O my Bridegroom,
And in seeking Thee, I endure suffering.
In baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in Thee,
And died so that I might live with Thee.
Accept me as a pure sacrifice,
For I have offered myself in love.
By her prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.

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-Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Caravaggio, c. 1598, oil on canvas, H: 173 cm (68.1 in). W: 133 cm (52.4 in).

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-The Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Giuseppe Ribera, 1648. Catherine kisses an infant Jesus, who is held by the Virgin Mary. In the background are Saint Anne and Saint Joseph.

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-ring of St Catherine given to pilgrims who visit Mount Sinai

Tradition has it that Catherine appeared three times in visions during the early days of the Order of Preachers.  She was one of the Virgins (along with St. Cecilia) who accompanied the Blessed Virgin Mary when she gave Bl. Reginald the scapular.  She also accompanied the Blessed Virgin in the vision in which St. Dominic saw the Virgin Mary sprinkling the brethren while they slept.

Lastly, she again accompanied the Blessed Virgin, along with St. Mary Magdalene (co-patroness of the Order of Preachers), during the transitus of the miraculous image of St. Dominic to Soriano.  It might seem that not only has the Dominican Order chosen her as patroness, but you might even be able to say that she herself has chosen to watch over the Friars Preachers in a special way.

O God, you gave the law to Moses on the summit of Mount Sinai, and through your holy angels, wonderfully put in that same place the body of the blessed Catherine, your virgin and martyr; grant, we beseech you, that by her merits and intercession, we may reach that mountain which is Christ.  Through Christ our Lord.

Love,
Matthew

Aug 19 – St John Eudes, CJM, (1601-1680), Father of Modern Devotion to the Hearts of Jesus & Mary

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-n.b. the Latin inscription on the enflamed Heart of God St John is holding, which is difficult to read in this image, says “Cor Jesu et Mariae fornax amoris”, his thumb is covering the “amo” in “amoris”, a prime example of why much contextual training in interpreting, appreciating art is absolutely required, when the artist in 1673 would just assume when the literate devotee would view, would immediately know what was intended, albeit un-illustrated, hidden.  “The Heart of Jesus and Mary, furnace of love”

As many of you know, the McCormick family has a very special devotion to the Sacred Heart.  I cannot remember a time as a child when my parents and I did not end our grace before meals w/out “O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!”  Modern (17th century until the present) devotion to the Sacred Heart was a response to Jansenism.

Jansenism is a Catholic heresy, condemned by Pope Innocent X in 1655, and was a product of the Counter-Reformation.  Jansenism emphasizes original sin, human depravity, the necessity of divine “efficacious grace” as it relates to the free will, and predestination.  It is a form of Catholic Calvinism.  It’s principal architect was the Dutch theologian Cornelius Otto Jansen.  It held sway over Catholic thought, and strains can still be found, between the 16th-18th centuries.

Born on a farm in northern France, John died at 79 in the next “county” or department. In that time he was a religious, a parish missionary, founder of two religious communities and a great promoter of the devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  He joined the religious community of the Oratorians and was ordained a priest at 24. During severe plagues in 1627 and 1631, he volunteered to care for the stricken in his own diocese. Lest he infect his fellow religious, he lived in a huge cask in the middle of a field during the plague.

At age 32, John became a parish missionary. St John Eudes was dedicated and worked towards “restoring the priestly order to its full splendor” in his time. His gifts as preacher and confessor won him great popularity. He preached over 100 parish missions, some lasting from several weeks to several months.

In his concern with the spiritual improvement of the clergy, he realized that the greatest need was for seminaries. He had permission from his general superior, the bishop and even Cardinal Richelieu to begin this work, but the succeeding general superior disapproved. After prayer and counsel, John decided it was best to leave the religious community. The same year he founded a new one, ultimately called the Eudists (Congregation of Jesus and Mary), devoted to the formation of the clergy by conducting diocesan seminaries. The new venture, while approved by individual bishops, met with immediate opposition, especially from Jansenists and some of his former associates. John founded several seminaries in Normandy, but was unable to get approval from Rome (partly, it was said, because he did not use the most tactful approach).  Fr. John Eudes was a disciple of St Vincent de Paul.

In his parish mission work, John was disturbed by the sad condition of prostitutes who sought to escape their miserable life. Temporary shelters were found but arrangements were not satisfactory. A certain Madeleine Lamy, who had cared for several of the women, one day said to him, “Where are you off to now? To some church, I suppose, where you’ll gaze at the images and think yourself pious. And all the time what is really wanted of you is a decent house for these poor creatures.” The words, and the laughter of those present, struck deeply within him. The result was another new religious community, called the Sisters of Charity of the Refuge.

St John Eudes is probably best known for the central theme of his writings: Jesus as the source of holiness, Mary as the model of the Christian life. His devotion to the Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary led Pius XI to declare him the father of the liturgical cult of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

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“Holiness is the wholehearted openness to the love of God. It is visibly expressed in many ways, but the variety of expression has one common quality: concern for the needs of others. In John’s case, those who were in need were plague-stricken people, ordinary parishioners, those preparing for the priesthood, prostitutes and all Christians called to imitate the love of Jesus and His mother.”
(www.americancatholic.org for Aug 19, Feast of St John Eudes)

“Our wish, our object, our chief preoccupation must be to form Jesus in ourselves, to make His spirit, His devotion, His affections, His desires and His disposition live and reign there. All our religious exercises should be directed to this end. It is the work which God has given us to do unceasingly” (-St. John Eudes, The Life and Reign of Jesus in Christian Souls).

“Let us therefore give ourselves to God with a great desire to begin to live thus, and beg Him to destroy in us the life of the world of sin, and to establish His life within us.”

“Father of mercies and God of all consolation, You gave us the loving Heart of your own beloved Son, because of the boundless love by which You have loved us, which no tongue can describe. May we render You a love that is perfect with hearts made one with His. Grant, we pray, that our hearts may be brought to perfect unity: each heart with the other and all hearts with the Heart of Jesus…”

“The air that we breathe, the bread that we eat, the heart which throbs in our bosoms, are not more necessary for man that he may live as a human being, than is prayer for the Christian that he may live as a Christian.”

“The worthy priest is an angel of purity in mind and body,
a cherub of light and knowledge,
a seraph of love and Charity,
an apostle of zeal in work and sanctity,
a little god on earth in power and authority, in patience and benignity.

He is the living image of Christ in this world,
of Christ watching, praying, preaching, catechizing, working, weeping,
going from town to town, from village to village,
suffering, agonizing,
sacrificing Himself and dying for the souls created to His image and likeness…

He is the light of those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

He is the destroyer of error, schisms and heresies,
the converter of sinners,
the sanctifier of the just,
the strength of the weak,
the consolation of the afflicted,
the treasure of the poor.
He is the confusion of hell,
the glory of heaven,
the terror of demons,
the joy of angels,
the ruin of Satan’s kingdom,
the establishment of Christ’s empire,
the ornament of the Church…”

Prayer for the intercession of St John Eudes

Father, You chose the priest John Eudes to preach the infinite riches of Christ. By his teaching and example help us to know You better and live faithfully in the light of the Gospel. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Aug 28 – St Edmund Arrowsmith, SJ, (1585-1628) – Priest & Martyr, The Holy Hand

St Edmund Arrowsmith, SJ

OK, maybe this whole internet thing has gone far enough?  Now I’m finding “rate this saint” and blogs about saints – the opine of the unwashed masses. 🙂 Now:  if you can’t beat ’em, join em! 🙂

The Internet – where else you can curse out and become furious with people whom you have never met?  What a wonderful invention.  Remember, it’s not the technology.  It’s the humans.  The technology is neutral, it merely amplifies what was already there.  Granted it may serve as a catalyst to more and greater positive and negative interactions, but “It IS in the way that you use it.”  Thank you, Eric Clapton.

n.b. the only exception I have found, of course, is the University of Virginia blogs.  Everyone stays on topic, refers to each other as Mr./Ms., liberally quotes Jefferson, and all remain quite respectful of each other throughout the entire discourse, citing meaningful reference, analogy, and example.  It is a special place, isn’t it.  Profanity would be met with horror, and certainly never in writing, and never in a public forum.  Puhllease!  We are ladies and gentlemen here, not the help. (please never take me seriously when I sound like that.  I’m just having fun!)  Civilization and civility clings to life in a few very sparse, special pockets.  Like Ireland in the Dark Ages.  See http://tiny.cc/inf9y.

Civility, anyone?  What happened to good manners?  Civil discourse?  Our democracy relies upon the respectful exchange of viewpoints, or it should.  For that matter, so does civilization?  So instead of the effort, discipline, and charity civil discourse requires, we remain silent?  God help us all.  Class cannot be bought, and very rarely taught to adults.  It is realized in the rearing of children, if at all.  If you want to get depressed about humanity, read blogs.  “Love one another?”  Jesus, you’re kidding, right?  That is a good one.  What else ya’ got?

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A Jesuit saint, finally!  I shouldn’t act so surprised, should I?  I couldn’t resist.  Ok, there go a goodly part of Mara’s chances for a quality education…I hope the Holy Ghost Fathers have a sense of humor.

We must remember, the idea of separation of Church and state was deeply radical at the time of US Revolution.  The idea that one could hold public office and not be of a certain denomination was unheard of.  The idea held that loyalty to one’s country was predicated on one’s religious beliefs, and religious beliefs and attendance at services was mandatory and absences were very noticeable, was prevalent and had been for all of history, to that point.

Go back as far as you like, but take the god-king Pharaohs as a primary example.  Coronation has many parallels and overtones with ordination and vice versa, both include anointing, and both always in churches.  Jesus is the Christ because He is King, Priest, & Prophet.  “A Deo rex, a rege lexa!…The king is from God, the law from the king!” -James I of England.

Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor, knelt in the snow of Canossa for three days, 25 January to 27 January 1077, begging the Pope to rescind his excommunication.  Excommunication of the sovereign meant subjects no longer had feudal duty and may overthrow at will, and should.  When Napoleon took the crown from the altar of Notre Dame, it having been blessed by Pius VII, and placed it on his own head, instead of having the Pope crown him, as was traditional, the symbolism was clear.  It was he himself who gave himself power, not the Church.

If one was not of the established state religion, how could one claim loyalty to the state?  The Church supported the state and gave it legitimacy.  The state gave protection to the Church, usually, exemption from taxes, its own ecclesiastical courts, etc., all were most historical.  When the Roman Empire collapsed in the West, the Church was the only remaining institution resembling some/any form of government.  People came to rely on it for such.  The very vestments worn today are the uniforms of office of Roman civil servants.

In England, during the reign of Henry VIII, it became dangerous to remain Catholic.  It became right out mortal to be priest.  It became a death wish to minister.  The main source of information on St Edmund is a contemporary account written by an eyewitness and published a short time after his death.  Edmund was the eldest son of Robert Arrowsmith, a farmer, and Margery Gerard’s, a member of an important Lancashire Catholic family, four children.  Edmund was born at Haydock, England. He was baptized Brian, but always used his Confirmation name of Edmund.  The name Edmund has a sentimental value for me.  It is a long given Christian name in the McCormick family.

Edmund’s parents refused to attend Protestant services, harbored priests in their home, and at one point were arrested and imprisoned in Lancaster Castle for their actions, dragged away in the night, leaving the shivering child Edmund in his night clothes, along with his siblings, until neighbors took them in.

Edmund’s grandfather, Nicholas Gerard, was recusant, one who refuses to attend Anglican services, and spent time in prison.  His other grandfather died in prison a confessor, one who suffers persecution, including torture.  The family was constantly harassed for its adherence to Roman Catholicism.  English Catholics have always been devoted to Our Lady and the first of St Edmund’s biographers speaks of his devotion to her. On his way to school at Sennely Green, it was his custom to say part of the Little Office of Our Lady and he would recite vespers and compline on his return.

In 1605 Edmund left England and went to study for the priesthood at the English College at Douai, France.  Many young Catholic men risked their lives to make such a journey.  On 27 May 1601 it was recorded that, “Lately 15 or 16 youths of good houses were taken (captive) as they were going over to the seminary.  Some had journeyed in rags through forests living on roots and berries until they reached the coast. Others had been sent to the frightful house of correction at Bridewell, or imprisoned twice or even three times before they got clear…..”

Edmund was soon forced to quit the seminary and return to England due to ill health, but recovered and returned to Douai in 1607.  Edmund was ordained in Arras, France on December 9, 1612 and sent on the English mission (sent back to England to minister to Catholics) the following year.  The return to England was also dangerous.

On June 17, 1613, Edmund began his return journey.  Ports were especially dangerous: officials had descriptions from spies of those returning and so many landed on isolated shores. In ‘The Proclamation against Jesuits’ 21 November 1591 it was said, ”And furthermore , because it is known and proved by common experience…that they do come into the same (realm) by secret creeks and landing places, disguised both in names and persons, some in apparel as soldiers, mariners or merchants, pretending that they have heretofore been taken prisoners and put into galleys and delivered. Some come as gentlemen with contrary  names in comely apparel as though they had travelled to foreign countries for knowledge: and generally all, for the most part, are clothed like gentlemen in apparel, and many as gallants; yea in all colours, and with feathers and such like, disguising themselves; and many of them in their behaviour as ruffians, far off to be thought or suspected to be friars, priests, Jesuits or popish scholars.”

Edmund Arrowsmith ministered to Roman Catholics of Lancashire at the still-standing Arrowsmith House, located in Hoghton, Lancashire.  He hid his vestments, chalice, and altar stones in a nearby cottage.  He travelled the area on horseback and would stay overnight where there was a hiding place, to bring the sacrifice of the Mass to the people. Father Robert Persons, in a letter written in July 1581 wrote, “No-one is to be found…who complained of the length of services. If Mass does not last nearly an hour many are discontented. If six or eight masses are said in the same place on the same day, the same congregation will assist at all.”(Compare that to today, and whispers of “Fr. Sominex” and the rush to the parking lot!  I guess it IS ALL context!)

Queen Elizabeth’s governors and hierarchy lived on confiscated Catholic property, so public distrust of priests supposedly working as agents of Catholic Spain and working for a Spanish invasion, worked to their advantage, keeping the population in a constant state of paranoia, dependant on an intrusive government. To keep all this in place, Elizabeth had her own Inquisition. Outspoken, Edmund was arrested in 1622 and questioned by the Protestant bishop of Chester, Dr. Bridgeman, and various Protestant clergymen of the area.  Edmund spent his prison time arguing theology with them.   He was released unexpectedly when King James I ordered all arrested priests be freed, in a political maneuver to temporarily appease the Spanish.  Even in these oppressive times Edmund was known for his pleasant disposition, sincerity, energy, fervor, zeal, and wit.

After making the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola (ask a Jesuit), Edmund joined the Jesuits in 1624, at Clerkenwell, London then immediately returned to Lancashire.  In 1628, he was arrested when betrayed by a fellow Catholic to the local justice of the peace, a Mr. Rostern.  His betrayer was a young man, a Mr. Holden, the son of the landlord of the Blue Anchor Inn in south Lancashire, where Fr. Arrowsmith was staying.  Fr. Arrowsmith had imposed a penance on Holden and his wife to which they would not submit.  Fr. Arrowsmith had censored Holden for an incestuous marriage.  The Holdens were first cousins.  Fr. Arrowsmith tried to escape, warned by Capt. Rawsthorn that he was about to send soldiers for him, but Edmund was captured at Brindle Moss, where his horse refused to jump a ditch.  A small statue of Our Lady Edmund always carried with him dropped as he was captured.  It now resides at Arrowsmith House.  His captors bought themselves drinks with nine shillings of Edmund’s money.

Edmund preached the Gospel to his fellow prisoners while in jail.  On August 26th 1628, Sir Henry Yelverton ordered Edmund to be brought to the bar, and during the trial Yelverton swore that he would not leave Lancashire before the prisoner was executed and made sure the prisoner saw his own bowels burn before his face.  Sir Henry inflamed the jury with his bitterness.

Edmund decided to let the court prove the charge rather than help them with a confession, replying, “Would that I were worthy of being a priest!” When the jury found him guilty of being a Jesuit priest, he fell to his knees, bowed his head, and exclaimed, “Thanks be to God!”  The sentence was read,”You shall go from hence to the place from whence you came.  From thence you shall be drawn to the place of execution upon a hurdle;  you shall there be hanged till you are half dead;  your members shall be cut off before your face and thrown into the fire, where likewise your bowels shall be burnt:  your head shall be cut off and set upon a stake, and your quarters shall be set upon the four corners of the castle; and may God have mercy upon you.”  No one in Lancashire could be found to perform the execution.  Finally, a deserter, under the same sentence, was found to do the deed.

Yelverton ordered the execution at mid-day when the townspeople of Lancashire would be busy, so as to avoid a crowd.  However, a large crowd appeared.  Edmund spoke, “I die for love of Thee;  for our Holy Faith; for the support of the authority of Thy vicar on earth, the successor of St Peter, true head of the Catholic Church, which Thou hast founded and established.”

Brought to execution, “the usual butchery”, Edmund spoke again.  “I freely offer Thee my death, O sweet Jesus, in satisfaction for my sins, and I wish this little blood of mine may be a sacrifice for them”.  He asked the Catholics present to pray for him. He then prayed for the King, forgave his persecutors and asked for forgiveness from all those whom he may have offended. He continued, “Be witnesses with me that I die a constant Roman Catholic and for Christ’s sake; let my death be an encouragement to your going forward in the Catholic religion.” His confession on the day of his execution was heard by fellow-prisoner Saint John Southworth.  His final words before the executioner pushed him from the ladder were,”Bone Jesu” (O good Jesus).

Edmund Arrowsmith, SJ, was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Lancaster on August 28th, 1628.  He was 43 yrs old and had been a Jesuit for only five years.

From his remains, his hand was cut off by another Catholic as a relic.  It has been preserved and kept by the Arrowsmith family until he was beatified and it now rests in the Catholic Church of St Oswald and St Edmund Arrowsmith, Ashton-in-Makerfield, England in a silver casket.  Many miracles are reported due to it.

On Saturday, September 18, 2010, 43 staff and pupils from St Edmund Arrowsmith, SJ High School in Ashton-in-Makerfield, UK journeyed to London to welcome BXVI to England for the beatification of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman  The Pope spoke the following words to the crowd, especially the young, “When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best.”

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-St Edmund’s vestments and Mass kit, Stonyhurst College, UK

Love,
Matthew

Sep 29 – St Michael the Archangel, Defend Us in Battle

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“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 Evil One wishes is our despair.  Resist him, solid in your faith.

Satan’s Tools

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.

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-St Michael the Archangel, Scipione Tadolini, 1865, Rotunda, Gasson Hall, Boston College

Love,
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, "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