Category Archives: August

Aug 23 – “Grace follows after tribulation.” – St Rose of Lima, OP

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Let us know the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding.

“Our Lord and Saviour lifted up His voice and said with incomparable majesty: “Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.

When I heard these words, a strong force came upon me and seemed to place me in the middle of a street, so that I might say in a loud voice to people of every age, sex and status: “Hear, O people; hear, O nations. I am warning you about the commandment of Christ by using words that came from His own lips: We cannot obtain grace unless we suffer afflictions. We must heap trouble upon trouble to attain a deep participation in the divine nature, the glory of the sons of God and perfect happiness of soul.”

That same force strongly urged me to proclaim the beauty of divine grace. It pressed me so that my breath came slow and forced me to sweat and pant. I felt as if my soul could no longer be kept in the prison of the body, but that it had burst its chains and was free and alone and was going very swiftly through the whole world saying:

“If only mortals would learn how great it is to possess divine grace, how beautiful, how noble, how precious. How many riches it hides within itself, how many joys and delights! Without doubt they would devote all their care and concern to winning for themselves pains and afflictions. All men throughout the world would seek trouble, infirmities and torments, instead of good fortune, in order to attain the unfathomable treasure of grace. This is the reward and the final gain of patience. No one would complain about his cross or about troubles that may happen to him, if he would come to know the scales on which they are weighed when they are distributed to men.”

—Saint Rose of Lima, virgin
Office of Readings, 23 August

Love,
Matthew

Aug 18 – Bl Manez de Guzman, OP, (1170-1235) – Older brother of the Holy Founder

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-by Br Matthew Jarvis, OP, English Province

“Brothers can be a mixed bunch. In the Bible, alas, it starts badly for brothers…

The older brother Cain murders Abel; the younger brother Jacob tricks Esau out of his birthright; and Joseph is left for dead by his eleven brothers. But, on the other hand, brotherly love can overcome great adversity. Joseph forgives his brothers and saves their lives. Look, too, at the early disciples of Christ: the brothers Peter and Andrew, James and John (sons of Zebedee), among many others. For them, being brothers in Christ was more important than consanguinity; yet it is a beautiful thing when the two brotherhoods overlap. After all, the love between blood brothers or sisters should point to, and school us in, the more perfect love between brothers and sisters in Christ. So, as it is written (Heb 13:1), let brotherly love continue!

Both kinds of brotherly love are evident at the very beginning of the Dominican Order. St Dominic was the youngest of three brothers. His eldest brother, Anthony (Antonio), was also a priest. But it is the middle brother, Manez (also spelt Manés, Mannes or Mames), who interests us here. Manez was old enough to have begun his own training for the priesthood when Dominic was born; but later, he joined Dominic in his preaching mission to the Albigensians. When the Order of Preachers was formally approved by the Pope, Manez was one of the first to receive the habit and make profession in the hands of Dominic, his younger brother.

Manez proved immediately to be active and devoted Dominican friar. He was among those sent by Dominic to Paris in the early dispersal of the brethren in 1217; there Manez was one of the founders of the St Jacques community. In 1219, he was sent to Madrid to be chaplain to the first community of Dominican nuns in Spain. After many more years of service, he died in 1238 and was buried at the Cistercian monastery in Gumiel de Izán.

We know very little else about the life of Manez. His contemporaries reported that he was a gentle and effective preacher, a prayerful and discreet friar. He was inclined towards the contemplative life, but did not hesitate to attend obediently to whatever task he was set. Friar Rodrigo de Cerrato called him a ‘gentle, humble, cheerful and kind and ardent preacher’.

This hiddenness and humility of Manez marks him out as a true brother of Dominic. If the greatness of Dominic owes much to his humility, his giving way to the brethren and the Order’s mission above his own personal status, then Manez has perhaps an equal claim to greatness: he devotedly served God in the Order his younger brother founded, not seeking his own advantage or aggrandisement but simply the salvation of souls.

Manez showed no sign of jealousy or sibling rivalry. After Dominic’s canonisation in 1234, he travelled to their hometown of Caleruega to persuade the people to build a church in his older brother’s honour. Although beatified by Gregory XVI, Manez has faded into the background of the Order’s history. But that is what he would have wanted. Dominicans exist to preach Jesus Christ, not themselves; and that is why Manez was a great Dominican.”

Blessed Mannes, an older brother of Saint Dominic, was born at Caleruega, Spain, about 1170. He was among his younger brother’s first followers and later assisted in establishing the priory of Saint-Jacques at Paris in 1217. In 1219 he was entrusted with the care of the Dominican nuns at Madrid. According to an early source he was “a contemplative and holy man, meek and humble, joyful and kind, and a zealous preacher.” He died at the Cistercian monastery of San Pedro at Garniel d’Izan near Caleruega about the year 1235.

The second reading taken from the supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours for the Order of Preachers:

From a letter of our Holy Father Dominic to the nuns of Madrid.

“Mannes has worked so hard to bring you to this holy state of life.”
Brother Dominic, Master of the Preachers, to the dear prioress of Madrid and all the nuns in the community, greetings. May you progress every day!

I am delighted at the fervor with which you follow your holy way of life, and thank God for it. God has indeed freed you from the squalor of this world.

Fight the good fight, my daughters, against our ancient foe, fight him insistently with fasting, because no one will win the crown of victory without engaging in the contest in the proper way. Until now you had no place where you could practice your religious life, but now you can no longer offer that excuse. By the grace of God, you have buildings that are quite suitable enough for religious observance.

From now on I want you to keep the silence in the prescribed places, namely, the refectory, the dormitory and the oratory, and to observe your Rule fully in everything else too. Let none of the sisters go outside the gate, and let nobody come in, except for the bishop or any other ecclesiastical superior, who comes to preach to you or to visitate. Be obedient to your prioress. Do not chatter with each other, or waste your time gossiping.

Because we can offer you no help in temporal affairs, we do not want to burden you by allowing any of the brethren any authority to receive women or make them members of your community; only the prioress shall have such authority, on the advice of the community.

Furthermore, I instruct my dear brother Mannes, who has worked so hard to bring you to this holy state of life, to organize you and make whatever arrangements he considers useful, to enable you to conduct yourselves in the most religious and holy way. I also give him power to visitate you and correct you, and, if necessary, to remove the prioress from office, provided that a majority of the nuns agree. I also authorize him to grant you any dispensations he thinks appropriate.

Farewell in Christ.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 29 – Jn 3:30, “I must decrease.”

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-“Salome with the Head of John the Baptist”, by Caravaggio, National Gallery, London, c. 1607–10

At nearly 50, it starts around 45 in my experience, one does begin to experience diminishment.  No longer the energy.  Little health problems/deviations begin to pop up here and there.  We spend more time with medicine, doctors, and treatment.  These physical diminishments, so quickly do they arrive in our life.  Life IS short.  But, truth be told, I can begin to feel them already.  In youth, energy was boundless, physical activity, motion, play, exercise, was effortless, if not skilled.  We return to Him from whence we came.  We surrender ALL to Him Who first gifted us.  Thank you.  Thank you, is all I can say.  The shadow of the cross begins to encroach.

“Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” [MARRIAGE!!!!] Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked.   Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.”  -Mt 14:3-12.

-by Fred, aka Aquinas, Etc.

“It is the feast of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, and it is easy to think of lots of politically-oriented things to say, and to prod myself to the same sort of courage that John had when it came to telling people what they needed to hear and not what they wanted to hear. They needed to hear truth, and John gave it to them in its unvarnished wholeness, shirking nothing. But it seems too easy to me to mumble about speaking truth to power; I live in a day and age where power neither wants nor needs to listen to anybody. This is in part because (or so I imagine) power is invested so much in listening to what everybody says at all times anyway.

There is another aspect of the life of St. John the Baptist that strikes me as more compelling today, and it is summed up in these words that John spoke: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). It is easy for pride and attention-seeking to put themselves forward into the spotlight, most especially in an era characterized by spotlight-seekers who crave their fifteen minutes of fame. It is a lot more difficult, maybe, simply to bloom where I am planted.

It is a difficult thing to me to distinguish where personal ambition leaves off and zeal for the truth begins. Why do I wish to put myself forward? Why do I think that I must push myself into the public forum? What pomposity it feels like. Who am I but a dead dog? Is it not better to do those things at hand? I do not know whether God calls me to speak publicly for Him, but I know for a fact that He calls me to be a faithful husband, a good father. I know this because this is the vocation He has given me in marriage. This is not to say that there are no other forms of service I may offer to God, but why do I hope to offer them? Is it the humility of the servant heart or the vainglory of ambition that drives me to dissatisfaction with my place in the world? That question answers itself, doesn’t it?

A less-easy question for me to answer is to know that to which God actually calls me. Maybe the answer rests not in the things I’d like to do or think I can do but rather in that vocation I mentioned. If I must decrease like St. John the Baptist, then why am I thinking about how I can increase (even for what seem like good reasons)? Lord, help me to decrease like St. John.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 28 – Son of Tears

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-“The Conversion of St Augustine”, Bl John of Friesole, OP, aka Fra Angelico, 1430-1435, tempera on wood, 21.8 × 34.2 cm (8.6 × 13.5 in), please click on the image to view more detail.

“If my children lose their faith, I have failed as a mother!”  -Mary D. McCormick, oft repeated to her children.


-by Br Augustine Marogi, OP

“Fra Angelico’s painting, The Conversion of St. Augustine, offers a great insight into the spirituality of the Doctor of Grace. At the forefront of the painting, commanding the immediate attention of the viewer, is the figure of St. Augustine sitting and weeping. The painting portrays the moment of St. Augustine’s conversion as it is described in his Confessions (book VIII, chapter 12).

In the garden of his friend’s house in Milan, after long struggles with “old attachments” that kept him from embracing the life of continence, Augustine gave way to the “storm” of tears that had been welling up inside of him, expressing his great remorse for his sinfulness, which proved to be invincible to his own strength. He wept because he felt he was the “captive” of his “sins,” and while crying, he kept repeating, “How long shall I go on saying ‘tomorrow, tomorrow’? Why not now? Why not make an end of my ugly sins at this moment?”

Augustine’s tears signify a moment of recognition as well as an articulation of “inexpressible groanings,” of sentiments that are too profound to be expressed in human words (Rm 8:26). He recognizes his ineptitude and powerlessness when dealing with the consequences of his wounded nature. This recognition makes him look for a different source of strength through which he can overcome his weaknesses. He lifts his gaze to God and discovers the mystery of grace, which alone has the power to change the hardest of hearts and heal the most festering of wounds. Tears are the beginning of the road to holiness for this hopeless sinner.

These “inexpressible groanings” communicate to God the soul’s deepest yearnings for salvation. On the one hand, these yearnings are mysterious and difficult for us to put into words. They are often tucked away or covered with the meaningless noise and clamour of our transient and worldly cares. On the other hand, the Father hears these yearnings from afar. He catches “sight” of them while they are “still a long way off” and sends the Holy Spirit, Who “comes to the aid of our weakness” by translating them into a prayer consisting of “inexpressible groanings,” which communicate to the Father our deep-seated longing for heaven (Lk 15:20, Rm 8:26). The visible sign of this communication is torrential tears, tears of repentance that wash away our past and urge us on to a new beginning.

St. Augustine’s tears were not without important parallels. To the left of Fra Angelico’s painting stands the figure of a man whose posture also denotes an emotional moment that is related to the one experienced by the main character. This figure is Alypius. At the same time of Augustine’s conversion, Alypius also experiences the voice of God in his life through a scriptural passage that he reads in the Letter to the Romans. When they both disclose to each other their desire to commit their lives to God and take up the life of celibacy, they go to Augustine’s mother, St. Monica, and inform her of their decision. In turn, Monica is overjoyed at this news because she sees her son’s commitment to the celibate life as God’s generous response to her many “prayerful tears and plaintive lamentations.”

St. Monica is very closely connected to her son’s conversion. She spent 17 years shedding tears over his waywardness, begging God for his soul. When her son embraced the Manichean heresy, she asked a Catholic bishop to speak to him and refute his errors. The bishop told her it was unwise to have that conversation with her son because he was “unripe for instructions,” and that, in time, he would discover the truth simply by reading the Manicheans’ books. This answer would not pacify the mother. She was relentless in her visits to the bishop, incessant with her tears for her son’s conversion. Finally, losing his patience, the bishop said to her, “Leave me and go in peace. It cannot be that the son of these tears should be lost.” He was correct; the son of tears discovered the Truth and offered his life to Him.

Love,
Matthew

Aug 8 – Study as Asceticism, or “The Wood of the Desk is the Wood of the Cross!”

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-by Br. Joseph Paul Albin, OP (Central Province)

“As Dominicans we have a number of aphorisms that come up again and again. If you’ve hung out with us you’ve heard, “contemplate and share the fruits of your contemplation,” “if you’ve met one Dominican you’ve met one Dominican,” and “never deny, seldom affirm, and always distinguish.” One that I haven’t heard as often but is of principal importance in my life as a student is, “the wood of the desk is the wood of the Cross.”

In our lives as Dominicans we hear again and again of the four pillars: prayer, study, community, and preaching. Study is one of the most important aspects of our lives. We are called to study. Our study is not self-serving; we don’t chase titles, adding lists of letters to the end of our names. Instead our study is intimately linked to our mission, the salvation of souls. Study enriches our prayer, our community life, and our preaching. Through our study we cultivate a desire for truth, and we bring that desire for truth to others. Our Constitutions state this clearly, “Study enables the brothers to ponder in their hearts the manifold wisdom of God, and equips them for the doctrinal service of the Church and of all people. They ought to be all the more committed to study because in the Order’s tradition they are called to stimulate people’s desire to know the truth.” Our study ends up being one of our great gifts to the Lord in service to His people and His Church.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 28 – St Moses the Black, (330-405 AD), Hermit & Martyr

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Saint Moses Murin the Black lived during the fourth century in Egypt. He was an Ethiopian, and he was black of skin and therefore called “Murin” (meaning “like an Ethiopian”). In his youth he was the slave of an important man, but after he committed a murder, his master banished him, and he joined a band of robbers.

Because of his bad character and great physical strength they chose him as their leader. Moses and his band of brigands did many evil deeds, both murders and robberies. People were afraid at the mere mention of his name.

Moses the brigand spent several years leading a sinful life, but through the great mercy of God he repented, left his band of robbers and went to one of the desert monasteries.  Some stories say he hid near the monastery in the commission of a robbery and was so impressed with the monks he converted.

Here he wept for a long time, begging to be admitted as one of the brethren. The monks were not convinced of the sincerity of his repentance, but the former robber would not be driven away nor silenced. He continued to ask until they accepted him.

St Moses was completely obedient to the igumen and the brethren, and he poured forth many tears of sorrow for his sinful life. After a certain while St Moses withdrew to a solitary cell, where he spent the time in prayer and the strictest fasting in a very austere lifestyle.

Once, four of the robbers of his former band descended upon the cell of St Moses. He had lost none of his great physical strength, so he tied them all up. Throwing them over his shoulder, he brought them to the monastery, where he asked the Elders what to do with them. The Elders ordered that they be set free. The robbers, learning that they had chanced upon their former ringleader, and that he had dealt kindly with them, followed his example: they repented and became monks. Later, when the rest of the band of robbers heard about the repentance of St Moses, then they also gave up their thievery and became fervent monks.

St Moses was not quickly freed from the passions. He went often to the igumen, Abba Isidore, seeking advice on how to be delivered from the passions of profligacy. Being experienced in the spiritual struggle, the Elder taught him never to eat too much food, to remain partly hungry while observing the strictest moderation. But the passions did not cease to trouble St Moses in his dreams.

Then Abba Isidore taught him the all-night vigil. The monk stood the whole night at prayer, so he would not fall asleep. From his prolonged struggles St Moses fell into despondency, and when there arose thoughts about leaving his solitary cell, Abba Isidore instead strengthened the resolve of his disciple.

In a vision he showed him many demons in the west, prepared for battle, and in the east a still greater quantity of holy angels, also ready for fighting. Abba Isidore explained to St Moses that the power of the angels would prevail over the power of the demons, and in the long struggle with the passions it was necessary for him to become completely cleansed of his former sins.   

Early one morning, Saint Isidore, abbot of the monastery, took Moses to the roof and together they watched the first rays of dawn come over the horizon. Isidore told Moses, “Only slowly do the rays of the sun drive away the night and usher in a new day, and thus, only slowly does one become a perfect contemplative.”

When a brother monk committed a fault, and Moses was invited to a meeting to discuss an appropriate penance, Moses refused to attend. When he was again called to the meeting, Moses took a leaking jug filled with water and carried it on his shoulder. Another version of the story has him carrying a basket filled with sand. When he arrived at the meeting place, the others asked why he was carrying the jug. He replied, “My sins run out (Ed:  are as many, are as long as the trail) behind me and I do not see them, but today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” On hearing this, the assembled brothers forgave the erring monk.

St Moses undertook a new effort. Making the rounds by night of the wilderness cells, he carried water from the well to each brother. He did this especially for the Elders, who lived far from the well and who were not easily able to carry their own water. Once, kneeling over the well, St Moses felt a powerful blow upon his back and he fell down at the well like one dead, laying there in that position until dawn. Thus did the devils take revenge upon the monk for his victory over them. In the morning the brethren carried him to his cell, and he lay there a whole year crippled. Having recovered, the monk with firm resolve confessed to the igumen, that he would continue to live in asceticism. But the Lord Himself put limits to this struggle of many years: Abba Isidore blessed his disciple and said to him that the passions had already gone from him. The Elder commanded him to receive the Holy Mysteries, and to go to his own cell in peace. From that time, St Moses received from the Lord power over demons.

Accounts about his exploits spread among the monks and even beyond the bounds of the wilderness. The governor of the land wanted to see the saint. When he heard of this, St Moses decided to hide from any visitors, and he departed his own cell. Along the way he met servants of the governor, who asked him how to get to the cell of the desert-dweller Moses. The monk answered them: “Go no farther to see this false and unworthy monk.” The servants returned to the monastery where the governor was waiting, and they told him the words of the Elder they had chanced to meet. The brethren, hearing a description of the Elder’s appearance, told them that they had encountered St Moses himself.

After many years of monastic exploits, St Moses was ordained deacon. The bishop clothed him in white vestments and said, “Now Abba Moses is entirely white!” The saint replied, “Only outwardly, for God knows that I am still dark within.”

Through humility, the saint believed himself unworthy of the office of deacon. Once, the bishop decided to test him and he bade the clergy to drive him out of the altar, reviling him as an unworthy Ethiopian. In all humility, the monk accepted the abuse. Having put him to the test, the bishop then ordained St Moses to be presbyter. St Moses labored for fifteen years in this rank, and gathered around himself 75 disciples.

When the saint reached age 75, he warned his monks that soon brigands would descend upon the skete and murder all that were there. The saint blessed his monks to leave, in order to avoid violent death. His disciples began to beseech the monk to leave with them, but he replied: “For many years already I have awaited the time when the words which my Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, should be fulfilled: “All who take up the sword, shall perish by the sword” (Mt. 26: 52). After this, seven of the brethren remained with the monk, and one of them hid nearby during the attack of the robbers. The robbers killed St Moses and the six monks who remained with him.

Love,
Matthew

Aug 21 – Our Lady of Knock

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Knock

The Irish are an odd tribe.  I have been to Ireland, twice.  Whence landing at Shannon, white religious life size statuary appears roadside as the coach (bus) pulls away from the airport every count of ten.  1, 2, 3,…10.

If you see a ring of stones around a tree, DO NOT TOUCH!!!!! You would be disturbing the “wee people”, whose stone ring that is, which is ALWAYS very bad luck for you and the farmer whose land that is. The farmer is likely to come at you with his shillelagh.  You will get a lump on the head.  Seriously.  But, you will remember, next time.  Or, you haven’t REALLY seen the color GREEN, until you’ve been to Ireland?

“If my children lose their faith, I have failed as a mother.” -Mary D. McCormick, frequently to her six children.  “Young man, get your ass to Mass!” -Robert L. McCormick, upon learning his youngest son’s Mass attendance his first year in college was not regular.  “Is she one of us?” -Mary D. McCormick, inquiring, after long, pregnant pause, upon learning of a dating interest of her sons. “Are you in the state of grace?”-Mary D. McCormick, a secondary telephone greeting used with her children after “Hello?”  Requiescat in pace.

Sixteen hundred years, and counting, I trust, not withstanding recent convulsions in the Irish Church.  If Ireland goes, God help the Church.  He will have to, again.  Not every kind of barbarity and oppression could separate the Irish from their faith, except…from within?  Lk 22:48.  “Judas Iscariot was a bishop.” -Dr. Peter Kreeft.

Due to a very strong devotion of Irish Catholics to the Blessed Virgin Mary, a special exception is made for her name. In Irish, she is known as Muire and no one else may take that name similar to the way the name Jesus is not used in most languages.  This used to be universal, but now variations of the spelling are used, just not Muire.  So, you get Maire or Moire.

On the evening of August 21, 1879 Mary McLoughlin, the housekeeper to the parish priest of Knock, County Mayo, Ireland, was astonished to see the outside south wall of the church bathed in a mysterious light; there were three figures standing in front of the wall, which she mistook for replacements of the stone figures destroyed in a storm. She rushed through the rain to her friend Margaret Byrne’s house.

After a half hour Mary decided to leave and Margaret’s sister Mary agreed to walk home with her. As they passed the church they saw an amazing vision very clearly: Standing out from the gable and to the west of it appeared the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph and St. John.

The figure of the Blessed Virgin was life-size, while the others seemed to be neither as large nor as tall. They stood a little away from the gable wall about two feet from the ground. The Virgin was erect with her eyes toward Heaven, and she was wearing a large white cloak hanging in full folds; on her head was a large crown.

Mary Byrne ran to tell her family while Mary McLoughlin gazed at the apparition. Soon a crowd gathered and all saw the apparition. The parish priest, Archdeacon Cavanaugh, did not come out, however, and his absence was a disappointment to the devout villagers. Among the witnesses were Patrick Hill and John Curry. As Patrick later described the scene: ‘The figures were fully rounded, as if they had a body and life. They did not speak but, as we drew near, they retreated a little towards the wall.’ Patrick reported that he got close enough to make out the words in the book held by the figure of St. John.

An old woman named Bridget Trench drew closer to embrace the feet of the Virgin, but the figure seemed always beyond reach. Others out in the fields and some distance away saw a strange light around the church. The vision lasted for about three hours and then faded.

The next day a group of villagers went to see the priest, who accepted their report as genuine; he wrote to the diocesan Bishop of Tuam; then the Church set up a commission to interview a number of the people claiming to witness the apparition. The diocesan hierarchy was not convinced, and some members of the commission ridiculed the visionaries, alleging they were victims of a hoax perpetrated by the local Protestant constable! But the ordinary people were not so skeptical, and the first pilgrimages to Knock began in 1880. Two years later Archbishop John Joseph Lynch of Toronto made a visit to the parish and claimed he had been healed by the Virgin of Knock.

In due course many of the witnesses died. But Mary Byrne married, raised six children, living her entire life in Knock. When interviewed again in 1936 at the age of eighty-six, her account did not vary from the first report she gave in 1879.

Love,
Matthew

Aug 14 – The Martyrs of Otranto, “It is fitting we should die for Him!”

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-Otranto Cathedral, bones of the martyrs

“Now it is time for us to fight to save our souls for the Lord. And since He died on the cross for us, it is fitting that we should die for Him.” -Antonio Primaldo, tailor, when offered the chance to convert to Islam and save themselves and their families from death and slavery.

May 12, 2013

“VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis on Sunday gave the Catholic Church new saints, including hundreds of 15th-century martyrs who were beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam, as he led his first canonization ceremony Sunday in a packed St. Peter’s Square.

The “Martyrs of Otranto” were 813 Italians who were slain in the southern Italian city in 1480 for defying demands by Turkish invaders who overran the citadel to renounce Christianity.

Their approval for sainthood was decided upon by Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, in a decree read at the ceremony in February where the former pontiff announced his retirement.

Shortly after his election in March, Francis called for more dialogue with Muslims, and it was unclear how the granting of sainthood to the martyrs would be received. Islam is a sensitive subject for the church, and Benedict stumbled significantly in his relations with the Muslim community.

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ANTONIO PEZZULLA AND 812 FELLOW MARTYRS

In 1480, some 20,000 Turkish troops overran the citadel of Otranto in what is now the southeastern Puglia region of Italy, in the “heel” of the boot-shaped peninsula. The invaders demanded that the locals, including many who took refuge in the city’s cathedral, convert to Islam. The Turks took 813 men from among those refusing to convert.

Pezzulla, also known as Primaldo, was the group’s leader, and the first among the martyrs to be beheaded. They are referred to as “The martyrs of Otranto.”

Francis told the crowd that the martyrs are a source of inspiration, especially for “so many Christians, who, right in these times and in so many parts of the world, still suffer violence.” He prayed that they receive “the courage of loyalty and to respond to evil with good.”

“Today the Church proposes for our worship* a host of martyrs, who were called together to the supreme witness to the Gospel in 1480. About eight hundred people, [who], having survived the siege and invasion of Otranto, were beheaded near that city. They refused to renounce their faith and died confessing the risen Christ. Where did they find the strength to remain faithful? Precisely in faith, which allows us to see beyond the limits of our human eyes, beyond the boundaries of earthly life, to contemplate “the heavens opened” – as St. Stephen said – and the living Christ at the right hand of the Father.

Dear friends, let us conserve the faith [that] we have received and that is our true treasure, let us renew our fidelity to the Lord, even in the midst of obstacles and misunderstandings; God will never allow us to want [for] strength and serenity. As we venerate the martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain those many Christians who, in these times and in many parts of the world, right now, still suffer violence, and give them the courage and fidelity to respond to evil with good.”
-Franciscus
Mass following Canonization – Homily
May 12, 2013

*(The veneration due to the saints is called dulia. It is very different from the adoration due to the Most Holy Trinity alone, which is called latria. Both of these are called “worship”, but they constitute distinct senses of the term.)

“It is fitting that we should die for him”: Remembering the 813 martyred shopkeepers of Otranto

http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/how-the-800-martyrs-of-otranto-saved-rome

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/pulverised-skull-martyr-otranto-was-used-medicinal-bone-drink-1487575

Love,
Matthew

Aug 13 – Bl Jacob Gapp, SM, (1897-1943), Priest & Martyr

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-Bl Jakob Gapp, SM, rosary

Jakob Gapp, the seventh child in the working-class family of Martin Gapp and Antonia Wach, was born July 26, 1897, in Wattens, a small village in the Austrian Tyrol. The following day Jakob was baptized in the Wattens parish church of St. Lawrence.

After completing elementary school in his native village in 1910, he entered the Franciscan-run high school in Hall, a neighboring town in the Tyrol.

Jakob was called to military service during World War I in May 1915, and served on the Italian front, where he was wounded on April 4, 1916. For this he received the Silver Medal of Courage Second Class. November 4, 1918, he was interned as a prisoner of war at Riva del Garda, and released August 18, 1919.

When Jakob returned home, he learned about the Society of Mary (Marianists) from a relative. On August 13, 1930, he entered the Marianist formation program, and on September 26 he began the year of novitiate at Greisinghof, Upper Austria, and pronounced his first vows there on September 27, 1921.

The young religious was assigned to the Marian Institute at Graz, Styria, where he served as a teacher and sacristan for four years. At the same time he was preparing himself through private study for the seminary.

Brother Jakob made perpetual vows at Antony, a suburb of Paris, France, on August 27, 1925.

In September of 1925 he entered the Marianist international seminary at Fribourg, Switzerland, which was then under the direction of the revered Father Emile Neubert, S.M. Bishop Marius Besson of Fribourg-Lausanne-Geneva ordained Jakob to the priesthood in the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Fribourg on April 5, 1930.

Upon returning to Austria, Father Jakob Gapp was involved as teacher, director of religious education, and chaplain in Marianist schools at Freistadt, Lanzenkirchen, and Graz. During a time of severe unemployment during the economic depression, while at Graz, Father Gapp’s deep concern for the poor surfaced in distinct ways. He gathered food and the necessities of life not only from his students, but also refused to heat his own bedroom in the winter, to be able to give aid and fuel to the poor.

At this time, as National Socialism (Nazism) began to grow strong, first in Germany and then in Austria, the young priest Jakob Gapp developed a clear judgment about the incompatibility between National Socialism and Christianity by studying diligently the statements of the German and Austrian bishops and Pope Pius XI’s encyclical letter, Mit brennender Sorge. When teaching and preaching, he continued to emphasize fearlessly this truth.

Consequently, when German troops arrived in Austria in March 1938, he was obliged to leave Graz. After a few months at Freistadt his superiors sent him to this hometown in Tyrol, since they recognized in his anti-Nazi preaching a threat to the very existence of those institutions whose elimination had already been decided by the Nazis. In Tyrol, with his relatives at Wattens, Erl, Terfans, Umlberg, and Vomp, he enjoyed the last period of peace in his earthly life.

He had been an assistant pastor in Breitenwang-Reutte for only two months when the Gestapo, at the end of October 1938, forbade him to teach religion. Father Gapp had taught the uncompromising law of love for all men and women without reference to nationality or religion.

In a sermon on December 11, 1938, at his home parish of St. Lawrence in Wattens, he defended Pope Pius XI against the attacks of the Nazis, and directed the faithful to read Catholic literature rather than Nazi propaganda. After this sermon Father Jakob Gapp was advised to leave his hometown.

With the help of his religious superiors Father Gapp was able to escape in January 1939 to Bordeaux, France, where he served at the Chapel of the Madeleine, the cradle of the Society of Mary, as chaplain and librarian. In May 1939 he fled to Spain, where he labored in the Marianist communities at San Sebastian, Cadiz, and Valencia.

For a time he was tutor for a family at Lequeitio while teaching at the school of the Mercedarian Fathers in that city. In Spain he stood alone and was always misunderstood because of his rejection of Nazism, since Hitler had earlier offered aid to Franco.

Gestapo agents followed his journey from the time he left Austria, and took advantage of his inner isolation. Two individuals pretending to be Jews from Berlin told Father Gapp about their fictitious experience of flight from Nazi persecution. In Valencia they asked him to instruct them in the Catholic faith and prepare them for baptism.

After gaining his confidence, they invited him on a trip, and abducted him across the border into France, then occupied by the Germans. Within a few minutes they stopped in Hendaye, France, where the Gestapo was waiting to arrest him and take him to Berlin as a prisoner.

On July 2, 1943, the feast of the Sacred heart of Jesus, a feast of special significance in Austria and in the life of Jakob Gapp, he was condemned to death by the President of the People’s Court, Dr. Roland Freisler.

Any type of pardon or transfer of his remains to his relatives for a simple burial was denied for the reason that Father Jakob Gapp had “defended his conduct on expressly religious grounds. For an explicitly religious people Father Gapp would be considered a martyr for the faith, and his burial could be used by the Catholic population as an opportunity for a silent demonstration in support of an already judged traitor of his people who was pretending to die for his faith.”

At 1:00 p.m. on August 13, 1943, the anniversary of his entrance to the Marianist novitiate, Father Jakob Gapp was informed that his execution would take place that evening at 7:00 p.m. The two farewell letters he was permitted to write after this announcement are truly moving manifestations of his faith. At the appointed time Jakob Gapp was beheaded by guillotine in the Ploetzensee Prison, Berlin.

His remains were sent to the Anatomical-Biological Institute at the University of Berlin for study and research, and then destroyed.

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“God is your God, not Adolf Hitler.”
“Action is more important than theory!”
-Bl Jacob Gapp, SM

Love,
Matthew

Aug 12 – Bl Karl Leisner, (1915-1945), Priest & Martyr, Dachau Prisoner 22356, Camp 26

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Very near to where Kelly and I live is the Schoenstatt Shrine of Madison.
http://schoenstattwisconsin.org/
http://schoenstattmadison.com/

-by Rev. Mark Steffl, April 2006, while studying for his STL in Rome.  He is a priest of the diocese of New Ulm, MN.

“My time as a student in Rome has afforded me many opportunities to experience the great wealth and tradition of the Universal Catholic Church. This past February was one of the highlights of that experience when I was able to celebrate a Mass at the altar that was in the Dachau Concentration Camp during World War II.

Before and during the Second World War, the Nazis in Germany forced many priests into concentration camps and the majority were sent to the Dachau Concentration Camp near Munich.  The priests were segregated together in a single area, the “Priesterblock” and through the diplomacy of the Holy See at the time, they were permitted to have a chapel and a single altar in which to celebrate Mass. The altar, made of wood by the prisoners was the site where these priests were allowed a single Mass each day.

Many of these priests, who were called to join in a special way to the sufferings and Passion of Our Lord, died because of illness and as a result of harsh punishment. I have a particular devotion to one of them who is especially connected to the Dachau altar, Blessed Karl Leisner.  He has a fascinating story of being arrested as a deacon because of his efforts with Catholic youth contrary to the Nazi regime.

Blessed Karl Leisner’s vocation is a particular one in several details. He was the only man who was ordained a priest in Dachau. On December 17, 1944, under great secrecy and against the orders of the Nazis, he was ordained a priest by a French Bishop after five years of life in concentration camps as a deacon. He was in such poor health at that time, that he was able to celebrate only a single Mass as a priest before he died. He lived to see liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp, and of Germany from the Nazi regime, but died soon after.

Blessed Karl Leisner’s life stands out in an important way for us today on many levels.The first is that Blessed Karl, a German, was ordained by a French bishop during a war in which the two nationalities were in bloody conflict with each other.  It shows in a beautiful way how “Catholic” (which means “universal”)  faith truly lives up to its etymological roots surpassing borders and boundaries. Jesus’ message of hope and love goes beyond national identities and embraces all of humanity.

Secondly, for a world that measures worth by productivity, Karl Leisner’s life would seem “unproductive.” He celebrated only one single Mass as a priest. But his life shows and challenges us to see life as God would, with its dignity and special plan for each of us, rather than to follow the world in judging worth by ability to produce.  His whole life had been planned by God for that single Mass he offered at the altar in the Dachau Concentration Camp, and his suffering was not in vain, but went on to inspire many with him after him to persevere in their own suffering, seeing it in the “plan of God” and knowing that God does great things with the struggles we bear for Him.

Pope John Paul II beatified Karl Leisner, along with a second German priest who died in custody of the Nazis, on a trip to Germany that he made in 1996. The beatification Mass was held in the same Olympic Stadium that Adolf Hitler had constructed for the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games and used often for Nazi parades and spectacles. Here again we see the great paradox of the same stadium, constructed for the worst of reasons, becoming a place of great graces, with the Holy Father celebrating a Mass there for a great crowd and beatifying two priests who stood firmly against the Nazis and gave their lives for their faith in the Lord and His Gospel that comes to us in the Church.

Pope John Paul II, in his homily at this beatification Mass highlighted how Blessed Karl Leisner witnessed to his faith and how he is an example of how we today are to take that witness and apply it to our own lives. John Paul pointed out that often we are called against the “popular world view” illustrating that we are called to bear witness to a culture of life that finds its reward in eternal life. That we are called to “resist the culture of hatred and death, regardless of the guise which it may assume.

The Dachau altar, the altar that was the place of this Blessed Karl Leisner’s ordination Mass and the single Mass after his ordination that he said as a priest, is today in a house for diocesan priests affiliated with the Schoenstatt Movement (of which Karl Leisner was a part as a boy and seminarian) not far from Frankfurt. It was “rescued” after the war and is kept as a witness to great hope and joy in the midst of the worst of conditions, the great dignity to which we are all called in the Mass, where we find a foretaste of the eternal banquet that we hope and strive to attain, eternal life with Jesus in heaven.”

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“But we maintain our Christian, courageous calm. Nobody will take away our will to struggle and fight back as long as He is with us. God is the ruler of the fates of men and peoples. This is our victory, which overcomes the world.” – Bl Karl, remarking after the Nazis closed the Catholic youth center in Dusseldorf, where he ministered.

He wrote a poem that expressed his feelings at this time:

Though the road wind through the blackest night,
Victory will be ours in the dawn’s crimson light.
We are ready to proclaim, in all lands and climes,
That God is the Lord even of these our times.

Karl continued to work with youth, and the Gestapo noted it. They opened a secret file on his activities in 1936. They watched his movements and read his mail.

One day after hearing about an attempt to assassinate Hitler with a bomb, he remarked that it was a pity that Hitler wasn’t there when the attack occurred. This was reported to the authorities, and within hours, then Deacon Karl was arrested.

“Karl Leisner encourages us to remain on the way that is Christ. We must not grow weary, even if sometimes this way seems dark and demands sacrifice. Let us beware of false prophets who want to show us other ways. Christ is the way that leads to life. All other ways are detours or wrong paths.” – Pope John Paul II, during the beatification Mass.

Blessed Karl Leisner, priest & martyr, pray for us when we are called to witness to the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Eternal, Glorious Reign!!!

Love,
Matthew