Jul 13 – St Clelia Barbieri (1847-1870), Patroness of those ridiculed for their piety

Clelia Barbieri was born to Giacinta Nannetti and Giuseppe Barbieri, on February 13th, 1847 in a village called “Budrie” of San Giovanni in Persiceto, in the outskirts of Bologna, Italy.

Her parents were of very different origins: Giuseppe Barbieri came from perhaps the poorest family of “Budrie”, while Giacinta from the most important family in town. Giuseppe worked as servant for Giacinta’s uncle, the district’s medical doctor, while she was the daughter of the well-to-do Pietro Nannetti.

After their much-contested wedding, the wealthy Giacinta accepted the poverty of a laborer’s life and moved from a comfortable home to the humble cottage of her father-in-law. Giacinta taught Clelia to love God early in her life placing in her heart the desire for sanctity. One day Clelia asked her, “Mother, how can I become a saint?”

In 1855, during a cholera epidemic, the then eight-year-old Clelia lost her father and through the generosity of her uncle, the doctor, she, her mother and younger sister Ernestina moved into a more comfortable house near the parish church.

At an early age, Clelia began to spend her time in contemplative prayer.  There existed in the Church at that time a group called “The Christian Catechism Workers” who were mainly men whose aim it was to combat the prevalent religious negligence of the times.

Clelia joined the The Workers of Christian Catechism as an assistant teacher at the age of 14. She became such an inspirational leader in the community that the parish priest, Don Gaetano Guido, entrusted her with teaching and guiding young girls in Christian doctrine. By the time she was 17, she rejected marriage offers, opting instead to lead a pious life.

Clelia eventually founded a separate group, the Suore Minime dell’Addolorata (Congregation of Minims of the Sorrowful Mother) May 1st, 1868 when she was only 21. The Congregation concentrates on ministering in hospitals and elementary schools, to the sick, the aged, the lonely, and a prayer ministry for the poor.

Two years after founding the order, Clelia Barieiri died of tuberculosis on July 13th, 1870.

The religious order of Suore Minime dell’Addolorata continues to operate 35 community houses in Italy, India and Tanzania.

Being only twenty-three at the time of her death, Clelia Barbieri is the youngest founder of a religious community in the history of the Church.

After Clelia’s death, an unusual and unexplained occurrence has often been reported in the various parishes she visited and houses in which her order is located. Her voice is often heard in readings and hymns. The voice never speaks alone but is always heard as part of a group. Throughout the years, people from various backgrounds have reported hearing the voice which is described as “unlike any of this earth”. The first reported occurrence happened one year after her death when sisters of her order were in evening prayer.

Prayer for the intercession of St Clelia Barbieri:

Father, in Clelia Barbieri, You give the world an example of Gospel living, love of You, and the perfection of charity. She celebrated and manifested her love of You in the service of others.  You call us to imitate her and to follow her example.

We ask You for the grace to do so, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns forever and ever.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Jun 1 – St Justin Martyr, (100-165 AD)

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All the voices around Justin clamored that they had the truth he sought so desperately. He had listened to them all since he first came to Rome to get his education. They each shouted that they held the one and only answer but he felt no closer to the truth than when he had started his studies. He had left the Stoic master behind but the Stoics valued discipline as truth and thought discussion of God unnecessary. He had rejected the Peripatetic who seemed more interested in money than discussion. The Pythagorean had rejected him because he didn’t know enough music and geometry — the things that would lead him to truth. He had found some joy with the Platonists because the contemplation of ideas gave wings to his mind, but they had promised wisdom would let him see God and so, where was God?

There was one place that Justin always escaped to in order to get away from these shouting, confusing voices and search out the quiet inner voice that led him to truth. This place was a lonely spot, a path that seemed made for him alone in a field by the sea. So sure was he of the isolation of his retreat that he was shocked one day to find an old man following him.

The old man was not searching for truth but for some of his family. Nonetheless they began a discussion in which Justin identified himself as a philologian, a lover of reason. The old man challenged him — why was he not a lover of truth, a lover of deeds. Justin told him that reason led to truth, and philosophy led to happiness. This was certainly an interesting thing for Justin to say since he had not found the truth in the study of reason or happiness in his quest among the philosophers! Perhaps the old man sensed this for he asked for Justin’s definition of philosophy and of happiness.

In the long discussion that followed, Justin spoke eloquently to the old man’s searching questions but even Justin had to admit that philosophers may talk about God but had never seen him, may discuss the soul but didn’t really know it. But if the philosophers whom Justin admired and followed couldn’t, then nobody could, right?

The old man told him about the ancient prophets, the Hebrew prophets, who had talked not of ideas but of what they had seen and heard, what they knew and experienced. And this was God. The old man ended the conversation by telling Justin to pray that the gates of light be opened to him.

Inflamed by this conversation, Justin sought out the Scriptures and came to love them. Christ words “possess a terrible power in themselves, and are sufficient to inspire those who turn aside from the path of rectitude with awe; while the sweetest rest is afforded those who make a diligent practice of them.”

Why hadn’t Justin known about Christianity before with as much as he had studied? He had heard about it, the way other pagans of second century Rome had, by the rumors and accusations that surrounded the persecution of Christians. The fearlessness of their actions made him doubt the gossip, but he had nothing else to go by. Christians at that time kept their beliefs secret. They were so afraid that outsiders would trample on their sacred faith and desecrate their mysteries that they wouldn’t tell anyone about their beliefs — even to counteract outright lies. To be honest, there was good reason for their fears — many actors for example performed obscene parodies of Christian ritual for pagan audiences, for example.

But Justin believed differently. He had been one of those outsiders — not someone looking for trouble, but someone earnestly searching for the truth. The truth had been hidden from him by this fear of theirs. And he believed there were many others like him. He exhorted them that Christians had an obligation to speak of their faith, to witness to others about their faith and their mysteries.

Justin never ended his quest for religious truth even when he converted to Christianity at the age of thirty after years of studying various pagan philosophies.

As a young man, he was principally attracted to the school of Plato. However, he found that the Christian religion answered the great questions about life and existence better than the philosophers.

Upon his conversion he continued to wear the philosopher’s mantle, and became the first Christian philosopher. He combined the Christian religion with the best elements in Greek philosophy. In his view, philosophy was a pedagogue of Christ, an educator that was to lead one to Christ.

Justin is known as an apologist, not someone who apologizes, but rather someone who defends in writing the Christian religion against the attacks and misunderstandings of the pagans. Two of his so-called apologies have come down to us; they are addressed to the Roman emperor and to the Senate.  He also opened a school of debate in Rome.  Naturally, he came to the attention of the Roman authorities.

Justin was arrested during the persecution of Emperor Marcus Aurelius along with four other Christians:  Chariton, Charites, Paeon, and Liberianus.

“The saints were seized and brought before the prefect of Rome, whose name was Rusticus. As they stood before the judgment seat, Rusticus the prefect commanded Justin, “Above all, have faith in the gods and obey the emperors.”

Justin replied, “We cannot be accused or condemned for obeying the commands of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Rusticus said, “What system of teaching do you profess?”

Justin said, “I have tried to learn about every system, but I have accepted the true doctrines of the Christians, though these are not approved by those who are held fast by error.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “Are those doctrines approved by you, wretch that you are?”

Justin said, “Yes, for I follow them with their correct teaching.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “What sort of teaching is that?”

Justin said, “Worship the God of the Christians. We hold him to be from the beginning the one creator and maker of the whole creation, of things seen and things unseen. We worship also the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Rusticus said, “You are a Christian, then?”

Justin said, “Yes, I am a Christian.”

The prefect said to Justin, “You are called a learned man and think you know what is true teaching. Listen: if you were scourged and beheaded, are you convinced that you would go up to heaven?”

Justin said, “I hope that I shall enter God’s house if I suffer in that way. For I know that God’s favor is stored up until the end of the whole world for all who have lived good lives.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “Do you have an idea that you will go up to heaven to receive some suitable rewards?”

Justin said, “It is not an idea that I have; it is something I know well and hold to be most certain.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “Now let us come to the point at issue, which is necessary and urgent. Gather round then and with one accord offer sacrifice to the gods.”

Justin said, “No one who is right-thinking stoops from true worship to false worship.”

The prefect Rusticus said, “If you do not do as you are commanded you will be tortured without mercy.”

Justin said, “We hope to suffer torment for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so be saved.” In the same way the other martyrs also said, “Do what you will. We are Christians; we do not offer sacrifice to idols.”

The prefect Rusticus pronounced sentence, saying, “Let those who have refused to sacrifice to the gods and to obey the command of the emperor be scourged and led away to suffer capital punishment according to the ruling of the laws.” Glorifying God, the holy martyrs were beheaded, and so fulfilled their witness of martyrdom in confessing their faith in their Savior.” – from the Acts of the Martyrdom of Saint Justin and his Companions

“We pray for our enemies; we seek to persuade those who hate us without cause to live conformably to the goodly precepts of Christ, that they may become partakers with us of the joyful hope of blessings from God, the Lord of all.”
―St. Justin Martyr

“By examining the tongue of a patient, physicians find out the diseases of the body, and philosophers the diseases of the mind.”
―St. Justin Martyr

“Wherein is it possible for us, wicked and impious creatures, to be justified, except in the only Son of God? O sweet reconciliation! O untraceable ministry! O unlooked-for blessing! that the wickedness of many should be hidden in one godly and righteous man, and the righteousness of one justify a host of sinners!”
―St. Justin Martyr

“No one in his right mind gives up piety for impiety.”
~ Justin Martyr, apologist, Saint; in answer to the Prefect Rusticus who had demanded sacrifice to the Roman gods; from the trial transcript by Tatian (A.D. 165).

Prayer to St Justin Martyr:
Saint Justin Martyr, pray that in our search for the Truth, God will open the gates of light for us the way He did for you and give us the wisdom no human being can give. Amen

Love,
Matthew

Jun 16 – St John Francis Regis, SJ (1597-1640)

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John Francis Regis was born in Fontcouverte, Aude, Languedoc, France, January 31, 1597.  It is reported that upon hearing instruction from his mother on the punishments of hell and the peril of damnation, the five year old John Francis fainted.

Being the son of a wealthy French merchant, he was educated at the Jesuit college at Beziers, and at Cahors, Le Puy, Auch, and Tournon.  Descartes was a contemporary of John’s, and was similarly being educated by the Jesuits in one of their other fifty or so colleges in France at the same time.  John joined the Jesuits at age 18, after briefly considering a conversion to Buddhism.  He is best known for his ability as a preacher.  He was such a good catechist, the children whom he taught brought their parents back to the Church.

He began his life’s work tending to plague victims.  He labored for the conversion of the Huguenots – French Calvinists.  He visited hospitals, sought material assistance for the poor, he created housing and employment as lace-makers for prostitutes wishing to reform their lives.  He endured many hardships.

As we all know, “no good deed goes unpunished”, and so it was with John Francis.  At one point there was a movement against him by some of his fellow Jesuits, who felt his zealous “signs of simplicity and indiscretion (in his charity)” did not best showcase their order nor follow its teachings. The bishop of the diocese where Regis was giving missions resulting in many conversions, however, recognized there was more jealousy than theology in the complaint, and ignored it. Regis asked for transfer to Canada where he could preach without worries about the politics of the Order, but he was ordered to continue his good works in the French countryside.

Another famous French saint, St John Vianney, Cure’ d’Ars & renowned confessor, Patron Saint of Priests, at the age of twenty, went on pilgrimage to the shrine and remains of St John Francis Regis in 1806.  It was the firm belief of this latter saint all his life that his vocation to the priesthood was due to the intercession of St John Francis Regis.

Knowing the end was near in late December, 1640, John Francis’ last words were, “Into Thy hands, I commend my spirit.”

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The portrait of St. John Francis Regis depicts him preaching to the French peasantry. The painting is full of symbolism, including the wampum belt, a tribal record treasured by the Iroquois. St. Regis wanted to preach and minister to the Indians and bring them to Catholicism.

Despite the fact that he never left France, Canadian Catholic Mohawk Indians, members of one of the original Five Nations of the Iroquois, founded a settlement in New York 1755 and named it St. Regis. The settlement, which straddles the St. Lawrence River, the international border between Canada and the United States, later became the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation.

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Le Puy-en-Velay, altar and statue of St.Jean-François Régis, Notre-Dame du Collège Church. -Altar of St John Francis Regis

Prayer

St John Francis
You felt a burning love
You could not, nor desired to ignore
Rather you left all things
When you heard the words, “Follow Me!”

You led others
To the One you followed,
Help us to follow
The same Master
All our days.

Amen.

When St John Francis was struck in the face by a sinner whom he was reproving, he replied, “If you only knew me, you would give me much more than that.”

Love,
Matthew

Jun 20 – Msgr Georges LeMaitre, (1894-1966), Priest, Physicist, Father of the “Big Bang” Theory

Not a saint, yet, but a personal and professional hero of mine.

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Monsignor Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître (July 17, 1894 – June 20, 1966) was a Belgian Roman Catholic priest, honorary prelate, professor of physics and astronomer at the Catholic University of Leuven.

Lemaître proposed what became known as the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe, which he called his ‘hypothesis of the primeval atom’.

Lemaitre was a pioneer in applying Einstein’s theory of general relativity to cosmology. He introduced the theoretical Hubble’s law in 1927 as a generic phenomena in relativistic cosmology. In 1931, he published his primeval atom theory in Nature. At the time, Einstein had expressed skepticism about Lemaître’s 1927 paper.

But it is Lemaître’s theory that changed the course of science.  Lemaître worked with astronomers and designed his theory to explain the observed redshift of galaxies, have testable implications, the linear relation beween distances and velocities, and to be in accord with observations of the time.

Lemaître proposed his theory at an opportune time, since Edwin Hubble would soon publish his velocity-distance relation that strongly supported an expanding universe and, consequently, the Big Bang theory. In fact, Lemaître’s 1927 paper derived what became known as Hubble’s Law, two years before Hubble did so, and provided an estimate of the numerical value of the constant. However, the data used by Lemaitre do not allow him to prove that there was an actual linear relation, a result achieved by Hubble.

Because Lemaître spent his entire career in Europe, his contributions are not as well known in the United States (USA) as those of Hubble or Einstein, men well known in the USA by virtue of residing there.

Lemaître recognized expanding solutions within relativistic cosmologies. Lemaître is the first one to propose that the expansion is the explanation for the redshift of galaxies. He further concluded that an initial “creation-like” event must have occurred.

Einstein at first dismissed, privately, Lemaître out of hand, saying that not all mathematics leads to correct theories. After Hubble’s discovery was published, Einstein quickly and publicly endorsed Lemaître’s theory, helping both the theory and its proposer get fast recognition.

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In 1933, Lemaître found an important inhomogeneous solution of Einstein’s field equations describing a spherical dust cloud, the Lemaitre-Tolman metric.

At the end of his life, he was devoted more and more to numerical calculation. He was in fact a remarkable algebraicist and arithmetical calculator. Since 1930, he used the most powerful calculating machines of the time like the Mercedes. In 1958, he introduced at the University a Burroughs E 101, the University’s first electronic computer. Lemaître kept a strong interest in the development of computers and, even more, in the problems of language and programming. This interest grew with age until it absorbed him almost completely.

In 1951 Pope Pius XII took the position that the scientific theory of the Big Bang confirmed the biblical creation story. This apparently caused great embarrassment, even to horror, for Lemaitre, who met with the Pope very soon after to caution the Holy Father on drawing parallels between a scientific theory and the book of Genesis.  The Pope appointed LeMaitre to the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences.  John XXIII made him its president.

Georges LeMaitre, after having received numerous scientific awards in the latter part of his career for his work, died on June 20, 1966, shortly after having learned of the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation, which provided further evidence for his intuitions about the birth of the Universe.

“We can compare space-time to an open, conic cup…The bottom of the cup is the origin of atomic disintegration; it is the first instant at the bottom of space-time, the now which has no yesterday because, yesterday, there was no space.”
-Msgr Georges LeMaitre, The Primeval Atom

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Technically yours, 🙂
Matthew

Jun 7, or 19th – Venerable Matt Talbot, OFS, (1856-1925), Intercessor for Addicts

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“Non nobis, Domine!!!” -Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to Your Name give the GLORY!!!” -Ps 115:1

It is more rare to find someone who doubts the existence of Hell; Hell being so much easier to believe in. There are so many practical, real, and terrifying examples here on Earth. Matthew Talbot is an intercessor and exemplar for those who struggle with addiction: to drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, pride, power, gossip/scandal, greed, vanity, envy, wrath, narcissism, doubt, willfulness, ego, cynicism, bad habits/sins, lust, gluttony, even god, in a dark way, where actually, god is ourselves, or far worse, but that’s pretty bad enough.

Jesus resurrects from the dead, from the corruption, darkness, and silence of the tomb; Himself and us, into endless light, freshness, and rejoicing. Seek Him, while He may be found. He invites you, passionately. He does.

Matthew Talbot, “the saint in overalls”, was born on May 2, 1856, the second of 12 siblings,  in Dublin, Ireland. He had three sisters and nine brothers, three  of whom died young. His father Charles was a dockworker and his  mother, Elizabeth, was a housewife. From his early teens until age 28 Matt’s only aim in life was to be liquor. But from that point forward, his only aim was God.

Compulsory school attendance was not in force, and Matt never attended any school regularly.  When Matthew was about 12  years old, he got his first job, at E & J Burke Wine Merchants, and started to drink alcohol. His father was a known alcoholic as well as all his brothers.  Charles tried to dissuade Matthew with severe  punishments but without success.

Matthew, a regular guy if ever there was one, then worked as a messenger boy and then transferred to another messenger job at the same place his father worked. After working there for three years, he became a bricklayer’s laborer. He was a hodman, which meant he fetched mortar and bricks for the bricklayers. He was considered “the best hodman in Dublin.”

As he grew into an adult, he continued to drink excessively,  He continued to work but spent all his wages on heavy drinking.  When he got drunk, he became very hot-tempered, got into fights, and swore. He became so desperate for more drinks that he would buy drinks on credit, sell his boots or possessions, or steal people’s possession so he could exchange it for more drinks. He refused to listen to his mother’s plea to stop drinking. He stole the violin from a blind fiddler and pawned it.  He eventually lost his own self-respect. One day when he was broke, he loitered around a street corner waiting for his “friends”, who  were leaving work after they were paid their wages. He had hoped  that they would invite him for a drink but they ignored him. Dejected, humiliated, and devastated,  he went home and publicly resolved to his mother, “I’m going  to take the pledge.” His mother smiled and responded, “Go, in God’s name, but don’t take it unless you are going to keep  it.” As Matthew was leaving, she continued, “May God give you strength to keep it.”

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Matthew went straight to confession at Clonliffe College and took a pledge not to drink for three months. The next day he went back to Church and received communion for the first time in years.  From that moment on, in 1884 when he was 28 years old, he became  a new man. After he successfully fulfilled his pledge for three months, he made a life long pledge. He even made a pledge to give up his pipe and tobacco. He used to use about seven ounces of tobacco a week. He said to the late Sean T. O’Ceallaigh, former President of Ireland, that it cost him more to give up tobacco than to give up alcohol.

The newly converted Matthew never swore.  A member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Matt made sure he never carried money with him to help himself avoid temptation.   He was good humored and amicable to everyone. He continued to work as a hodman and then as a laborer for T&C Martins Lumberyard.  He used his wages to pay back all his debts. He lived modestly and his home was very spartan.  He developed into a very pious individual who prayed every chance he got. He attended Mass every morning and made devotions like the Stations of the Cross or devotions to the Blessed Mother in the evenings. He fasted, performed acts of mortification, and financially  supported many religious organizations. He read biographies of St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Catherine of Sienna. He later joined the Third Order of St. Francis on October  18, 1891 even though a young pious girl proposed to marry him.  Physically, he suffered from kidney and heart ailments. During the two times he was hospitalized, he spent much time in Eucharistic adoration in the hospital chapel. Eventually, Matthew died suddenly of heart failure on June 7, 1925 while walking to Mass. He was 69 years old.

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On his body, he was found wearing the cilice.  While penitential practice has fallen out of fashion, even in Catholic circles, in our modern age, these practices are ancient.  Though not popular or fun, penance is the cure for sin.  It must always be reasonably moderated and consultation with a healthy spiritual director is always wise.

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Penance changes us, allows us to reflect on our errant ways, and is a temporal preventative against a permanent disposition.  Even as the athlete trains his body and undergoes physical discomfort for the sake of future performance, so the spiritual athlete does the same.  We are creatures of body, mind, and spirit, and so the thinking goes, our engagement in spiritual reform cannot be purely intellectual.  Physical discomforts, such as fasting or abstaining from certain foods, make us mindful.  As humans, we are all too likely, it is our nature, not to pay attention.  It is hard work.

Piety also has fallen out of fashion in our modern age.  Matt knelt outside the doors of his church for hours every morning.  Once inside, he would prostrate himself on the floor in the form of a cross before entering his pew. Every Sunday, he spent seven hours in Church without moving, “his arms crossed, his elbows not resting on anything, his body from the knees up as rigid and straight as the candles on the altar.”  He did this every Sunday for 40 years.  One of his favorite little prayers, which he sometimes kept written on his hand, was “O blessed Mother, obtain for me from Jesus that I may participate in His folly.”

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-statue in Dublin honoring Venerable Matt Talbot, near Matt Talbot Bridge

“Three things I cannot escape: the eye of God, the voice  of conscience, the stroke of death. In company, guard your tongue.  In your family, guard your temper. When alone guard your thoughts.”

“Never look down on a man, who cannot give up the drink”, he told his sister, “it is easier to get out of hell!”.

“It is constancy that God seeks.”
-Venerable Matt Talbot

Prayer for the intercession of Matt Talbot:

“May Matt Talbot’s triumph over addiction, bring hope to our community and strength to our hearts, may he intercede for …name… who struggles with his/her addiction, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

PRAYER FOR THE ADDICTED

God of mercy, we bless You in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who ministers to all who come to Him. Give Your strength to N., Your servant, bound by the chains of addiction. Enfold himlher in Your love and restore himlher to the freedom of God’s children. Lord, look with compassion on all those who have lost their health and freedom. Restore to them the assurance of Your unfailing mercy, and strengthen them in the work of recovery. To those who care for them, grant patient understanding and a love that perseveres. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Official Prayer for the Canonization of Blessed Matt Talbot

“Lord, in your servant, Matt Talbot you have given us a wonderful example of triumph over addiction, of devotion to duty, and of lifelong reverence of the Holy Sacrament. May his life of prayer and penance give us courage to take up our crosses and follow in the footsteps of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Father, if it be Your will that Your beloved servant should be glorified by Your Church, make known by Your heavenly favours the power he enjoys in Your sight. We ask this through the same Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

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-Matt’s current resting place, the coffin was moved in 1972 and the remains now rest in Our Lady of Lourdes Church,
Sean MacDermott St., Dublin.

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-exhumed

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-formal inspection of the remains as official part of the beatification/canonization process

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-Matt’s original marker. He was originally buried in a poorer part of Glasnevin Cemetery.

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-inspection of Matt’s remains upon transfer

On 8 June 1925, the following news item appeared in the Irish Independent:

“Unknown Man’s Death:

An elderly man collapsed in Granby Lane [Dublin] yesterday, and being taken to Jervis Street Hospital he was found to be dead. He was wearing a tweed suit, but there was nothing to indicate who he was.

What was not reported was the unusual discovery when he was taken to hospital. He was wearing heavy chains: some wrapped around his legs, others on his body. Mortuary staff puzzled over not just who he was but, also, the meaning of the chains.

The newspaper report had appeared on a Monday morning. Later that night, police ushered a woman into the mortuary. She identified the body as that of her brother: Matt Talbot. A nursing nun present asked about the chains. The dead man’s sister replied simply that it was something he wore, and with that, they were placed in the coffin and the lid closed.

That was not the whole story though; the chains were part of the mystery of the man who had died. They were as symbolic as they were real. The man’s life having been a ‘crossing over’ from the servitude of vice to the freedom of those in chains for Christ.

Talbot was born in 1856 into a large Catholic family living in semi-poverty in Dublin. His schooling was slight. He was barely literate when he went to work full-time aged just 11 years old. For the rest of his life his occupation was as an unskilled labourer. He was exposed to harsh working conditions, at times harsh bosses and to a social environment that necessitated some form of release from this – this was found by many in the city’s public houses. Matt was no different, so much so that by his teenage years he was hopelessly addicted to alcohol.

Matt had the reputation of being a hard worker. Increasingly, however, that work ethic was simply the means to finance his ‘hard drinking’. As it grips, vice of whatever sort is hard to counter, especially when the will to oppose it diminishes, so it was with Matt Talbot – what had began as an escape soon became a prison of moral and spiritual degradation. And, the more time he spent there the more Matt needed alcohol to shield him from that reality. Those around watched and, shaking their heads, concluded that Talbot was a lost cause. But they were to be proved wrong and in a most unexpected way.

Fittingly, the second phase of Matt’s life began outside a pub. That day he had no money, and, therefore, hoped that some of his drinking fraternity would stand him a drink. As each acquaintance filed past, none offered to buy him anything. On that summer’s day in 1884, something occurred that was to change Matt Talbot forever. Humiliated by the indifference of his erstwhile friends, he turned and walked straight home. His mother was surprised to see him – at that early hour, and sober. He proceeded to clean himself up before announcing he was going to a nearby seminary to ‘take the pledge’ – a promise to abstain from all alcohol. His mother was mystified by this and fearful. She knew that pledges made to God were not something to be taken lightly. She counselled him against doing any such thing unless he was intent on persevering. He listened, and then left.

Matt did take the pledge that day. He also went to Confession. It was as dramatic as it was decisive. It had all the hallmarks of a genuine conversion, one as sincere as it was needed. Nevertheless, a conversion takes but a moment, the work of sanctity a lifetime: after years of drunkenness, still arraigned against Matt was a weakness of character and a world that revolved around alcohol. It looked as if the odds were stacked against him, but this was not solely a human undertaking. Into this ‘land of captivity’, from ‘across the Jordan’, there came invisible armies to fight alongside this now embattled soul, one embarked upon a war of liberation. This was not a new spiritual combat, but rather one that had commenced many years previously when this poor man’s parents brought a child to a parish church and asked for baptism in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

After his conversion, not much changed, outwardly at least: Matt continued with his employment in the docks. He continued to work hard, now respected more than ever by his fellow workers and employers who noticed that he had started to give his wages to his mother rather than straight to a publican. Nevertheless, work alone cannot satisfy the human heart. Previously, when not working his life had been many hours spent in public houses, but, now, he had turned his back on that. He had been ‘born anew’, but like a newborn was vulnerable to the world he inhabited. With no material substance to cling to he turned inward, to the Spirit that dwells within each baptised soul. And, as he did so, he commenced upon an adventure that few could have imagined possible.

From then on, along the Dublin streets, there moved a mystic soul. Each morning at 5AM, dressed in workman’s clothes a man knelt outside a city church waiting for the doors to open and the first Mass to begin. After the Holy Sacrifice, he would pray for a time before going to one of the timber yards near the docks. There, he laboured all day; but there were periods in the day when lulls and breaks would occur. Whilst his fellow workers gossiped or smoked, Matt chose to be alone, knelt in prayer in a hidden part of a workshop until the call came to return to his labors.

***

Each evening, when work was finished, Matt walked home with his fellow workers. They knew their companion’s free time was spent praying in some city church before the Blessed Sacrament. Often he asked them to join him in making a visit to Our Blessed Lord. Some did. After a short while, however, they would leave with Matt still knelt in the gathering twilight. Eventually, when at night he did return home it was to yet more prayer – and mortification. His bed was a plank of wood, a piece of that same material his pillow. Although respected by those he lived amongst and worked alongside, and not unfriendly, he had few visitors. Those who did encounter him felt he was not quite of this world; they were right; he was travelling ever inwards on a mystical journey to a freedom he could never have dreamt of when trapped in an alcoholic stupor.

When his belongings were found after his death, one of the surprises was the number of books he owned. Inquires soon revealed that he had slowly, but determinedly, taught himself to read and, as he did so, effectively began a course of study that included the spiritual classics, the lives of Saints, doctrinal books, and works of mystical and ascetical theology. When asked how he, a poor workman, could read the works of St. Augustine, Newman et al, his reply was as straightforward as it was telling. He said he asked the Holy Spirit to enlighten him. And so, he grew in an intellectual understanding of his faith, which in turn deepened the prayer and penance he undertook. Here was a 20th Century heir to the spiritual traditions of the ancient Irish monks, albeit one now living not on an island monastery but in the slums of Dublin, but, like those earlier contemplatives his life was work, study and prayer with eyes turned ever inward to the Holy Trinity.

Matt never married; held no position of note, was unknown outside his own small circle of family and friends – only one blurred photograph has survived him- and, yet, this was a rare man: one who had taken the Gospel at its word and lived it.

His lifetime ran alongside the then momentous events in Irish history. A time of cultural renaissance and nationalist fervour, of a Great Strike in 1913 and open revolution in 1916, of the Great War and a War for Independence, throughout it all his life remained largely unchanged. Matt knew all too well that kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, but that he had set his face to serve a different Kingdom, one shown him in 1884 when he confessed all and cast himself into the hands of the Living God.

By 1925, Matt was 69. He had been in poor health for some time. Out of necessity he tried to continue working as there was only limited relief for the poor or elderly, but his strength was failing. Nevertheless, he persisted in his prayer and penance. On 7 June 1925, whilst struggling down a Dublin alleyway on his way to Mass, he fell. A small crowd gathered around him. A Dominican priest was called from the nearby church, the one where Matt had been hurrying. The priest came and knelt over the fallen man. Realising what had happened, he lifted his hand in a blessing for the final journey. Little did he realise the dead stranger lying in front of him had already been on that ‘journey’ for over 40 years.

Having lived in the intimacy of the Triune God, it was apt Matt died on Trinity Sunday. Having lived off the Eucharist daily for more than 40 years, it was equally fitting he was buried on the feast of Corpus Christi.

Decades later, a visiting Italian priest went privately to pray at the grave of the Dublin worker he had heard so much about. In 1975, and after the due process had been completed, that same cleric, now Pope Paul VI, bestowed a new title upon that Irish workman: Venerable Matt Talbot.

There is a large trunk in the safe keeping of the Archdiocese of Dublin. It contains the books owned by Venerable Matt Talbot. A veritable treasury of spiritual theology, one of the books contained therein is True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort. In its pages it reflects on being a slave to this world or to the Blessed Virgin. For those that choose the latter path it recommends, after due recourse to a spiritual director and the suitable enrolment, that a chain be worn to symbolise that that soul no longer belongs to the powers of darkness but is now a child of the light. On that June day in 1925, when Matt Talbot fell upon a Dublin street, it was dressed as a slave to Mary and as an ambassador of Christ.”

Love,
Matthew

Jun 23 – St Joseph Cafasso, Priest of the Gallows (1811-1860 AD)

St Joseph Cafasso

Born with a deformed spine, and into a wealthy peasant family; he was short in stature and crippled throughout his life.  St. Joseph Cafasso was born on the 15th of January, 1811, at Castelnuovo d’ Asti, in the Province of Piedmont about twenty miles from Turin in the north of Italy.  Even as a young man, Joseph loved to attend Mass and was known for his humility and fervor in prayer.

He was ordained a priest in 1833, at the age of twenty-two. Upon ordination he entered the college at Turin that had been established for the training of young priests. When he completed his studies after three years, he was appointed professor of moral theology in the college and soon became famous for his learning and sanctity. He was then made rector, the position he held for twenty-four years until the time of his death.  There he worked especially against the heresy of Jansenism, an excessive preoccupation with sin and damnation.

Perhaps the most noted part of his public life were the entire days that he spent in the prisons—–preaching, comforting, instructing the unfortunates detained there, and hearing their confessions.

One day he went to a prison in order to prepare the prisoners for the celebration of a feast in honor of Our Lady, and had spent a whole week instructing them and exhorting them. This he did in a large room in which there were forty-five of the most noted criminals. Almost all had promised to go to Confession on the vigil of the feast. But when the day came, none of them could make up his mind to go to Confession. Joseph renewed his invitation, recapitulated what he had said during the week, and reminded them of the promise that they had made. But, now, none of them would to go to Confession.

With a smile on his face he went over to the man who appeared to be the biggest and strongest and most robust among the prisoners, and without saying a word, he caught hold of his luxurious long beard. The man, thinking that Don Cafasso had acted through jest, said to him as courteously as could be expected, “Take anything else from me you like but leave me my beard!”

“I will not let you go until you go to Confession,” replied Don Cafasso.

“But I don’t want to go to Confession,” said the prisoner.

“You may say what you like, but you will not escape from me; I will not let you go until you have made your Confession,” said Cafasso.

“I am not prepared,” said the prisoner.

“I will prepare you,” said Cafasso.

Certainly, if the prisoner had wished, he could have freed himself from Don Cafasso’s hands with the slightest effort; but whether it was respect for the holy man’s person, or rather the fruit of the grace of God, the fact is that the man surrendered and allowed himself to be led to a corner of the room. Don Cafasso sat down on a bundle of straw and prepared his friend for Confession. But In a short time there was commotion; the strong man was so moved by Don Cafasso’s exhortation that his sighs and tears almost prevented him from telling his sins.

This prisoner then went to his companions after it was finished and told them that he had never been so happy in his life. He became so eloquent in exhorting them that he succeeded in persuading them all to go to Confession.

6_23_Joseph_Caffaso

“A single word from him – a look, a smile, his very presence – sufficed to dispel melancholy, drive away temptation and produce holy resolution in the soul. “
-Saint John Bosco, writing about his friend, Saint Joseph Cafasso

“We are born to love, we live to love, and we will die to love still more.”
-Saint Joseph Cafasso

joseph_cafasso

“Who is this man who in the world is called an ecclesiastic, a priest? Who is this personage whom some bless and others curse? Who is he whom the whole world talks about and criticizes, and who is the subject of discussion by all pens and all tongues? What is the significance of that name which resounds in every corner of the world? What is a priest? In order to define clearly what he is, I shall avail myself of the distinctions that Saint Bernard made concerning ecclesiastics and shall consider him in his nature, in his person, in his habits. Quid in natura, quis in persona, qualis in moribus! In his nature he is a man like others. In his person, his dignity is above that of all other men in the world. In his conduct and habits, he should be a man totally different from all others as he is by his dignity and office. These are the three points which I propose for your consideration.”
-Saint Joseph Cafasso

stjosephcafasso23-6a

Love,
Matthew

Optional celibacy for the Catholic ordained?

Catholic positions are very often easily and quickly misunderstood and misinterpreted by the media, by society at large, and even loyal, well-educated, faithful people.  It is difficult to synthesize down 2k years of divine revelation + 2k years lived experience of the Faith, known by Catholics as Tradition, into a thirty second sound bite.  

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” aka, “Einstein’s razor” correlating to “Occam’s razor”.  Used when oversimplification leads to false conclusion.
-“On the Method of Theoretical Physics” The Herbert Spencer Lecture, delivered at Oxford (10 June 1933); also published in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 1, No. 2 (April 1934), pp. 163-169., p. 165.

And, the Church, does a LOUSY job of explaining itself in a sound-bite world, as if it was truly concerned about that.  Maybe it should be concerned
“a little” bit more.  It would make it easier for everyone.  Exceedingly few are going to achieve the academic credentials necessary to understand the Church the way the Vatican naturally expresses itself.  Hence, the critical need for Catechist/Apologists.  Of which, yours truly, makes his poor, amateurish attempts!  I am, however, a certified Catechist of the Archdiocese of Chicago!  I have papers to prove it!  Bless the Lord, O my soul!  

Thus, there are truly greater and lesser “truths” and doctrinal assets/assents in Catholicism.  Ask a VERY well trained and normatively orthodox priest where your particular truth in question does fall.  (You know the joke…”Line up 100 priests and keep asking until you get the answer you want!”  The downer of the joke is the number necessary keeps shrinking.  Obviously, the closer it gets to one, the more we are in trouble!  It’s been trending downward of late.)  

Celibacy among the clergy is one of those “lesser” truths.  It is a “discipline”, not a doctrine.  Because the rule of celibacy is an ecclesiastical law and not a doctrine, it can, in principle, be changed at any time by the Pope.  Nonetheless, both the present Pope, Benedict XVI, and his predecessors, have spoken clearly of their understanding that the traditional practice was not likely to change.

The earliest textual evidence of the forbidding of marriage to clerics and the duty of those already married to abstain from sexual contact with their wives is in the fourth-century decrees of the Council of Elvira and the later Council of Carthage. According to some writers, this presumed a previous norm, which was being flouted in practice.

Council of Elvira (c. 305 AD)
(Canon 33): It is decided that marriage be altogether prohibited to bishops, priests, and deacons, or to all clerics placed in the ministry, and that they keep away from their wives and not beget children; whoever does this, shall be deprived of the honor of the clerical office.

Council of Carthage (390 AD)
(Canon 3): It is fitting that the holy bishops and priests of God as well as the Levites, i.e. those who are in the service of the divine sacraments, observe perfect continence, so that they may obtain in all simplicity what they are asking from God; what the Apostles taught and what antiquity itself observed, let us also endeavour to keep… It pleases us all that bishop, priest and deacon, guardians of purity, abstain from conjugal intercourse with their wives, so that those who serve at the altar may keep a perfect chastity.

http://votf.org/Speech/2011_Detroit_celibacy_Ron.pdf

“In a 2010 study commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate compared the increase of Catholics in the U.S. with the decline in the number of priests from 1965 until 2025. In 1965, the report noted, there was one priest for approximately every 780 Catholics. By 2010, there was one priest for every 1,640 Catholics. If the CARA projection remains consistent, in 2025—less than 15 years from now— there will be one priest for every 6,150 Catholics.

The declining number of priests and the burgeoning growth of the Catholic population, coupled with the closing and combining of parishes, ensures that fewer and fewer Catholics will have regular access to the Eucharist in coming years.

Lack of access to the Eucharist is not just a crisis, it is a disaster. Thus far, the only solution that the American bishops have offered for this disaster is to close and combine parishes and convert aging and already stressed priests into circuit riders.

Is there any way to turn this disaster around within the context of current canon law (the law of the Church)?

The answer is “yes” if the American bishops have the will and the courage to ask the Vatican for the right to ordain married Catholic men. They could do so using the same “Pastoral Provision” procedures that have allowed the ordination in the Catholic Church of married former Anglican, Lutheran and Episcopalian clergy.

Canon 1042 states that it is a simple impediment to ordination if a man has a wife. But Canon 1047 states that the Apostolic See can grant dispensations from this simple impediment on a case-by- case basis. Indeed, the See has used this latter canon to ordain married formerly Anglican, Episcopalian, and Lutheran clergy as priests in the Latin Rite.

In addition, several American Bishops have successfully appealed to the Vatican for rescripts to ordain married clergy formerly from other denominations such as Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists and Presbyterians.

These actions demonstrate clearly that the existence of ordained married men in the priesthood is acceptable to the Vatican, at least for those originally approved as ministers of other Christian denominations. Surely Catholic married men are no less deserving of such consideration. ”

“Studies show that half of the 19,302 active diocesan priests plan to retire by 2019. We are ordaining about 380 new diocesan priests each year. If the rate of ordinations remains constant, as it has for more than a decade, we will have only 13,500 active diocesan priests to serve our 18,000 parishes in just eight years.”

Shall we game the system?  Commit heresy/schism.  Become married/ordained.  You pick the order.  Reunification?  Is this what the US Catholic bishops are encouraging?  Technically possible.  Still recognized as “gaming the system” by all.

Let us pray, “Veni, Sancte Spiritus! – Come, Holy Spirit!” give us the wisdom as Your Church to know what to do.

Love,
Matthew

it doesn’t sing – trouble with the New Roman Missal

simplicity

rita_ferrone
-by Rita Ferrone, Commonweal

“Beginning in Advent of this year, the language of the Mass will be very different. A new translation of the Roman Missal—the book of prayers used in the Mass—will be put into use in all Catholic churches in the English-speaking world. Some who have read the new prayers are pleased with the changes. Others are gravely concerned.

In recent months, priests in Ireland, Australia, the United States, and elsewhere have voiced objections, saying this translation is not what the church needs—and that it will be divisive. What is it about the new translation that has caused such an uproar?

We come to you, Father,
with praise and thanksgiving,
through Jesus Christ your Son.
Through him we ask you to accept and bless
these gifts we offer you in sacrifice.
We offer them for your holy catholic Church….

So begins the first Eucharistic Prayer of the Roman Missal as it has been prayed by English-speaking Catholics since 1973. When the new Missal goes into effect in November, Catholics throughout the English-speaking world will hear these words instead:

To you, therefore, most merciful Father,
we make humble prayer and petition
through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord:
That you accept
and bless + these gifts, these offerings
these holy and unblemished sacrifices
which we offer you firstly
for your holy Catholic Church.

The current translation is simple and direct. It follows the speech patterns and rhythms of contemporary spoken English. It flows easily off the tongue. Its meaning is clear. The new translation, on the other hand, is mannered and complex. We arrive at the subject of the sentence only after we have heard the dative “to you”; the conjunction “therefore”; a superlative adjective “most merciful”; and a noun in apposition, “Father.” The new translation is wordy. In place of “these gifts,” we offer “these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices.”

Having offered these gifts, offerings, holy and unblemished sacrifices firstly for the church, you might be thinking there is a secondly coming along in a paragraph or two. If so, you would be wrong. There is no secondly. So what does firstly mean in this context? It’s not clear that it means anything at all.

Different words, same prayer? Both are translations of the same Latin text, yet the results are quite different. Change the words and you change the prayer.

The Problem of Clarity

Clarity and intelligibility were principles of liturgical renewal specifically named by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Until 2001, those who translated liturgical texts into English placed a high priority on the council’s mandate for clarity and intelligibility.  Those were essential guiding principles of liturgical reform, not secondary considerations.

Since the publication of the new Vatican instruction on translation Liturgiam authenticam in 2001, however, other principles are deemed more important. They include: the exact rendering of each word and expression of the Latin, the use of sacral vocabulary remote from ordinary speech, and reproduction of the syntax of the Latin original whenever possible. When a choice must be made, those principles trump the principles of clarity and intelligibility. The result has been, not surprisingly, a translation that is filled with expressions not easily understood by English speakers. It has resulted in prayers that are long-winded, pointlessly complex, hard to proclaim, and difficult to understand.

There are many places in the new translation where the words simply don’t make sense in English. On the First Sunday of Advent, we pray that we may “run forth with righteous deeds.” What does that mean? Many expressions sound pompous: “profit our conversion,” “the sacrifice of conciliation,” “an oblation pleasing to your almighty power.”

Some prayer texts are simply bewildering, such as this one from Preface VIII for Sundays in Ordinary Time:

For when your children were scattered afar by sin,
through the Blood of your Son and the power of the Spirit,
you gathered them again to yourself,
that a people, formed as one by the unity of the Trinity,
made the Body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit,
might, to the praise of your manifold wisdom,
be manifest as the Church.

What is the main point? It is hard to tell. We are wandering in a dense forest of theological and biblical allusions here. There are traps for the unwary, too. If the speaker is not careful to separate the first line from the second and join the second with the third, separating them from the first, he ends up suggesting that the Blood of Christ and the power of the Spirit are instrumental in scattering God’s children. Even read well, this prayer will likely lose all but its best-educated and most highly attentive hearers.

The new translation includes sentence fragments, odd locutions, opaque expressions, and redundancies. There are also historical oddities preserved for no good reason. Here is an example from EucharisticPrayer I: “For them and all who are dear to them / we offer you this sacrifice of praise / or they offer it for themselves / and all who are dear to them….” Enrico Mazza, in his magisterial work The Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Rite, explains that this mid-eighth-century addition (“or they offer it for themselves…”) was originally a rubric, providing alternative wordings depending on whether those who requested the Mass were present or absent. The translators of the 1973 translation (and the 1998 version) spared us the useless puzzlement caused by such a text. The translators
of the text we are about to receive did not. Why? Each word of the Latin had to be accounted for.

Not every passage Catholics will hear exhibits such strict adherence to the literal meaning of the Latin, however. In the second Eucharistic Prayer, the Latin text says quite clearly that we “stand in your presence.” The Latin word astare means to stand. It doesn’t mean anything else. The translation was changed by Vox Clara, the Vatican committee formed to advise the Holy See on the approval of liturgical texts. It was feared that use of the verb “to stand” would imply it is acceptable for the people to stand during the Eucharistic Prayer. (In fact, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal assumes that the common posture for the Eucharistic Prayer is standing, even though some individual bishops conferences have decreed otherwise.) The English now reads “be in your presence.”

Other changes introduced by Vox Clara lack evident rhyme or reason. For example, the Latin word profusis, which appears at the conclusion of every preface of the Easter Season, is translated as “overcome.” Profusis means “overflowing.” When the world is described as overflowing with paschal joys, as the 2008 translation had it, one imagines graceful scenes from Botticelli. When reference is made to being overcome, one imagines smelling salts. This is one of an estimated ten thousand changes Rome made in the Missal after the bishops approved the translation in 2008.

The Problem of Length

The current translation is not without problems. At times it is simple to the point of banality. The richness of imagery and the theological depth of the Latin original does not always come through. The first retranslation of the Missal, which was approved by all the conferences of English-speaking bishops in 1998, addressed most of these problems quite effectively. Yet the Vatican judged that it did not go far enough. Now, with the 2010 translation, we have swung to the opposite extreme. The new translation is mired in long-winded complexity.

Overall, the length of the sentences in the new translation is staggering. The longest sentence of the Eucharistic Prayers has 82 words, the second longest, 72. All but one of the sentences in Eucharistic Prayer I are more than 40 words long. The current translation of that prayer has 18 sentences before the consecration. The new translation has 8.

The average number of words per sentence in the new Eucharistic Prayers is 35.4, compared to 20.6 at present—an increase of 78 percent. Are spoken texts in liturgy generally so wordy? Pope Benedict is not averse to using long, complex sentences. Yet his Ash Wednesday homily averaged 23.2 words per sentence. Certainly Scripture offers long sentences, especially in the writings of St. Paul. Yet the beloved eighth chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans has an average sentence length of only 27.38. This final example provides the closest comparison, yet the new Missal far surpasses it.

In texts for oral proclamation, the length of sentences matters. When reading a text on paper, one can go back and examine it again. Not so for spoken prayers, especially those spoken on one particular day of the liturgical year, rather than those repeated throughout the year or liturgical season. A collect such as this one, which follows the Isaiah 54 reading in the Easter Vigil, offers a good example of what the new translation will bring us:

Almighty, ever-living God,
surpass for the honor of your name
what you pledged to the patriarchs by reason of their faith
and through sacred adoption increase the children of your promise
so that what the saints of old never doubted would come to pass
your Church may now see in great part fulfilled.

That 53-word sentence makes sense if one has the leisure to study it and perhaps to draw a diagram. But the person in the pew does not have that luxury. She or he will hear this prayer once a year at most. An individual word or phrase may ring a bell. But the essential meaning of the prayer will be lost. As an act of oral communication, a text such as this cannot but fail for the vast majority of Catholics. Like so many of the newly translated prayers, it will come across as theo-babble, holy nonsense.

There are already formidable challenges to oral comprehension built into the pastoral situations in which the liturgy is celebrated. International priests make up 22 percent of the active diocesan priesthood in the United States today. Accented English can make even our current translation difficult to understand. Many parish communities include a significant number of people whose first language is not English. They will be asked to digest sentences that even native English speakers will have a hard time comprehending. Children and youth and those who are less educated will also be placed at a great disadvantage.

Some Texts Heard at Every Mass

Several texts that are a regular part of every Mass are going to change. Not all the changes will be for the worse. For example, in the preface dialogue (which appears at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer), the people will answer “It is right and just” in place of the familiar “It is right to give him thanks and praise.” The phrase “It is right and just” comes from a Roman acclamation of public approval. It entered the liturgy at an early date. It is crisp, and easily understood in English. Furthermore, many of the prefaces that follow it begin “It is truly right and just….” The rhetorical force of this construction is blunted if one removes “It is right and just.” Its reintroduction also happily avoids the tangle over inclusive language, which has divided assemblies into some who say “right to give him thanks and praise” and others who say “right to give God thanks and praise.”

Despite such occasional bright spots, however, the overall picture is deeply discouraging. Here are a few examples.

And with your spirit

This response will replace the familiar “And also with you.” The new text will remove a common element from the ecumenical consensus regarding liturgical texts. English-speaking Catholics, Protestants, and Anglicans have collaborated over the years to produce common liturgical texts as a way forward on the path to Christian unity. The greeting “The Lord be with you / And also with you” is an example of one such shared liturgical text. Yet, our dialogue partners have been completely excluded from the making of this new translation. “And with your spirit” exemplifies Rome’s decision to “go it alone.”

For you and for many

No longer will the Mass proclaim that Christ’s sacrifice was offered “for all, so that sins may be forgiven.” Rather, we will hear that it was offered “for many.” Much attention has been paid to this change (see “All In?” by Toan Joseph Do, Commonweal, December 19, 2008); we do not need to rehearse all the arguments here. Suffice it to say that this little phrase is what one might call a “false friend”—an expression you’re sure you understand, until you find out it means the opposite of what you were sure it meant. In normal English, many does not mean all. It means many. In the Mass, however, in our new sacral language, we have to remember that many means all. We can’t say Christ died for all, because that’s not what it says in the Latin. But we have to mean all because that is our Catholic theology.

Enter under my roof

When I first learned that the words of the Centurion were going to appear in the new translation, my expectations were positive. I remembered from my childhood this lovely acclamation: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. Speak but the word and my soul shall be healed.” I loved its poetry and rhythm. It sang.

Alas, the translation we are about to receive is clunky. “Enter under” doesn’t sing. It plods. It’s also not idiomatic English. One has to stop and puzzle over the idea that the Lord is entering something or someplace by means of passing under my roof. I’ve found that not a few Catholics have assumed that the word roof refers to “the roof of my mouth.”

He took the precious chalice in his holy and venerable hands

The new translation aims at creating a sacral language used only in church. The fact that a word is arcane or uncommon is no barrier to its usage. In fact, such words are sometimes preferred to those that have everyday usage. Thus the Latin word calix has been translated as “chalice,” rather than “cup.” The demand to translate every Latin word in the new translation has also resulted in the use of multiple adjectives. Yet English is especially effective when plain and unadorned. Multiple adjectives weaken a text rather than strengthen it. When adjectives pile up, the results seem stagy or false. English speakers are accustomed to hearing “When supper was ended, he took the cup.” Such spare language is forceful. The new translation, by comparison, is fussy.

An especially unfortunate effect is created in this instance because it transforms Jesus into a priest saying Mass in a church. A chalice is put into the hands of Jesus at the Last Supper. Of course chalice is a word never used in modern English except to describe our sacred vessel in the Mass. The holy hands of the priest at Mass, so much a staple of the mystique of ordination, provide the template for how to describe the hands of Jesus. This sort of language is jarringly anachronistic. It compromises Jesus’ historicity in order to exalt the clergy.

Because prayer engages the heart and the imagination, differences on the affective level are highly significant. The image of the assembly’s relationship to God and the emotional tone accompanying that relationship will not be the same come November. The old is marked by an attitude of reverence, joy, and trust. God is great and we are small, but the relationship is one of love. As a child might run to a parent with unaffected gladness, so we come into the presence of our God (“We
come to you, Father…”).

Not anymore. Now we come before God as a suppliant might address a monarch, with flattery and self-abasement. Because we are sinners, it is necessary to ingratiate ourselves with him. We do this by courtly address (“We make humble prayer before you”). This change is underlined in the Confiteor in the Penitential Act that takes place at the beginning of Mass. This moment will become an occasion to beat our breast and say “Through my fault, through my fault, through my most
grievous fault.”

All these dispositions—joyful trust, fear of the Lord, consciousness of sin—are part of the Christian life. But the dominant note will change. Will this change be welcomed? Or will it be greeted with incomprehension and confusion? The presumption that God prefers courtly language in prayer, a settled presumption of the Latin text, has had more than forty years to recede from public consciousness. Will its sudden reintroduction invite the faithful into more authentic worship, or will it merely distance them from the God whom Scripture calls “my joy, my delight” (Ps. 43:4)?

Where is this new translation taking us? It is important to realize that negative responses to the new translation reflect both dismay at the wording of the text and disagreement with the principles that guided its production. Yet the conflict goes deeper than an argument over theories of translation. That the new translation of the Roman Missal should come to us replete with embarrassing gaffes, nonsensical passages, and a near-total lack of accountability is as clearly a symptom of the misuse of authority as it is the fault of the questionable set of translation principles enunciated in Liturgiam authenticam. Yet even the misuse of authority is not the root cause of the immense disquiet and even outrage that this translation has aroused.

Beneath the words of the new translation, one senses a drive to minimize the practical effects of Vatican II. The reforms of Vatican II prized clarity and intelligibility in the liturgy; they gave priority to the work of ecumenism and evangelization; they respected the local work of bishops conferences; they invited aggiornamento and engagement with the world. This vital heritage is being eclipsed by another agenda. We are seeing a wooden loyalty to the Latin text at the price of clarity and intelligibility. We are seeing a retreat from advances already made in ecumenism. We are seeing the proper role of local bishops and bishops conferences increasingly taken over by the authorities in Rome. We are seeing the liturgy reimagined as an event taking place in some sacral space outside of our world, rather than the beating heart of a world made new.

Yes, we can get used to the new translation of the Roman Missal. But we shouldn’t. The church can do better, and deserves better, than this.”

Love,
Matthew

Virtue

-“Allegory of Virtue”, Corregio
File:Efez Celsus Library 2 RB.JPG
-classical virtue, Ephesus
-“Virtue coming to the aid of Christian Faith”, Titian

-traditional Chinese symbols for virtue

“A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.” 


-Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1803



For I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents.
-Thomas Jefferson, to John Adams from Monticello, Oct. 28, 1813


Watermelon Catholicism

What is “works” without “faith”? -MPM


-Bishop Anthony Fisher O.P., Bishop of Parramatta, Australia, World Youth Day 2011 Catechesis, Madrid


A recent English survey found many people had never heard of Moses or the Magi, thought miracles were magic and that the cross is a piece of jewellery. You probably know people like that. Many who still identify as Christian have little personal faith, don’t really know much about it, and live as practical atheists, that is, as if there were no god. Others, though baptized, no longer even identify with any religion.

While we’ve been away a census was held in my country. About a quarter of the people or more will probably have said ‘No religion’ or else just left the religion question blank. Things might be different in your country: they might even be worse.

Now, most of these no-religion and blank-religion people are not ‘pagans’ in the traditional sense: they are not people who’ve never heard of Christ or Christianity. Most of them were Christened. They grew up in nominally Christian families and may even have gone to Catholic schools. Their surrounding culture was ostensibly Christian or at least had a long Christian heritage. But now they inhabit a world without God.

As Pope Benedict has observed, secularism marginalizes God by promising a ‘paradise’ without Him. Yet experience suggests that a godless world is not a heaven but a hell: ‘filled with selfishness, broken families, hatred between individuals and nations, and a great deficit of love, joy and hope’ (Benedict XVI, Message for the 26th World Youth Day, 3). All too often our media, educational, cultural and political institutions conspire against the civilization of love and truth, of respect and communion, and against our best efforts to share our Faith with the world.

Sometimes we bring it on ourselves. Some aspects of our lives can be a real ‘turn off’ for others: Christian ‘faithful’ whose faith is lukewarm or angry or hypocritical; families that neglect to encourage the practice of the Faith in each other; schools that fail to present it fully or attractively; pastors whose terrible misconduct undermines people’s faith; parishes that are unwelcoming; liturgies that are uninspiring; injustices and uncharities that are ignored.

Rather than passing on the Faith we can actually inoculate people to it. You probably had vaccinations as a child or when first you travelled. They work by giving people small doses of dead or impotent examples of that to which they will build immunity. Sometimes I think we build up resistance to the Faith in people by injecting them with a weak or dying religion.

One example of this is what I call Watermelon Catholicism. What do I mean by that? I mean a sweet but watery and even seedy kind of religion, with plenty of green-and-red moralising about ecology and justice but with no goal of a deeper conversion of hearts, a richer relationship with God and His Church. As Edinburgh philosopher, John Haldane, has observed, this focus on important ethical, social or political issues can ultimately amount to no more than ‘mere echoes of notions acceptable to the secular world, and familiar because of it.’ (‘The Waiting Game’, The Tablet, 5 Feb 2005, p. 9) Watermelon Catholicism apes secular modernity and reduces faith to morality, morality to a few politically correct causes, devotion to quaint customs, and Catholic identity to good citizenship. But Evangelising Catholicism should challenge our culture and ourselves, always calling us to more and better – to the communion of saints with God in this life and the next.

The last few popes have talked a lot about evangelization. Not all Catholics are comfortable with that. The word can conjure up images of televangelists after your money, soap-boxers predicting with relish that most people are damned, or door-knockers with dire warnings about the evils of the Popish Church. The idea can seem intolerant of other religions, which after all are other people’s paths to God. Some years ago, a UK survey found that evangelists were regarded as ‘better than tax inspectors but worse than prostitutes’ (The Tablet, 26 Oct 2002, p. 37). But evangelization need not be so scary.

Put simply, evangelization means proclaiming the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. It seeks to bring people to faith through a personal encounter with Him. Before he died the Father of World Youth Day, Blessed John Paul II, said that the time had come to commit the Church’s energies to a new evangelization in previously Christian communities that are falling away from the Gospel in the face of secularization and other cultural change (Novo Millenio Ineunte 40; Crossing the Threshold of Hope, pp. 113-4). The same might be said about formerly Christian institutions, families and individuals.

So concerned is our present Holy Father about the decline of faith in some places that he’s called for a Synod on the New Evangelization next year and established a permanent Vatican department to work on this. As a conversation starter the working document for the synod (‘lineamenta’) has already been published on the net. It reminds us that our proper concern to be tolerant must never blunt our ‘sense of boldness in proclaiming the Gospel’. We must grasp every opportunity to respond to people’s thirst for God. We must purify ourselves of fear, laziness, weariness or retreat into the self, embracing wholeheartedly our baptismal mission to communicate Christ to the world (Lineamenta for the Synod on the New Evangelization 5). Ask yourself: what is it that’s holding me back from proclaiming Christ crucified and Risen for all humanity?

So the new evangelisation is not just a job: it’s a whole ‘frame-of-mind’ (Lineamenta 6) or mind-set, a way of looking at God, ourselves and the world, of making sense of those things, and of understanding our own place and destiny. As we rediscover it for ourselves, we also help ‘weary and worn-out communities [to] rediscover the joy of the Christian experience’, to ‘find again the love they once had but lost’ (Lineamenta 6). So as the Lineamenta put so directly: “‘Being Christian’ and ‘being Church’ means being missionary; either one is or one is not. Loving one’s faith implies bearing witness to it, bringing it to others so they can participate in it. Lack of missionary zeal is lack of zeal for the Faith.’ (Lineamenta 10) If you imagine you can be a ‘spiritual’ Catholic without the ‘institutional’ Church or that you can be a Church-going Catholic without being missionary, you are not really a Catholic! But when Catholics are Church-connected and truly missionary they build up the Church as ‘the community of witnesses’, ‘the community of hope’, ‘the community of brotherly love’. Our world today needs that kind of testimony to Christ, that kind of communion with the saints, those kinds of reasons to believe, to hope and to love (cf. Lineamenta 17).

A young woman recently challenged me: I liked what you said about my generation being called to evangelise – but I’m not sure how. Her concern was a very practical one. Theologians and bishops can tell us a lot about the big picture, but what am I to do in my particular world? So in answer to her plea, here are my 10 commandments for the new evangelisation. Pope Paul once said ‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.’ (Paul VI, Address to the Council for the Laity, 2 October 1974) It’s a very important point. How often have you been impressed by someone’s personality or example more than any speeches they gave; conversely, how often have you been turned off by someone’s failure to practice what they preach. The Church evangelises by being real. No pretence, no tricks. We tell it like it is. We live what we tell.

Thus my first commandment for witnesses is St Augustine’s: Christian, become what you are. Be proud of being a Catholic, live your faith honestly, with obvious joy, not ashamed to speak up when you have the chance but more importantly speaking with those silent but powerful words that are the living a fully Christian life, a holy life. There’s nothing more seductive than that, nothing more likely to allure and persuade and convert others.

Yet as the old adage goes, nemo dat non quod habet: you can’t give what you ain’t got. If you’re going to have any good ideas, anything interesting to say to the world, you need inspiration. So commandment number 2: Get inspiration from the best places. Go to God in adoration and prayer. Go to the Word of God in the Scriptures and the living tradition of the Church, told in documents like the Youth Catechism for World Youth Day.

If after WYD you have a hunger for more, do a good course on your faith, read some good books, iPod the great apologists, Google and YouTube what will really enrich your faith. Today I am so very honored to speak to you only inches away from the relics of St Therese of Lisieux; above me are statues of St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross. Read the lives of the saints and develop a relationship with them: they’ve struggled with issues like yours and by God’s grace came out on top. Above all, develop a relationship with Jesus Christ through those most privileged encounters with Him in Confession and Holy Communion.

Third commandment: Be open to God’s call. Some of you here are being called, right now, to give your lives to Christ, full time, in the sacred ministry as priests or religious. ‘Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are,’ says the bishop to the newly ordained deacon. ‘Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you preach.’ That powerful charge sums up the evangelical purpose of clerical and religious life. If you have a nagging sense that you could be a herald of the Gospel, that that might be how you could do most for God and the world, that that might be what would make you most happy, have the courage to take the plunge and give ‘a vocation’ a go.

Fourthly: Let God lead you down new paths. Ask yourself: how will I be different when I go home from this big spiritual wow that is WYD? In what new ways will I contribute to the Church and the world, or with what new passion will I continue to contribute? As the Pope said yesterday, your parishes need you! So have a good look at the things they do and ask how your youthful energy, vision and creativity might help.

Fifth: Dare to be creative. What new thing might you try for God? After WYD in Cologne a young woman decided to start a thing called ‘Night Fever’. Young people now gather on a Saturday night once a month in inner-city churches across Germany and beyond, to adore Christ in Eucharistic exposition, with gentle chants and candles in the darkness; others roam the streets, pubs and nightclubs inviting people to come and spend a few minutes with the Lord. It works: many come.

A sixth commandment: Make ordinary life your first field of evangelization – family, fellow students, work colleagues, friends. The mission today is not so much to a foreign land as to the non-Catholics and nom-Catholics (nominal Catholics) right where you are. Make your life in those places into a Gospel where people may read of Christ.

Seventh: Take a genuine interest in people, when approaching them to raise matters of faith. They are not just numbers in some conversion competition, not just evangelical projects. They are people, searching for answers like you are. They are persons, unique images of God in our world. So listen to them, befriend them, find common ground with them. Only then will deep conversations begin.

My eighth commandment: Give personal testimony about how encounters with God have changed your life. As Pope Paul said, it’s witnesses contemporary people are interested in more than experts. Don’t just give arguments and scripture quotes, important as apologetics is. Let them see that it really matters to you, that faith is what makes you tick, makes you interesting, makes you happy.

Ninthly: Focus on the basic proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ. If you do that, you will then be able to range around the whole field of Christian faith and worship, morals and prayer, past history and future dreams, as the Catechism does.

And finally: Seek the support of wise friends, whether they are in a movement or youth group or wherever. It can be tough, lonely or emotionally exhausting at times, standing up for God in a culture, amongst people, maybe even friends and family, who don’t share your faith. So make sure you have a good support group.

There was once a lad named Tom who was big and slow and rather shy. His mates at Paris Uni called him ‘the Dumb Ox’ because he was so strong but taciturn. His teacher, whom they perversely called ‘Big Al’ because he was small, could tell that Tom had a lot of potential. ‘He might be quiet at the moment, but one day you’ll hear this ox bellow,’ Al said. So he taught him well, gave him every opportunity and made sure he got his chance to speak. And speak he did. He roared. They both became stars in what was then a new ecclesial movement devoted to a new evangelization: the Dominicans. They both more or less followed the 10 commandments of evangelization that I have outlined this morning.

The student ended up being the greatest theologian in history, St Thomas Aquinas; the teacher, Albert the Great, also was canonized in the end. Both inspired lots of other young people to take up the adventure of preaching the Gospel. By the time Thomas died they were calling him ‘light of the Church’ and painting a glowing sun on his chest in iconography to highlight his divine wisdom. Albert ended up patron saint of science and scientists. But he rightly thought young Tom was his greatest achievement. He’d encouraged young Tom to tell the world about Christ. Your generation must likewise support and encourage each other to be witnesses.

Will you be part of the great adventure that is witnessing to Christ in the 21st Century? I trust that by God’s grace you will.”

-Most Rev Anthony Fisher, O.P., Bishop of Parramatta, Australia

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